New to affiliate marketing? Looking for the best affiliate programs for beginners? You’ve come to the right place!
Affiliate marketing can be a great way to make money online. But it can also be a minefield if you’re a beginner.
In this article, we’ll guide you on how to get started with affiliate marketing. We’ll share our top recommendations for beginners, and also cover some more advanced options.
Affiliate Marketing for Beginners
If you’ve never done affiliate marketing before, it’s important to know how to get started.
With affiliate marketing, you enter into an agreement with a merchant. You agree to ethically promote the merchant, using methods the merchant is comfortable with. This may include promoting the merchant on your website or blog, on social media, or through email marketing.
The merchant will give you a unique affiliate link so they can track referrals coming from you. You’ll be given access to your own affiliate dashboard where you can view the number of referrals you’ve sent them. Here, you can also see the number of prospects that have performed a specific action and the commissions you’ve earned.
Choosing the right affiliate marketing program is important. However, it’s only a small part of becoming a successful affiliate marketer. The most important part is finding people that would be interested in what the merchant can offer them.
In order to make a decent living as an affiliate marketer, you need to send a lot of traffic to the merchant – and it needs to be targeted traffic. So, even if you find the best affiliate program for beginners, you won’t make money if you can’t generate traffic to go purchase products.
Recommendations Before You Get Started
1. Find the right niche.
Find a profitable niche you know or would like to learn more about, and become an authority in that niche.
The more credibility you have, the more likely it will be that people will follow your advice and recommendations. As an affiliate marketer, you want to stand out from the crowd. You want your audience to take you seriously. This isn’t easy to accomplish unless people see you as an authority in your niche.
You’ll find many different affiliate programs to promote in every profitable niche. So, don’t just look for the best affiliate programs for beginners. Instead, look for the best affiliate programs for beginners in your niche.
Having trouble thinking of a good niche? Don’t worry!
At Brand Builders, we’ve compiled a list of 1,452 niche ideas. We’ve spend dozens of hours finding, vetting and organizing this list.
Best of all, you can download it for free.
2. Get a website.
Not all affiliate programs will require you to have a website before you can be accepted as an affiliate. However, many will. And even those that don’t will more than likely recommend it.
Having a website is not just about the opportunity to apply to some of the best affiliate programs. It can also help establish you as an authority in your niche and drive free organic traffic to your content and affiliate links.
In order to get traffic, though, you’ll need high quality original content. If writing is not one of your strong points or if you’d rather outsource it, there are many different options, including hiring on Upwork or working with an agency.
At Brand Builders, we offer a content creation service to provide premium quality SEO optimized content for your website.
3. Build up traffic first.
As mentioned in the previous section, you won’t make money from affiliate marketing if you can’t generate traffic.
Before you focus on how to monetize your website with affiliate offers, first focus on building up traffic to your website. There’s no point adding affiliate links to your website if it’s only getting a couple of visitors every day.
Affiliate Marketing Terms
Here’s a list of common affiliate terms you’ll come cross in this article, and while looking at affiliate programs.
Affiliate Network vs. In-house Affiliate Program
Some merchants have their own in-house affiliate program. You apply directly with the merchant and it’s up to them to approve your application. Other merchants choose to use an affiliate network. In some instances, a merchant will have their own in-house affiliate program and belong to an affiliate network as well.
Large affiliate networks have thousands of merchants. This makes it easier when you’re looking for specific programs to promote. By dealing with an affiliate network, you also have a bit of a safety net. That’s because reputable affiliate networks have strict requirements before accepting new merchants.
A good example of an affiliate network is Amazon. If you’re accepted into their affiliate program, you may promote any product listed on Amazon. You don’t have to apply with individual merchants.
Not all affiliate networks work in the same way as Amazon. Some require you to apply not only with them but also with individual merchants. Take a large affiliate network such as CJ Affiliate for example. Even after you’ve been accepted by them, you still need to apply with individual merchants as well.
Note that many affiliate networks don’t use the terms “affiliate” and “merchant.” They use “publisher” and “advertiser” instead. Here’s how that breaks down:
Affiliate = Publisher
Merchant = Advertiser
Commission per Sale vs. Commission per Lead
The most most common affiliate payment models you’ll come across are “Commission per Sale” and “Commission per Lead.”
