Setting Up Affiliate Programs

How to Set-Up an Affiliate Program To Boost Your Digital Product Sales

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You have created a digital product such as an online course which you have listed on your blog. You have spent months developing it. It’s one of the best courses out there within your niche. Despite this, you’ve only received a few sales so far. Everyone who has purchased your course is raving about it, but due to your limited traffic to your blog, people are unaware of it so you’re not making enough sales.

So, how do you promote your digital products in order to boost your sales with only a limited budget? What if I told you that you could have a whole army of people promoting your products but you wouldn’t need to pay them a commission unless they made a sale? Sounds good, doesn’t it? Well, you can, by setting up your own affiliate program.

While setting-up an affiliate program may sound complex at first, it really isn’t, it’s relatively straightforward and it’s a great way to boost your sales.

In this post, we will explain the main benefits of setting up an affiliate program to sell your digital products. We will cover the factors you need to consider before setting one up, the options available to you and how you go about recruiting affiliates as well as motivating them once they have signed-up.

Without further ado, let’s get into the nitty gritty of setting up your own affiliate program…

What is an Affiliate Program?

An affiliate program is set-up by a program owner (product creator, merchant etc) and allows other users (bloggers, influencers, customers, email marketers etc) to sign-up as affiliates in order to promote/recommend their products and/or services. In exchange for their efforts, the affiliate will receive a referral fee or commission for any leads or sales that they refer.

Affiliate Program Overview

Generally there are four types of affiliate commissions, these include:

CPS (Cost Per Sale)A flat fee or a percentage of the sale price is paid out for any referrals that lead to a sale.
CPL (Cost Per Lead)Affiliates are paid for each lead that they generate.
CPA (Cost Per Action)This is where the affiliate is paid when a user performs a particular action such as downloading an app or submitting a form (email newsletter sign-up, registration etc).
CPC (Cost Per Click)An affiliate is paid when a user clicks through to the merchant’s website.

Commission rates vary depending on the niche. For digital/informational products, due to their overall higher profit margins over physical products, percentage rates can range anywhere from 10%-80%.

Once an affiliate has signed-up to a particular program, they will be supplied with a unique referral/affiliate link. This referral link can then be used within the affiliate’s promotional content (blog post, social media post, email list, etc). When a user clicks on the referral link, they will be sent over to the merchant’s website. If the user then performs a particular action (makes a purchase, fills out a form etc), this will be tracked using the unique link and the affiliate will be rewarded.

Benefits of Setting-Up an Affiliate Program

Now that you understand the basics of what an affiliate program is, let’s go over what the main benefits of setting one up are:

It’s Results Driven

Unlike with ads, you only pay an affiliate if they make a sale. If you were using PPC (pay-per-click) ads to promote your digital products, you would pay for every single click, no matter if it leads to a sale or not. If the ad did not convert particularly well, it could result in a costly mistake.

If on the other hand, you used affiliates to promote your products, you would only ever need to pay them if their referrals lead to a sale. Setting up your affiliate program is perfect if you’re on a small budget and it’s relatively risk-free. You also don’t need to worry about cashflow issues as you pay your affiliate after a sale has actually been made.

Helps Raise Brand Awareness

Imagine having hundreds or thousands of affiliates across the globe writing blog posts or creating YouTube videos about your products. If you’ve recently launched a product, this is a great way to enhance brand awareness as well as help with conversions and boost your organic sales and reputation.

Drives Traffic to Your Site

Not only can affiliates prove a useful way to boost your sales, you can also leverage their traffic to your own site. The more backlinks that you have pointing to your website, the better it will be and it can even help to improve your search engine rankings which could have a positive effect on your organic traffic.

Easy to Set-Up

Setting up an affiliate program is relatively straightforward. There are a number of options available to users. If you want a hands-off approach, you can use an affiliate network where they deal with everything from keeping track of sales made by affiliates, reporting, recruiting affiliates, dealing with payments etc. Otherwise, if you want to be more involved, you can set-up your own affiliate program in-house by using WordPress plugins that are readily available.

