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Affiliate Program Management Guide 2021

This article will give a detailed introduction to affiliate recruitment, activation, optimization, and everything about affiliate program management (especially working with content partners). Happy reading!

How to Recruit Affiliates

What is Affiliate Recruitment?

Affiliate recruitment is to search and identify good affiliates and invite them to join the affiliate program or to approve the application of affiliates if it is a good fit.

The value of recruiting new partners is to diversity the program and reduce the risk of cases where only a few affiliates drive the sales. It is an ongoing process and takes long-term efforts.

Ways to Recruit Affiliates

1.Update the program profile & Optimize your term of the agreement
You need to update your program bio and make it more attractive by highlighting your basic program info and advantages. Your program terms should include what affiliates can do and can’t such as PPC policy and commission incentive.

  • What-products you sell
  • Where-your top markets
  • How-keywords to search your program
  • Why-your commission, cookie window, EPC
  • Rule-Commission & Incentive,  PPC policy

2.Use recruitment tool on the network & Ask for help from affiliate managers

ShareASale recruitment tool
ShareASale recruitment tool


CJ recruitment tool
CJ recruitment tool

You can take advantage of the tool of affiliate networks to get more partners to join the programs.

Some publisher details such as EPC, Promotional Methods, and  Promotional Properties are key metrics to see whether the affiliate is a good fit.

Do not forget to ask the affiliate manager to recommend some top affiliates for your program. It is better to have your marketing goal and budget in mind.

Tips: If you use CJ, you can also use CJ Content Certificate Program to save more time. You can choose one of the verticals among Style | Tech | Lifestyle | Home | Business and set a higher commission for the term. In this way, you can get access automatic access to pre-qualified content publishers.

  • CJ Badges for merchants: Content Certification, Mobile Certification, Cross-device Tracking, Cookie-less Tracking
  • CJ Badges for affiliates: CJ Performers, New to Network,  Sub-Affiliate, Content Certified.

3. Take advantage of Affiliate Network Marketplace
Some affiliate networks offer marketingplaces where merchants can buy paid placements from affiliates directly.

And you are suggested to compare the prices of these placement opportunities for your brand and meet the marketing goal.

CJ placement marketplace
CJ placement marketplace

4. Use paid placement on affiliate networks or sub-networks
You can boost your program visibility by buying exposure such as banners and newsletters from affiliate networks or sub-networks.

Notes: some affiliate networks may not provide such client service.

ShareASale program boost
ShareASale program boost

FlexOffers paid placement

5. Find affiliates outside the affiliate networks
a) Competitive Analysis
It is important and useful to do a competitive analysis for your affiliate program.

For example, Google or Youtube  “Nike coupon” “Nike reviews”,
you can get a list of coupon affiliates and media/ content affiliates.

Or use SEO tools such as SEMrush/Ahrefs to get the backlinks of your competitors.

b) Free tools to find similar websites.
similarsitesearch or similarweb
If you get one good affiliate, you can find similar ones.

c) Paid tools
Some paid tools such as Publisher Discovery can help hunt for affiliates from different affiliate networks.

d) Paid ads
You can either use Facebook ads to expose your affiliate program or buy placement on affiliate forums. Or just post your program on LinkedIn.

e)Affiliate conference
If possible, you can join affiliate conferences to take a close look at the real affiliate industry. It is a great chance for networking.

Some affiliate conference you need to know:

  • Affiliate Summit
  • Affiliate World
  • DealMaker by Rakuten Marketing
  • Awin + ShareASale ThinkTank
  • CJU
  • Impact Growth
  • Performance Marketing Awards

Understand Different Type of Publishers

As a qualified affiliate manager, you need to understand how affiliates work and how they promote your products with which methods.

Types of Affiliates
Different affiliate networks have different categories but the traffic types are the same: search, social, email, content, display…

affiliate types
Types of affiliates

Here are some top affiliates.

