A quick and inexpensive method of making money without the hassle of actually selling a product, affiliate marketing has an undeniable draw for those looking to increase their income online. But how does an affiliate get paid after linking the seller to the consumer? The answer is complicated. The consumer doesn’t always need to buy the product for the affiliate to get a kickback. Depending on the program, the affiliate’s contribution to the seller’s sales will be measured differently. The affiliate may get paid in various ways:

Unscrupulous affiliates can squat on domain names with misspellings and get a commission for the redirect. They can populate online registration forms with fake or stolen information, and they can purchase AdWords on search terms the company already ranks high on, and so on. Even if the terms and conditions are clear, an affiliate marketing program requires that someone monitor affiliates and enforce rules.
When beginning your affiliate marketing career, you’ll want to cultivate an audience that has very specific interests. This allows you to tailor your affiliate campaigns to that niche, increasing the likelihood that you’ll convert. By establishing yourself as an expert in one area instead of promoting a large array of products, you’ll be able to market to the people most likely to buy the product.
It’s important to know where your traffic is coming from and the demographics of your audience. This will allow you to customize your messaging so that you can provide the best affiliate product recommendations. You shouldn’t just focus on the vertical you’re in, but on the traffic sources and audience that’s visiting your site. Traffic sources may include organic, paid, social media, referral, display, email, or direct traffic. You can view traffic source data in Google Analytics to view things such as time on page, bounce rate, geo location, age, gender, time of day, devices (mobile vs. desktop), and more so that you can focus your effort on the highest converting traffic. This analytics data is crucial to making informed decisions, increasing your conversion rates, and making more affiliate sales.
A more complex system, pay per lead affiliate programs compensates the affiliate based on the conversion of leads. The affiliate must persuade the consumer to visit the merchant’s website and complete the desired action — whether it’s filling out a contact form, signing up for a trial of a product, subscribing to a newsletter, or downloading software or files.

Many affiliate programs run with last-click attribution, where the affiliate receiving the last click before the sale gets 100% credit for the conversion. This is changing. With affiliate platforms providing new attribution models and reporting features, you are able to see a full-funnel, cross-channel view of how individual marketing tactics are working together. For example, you might see that a paid social campaign generated the first click, Affiliate X got click 2, and Affiliate Y got the last click. With this full picture, you can structure your affiliate commissions so that Affiliate X gets a percentage of the credit for the sale, even though they didn’t get the last click.
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