"Become our affiliate, we'll create your website, and send you $$$!"

Sounds like a great deal, doesn't it. There are hundreds of "virtual website" affiliate programs out there, and I get email from people who are trying to promote these sites every day asking for help. Unfortunately, I have bad news for them. It isn't as easy as it looks!

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First, some definitions...

Here's how these systems work. Someone has a product they want to sell (and some of these, by the way, are good products -- I do not in any way wish to imply that the products, or their promoters, are all bad; my concern here is that a lot of people are wasting their time because they don't understand how to approach the problem of promoting these kind of products).

Anyway, they set up a website to sell the product. But rather than promote their product in the normal way, they recruit affiliates to do most of the marketing for them.

When you sign up as an affiliate, they provide you with an email address and a "virtual" website. This website is a duplicate of their regular website, except that it is often personalized for each affiliate (say, with your name, address and a photo). Then it's up to you to promote your virtual website, both offline and online, in the hopes of attracting customers. Any sales you make for them generates a commission for you.

The problem is...

The problem, alas, is that promoting these sites to the search engines and indexes is a waste of time! Consider that your virtual site is almost identical to all the other versions of the site; same text except for your name, same title, same meta tags (if they bother), same text.

So assuming you and the other 100,000 affiliates all manage to get your websites into the search engines, and even assuming that the site ranks highly for a particular keyword search, what do you think the odds are that your copy of the website is going to be the first one listed? That's right -- 100,000 to 1 against.

It gets even worse if the url of your virtual website has a ? in it (eg: http://www.maketonsofmoneyfast.com/?12345, where the 12345 is your affiliate number). Many search engines will not list such urls, because they think (correctly) that they are database generated pages.

And on top of all that, you can forget about getting into the major indexes like Yahoo. If it's possible for the website to get into them, the promoter will have already done it.

So what can be done?

It all boils down to this. You can make money with these affiliate programs, but it isn't quick and easy. As Robert Heinlein so memorably put it, TANSTAAFL! (There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch!). In order to generate significant affiliate income, you have to stand out from the crowd. That requires work.

In order to have any shot, you need to create your own web-page promoting the product. Typically, this will be a page that explains what the product is and contains a personal testemonial about it, as well as a link to the virtual website. This means you can fiddle with the text and meta tags and try to get a page that ranks higher than the virtual pages everyone else is using. And if you incorporate this page into a website that provides other benefits, then you've got a chance of getting into the major indexes.

This approach works best if the affiliate program(s) you join are related to the focus of your website. For example, this is how I endorse the "Insider's Secrets" course on this website. That endorsement generates about $500 a month in commissions (which I donate to the Salvation Army). It works well because the product is useful to the kind of people who visit this website.

Bottom line, if you aren't willing to put in some effort, don't waste your time with affiliate programs of any sort. You can make money with them, but you will earn it!

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