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The Best Affiliate Marketing Program in 2020 To Make Passive Income

August 24, 2020

Reading time: 10 minutes

Affiliate Marketing is one of the best ways to make passive income online in 2020, especially considering the fact that some successful affiliates can earn over $150,000 per year! 

And if you have a blog or website and you’re thinking about how you can actually monetize it, one of the most popular ways is to join an affiliate program. 

There can be numerous factors that will impact how successful you’ll be and how much money you can earn. And one of these is the programs you choose to join. Let’s find out which programs are considered to be the best. 

But before we dive deeper into the topic of “best affiliate programs”, let’s just briefly talk about affiliate marketing and the different types of programs. 

What is an Affiliate Program? 

Affiliate marketing is a passive way of earning commission by marketing and selling another brand’s products or services. Brands that have affiliate programs allow others to promote and sell their products or services under certain conditions.

An affiliate is a person acting as both marketing and sales for the merchant. They look for a product or service they like and promote it to their audience, earning a certain amount of money each time they make a sale.

What are the types of affiliate programs? 

We usually divide them into two main categories: in-house affiliate programs and affiliate networks. 

In-house programs are created by brands themselves, who then give you the opportunity to sell their products or services and get a commission in return. For instance, berush.com is the official SEMrush affiliate program. There are certain benefits to joining an in-house program, such as a direct relationship with the brand and, usually, higher commissions. 

Affiliate networks are built-in programs with a variety of brands to promote and get paid for, such as Commission Junction. One of the strongest advantages of this type of program is that you get access not to a single brand, but to hundreds of products and services. However, you can get paid less since the brand pays a set fee for the listing. 


Important things to consider when choosing a program 

Now that we know the existing program types, we should also cover what criteria are important when you make a choice to join a program or a network. 

1. Brand

First is the product(s) or service(s) you’ll be promoting. Ideally, you should know this product well and believe in it. Why is that important? Because it will be much easier for you to promote it transparently and honestly. So, if you feel like you’d buy this product/service for yourself, you should definitely consider being an affiliate for this brand. 

Also, it would be better to consider a well-known, established brand with a good reputation. This way, you have higher chances of getting your affiliate commission sooner. 

2. Cookie lifespan

Cookies are used to track visitors who click on affiliate links. After a user visits a website, the information about his or her visit on that website is going to be stored. A multitude of information can be stored in a visitor’s cookies such as his or her IP address, visit duration, date and time of visit, your Ref ID, and even a website name. All this data helps to understand where a user came from (e.g. your website) and, therefore, which affiliate should be paid commission.

Cookies’ duration determines for how long the prospective who clicks through your affiliate link might bring you an income. For example, if an affiliate program has a 24-hour cookie lifespan (like Amazon), a prospect that came through your link has 24 hours to make a purchase, and you would only be given a commission if this lead actually buys within the 24 hours. 

3. Commission rates

Promoting a brand is actually not that simple, and it can be considered as a business where you should get paid well. That’s why another point to look at before choosing a program is the commission structure. 

Some high-paying affiliate programs offer as much as 40%, or even 50%, from sales. However, it is far more important to look at how much money you get from each sale. Here is a clear difference: 

  • If you promote a product that costs $25 for an end user and your commission is 30%, you’ll only get $7.50. 
  • However, if the price tag is $100 and your commission is 30%, you’ll get $30 for every sale. 

So, pay attention not only to the commission itself but also to the product prices. 

4. Recurring or not recurring programs

So, once you’ve made your sale, there are two possible scenarios – either you get a fixed amount of money and you forget about that sale, or you keep getting money from it.

Usually, you have a recurring commission with SAAS services or products, such as Hubspot, SEMrush, Shopify, etc. 

5. Ease of signing up for a program

It may be hard to believe, but there are some programs that want you to pay an entry fee for joining. These programs are to be avoided, as they are often scams.

Another point to mention is how quickly you’ll get access to the program after you sign up. With some affiliate programs, you’ll have to wait for approval and some have the pre-approval system so that you can access all the features once you’re signed up and it's way better. 

6. Pre-designed creatives

You need to make sure that an affiliate program will provide you with proven promo materials, such as banners, landing pages, ebooks, pop ups, widgets, screenshots, etc. Of course, you can design them yourself, but it is much easier to have them pre-designed. This way, you can focus on promoting the product, not spending time or money on creating your own. 

Affiliate links include a unique code that lets you and the affiliate program team know when you refer a new user or make a new sale. Sometimes, you can see that this code is pre-filled with creatives, which is obviously a great point as this option allows you to be sure your affiliate link works.  

7. Additional earning solutions

As we said, commission rates and the final amount you earn are crucial when choosing a program to join. 

However, you can find some additional earning opportunities, such as contest participation, high incentives for affiliates or bonuses. 

