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Affiliate Programs Can Help Offset Expenses of Maintaining Site

By including a link to an online firm, you can earn a percentage of purchases made. But read the fine print before joining.

April 19, 2001|CHRISTINE FREY | clfrey@aol.com

Once your Web site is up and running, maintaining it can be expensive. With online affiliate programs, however, your site can make money and cut down on some of its costs.

When you sign on with an affiliate--or associate--program, you essentially become a sales representative for an online company. You promote its products, and in return, the company gives you a percentage of all purchases generated through your site. Some companies will even pay a click-through fee--usually a few cents--each time a visitor from your site selects a link to view their page.

To generate business, most programs require that you include a link or advertisement on your site. Many will provide a graphic element for you to post.

Some affiliate programs, such as Amazon.com, also suggest that you set up online storefronts, in which you highlight specific products and provide links to the Web page where visitors can buy them.

With hundreds of affiliate programs to choose from, it is important to read a company's operating agreement before deciding which to join. Most programs require that you earn a certain amount of money before they cut you a check. If you do not meet the minimum requirement during a single pay period, your earnings usually roll over to the next. Pay periods vary by company. Once you reach the requirement, you get your commission. But you have to generate the minimum amount again before receiving another payment.

Amazon.com, one of the more popular programs, offers affiliates 15% of most purchases made through their sites. The company, which pays earnings quarterly, requires that affiliates earn a minimum of $100. To make that commission each pay period, an affiliate must generate $667 in sales every three months.

In other words, don't expect to get rich quick. You can, however, earn enough through affiliate programs to cover some of the costs of running your site.

Profitable affiliates draw lots of traffic to their sites. (Check out last week's installment online on how to list your site with search engines.) The more people who visit your site, the more potential sales you generate.

Once they are there, though, you must give visitors a reason to patronize the businesses advertised. Affiliate programs that offer products similar in topic to your site are more likely to be of interest to your visitors than those that do not.

A Web site about Los Angeles, for example, might include a list of books about the city and provide the corresponding links on Amazon.com where visitors can purchase them. (Information on the company's affiliate program can be found at http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/subst/associates/join/associates.html.)

A profitable Web site about Los Angeles would promote the products of several companies. In this case, affiliate programs for Southern California corporations--Walt Disney Co., for example--also would bring in the bucks.

For sites specific to your interest, spend some time exploring the programs listed on sites such as http://associate-it.com. You also can run a search on http://www.yahoo.com for "affiliate programs" or "associate programs."

Although there is no limit on the number of affiliate programs you can join, it is best not to sign on with too many because your site might become cluttered with advertisements. Those visiting your site are there for its content, not for its advertisements. Be sure your monetary interests do not overshadow your site's primary purpose.

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Christine Frey is a freelance writer.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Building Your Own Web Page

A 10-part series:

1. Picking the right provider

2. Understanding HTML

3. More HTML

4. Adding links, photos and graphics

5. Creating forms

6. Using tables

7. Navigating with frames

8. Getting yourself found

Today: Making money on a personal site

10. Working with browser compatibility

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Read installments online at www.latimes.com

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