What to Look For in an Affiliate Program

There are a few key factors that come into play when you’re looking for the right affiliate program. You want to make sure to seriously consider these before building out an affiliate website, as you will put in a lot of groundwork up front and you want it to pay off. Jump into an affiliate program too fast, and you might find out the hard way that the market you chose doesn’t pay out what you expected. The most important factors to look for are big ticket items, recurring commissions, up and coming industries, high volume items, high commission levels, and low to moderate competition. Most of the time you will be considering a combination of a few of these factors, but for now we’re going to take a look at each of them on their own. All of the affiliate programs that we suggest fall into one or more of these factor groups.

  1. Big Ticket Items: The logic here is pretty simple, you can build an affiliate website around an item with a low price tag (let’s say kitchen utensils) and receive a 10% commission on each item or you can choose a high price item (yachts for example) and take a 10% commission on each of those. Each item and distributer of those items will offer you a different commission structure, but for now assume it’s level across the board. A lot of people want to market a product that they know really well or find extremely interesting. The purpose of this website is to direct you towards items that pay you very well, I guarantee you will find them interesting when they start making you money. You may have to do some research to learn about a big ticket item that you know less about, the higher profitability of these items will make that effort pay off in the long term. You will also find that commission rates and competition in a market don’t always correlate with the price of item. If an item is cheap and you know a lot about it, chances are that other people do to and you will find a lot competition to market that item.
  2. Recurring Commissions: Some of my favorite affiliate programs have a recurring commission structure. The concept is simple, get someone to sign up for a service/platform and every time they use that service you receive an affiliate commission. A lot of online casinos use this structure, it’s also used by Daily Fantasy Sports companies like DraftKings and FanDuel. DraftKings, for example, pays you a percentage of the entry fee for every contest a player enters for the lifetime of that player if you refer them to sign up. Because of how lucrative this structure is it can also be highly competitive. It is important to note that just because an affiliate program is competitive does not mean that you can’t succeed in it. I have never been first or anywhere near first to market for any given affiliate program, but I have found ways to out compete my competitors. Whether you top your rivals in SEO, bring new and useful information to potential referral targets, or take any number of other angles, there is always a way to win in affiliate marketing. And when it comes in a market with a recurring commission structure it really pays off.
  3. Up and Coming Industries: As an affiliate marketer, this is something that you always keep your eye out for. If an industry is relatively new and has some momentum, you can get in early and establish yourself in low competition environment. There is a trade off here, when a company/market hasn’t been established, there’s no guarantee that it ever will be. Fortunately, with a little bit of experience you naturally develop an eye for which companies/products work and which don’t. You can also diversify by marketing for multiple companies/products in the same industry. Just make sure that you design a website that is industry specific as opposed to company/product specific. A little diversification goes a long way, if one of these companies/products goes out of business you won’t take much of a hit if any. Not too long ago Daily Fantasy Sports and Ridesharing (Uber and Lyft) fell into the Up and Coming Industries category. For DFS this was a great opportunity to get into the a recurring commission structure while it wasn’t all that competitive. For Lyft and Uber (moderate competition) it’s still an opportunity to make huge commissions on each driver you refer. You must be a rideshare driver to refer new drivers for Lyft an Uber, but this tiny barrier to entry weeds out a ton of competition.
  4. High Volume: This one is pretty straight forward, you want a lot of people searching for and buying the product/signing up for the service you’re marketing. If the market for your affiliate program isn’t large enough, don’t waste your time. There are definitely exceptions here. This goes hand in hand with the Up and Coming Industries factor, if volume is on the lower end but trending upward in a promising market, you might have a great opportunity for a low competition entry. There are a few tools that come in handy when assessing the volume of your market, one of my favorites is Google Keyword Planner. To use this tool you first need to sign up for Google Adwords, which is pretty easy to do. Then use the Get Search Volume Data and Trends button to assess how popular your market is. Start with broad search terms such as “Daily Fantasy Sports” for example to see  how many people are looking for your product/service. Once again, you want search volume that is TRENDING UPWARDS. You can then narrow down the search terms to keywords that you will specifically target. If you want to get involved in DraftKings Affiliate program try “DraftKings promo code” or “DFS promo code”, these are the keywords that people will search immediately before they sign up, you should be targeting actionable keywords like these. If you need help finding new keywords, return to the Google Keyword Planner and use the Multiply Keyword Lists to Get New Keywords button. Keyword research and assessing the volume of your target market are some of the most important steps you can take prior to choosing a new affiliate program. * Always read the terms of use for an affiliate program before you apply, some do not allow certain SEO tactics and Adwords use.
  5. High Commission Rates: You want to target the affiliate programs that give you the largest slice of the pie. A large commission on a medium price item or high volume item can sometimes be more lucrative than a low commission on a very high price item. Certain industries are known for their high commission rates, these tend to be more competitive, but that’s not always the case. A couple industries with very high commission rates are software and supplements. Needless to say, a successful affiliate campaign in one of these markets can be incredibly profitable. There are a couple of other factors that can be addressed with commission rates. These are duration of cookies on affiliate links, and non product specific affiliate links. Some affiliate programs give you an affiliate link with a cookie duration of 30 or 60 days, meaning that if they buy a product through your link within that time period you still get your commission. In this case, a slightly lower commission might still be appealing. Other affiliate programs, such as Amazon, have a much shorter cookie duration (24 hours), but you receive commission on almost any product that someone buys through their online retail space in that period of time.
  6. Low to Moderate Competition: You are probably thinking, “if not many people are competing in a market it must not be profitable”. That logic holds true some of the time, but there are many exceptions, and we are looking to exploit those exceptions. First of all, low competition doesn’t necessarily mean low volume. Some big ticket items are actually less competitive than lower priced items. Up and coming industries also haven’t been around enough to be flooded with affiliates. The best part about both of these scenarios is that the need for useful information and reviews is much higher. People are going to do a lot more research on high priced items and products/services in young industries before they buy. This makes your role as an affiliate marketer, assuming that you can provide helpful info, much more important.


