If you’re on this page, you’re probably wondering what is CPA affiliate marketing and if it’s still possible to make money with CPA these days.
Don’t worry, I got you covered, in this yet another awesome free guide that I’ve put together for you, I will explain to you what is CPA affiliate marketing and also how to make it work.
Quick advice: You might want to grab a cup of coffee or tea before sitting down and reading this CPA guide because it’s over 6,000 words long and it might take you a few good minutes to go through all of this.
What Is CPA Affiliate Marketing?
Alright, so first of all CPA is still a form of affiliate marketing, and many people might confuse the two, especially since CPA is also a traffic acquisition model that advertisers can use in ad networks like Google Ads, etc.
In general, when people talk about affiliate marketing, they will think about affiliate networks like Amazon Associates, ClickBank, ShareASale, and pretty much any other program that pays an affiliate a commission if the sale was generated through their affiliate link.
With CPA marketing, the affiliates can choose to not only promote sale offers (CPS) where they will get a commission from a sale but also promote offers that pay for leads (CPL) that have no cost at all for the user, where the user completes an action that’s free yet the affiliate marketer will earn money.
So in short:
- CPA stands for Cost Per Acquisition
- CPS stands for Cost Per Sale – the affiliate gets paid when the user buys a product/service
- CPL stands for Cost Per Lead – the affiliate gets paid when the user sign’s up or completes a form
- CCs stands for Credit Card Submit – the affiliate gets paid when the user submits their credit card info (not necessarily making a payment right at that moment, for example, they have to submit their CC for a free trial)
How Does CPA Work?
Like I said above, CPA stands for cost per acquisition. This means that the affiliate marketer (you), has the freedom to promote the offers that they want either cost per sale (CPS) offers, or cost per lead (CPL) offers.
So how do you find these CPA offers and how do you promote them and make money?
Well don’t worry, we’ll get there, by the end of this guide, you will understand exactly what is CPA affiliate marketing and how to make money with CPA.
But here’s a quick summary on how CPA Works:
- You (the affiliate marketer), will sign up for a CPA affiliate network
- In that network, you will find CPA offers from advertisers (also known as vendors)
- These offers will be either CPS or CPL (it’s up to you to choose which ones to promote)
- You create a landing page (recommended),
- You send traffic to the landing page,
- The users then click through and go to the original CPA offer page.
- You will then earn money every time someone completes an action such as: buying a product, subscribing to a newsletter, filling up a short or long-form.
Benefits of CPA Affiliate Marketing
Here are 3 benefits of CPA affiliate marketing, and why I think it’s a great way to make money online, no matter your experience and level.
Easier to set up and promote
Getting started with CPA marketing is much easier than with “traditional” affiliate marketing. For starters, you don’t even need a website (although it’s highly recommended that you do have one, especially when applying to CPA networks).
You can just grab the CPA offer’s URL and do paid traffic promotion or post that link on social media, and you can start earning money.
You can’t do that if you promote products from the Amazon associates program for example. You need a site with unique content, and then post their links on your site, etc.
All the CPA offers will have their own set of rules, informing you of the promotional methods that are allowed and which ones aren’t. While many people see this as something that’s negative (enforcing strict rules for the promotion), I think it’s beneficial.
Why? Simple… because when you’re a beginner in CPA affiliate marketing, it’s better to know what you can and can’t do, and see those rules clearly stated, compared to an affiliate program like Amazon Associates, where the rules are buried down in hundreds of pages of terms and conditions.
These CPA offer rules, can easily guide you and give you ideas on how to promote and get traffic to those offers.
Let’s say that you want to promote a pet’s insurance CPL offer, I went ahead and found this great offer that’s on the MaxBounty CPA network and pays $20 for a completed application form.
As you can see, this CPA offer has its own set of rules (in addition to the general rules of the CPA network, like no spam traffic, phishing, etc…).
You can easily see that you should not send Email, Incentive, and Mobile ad traffic to this offer. So immediately you know that you should focus on the other types of traffic types like Contextual, Display, Search, Social and Native ads.
Also if you promote CPA offers with search engine PPC traffic, for example if you promote offers on Bing Ads, you should not have their brand name (meaning the name of the advertiser, vendor, merchant, or product/service brand name) as a keyword that you bid on.
