The Best Affiliate Programs for Beginners (2020)

If you’re just getting started with affiliate marketing, you may be wondering about the best affiliate programs for beginners.

Finding the right affiliate programs to join is one of the most challenging tasks for new affiliate marketers. With thousands of options to choose from, you may be stumped about where to start. Your success depends so much on the products you promote so it’s important to take the time to thoroughly research your options. That way, you can choose the right programs, make your first affiliate sale quickly, and set yourself up for success from the start.

In this post, you’ll learn about the key factors to consider when choosing an affiliate program to promote. Then you’ll get a breakdown of the best affiliate programs to join as a beginner based on the most important criteria for success. Let’s get started.  

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links as explained in my disclosure policy.

List of the best affiliate programs for beginners

What is an affiliate program?

Let’s define what an affiliate program is to make sure we’re on the same page. An affiliate program is an automated digital program that allows businesses to connect with individuals or other businesses that can promote their products. 

Companies create affiliate programs to drive sales. It allows them to expand their reach without spending more money on advertising, a costly expense that sometimes doesn’t yield a good ROI. Instead, those companies deploy an army of people to promote their products. They share a percentage of the revenue with those who make a sale. It’s a win-win for both parties – the company generates revenue and the affiliate earns income. 

Affiliate networks vs individual affiliate programs

To find affiliate products to promote, there are two types of places to look:

  • Individual affiliate programs
  • Affiliate networks 

These two terms are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same. What’s the difference? An affiliate program is managed by the company that sells the product, known as a merchant. For instance, online courses always have affiliate programs that are run by their creators. Airbnb has its own affiliate program that’s managed by the sales team. On the other hand, an affiliate network typically houses hundreds or thousands of merchants. ShareASale is one of the biggest affiliate networks, with 3,900 merchants across multiple categories.

Let’s say you’re building a blog about interior design and want to promote affiliate products like furniture, paintings, lamps, and shelves. You could join ShareASale and get access to hundreds of home improvement brands. However, you may find that there’s a specific shelf you love that’s only carried at Target. That means you would have to sign up for Target’s affiliate program to get a unique link to promote that shelf.

As a new affiliate marketer, you’ll likely need to join both affiliate networks and individual affiliate programs. It comes down to your niche and the specific products you want to promote. Start with your audience in mind. What problems do they have? What products can you recommend to help them solve those problems? You may already have a list of products you want to promote. The next step would be to determine whether the product is housed within an individual affiliate program or an affiliate network.

What should you look for in an affiliate program?

Before you join an affiliate program, there are some of the most important factors to consider:

1. Ease of joining

It’s disheartening to apply for an affiliate program and get a message saying that you’ve been denied. That’s happened to me a few times, and it’s completely normal for beginners.

Some affiliate programs have strict requirements for admissions, such as website traffic, brand alignment, and promotional plans. For instance, Airbnb requires 100,000 monthly page views to qualify for its affiliate program. Other programs require you to give a detailed description of the  channels and strategies you’ll use to promote the product.

When you’re just starting with affiliate marketing, you want to make your life a bit easier by choosing programs that are relatively easy to join. That way, you have a higher chance of getting accepted.

2. Ease of use

As you join affiliate programs, you’ll have to familiarize yourself with the user interface and affiliate dashboard for each program. They range from smooth sailing to absolute nightmare. Save yourself the trouble and pick affiliate programs that are user-friendly so you can navigate the interface with ease.

You want to find products,  get your links and banners, and check your earnings without feeling like you’re performing brain surgery. Luckily, most affiliate networks are designed to be user-friendly because when you make money, they make money. You’re more likely to encounter problems with individual affiliate programs. Some companies, for whatever reason, don’t put much effort into making their affiliate programs user friendly.

3. Commission structure

You decided to become an affiliate marketer to make money. While the commission rates for products aren’t the only thing to consider, they do matter. You want to be rewarded for your efforts. There are two types of commission structures: a flat rate or a percentage of the sale. Most affiliate programs pay you a percentage for every sale that falls between 3-40%. Others pay you a flat fee for every sale.

When I first started affiliate marketing, I didn’t pay much attention to commissions. I just wanted to get my feet wet. However, I think that to grow your affiliate income faster, it’s important to keep commission rates in mind from the beginning. 

You may want to create a criteria for yourself for the amount of money you want to earn from every product you promote. For instance, you may decide that you want to earn at least $20 per sale and only focus on products that earn you that much. Or you may decide that you only want to promote programs that pay at least 10% commission. It depends on your particular income goals and how quickly you want to scale your affiliate income. 