Some programs even offer different partner levels, which are based on the number of sales you make or on other defined parameters?. For example, you can become a Silver partner under the SEMrush Affiliate Program and get more benefits, such as extended promo trial links. And with the “Gold” level you’ll be able to get free access to the SEMrush annual GURU plan (which usually costs $1,999!) and so on. 

Therefore, you have more opportunities to boost your income with additional earning solutions. 

Top Affiliate Programs (In-house)

After covering the main criteria of affiliate programs, it’s time to go through particular affiliate programs and networks to see which are the best and which are the best paying. 

1. BeRush – the SEMrush Affiliate Program


The Brand: BeRush is the SEMrush Affiliate Program. SEMrush is an international award-winning SEO, SEM, PPC and Content suite for digital marketing professionals. It is trusted by over 6,000,000 users including such brands as eBay, Quora, Booking.com, HP, BNP Paribas, etc. 

Cookie lifespan: 10 years 

Commission: up to 40% from SEMrush subscriptions (monthly rates: PRO - $99.95/mo, GURU - 199.95/mo, BUSINESS  - $399.95/mo). Annual subscription rates are also available for users. It is one of the highest paying affiliate marketing programs. 

Recurring: yes, payments are made twice a month as long as your referral keeps his or her subscription. 

Ease of sign-up: BeRush offers a pre-approval system, meaning that you get access to all resources and features, such as Education Hub, affiliate links and banners (aka promo materials), once you’ve signed up for the program. 

Pre-designed promo materials: When you join the SEMrush Affiliate Program, you get access to a large library of affiliate links that include banners, landing pages, widgets, eBooks, and campaigns-in-a-box. All of these creatives are available in 9 languages: English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Italian, German, Russian, Japanese and Chinese. Plus, you get various landing pages with pre-filled unique REF IDs that lead to 7-day trials. This way, it’s easier to convert people from a trial to a sale. 

Additional earning solutions: A monthly contest with a chance to win $100, and seasonal contests (quarterly change) with chances to win $1000, $500 or $200. A monthly Performance Incentive for income boosting (for example in July – August the offer is “up to $200 extra on each new GURU sale). A tier two program is available on request. 

Additional information: You get paid via PayPal or Wire Transfer, BeRush offers educational materials for you to learn more about the products, the program, and affiliate marketing in general. You can also track your performance in the “Statistics” section. 

2. Cloudways

The Brand: Cloudways is one of the best-in-class managed cloud hosting platforms that has the option to choose from the world’s best IaaS providers. Among their partners are such companies as Google Cloud, DigitalOcean, AWS, VULTR, etc. 

Cookie lifespan: 90 days

Commission: 7% recurring commission for the lifetime

Recurring: Depends on the type of structure you choose (Slab, Hybrid or Custom). The Hybrid model offers recurring commissions. You can change the structure anytime.   

Ease of sign-up: It's easy to sign-up and the process is free from any interaction with the team. 

Pre-designed promo materials: Different types of promo materials are available under the “Campaigns” section, which is frequently updated. 

Additional earning solutions: You can double your earnings if you bring in sales regularly by becoming a part of high incentives and bonus campaigns.

Additional information: High CPA that is up to $125. Constant support for affiliates through tickets, live chat, training, tips, guides and blogs. You can access detailed performance reports and get a dedicated account manager. 

3. Fiverr

The Brand: Fiverr is an international company that provides a marketplace platform for freelance services. They have over 5.5m users and the product is trusted by such brands as Facebook, Google, Netflix, and PayPal. 

Cookie lifespan: 30 days

Commission: Dynamic CPA up to $150 or $10 CPA + 10% RevShare

Recurring: No, although there are three types of commission: CPA, Hybrid and RevShare. In their F.A.Q. section, they say “CPA Commission qualification is for each user who is considered a First-Time-Buyer (FTB). The first purchase from each customer is payable. Hybrid Commission is a combination of CPA and revenue share. Revenue Share Commission (RevShare) is X% of the order value.”

Ease of sign-up: You get access to all resources once you’re registered.

Pre-designed promo materials: Different types of promo materials are available, including banners, landing pages, and eBooks in 5 languages: English, Spanish, Portuguese, German, French. 

Additional earning solutions: n/a

4. LiveChat

The Brand: Trusted by 30,000+ companies, this company offers live chat and help desk for websites for a better customer experience. 

Cookie lifespan: 120 days

Commission: 20% from the LiveChat subscriptions (Starter – $19/m, Team – $39/m, Business – $59/m) 

Recurring: Yes, you will continue to earn your commission as long as the user you’ve referred keeps buying the product. 

Ease of sign-up: It’s easy to get access to the platform after your registration as no additional approval is needed.

