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Affiliate Marketing: Fine Print

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Do you enjoy reading lengthy contracts full of Latin words and incomprehensible concepts? What about getting paid affiliate marketing commissions, do you like that?

Well the fact is that if you answered yes to the second question, you may need to learn to love the contracts that are the foundation of your ability to make money in affiliate marketing.

Here are a few very important things to look for when reading an affiliate marketing contract:

Pay-Out Limits

When you're just getting started with an affiliate program, you don't know how much money you're going to make through this particular program. It's kind of like going on a first date: you're just not sure whether or not this relationship will blossom into something special or be a dud.

The affiliate program, usually, feels the same way about you: unsure, not ready to commit.

That's why nearly all affiliate marketing contracts include pay-out limits where, if you're below that pay-out limit for the month, you won't be paid out that month. Often times this number is relatively low, say $50 or $100, but still, $50 is $50 and you'd really rather be paid it.

Circle any and all pay-out limits included in your contract, so you know what the deal is.

Cookie Duration

As you likely already know, when a potential customer clicks through from your affiliate link to the sales offer of your affiliate partner, a piece of tracking software called a "cookie" is placed onto the potential customer's computer, showing that you sent that customer to that merchant.

Some cookies last longer than others, though, and this is another bit of fine print that can be a big deal for your affiliate marketing business.

For instance, the Apple iTunes affiliate program uses cookies that last a mere 24 hours. So this means that any songs, podcasts, or other whatnot your customer buys more than 24 hours after you sent them to Apple will not garner you any commissions whatsoever.

Contrast this with some affiliate programs on Commission Junction that have cookie duration times of 120 days, while some independent programs have cookies that last 365 days.

Only you can know whether or not cookie duration is a major difference-maker in your conversion rates, but certainly, again, it's a piece of fine print to circle in that contract.

Commission Step-Ups

Look closely, too, for any mention of commission raises once you become a high-performing affiliate. Many affiliate programs are happy to pay their best affiliates a higher commission, but it's up to you to evaluate the fairness and appeal of these commission step-ups.

For example, many web hosting affiliate programs offer much higher commission for the months that you send more than 10 customers. So this number of 10 customers per month, then, is typically where you start hitting the "power user" level as a web hosting affiliate.

But other programs may make these kinds of calculations on a yearly basis. Say, if you send more than 100 customers for the year, your commission rate will be higher.

Deciding which commission step-up set-up is best for your business is a matter of personal judgment, and may vary widely from one niche to another.

Again though, and we're sorry to keep repeating ourselves, the point here is that you absolutely must, when you're reading through the contract, identify the "little things" in that contract that can mean the difference between success and failure with any given affiliate marketing program.

Pay-out limits, cookie duration, and commission step-ups are three little things to key in on.

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