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Ideal Affiliate Program Checklist

Help your affiliates succeed by giving them what they really want.

  • Fairness and Respect. Affiliates are valuable agents for your business and should be treated accordingly.

  • An excellent product or service, that is also a good value for clients. It's self-defeating for affiliates to promote a product that's marginal. Fix the product first, then let your affiliates run with it.

  • A generous commission, with bonuses for exceptional performance. The bonus can be tied to a number of leads, monthly sales revenues, etc. How does money affect affiliate performance?

  • Timely commission payouts. Affiliates hate to wait for commissions. If an affiliate is buying advertising on your behalf, pay them as soon as possible . . . so they can buy more advertising and drive more traffic. One of the largest affiliate networks, ClickBank, pays their members every week.

  • A long "cookie" duration. (Cookies are bits of computer code used to track affiliate sales). Cookies should stay active for at least 30 days, up to a year or longer. Long cookies encourage affiliates to stay in the game for the long run.

  • Recurring or residual income. Naturally, affiliates want to get paid for ongoing business: for repeat orders of consumable goods, recurring services, subscriptions, etc. When you think about it, why would the affiliate accept a one-time referral fee, instead of a commission for each product purchased by the customer?

    Granted, low-margin niches may not support residual commissions. However, some niches support lifetime commissions: data storage, hosting, and autoresponder services, dating services, membership sites, nutritional supplement subscriptions — irresistible candy for affiliates.

  • An attractive merchant's site with a high "conversion" rate and painless shopping experience. This is a big deal. Even if you have a great product, it may not matter if your site doesn't convert a good number of visitors into clients. As a merchant, you must know what percentage of your visitors convert into clients, and work to improve that number.

  • Support for affiliates. Affiliates look for content, ads, real-time sales reports, and quick response to questions. The best programs teach their affiliates how to sell the product. Only a tiny percentage of affiliates are sophisticated marketers; differentiate yourself and get better results by educating your affiliates.

  • A responsive affiliate manager focused on turning more visitors into buyers by improving the site design (conversion again!), responding to requests for product links, communication with the affiliates about hot products, etc.

  • Commissions paid for telephone orders. Loss of commissions to telephone orders affiliates unless those orders are tracked using one of these three ways.


Few affiliate programs boast ALL of these desirable features, but the best ones, from an affiliate's perspective, do.

If you're starting an affiliate program, consider this a checklist; if you already have one, is there a way you can introduce these features to make it more attractive to your hard-working affiliates?

A good affiliate program will promote your brand, boost your web traffic, and build your profits for a relatively small expenditure of time, money, and effort.

Starting an affiliate program is easier than you may think. But the structure of the program must be designed to fit your business and affiliate's expectations.

At the end of the day, accomplished affiliates look for solid results compared to the amount of work involved. And of course, merchants look for the same thing.