Affiliate marketing is one of the best ways to cultivate an income stream online. It synergizes beautifully if you have any digital assets, like a blog that drives tons of traffic or a large social media following. High-paying affiliate programs help you build especially profitable partnerships with companies. Most importantly, you'll get exclusive deals for your audience!
If you're interested in adding affiliate marketing to your arsenal of income streams, stick around. We're explaining what it is, how you can do it, and our list of high-paying affiliate programs.
In short, an affiliate program is an agreement in which a business pays another business or affiliate (you) a commission for driving traffic or sales to their company.
Still don't get it? Well, let's dive into the nuts and bolts.
When researching affiliate programs, you'll stumble across terms like "cookie length" or "cookie life." The cookie's lifespan defines how long the cookie will track your audience's online activity. That means if a cookie's life is 30 days, your referral must purchase within 30 days of clicking your affiliate link. If they do, you receive a commission for the sale. After 30 days, the lead won't be trackable via your affiliate link, and you will not receive a commission.
If you read the previous section, you may have thought, "Wow, affiliate marketing sounds like a lot. Is all that worth it?" However, the answer to this question depends on the individual.
Making money with affiliate marketing is relatively straightforward. But not everybody would enjoy the process. Here's what you'll focus on a lot as an affiliate marketer:
Content, content, content, and more content.
That means you'll likely spend much of your time writing. Likewise, if you have a YouTube channel, you'll probably spend much time video shooting and editing.
In the beginning, it may feel like you're writing to nobody. It takes a lot of time to leverage an audience, and for affiliate marketing, an engaged audience is everything. And guess what attracts an engaged audience? Valuable content.
So, if keyword research, content promotion, and tons of writing don't sound enjoyable to you, affiliate marketing might be a poor fit.
For one, it's the cost barrier — or lack thereof. If you're worried you won't find any free affiliate programs, you're in luck. For most companies, it's free to sign up to become an affiliate partner.
Also, affiliate marketing allows you to cultivate a semi-passive income. An affiliate link you plugged in a blog post one year ago might be paying you commission for years to come.
So, if you enjoy the idea of a zero cost barrier, semi-passive income, and becoming your own boss, then affiliate marketing is worth it.
If you're convinced that affiliate marketing might be the right move for you, you're probably wondering how to get started. Luckily, pulling on your affiliate marketing boots is a straightforward process. And it started with getting approved.
There are generally two ways of becoming an affiliate:
Self-hosted programs just mean that the company manages its own affiliate program with its software tools. For affiliate networks, think of it as a marketplace. Affiliate networks act as third parties that operate a company's affiliate program. Affiliate networks also help connect those companies with affiliate partners through their platform.
Be sure to research the company's affiliate program procedures. It will clarify what steps you need to take. For example, Bluehost manages its affiliate program in-house. Nordstrom, in contrast, uses Rakuten to manage their affiliates program.
One is not necessarily better than the other. Although affiliate networks make it easy for affiliates to search for companies within their niche that offer partnerships.
As for getting approved, many affiliate partners receive automatic approvals. But some companies may have stricter requirements.
Getting approved to become an affiliate partner is just the first step. You still need to send leads to the company via your affiliate link to make a commission. You could become an affiliate marketer for a company that pays you a whopping 90% commission. But if you don't send any leads, your total profit is still zero dollars.
To drive more leads, you can use marketing tactics, like:
How you get paid also depends on the individual company. Some companies may require you to reach a certain commission threshold before you can cash out. For example, if you made $57 in commissions, but the company's threshold is $100, you can't withdraw your earnings until you reach $100 in commissions.
Also, the payment method may differ. The vast majority of companies will pay you through PayPal. But there are some cases where a company may pay you through direct deposit or a standard check.
You'll also want to be mindful of payment timing. If you're seeking affiliate programs that pay daily, you're out of luck. Many companies will pay their affiliates monthly, so keep this in mind.
