The 14 Best Affiliate Programs: 2021‘s Top Marketing Offers For Beginners & Pros

Best Affiliate Programs for SEOs cover

If you’ve been waiting for the push you need to finally break into affiliate marketing, you’ve found it. Below, you’re going to find one of the most comprehensive guides to entering affiliate marketing you’ll find anywhere online.

You’ll learn what affiliate programs are, where to find the best ones operating today, and which program lets beginners truly thrive. You’ll then learn how to choose one of them and what it takes to register for a top affiliate network.

At the end, you’ll get answers to some of the most common questions asked by beginners.

Let’s start by defining affiliate programs and clarifying why they’re so lucrative for website owners who want to monetize sites using online marketing.

What is an Affiliate Marketing Program?

Affiliate marketing programs are platforms that manage advertising agreements between online merchants (such as Amazon) and independent websites—known as affiliates or publishers (because they publish content to host affiliate links).

Affiliates are paid a commission for sales that result from the traffic they send to a merchant. A single sale can be worth a significant commission, but successful affiliates work to drive multiple sales.

Affiliate Marketing Program Diagram

There are dozens of different types of affiliate schemes. Commission payouts may be based on clicks, signups, sales, or other custom actions.

Some of these programs are owned and operated by a single merchant, while others are massive 3rd-party networks that manage offers from hundreds of merchants and armies of publishers.

When you’re established as an affiliate in marketing, you’ll find thousands of these programs online. To get you started, though, let’s cut that list down to the ones that are currently the best.

What Are The Best Affiliate Marketing Programs Overall?

The top affiliate programs are the ones that have a healthy mix of offers to choose from, high-quality dashboards that make it easy to manage those offers, and a commitment to supporting affiliates.

affiliate programs

It also helps if their offers tend to have great payouts.

Based on my experience, the best affiliate programs that most closely fit that definition are:

  • Shopify
  • ConvertKit
  • Leadpages
  • Bluehost
  • Clickfunnels
  • Affiliaxe
  • Shareasale
  • Rakuten LinkShare
  • MaxBounty
  • Pepperjam

Below, you can get an introduction to each of these programs. You’ll learn where they stand out and how they operate. You’ll also get a snapshot of the commissions they pay, how often they pay, and the type of niches they handle.

1. Shopify Affiliate Program

Shopify Homepage screenshot

You’ve probably heard of Shopify because it’s one of the largest e-commerce platforms in the world. It provides commercial websites with a platform to build online shops, take payments, and promote products.

Shopify is a tiered subscription service, and convincing online shops to sign up for a subscription is the basis of the affiliate program. The subscription is tiered, so the commission rate may change sharply based on whether the shop you refer signs up for the basic or premium level.

If you successfully refer a shop that signs up for the “Plus” premium subscription, you can be rewarded with a one-time commission rate as high as $2000 per sale.

What makes it one of the best?

Shopify has one of the best programs because it is built around a popular and nearly universally-adopted service. It isn’t difficult to get shops to sign up, and your referral is recognized as soon as a shop signs up for a free trial.

shopify resources help

They support their affiliate partners with well-developed sales channels and an extensive set of guides and video courses to help you develop content that converts.

Program Snapshot
  • Commission: One-time $58/per paid subscription referral OR $2000/per Plus referral
  • Cookie Duration: 30 Days
  • Payment Methods: Paypal
  • Niches Covered: SaaS (Service as a subscription)
  • Types of Products: Subscriptions

 

2. ConvertKit

Converkit Homepage Snapshots

ConvertKit, like Shopify, is a platform that assists online businesses. Rather than shops, it supports ventures that rely on email marketing. It includes a slew of different features that allow subscribers to develop emails, signup forms, and landing pages.

The affiliate program offers you a reward for each person you convince to sign up for a ConvertKit subscription. Currently, the commission rate is 30% recurring for each subscription.

ConvertKit is currently migrating the management of its affiliate program from Ambassador to LinkMink. This may affect any affiliates who sign up before the migration window that occurs from October 1st through the 31st.