Coupon RetailMeNot, Groupon (exclusive vanity code)
Loyalty Ebates, Topcashback (email, cashback)
Niche closetsamples.comcouponmon.com (blog, SNS)
Sub Network Skimlink, Viglink
Influencer Network Rewardstyle, Shopping Links
Cart Abandonment Yieldify, Salecycle (pixel )
Search  wickfire, JWEB (trademark + bidding, PPC)
Toolbar joinhoney, wikibuy (coupon toolbar)
Price Comparison pricerunner, pricespy, Idealo(data feed, CPC)
Student Discount Studentbeans, UNiDAYS
Media BuzzFeed, Business Insider

Affiliates and Consumer Journey

affiliate and consumer journey
Source: IAB Au Affiliate Marketing Handbook 2020

Generally, incentive traffic such as coupon/deal/cashback affiliates will perform better. But merchants/brands have been shifting focus from these traditional partners to content and tech partners to diversify the programs.

Build Recruitment Campaign and  Affiliate Communication Plan

Steps of building a recruitment campaign

  1. Set up your goal and identify your target affiliates partners
  2. Invite the affiliates fit for your program  or push the offers to them
  3. Communicate with the affiliates by sending personalized messages

For different marketing goals, you can work with different partners.
It is a good idea to group affiliates and sends related offers and customized emails.

communication strategy
source: CJ

Affiliate Reachouts
Just put yourself into the affiliate’s shoes: what kind of advertisers do you want to work with and what information do you need to promote the products?

The reach-out template for prospective and newly-joined affiliates always include

  • Who- who you are
  • What-what you want to do
  • Why-the reasons why partners choose you
  • How-the ways of collaborating with you

Hello [Contact Name Here],

My name is [YOUR NAME].  I am reaching out on behalf of [NAME OF COMPANY] regarding our interest in collaborating with you through CJ Affiliate.

Your recent blog post [BLOG TOPIC – SIMILAR TO YOUR INITIATIVE] really resonated with me because [WHAT YOU LIKED ABOUT IT].

Recently, our brand [BRAND STORY] and [MISSION STATEMENT].  I wanted to connect with you to discuss [OPPORTUNITY] further and see if we can work on something similar together.

We can offer [INCENTIVE] for your support between [TIMEFRAME]. Our primary goal is [GOAL] with a [SPECIFIC KPI TARGET].

If you are interested, we can set up a call this week to discuss starting a collaboration.

Thank you,

CJ email template
CJ email template

It is also important to track the process and follow up on time.

Learn more about how to recruit affiliate partners.

How to Activate Affiliates

Some affiliates join your program but they are not click-active or sale-active. In this case, you need to engage with these potential partners by offer incentives such as commission increases or bonuses.

These campaigns will help activate your inactive publishers and create new opportunities to drive program growth.

Questions to Think before Activation Campaign

  • What is the goal?
    Drive awareness, clicks, sales, numbers of active affiliates, new customers
  • Who is the target?
    Publishers generate clicks but no sales or drive no traffic.
  • What is the timeline?
  • How to measure the campaign?
    Revenues, AOV, New Customers, Click, MOM growth,  performance of top affiliates

6 Steps for Affiliate Activation Campaign

  1. Select Publishers to Target and group them
  2. Determine Incentive
  3. Send Initial Campaign Newsletter (direct outreach or mass email)
  4. Send Mid-Campaign Newsletter to encourage affiliates
  5. Complete Post-Campaign Review
  6. Perform Post-Campaign Follow-Up

Types of inactive publishers to target

  • No Clicks, No Sales
  • High Clicks, No Sales
  • Low Clicks, No Sales
  • Newly Joined Affiliates
  • Inactive Affiliates with high EPC/traffic
  • Content affiliates

Types of Incentive

  • CPA Increase
  • Bonus
  • Exclusive offer
  • Flat fee for paid placement

Incentive Campaign Newsletter should include

  • Goal affiliates need to achieve
  • Timeframe (start date and end date)
  • What the incentive is and when and how it will be paid out.
  • Other requirements (screenshots, opt-ins, etc.)

CJ activation campaign email template


As a valued partner of the [INSERT YOUR PROGRAM NAME] affiliate program we would like to offer you an opportunity to earn a [INSERT $XX BONUS/XX% COMMISSION INCREASE] for the month of [INSERT MONTH].​

In order to earn the [INSERT BONUS/COMMISSION INCREASE] you must:​

  • Reply to this email and opt-in​
  • Generate at least [INSERT XX SALES/LEADS] in the month of [MONTH]​

If you meet the goal your [INSERT BONUS/COMMISSION INCREASE] will be posted to your account in the following month’s payout.​

Please let us know if we may help in any way. We look forward to working with you!​



Tips: make a campaign tracker and monitor the performance.

