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The Invisibility of the 1% of Successful Affiliate Programs
Urban Legend? A distraction? Sucker bait?

 1:59 pm on Apr 22, 2007 (gmt 0)

I'm moved to write as a result of reading the following statement in another thread currently running in this forum:

once I find a merchant in that 1%, I generally keep my mouth shut since I don't want a zillion other affiliates to sweep in and potentially bump out some of my sales.

Not so long ago I made a similar statement, suggesting that my examination of available affiliate programs lead me to believe that few programs offered anything of unique value and that perhaps 1% of what I evaluated looked "marketable". (That 1% does not include "a sucker is born every day" marketing, such as enlargement pills, etc.)

The popular belief, or fact, that only 1% of affiliate programs really work compels the question: If only ~1+% of affiliate programs hold out a meaningful promise of success then why on earth aren't those 1% of available programs trumpeting that fact to the world?

I can accept the affliate marketer's defensive position: "Don't tell anyone about the 1%! Why invite competition?" However, what about the affiliate manager? Why wouldn't the Affiliate Program Manager "get the word out"? Presumably "more sales" would be a good thing for a business so why wouldn't an affliate manager of a "1% program" light up the global billboard with the announcement: "We're part of the 1% and we've got the data to prove it!"

Do you believe, or is it a fact, that the invisibility of the 1% "success ready" affiliate programs is attributable to incestuous behavior of affiliate managers who, by design, don't get the word out - except to an inner circle of friends?

Perhaps this is the truth: The (secret) 1% of "success ready" programs is an urban legend. The truth is some programs may have a more compelling offer and value proposition but ultimately the success of any person or offer is a function of individual skills, techniques, technology, timing, etc.

Or maybe the great truth of affliate marketing is that 99% of people involved with affliate marketing are wannabes, that there are enough good programs to go around, but only 1% of affliate marketers have a clue about how to come out on top?

In your experience, which is the great truth of affliate marketing:

  • Affiliate Program Managers often fail to get the word out about programs that sell.
  • Affiliate Program Managers are incestuous, not widely publicizing opportunities, perhaps to the detriment of the business owner.
  • The legend of the secret 1% is effectively sucker bait, exciting many to invest time, money and effort on programs that are big on promise but invariably fail to deliver.
  • The secret 1% of all programs is only to be found in the confluence of due diligence (evaluating all offers, including newly announced offers), the application patiently acquired skills and being in the right place, with the right insight, at the right moment - which may, properly, include getting a "heads up" tip from an affiliate program manager due to your past efforts and success.

Were you ever in the right place, at the right time, and had a 1% experience?

Have you ever had a 1% experience? Was you 1% experience due to a lot of groundwork and preparation to meet the 1% opportunity? Was it the offer, the timing, the groundwork, or just being at the right place at the right time and seeing the opportunity?

There is a top 1% but it's no secret: True or false?

The secret of the top 1% is no secret, it's simply proprietary information, accumulated through the investment of time, money and effort, and therefore not dished out "for the asking". True or false?

The most popular forum question that doesn't get answered is "What are the best affiliate programs for quickly and easily making money?" True. ;0)

[edited by: Webwork at 2:39 pm (utc) on April 22, 2007]



 6:41 pm on Apr 24, 2007 (gmt 0)

Yes, dear.



 8:05 pm on Apr 24, 2007 (gmt 0)

Quite frankly we could talk about how to find the top 1% of affiliate programs and how the top 1% of affiliate marketers make their big money. All talk and no action will keep you Very far from that top 1% ;) Like many have said, dig deep, do your own work, persist, take chances, and you will succeed. Like Nike says, "Just Do It"! Oh, and a HUGE one...think outside the box...don't do what everyone else is doing, or you'll see the same results as everyone else...go above and beyond.



 8:51 pm on Apr 24, 2007 (gmt 0)

And on this note, would someone please take pity on a total noob in this field and sticky an example of the exceptional 1% to me please. Anything, widgets or extra-terrestrial e-books, whatever. The conversation is somewhat theoretical for me with no background in affiliate stuff. I just need to see one that is considered exceptional and compare the offer with the ones that are better known.


 9:16 pm on Apr 24, 2007 (gmt 0)

And on this note, would someone please take pity on a total noob in this field and sticky an example of the exceptional 1% to me please.

