How to create a lifetime commissions affiliate program
Affiliate programs are a great way of marketing online.
You pay only for the results you get - if someone
referred to your site makes a purchase.
But if you want to make a really strong affiliate program,
with adoring-sales-machines for affiliates, it must be
VERY attractive to affiliates.
The best way to do that is to offer lifetime
commissions. That means you pay commissions on EVERY
purchase a referred customer makes, not just on the
If you pay commissions for every purchase that your
referred customers make, you offer your affiliates the
chance to earn a lot more money than they otherwise
That will strongly motivate your smarter affiliates to
work harder and be creative, and that is EXACTLY what
you want them to do.
There are lots of things that make an affiliate program
great, but one of the most important is reliable tracking.
The magic ingredient: Tracking
If an affiliate sends you a customer, the affiliate
must earn a commission when that customer makes a
You would not have that customer if the affiliate had
not referred them, so the affiliate deserves to be
To achieve this you must track all referrals reliably,
both online and off.
affiliate's ID number. You should set them with no
expiry date, but they will inevitably be lost well
within a few months, if not weeks, after they are set.
Browsers have a limit to the number of cookies they
means that your cookies will often be overwritten by
those from other web sites.
You must make sure that your cookies work with Internet
Explorer 6, which will discard cookies not compliant
with P3P standards.
Tracking by IP address is not an accurate method of
long-term tracking, however it is an effective way to
track visitors during their FIRST visit to your site.
It is a good idea to use IP tracking to catch any
people who have cookies disabled.
Every time your affiliates send someone to their
affiliate URL, your server should send them to either a
dynamically generated or pre-generated page with their
affiliate ID embedded in it. The affiliate's ID should
also be stored in the URL, so that if the customer
bookmarks and returns, the affiliate is still credited
with the sale.
In your database of customer profiles, you should store
the ID of the affiliate who referred each customer.
Whenever a customer "profile" makes a purchase (online
or off) you should credit the appropriate affiliate(s)
for the sale.
Storing the affiliate's ID in the customer's profile is
the best, most reliable way to track in the long term,
both offline and on.
Some systems also allow you to track offline by
supplying the user with a fake phone extension. This
extension is actually the referring affiliate's ID. You
can also ask people faxing you to quote an order number
- which includes the affiliate's ID.
To catch any who "slip though the cracks", your order
processing software should scan your order history for
any orders going to the same name, e-mail address or
phone number of a customer, and pay the referring
affiliate their due commission.
Where to get affiliate tracking software
You have two options: build or buy.
Buying affiliate software
Buying affiliate tracking software is the way to go.
It is so much cheaper than developing it yourself,
and quality is guaranteed.
There is only one merchant offering a system that
can handle true lifetime commissions: My Affiliate
Program, with it's LifeTime Commissions module add-on.
This is the only system custom-built for lifetime
commissions, and it's fresh off the production line
There is one other good near-lifetime system - Ultimate Affiliate.
It is not specifically designed for lifetime commissions,
but it can handle residual commissions with ease.
My Affiliate Program
This is a great affiliate tracking software suite,
recently made even better by the addition of the
LifeTime Commissions module.
It is run by Kowabunga Technologies, and was honored
with the "Editor's Choice" Award by Dr. Ralph Wilson
of Wilson Internet, who called it "the 'Cadillac'
of its category."
It is hosted on Kowabunga's secure servers, though
a version hosted on your own domain is possible. Over
500 Merchants use MYAP.
It tracks primarily by a cookie for the first
purchase. CGI/ASP tracking is also available,
and it can even track sales made over the phone.
Affiliate management is also simple, with automated
sign-up and a clear interface.
You can even reward your top earning affiliates with
bonuses that can be easily and securely awarded.
The LifeTime Commissions module itself works by
generating a "LifeTime identifier" when your customers
make a purchase.
This field can be anything you want, like the
customer's surname plus the last 5 digits of their
credit card, their name and phone number,
or any other combination you can think of.
When a sale is made this field is compared with a
table that contains a list of these fields and the
affiliate that referred them. If it finds a match,
it awards the due commission.
If it doesn't find a match, it then looks for an affiliate
ID in the cookie and makes a new entry to the lifetime
A simple, yet highly effective system. Database tracking
is the most reliable way to track in the long term.
I highly recommend MYAP with the LifeTime Commissions
module for lifetime tracking.
My Affiliate Program Software:
Ultimate Affiliate is a good PERL software suite for
UNIX servers. Ultimate Affiliate tracks by cookie, IP
address, and can produce dynamic or static web pages
that have the ID of the referring affiliate embedded in
all internal URLs. All your affiliates' details are
stored in a MySQL database.
With a knowledge of PERL and HTML you can customize
virtually any page created by the software.
This software can easily handle recurring commissions,
and has graphical stats for both you and your
affiliates. It can handle up to twelve tiers of
I recommend you do not pay out on more than two tiers.
More than two tiers is multi-level marketing, which
generally has a bad image on the Internet because it
attracts spammers. MLM products also tend to be over-
priced to pay for the many tiers of commissions
Give your affiliates the right tools for the job
One thing that really makes some programs stand head-
and-shoulders above the rest is real-time tracking that
shows affiliates the conversion rates for their various
That means affiliates can see which of their various
links are performing and get an idea why, and what
links aren't and how they could be improved.
Affiliates should be able to see the number of click-
throughs to each of their different links, the number
of sales that each link has made, and the conversion
rate for each link should be calculated for them.
This enables them to figure out how to improve their
links, and thus make more money for themselves, and for
They should also be able to set the landing page for
these links, so that they can link to specific
Affiliates who link to and promote specific products
are a lot more successful than those who simply promote
your site in general.
The shorter and less your links look like referral URLs
the better. Some people recognize affiliate URLs, and
are suspicious of them.
Consider the following (imaginary) URLs:
The first one (where "more-info" is the affiliate's
username) is much more likely to lure a click-through.
A big advantage of short referral URLs is they are
easier to put into newsletters, which are a highly
effective way to advertise online.
Help your affiliates help you
Ninety percent of affiliates won't make a lot of money
for you. They need encouragement, motivation, and help.
Consider giving performance bonuses to the top earners.
Run a monthly newsletter and praise your top affiliates
Tell your other affiliates how the top earners did it,
and about the performance bonus you gave them. Give your
affiliates ideas on how to promote your products best.
Your top earners will appreciate the ego massage, and
your other affiliates will find out what's possible if
they put their mind to it.
For more details see:
How to make your affiliates enthusiastically loyal
Remember, when you help your affiliates get sales, you
help yourself get sales.
The end result
Starting a lifetime affiliate program is not easy, but
the rewards are worth it.
To make your affiliate program successful, you need to
make it attractive to affiliates, and the best way to
do that is offer good rewards.
If you pay lifetime commissions you offer affiliates
the opportunity to earn more money than they normally
would. They will work harder for the better commissions
and in the end, it will pay off with a better, more
effective affiliate program, that is more profitable
Links in this article:
Problems with Internet Explorer 6 and cookies:
My Affiliate Program tracking software:
GroundBreak (Ultimate Affiliate) tracking software:
eLance.com, somewhere to start looking for programmers:
How to make your affiliates enthusiastically loyal
About the Author
Christopher Pearce runs LifetimeCommissions.com, which
reviews lifetime and residual affiliate programs.
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