Best Affiliate Programs for Beginners to Make Money

Last updated on October 14, 2021

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Affiliate marketing is the promotion of products and services online by affiliate marketers. Merchants pay affiliates commissions for generating leads and sales. Affiliate marketing is one of the most lucrative, cost-efficient, and satisfying ways to make money online. Also, there are no limits to how much passive income marketers can make. If you’re new to affiliate marketing, I invite you to take my online course.

Publishers (affiliates) want to promote the top affiliate programs because they can yield excellent commissions. It’s as simple as that. Many articles highlight “the best affiliate programs,” but most of them include random and unvetted merchants that won’t lead to robust and consistent earnings. Let’s identify what excellent and profitable affiliate programs have in common.

An Excellent Commission Rate

Advertisers (merchants) that pay low commission rates (or that nickel and dime you) aren’t worth your consideration, for example, Amazon Associates. A commission rate starting at 20 percent is what appeals to me. For fixed commissions, I’m open to experimentation. Note: some industries pay low commission rates because they operate on thin margins.

A Long Cookie Duration

Giving marketers one or a few days to convert traffic is ridiculous and unfair. By contrast, a 30-day conversion period allows prospects to become customers and affiliates to get credit for their promotional efforts. Although thirty-day referral periods are the standard industry practice, a minimum of 90 days should be commonplace.

Robust Affiliate Marketing Software

Affiliate marketing software is the cornerstone of success, and there are good and bad applications. Reliable tracking, user-friendly dashboards, and robust reporting make for excellent user experiences. Activity data—such as impressions, clicks, and conversions—should be available. Applications that omit activity data and reporting make it difficult to track and evaluate performance.

A Top-Rated Merchant/Advertiser

Affiliate marketers can expect commissions when they promote top-rated merchants with excellent and affordable products/services. Merchants must also have high-converting pages and funnels. The absence of those factors will lead to abysmal results for the company and affiliates.

Other Factors

Other affiliate program factors worth considering are earnings per click (EPC), acceptance rate, payment threshold, deep linking functionality, and affiliate support. You’ll also want to partner with merchants/affiliate managers who are intelligent, fair, responsive, and quick to resolve inquiries.

 

Best Affiliate Programs to Make Money

Let’s review some of the best affiliate programs to make money in 2021. With an array of affiliate networks, 30+ standard program categories, tens of thousands of programs, and terms changing daily, it’s impossible to identify every excellent affiliate program. However, you can use this list and these advertisers as benchmarks because they convert well, pay on time, and offer win-win partnerships. You can also explore my other lists for specific niches, including financial, travel, cryptocurrency, and gaming affiliate programs.

Regarding affiliate networks, I recommend and earn money regularly on ShareASale, Impact, FlexOffers, and CJ Affiliate. I’ll cover them and other established affiliate networks at the end.

Marketing Affiliate Programs

GetResponse

GetResponse is an all-in-one digital marketing platform, offering email marketing, landing pages, conversion funnels, webinar hosting, opt-in forms, web push notifications, and other marketing automation tools. Learn more and join the GetResponse affiliate program.

  • Commission rate: 33%/$100
  • Cookie duration: 120 days
  • Affiliate software/network: In-house and CJ Affiliate

ShareASale

ShareASale is a leading affiliate network with the tools and technology to support advertisers and publishers. It pays $150 for qualifying merchant signups and $30 for qualifying affiliate signups. Learn more and join the ShareASale affiliate program.

  • Commission rate: Up to $150
  • Cookie duration: 60 days
  • Affiliate software/network: ShareASale

TubeBuddy

TubeBuddy is the #1 YouTube tool and browser extension for channel management, keyword and tag research, video SEO, competitor insights, bulk processing, marketing, and more. Learn more and join the TubeBuddy affiliate program.

  • Commission rate: Up to 50%
  • Cookie duration: Lifetime
  • Affiliate software/network: In-house

VidIQ

VidIQ helps YouTubers and marketers grow their presence and brand on YouTube with a suite of tools for keyword research, SEO, analytics, and more. Learn more and join the VidIQ affiliate program.