Factors to Consider Before Setting-Up an Affiliate Program

Before even considering setting-up an affiliate program, you first need to concentrate on developing a quality product that potential users will find useful. You really don’t want to face the prospect of having to regularly issue refunds to disgruntled customers.

Poor quality digital products, even if you do offer good commission rates, are unlikely to prove very popular with affiliates also. Most reputable ones will only want to promote products that genuinely benefit their target audience otherwise it could damage their own reputation.

Once your digital product is ready, you will need to consider some of the following aspects before setting-up your affiliate program:

Commission Rates

An important element to any affiliate program is the commission rates that you’ll be offering your affiliates. Before deciding on this, first assess what your competitors are doing. If they run an affiliate program, review their terms and conditions and understand what benefits they’re offering.

Once you have performed proper research, you should have a good idea of what the average commission rates are within your niche.

The higher your commission rates, the more motivated affiliates will be to promote your products. For this reason, you need to offer your affiliates competitive commission rates, otherwise you may face problems recruiting sufficient numbers.

Affiliate commission rates offered for digital/informational products are generally higher than physical products especially as they won’t face so many overhead costs. Before anything however, always work-out what your profit margins are beforehand. If you’re also offering after-sales support, don’t forget to also price that into your margins as well as additional fees such as network fees if you’re not running your program in-house.

If you’re selling subscription type products where you get paid every month, you may want to consider offering recurring payments to your affiliates instead of one off payments. For example, if an affiliate refers a user and they remain subscribed for 12 months, you’ll pay them a percentage for those 12 months.

You will want to encourage your affiliates to make as many sales per month as possible. A way to do this is by offering a tiered commission structure based on performance.

Affiliate program tiered commission example

Cookie Expiry Length

Cookies are used to track referrals. When a user clicks on an affiliate link, a cookie is installed on their computer. If they do not buy the product/service straightaway, the affiliate will still be credited for the sale as long as the cookie has not expired. If however, the user makes a purchase after the cookie has expired, the affiliate won’t be credited and they won’t be awarded any commission.

The expiry length of a cookie will vary between affiliate programs, the norm however is anywhere between 30-90 days. Always check what the standard cookie expiry length is within your niche before deciding on what value to use.

Pay Out Terms

Another aspect you will need to consider is payment terms such as:

  • Payment frequency – will it be monthly, weekly etc.
  • Minimum payment limit threshold for commissions – you don’t want to set this limit too high otherwise it could have a demoralising effect on your affiliates as it may mean they will have to wait too long to get paid. A sensible limit is anywhere between $15-$50, obviously this will largely depend on the cost of your affiliate products. If they fail to meet the payment threshold, it should be rolled over to subsequent months until it is met.
  • Payment options supported – wire transfer, check, PayPal, Payoneer etc
  • Payment delay for items sold – this is useful in case you may need to issue a refund to a customer. This will act as a buffer before your affiliate gets paid for any referred sales. For example, if you offer a 30-day money back guarantee on your products, you may want to use a 45-day waiting period for sales. This means the affiliate will not get paid until you determine the sale is valid and no refund has been issued.

Terms of Service

Ensuring that your affiliates are not using dubious sales/marketing tactics to promote your products is vital. If they are using underhand tactics it could affect your brand. For this reason it is important to come-up with terms of service where you clearly lay out what is allowed and what isn’t on your affiliate program.

Such items that you may want to consider including in your terms include:

  • Do affiliates need to show an affiliate disclosure notice whenever they mention your products? Displaying such notice is legally required by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) so it’s something you should definitely include.
  • Will you accept PPC bidding on branded terms related to your products?
  • Are there any content restrictions such as using false claims or preventing users from using misleading text on affiliate links, images or buttons?
  • Which channels will you allow your products to be promoted on i.e. social media, email newsletters, newsgroups etc.
  • Will you restrict affiliates from using incentives such as offering bonuses, coupons or other kickbacks to their users if they purchase your affiliate products?
  • Will you prevent self-referrals i.e. affiliates purchasing your products and expecting to be paid a commission?


