Before we begin, a strong warning!

As with anything, "if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is." Be very wary of ANY business opportunity, online or offline, that requires you to make a large upfront investment. Anyone who tells you that they can make you a lot of money for not much work is playing you for a sucker.

In my opinion, any affiliate program that requires you to pay an upfront fee, or monthly fees (even in return for a "website" made just for you), is deeply, deeply suspect. The good affiliate programs make money by helping you sell their products, not by charging you for the "honor" of doing so.

As you may have guessed, I have strong feelings in this regard; this is because I get emails and phone calls all the time from people who have invested a lot of money in these schemes, asking how they can promote them.

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Believe it or not, 11.13% of the people who use SelfPromotion.com support the site!
"Become our affiliate, we'll create your website, and send you $$$!"

Sounds like a great deal, doesn't it. There are hundreds of "virtual website" affiliate programs out there, and I get email from people who are trying to promote these sites every day asking for help. Unfortunately, I have bad news for them. It isn't as easy as it looks!

First, some definitions...

Here's how these systems work. Someone has a product they want to sell, so they set up a website to sell the product. But rather than promote their product in the normal way, they recruit affiliates to do most of the marketing for them.

When you sign up as an affiliate, they provide you with an email address and a "virtual" website. This website is a duplicate of their regular website, except that it is often personalized for each affiliate (say, with your name, address and a photo). Then it's up to you to promote your virtual website, both offline and online, in the hopes of attracting customers. Any sales you make for them generates a commission for you.

The problem is...

The problem, alas, is that promoting these sites to the search engines and indexes is a waste of time! Consider that your virtual site is almost identical to all the other versions of the site; same text except for your name, same title, same meta tags (if they bother), same text.

So assuming you and the other 10,000 affiliates all manage to get your websites into the search engines, and even assuming that the site ranks highly for a particular keyword search, what do you think the odds are that your copy of the website is going to be the first one listed? That's right -- 10,000 to 1 against. Probably even less, because these days, the search engines look for incoming links to your "website" as a ranking criteria, and you won't have any.

It gets even worse if the url of your virtual website has a ? in it (eg: http://www.maketonsofmoneyfast.com/?12345, where the 12345 is your affiliate number). Many search engines will not list such urls, because they think (correctly) that they are database generated pages.

And on top of all that, you can forget about getting into the major indexes like Yahoo. If it's possible for the website to get into them, the promoter will have already done it.

The final nail in the coffin

Google is now using human raters to help eliminate spam from their indexes. Virtual sites, and sites that exist solely to generate affiliate commissions, are classed as "offensive" material. That says it all.

Is it possible make money with affiliate programs?

Yes, but it's a lot of work. First of all, forget about any program that sets up a website for you, unless it's free (and even then, it's almost certainly a waste of time). If they charge you a setup fee, or a monthly fee, run away as fast as you can; chances are very high that this is how they really make their money.

The affiliate programs that work are the ones that (a) have a good product that is reasonably priced, and (b) relate in some way to your existing website. The classic example is the Amazon.com affiliate program, where people list books on their website that are related to their content. What you are doing is making your website more useful to your visitors by recommending good things they are likely to be interested in. For example, this is why I endorse a couple of internet marketing courses on this website. Those endorsements do generate commissions, which I donate to charity. It works well because the products are useful to the kind of people who visit this website.

Bottom line, making money with affiliate programs takes hard work -- hard work in finding the right products, and hard work in building a useful website so that people will visit it, see that you know your stuff, and be likely to consider the recommendations you make about useful products. If anyone tells you it's quick and easy, put your hand on your wallet; the odds are extremely high you're being scammed.

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This site was developed on a Macintosh, programmed in WebSiphon, and served by WebStar. The author, on those exceedingly rare occasions when he does think, indeed thinks differently.

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