Quick Start Guide: How to Get Your Affiliate Marketing Program Going Fast
Thank you for joining the Rakuten Affiliate Network!
! Stop and review these affiliate marketing requirements and recommendations before getting started with your affiliate marketing efforts. !
First, it is important to understand that affiliate marketing is not a "get rich quick" scheme. It is a marketing channel that requires time, effort, creativity, communication and relationship-building with your advertiser partners and your consumer followers. If you are not ready with the items below, it will be a waste of your time and effort to start using affiliate marketing. At a minimum, you will need:
- Your own professionally-designed, quality website, blog or customized social media site
- Lots of original (not copied from another site or source), quality content that adds value to the users
- A well-thought-out business plan
From Google Webmasters Support quality guidelines for affiliate programs:
"Added value means additional meaningful content or features, such as additional information about price, purchasing location, or product category.
"Google believes that pure, or "thin," affiliate websites do not provide additional value for web users, especially (but not only) if they are part of a program that distributes its content across a network of affiliates. These sites often appear to be cookie-cutter sites or templates the same or similar content replicated within the same site, or across multiple domains or languages. Because a search results page could return several of these sites, all with the same content, thin affiliates create a frustrating user experience."
Read the entire quality guidelines for affiliate marketing programs from Google Webmasters Support for more tips and best practices.
(If you haven't registered as a publisher yet, learn how to sign up now. It's free and easy to do in about 10 minutes!)
Since our beginnings in 1996 as LinkShare, we have grown to become one of the largest affiliate networks and part of the Rakuten family of companies with offices in New York City, San Mateo, Seattle, Chicago, Tampa, London, Sydney, Sao Paulo, Paris, Berlin and Tokyo…and expanding. We are very proud that Rakuten Affiliate Network (formerly Rakuten LinkShare) has been ranked #1 affiliate network by our customers in the mThink survey six years in a row!
As a Rakuten Affiliate Network publisher, you have access to many of the leading brands, latest tools and technology and outstanding support that we strive to provide every day.
In this quick start guide, you'll learn how to:
- Understand what affiliate marketing is all about
- Decode affiliate marketing terminology
- Set up your publisher account so you're ready for business
- Find and join advertiser programs so you can promote their products and services on your site
- Get affiliate links to publish and start generating commissions
- Use deep linking for better results
- Use reports to see how you're doing and get actionable insights
- Understand the commission payments system
Click on any of the links above to jump to the topic you're most interested in now. Or review the entire guide if you prefer.
***NEW! Download a more detailed Getting Started Guide as a PDF.***
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PLEASE NOTE: Some of the links in the article below will require you to log in to your publisher account to be able to view them. If you have not yet registered as a publisher, this would be a good time to do that.
Affiliate marketing is a type of performance-based marketing that rewards affiliates (publishers) for sales or other actions brought to the merchant (advertiser) website by the affiliate’s actions. You are now empowered to earn commissions from your website. We’re here to help you get up and earning as quickly and easily as possible!
If you’re not already familiar with how affiliate marketing works, you can watch this 2-minute video for a quick overview:
As with most industries, affiliate marketing has its own set of terms. Rakuten Affiliate Network has put together a comprehensive glossary of common affiliate marketing terms in our Publisher Help Center.
To get you started, here are a few of the key terms you should know:
- Account related terms
- Advertiser, Merchant, Brand = A person or organization selling products or services on the web and is a member of the Rakuten Affiliate Network.
- Publisher, Affiliate = A publisher is a person or organization running a website that partners with one or more online advertisers. The publisher places links on its site to promote the merchant's products or services. In exchange, the publisher receives a commission for all valid transactions it has referred.
- SID = The site ID (SID) is a unique number used in the Rakuten Affiliate Network to identify different marketing channels. Our support team can use your site ID to locate your record, so please include it in any communications you send us.
- MID = The Merchant ID (MID) is a unique number used in the Rakuten Affiliate Network to identify the advertiser’s affiliate program
- Key performance metrics
- CTR = Click Through Rate or CTR is obtained by dividing the number of clicks by the number of impressions. CTR is a good way of measuring the effectiveness of a campaign. For example, if your banner ad was delivered 100 times (impressions) and one person clicked on it, then the resulting CTR would be 1 percent.
- Orders/Click = Orders per click (also known as conversion rate) is the percentage of clicks on an affiliate link that lead to a sale or other commissionable item.
