Are you thinking about creating an affiliate program? We have launched hundreds of programs and have compiled this list of tips for launching an affiliate program to make it easier for you.
Why Choose Affiliate Marketing?
The first part to launching an affiliate program is to determine whether or not an affiliate program is right for you and your company. We have written about why affiliate programs can be effective for your company in the past, so check out these two articles below to get started:
- Affiliate Marketing: Pros, Cons and Other Considerations
- Affiliate Marketing Isn’t Just Alive and Well… It’s Thriving!
Competitor Affiliate Program Research
One of the best places to start your affiliate program is by performing extensive competitor research. Start out by making a list of all the competitors in your direct niche.
Next, head on over to Google (or your favorite search engine) and search for “competitor affiliate program”, switching out “competitor” with the name of the company.
Do this for every direct competitor.
From there, you will want to find their affiliate program landing page and keep track (I recommend in an Excel sheet) of their affiliate network of choice, commission structure, incentive / bonuses, cookie duration, and any other relevant details you may find on their affiliate program landing page.
Compiling this list of competitors can help you determine an affiliate network, commission structure, as well as attractive incentives for a publisher to choose your affiliate program over a competitors’.
You can take your competitor research a step further and sign up as an affiliate for each of the networks. By doing this, you will be able to search within the networks themselves for some of your primary keywords. For example, by logging into ShareASale as an affiliate and searching for “makeup”, you can find all of the programs that currently show up in the search results within ShareASale’s network that are relevant to makeup.
Another great way to expand your competitor research is to search in affiliate program directories. Check out our article on the 10 affiliate directories to submit your affiliate program to for more information. You can use these directories to find more competitors in your niche.
Choose a Network to Use
The next step would then be to choose your affiliate network. Each network has their unique selling points, but at a minimum they all help handle tracking and payout of affiliates as opposed to doing it all in-house.
Some of the top affiliate networks include:
Choose your Commission Structure, Incentives, etc.
You will want to choose a commission structure based off of two primary factors.
1. What can you afford to offer affiliates? This will require a little bit of math. If you already know what your profit margins are, then you will know how much of a percentage you can afford to pay out. Keep in mind that affiliate networks will also have a fee (either a percentage of sales or percentage of affiliate commissions). Let’s use a simple example. You’re profit margins are currently 20%, but you would be fine with keeping a 10% margin, so that means that you can afford to pay out 10% between affiliate commissions and network fees.
2. What are your competitors paying out? Now that you know what you can afford to pay out, it’s time to compare that to what your competitors are offering affiliates. It is important to be competitive, because publishers can choose between two different programs and all other things equal, may choose the one with the higher commission structure.
Now that you chose your network and commission structure, it’s time to start thinking about creating banners for affiliates to use right away. You want to make sure that you have banners created before you actually launch your program.
It’s important to remember that every banner needs to include a clear call-to-action as well as include the company logo prominently. You should also have a selection of sizes for affiliates to use. Below is a list of the top recommended size affiliate banners:
- 88×31 px
- 468×60 px
- 125×125 px
- 120×600 px
- 160×600 px
- 120×240 px
- 234×60 px
- 254×331 px
- 728×90 px
- 250×250 px
- 720×300 px
- 300×100 px
- 300×250 px
- 180×150 px
Begin Compiling a List of Potential Affiliates
While your creative team is working on the banners, now is the time to get started on your initial affiliate recruitment research. You want to have a large list of contacts ready to reach out to as soon as your program is launched, so why wait till it’s launched to start this research?
Remember that list of competitors that you used to do affiliate program research? Let’s pull that back out and use one of many backlink checkers to find backlinks to your competitors. The concept here is simple, if someone is linking to your competitor, they may likely be willing to link to you with an affiliate link instead.
Here a few backlink tools you can use:
You will also want to perform multiple searches as well. Let’s say for example that you own a makeup product. You would want to do the following searches and look through all the search results:
– Makeup bloggers
– Makeup influencers
– Makeup sites
– Makeup tutorials
You will want to continue doing searches like those above in order to find even more websites to reach out to.
Check out our article on affiliate recruitment tips to help you organize and manage your recruitment efforts.
Implement Tracking Code and Test
One of the final steps to launching an affiliate program is implementing your tracking code and to test. It is important to test multiple times. Test from different browsers, mobile vs pc, if you have different commission structures (per sale, per lead, etc.) be sure to test each one of them.
You will be able to void these orders within the backend of the affiliate network, so don’t worry about paying out commissions on test orders.
Here is one extra bonus tip!
Have Inventory and Samples Ready
Be sure to have enough inventory in stock before launching your affiliate program. Content publishers will not be happy if they are promoting an affiliate program and then their loyal readers let them know that the company is on backorder or not following through.
Also, a lot of content publishers will want samples to be able to review. Be sure to have samples ready to be shipped out for people to review.
If you have any questions on launching an affiliate program, please do not hesitate to comment below or contact us.