How to Evaluate an Affiliate Program

Today, I’d like to share some of my best tips on how to evaluate an affiliate program. Before you join any affiliate program, you need to do your due diligence. Not all affiliate programs are worth your time.

Some affiliate programs are crap and are easy to spot. Others look good at first, but once you take a look under the hood you quickly discover the affiliate program isn’t as good as you thought it was.

I’ve been in the affiliate marketing business for about 10-years now, most of that full-time. I’ve evaluated hundreds of different affiliate programs. What you will find below are the things I BELIEVE you should evaluate before you join any affiliate program.

how to evaluate an affiliate program

How to Evaluate an Affiliate Program

# 1 Company’s Reputation

Reputation is everything. I think so anyway.

Does the affiliate company have a good reputation online? What types of reviews can you find about them online? Do they pay their affiliates on time every month?

How are they ranked with the Better Business Bureau? How are they ranked on the different scam websites? How long have they been in business? Who’s running the program? What is that person’s reputation?

These are all questions you should ask yourself when you evaluate an affiliate program. You want to find a program that has been in business for a while, with trusted owners, and ethical business practices.

# 2 The Product or Service

Is the product or service a REAL VALUE for the person buying it? Does it do what it says it will do? Does it come with a strong money-back guarantee?

Is there a legitimate demand for the product? Would you buy the product to use yourself, even if you weren’t an affiliate?

The product doesn’t have to be the cheapest, or even the best, but it must provide VALUE. It must be priced competitively and do what it says it will do.

# 3 Recurring Commissions

This is how most affiliate programs make money. They pay you for the initial sale, but they get to keep the customer, and they don’t pay you on any future purchases that customer makes. You want to promote an affiliate program where you get paid on ALL future purchases the person you referred makes.

This gives you residual income! Many companies will gladly pay you 30 to 50 percent commissions on the initial sale, because they realize how expensive it is to find a new customer. Once they get the customer, they thank you for your time, and cut you off from future commissions.

Recurring commissions are vital. I pretty much only promote affiliate programs with residual and recurring commissions (other than Amazon). I like not having to start over at zero every single month.

This is one of the reasons I personally love network marketing so much. Not only do I get paid on my own referrals, but I also get paid on THEIR referrals, minimum 7 GENERATIONS of referrals. Personally, I’d rather have percent of 100 people’s sales than 100 percent of my own sales. 

Check out my network marketing business. I’m currently the top recruiter and top rep.

# 4 Commission Percentages

If you’re promoting affiliate programs where you make 3 to 10 percent per sale, you are wasting your time (in most cases anyway). You want to promote affiliate programs that pay out at least 30 to 50 percent, if not more. And, you want affiliate programs where you can earn at least $20 to $100 per sale.

It’s hard work making sales, but it isn’t any harder to sell a $500 product than a $20 product. It’s also not any harder to sell a product you get paid 50 percent commissions on versus a product you only get paid 20 percent commissions on. Food for thought.

# 5 Available Affiliate Resources

What type of resources does the affiliate program have for its affiliates? Are there banner ads, text ads, and email copy you can use? Do they have a forum where you can ask questions and network with other affiliates? The more resources they offer you the better.

# 6 Tracking Cookie

Tracking cookies are very important. In case you don’t know what they are, here is a good definition I found online (the source is cited below it).

Tracking Cookies are a specific type of cookie that is distributed, shared, and read across two or more unrelated Web sites for the purpose of gathering information or potentially to present customized data to you. Not all cookies are tracking cookies.

Tracking cookies are not harmful like malware, worms, or viruses, but they can be a privacy concern. As an example, if you go to a Web site that hosts online advertising from a third-party vendor, the third-party vendor can place a cookie on your computer. If another Web site also has advertisements from the third-party vendor, then that vendor knows you have visited both Web sites. Nothing malicious has occurred, but the advertising company can determine indirectly all the sites you have been to if they have cookies present on those sites.

Source

You want an affiliate program with a 30 or 60-day tracking cookie, so if the person you sent to the website through your affiliate link comes back and makes a purchase in the next 30 to 60-days, you get credit for it. 

# 7 Number of Affiliates

How many affiliates are promoting the affiliate program? Is it saturated? Do a search on Google and see how many different “reviews” you can find for the affiliate program you are promoting, and each product. Ask the affiliate manager how many affiliates there are. This will give you some perspective.

# 8 Customer Service

How is the company’s customer service? Is it good for both customers and affiliates? Is there a good phone number you can call with your questions? Do they offer 24-hour customer support? Do they respond to messages and emails quickly? If the customer service sucks, tread lightly.

# 9 Sales Funnel

Does the affiliate company use an auto-responder to collect leads on the sales page you are promoting (your affiliate link)? If they do, are the leads that opt-in through your affiliate link tracked to you? If so, for how long?