- Commission per Sale (CPS) – You earn a commission when a visitor that’s clicked on your affiliate link buys a product from the merchant you’re promoting.
- Commission per Lead (CPL) – You earn a commission when a visitor that’s clicked on your affiliate link performs a certain action. Actions may include filling in a form, registering a free account, or even just entering their email address.
Normally, CPS pays a much higher commission than CPL. However, CPL offers often convert better because the visitor isn’t expected to buy anything.
Many merchants will not only pay you for a lead, but will also pay you if that lead buys a product from them.
What’s a Cookie?
When someone clicks on your affiliate link, a “cookie” is generated. This means if that visitor doesn’t buy something straight away but only at a later date, you’ll still earn a commission. This is on condition the cookie has not expired and that the visitor is using the same device.
Every affiliate program has a specific length of time during which a cookie will remain active. It’s normally anything from 24 hours to several months, and sometimes even longer.
You may wonder what happens if a customer first clicks on your affiliate link and then on another affiliate’s link. Who will get the commission when the customer makes a purchase? The answer differs from program to program.
Some affiliate programs will pay the affiliate whose link the customer first clicked on. Others will pay the affiliate whose link the customer clicked on last. Over time, it doesn’t really matter much. You will win some and lose some.
What Are the Best Affiliate Marketing Programs for Beginners?
Here’s a list of our recommended affiliate programs for beginners. All of them are free to join.
Our #1 affiliate program is Amazon Associates.
Amazon Associates gives you the opportunity to promote over a million products as an Amazon affiliate. Once you’re accepted by Amazon, you don’t need to apply with individual merchants.
Amazon Associates is a highly respected network. This means your visitors will be less cautious buying from Amazon than from many other affiliate networks or merchants.
Type: Affiliate Network
CPS: Up to 10%
Cookie Length: 24 hours*
* It’s a universal cookie. It means if you refer customers to a certain product and they buy something else, you’ll still earn a commission. However, as soon as a customer buys something the cookie is wiped clean. So if the customer buys something else one hour later, you won’t receive a commission on that transaction.
Amazon’s cookie works a bit differently than other cookies. If a customer adds a product to their cart but doesn’t buy it right way, the cookie length is extended by 89 days. Then, even if the customer uses another device to complete the purchase, you’ll still receive a commission on the sale.
Payment date: Approximately 60 days following the end of each calendar month. For example, for January sales you’ll get paid by late March. This is on condition you’ve reached the minimum commission threshold, which is $10.
- Choose from over a million products to promote.
- International brand recognition.
- The 24 hour cookie length is very short.
Under Amazon’s operating agreement, you need a “Site” to promote them. This can be a website, social media user-generated content, or online software application.
In addition to the above, as stated in Amazon’s operating policies: “Your Site(s) must contain original content and be publicly available via the website address provided in the application. You must identify your Site(s) in your application.”
We recommend you only apply with Amazon Associates if you have a website or blog with high quality, original content.
Note: At Brand Builders, we specialize in building high quality, turnkey affiliate websites that are perfect for Amazon. You can have a fully functional affiliate website in under 24 hours. We also offer custom made affiliate websites.
ClickBank is a reputable, well-established affiliate network that’s paid out over $4.2 billion in commissions. Originally, they only accepted digital products that could be downloaded. However, they’ve evolved over the years and now also offer physical products and subscriptions.
The network is very popular with affiliates, mainly due to the high commission rates paid for digital products. As is the case with Amazon, you don’t need to apply with individual merchants once ClickBank has accepted your application.
What makes them different from Amazon is it’s up to the merchant to decide how much commission they’re willing to pay. Commission rates of up to 75% are not uncommon. Some merchants also “upsell” additional products that allow their affiliates to make extra money.
Type: Affiliate Network
CPS: Up to 75%
Cookie Length: 60 days.
Payment Date: Wednesdays, two weeks after the end of the pay period. The pay period can be weekly or biweekly. This is on condition you’ve reached the minimum commission threshold. The default amount is $100, but you can change it to a minimum of $10.
ClickBank will deduct a standard return allowance of 10% that will be credited back to your account after 12 weeks.
Your first commission payment is subject to you meeting their Customer Distribution Requirement (CDR). Your account must show a minimum of five sales and at least two of the following payment methods before you get paid:
American Express, Carte Bleue, Diners Club, Maestro, MasterCard, PayPal, and Visa.
