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Affiliate programs are a great way to make money on the Internet – one of the few ways, in fact, that has managed to stand the test of time. The web today is a very different place to what it was at the start of e-commerce, but the success of affiliate marketing programs has only increased. In an unstable market like the Internet, it makes sense to seize on proven strategies like this and put them to work for you.

So what is an affiliate program? Basically, the idea is that, instead of running your own e-commerce website, fulfilling orders and all that jazz, you just set up your website to drive customers to someone else’s. For example, if you’re running a website with DVD reviews, you might think that it would also make sense for you to sell the DVDs – so you just sign up to an affiliate program, and link through to a store that does using your affiliate code. In return for the referral, you get a commission as a percentage of the sale price, typically somewhere from 1% to 5%.

The most important choice you have to make is exactly which affiliate program to join. You can’t join too many, because your website will quickly become cluttered – and besides, many of the larger ones have rules that say you can’t do this.

If your site is anything to do with books, music or movies, you would almost certainly do best to go with Amazon’s affiliate program. This can work especially well if your site is quite narrowly targeted and focused. A site with comprehensive discographies for ‘70s glam rock bands, for example, will probably find that adding affiliate links next to the name of each CD will drive a lot of sales. This is because the more focused your site is, the easier it is for it to become an authority in its chosen area.

For non-media items, such as collectibles, eBay’s affiliate program can also be effective. It is a live-updated list of current eBay auctions on items relevant to your site that your visitors will then hopefully click on, rewarding you each time.

Ultimately, though, your site might not fit into one of the big affiliate programs. In this case, just do a search for whatever your site is about followed by the word ‘affiliate’, and see what turns up. You might be pleasantly surprised.