Now that we've explored the nuts and bolts of affiliate marketing, what should you look for in an affiliate program? The best affiliate programs for beginners and experts alike will depend on how each company fulfills the following sections:
The commission rate is the percentage of a sale paid to the affiliate for referring a new customer. This rate can range from single digits to even 50% or higher. Obviously, the higher the commission rate, the more attractive the affiliate program. But you'll also want to look at whether the commission is one-time or recurring.
For example, many email marketing programs charge a monthly subscription fee. As an affiliate marketer, do you make a one-time 50% commission for just referring the customer? Or will you earn a 10% commission for each month that customer stays subscribed to the company?
For some industries and specific companies, it may be preferable to make a larger one-time commission. In other instances, a recurring income will pay you more over the long-term.
The AOV is the average dollar amount spent each time a customer completes an order. You can calculate the AOV by dividing your total revenue by the number of orders. For example, let's say you're an affiliate partner for a clothing company. Last month, you made $300 in commissions. If you referred 30 orders, then your AOV for the previous month is $10. Higher AOVs translates into higher commissions for you.
Do you earn income for each click that sends a member of your audience to the company's website? If so, how much you get paid is your earnings per click or EPC.
Cookie duration is critical for affiliate marketing. A cookie stays on the user's computer when they click your affiliate link, and it's how a company tracks which sales you send their way. The cookie duration, or cookie life, is how long it stays on the user's computer.
For example, a 30-day cookie life means if a user clicks your affiliate link and makes a purchase within 30 days, you will receive a commission for that sale. Many companies offer 30-day cookies, but the cookie's life extends to 45, 60, or even 120 days.
Smaller programs often have affiliate managers that you can work with. There are several benefits to working with an affiliate manager. For example, a hands-on affiliate manager may help you brainstorm content ideas that will help you drive more traffic through your affiliate link.
Working one-on-one with the affiliate manager also leaves room for you to negotiate your commission rate. Your commission rate isn't locked in forever. If you develop a fruitful business relationship, you can negotiate a higher commission.
The bottom line? As an affiliate partner, aim for:
There are many companies out there that offer affiliate programs, but which ones are the best affiliate programs to make money?
Fortunately, you don't have to spend hours scouring the internet. Here are some of our recommendations for the highest paying affiliate niches and affiliate programs to kickstart your research.
Commission: $65.00 for every qualified hosting purchase
Cookie Life: 45 days
Bluehost is a famous web hosting company owned by Endurance International Group. According to their website, Bluehost powers over 2 million websites worldwide. Click here to sign up for the Bluehost affiliate program.
Commission: You will receive a 60% for all the hosting packages. No commission pays out for the one-month hosting plans or purchase of domain names.
Cookie Life: 30 days. However, if a previous affiliate's cookie already hit the same user's browser, it will be overwritten with the new cookie.
Hostinger has grown significantly since its bootstrapping in 2004. Today, it serves 29 million users in 178 countries, averaging 15,000 new sign-ups daily. Hostinger will also assign you a personal affiliate account manager. Click here to sign up for the Hostinger affiliate program.
Commission: Clouudways follows "four performance-based slabs and corresponding commissions:"
Cloudways also offers a hybrid model with a recurring commissions structure at $30 upfront and 7% lifetime commissions.
Cookie Life: 90 days
Cloudways offers flexible hosting plans. Their goal is to help businesses empower their teams and achieve their potential. Click here to sign up for the Cloudways affiliate program.
Commission: Starting at $65 per sign-up. Like Cloudways, Hostgator offers a progressive tiered payout:
Cookie Life: 60 days
Based in Houston, Hostgator is a virtual private server and dedicated web host. Hostgator is famous for its low prices, starting at $2.75 per month. That's what makes this host attractive for startups with limited budgets. Click here to sign up for the HostGator affiliate program.
Commission: Starting at $50. Greengeeks pays you based on the number of sign-ups per month, as follows:
Cookie Life: Not specified
If you're seeking a speedy and secure website host that is also eco-friendly, GreenGeeks is your best bet. Since their launch in 2008, their servers deliver top-notch quality while returning three times they "consume into the grid in the form of renewable energy." GreenGeeks offers WordPress hosting, starting at $2.95. Click here to sign up for the GreenGeeks affiliate program.