Trusting your affiliates is key, you will need to determine whether you will manually approve each potential affiliate individually or will all applications be approved automatically?

If you’re worried that a “rogue” affiliate may have a negative impact on your brand or product, you could consider vetting each application on a one-on-one basis. During the application process, you could request that the affiliate discloses the URL of the website where they plan on promoting your products/services. This will allow you to review their site to determine its quality as well as it’s relevancy to see whether they are a good match for your brand.

Remember, recruiting the right affiliates is one of the key criteria’s that will help to make your program a success. Limiting the number of people who can join can often be a wise idea.

Marketing Material

In order to help your affiliates, you will need to produce a range of creatives as well as promotional material that they can use to market your products.

Items that you may consider creating for your affiliates include:

  • Banners in all types of sizes including: 250 x 250, 468 x 60, 728 x 90, 300 x 250, 120 x 600, 160 x 600, 336 x 280
  • Widgets
  • Text links
  • High-quality product images
  • Pre-written copy about your product/service
  • Videos
  • Manuals
  • Tutorials on best ways to market your products/services

Should You Run Your Program In-House or Use an Affiliate Network?

The next step will be to decide whether you want to run your affiliate program in-house or whether you want to use the services of a third-party affiliate network.

This decision will largely depend on your time commitments as well as how involved you really want to get.

Here are some of the major benefits and negatives of each option:

Benefits of Using Affiliate Networks

Technology Already in Place

Most affiliate networks will have stable technology systems in place that will deal with reporting, tracking as well as fraud detection. These will allow your affiliates to easily view up-to-date details such as sales as well as commissions.

Not only will affiliates want to ensure that any referred sales are being tracked accurately, they will also want to monitor how well their campaigns are performing so having reliable reporting systems in place will help to maintain trust with your affiliates.

If you thinking of running your own program, you will have to spend time to reviewing different affiliate software systems to determine which one best suits your needs which can take time. You will also need to thoroughly test it before it goes live to make sure there are no issues and everything is being tracked accurately. If you use a network however you won’t need to worry about this and it could save you a considerable amount of time.

Payments Are Dealt With

Most networks will have a dedicated payments department whose sole job is to take care of paying your affiliates and deal with any payment queries. Not only is this a real time saver, but it can also help to maintain a good relationship with your affiliates as they will be paid on time.

No Need to Spend Time Recruiting

If you have a relatively small audience, recruiting enough affiliates to join your program can often prove challenging and time consuming. With networks however, they already have large numbers of affiliates across every imaginable niche on their books which means they can help you to quickly grow your program within a short period of time and help raise awareness about your brand.

Not only will they help to recruit affiliates, they will manage the on-going relationship with your affiliates and keep them motivated so they promote your products for the long term.

Better Fraud Detection

Paying out commission for fake clicks or for fraudulent referrals is not something you want to be concerned about when running an affiliate program. Affiliate networks will have fraud detection systems in place that will automatically monitor for such actively which means you won’t need to worry about losing out due to fraudulent activity.

Negatives of Affiliate Networks

It Costs More

With an affiliate network you will have additional fees. Not only will you have to pay commission to your affiliates for any referred sales, but the network will also charge a commission on top of that as well.

The commission differs between networks, in some cases it can often be as high as 25%. Some networks may even charge a set-up fee in order to on-board you onto their systems.

If your profit margins are relatively slim, these costs can eat into your margins.

Less Control

When you run your program in-house you have full flexibility so you can decide on the commission structure for your program as well as the terms. With a network however, this is not always the case and they may impose their own terms and conditions which you need to abide by.

