How to Find Affiliate Programs

On my latest post about avoiding affiliate marketing scams, a commenter named Chance Hoggan asked the following question in the comments:

“Where would you recommended people go to find affiliate products to promote?”

Since this was also brought up on the Sugarrae fan page on Facebook when I asked what topics people wanted more information on, I figured I’d try and give some advice on the topic.

“A List” Affiliate Networks

Key in the SandBy A List, I simply mean trusted and well recognized, not that the experience with them will necessarily warrant such praise. ;-)

A List affiliate networks are typically large and often secure relationships with the largest brands.

So if you’re looking to be an affiliate for a product produced by a “household brand name” you’re most likely to find the program being run through an A List network. A List networks include (but are certainly not limited to):

The pros of using an A List network is that they have the big name companies, they have a long standing of history of being “good for the money” and they offer management to companies who otherwise wouldn’t know what they’re doing. A List networks also typically will offer up merchant datafeeds for affiliate use (with some conditions.)

The cons are that you’re unlikely to get any “custom attention” unless you’re a huge affiliate, they don’t always (appear to anyway) have the affiliates best interests at heart when it comes to their big brand partners and not all the in house managers they hire are good at what they do. Additionally, you’re more likely to find “selective merchants” using bigger networks, so if you’re a smaller affiliate or have yet to build a site for the programs you’re applying for, you may find getting approved for those programs to be more difficult than via the other ways to find affiliate programs listed below. They also usually take a bit longer to pay (smaller networks tend to pay every two weeks to give themselves an advantage when pitted against the bigger networks.

Additionally, the networks (rightfully so) take a cut for managing the payment of affiliates and for bringing affiliates to advertisers so that they don’t necessarily have to go out and look for them. Because they’re big name, with TONS of affiliates, they’re able to draw larger fees and commissions from their merchants – which can impact what the merchant has leftover to pay out as affiliate commission.

e-Product Networks

These are networks that specialize in offering electronic products that are downloaded rather than shipped. Think e-Books like Traffic and Trust or paid WordPress plugins like Eclipse Link Cloaker. e-Product networks include (but are certainly not limited to):

One of the bigger issues with using these kind of networks to *find* products to promote is that they’re often filled with a ton of crap and a few legitimate, awesome products. It’s like looking for a proverbial needle in a haystack. And I’m definitely not saying it’s their fault people write and (somehow successfully) promote crap. Additionally, you really have no way to know which products are any good without reviewing a copy for yourself. Unless you have a big enough “brand” to send an email and get a free copy, that can become expensive fast.

As an affiliate, I love *using* Clickbank as a network when products I like are using them to manage their affiliate program, but I don’t like using them to attempt to find new programs to promote.

Secondary Affiliate Networks

Secondary affiliate networks are basically smaller versions of the A-List networks… often with smaller brands (and in my experience, many times much less “quality brands”) than their A List counterparts. In other words, you’re more likely to find the latest diet pill fad making all sorts of outrageous claims being promoted through these kinds of networks than the bigger networks listed above.

Additionally, while some of the secondary networks at least have a reputation for always paying and standing by the affiliate in cases where merchants try and pull some shady dealings, many disappear almost as quickly as they hit the scene – sometimes with money owed to you in their pockets. However, when they do pay, they often pay more frequently and offer more methods of payment than their A-List competition. They also tend to charge smaller fees to the merchants, giving more wiggle room to pay affiliate commissions.

Because my sites tend to target larger niches (where “large brands” are what suits my affiliate needs) and because I’ve been burned before by working with smaller networks that have closed down without paying me the full amount owed, I tend to avoid them, so I don’t really have a list to give of them to give you. But a quick search on Google for affiliate networks should be able to help anyone really interested out.

To be clear, I’m not saying they should never be used. I’m simply saying they should be used with caution and check reviews of the networks before signing up.

Indie Affiliate Programs

Indie (or Indy, hell if I know which spelling is correct) is short for Independent. Indie affiliate programs are programs that are run in-house. They don’t use networks and instead are run by a merchant who uses an affiliate software like MYAP to manage the technical aspect of the program while they handle the financial and promotional aspects of the program. Indie affiliate programs may or may not outsource the management of their program professional affiliate program managers.

The good thing from an affiliate standpoint about Indie programs is that because they aren’t paying network usage fees and per sale commissions to a middle man (AKA a network), they often have better payouts for an affiliate. However, if the program isn’t managed by someone with experience, they can also lack good creatives, deep linking and datafeeds.

To top if off, whether or not you’ll actually get paid is pretty much a “wait and see” without a network forcing them to keep funds in an account so the affiliate knows that they’ll get paid.

That said, I personally prefer Indie programs, when run well, whenever possible. If they have a successful program, they’re usually much more attentive to making sure you get the creatives/tools you need to sell their product and are much more open to feedback. The (typically) higher commissions don’t hurt either.

However, on the flip side, if the program isn’t a “big earner” or focus for them, even getting approved can take some time.

The biggest problem when it comes to Indie programs is usually finding them. Try using some of the following search terms below:

  • [keyword] affiliate program
  • [keyword] “become an affiliate”
  • [keyword] affiliate
  • [keyword] associates program
  • [keyword] “become an associate”

Additionally, you can look at the top ranking sites for [keyword] and check the footers (the most common place you’ll find links to affiliate programs on a merchant site) for links to “Affiliates” or “Associates” pages. If they rank well, they probably get the web “game” and are more likely to have an affiliate program.

