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9 Things You Should Look For in High Paying Affiliate Programs

Rosie Greaves

Updated May 21, 2023

how to choose affiliate marketing program

Whether you’re an established entrepreneur wanting a fresh stream of revenue, a blogger, or a freelancer hoping to enhance your income, signing up with high-paying affiliate programs is a surefire solution.

The stats speak for themselves:

Since 2015, the number of affiliate marketing programs has increased exponentially at around 10% per year, and projections indicate this growth will continue into 2021. It’s also worth noting that worldwide, the affiliate marketing industry is valued at an estimated $12 billion, with the US taking the lead at $4.5 billion!

That being said, not all affiliate programs are equal. Some niches pay more than others. But, choosing which sector to go for when you’re just starting out can be tricky! So, we’re going to explore nine all-important things to look out for when choosing high-ticket affiliate programs.

Does that sound good to you? Great. Let’s dive in!

1. Commission Rate

The commission rate is imperative. Different programs offer different rates of commission. This is usually a percentage of the sale price, but in some instances, your commission is a fixed rate per affiliate sale. So, double-check how the affiliate program calculates its commission to get a better feel for what you’ll earn with the program.

The higher the rate of affiliate commission, the better.

It’s also worth seeing whether the program offers incentives for newbie affiliates. For instance, do they reward hitting sales targets with a boost in commission? LambdaTest is an excellent example of this in action; they’re offering newbies 50% commission on their first transaction and then 25% after that.

If you’re looking to get into a niche with plenty of high-paying affiliate programs offering attractive rates of commission, generally speaking, you can’t go wrong with SaaS (Software as a Service).

Typically, due to their subscription-based nature, SaaS companies boast higher customer lifetime values (CLTV) and profit margins and, consequently, impressive affiliate commission rates. So, if this is a niche that interests you, go for it, it could be incredibly lucrative!

Take BigCommerce as an example. You’ll receive a 200% bounty per referral! You’ll also earn $1,500 for every Enterprise customer you secure. Plus, there are no commission caps, obligations, or minimum commitments – what’s not to love about that?!

BigCommerce Affiliate Program Landing Page
Source: BigCommerce

While we’re on the subject of commission, remember retailers have full control over their affiliate programs. They can, therefore, reduce their high commission rates at any time. Take Amazon as an example, which announced in April it was slashing commission rates on some of its physical products. Amazon was paying 8% on home improvement products, which is now down to 3%, while groceries have plummeted from 5% to only 1%! When you hear of horror stories like this, it makes selling digital products all the more attractive.

2. Commission Type

On the whole, there are two types of commission:

  1. One-time payouts
  2. Recurring commission

The one-time model does what it says on the tin, i.e., when you make a sale, you’ll be paid a one-off commission for that sale. So, the more referrals you get, the more you earn.

Whereas, over the long term, the recurring commission model enables you to earn a passive income. Typically this commission structure comes into play when companies offer monthly subscriptions for SaaS products, online courses, digital merchandise, etc.

So, how does this work?

Say, the high-paying affiliate program you’ve signed up for is a SaaS website-building platform, and you’ve just secured a sale. In this event, the company doesn’t just pay a one-off commission, instead, (provided the customer doesn’t cancel their subscription), the affiliate program also pays you monthly (or whenever the subscription rolls over).

Speaking of different commission structures, what Cloudways has to offer is pretty impressive, as they give you the freedom to choose a commission structure that best suits your needs. Their slab model outlines four performance-based ‘slabs’ that correspond with different commission rates. Please refer to the table below for more details:

Cloudways Affiliate Commission Structure
Source: Cloudways

Alternatively, you can opt for the hybrid commission model, which furnishes affiliates with a $30 upfront bonus followed by a 7% lifetime commission.

Cloudways Affiliate Commission Structure
Source: Cloudways

If you’re unsure which to opt for, Cloudways provides a commission calculator, so you can estimate your earnings before picking the right model for you.

One-Time Payouts – The Pros:

  • You’ll enjoy a nice chunk of cash once you make a sale.
  • It’s a great way to get started with generating passive income.

One-Time Payouts – The Cons:

  • You need to secure more referrals as you’re only paid per sale – which means more time marketing and driving referral traffic.