As you can see this is much easier to know from the start, and it even gives great ideas for the affiliate marketer for what kind of traffic sources to pursue.
You don’t have to sell anything
CPA affiliate marketing is great because if you promote only CPL offers, you don’t need to convince people to pull out their credit cards and purchase something in order for you to make money.
This one is huge because usually, it’s much harder to convince someone to pull out their credit card and make a purchase. But if you ask them to just complete a short form or insert their email or zip code? Of course, they will do it much quicker than buying something.
People want free stuff all the time, and because of that, you should get conversions much easier. Yeah, there are rules to this exception, but there aren’t that many, to be honest.
Would you want to pay $1000 for an iPhone or have the chance to get one for free if you just enter your email? A lot of the people will go for the free chance, wouldn’t you?
There’s also the hard selling vs soft selling aspect. It’s easier to “sell” a free offer than it is to promote a more expensive product or service.
Amazing income potential
CPA affiliate marketing has insane scale potential. Because if you choose your CPA offers correctly, you can get hundreds or even thousands of conversions every day.
Going after the previous example, how many people do you think you can convert to buy a product that costs $1000 every day? Maybe 1 if you’re lucky? In reality, though, most affiliate marketers only get these high ticket sales only a few times per month.
You also won’t get a too big commission from selling these high-ticket affiliate products, especially not from affiliate programs and platforms such as Amazon Associates and Commission Junction.
Amazon’s associate commission is 10% for selling luxury beauty products, and they can go as low as 1% for tech-related products such as video game consoles, PC parts, health, and personal care products, etc.
That’s an insanely low amount if you ask me, and at that point, I wouldn’t even promote products from these platforms.
Why would I convince someone to buy a high ticket product such as a $999 washing machine from Amazon, and I get only a 3% commission in exchange, which is $29.97.
LOL, that’s not going to happen.
Look, I know it all adds up, and that the customer might add more products into their cart, and you can make a bit more, etc… but the point is this:
How many people can you convince to buy a $999 product every day? 1, 10, 100, 1000? I’m guessing just 1 if you’re lucky, the reason is simple, you’re just starting out, you don’t have a website that receives thousands of visitors daily, in order to make a lot of these affiliate product sales.
How many people can you convince to submit their email address or ZIP code, for having the CHANCE of winning that $999 washing machine for free? If your answer is more than 1, you are correct haha.
Let’s say you get $1.4 in exchange for every person who submitted their email address for this CPL (cost per lead) offer.
If you get only 50 email or zip code submits, (which is not that hard to achieve, considering you don’t ask them to pay for anything, especially not $999), you can make $70 (50 submits x $1.40 offer payout = $70)
That’s more than double the amount you would make trying to convince someone to buy a $999 product lol.
Sure, maybe my example with the $999 product from Amazon is a bit “extreme”, and you might think, hey Stephen wait a minute, you can also promote products that cost only $30, and users are easier to convert at that price point, and yeah you will be right.
But then again… do I want to make 1-4% for every $30, $50, $100, $200 amazon shopping cart? Nah, that’s not for me, sure it might be for some marketers, depending on their website, but even then, the majority of them will earn more money by simply putting up AdSense ads on their website in addition to their Amazon ads.
So you see, CPA affiliate marketing can be insanely profitable and scalable and have a huge earning potential.
Of course, it’s not as easy as I make it sound, especially not at first, but you can still make a few dollars easily every day, even promoting a few of these CPL offers with free traffic.
Top CPA affiliate networks
In order to find these awesome CPA offers you will need to first join CPA affiliate networks.
There are many companies to choose from, and every year there’s always some newcomer CPA company that has amazing payouts and great exclusive offers, so you should always be on the lookout to apply and join these networks.
Here are a few that I either personally work or have worked with, or I know for sure they are amazing and have on-time payouts for their affiliates:
Want to get a list of over 21 networks (good for beginners too)? Check out my recent article: Best CPA Networks and apply to the ones that you think suit you the best.
More on how to sign-up with these top CPA affiliate networks in a second.
Make Money With CPA Guide
Alright, this is what you came here for. You want to learn how to make money with CPA marketing and below you will find a 6 step guide on how to get started and earn money by promoting CPA offers.
