There are a lot of Online Marketers who work for an Ecommerce site and think it is super easy to become an Affiliate after working in house at a company. The thing they haven't realized is that most of them walk into established programs and channels and never had to do the hard work of launching new sites and campaigns, especially without a company backing it. Established sites are usually easier to work with and drive new traffic to than a brand new one with little to no traffic or authority, so when these people decide to become an Affiliate, they are in for a rude awakening. Not only do they have to learn how build the site, but they have to figure out a few of the key differences between a Merchant and an Affiliate site and revenue model.
Newsletter Signups Because You Don't Get Transaction Data
One of the hardest parts of becoming an Affiliate is getting traffic. Affiliates don't have the transaction on their site and don't get the information that Merchant's do or a customer email/newsletter list. Instead Affiliates help build the email and customer list for the Merchants.
One of the most important things you can do as an Affiliate is to place your own newsletter sign up on your site so that you can re-market back to those same people over and over building a stream of revenue. You just have to remember to not abuse your list. When you become an Affiliate you need to build a sustainable source of traffic to stay afloat and this is one of the best ways.
Many Merchants and Ecommerce sites will build satellite sites that are keyword rich for "SEO" benefits. (We all see how well that worked out with the recent downfalls). Lots of new Affiliates will try this, except they use the domain as their main site instead of as a satellite site.
The problem with this is that even though your sites have the keyword phrases you want, your visitors will not http://www.remember a-site-with-a-million-dashes-as-easily-and-you-may-not-get-repeat-visitors.com. Although good keywords in your URL can be a good thing, your URL has to be memorable and brandable.
Go for shorter versions or slang terms. Find something that people will remember and have fun saying. If you are good with SEO you can still rank for the terms you want.
Do Not Rely On One Merchant!
If you are planning your Affiliate site, make sure you have backup Merchants to promote. Not only do Merchants go under and you lose all sales and links, but if you live in the US and they pass a Nexus law in your state, you may lose all links from that Merchant. Other Merchants shut down their programs to everyone when a Nexus law is passed so it affects people out of the USA as well. Many Affiliates that built sites around a single Merchant lost a huge chunk of revenue when they got removed from a program for Nexus or a company going under. You may also end up with thousands of broken links to replace and no revenue coming in for weeks until you get them replaced. You never know what will happen to a Merchant or your relationship with them so have a backup plan. Although AdSense and Ad Networks can be a great source of income, Affiliate sales can make you a lot more when done right.
Disclosing Your Relationships.
If you were running Social Media or other channels in house, you probably didn't have to disclose the relationship with yourself since you were promoting as yourself and people knew you would benefit from those links. As an Affiliate in the USA you are now required to disclose every relationship and link that you push out as an Affiliate. You will need to read about the guidelines and find out how you feel you can abide by them. The worst thing you can have happen is to not know about them and have the FTC come after your sites and company. There are some great resources out there if you Google FTC Advertising Disclose Policy Affiliates.
There are a few huge differences when you go from working in house at an Ecommerce site and when you become an Affiliate.
ps: if any of you will be at Pubcon next week, don't forget to come to my sessions where we will be answering Merchant Questions and also doing a live Affiliate site review session right after.