One of the things I come across when I am helping new Affiliates with their Marketing is that they forget about the user experience through the entire shopping process. They may design a gorgeous site and have a great niche or micro niche set up, but they forget that when a person leaves an affiliate site the relevant messaging needs to continue.
By keeping your messaging strong, you not only keep the user experience on path but you keep them excited to shop.
Let's use travel as an example.
Suppose your niche site is about gay vacations. You design your site to cater to gay people. You don't talk about straight people and you don't worry about straight travel issues like child care, nannies, etc... (unless it is for gay family vacations like the Rosie O'Donnell cruise). So why would you send your traffic to landing pages that have pictures of straight people on them?
What you need to remember is that you just spent tons of time developing a landing page and copy to appeal to gay people. You spent time optimizing for the Search Engines and possibly spent money on PPC or other paid advertisements. So when the person leaves your site, why would you send them to the major travel sites' homepages or general landing pages?
Instead look for programs that have gay oriented banners and landing pages designed for gay people.
If you are catering to Lesbians, why would you want to show men hanging out by a pool or in a club? You have to remember that messaging and imagery is important. If it's a singles cruise for gay men, don't land them on a page that talks about child care and women. Instead, ask the merchant to create a landing page with copy for your audience and with imagery that matches their needs.
What's even better though is to skip some of the larger sites and look for the niche sites with programs. They may not have brand recognition, but they do have proper landing pages, messaging and a staff that is ready to help with your visitors needs.
Affiliate Marketing is an awesome channel, you just have to remember to keep your messaging and imagery consistent to help keep your conversions high.
If the Merchant's you already know don't want to create a consistent path for your traffic, there are plenty of other niche sites out there that would be happy to have your traffic.
Don't rely on the big guys to convert because niche visitors aren't always looking for major brands. Instead they are used to using niche specific and customized service providers.
The important thing to remember is to keep your messaging and images relevant to your visitors even after they leave your site.
Do you have experience with mismatched messaging?