The Best Affiliate Programs For Beginners To Increase Your Success 10-Fold

Whether you have a blog dedicated to web design practices, or a micro-niche site reviewing the best paddling pools for dogs, you need to source the best affiliate programs. Any program you choose must have good quality products at competitive prices, otherwise, you will struggle to make conversions.

As a beginner to the affiliate marketing game, you will also want an intuitive dashboard, reasonable payment terms, excellent creative ad designs, and simplicity. Plenty of simplicity.

To help you on your affiliate journey, I’ve curated a list of a dozen of the best affiliate programs for beginners. I’ve included some general programs with multiple product categories, as well as a handful of more specific campaigns.

1. Amazon Associates

amazon-associates

  • Commission rate: 1%-10%
  • Cookie duration: 24 hours
  • Payment terms: 60 days
  • Link to Program

Amazon is one of the largest companies in the world and by far the largest eCommerce company in the US and beyond. It has millions of products, sells to virtually every country around the globe, and their brand is recognized and trusted.

Their commission structure varies according to product category and is prone to commission changes. While there are affiliate programs out there that offer a higher cut of sales, Amazon’s conversion rates and product variety mean that they usually outperform all others.

They also have a selection of banners as well as more dynamic ad types that you can use, as well as API that you can implement once you make enough qualifying sales.

Once you sign up for the program, you need to make three qualifying sales within 6 months to remain a part of the program, so you either need existing traffic or be willing to be very active from the get-go. Also, every country has its own Associates program, so you will need to sign up multiple times for international traffic.

Amazon Associates is beneficial to beginners because of its range of products. You won’t need to sign up for multiple programs with different companies. It is also easy to use, but you will have to wait 60 days from the end of the month when you make a sale, to receive your money.

2. CJ Affiliate (Formerly Commission Junction)

cj

  • Commission rate: Varies
  • Cookie duration: Varies
  • Payment terms: 20 days
  • Link to Program

Amazon Associates isn’t strictly an affiliate network, it’s an eCommerce store with an affiliate program. CJ Affiliate, formerly known as Commission Junction and usually referred to as CJ, is a true network of more than 1,500 merchants. Once you’ve signed up for a CJ Affiliate account, you can check out the specifics of each affiliate program and apply for those that interest you.

Because it’s a network, everything from the fees to the cookie duration varies according to the merchant program. You can receive anywhere from a couple of percent to a fixed fee of hundreds of dollars per registration. Cookies can vary from 24 hours to several weeks, and as well as percentage-based commissions, some programs offer a predetermined payment for every purchase or subscription.

Similarly, the banners and ads can vary in type and, indeed, quality. I will say, however, that CJ Affiliate does a good job of vetting the merchants they accept into their network. You’ll find the likes of Office Depot, Overstock, GoPro, and Barnes and Noble, among many others.

Payments are made within 20 days of the end of the month, as long as you meet the minimum payment criteria, which varies according to region.

Although CJ Affiliate does require a little more work than Amazon, its variety of high-quality merchants in a host of niches make it a beneficial program for beginners.

3. ClickBank

click-bank

  • Commission rate: Up to 75%
  • Cookie duration: 60 days
  • Payment terms: One week
  • Link to Program

ClickBank’s inclusion will prove somewhat controversial. The site is known for promoting some questionable (spammy) merchants. They started in 1998 and concentrate on digital products. The benefit of promoting digital products is that they are delivered instantly, so you get paid sooner. Their marketplace has expanded to include some physical products nowadays, but there are better networks for those. ClickBank is on our list for its digital download affiliate program.

You will need to research any product you consider selling, before putting it on your site. You can use Clickbank’s own gravity and other ratings. Read online reviews, check that the merchant is legitimate, and don’t be swayed simply by massive 75% commission rates. It is your reputation on the line, after all, and if you start promoting products that are less than perfect, your reputation will take a hit.

ClickBank does still feel a bit 1990s, and some of the merchants probably haven’t been active since then. Check their activity level and be prepared to make your own banners or creative ads if you want to enjoy the best conversion rates.

It does take a little more effort to make optimal sales using ClickBank, but there are some decent digital products. And if you’re willing put in the effort, you can generate big commissions.

4. Awin

awin

  • Commission rate: 5%
  • Cookie duration: 30 days
  • Payment terms: One month
  • Link to Program

Awin is a huge affiliate network with nearly 15,000 advertisers, and it is used by nearly a quarter of a million publishers. The problem with a network of this size is that, as well as some high-quality partners, there are some that you should avoid at all costs.