  • Commission rate: Up to 25%
  • Cookie duration: 30 days
  • Affiliate software/network: LeadDyno

Ecommerce Affiliate Programs

Shopify

Shopify provides everything you need to sell online, on social media, and in person. Create your store, manage products, accept payments, ship, and integrate with other apps. Learn more and join the Shopify affiliate program.

  • Commission rate: 200%
  • Cookie duration: 30 days
  • Affiliate software/network: In-house

Debutify

Debutify is a top-rated, user-friendly, and high-converting free Shopify theme with 25+ premium add-ons to increase your e-commerce sales. Learn more and join the Debutify affiliate program.

  • Commission rate: Up to 60%
  • Cookie duration: Up to 180 days
  • Affiliate software/network: ShareASale, Impact, and LinkMink

BigCommerce

BigCommerce is an ecommerce platform that creates customized online stores with built-in features, such as marketing tools, analytics, and hundreds of integrated apps. Learn more and join the BigCommerce affiliate program.

  • Commission rate: Up to $1,500
  • Cookie duration: 30 days
  • Affiliate software/network: Impact

Square

Square helps millions of sellers run their businesses by providing payment, POS, invoice, scheduling, and payroll solutions. Learn more and join the Square affiliate program.

  • Commission rate: Up $202
  • Cookie duration: 45 days
  • Affiliate software/network: Impact

Education Affiliate Programs

Coursera

Coursera offers online courses through partnerships with hundreds of top-ranked universities, including Stanford and Columbia. Learners can take courses, specializations, and degrees. Learn more and join the Coursera affiliate program.

  • Commission rate: Up to 45%
  • Cookie duration: 30 days
  • Affiliate software/network: Rakuten Advertising

Pluralsight

Pluralsight offers extensive online developer, creative, and IT courses that are taught by industry experts. It offers 6,000+ courses to businesses and individuals. Learn more and join the Pluralsight affiliate program.

  • Commission rate: Up to 75%
  • Cookie duration: 30 days
  • Affiliate software/network: Impact

Financial Affiliate Programs

M1 Finance

M1 Finance offers a unique combination of automated investing with a high customization level, allowing clients to create portfolios tailored to their exact needs. Learn more and join the M1 Finance affiliate program.

  • CPA: Pay per transaction
  • Commission rate: $100
  • Cookie duration: 30 days
  • Affiliate software/network: Impact

Paxful

Paxful is a top exchange for buying Bitcoin and Tether. Users can also become vendors and accept payments. As a leading P2P bitcoin marketplace, it supports 350+ payment methods. Learn more and join the Paxful affiliate program.

  • CPA: Cost per transaction
  • Commission rate: 50%
  • Payment type: Cryptocurrency
  • Affiliate software/network: In-house

Questrade

Questrade is an established Canadian online brokerage that provides low-cost solutions for self-directed investors, active traders, and managed clients. Learn more and join the Questrade affiliate program.

  • Commission rate: $70 one-time or 7.5% recurring
  • Cookie duration: 60 days
  • Affiliate software/network: Post Affiliate Pro

Wise

Wise enables people to send and receive money–internationally and locally–at mid-market exchange rates and low fees. All costs are known upfront. Learn more and join the Wise affiliate program.

  • Commission rate: Starts at £10
  • Cookie duration: Lifetime
  • Affiliate software/network: Partnerize

Hosting Affiliate Programs

Bluehost

Bluehost is one of the largest website hosting providers and supports millions of websites. Learn more and join the Bluehost affiliate program.

  • Commission rate: $65
  • Cookie duration: 120 days
  • Affiliate software/network: in-house and CJ Affiliate

HostGator

HostGator is headquartered in Houston and Austin, Texas, with several international offices worldwide. Learn more and join the HostGator affiliate program.

  • Commission rate: $75
  • Cookie duration: 60 days
  • Affiliate software/network: CJ Affiliate

Hostinger

Hostinger offers fast and user-friendly web hosting solutions at a price nobody can beat. Learn more and join the Hostinger affiliate program.

  • Commission rate: 60%
  • Cookie duration: 30 days
  • Affiliate software/network: Impact, CJ Affiliate, and Tune

SiteGround

SiteGround is a leading web hosting company with millions of customers. It offers shared and cloud hosting, dedicated servers, and domain services. Learn more and join the SiteGround affiliate program.

