Affiliate programs are a great way to earn an income online in a few easy steps. However, if you don't have a plan you are going to fail. A smart webmaster plan includes some pretty basic steps that you should follow every time.
A website is a lot like a business on corner. Your advertising methods might be a little different but you still have expenses, and you need to plan for growth. The expenses for a website are usually hosting, domain registration, and some form of advertising.
I don't want you to even think for a moment that being an affiliate isn't a reason to be your own webmaster. There is a reason that 95% of affiliates never make a sale. The reason is they aren't doing what 5% making money are doing. It's about time you treated your affiliations like a real business.
A real business plans for everything, before spending first cent.
Step one: Don't register a domain name, don't get hosting, don't do anything yet. Let's think about what we want to accomplish with our plan. For our example we want to promote a service site for webmasters. (It makes sense to sell shovels to coal miners.) We are going to set things up to generate recurring traffic and high page rankings.
Step two: Choose your affiliations wisely. Many affiliate programs don't pay, or won't be here in 6 months. When your planning your website, don't make it dependent on one affiliate program. I like to review products that I personally use. For my example here I am going to use Xarawebstyle4 as our affiliate product. The reason is that it is an established company, I love products, and I use them daily. What better to promote than something I believe in and USE?
Step three: Set up your target market. In may case I want webmasters that want to make their own graphics and website templates, but don't want to purchase an expensive solution like Photoshop with a high learning curve.
Step four: Research your keywords. There are tons of places to research keywords, and you can spend up to 400 bucks for this type of software. Let's start slow though O.K.? Here is a growing collection of webmaster tools: http://stmadeveloper.com/tools.php . I don't recommend going for broad reaching keywords. Micro-targeting your keywords will get you a better result than going for term that is already ranked for 10 billion websites.
Step five: Now that you have your chosen your product or service that you wish to affiliate with, target market, and keywords it's time to get going to development stage. I'm sure you don't have millions to spend, and good news is you don't have too. Service review sites are quite affordable to create, they usually have a simple logo, and just a "layout." A good webdesign company can make you a great "template" for this for about 20 dollars.