Affiliate programs are one of the best ways to increase the profile and profitability of your online business. By setting up your own affiliate program or associate program, you allow marketers to promote and sell your products and services in exchange for a commission. While creating your own affiliate programs takes some time and effort, the potential rewards are well worth the investment.

If you are interested in starting your own affiliate program, you have a number of different options. You could pay a large affiliate network to manage your program, or you could employ a smaller network to do the heavy lifting. Some merchants choose to pay a monthly fee to utilize web-based tracking systems offered by subscriptions sites. Another option is to set up tracking software on your own server to run your affiliate program independent of a network.

Whatever option you choose, you need to retain the ability to establish a working relationship with your affiliate partners. Always analyze the affiliate management options offered by the service or program that you ultimately choose. A great way to begin is to try out a smaller scale service until you decide exactly what your affiliate marketing needs will be. Spend some time researching payment options and sales potential before you select a service for your affiliate program.

Choose a Payment Structure for Your Affiliate Program

The payment model you use to compensate your affiliate partners will play an important role in the success, profitability, and potential expense of your affiliate program. Common compensation structures include pay-per-lead (PPL), pay-per-click (PPC), and pay-per-sale (PPS). In most cases, pay-per-sale structures are ideal for new affiliate programs. Using this method, you only have to pay for every successful sale generated by an affiliate. However, many retailers have had considerable success with PPL and PPC models, so always conduct a thorough assessment of your needs before choosing the options that is right for you.

Choose an Affiliate Program Host

Do you want to have complete control over your affiliate list, tracking methods, and other aspects of operating an affiliate program? If so, hosting your program independently on your own server is probably the best option. You may be able to program your own tracking script if you are tech-savvy, but most merchants will need to hire an expert to create and maintain their affiliate program.

If you’d prefer leaving some of the detail up to somebody else, hosting your program on an affiliate network is another great option. Popular networks include Commission Junction, LinkShare and Be Free. These services simplify the process of creating an affiliate program and offer a wide range of payment models. Because these programs are large and well known, you will have immediate access to thousands of potential affiliate marketers, which can lead to increased online visibility and sales.

Promote Your Affiliate Program

Once you have created an affiliate program, you need to promote it to potential affiliate markers. You can advertise your program on Webmaster forums, affiliate marketing discussion boards, and various blogs and websites. Some retailers opt to hire an affiliate manager to handle their e-commerce dealings, promote their affiliate program, and help their program succeed in a competitive market.

Setting up your own affiliate program is one of the best ways to generate profits and increase the online visibility of your website. By allowing marketers to promote and advertise your business, you gain exposure to a virtually endless online audience. Take the time to research your options, assess your needs, and choose the affiliate program that is right for your business.