What Are Affiliate Programs?

Bloggers Can Make Serious Money Via Affiliate Programs

If you’ve ever spent some time on blogs, you’ve probably come across something like this.  “In this interest of full disclosure, some of the links or banners below are affiliate links and I may receive commission should you click a link and/or make a purchase.”  You might not have even noticed it, but you’ve probably come across something like it.  Even top publishers are required to include a statement like that at the beginning of a post containing affiliate links or ads.  These statements are known as disclosure agreements and they ensure readers are swindled into making purchases without knowing who gets the money from that purchase.  Though you now know what that statement at the top of a blog post is all about, you’re probably still wondering what affiliate programs are.  Without further ado, here’s what an affiliate program is.

Affiliate Programs: Using Sleeve-A-Message as an Example

To communicate what an affiliate program is as clearly and effectively as possible, I’ve decided to use Sleeve-A-Message, a St. Louis-based company specializing in custom printed coffee sleeves and coasters, as an example.

Meet the Advertiser

In an affiliate program, there are always at least two parties: the advertiser and the publisher.  The advertiser basically creates the affiliate program.  In this case, Sleeve-A-Message is the advertiser.  In many cases, especially pre-internet, a program like Sleeve-A-Message would go directly to news stations, publishers, or enthusiastic customers and entice them to market their product by offering them commission on the sales linked to their marketing and sales efforts.  Now, a company like Sleeve-A-Message would, more than likely, use a third party to reach publishers.

So, Sleeve-A-Message wants to get the message out about their custom printed coffee sleeves and custom printed coasters.  The first thing they’ll do is find an affiliate program.  For example, CJ Affiliate allows advertisers like Sleeve-A-Message to create campaigns to entice publishers to market their products.  Publishers, also linked to CJ Affiliate, will be able to apply to join Sleeve-A-Message’s campaign.  Sleeve-A-Message can post links, interactive banners, or just plain old picture ads to CJ Affiliate.

Meet the Publisher

In this example, we’ll use a travel blog, TravelUpdate.com.  A blogger on TravelUpdate will apply to join CJ Affiliate.  Once approved to become a publisher on CJ Affiliate, they can then apply to join a company or organization’s marketing or affiliate campaign.  If approved, the publisher will then be able to see the links, interactive banners, or picture ads the company (Sleeve-A-Message) has posted to their campaign.  The blogger over on TravelUpdate.com will then be able to select from a variety of Sleeve-A-Message ads including links and banner ads which they can include in blog posts or throughout their website.

The Benefits of Affiliate Programs

It’s pretty obvious to see how affiliate programs benefit the advertiser.  The advertiser can effectively get links and ads out via publishers.  These links and ads funnel traffic to the publisher (Sleeve-A-Message) and that should equate to more sales.  But how do affiliate programs benefit publishers?  As I alluded to above, publishers earn commission on sales or just clicks.  When TravelUpdate posts a Sleeve-A-Message link on one of their posts, they have the opportunity to earn commission via clicks or sales.  Depending on the advertiser, publishers earn commission via clicks or leads, however, most commission is typically earned through sales.  Commission is tracked via the affiliate link.  It’s also important to know that just because someone clicks a link but decides not to make a purchase at the moment, it doesn’t mean they haven’t given the publisher any commission.  Affiliate links typically come with a tracking cookie that will generate ads to the advertiser because the consumer had clicked one of their links recently.  Depending on the duration of the cookie, you could still be generating commission for a publisher days after visiting an affiliate link.

Overall

Affiliate programs are beneficial to both advertisers and publishers.  Advertisers get their products out to consumers quick and inexpensively while publishers make some money.  Additionally, it’s somewhat beneficial to the consumer as consumers who enjoy a certain niche blog will receive relevant ads after visiting their favorite blogs.

The Best Free Brand Tools

Branding is Essential for All Businesses, Here Are Some Cheap Tools

If you’re the owner of a small business or head up a local organization, you might think that branding is too expensive.  You’re probably using Word Art for a logo and comic sans font for flyers.  Professional branding is very expensive and companies that specialize in branding would have you think that it’s impossible for you to independently develop a brand.  However, that’s not the case.  I’ve gathered up some of the top cheap branding tools that will help you effectively market your business or organization.

LogoMakr is a great branding tool (Image: LogoMakr)
LogoMakr is a great branding tool (Image: LogoMakr)

LogoMakr

LogoMakr is a free logo making software available to anyone.  It’s a web-based program so all you have to do is click one of these links or go directly to their site.  Once you’ve reached their site, you’re ready to start designing your logo.  LogoMakr features thousands upon thousands of free clip art that anyone can use free of charge as long as they provide credit.  Additionally, for under $20, you can purchase your logo and use it without having to give credit.  LogoMakr is very easy to use and a must for any small business in dire need of a logo.

