Best Affiliate Programs in 2020: The Ranking

a white man looking through a spying glass into a camera

This is a tactical flashlight. In my opinion, this flashlight is awesome.

a generic black flashlight

If you want to buy it, click the following link for the most updated prices.


Once you complete the purchase, I will get a small commission from the flashlight producer. I didn’t make it myself, I’m not that crafty. But by sharing my opinion about this flashlight I’ve helped the producer. So they pay me money.

These are affiliate programs in a nutshell.


Affiliate Marketing Programs: Definition

Affiliate programs, similarly to affiliate networks, provide you with offers you can promote online. Unlike the latter, affiliate programs serve as additional sales channels for big companies. People can just sign up to these programs, get a link, and convince others to click it on their blog/videos/review sites.

You can identify these links because of the ‘ref=’ or ‘referrer=’ part embedded in them. This parameter tells the product owner who they owe this sale to.

P.S. Don’t buy this flashlight. And that is a dummy link to prove a point.

Or is it?

Disclaimer: There are no actual affiliate links in this article.

Selecting an affiliate program

You need to know which programs are a waste of your time and which are kosher, right? Don’t worry, I’ve got your back.

I’ve prepared a short list of factors that you need to take into consideration when choosing a program. I’ve also done the tedious, boring part for you and graded various programs to form the ranking of the best ones. 

But that comes later.

Sorry for the build-up, but I need you to keep reading to have more opportunities to advertise my flashlight.

Advertising Digital vs Physical Products

The awesome tactical flashlight from the beginning is a physical product (here’s the link again: BUY NOW). It has to be manufactured, stored and shipped. Physical products are expensive to operate. That’s why the commission rate for this product type is usually lower and oscillates around the 4% mark.

On the other hand, a flashlight smartphone app is a digital product. Virtually no storage, shipping or reproduction costs.

This causes payout rates to be much higher, with 60% commission not being uncommon. 

Sounds sweet? Why didn’t I choose to advertise an app instead of a product then?

There is a small catch with digital products. It is related to how they calculate this seemingly generous commission. More on that in the following chapter.

Affiliate Programs Commission

The commission itself is usually a percentage of a sale. On some occasions, especially for web hosting products, the commission is a fixed price per sale.

There may be several additional factors that shape your commission:

  • The commission may increase if you sell more.
  • There may be some promotions for new program joiners.
  • The commission rate may be different for each product within one program: harder-to-sell products may have a higher commission.

Here’s the catch I’ve mentioned earlier: sometimes, often for metasearch engines such as, the commission rate is calculated as a percentage of what this intermediary company ( in this example) earns, and not of what a customer pays. 

It’s not such a sweet deal anymore. Think about it:

If brags about the 20% average commission rate, it is not of the $2000 price for a 5-star hotel in Bali, but of the percentage that this hotel pays to takes 15% of their partners’ earnings. In this example, it would be $300. Your final commission of the price that a customer pays is around 3%.

But I’m not mad.

3% of the $2000 hotel is still $60 just for putting one link on a web page. I can live with this and so can you.

What matters in my ranking is the final percentage of what customer pays.

Cookie lifetime

The second most important factor of each program is the referral cookie lifetime. This rather technical term describes the time window from the initial click to the purchase in which you are eligible for the commission. 

The rule of thumb is: the longer the time window the better.

A short cookie lifetime can make any program less appealing.

Take eBay.

You can promote any product they have for a solid 5% commission. 

Sounds good?

Not with the absurd 1-day cookie lifetime.

It’s eBay, they have auctions. The majority of them last for 7 days. It means that someone would have to click your affiliate link and make a purchase on the last day of the auction. Otherwise, you don’t get any commission.

eBay is an exception from the average lifetime of 60 days. Pay close attention to the cookie lifetime policy when choosing an affiliate program. I know I did in my ranking.

Payout conditions of affiliate programs

Companies usually pay their affiliates on a monthly basis, with a few exceptions. If cash flow is a problem you may be interested in joining a program that pays up more often than the rest.

The other condition for a payout is the requirement to reach a certain amount of money. 

Yep, you not only have to earn something (and some companies even charge you if you don’t earn anything for a few months) but you have to earn above a certain threshold (usually $100) to access your money.

Companies don’t want to be bothered with small few-dollar payouts.

My ranking rewards companies that make payouts more than once a month with extra points.

Take that, the majority of companies!

Acceptance criteria

Most companies welcome all affiliates. You just have to have any thematically-related web page that you may post their affiliate links on. But when some companies do impose restrictions they may do it with a bang.

The prime example is Airbnb. Their initial requirement for an affiliate is owning a website that has at least one million visitors per month.

One million or they won’t even talk to you.

That’s where their generous (10% allegedly, although the exact value is kept a secret) comes from.

