7 Point Checklist To Find the Best Affiliate Programs

7 Point Checklist To Find the Best Affiliate Programs

Over the final 20 or so years, I’ve seen many “fascinating” opinions on what to search for to search out the greatest associates program the place you can also make cash.
Some individuals advocate you go for the highest payouts, and others will say community earnings per click on (EPCs) are very important.
Unless you’re intercepting the retailer or service supplier’s site visitors, these could possibly be warning indicators and never indicators that the associates program is sweet. And for this reason I’m penning this submit.
“What is the greatest associates program?” is one in every of the commonest questions I get requested when talking at conferences – particularly writer and website positioning ones.
So, I’d prefer to share seven of the most essential elements I take a look at earlier than selling an associates program or when I’ve two good potentials and can’t decide which to check first.
In addition to metrics, you’ll additionally study the explanation why every issues and, in lots of circumstances, the right way to take a look at and see if it should apply to your state of affairs.
This is how you will discover an associates program with the greatest probability of earning profits.
This checklist isn’t so as, apart from the first one. Before we leap in, I point out “testing” quite a bit all through. The most simple affiliate monitoring take a look at is:

Click your affiliate hyperlink.
Add merchandise to the cart.
Checkout like a buyer would.
See if the fee reveals up in your account.

Do not get distracted by money again, coupons, a number of funds being out there, advertisements working throughout the website for different firms or manufacturers, and so forth. The purpose is to see if fundamental monitoring is working, not attribution testing.
Now right here’s the checklist of what I search for when deciding on affiliate packages, and what I like to recommend you search for, too.
1. Responsive Managers
The most essential factor earlier than becoming a member of an associates program is to write down to an affiliate supervisor via the contact info in the community.
In the electronic mail, introduce your self, share why you’re match, and the way you’ll present worth to the model.
It will also be a good suggestion to ask just a few questions on the program and monitoring so you may gauge their ability and information stage. Plus, asking questions provides the affiliate supervisor a cause to reply.
If the affiliate supervisor or level of contact doesn’t reply inside two enterprise days, transfer on.
If an affiliate supervisor will not be responsive whenever you’re attempting to ship them enterprise, what occurs when monitoring breaks or gross sales go lacking?
If they don’t reply to you when issues are good, you may wager you’ll be ignored when they’re unhealthy.
And associates program issues occur usually. The solely exception to becoming a member of and not using a response is that if the affiliate supervisor is on trip and also you get an auto-responder.
In this case, set a reminder to examine your electronic mail two days after their return.
When asking questions, select yours properly. Some associates will ask if there are product samples, vainness codes, and so forth.
But do not forget that affiliate packages aren’t meant so that you can get free merchandise; they’re so that you can drive clients to a retailer and earn commissions.
Asking upfront and with out driving gross sales first could make you appear to be you’re becoming a member of totally free product and never severe.
Share your marketing strategy with the supervisor utilizing the product, and keep away from saying you’ll “do a evaluate.” Doing a evaluate provides you fewer alternatives to earn money in the long term and has a lot much less worth for the model than a “the right way to” information or solution-oriented content material.
Other inquiries to ask can embody that you just’re searching for advertising and marketing methods, any backup monitoring techniques which are used, how they account for cross-device monitoring in the associates program, and what the attribution traces appear to be or the place you’ll fall on the attribution traces in the event you be part of.
When the affiliate supervisor responds, ask for specifics if you wish to perceive their ability and information ranges.  But this isn’t very important to your success in the program.
If the supervisor is a advertising and marketing strategist and provides you particular particulars vs. generic statements, this can be a excellent signal. Good affiliate managers will take a look at your website and offer you methods to enhance or drive gross sales from the get-go.
They’ll by no means say, “Add a hyperlink,” “Use a coupon code,” or, “Do a evaluate.”
If the reply will not be particular and doesn’t have examples or particulars, the particular person probably doesn’t know advertising and marketing and is hoping you gained’t know or query them. It isn’t their fault; many firms put entry-level individuals into the affiliate supervisor position.
Or the firm doesn’t see the online marketing channel as high-value and high-impact, so that they don’t wish to pay for a advertising and marketing strategist or generalist.
The important factor is that you just get a response.
Don’t rely the program or affiliate supervisor out for not having information – being a strategic marketer is your job, not theirs.
2. Audience Demographic Matches
There’s no scarcity of shops that promote cell telephones or t-shirts, however the locations you may ship your site visitors to could have completely different target market demographics and promoting factors that talk to these audiences.
If you ship your site visitors to the fallacious expertise, you’ll probably see a decrease conversion price and make much less cash.
The value of the cellphone or shirt could matter to your viewers, and each distributors are discounted pricing, however the consumer expertise for conversion charges additionally contains:

Selling factors.
Return insurance policies.
Free transport.
Press protection.