Commission: $200 minimum for WP Engine hosting plans or equal to the first month's payment. They share an example, "Startup plan at $30/mo would earn you $200 in commission, but with a Scale plan referral at $290/mo, you would earn $290 in commission."
35% commission for StudioPress theme purchases.
Cookie Life: 180 days for WP Engine hosting referrals / 60 days for StudioPress themes
WP Engine, as their name suggests, offers WordPress hosting rooted in four pillars. They include agility, performance, intelligence, and integrations. With WP Engine, you enjoy quick setup, low-stress launches, and ongoing support. You even receive Premium WordPress themes and Genesis framework when signing up. Please note that you must join the ShareASale affiliate network before you can apply to WP Engine's affiliate program. Click here to learn more about signing up for the WP Engine affiliate program.
Commission: 150% of the monthly hosting cost with a $150 minimum
Cookie Life: 90 days
Liquid Web markets their company as a leader in managed hosting solutions for "mission-critical sites and apps." This company serves over 45,000 customers across 150 countries and employs over 500 hosting professionals on-site. Click here to sign up for the Liquid Web affiliate program.
Commission: $100 per Premium user
Cookie Life: 30 days
Wix has gained a lot of popularity in recent years with its cloud-based web development services. Wix allows its users to create stunning websites that are also mobile-friendly with their convenient drag-and-drop website builder tools. Click here to sign up for the Wix affiliate program.
Commission: $15-50 for Fiverr CPA, $10 CPA + 10% RevShare for Fiverr Hybrid, or 30% of every Fiverr Learn course order or AND.CO Pro plan
Cookie Life: 12 months
Fiverr is an online marketplace where companies can connect with freelancers. If you're seeking any freelance service, whether it's copywriting or design work, you're sure to find a freelancer on Fiverr. Click here to sign up for the Fiverr affiliate program.
Commission: 200% of the customer's first monthly payment or $1,500 per enterprise customer.
Cookie Life: 90 days
Big-Commerce is a technology company that provides a software as a service (SaaS) e-commerce platform. Founded in 2009, BigCommerce now employs over 600 employees. Users love the customer groups and segmentation, search engine optimization, and web hosting services. This company assigns you a dedicated account manager and has also paid out over $1.5 million in commissions from 2019 alone. Click here to sign up for the BigCommerce affiliate program.
Commission: 20% (recurring) of the merchant's monthly subscription fee for Shopify Lite, Shopify Basic, Shopify, and Advanced Shopify.
Cookie Life: 30 days
Shopify is a Canadian e-commerce company headquartered in Ottawa, Ontario. It is one of the best places to house your online business and is widely known for its retail point-of-sale systems. Shopify's single internal dashboard makes it convenient for managing and shipping your orders and tracking payments. Click here to sign up for the Shopify affiliate program.
Commission: $5 per free trial signup + $55 per per sale
Cookie Life: 120 days
Freshbooks is cloud accounting software made easy. Their services are all web-based, which makes it convenient to manage your business accounting operations on-the-go. As an affiliate partner, you gain access to in-house affiliate management and support. You also benefit from their long cookie life — a whopping 120 days. Click here to sign up for the Freshbooks affiliate program.
Commission: Up to 10%
Cookie Life: 90 days
Quickbooks is a competitor to Freshbooks and also offers fantastic online accounting software. This company serves 7 million customers globally and targets small and medium-sized businesses. Click here to sign up for the Quickbooks affiliate program.
Commission: 8% commission for new customers / 3% commission for return customers
Cookie Life: 7 days
Bodybuilding.com aims to level up your health, nutrition, and fitness routine to help you sculpt the body you want. With 35 million visitors, Bodybuilding.com is one of the world's largest online fitness stores. Click here to sign up for the Bodybuilding.com affiliate program.