- Choose from thousands of products to promote.
- High commission rates of up to 75% per sale.
- Not hard for beginners to get approved.
- Can earn recurring monthly commissions from subscriptions.
- Need at least five sales before you’ll get your first commission payment.
- Many merchant websites look “spammy.”
ClickBank doesn’t require you to have a website before you can apply to become an affiliate. However, they highly recommend it.
According to ClickBank: “We have found that the best and most secure platform is a blog. A blog is more stable and trustworthy than promoting solely through third party sites, such as Facebook, YouTube, etc.”
Fiverr is the world’s largest marketplace for digital services. It has more than 11 million active users from over 160 countries. It offers over 3 million different services.
According to Fiverr, an order is placed every 4 seconds, and they have the highest conversion rates in the industry. They also have a great affiliate program that’s perfect for beginners.
Type: Affiliate Network
CPS: $15 – $50 (Fiverr) and $150 (Fiverr Pro)
The above CPS is a one-time payment for first-time purchases only. And it’s only for people that don’t already have an account with Fiverr.
In January 2020, they added a new “hybrid” model option to their commission structure. With this model, you’ll get a flat commission of $10 on all first-time purchases. However, you’ll get a 10% commission on other purchases made by the user for the next 12 months.
You can choose which model you want to use. You can even use both models, as they have different affiliate links.
Cookie Length: 30 days
Fiverr offers lifetime attribution. It means if someone opens an account but only buys something at a later date, you’ll still earn a commission.
Payment Date: Net 30 days. Once you’ve earned $100, you can request payment by the beginning of the following month. You’ll be paid one month later, at the beginning of the month. So, if you request payment by the beginning of January, you’ll be paid by the beginning of February.
- Recognized international platform for freelancers.
- Instant approval makes it ideal for beginners.
- Only earn a commission for first-time buyers.*
- Commission for Fiverr Pro is capped at $150.*
- High payment threshold. You only get paid once you’ve earned $100.
* This doesn’t apply to the “hybrid” model, as discussed above.
Fiverr also offers a 30% commission rate on digital courses at Learn from Fiverr.
You also have the opportunity to earn more commissions by promoting the Fiverr Affiliates program. You can earn 10% of the revenue made by affiliates that you’ve referred to the program.
CJ Affiliate (Commission Junction)
CJ Affiliate, previously called Commission Junction, is the world’s largest and most established affiliate marketing network. Founded in 1998, they have 14 offices worldwide and are used by some of the world’s largest brands. Apart from changing their name from Commission Junction to CJ Affiliate, nothing else has changed.
Type: Affiliate Network
CPS: Varies from merchant to merchant.
Cookie Length: Varies, normally between 1 – 120 days. They also support Cookieless tracking.
Payment Date: Payments are made around the 20th of every month. Note that different merchants may lock in your commission at different intervals. Some merchants require more time to review transactions. For more information, refer to their payment cycle.
- Merchants can contact you if, based on your profile, they think you’re a good fit.
- Considered by many top brands as the best affiliate network.
- Real-time reporting. You can monitor your activity without having to refresh the page.
- CJ Affiliate can be a bit overwhelming for beginners.
Note that you need to have an active website before you can apply to CJ Affiliate.
It’s normally very easy for a beginner to get accepted into the affiliate program of a website hosting company. Approval is often automatic and instantaneous. Most hosting providers also pay high commission rates, even on cheap hosting plans. However, it’s a highly competitive market.
The reason we’ve added SiteGround to our list of the best affiliate programs for beginners is twofold.
- First of all, it’s our recommended hosting provider.
- Secondly, it’s one of only three hosting providers recommended by WordPress.org.
Type: In-House Affiliate Program
- 1 – 5 sales per month pays $50 per sale.
- 6 – 10 sales per month pays $75 per sale.
- 11- 20 sales per month pays $100 per sale.
- For 21+ sales per month they will apply customized commissions.
Cookie Length: 60 days
Payment Date: Once a week, every Wednesday. There’s a review period of 30 days before you’ll be paid. For example, if you make a sale today, you’ll normally be paid on the first Wednesday after 30 days.
If the customer chooses a monthly billing cycle, the review period is extended to 90 days.
