How To Find the Best Affiliate Programs for your Niche in 2021

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Affiliate marketing is one of the best business models there is.

Except for the unpredictable commission rates.

Amazon is one of the worst offenders there.

They keep moving the goalpost on commission payouts – usually downward.

That stuff makes it pretty much impossible to predict your income..and also makes people angry.

Some marketers even encouraged their fans to remove all Amazon links from their sites after the changes in April 2020.

Like a strike.

I’m sure Jeff Bezos lost a ton of sleep.

So, instead of whining…why not just find other affiliate offers to promote?

Let me show you how.

How to find non-Amazon affiliate programs

Let’s assume that Amazon remains as unpredictable as it has been, so far.

That makes it a good idea for affiliates to diversify their income sources.

So let’s look at how you can find profitable non-Amazon affiliate programs.

But more importantly, how to filter out the ones that aren’t worth your time. 

Because the harsh reality is that most affiliate programs are rubbish.

The likelihood of you making money with them being almost zero.

Evaluating affiliate programs

I expect two things from an affiliate program:

  1. It makes me enough money to be worth the time and effort
  2. It doesn’t destroy my reputation i.e. people are happy with their purchase

A surprising number of affiliates don’t care about the second point – they’re happy to promote any product as long as they get paid. 

But if you’re reading this I’m going to assume that you do care.

This is smart – it’s very difficult to build a long-term business when you’re constantly ripping off your visitors. 

Selecting affiliate programs

So let’s walk through the process I use for selecting affiliate programs for our sites.

Step #1

I look for a product that is competitive.

But it doesn’t have to be the best product in its market. 

What I’m looking for is something that offers a good price-to-value ratio.

Basically, a product or service that offers good value for money.   

Why is this so important?

Because the crappier products in a given market tend to offer higher commissions.

This is done to offset the fact that they’re crap, but to also lure in the affiliates who only chase big payouts.

Advertisers know certain affiliates are willing to promote literally anything once they’re paid enough commission.  

Let’s take a perfect example of this.

When you Google “how to start a blog” you’ll find literally hundreds of sites all sharing the same basic advice.

But something else they almost all have in common is that they list Bluehost as their “recommended” hosting service for a new blog.

Here’s an example from page one of Google:

Affiliate Link Bluehost Recommendation1

And another:

Affiliate Link Bluehost Recommendation2

And yes, you guessed it, another one.

Even Neil Patel, it seems, is not immune to the temptation of high payouts.

Affiliate Link Bluehost Recommendation3

Anyone who’s serious about hosting and ranking though knows that Bluehost is not where you start.

Is that because Bluehost is terrible?

No, but they’re definitely not the “best” option for new bloggers – not by any measurement.

So why do so many affiliates have a hard-on for Bluehost?

Because their payouts start at $105 per sale.

Recommending crappy products will put money in the bank.

But it will also destroy your relationship with your visitors.

Shame On You Quote

It won’t take long before your audience is calling you a sellout.

Then people will stop following you, and you’ll never be able to create that snowball effect of growing an audience. 

That’s  why we recommend you pick an offer that:

  • Has a good value-to-price ratio
  • Is actually worth the money
Product Quality And Affiliate Commissions

I’d personally prefer to make less money today if that means earning the trust of my audience.

Because that means they’ll know my next recommendations are legit.

So I’ll eventually make more money in total…and all because I didn’t try to scam them.

Step #2

The next thing I look for in an affiliate offer is the ratio of sales content vs. payout. 

Allow me to explain.

I know most people are focused on the payout but don’t really care about what the sales page looks like, what the checkout experience is like, etc.

But these are just as important.

So although you have tunnel vision on sales commission rates, they’re only half the story.

Because the actual money you make as an affiliate is the payout multiplied by the conversion rate.

Affiliate Earnings Formula

I’ve lost count of the number of affiliate offers with very high payouts that convert at 0%.

Long story short, you put a lot of effort in and make little or no money in return.

This is despite the fact you were lured to the offer with big, juicy payout numbers when you signed up as an affiliate.

Or, basically 95% of what you’ll find on ClickBank:

Clickbank Gravity Score

So let’s illustrate “sales content vs. payout ratio” with a quick example.

