How to Choose an Affiliate Program

When people first start out in affiliate marketing, most of them make the mistake of choosing which affiliate programs to promote based solely on which ones offer the highest commissions. While that is one of the most important factors to consider, there is plenty more you need to think about before promoting an offer.

Here is what I look for when choosing programs to promote:

Commission Rate
Ok, so it is important to know how much you can make. Don’t forget however to look at the cost of the products and services that are being offered. 50% commission sounds great, but isn’t always the best if the products sold are only $1.

Program Website
I always spend some time getting to know the merchants website before promoting their program. There are a lot of potential problems that you need to be aware of as an affiliate. For example some merchants have their website setup in a way that they are really wanting customers to call in to place an order by doing things such as placing large phone numbers all over their site. This is fine if affiliate sales are tracked over the phone, but many aren’t. Another huge problem with merchant websites is leaks. This happens when a merchant links to other websites, or has advertising on their site with programs such as Google Adsense. When this happens, your driving traffic for free to the merchant and that isn’t cool. One last thing is to analyze how the website is setup. Is it going to be easy for your traffic to place orders? Is there high quality images? Does the site look professional? Etc…

Affiliate Manager
One of the key factors to my success in affiliate marketing has been having quality affiliate managers (the person running the show for the merchant). They are there to help you since if you succeed, than they succeed. Keep in mind that not all affiliate managers are created equal. If you are just starting out I recommend you try contacting the affiliate manager of a program and see what kind of a response time they have. I’ve had a few managers in the past send me emails back over a week later that sounded like I was hassling them asking basic questions about their program. That was the last they heard from me as I don’t want to spend time promoting their offers.

Product Selection
By product selection I’m not talking about the number of products necessarily. There are a lot of good programs out there with just one product and a lot of good programs with thousands of products. What you want to check on as far as products, is the price and information the merchants present compared to competitors. They don’t have to have the lowest prices to be successful, but it will hurt if they are substantially higher.

Terms of Service
Hear me when I say this. ALWAYS READ THE AFFILIATE PROGRAMS TERMS OF SERVICE. Not every program is created equally. The worst thing you can do is send multiple sales to a program and come to find out that they don’t allow search traffic and have to lose your commissions and or be banned from a program. Also check out their fine print and read EVERYTHING. I had a program that I thought had a 30 day cookie, but after looking at the terms of service, found that although it was a 30 day cookie, customers had to add something to their cart within 4 hours or I don’t get commission.

Cookies
Always check out the program cookie lengths. A lot of sales will come in a day or two after you send traffic, so make sure you are going to get commissions for these.

Test the Program
If you get accepted by multiple programs, do some testing. I’ve had projects that I chose a program for without testing any other programs first. That is the wrong thing to do. Who knows which converts better unless you test. Try doing some PPC testing for each program and see which is converting better. If it doesn’t convert well for you, move on ASAP to the next program. Don’t waste your time trying to get a poor program to convert.

Affiliate Network
Another key factor I look at when choosing a program is what network they are on. I’ve worked with all of the major networks and know which one I like better which helps. Many programs run in-house programs, which I will generally not apply to 95% of the time. There is something about the comfort of knowing that the program is being monitored by a network.

This list is far from complete, but is a starting point when choosing affiliate programs. I hope it helps and please submit a comment of other factors you look for when choosing which programs to promote.

Want To Learn eCommerce Tricks?

Stay up to date with my weekly eCommerce newsletter. It’s free to join and full of tips for any entrepreneur wanting to succeed online. Just enter your email below.

Share this post

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email

5 Responses

  1. In addition to the above-mentioned things I would also recommend affiliates to check into the following:

    1) Affiliate program conversion and reversal rates.

    2) EPC (or average affiliate earnings per 100 clicks sent to the merchant) reports

    3) Other affiliates who are already promoting the affiliate program (TOS violators, parasitic affiliates, etc). If unethical affiliates are allowed into the program, you do not want to invest (or is it loose?) your time and money into promoting them.

  2. Bryan – What I meant by testing is to do some PPC testing and send some targeted traffic to the program before spending to much time with the program. See if it converts at all.

    What you are describing is to make a test purchase which many programs allow you to do unlike Google Adsense. However always read the TOS for each program and see if they allow that. Many do, but not all. I would suggest doing this if you are unsure if your traffic is being accurately tracked.

  3. I am a newbie. Please explain

    Another key factor I look at when choosing a program is what network they are on. I?ve worked with all of the major networks and know which one I like better which helps. Many programs run in-house programs, which I will generally not apply to 95% of the time. There is something about the comfort of knowing that the program is being monitored by a network.

    What is a network and how do you know which one an affiliate is on?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *