10 High-Paying Affiliate Programs to Join

10 High-Paying Affiliate Programs to Join
25 August, 2023 • ... • 1450 views
Daria Zhuravleva
by Daria Zhuravleva

Meet John, a marketer with years of experience. John is burnt out and wants to quit marketing and become a professional romance novel writer. To do this, he needs a source of passive income so he can focus on writing his debut book and save money for publishing expenses. 

If you’re looking for passive income too, we suggest researching affiliate marketing programs, which is one of the popular marketing trends and can become a decent source of income. Keep reading to follow John’s story and learn what affiliate marketing is, how to choose the most profitable program. We’ll also give you a list of the highest-paying affiliate programs to try!

What is an affiliate program?

An affiliate program is an agreement between a brand and individuals or other companies. According to the said agreement, companies or individuals who are affiliates promote the brand and get paid a commission for each purchase made via the unique links. We get it, it’s a little convoluted — here’s an example.

Let’s say, John became an affiliate of a brand of healthy snacks. He made a Facebook post where he praised the brand and gave a unique link for purchasing the most delicious no-sugar protein chocolate bars that have ever existed. During the first week, seven people got interested and bought these snacks using John’s link. John got $4 from each purchase, so he earned $28 for doing nothing but writing a post and waiting. 

This example is oversimplified but the baseline is the following: you share a link, people use it to buy stuff from the brand, you get paid for each successful sale. But how is it different from referral and partner programs? Let’s find out.

Affiliate vs. Partner vs. Referral marketing

We get where the confusion comes from. Affiliate, partner, and referral programs are all based on the same principle — brands ask people to promote their businesses and provide them with compensation for the said promotion. However, if you take a closer look at these programs, you’ll see how different they are. The devil is in the details — here’s a quick comparison:

Affiliate 🤝 Partner 🧑‍🤝‍🧑 Referral 🤭
Who can take part? Individual or a company with at least some online presence Influencers, public figures, other companies Brand’s customers, regular people with or without online presence
What is required from participants? Bringing any amount of successful sales or traffic Promoting the brand to a wide audience Bringing new customers
What is the audience of promotional efforts? A relatively wide outreach, depends on the niche The partner’s audience, the widest among all these programs Direct outreach to the people that participants already know
What is the compensation paid for? Purchases or visits via the unique affiliate links Creating branded content First purchases made by referred people
What does the compensation look like? Usually a commission from each sale or, sometimes, a flat fee Flat fee for promotion and sometimes a share of the company Usually non-monetary, like a discount code, an extended free trial, and so on — but some programs offer a small monetary reward
Notable examples Fiverr, a marketplace for freelancers, offers payments for every first-time buyer A TikTok sensation Kris Collins partnered with Vessi, promoted the brand several times on her blog, and even released her own collection of shoes as a collaboration Dropbox offers free storage space for inviting new users

John studied these differences and decided that he’s not famous enough to become a business partner, and he needs a decent financial compensation, so referral programs are off the table. However, not all affiliate programs are alike. Now, let’s explore affiliate marketing in all its diversity.

Affiliate program types

John has three friends — Chris, Helen, and Ashley. All of them take part in different affiliate programs:

  • Chris is an architect and he takes part in the affiliate program of a B2B produce delivery service. He’s not a restaurant owner, he’s not a chef, he doesn’t have enough knowledge to recommend this particular company — but he can keep posting links and earning money off it. This is called unattached affiliate marketing. To take part in it, you don’t have to be an expert in the industry or a loyal customer of the brand.
  • Helen is an amateur makeup artist with a decent followership on TikTok. Recently, she became an affiliate for a makeup brand. From time to time, she makes promotional content and posts her affiliate link. Helen knows that this brand is good and she has enough authority to recommend it. However, she gets an intense skin reaction to most of these products — and she never shows herself using them. This is called related affiliate marketing. In this case, you have to know at least a thing or two about the niche but you still don’t have to be in deep relationships with the business you’re promoting.
  • Ashley is a professional email marketer with a reputation of a trustworthy expert. She’s been using one bulk email service for over a year and she liked it so much she decided to become an affiliate. Ashley still uses this platform and recommends it on her email marketing webinars. This is called involved affiliate marketing, which means that you have to be an expert in the niche and you have to use the product and share your experience as advertising.

