Tips for choosing an effective affiliate program
Date: 2010-09-20 14:17:02

Factors that any prospective affiliates should investigate when joining an affiliate program...

You have a great website and you’re pulling in some heavy traffic. Now you’ve decided to join an online affiliate program to make the most of the advertising space available on your site. When looking for programs to join what factors do you need to consider to ensure that you don’t waste your time. Below are some issues that you should investigate before or as soon as possible after signing up with any affiliate program.

Does the affiliate program:

Incentivise correctly?

Make sure that their commission structure (for example a percentage sliding scale vs. a fixed rate) is appropriate for your needs. By offering a higher rate of percentage on sales for sales over a certain amount programs can motivate you to try and up sell their product. The more sales made through your site, the more the commission structure works in your favour.

Check out the marketplace and assess whether the commission they are offering is competitive. This is often dependant on the type of products / services they are offering. If they are not offering an appropriate rate then don’t hesitate to try out other programs.

Consider also what exactly they are going to be rewarding you for. For example will they only be rewarding you for sales? Or will they be providing incentives for lead referrals as well?

Have acceptable terms & conditions?

This goes without saying! Ensure that you have gone through their T’s & C’s with a fine tooth comb. Lookout especially for any areas where they can withhold your commission, for example if you remove advertising they may withhold any commission earned for the period that the advertising was removed.

Pay properly?

“Getting paid” comes up again and again on affiliate forums and affiliate related sites as the number one concern for most affiliates when engaging in an affiliate program. Fair enough, most commercially minded people wouldn’t work for free so why expect you to? You, as an affiliate, have put together a website and a proposed strategy for driving traffic to merchants’ sites so the least you can expect is to be rewarded as per the agreed commission structure.

Make sure that their system is tracking sales correctly and that other affiliates are being paid when they are meant to. This is the most basic and important factor of keeping affiliates happy. If they are messing this up then don’t bother with the rest.

Communicate effectively?

As with all relationships, communication is key! Make sure that they have made themselves available to be contacted as much as possible and ensure that your queries and concerns are dealt with efficiently and effectively.

Ideally the affiliate accounts manager would need to provide all the conceivable contact details that you as a valuable affiliate might need: Telephonic (landline and mobile), email, MSN messenger, Skype and even if possible all their relevant social media profile details such as Linked In, Facebook to name a few.

The more options you have for contacting your account manager the easier and more natural the communication will be. This can only serve to foster a better relationship between you and the affiliate program managers.

Is their communication only reactive, or are they proactive in their communication as well? Do they contact their affiliates to get feedback or suggestions from them? If you are affiliated to other merchants then it is very possible that you can learn valuable information from them.

Regular newsletters, updates on their website and maybe even an affiliate blog are all great channels that any affiliate program worth its salt should engage in.

Depending on your location and size as an affiliate it may even be appropriate for them to engage in some interpersonal contact as well (provided of course that are comfortable with this). Being taken out for lunch or being invited around to meet their team can be a valuable exercise to help both sides understand how the other is operating.

By meeting face-to-face you are also greatly strengthening your relationship and this is conducive to a better working partnership.

Share campaign information?

This will tie into the point above about having effective communication in place with your account manager.

It is essential that you as an affiliate are given adequate notice of all upcoming campaigns and promotions they will be running and that you have been provided with all the relevant marketing materials (campaign banners, copy/content etc) way in advance.

You would want the maximum exposure for their campaign and any delay in getting the promotional material up will eat into the possible increases in commission that their promotion could bring you.

Provide effective analytical tools?

It is important that the affiliate program offers tracking and reporting tools. This is very important for a number of reasons. Firstly, the more transparent the system is the higher the levels of trust you can place in the program. You need to see that they are open with all the stats and that the tracking system is working correctly. By inspiring confidence in you as an affiliate with their system, you will no doubt be much more motivated to continue driving traffic to their site.

Secondly, by being able to track the progress of your referrals (number of click-throughs, number of sales etc.) you will be able to see what is working and what is not. You can then try tweaking things to get better results and maximise your commission. For example by changing the banner or displaying banners in another location.

Provide top grade marketing material?

The merchant’s banners are generally going to be the primary factor for driving traffic from your site to the merchants. The more enticing a banner is then the higher the chance that a visitor will click on it. That is a no-brainer!

Banners need to be of a high quality and attractive, with a strong call to action. Ideally you would want them to update the banner options for affiliates as often as possible to keep things fresh. If possible they should include many different sizes, dynamic content and possibly even video and audio elements.

As mentioned previously, if they are running a specific campaign make sure that the relevant banners and other marketing material is made available to you in good time.

In addition to banners be sure that your account manager provides you with press releases and other copy as well. You would ideally want as much high quality marketing materials as possible to help maximise the flow of traffic to their site.

Care about you?

Remember that as an affiliate you are an important part of the merchant’s sales team and should be treated with respect and appreciation. You have a potentially limitless value to their company!


Straight off the bat you can save yourself a lot of needless administrative work and opportunity cost if you are selective about the affiliate programs you join in the first place.

When you are approached by a merchant make sure you vette them carefully. Check out their website: is it of a certain quality, what kind of traffic are they getting, what are they selling, how do they compare with their competitors etc. Also, is this a brand that you would want associated with your website?

If they are selling products primarily for adult men and you are running a site for a largely female teenage audience then what is the point? Save them and yourself the hassle and simply decline their application, with thanks!

In addition to the preliminary quality control you should regularly re-visit your merchant’s sites to ensure that the quality is being maintained and to ensure that you stay abreast of any changes to, for example, pricing of their products which could effect your commission.

This obviously works both ways and you should presume that when you are applying to join an affiliate program they will be performing a quality inspection of your site and products.


Thank you for reading our article “Tips for choosing an effective affiliate program.” We hope you have enjoyed it!

Written by Paul Robinson. First published 02 September 2008

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