Choosing the best affiliate program: What to consider
Type of platform
Some brands manage their affiliate programs themselves. Such programs are known as in-house affiliate programs.
But it is also common for businesses to outsource affiliate programs to third-party platforms — affiliate networks. These networks offer multiple programs from different brands and act as mediators between brands and affiliates, handling all aspects of affiliate programs they feature — tracking, payments, customer service, etc.
For the affiliates, both in-house programs and networks have pros and cons. Generally, you might prefer networks if you’re looking to sign up with several brands, and in-house programs — if higher commissions are a priority.
Once you have a shortlist of suitable programs, check the eligibility criteria. While there are no universal requirements for affiliates, each brand or network usually has some criteria you have to meet to join a program.
The most common requirements include a specific type of platform (for example, a website), minimum traffic volume, audience type and quality. To make sure you meet all the criteria, carefully study the requirements and guidelines provided by a brand or platform before applying for a program.
Picking the right product is essential for your efforts to be successful. So, make sure the products you promote are A) relevant to your audience and B) familiar enough to you to highlight their value.
For example, it doesn’t make sense for a beauty blogger to promote automobile tires — but a makeup guide could be a good fit. Likewise, promoting a product you’re never tried yourself can be tricky, especially if you’re a beginner in affiliate marketing.
The company’s reputation
As trust goes, brand names often speak for themselves. For example, MAC is known as a top beauty brand, and Goodyear is a leading tire manufacturer. These brands are popular and respected, so promoting their products is easy and safe.
But there are also brands with controversial reputation, either because of the quality of their products or bad practices such as greenwashing. Naturally, it’s best to stay away from them. To avoid controversy, always research the company before joining its affiliate program.
As mentioned earlier, commission rates vary significantly across programs. Typically, in-house programs offer higher commissions than networks, but that is not always the case — plus commissions can change over time. To pick the best deal, research the programs you’re most interested in and compare their commission rates before signing up.
Also, make sure you’ve considered other factors mentioned in this section. For example, joining one high-commission program without any knowledge of the product is probably a worse strategy than picking several lower-paying programs from brands you and your audience are familiar with.
Payment methods and terms
Payment methods and terms also vary depending on the brand or network offering the program. The most common payment methods across programs include PayPal and direct deposit (direct transfer to the affiliate’s bank account). But other options, such as virtual wallets, wire transfer, check, and more, are also available in some programs.
Other things to consider in terms of payments include minimum balance requirements for money withdrawal, available currencies, and processing times. Typically, in-house programs process payments faster, while networks offer more payment methods — but it depends on the specific company, so yet again — do your research.
Some markets are more popular with affiliates than others. For example, the health and wellness niche is one of the most saturated, making it harder for affiliates to promote products from this category. The home improvement and DIY market is less popular, so it might be easier to get to your audience by promoting these products.
Yet, it is always possible to narrow down to a smaller niche, or find a unique angle, or target lower-frequency keywords to beat the competition in a saturated market. So, if the niche suits you, go for it — but make sure you adjust your strategy accordingly.
To help you choose your ideal affiliate marketing deal, we’ve put together a list of 12 affiliate programs and platforms that are a good fit for beginners. Read on to learn about the key features each of them offers.