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How to Choose the Right Affiliate Program

The Internet offers boundless possibilities for making money online. Affiliate marketing is arguably a promising way to earn a full-time income or establish a profitable side hustle as it is relatively simple and easy to get started. But with a whopping number of brands that have added such programs in their marketing arsenal, you might ask yourself which ones out there are worth their salt and hold the most value for you. 

This article offers tips that could help winnow your choices down to the most appropriate affiliate programs. 

Understanding how affiliate marketing works 

Affiliate marketing is a strategy in which a business pays a commission to an individual (affiliate) based on sales generated through their referrals. The aim is to boost traffic and sales for the business website. Essentially, affiliates find a product they like, promote it to their audience, and earn a piece of the profit for each sale they make. An affiliate link is all that affiliates need to promote a product or service through a blog post, a video, a story on their social media, or another marketing effort. 

There is no single profile for an affiliate partner. They range from individuals to companies that promote a company’s products in the best way they can to prospective customers. When conducted properly, affiliate marketing can generate great income.

How to find affiliate programs

Google search

1 google search

Searching for affiliate programs on Google is the most straightforward way to find affiliate programs in your niche. Simply type affiliate marketing programs plus {your niche} or a specific product, and you will find many programs that could fit your topic or product category. Note that certain companies use a different term for their affiliate program. Amazon, for example, calls it an associates program, whereas Shopify calls it a partner program. Also, make sure that the companies you find work with affiliates from different countries.

Check a company’s website

If you want to become an affiliate partner for a specific company, all you have to do is visit their website. Most companies feature their affiliate program at the very bottom of their homepage, namely in the website footer. You will be directed to the affiliate sign-up page by clicking on the link. In addition to the registration form, it should provide potential affiliates with detailed information about the program.

Here is what eBay’s affiliate landing page looks like:

2 eBay affiliate

Affiliate directories

Another popular place to find various affiliate programs is affiliate program directories. Many free affiliate directories like Affiliate Seeking are essentially databases containing different programs online. You can easily find and compare many different affiliate programs in your niche that you might have otherwise missed through these sites.

3 affiliate database

How to choose an affiliate program

Affiliate marketing is a great way to earn income online, often the sole motive for taking it up. But just don’t get immediately blown away by a potentially high commission rate before examining other factors. The following tips could help you make a more informed decision before delving into the earning potential of the large pool of affiliate marketing programs out there.

Ensure that the business has a good reputation 

Decide whether you will market prominent brands, lesser-known brands, or both. But independently of brand awareness, partnering with businesses that offer high-quality products will help keep your audience satisfied, which increases the chances of building long-lasting affiliate relationships. Over time, you will earn a good reputation. Along with a solid affiliate strategy, they should boost your marketing efforts and help you better engage your audience. Successfully marketing a poor-quality product could only make it fail faster and should also negatively reflect on your reputation.

If you are not sure how a business and its products appeal to customers, you can conduct a quick search online and check opinions. You can check review sites, Google reviews, forums, or updates on the business’s official site, along with social media profiles like Facebook. Noticing a high activity on social media and an increased number of active users makes you tend to trust these businesses and their products. Positive ratings and reviews and a low return rate are all good signs that the product or service is of high quality. If feasible, finding existing reviews of previous or current affiliate partners is also a good option.

Pick a product you know or have used before 

Being familiar with the product or service you promote is key to engaging more effectively with your audience and maximizing your earnings. Good product knowledge enables you to effectively communicate information, answer questions about a product or service, and clearly explain the benefits. It also helps you identify whether the product suits the customers’ needs. The more relevant the product is to them, the more likely they will purchase it.

For example, let’s assume you run an accountancy firm and use cloud-based software Xero to simplify several mundane and complicated tasks previously implemented in offline software. You know that invoicing and tracking how much time has been spent on projects is laborious. Thus, you want to communicate through your company blog to other people and businesses working in the field about how Xero can significantly reduce the time spent on these tasks. Your personal experience and the fact that you are the customer yourself of the product you promote could make your recommendations to your followers more trustworthy.

But even if you have not tried a certain product yourself and you come across something you like and fit your profile, learn as much as you can about it. Buying or testing what you promote – whenever feasible – and reading customer testimonials and use cases on the business site or around the web will enlighten you about the product advantages, pain points, and how it helps people. The more you know, the better you sell. Poor knowledge of the promoted brand is a common mistake among affiliate marketers that prevents them from increasing their earnings over time and could sometimes lead them to market sub-standard or fake products. 