Use Snappa to market your brand with fantastic graphics (Image: Snappa)
Use Snappa to market your brand with fantastic graphics (Image: Snappa)

Snappa

Snappa is an online graphics design program with free and paid options.  The first few designs each month are free, however, you can pay a small monthly payment for the next few designs.  Snappa is super easy to use and the layout is very appealing.  Snappa allows users to create beautifully designed headers, graphics, and images.  These designs can be used on websites, social media, or print flyers.  Combine Snappa with a killer logo and you’re on your way to having a credible brand.

Design beautiful and custom gear with UTS Promos (Image: UTS)
Design beautiful and custom gear with UTS Promos (Image: UTS)

UTS T-Shirts

UTS T-Shirts is a custom t-shirt and apparel company based in Columbia, Missouri.  UTS allows users to design professional t-shirts, hats, and polo shirts using their online design program.  UTS is extremely affordable and custom gear makes any business or group look much more credible.

Coast A Message and Sleeve A Message complete a fantastic brand (Image: Sleeve-A-Message)
Coast A Message and Sleeve A Message complete a fantastic brand (Image: Sleeve-A-Message)

Coast-A-Message

A fairly new venture also based in Missouri, Coast-A-Message and their sister company Sleeve-A-Message enables any business or group to create fantastic custom designed coasters and coffee sleeves.  Using coasters in your office, at meetings, or at home.  Additionally, Sleeve-A-Message is a great idea for any breakroom.

What is SEO and Why is it so Important?

What is SEO and why is it so important?

The Basics of SEO, Search Engine Optimization

If you’re a business owner, you’ve probably come to grips that this whole internet thing is here to stay. With that in mind, your business probably has a website. If it doesn’t, good luck surviving without a website! Websites are essential to reaching your customers, providing support, and selling your products or services. Having a website isn’t as easy as throwing some text up on a flashy background. To effectively utilize a website, your website needs to look appealing, it needs to be user-friendly, and it needs to be easily accessible. The first two are the easiest. It’s fairly easy to design a basic and appealing website, however, getting the website to potential or current customers is a whole other story. How effective you are in getting your website out to customers will be determined by how you use SEO or search engine optimization.

Search Engine Optimization, more commonly known as SEO, is essential to distributing your businesses’ website to customers and establishing your business’ credibility.

What is SEO?

Search engine optimization is a free tool that, if used effectively, will drive traffic to your businesses’ website and increase its visibility on popular search engines. Search engines including Google, Bing, and Yahoo. By simply breaking down the phrase “search engine optimization” it’s actually fairly simple to understand SEO. Search engines, like Google, are how customers and clients search for a business or complete research. When you optimize something, you make it the best or most effective. Essentially, search engine optimization is effectively using search engines to market your businesses’ website. Though you can pay to advertise your business at the top or very bottom of Google, Bing, or Yahoo’s search engine results page, using SEO tools, you can boost your website’s visibility for free.

SEO is essential in today's climate
SEO is essential in today’s climate

How to Use SEO Tools?

Using SEO tools can become a very difficult and intricate process. For most businesses, there are a few very easy tools that every can use. For example, just using consistent, unique, and smart keywords will boost your businesses’ website. Another simple and free tool is to properly use keywords and meta descriptions. A third example that’s essentially just common sense is to correctly format your businesses’ website.

After those first three very easy and free tools, it gets a lot more complicated. If you’re a very small business with a very small budget, it’s in your best interest to spend a few hours a week scouring the internet and YouTube for free courses on SEO tools. However, if you’ve got the money to spare, most businesses pay other businesses that specialize in search engine optimization, content marketing, and website optimization. Depending on how much or how little you want a firm to do for your business will determine how much you’ll pay to optimize search engine results.

Since this is just an intro to SEO, I’ll briefly explain some of the more complicated tools that can help you maximize your businesses websites with search engines. Most businesses, websites, and blogs use Google Analytics. Google Analytics not only provides businesses with detailed info about website traffic but also provides valuable information regarding keywords and demographics. A second tool is an application like MOZ. MOZ is a paid service that gives businesses owners, and website admins access to data regarding domain authority, links, and keywords. Finally, using backlinks are essential. Backlinks are links to your businesses website on websites with a high domain authority. Getting links on big time sites is always a challenge; however, sponsored content or offering something in return for using your links are an option to get links on a big time site.

I hope this quick intro will help guide you in your efforts to maximize your business’ visibility and credibility using SEO.