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Signing Up with an Ad Broker

One of the most popular Internet advertising brokers is Commission Junction.

Figure 3 shows the home page for Commission Junction (hereafter just CJ).

Figure 3 Commission Junction home page (http://www.cj.com).

CJ has a very complex front page with many links you can visit, but visit these links some other time. To begin the registration process, follow these steps:

  1. Click the button or tab or whatever link they currently have that says Affiliates or Publishers. (Like all smart web businesses, Commission Junction updates its web pages frequently, and the home page probably won't look like Figure 1 by the time you read this article. )

  2. A screen describes the affiliate program in a little more detail (see Figure 4).

    Figure 4 Affiliate description page (top part).

  3. Scroll to the bottom of this page. Near the bottom of the page is a link that says Sign Up Today or Apply to Join or the equivalent (see Figure 5).

  4. Figure 5 Affiliate description page (bottom part).

  5. Click the Sign Up Today link to display the affiliate sign-up form (see Figure 6).

  6. Figure 6 Affiliate sign-up page (steps 1–2 of 7).

There are seven steps to signing up; we'll look at each step in detail in the context of signing up our sample web business, http://www.ProfessorF.com.

Step 1: Site Information

The first step is where you describe your site to advertisers. It's important that you put yourself in the place of the advertisers when you fill out this information, since this is the information advertisers see when you sign up for their programs. There are four text boxes. The first asks for your web site or newsletter name.

  1. Enter your site's name. Don't simply enter your site's address (URL). Remember that an advertiser may view this information, so keep your site name short, descriptive, yet catchy. For example, I didn't just enter "ProfessorF's Web Site," because it isn't very meaningful. Instead, I entered "ProfessorF's Personal Web Business Forum." This way, by looking at the title, the advertiser immediately knows what this site is about.

  2. The second text box asks you to enter your web site URL. Type your site's address, http://www.whatever.

  3. There's nothing tricky about this item. However, note that the protocol part of your address (http://) is filled in for you, so don't retype that.

  4. The third text box asks you to describe your site. Briefly describe what your site does, including information about your site's user demographics. You may think that this is a simple task, but certain pieces of information can increase your chances of an advertiser accepting you. Remember that advertisers are interested in who your users are, the number of unique visitors you get per day, and the number of hits you get per month (if this information is available). For our sample site, I wrote this:

  5. A forum where Personal Web Business owners can discuss content, revenue, and traffic issues. ProfessorF.com gets over 2000 unique visitors per day and serves over 200,000 page views per month.

  6. The last item you have to supply in this first step is your site's category. Enter the category that best describes your site.

  7. This is actually the most difficult step, in my opinion. None of the choices may seem appropriate. When in doubt, take the choice that you think will lead to the greatest advertiser approval rate. This usually corresponds to the category with the biggest market.

Let's move on to step 2.

Step 2: Contact Information

As the category name implies, ad brokers and advertisers use the contact information you supply to contact you about problems or "special offers." It's also the area where you enter your login information.

  1. Enter your name, title, and phone number. These fields should be self-explanatory; we won't go over them in detail.

  2. Enter your email address and a password to use for logging into Commission Junction to check statistics and earnings. CJ uses your email address as your login name, and the password you specify here will give you access later to your data on their site. Obviously, you should pick a secure password (see the "Password Information" section in my Week 2 article for suggestions on choosing a good password).

A word of caution: While giving out your email address may seem innocent enough, you have to realize that this address will be given to advertisers who may spam you with offers and updates. Adding insult to injury, even advertisers that don't accept you may put you on their mailing lists and spam you with offers. If you hate spam, you might want to sign up with a free email service (such as hotmail.com or yahoo.com) and use that address instead of your primary email address.

The next two steps are very important because they affect your payments.

Step 3: Company Information

In step 3 you give contact and tax information about your company (see Figure 7):

  1. Enter your organization's name. If you aren't working for a company, enter your full name as the organization name.

  2. Enter your organization's address, country, and any optional contact information such as phone and fax number(s). The address box is self-explanatory, but make sure that your address is correct here—this is where the broker or advertiser will mail your checks!

  3. Most importantly, enter your Enterprise Identification Number (EIN) if your business is incorporated, or your Social Security number if not. This information is used by brokers and/or their advertisers for reporting tax-related information to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. The revenue you make from CJ and other advertisers is indeed taxable and you will have to report it as income when you do your taxes!

Figure 7 Supplying company information (steps 3–4 of 7).

Step 4: Payment Information

Step 4 is very important because you specify who will get the money, in what format, and how:

  1. Enter your name or the name of your company in the Checks Payable To text box, indicating who the checks will be made out to.

  2. Select the type of currency in which you'd like to be paid. Usually this is your country's currency.

  3. Check whether you want money deposited directly to your bank account.

  4. Although you can do direct deposit, I personally like having a paper record of payment (call me old-fashioned), so I never check this box. If you do check this box, you need to fill in your bank's information (giving this information away always makes me extremely nervous).

  5. Select the minimum check amount you want to be paid.

  6. This essentially tells the broker when to cut your checks. At the end of the month, if your accumulated advertiser earnings exceeds the amount you specify, you'll get a check for that amount. If not, the amount carries over to the next month. Now, I don't know why anyone would select anything other than the minimum, which is usually $25. Select the minimum amount available so that you get paid as early as possible.

Steps 5–7: Marketing Info, Referrals, and the Service Agreement

Step 5 isn't a very important step (see Figure 8). It's mainly marketing information for the broker.

  1. In the first drop-down list, indicate how you found out about Commission Junction.

  2. In the second drop-down list, indicate why you're joining.

Try to be nice and give truthful answers.

Figure 8 Filling in the marketing info (steps 5–7 of 7).

Step 6 gives you a chance to make a couple of dollars. If you know of anyone who owns a web site, you can make a couple of bucks by entering their names in this step. Note that they'll be spammed by CJ to join. Specifically, CJ has a referral program where you can refer your friends, enemies, business associates, and other acquaintances. You get $2 for each referral that actually signs up, plus some percentage of whatever your referrals earn.

You're almost done. The last thing you have to do is deal with the affiliate service agreement:

  1. Check the final two boxes.

  2. These boxes certify that you've read the service agreement and that you're over 18 years of age. Sorry, but most affiliate programs won't accept you if you're not over 18 years since, legally, a company can't form contracts with you if you're a minor. Now, you may be tempted to skip reading the affiliate service agreement, but you really shouldn't skip it. The service agreement typically specifies what you're allowed and not allowed to do. The bottom line: You do the things you're allowed to do and you get paid. Cheat, and you don't get paid.

  3. That's all there is to it! To complete the signup process, click the Continue button. You should see a page congratulating you on becoming an affiliate (see Figure 9).

  4. Figure 9 Affiliate congratulations page.

As you can see, you're automatically approved with CJ. However, with other brokers you may not be approved automatically; in that case, you need to wait for an email indicating whether you've been accepted or rejected, which could take from one day to a week to arrive. (And sometimes nothing ever arrives!) Remember that CJ is just the broker. Getting approved by CJ is just like getting your foot in the door. You still have to apply for advertisers, and it's their approval that really matters.

Click the Login button to start your account. The Affiliate Account Manager will appear in your browser (see Figure 10).

Figure 10 Affiliate Account Manager.

The Affiliate Account Manager is your starting point for signing up with advertisers and checking statistics. We'll look at signing up with advertisers next.

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