- EPC = Earnings per Click and is obtained by dividing the commissions earned by the number of clicks (click-throughs) that generated these commissions. Rakuten Affiliate Network uses Earnings per Hundred Clicks as it is easier to read. EPC is useful for measuring the revenue potential and conversion of your links. For example, if a link received 1000 clicks, and generated $5.00 in commissions, EPC would be shown as $0.50.
- AOV or AOS = Average Order Value or Average Order Size represents the sum of sales divided by the number of orders.
Let's get started! Log in to your account now and follow along.
Navigate to this URL: http://marketing.rakuten.com/affiliate-marketing and click Login at the upper right corner of the page. Enter your username and password and click Log In. (You should have received these credentials in your welcome email message when you registered for the Rakuten Affiliate Network.) If you encounter any login difficulties, review the related Help Center articles or contact Customer Support for your location.
5 Easy Steps to Get Started with Rakuten Affiliate Network
It is important to take a few minutes to set up your account in the Publisher Dashboard so we can help advertisers find you for a mutually beneficial partnership. Make sure you fill this information out completely and keep it up to date. You can watch a short video tutorial on how to update your contact information and account profile.
When you are setting up your account, you will want to be pay particular attention to selecting your payment method so you can receive your commissions. Rakuten Affiliate Network offers various methods of publisher payment, depending on your location. By default, all US publishers are initially paid by check. Once you cash your first consolidated Rakuten Affiliate Network check, your mailing address will be validated in our system making you eligible for direct deposit. Publishers who are in countries we support for direct deposit can set up direct deposit payments for those networks before receiving a check from the US Network. Those publishers who can set up direct deposit payments earlier will still have to cash one US Network check before direct deposit payments begin for US Network. Learn more about setting up direct deposit.
We also have an option for PayPal to receive commissions in certain countries.
To confirm your eligibility for the different payment methods by country and network, please see the Payment Options table.
You’ll probably want to work with advertisers in the categories of content you already have and promote on your website. In order to start promoting advertisers on your site, you’ll first need to be approved into their programs. You can use several different tools to find advertiser programs that would be a good fit, then you will apply and receive an email notification letting you know when you’ve been approved and how to get affiliate links to use on your site.
How to find advertiser programs
You can find advertiser programs in your Publisher Dashboard and in the Help Center in various ways to suit your needs. Here's how:
a. Use the Advertiser Search box to find a specific advertiser by name.
b. Go to the Programs tab on the Publisher Dashboard. There you can find advertiser programs in several ways:
- Click New Advertisers to see a list of advertisers who recently joined Rakuten Affiliate Network.
- Click Categories and then select a category to see a list of advertisers with programs of that type.
- You can also click See All Advertisers at the bottom right of the categories list page to view an alphabetical list of all available advertiser programs.
- Refine your search in the list of all advertisers with the filters to search for advertisers with certain characteristics such as Premium Advertisers, advertisers with mobile optimized sites, advertisers who offer our Merchandiser product data feed, advertisers who offer RSS feeds or who offer Media Optimization Report, or advertisers who ship to certain countries.
c. Go to the Publisher Help Center and find lists of
- advertisers who automatically approve all applications,
- advertisers who pay commission on gift cards,
- advertisers with flat fee offers, advertisers with pay-per-call offers,
- advertisers who offer Merchandiser product data feed, or
- advertisers who offer UPC in Merchandiser data feed.
d. If you prefer to work with advertisers in a particular geographic area, you can further filter your list by network:
After selecting an advertiser, you will see a summary of its program. To see the offers an advertiser has available, select the Offers tab and Available Offers.
From time to time, advertisers may also extend a private offer to you. These are special program terms the advertiser makes available to you. You have the choice of accepting or rejecting these offers. Learn more about the various types of offers from advertisers.
How to apply for advertiser programs
To apply to the advertiser's program, select the radio button next to the offer you want to join and click Update at the bottom of the page. To apply to several advertiser programs at once, return to the listing of advertiser programs, click the check-boxes next to the programs you wish to join, and click Apply at the bottom of the page. By applying to the advertiser's program you are agreeing to the advertiser's terms and conditions (these vary from advertiser to advertiser), so be sure to read and understand them thoroughly.
To refine the list of advertisers, click the Filter button, select specific attributes you would like to filter by, and click Apply Filter.
The advertiser will email you to let you know when you are approved, or if there is some reason they are unable to approve your application at this time. Read more about the approval process.