Commission: Starting at 3%
Cookie Life: 30 days
Chances are, you've seen a Bowflex commercial. Bowflex offers innovative workout equipment, like their TreadClimber® cardio machines. This company is helping people change their lives, starting with their physical fitness. Click here to sign up for the Bowflex affiliate program.
Lynn with Lynnneville also has shared her highest paying affiliate programs list within the health and wellness niche. She recommends you join Awin, an affiliate network. It allows you to participate in profitable affiliate programs like:
Commission: Up to 5% per item
Cookie Life: 14 days
From brands like Ted Baker London to Topshop, Nordstrom is a higher-end department store that makes it perfect for affiliates within the retail niche. Nordstrom has partnered with Rakuten to manage its affiliate program. If you want to partner with Nordstrom, you'll first need to sign up for Rakuten. Click here to sign up for the Nordstrom affiliate program.
Commission: Starting at 5%
Cookie Life: 30 days
ModCloth has gained incredible success as an American online retailer. They specialize in indie and vintage-inspired women's clothing. If ModCloth fits your style and your audience's tastes, ModCloth might be a perfect fit for you. Click here to sign up for the ModCloth affiliate program.
Cookie Life: 60 days
Founded in Los Angeles, BH Cosmetics has carved its own space within the incredibly saturated makeup industry. Their brand embraces affordability, inclusivity, and quality. If you're interested in working with a makeup brand that sells cruelty-free and vegan formulas, then BH Cosmetics will make it on your radar. Click here to sign up for the BH Cosmetics affiliate program.
Commission: Up to 7.2%
Cookie Life: Session
For nearly any woman, Sephora is a household name. This company is one of the largest makeup retailers and offers various cosmetic and skincare products, ranging from all price points. Their affiliate partners gain additional benefits. They include exclusive product sneak peeks and affiliate-only special offers and promotions. Click here to sign up for the Sephora affiliate program.
Commission: Up to 5%
Cookie Life: Unspecified
Fanatical's mission is to help gamers find popular game names at affordable prices. With their selection of over 7,000 officially licensed digital games, their customers are sure to find something within their interest and price point. Fanatical has also partnered with popular gaming brands, including PC Gamer, IGN, and Razer. Click here to sign up for the Fanatical affiliate program.
Commission: 5% of purchases that originate from their channel pages
Cookie Life: Session
Think of Twitch as the YouTube of the gaming community. Twitch is a platform where millions of people interact about all things gaming. Twitch is a little unique with their affiliate program. You must be a Twitch streamer that meets the following criteria:
Cookie Life: 90 days
If you want to create and sell courses online, Teachable is the platform for you. Teachable handles web hosting and payment processing. That means you can create beautiful online courses and charge for them all in one place. Teachable is excellent for entrepreneurs who want to package their knowledge and monetize it. Click here to sign up for the Teachable affiliate program.
Commission: Between 20% – 45% on eligible purchases
Cookie Life: 30 days
Coursera's vision is to provide the best learning experience for anyone anywhere around the world. Coursera's courses offer hundreds of free classes taught by top instructors. With this platform, you gain access to their engaged community, on-demand video lectures, and homework exercises. Click here to sign up for the Coursera affiliate program.
Commission: $10 per referral
Cookie Life: 30 days
Skillshare is an online learning community that connects teachers with learners. You can learn nearly any topic you can think of on Skillshare — from design and photography to email marketing and point-of-sale systems. With over 27,000 online classes, Skillshare has built an amazingly diverse and engaged community. Click here to sign up for the Skillshare affiliate program.
Amazon is offering affiliate marketing opportunities through the Amazon affiliate program. Registering to become one of their Amazon Associates is entirely free, but you will need to have a website. Amazon affiliate earnings can range from $100 to $25,000 in a given month.
The range is significant because the amount you make depends on your niche and the following factors:
There are two primary benefits of joining the Amazon affiliate program. First, you'll gain access to a widely used and trusted company. When promoting products on Amazon, you don't have to build your audience's trust in their service. Also, most consumers already trust Amazon and feel comfortable shopping on their platform.
