With affiliate marketing, the affiliate programs that you choose play a critical role in whether you actually succeed at making money or not.
In fact, making a bad choice with an affiliate program can make it almost impossible to get conversions or can make it very difficult for you to actually get money from the company.
But, actually going about choosing affiliate programs that make money can be difficult, particularly because there are so many different options out there.
The situation is far from hopeless, and there are some criteria that you can use to help you in decision-making.
Commissions Aren’t Everything
Commissions vary wildly across affiliate marketing programs. For example, the commission structure at Amazon varies from 4% to 8.5%, while ClickBank’s structure ranges from 1% to 75%.
It’s easy to assume that a higher level of commissions will result in more profits, but this often isn’t true.
Amazon is a fantastic example of this. Compared to other programs, the commission structure of Amazon is relatively low and a lot of people don’t like using Amazon because of this.
While the commission percentages are a bit low, there are some major advantages to using Amazon.
In particular, you are promoting products of an established company, one that many people already trust. This means that people are more likely to purchase from Amazon than from a third-party website.
Amazon is actually exceptionally good at selling things to start off with. This means that you will often be able to sell an unrelated product simply because visiting Amazon got your reader browsing the site.
Commissions Can Be Misleading
Companies want you to be their affiliate, so many of them tend to be misleading about their commission structure.
For example, the commission structure I showed for Amazon doesn’t actually apply to all of their products, some of Amazon’s products are actually capped at 4%.
Likewise, ClickBank has some fees that come out of the commissions you receive. This means that the actual commission you get is lower than it seems.
A common trick among internet marketers is to advertise that their affiliates get 100% commission. This is something that Empower Network does, as well as many of their competitors.
The problem is, you don’t actually get 100%.
First, the 100% is before fees come out, so for a $25 product (like the core Empower Network product), you might receive somewhere around $20 instead.
Additionally, most of these products don’t actually give you 100% commission on every sale, for some sales you will get no commission at all.
Once you take all of this into account, you are looking at a commission level that is closer to 50% than to 100%, but you wouldn’t know that from looking at the claims.
Picking a Company
There are a huge number of companies that allow you to be affiliates and this number simply keeps growing.
When choosing an affiliate program, one thing to keep in mind is the company itself. As a general rule, the larger and more established the company is, the more reliable it is likely to be.
When you run into websites that are relatively obscure and offer a small number of products, you need to be very careful. This is particularly true of companies that are selling internet marketing products to start off with.
With affiliate marketing, you are accumulating credit in an account and relying on the company to actually pay out you out when it says it will. In an ideal world, this wouldn’t be an issue – but we don’t live in an ideal world, do we?
It’s actually pretty easy for small internet companies to close up and disappear, after getting you to drive traffic to them. Other times, the company may simply refuse to pay you the money they owe.
Resolving the problem is all but impossible.
Many companies offer refunds if people aren’t satisfied with the product. This can be problematic for affiliate marketing because you won’t get any commissions when people get refunds from products you promote.
This means you need to choose the company and the product you promote carefully.
ClickBank is a good example of this, and many products have a refund rate of anywhere from 20% to 50%. In fact, ClickBank is kind of famous for its high refund rate.
Some of the main reasons for this are:
- Some ClickBank users are ‘serial refunders’ who are rarely satisfied with products, and often purchase with the intent of getting a refund.
- For many ClickBank products (particularly eBooks) users still end up with something if they get a refund, boosting the refund rate.
- ClickBank sells a lot of internet marketing products. These products tend to be overhyped and rarely live up to their claims, so people frequently don’t get what they expected.
- Getting a refund through ClickBank is easy.
- Many people purchase ClickBank products (particularly internet marketing ones) with the aim of reviewing them and get a refund afterward.
This means that if possible, try to figure out the refund rate for the company you are considering and also for the specific products that you want to promote.
A good general rule to use is not to promote products in a misleading way.
If you tell people that the product is much better than it actually is, then you might get more conversions, but you’ll also get more refunds.
In fact, you can sometimes lose out by over-hyping your product, because many people shy away from the hype and will avoid a product that seems too good to be true.
