What’s an affiliate program
Generally an affiliate, referral or associate program works on the following principle: you send potential clients and get paid for each actual customer referred by you. Now, you can be paid a fixed amount per sale or a percent of the sale that you referred, but I’ll not get into that much detail. I’m sure you get the idea: you refer a customer, you get paid.
What defines a good hosting affiliate program
Most people think (wrongly) that the best hosting affiliate program is the one that pays the most. While this is certainly an important aspect, it is not the most important. Sure, it’s good to be paid a respectful, fair amount, and getting paid appropriately should be one of your goals.
However, to be a successful affiliate, you have to think about your visitors first. When you recommend a product you have to be as sure as possible that you’re doing a good job. Think about it from your visitor’s point of view: What’s more important, the amount of money you’ll receive or the quality of the service you’re recommending?
You got it right! It’s the quality of the service. If you plan to recommend a hosting service make sure it’s a very good one. The good news is that recommending a good hosting service will do you good: you’ll get the respect of your visitors and that is more valuable than money because it can potentially pay you ten folds over time.
Just think about it: If the visitor winds up paying for a hosting service that is unsatisfying, then he’ll feel that you and your website are some of the main reasons this had happened. That means that you’re building a bad reputation and who wants that?
The most important thing that defines a good hosting affiliate program is the quality of the hosting itself.
Another important thing is the payment schedule. How often will the checks be sent? Once, twice per month? It can be good to receive checks on a regular basis. However, more important than that is if the schedule is actually respected.
Unfortunately there’s no sure method to find out if the checks are delivered as promised. The only method to bring forth this type of information is to find another affiliate of that company and ask them directly about their experience.
Hosting affiliate programs, like most affiliate programs, can have more than a single level or tier. This works like this: you refer someone to their site and that someone also becomes an affiliate. Then, for every sale generated by that affiliate you also get paid, usually a significantly smaller amount compared to the one you’re being paid for a direct sale. But you get paid nevertheless.
For some types of websites, with a suited audience, the second level is actually more lucrative than the first. Such sites are the so called affiliate directories that used to flourish a few years ago.
If your website would work better with a second level you should then look for a hosting company that uses a 2-tier affiliate program because not all hosting companies use a second one.
Why not? I think I know the reason for that and if I’m right it’s mostly an overreaction on the part of the hosting company. This levels thing is in a way closely related to MLM (multilevel marketing). In multilevel marketing there are usually many levels, most of the times over 4 of them. This is how things get pyramidal and why the ones at the top of the pyramid get lots of money obtained through the work of others.
However, a 2-tier hosting affiliate program is very far from that kind of business model. It is in my opinion the fair approach to affiliate programs and should be used by all hosting companies. Why? Because it’s fair towards the affiliate.
Suppose you send a person to the hosting company and that person doesn’t sign-up for the hosting services. Instead he/she signs-up for their affiliate program and produces hundreds of sales per month. It was because of you that she got there and you should be rewarded for this. In a 1 tier affiliate program you’d not get a cent for referring that affiliate. In 2-tiers affiliate programs you do get paid – and you deserve it.
There are some affiliate programs where you get paid in a different way. Once a referred person signs-up for hosting that person is associated to your affiliate account and you receive a small percent (usually around 10-15%) from every single payment made by that person. Say he/she signs for a $9/month hosting plan. You then could receive for example $1 every month as long as that person stays with that hosting company.
This type of affiliate program has the advantage of offering you the chance of a relatively constant, secure and growing income.
Looking for a hosting affiliate program
It might come as a surprise to many of you, but if you want to be a responsible affiliate there’s plenty to be done. First you have to search for good hosting companies, so you’d better take a look at my other articles where I explain how to find them.
For a responsible affiliate (responsible towards its visitors), this is the most important step in finding a good hosting affiliate program, but you’d be surprised how few are those that care about this. I would venture to guess that under 5% of hosting affiliates actually care about this.
Most people looking for hosting companies with affiliate programs ask on forums if payment (check) is sent on time and or how much a company pays per sale. I have yet to find someone asking to find a good hosting company that also happens to have an affiliate program and pays on time. No. Almost everyone is concerned with their profits. Sure, it’s understandable, but what about the services they’re recommending? Are they really worthy of a recommendation?
The recommendation of hosting services is a very valuable service as long as it’s done properly, with care and responsibility. Look at it like this: suppose the visitor is someone who runs into you when you’re downtown and asks you “What time is it?” You’ll take a look at your watch and tell him the answer, right?
If that same person is on your website and looks for a host what do you do? You refer him/her to the host that pays you the most? No, you should refer the visitors to the host that is the best you’ve found! Consider the affiliate program and the payment you might receive to be a bonus! ‘Cause that’s what it is!
My way of doing things
I completely respect my visitors and thus I respect and protect their interests. Unlike most affiliates, I clearly explain how the site gets revenue and with which companies I’m affiliated.
That’s a bit of an extreme approach and it involves a high risk because people who under normal circumstances might’ve bought hosting from the companies that I’m affiliated with, might not do it knowing that I will get paid for it. It’s just human nature to think like that, but it is my belief that honesty will pay in the long run.
People will ultimately appreciate my sincerity and they will remember my site as one of the few places where everything is out in the open, may it be good or bad. I believe that if more webmasters would behave in a responsible manner the web would be a much more valuable place.
Quality hosting affiliate programs
My list of Honest Hosts is considerably large and I’ve never considered to eliminate a host from the list because it doesn’t have an affiliate program. In fact, some of the Honest Hosts have an affiliate program, but I decided not to join all of them because I want to remain as independent as possible. I’ve willingly joined only these affiliate programs, practically losing money. I can’t recommend you though to go to these lengths.