In my early days as an affiliate marketer, my focus was on joining programs that I felt had high marketability and appeal. I was less concerned about a program’s overall structure, but more interested in the financial outcomes that hadn’t yet occurred. For example, I joined Julep’s affiliate program which paid a commission rate of three percent. A couple of months later, I revisited Julep’s program and thought more about their commission structure. To earn three thousand dollars, I would need to sell $100K of products. Knowing how difficult it is to sell ten thousand worth of merchandise, never mind $100K, left me scratching my head.
As I thought more about my affiliate partnerships, I drafted a document called “Affiliate Selection Guidelines” which outlined my requirements as an affiliate going forward. For instance, a program should have a minimum conversion/cookie window of thirty days and have a minimum payout of thirty percent.
I believe the top affiliate programs have similar parameters to benefit both the advertiser (merchant) and publisher (affiliate). Here are some essential considerations to help you select the top affiliate programs.
#1 Commission Rate
If I wanted to be rewarded single digit commission rates or next to nothing for my efforts, I would work as an employee and not as an affiliate marketer. Just like all professional athletes, I want to get PAID.
The best affiliate programs dangle attractive commission rates of thirty percent or more to entice affiliates. Anything less than thirty percent, as in the case of Amazon Affiliates, won’t garner my active participation and planning. For example, I do add Amazon affiliate links to my content occasionally, but with a maximum commission rate of ten percent, I don’t pay much attention to their program. Affiliate managers who are serious about their programs will offer excellent compensation and incentives to heighten affiliate participation and activity.
Watch for programs that offer recurring or lifetime commissions. These programs will pay you as long as the person you signed up continues to pay. Most email marketing providers such as MailerLite offer recurring commissions.
#2 Conversion Days / Cookie Window
One major drawback of Udemy’s affiliate program is their seven-day conversion window which is well below the industry average of thirty days. I like affiliate programs that give me a chance to convert my marketing efforts within a reasonable period. Dinosaurs like Amazon and eBay enforce a nonsensical 24-hour conversion window. If a purchase isn’t made after clicking my Amazon link within this timeframe, my efforts will go unrewarded. Conversely, Thrive Themes’s affiliate program offers a two-year cookie, which is extremely generous. I believe in most cases (depending on the product/service and price) customers will purchase or pass on an item within thirty days. Therefore, seek programs that offer at least thirty days to convert buyers.
#3 Earnings Potential
As an affiliate marketer, I want to promote products and services that belong to a growing industry/market sector, not a declining one. Ideally, I want to be an early mover in a market that is exploding and ripe for opportunities. For instance, I’m exploring affiliate opportunities in FinTech because many financial technology companies are producing services I like and use such as TransferWise. Also, I want to be active in the markets that offer potentially high conversion rates.
#4 Marketing Materials
In the words of Jerry Maguire, “Help me, help you.” I’ve gotten excited about several programs only to be disappointed by their marketing materials, creative, and banners. Advertising creative is important concerning promotional activities, and it helps with conversion rates. Savvy affiliate managers understand this and offer marketing materials that are current and appealing.
#5 Deep Linking
Deep linking is the practice by which an affiliate builds a direct or custom link to a specific product page on a merchant’s website. It can improve conversion rates since the visitor will land on the product/service page of interest compared to the advertiser’s home page. I prefer programs that offer deep linking capabilities because I can build context around the link I want to promote. Programs without deep linking naturally attract greater limitations.
#6 Affiliate Marketing Networks
I enjoy using affiliate networks such as Commission Junction and FlexOffers because of the variety of merchants and categories to select. Many affiliate networks are convenient since they save affiliates from having to deal with too many standalone programs. That said, I do entertain standalone programs if they are attractive.
#7 Coupons and Deals
I use DreamHost for web hosting and promote their services as an affiliate. They give their affiliates two promotional discount options to promote. Bluehost, on the other hand, doesn’t offer any ongoing deals for affiliates to use which is disadvantageous. Admittedly, coupons don’t always make sense or align with an advertiser’s objectives, but programs that do have regular promotions or ongoing discounts get my attention and priority.
#8 Affiliate Manager & Support
I recently had a bad experience with a program whereby I couldn’t log into my account, emailed affiliate services, and got no response. I eventually had to call them, and the service was just as pathetic. Suffice it to say; this program was relegated to the bottom of my list.
Some program managers and their support people act as if they’re doing you a favor whereas other managers consistently demonstrate an appreciation for your participation in their program. The programs you want to partner with are those that adhere to common sense, communicativeness, and support.
#9 Reporting & Program Terms
Reports covering anything from payouts to clicks should be easy to generate and understand. Most of the time you won’t have problems with this unless you deal with an underdeveloped in-house affiliate program.
A program’s terms are worth reading because you want to ensure the terms align with your marketing ideas.
These are the factors that guide my decision-making concerning which affiliate programs to join. Also, it’s critical to promote products and services that align with your target market to improve conversion rates.