In this discussion, we are going to move one step beyond what most people know, or think they know about affiliate programs. We will assume that most people reading this are aware of the fact that they can associate with, or affiliate with, many companies, and can earn commissions by sending customers to these companies through links on their web site, in emails, and so on.Do you know you could earn more money by altering your understanding of and implementation of, affiliate programs, and possibly even creating your own?Here’s what you need to move a step further and use these programs to make your web site successful.Once you have an internet business of your own, you hope to join the thousands of other businesses which realize the importance of the internet and launch web sites every day. You will open your business up to all the citizens of the cities, countries and nations of the world. Soon, thousands will be following the internet’s myriad threads to your door, buying your products, boosting your sales and making you rich!Okay, you can wake up now!Despite all the millions upon millions of potential customers awaiting your important message, there are also millions and millions of businesses elbowing and shoving one another in an attempt to get their attention. You have got to position yourself in such a way as to avoid the impression of someone handing out flyers on a street corner, and take your rightful place among the successful online businesses, claiming your share of customers and steadily increasing your sales.Among the many effective methods of achieving this goal, one has proven itself to be of undeniable importance and is used by many online businesses and web sites. Many of these entrepreneurs, new and experienced alike, have discovered the importance of having a good affiliate program. While many web sites have caught the fever and have initiated their own affiliate programs, many do not have the knowledge to do so, or at least, do so effectively. This lack of good affiliate programs in so many areas has fueled a search for the effective performers in this area.The most important information for someone thinking of initiating one of these programs are the answers to these four basic questions:>What is an effective affiliate program?>What does an affiliate program do?>How can it affect my business.>How do I start an affiliate program?In its simplest form, an affiliate program of the type we are discussing is simply a…well…program where an online business links with, affiliates with, another online business or ecommerce site which has the same, similar, or closely related product or service. These businesses complement one another…a site offering a series of health and fitness training videos and a site offering exercise equipment or vitamins and other supplements, for example.Once they have established the relationship, these sites can in effect link to each other, each offering the products and services of their affiliate partner as well as their own. Each time a site, through their marketing efforts, causes a sale of the other site’s product, they receive a commission for the sale. This is the standard step we are all familiar with. The more sites carrying these sorts of affiliate program links, the more potential for sales and hence, for profit.In our discussion, however, by establishing your own affiliate exchange program, if you will, all the extra links you have exchanged with all these other web sites have the potential of leading more customer traffic to your web site as well because each link is in effect a free advertisement on each of these other sites. The equation is simple. The more visitors to their sites means more possible visitors for you. The more visitors for you, the more possible sales of your own products and services on your own site.Another positive effect is that because there are links exchanged, traffic may increase in your website because they are advertised in a multitude of other sites. With more visitors you can effectively showcase your business to more people. Some search engines also have been known to sometimes view links from other sites favorably, thus offering another possible increase of traffic due to higher rankings.Now that you understand this enhanced concept of using an affiliate program, the next piece of information you need is how to start one!Now we are getting to the tough part. Starting some affiliate programs will require what seems to be esoteric programs (at least to most of us), such as CGI scripts, within your web site, in addition to all the details to be attended to either by hand or by various computer programs. You will need to track the visitors to your web site, accumulate order data, compute commissions, distribute payments, fulfill orders, and more. You can do these yourself, or you can acquire the services of a company which specializes in setting up affiliate programs. Many of these, in addition to setting up everything you need, can also help you find the other websites that you would like to include in your affiliate program.Just a reminder. You will also need to get a merchant account for accepting credit card orders and processing payments.Some pitfalls to look out for:As you can imagine after reading just the small bit of information above, this apparently simple solution can become complicated. Also, as you are probably new to this area, you will be susceptible not only to unscrupulous vendors and sales people, but if you do not know exactly what you are looking for, the vendor might not, even with the best of intentions, be able to supply the exact program or affiliate program information you need. You will have to do your homework in advance and draw up an affiliate program plan for success that includes as many details and questions as possible to present to the companies you seek out. Don’t accept the first proposal you receive, and, if you can, get the advice of someone familiar with these sorts of things. Many vendors offering affiliate program information and services are simply the affiliates of other websites themselves.Doing the legwork and due diligence now will help make your online business a success and earn you extra income and increase traffic flow to your web site in the future. Take the time to get all the affiliate program information you can before you take the step and start your own affiliate program.