is a popular method of promoting web businesses in which an affiliate is rewarded for every visitor, subscriber and/or customer provided through his efforts. It is a modern variation of the practice of paying finder's-fees for the introduction of new clients to a business. Compensation may be made based on a certain value for each visit (Pay per click), registrant (Pay per lead), or a commission for each customer or sale (Pay per Sale), or any combination.
The most attractive aspect of affiliate marketing, from the merchant's viewpoint, is that with this pay for performance model, no payment is due to an affiliate until results are realized.
Some e-commerce sites run their own affiliate programs while other e-commerce vendors use third party services provided by intermediaries to track traffic or sales that are referred from affiliates. Some businesses owe much of their growth and success to this marketing technique, although research has shown in general the increase to be approximately 15-20% of online revenue.
Some advertisers offer multi-tier affiliate programs that distribute commission into a hierarchical referral network of sign-ups and sub-affiliates. In practical terms: publisher "A" signs up the affiliate program with an advertiser and gets rewarded for the agreed activity conducted by a referred visitor. If publisher "A" attracts other publishers ("B", "C", etc.) to sign up for the same affiliate program using her sign-up code all future activities by the joining publishers "B" and "C" will result in additional, lower commission for publisher "A".
Snowballing, this system rewards a chain of hierarchical publishers who may or may not know of each others' existence, yet generate income for the higher level signup. Most affiliate programs are simply one-tier.
Merchants who are considering adding an affiliate strategy to their online sales channel should research the different technological solutions available to them. Some types of affiliate management solutions include: standalone software, hosted services, shopping carts with affiliate features, and third party affiliate networks.
In its early days many internet users held negative opinions of affiliate marketing due to the tendency of affiliates to use spam to promote the programs in which they were enrolled. As affiliate marketing has matured many affiliate merchants have refined their terms and conditions to prohibit affiliates from spamming.
Currently there is much debate around the affiliate practice of Spamdexing and many affiliates have converted from sending email spam to creating large volumes of autogenerated webpages each devoted to different niche keywords as a way of SEOing their sites with the search engines. This is sometimes referred to as spamming the search engine results. Spam is the biggest threat to organic Search Engines whose goal is to provide quality search results for keywords or phrases entered by their users. Google's algorithm update dubbed "Big Daddy" in February 2006 which was the final stage of Google's major update dubbed "Jagger" which started mid-summer 2005 specifically targeted this kind of spam with great success and enabled Google to remove a large amount of mostly computer generated duplicate content from its index.
A Brief History of Affiliate Marketing
This is a citation from the book "Successful Affiliate Marketing for Merchants" which describes how Affiliate Marketing on the Internet came into being. It was written in a casual form which does not diminish its factual accuracy.
As the story goes, affiliate marketing all started at a cocktail party. Jeff Bezos, CEO and founder of Amazon.com (www.amazon.com), was chatting with a party guest who wanted to sell books on her Web site.
This got Bezos thinking. Why not have the woman link her site to Amazon’s and receive a commission on the books that she sold? Soon after, Amazon introduced the Amazon Associates Program. It was a simple idea. Amazon Associates would place banner or text links on their site for individual books or link directly to the Amazon’s home page.
When visitors clicked from the associate’s site through to Amazon.com and purchased a book, the associate received a commission. With that thought, Bezos created Amazon.com’s affiliate program in July 1996.
But Amazon wasn’t the first company to initiate an affiliate program. According to Brad Waller, VP of Affiliate and BusinessDevelopment for EPage (www.epage.com), the affiliate program for EPage started in April 1996. As documented in “The CDNow Story: Rags to Riches on the Internet,” CDNow’s affiliate program predates Amazon’s by more than a year.
In November 1994, almost a full year before Amazon.com even launched its Web site, the venerable CDNow (www.cdnow.com) began its buyweb program. With its buyweb program, CDNow was the first to introduce the concept of an affiliate or associate program with its idea of click-through purchasing through independent, online storefronts.
It worked like this.
CDNow had the idea that music-oriented Web sites could review or list albums on their pages that their visitors might be interested in purchasing and offer a link that would take the visitor directly to CDNow to purchase them. The idea for this remote purchasing originally arose as a result of conversations with a music publisher called Geffen Records (www.geffen.com) in the fall of 1994. The management at Geffen Records wanted to sell its artists’ CDs directly from its site but didn’t want to do it itself. Geffen Records asked CDNow if it could design a program where CDNow would do the fulfillment.
Geffen Records realized that CDNow could link directly from the artist on its Web site to Geffen’s Web site, bypassing the CDNow home page and going directly to an artist’s music page. By linking Geffen Records to CDNow, the affiliate marketing format was born.