Product A

  • $10 per sale
  • Converts at 8% because of its great sales page

Product B

  • $50 per sale
  • Converts at 1% because its sale page isn’t so great

Hand drawn math doodle here?

Now let’s send 1,000 warm visitors to each offer.

Product A 

  • Converts 80 visitors to sales
  • Total revenue $800

Product B

  • Converts 10 visitors into sales
  • Total revenue $500

So despite the fact Product A has a payout that’s 5x lower it will make you 60% more money when you promote it.

That’s an extra $300 in your pocket for zero additional effort.

Obviously, this isn’t an exact science.

Things like the intent of your traffic (window shopper vs. buyer) can impact conversion rates.

And, it’s also entirely possible that the lower performer will fix this sales page and their conversion rate will shoot up.

You can’t, however, build a job replacement income on “maybes”, so stick with what works.

I know from talking to affiliates that they default to the highest paying offers.

And I totally understand why.

But I’d recommend testing offers that pay a little less, but that have a higher conversion rate.

Some programs are happy to share their conversion rate with you upfront:

Affiliate Program Conversion Rate

But you also need to be realistic about the fact that paper never refuses ink i.e. it’s easy to make a claim.

So as much as you might really want to take claimed conversion rates at face value, here’s some other stuff to think about:

  • Do you trust this brand – would you buy from them?
  • What do their actual customers think of them – the ones you find posting in forums? 
  • How good is their sales page – does it create an emotional reaction in you?
  • Check out their shopping cart experience  – do they make it easy or hard to complete a purchase?

Basically, it’s impossible to have high conversion rates if you sell a crappy product and then treat your customers like crap during and after the sale.

That’s just not how business works.

So, you will typically make way more money from high-converting offers than the ones that have the highest payout.

Step #3

And the final check box on my list is, “Are my competitors actively promoting this offer?”

Because if they’re promoting it…it’s safe to assume that they’re making money from it.

How do you find out what offers your competitors are currently promoting?

Now we get to the clever stuff.

One way to find who is promoting an affiliate offer is to take the tracking link from the affiliate program and network and run it through Ahrefs:

Affiliate Program Ahrefs Site Explorer

Then check the ‘Backlink profile’ to see which sites are linking to the tracking domain:

Ahrefs Backlink Profile

And you’ll even get to see which specific programs they’re promoting:

Ahrefs Backlinks With Affiliate Programs

I’ve made an entire video that shows the above technique in tons of detail – you can check it out below.

Pro Tip: Don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel ;-)

The best indicator that an affiliate offer is interesting is that my future competitors are happy to send traffic to it.

Especially if they’re willing to send that traffic over the long-term because that tells me that they’re probably making money.

So, there’s no need to wade through trash offers that don’t convert.

Just mimic what’s already working.

And this is a perfect transition for me to talk about other ways you can find offers outside of Amazon Associates.

Analyzing your competitors

My next favorite tactic for finding offers is to run a competitor’s domain through Ahrefs.

Let’s use the ThriftyNomads.com site to demonstrate how this works.

First, run it through ‘Site Explorer’:

Ahrefs Site Explorer

And then look at their ‘Linked Domains’ report under ‘Outgoing links’:

Ahrefs Linked Domains

Then from there, I can click on the “Link to target” dropdown to sort by whatever domains they’re linking out to most often.

Ahrefs Links From Target

Then scroll down until you notice the names of either affiliate networks or affiliate programs:

Ahrefs Affiliate Networks Tracking Domains

From there you click on the ‘Links from target’ dropdown beside each tracking domain to list the pages that contain links to the affiliate offer:

Ahrefs List Of Pages To Affiliate Offers

But you’ll also see how long this particular link has been on the domain i.e. how long they’re been promoting this offer…because it makes them money:

Ahrefs Backlink First Seen

Now I can run each of the URLs containing affiliate link though ‘Site Explorer’ to see how much traffic it gets:

Ahrefs Organic Traffic

I now have a very clear picture of which offers they’re sending the most traffic to.

It’s worth repeating here again – validating offers by checking your competitors is the most reliable way to tell if an affiliate offer is worth your time.

