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How to find the best CPA affiliate network
Overview - What is CPA?
CPA means Cost Per Action or Acquisition, what means that visitor must perform some action (submit info, buy something). Advertiser then pays to network for that action (lead). Then, CPA Affiliate network pays portion of that to affiliate who sends that visitor.
Advertiser then use those LEADS (visitor's info), trying to sell something to them, or selling that info to another Advertisers. Advertiser is calculating CPA (cost), what means, he is paying for LEAD price what can bring profit. If leads are not converting (no profit), Advertiser will lower price what he is paying for a lead. This is an explanation why offers listed on different networks could have different rates. If quality (converting) leads are delivered, Advertiser will raise rate, if you are sending junk traffic, rate will be lowered.
For affiliates, CPA affiliate network is, in fact, PPA (PaysPerAction) network.
There were also PPC (PaysPerClick), PPS (PaysPerSale) networks, but todays all that
is under CPA basket, What means that CPA network pays you for Action (for click, sale, lead or banner displays).
If you are confused, here is a simple example. If you are promoting products using Google AdWords,
in that case you are advertiser, and AdWords is CPC (cost per click), or PPC (PayPerClick).
How to choose the best CPA network
Now, when we know what is CPA affiliate network (pays you for delivered lead - visitor), it is the time to join one. But, how to know that that network pays you what you deserved? Below is checklist you can use where you are searching for new affiliate network to join.
Somebody recommended one network to you in some forum? You are following his affiliate referral link? Or, did you see some good review about new network with affiliate referral link? No affiliate link on that review? How you can be sure that is not a paid review?
You can check those links, but more important is to do some research about that affiliate network. Say, go to Google search, use network name and keywords like this: scam, spam, payment problem, support, etc.., to find possible problems affiliates maybe have with that network.
Affiliate network website
Let's see what affiliate network website can show to us. Check every link from their main page. Broken links, broken images, slow loading? Contact form? List (example) of offers? Send some general question about offers, how long you will wait for a reply? Phone number? Just call and ask something. Check WhoIs info. Domain registered on Company or individual? Hosting company used? Date of first registration (domain)?
CPA network application
You want to apply? You will need a few things on place before that. Working email account (not free),
active website (proof that is yours and not on free web hosting), real phone number and street address (not P.O. box),
and some plan how to promote their offers (even then when you cannot find any of offers listed on their website).
However, due to many fraudulent applications, if you are an international affiliate (not USA resident), it will be hard to be approved without English language knowledge (you could be contacted by the phone, at least to confirm that you are the real person) and some recommendation from an older affiliate of that network or some AM (affiliate manager) can help.
Despite this above, not long time ago, I was invited to join to one CPA affiliate network. Since I was recommended from some AM, I was approved, but my account remains locked. Second ultra-suspicious AM (or whoever she was) declines my application (you are not good match, blahblah), probably when figured that I am an international affiliate. This is common todays, thanks to the our "friends" from far far East, who are even paying to the others to get CPA account.
Anyway, after you are approved, you need to download W-9 (USA) or W-8 (international) form, and send filled form (by fax, email, snail mail) to the network.
Offers and rates you can check only after joining. If you are approved under three business days, that is good, if you need to wait longer, expect possible problems on that network. Reason also could be, if network is popular, they need to check every application, then you will wait more.
There are offers, as mentioned above, with different payment on different networks. Along with reason connected with quality of leads delivered, one more reason could be that there are different requirement for visitor. If you are comparing offer payments on different networks, compare landing pages too. When picking offers, always check what is required for lead (action). This helps you to target offer better, and to avoid misrepresenting offers, what will not help trust of your website visitors, you are earning from them, don't forget.
Hint: When checking links, take a look at the browser status bar, what kind of redirections are used? For some offers, your affiliate network could be affiliate of other network, and rate for that offer could be lower than on that other network.
Hint2: There are two reasons why your Conversion rate is going down. First is that offer is long time around, and second is that something is changed on their landing page. Make screenshoot of every offer landing page, or better, save that page, so you can compare (source) later what is changed there. Always, in case of lower conversion, try to promote that offer using another network, just to be sure that nobody is "attached" on your affiliate link. (adware, shavings, scrubbings...)
Not every affiliate manager is a former affiliate, and not every of them can understand what you are talking about, if you are going into details. Just try to find how much your AM knows about his/her job first. You can simply get banned if you are asking for explanation about something AM doesn't know. It is more easy to ban you, than to show he/she doesn't know his/her job. Don't forget, they are employers only, not marketing Gurus.
Since examples always can illustrate better, here is what happened not long time ago: I was in direct contact with AM of one CJ merchants (not CPA), trying to figure what was the reason for huge drop of conversion, after seven months promoting them with steady high conversion rate (suspected tracking problems and changes on their landing pages). Second AM (same merchant) in meantime, sent canned message (low conversion problem, here are links...), and a few days later I got relationship terminated message.
To finish this story, relationship is reactivated after my complaints, in meantime, I changed network and conversion rate was back to normal from the first click.
See this example? Second AM saw low conversion and terminate relationship, without even checking my history, or trying to ask for a reason (and cause of low CR was on their side). This example shows importance of affiliate manager (AM). Problem is that they are often changing, and if you found a good one, keep with him/her, and follow them to the some other network if it is neccessary.
Offers tracking software is using cookies. Cookies are not bullet-proof. Adware (PPV), cookie stuffers, anti-adware software, firewalls, browser setups... are affecting/overwriting/deleting cookies from different reasons, and your commission is lost in that case. One way to avoid this is to join smaller, newer, not well known CPA network, with their tracking software. Cookie domain, since it is still not known, is not targeted from above mentioned software, what means that smaller percent of cookies are overwritten/deleted.
Result is, that conversion ratio will be high (normal), at least for a few months, until it is spotted from your competitors (adware, cookies stuffers). Soon, that cokie domain will be added to anti-adware database and victim of this war will be your commission. This is real example, and confirmed several times.
CPA offers are expiring, some after very short time, and offer you are promoting is redirected. Biggest mistake of some CPA networks is not to use that expired traffic on suitable way. Some of them are displaying simple "Offer expired" page, what is non sense, some are redirecting visitor to default offer, what is another non sense, since it is not targeted.
Little better solution is to redirect to similar offer, but even when that is done, visitor can signup for that offer, thinking that is the same offer described on your ad.
The best I saw is some kind of portal, list of offers, where visitor can find similar offer. This includes separate list of international (when GeoTargeting is used) offers. To mention only two for example, in the past, websponsors and affiliatefuel were affiliate networks with separate websites where all offers are listed with your affiliate link. Expired ofers were redirected to that website, and it was possible to promote only those websites (link to them contains your affiliate ID, or, in websponsors case, separate subdomain and website customization)
Why redirection of expired offer is important? Just imagine that you are sending paid clicks to some default page....
There are a few ways you can get paid. Check, wire and Paypal are common ways affiliate networks are using. Until the first payment is received, don't push their offers too hard. Wait to see if payment is on time, and that received payment is correct.
Payment threshold is a sum you need to earn for payment to be issued and sent to you. On some networks you can set min. threshold, on some min. threshold for a check is $50. If your earnings in one month are below threshold, sum is moved to the next month.
Dark side of CPA affiliate networks
Here it is: CPA leads scrubbings and commission shavings, a few reasons why your conversion and commission could be below expected. Some examples of shady CPA business you can find on Affiliate rip-offs page, just scroll down