I found myself shopping for my own birthday present last week. As a reward for having made it long enough to achieve "senior citizen" status, my lovely wife, Annie, suggested I order the digital camera I wanted. She also suggested that I might get a better price than she could find.
Taking up the challenge, I scoured the web for the best possible price I could find from a reputable vendor for a Nikon Coolpix 4300. Prices ranged from just $315 to the list price of $449.95! I spent a good bit of time at the DealCam and DealTime sites, along with a number of other price comparison venues. I realized that what I was looking for was a vendor with a good price and a good track record, and, if possible, one with which I'd had previous experience.
After making the rounds of the deal comparison sites and settling on several vendors with good ratings, I also began checking to see if any affiliate programs might save me a few more bucks. Unfortunately, none of the really low-cost, good reputation vendors were involved in any of the affiliate programs I use for the MATH DITTOS 2 site.
I began checking some of the Mac sites with whom I frequently do business, but found their prices generally near the top of the heap. On the odd chance that they might carry cameras, I finally tried one of the education affiliate advertisers for this web site and came up with a fairly good price from the Academic Superstore. While their price wasn't the best I'd found, it came up on top for me with the affiliate commission of 5%!
About now, I hope you're getting the idea of how to write yourself a discount!
Almost all internet service providers allot 5-15 MB of free web storage space as part of their package. Many also offer free web page building tools that pretty much automate the process of building a web page and/or site. Putting together some kind of web page, blog, or photo site is pretty easy work.
You'll have to put something up on the web, as all of the affiliate programs require a web site URL in their application process. It doesn't have to be a paid domain name, just the URL to your web page or site home page will do. Once you have established some kind of web presence, seeking out and applying to affiliate programs is the next step. I'd suggest starting with the biggies.
Commission Junction is the biggest affiliate program, pays promptly, and has a pretty straightforward site for selecting advertisers. Some advertisers automatically accept everyone who applies. Others screen the applicants before approval (or disapproval--I've had several turn me down). CJ's minimum payment is $25, but that threshold triggers a payment based on combined commissions from whatever vendors you use from their program. For example, until my camera purchase, I had commissions on CJ totaling $0.10 since my last payment. The combined commissions from Academic SuperStore and Club Mac pushed the total over $25, so I'll see a payment this quarter.
I should add that some businesses take a good bit of time before reviewing affiliate applications. I applied to Aladdin and was told the application was pending. I forgot about it and months passed. The week I closed Educators' News I received approval from Aladdin! Since I really did want them on my list, I quickly added some of their ads to some of my more frequently visited web pages.
LinkShare.com is another affiliate program that has lots of vendors, including some big names such as Wal-Mart, Buy.com, and all the Office Depot sites (Office Depot, Tech Depot, and Computers4Sure). With LinkShare vendors, you have to meet the commission threshold for each vendor before you get a check. But some, such as the Office Depot group, carry low thresholds and write their own commission checks, so you don't end up with $20 in commissions waiting on $5 more in commission sales to trigger a payment.
I've found that quite a few upscale LinkShare merchants don't want to mess with smaller sites such as mine, so be prepared for a little rejection:-).
One real plus with some LinkShare merchants is that you can create a link to any product they have offered on their site. While some Commission Junction merchants offer a number of fixed product links such as the camera accessories pictured above, LinkShare merchants can open up their whole online catalog for individual ads. The Office Depot group and 1-800-FLOWERS are two that I often use for individual item ads.
QuinStreet is a newcomer to the affiliate program business. They offer a small, but unique group of advertisers including the American Red Cross, Save the Children, and IndyMac Bank mortgage lenders. Some of their clients require an email application of just a few lines. It's not much, but it is a bit different and more work than Commission Junction or LinkShare.
Amazon maintains their own affiliate program. I think almost every established web site is a member! With Amazon you can link to any product or any page they have, along with some related specialty stores like Target and .
Amazon often has rebates that no other site has, often a combination of their own rebate plus a manufacturer's rebate. When I upgraded Adobe Photoshop Elements from version 1 to 2, a combination of rebates plus commission made it nearly a free upgrade (and I now find myself using Elements 2 as much or more than GraphicConverter).
MacResQ runs its own affiliate program. I've been an affiliate for several years, but will receive my first check just this quarter! A lot of that has to do with MacResQ's low prices and consequently low commissions. Also, I rarely buy big ticket items there. A big advantage with a small, specialized independent like MacResQ is that if you have a question or concern, you get a quick, personal answer from Shawna Rosen, MacResQ's Affiliate Manager.