- No minimum commission threshold.
- High commission rates.
- Weekly payments.
- Very competitive market.
- 90-day review period for monthly billing cycles.
They do require applicants to enter their website in the application form. All applications are reviewed before they can be accepted.
Even if your niche is not related to website hosting, you can still join SiteGround’s affiliate program. Many bloggers share what tools they’re using for their blog, and why they’re using it. Even if you only get one affiliate sale per month, it could at least cover the cost of your hosting. Not a bad deal!
Are Affiliate Programs Worth It?
Affiliate marketing is one of the best ways to monetize a website or blog. Not all bloggers publish how much they earn from affiliate marketing. However, from those that do, we know affiliate marketing can be very lucrative.
Here are some examples of how much money some bloggers are making from affiliate marketing, based on their last income report:
Just a girl and her blog – $27,507
Matthew Woodward – $28,429
Millennial Money – $8,630
The main benefits of affiliate marketing include the following:
- Thousands of affiliate programs to choose from across various niches.
- No need to develop your own products.
- Can be very lucrative.
- Can quickly drop a program that’s not working and sign up for another one.
- Many programs offer instant approval so you can start promoting them straight away.
- Can start part time and eventually earn a full-time income from it.
- Low risk, as you can join the vast majority of programs for free without having to invest anything.
- A great way to monetize your blog or website.
- Can be combined with many other monetization methods such as Google Adsense.
- Can promote any number of programs at the same time.
- Make money while you sleep. It’s a great way to earn passive income.
What’s the Best Affiliate Program to Join?
When you’re new to affiliate marketing, it’s very normal to look for the best affiliate program to join.
Many beginners think the best affiliate program is the one that pays the highest commission. This is often not the case. Some of the highest paying affiliate programs don’t convert well at all. You may also have a lot of competition from other affiliates promoting the same program.
There are several things you need to consider.
1. The reputation of the merchant/platform.
Amazon Associates is one of the most popular affiliate programs for beginners. This is despite the fact they only pay between 1% and 10% commission. They have a great reputation in the market and are seen as trustworthy.
A customer is more likely to buy from Amazon than from a relatively unknown site. This is why we consider Amazon one of the best affiliate programs, regardless of their low commission rates. By being an Amazon affiliate, you directly benefit from their reputation in the market.
2. The quality of the merchant’s landing page.
Some merchants will give you an indication of how well their landing page converts. For example, they may say that on average their landing page has a 3% conversion rate. This means 3 out of every 100 visitors will buy something.
It’s obviously not guaranteed. But it does give you an indication of how well you can do if you promote that merchant.
Before you join an affiliate program, read through the merchant’s landing page a couple of times. If you don’t think you’ll personally feel comfortable to buy from that merchant then don’t promote them.
3. Free organic traffic or paid advertising?
If you’re thinking of using paid advertising to promote affiliate programs, make sure the figures add up.
Ads can be very expensive, especially for highly targeted leads. If you don’t earn enough commission or if the merchant’s page doesn’t convert well, you can easily lose money.
Some affiliate marketing programs pay recurring commissions. This is often the case with subscriptions where it’s normal to receive a monthly, recurring commission. This is obviously subject to the client remaining a subscriber.
In some cases, it’s worth spending a bit on advertising in return for a recurring commission. However, we recommend you use a website to drive free organic traffic to to merchants.
4. Is the offer relevant to your target audience?
Avoid promoting programs that seem great but are not really relevant to your target audience. If someone is looking for advice on how to get a mortgage, they don’t want to see a page full of HostGator banners. It makes your site look spammy and damages your credibility.
Many beginners treat the affiliate program they’re promoting as separate from the needs of their customers. This leads to a poor user experience and low conversions.
5. Can you add value to an affiliate marketing program?
Affiliate marketing is not just about referring your visitors to a merchant. As an affiliate, you need to add value. The best way to add value is to provide your visitors with useful, original content. This is especially important if you want your site to rank well in Google.
Your job is not to sell the product. That’s the job of the merchant. However, by promoting it the right way, you’ll be sending warm leads to the merchant that’ll convert better.
Google has shared some helpful search engine optimization tips for affiliate marketers.
Below is a direct quote from Google.