Number of Products
An additional important thing to remember about affiliate marketing is that many vendors will give you a commission for anything people buy when on their site, even if it wasn’t what you were originally promoting.
This is one of the biggest advantages of choosing an affiliate that offers many different products, over one that has just a single product.
This is even more significant if you end up promoting a whole website that is relevant to your niche.
For example, if you were promoting a weight loss product on a health and wellness site you might look for a company that sold a large range of different health products. This would mean that visitors would have the option of buying many other relevant products at the same time.
The Site Overall
Affiliate marketing involves promoting a specific link that people use to purchase the product you are talking about.
Sometimes this link will take the user directly to the purchase page, but most of the time the user will be directed to the website of the company you are promoting.
It is critical that you know exactly where your visitors are being directed and what they see when they get there.
If you are directing users to a website that looks poor quality or manipulative, then you are likely to scare off viewers.
A lot of people are scared about using their credit cards online, and presenting them with an unprofessional site isn’t going to help this perception.
Read the Fine Print
Most affiliate marketing companies only pay you once your commissions reach a certain level. This can be frustrating when you first start out, as you might only be making a little bit each month.
For example, ClickBank requires people to meet the following requirements to actually cash out. If you were selling big ticket items, this could potentially leave you with a significant amount of money sitting in your account until you meet the necessary number of sales.
In contrast, Amazon pays members around 60 days after the month they earned the money in has ended. Additionally, users need to have earned at least $10 within the month to withdraw their money as a gift certificate, or $100 to get it as a direct deposit.
For Amazon, these conditions mean that there is a lag time of around two months, and you have to reach a certain threshold to actually get anything.
Most affiliate programs have conditions that are the same or similar. If you don’t read the fine print carefully, you might get caught out with these conditions, and not end up getting the income you were expecting.
Because of this, it is normally better to promote products from a single company, particularly when you are getting started. Otherwise, it can take a long time to actually get your first payment.
Check for Reviews
When you are looking for affiliate programs that make money, checking the reviews that are out there is a really important approach.
Reviews will tell you a lot about the program, such as whether it actually pays out. Likewise, you can use reviews to find out about the products that the company promotes. After all, you need to understand both the company and its products before you even think of trying to promote it.
However, be careful when it comes to reading reviews.
At least half of the reviews for any given product or company are going to be biased in some way.
Often this happens because someone is promoting what they are reviewing, but it may also happen because the person is trying to promote a competing product.
There are also people who are very strong emotions based on their own experience, even though that experience is not the norm, or they were expecting too much to start off with.
For example, I have seen people review a book on Amazon by complaining that it got damaged in the mail. The same thing happens with online products and companies.
There is no easy way to learn, but basically, you need to look between the lines of the reviews and look for the compliments and complaints that are likely to be genuine.
In positive reviews, the single biggest indication of a biased review is when the person is vague, which means they are either omitting facts or simply don’t know what they are talking about. In either case, their review probably isn’t something to take too seriously.
Choosing an affiliate program is really about working out affiliate programs that make money for you, and this might be different than what works for other people.
Some people lean towards sites that are reliable and reputable, like Amazon, even though they frequently offer low commissions. Others choose to take a bit more risk and promote products from ClickBank and ClickSure, or even independently marketed products.
If you are looking at sites like Amazon or ClickBank as affiliate programs, then you also need to consider what products you are going to promote.
This is really the topic for a whole new post, but in general, you need to be looking for products that fit in with your niche, provide value, and are of decent quality. Otherwise, you will have a lot of difficult actually selling products.
In other cases, you might end up promoting a program for a product that you already use.
For example, many people from Wealthy Affiliate end up promoting that program. Now, Wealthy Affiliate is actually a training site that teaches people how to make money with affiliate marketing. If you’re using Wealthy Affiliate you don’t have to promote it and many users don’t, but others find it natural to apply the training to that program.
In fact, Wealthy Affiliate ends up being a great place to learn affiliate marketing regardless of what niche you happen to be focusing on.