And so we begin our series, Affiliate Marketing 101, where I am going to take a few minutes to explain how all of this works. I designed each little article as a quick read and placed a link to the next article in the series at the bottom. You should be able to read them all in a half hour.
Simply put, Affiliate Marketing is the Internet version of commission sales. You make a deal with a company where they agree to pay you some amount of money to display some type of ad to visitors at your site to get them to go to the company’s site and do something.
That something may be as simple as clicking on the ad itself (Pay Per Click), identifying themselves to the advertiser for further action (Pay Per Lead), or getting the visitor to buy something, either on the spot or within an agreed upon timeframe (Pay Per Sale).
There is tremendous debate about who started the first affiliate program, but Amazon’s is probably the most successful (it was started in 1996). Around that time Linkshare, arguably the first affiliate network, was launched. I met with the Linkshare folks when they were first getting started, and they struck me as clever people with a great idea. BeFree, another early ad network that is now part of Commission Junction, was another company that got in early.
Unfortunately the dot com bust also caused a bust for affiliate marketers. Google’s Adsense, combined with a growing economy and Internet ubiquity, brought the business and ecommerce in general back to robust growth.