Honestly, I wouldn't worry about it. I couldn't be sure what the top 1% are, but given that addictive substances and pursuits always sell well, I'd guess sex, drugs and gambling are pretty good niches to start with.

You might be far better off finding a merchant in the top 25% of affiliate programmes, related to a topic which you can talk about with some expertise and which has comparatively little competition (so your SEO hurdle is lower and your PPC costs are less).

Which programs fall into the top 25%? That, you'll have to figure out for yourself. (Why? Because nobody else has an interest in seeing their SEO hurdles get higher and their PPC costs increase).

[edited by: ronin at 9:16 pm (utc) on April 24, 2007]


 9:16 pm on Apr 24, 2007 (gmt 0)

Were you ever in the right place, at the right time, and had a 1% experience?


Have you ever had a 1% experience? Was you 1% experience due to a lot of groundwork and preparation to meet the 1% opportunity? Was it the offer, the timing, the groundwork, or just being at the right place at the right time and seeing the opportunity?

Pure luck - and possibly a good sense of gut feeling - allthough luck can be influenced by industry knowledge

There is a top 1% but it's no secret: True or false?

False. I think it's more like 5%.

The secret of the top 1% is no secret, it's simply proprietary information, accumulated through the investment of time, money and effort, and therefore not dished out "for the asking". True or false?

False. It ain't 1%, and it can be found by luck. Time and effort are more important factors then money I think. Still, people are funny creatures, and even left-winged people are not willing to "share" as much as they would proclaim in their politic standpoints, when it comes to their own cold hard $$$.


 10:22 pm on Apr 24, 2007 (gmt 0)

There are so many thousands (tens of thousands?) of affiliate programs that in most niches there are ALWAYS choices.

So one way to weed out the clutter is to line up all the affiliate programs you can find in a given niche (and if you're 1%-er candidate material then, regardless of your current earning power, that's going to be pretty much ALL of them worth writing home about) and then start eliminating the worst ones.

Broken images on the site? Gone.
Prominent phone number? Gone.
Choice of 3 banners, and strict instructions that you can't make your own ads? Gone.
Blabbed examples about specific "successful" affiliates on your affiliate program information page? Gone.
Established program with a $0.00 (or near) 3-month and 7-day EPC (for example, that's CJ's number, but most networks have similar systems)? Gone.
Huge long-term EPC and tiny short-term EPC? Does the merchant batch sales? If not, they may be reversing everything. Gone.
Batch processed leads that seem to be randomly processed every few weeks at best? Gone.
Gut feel: would ANYONE buy from their site? If not... Gone.

And so on.

In most cases, you can whittle the field down to perhaps 20-25% of starting "possibles" pretty easily, then it's time to test, test and test again with the survivors.

After all, at the end of the day, most niches will have at least ONE affiliate program that's "good enough" to milk. There's no reason why you have to diversify too much (though if you can find 2 good affiliate programs you have a backup if the first company gets out of the affiliate space) - even if there are 50 affiliate programs in a niche, there's no reason why you can't make real money off just a couple if you can find ones that work for you...

[edited by: Edwin at 10:25 pm (utc) on April 24, 2007]


 11:59 pm on Apr 24, 2007 (gmt 0)

That's my rough read early in the process - that there are affiliate programs that lack affiliate marketing and general online marketing expertise, and that "lack of merchant/offerer expertise" is a significant contributing factor to affiliate marketing un-success. I suspect many more programs would work if everyone involved knew a bit more about what works, how it works, how to execute, etc.

Many of the best performing affiliate programs I promote just have the stuff out there to make them work regardless of who is in charge. It's not that tough if the site is well designed and linking options are very flexible. I've never or rarely been in touch with some of the AMs. They often have unique products, almost always have a data feed with good info in it and few if any restrictions other than keep it legal - no email spam, etc...

Sometimes you just have an intuitive sense about what will work, you look for a model that will work, then the flexibility to market it the way you know it can work and there isn't much AM support needed.

There are those that have tremendous potential that don't have data feeds & flexible linking options who must be to busy trying to drum up sales some other way to pay any attention to their email after paying aff network access fees.


 2:45 am on Apr 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

In the affiliate game it's often easier to spot "signals of cluelessness" than "signals of quality."