“Our Webmaster Guidelines advise you to create websites with original content that adds value for users. This is particularly important for sites that participate in affiliate programs. Typically, affiliate websites feature product descriptions that appear on sites across that affiliate network.”
“As a result, sites featuring mostly content from affiliate networks can suffer in Google’s search rankings, because they do not have enough added value content that differentiates them from other sites on the web. Added value means additional meaningful content or features.”
If possible, try to promote programs you’ve personally tried and tested and share this experience with your users. For example, assume you’re using SiteGround as your host and you’re also an affiliate. You may mention that your site has never been down and that their support has been excellent.
Before you sign up for an affiliate program, consider what value you can add to your users.
The best affiliate program to join as a beginner is the one that’s right for your target audience. Affiliate marketing isn’t a get rich quick scheme. As an affiliate marketer, you’re looking for a program or network that will provide you with a steady income.
The FTC’s Endorsement Guides
The Federal Trade Commission is there to protect America’s consumers. In order to do so, they have strict guidelines in place that apply to affiliate marketers.
It boils down to the following: If someone recommends a product to you, you’d like to know if that person will benefit if you buy the product. It may change the weight you attach to the recommendation.
Would that person have recommended the product if he or she had nothing to gain from it? Perhaps he or she would have recommended something else instead?
This is where the FTC feels there’s a need to protect consumers by helping them to make informed decisions.
The FTC has nothing against affiliate marketing but they do expect affiliate marketers to disclose their relationship with the merchant.
According to the FTC: “If you disclose your relationship to the retailer clearly and conspicuously on your site, readers can decide how much weight to give your endorsement.”
They expect you to use clear wording, such as: “I get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.”
This is how Michelle Schroeder-Gardner of MakingCentsOfCents.com does it on her blog:
DISCLOSURE: THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS, MEANING I GET A COMMISSION IF YOU DECIDE TO MAKE A PURCHASE THROUGH MY LINKS, AT NO COST TO YOU.
Note that disclosing your relationship with a merchant doesn’t only apply to your website or blog. It also applies to social media. Always make sure you comply with the FTC’s requirements, as there are penalties involved for not doing so.
When to Consider More Advanced Programs
The affiliate programs mentioned in this article are, in our opinion, some of the best affiliate programs for beginners. They can help you to make money online from affiliate marketing within a relatively short period of time.
The problem with many affiliate marketing programs is competition from other affiliates. This applies to some of the best affiliate programs out there. Finding more advanced affiliate marketing programs won’t necessarily help you to make more money, just because they happen to be better than others.
However, more advanced programs can help you make more money online because there are fewer affiliates that are promoting it. They have higher entry barriers, so you have less competition to worry about.
Some affiliate programs are very selective about who they allow to join their affiliate program. They prefer quality over quantity. They look at things from a different perspective, for example:
Option A: 100 affiliates that specialize in the same niche and have high traffic websites.
Option B: 10,000 affiliates that occasionally post on Facebook for a general audience.
They’ll choose Option A every single time over Option B. By not allowing everyone into their affiliate program, they can make it more exclusive and attractive to selected affiliates.
There are two main ways you can get accepted into more advanced affiliate programs:
1. Build a high quality niche website that gets a lot of traffic.
2. Post great content on your niche website that’s directly related to the affiliate program you’d like to promote.
The second way is a great option if you don’t meet their requirements for the number of monthly visitors you get. You may still be accepted based on the quality and relevance of your content.
Note: Many website visitors will only visit your website once. Companies like ActiveCampaign or ConvertKit can help you get started with email marketing. It’s one way of getting more traffic to your site as you can invite past visitors to look at new, helpful content. All you need is to capture a visitor’s email address to get started.
In this article, we’ve looked at some of the best affiliate programs for beginners. After this article, we trust you’ll feel more comfortable choosing a great affiliate program. Affiliate marketing can be a good way to make money if you choose the right program and products to promote.
In order to be successful, you have to make sure you add value to the affiliate program you’re promoting. Provide high quality content to your visitors that will help them to make informed decisions. Only promote an affiliate program if you believe it’s right for your target audience.
We covered a lot of ground in this article, but we’re still just scratching the surface of choosing affiliate programs. If you’re new to affiliate marketing, you likely have additional questions. Book a coaching call with one of our experts now and let’s explore how we can help you succeed!