Whilst your first instinct may be to join as many affiliate programs as possible, I think it’s better to keep things to a manageable number.
Different people will have different views as to how big or small that number should be but I think it should definitely be in single digits for any given niche that you’re involved in.
For instance, in the self help niche that I like, I’m in three main programs and two of those generate the lion’s share of the commissions i earn there.
The biggest plus point to keeping things simple is that you’ve got more control.
In my early days as an affiliate marketer, I didn’t follow the rule of less is more. And a lot of the programs I promoted were via Clickbank. Whilst you could argue that Clickbank is just one affiliate program, in reality it’s lots of different ones. The programs use Clickbank as their payment processor but each site within that umbrella is responsible for everything it promotes.
Over time, sites disappear. Lots of reasons for that but the main ones are that they weren’t generating enough sales, things have moved on in their marketplace, they changed payment processor or the site owner changed direction.
What that means to you as an affiliate is that you need to be regularly checking that the sites you’re promoting are still available for you to earn a commission from.
For instance, if a site moves away from Clickbank, the link you click will likely still work and the payment button may look the same. It’s not until you actually click the link and check that it’s still with Clickbank and that your affiliate ID still shows on the order page that you know whether or not you’ll get paid.
Most affiliate programs won’t tell you when the site no longer exists and there’s not always the option to find out who your affiliates are. Certainly sites like Clickbank and Udemy don’t have that option – I’m not picking on these two, they have good programs, it’s just that the way they operate means there’s not much information available to vendors about who is generating sales.
The same goes if you promote Amazon products. Again, there’s no system to tell the affiliate when a product is out of stock, delisted, superceded or generally unavailable. So you could be sending clicks to a page that won’t earn you money.
The lower the number of programs and products you promote, the less you have to check.
Another thing that can happen is when a site changes the way its affiliate links work.
This has happened to me twice – once where the vendor decided to stop their affiliate program entirely (annoying, I’d met the vendor in person but his circumstances changed) and the other where they changed their site layout and a few other things which meant all the affiliate links changed. I still promote this one – they’re good in the self help niche and they had a transition period where both old and new links worked but it wasn’t a fun time changing lots of links.
Another part of less administration is handling the incoming income. The less entries on your bank account, the cheaper your accountants fees are likely to be.
Also a lot of affiliate programs have minimum payouts – you can set those with Clickbank but most others have a minimum dollar amount. For instance, with the two main self help programs I promote, one has a $25 minimum, the other has $100. When you’re starting out, it’s exciting to make sales and earn commission but it’s even more exciting to actually receive the money.
As you start to make more sales, the affiliate vendor may start to notice you.
Again, that partly depends on the program but it’s generally the case.
That means you may get tailored promotions, created specially for you. Or you may get sent information about which programs are the best sellers – the other main self help program I promote does this, as well as running affiliate contests on a reasonably regular basis. These contests take account of sales and email newsletter signups, so if you’re promoting less programs and they’re running that kind of competition, you’ll likely be sending more clicks.
It also means you’ll likely get a better response if you need it – I’ve escalated the occasional customer problem via my contacts for instance. And there will be occasional customer problems because the web – and especially email – isn’t perfect. Customers don’t always use the official support channels and sometimes come back via the site that introduced them. I’ve got no problem helping as it means I’m likely to keep my commission rather than have the sale reversed.
The 80/20 rule
Also known as the Pareto Principle – the exact proportions vary but most of your income will come from a handful of programs anyway.
One thing is that you almost certainly won’t know ahead of time which those will be. And they may shift over time.
Which means that in your early days in a niche you may decide to go for a higher number of programs and then weed out the poor performers over time.
And just because one program has a higher payout than another doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily earn more money from the one with higher commission.
Despite their cutbacks on payouts, a lot of people still find that they get more money from their low paying Amazon links than they do from other programs. So don’t judge until you get measurable results.
If you’d like more help with your affiliate marketing, check out this free training video.