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The standard way to make money as an affiliate marketer is through sales commissions. For instance, I promote various tools, programs and courses on my site. A click on one of my affiliate links followed by a sale will result in a commission for me. Successful affiliate marketers who earn four and five-figures monthly rely on sales commissions. However, money can be made elsewhere and with more ease through pay per lead (PPL) affiliate programs. Pay per lead is also known as cost-per-acquisition or action (CPA), cost-per-lead (CPL), and pay per action (PPA). Many CPA programs have secondary payout tiers for leads that become customers, which is advantageous.
A pay per lead or CPA program compensates an affiliate for getting prospects. Pay per lead programs commonly requires a lead to:
Sign up for a free trial
Create an account
Register for a webinar or event
Download or install software
Request a demo, e.g., software or product demo
Book/schedule a meeting, appointment, or visit
Submit contact info, e.g., email address or phone number
Complete a quote, for example, a life insurance quote
Pay per lead is attractive because the bar is set low. Getting a person to sign up for something is more feasible than getting someone to make a purchase. PPL programs are helpful during slow periods and commission droughts (droughts happen to the best of us). On the other hand, because the trigger event is less demanding than a sale, pay per lead programs typically pay low amounts, for example, £0.01 per lead. Also, focusing exclusively on PPL programs will not lead to making thousands monthly.
The Top Affiliate Programs
Publishers want to promote the top affiliate programs because they can yield more commissions. It’s as simple as that. Other articles highlight “the best programs,” but most of them include random and unvetted merchants that won’t increase your earnings. Let’s identify what excellent and profitable affiliate programs have in common.
High Conversion Rates
The best performing merchants frequently convert traffic into sales. Earnings per click (EPC) indicates how much money an affiliate program is generating per click. It can also represent how much an affiliate is making per click. Without EPC or conversion data, it’s impossible to say how a merchant is performing. (Some merchants boast about how well their programs do without providing real evidence.)
EPC data is available on most affiliate networks, and a valid comparison can be made between similar merchants, products, and services. A merchant with a low EPC could indicate that conversion rates need improving or the merchant is new.
A Generous Percentage-Based or Fixed Commission
Advertisers who pay single to low double-digit commission rates (or who nickel and dime publishers) aren’t worth your consideration. (Note: some industries pay low rates because they operate on thin margins.) A commission rate of 20 percent is the benchmark I use, whereas the fixed commission amount will vary. An advertiser who pays well wants to:
Scale its program and revenues
Build profitable relationships and mutually beneficial outcomes
Show an appreciation for affiliates
A Minimum Cookie Length of 30 Days
Giving marketers one or a few days to convert traffic is ridiculous and unfair. By contrast, a 30-day action period allows for prospects to become customers and affiliates to get credit for their promotional efforts. Although thirty-day referral periods are a standard industry practice, a minimum of 90 days should be commonplace.
A Low Payout Threshold
A low payout threshold keeps affiliates motivated and engaged. Many merchants have reasonable thresholds of zero to £100. On affiliate networks, £50 is the standard. However, some companies want publishers to reach £100+ before issuing payments, which is unjust.
Excellent Affiliate Tracking Software
Affiliate tracking software is the cornerstone of success, and there are good and bad applications. Reliable tracking, user-friendly dashboards, and robust reporting make for excellent user experiences. Activity data—such as impressions, clicks, and conversions—should be available. Applications that omit activity data and reporting make it difficult to track and evaluate performance.
Deep Linking Capabilities
Deep linking is the practice by which an affiliate creates a link to a specific page on the merchant’s site. For example, instead of using a generic homepage affiliate link, I can link to an article that relates to my post. Deep linking has the potential to increase conversion rates because traffic is sent to targeted landing pages. Most affiliate tracking apps offer deep linking, but advertisers might have to enable.
Finally, the best programs allow anyone to join (not only existing customers) and approve publishers quickly. Furthermore, they typically have full-time affiliate managers who know how to run and scale programs. Please consider the above criteria when selecting advertisers.
Let’s explore several promising PPL affiliate programs. Merchants typically link to their affiliate programs in their website menus and footers, and some offer programs on multiple networks.
Marketing Affiliate Programs
Campaign Monitor makes it radically easy to create, send, and measure the impact of your email marketing campaigns. Learn about the Campaign Monitor affiliate program on Commission Junction (CJ).
Constant Contact enables individuals and business owners to create and share professional-looking emails in minutes. Learn about the Constant Contact affiliate program.
Sendinblue empowers businesses to build and grow relationships through digital marketing channels including email campaigns, transactional emails, and SMS messages. Learn about the Sendinblue affiliate program.
Education Affiliate Programs
LinkedIn Learning is an American massive open online course website offering video courses taught by industry experts in software, creative, and business skills. Learn about the LinkedIn Learning affiliate program on FlexOffers.
Pluralsight offers extensive online developer, creative, and IT courses that are taught by industry experts. It offers 6,000+ courses to businesses and individuals. Learn about the Pluralsight affiliate program.
Skillshare is an online learning community with thousands of free and paid classes in design, art, business, marketing, technology, and more. Learn about the Skillshare affiliate program.
Hosting Affiliate Programs
GoDaddy is a top domain name registrar and web hosting company that supports millions of customers globally. Learn about the GoDaddy affiliate program.
SMB Affiliate Programs
Box is a cloud content management, file sharing, workflow, and collaboration platform. Learn about the Box affiliate program.
Code42 is an enterprise and small business (CrashPlan) SaaS solution that secures all distributed end-user data on state-of-the-art cloud infrastructure. Learn about the Code42 affiliate program on CJ.
Learn about the FreshBooks affiliate program on ShareASale.
QuickBooks makes account software for individuals and businesses. Stay organized, get paid, and save time. Learn more about the QuickBooks affiliate program on CJ.
Other Affiliate Programs
Hiscox offers professional service businesses a new way to buy small business insurance online. Learn about the Hiscox affiliate program.
Keeper is the leading password management solution for both businesses and consumers with millions of customers worldwide. Learn about the Keeper affiliate program.
ShareASale is a leading affiliate network with tools and technology to support advertisers and publishers. It pays $1 for each qualified affiliate signup. Learn about the ShareASale affiliate program.
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I discuss a variety of products and services on this website and, when possible, I will use affiliate links. If you follow an affiliate link and go on to purchase that product or service, I will be paid a small commission, however, your cost will be the same. I only recommend products or services I know and trust.