If these components don’t match your referral’s wants, they might not convert in addition to a retailer that does.
This is why you will need to discover out who the important buyer base of every retailer or service supplier is.
Pro tip: You can discover your demographics inside your analytics bundle and share the right way to discover this information with the affiliate supervisor. This helps the affiliate supervisor study one thing new and makes you a advertising and marketing useful resource for them. Being their trusted useful resource provides you extra alternatives to develop in the program.
If you don’t know the right way to use analytics, no drawback. Start by surveying your personal viewers in your website utilizing varieties, pop-ups, and publication blasts to search out out what’s essential to them.
Ask them about value factors, or in the event that they’re keen to pay extra for issues like safety and stability (IT), luxurious, and repair (resort stays or clothes). Maybe free transport affords matter greater than a proportion off, or it could possibly be variations and choices like colours, sizes, and expedited transport (essential for last-minute items or deadlines).
By understanding what issues to your viewers and your customer demographics, you may higher match their must the affiliate packages you promote. This may result in a rise in conversions and your earnings.
Example: Let’s faux we’ve two affiliate packages, A and B.

Affiliate program A has the greatest value and the next payout however no money-back assure or free transport.
Provider B affords free transport and a 30-day money-back assure however a barely decrease payout. Program B lists these promoting factors by the “Add to cart” button.

Even although program A’s payout is greater and the value level is best, B could meet the wants of your viewers extra and convert higher, serving to you earn more cash.
And don’t overlook the discounted value could imply a decrease AOV.  If the fee is percentage-based and never a flat payout, that lowers your earnings.
This may imply the greater value level with a decrease proportion may have greater commissions in the finish.
The deciding issue here’s a higher demographic match with age, earnings, rural/city/suburban, and so forth., and the belief builders.
3. Live Chat & Traffic Leaks
Some issues typically not thought-about are stay chat and site visitors leaks.
A site visitors leak is whenever you ship your site visitors to the service provider, and the service provider permits it to go away their web site or makes it very straightforward in your referral to click on one other affiliate’s hyperlinks.
Years in the past, some large field retailers used to have individuals place orders on-line after which pay in particular person once they picked them up at the retailer.
This induced your commissions to not be tracked, which is why they have been thought-about a leak.
But I haven’t seen this in a very long time.
I’m seeing extra customer support and stay chat taking orders and, in some circumstances, probably bypassing the affiliate monitoring.
Here’s how I take a look at and see if there’s a leak or overwrite.
Go to every associates program you’re contemplating becoming a member of and search for buyer help, particularly stay chat options. Start a dialog with help and/or stay chat and ask if they will take your order.
If stay chat or cellphone help takes the order and you don’t use the procuring cart, your sale will probably not be tracked. In some circumstances (not fairly often, although), stay chat could give the consumer a hyperlink to click on on, which might add a contact level and override affiliate monitoring.
More generally, stay chat could course of the order with out your browser or machine being in the loop. When that occurs, the stay chat vendor will get credit score for the sale, and also you don’t get your fee.
Not all stay chats take orders and bypass the procuring cart, and generally cellphone help will aid you however require you to undergo the procuring cart.
As lengthy as the sale stays in the cart and thru your affiliate monitoring, try to be positive. But you’ll want to check.

Click your hyperlink, open a stay chat window, and ask the questions a buyer would ask.
See if stay chat can take your order, and in the event that they do, allow them to make the buy.
Now examine the community and see in the event you did or didn’t get the fee.  Many networks are in real-time; in the event that they aren’t, give the time required for it to point out. Some affiliate packages nonetheless do a every day batch course of that feeds gross sales information each 24 hours.
If the fee did or didn’t present up, you’ve your reply on stay chat being a leak.