What a lot of companies do is use affiliates to send traffic to their website, to build their email list, but the affiliate company keeps all of the leads. If the company you are considering does this, please look for a different affiliate company to work with.

small tweaks can lead to increased affiliate sales

# 10 Sales Letter

Is the sales letter effective? Does it make you want to BUY the product? Are there lots of testimonials of happy customers? Does the page look professional or does the website look like it was built in the 1980’s? Is it mobile friendly?

# 11 Payout Threshold

What is the payout threshold to get paid? What some affiliate companies do is set a high payout threshold, of say $500, knowing you will never make that much money. This lets them keep your money! Ideally, you want an affiliate program with a payout threshold of less than $20. The smaller the number the better.

# 12 How Often Do You Get Paid?

How often does the affiliate program pay its affiliates? Daily, weekly, monthly or immediately after you make the sale? What are the payment methods? I like affiliate programs that pay at least once per month. Weekly is even better.

Final Thoughts

There you have it folks. These are 10 of my best tips on how to evaluate an affiliate program. I hope you will follow my advice and take your time picking the right affiliate program for you.

What are your thoughts on how to evaluate an affiliate program? Leave a comment below and let me know what you think. I look forward to hearing from you.

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25 thoughts on “How to Evaluate an Affiliate Program

  1. Awesome, in just 12 points, you have summed up everything you need to know on how to evaluate an affiliate program. 

    I agree, people just want to earn SOMETHING online, so they promote poor products due to their poor self-esteem in the beginning. However, all they need to realize is that they need more education. Articles like these will boost their productivity. 

    Thanks for sharing this content. It’s a must read for everyone in affiliate marketing industry. 

    Cheers

    Akshay

    • Thanks for the comment Akshay. When you are just starting out in affiliate marketing, you don’t know what you don’t know. You just do something, make a mistake, hopefully learn from it and keep repeating that over and over. The benefit of being in a community like Wealthy Affiliate is that you can have hundreds of people to bounce ideas off and shorten your learning curve. It’s worth the small amount of money that it costs each month. 

  2. Chuck,

    Was searching and landed on your article for how to evaluate an affiliate program. I was looking for new programs to join myself because I do affiliate marketing. Your tips are priceless to those who do not understand what to look for when applying for an affiliate program, and honestly, I have made the mistake in the past to use some of those low paying ones where you get a commission of 3 to 6% with only a 24 hour cookie. Thank you for sharing this information. I am going to be even more diligent looking for the programs that I will be applying for.

    Susie

    • Hey Susie,

      Thanks for the comment. Most of us mess this up when we are first getting started. After all, we don’t know what we don’t know. I wish I would have had a mentor when I was first starting out online. They surely could have taught me how to evaluate an affiliate program. I learned mostly through trial and error. I hope everyone else can learn from my mistakes, so they don’t repeat them.

      Chuck

  3. Hey Chuck. I really like this no BS discussion. There really are some crap affiliate programs and some that do pass the “sniff” test only last 5 minutes and vanish. As with anything online, it really pays to do your homework and you have spelled out really well how to evaluate an affiliate business.

    I really liked your point about it being no harder to sell a 50% commission product compared to a 20% commission product. People really need to let that sink in. Making sales requires a lot of work so making it worth your time and effort is crucial to success.

    Thanks mate. I have bookmarked your site and hope you continue sharing such worthwhile content. A big thumbs up to you. 

    • Glad I could be of help, Ian. One of my biggest mistakes is promoting low cost affiliate programs for many years, where I only earned a few dollars per sale. You literally have to sell THOUSANDS of those types of products each month to make a full-time living. That’s easy to do if you have a high traffic, popular website, but if you’re just starting out it’s next to impossible to do. 

      Now I focus on programs that pay me anywhere from $20 per sale to several hundred dollars per sale, plus most of my affiliate programs pay a recurring commissions, which is wonderful. 

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.

      Chuck

  4. Thanks for sharing your website with us. I chose an affiliate program, but I had to take a break from the business for a while due to me being in and out of the hospital and rehab. Right now, I’m going to do these lessons, so I can learn more how to be an affiliate marketer. I want to make more than $8333.33 a month so I can make $100,000 a year. That’s my primary goal. I’m going to try to work hard to get there. I think this website will help me. Thanks.

  5. Thank you for the great article How to evaluate an affiliate program.  

    This is exactly what I was looking for. I have been searching for a way to create a revenue stream through my website.   am overwhelmed with the amount of choices that are available for affiliate programs and have no way of knowing which programs are the best for my platform.  

    Your post has really helped me, because now I know some of the questions I should be asking. I am of course familiar with Amazon, but their commission is very low so I am always on the lookout for a better alternative.  

    These tips are really wonderful and I will begin researching affiliate programs using your guidelines.  I will be reading some of your other articles because it really looks like you are knowledgeable on the subject and know your stuff.