Recurring Commissions – The Pros:

  • You’ll enjoy a regular income after securing just one sale.
  • The kinds of companies that utilize the recurring income model typically offer higher commissions

Recurring Commissions – The Cons:

  • How frequently you’re paid is entirely at the vendor’s discretion – this could be weekly, monthly, yearly, etc.
  • If your customer cancels their subscription, your commission stops.

We’ve compiled a list of some of the best recurring affiliate programs out there:

Affiliate ProgramType / NicheRecurring Commission
ElegantThemesWordPress Themes / Plugins50%
SemRushSEO & SEM Tools40%
LeadPagesLanding Page Builder30%
ConvertkitEmail Marketing30%
AweberEmail Marketing30%
GetResponseEmail Marketing33%
ThriveThemesWordPress Themes25%
SocialPilotSocial Media Tools30%
LiveChatLive Chat Support20%

3. Average Order Value (AOV)

In addition to commissions, you also need to look at the ‘average order value.’ This measures the average price of orders placed with the merchant over a set period. Again, the higher the AOV, the better.

To calculate AOV, merchants need to divide the total purchase amount they make over a set period, by their number of sales. Say, for example, a retailer made 250 sales totaling $10,000, the AOV would be $40. Simple, right?

Affiliate programs with higher AOVs typically facilitate upselling, cross-selling, and bundling products together. Some merchants also offer free shipping and discounted products. All these techniques work wonders for selling additional products and services, which means, in theory, you should enjoy a larger paycheck as an affiliate.

Our tip is to sign up for affiliate programs in the B2B software market, typically products and services in this sector boast a higher AOV than B2C.

4. Earnings per Click (EPC)

With affiliate marketing, sometimes you don’t even have to make a sale to earn money! Some high-paying affiliate programs pay affiliates on a ‘per click’ basis, i.e., you just need to entice people enough to click on your affiliate link. You’re then paid according to how much traffic you push their way.

If you’re new to online marketing, this is one of the best affiliate programs for beginners,

because there’s no pressure to make a sale! If you’re interested, check out JVZoo, this affiliate network has tons of ‘pay per click’ programs to choose from.

pay per click affiliate programs - jvzoo affiliate network
Source: JVZoo 

5. Cookie Duration

Cookie duration is sometimes referred to as a ‘referral period,’ so don’t let this interchangeable terminology confuse you because both phrases mean precisely the same thing.

For those who aren’t in the know, ‘cookie duration’ is the window of time an advertiser will pay an affiliate for their referred customer. For example, if an affiliate program has a 48-hour cookie duration, and the person you refer buys 50 hours later, you won’t get a bean.

So, the longer the cookie duration, the better. It’s crucial to check this before choosing an affiliate program because it can really impact your affiliate income. For example, the Amazon affiliate program only has a 24-hour cookie lifespan, which isn’t very long at all!

6. Cookie Attribution

Cookie attribution allows merchants to track and assess how customers interact with their site. With this info at their disposal, they can then pay out commissions.

However, there are two types of cookie attribution:

  1. First vs. last-click attribution
  2. The two-tier system

Let’s explore each of these in turn…

First vs. Last-Click Attribution

Think about this: what happens if a consumer clicks on your affiliate link and then on somebody else’s? Who gets the commission?

This is where the affiliate policies set by the merchant come into play. You’ll have to see which side the merchant falls on the ‘first click vs. last-click cookie attribution debate.

If the merchant credits the ‘last link,’ whoever provided the consumer with the last affiliate link they clicked on before making a purchase, gets the commission. Conversely, if their policy favors the ‘first click,’ whichever affiliate scored the customer’s first click, receives the commission.

The Two-Tier System

Whereas the two-tier model allows affiliates to earn commissions not only on their sales but also from any transactions secured by affiliates, they refer to the program.

Below is an example of a standard two-tier structure:

1st Tier: You make a 25% commission on your direct sales

2nd Tier: You make a 10% commission on any sales made by your sub-affiliates

Of course, these figures vary from program to program, but you get the idea.

Notable affiliate programs that offer a two-tier system include WP Engine, Fiverr, and ClickFunnels.

