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 3 percent. A couple of months later, I revisited Julep’s program and thought more about their commission structure. To earn $3,000, I would need to sell $100,000. Knowing how difficult it is to sell $10,000 worth of merchandise, never mind $100,000, 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 a publisher. For instance, a program should have a minimum conversion/cookie window of thirty days and have a minimum payout of 30 percent.
Below 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.
- Commission Rate
The best affiliate programs offer attractive commission rates of 30 percent or more to entice publishers. Programs that offer less than 30 percent don’t get my active participation and planning. Affiliate managers who are serious about their programs offer excellent compensation and incentives to heighten affiliate engagement.
Recurring affiliate programs can be excellent as these programs will pay you as long as the person you signed up continues to pay.
- Referral Period and Cookie Duration
One major drawback of Udemy’s affiliate program is their seven-day conversion window, which is well below the industry standard of thirty days. I like affiliate programs that give me a chance to convert my efforts within a reasonable period. Some companies like Amazon and eBay enforce insufficient 24-hour conversion windows. By contrast, some companies like Thrive Themes and Bluehost offer referral periods of more than one hundred days, which is extremely generous. Depending on the product or service and price, most customers will purchase or pass on an item within thirty days. Therefore, you should seek programs that offer at least thirty days to convert buyers.
- Earnings Potential
As an affiliate marketer, I want to promote products and services that belong to growing industries and market sectors, not declining ones. Ideally, I want to be an early mover in a market that is exploding and ripe for opportunities. I like promoting financial technology companies because many of these companies are producing services I like and use such as TransferWise. Also, I want to join programs that have high conversion rates and earnings per click (EPC).
- Marketing Materials
In the words of Jerry Maguire, “Help me, help you.” I’ve gotten excited about programs only to be disappointed by their marketing materials, creative, and banners. Advertising creative is important for promotional activities, and it helps with conversion rates. Savvy affiliate managers understand this and offer marketing materials that are current and appealing.
- 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 homepage. I like joining programs that offer deep linking capabilities because I can build context around the link I want to promote. Programs without deep linking naturally have greater limitations.
- Affiliate Marketing Network
I enjoy using affiliate networks such as Commission Junction and FlexOffers because of the variety of merchants and product/service categories. Many affiliate networks are convenient since they save affiliates from having to deal with too many standalone and in-house programs. That said, I do join in-house programs if they are attractive.
- Coupons and Deals
I use DreamHost for web hosting and promote their services as an affiliate. They give publishers two promotional discounts to promote. Bluehost, on the other hand, doesn’t offer any ongoing deals, 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.
- Affiliate Manager & Support
I recently had a bad experience with a program whereby I couldn’t log into my account and got no response from the affiliate manager. 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 teams 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 join are those that appreciate and respect affiliates.
An affiliate program should have reports that are easy to generate and understand. Most networks feature robust reporting. Therefore, you won’t have problems with this unless you deal with lackluster in-house affiliate programs.
- Program Terms
A program’s terms are worth reading because you want to ensure the details align with your marketing ideas and activities. Also, you want to abide by rules to avoid disciplinary action. For instance, most affiliate programs don’t allow publishers to run paid ads with competitive keywords.