4. Support for affiliates

You’re going to have questions along the way about everything from payments to promotional materials. That’s why it’s important to choose affiliate programs that has a robust support system for affiliates. Most large affiliate programs have dedicated affiliate managers. These points of contact correspond with affiliates to make sure they have a good experience. When joining any affiliate program, check to see what type of support is available for affiliates. 

5. Payment terms

Every affiliate program has its own payment structure and terms. In addition to the commission structure, you also want to know:

The cookie period

When someone clicks on your link, they’re assigned a cookie that tracks their buying behavior. Every cookie has a duration, such as 24 hours, 30 days, 90 days, or 365 days. If the person makes a purchase within the cookie period, you earn a commission. If they make a purchase outside the cookie period, you don’t get the commission. The longer the cookie period, the more time 

Frequency of payments

Affiliate programs typically pay every 30 days, 60 days, or 90 days after you make a sale. Other programs have an earnings threshold you have to hit before you can get paid. This makes a difference in how you can plan your expenses, such as bills, so it’s important to know this information. 

Payment threshold 

Most affiliate programs a minimum amount of affiliate income you must earn before you get paid. For some it’s as low as $10 while for others $100 or more.

How do affiliate networks and affiliate programs work?

When you sign up for an individual affiliate program, you create an affiliate account. This gives you access to your own affiliate dashboard. You’ll be asked to provide a payment method, usually Paypal or deposit. Within your account, there’s usually a section that displays information like your sales summary, your affiliate link, and your commission rate. All your sales will be tracked in your account. Affiliate programs may also alert you when you make a sale. 

Affiliate networks function a bit differently. When you sign up, you will be taken to a marketplace of different affiliate programs or merchants. From there, you can apply to join individual programs. Once you’re accepted to programs, you’ll see a summary page that shows all the programs of which you’re an affiliate and the total sales you’ve earned.

The Best Affiliate Programs for Beginners 

Amazon Associates

  • Website: Amazon Associates
  • Commission rates: 1-10%
  • Cookie period: 24 hours 
  • Time of payment: 60 days
  • Payment threshold: $10

You probably shop on Amazon.

Your friends shop on Amazon..

Just about everyone shops on Amazon.

With about 200 million monthly customers, Amazon is the largest ecommerce website in the world. It’s no wonder Amazon Associates is the largest affiliate network in the world. 

You can find every possible product you can think of on Amazon. Also, because people use and trust Amazon, products on the site are an easy sell. That’s what makes Amazon Associates such a great affiliate program for beginners.  

Amazon Associates is easy to sign up for and use. You can create an affiliate link for any of the millions of products on Amazon and promote it to your audience. The downside is the commissions are among the lowest of the major affiliate networks. That means that you need to sell a large volume of products to make a sizable income. This can also work to your advantage because someone may click on your link to buy one thing and end up buying a bunch of other items. In that case, you would earn a commission for everything that person purchased because your link referred them to Amazon. 

Amazon Associates has a tier system for affiliate commissions, which depends on the type of product someone purchases through your link. For instance, there is a 1% commission for video games and game consoles and a 4% commission for Amazon Kindle and tablets. On the other hand, the commission for furniture, gardening, and home improvement items is 8%. Depending on your niche, you can be strategic about promoting products have higher commissions. 

Fiverr Affiliates 

  • Website: Fiverr Affiliates
  • Commission rates: $15-$50 per sale or $10 per sale + 10% revenue share
  • Cookie period: 365 days 
  • Time of payment: 30 days 
  • Minimum payment threshold: $100

Fiverr is one of the most popular sites to hire freelancers. It also has a great affiliate program to promote its services. Note that this is different from the Fiverr referral program, which gives you credit to use on Fiverr services. If you’ve used Fiverr and had a good experience, you can promote the site and earn up to $50 for Fiverr services and $150 for Fiverr Pro referrals.

Fiverr offers two commission options: Fiverr CPA and Fiverr Hybrid. Fiverr CPA pays you $15-$50 for a first-time purchase depending on the order value of the purchase. This option is best if you believe your audience is interested in one specific Fiverr service and won’t be returning customers. The Fiverr Hybrid option pays you a $10 commission for a first-time purchase plus a 10% revenue share for every purchase the user makes for 12 months.  This option allows you to promote different Fiverr services and earn recurring commissions. It’s best suited for those whose audience will likely use Fiverr over and over.

