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Why is it so hard for people to understand affiliate marketing?

Why is it so hard for people to understand affiliate marketing? By “people” in that sentence, I mean affiliate marketers, merchants, and shoppers — pretty much the whole range of consumers. For some reason, what I always thought was pretty simple becomes difficult, sometimes even for the people who are successful (that’s a VERY relative term) affiliate marketers.

I’m a happy member of the ABestWeb Affiliate Marketing Forums. Most of what I’ve learned, and the finest people I’ve met in affiliate marketing, are linked in one way or another to the years I’ve spent reading and posting at the forums there. It always surprises me to read posts from people there, sometimes from people who have been there awhile, that confuse or blur the line between merchants and affiliate marketers. (I spoke about this in some detail in an earlier post about the fact that affiliate marketers are not merchants.)

So here’s my best effort at simplifying the difference between affiliate marketers and merchants for all you newbies out there trying to get started at affiliate marketing: If you have inventory, a credit card gateway, a POS system, you do shipping of a product, ANY stuff like that — you are a merchant. If you have a website that includes a shopping cart people use to select multiple products and then checkout, giving you money, you are a merchant.

If, on the other hand, you direct traffic from your site to a merchant’s site where they actually make a purchase, resulting in a commission or some sort of payout from that website to YOU — you are an affiliate marketer.

And, finally, here’s an explanation for those of you who know or care very little about the difference but simply make occasional purchases online: If you are shopping at a site that has a “Privacy Statement,” or “Disclaimer,” or “Terms of Service,” or “About Us,” or other site information that says something like — “We are not merchants. We partner with leading online merchants to provide you with information and products you wish to buy” — that is an affiliate site, not an online merchant.

I really hoped to make this informative, not simply a rant. But as I mentioned in the earlier post linked to above: It doesn’t seem to matter how clear I, personally, make it at my affiliate sites that I am NOT a merchant, I constantly get email and feedback from my sites from people who think I am a merchant.

Ah, well, perhaps that’ll be helpful to some of you out there involved or thinking about getting involved in affiliate marketing. Leave a comment, or ask a question, if you wish.