Pro tip: If you’re going to cancel the order since you have been testing, let the affiliate supervisor know you have been doing a take a look at earlier than becoming a member of so that you don’t begin off on a nasty observe.
Bonus tip: I don’t advocate canceling the sale. Having the product readily available enables you to communicate from real-life expertise, which is essential for any evaluate content material and constructing E-E-A-T. You can take images with the product in hand and create movies that present the options are actual and may be accomplished.
There are different types of leaks. It could possibly be when the consumer searches for a coupon and does a Google search at checkout.
The particular person leaves the retailer to discover a code, clicks a coupon affiliate’s hyperlink, and if attribution will not be arrange appropriately, you lose the fee at the final second.
The retailer may have exterior advertisements inside their very own website driving your referrals to a brand new website the place they convert.
If the particular person doesn’t come again and convert inside the cookie life or wipes your monitoring, you lose the commissions – even when they arrive again and purchase.
(*7*) with a number of manufacturers could hyperlink to these manufacturers as navigational components, and if the packages don’t use the similar monitoring system and service provider IDs to fee you throughout procuring carts, you would lose gross sales to the different manufacturers.
Some networks like ShareASale make it straightforward with their shops join characteristic.  I imagine Impact and Everflow supply straightforward multi-cart integrations too.
Let’s take a look at an instance. Please observe that I’ve by no means or not less than not not too long ago (inside the final 10 years), labored with the Gap, seen its monitoring, or requested the firm about it.
The instance under is as a result of I wanted a model that has its different shops linked from the header. It doesn’t imply Gap’s associates program is unhealthy or isn’t monitoring throughout shops.
It is large enough to have cross-brand monitoring, which might be an enormous profit to its associates, however I’ve personally by no means examined this – so once more, take a look at for your self.
Screenshot from hole.com, July 2023
The take a look at right here is to:

Join the Gap associates program.
Click from the Gap web site to Banana Republic or Old Navy.
Make a purchase order at Banana Republic or Old Navy and see if the fee reveals up in your account for Gap.
If it does, which means the model is monitoring throughout the manufacturers, and also you probably get a fee irrespective of which of its manufacturers it sends your referrals to.