7. Product Conversion Rate

It doesn’t matter how high a commission rate is, if an affiliate product doesn’t convert into sales, it’s not worth promoting. This is where the ‘product conversion rate’ comes onto the scene.

Put simply; this is the percentage of prospects that turn into actual customers. You want to focus your time on affiliate programs offering high product conversion rates.

But, what’s a ‘good’ product conversion rate?

This varies across industries. However, WordStream notes that 2.35% is the average rate. Yet the top 25% of marketers have managed to score a conversion rate of 5.31% or higher!

Unsurprisingly, the quality of a product landing page massively impacts conversions. So, you’ll want to pick an affiliate partner that provides top-notch landing pages – as the better the landing page and sales funnel, the more likely customers purchase, and you’ll receive a commission.

Take Hostinger, a web hosting provider as an example; their landing pages are fabulous! Special offer countdown, attractively priced service, and a clear CTA – it’s all there! See below to get a feel for what we’re talking about.

Hostinger Web Hosting Landing Page

In addition to creating beautiful landing pages, there are other things affiliate managers can do to boost product conversion rates. Most notably, running promotions affiliates can offer prospects. After all, who doesn’t love a bargain?

8. Vendor Reputation and Customer Satisfaction

If you’re promoting subscription-based products, you’ll want ones with low churn rates.

This metric highlights how many customers unsubscribe later down the line. It stands to reason, affiliate programs with lower churn rates provide longer-term recurring commissions.

However, this metric isn’t always published by affiliate managers. But, you can do some digging to see what their customer satisfaction levels are like. If people LOVE the product, the lower its churn rate is likely to be.

So before signing up for an affiliate program, head to Google and read a few customer reviews. What’s their average rating? Are our customers, on the whole, pleased with the product? Use this research to decide whether a potential product/service is worth marketing to your audience.

Also, it’s worth keeping an eye on the churn rate once you start promoting the product. You can use this formula to calculate this metric:

One minus your customer retention rate = a percentage churn rate

This makes identifying products with higher church rates easy. Once you know what they are, you can drop them and focus on marketing products of value to your audience.

Wondering where to find a reputable top-paying affiliate program?

We suggest starting your search with an affiliate network such as ShareASale or CJ Affiliate. They meticulously screen and review all publishers, giving you the peace of mind that you will end up promoting only high-quality affiliate offers.

9. Affiliate Support

Ideally, you’ll want to sign up with affiliate programs that support you. This is all the more essential if you’re a newbie, as there’s a good chance you’ll have questions and queries you’ll need help with (don’t worry – we’ve all been there).

When assessing whether a vendor provides decent affiliate support, see whether they offer a dedicated account manager or at least a point of contact that you can access via email, phone, or live chat.

We suggest getting in touch from the get-go, to give you a feel for how they handle affiliates. For instance, you could try asking the affiliate manager if they’ll consider increasing your commission over time – once you have a proven sales record.

You’ll also want to check what marketing materials (if any) the vendor provides. Are they good quality? Some companies offer affiliates tried and tested landing pages that are proven to convert. Similarly, many give affiliates graphics and banners to use on their website to capture the eye of potential customers.

Finding High Paying Affiliate Programs: The Key Takeaways

So there you have it, nine things to look out for as you go about picking high-paying affiliate programs. Having read this article, we hope you’re in a better position to identify and work with higher-paying vendors.

If you only take away a couple of things from this blog post, remember:

  1. Promoting products with recurring commissions will pay more over time and provide a more consistent affiliate income.
  2. Products boasting higher customer satisfaction levels boost your credibility as an online affiliate marketer and are more likely to possess a low churn rate. Consequently, there’s a higher chance of enjoying recurring revenues in the long run with these kinds of products.

The affiliate market is growing as fast as ever, and the opportunities are wide open.

Remember, the first step is to build your affiliate website on WordPress.

First, to create your affiliate site, we recommend you get started with Bluehost for just $2.95/month. 

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Rosie Greaves is a professional content strategist who specializes in all things digital marketing, B2B, and lifestyle. In addition to Findstack, you can find her work published on G2, Crazy Egg, and E-commerce Platforms.

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