Keep in mind though, that knowing what is CPA affiliate marketing and how to do it, is not really enough, you also need to put everything you read here into practice, do a lot of tests, constantly optimize things, promote different offers in various niches and GEOs and striving to get better results all the time.
This is not too advanced, I’m keeping it simple so that you can learn the basics first, and later on, when I post CPA case studies on the blog or send you some awesome CPA tips to your email, you will already know some of the things that I’m talking about.
If you’re a more experienced affiliate marketer and you already know what is CPA affiliate marketing, then you shouldn’t really be reading this guide LOL. You should be out there creating hundreds of CPA campaigns on multiple traffic sources and getting that money haha. I will have some good stuff for you in the future though.
1. Apply to CPA Networks
Okay, so this is your first step. You need to apply and join a CPA network in order to get started with CPA marketing. In recent years though, this process has become easier, and you also have access to many CPA affiliate networks that are newbie and beginner-friendly.
Back when I was starting making money with CPA, there weren’t that many networks to choose from, you had like 4-5 main ones, and if you weren’t approved in any of those, then you were stuck with some lower tier CPA companies that had mediocre offers that were not paying that great.
You also had to do phone interviews (I don’t know if that’s still the case anymore, it probably still is for some elite networks out there), and you had to have a great website or know a lot about driving paid targeted traffic to their offers in order to get approved.
So yeah, check out the top CPA affiliate networks that I recommend above, and also search for more to join by going to AffPaying.com if you want.
The process to apply and join these CPA networks is pretty straightforward and simple, but the requirements can be a bit tough depending on the network you apply to.
You see, the networks want to ensure that their offers are not going to get spammed with crap traffic that doesn’t convert, or potentially put them or their advertisers in danger of getting reported or sued, or shamed online, etc.
So they will ask you some basic but important things like:
- Your experience with CPA or affiliate marketing in general
- What type of traffic you can send to their offers (for example Search Engine traffic, PPC, PPV, push, native, display ads, email, etc)
- If you’re familiar with certain verticals/niches (for example if you have a health blog and you’re already promoting other affiliate health products with success or if you’re just starting out but you would like to focus on health offers)
- The top countries of your website’s traffic, or countries you normally promote using paid traffic
- If you already make money with other CPA or affiliate networks (if they ask for this and your answer is yes, then you would have to include the average amount of money you make monthly or sometimes even be asked to tell them what other CPA networks you work with and provide them with screenshots, if you don’t make any money yet, just leave it at $0 or pick the lowest amount)
- How did you find out about their CPA network (an easy one, either add Google, internet marketing forums, AffPaying, or why not, NetHustler.com)
- Your Phone number, and Skype or Telegram ID (they will try to make contact with you so make sure you add these ones correctly, sometimes they do a short interview so they need to get in touch with you)
Tips to get approved by CPA Networks:
Some networks will also ask you for an established website (meaning your site should be up and running by now and have some decent quality content on it). These days I don’t see too many networks asking for a website but it still happens though, so it’s good to be prepared though.
You can also tell them that you create landing pages for every CPA offer that you wish to run, so you don’t actually have a website but you will use landing pages for promoting their offers. But again it might be good to have some sort of domain/website ready.
Also, it will be good if you can contact them from an email address coming from a custom domain name for example YourName@YourDomain.com instead of YourName391@Gmail.com.
It just looks more professional that way and gives them a sense of security that you probably know a thing or two if you have your own custom domain name.
2. Search for top-performing CPA offers
You have a few ways of searching for top-performing CPA offers. So let me tell you some of them here.
One option is to straight up ask your AM (affiliate manager) for the top converting CPA offers of their network. Almost every respectable CPA affiliate network will assign you an affiliate manager when you sign up and join them.
They know a lot of stuff of what’s hot, and what’s performing well on certain types of traffic, etc, so asking them for a list of the best performing CPA offers is the first thing you need to do.
You can also tell them what type of traffic you have, the countries the traffic is from, or the paid traffic source that you prefer to buy traffic from (for example if you like doing push advertising, there are certain offers that perform extremely well for Push traffic only, you will only know this by talking to your AM).
Another way of finding top converting CPA offers is by sorting the offers inside the CPA network by EPC (earnings per click). Generally, the offers that have the highest EPC, are the ones that are making a lot of money (not always the case though).