How to Optimize Affiliate Program

In terms of affiliate program optimization, we mean to optimize everything about the affiliate program from program bio, commission setting, to affiliate cooperation.

Considering the privacy policy and mobile phone use, you need to make your programs support cross-device tracking and cookie-less tracking and your website is mobile-friendly.

It is advised to do a competitive analysis. Is your commission attractive enough compared with your competitors?

Program Profile Optimization

  • Competitive commission
  • Cookie duration
  • Bestsellers and top markets
  • Program terms and agreement
  • Incentive commission
  • Affiliate team support

Affiliate Optimization

Analyze publisher performance reports and contact publishers for further cooperation.

Optimization the process
source: CJ

Top and Potential Publishers

Always pay attention to your top affiliates especially when their sales or traffic drops.

top publisher optimziation best practices
source: CJ

Schedule time to discuss what you can do to help potentional affiliates to increase their performance.

  • Publishers with high clicks & low sales (low CR)
  • Publishers with low clicks, but strong sales (high CR) or high AOV.
  • Publishers with high EPC or traffic but drive no or low clicks or sales.
optimization opportunies by peformance
source: CJ

You can also optimize publishers according to their promotional methods.

optimize by promotional model
source: CJ

Offer what publishers need such as coupon code, banners, data feed to help better promote your products.

Publisher Optimization Strategy
source: CJ

Paid Placements

You can try paid placement, especially during BF/CM sales.
These placements include

  • website banner: homepage/category page
  • sponsored articles/ deal post
  • social posts
  • newsletter
  • custom package

Usually, these paid placements charge a flat fee. But sometimes you can offer a commission increase, an exclusive offer, and free products or a hybrid of lower flat fee and CPA in exchange for the exposure.

Regarding paid placements, affiliates usually ask your budget and they can offer a proposal. However, you can require case studies for reference. For SMEs, it may be risky to try a flat fee but you can always start small and scale from there.

Always remember your marketing goals, KPIs, and metrics for success.

program and publisher optimziation best practice
source: CJ

How to Work with Content Affiliates

What is Content Affiliate

To make it simple, content affiliates mean those who use content to monetize traffic and earn commissions. They include bloggers, review sites, niche sites, influencers,  and even mass media.


content partners
source: CJ

Why Work with Content Partners

The answer is simple: Content is King.

Affiliate marketing trends
source: PILive 2020

More and more merchants and brands want to know work with content partners, make these paid or earned media a key part of their whole content strategy.

Traditional affiliates such as coupon and deals websites drive more conversion while content affiliates bring brand awareness, making the top of the funnel consistent with the bottom of the funnel.

content strategy
source: SEMrush

Before embarking on an influencer or media publisher collaboration, it’s important to be crystal clear on your goals, KPIs, investment, and content deliverables.

How to Work with Content Partners

Content Publisher outreach essentially comes down to building a long-term working partnership with influencers and/or media publishers through consistent communication, personalization, and brand insights.

You need to know how they work and match it with your marketing goal.

  • Magazine editorial: 1M+ UMV, strong brand recognization, large editorial staff
  • Commerce content: focus on new/unique products, best-of-web promotion
  • High-level influencer: 300K-1M UMV, small staff, and high engagement
  • Powe-middle: 100-300K UMV, small staff and high engagement
  • Individual blogger: Under 50K UMV, great content + photo
  • Niche: focused content, high conversion

The revenue model of content partners

  • sponsored content -flat fee, more control over content, timeline
  • product review, product, and possible payment (depends on media) required
  • affiliate post, organic placement in the form of product roundups or gift guide; some may require paid placement

Mass Media Publisher

Why Mass Media Do Affiliate Marketing

wirecutter affiliate
source: wirecutter

Mass media use affiliate marketing to increase their revenue streams. Successful examples are BuzzFeed, Ziff Media, WireCutter, and more.

All a publisher has to do is drop a link to a product into a piece of relevant content and wait for an interested consumer to come along and bite. Any sales lead to a small commission for the publisher without them having to lift a finger to package up and mail out whatever product they just helped sell.

