Your 5-minute guide to choosing the best affiliate program
OCTOBER 14, 2022 | USE CASES
There is an almost bewildering array of affiliate programs out there, with all kinds of different offers, systems and more. So how do you pick the best affiliate program? Find out in our short guide!
How do affiliate programs work?
First up, a quick recap of what we’re talking about when we speak of affiliate programs. An affiliate program – once upon a time commonly called an associate program – is a partner system whereby a company will pay commission to affiliate marketers who get them leads from promoting their product. The program element formalizes this: there will be a set commission, way of tracking and often some kind of dashboard or the like, and you will sometimes have access to brand assets to help promote.
In large companies, affiliate programs can even evolve to become a key channel for that business, to the extent that they can sit within a media group as their own entity.
How do you find the best affiliate programs?
Often when marketers start trying to set themselves up with affiliate programs, they’re faced with the problem of an enormous amount of internet white noise: how on earth can they sift through this to find programs that it’s actually worth pursuing?
You can start off broadly – a simple Google search of affiliate program + your niche product will yield plenty of results.
To start narrowing things down a little more, look to affiliate directories. Affiliate managers (on the brand side) will often pay for placement in these, so it’s not entirely organic – but spend on their own advertising does help to weed out the bottom tier of affiliate programs.
This will only get you so far, however. Now’s the time to do a little more digging. You can start by doing product research of similar or complementary products to what you’re thinking of promoting, and examining the links of pages that come up. If they appear to be tracked affiliate links, have a look at the target – you will have found an affiliate program that most certainly promotes those kinds of products, as the evidence is right in front of you.
Likewise, get yourself onto tools like Moz or Semrush to look up your competitors. If you don’t have an established site yourself, you can in a pinch use a competitor domain to get some surface-level insights. Visit those competitor sites and, again, get yourself into affiliate link detective mode: look for tracking and find out where these links are taking you.
Sometimes the best affiliate programs will hardly promote themselves, at least in the public sphere compared to closed groups, instead relying on word of mouth and nurturing their own network, so this can really pay off.
How do you evaluate affiliate programs to find the best ones?
Now that you’ve drawn up a list of programs you’re interested in, it’s time to start working out which ones will be worth your while, and can reliably bring you in money.
Here are some of the top areas to look at:
What is the commission structure?
This is of course your bread and butter, so you need to be sure of this. How high is it paying per conversion (tip: have a read of our advice on high-ticket affiliates to learn about volume versus value)? Are the payments recurring throughout the client’s lifetime or do you get a one-off that may or may not be worth the value they’re actually getting for the program owner? When are payments made – is it once the user has activated if it’s a service, or is it once they’ve been a customer for a period of time, for instance? Make sure you have a clear idea of the potential earnings it could bring in, versus the potential costs of your advertising.
What is the lifetime of the affiliate program?
Cookies (at least for now) are crucial in your evaluation, and something a lot of people overlook when deciding on the best affiliate program. Cookie lifetime refers to how long a program’s tracked cookie is valid for, and this can impact whether you are set as a source for a later purchase. Some programs, like website builder Elementor’s, have a relatively short life of about 45 days, meaning that anyone who purchases afterwards will not be linked back to you. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it means you need to be confident about driving traffic that is far enough down the funnel that you are confident of purchases happening within the period.
How does the affiliate tracking work?
Good affiliate tracking can make or break a program from the point of view of an affiliate marketer. You need to know that sales that have come from you are tracked and attributed as such. Most programs will provide you with tracked links with a unique ID. The ID is saved in their browser in the form of a cookie – see below for the importance lifespans – and this will then keep the user attributed to you. A good affiliate program will have a proper dashboard where you can log in and see your earnings and any attributions, and to see elements like your billing cycle. Likewise, a personalized code is crucial for ones where you will be sending them through a journey with a ‘break’. For example, if you are marketing a product through YouTube, they may not click through the link but rather Google the product themselves. If the program also allows you to offer a code to customers to enter at checkout, such as to get a discount, then the conversion on that offer can still be attributed back to you.
What is the market for the products?
Carry out your own market research and don’t just trust the brands themselves: a product may look very enticing, but make sure that it is appropriately priced for its market, that there is demand and likewise that it’s not oversaturated. If there is a huge volume of people already promoting the same product and doing so very well, the time and money you invest into making your cut into that market will potentially be much more than you’d get back. On the other hand, if it’s one where you see a genuine gap to be able to promote your product – perhaps a different way of spinning it, or an audience that haven’t been reached so well – then you’ll likely find yourself landing on your feet.
Working with the best affiliate programs
If you work with the best affiliate programs, then you are already on the way to building a strong business that’s founded on a good inventory of offers and supported by robust tracking. But how can you expand further? This is where Multilogin comes in, and the key is multiple accounts. Imagine that you could run hundreds of ad accounts, profiles and more – all from a single device without being detected. If the thought has grabbed your attention, then head over to your dedicated affiliate marketing pages to find out how it works (hint: your business could go further than you ever thought possible). Are you ready to seize the day?