Second, another advantage of becoming an Amazon associate is that it applies to any niche. Whether you're in the tech, fashion, or gardening industry, Amazon likely sells products on its platform that are relevant to your audience.
However, the Amazon affiliate program has its drawbacks. The most glaring con is their recent commission rate cut.
"Rates are being cut for a number of affiliate product categories," reports CNBC. "For example, the affiliate cut from purchases of furniture and home improvement products has fallen from 8% to 3%."
Yet, while not one of the high-paying affiliate programs, the benefits mentioned above make Amazon a viable source of affiliate income.
We're not done just yet. To set you up for success in affiliate marketing, we want to provide you even more tips on how to level up your marketing game.
While it's expected to want to sniff out high-paying affiliate programs, it isn't always the soundest strategy.
Authenticity is critical to your success as an affiliate marketer and for the reputation of your brand. And authenticity demands that you promote only products that you believe in.
Consumers are smart. They can smell artificiality from a mile away. If you're promoting a product that turns out to be subpar, it can severely damage your credibility. And once your credibility tanks, it can be nearly impossible to rebuild that trust in your audience.
Remember this: your audience is your greatest asset.
Nearly every aspect of your brand should cater to delivering value and serving your audience. That means your affiliate partnerships should come from a place of authenticity and quality.
Authenticity and relevance go hand-in-hand. If you build an audience within the email marketing niche, should you be promoting women's vintage clothing to your audience?
Again, this returns to knowing your audience and delivering what they want.
As an email marketer, you can consider promoting products and services, like:
The content you deliver and the brands you promote should align with your brand and your audience. Promoting irrelevant products may attract the wrong audience to your brand and turn away loyal readers.
With every business decision, ask yourself if this truly serves your audience. Going all-in on your audience is crucial. Making commissions from high-paying affiliate programs is great. But it only works if the products are a solid match for your people.
Do you know what else consumers don't like? Pushy salespeople. If you're continually pushing sales in everything you put online, you might turn people away.
Gary Vaynerchuk, the founder of VaynerMedia, broadcasts the power of high-value and FREE content. Content marketing via free content delivers instant value. Furthermore, providing immediate value is what builds your authority and strengthens your relationship with your audience. After you've cultivated this precious bond, you can then consider promoting your affiliate links.
Do it the wrong order — sell before building trust — and you'll fare poorly as an affiliate marketer.
Unlike other business ventures — like drop-shipping or starting an online store — you don't need tons of upfront capital to start affiliate marketing. The vast majority of affiliate programs offer free sign-ups.
The key to successful affiliate marketing is content creation. Again, creating content is entirely free. There are free social media platforms — Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter — that allow you to build an audience. Furthermore, some affiliate programs don't even require you to have your own website.
If you want to make money with no money, build an audience. Grow your audience by offering insane value — all for free. Building an email list will also serve you well over the long-term. Mailchimp offers a free subscription until you reach a certain number of subscribers.
After you build an audience that is large and engaged enough, you can look for ways to monetize your following, like through brand deals and high-paying affiliate programs you might qualify to join.
You'll discover this "business pathway" popular among a lot of young people. This is why you see so many flocking on social media, hoping to become the next top Instagram influencer. Companies partner with influencers to leverage that influencer's audience to increase sales.
We threw a lot at you in this article, we know. It's because we care. There are so many nuances to affiliate marketing that you should be aware of because it can potentially make you rich.
Now, we don't want to make affiliate marketing sound like the tried and true path to financial freedom. It's just one of them. To build wealth, we recommend creating multiple income streams, with affiliate marketing being one of them.
Now it's time to take this knowledge and use it. So, build your business, invest the profits, and with time, you’ll create massive change in your life.
Come to think of it, that’s exactly what we talk about in this free video series. If you’re on the hunt for a simple strategy for becoming rich, we’ve got you covered.