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  •  The EvO:R-Pedia Musicians Tips Section

    Welcome to the EvO:R Tips Section. We call this section EvO:R-Pedia because it is like a complete reference library for Indie musicians...Just about every tip has been used so you won't find false promises and a series of books to buy after reading each tip. This section was put here by musicians so that people that followed can take this knowledge and use it's power.

    Test Affiliate Programs Before You Sign Up
    By Ola Edvardsson, Guest Expert

    Affiliate programs are a great way for merchants and Webmasters to generate revenue from their Web sites. Affiliate programs work — serious affiliates make a significant monthly income from their efforts.

    But Webmasters and merchants participating in affiliate programs often face administrative and legal issues. For example: Are my referrals tracked accurately? Will I get paid on time? Will I get paid at all? And most important: Will the company stay in business?

    We have to realize that Internet companies offering affiliate programs are like any other businesses: The majority of Internet startups will not be in business past the next 24 months.

    Affiliate programs are a numbers game. To become profitable, business models that depend on taking a small cut out of every commission transaction paid by the merchant to an affiliate must generate huge sales volumes. This is one of the reasons no large affiliate technology providers have shown figures in the black, but are burning through cash generated by public stock offers or venture capital funding. Most likely we'll soon see the first affiliate technology provider close its doors.

    Is there a need to worry? Not really. Companies with a solid business model, a professional operation, and sustainable margins will always survive. But if you are looking for long-term revenue and residual income, how do you know which companies operate under strong enough business models to stay in business? The five issues covered below will help you answer this and related questions about potential affiliates programs.

    Check, Please

    Despite the use of outsourced affiliate technology solutions complete with administrative reporting features, many merchants fail to pay their affiliates on time. Often, affiliates don't get paid at all. Affiliate outsourcing companies cannot do much to ensure prompt payment; generally, they refer the affiliate to deal directly with the merchants. Many frustrated affiliates post to discussion boards such as ReveNews or AssociatePrograms.com. Check in to the discussions to learn more.

    Many merchants are hard to reach by e-mail or phone. If there is an e-mail address on the Web site, such as affiliates@companyx.com, it might be checked rarely, or messages might be redirected to a privately labeled support service that sends canned replies. Do a support test: E-mail the company to check the promptness and quality of their reply.

    Glitches, Delays, Questionable Contracts

    Merchants are usually responsible for a significant part of the server tracking process and, if this is the case, must upload tracked data in batch files to the affiliate technology provider. As a result, the tracking process is prone to glitches. Moreover, some merchants don't admit to lost data, and there is no way to verify it. The trend is clear: Affiliates prefer Web-based, real-time tracking of their sales to server-side solutions.

    Quarterly payment schedules — often 30 to 45 days after each calendar quarter — have become popular. But I don't know many Webmasters who want to wait up to five months to get paid for their efforts. In most cases, quarterly payments are just a sign of laziness and ignorance on the merchant's part. I do not endorse any program that is not on a monthly payment schedule. The only exception is if the merchant's business model requires collection of revenues from third parties before affiliate payment can be made.

    Finally, many affiliate associates don't read their contracts carefully before they sign up. Many contracts are unfair, including conditions that allow an affiliate's competitors to join. Simply put: All rights to the merchant and no rights to the affiliate is the rule of thumb.

    Get Proactive

    While most Webmasters use the exit strategy to relieve frustration, some are taking actions I think will benefit the affiliate industry as a whole. Specifically, they have joined forces to create certification criteria for merchants with affiliate programs. The movement is called Affiliate Union.

    Affiliate Union does not rate programs. Instead, the union aims to make merchants disclose as much information about their program policies as possible.

    If you are a merchant, it is well worth your effort to check your affiliate program against the proposed criteria and to support the cause of Affiliate Union.

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