Other Affiliate Offers

Many large network will be promoting thousands of different affiliate products, some of these products/services may be similar to the ones you’re selling. Affiliates can quickly and easily compare products and identify ones that are offering the best commission rates. This means an affiliate could decide to sign-up to a competitor’s program instead of yours if they’re offering better perks.

You Don’t Know Who Your Affiliates Are

One of the major drawbacks of using a network is you don’t know who your affiliates are as their details are stored by the network. If for example, you want to email a particular affiliate because you want to congratulate them for being best performing affiliate for a particular month, you won’t be able to do this as you won’t have access to their details.

Benefits of Your Own Affiliate Program

Gives You More Control

While running your own affiliate program does involve more work, you do have much more control. For example, if you want to customize your program for a specific affiliate, you can easily do this without needing to consult or request permission from anyone else.

Running your affiliate program in-house can allow you to be more agile and make quick changes whenever you deem necessary.

Save on Costs

Setting up your own program can save you on any additional fees that networks may charge. For example, you will save on having to pay the network a commission and any set-up costs to on-board you onto their systems.

If you use software to help run your program, you will only need to pay a one-off licence fee or a possibly a monthly subscription and those are all your costs for running the program.

You Know Your Products Better Than Others

A third-party is unlikely to know your products/services better than you do. If you’re running your own program, you can easily advise affiliates about your products as well as recommend the best ways to market them to your intended audience.

A network is unlikely to be better than you in this regards especially as they’re be promoting thousands of other affiliate products and therefore they may not have your best interests at heart.

Negatives of Your Own Affiliate Program

It’s More Time Consuming

Running an affiliate program in-house will require you to do everything from keeping track of sales, issuing payments, recruiting, ensuring affiliates are keeping to your terms of service and making sure that all sales are legitimate and lots of other vital tasks.

You will also need to ensure that your program is up-running 24 hours 365 days a year. If the system goes down for whatever reason i.e. your website may get hacked, you will need to resolve these issues quickly. If you lose the ability to track sales or you’re enable to attribute them to the correct affiliates, you’re unlikely to prove very popular if you’re unable to pay them the correct commissions that they’re due.

If you have hundreds of even thousands of affiliates, all these tasks can make this a full time job and you may therefore need to recruit additional people to help with the day-to-day running of your program.

Running Your Affiliate Program Using a Network

If you’re thinking of using an affiliate network to run your program as you don’t have sufficient resources to run it in-house here are some recommended options:



ClickBank is one of the preferred affiliate networks to sell digital products on. Whether you have created an ebook, a game, video or audio, software or you have a membership site these are all supported on ClickBank.

The long-established network has a large network of over 100,000 active affiliates. Whatever niche you’re in, you’ll be sure to find lots of available affiliates to promote your informational/digital products for you. They will handle all customer payments, refunds as well as commission payments for you. You get to decide how much to pay your affiliates for promoting your products. Generally, most vendors pay commission rates in the region of 50% – 75%. It’s wise to stay within this region otherwise it may be difficult to attract enough affiliates to promote your products.

Clickbank Example Product

In regards to payments, this can be configured so that you can get paid either monthly, bi-monthly or weekly by ClickBank. For payments, they will charge a $2.50 processing fee.

Please be aware that ClickBank does provide customers with a 60-day no quibbles money-back guarantee if they are not completely satisfied with their purchase. They do however allow you to respond to refund requests if you feel they are unjust for any reason.

In order to list a product on ClickBank, you will need to perform the following steps:

1) Sign-up for a free ClickBank account.

2) You now need to create a sales page where you provide details about the product including such things as:

a) Cost of product, the billing schedule.

b) Contact details such as email address.

c) Details regarding how the product will be delivered to the customer i.e. by email, direct download link etc.

d) How long delivery will take i.e. immediate, 10 minutes etc.

e) A buy button link in the following format:

 href=”” target=”cb”>CLICK HERE TO Buy</a> 

Replace the “ITEM” and “Vendor” in the link with your corresponding item and vendor details.