Basically, you can use these EPC values to determine what is the maximum of money you would pay for a click (if you pay for the traffic of course).
For example, if you want to promote a CPA offer that has an EPC of $1, and you pay for traffic, you might not want to pay $1 or more per click in your paid traffic source. Usually, you should stay way lower than that in order to be profitable, for example, $0.5 per click max.
Of course, this is not 100% scientific or a scenario that you should always follow, but you should loosely take this information into consideration especially if you’re paying for traffic.
If your traffic is free (for example your website gets free traffic from Google), then EPC is only helpful to quickly identify good performing CPA offers that other affiliate marketers are promoting inside that CPA network.
Another way of finding top CPA offers is by going to sites like AffPlus, Odigger, and OfferVault. On these sites, you will find almost all the offers available from the best CPA affiliate networks online.
So if you’re looking for specific CPA offers for your website, you should first go to these 3 sites and search for keywords related to your niche, and find CPA networks that have those offers and JOIN those CPA networks.
Super PRO Ultra Secret Insane Ninja Guru Trick:
3. Create a landing page
I’ve said it before affiliate marketing without a website is possible, but I don’t recommend you try that with CPA affiliate marketing.
Yes, you can theoretically just take a CPA’s offer affiliate link, and just run ads straight to that (direct linking), it looks easier (and it is), and you might think that the landing page might even hurt your conversions since the visitors don’t go straight to the offer.
However, I strongly believe that in most cases, you will only stand to benefit by using landing pages when promoting CPA offers. There are rarely any exceptions when direct linking straight to an offer will give you better results in terms of conversions and ROI (return on investment).
I’m not the only marketer recommending you to use landing pages for CPA. Most CPA networks will also ask you to use a landing page when promoting their products.
You see, by having a bridge page between the visitor and the final offer, you can more easily explain and feature all the best things about the product, service, or offer that you are promoting.
The whole goal of this landing page is to convert as many visitors as possible, and you achieve that by showcasing as best as you can all the great features of the offer that you’re promoting, while also explaining to them step by step what to do.
For example, if you want to promote a losing weight product, you might have a great article about the best way to lose weight and in the end, you can also add some great information about these amazing diet pills that will help people lose weight faster.
After you explain all the benefits and ingredients etc, you can then have a big button and a text like: Click on the button below and go and sign up to receive your free trial bottle of losing weight pills.
In this way, the user will get more hyped and has more information to now proceed and go to the next step and actually click on your CPA offer link and complete an action.
Or you can go the other way, and just create a very short landing page talking only about the losing weight product directly and why it’s so amazing, and how they can get their free bottle only if they go through your links.
There are many ways to create good converting CPA landing pages, and there’s a ton of testing involved, that’s why I recommend you to also use them because almost always you will see some great improvement in terms of conversions and ROI.
I think that 99% of the time when I’ve tested a CPA offer on a paid traffic source and I used my own landing page (versus direct linking to the offer), I’ve seen better results by using a landing page.
The only time using my own landing page didn’t make sense was when the CPA offer already had pre-lenders set up by the CPA company themselves, so I instead used those. But even then, having your own landing page with your own information and changes can prove to be more profitable.
In some cases for example, if you buy traffic from Bing Ads for your CPA offers, you will need a landing page in order to pass their approval process.
What’s more important is the fact that the landing page directly influences the CPC (cost per click) of your Bing ads campaign (this is also the case on Google and Facebook Ads).
Using high-quality landing pages for promoting CPA offers has many benefits:
- Decreases CPC if you’re buying search engine traffic
- Higher chances of getting your campaigns approved (by any paid traffic source)
- Converts more visitors by giving them extra information about the offer
- CPA offers URLs usually get blacklisted and you won’t be able to post them on social media (too many people spam them)
- Change offers on the fly if an offer is being stopped and you’re still sending a lot of traffic to your landing page.
There are many more reasons why using a landing page when promoting CPA offers is great. But those 5 are the most important ones in my mind.
I highly suggest you use a VPS (virtual private server) if you intend to pay for traffic or if you send thousands of visitors to your site daily. You can use the provider that I use for hosting my CPA landing pages, Vultr, and get $100 free in hosting credit when you sign up.
I will create a more in-depth guide on how to quickly set up CPA landing pages on a VPS in the near future.