    • Glad you liked my post. Thanks for the comment and kind words. Yes, picking the right affiliate program is vital. I’ve done so many things wrong with affiliate marketing through the years. I wish I would have had someone teach me this information when I was first getting started in affiliate marketing. It would have kept me from making MANY mistakes. 

  6. Hi Charles, 

    Again, this information is worth more than gold. I wished I came across this insight years ago, which would have guided me away from the previous scams I experienced. 

    I particularly enjoyed knowing the numbers related to the commissions, percentages, etc.

    Wealthy Affiliate is the number one online business bar-none. Period!!!

    Thanks again for your valuable insight and perspective.

    Best regards!!!

    Paul

    • Paul,

      What attracted me to Wealthy Affiliate was their reputation, training platform and recurring commissions. You could literally work really hard for a year or two and build up a solid residual income stream that lasts for a long time, because members are happy with the service and stick around. I only wish I would have joined it sooner. 

      Chuck

  7. Great post and good info.

    For me the reputation is very important, as well the commission rate, when it comes to evaluating an affiliate program. 

    You have big players out there, but they often have lower commissions than other ones have. 

    What I do, is check out the smaller affiliate programs, because they could give you the best deal, much better than the big ones would. 

    Anyway, you give good tips and I’m certain this will help people. 

    Thanks a lot! 

    • Good points, Emmanuel. Smaller, less known affiliate programs can pay out more, mostly because they are trying to grow their brand. Plus, if you are a good affiliate, you can negotiate your terms with the affiliate program and get an even higher percentage commissions.

      Your point about reputation is very important. Choosing a trusted, reputable affiliate program is vitally important, especially if you are concerned about your reputation, and want to build a long-term business relationship with the affiliate brand.

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment today. 

  8. Chuck, your tips are spot on. I’ve been promoting products as an affiliate for almost 20 years and have a decent residual income from them as a result.

    • Walt,

      Thanks for visiting my blog. I’m glad my tips on how to evaluate an affiliate program were helpful to you. Congrats on your success with affiliate marketing. You’ve been at this twice as long as I have. Keep up the great work.

      Chuck

  9. Thanks for this informative post. I am already a member of an affiliate program. After reading your article, I evaluated the program using the information you provided, and realized that is a great deal. I hope every new affiliate marketer finds this post before they start promoting affiliate products online, so they don’t make the common mistakes that most new affiliate marketers make. 

    • Thanks for the comment, Seun. I hope more people spend time upfront evaluating an affiliate program before they join it. Follow the advice in this article and you will be well on your way. 

  10. Hi Chuck! I love your article on how to evaluate an affiliate program. The importance of evaluating an affiliate program can never be overemphasized. 

    There are so many affiliate programs that are not worth promoting. However, through research, and with the help of your article, one can be directed to better ones to promote.

    The factors you listed on how to evaluate affiliate program are interesting and very important especially the company. Its reputation, because I believe that their past record speak volumes. 

    Your article is quite informative and will certainly be of great help to lots of people looking for an affiliate program to promote.

    • Glad I could be of help, Gracen. If people take the time to evaluate an affiliate program properly, by following the advice in this article, they will save themselves a lot of time, energy and effort. Just my two cents. 

  11. Extremely important checklist especially for someone like me who is joining affiliate programs day-in-day-out. I have been very much amazed by the way you explained how the cookie works and what it means. You really saved me lots of time researching it.

    • Glad I could be of help. When you are evaluating an affiliate program, you definitely need to know their cookie policy. It is vital.

  12. Wow, this article on how to evaluate an affiliate program is quite brilliant. And what a cool niche to write about, I totally agree with how you should go about evaluating a program. I’m concerned about #4 Commission Percentages. 

    I have an SEO company affiliate program that I promote to the world, but people aren’t excited when I tell them they get only 25%. However, I can’t offer any more than that because we’re talking 25% of $15,000 and up per sale. 

    Higher ticket, higher commissions. Do you think it’s OK to stick with this % I’m offering or is there a better way to package this kind of a program to others?

    • Offering 25% on a $15,000 sale is more than fair. I doubt any affiliates would have a problem with that. 

  13. Thanks, Chuck! Such a helpful article. I have been running my site for a few months now, and have been starting to look at more programs to add to my portfolio of affiliate programs. To be honest, I have never really understood what to look for. 

    This article will be a must review for me as I run through my affiliate program choices. My only experience to date are with share-a-sale and Unwin. Are these good for newer bloggers or should I be looking at going to the programs directly?

    Paul

    • Affiliate networks like Share a Sale are a great starting point. Try out a few different vendors within their platform and try to figure out what converts best on your site. As you do that, look for similar affiliate programs where you can work directly with the vendor. This might result in higher commission percentages and less competition (people promoting the same affiliate program). I hope that helps. 

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