ClickBank Pricing

• One-off joining fee of $49.95 (you can list as many products for this fee)
• 7.5% of every product sale + $1.00 fee
• $2.50 processing fee for any issued payment


ShareASale Setting Up Affiliate Program

ShareASale was founded in 2000 and has over 4,500 merchants across 40 different categories.

The sign-up costs for joining ShareASale are higher than ClickBank. In order to join you will you have to pay a $550 network access fee and you will need to make a minimum deposit of $100 which will be used to pay affiliates as well as ShareASale’s transaction fees.

For every affiliate referral that leads to a sale, you’ll have to pay ShareASale a 20% transaction fee.

For example, if your product costs $45 and you’re offering your affiliate a 10% commission, you would pay a total of $5.40 in fees ($4.50 to the affiliate and $0.90 to ShareASale):

Product cost: $45
Commission rate for each affiliate sale: 10%
Affiliate earnings per sale: $4.50
20% ShareASale transaction fees per sale: $0.90
Total fees per sale: $5.40

While it may be more expensive than other networks such as Clickbank, you do get more bang for your buck. For example, ShareASale will pre-screen all affiliates before they join your program, you’ll also have access to webinars and they will also review your program to identify areas where it may require some improvement.

One of the aspects which sets it apart from other networks is you can set-up rules for different commission structures for your affiliates. For example, you can offer bonuses if they manage to make so many sales in a month. This is a great feature to keep your affiliates incentivized and help with conversions.

Other key features which ShareASale provide include:

  • Real time tracking so you can view affiliate sales as they happen.
  • You can use tags to segment and group affiliates. This allows you to track specific affiliate groups and deliver targeted content. It also allows you to set-up rule based commissions.
  • Merchant API which allows you to retrieve reporting data on an automated basis.
  • Welcome kit which includes a 4 week training program to get you up to speed.
  • Training webinars which are provided throughout the month.
  • Free Support, you can contact the helpdesk free of charge whenever is required (support can be provided by email and phone).
  • Datafeed upload so you can upload your products automatically into ShareASale.
  • Payments issued to affiliates automatically.
ShareASale Pricing

• $550 network access + $100 minimum deposit (to pay affiliate & ShareASale commission)
• 20% fees for every affiliate transaction (you will need to generate a minimum of $35 ShareASale fees every month otherwise you will be charged the difference)


Jvzoo Selling Digital Products

JVZoo is similar to Clickbank in that it’s an affiliate network that specializes in digital products with over 30,000 merchants. It was founded in 2011 and was named one of the “5000 Fastest Growing Companies in America” in both 2016 and 2017.

JVZoo is a relatively inexpensive platform to list your digital products on. As a product creator you can list your products on the platform for free, for any completed sales JVZoo charges a 5% commission fee.

One of the positives of JVZoo for both the affiliate and the merchant, is there is no payout threshold limit so both parties can receive instant payouts via PayPal. If you want to delay payments to affiliates this can be configured by the merchant.

When an affiliate applies to join your program, you can view how many sales they have made through the platform which is a useful feature and will allow you to weed out low converting affiliates. The platform allows you to message affiliates directly which is handy if you want to offer bonuses or incentives for high performing affiliates.

Products that fall below $50 will automatically be approved by JVZoo so these can be instantly sold and you won’t have to wait for someone to approve your product. You can also set-up one-time or recurring payments depending on whether you’re selling a subscription type service or not. They offer helpful customer service if you have any queries and there’s also a Facebook community group that you can join where you can ask questions.

JVZoo Pricing

• Free to join and list products on the plaform
• 5% commission on completed sales

Running Your Affiliate Program In-House

If you’ve decided to run your affiliate program in-house as it gives you more control over a network, here are some recommended plugins that you can use:


AffiliatesWP Affiliate Program Plugin

If you’re looking to run your own affiliate program, AffiliateWP could be a great choice. The feature-packed plugin will allow you to integrate your affiliate program seamlessly into your WordPress site.