Remember the Super PRO Ultra Secret Insane Ninja Guru Trick from before? You can use an ad spying tool like Anstrex, and instantly scrape, rip and download every affiliate marketer’s landing page, and simply edit the affiliate links inside with your own ones and upload it to Vultr, there you go, you’re done. You don’t need to know how to create and design high-converting landing pages.
But if you just want to have a normal website where you can write and promote CPA and other affiliate offers on a specific niche, then you can learn how to create a website using a managed shared hosting, which is much easier to do than Vultr, but not as efficient or powerful.
4. Send traffic to your CPA landing page
Now that you have your landing pages up and running, or if you have started a blog filled with good content, it’s time to get traffic to it.
There are many ways to get traffic to your blog, your website, or your landing pages. In general, I categorize them into 2 options:
- Paid traffic – you spend your money to advertise your site, landing pages and CPA offers to thousands of people
- Free traffic – you spend your time creating quality content and doing SEO on your website to get free organic search traffic
With paid traffic, you pay every time someone sees or clicks on your ads. There are many ways to do paid advertising for CPA affiliate marketing, but some of the most popular ones right now are:
- Native advertising – On native ad networks like RevContent, Taboola, and MGID
- Push notification on networks like Megapu.sh (Read Megapush Review)
- PPV (yes PPV is still alive and kicking even in 2022)
- Search PPC (Bing Ads mostly, as Google is finicky about affiliates)
I prefer to go the paid traffic route, but if you’re just starting out, and don’t want to burn and lose money, then I suggest you stick to the free traffic methods for now.
Check out my cheap paid traffic sources guide to see some of the ad networks that I recommend. There are far too many to include here in this already too-long guide.
5. Track and Optimize
By now you should probably have an idea of what is CPA affiliate marketing and how to make money with CPA. But did you know that one of the most important aspects of CPA affiliate marketing is tracking?
Let me explain a bit…
Tracking is the process that you have to do in order to …ehm..track certain aspects of your CPA marketing campaign. This is especially important if you pay for traffic.
You always want to monitor the traffic that you’re paying for. Because that’s the only way to optimize and make your campaigns profitable.
Here’s a short example:
Let’s say you want to promote the pet insurance CPA offer that I’ve talked about before in this article. You don’t have a website that’s dedicated to the pets niche, and you don’t receive free traffic from Google.
So your next step is to create a landing page for that offer (See step 3) and then send paid traffic to it and let’s say you choose Bing Ads as your paid traffic source.
Now, without having a tracking solution in place like, for example, RedTrack, you won’t know the keywords that brought you leads and the keywords that didn’t.
Also, you won’t easily know if you get more leads from mobile or desktop devices, or if landing page A works better than landing page B, or if a product gets more conversions than another one.
Another example would be if you buy push notifications or native ads traffic. You won’t know the IDs of the sites/widgets/publishers that are sending you good quality traffic that converts or the ones that send you crappy traffic that only wastes your money without giving you a single conversion.
This is why tracking is important when buying traffic for promoting CPA offers. If you don’t pay for traffic, you won’t really need to use a full-fledged tracker like Redtrack, but you might still want to set up analytics and add proper UTM tags to your links, etc.
You want to constantly monitor your tracking data, do necessary changes, and optimize your campaigns in order to turn a negative campaign into a positive one or to make it even more profitable and scale-up.
There are numerous tracking solutions out there for CPA marketing and affiliate marketing in general, I recommend RedTrack.io (you get a free trial) as it’s one of the best and cheapest options on the market today.
6. Get involved
Hooray, you reached the last step in this beginner guide for making money with CPA. Now don’t be a bad student and skip this one thinking it’s not that important because trust me it is.
Most of the time, us online marketers are working solo and doing our thing all alone. While that’s fine and dandy, sometimes there’s a lot of stuff to be learned simply by getting involved with other people that are in the same business, scenario, or doing the same thing as you.
Simple… because you constantly need to research and test things, and stay up to date with the latest and hottest online marketing tools, money-making techniques, traffic sources, affiliate marketing companies, etc.
Yes, even if by now you already know the basic stuff, or maybe you are an expert and know more advanced tactics, it doesn’t matter.
Ever heard of the phrase: A doctor never stops learning? I believe we as marketers should do the same and stay up to date with the latest trends and learn new things every day.