“Hey, just because I want to quit marketing as my main occupation doesn’t mean I’m not an expert anymore”, John thought. The idea of an involved partnership and being an authority seemed way more morally sound than promoting something you don’t use. However, ethics weren’t worrying him as much as money.

How to choose the highest-paying affiliate program

John continued researching the matter. Turns out, there are dozens of affiliate programs out there but they don’t seem any different from each other — and all these landing pages are so confusing! Let’s help the poor guy choose the best program for his goals and explore which factors you should consider if you want to become an affiliate too. 

Cookie duration

Cookie duration is how long the browser “remembers” clicks on certain links — including your unique affiliate link. The time is set by the creators of affiliate programs, and it’s usually 1–30 days but there are exceptions.

Chris, John’s friend, takes part in the affiliate program with the cookie duration of 15 days. His unique link was created and posted on August 1st. 10 people used the link for purchasing right away. 5 people clicked the link and made a purchase a week or two after they clicked on it. 7 people waited for a month after their first clicks but still made a purchase. 

Chris only gets a reward for 15 new customers. 7 people waited for too long, so these purchases can’t be attributed to Chris anymore.

This example shows that cookie duration directly affects your income as an affiliate. That’s why, for higher income, look for programs with a longer cookie duration. For example, Selzy’s affiliate program offers a cookie duration of one year, which is very generous.

Commission rate

Commission rate is how much you get paid for each sale — it’s usually a percentage of new customers’ orders. Here’s an example:

Helen, John’s friend, takes part in the affiliate program with a 10% commission rate. During the first week, 6 people bought a makeup bundle that cost $30, and 3 people bought an eyeliner that cost $10. Here’s how much Helen earned:

(6 × 30) × 10% = 180 × 10% = $18

(3 × 10) × 10% = 30 × 10% = $3

18 + 3 = $21

But what if Helen’s commission rate was twice as high? Here’s what the same calculations would look like:

(6 × 30) × 20% = 180 × 20% = $36

(3 × 10) × 10% = 30 × 20% = $6

36 + 6 = $42

The takeaway is, the programs with higher commission rates will bring you more money. Some programs’ commission rates are not fixed and can increase depending on:

  • New customers’ order value — the more they pay, the more you get paid.
  • Your “mileage” as an affiliate — the longer you’re an affiliate for a certain brand, the more you get paid.
  • Who you brought to the brand using the link — some affiliate programs also pay for leads but the fee for potential customers is lower than the commission for sales.
  • The chosen niche — SaaS programs offer the best commission rates that can reach 70%.

However, commissions and cookie duration are not the only factors determining your income as an affiliate — let’s keep exploring!

Wait a second! Being an affiliate doesn’t always mean you get a stream of money while you sleep. Even if you go for one of the highest-paying affiliate programs, there will be expenses. For example, if you’re a content creator, you spend time and money on working on your content yourself and outsourcing certain tasks like video editing. What if your affiliate income ends up eaten by promotion costs? 

We got you covered — use our marketing ROI calculator to find out if an affiliate program will end up being actually profitable for you.

Conversion rate

Even the highest-paying affiliate programs will do nothing for your income if not a lot of people click the link or make purchases using it. The percentage of people who bought something using your link is called conversion rate. In its widest sense, conversion rate shows how many customers performed the target action:

Conversion rate for affiliate programs equals purchases divided by total clicks multiplied by 100%

“Wait a minute”, John thought, “isn’t the conversion rate my responsibility? It depends on how well I promote the link, so if I do my best, I’ll get a lot of money!” Well, John is not incorrect but there are more factors than your promotion efforts alone. Conversion rates in affiliate programs depend on:

  • The product focus of the program. The average conversion rate of affiliate programs, according to most sources, is 0.5–1%. Meanwhile Amazon Associates yielded the 2% rate, which is twice above the average conversions. It’s because this program is not focused on one product — users who click the affiliate link have a lot of items to choose from. On the other hand, if the affiliate link only allows users to buy one product, less people will be interested in purchasing it, no matter how wide your audience is.
  • The product’s price. It’s a little on the nose but the less people can afford it, the less people will end up buying it.
  • The product type. Physical products convert better than digital products. However, as we mentioned earlier, digital products have higher commission rates, so don’t rush to sign up for a food or fashion affiliate program. 

