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The cost to enter affiliate networks can be prohibitive for (cash-strapped) small business, particularly if they are simply testing the waters of an affiliate program.

If such a company wanted to run an affiliate program in-house using off the shelf software, what methods would they use to attract publishers?

Is it simply a case of SEO or SEM, attempting to attract publishers to the page on their website which outlines their affiliate program?

Are there directories to submit one's affiliate program to?

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Affiliate network fees are high for the larger networks. I work with clients in both Google Affiliate Network and Commission Junction, and know first hand what the fee's are and what it takes in sales to cover them.

I would suggest looking at http://zferral.com/ they are cheap and you can setup your own affiliate program. If you are already setup with an affiliate application then, create a page on your site which goes over the program.

Optimize the page's meta tags content etc to be "Product X affiliate program" or similar. See who's already ranking for the terms you'd optimize for and build a page with roughly the same amount of content.

Link to the page from the footer of your site. If you can add a banner to the home page promoting the program once in a while go for it. There are also affiliate directories where you can add your program to. Directories where people browse affiliate programs to sign up for. "affiliate program directory" is a good search term, one site is http://www.jamaffiliates.com/directory/

IF you or your client have access to the products or services directly that you offer on your website and have a good profit margin, I would contact competing sites and offer to drop ship or expand their line of products. Only if you know for sure you can sell them products or services cheaper.

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Thank you kindly. –  Steve Mar 24 '12 at 8:21
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I'd find a few publishers to work with, offer them a generous commission, and use them to help work the kinks out of your system. Then use them as recommendations as you broaden your search for publishers to join.

We work with one affiliate directly, and my biggest complaint is that they are not prompt in payment. I have to ask for it, usually several times.

I don't know how much Avantlink costs as a publisher, but if you are doing anything with a product datafeed they are phenominal.

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