Linkmink

What makes it one of the best?

ConvertKit is one of the best affiliate programs that you can join right now because of the value of the product and the impressively high commission.

ConvertKit is rapidly becoming one of the standard software options for its niche. Unlike Shopify, it doesn’t have anywhere near the same market penetration yet. That means you can get in closer to the ground floor.

Program Snapshot
  • Commission: 30% commission for every person who signs up
  • Cookie Duration: 90 days based on last-click attribution
  • Payment Methods: PayPal, with both manual and automatically scheduled payouts
  • Niches Covered: SaaS
  • Types of Products: Subscriptions

 

3. Leadpages

Leadpages Homepage Snapshot

Leadpages is a lead generation software with a broad set of tools for online businesses. It’s a subscription service that allows websites to set up attractive websites and landing pages without coding.

The Leadpages affiliate program rewards you for each person you draw to the subscription service and then pays a scaling commission based on how many subscribers you attract each month.

The service has many subscription tiers, starting under $50/month, with the highest tier coming in at over $300.

What makes it one of the best?

Leadpages is one of the best programs available right now because of the attractive product and the recurring scaling commissions.

leadpages commission rate

The range of subscription costs can make the product an easy sell.

As an affiliate, you receive a 10% commission for each person you refer who signs up for a subscription. It lasts as long as the referral remains a customer. That could be years because customers who use the service often build their entire website and sales funnel around it.

Recurring commissions are vital to earning a lot as an affiliate. This offer takes it a step further. When you pass a certain threshold of referrals per month, all of your existing commissions’ value rises to 50%.

Program Snapshot
  • Commission: 10-50% recurring
  • Cookie Duration: 30 day
  • Payment Methods: Paypal
  • Niches Covered: SaaS
  • Types of Products: Subscriptions

 

4. Bluehost

Bluehost Homepage Snapshot

Bluehost is a popular WordPress hosting service built to be highly compatible with both WordPress and WooCommerce. It has carved out a very competitively low-priced presence next to competitors like WP engine.

The Bluehost affiliate program offers you a reward for each person you refer who signs up for a web hosting subscription. The subscriptions range from less than $4 a month to just under $80.

The high level of compatibility with WordPress can make it easy to refer bloggers – a massive customer base. WordPress is one of the most popular publishing platforms in the world. Currently, more than 70 million websites use it as their preferred content management system.

What makes it one of the best?

Bluehost is one of the top programs because it’s a popular, well-regarded WordPress hosting affiliate service with a great one-time commission rate.

Either because of the price or the WP focus, many sites that rely on WordPress can benefit from Bluehost. That can make it simpler to convert visitors to this product than many others marketed through affiliate programs.

bluehost recommended by wordpress

The lowest tier of the subscription-only costs $3.85/month (significantly cheaper than competitor WP engine), but you’re still eligible for the full $65 commission if you get someone to sign up.

Many consider it one of the highest-paying affiliate programs due to the single high commission for a low-priced product. A well-trafficked affiliate site that refers visitors to Bluehost can make hundreds of dollars a month with only a handful of referrals.

Program Snapshot
  • Commission: $65 for each new web hosting account
  • Cookie Duration: 90 days
  • Payment Methods: PayPal (Fees compensated)
  • Niches Covered: Web hosting
  • Types of Products: Web hosting

 

5. ClickFunnels

Clickfunnels Homepage Snapshot

Clickfunnels is a sales funnel building software that’s available by subscription.

It provides tools to simplify website design, lead generation, sales, and follow-up marketing efforts when activated on a website.

ClickFunnels can be deeply integrated into subscriber’s websites and strategies. That means (like with the hosting affiliate networks) those who sign up are likely to remain subscribers for months.

You get paid for referring visitors to subscription plans that range from under $100/month to nearly $2500.

What makes it one of the best?

ClickFunnels is one of the top programs because of the competitive commissions and the escalating rewards it offers to successful affiliates.

clickfunnels affiliate commission
 

If you simply use the “made with ClickFunnels Badge” on your website, you are eligible for a 20% commission on anyone who converts after following the link. You don’t even have to be accepted as an affiliate to claim this commission.

