This article could be one of the most important things you ever read for your affiliate marketing business. It was a cornerstone topic of my book Evergreen Affiliate Marketing.
Getting this process wrong can lead to...
- Damaged reputation
- Lost (or dramatically reduced) earnings
This is a quick read but it is dense with information. Bookmark it and read it multiple times if you really want to get maximum value from it. It will be worth it!
Let's get into it.
Why You Need to Be “Choosy” with What You Promote
This part gets a bit dorky, so if you just want to trust me that you need to focus on a few great offers over many average ones click here. It will save you the nerdy graphs and over-analysis that I live for...
You might be thinking, "Why does it even matter? I'll just promote a lot of stuff and if it doesn't all work, who cares? Something will stick!"
I'm reading minds here because this is exactly what I thought early on in my affiliate marketing journey.
There are a limitless number of potential affiliate offers across every single niche imaginable.
A quick browse on ClickBank (one of the largest affiliate networks) will show you just how many offers exist across dozens of niches.
Even if your niche is something as defined as "sheds," you'll have 82 affiliate offers in ClickBank alone to filter though!
That's only a fraction of the total available offers out there since most companies don't use ClickBank.
You could realistically expand this number by a multiple of 10 to get a more accurate idea of just how many offers exist in such a tiny niche.
The shiny allurement of this endless supply of offers can lead you affiliate marketers to make a massive mistake: promoting too many things at the same time.
When I first started affiliate marketing, I adopted a “more is more,” mentality. I assumed that the more affiliate offers I promoted, the more money I’d make. That was dead wrong. Here’s why.
First, forgive me if this sounds dramatic, we’re all cursed with the limitation of time. Obviously, I knew this, but I assumed “it’s ok, it doesn’t take long to sign up for these programs, I’ll just casually plug them into content and promotions when I can.”
This just doesn’t work as well in practice as it sounds on paper. A “spray and pray” approach doesn’t lead to a large amount of sales spread thin and wide amount all the programs, it leads to little to no sales across all the programs.
If the affiliate product you’re promoting is so good that just a casual mention drives big sales, it’s highly likely you're promoting something extremely competitive and many people will already use it and won’t be in the market to buy from you.
If the products aren’t competitive, they’ll require more than a onetime promotion. They’ll require focus and multiple “touch points.”
What is a touch point?
A touch point is any exposure to the offer. This can be in the form of a direct click, watching a video showcasing the offer, seeing an email explaining the offer, etc. Anything that reminds the potential customer "this exists and you can buy it."
This goes back to the marketing “rule of 7,” that states that on average, customers need to see a product at least 7 times before they buy.
Every year, it seems this number increases and is more like the rule of 10-20 thanks to the increased amount of competition and other shiny objects pulling for our potential customers’ attention.
So let's say that your maximum conversion rate is about 6%. The graph might look something like this
Having 8 touch points helps us achieve that maximum conversion rate of around 6%.
How many touch points can you get before a customer unsubscribes or just leaves your reach?
Here's an equation...
# of Offers * 7 = Needed Touch Points to Maximize Conversions
So if you have 100 offers, you'd need....
100 * 7 = 700 Touch Points!
That number, if you're wondering, is insane. 700 touch points is not realistic at all for 99.99% of creators. That is Kardashian level exposure.
So, what do we need to do?
It’s perfectly fine to register for as many affiliate programs as you’d like and sprinkle them around your content. This can help you test offers with your audience and choose which are worth focusing on going forward. But it’s critical that you give focused effort to a handful that are proven to be winners.
But what makes a winning affiliate program?
It goes far beyond does it make commissions for you (although that’s of course paramount).
When choosing which affiliate programs to enter long term, focused relationships with, you need to ask the following questions.
What to Look for in an Affiliate Offer
Here is what you need to ask yourself before choosing which affiliate offers to make a core focus of your business.
#1 Is the Product High Quality?
I wish this went without saying, but the products you promote need to make you look fantastic. If your audience discovers that you’re promoting subpar products because they make you more money, you won’t last long.
The product should be the genuinely best option available to solve whatever the need your customers have.
This extends to things like customer support and brand presence. The products you promote, good or bad, will reflect on you.
Here’s a hard truth…
If there’s a free option that is better than the paid option, promote that if you want to maintain a long-term relationship of trust with your customers.
Remember, trust sells. You build trust (and therefore future sales) by sacrificing some sales along the way.
Your personal experience is definitely the best way to judge quality, but it isn’t the end all be all. It has shocked me when I’ve found out that a company I promote did not give the customers I sent the same experience that I was when they purchased a product from me.
Although it's not perfect (companies can pay to improve their reviews) TrustPilot.com is one of my favorite places to read honest feedback on companies and software.
Based on TrustPilot data, I can trust that Jungle Scout isn't going to make me look bad to my followers if I promote it. That combined with my own positive experience with it has lead me to make it a core offer I promote.
#2 Does the Company Support Their Affiliates?
Not all affiliate programs are created equal. It’s incredible how much more effort some companies put into their affiliate programs than others.
Some affiliate programs offer little more than a rudimentary dashboard and a couple of links.
Truly great affiliate programs will typically offer the following benefits.