I’m not utilizing my present purchasers as a result of none are actively doing this, and this isn’t a self-promotional submit. That’s why I selected Gap. I’ve no relationship with the firm (so far as I do know), and I really like Banana Republic. It makes superb T-shirts.
And there are extra forms of leaks.
Multi-payment software program service suppliers have joined affiliate packages and are put in in a service provider’s checkout as a profit to the buyer.
Brands which have marketplaces and permit clicks to go exterior are additionally leaks.
You may discover that the market or sure SKUs inside the market aren’t commissionable, however the merchandise are the ones you’re selling. It’s not a leak, however it’s comparable.
These are all regular issues and are a part of the trade.
But don’t panic; most single community packages can arrange protections in your commissions, which is why we take a look at. Each retailer and every program is completely different and makes choices based mostly on their objectives.  They’re doing what they really feel is true for them, and that’s okay.
It is your job to check and see the place the fee goes so you may shield your personal income stream. Leaks and end-of-sale companions are a part of the ecosystem; they’re not going wherever.
It doesn’t imply they’re good or unhealthy. The model makes choices for the model’s greatest curiosity, and you have to make choices based mostly on yours.
You don’t have any scarcity of affiliate packages you may promote, so don’t get discouraged if one is full of leaks and doesn’t have attribution arrange appropriately.
Pro-tip: Ask for greater commissions after attribution testing if the commissioning traces don’t work.
If you’re a high funnel companion and also you introduce clients to the model (that is completely different than new to file), your contact factors are the most useful since you management the place the consumer goes and which manufacturers they study – not in the event that they make a last buy. Without you, the retailer doesn’t get the sale in any respect.
4. High Payouts Are Not Always Better
Higher commissions don’t imply more cash or that it’s a good associates program.
Sometimes they imply the program is in shambles, the firm is determined for gross sales, or they’re about to churn and burn.
That is an excessive state of affairs, but it surely occurs.
Other occasions they should make up for leaks and low conversion charges.
There are additionally combined fee fashions to contemplate. Here are two examples. One is actual life from my outdated music area of interest website; the different is one thing I’ve examined over the years and used as promoting factors for affiliate recruitment.
Example 1: Real life
I used to be lured into attempting to promote tickets to reveals with a very nice customized fee from a few ticket distributors.  I barely made something selling the tickets, despite the fact that the site visitors was opinions of reveals and had a excessive intent to buy.
A smaller program supplied me lower than $0.30 per verified lead for the similar site visitors. I wasn’t earning profits on tickets, so I mentioned why not. It seems my site visitors did convert on the lead program, and after some time, they upped me to a greenback or just a few {dollars} per conversion as a result of the high quality was good.
Yes, a $300 ticket to a present would have been a pleasant fee, however I wasn’t incomes it.
My cash got here from a program with the smallest payout in the house.
Then finally, I shut the website down as a result of I used to be beginning my company, and the website received hacked via a plugin vulnerability and killed readership. (Queue the violin and pity celebration.)
Example 2
Suppose program A has a 25% fee and program B has a 40% fee.  Both web sites have equal viewers expertise and conversion charges, and each have a 90-day monitoring hole.
The one distinction is that program A is utilizing database monitoring and never cookies, so as soon as the buyer is locked into your account, these commissions are yours.
If clients reorder each 60 to 70 days, then program A is definitely paying roughly 50% due to the second buy in the timeframe.  And the similar factor applies to recurring commissions.
Let’s faux program A is 10% recurring and program B is 40% one-time. If the common lifetime of the buyer is 5 years, then program A may be extra worthwhile, particularly if costs improve. You’ll earn 10% 5 occasions vs 40% one time.
This is quite common in B2B packages and SAAS.
Program B is nice for brief bursts of income, however program A units you up for constant long-term income and more cash total.
With all else equal, and if program A doesn’t shut, A is extra worthwhile than B as a result of the complete earned is greater than the single payout.
5. Affiliate Program EPCs Are Skewed Metrics
A giant purple flag for me is a excessive community EPC.  EPC usually means earnings per click on. When the community EPC is excessive, you may wager one thing fishy is occurring.
Go to Google or Bing and kind the model title + coupons in.  Look at the PPC advertisements and the natural outcomes.
You’ll probably discover these are lively associates, which is inflating the numbers as a result of an affiliate click on at the finish of the checkout will all the time have abnormally excessive conversion charges.
These companions inflate the EPC, and if attribution isn’t arrange appropriately, you might lose a portion of your gross sales to those associates despite the fact that you rightfully earned the fee. That is why it’s a purple flag and why it’s best to take a look at.
And the similar applies to low EPCs. If the program has a low community EPC there could possibly be monitoring or conversion points. But don’t rely it out.
Use the quick and long-term EPCs. I’ve had conditions the place our EPC dropped considerably on one timeframe however not the different.
We had a big emailer do a blast that decimated the EPC numbers, after which the numbers returned to regular over the subsequent few months as the electronic mail marketing campaign impression was offset.
The solely EPC quantity that issues is your private one.
Once you’ve joined the program and despatched just a few hundred guests, look to see what your EPC is.  If you’re in a number of comparable packages, look to see the place you’re changing greatest.
Your private EPCs are the place you may start testing and eliminating to search out the most worthwhile associates program in your particular viewers.
And keep in mind, as your website grows and your viewers will get bigger, otherwise you appeal to new forms of website positioning key phrases and demographics, EPCs shift. Do a comparability as soon as a month or as soon as 1 / 4 to see in the event that they’re altering, and modify your hyperlinks accordingly.
Pro tip: Ask the affiliate supervisor for the SKUs and merchandise you’re promoting with colour and dimension variations. If there’s a heavy “skew” in the direction of a particular “SKU” variation, change the photographs in your promotions out to the ones your referrals purchase extra typically.
This may improve your clickthroughs and gross sales numbers. I.e., in the event you’re selling the pink and huge model, however everyone seems to be looking for inexperienced and medium, attempt the inexperienced and medium one as an alternative.
6. Multiple Affiliate Programs And Multiple Networks
Find out if there’s a non-public program, second community, or sub-affiliate networks that aren’t a part of the important program. Brands don’t wish to pay two commissions on the similar sale, so just one affiliate community will usually win out.
This is the place attribution and contact level based mostly commissioning not work and the place affiliate managers could not totally perceive why.
Let’s faux we’ve two networks, A and B. Here are a pair situations.
Scenario 1
You are on Network A and did a video about the right way to set up a fridge and really useful a particular wrench.
You despatched a buyer to the retailer for the wrench, and so they have attribution testing in order that an end-of-sale contact level like a coupon website exhibiting up for “Brand + coupons” can not overwrite your fee. But that coupon website is definitely in Network B.
If the procuring cart, not the affiliate community, doesn’t mechanically fee Network A, and in addition the high funnel click on in Network A, you misplaced your fee to the coupon website in Network B.
Network A will be unable to trace it again as a result of the procuring cart will not be arrange for contact level commissioning.  You earned that fee, however as a result of the program is on two networks, you lose the fee despite the fact that the community you’re on is ready up appropriately.
Remember, Network A being arrange with correct monitoring and commissioning doesn’t matter as a result of the procuring cart is lacking the right logic code.
Scenario 2
You promote a basic product and ship a buyer out of your listcicle to the retailer via Network A.  Network B is the place the evaluate companions are.
Reviews construct belief for the shopper but in addition add a brand new contact level from a competing affiliate community.
Many occasions you’ll discover break up commissions in Network A, the place you get 60% and the evaluate companion will get 40%. But as a result of this can be a second system, chances are high Network B will take the sale as a result of the procuring cart will not be arrange for conditional logic.
(*7*) with a number of packages not often construct their procuring cart attribution to the ranges wanted, and that’s the drawback. The commissions right here probably gained’t get break up and also you gained’t earn something.
Scenario 3
You are on Network A and utilizing a subnetwork’s hyperlinks.
Network B has a click on, and the procuring cart is programmed for Network B to lose out to Network A each time.  This needs to be right.
Currently, the sub-affiliate will get the fee, and also you receives a commission.
Suddenly, one other affiliate in Network A or one other affiliate in the sub-affiliate community has a click on.
Now it’s as much as two elements exterior your management to determine in the event you earn something.

