Disclosure: If I'm not making money through affiliate links on the post you're currently reading, it's an oversight on my part and will be corrected soon.

Choosing an Affiliate Program

by Missy Ward in Affiliate Marketing   &  ,   2 Comments

How to choose the right affiliate programSelecting the ideal affiliate program is about more than just choosing the easiest one that offers the products you think would be a fit for your blog. There are many factors you need to consider, including commission, ethics, tracking, and more.

There is an ocean of affiliate programs out there, so you need to be careful about choosing the programs you work with.

So how do you get started? Let’s start by taking a moment here to clarify the different places where you can find affiliate program offerings.

Major Affiliate Networks

These networks typically offer the affiliate programs for the big brands; the ones that are household names. They also offer tools you’ll need, such as the following:

  • Banners
  • Text links
  • Widgets
  • Videos
  • Coupons
  • Datafeeds

I tend to stick with affiliate programs that are run on the major affiliate networks as they have a track record of making reliable payments and management that knows what they’re doing.

ShareASale.com, eBayEnterprise.com, AvantLink.com, CJ Affiliate and Linkshare.com are examples of major affiliate networks.

Digital Product Networks

These networks typically offer affiliate programs for advertisers that sell digital products such as software, eBooks, plugins, online service and more. While commissions on digital products can be very high, even as much as 60% or more, there is an awful lot of dreck to weed through to find the good programs and products.

Examples of these networks include Avangate.com, OneNetworkDirect.com, E-Junkie.com, ClickBank.com and Affiliate-Wire.com.

CPA Networks

CPA means “cost per action.” CPA networks typically run lead generation offers from an array of advertisers in addition to campaigns where a purchase of a product or service is required to generate the action. Payouts typically range from $.15 to upwards of $100.00 or more depending on the action the advertiser is looking for.

One word of caution, CPA networks can sometimes be a bit…. shady. You should always do your due diligence and research any CPA network you are considering joining to ensure that they are ethical and that they pay.

Examples of CPA Networks include Affiliate.com, CrushAds.com, PeerflyClickBooth.com, CPAWay.com, MaxBounty.com, Neverblue.com, MatomyMarket.com, Convert2Media.com and MarketHealth.com.

Independent Affiliate Programs

Almost everybody’s heard about being an Amazon Associate. Well guess what? Amazon is an independent affiliate program and serves as a “clearinghouse” for many smaller brands. Both large and small brands sometimes choose to run their affiliate programs independently, rather than on an affiliate network.

These independent programs usually use 3rd party tracking software and create their own proprietary tracking systems. Because they are not paying fees to be on a network, they can typically offer a higher payout. On the flip side, the programs are sometimes mismanaged by staff that has little affiliate marketing experience.

As independent programs don’t have the backing of a major affiliate network, it’s important to do your due diligence before deciding to participate in their program.

Examples of Independent Programs include Amazon.com and GlutenFreeMall.com.

How To Evaluate Affiliate Programs

So now you know where to find affiliate programs, but you still need to evaluate what program is the best for you – and it’s not just about which program offers the products you think will work with your audience.

Let’s talk about the things you need to consider.


This might seem obvious, but you only want to align yourself with affiliate programs that are highly ethical. These means you want to steer clear of any company that uses adware or spyware or turns a blind eye to rogue affiliate marketing techniques.


Determining the best commission rate goes deeper than a simple percentage – you also need to take a look at the merchant’s conversion rates.

For instance, a merchant that offers a 10% commission with an average 6% conversion rate will end up paying out more than a merchant that offers a 20% commission but has only a 1% conversion rate.

Lastly, you might want to also take a look at that company’s average order value – because if a company is paying a 10% commission but typically has $100 orders, you’ll make more than a company that pays out 20% on much smaller orders.

Technical Support & Website

When linking to any website from your blog, whether using an affiliate link or not, you need to not only consider the brand you’re promoting but the website your reader will be visiting to make the purchase.

You’ll also want to work with an affiliate program that will offer you tools that will help make your relationship more profitable.

What kinds of tools should you look for? Think customized ads, phone order tracking, informational videos, datafeed import tools, search boxes, dynamic ads or coupon feeds – the more the merrier.

Competitive AND Well Known and Respected

It can be all too easy to get lured into an affiliate program that is offering incredibly competitive commission and conversion rates, but the old adage holds: some things are just too good to be true.

They might look great on paper but never pay out, and that doesn’t help you at all. Do your research and choose affiliate programs that are liked and respected by other affiliate marketers.

One last point about affiliate programs: just because you’ve applied to a program does NOT guarantee your acceptance into that program. The best affiliate programs can be pretty discerning about who they’ll admit to their programs, and if you’re just starting out you might get rejected the first time.

Luckily you can always appeal that decision; simply reach out to them again and give an in-depth explanation about how you intend to make it worth their while.

Always try, try again!

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Missy Ward

Co-Founder & President at Affiliate Summit, Inc.
Missy Ward has been in affiliate marketing since 1999. She is the Co-Founder of Affiliate Summit, FeedFront Magazine, GeekCast.fm, Founder of AffiliateMarketersGiveBack.com and manages many of her own affiliate sites. If she's not making money through affiliate links on the post you're currently reading, it's an oversight on her part and it will be corrected soon.

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