Promote products that fit your niche 

Let’s assume your blog revolves around health. It wouldn’t be reasonable to place affiliate links that are not relevant to the ideas in your posts or that do not serve as a logical extension, like, for example, Amazon Prime Video – Amazon’s movie affiliate program – just because almost everyone watches movies. 

Promoting irrelevant stuff could annoy your audience or, in the worst-case scenario, make them think that you are trying to sell just anything to make a quick buck. Nevertheless, if you fancy a brand that at first glance doesn’t seem to fit your niche, get creative on how to ingrain it as smoothly as possible in a special blog post. 

Search for programs that offer competitive commission rates 

Commissions are the backbone of affiliate marketing programs, acting as a powerful incentive for affiliates to promote a brand. Percentage commissions, just like pay per sale, are the most popular type of commissions used in affiliate programs.

  • In the pay-per-sale payout model, the merchant rewards affiliate a percentage of the profit earned from each sale that they achieved. The commission rate varies according to the product that affiliates are selling. The average affiliate commission varies between 5% and 30%. 
  • Pay per action is another payout model that earns affiliates a profit when visitors perform certain actions. Actions may differ: visiting the site, filling out a form, signing up for a demo, purchasing, etc. 
  • These are also affiliate programs that promote memberships and subscriptions. What is special about them is that certain ones offer affiliates a recurring commission when a referred user makes or renews a subscription, either for a fixed time or a lifetime. 

For example, the partner program offers affiliates a 50% commission for each person who signs up and subscribes to the paid plan and then 20% for every subscription renewal. On average, you should receive from $150 up to $500 per customer within a period of their stay. The minimum payment threshold, namely the minimum accumulated commission you must earn before you are eligible for payment, is $100. It’s probably one of the best SaaS affiliate programs so far.

Find out the cookie lifetime 

A crucial element you need to pay attention to while reviewing affiliate programs is the cookie duration which determines how long your relationship with the referred users is valid after clicking on the affiliate link. For instance, let’s say a brand sets the cookie duration to 10 days. If the visitor purchases before the cookie expire, you are eligible to get a commission or lose the profit. 

The longer the cookie life, the better for the affiliate. Using the previous example, supports a 30-day cookie life – the time period from your referral’s first visit to the website and their sign up for any subscription plan – which is typical for an affiliate program. 

Beware of traffic leaks 

Before choosing an affiliate program, you need to go through the company’s or merchant’s landing page to check on possible leaks. Traffic leaks are links on the affiliate program website that prospective customers can click on and redirect to other sites. Although these sites could profit the company/merchant if the referred visitor makes a purchase, they will not reward the affiliate who has completed the action. 

Traffic leaks largely account for the failure of affiliate programs. They typically consist of third-party banner ads, Google AdSense ads, text links, popups, etc. 

Here is an example of a banner ad on Amazon that advertises a selection of audiobooks and podcasts.

5 amazon banner ads

Read the general terms and conditions 

As in any agreement, carefully read the terms and conditions of your collaboration. The requirements and expectations should be formulated in a simple way to ensure that both the company and you are on the same page. Sometimes, you might have a problem with a particular condition that can act as a deal-breaker. For example, certain affiliate programs restrict driving sales through specific traffic channels. Other ones, just like READINGRAPHICS, specify that affiliates won’t earn their commission if the transaction is incomplete or canceled, the product is returned, or a subscription is canceled within a certain period. 

Check whether the program offers a system to track sales 

Efficient tracking systems enable businesses to manage affiliate programs, track affiliate partner performance effectively, assign commissions, issue automated cash payouts, and detect fraud. They also enable the introduction of a tiered commission structure that rewards high-performing affiliates with bonuses. Examples of such systems include, LinkTrust, and many others.

The benefits of a great affiliate program are substantial. Affiliates can monitor the performance of their traffic channels, check the total number of paying customers by time period, see the number of times the affiliate links are clicked, etc. Such knowledge can help them redirect their efforts in the right direction for favorable outcomes.

How a perfect affiliate program should look like

Picking up the right affiliate program depends on why you want to become an affiliate and identifying your niche. It might take some time before you find a profitable niche, but once you narrow it down, you can expand your audience reach with little effort on your part. 

There might be no perfect affiliate program for your niche. But what businesses with successful affiliate programs may have in common because they sell proven products, offer high commission rates and – even better – recurring ones, have long cookie lifetimes, have transparent terms and conditions, welcome everyone to join their programs, and efficiently track performance. All these features could help you succeed in your endeavors as a starter.

  • Dmytro Zaichenko

    Outreach Specialist at I have over 3 years of experience in off-page SEO and content writing, particularly in SaaS and digital marketing topics. Apart from communicating and networking with great people worldwide, I’m a huge NBA fan🏀

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