First of all, it is important to note that there are two profoundly different aspects of earnings to consider in the affiliate business model. While it seems that different naming conventions are used throughout the industry to define them, we're going to call them direct and indirect sales for purposes of clarity.
Direct sales are profits realized through efforts on the promotional side of your business. Examples of this include membership fees, selling advertising space and collecting pay-per-view fees from the consumer. All of these are profits directly related to your promotional campaign and, therefore, are direct sales. In a future article, we will more closely examine the various avenues that result in these direct sales.
Indirect sales, on the other hand, are sales from which the webmaster earns a commission. This can be from participation in an affiliate program where the consumer purchases a membership, a referral of a consumer to a shippable product, or referrals to a video on demand, PPV or buying club situation that utilizes a multi-tiered earnings system.
Indirect sales are the component will most benefit from pre-qualifying or "guiding" your website's visitors to their areas of interest and is the meat and potatoes of any successful promotional campaign. This massaging of your traffic begins as soon as it enters your operation, usually a master home page with all recently released FHGs. Users browse the listing for their favorite subject and, hopefully, wind up making a purchase as a result of viewing one of the sponsor-supplied FHGs – with the webmaster making money on the sale.
But in reality, there is much more to it than the happenstance of a chance purchase. Most successful operations segregate the materials based on interest groups. Labeled categories for each niche of interest clearly designate and include the "for more of the same" link at the bottom of that category. Clicking that link takes the surfer to a page dedicated to a specific niche where they find more specific offerings. Larger operations might link incoming traffic directly to the niche that corresponds with the nature of the source of the click, whether that source was a link list gallery or paid traffic source. In both cases, the goal is to gently guide the surfer to a specialty area based upon their specific interests.
These specialty areas contain the bulk of the affiliate's free-hosted galleries. All upsell points concentrate on that page. The sponsor's FHGs and associated materials provide the entertainment. Sales points for related products, software and membership areas are all easily within the surfer's click range. When present, specialty advertising gets its best showing in this location because the surfer has been pre-qualified to be interested in the topic of this niche or specialty area.
This guided effort or "pre-qualification" is a very effective method for delivering the best conversion rates. It is in these areas where the creative application of the free-hosted galleries and other sponsor-supplied promotional material in concert with the program's licensed material form the "personality" of the operator's affiliate programs. Personality is the right word to use in this context, because that is where a webmaster's knowledge in the niche makes a difference. Surfers attracted to this area can tell the difference between a webmaster who is "winging it" and one who knows the terrain. Marketing studies show that a working knowledge in a particular niche goes a long way toward getting potential customers to buy into the programs being offered.
These concepts form the basics of surfer pre-qualification. With those concepts strategically woven into an attention-getting presentation, it sets the webmaster's hub up for the next step in profitability, direct sales. In the next installment of our FHG series, we'll look at some methods for direct sales opportunities and how to incorporate them into a working program to provide a base of earnings from your promotional efforts.