If the sub-network is ready up for first-click commissioning and the second click on can be in the sub-network, you get the fee.  If not, the second click on does.  This is the probably situation.
If the sub-network and the different first-tier affiliate have the similar attribution, chances are high the sub-network loses out, and also you don’t get a fee. (To be truthful, the sub-affiliate community doesn’t both).

This is why it’s all the time higher to not use subnetworks when you may keep away from it.  Join the associates program immediately when you may.
But there are many conditions when they’re wanted, and the sub-affiliate networks may be large time savers and have customized payouts serving to you earn extra.  So don’t rely them out.
Some are as straightforward as including JavaScript to your website and backfilling the place you forgot to incorporate an affiliate hyperlink.
The solely technique to know in the event you’ll receives a commission is to check.

Join Network A and click on your hyperlink, then discover an affiliate on Network B and click on their hyperlink in the similar browser window.
Make a purchase order and see in the event you get the sale.  If the sale didn’t seem in your account, write to the supervisor and ask the place it went.

Chances are it’ll be in Network B with the second affiliate, despite the fact that you earned that fee.
In the case of the evaluate affiliate, each of you add worth, however you launched the buyer and may have earned most of the cash. But as a result of there are a number of affiliate packages or a number of networks, you lose.
7. Advanced Tracking
Most affiliate managers aren’t in a position to speak about superior monitoring.
It isn’t their job to know the way it works, which is unlucky, and lots of will give a generic reply.
But don’t settle in the event that they’re simply being lazy.
Affiliate managers ought to be capable to get you the technical particulars from their IT groups. If they can not, and their reply doesn’t make sense, this can be a warning signal they’ll conceal different issues from you too.
If they are saying, “I don’t know,” and go away it alone, not less than you’ll know they’re sincere.
If they are saying, “I don’t know, however let me ask IT,” then you already know they’re sincere and can attempt to discover a decision. This speaks volumes about them as a companion.
Advanced monitoring is essential as a result of monitoring expertise has to adapt to satisfy trendy requirements. Whether it’s iOS stripping parameters from emails, or browsers not monitoring third-party cookies, the odds are by no means in your favor as an affiliate marketer.
This is the place cross-device monitoring is available in – or utilizing IPs, databases, passing distinctive variables with out cookies, and fingerprinting.  Talk to the networks and see what stage of monitoring they’ve for the affiliate packages on their platform.
Once you already know, ask if the packages you wish to be part of are utilizing it.  If they’re, ask the affiliate supervisor in the event you can run some exams.
To take a look at cross-device associates program monitoring:

Click your affiliate hyperlink in your laptop and get to the level the place sufficient information has been gathered.
Open up your cellphone and end the buy with out clicking your affiliate hyperlink once more.
If the fee tracks again to you, success.  If it didn’t, cross-device will not be arrange appropriately and you’ve got an instance they will use to repair it.

This is one thing you are able to do to be proactive and get on the good facet of the affiliate supervisor. Having a constructive relationship with them will go far in how a lot you can also make and your means to get customized commissions or offers.
There’s much more that you should utilize to find out what the greatest affiliate packages are, the place you can also make the most cash, and which of them to keep away from.
Some networks like ShareASale present you program uptime and downtime that can assist you see if the program “accidently” shuts down seasonally, and others could permit you to see which have escrow accounts to make sure funding is in place.
Each is essential, however solely when you’ve narrowed it down and are caught deciding between two or three high choices.
The seven objects above will assist slim the discipline shortly and assist set you up for long-term success, which is why they matter the most to me.
I hope this checklist helps you prefer it has helped me.
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Featured Image: Net Vector/Shutterstock


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About the Author: Amanda