  • Commission rate: Up to $125
  • Cookie duration: 60 days
  • Affiliate software/network: In-house

Other Top Affiliate Programs

AppSumo

AppSumo is a daily deals website for digitally distributed goods and online services. Learn more and join the AppSumo affiliate program.

  • Commission rate: Up to 100%
  • Cookie duration: 30 days
  • Affiliate software/network: Impact

Canva

Canva is a graphic design tool that helps people create images, logos, thumbnails, posters, and more. It provides access to over a million photographs and templates. Learn more and join the Canva affiliate program.

  • Commission rate: 25% – 80%
  • Cookie duration: 30 days
  • Affiliate software/network: Impact

Fiverr

Fiverr is the largest online marketplace for freelance services starting at $5. Get help with online marketing, web design, videos, audio, business planning, and more. It also offers courses, exclusive benefits, and invoice software. Learn more and join the Fiverr affiliate program.

  • Commission rate: Up to $150
  • Cookie duration: 30 days
  • Affiliate software/network: Cellxpert, Awin, FlexOffers, and CJ Affiliate

FreshBooks

FreshBooks offers small business accounting and management software, including the ability to send invoices, track time, manage receipts, expenses, and accept credit cards. Learn more and join the FreshBooks affiliate program.

  • Commission rate: Up to $200
  • Cookie duration: 120 days
  • Affiliate software/network: ShareASale

Grammarly

Grammarly offers grammar, punctuation, and spell-checking software to help students, writers, and professionals. Its software checks more than 250 grammar rules. Learn more and join the Grammarly affiliate program.

  • Commission rate: $0.20 per lead and $20 per sale
  • Cookie duration: 90 days
  • Affiliate software/network: ShareASale and CJ Affiliate

McAfee

McAfee provides advanced security solutions that protect data and stop threats with an open, predictive, and intelligent-driven approach. Learn more and join the McAfee affiliate program.

  • Commission rate: $10
  • Cookie duration: 30 days
  • Affiliate software/network: CJ Affiliate

Morning Brew

Morning Brew is a free daily newsletter that informs its readers of business and tech news in a way that is enjoyable, quick, and fun. Learn more and join the Morning Brew affiliate program.

  • Commission rate: $3.50
  • Cookie duration: 30 days
  • Affiliate software/network: Impact

NortonLifelock

NortonLifeLock is a global leader in consumer cybersecurity and safety. It helps secure the devices, identities, online privacy, and home and family needs of millions. Learn more and join the NortonLifelock affiliate program.

  • Commission rate: Up to 32%
  • Cookie duration: 60 days
  • Affiliate software/network: FlexOffers and Impact

Placeit

Placeit is a mockup and design tool that allows its users to create beautiful visuals and marketing materials instantly and straight from their browsers. Learn more and join the Placeit affiliate program.

  • Commission rate: 50%
  • Cookie duration: 60 days
  • Affiliate software/network: Impact

STDcheck

STDcheck takes the embarrassment and hassles out of conventional STD testing. It provides fast, affordable, and private STD testing to adults and minors at thousands of locations nationwide. Learn more and join the STDcheck affiliate program.

  • Commission rate: 40%
  • Cookie duration: 45 days
  • Affiliate software/network: CJ Affiliate

Thrive Themes

Thrive Themes offers a robust suite of WordPress plugins to build websites, market products, and convert users. Thousands of users use their all-in-one toolkit for excellent results. Learn more and join the Thrive Themes affiliate program.

  • Commission rate: Up to 35%
  • Cookie duration: Two years
  • Affiliate software/network: iDevAffiliate

NordVPN

NordVPN is a top-rated VPN that offers military-grade online security and protection applications. Learn more and join the NordVPN affiliate program.

  • Commission rate: 30%
  • Cookie duration: 30 days
  • Affiliate software/network: Impact

Zenefits

Zenefits offers a comprehensive and mobile HR experience to simplify human resources. Learn more and join the Zenefits affiliate program.

  • Commission rate: $25
  • Cookie duration: 30 days
  • Affiliate software/network: Impact

Best Affiliate Networks to Join

Joining the right affiliate network(s) can be the difference between success and failure. Affiliates (and merchants) should consider the following criteria.