If you are accepted as an affiliate, you become eligible for commissions as high as 40% on front end offers. Special commission tiers exist for those who have earned more than $1000 in a single month.

Program Snapshot
  • Commission: 20% base. Up to 40% for qualified publishers
  • Cookie Duration: 30 days
  • Payment Methods: PayPal or Check
  • Niches Covered: SaaS
  • Types of Products: Subscriptions

 

6. Affiliaxe

Affiliaxe Homepage Snapshot

Affiliaxe is a sprawling affiliate marketplace with thousands of offers from hundreds of different merchants. It is one of the largest and most popular affiliate programs globally and focuses on recruiting experienced affiliates.

The full list of verticals covered by the affiliate network includes nearly every major niche. Affiliates can promote:

  • Mobile apps
  • Surveys
  • Software
  • Diet advice and supplements
  • Weight loss
  • Travel offers
  • Male enhancement pills
  • Home improvement
  • Streaming services

 What makes it one of the best?

Affiliaxe is one of the best programs because of the massive variety of offers to choose from and its support to its affiliate marketing partners.

affiliaXe Friends
 

The offers cover a wide range of software and online services. They include major brands like Norton, McAfee, and Truthfinder.

Affiliates who join get a lot of guidance from the affiliate managers. The managers work to approve campaigns as quickly as possible and advise how to create converting content.

Due to the high quality of the offers—and the high paying commissions—it has some stiff requirements for joining. Most of the approved publishers are already experienced and attracted there by incentives that include a $1000 sign-on bonus.

Program Snapshot
  • Commission: Set by merchant and different for each offer
  • Cookie Duration: 30 days, 60 days, or varies by the offer. Some offers require pixel tracking or server-based tracking
  • Payment Methods: PayPal, Payoneer, ACH (US Only), or Bank Wire
  • Niches Covered: More than 20 verticals
  • Types of Products: Hundreds, including digital goods and subscriptions

 

7. Shareasale

Shareasale Homepage Snapshot

Shareasale is one of the largest affiliate networks around with more than a million participating publishers.

Shareasale focuses on the verticals of:

  • Home & garden
  • Fashion
  • Green
  • Business
  • Family
  • Christian Faith
  • Business
  • Health
  • Sports and recreation
  • Wedding

While the offers come from a large variety of niches, the products are typically physical goods that can be shipped worldwide.

What makes it one of the best?

Shareasale is one of the top programs because of the incredible variety of offers and its commitment to dealing fairly with its merchants and affiliates.

There are currently nearly 4000 merchants listing offers on this affiliate network, with different commissions and terms depending on the offer. The focus on physical goods can make this program an effective Amazon alternative.

shareaslae network features

The program has worked to develop a reputation for treating its publishers fairly. The policies are built around avoiding the unexplained bans and delayed payments that happen on other networks.

Program Snapshot
  • Commission: Set by merchant and different for each offer
  • Cookie Duration: Set by merchant and different for each offer
  • Payment Methods: Auto-deposit, Paypal, Wire, ACH, Check
  • Niches Covered: Lifestyle, home & garden, fashion, green, business
  • Types of Products: Physical goods

 

8. Rakuten LinkShare

Rakuten Homepage Snapshot

Rakuten LinkShare is a large, old, and well-respected affiliate network.

It started out focusing on physical goods, and it has enough offers in that area to make it an effective alternative to Amazon. In addition to physical goods, it has many offers related to vacation/hotel travel booking services, clothing, apps, and lending services.

It attracts offers from some top brands, including:

  • Lyft
  • Urban Outfitters
  • Jetblue
  • Jansport
  • Spartan
  • Sephora
  • Virgin
  • New Balance

What makes it one of the best?

Rakuten Linkshare is one of the top programs because of the variety of offers, the available brands, and the great platform that it operates for its publishers.

rakuten testmonial

Rakuten market affiliates can choose from thousands of different offers, with a range of commission schemes.