So, if you want to opt for the best affiliate program for your goals, you have a choice between programs with higher conversion rates and lower commissions or lower conversion rates and higher commissions. But it’s not the only variable in the equation — let’s get to the final one.

Average order value

Average order value (AOV) is the average amount people spend on a certain business. In the case of affiliate programs, it’s how much money people spend on purchases via affiliate links. Here’s an illustration:

Ashley promotes an email marketing platform with three paid plans:

  • Basic — $10/month
  • Startup — $20/month
  • Pro — $30/month

The average order value is $10 because most first customers prefer the Basic plan to test the waters and only pay for the first month to make the final decision later. Now, imagine that this month:

  • All the customers will buy the Basic plan.
  • Ashley can attract 20 customers a month on average.
  • The commission rate is 50%.

In this case, Ashley will earn $100, since 20 average customers will bring $200.

After John talked with Ashley, he understood that AOV is a great metric to predict your weekly, monthly, or yearly income as an affiliate. But does it mean that he should opt for promoting more expensive products to get the higher average order value and earn more in the end? Not really. 

If you want to make the most out of your affiliate program, regardless of the commission rate, you have two options:

  • Get more people to purchase the products from the brand.
  • Opt for a brand with a higher AOV, so less people make a purchase but the total revenue from your affiliate link is higher, so you get more money.

As we mentioned before, people are more likely to buy cheaper products, so programs that imply a higher AOV yield less conversions to purchase. So, you can opt for quality over quantity — but only if you have a large enough audience to get enough purchases. Here’s an example.

John and Ashley run Instagram blogs about email marketing using our tips from the article on how to monetize Instagram. John has 1,000 subscribers, Ashley has 6,000 subscribers. Imagine that they both signed up for an affiliate program of an expensive CRM system with an AOV of a whopping $100, a 30% commission rate, and an average conversion rate of 0.5%. 

  • 500 subscribers saw John’s link, 2 people bought the product, John earned $60.
  • 3,000 subscribers saw Ashley’s link, 15 people bought the product, Ashley earned $450.

But what if the average order value was $50 and the average conversion rate was 2%?

  • 500 subscribers saw John’s link, 10 people bought the product, John earned $150.
  • 3,000 subscribers saw Ashley’s link, 60 people bought the product, Ashley earned $900.

Ashley still earns more money than John because more people saw her link. However, the lower AOV allows John to get over $100 with less Instagram followers.

After all these calculations, John decided that the best option is the golden mean — he didn’t want the product to be too expensive and he didn’t want it to be too cheap either.

10 highest-paying affiliate programs you might want to consider

John knows a lot about affiliate marketing programs now — it’s time to make a choice. All this time we’ve only been discussing imaginary affiliate programs that we used for illustrating how they work. So, let’s talk about the best real programs with a decent compensation that you can sign up for right now.

Selzy

Selzy is a powerful all-in-one email marketing platform that is incredibly beginner-friendly and helps small and medium-sized businesses grow. It’s one of the highest-paying affiliate programs with its very high commission rates and a generous cookie duration. The program also has a tiered payment system with up to 50% commission on each purchase your referred customers make within one year.

Selzy affiliate program landing page screenshot that gives 3 easy steps to create a passive income stream: become an affiliate, share a link, and get paid

Commission rate: 60% on the first sale, 30-50% depending on your affiliate tier

Payment methods: Wire transfers, Wise, ACH, and other options, get in touch with the manager to learn more

Resources: A dedicated manager, a personal dashboard for tracking, free content to promote, branded ad banners and logos. The beginner’s guide is TBA.

Cookie duration: 1 year

Link: Selzy affiliate program

GetResponse

This popular email marketing platform has an affiliate program that is both high-paid and great for beginners. They have two versions of the program: Recurring, with a commission rate of 33%, and Bounty, with a flat rate of $100 for each sale. 