The network has reputable merchants. Most affiliates want to promote legitimate and trustworthy companies, products, and services. Networks help in that regard by carefully screening and accepting merchants with satisfactory business ratings. By contrast, networks that have questionable companies and sellers can produce terrible outcomes for marketers. You should seek to avoid such networks.

The network has a wide selection of merchants, categories, products, and services. Naturally, affiliates want to optimize their marketing activities by matching products to their audiences and niches. To achieve those goals, publishers must experiment with different advertisers and programs, only if the network provides enough selection.

Acceptance/approval rates to join programs are high, and turnaround is fast. There’s no point in being on a network that has high application decline rates. Secondly, application turnaround times should be quick; for instance, one to five business days. On some networks, my applications remain pending for months, which prohibits me from moving forward. While merchants are responsible for application decisions and cycle times, networks should encourage and educate merchants on the benefits of inclusion and efficient program management.

The network’s software is efficient. Third-party cookies are under attack by web browsers and privacy initiatives, such as Apple’s Intelligent Tracking Protocol (ITP). Some affiliate networks use cookieless tracking and other methods to track conversions, while others use inferior tracking technologies. Secondly, a network’s UI should be user-friendly, intuitive, and frictionless. Reports should be effortless to generate and understand.

The network offers different payment methods, such as PayPal, direct deposit, cheque, wire transfer, etc. Those options are standard on most networks. Secondly, payout thresholds should be low enough to keep operations flowing and affiliates engaged. A minimum of $50 is typical.

User support is excellent, and problems are solved efficiently. I don’t contact customer support very often, but some networks are more skilled and helpful than others when I do.

Deep linking is available, and it’s how an affiliate creates a link to a specific page on the merchant’s site. Instead of using a standard homepage affiliate link, you can link to an article related to your content to increase relevance and conversion rates. Most networks offer deep linking functionality, but advertisers usually must enable them.

On affiliate networks, you’ll find cost per action (CPA), cost per sale (CPS), and cost per lead (CPL) offers. In some instances, marketers can earn CPL and CPS commissions from the same merchant under a two-tier commission plan. Cost per install (CPI) and cost per click (CPC) offers are rare on networks.

Let’s review several top affiliate networks that are excellent for bloggers, YouTubers, beginners, and experienced marketers. Networks typically require that new publishers have a website or an active YouTube channel. I have experience with all the networks listed below.

Impact

Impact was founded in 2008 by a team of Internet marketing and technology experts who previously founded Commission Junction (CJ Affiliate), Savings.com, and LeadPoint. Its mission is to deliver disruptive innovations in technology and performance marketing to help its clients successfully navigate the digital landscape. It offers marketing solutions for influencers, affiliates, mobile app developers, and marketing agencies.

  • Main region(s): The United States
  • Merchants: 2,500+
  • Niche strengths: Computers, consumer electronics, financial services, retail, jewelry and watches, and accessories
  • Deep linking: Yes
  • Payment frequency: Multiple times monthly
  • Payment methods: Direct deposit and PayPal
  • Minimum payout amount: $10
  • Programs: CPS and CPL
  • EPC program data: Yes

ShareASale

ShareASale has been in business for 20+ years, exclusively as an affiliate marketing network. It serves as a low-cost way to grow sales through performance marketing. In January 2017, Awin acquired ShareASale to expand its international opportunities to domestic advertisers and publishers. ShareASale is one of the top networks for pay-per-lead offers.

  • Main region(s): The United States
  • Merchants: 15,000+ (across Awin and ShareASale)
  • Niche strengths: Accessories, clothing, computers, consumer electronics, health, home and garden, gifts, art and photography, and sports
  • Deep linking: Yes
  • Payment frequency: On the 20th of each month
  • Payment methods: Direct deposit, check, and wire transfer
  • Minimum payout amount: $50
  • Programs: CPS and CPL
  • EPC program data: Yes

Travelpayouts

Travelpayouts is a network for monetizing all travel-related content and traffic. With 90+ affiliate programs available, Travelpayouts has a perfect affiliate program for every webmaster and content creator. There are advertisers from every vertical and niche, including Booking, TripAdvisor, RentalCars, Agoda, CheapOair, Omio, OYO, and more. Since 2011, affiliate marketers have earned 28 million dollars through Travelpayouts.