I’m including it on our list because it offers access to a few major merchants. First off is Etsy’s affiliate program. Etsy is the leading name in handcrafted and handmade goods. You can find everything from homemade bamboo dog beds to handcrafted meteorite jewelry. If you make any of these items, there’s a good chance you’ve considered selling on Etsy yourself.

It’s a well-known brand and most people have bought from, or at least considered buying from, their marketplace. The beauty of handcrafted items is that the best of these products shift for a big price, and with a 5% commission, you can take your fair share of those sales. There’s also a 30-day cookie, which gives prospective buyers plenty of chance to hum and haw over their decision.

You will also find Fiverr on Awin. Fiverr is a digital services marketplace. Individuals and small businesses can sell services ranging from logo design to website design, content writing, translation, and more. They offer a choice of $150 per action or $10 per action and a 10% revenue share, whichever works out to be more. You also receive lifetime attribution so the more a referral buys, the more you earn, even if that’s ten years from now.

5. eBay

ebay

  • Commission rate: 1%-4%
  • Cookie duration: 24 hours
  • Payment terms: One month
  • Link to Program

Like Amazon Associates, the eBay Partner Network is an affiliate program for a single eCommerce platform, but considering that platform has a billion items listed around the globe, it should have everything your visitors are looking for.  It has a similar structure to Amazon, paying up to 4% and offering 24-hour cookies.

There are a few caveats to eBay being listed here. First is the 24-hour cookie. It’s not a particularly generous cookie length, anyway, but the prospect has to place a bid within those 24 hours for you to receive credit.

Consider that most people snipe auctions and that most auctions last 7 days. This means that you could feasibly direct a visitor to an auction, they follow the auction and place a winning, last-minute bid after watching for 72 hours. eBay makes the sale, your prospect gets the item they want, but you don’t make any money. It won’t happen every time, but it is worth noting.

Fortunately, most listings are Buy It Now listings that circumnavigate this problem, but a lot of the hard-to-come-by items that make eBay a really good affiliate program are auctions.

With that said, there are also a couple of bonuses. Brand new partners receive double the commission for the first three months, so don’t sign up until your site is receiving traffic if you want to take advantage of this. You also receive a 100% bonus if your referral is a new sign-up.

eBay has a strong brand reputation, an increasing number of Buy It Now listings, and auctions for some specialist items that are otherwise very difficult to come by. Their affiliate program is well worth consideration, and they not only welcome innovative affiliate solutions like app marketing, but they may also be willing to work with you to implement it.

6. Rakuten

rakuten

  • Commission rate: Varies
  • Cookie duration: Varies
  • Payment terms: Monthly
  • Link to Program

Rakuten is another affiliate network. They have around 1,000 merchants on their books. While they aren’t as big as the likes of CJ, they do still have some major names including the likes of RayBan Virgin Holidays, and New Balance, which gives you an idea of how diverse their products are.

The network does have a selective screening process, and getting accepted to the affiliate network can take some time. As long as you’ve set your site up well, you shouldn’t have too many problems getting in.

Once accepted, you will then have to apply to each program, and this too can take a while. However, the screening process is similarly challenging for advertisers, which means that you will be presented with good quality partners. They assist in deep linking to product pages and also offer rotating banners for some more general affiliate marketing.

As a network, Rakuten’s commission rates and cookie durations do vary according to the individual programs. Also, they pay affiliates weekly but invoice advertisers monthly, so expect to wait a month before having any chance of being paid.

Rakuten is not the easiest network to get accepted to, and they may well turn you down if you don’t have traffic or something that excites them. But if you do pass muster and make it into their network, they have some excellent partners for you to work with.

7. FlexOffers

flexoffers

  • Commission rate: Varies
  • Cookie duration: Varies
  • Payment terms: 60 days
  • Link to Program

FlexOffers is a little different from some of the other networks on this list, and it has one particular feature that makes it ideal for the novice affiliate.

Where it differs from the likes of Rakuten is that FlexOffers works as a kind of broker, or middleman. They sign up with an affiliate program on your behalf, and you share the affiliate payments. This means that the earning potentials are lower than if you signed up directly, but FlexOffers has the pulling power that means they will be accepted by even the pickiest of affiliate programs. While you might struggle to sign up with Rakuten, you shouldn’t have any problems with FlexOffers. They will want to ensure that your site is of good quality, but they don’t have excessive traffic demands.

The network offers access to 12,000 affiliate programs and has an easy application process, even for new sites and first-time affiliates. If you’ve been rejected elsewhere, definitely give FlexOffers a try.

