Affiliate Profile: Commission Junction

For anyone looking to make big bucks through affiliate advertising, one destination that you must seek is Commission Junction.
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For anyone looking to make some big bucks through affiliate advertising, one destination that you must seek is Commission Junction. With a number of online giants behind it, a detailed reporting system and a huge ad selection, Commission Junction offers a bevy of choices almost guaranteed to boost your bottom line.

Getting Started
Like other affiliate programs, you must register before you can place any ads on your Web site. The signup process is easy. Like Linkshare, you must provide basic personal and site information. It's also important to classify your site into specific categories, as many advertisers will accept or deny your application to be their affiliate partner.

Once you're signed up, it's a matter of logging in to the CJ Account Manager and weeding through the various merchant categories and selecting advertisers you feel will appeal to your site's audience.

Getting Advertisers
Commission Junction's selection process is, again, straightforward. Upon logging in to your account, your account page has all of the information you need to get going. Click on "Get Links" and you will find a list of categories (similar to what you would see on Linkshare) from which to pick advertisers or an advertiser directory. Once you have established a relationship with an advertiser, you can go directly to their programs through the "Get Links->By Relationship" tab.

When you select an advertiser to view, a pop-up window provides all of the details of that merchant's program: commission levels, terms, network earnings (or how well the program is performing overall) and 7-day and 3-month average earnings per click (EPC). You must accept the terms of the merchant's program and will either be immediately approved or told the merchant approves partners manually after screening your site. One problem I've found is that a few advertisers who approve affiliates manually never respond, effectively eliminating you from partnering with them.

In the preview window, you can also examine the various categories of ads the merchant provides through Commission Junction: banners, text, specials, sweepstakes and keywords.

Once you have a list of approved advertisers, you can then begin to pick the ads you will place on your Web site.


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Commission Junction's advertiser list gives affiliates a detailed look at each merchant's program earnings. (Click for larger image)

What's nice about Commission Junction's advertiser section is that the best performing ads are displayed first, which gives you an indication of what messages or images are working for other affiliate partners. When you click on an ad you'd like to use, a new window opens with the ad and corresponding HTML.

A unique feature with Commission Junction is that you can alter the code in several ways. First, you can associate the ad with any Web site you have registered (you can register any number of sites with your account). This will help in determining what links are working or not working on different sites.

You can also add JavaScript code that will hide the odd domain names and tracking codes used by the CJ ad servers (tkqlhce.com, kqzyfj.com and a few others) in your browser's lower status bar. For instance, when a user mouses over an ad for eBay.com on your site, instead of seeing "www.kqzyfj.com" (the ad server supporting and tracking the link), the user will see "www.ebay.com" in the status window.

Commission Junction also has the option of adding code to open a new window when an ad is clicked. It's not difficult to do on your own, but it saves time.

Besides banner and text ads, many advertisers offer HTML-based email campaigns. This can get tricky and isn't recommended for use unless you really have access to an opt-in email marketing list. If this is misused, you could find yourself in trouble with your ISP and possibly the advertiser and Commission Junction.

SmartZones
Perhaps my favorite feature of Commission Junction is the SmartZones feature. SmartZones allow you to select up to 25 text or image ads and banners that randomly rotate on your site. For example, you can create a SmartZone for 460x80 banners. You can then go through your advertiser list, find banners you want to use and add them. When finished, you grab the provided HTML script and place it on a Web page. Each time the page is loaded, a different ad will appear in that space. This allows you test a variety of ads and merchants on your site to see which ones your visitors respond to.


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Commission Junction's ad creation tool allows you to assign any ad to a specific site and encrypt and hide the actual links.

There is no limit to the number of SmartZones you can set up. That means you can set up one SmartZone with text links up to 500 characters, another with 120x120 banner ads and a third with random size banners. It's up to you.

Keywords
Most of Commission Junction's advertisers support search engine keyword marketing in some form. For those who are persistent and search engine-savvy, the payoffs could be huge.

The problem with most advertisers' policies regarding keywords is that they place too many restrictions on what you can and can't do. Many of them forbid you to use a long list of keywords on, say, Google or Yahoo. For example, GoDaddy.com, an up and coming domain registrar and ISP that gained widespread notoriety for its Super Bowl ad this year, has a list of "non-compete keywords." Included in that list of protected words and phrases is "domain registration." In my view, that is unreasonable.

Resources
For anyone who is new to the affiliate advertising world or for those who may not be seeing the kind of results they had hoped for, Commission Junction has a great resource center called "CJU." CJU offers the latest news, advertising strategies, tool demos and best practices.

One of my favorite sections is the Strategy section, which has a huge list of tutorials on marketing your site and your advertisers. One article, The Basics of Ad Testing, walks users through testing different offers to maximize revenue.


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Commission Junction University is a great resource when trying to maximize your affiliate commissions.

Seeing Green
Depending on what ads lead to sales through your site, the potential is indeed great on Commission Junction. Many advertisers pay for both leads and sales. Many of the sales commissions, for example through Yahoo Small Business or DirecTV, can jump over $100 for a single sale. Again, it's dependent on how receptive your visitors are to your site. Many people can't stand banner ads, but may b more likely to click a simple text ad with an advertiser's domain name or teaser.

Commission Junction's reporting features are unmatched, in my opinion. It's one of the reasons I enjoy using the site so much. Unlike most other affiliate programs, Commission Junction actually updates your statistics every hour. You can break your statistics in an unlimited number of ways, including 50 best performing links, best performing sites and product performance by Web site or advertiser.

You can also sort each report in ascending or descending order in 13 different ways. That enables you to see which ad generated the most click-throughs or which had had the most impressions in any given time period.

Your total earnings also appear in near real time at the top of every screen.

As with all affiliate marketing programs, it's going to take time before you start seeing results. Don't get too frustrated if your initial earnings are small. Take the time to experiment with different ads and ad placement on your Web site. Try different advertisers, regardless of their network earnings. What might not be working for other affiliates, may work great for you - and vice versa.

Now get to work!


More resources:
CJ Account Manager Overview
Getting Started for Publishers

Devin Comiskey is the Managing Editor for ECommerce-Guide.com.

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