Affiliate marketing is a great way for enterprising entrepreneurs to start earning money on a very small start up budget. The easiest program I am familiar with is the eBay Partner Network program. It was originally administered by Commission Junction but has since Apr/May of 2009 moved in house. They have also taken a lead in the industry by moving to Click Quality pricing. This means they factor in a bunch of variables and pay out based on the quality of the traffic received. Originally, (and still predominant in the industry, payments were made to the last affiliate click before the buyer converted. This means any prior affiliates that “touched” the buyer only served to prime them for the sale.
“Thin affiliate” sites are so called because they exist only to send traffic to the destination program and have little or no added value to the user. Most thin affiliates are adept at throwing up quickly built (or robotized) sites, posting links in related forums and then simply waiting while they get picked up by a search engine for some free traffic. This is highly frowned upon by both affiliate programs and search engines as it is hard to argue that value is created for anyone in the chain.
This following site for used and jailbroken cellphones has an interesting value-add for visitors. By graphing the closed sales count and providing histograms of individual product sales, users can easily see what product is popular and the range of previous sale prices. This makes it easier for visitors to decide what to pay for a product, and even to choose which product is better for them. Of course, this site could do one better and provide some more detailed analysis and show how some keywords in the title affect the ending price. For example, adding “broken” or “parts only” to a listing title probably drives a marked decrease in the sales price. On the other hand, “factory unlocked” or “AT&T” will probably have a different effect on the sales price.
What other ways can you think of to add value for the buyer?