The affiliate platform available includes many helpful tracking and insight tools to manage statistics and track performance over time. The account managers can provide you with assets and help you develop content.

Program Snapshot
  • Commission: Set by merchant and different for each offer
  • Cookie Duration: Typically 30 days. Set by merchant and different for each offer
  • Payment Methods: Check, direct deposit, PayPal
  • Niches Covered: Vacations, digital services
  • Types of Products: Booking, subscriptions, digital products

 

9. MaxBounty Affiliate Network

Maxbounty Homepage Snapshot

The MaxBounty Affiliate network is a large network that’s been around for more than a decade. It has verticals that reach across the market research, dating, and dieting niches.

The program merchants are scattered across many different niches, but most of the offers are based on a cost-per-action model. Accordingly, the offers focus on signups and other types of lead generation.

Cost-per-sale, cost-per-lead, and cost-per-install offers are also available on the program.

What makes it one of the best?

MaxBounty is one of the top programs because of its age and the low cost of its action-based offers.

max bounty offers

Most offers on this network don’t require people you refer to complete a purchase before you can collect a commission. Instead, you’ll be driving your traffic to complete downloads or sign up for a free trial. That can make conversion easy and very lucrative at scale.

Program Snapshot
  • Commission: Set by merchant and different for each offer
  • Cookie Duration: Set by merchant and different for each offer
  • Payment Methods: Check, Intercash, eCheck, ACH, and Wire
  • Niches Covered: Dieting, dating, real estate
  • Types of Products: Digital products and services

 

10. Pepperjam

Pepperjam Homepage Snapshot

Pepperjam is a large, established affiliate network with nearly 1000 different merchants who provide publishers with thousands of offers to choose from.

It is one of the oldest networks and has been in business for more than 20 years. It is currently owned by eBay but is independent of the eBay partners program (that will be discussed later as one of the best programs for beginners).

What makes it one of the best?

Pepperjam is one of the best affiliate programs because of its age, the quality of its physical goods offers, and the highly-regarded interface.

pepperjam ascend

Its age marks it as one of the longest-standing and stable programs available. Younger networks can go under unpredictably, but this one has been reliably operating longer than almost any other.

It has offers from many top physical goods brands, including:

  • Puma
  • Nordstrom
  • Bonobos
  • Lindt Chocolates
  • Orion

The interface is considered by many affiliates to be one of the best available. It is clean and very easy to navigate.

Program Snapshot
  • Commission: Set by merchant and different for each offer
  • Cookie Duration: Set by merchant and different for each offer
  • Payment Methods: Paypal, direct deposit, check
  • Niches Covered: Clothing, food, technology
  • Types of Products: Physical goods

 

When you have the skills, you can’t do much better than these programs. However, that doesn’t mean that they’re the best place for you to get started as a beginner.

There may be better networks for you to learn how to develop content and work with advertisers.

Best Affiliate Marketing Programs For Beginners

affiliate marketing programs

The best affiliate marketing programs for beginners are the ones that are happy to work with new affiliates, willing to provide advertising advice, and ready to support you with existing content and marketing assets.

There are some great programs out there that fit that definition. Start with:

  • CJ Affiliate by Conversant
  • Amazon Associates
  • Clickbank
  • eBay Partners

Below, you’ll get a brief introduction to each of these programs. You’ll learn how they support beginner affiliates, and the kind of features and offers set the program apart.

1. CJ Affiliate by Conversant

CJAffilite Homepage Snapshot

CJ Affiliate (Commission Junction) is an extensive network that attracts many new affiliates because of its prominent presence in the affiliate market. There are thousands of merchants here to choose from, covering a range of different niches.

Like only a few others on this list, this popular affiliate program has been around for more than 20 years. That stability can make this network a better option for new affiliates who aren’t sure of which programs are trustworthy.

What makes it good for beginners?

