Webmaster affiliate programs are network marketing programs designed to increase traffic and revenue to websites. They operate through an exchange of affiliate agreements between the webmasters who control a website's design. The premise is that every time a site has visitors directly go to one of its affiliate sites due to something of interest that directed it there from the primary site, then the main site receives some form of shared revenue for the redirection of this traffic to its affiliate partner.
Rewards for directing visitors from a site to its affiliate sites can include anything from actual cash payments or gifts, to an increased ranking in search engines listings, which are often based upon how networked a site is to other sites of similar interest on the Internet. One of the primary ways that webmaster affiliate programs have been designed in the past is to place banner ads or other types of advertisement graphics on a website. When a visitor clicks on an ad that takes him or her to an affiliate, this click-through in webmaster affiliate programs is recorded by software and paid for in some form or another.
Websites that, as a general rule, get a high volume of traffic often require their affiliates to pay to be associated with them through webmaster affiliate programs. This is because search engine ranking is also based on the quality of sites one is linked to, as well as the actual number of sites. Linking to a top ranking site with an affiliate agreement is much more likely to drive traffic to a small website than to link to numerous other small websites.
Online affiliate programs are a common and established method of driving Internet traffic to websites. They are also a form of online marketing that is often ignored by companies new to the Internet, who merely put their website out on display and expect that traffic will immediately come to it. Though webmaster affiliate programs in the past have worked best for businesses such as the adult and gambling industries, it has since expanded to many sectors, including retail sales, travel, educational websites, blogging and large, interactive social media communities.
Total international income generated from advertising affiliate programs was estimated at $6.5 billion US Dollars (USD) in 2006 alone. This accounts for over 10% of all advertising revenue generated online, which was estimated at $54 billion US Dollars (USD) in 2009. Estimates of revenue growth for affiliate marketing in the UK show that it has risen from $0.6 billion British pounds in 2004 to $4.62 billion British pounds in 2010.