Learn more:

What Mass Media Care

  • Reader first
  • Editorial integrity
  • Good products and user experience
  • High commission

Jacqueline Wladis from Condé Nast gives a clear picture of how commerce content works. Anyway, they want to serve their readers and monetize their content.

source: PILive Global 2020

3C from CNN Unscored team: Research, Reputation, Recommendation

How to Work with Mass Media
The flat fee model is always welcome.
If your products are attractive to their readers, the editor thinks it a good fit and may write something about it and add the affiliate links then,

BuzzFeed Affiliate
BuzzFeed Affiliate media kit

How to Contact Mass Media

Do your homework first and find related content within your brand.

You can contact their affiliate account manager who will forward your message to the editorial team. Or just email the eCommerce editors to see whether they are interested.

Editoral Content
via Jessica Spira from Ziff Media

If you have a budget for paid placement, it is easies to start with.


Hope you have a full understanding of the affiliate program management from affiliate recruitment, activation, and optimization.

Wish you great success with your affiliate program!

Affiliate Marketing Checklist 2021

From setting up a new program to messaging cohesion and optimizing partnerships, conducting regular affiliate audits ensure that your program is successful. Hope this checklist can help you effectively manage your affiliate program.

Account Audit

Is all your publisher-facing information up-to-date? Review the following information for reference.

General Network Account Information

  • Program description (bio)
  • Logo
  • Automated event emails (pending applications, acceptance into program, etc.)
  • Newsletter templates
  • Contact information
  • Affiliate page on your websites


  • Logo
  • Banners (seasonal and relevant)
  • Video
  • Textlink
  • Product Feed

Banner Size:

  • 300X250, 728X90, 60X600, 120X90, 125X125, 468X60
  • 300X600, 325X50 (mobile), 335X280

banner size

Commission Terms

  • Publisher groups and tags for easy reporting and newsletter outreach
  • Dynamic commission if necessary
  • PPC rules (brand safety)

Publisher Approvals

  • Avoid auto-approval because of quality over quantity

Pixel Implementation


Promotional Calendar

  • Understand drive times for specific products and categories
  • Based on prior performance and current availability, consider offering affiliate channel exclusives, affiliate semi-exclusives or true exclusives to key partners.
  • Get creative with promotional messaging, adding in seasonal wording where appropriate to create a sense of urgency and relevancy.

Free Shipping & Shipping Deadlines

  • Customers love free shipping.

Promotional Assets

  • coupon code
  • sweepstakes
  • gift card
  • flash sale
  • holiday sale

Newsletter Communication/Mass Outreach

  • promotional coupon, coupon code, duration, and any terms and conditions
  • plan to send reminders of peak promotions closer to the actual run dates
  • creat a list of top publisher contacts and send promotional updates and calendars directly to these contacts, as well as in-network newsletters.
  • creat a monthly newsletter schedule that coincides with your sites marketing calendar


Top Publishers/ Coupons & Loyalty

  • communicate individually with these publishers, addressing any recent decrease and /or ways to continue increasing performance.
  • offer a tiered performance bonus to top partners for exceeding revenue goals.

Content Affiliates

  • Highlight relevant seasonal products, along with updated seasonal creative in communications to content-focused sites.
  • Incentivize content affiliates to post specific seasonal content and promotions.
  • Provide content suggestions  (keywords or best sellers) if possible.

Influencer Marketing

  • Mega, Macro, Micro or Nano influencers

Technology Affiliates

  • Retargeting can be helpful to optimize conversion rates.

Placement Buying

  • Ask for media kits and get the best fit for your budget during the holiday season.


Brand Safety & Fraud Traffic

  • Audit publisher sites to ensure they are not cheating and violating the program terms.

Placement Performance

  • Monitor publisher sites to ensure placements are running as scheduled with the proper messaging.