Why Affiliate Marketing?

If you’re reading this post you know by now that affiliate programs are a great way to generate passive income. I got started in affiliate marketing a little over a year ago. I was working a desk job at a law firm, doing something that I couldn’t see myself enjoying as a career, but it paid the bills. I started an affiliate website on the side, not really knowing anything about affiliate marketing and learning everything as I went. To be honest I didn’t even know what the term affiliate marketing meant. All I knew was that I had a link on my website and if I could get enough people to click on it I could make some money. I was fortunate in that I chose the rideshare industry for my first affiliate program, they were fast growing, and they gave huge payouts when you sign up new drivers. That’s not to say it wasn’t a rough going at first, it took months of trial and error to get the ball rolling. But I was fortunate in the fact that I chose the industry I chose. Had I started with a small ticket industry that wasn’t growing at a decent rate, I would’ve seen very little profits, and I probably would’ve given up. I believe that the steep learning curve, patience required, and lack of helpful information on affiliate programs causes a lot of people to give up. In my case, I started making more money with affiliate marketing than I had been at my desk job, and I was able to quit and do something that I really enjoy. I have now built affiliate websites in 6 different categories and made a profit on all of them. Some more than others. But in this process I have learned a lot about how to choose an affiliate program, how to set up a website, and how to deploy some SEO tactics to get to the front page of search results in a short period of time. The purpose of this website is to help other people get their start in the industry so that they can start making passive income and enjoy the freedom that it brings. I want to direct you towards the most profitable affiliate programs on the market, the ones in growing industries with big ticket items and relatively low competition. A lot of times it takes just as much work to promote small ticket items with low affiliate payouts as it does to go after the high paying items. These big ticket items, along with programs which pay out recurring fees on their services, are the best way to make money in affiliate marketing. I will provide a synopsis of these programs and layout the basic groundwork that you will need to put in to get started in them.