CJ Affiliate is a great program for beginners because it provides you with an enormous amount of products to choose from, and has a platform that will help easily understand what’s happening.

power of network cj affiliate

It’s a great network to get started with physical good offers. It has relationships with top physical goods brands, including:

  • Crew
  • Barnes & Noble
  • GoPro
  • Overstock
  • Office Depot
  • Lowes
  • Verizon

CJ Affiliate has some features that are particularly useful to beginner affiliates, such as up-to-the-minute analytics and guides to help you develop content. These features can help you understand your work’s effects until you have the experience to apply instincts.

Program Snapshot
  • Commission: Set by merchant and different for each offer
  • Cookie Duration: Set by merchant and different for each offer
  • Payment Methods: Direct deposit, check, or Payoneer
  • Niches Covered: Health, fitness,
  • Types of Products: Physical goods, and CPA-related offers

 

2. Amazon Associates

Amazon Homepage Snapshot

Amazon Associates is by far the largest physical goods affiliate program in the world.

The well-known program is based around everything sold on Amazon, and you can collect a commission for each sale that is made when your traffic follows your affiliate link to an Amazon product page.

The commission rates are easy to understand, and all fall into a set of published categories. The commissions are listed here. There are many other product categories, though the commission rates are lower.

What makes it good for beginners?

This is considered one of the good programs for beginners because it gives you the freedom to promote nearly ANY physical product.

amazon affiliate associates

No matter what focus your blog currently has, it is very likely that there is a product on Amazon that appeals to your current traffic.

The simple compensation scheme may appeal to new marketing affiliates who want to predict what each completed sale is worth reliably.

Program Snapshot
  • Commission: Depends on the product
  • Cookie Duration: 24 hours (90 days for items that are stored in carts)
  • Payment Methods: Bank transfer, gift card or checks
  • Niches Covered: All Amazon products
  • Types of Products: Physical goods

 

3. Clickbank

clickbank Homepage Snapshot

Clickbank is one of the largest global online marketplaces, and it hosts a well-respected affiliate program that is tied to the products it has for sale.

Affiliates can promote anything on the marketplace if the merchants who offer the product have enabled the option. Merchants on the platform sell millions of different products, including both physical and digital goods.

Merchants are free to set their own commissions for each sale and may offer commissions as high as 90%.

What makes it good for beginners?

Clickbank is an excellent network for new affiliate marketers to get started because of the great variety of offers, the potentially high commissions, and the fair practices.

time to get empowered clickbank

Beginners will benefit from having a world of different products to support and many commission schemes (CPA, CPL, CPS) to choose from. The program is a great “sandbox” for first-time affiliates who want to experiment with trying different offers.

Clickbank has a solid reputation for ensuring that affiliates are credited for every sale and paid on time. Not all networks have this reputation.

Program Snapshot
  • Commission: Up to 90%. Varies depending on product
  • Cookie Duration: 60 days
  • Payment Methods: Direct Deposit, Wire, and Checks
  • Niches Covered: Dating, self-improvement, muscle building, and more
  • Types of Products: Physical and digital goods

 

4. eBay Partners

ebay Homepage Snapshot

The eBay Partners program is a well-known affiliate program attached to the eBay marketplace. Millions of items are sold across this market every day, and as a partner, you can collect a commission by driving your traffic to almost any one of them.

What makes it good for beginners?

eBay is a good affiliate program for beginners because of the suite of simple tools that it provides, and the hassle-free ways it offers you to collect commissions.

ebay partners

The tools that eBay provides allow you to quickly create your trackable links and share them across different marketing channels.

Compared to some other networks, eBay’s commission rates are a lot simpler and—in some cases—higher. Most sales are compensated at 6%, with additional incentive credits that can earn you even more.

The customer you refer doesn’t have to purchase the product that you linked. As long as they purchase something, you’ll qualify for the commission.

Program Snapshot
  • Commission: Up to 6% of the sale price
  • Cookie Duration: 24 hours (applies to any qualified transactions)
  • Payment Methods: Electronic Funds Transfer or PayPal
  • Niches Covered: All niches covered by eBay
  • Types of Products: Physical goods

 

All of these programs have the right features to support beginners, but that doesn’t necessarily make them the best for you. There are some questions you should answer for yourself before you choose the right affiliate program.