8. Shopify

shopify

  • Commission rate: 10%-20% ongoing
  • Cookie duration: 30 days
  • Payment terms: Monthly
  • Link to Program

Shopify is an eCommerce store builder that is used by more than 400,000 people and small businesses around the world. It has an excellent reputation and advertises on various channels around the world, so prospects will have already been exposed to their brand before you recommend them.

Their brand reputation is one of the reasons I have included Shopify in this list, but so too is the generous commission structure. A lot of the networks and programs offer a one-time payment, but Shopify is one program that offers recurring payments.

You receive 10% to 20% of a referral’s monthly subscription payments. For as long as they remain a paying subscriber. According to Shopify, that means an average of $58 for a standard paid subscription and $2,000 for a Shopify Plus subscription.

They also have a reasonable 30 day cookie period and pay credits monthly.

Obviously, you will have to have a website or newsletter that caters to businesses, entrepreneurs, bloggers, or artisans, but if you do, then Shopify is not only a great affiliate program but a trusted and reputable name that will give you credence as well as commissions.

9. Skimlinks

skinlinks

  • Commission rate: Varies
  • Cookie duration: Varies
  • Payment terms: Varies
  • Link to Program

With the likes of TripAdvisor, Nordstrom, ASOS, and Wayfair, on the books, Skimlinks has an excellent network of merchants. In fact, they have more than 48,500 of them, in total, because they partner with the likes of CJ, Awin, and Rakuten. They also claim that they have negotiated rates that are double those offered if you go directly to the networks.

Skimlinks works a little differently to the rest of the programs here. They automatically insert links into content. Typically, this isn’t something we’re keen on. Manually inserting links into your content allows greater control and should provide you with more optimal earning capabilities.

However, if you have a site where you don’t control the content, for example, a forum, or if you already have a mass of content that you’re looking to monetize, automated links can be beneficial.

Once you’ve signed up with Skimlinks, you can add a WordPress plugin, determine your settings, and the plugin will do the rest. Skimlinks also has plugins for vBulletin, Vanilla Forums, and more. They also offer in-depth reporting.

If you are going down the automated links route, this is a great place to start.

10. AliExpress

aliexpress

  • Commission rate: Up to 50%
  • Cookie duration: 3 days
  • Payment terms: Monthly
  • Link to Program

It is one of the biggest eCommerce businesses in the world, but few people outside China have heard of it, let alone used Alibaba. AliExpress is the international arm of the eCommerce giant that enables users from around the world to sell and buy goods from the Chinese market. It is a marketplace, and AliExpress does not manufacture or sell any of its own goods on the platform. Initially, it was used as a B2B portal, offering cheap goods from Chinese retailers to businesses around the world, but it expanded to include B2C sales as well.

Delivery can take a little longer, but the prices are often a fraction of those offered by Amazon and other businesses. This price reduction already gives affiliates a headstart.

Terms have come in for a lot of change since the service launched in 2010. It was once a part of the CJ network, but now has its own affiliate program, and although the site claims it offers up to 50% commission, this is very rare. You should expect commission rates to be between 8% and 10%.

The cookie duration is three days, which is favorable compared to Amazon, but still less than a lot of other programs. However, if you are looking to sell inexpensive products on your site, you will struggle to find them cheaper.

11. Target

target

  • Commission rate: 1%-8%
  • Cookie duration: 7 days
  • Payment terms: Monthly
  • Link to Program

Target may not be as big as Amazon, but it does have a good affiliate program and, once again, it is a name that your visitors will recognize. It’s becoming increasingly common to see websites offer links to Amazon alongside links to Target, giving website visitors a choice.

Like a lot of affiliate programs, Target offers tiered commissions so that the more orders you send to them, the higher the commission you earn. You might start out earning a 5% commission on items for the home, but this increases to 8% if you make 10,000 qualifying sales in a month. 10,000 sales is no trifling amount, and it will take years for you to achieve that kind of figure if you’re just starting now, but if you make 11 sales in a month, your commission increases from 5% to 6%.

They also have hundreds of banners, as well as product links, that you can use to promote them on your website.

Conclusion

There are affiliate programs everywhere and for any type of product. With the right program, you can monetize your site traffic and optimize your earnings per visitor. With an inappropriate or untargeted affiliate program, all your hard work creating top-notch content and promoting your site will be for naught.

While commission rates are important, they shouldn’t be the sole reason that you choose a program, and this is especially true if you’re new to affiliate marketing. Find something that isn’t too complicated, that offers access to decent creative ads, and a brand that your prospects will recognize.

Amazon is the most widely used because it has a proven track record for converting visitors. CJ has history, too, but you should also consider programs specific to your industry.