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

By 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 biggest 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. 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 challenging 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 a 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 PLP Link Cloaker. e-Product networks include (but are certainly not limited to):

One of the bigger issues with using these kinds of networks to *find* products to promote is that they're often filled with a ton of crap and a few legitimate, excellent products. It's like looking for a proverbial needle in a haystack. And I'm not saying it's their fault people write and (somehow successfully) promote crap. Additionally, you 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 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 them to give you. But a quick search on Google for affiliate networks should be able to help anyone interested in them.

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 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 prefer Indie programs when they're 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, etc. 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, PLP 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 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.


Rae Hoffman aka "Sugarrae" is a veteran digital marketer and SEO consultant. She is also a serial entrepreneur. You can find out more about her entrepreneurial efforts here. Rae is most active on Twitter.


  1. Pat Grady on May 2, 2011 at 9:10 am

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

  2. Rae Hoffman-Dolan on May 2, 2011 at 9:12 am

    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. TrafficColeman on May 2, 2011 at 10:28 am

    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. Bill Parlaman on May 2, 2011 at 12:31 pm

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


  5. Sarah on May 2, 2011 at 2:29 pm

    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. Nathan OLeary on May 2, 2011 at 3:07 pm


    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]


  7. Nimble on May 2, 2011 at 7:02 pm

    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. Chris on May 2, 2011 at 7:43 pm


    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. andy on May 2, 2011 at 7:48 pm

    What about Affilate scout?

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

  10. Dan Connolly on May 2, 2011 at 10:42 pm

    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 on May 10, 2011 at 8:31 pm

    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. Grant on May 24, 2011 at 5:38 pm

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

  13. Rae Hoffman-Dolan on May 24, 2011 at 8:23 pm

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

  14. Joao Alhanati on December 11, 2013 at 2:06 pm

    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,, 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!

    • Rae Hoffman on December 16, 2013 at 10:01 am

      Hey Joao – thanks for stopping by and giving us another affiliate network resource! :)

  15. Emile on January 27, 2015 at 10:45 am

    Thanks for a great article! As you seem to know about Affiliate marketing, is it possible to get affiliated to affiliates companies such as Commission Junkie or Linkshare?

    That is, get a commission by referring clients to use an affliate marketing program?

  16. David Brabson on November 9, 2015 at 11:17 am

    Hi Rae and followers,

    I spent years as an affiliate and mostly worked with indie affiliate networks. While the risk was ever present that I would not get paid, and some times did not, or had to wait a long time to do so, the rewards outweighed the risks for me. I found that a vetting process was important when working with indie products. I always started with a conversation with the affiliate manager about something irrelevant. The goal was to see if I got blown off, or engaged. Getting blown off told me that affiliates were not a top priority. I then asked for a custom creative size. I often left space on my sites for something like 663×85. Again the goal here was to determine how personal the manager would be. If I got that then I promoted on a small scale. I would send my site over and ask for advice. While the answers were always what I expected, it told me how knowledgeable the affiliate manager was. If all of that went well. then I would promote and hope to get paid. I found that this process, while often tedious, reduced the risk of not getting paid by Indie sites.

    Now that I run my own indie program I make sure to apply those same principles to my new affiliates.

    Great piece

  17. ta on June 17, 2016 at 5:22 am

    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 ;-).

    • Rae on June 17, 2016 at 5:28 am

      I know the feeling! Those 2 am under the influence domain names add up! Hahaha!