GetResponse also offers a variety of helpful resources and a long cookie duration, which makes this program a great choice for people who want a sustainable source of income — including John!

GetResponse affiliate program landing page screenshot stating that this program is for affiliates with small business traffic, marketing experts, freelancers, bloggers, and content creators

Commission rate: Continuous commission 33% each month or a flat rate of $100 per sale

Payment methods: PayPal account, USD check, ACH, Eurotransfer, or another method you can agree upon individually

Resources: Affiliate selling guides and materials after you sign up

Cookie duration: 120 days

Link: GetResponse affiliate program

Fiverr

Fiverr is a marketplace for freelance services that is both convenient for businesses looking to outsource tasks and freelance workers looking for gigs. 

One good thing about their affiliate program is that payments are mostly fixed, which makes your income more independent from the average order value. The downside is, they have a complex pricing system that depends on which product you’re promoting or which services your referred users purchased via your link.

Fiverr Affiliate benefits from the landing page include maximum earnings, professional support, user-friendly tracking dashboards, and creative resources for promotion

Commission rate: $15–150 depending on the service + up to 10% of revenue share for promoting Fiverr Hybrid, Fiverr Pro, or Fiverr Affiliates

Payment methods: PayPal for payments below $1000, wire transfer for payments above $1000

Resources: Help from the dedicated manager, tutorials, and other kinds of support, and a portfolio of creative assets for promotion

Cookie duration: 30 days

Link: The Fiverr Affiliates

HubSpot

HubSpot is a powerful but affordable CRM system with email marketing features, and the brand’s affiliate program specifically targets content creators. Their program has three tiers, and the higher you are, the more money you earn and the more resources are available to you. It’s a great opportunity for marketing experts and educators to monetize their content.

HubSpot affiliate program benefits: 30% commissions, tiered payouts, a large cookie duration, customizable performance reports, support team, and a large library of promotional materials

Commission rate: 30% on the first two tiers, custom commission for Elite affiliates

Payment methods: PayPal or directly to your bank account

Resources: 400+ promotional assets, training guides, and more + help from the support team + customizable tracking dashboards

Cookie duration: 180 days

Link: HubSpot affiliate program

Elementor

Elementor is many things in a trenchcoat, but first things first, it’s a no-code website builder for business owners and content creators. And it has a generous affiliate program with high commission rates! The program is especially great for marketers, entrepreneurs, and WordPress developers.

Elementor affiliate program landing page screenshot that states that this program is the best fit for marketers and agencies, entrepreneurs, WordPress developers, web educators, and content creators

Commission rate: up to 50% per sale, custom rate for high-volume affiliates, contact their manager to learn more

Payment methods: PayPal or according to the individual agreement

Resources: An extensive library of promotional materials and tools like branded logos and banners, support from a manager, tutorials, tracking tools

Cookie duration: 30 days

Link: Elementor Affiliates

ConvertKit

ConvertKit is an email marketing tool designed mostly for content creators, creative industry workers, and independent newsletter writers. They have a prolonged commission for each new subscriber you bring — you’re guaranteed to get paid 30% for up to 2 years, which is a steal. They also offer an unprecedented amount of educational materials for new affiliates, which is especially great if you’re not an experienced marketer.

ConvertKit affiliate program landing page screenshot that states the program’s mission to help creators earn a living online

Commission rate: 30% in recurring payments for up to 24 months

Payment schedule: PayPal only

Resources: An online training course, graphics and video assets for promotional content, evergreen webinars to use as a funnel, and a tracking tool

Cookie duration: 90 days

Link: ConvertKit affiliate program

BigCommerce

BigCommerce is a service for building online stores that has a generous affiliate program offer. The brand promises a 200% commission rate for the first subscription purchase via your link and a flat rate of $1,500 for each purchase of their Enterprise plan. Affiliates can also track their ad metrics by channel with their powerful dashboard.