So here’s what you can do:
- Get in touch with your AMs (affiliate managers), ask them about their best performing offers, or secret traffic sources that some of their top earners are using, most of the times they will spill all the beans and tell you some very useful information that you can then replicate for yourself.
- Become active in select internet marketing forums like Afflift
- Go to local marketing events (if there are any nearby and if you have the chance or if they are free)
- If you got a bit of money to spend you can also go to affiliate marketing meetings and events that are happening all over the world every few months. You will be invited by your CPA network or a paid traffic source that you use, and you will be able to meet up with them and more important people in the business, like super-affiliates, CEOs, etc… you might learn a secret or two at those after parties when things get a bit crazy 😉
- Join Reddit and Facebook groups related to internet marketing
- Sign up to the NetHustler newsletter, I mean…why not plug myself here also while I have the chance lol
Getting involved with people that are trying to do the same thing as you is a good thing because it’s much easier to grow and learn together.
While I do recommend you to research and learn you shouldn’t overdo it. What I mean by this is, don’t spend 3-5 hours per day reading material on forums, blogs, eBooks, etc.
No… you shouldn’t do that, you should value your time more and do more important stuff like actually running CPA campaigns, optimizing them, writing new content for your website, doing promotional work, etc.
I see too many beginners getting sucked into these types of forums or groups, reading and buying all the latest ebooks and courses, and never putting anything they’ve read into practice because they don’t have the time or patience to do it.
Don’t be like that, mkay? 🙂
Spend only a few hours every week on this extra research, and you should be okay in the long run.
Summary: What is CPA Affiliate Marketing
Congrats, you’ve just gone through over 6,000 words… how does it feel? Are you tired? Are you worried that doing CPA is too hard or are you hyped and excited?
Honestly, I hope you’re excited because CPA affiliate marketing can be a goldmine if done correctly.
Learning everything there is to know about CPA affiliate marketing and knowing how to apply it correctly in order to make money with CPA does take some time in order to
Not only time, but you also need to spend some money, sure you can do it all for free in theory, but in practice things will be much better if you are able to spend a few dollars on a domain name, for example, hosting, and useful tools like trackers and spying tools, paid traffic, etc.
Of course, this CPA marketing guide only covers the basics, and the steps you should follow to get started with CPA affiliate marketing, but there are more advanced techniques, tips, and in-depth case studies that I will share with you in the future, so stay tuned and subscribe to be the first one to read them.
Also since this is a completely FREE guide, don’t forget to share it, because there are many people out there that are interested in making money with CPA but they never know how to get started… well now they don’t have any excuses.
Let me know down in the comments if this CPA guide was helpful to you.
Frequently Asked Questions About CPA Marketing
Of course, you can make money with CPA marketing. Most of the successful CPA affiliates make anywhere between $1000 to $100,000 a month by promoting CPA offers, some super affiliates do even more.
A CPA affiliate network is a company that creates relationships between advertisers and publishers. Advertisers supply the CPA offers and publishers (you), promote these CPA offers, and earn money. Without these CPA affiliate networks, you wouldn’t really be able to make money with CPA, simply because you would have nowhere to get these CPA offers from.
Yes, CPA marketing still works, in fact it might work even better now in 2022 than it did 10 or 15 years ago. You have so many tools and resources to put to use that it’s very unlikely you wouldn’t earn any money with CPA affiliate marketing these days.
It’s up to you really. If you put in the work, CPA marketing can bring you over $1,000 per month easily. Most affiliates sit in between the $1,000-$10,000 per month bracket in my opinion. Of course, some CPA marketers can earn more, and some earn less. And in order to make A LOT of money from CPA you have to constantly run, promote, test, optimize, and scale lots of CPA offers, super-affiliates run hundreds of different campaigns every day!
Yes, CPA marketing is completely legal, and it’s a very good way of making money online. But you have to be careful because on some networks you might find some shady CPA offers that are either affiliate scams or a total rip-off. Also be careful when promoting branded products from advertisers that clearly have no relationship to those brands (for example Apple, Amazon, etc).
You don’t need a website to do CPA marketing. But I highly recommend you to promote your CPA offers through either a landing page or a website, because not only do you provide extra value to visitors, but you also have a lot of chances to increase your overall CPA profits.