What is a CPA Network?
CPA stands for “cost-per-action”. That means that you get paid a commission when a website visitor performs an action – most commonly signing up for a product or service.
CPA affiliate networks provide one-stop access to a range of CPA affiliate programs, which makes things very convenient for affiliate publishers. Instead of having to hunt down multiple different affiliate programs, research reviews online, and apply separately for each one, you can simply join a reputable network and choose from their pre-vetted selection.
Since the network has done the heavy lifting of establishing partnerships and approving the brands, you don’t have to worry that you’re dealing with a fly-by-night company that won’t be able to pay your commissions. And most networks also standardize and enforce rules of conduct between the affiliate and merchant, resulting in a fair deal for both parties.
Finally, affiliate networks also provide software tools for tracking commissions and automating payments to affiliates, ensuring that you get paid on time consistently, without having to worry about chasing down commissions from merchants yourself.
Qualities to Consider
The best affiliate networks aren’t necessarily the biggest.
There are many great affiliate networks out there that are simply more selective in curating their partnerships, resulting in a smaller community, but one that has been pre-vetted for high quality. Others specialize in a specific sector or market. For example, Fintel Connect is a leading affiliate network in the financial industry, and would be a great option for affiliates interested in promoting financial offers.
Instead of size, focus on these three key factors:
The main benefit of joining a CPA network is to get access to great affiliate programs. So it goes without saying the quality of those partnerships can make or break an affiliate network.
Some networks list all of their affiliate programs on their public website, while others will require you to open a publisher account to access them. Either way, it pays to take the time and review the programs offered before committing to a long-term relationship with a network.
Quality beats quantity here. Some affiliate networks like to brag about how many programs they offer, but that isn’t necessarily very important from the publisher’s standpoint. This is because you should be aiming to build deep relationships and large volumes with a small number of merchants, instead of spreading yourself too thin. Since there’s a limited number of merchants you can realistically work with, it’s more important to find the select few that are the very best fit for your audience.
You should also bear in mind that over time, your audience will come to associate your site with the brands you partner with. And your site may even show up in newsletters and blog posts from the affiliate network itself. So consider who you want to be associated with – a high-end finance blog would not want its reputation to be connected with erotic products, gambling services or get-rich-quick info products.
Pay special attention to merchants that are exclusive to one network. For example, if you want to be an Etsy affiliate or a Scotiabank affiliate, those programs are only available on Fintel Connect.
You work hard to make sales for your partners, and should be well compensated for it. Ideally, the network should offer a range of high-paying affiliate programs, with fair payment terms. While there are a countless number of ways to structure affiliate deals, here are a few things to look out for:
1. Commission Rate
Commissions can vary widely between affiliate programs. For example, Amazon affiliates make anywhere between 1 – 10% commission on each sale, while many financial affiliate programs offer double-to-triple-digit dollars commissions per sale. While you should never choose products to promote purely based on commission, it’s important to decide if a program will be profitable for you, given the size and demographics of your audience.
2. Minimums and Frequency
Most affiliate networks and programs will only pay you when you reach a minimum commission amount, most often $50-100 or more. Often, they will also only make payouts on a bi-weekly or monthly basis. You need to be aware of these thresholds and payment terms and factor them into your cash flow planning.
3. Cookie Length
Not all customers purchase products right after they click on your affiliate link. Some can even take months before pulling the trigger. This is why most affiliate trackers install a 90-day cookie on the user’s browser, which allows the affiliate to be rewarded if the customer makes a purchase within 3 months. If the cookie length is much shorter than that, your conversion rates are likely to be lower as well.
It’s important to be able to have a close dialogue with your affiliate network. When evaluating a network, take note of how quickly they answer emails and support tickets. This will become especially apparent when you sign up for an account. If they take several days to get back to you and don’t respond promptly to your questions, that could be a red flag.
Ideally, the network should also connect you with a dedicated affiliate manager, who can be your first point of contact for any issues or questions. When someone “owns” support for your account, you’re more likely to get quick assistance when you need it most.
Do Your Homework
The key takeaway from all this is that it’s important to do your homework on the affiliate networks you choose to partner with. Research them on Google, read reviews on forums, community sites and sub-reddits like /r/affiliatemarketing, or compare your options on review sites like G2.
Doing a little more detective work upfront will empower you to select the very best CPA affiliate network for your needs.