BigCommerce affiliate program landing page header image with a short copy about 200% commissions for first monthly payments or $1500 per enterprise customers

Commission rate: 200% for each new customer, $1500 for each new Enterprise customer

Payment methods: No information, contact their manager to learn more

Resources: Pre-made banners, emails, and more, individual help from the manager, statistics dashboard

Cookie duration: Most sources claim it’s 90 days, no information on the official landing page, blog or social media, contact the manager to learn more

Link: BigCommerce affiliate program

Coursera

This popular online education platform offers an affiliate program with commissions on paid online courses, Specializations, professional certificates, and the first payments for Coursera Plus subscription plan. No focus on a specific product is a good sign! Even better, when you share a link to a particular course and users end up buying a different course, you still get paid.

How Coursera’s affiliate program works: you sign up, choose a course or a Specialization to promote using pre-made banners and text links or your own format, track the traffic using a third-party tracking tool, and earn money from eligible purchases.

Commission rate: 15–45% on all eligible purchases

Payment methods: PayPal or direct deposit to your bank account

Resources: Customizable pre-made banners and text links, access to an affiliate newsletter and a daily updated product merchandiser field

Cookie duration: 30 days

Link: Coursera affiliate program

Skillshare

Skillshare is another online school with a great affiliate program. One good thing about it is that you can share any Skillshare link. For example, if you run a music-themed blog, you can share one of their songwriting courses to fit in the interests of your audience. Yet again, no focus on certain products will perform better and get you more conversions. They also don’t have a limit on promotion channels — you can use Twitter or even email newsletters to promote your affiliate link.

Skillshare affiliate program landing page screenshot with conditions: you can promote online classes, student projects, and exclusive offers, you can track your traffic in real time, the cookie duration is 30 days, and payouts are monthly

Commission rate: 40% and up to $67 for every new customer

Payment method: Skillshare uses Impact for their affiliate program, you can set up your preferred method there

Resources: Personalized dashboard for tracking metrics and payouts

Cookie duration: 30 days

Link: Skillshare affiliate program

NordVPN

You’re probably familiar with the brand if you watch a lot of Youtube, especially serious long-form content. NordVPN, along with many other businesses, often sponsors YouTube content creators. This VPN service claims to offer up to 100% commission rate for new subscribers depending on the affiliate program duration and 30% for renewals. And, since the subscription price is relatively low, you can hope for high conversion rates.

NordVPN affiliate program landing page screenshot with reasons to join the program: high conversion rates, dedicated account managers, generous commissions, and converting the traffic from all over the world

Commission rate: 100% for new subscribers during the first month, 40% for new subscribers later, 30% for renewals

Payment methods: PayPal, bank transfer, and more, according to individual agreements with affiliates

Resources: Individual support from the manager and a promo package once you sign up

Cookie duration: 30 days

Link: NordVPN affiliate program

Wrapping up

Which program did John choose in the end? He joined Selzy’s affiliate program and earned $10,000 during the first year. This was enough for him to publish his debut romance novel and start getting his first royalties. 

Even better, since Selzy is such a powerful and user-friendly platform, John used it to start a newsletter promoting the book. He considers staying with Selzy’s program and referring more customers for another year so he can save money and finally quit marketing to become a full-time writer.

Do you want to be like John and get a passive stream of income to quit your job and start a business or find your true passion? Pair up with Selzy and make your dream come true — sign up for free and start earning now. Or, if you’re still confused with affiliate marketing programs, here’s what to pay attention to if you want to choose the best option:

  • Cookie duration — the longer it is, the more clicks on your link will count and the more money you’ll get.
  • Commission rate — the higher, the better, and keep in mind that SaaS is the highest-paying niche.
  • Conversion rate — it doesn’t depend on your link promotion efforts alone but also the product focus of the affiliate program, the price of the product itself, and more.
  • Average order value — a high commission rate won’t do a lot for very cheap average orders but aim for the cheaper products if you don’t have a large audience. 
25 August, 2023
Article by
Daria Zhuravleva
I'm a writer with 3 years of experience, knowledge and interest in all things IT and marketing, and a passion for the English language. As a staff author at Selzy, I see my mission as an educator who makes your life easier by explaining complex topics in a digestible and somewhat entertaining way. Hobbies include birdwatching, all things music and art, writing freeform poetry, and hiding in the woods.
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