It will handle the whole process of running an affiliate program from managing affiliate sign-ups, dealing and tracking referrals as well as handling affiliate payments.

In order to use AffiliateWP, you will first need to decide on the preferred subscription plan. The personal plan, which is the most basic version, starts at $99 per year while the most advanced plan costs $499 (one-off payment) and has all the bells and whistles. Once you have purchased the plugin, simply install it and activate it as you would normally do with any other WordPress plugin.

The next step will be to set-up your affiliate program, this is where you will define all the details relating to your program including things such as commission rates (flat fee or percentage), preferred currency, terms and conditions, cookie duration etc. In order to do this, navigate to Affiliates > Settings and enter the relevant details as required.

AffiliatesWP Settings

The plugin integrates with a number of WordPress e-commerce and membership plugins including WooCommerce, Easy Digital Downloads, Gravity Forms, Ninja Forms, WP EasyCart, WP e-Commerce and many others. You can enable the relevant ones from the Integrations tab.

AffiliateWP Integrations

Once you have set-up your program, you will need to decide how potential affiliates will be able to sign-up to your program. If you want to provide visitors the ability to join via a form, you can use a shortcode which will allow you to insert a registration form within your posts/pages. Applications by new affiliates can be auto-approved or it can be configured so they’re required to be manually approved.

The plugin provides a referral link generator where users can generate their own affiliate links. Affiliates can track their sales and view their earnings and download creatives from a dashboard.

AffiliateWP Link Generator
AffiliateWP Affiliate Stats

Real-time affiliate tracking is provided so that you can track referrals, earnings, affiliate registrations and view who the top-earning affiliates are. Payout logs can be generated so you view which is owed to each affiliate.

AffiliateWP Payments Report

If you opt for either of the two lower-priced subscription plans, you will receive 15 free add-ons as standard. While if you purchase either one of the higher priced plans (Professional or Ultimate), you will receive 14 pro add-ons as well as 15 free add-ons.

If you want to extend the functionality of the plugin, you can purchase official and third-party add-ons separately. For example, you can purchase add-ons which will allow you to do such things as:

Recurring Referrals – If you run a subscription type service, you can offer your affiliates recurring payments.

Automate PayPal Payouts – This will allow you to automate the PayPal payment process for your affiliates. This is a useful feature and will save you a considerable amount of time not having to manually process each payment.

Tiered Commission Rates – You can specify tiered commission levels. For example, for top performing affiliates you can offer higher commission rates.

AffiliateWP Pricing

Personal – $99 (Per Year)
• Single-site license
• Core features included
• 15 free add-ons
• Updates and support for the duration of the subscription

Plus – $149 (Per Year)
• 3 site license
• Core features included
• 15 free add-ons
• Updates and support for the duration of the subscription

Professional – $249 (Per Year)
• Unlimited site license
• Core features included
• 14 pro add-ons
• 15 free add-ons
• Updates and support for the duration of the subscription

Ultimate – $499 (One-Time Payment)
• Unlimited site license
• Core features included
• 14 pro add-ons
• 15 free add-ons
• Unlimited updates and support

Ultimate Affiliate Pro

Ultimate Affiliate Pro

Ultimate Affiliate Pro is a good alternative to AffiliateWP. The plugin comes with lots of useful features to run your affiliate program and its great value considering its price of only $59 for a lifetime license.

One of the things which sets it apart is you can classify affiliates into separate ranks and assign each rank different commission rates. Affiliates can be promoted into the next rank once they accomplished certain achievements. You can set a percentage or flat rate for each rank and you can also offer performance bonuses to award your top performing affiliates.

Ultimate Affiliate Pro Dashboard

If you sell subscription type services, the plugin can be configured so that you can provide recurring commissions to your affiliates otherwise it can set-it up to offer one-off payments.

