The Savvy 7-Step Checklist for Finding the Right Affiliate Program

by Jay Kang | Updated on October 18th, 2023

If you’re considering venturing into affiliate marketing, you’re in the right place. The world of affiliate marketing is one of those rare spaces where you can genuinely create a significant income without products of your own.

But listen, it’s not as simple as hopping on any program with sky-high payouts. Trust me, I’ve been there. To make a truly informed decision, you need a rigorous, well-reasoned method. I’ve spent years refining a 7-step approach, which I’m eager to share with you.

Getting Your Feet Wet: The Preliminary Tests

Don’t even think about signing up for an affiliate program without first conducting some basic tests. I’ve seen too many affiliate marketers skip this step and pay the price later.

  1. Click on your affiliate link: Go through the entire user journey to ensure everything works smoothly.
  2. Add products to the cart: Pay attention to load times, site layout, and anything that might interfere with a user’s experience.
  3. Complete the checkout process: This will help you see any potential roadblocks that might deter conversions.
  4. Verify commissions: Make sure that your affiliate dashboard accurately reflects the commission you should receive for that transaction.

Skip the bells and whistles like cashback and coupons for now; you’re looking for functional tracking, and that’s it.

The Importance of Open Lines: Communication and Manager Responsiveness

It’s simple: if the affiliate manager is hard to reach or takes ages to respond, consider it a red flag. I’ve had firsthand experiences with managers who were slow to respond, and each time it was a precursor to bigger problems down the line.

Testing the Waters: Draft a thoughtful email, asking pointed questions about tracking accuracy, commission rates, and anything else that’s pertinent. If you don’t get a reply within 48 hours, you should probably look elsewhere. In my experience, a responsive manager has often meant a program committed to affiliate success.

The Power of Audience Alignment

Here’s a classic mistake: choosing an affiliate program without aligning it to your audience. Remember, you’re not selling to yourself; you’re selling to your readers. I’ve once had to abandon an otherwise lucrative program because the products just didn’t resonate with my audience.

Get to Know Your People: If you haven’t already, implement analytics to get a comprehensive picture of your readership. I’ve also found surveys to be incredibly valuable for gaining audience insights. Your aim is to choose products that your readers actually need or want, which is where the real money lies.

Spotting and Dodging Traffic Leaks

Nothing’s worse than sending your hard-earned traffic to an affiliate site, only to see it siphoned off without earning you a cent. Trust me, it’s happened to me.

How to Plug the Leak: Initiate a chat with customer service on the affiliate site to see if they can complete an order without the cart. If they can, your commissions could be at risk. Conduct several test transactions to ensure your commissions are being correctly logged.

Beyond Generic Advice: Marketing and Sales Strategy

Having an affiliate manager who understands marketing is a boon. I’ve dealt with both types, and the difference is night and day. A good manager doesn’t just tell you to “add a link.” They provide targeted, actionable strategies.

The Acid Test: Ask pointed questions about their marketing recommendations, backup systems, and cross-device tracking. You’ll quickly ascertain their level of expertise, or lack thereof.

The Nitty-Gritty: Attribution Mechanisms

Unclear attribution lines are a no-go. I’ve seen commissions wrongly attributed, and let me tell you, it’s not a pretty sight.

Getting the Lowdown: This is another area where your initial discussions with the affiliate manager will prove invaluable. Make sure you understand how sales are attributed, so you can set clear expectations regarding your payouts.

Counting the Beans: Tracking and Backup Systems

If the tracking system is obsolete or unreliable, run for the hills. Faulty tracking can lead to missing commissions, and believe me, it adds up.

Due Diligence: Ask upfront about the tracking technology in use and whether there are backup systems. My advice? Don’t just take their word for it; run several tests to confirm that the tracking is accurate.

The End Game: Payment Structures

The financial aspect is what we’re all here for, so make sure the payment structure meets your expectations. In one program, I had to wait two months for a payout; needless to say, I didn’t stick around.

The Check: Go through the terms and conditions with a fine-tooth comb or ask the manager directly about payment cycles and methods. Make sure it fits within your financial planning.

Conclusion: The Journey to the Right Affiliate Program

The best affiliate programs offer more than just appealing financial incentives. They provide robust tracking systems, have managers who are responsive and knowledgeable, and most crucially, align well with your audience. Following this 7-step guide will not only help you find an affiliate program—it’ll help you find the right one, the one that truly complements your strategies as an affiliate marketer. So go ahead, make an informed choice; your future self will thank you.

Jay Kang

Jay Kang, entrepreneur and SEO expert, is the driving force behind innovative platforms like and His latest creation, ProductReview.Tools, provides affiliate marketers with a powerful WordPress plugin for crafting high-converting reviews. Committed to empowering marketers, Jay continues to make a positive impact in the digital marketing space.