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Advertise on your websiteYou can indeed make money through affiliate marketing without a website. Methods that do not require a website are email marketing, paid search, and even offline marketing (print, radio, TV, etc). However, there's something every paid search marketer must know prior to launching a PPC affiliate marketing campaign without a website.

On February 26, 2010 Entrepreneur.com published an article entitled "How to Make Money Online Without a Website". In it, author Allen Moon stated that with proper keyword research and good PPC advertising skills anyone can make money off affiliate programs through paid search marketing. True. But very seldom "without a website." The problem is not with Google deciding to "only display one ad per search query for advertisers sharing the same top-level domain in the display URL" (more here), but with the very idea of PPC affiliate marketing without a website. The article reads:

"Direct linking means that you can join affiliate programs, create ads for their products, and send click-throughs directly to the merchant's site. There's no need to build an intermediary site or use your own site to direct traffic. When your click-throughs convert, you get a commission."

Sounds easy, and attractive, but the fact of the matter is that multiple advertisers prohibit DTM (direct-to-merchant) affiliate linking altogether.

I just analyzed paid search affiliate policies from the top 10 merchants on the Internet Retailer's Top 500 List. Here's what I read:

1) Amazon.com Inc.

"After careful review of how we are investing our advertising resources, we have made the decision to no longer pay advertising fees to Associates who send users to www.amazon.com, www.amazon.ca, or www.endless.com through keyword bidding and other paid search on Google, Yahoo, MSN, and other search engines." [source]

2) Staples Inc.

"Affiliates must use their own landing page prior to linking to Staples.com" [from Staples' "Special Instructions for Search Marketing Publishers" on Commission Junction]

3) Dell Inc.

Again on CJ: "Search Campaigns - Direct Linking" section:
Are publishers allowed to link directly to my Web site from search marketing campaigns? --No

4) Apple Inc.

same as above

5) Office Depot Inc

"Office depot does not" allow DTM linking [reply I've just received from LinkShare]

6) Walmart.com

awaiting clarification from LinkShare, will post an update later

7) OfficeMax Inc

awaiting clarification from Google Affiliate Network

8) Sears Holdings Corp.

awaiting clarification from Google Affiliate Network

9) CDW Corp.

No affiliate program

10) Best Buy Co

"Search Campaigns - Direct Linking" section of their CJ program rules:
Are publishers allowed to link directly to my Web site from search marketing campaigns? --No

Apparently, direct-to-merchant linking, or the very idea behind PPC affiliate marketing "without a webiste" will not work with most of the above-quoted merchants, and the situation will be the same with hundreds of other affiliate programs too. As written elsewhere, DTM linking from affiliate PPC campaigns has been historically associated with lower quality traffic, often coupled with trademark poaching, or even copying merchant's own ads. Add Google's policy to allow only one unique display URL per ad copy, and it is obviously why merchants frequently decide to disallow it in their affiliate programs' TOS.

As stated at the very outset, I'm not saying that there is no such thing as affiliate marketing without a website; only that most merchants will have a problem with direct linking. Do check with the merchant prior to investing your time and money into DTM PPC campaigns.

Geno Prussakov

Published 27 May, 2010 by Geno Prussakov

Geno Prussakov is the Founder & Chair of Affiliate Management Days conference, Founder & CEO at AM Navigator, author, internationally known speaker, and a contributor to Econsultancy. You can find Geno on Google+

27 more posts from this author

Comments (12)

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kcheung

its absolutely right that merchants shouldn't allow direct linking, with one exception - where they aren't running their own PPC campaign and are using affiliates to do this on their behalf.

in most cases however merchants will have their own PPC campaign and direct linking competes with this, effectively driving up the cost per click for all parties without really delivering any real incremental value.

further more, how is the affiliate adding value to the campaign and the merchant by direct linking?

about 6 years ago

Magnus Nilsson

Magnus Nilsson, Managing Director at RED PerformanceSmall Business

Good post. In addition to the reasons stated above, I think an important factor is the brand image. By letting affiliates use the official display URL they are effectively (in the eyes of the consumers) becoming the brand. The risks are obvious that in the chase for better CTRs and CR, the affiliates will create very aggressive ad copies that might overpromise or not truly represent the brand.

about 6 years ago

Geno Prussakov

Geno Prussakov, Founder at AM Navigator LLC

kcheung, Magnus, I appreciate your comments. Good points all around.

about 6 years ago

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Dan

I think in a lot of cases merchants should allow direct linking, it should be used strategically and only be available for trusted affiliate partners, not a blanket policy. Affiliates can be used to block out competitors, increase overall presence via major search engines, plug gaps that merchants are not picking upon and, in many cases, using affiliates in the search space correctly can be more cost effective than a CPC search campaign. Its true guys.....

The problem is we have suffered from previous affiliates abusing the rules. This has caused merchants to take a stance of NO DIRECT LINKING, the wrong stance in my opinion. 

I would always recommend a tightly monitored direct and brand affiliate campaign as part of the affiliate mix.

about 6 years ago

Geno Prussakov

Geno Prussakov, Founder at AM Navigator LLC

Good point, Dan, and I have certainly seen merchants have such partnerships with select affiliates. Most, however, prefer to have a 100% restrictive policies (some not to even bother, others - because they're running their own paid search campaigns internally)

about 6 years ago

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polo ralph lauren

in most cases however merchants will have their own PPC campaign and direct linking competes with this, effectively driving up the cost per click for all parties without really delivering any real incremental value.

about 6 years ago

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email marketing

I have to agree with Magnus Nilsson.  It is so important who you are associating with, whether in your private or business life.  Linking ourselves with others, creates a parsona that we are in agreement in our business practices as well.  That is an important thing to think about.

about 6 years ago

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Joe Stepniewski

As the social vs search balance continues to tip, the new 'direct iinking' will be Twitter, Facebook and other social profiles: recommend merchants via an affiliate link encoded in a shortened URL.

However this is something merchants will love, the strongest social profiles endorsing their products and the vessel to the merchant's landing page is your name/reputation and not a search keyword! 

about 6 years ago

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Joe

I appreciate the article. It isn't often that I come across a well researched answer to the questions I am looking for.

about 6 years ago

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Dawid From Affiliate Profits Blueprint

Good post, It isn't often that I come across a well researched article about Affiliate marketing

about 6 years ago

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Jonas

What if an affiliate wants to promote the merchants products under a Top-Level Domain containing a word or phrase of the Merchant Company. Example; Merchant "Gamo Outdoor, Inc." An affiliate wants to register and use www.gamogear.com to promote the products offered in the affiliate program set up by the corporation. I understand that this is not a big issue at first, but could potentially grow to one, if the affiliate decides to leave the program. He could then utilize the name in a negative fashion. Obviously this is just a worst case scenario, but I wanted to hear some input on how to get around it and what agreement could be put in place without discouraging the affiliate to sign up in the first place. Thx J

almost 6 years ago

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Geno Prussakov

Good question, Jonas.

You want to first (i.e. before you register that domain name) check with the merchant itself. I personally think merchants should prohibit the use of their trademarks in affiliate domains (and not because with time you "could utilize the name in a negative fashion", but because of the search engine rankings you will almost immediately receive -- sometimes even beating the merchant itself), but not all explicitly do.

almost 6 years ago

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