Budget  & KPI

  • Metrics: Clicks, Sales, ROAS, AOV, CR, New/Existing customer

Multi-Channel Marketing

  • Compare the data among different marketing channels

Weekly Reading Picks| Volume 44

Bob’s Weekly Reading Picks

2019.11.10 volume 44


  1. 20 Common and Dangerous Affiliate Program Mistakes 
  2. How affiliate marketing can revitalize your business
  3. Essential Affiliate Program KPIs to Review Before the New Year
  4. Differences Between Domain, Email Hosting, and Web hosting
  5. 28 Best WordPress Plugins in 2019
  6. What Is BERT? – Whiteboard Friday
  7. LOCAL SEO: The Definitive Guide Continue reading Weekly Reading Picks| Volume 44

How to Recruit Quality Affiliates

Affiliate marketing is relationship-based, the relationship among advertisers, affiliates, and affiliate networks.  For a successful affiliate program, we can’t emphasize too much the importance of affiliate recruitment and management.

Here is a simple guide for you to recruit great affiliate partners.
Continue reading How to Recruit Quality Affiliates

Weekly Reading Picks| Volume 21

Bob’s Weekly Reading Picks

2019.6.2 volume 21


1.10 Basic SEO Tips to Index + Rank New Content Faster – Whiteboard Friday
2.The Complete Beginner’s Guide to YouTube Marketing
3.17 Ways to Get More YouTube Views by Backlinko
4.PMA Virtual Round Table: Survival Strategies Against Amazon
5.Learn to Earn: 20 Books That Provide a Crash Course on Positioning, Sales, and Advertising
6.Vape Marketing When Google and Facebook Ads Are Off the Table
7.What to Know Before Choosing an Affiliate Program Management Agency

Continue reading Weekly Reading Picks| Volume 21

Weekly Reading Picks| Volume 20

Bob’s Weekly Reading Picks

2019.5.26 volume 20


1.The Complete Guide to Finding and Recruiting Quality Affiliates
2.The Ultimate Checklist for a Successful Affiliate Program Launch
3.A Beginner’s Guide to Using Google Ads
4.Ecommerce Business Blueprint: How to Build, Launch, and Grow a Profitable Online Store
5.A Social Copywriting Playbook: How to Write Instagram Captions that Drive Engagement and Sales
6.How To Leverage The Rise of “Near Me” Searches
7.The Ultimate Guide to Video Marketing

Continue reading Weekly Reading Picks| Volume 20

Weekly Reading Picks| Volume 18

Bob’s Weekly Reading Picks

2019.5.12 volume 18


1.How to Select an OPM Agency That’s Right for My Affiliate Program
2.Performance Marketing Glossary  by PMA
3.Admitad Annual Report 2018/2019
4.The Rise of Influencer and Content Affiliates 
5.The Big Marketing FAQ You Didn’t Know You Needed
6.How Trademarks Can Help Protect Your Unique Brand and Business
7.BrandZ Top Chinese Brands
Continue reading Weekly Reading Picks| Volume 18

Weekly Reading Picks| Volume 17

Bob’s Weekly Reading Picks

2019.5.5 volume 17


1.Publisher spotlight: Slickdeals from ShareASale
2.Reputation Management: How to Protect Your Brand Online in 2019
3.Q&A: Do Affiliates Drive Incrementality
4.Top Tips for Running Successful Lead Generation Campaign
5.10 WordPress Plugins Developers Can’t Live Without
6.The Top 10 Mobile Video Editing Apps for Small-Business Owners
7.Mark Zuckerberg wants to build WeChat for the West
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Weekly Reading Picks| Volume 16

Bob’s Weekly Reading Picks

2019.4.28 volume 16


1.Telling stories through affiliate marketing
2.The Ultimate Guide to RFPs by HubSpot
3.Macro vs. Micro Influencer Deals and How to Negotiate Them
4.Push Notification Essentials from Zeropark
5.How to Get Your First Sale in 30 Days: A Marketing Checklist 
6.The Future of Shopping Is Already Happening in China
7.Britain strikes an artful compromise on Huawei and 5G
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Weekly Reading Picks| Volume 15

Bob’s Weekly Reading Picks

2019.4.21 volume 15


1.Your 3 Step Guide to Building a Marketing Plan That Works
2.14 Steps To Grow Your Affiliate Program
3.Best Open Source and Free Ecommerce Platforms for 2019
4.We Analyzed 12 Million Outreach Emails. Here’s What We Learned
5.20 Awesome Sources of Free Data
6.What’s Working in Affiliate Marketing in 2019 by STM Forum
7.Amazon’s E-Commerce Adventure in China Proved Too Much of a Jungle
Continue reading Weekly Reading Picks| Volume 15