How To Choose An Affiliate Program

Even with a big list like the one you’ve just read through, it can be tough to choose an affiliate program. You don’t want to make the wrong choice because registering and getting accepted is a significant time investment on its own.

how to choose affiliate program

Based on experience, these are the questions that I like to be able to answer when choosing a program.

  • What kind of support does the network offer?
  • What type of merchants are attracted to the network?
  • What are the payment and cookie policies?

What kind of support does the network offer?

Not all networks offer the same level of support, and support can make a huge difference when you’re just starting out. I like to consider the quality of the account managers, how solid the platform is, and what kind of creative assets you can access.

Dedicated account managers

Account managers are meant to be your first point of contact when you join a network. They can onboard you onto the platform, help you when you have technical difficulties, or even give you advice on how to sell better.

affiliate manager

At least, they can do those things. You’ll find that the role of managers changes quite a lot from network to network.

In some programs, you’ll have a single dedicated manager who understands your operation and responds in 24 hours. In others, a team of managers will take turns responding to problems depending on availability.

A great way to learn what any network’s managers are worth is to check reviews. Whether they’re helpful or completely unreliable, they’re likely to be mentioned.

Solid platform features

Most networks use proprietary platforms, and there isn’t a lot of consistency when it comes to either the quality or features.

ascend platform

Some features to watch for include:

  • Search features that make it easy to navigate and compare offers
  • Communication tools that make it seamless for you to communicate with managers, and merchants
  • Tracking and reporting tools to measure your sales and conversion rates

Like the quality of the managers, this is something that will come up in reviews as long as you’re doing your research.

Creative assets

Developing creative assets—content, banners, etc.—can take a lot of time and money when you’re just starting out. To make life easier, you can choose a network that keeps a library of these assets on hand.

ebay banners

Some networks go a step further. They keep a graphic design team on hand to whip up any creatives you need from scratch and then deliver the exact size you need.

While this kind of support is helpful at any stage, it’s a massive advantage when you’re just starting out. It can be helpful to make sure the first network you sign on to is willing to offer this help.

What types of merchants are attracted to the network?

You should consider what kind of merchants are attracted to a network before you move forward with the registration.


The merchants matter because the offers are the key to your growth potential on a network.

The network you choose should have merchants that:

  • Are relevant to your niche
  • Have offers from top brands
  • Have a good reputation

Are relevant to your niche

You want the network you choose to have offers that are well-matched to your website’s current traffic.

clickbank niche products category

When you first join, you won’t likely qualify for all offers. Working on the most accessible offers is how you build up the experience and stats you need to qualify for the best offers.

All that work doesn’t matter if the top offers just aren’t relevant to you or your niche.

The time you spend taking meager commissions will just be the time you could have spent getting better offers on a different network.

Have offers from top brands

Even when you’re just starting as an affiliate, you can qualify for networks that attract big brands. There are several serious advantages to working with big-name products.

cj affiliate trusted brands

For one, they already have the market’s trust. That means you won’t have to do as much work to sell their value to your site’s visitors. That can mean more sales and a higher conversion rate.

As an added benefit, big brands are less likely to experience volatility (such as going out of business) that might require you to regear your whole site.

Have a good reputation

Focusing on offers from reputable merchants can save you a lot of headaches.

A good reputation usually means that they’ll treat you well, and pay both fairly and on-time.

They also tend to care more about protecting your reputation, and responding if buyers have problems with products you’ve promoted.

Trust Pilot

For the most part, you can trust that you’ll find reputable merchants on reputable networks, and you won’t have to do too much homework to confirm it.

However, there are some niches where doing your due diligence really matters. For example:

If you’re dealing with these niches, take some extra time to message the merchants. Make sure that they understand local legal requirements, and are willing to offer you support.

What are the payment and cookie policies?

The payment and cookie policies of a network determine how often (and how fairly) you get paid. You should consider each network’s policies carefully.