Robust affiliate dashboards - You should be able to do things like track alternative incoming links, add sub IDs for optimized tracking and access an array of high converting assets such as banner ads and lead magnets.
Dedicated affiliate managers - Affiliate managers often get paid a percentage of total affiliate sales or an decent salary, so a great manager will definitely want to help you along the way to make sales.
Regular promotions and incentives - My favorite affiliate programs regularly run contests and promotions that incentivize their top affiliates. Contests bring out the competitive nature of affiliates and it's nice to be nudged every once in awhile. I've put together many affiliate bonus offers just to win contests
Tracks sales correctly - I wish this wasn’t an issue, but many affiliate programs simply don’t attribute sales properly. You can see this for yourself when an affiliate offers their products across multiple networks and the metrics are wildly different. This is often a result of flawed software, but there are also bad actors that will do everything possible to remove affiliate attribution at every chance possible
Offers exclusive, customized deals and coupon codes - All of my top affiliate programs have provided me with a customized coupon code. These not only help with conversions (with some odd exceptions) but they also add an extra layer off security that you’ll receive credit for sales since codes usually override cookies. If someone is browsing with a cookie blocker, you can still get attribution with a code. A code also allows you to promote via audio or video without sharing links. One thing to be aware of is whether or not the company is providing you a deal that is equal to the others on the market. I’ve seen many affiliates offer their own deals that are far better than what they give affiliates. That is their right but it makes it more difficult to make sales if that code overrides affiliate attribution if you were the first to make the customer aware of the product.
Does the affiliate program retarget traffic you send them? The best affiliate offers help their affiliates make sales by paying for retargeting. This means, free touch points! If you send one click, it could theoretically be turned into many more touch points if the company is retargeting that person and still crediting you with first click attribution sales.
Does the affiliate program have a great sales funnel in place (and do you get paid for upsells and downsells)? Sales funnels just flat out work. Companies that use them will see higher average cart values which can mean higher payouts for you. You do need to check the terms though and ensure that you are paid on these upsells. Many companies only pay on the front end and make most of their own profits on the upsells.
Only a fraction of affiliate programs seem to check all of these boxes. You’ll notice when you see them.
#3 Payout Is Fair Worth Your Time
Payout shouldn’t limit what you promote BUT it certainly should be a part of deciding what affiliate programs to spend more time on.
We promote the best products regardless of payout BUT we focus on the best products that also have the best payouts.
So what is a "fair" payout and what makes something worth your time?
This depends, but here are some rules of them.
- Offer pays just as well or better than its competitors.
- Offer converts just as well or better than other products with the same audience and payout.
"Fair" and "worth it" are relative to the other offers you could be promoting. The opportunity cost must be lower than the offer you choose. IE, you shouldn't make more promoting other items instead (again, this is all things being equal).
#4 Program Has Opportune and Fair Terms and Conditions
We need to be crystal clear on the terms of whatever products we promote.
What is the payout life and structure? If a product is recurring, I want to be paid a recurring percentage for life. The best companies do this. Some companies try and skirt around this by offering for limited amounts of time like a year or even just on the first month's payment. Again, they're welcome to do that, but you can choose to not make them a priority.
Can we run paid traffic? If so, are their limitations, such as no brand names, etc. If this isn't listed, you need to ask. Ignorance isn't an excuse for violating TOS.
Is there a minimum number of sales before payout or deactivation? This is a practice that I find to be a bit slimy. People have a loose affiliate policy and approve anyone who asks BUT they quickly deactivate their accounts if they don't drive a certain number of sales. This is scammy to me because it doesn't usually cost the company anything to have an affiliate account dormant but if you've placed the links on your blogs, they are getting backlink juice. Also, companies that do this will typically do it without telling the affiliate.
What is the attribution style? First click and last click are both used but most affiliates I’ve surveyed favor last click. Just be aware of what the attribution is.
What are the cookie durations? Lifetime cookies are obviously best but anything under 30 is unacceptable in my opinion.
Does the company change their policies and terms regularly? Almost all affiliate contracts have a line or two about how the company has the right to void or update any items in the contract at any time for any reason.
Companies like Clickfunnels are terrible for this. They get 1,000s of affiliates in with promises of 40% lifetime, recurring commissions only to change the percentages and duration terms later.
ConvertKit recently did this and I lost $100s of recurring dollars overnight. They switched from lifetime payouts to 2 years, which cut off all of the most valuable referrals I had sent them.
Understanding the terms and conditions is critical. Be vigilant to notice any changes to these (many programs change very often).
Focusing on a few core offers that meet most of the criteria mentioned in this article is going to lead to better results than blindly promoting everything you can find.
Be choosy when it comes to what you promote, focus on getting maximum exposure to those offers and reap the rewards
Questions? Something I missed? Let me know in the comments!
Hi Nate, fabulous piece here about choosing affiliates. I've only had a few over the years and recently added a couple. I really like that you mention if they help YOU to make you successful with them thus making them more successful. I have had a few that are helpful and some there were not. I've used the ones with help more than the others. Of course, I use the products I've become an affiliate for. It makes me more knowledgeable about their products, etc. Thank you for this one!
Thanks Lisa! I’m glad you liked it. Thanks for commenting 🙂
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