ShareASale

  • Website: ShareASale
  • Commission rates: Up to 50%
  • Cookie period: Varies by merchant
  • Time of payment: 30 days 
  • Minimum payment threshold: $50

ShareASale is an affiliate network with over 3,900 affiliate programs. It is home to companies in every industry from travel to beauty. Whether you’re new to affiliate marketing or advanced, you’ll find tons of products to promote on this network. ShareASale is one of my favorite networks because of how user friendly it is and the sheer number of products you can promote. 

Commission Junction 

  • Website: Commission Junction
  • Commission rates: Up to 30%
  • Cookie period: Varies by merchant
  • Time of payment: 60 days 
  • Minimum payment threshold: $50

Founded in 2002, Commission Junction, also known as CJ Affiliate, is one of the oldest affiliate networks. It’s also one of networks on the market, with over 2,000 affiliate programs. This network pays out $1.8 billion in annual commissions. This is one of the first affiliate networks I joined when I started affiliate marketing two years ago. I would say that ShareASale is a better platform for a new affiliate marketer. The user interface is easier to navigate.

Flex Offers

  • Website: Flex Offers
  • Commission rates: Varies
  • Cookie period: Varies by merchant
  • Time of payment: 60 days 
  • Minimum payment threshold: $25

Flex Offers is an affiliate network that houses 12,000 affiliate programs. What sets this network apart is the robust reporting for publishers, another word for affiliates. You can sort through campaigns, product types, categories to get a deep understanding of your sales performance. Flex Offers also hosts many pay per click programs. That means that you earn a commission for simply referring traffic to merchants. The visitors don’t need to buy anything. 

ClickBank

  • Website: ClickBank
  • Commission rates: Up to 90%
  • Cookie period: Varies by merchant 
  • Time of payment: 60 days
  • Minimum payment threshold: $50

ClickBank is one of the original affiliate networks, having been around since 1998. The user-interface is rather dated compared to other affiliate networks. However, ClickBank is home to one of the biggest selections of digital products in the marketplace. If you’re looking to promote products like online courses, ebooks, and digital software, you’ll find thousands of them on ClickBank. Another unique thing about ClickBank is that it allows you to promote upsell offers, which increases your affiliate earnings. 

While I think ClickBank is a good affiliate network to join as a beginner, I personally don’t use it anymore. The interface just gives me a headache. That said, the great variety of products and  reliable customer service make it a good place to begin.

Awin

  • Website: Awin 
  • Commission rates: Varies
  • Cookie period: 30 days
  • Time of payment: 30 days
  • Minimum payment threshold: $20

Awin is a global affiliate network with over 8,000 merchants. It focuses on connecting businesses in the retail, travel, telecommunications, finance verticals with publishers. There are over 15,000 merchants on Awin, including Vodafone, Travelodge, Misguided, and ASOS. 

One of the best things about Awin is the modern, sleek user interface. It’s a stark contrast to the likes of Clickbank. Founded in 2000, Awin is a fast-growing affiliate network, with almost 300 new publishers signing up everyday.

Impact Radius 

  • Website: Impact Radius
  • Commission rates: Varies
  • Cookie period: Varies by merchant
  • Time of payment:  30 days 
  • Minimum payment threshold: select your own payment threshold ranging $25 to $5,000

Impact Radius is another relatively new affiliate program that is gaining ground. Founded in 2008, the network has 1,000 merchants, including Adidas, L’Oreal, Airbnb, Lenovo, and Canva. The user interface is one of the best I’ve seen. It’s both aesthetically pleasing and easy to navigate. One thing that stands out about Impact Radius is that it lets you choose your own payment threshold, starting at $25.  

Want to learn more about how to choose the perfect affiliate programs? Here are some additional resources I would recommend:

Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing 

Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing is the best affiliate marketing course I’ve taken is by Michelle Schroeder Gardner, a personal finance blogger who makes over $50,000 per month as an affiliate. Michelle explains the ins and outs of affiliate marketing, from the legal aspects to the best strategies to drive conversions. This is a text-based course that comes with workbooks and actionable steps to implement what you’ve learned. 

Pin To Profits – Affiliate Marketing

Pin to Profits – Affiliate Marketing is a step-by-step guide to making money with affiliate marketing on Pinterest. It is taught by mom blogger and Pinterest expert McKinzie Bean. This video-based course walks you through the process of creating and posting affiliate pins on Pinterest to generate commissions. It covers topics such as how to create click-worthy affiliate pins, what boards to post your pins to, and what types of products do well on Pinterest.

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