The hardest aspect of an affiliate marketing offer to evaluate may also be the most important. Your ability to drive traffic to merchant sites via affiliate links is one of the primary revenue drivers, and it depends in large part on the tools you’re given. These tools are the advertisements merchants have available for affiliates to use on their site. The better the ads are, this more clicks they will get.
Most people need to take a step back and understand where money is even coming from on the web. Sharpe says that, when asked, most individuals don't actually even know how money is being made on a high level. How does Facebook generate its revenues? How about Google? How do high-trafficked blogs become so popular and how do they generate money from all of that traffic? Is there one way or many?
At the other end of the spectrum is the small merchant who is only willing or able to work with a handful of affiliates. In this case, the merchant and affiliate may come to an agreement and utilize a “low tech” solution to determine commissions earned (e.g., a custom referral path and an earnings statement powered by Google Analytics). This type of affiliate relationship will typically develop when there is a logical affiliate relationship between two parties, but the merchant isn’t interested in opening up the affiliate program to a wide range of partners via an affiliate network.
Affiliate marketing is commonly confused with referral marketing, as both forms of marketing use third parties to drive sales to the retailer. The two forms of marketing are differentiated, however, in how they drive sales, where affiliate marketing relies purely on financial motivations, while referral marketing relies more on trust and personal relationships.