As I think that companies should give everyone a shot at promoting their stuff, I deducted some points based on the severity of acceptance criteria.

Business criteria

The points made above shine a light…

…shine… like the flashlight…. Get it? Here’s the link again: BUY NOW

Ok, moving on.

There are other things that matter but are harder to measure. The general business stuff such as:

  • The size of a market. Most of the markets’ are worth millions or billions on a global scale. YoY growth is a much better indicator of market’s potential profitability. It’s not the size that matters, it’s the number of niches with low competition.
  • The competition. Some competition is good, it is an indicator of a healthy market. But strong competition… yeah, you don’t need strong competition.
  • Average EPC. This depends heavily on the market. For example, gaming computers and accessories cost a lot of money, so even a small percentage of commissions are worth a lot. 

Only after you take everything into consideration, you can make a fully informed decision.

Or you can read my ranking.

Highest Paying Affiliate Marketing Programs: the Ranking

You can read the following ranking in the voice of the WatchMojo lady or people from WhatCulture: “And here are our top picks for the e-commerce vertical”:

E-commerce Affiliate Programs

a screenshot of the cj affiliate home page

  1. CJ Affiliate. It’s the go-to place to find offers from various vendors. Many of the programs from other verticals are partnered with CJ Affiliate. They claim that they have a record 400-day cookie lifetime, but you have to remember that many partner programs use a shorter lifetime.
  2. Shareasale. It shares a similar business model to our number one. Shareasale has even more offers to choose from than CJ Affiliate (6000 to 3000). The only reason it has fallen short of the first place is the ridiculously long cookie lifetime CJ Affiliate claims to have.
  3. Amazon Associates. One of the biggest affiliate programs on the planet. It has all the offers there are (around 12 million). The only problem is their short cookie lifetime (1day).
  4. Ebay Partner Network. Having even more offers than Amazon, it would seem like the perfect place for any affiliate. However, because of the auction model used by the majority of sales and the ridiculously short cookie lifetime, it cannot go any higher than the fourth place.
  5. Clickbank. It is a decent affiliate program that sells digital products. Because of this, their affiliate commission is very generous (40%) and it is calculated not as a percentage of what Clickbank earns (which is 7.5% plus 1$) but as a percentage of the offer owner’s revenue. Additionally, the payout is made twice a month, which is always welcome.

Travel Affiliate Programs

a screenshot of the travelpayouts affiliate program home page

  1. Travelpayouts. The affiliate network of affiliate programs. They work with multiple brands and companies. Their commission (which is based on the CPA model) varies between offers what makes it easy to find a suitable one. The cookie lifetime is solid 30 days, much above industry’s average.
  2. Skyscanner. Partnered with CJ Affiliate, Skyscanner seems to be the best fit for travel enthusiasts. Their commission rate is solid (50% of their earnings) and 30-day cookie life is unmatched by their rivals. Skyscanner also provides its affiliates with good deals to advertise.
  3. Agoda. The above-the-average commission and a wide selection of offers makes it a decent choice for most. The cookie lifetime is short (1 day) but equal to most of their competitors, apart from Skyscanner.
  4. It has more offers than any other travel-oriented affiliate program. Their commission is good. If it wasn’t the appalling cookie lifetime (a cookie is lost once the browser is closed), it would take our number-one spot.
  5. Tripadvisor. It’s an OK affiliate program in terms of the usual indicators. The only thing that drags it down our ranking are the limited resources for affiliates, such as creatives.
  6. Airbnb. This is tricky. For some, it should occupy the number-one spot. The aforementioned initial requirement of having a website with at least one million monthly visitors is a strong statement of what kind of affiliates they expect. If you are a bigger player, Airbnb may be the best for you. For others, Airbnb is simply not an option.

Dating Affiliate Programs

a screenshot of the cupid media affiliate program home page

  1. Cupid media. Not the winner you expected, huh? They are not a well-known brand, such as their lower-ranked competitors. But they run a lot of niche dating services, which makes them a better choice than the mainstream dating programs. Both the commission and cookie lifetime is above average in this vertical.
  2. People media. The close runner-up. The thing that prevented it from gaining the first spot was a slightly lower commission rate (50% to 75%). Like its winning competitor, People media also operates niche dating services.
  3. The first big name on this list. It has the same commission rate as number two, but the cookie lifetime is much shorter (1 day on desktop, 30 days on mobile).
  4. Eharmony. The second commonly recognized brand. Their 20% commission rate is a modest one but the 45 day cookie lifetime may be of some consolation. 
  5. EliteSingles. A tough niche to operate, but this may be an advantage if you feel confident enough. They use a fixed commission, 7$, but it is rewarded not on sale, but on a completed personality test. So the conversion rates should be higher. This program can be found on CJ Affiliate.