Promote What You Already Love

Cliche. But true. If there are products you love – be they e-books, hosting providers, cloud computing services, shopping cart software, physical products… whatever you use and love – check their sites and see if they offer an affiliate program. Nothing will sell quicker than something you can honestly and truthfully endorse, especially if you’re a blogger.

I love the Thesis Theme, Raven Tools, Netwisp Hosting, Eclipse Link Cloaker, Gravity Forms, Traffic and Trust, Crazy Egg and various books from Amazon like The Dip and the E-Myth Revisisted (among a ton of other things.)

Luckily for me, about 80% of those products have affiliate programs. I recommend them all regardless – frequently – but why *not* earn off recommendations I’m making anyway if at all possible?

Look To Your Competition

You can check out blogs or sites that are similar to yours and find applicable affiliate programs that way as well. Check out what products your fellow bloggers or niche competitors are promoting, look for an “affiliates” or “associates program for them and if you find one, try the product (if applicable) and if you like it? Promote it!

Affiliate Program Directories

Honestly, I’m really not sure of the point of these anymore. Way back in the day, before search was awesome, there were sites dedicated to finding affiliate programs from all of the sources above and listing them, directory style, by category.

In my experience, most of the ones I come across seem to have not been updated since they were built a decade ago. I usually find a ton of dead links and defunct (no longer offered) programs when I do attempt to use them. I don’t have one I can recommend using so I’d suggest you stick to “pounding the pavement” to find merchants via the methods above.

About Rae Hoffman

Rae Hoffman aka "Sugarrae" is an affiliate marketing veteran and the CEO of PushFire, a search marketing agency specializing in SEO audits and link building strategies. She is also the author of the often controversial Sugarrae blog. You can connect with Rae via Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

Sugarrae runs on the Genesis Framework

Genesis Framework

If you’re someone who doesn’t understand a lot of PHP, Genesis will give a ton of functionality that you wouldn’t be able to obtain otherwise with a simple control panel instead of having to alter code. For the advanced, Genesis has incredible customization possibilities via Genesis hooks.

The theme is not only highly customizable, but it has allowed me to run Sugarrae more professionally, with a much more targeted focus on monetization than it ever has been able to achieve before.

You can find out more about Genesis below:

Comments

  1. Pat Grady says:

    I concur, network selection is important. I include AvantLink in my own “A List”.

  2. Pat, I definitely know there are more than could be added to the A-List, just like I know there are a lot of good secondary networks. Thanks for the suggestion! :)

  3. Clickbank is one of the most known because they been around for about ten years now and continue to be a great place to start.

    “Black Seo Guy “Signing Off”

  4. Is there an amount per sale you shoot for? Is there a minimum affiliate commission you set before you will even promote a product?

    Bill

  5. Clickbank sucks in my view and the number of products there which are ethical and honest could be counted on the fingers of one hand.

  6. Rae,

    Thanks for putting this post together. 9 times out of 10, I end up finding the new affiliates myself through very time consuming affiliate recruitment processes. When they find me it feels good because I know I am doing something right. I am very proud of our “Indie Affiliate Program” which is all hosted in house by yours truly. If any mom/dad/parent bloggers are looking for a program to join I would definitely recommend ours. [Sorry, I had to plug my own]

    -Nathan

  7. Nimble says:

    Thanks for the breakdown. I started looking into indie programs when I stumbled across what I termed the “evolution” series you wrote some time ago. The lightbulb went off and I figured out what to do with all those interesting domain names I had accumulated (usually after coming home from a night out ;-).

  8. Rae,

    Thank you for this. I was just looking for some info on who you recommended for link cloaking.

    Now I know and knowing is half the battle! =]

  9. What about Affilate scout?

    It seems to come up every time I do a google search with keyword + affiliate.

  10. Thanks for this! I was hoping to sign up through your links…a little payback for all the great insight you share. (hopefully a lot of payback)

  11. Chance Hoggan says:

    Thanks – I know of most of these networks. Been playing with the idea on trying some affiliate work for a while. Just trying to find time out with doing SEO for clients to actually get into it and some recommended places to start with.

  12. Any reason you don’t include Amazon in your “A List”?

  13. @Grant – yes, because Amazon isn’t an affiliate network – they run an Indie program. :)

  14. Hey Rae, you make some excellent points — but why didn’t you list more affiliate programs instead of the usual? I’m an Affiliate Manager for Neverblue, and I’m surprised you didn’t mention Neverblue. Time-and-time again we get feedback from our affiliates (and non-affiliates) saying how great Neverblue is, how awesome we are at actually paying (on time), and how big some of our advertisers are (we have advertisers like eHarmony, Hotels.com, and hundreds more). Also, Neverblue has all kinds of offers -CPS, CPL, CPA, you name it – which is another aspect of affiliate programs you could’ve touched on… Also, Neverblue doesn’t just allow any affiliate on, which is something to consider in regards to competition levels and quality. If anyone is interested in checking out Neverblue, I can help you get on there… Just find me on LinkedIn!

Speak Your Mind

*