Affiliate marketing programs are the quiet driver of a lot of e-commerce. While advertisers can get attention for big banner ads on major websites or fill your inbox with email marketing campaigns, business owners of digital products know that affiliate programs are a major key for attracting new customers.
That’s great for you, because these affiliate programs are a fantastic way to make money online, and can make you money passively, especially if you have a strong web presence.
In this article, we’ll look at affiliate marketing, how much you can expect to make, how to set yourself up to make great passive income, warn you on things to watch out for, and discuss a list of the affiliate programs that pay the highest commissions.
What Is Affiliate Marketing?
Affiliate marketing relies on a network of people to refer potential customers to a product or service, and then rewards those affiliates with a commission based on every sale made.
It’s like a grassroots movement of marketers. Companies create an affiliate network of marketers who promote their products via landing pages on their website, links on their website, social media, or word of mouth. For those with an online business, it’s a really effective way of broadening reach. A healthy affiliate network will increase the impact radius of their marketing efforts.
Affiliate programs are popular with people who already have a strong online presence because it allows them to showcase products they like on their website or social media platform, then hang out and wait. No direct sales are needed…if people see the affiliate products on your site and like them, then buy them, you get a cut. It’s that simple.
How Can I Get Started?
There are plenty of ways to start making money using affiliate programs. One is to research programs (more on that below), sign up, generate referral codes, and then start sharing them on social media. The other is to set up a place on your website for affiliate links and start making money that way.
WordPress is a web hosting company that makes it easy to install plugins that will allow you to insert either recommended affiliate links or custom ones that you feel passionate about. If you’re already using WordPress hosting services (known as WP Engine) or their cloud hosting services, it’s easy to find plugins that will allow you to insert affiliate links seamlessly into your website and start earning.
If your website is not hosted on WordPress, there are ways to insert affiliate program plugins via CSS or HTML coding for custom sites, or by researching your site builder and affiliate support for that. (For example, Wix now has a way to feature affiliate products on their sites.)
How Much Should You Expect to Make?
Affiliate marketers can get paid in a few ways. Most companies prefer a CPS model, or cost per sale, which pays marketers every time a sale is made when someone follows a referral link.
Others will do a PPC model, or a pay per click model, where affiliate marketers will be paid every time a customer clicks on a link, regardless of whether or not a sale is made. Some are a hybrid of the two. (Obviously enough, a PPC model pays quite a bit less per click than a CPS model would pay per sale.)
The choice is yours, and depends on how confident you are that your conversion rate from clicks to sales will be high.
It would be easy to just tell you to go and sign up for the highest paying affiliate programs, but the best affiliate programs are not necessarily the ones with the biggest commission rate, but rather the ones that are trustworthy, accurate, and, if you’re lucky, deliver a monthly payment easily.
A good affiliate commission rate should be in 20 percent to 40 percent range for potential sales. Any promises higher than that should give you pause, and thinking of the old adage: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. You want high-quality affiliate programs, not ones that promise higher commissions that don’t sound right to you. There are other creative ways to pay affiliate marketers, either by a flat $100 or $200 commission for converted leads to new customers, bonuses for consistent referrals, advertising fees, and more. As always, do your research.
What Is Cookie Length and How Does It Affect Affiliate Marketing?
Cookies are an online marking system which tells a website when a certain user has visited their page. In the world of affiliate marketing, cookie length refers to the amount of time that someone can visit their website via an affiliate link, buy something, and ensure that the affiliate will get the commission.
So say someone visits a website for the first time via an affiliate link you share on your site. They like the products, but don’t buy it right away. If an affiliate network has a 30-day cookie length guarantee, if the user goes back to the site and buys something within 30 days of the click from your website, you will get the commission. Different programs have different cookie lengths, but generally, the longer the better.
What Are Some High-Paying Affiliate Programs?
Below is a list of affiliate programs that are trustworthy and offer high commissions. Some of the highest paying affiliate programs are web hosting affiliate programs, though many work with brands that run the range from banking to CFD affiliate programs to apparel and more.
- Liquid Web: This web hosting service promises dedicated account managers for affiliate support, a 90-day cookie length, quarterly newsletters to keep affiliates up to date on what is happening, and the chance to earn up to $1,500 per sale, depending on the size of the sale.
- BeRush: BeRush is the affiliate arm of SemRush marketing. They offer 40 percent commission rates, up to 10 years of cookie life, plus commission payments twice a month, upon reaching a minimum threshold, delivered through PayPal or wire transfer.
- Rakuten: Rakuten is one of the largest players in the field, with a long list of popular merchants to choose from and product lists that you can customize. Their affiliate program does have website requirements, which you can read up on.
- Shopify: A very popular affiliate program, Shopify offers a 20 percent commission rate, and allows affiliates to make up to $2,000 per converted sale.
- MaxBounty: The company’s big hook is a $1,000 performance-based bonus for new affiliates, though you must convert at least $1,000 in earnings in your first three months to earn the bonus in the fourth month.
- ShareASale: One of the most established companies in the field, ShareASale has been focusing solely on affiliate programs for 18 years. Their commission rates are dependent on the merchant and sale size.
- Amazon Associates: Amazon’s affiliate program has quickly grown to be one of the biggest in the world because it allows you to refer Amazon products of your choice via plugins or linkshare, and you can make a 10 percent advertising fee for converted sales. Considering so many people use Amazon, it’s a really popular program to make money.
