This morning I cashed four of my regular affiliate checks. The amounts were $12, $380, $1,655 and $2,320. This month will bring a total of about $7500 in commissions.

I do not mention those amounts to brag. There are many affiliates who do far better. But there are many who never see any substantial checks. I mention the amounts only to prove that affiliate programs can yield tiny commissions or generous, reliable commissions.

You simply need to understand what makes the difference between the $12 checks and the fatter ones.

Let’s jump right in…

The first reason most folks make tiny (if any) commission checks from the affiliate programs they join is because it’s one of the first things they do online. And it can put them in blinders.

Take it from me. When I was a newbie, the first thing I did was sign up with a few affiliate programs.

So there I was, a newbie with dollar signs in my eyes…

I found my way to my first affiliate site and signed up. Their commissions calculator had me excited when it revealed my first million would be made before the Y2K bug hit.

But I was green. And there’s nothing wrong with that in itself. Everybody is green online when they’re first starting out.

The main problem was, I had no idea what it would really take to make money as an affiliate. So I floundered. And floundered. Until I learned the things you MUST do in order to grow fat monthly commission checks.

Here they are: One, Forget about marketing that free site they give you when you sign up.

What’s that? Don’t advertise the affiliate site they build exclusively for that purpose?

Right. See number two. Build your own website and promote it first.

The top affiliates in every program are promoting their own website(s) first. And it’s not just because those mile-long affiliate URL’s are ugly. The fact is, people respond more positively to affiliate programs when they find them through recommendations.

If you build a professional website, you’ll clear the first hurdle to making money online. (Whether it’s through affiliate programs or not.)

Now I’m not saying you have to build a giant affiliate directory site like Ken McArthur’s Affiliate Showcase. On the contrary, a simple site that focuses on only on YOUR area of expertise is the best starting point.

Let’s say you want to earn income promoting golf instruction manuals. Don’t just join a few programs and start promoting your affiliate URL’s. Instead, take the time to build a site about golf instruction manuals. Make it a multi-page site with lots of helpful information for would-be buyers. A site that helps them research their purchase before they buy. Sites like this can get tremendous search engine ranking when optimized properly.

At the site, give away a free manual or email learning series. Collect visitors first names and email addresses. This opt-in list will become your bread and butter. It will allow you to cross-promote related products and services to folks who have shown an interest in your niche. You’ll be able to recommend quality products and services to your list.

Once you have a that attractive and informative site, collecting email addresses, you can start linking strategically to a few select affiliate programs.

Which leads us to the next key to affiliate marketing success…

1) Join the right program(s).

When you’re considering joining an affiliate program, use this short list of requirements:

a. Get 25% or more commission on sales. Many affiliate programs now pay as much as 60% on direct sales. While those are rare, make sure you get at least 20% commission on your sales.

b. Make sure the products and services are directly related to your site. If they are not, then put up a new site with the express purpose of helping people with that particular topic. At the site you can then link to those products and services via affiliate links.

c. While it is not always possible, if you can get recurring commissions you will earn long-term revenue from your efforts. Some examples of affiliate programs that pay recurring income are membership sites and web hosting. You earn every month your referral pays, and that residual income can add up over time.

Oh, and if you think there are no affiliate programs in the niche you’re interested in, think again. There are now affiliate programs in just about every niche! Here’s a search tool you can use to search by keyword. Just enter your area of interest and click search…

2) Get Training

In any venture, you need to know what you’re doing. There are literally hundreds of “tricks of the trade” when it comes to affiliate marketing. Being in the know will increase your commissions significantly.

Look for Companies Offering Lifetime Commissions

Look for companies that do better than merely paying you for the first sale you make. Look for lifetime commissions.

Here’s an example: For me, last year began very nicely. An affiliate merchant sent me an e-mail congratulating me on my sales for January 1. He said: “You had quite a day ($3,518.14 in sales generated in one day)!”

What made the sales so pleasing was that, in most cases, I was being rewarded AGAIN for work done long ago. Many of the commissions I earned on that day occurred because of a mainly overlooked aspect of affiliate marketing – lifetime commissions.

Although I’m just an affiliate of that company, the customers are “mine” for life. Once they’ve made one purchase, every time they buy something from that merchant, I earn a commission. (About 500,000 affiliates wish Amazon would be so generous!)

Not long ago, hardly any affiliate merchants paid life-time commissions or residual commissions now more and more companies are doing so. Check the programmes in ClickBank and Commission Junction In the hotly competitive affiliate marketing industry, this is a fast growing trend.

In closing…

Remember, affiliate marketing can present a tremendous income generating opportunity, if you do it right. Take this knowledge and start growing your own fat affiliate checks! And if you need help, get it.

About The Author

Entrepreneur Jim Daniels started his online business with just $300. Six months later he was earning enough to quit his day job and his “web income” is now well into six figures a year. Jim’s bizweb2000 site shows others how to spin serious profits from the web, right from the comfort of their own homes.