Christianbook.com and MusicForce.com are another independent affiliate program that I use.
Places Where I've Struck Out
Other World Computing happily takes my money on a regular basis, but won't even answer a simple email from me about advertising or an affiliate or associate program. While DellHome maintains an extensive affiliate program that is frequently updated with delicious PC offerings, Apple Computer has no such program. Both New Egg and Frye's (Outpost) have a lot of good deals on computer products, but neither appears to participate in any affiliate programs. Sometimes it seems that the rock bottom price vendors don't participate in affiliate programs. But just about when I'm ready to believe such a generalization, I find an outstanding price from one of "my" affiliate vendors that beats the socks off of the competition!
Have Some Fun With It
My youngest son, Zach, and I were "talking" on instant messenger last year, and he asked what I wanted for Christmas. Sometimes it's difficult to tell folks what you want and where to get it, so they don't get ripped off or order the wrong item. So, as we spoke, I set up an Amazon ad for David McFarland's Dreamweaver MX: The Missing Manual, posted the ad at right on Educators' News, and sent Zach the URL! I was in the process of changing over from Claris Home Page to Dreamweaver MX when I decided to close Educators' News, so I haven't gotten past the basics of Dreamweaver yet, but I've got the right book to do it when I'm ready.
Most of the Macintosh World, and I assume most readers of this column are Mac-leaning folks, are absolutely drooling over the coming Power Mac G5s. I've been amused by all the columns about the new machines, as only a few writers got to actually touch one for a few minutes at the recent WorldWide Developers Conference. But...anyway, the machine gives most Mac geeks a lump in the throat or somewhere else and probably is worthy of everything that has been written about it.
Now, if you're about to plunk down $1999-2,999 of your hard earned cash for one of the G5s, why not write yourself a discount of up to $150! While we're dreaming, let's dream big and go for the Apple Power Mac Desktop M9032LL/A (DP,... from Amazon at a cool $2,994.99. Since you've applied to become an Amazon Associate (You have, haven't you?), you can count on a commission check in the neighborhood of $150, cutting your price to $2844.99!
Of course, Amazon isn't the only Apple reseller offering the G5 series. The folks at Club Mac and MacMall will sell you the top-of-the-line model for $2994 and generally throw in a free printer (after rebates) along with their 3% and 2% commissions. Crucial Technology has all the RAM you'll ever need (7-10% commission) and Chumbo.com can provide the other hardware and software odds and ends you'll find necessary (2% commission).
Fredericks won't sell you any Macs, but then, who cares if you can get your significant other into one of their creations and get a 4% discount in the process? And what better way to set the mood than with roses (on sale now and get your 8-10% commission) from 1-800-FLOWERS.COM!
After my wife Annie was discharged a year ago from a two week stay at the Cleveland Clinic, I sent all the floor staff a thank you from Mrs. Fields Cookies.
I find that since I've started writing myself discounts with various affiliate advertisers, I'm much more thoughtful with friends and family.
Can I Afford to Save that Much?
One little drawback to this whole game plan is that you can get carried away with it. I spent far more than I ever imagined I would when I got done ordering all the stuff I needed (wanted) to go with the new camera. Of course, the last new camera I bought for myself was a Canon AE-1 in 1975.
I also frequently run into the fact that the lowest price by far is not offered by any of the merchants with whom I have an affiliate status. I certainly won't pay more just to get a commission...that is counted as taxable income.
While all of this probably wasn't what the affiliate companies or their merchants had in mind, it can work for you. Give it a try, and...if you get a new dual G5, be sure to drop me a line about how you like it. I spent all my money on camera equipment!
Odd thoughts while shaving between paragraphs:
I left the old top right banner for Educators' News on this column for a reason. EdNews ran for two years and developed a small, but loyal following of readers. Unfortunately, it just never developed the momentum to make it worth continuing. I never expected Educators' News to be a real money maker, but also never planned for it to be a constant drain on my family's income.
I really feel for the web sites out there consistently delivering free online content and struggling to just get by (or worse). If you don't go the affiliate route, or when you need to buy something one of your affiliates doesn't offer, why not find one of your favorite sites that does have a link and click through it to make your purchase.
Consider it an investment in future online free content.
©2003 Steven L. Wood