There are other ways to find affiliate offers.

You could run a Google search like “niche +affiliate +programs”:

Affiliate Programs + Niche Google Search

There’s nothing wrong with this approach – it will turn up lots of affiliate programs for your niche.

But you’ll still have to validate each affiliate program in turn.

Something your competition has already done for you.

Or you can go back to relying on guesswork.

Ask Reddit

Another really useful source for finding profitable affiliate offers is…yup…Reddit.

People there tend to have very honest conversations about what affiliate programs work…and which ones stink.

The r/Affiliatemarketing subreddit is a good place to start:

Affiliate Programs Reddit

There’s usually a ton of interesting info to read through…just don’t go down a Reddit rabbit hole.

Affiliate network metrics

And now finally, my least favorite method – using affiliate networks.

This is where you go to an affiliate network and then sort the offers by the available metrics.

Like ‘Network Earnings’ on CJ for example:

Cj Affiliate Programs Search

Or Gravity on ClickBank:

Clickbank Marketplace Gravity

Then manually through each program until you find something with a decent sales page.

At least that way you stand a chance to convert at least some of your traffic into sales.

How to test new affiliate offers

So you’ve found some new affiliate programs to work with and you’re ready to swap out all your existing Amazon affiliate links?

Woah there, Tex!

It’s much smarter to slowly transition away from Amazon.

Pick one of your top 10 pages, by earnings, and take a snapshot of its earnings for the last 30 days.

Next, replace all the Amazon affiliate links on that page with links for the new program you want to promote.

Don’t change anything else on the page though.

Then wait 30 days and then compare how much that page earned with the new program.

You either made more or less money during the test.

You made more money

Expand the test to an additional 5 top-earning pages and run the experiment again for 30 days. If this goes well keep expanding your test to include more of the top pages on your site.

You made less money

You can either cut the offer completely or you can just test it on another page for 30 additional days.

Slow and steady wins the race here.

This is a marathon…not a sprint.

This approach also protects your affiliate earnings – you only swap out the links on one page and not your entire site at once.

Basically, you won’t run the risk of destroying your income by experimenting with an affiliate program that turns out to be a hot mess. 

Finding the perfect affiliate program

You’ve probably started to figure out that affiliate companies and networks aren’t always as honest as they could be.

Some of them will do literally anything to get you to promote products or services that could have a negative effect on your reputation. 

There’s also no way to guarantee conversion rates.

Basically, the intent of your traffic could be different i.e. your mileage will vary.

What I’m getting at is there’s no cookie-cutter approach to finding the perfect affiliate offer.

It takes a lot of work and analysis to find the real gold.

Which is why you’ll find that most of the affiliate sites you’ll find…are still actively using Amazon Associates links.

Amazon Referring Domains

736,000 referring domains can’t be wrong, right?

Because switching away from Amazon is hard work.

So you should expect to fail a few times before you finally get it right.

This goes against the “easy money” mindset most affiliate marketers have.

The above is also probably why we’re seeing most sites focus on growing their search traffic to offset the fact that Amazon is paying them less.

They take the easy way out instead trying to find a new affiliate program or network to work with.

Do it anyway

But it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t at least try to find new affiliate offers for your site.

Being able to diversify your income can not only increase your revenue but also protects you from future changes that Amazon and others might make.

Basically, you won’t leave yourself exposed.

Plus, once you figure out how to find and implement non-Amazon affiliate programs it feels like you’re able to do magic.

You’ll want to do as much of it as you can.

Just don’t get carried away…because with great power comes great responsibility. 

Wrapping things up

Making the transition away from Amazon is difficult.

It does take a lot of work.

But it is possible.

And it can also be incredibly rewarding.

Just be prepared to work at it.

But what if you’re brand new to affiliate marketing and you have no idea what I’m talking about?

We got this.

Check out our free web class where you can see how we set up our sites, the tools needed, the methods used to create content, outsourcing, build links, etc

Just tell us what email address you’d like your invite sent to.

It’s 100% free and a lot of people have said they got as much from it as a paid course on affiliate marketing.

So go check it out.

It won’t cost you anything but time.

So it’s either do something productive…or binge another Netflix show.

Your call.

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