Tips for Joining an Affiliate Program

Affiliate marketing programs are a great way for influencers and independent bloggers and YouTubers to earn supplemental income while creating online content for fun. Basically, you just share products (or the company itself) with your audience for a percentage of earnings when someone makes a purchase. The benefits of becoming an affiliate marketer:

  • Independence (no set schedules or work demands)
  • The ability to join multiple affiliate programs whenever you want
  • No inventory management, product shipping, or customer support duties
  • No charges (in most cases)

Merchants like influencer marketing because they know consumers are more likely to buy a product if someone they trust recommends it. Regular advertisements can’t do that. Below we’ll share some tips for deciding which affiliate marketing programs and networks are best for you.

Does it Fit Your Brand?

The first thing you need to ask yourself is whether the product or service is relevant to your brand, your niche:

  • Search engine optimization (SEO) ranking for certain topics
  • Relation to your current audience
  • Shared moral, political, and religious views
  • Other common traits such as target demographic, country of origin, etc.

If you run a food blog, it makes sense to promote a meal planning service and gym membership. They’re both connected to each other and your primary focus. Even marketing a hosting provider and virtual private network (VPN) would be fitting since the blog is hosted somewhere and everyone has privacy concerns. It would be, however, odd for a food blogger big on products made in the USA to push a product made elsewhere but readily available in the US.

It’s tempting to prioritize potential earnings over fit and reputation. But it won’t fulfill you in the long run. Other aspects that may not seem important but are:

  • Product reputation
  • Manufacturer history
  • Why the company and product were created
  • Whether the company website looks up-to-date, modern, and secure

You may be wondering where “using the product” fits on that list. While it is helpful to have tested the product, it’s not always necessary if all other aspects are accounted for effectively. You can have a home gym and recommend a commercial physical fitness center.

Pay to Play

Some affiliate marketing programs require purchasing the product before you can become an affiliate. This can ensure you’re able to market its benefits. Using the product allows you to produce a more thorough review and “top X” comparison between other products you promote. 

Just be sure you’re not signing up for a pyramid scheme where you’re paying upfront regularly and trying to break even with sales.

Sales and Payout Processes

Here are some financial questions you should ask when investigating potential affiliate partnerships.

What percentage of the product price are you paid? A good starting point: 15%.

How often are you paid? Monthly or sooner is best.

What is the minimum payout? You don’t want a payout so high that you’re unlikely to reach it even after a whole year of hard work.

Will you be paid recurring commissions for as long as the customer has the product? This relates to subscription-based services.

Are there any limitations or restrictions for certain countries? Some programs are affected by international laws.

Does the affiliate marketing program charge you for processing fees before payments? You could also ask if they use PayPal or Stripe.

How long is the affiliate cookie length? A longer cookie length means more time for you to get credit for the sale if a user comes back to the site. That’s assuming they don’t clear cookies manually beforehand. You may be able to check this with your browser’s internal developer tools.
Are you paid only for a specific product or any product purchased after following your affiliate link? This is a big deal for services with multiple tiers and a diverse inventory.

Affiliate Marketing Content Assistance

It’s helpful to know if the company will provide advertising graphics or preferred text phrases to assist your marketing efforts. Some organizations have a public page with banner images. Nmap has a page with over a dozen horizontal and vertical ad banners.

nmap-banner-vertical.jpg Caption: Source:

Affiliate Program Analytics

The analytics solution for an affiliate marketing network can help you better convert customers. A good analytics application will track:

  • Your affiliate links
  • Products you advertise
  • Total clicks on your affiliate links
  • Total sales during configurable durations
  • Refunds requested and completed

Other valuable features to help you be proactive:

  • Testing for broken links and unnecessary redirects (e.g. HTTP to HTTPS and adding/removing “www”)
  • Notifications for when prices change so you’re not giving outdated info
  • Email notifications for sales

Support in Affiliate Marketing Programs 

Timely technical support is a must-have in case there’s an issue with revenue. 

What’s their method of customer service – email, private forum, or a Facebook group? 

How quick are they to respond and how knowledgeable are they with issues and feature requests?

Furthermore, do they share advice based on how well other affiliates are converting customers? This can offer unique insight into your potential to make money with the product.

After you Join

After you decide on an affiliate marketing program, be creative with how you market services:

  • Blogs
  • Videos
  • Social media
  • Newsletters
  • Merchandise

Remember, your audience wants your personal insight and how you feel about the product. Be honest about when you’re affiliate marketing per FTC guidelines. And have an easy-to-find contact method (comments section, social media, Discord, etc.) for questions anyone might have about a product you market. That could be easy new content.