I've got a question for you today. I've been considering which affiliate programs to add support for to Affiliate Afterburner/WP (I just added ClickBank support), and it got me thinking about different types of affiliate programs and the capabilities they offer.

Individual vs. Networks

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On the one hand, you have big networks like ClickBank, Commission Junction, etc., which handle affiliate tracking and payments for huge numbers of sellers. On the other end of the spectrum are the individual affiliate programs run by vendors themselves.

The big networks are great when you want to sign up once and be able to promote all sorts of different products. With networks like ClickBank, once you've got an account, you can promote any product sold by any vendor without even having to be approved by them. With other networks like Commission Junction, you may have to wait for each vendor to approve you before you can earn commissions promoting them, but at least you don't have to create a new account for each vendor.

When individual vendors run their own affiliate programs, it's less convenient for affiliates, since they have to set up and manage their accounts for each vendor separately. But there are some advantages to these: less competition, and possibly more individual attention from the vendor.

Support for individual vendor programs will probably never make it into a product like Affiliate Afterburner/WP (...at least not as it now functions, though I have some ideas brewing...), since their appeal is too narrow. But if you want to promote a specific product from a vendor that has their own affiliate program, it can be worth the extra effort.

XML Feeds

Some affiliate programs offer XML feeds that affiliates can use to get information about products and offers they can promote. With the right tools, the data from the feeds can be easily formatted and published on the affiliate's site in a way appropriate to that site.

Affiliate programs that offer XML feeds are the easiest to incorporate into a system like Affiliate Afterburner/WP, because they enable the tool to transform data from any affiliate program into the format that the tool outputs. If each affiliate program's data was constrained to specific output formats, and the formats weren't the same between programs, it would be hard to build a generalized solution to handle that handled all of them well.

Affiliate programs that don't offer XML feeds can sometimes still be supported in a program like Affiliate Afterburner/WP, as long as there's a consistent way to get information about their products that can be reliably chopped up into parts like the product name, description, and affiliate link.

Search Capabilities

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One reason why I just got around to adding ClickBank support to Affiliate Afterburner is that their affiliate XML is not searchable. You can download one huge XML file that contains data for every product they sell. But you can't search and get XML data just for your desired keywords.

Having Affiliate Afterburner/WP download the XML file (which is updated daily) and build a searchable database of tens of thousands of products on each user's server wasn't a viable solution. It would take too much bandwidth, processing power, and storage space.

I'd considered hooking Affiliate Afterburner/WP up to the database at Instant Affiliate Accelerator and having everyone's ClickBank searches run through my server. But fortunately, I discovered a way to enable everyone's searches to go directly to ClickBank instead. It's not an XML feed, but it does the job nicely.

Without some kind of search capability, supporting an affiliate program in a system like Affiliate Afterburner/WP is far less practical, since it would require building a third party system to provide keyword-based ad selection. Search with XML output is the most reliable, but fortunately, workarounds are sometimes possible for other formats.

Enough Talk. Time for Questions.

Okay, I'm done rambling. I said I had a question. Actually, I have a few.

  • Which affiliate programs do you promote? I've made the most through ClickBank, Amazon, and a few individual programs like Mike Dillard's and Armand Morin's. I used to make more through AdSense than I do now. (A while back, I wrote that I was giving AdSense another chance. Since then, I've scaled my use of it back again.) And I earn a big commission here and there from Commission Junction.
  • Do you ever sign up for individual affiliate programs, or do you stick with the networks? Why? If I really believe a product is worth promoting -- a good product that's designed for my audience -- I'll sign up with an individual affiliate program. But I won't spend a lot of time joining affiliate programs just to see if I can make a buck with them.
  • Anybody have comments about Share a Sale? I'm looking into whether they'd work well for Affiliate Afterburner/WP, and would be interested in anyone's thoughts on their program.