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Extra Income with Referral Programs

Posted on June 13, 2000

by Michael Webb

I'm almost embarrassed to say that I make over $2100 a month from my website on referral programs alone. The reason I am reluctant to tell people is because making money was never my intention with my website.

As an author, syndicated columnist and spokesperson, having a website is an effective tool for spreading the word about my services. I never dreamed that it would also be a source of a great second income.

After a bit of trial and error, here are some pointers on having a successful affiliate/referral program.

1. TRAFFIC -- You can't refer your visitors to other sites (and make money) if you don't have any visitors to start. Besides getting in search engines and exchanging links, purchase visitors at services like, and For just a penny a hit (or more if you desire), you can drive significant traffic to your site. If you calculate that you make an average of 5 cents per visitor (divide your total monthly Internet income by the number of unique visitors for that month), then logic should tell you should "buy" as many visitors as is possible at a cost less than five cents each.

2. QUALITY SITE -- A quality site will bring visitors back to your site as well as lend credibility to what you recommend. The more "professional" your site appears, the more likely people will click on links you suggest.

3. BANNERS RARELY WORK -- If you visit my site you will notice how I promote various affiliate programs. I use text links that blend in with the rest of my content. A banner tells people they are clicking on an ad. A text link is more like a personal recommendation and will usually register two to three times as many hits as a banner will.

4. PERSONAL ENDORSEMENT -- I don't always send my visitors immediately to another site if they click on a referral link. First, I send them to another page where I tell them a little bit more about the program, usually sharing my personal experience with that product. That way, they only leave my site if they are really interested. I do this for programs where I am paid when someone signs up for a particular program or product. The affiliate program calls these "leads." If I am paid per "hit" or "click", then the link directs them straight to that site.

5. MAKE THEM APPROPRIATE -- Most of my affiliate programs are related to what my site is about. Try to pick programs that would be of interest to those visiting your site. But don't be afraid of adding some programs that are more "general interest" as they might bring in significant revenue.

6. TEST -- Put about six or eight programs on your site and test to see how they do over a week's period of time. Drop those that aren't performing and try some new ones. My rule of thumb is that I try to make an average of at least 5 cents from every visitor I send to a referral site.

7. HITS, LEADS, PURCHASES -- Programs that pay per hits are very safe bets. You are guaranteed to make a certain amount for everyone you send their way. Try to find programs that will give you at least 5 cents for everyone you refer. Some companies will pay you a large commission for every sale that comes via your site, but unless people are buying often from them, they can perform very poorly. I have had great success with programs that pay you per "lead" like for people who sign up for a free Internet answering machine or a free sweepstakes entries. Many gambling site will pay you great money but I don't support gambling so I don't provide any links to gambling sites.

8. GOOD COMPANY -- Sign up with a reputable affiliate company that offers a variety of programs. I have heard about some programs that don't pay their bills on time. I've dealt with a number of number of companies and there are definitely some I would recommend and others I would advise you to avoid.

Michael Webb is a nationally syndicated columnist and is the best-selling author of The RoMANtic's Guide: Hundreds of Creative Tips for a Lifetime of Love. He offers more suggestions on referral programs on his website at


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