Commission rates will vary from program to program. When it comes to large programs that play host thousands of merchants, the commission rates will also differ from offer to offer.

ebay cookie and commission policy

Depending on the offer, you may be paid based on one of these 5 commission schemes:

  • Cost per click (CPC): These schemes pay per click, meaning your referral only has to visit your affiliate link for you to make money. Typically, you are only rewarded by hundreds of clicks or thousands of clicks.
  • Cost per acquisition/action (CPA): This type of scheme rewards you with a commission for each designated action that a referral takes. CPS, CPL, and CPI are considered to be subsets of CPA.
  • Cost per Sale (CPS): Cost per sale schemes reward you for each sale from your affiliate link. The commission rate is often based on percentage. It’s typical to be paid per sale for physical goods. Amazon and eBay both use this form of commission.
  • Cost per lead (CPL): These schemes pay per lead, meaning you can make money each time a referral fills out a contact form or other lead acquisition form.
  • Cost per install (CPI): In software niches, you make money each time the software is installed.

You are likely to come across more differences in compensation than just these 5 commission schemes.

You can expect that some offers will involve a fixed commission rate or a recurring commission. Here’s a little more about those, and the pros and cons of each one.

One-time Payouts (also known as fixed commission rates)

A one-time payout is a commission that is paid only once. It is the standard form of commission for physical goods the customer pays for a single time. However, it may also be applied to subscription services.

Pros
  • Often a significantly higher commission than you’ll make with months of a recurring rate
  • The full commission is collected immediately so that you aren’t at risk of losing money to unforeseen circumstances
Cons
  • May be worth far less than the value of your referral over time
  • You can’t collect any income when your site traffic is interrupted

Recurring Commission

Recurring commissions are paid repeatedly per month. It is most often used for subscription services, where it applies for each month that the referred customer remains with the service.

Pros
  • The cumulative value of new commissions per month can be enormous over a lifetime
  • The value remains even if you lose all your traffic. That makes planning ahead and staying ahead of unexpected events much easier
Cons
  • Low initial payments. May take months or years to be as valuable as a one-time payout
  • Can be stopped short by changes in policies, offers, or ownership of the affiliate program

Cookie policies

Cookies are a form of tracking tool that can be used to ensure that you are credited for any sales that result from a customer clicking your affiliate link.

Cookies are stored on the customer’s browser. If they complete a sale within a certain time period after the cookie is planted, you’ll be credited with the sale and rewarded with a commission.

cookie policy works

Most programs place a time limit on cookies, after which you are no longer eligible for the sale. The standard time (as seen in the programs listed above) is 30 days. It’s not uncommon to see cookies that last 60 days or even longer.

Some programs may have cookies that last as long as the lifetime of the cookie.

There are affiliate programs that pay instantly as soon as the sale is confirmed. Whether this policy applies or not usually depends on how confident the program is in the accuracy of their cookies.

Advertising Physical vs Digital Products

One of the major choices you’ll make when choosing your first network is whether you want to advertise physical products or digital goods. Some networks do both, though they’ll tend to prefer one over the other.

Depending on the one you choose, you’ll need to make different choices with your website content and conversion strategy.

To help you decide, here are some of the pros and cons of each one:

Advertising physical products

Pros
  • The value is clear: No one questions the value of good physical items. It’s not hard to sell high ticket physical items to people who want them—and can use them—because they have lasting real-world worth. No one doubts the value of good hiking shoes, for example.
  • Easier to develop trust from your traffic: You can build credibility more easily advertising physical products than you can with digital ones. This is because you can easily control your reputation by focusing on offers from long-standing and trusted brands.
Cons
  • Lower percentage commissions: Physical goods involve much higher costs to produce and to deliver to customers. It’s rare for commission rates for physical products to rise above 10%.
  • Higher barrier to entry: The top physical goods brands can afford to be snobby about the networks and publishers that they work with. You may have to earn a place into better networks before you can interact with top physical brands.

