At its core, affiliate marketing is an online referral program where merchants pay commissions to publishers on sales generated by customers they’ve referred. The merchant can be an online retailer like eBay, or a service provider. Individuals and companies referring the traffic are called publishers, or affiliates, who publish content on the web promoting the merchant’s offerings. Customers are the people that click on the promoted content and make a purchase or complete a specified action. Payment is typically in the form of commission, but sometimes merchants offer a flat rate for a specific action, or a bonus for a type of visitor. EPN offers both commissions and bonuses.
Since the emergence of affiliate marketing, there has been little control over affiliate activity. Unscrupulous affiliates have used spam, false advertising, forced clicks (to get tracking cookies set on users' computers), adware, and other methods to drive traffic to their sponsors. Although many affiliate programs have terms of service that contain rules against spam, this marketing method has historically proven to attract abuse from spammers.
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You can also establish commission tiers based on specific product categories. For example, you could pay 2 percent revenue share on electronics, and 10 percent on home decor, since the former carries a lower profit margin than the latter. A challenge of working with this dual structure is the technical integration. You will need to create a product feed for the affiliate network, and for each affiliate transaction that occurs you will have to submit item-level data to distinguish, say, electronics from home decor. Neither task is particularly challenging, but it does require some work.
The 900-Number Rule requires that ads for pay-per-call services disclose the cost of the call. Ads for services that promote sweepstakes or games of chance, provide information about a federal program (but are not sponsored by a federal agency), or target individuals under 18 years of age require additional disclosures. Ads for 900-numbers cannot be directed to children under 12 unless the ads deal with a bona fide education service, as defined by the Rule.
The terms of an affiliate marketing program are set by the company wanting to advertise. Early on, companies were largely paying cost per click (traffic) or cost per mile (impressions) on banner advertisements. As the technology evolved, the focus turned to commissions on actual sales or qualified leads. The early affiliate marketing programs were vulnerable to fraud because clicks could be generated by software, as could impressions.
Affiliate marketing overlaps with other Internet marketing methods to some degree, because affiliates often use regular advertising methods. Those methods include organic search engine optimization (SEO), paid search engine marketing (PPC – Pay Per Click), e-mail marketing, content marketing, and (in some sense) display advertising. On the other hand, affiliates sometimes use less orthodox techniques, such as publishing reviews of products or services offered by a partner.