Ultimate Affiliate Pro Affiliate Dashboard

A number of templates are provided so you can create registration forms as well as login forms and account pages that match the look and feel of your site. There’s also multiple custom field types that allow you to fully customize your registration forms. These forms can easily be added to your posts or pages using shortcodes.

The intuitive dashboard is extremely easy to use. From the dashboard, you as well as the affiliate will be able to see detailed affiliate reports including payment stats.

Ultimate Affiliate Pro Reports

Affiliates can be paid using PayPal or Stripe directly from the dashboard with just a couple of clicks.

Ultimate Affiliate Pro integrates with the following e-commerce and membership platforms including WooCommerce, Easy Digital Downloads and Ultimate Membership Pro.

Ultimate Affiliate Pro Dashboard Int
Ultimate Affiliate Pro Pricing

$59 (Lifetime License)

• Lifetime updates
• 6 months support

How to Recruit New Affiliates?

Over time your affiliates may decide to join other programs so you may experience some churn. You should therefore aim to be pro-active in recruiting new affiliates to your program.

Here are some ideas on how to recruit new affiliates:

Existing Customers

There is often no better person to promote your products then your existing customers who have actually used your products. If they have liked your digital products, they can be useful ambassadors who may be able to spread the word and promote your products to their friends/families for a reward/commission.

In order to save your customers from having to sign-up to a separate affiliate program, opt them into your affiliate program as soon as they make a purchase. This way, they can use their individual referral link to promote your products as soon as they like without having to wait to get approved.

Use Your Website

Your website can also prove a good way to recruit new affiliates. Create a dedicated affiliate sign-up landing page which details the main benefits of joining as well the commission rates and any rewards/bonuses that you may offer.

From your site’s homepage, add a link to this sign-up page either in the header or footer which is clearly visible to potential affiliates.

Below is an example of how Zappos advertises their affiliate program on their site:

Zappos Affiliate Progran

Use Your Existing Email Marketing List

If you use an email opt-in form on your website, you could let your existing subscribers know that you run an affiliate program for your products.

As they have signed-up to your mailing list, no doubt they are already interested in your site’s contents as well as products that you may offer. You could therefore tempt them to promote your products.

Use Influencers

Leveraging the power of influencers within your niche can also prove effective. If you’re unsure of influencers within your niche, you can use tools such as BuzzSumo to help with this.

In order to use BuzzSumo, follow these steps:

1) Head over to BuzzSumo and enter a related keyword term relating to your niche and click on the Go button.

BuzzSumo Search

2) Next, click on the Influencer tab. BuzzSumo will now display influencers within your particular niche.

The tool will list the number of Twitter followers they have so you can see how popular they really are. It also lists other factors including page and domain authority if they have a website, as well as retweet and reply ratio and average retweets.

If you filter by reply ratio, it will show influencers who are more likely to engage with you.

BuzzSumo Finding Influencers


Writing relevant posts on authoritative websites within your niche and linking back your site or affiliate program landing page can also help to recruit new affiliates. Naturally, if the site is already running a similar affiliate program they may not accept your guest post so always check first.

Promote on Social Media

If you have a presence on social media, you could promote your affiliate program to your followers on social media channels such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc

Spy on Your Competitors

Spying on your competitors can help you to analyse how they are promoting their affiliate programs. There are a number of tools out there which you can use to help with this including SEMRush.

SEMRush will allow you to check the backlinks of your competitor’s site. You can then use this data to identify potential affiliates who are linking to their site. You can then contact these affiliates to see if they would be interested in promoting your products as well.

To investigate your competitor’s backlinks using SEMRush, follow these steps:

1) Launch SEMRush and enter the URL for one of your competitor’s sites into the search box.

2) Next, select Domain Analytics > Backlinks from the sidebar. SEMRush will now display the backlinks for the site.

NOTE: Not all the backlinks listed will be from affiliates, some will simply be organic backlinks. So you’ll need to check each link.

