Dave, I’m thinking of joining a few programs and becoming an affiliate. Are there categories of products for newbies that are “easy” to sell? What categories should I stay away from?
There are unquestionably some items that are easier to sell than others and some affiliate programs that are easier to make money from than others. Indeed, I’ve joined affiliate programs, promoted their products, and never made a dime.
There are a few things to look for if you seek these easier categories:
1. Is it a popular product or service with relatively little competition?
The best products and services sell themselves and you don’t have to do much at all other than let your readers or visitors know about them. An example? Apple iPods are scary popular and if you had a promotion through an affiliate like “Buy an iPod, get a free leather case?? you would likely do well without much effort.
2. Does the landing page help sell the product?
One of my pet peeves with affiliate programs is that the best we can do as affiliates is send potential customers to the vendor’s site. If their site doesn’t do a good job of closing the sale, of converting that potential customer into a real customer, we’re stuck with a bad payout, even though we might do a splendid job of pushing people their way. Unfortunately, we’re generally unable to control this, but if you’re choosing between a couple of different vendors, this could be a deal breaker.
For example, a few years ago Amazon changed its affiliate links from going directly to the product page to instead dropping you on a “related products?? page first. For Amazon it might have made sense, but from an affiliate perspective, it’s terrible because I’m promising the chance to buy something with just a click, and Amazon’s getting in the way with its intermediate cross-promotion page. (Fortunately, you can just link to the secondary page rather than use the URL that the Associates program gives you, but why should we have to do that at all?)
3. Does the company use a cookies-based affiliate model?
4. Is it a product or service that doesn’t require research or hands-on experience?
I have talked with dozens of artists who have online Web stores and without exception they all complain that their experience as an online merchant is far, far worse than they ever expected. The reason is that art requires the buyer to have a tactile, kinesthetic experience. You wouldn’t buy a sculpture without feeling its finish, and you’re not likely to buy a $5000 oil painting based on a crummy little JPEG image on a blog.
This holds true in the affiliate world too. Ask yourself “would I buy this based purely on what I can learn on their Web site??? Similarly, if the purchase requires research on the part of the buyer, it’s going to be a long, drawn-out sales cycle and you’re probably not going to get much commission for having recommended something. That’s why I don’t think we see many auto dealers offering affiliate programs to have us help them sell cars.
That’s about it top of my head. I would also recommend that you grab the last few copies of REVENUE magazine and have a close look at the advertisements too: the companies that can afford to pay for advertising are those that are serious about the success of their affiliate programs and they’re the best kind of affiliate partners for your budding online business.