Advertising digital goods

Pros
  • Higher commissions: The sellers don’t have to pay production costs, shipping costs, or other related fees for digital items. As a result, they are usually willing to pay more to get the product to move.
  • Faster payments: Delivery for digital products is often instantaneous, so networks that deal with them are more likely to pay commissions at a speedier rate.
Cons
  • Your content has to work harder: Establishing value for something non-physical is more complicated. Selling digital products usually requires a superior sales funnel and better content.
  • More and more information is free: Many digital markets are flooded with ebooks and other information products that promise the same thing. So much of this information is free, that it can take more than even great content to establish any value.

How Do I Join Affiliate Programs?

Joining most affiliate programs is a simple 4-step process.

  1. Develop your website
  2. Develop traffic
  3. Choose from several likely programs
  4. Complete your registration

Let’s look at each of these steps in more detail.

steps in joining affiliate

Build your website

If you’re interested in joining an affiliate program, you likely already have a working website. If you are starting affiliate marketing from scratch, you will need to build one now and start developing the content that will set it apart.

For your first experiment, you can build a blog using WordPress and choose a cheap web hosting option like BlueHost.

Develop traffic

One of the questions you will be asked as part of any affiliate program registration is how much traffic you get. The more you have, the more desirable you are to most networks.

Traffic also gives you the leverage to demand higher commission rates.


Track your traffic regularly before you register for any affiliate program. Keep producing new content to attract more visitors and set yourself apart from other sites in the same niche.

If your traffic is growing, attempt to measure the velocity of the growth. You may be able to use this data to qualify for some of the more competitive affiliate programs.

Choose from several likely affiliate programs

You can use the two lists that have been provided for you here to build a shortlist of the affiliate programs that offer you the best conditions for success. Make sure you carefully check out each affiliate program’s requirements before you add them to your list.

Complete your registration

After you’ve completed the other steps, registration is often a simple data-entry task. You can find signup links attached to each of the programs that we introduced you to in the first sections.

Some programs may impose special conditions. For example, you may be asked to make a live phone call to an account manager or wait several days for your site information to be reviewed and verified.

Frequently Asks Questions (FAQ)

Are affiliate programs free?

Affiliate programs are free to join in most cases. There are programs out there that charge for signups or access to certain tiers of offers, but they’re rare, and tend to focus on small or hyper-competitive niches.

They may also be scams that profit more from attracting less-experienced affiliate marketers, so do your research before handing over any money.

Should I pay to join an affiliate marketing program?

You should not pay to join an affiliate program, especially if you are a beginner. The whole point of an affiliate program is that the merchant returns (by commission) a portion of the money that you make for them.

You don’t cost advertisers anything if you don’t deliver—and you’re worth a lot if you do deliver—so there isn’t any reason to pay them first. If there are features or offers out there that are worth a signup fee but it’s unlikely that a beginner could use them to their full potential.

How much do affiliate links pay?

Affiliate links pay a varying amount based on the terms of the agreement, anywhere from 1-70% of the sale price. Experienced affiliate marketers can easily get paid tens of thousands of dollars every month. A lot of factors can account for the differences.

First, experienced marketers are more effective at converting. As they get better, the accumulated sites that they’ve developed can amplify their efforts. Once they’ve proven their worth, they also have the leverage to craft custom agreements with merchants.


Affiliate Marketing Opportunities To Choose From

Affiliate marketing is one of the easiest ways to earn money through online marketing, and better yet, it’s one of the most lucrative. Now you know how to get started.

You understand where to find the best networks around and which high paying affiliate programs to join if you need to learn the ropes.

You also understand the role of niches, the 5 commission schemes you’re likely to see most often, and what you can expect from cookies. That’s knowledge you can use to find the highest paying affiliate offer.

Finally, you understand what affiliate networks expect from new members, and how to prepare yourself, your content, and your traffic so that you can register with confidence.

This will get you started, but thriving at affiliate marketing can take a lot more work…

If you need help, The Affiliate Lab course is the resource and community you need. Visit to learn more about affiliate marketing, how to choose the right program, how to drive higher sales and conversion rates, and how to qualify for the most competitive networks.