  • Main region (s): The United States and CIS countries
  • Merchants: 90+
  • Niche strengths: Travel, event tickets
  • Deep linking: Yes
  • Payment Frequency: Monthly
  • Payment methods: PayPal, wire transfer, and WebMoney
  • Minimum payout amount: $50 for PayPal, $500 for wire transfer, and $10 for WebMoney
  • Programs: CPS and CPC
  • EPC program data: Yes

CJ Affiliate

With 20+ years of experience, CJ Affiliate is one of the most trusted and established names in affiliate marketing. They are passionate about using data to drive growth for their clients. CJ Affiliate is a part of the Publicis Media Groupe. It has 14 offices across the United States, Europe, and India.

  • Main region(s): The United States and Europe
  • Merchants: 2,900+
  • Niche strengths: Clothing and apparel, health and wellness, travel, retail, computers, and electronics
  • Deep linking: Yes
  • Payment frequency: Monthly
  • Payment methods: Direct deposit, check, and Payoneer
  • Minimum payout amount: $50
  • Programs: CPS, CPL, and Pay Per Call
  • EPC program data: Yes

FlexOffers

FlexOffers provides comprehensive solutions to advertisers and publishers via marketing tools, data delivery options, and advanced payment solutions through NET 7. Through their FlexRev-$hare program, affiliates can refer publishers and earn up to 50 percent of the profits made by FlexOffers.

  • Main region(s): The United States, Canada, United Kingdom, and Europe
  • Merchants: 12,000+
  • Niche strengths: Credit cards, clothing and accessories, consumer electronics, digital products, health and wellness, home and garden, and travel
  • Deep linking: Yes
  • Payment frequency: Net 60 days
  • Payment methods: Direct deposit, check, wire transfer, and PayPal
  • Minimum payout amount: $25
  • Programs: CPS and CPL
  • EPC program data: Yes

PartnerStack

PartnerStack enables companies to reach more customers through partnerships. Their platform enables some of the fastest-growing companies and start-ups with the tools required to build, manage, and scale channel partner programs. PartnerStack is a newer player on the block, having launched in 2015.

  • Main region(s): The United States and Canada
  • Merchants: 150+
  • Niche strengths: Social media, marketing, website services, and productivity tools
  • Deep linking: Yes
  • Payment frequency: On the 13th of each month
  • Payment methods: PayPal and Stripe
  • Minimum payout amount: $25
  • Programs: mostly CPS
  • EPC program data: No

Rakuten Advertising

Rakuten Advertising is a global provider of marketing, advertising, and technology services. Rakuten Advertising brings together a unique media inventory, global affiliate network, advanced machine learning, and rich consumer insights to deliver results that increase brand awareness and marketing performance.

  • Main region(s): The United States and Japan
  • Merchants: 2,100+
  • Niche strengths: Accessories, clothing, computers, consumer electronics, and health
  • Deep linking: Yes
  • Payment frequency: Monthly
  • Payment methods: PayPal, direct deposit, and check
  • Minimum payout amount: $50
  • Programs: mostly CPS
  • EPC program data: No

Awin

With over 20 years of experience, Awin results from mergers and acquisitions of Affiliate Window, Zanox, affilinet, and ShareASale. Its parent companies are Axel Springer and United Internet. Awin has over 14,000 advertisers and 200,000 publishers on its platforms. The website is available in 12 languages.

Awin creates trusted partnerships to drive growth. Their global affiliate marketing network empowers advertisers and publishers of all sizes to grow their businesses online.

  • Main region(s): Europe
  • Merchants: 15,000+ (across Awin and ShareASale)
  • Niche strengths: Finance, insurance, retail, shopping, telecommunications, services, and travel
  • Deep linking: Yes
  • Payment frequency: Twice a month
  • Payment methods: Direct deposit, check, and international wire
  • Minimum payout amount: €20/£20/$20
  • Programs: CPS and CPL
  • EPC program data: Yes

Your Next Move

You’re now on your way with an excellent list of affiliate programs and networks to join. However, your journey is only beginning. The affiliate marketing landscape is paved with opportunities for those willing to search and see through the occasional fog of deception. If that’s your personality, you’ll find many rewarding affiliate programs to boost your income.

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