Boy is that true. I don't care if they are in the top 5% or 25%. I'd just like to find a competent affiliate program in my niche. It seems people who have an online business just think they can add on an affiliate program with no further effort.


 12:36 pm on Apr 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

TrustNo1 has pinpointed the primary issue that makes it all work. Targeting, targeting, targeting.

Definitely and absolutely true. Otherwise you'll have no other chance but experience the dark side of affiliate marketing just like many young and unexperienced entrepreneurs have done...


 5:40 pm on Apr 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

In the last five years, I've come across only two affiliate programs that produced results: one for web hosting that I have to push myself, and one for products of interest to visitors of a hobby site of mine. I've experimented with countless programs that appear to have sweet payouts, but with absolutely no conversions.

So even knowing your target audience isn't enough, because most targeted affiliate ads may still not generate revenue. I'd say the 1% is an accurate assessment, its about testing the waters until you find a solid program, and then experimenting with how you promote it (i.e. written product reviews on your site, recommendations with a link).


 8:25 pm on Apr 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

Were you ever in the right place, at the right time, and had a 1% experience?

Yes. I met a network account manager at PubCon last year. Our chance conversation ended up paying for my whole trip from London within a week or so, thanks to one merchant they suggested to me.

In many respects affiliate marketing is a numbers game. You can end up kissing a lot of frogs...


 3:48 am on Apr 27, 2007 (gmt 0)

I just wanted to throw in my 2 cents here..i think what i have to say will echo what the others have said:

1) niches will make you rich
2) targeted traffic is the key
3) persistence, persistence, persistence
4) don't put all your eggs in one basket

i do affiliate marketing full time, and awhile i'm not going to reveal any of my secrets..i will tell all the curiousity seekers that the 4 points i made above are basically the keys to affiliate marketing. bottom line: do every aff program you can, send them targeted traffic..build on the programs where you make money..fire the affiliate programs where you don't. it's that easy :)


 3:51 am on Apr 27, 2007 (gmt 0)

I kissed at least five before I found a princess. Since I'm using PPC exclusively, I use the $200 rule. I buy $200 worth of clicks, make adjustments throughout, and if the campaign shows no hope of being profitable, I move on. Breaking even to start out with is actually a great thing, since lower bid prices and higher conversion rates due to testing are always in the future.


 1:59 pm on Apr 28, 2007 (gmt 0)

The single easiest way to find a successul program in my experience is to see who other affiliates are promoting and try them first.


 3:24 pm on Apr 28, 2007 (gmt 0)

The 1% should apply to quantify the number of decent
publishers in the field. Only 1% to 10% seem to be successful. The rest, newbies, wannabees and the plain incompetent will always make up the other 90%.

Some might say this observation (with minor adjustments to percentages) applies to just about any arena - sports, business, software development, AdSense publishers, etc.

Just look at the 'long tail' for proof. The vast majority of players are in the 'tail'.


 9:45 pm on Apr 28, 2007 (gmt 0)

JKWilson hit upon a great tactic. Look at the top SERP's in your field of interest (or a field you want to enter)...and see which affiliate programs they are pushing...or how they make money. No need to reinvent the wheel, and you can be sure if they've been in their top position for a while that they'll have put in some decent research into the matter already....


 11:41 pm on May 3, 2007 (gmt 0)

I am really green, so exuse the question. What does it mean to have 1% success with an affilate program? What exactly is an affiliate program or AM? Like I said, I am new to this stuff and possibly don't belong in this thread with this kind of question. Maybe someone could direct me in the right direction.
I just signed up on this website and I think I have learned more here in the couple hours I have been reading then all of the places I been in the past few weeks. Great website!


 12:03 am on May 4, 2007 (gmt 0)

Welcome, Sergemann! AM often means affiliate manager, but can also mean affiliate marketing.

The way I define affiliate marketing is

"Promote other people's stuff. Get paid for results."

Results could mean different things, depending on what the merchant wants to achieve. Often it means getting paid a commission when you send the merchant a customer who ends up buying something. Some merchants will pay just for traffic (less common these days), some might pay for things like newsletter signups, and others might pay for leads. A lead means the user gives enough contact info to the merchant that they can follow up with the user and hopefully sell them something later.

In affiliate marketing there are no guarantees about how much you might earn ... but no limits either.

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