Pre-designed promo materials: Under the “Resources Center” section, you can get different types of promotional materials for LiveChat, ChatBot and their Tier-2 program, LiveChat Partners. These include videos, logos, banners, tweets, texts, and screenshots. 

Additional earning solutions: You can get 5% from their Tier-2 commission from every sale made by the partner you referred to the program. 

 5. GetResponse

The Brand: GetResponse is best known for their email marketing solution for sales processes automation. It is trusted by over 350,000 individuals and businesses. 

Cookie lifespan: 120 days

Commission: You have two options – their Affiliate Bounty Program offers you a $100 one-time commission for every sale and their Affiliate Recurring Program gives you 33% commission for every sale referred. Their product pricing depends on the list size a user is willing to buy, but it starts at $15/mo (Basic plan) and goes up to $580/mo (Professional subscription with 100,000 list size). 

Recurring: Yes, under the “Affiliate Recurring Program”.

Ease of sign-up: You will have to fill out your website and phone number during the registration process, but after activating your account you’ll get access to the platform.

Pre-designed promo materials:  They offer the choice of banners, videos and sales copy.

Additional earning solutions: n/a


6. GreenGeeks

The Brand: GreenGeeks is an environmentally friendly web hosting provider with over 40,000 customers. They claim to put back three times the consuming power into the grid in the form of renewable energy via the Bonneville Environmental Foundation. 

Cookie lifespan: 30 days

Commission: 1st sale – $50 and then it increases by $10 per sale (the 2nd sale is $60, the 3rd is $70, etc.). You get paid either by PayPal or check, which will be sent to the address you provide.

Recurring: No 

Ease of sign-up: It is easy to sign up, but you have to include your mailing address during the registration process.

Pre-designed promo materials: They offer a wide selection of creatives, content and banners to promote their eco-friendly product.

Additional earning solutions: n/a

7. BionicWP

The Brand: BionicWP is one-of-its-kind truly WordPress managed hosting platform. It offers hyper-optimized performance, guaranteed page speed proven by GTMetrix score, unlimited site edits, core theme updates, high-performance CDN, and a lot more to make the life of WordPress users easier and their business bustling.

Cookie lifespan: 60 days

Commission: $75 + 12.5% recurring commission for 2 years.

Recurring: Yes,12.5% recurring commissions on each charged invoice.

Ease of sign-up: Simply fill the registration form on BionicWP to sign-up as an affiliate. The process is really simple, and the affiliate support team is highly responsive.

Pre-designed promo materials: Affiliates are required to get in touch with the team at BionicWP to request promo materials that they require.

Additional earning solutions: If affiliates bring sales for hosting more than one website, they can double or even quadruple their commissions. Similarly, recurring commissions can also be increased based on the sales invoice.
Additional information: No minimum payout threshold, monthly payouts, attractive commissions structure, highly responsive affiliate managers, Internal tracking system with 60 days tracking cookies. You can also get in touch with the support team to get further assistance.

Top Affiliate Networks

1. CJ Affiliate (Formerly Commission Junction)

CJ.com, formerly known as Commission Junction, is one of the most popular affiliate networks in the world. You can find such advertisers on the platform as GoPro, Barnes & Noble, Lowe’s, InterContinental Hotel Group, Office Depot and others. There are over 3,500 merchants on the platform, so you have a wide range of products and services to choose from. 

After a free registration, you’ll be able to choose products or services that you’d like to advertise among hundreds of advertisers from different niches. 

You get paid via direct deposit, check, or Payoneer (for non-US residents). Cookie lifespan as well as the commission rate are dependent on the program you choose. 

2. ShareASale

ShareASale is another well-known network, which was acquired by Awin (Affiliate Window) in 2017 for US$35 million. You will find there such brands as WP Engine, Thinkific, California Wine Club, Qatar Airlines, etc. 

As is usual on the affiliate networks, your commission, lifespan, incentives and other benefits will totally depend on the merchant you choose. You can get paid via ‘Direct Deposit’, ‘Mailed Check’ or ‘Payoneer’.

ShareASale also offers different attribution models, such as CPA, last-click, and pay-per-call, as well as a Tier-2 program. 

3. Rakuten Marketing (Formerly LinkShare)

Rakuten is actually the oldest network from the above mentioned ones, but despite that, it has only nearly 1,000 merchants to choose from. 

However, this program has a huge advantage over others in its ability to create rotating ad banners easily. 

To sum up: 

Before making a choice on which program to join, check that it has a decent commission structure, regular payouts and a free sign-up process. Also, consider choosing a brand that you know or believe in so that you can promote it honestly. You can enter an in-house program and sell one particular product or you can join a network and choose between hundreds of merchants there. 

Finding a program that you will be satisfied with is an essential part of your affiliate marketing journey, so choose wisely. 

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