Once you have been approved into an advertiser’s program, you’ll be able to access their various affiliate links to use on your website. To use the advertiser's pre-generated links, go to Links > Get Links on your publisher dashboard.
Then, click on an advertiser in the list to see their details. From the advertiser home page, click Links to see the link types they offer.
- Link types – Rakuten Affiliate Network offers advertisers a variety of link types to use in their programs. These links contain the affiliate code and other information that will ensure that you receive proper commissions for any sales generated when one of your site visitors clicks through to the advertisers’ website. Learn more about the behind the scenes tracking technology in this video tutorial. Advertisers may choose to provide one or more of the following link types for your use:
- Individual product
- Search box
- Dynamic rich media
- Flex Links
Once you've found the link type (such as text link), you can filter by category (such as coupon) to be more specific to your needs. This will generate a list of links to choose from in that category. From the list, select the link you wish to use and click Get Link at the far right of the page.
From there, you'll see a pop-up with the HTML code with your tracking code included so you can copy and paste it onto your website.
If you can't find the products you are looking for in the pre-generated list from the advertiser, you can create your own links using our deep linking tools. Deep links are links that direct your site's visitors to a specific page on an advertiser's site rather than to the advertiser's homepage. They are links that go deeper into a site, such as a product page. These links tend to convert to sales much better than linking to an advertiser's home page because they direct the visitor to the product of interest. Not all advertisers allow deep linking. The Deep Linking page in the Links tab lists all of your advertiser-partners enabled for Deep Links in one place. Learn more in the Guide to Deep Linking.
One deep linking tool is built into the Publisher Dashboard. Go to Links > Deep Linking.
Select one of your advertiser partners. Input the URL of the page from that advertiser's website you wish to link to. Make sure there is only one http:// in the URL.
Select the output format of the link. For text links, you will need to input the text you want the page URL to link to, such as "Buy Here". For images you will need to input the URL of the image.
"U1 Value" is used only by specialized publishers for Signature transaction level tracking, so you can leave this blank if it doesn't apply to your program. This value can be used for tracking transactions by member ID for loyalty, fundraising, or charity sites, and for campaign level tracking of ads and links.
Click Create Link and your tracked URL or HTML code will appear in a pop-up, ready for you to copy and paste it onto your site.
Another great time-saving deep linking tool that you can use from your browser is the LinkGenerator Bookmarklet, available from Links > Bento Box > Get Links > Bookmarklet. Learn how to install and use the bookmarklet.
In your publisher dashboard, go to Reports > Reporting for our powerful pre-designed reports. The Sales and Activity report is a good one to run regularly, as it gives you an idea of what revenue you're generating. You can also create your own custom reports that suit your needs. Learn more about our latest reporting tools.
Here are a few helpful pointers about how our payment system works.
- We have a process set up to ensure weekly payments are processed swiftly and correctly for you, and it can take a few months to get your first payment. We also have a minimum threshold your earnings must meet before generating a payment. Here's an overview of how it works:
Rakuten Affiliate Network issues four publisher payments per month on behalf of the advertisers, based on the payments that advertisers send to us. With consolidated payments, Rakuten Affiliate Network includes all advertiser payments received and cleared as of the day the payment file is authorized.
As part of the service we provide at the Rakuten Affiliate Network, we gather all the relevant billing information, prepare and send an invoice to the advertisers each month with the payments due to the publishers in their programs. (There is no invoicing that needs to be done by publishers for this purpose.)
Our standard payment terms require advertisers to review and close invoices by the end of the calendar month once the invoice is posted to them. Payment is due to Rakuten Affiliate Network 30 days after the invoice date. For example, commissions earned during the month of October (which are invoiced in early November) would be authorized by the advertiser by November 30th with payment due to Rakuten Affiliate Network by December 30th. Publishers would then be issued payments by Rakuten Affiliate Network in the following week.
- The Advertiser Payments History report in the publisher dashboard is a great report for keeping track of your advertisers' payments progress. Go to My Account > Payment Info to find this report and all things relating to your payments. You can send a payment inquiry directly to an advertiser from this area. Or you can contact Customer Support for help with your payments questions.
Congratulations on your choice to join thousands of publishers who are successfully monetizing their websites with Rakuten Affiliate Network!
For a more detailed plan to get started, check out the weekly planner.
Download a more detailed Getting Started Guide as a PDF.
Still have more questions? Use the SUPPORT tab at the top of the page or this link to find the email or phone Customer Support contacts for your location.