Using SEMRush to find competitor backlinks

How To Motivate Your Affiliates

The success of your affiliate program is largely down to your affiliates so building a good relationship with them and helping them to keep motivated is vital.

Here a few ways in which you can motivate your affiliates:

Keep Them Updated

It is important to keep your affiliates updated regularly. Once your affiliate has joined your program send them a welcome email. In the initial email, provide them with links to marketing as well as training material which will allow them to get up to speed and help them to promote your products. Don’t forget to also provide contact details for a point of contact who they can email or better still call if they require assistance with any queries or issues that they may have.

Sending out a regular email newsletter is also a good idea and will allow you to inform them of any new online courses, ebooks etc which they can then promote to their own audience.

Monitoring who your best affiliates are is extremely important as well. Consider sending out a thank you email to your best performing monthly affiliates. You may also want to provide them with a small bonus thanking them for their efforts. Affiliates who feel valued are usually less likely to want to leave your program and sign-up to competitor ones.

Don’t forget to also monitor who your worst performing affiliates are. If an affiliate has not made any sales since signing up, you may want to send them an email asking them if they any require any assistance. Help them by providing relevant creatives such as banners, ebooks etc which they can use.

Making the first sale can often be the hardest for an affiliate. If you can motivate them to write a post or create a YouTube video promoting your product it should help with conversions as well as subsequent referrals.

Run Promotions/Bonuses

Running regular promotions can be a good way to incentivise your affiliates. Offering bonuses or tiered prizes for the top performing affiliates can help to encourage them to work that bit harder in order to make more sales.

Inform your affiliates well-ahead of when your bonuses/promotions go live, this will give them time to create their own promotional content for your digital products.

Monitor your sales throughout the year and identify months where you see increased sales as well as when you see lulls. This will allow you to run promotions during these particular times to boost your conversions.

Offer Training

Depending on your niche, there could be literally hundreds of competitor affiliate programs available. For this reason, making it as easy as possible for your affiliates to promote your products is critical.

Produce new training material as well as creatives regularly throughout the year and think about running seminars as well. This will help to inspire your users to come up with new content.

Find out what promotional methods your top affiliates are using and then produce a training manual on ways to effectively promote your products. Helping and advising them on how to succeed will definitely make all the difference and they should appreciate it.

Paying Your Affiliates on Time

While it may seem obvious, paying your affiliates on time every month is extremely important. Affiliates are unlikely to want to stay with an affiliate program if they are not being paid on time and having to chase for their commissions.

Ensure your payment schedule is clearly defined within your terms and conditions. If for any reason you foresee a delay to payments, inform your affiliates early on and be totally honest with them.

Your affiliates will want to keep track of their sales as well as their earnings. Using a system that allows them to easily monitor their earnings accurately with just a couple of clicks will be key. Whatever affiliate platform you decide to use, always ensure that you thoroughly test it yourself first to verify how usable it really is.

Review Your Commissions

Re-evaluating your commission structure regularly is imperative. Knowing what commission rates your competitors are offering will allow you to ascertain how competitive your rates really are.

If a competitor affiliate program is offering higher commission rates or they provide better rewards, no doubt your affiliates could be tempted to make the switch no matter how great your digital products are.

If you need to increase your commission rates, first understand what you’re profit margins are and see if an increase would be viable.


Setting up an affiliate program to sell your digital products can be a low-risk and a relatively inexpensive way to boost your sales. Having affiliates to promote your products can really help to spread the word and best of all, you only need to compensate them for their efforts if it leads to a sale.

The keys to success of setting up an affiliate program is recruiting the right affiliates for your specific niche and keeping them motivated. Don’t forget the importance of also creating good quality creatives and invest time in training your new affiliates so they can get up to speed with promoting your products. Use a commission tired payment structure in order to incentivize them and use bonuses to reward your best performing affiliates.

If you have a question regarding this post please let me know in the comments below. If you’re currently in the process of setting up your affiliate program, good luck with it!

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