- ClickBank: This affiliate program offers advanced analytics for users, and can pay commission rates as high as 75 percent, though most are in the 20–40 percent range, depending on the merchant.
What Are the Most Common Affiliate Marketing Strategies?
Regardless of the affiliate marketing programs you use, there are several key strategies to consider. These tips can help you make the most of your chosen affiliate platform by increasing referrals.
Focusing on a Single Niche
Along with the theme of your website, all of your affiliate links should focus on a specific niche. Ideally, you’ll want to choose a range of products that revolve around your site’s content. For example, if you own a guitar blog, all of your affiliate links should direct readers to guitar-based products.
By focusing on a single avenue, you’ll be able to ensure you’re choosing the right digital products. You wouldn’t find power tools being sold on a fashion bloggers’ website, as their audience wouldn’t be interested. You’ll need to select the ideal items that are most likely to generate the highest number of clicks and conversions.
Choosing the Right Affiliate Program
It’s not only essential to consider the highest-paying affiliate program, but the one with the most features. Wealthy Affiliate or Commission Junction, for example, is one of the more prevalent options for an ample number of features.
With Wealthy Affiliate, experienced and inexperienced users can help improve their marketing skills. You’ll find over one million niches to choose from to generate a more successful business on the landing page.
As an added benefit, you’ll also find hosting services, website design features, and more. If you’re looking to start a referral program, it’s a good stepping stone to consider.
Knowing the Products
As a reader, it’s easy to differentiate between the types of affiliates that know and don’t know their products.
When you don’t know how the items you’re discussing work, it seems inauthentic and disingenuous. A better alternative is to ensure you’re referring your readers to a product or service you’ve used before.
With this method, you can provide essential information that other affiliate partners don’t. You’ll also be building a more reliable connection between yourself and your audience, as they’ll come to trust your opinion.
Limited product knowledge will translate poorly, and it feels like you’re trying too hard to sell something to your readers.
Providing Information to Sell Products
Another critical facet of affiliate sales is to avoid creating sales pitches that deter potential clicks. You’ll need to organically introduce items to your readers while also providing them with key information. This point is especially true when selling expensive products, as you’ll need definitive reasons why your readers need an item.
When you’re blatantly promoting referrals to boost your conversion rate, it will be far too obvious. Always refer back to your niche and ensure your content provides solutions to any problems your readers have.
For example, if your readers are looking for guitar amps, teach them about the different types of amps. You can then add your affiliate link throughout the article to help improve your conversions.
Creating Engaging Content
Besides crafting email lists to direct users to your content, it’s also important to consider organic traffic.
The best way to attract more visitors is to ensure your content is engaging and easy to navigate. Otherwise, you’ll have higher bounce rates than expected, reducing your average commission. Fill all your posts with relevant and easily indexed content. It can also be beneficial to develop a content plan to know what content to post on a specific day.
A lack of entertaining posts, images, videos, and written content can significantly decrease your chances of selling expensive products. If you were to look at the most successful types of affiliates, they sell an impressive number of items over their lifetime. Considering that’s how you’ll make money, you must provide relevant information to your audience.
Maintaining Fresh Content
Once you have all of your content established and your hosting arranged, the task’s not over yet. The next step is to ensure that your site is regularly updated with new and fresh content over its lifetime. Otherwise, your site will grow stale, and you’ll begin losing potential consumers.
Using platforms like Wealthy Affiliate, MaxBounty, or ShareASale, you can continually update your product list.
Affiliate managers are a phenomenal resource for ensuring you recommend new items to your audience. Also, it can help you to generate unique posts with crucial information for your audience to consume.
The more regularly you update your site, the higher your lifetime commissions will be. You’ll also create a dedicated audience so you can push items with a higher sale price to earn a higher commission per sale.
Setting Adequate Expectations
As with any form of online work, it’s important to set adequate expectations for yourself and your site. At first, you might not make a single sale until you optimize your WP engine to attract more readers. It could also take a while to find the perfect affiliate programs list to help you improve your lifetime sales.
With a proper plan in place, you can set specific milestones to be achieved over your site’s lifetime. This process will give you something to work for and can help you make changes over the years.
When working with affiliate marketing companies, it’s always important to improve to beat the competition!
Making Payment Easy
Leading clients through the sales funnel is a task, but the most important part is ensuring payment processing is seamless. That is why platforms like WP Engine are highly recommended amongst affiliates, especially for their customer retention rate.
With their hosting, WP Engine can help boost your site’s performance by up to 40%. Whether your audience is browsing through your pages or getting ready to put through payment, the process is seamless.
Managing Affiliate Cookies
The importance of an affiliate cookie cannot be understated, whether you’re using WP engine or CJ Affiliate. An affiliate cookie is responsible for tracking customers when they click on your links and process their payment. Without this tool, companies cannot determine which affiliates sold which products and cannot allocate funds.
The main point to consider with a cookie is to make sure your audience knows them through proper disclosure. Most sites that use CJ affiliate and other ticket affiliate programs provide a popup that explains cookies are being tracked. At that point, your readers can decide whether they agree to the terms or not, like with email marketing software.
A Clever Way to Make Money Online
For people with a strong web presence or social media following, affiliate programs are one of the most effective ways to bring in extra income. If you do your research and find a company you want to partner with that works with brands you believe in, you can find an affiliate program that allows you to make money online in a non-intrusive way for your audience. Even better, you can connect them with the products that they want anyway.
This list will hopefully get you started on your journey to smart affiliate marketing.