Keys to a Stellar Affiliate Program

by Brook Lenox on February 18, 2009


I am both an affiliate and affiliate manager.  Playing these two very different roles, gives me a sense of what affiliates look for when evaluating programs.  Unfortunately, many affiliate programs are just average when it comes to helping their affiliates be successful. For the sake of this post, I’m puttin on my affiliate hat.


Here are some elements I find in stellar affiliate programs.

The Bottom Line

It’s so basic.  Can I make money with your program?  Will the time I put into it reap rewards? An affiliate manager should put themself in the affiliate’s shoes and run the numbers before they launch a program.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • What can I afford to pay my affiliates?
  • Will they earn enough per click to make it worth their while?
  • Is there a competitor’s affiliate program that they’ll make more money promoting?
  • If I were an affiliate, could I make money promoting this product/service?

Here are some quick numbers comparing two fictitious programs:










These are not real companies or numbers, but any good affiliate will be running various scenarios and any good affiliate manager should as well.

Many companies share earnings per click via Commission Junction, but I prefer to talk to the affiliate manager directly about my plans and ask them what types of conversion rates I might expect.  I look to run tests with companies that will share data with me on the front end.

Account Management

There are two main things I look for in an affiliate manager. 

  1. Extreme helpfulness – I want answers quickly. I want someone who goes the extra mile. I’m spending my time and money promoting their product.  If they don’t give me quick, helpful answers, then there are others out there that will.
  2. More than just pat answers – An account manager doesn’t have to have all the answers, but it sure makes a difference when they understand their business AND affiliate marketing.  I like an exchange of information.  If I’ve got 5 ideas on how to promote their product, I want honest, knowledgeable feedback that will save me valuable time and help me get to profitability with their program as soon as possible. 

Tools tools

I could write a VERY long post about tools, but don’t have time for that now.  I will say that tools are very important for affiliates.  Let  me give two examples.

Campaign Tools – If I want to create links to the 25 different categories in your website and I end up having to do this by hand, that’s a waste of my time.  A data feed or a link building tool is what I need.

Reporting – Reporting is so key when it comes to working with an affiliate program.  For example, if I promote a program like Shoe World above using 100 keywords, I need to be able to know exactly which keywords drove sales and which did not.   Otherwise I’m spending money with no connection to where I’m making it.  Even big programs, like iTunes, don’t always offer that level of tracking.  I find that unacceptable.

So there you have it.  A few of the common strengths that I find in the affiliate programs I eagerly promote.

So who are some of those programs?  My two favorites in this regards are StubHub and HomeGain.

Perhaps I’ll get to writing about these 2 programs more later. 

Are there any programs out there you find exceptional?

Are there any keys to great affiliate programs you think I’ve missed?