Web Hosting Affiliate Programs

a screenshot of the wp engine affiliate program home page

  1. WPengine. Like with all programs from this vertical, commission is fixed for every subscription plan they have. The minimum 200$ payout value is nothing when compared to the staggering 7,500$ maximum. The half-year cookie lifetime is very good and the brand is recognizable.
  2. Liquid web. It has slightly worse conditions than the winner ( still rather impressive $150 – $3,000) but it’s still a very good and popular affiliate program.
  3. Cloudways. Another solid affiliate program with much more modest commission ($50) but a very long cookie lifetime.
  4. Siteground. The fourth and fifth place should be shared ex aequo between Siteground and Kinsta affiliate programs. The thing that elevated Siteground a tad higher are customer-friendly weekly payouts.
  5. Kinsta. Last but not least but not first. Same commission (50$) and a cookie lifetime (60 days) as Siteground, but you have to wait a whole month to receive your payout.

Educational Affiliate Programs

a screenshot of the coursera affiliate program home page

  1. Coursera. Sometimes the most recognizable are the best, and that is the case of Coursera. The average 32.5% commission rate is the best in the industry and a cookie life is a reasonable 30 days. They don’t have as many courses as Udemy, but I will stick with a more generous commission structure.
  2. Udemy. The online platform with the biggest number of courses available. Shame that they couldn’t outbid Coursera’s commission. 20% is still ok though.
  3. Skillshare. The skill-learning platform with fixed commissions, $10 per signup. It doesn’t sound like much but the big number of courses makes it easy to advertise. 
  4. Formerly known as Jam, this platform hosts courses aimed at kids. It’s a smaller market than, for example, Coursera, but it’s also a less explored one. You get $5 for every sign-up.
  5. Teachable. This platform actually targets teachers. If you feel comfortable with this market, you will get 30% commission for every signup done within 90 days.

Gaming Affiliate Programs

a screenshot of the razer affiliate program home page

  1. Razer. If you are a gamer, there is not much to say. The company that is synonymous with gaming accessories and equipment. For every purchase you facilitate, you get a 5% commission. And those gaming products are not cheap. It’s a 5% slice of a big cake.
  2. Logitech. Known mainly for manufacturing gaming mouses and keyboards, yet they do so much more. Logitech is a more mainstream company than a specialized Razer, which should make promoting their offer easier. Their commission rate is only one percent lower than Razer’s.
  3. Alienware. Part of the Dell empire, this company specializes in making gamer-oriented laptops. Very, very expensive laptops. 4% of the 3,000$ makes it worth the trouble. This program can be found on CJ Affiliate.
  4. Nvidia. If you’ve never heard of Nvidia, then you must be a Muggle. Or a console player. They are willing to share with you 2% of their revenue for a sale. The 90-day cookie lifetime leaves plenty of wiggle room to finalize a deal. 
  5. Microsoft. Their gaming affiliate program offers similar conditions to Nvidia’s but a shorter cookie lifetime (60 days). But everyone knows the brand for sure.

Online Marketing Tools Programs
a screenshot of the ganttpro affiliate program home page

  1. GanttPRO. A tool for project management and team collaboration offers great terms for their affiliates. Their commission is solid and recurring (50% for the first purchase, 20% for the recurrent ones). The 90-day cookie lifetime, support, and training for all new affiliates make it a noteworthy program to try.
  2. PromoRepublicIt’s a platform for managing  social media channels that offers over 100,000 post templates. The average commission rate is 25% and they claim that affiliates typically earch between $40-$1500/month.

Best affiliate marketing programs for beginners

Feeling a bit lost? Still not sure where to start? No problem. Below you will find the list of affiliate marketing programs that are best suited for beginners. They are very profitable and easy to run.

  1. Amazon Associates. The sheer number of offers makes it a number-one choice for every beginner. The easy UI also helps.
  2. Dating vertical is a typical starting point for most affiliates. Offers from this niche are easier to promote than, for example, web hosting services that may require using some tech language. And is a recognizable brand.
  3. Coursera. The reasons for choosing this affiliate program are the same as above. Easy vertical and a recognizable brand, what more a newbie may ask for?
  4. Clickbank. Although their UI falls behind the current design standards and may be hard to master, they have a lot of tools that are helpful for newbies. On top of that, the offers they have are all newbie-friendly.
  5. CJ Affiliate. They are not the easiest platform to start with, for sure, but a lot of interesting offers should justify a steeper learning curve. 

Affiliate opportunities to choose from

This was just a sneak peek, a tip of the iceberg, a trailer for the “Affiliate programs” film. There are more verticals and more programs in marketing niches you didn’t know existed.

If you want to get some fresh niche ideas for 2020, read our article on niches and verticals.

If you have found a program of your choosing in this ranking, please buy my flashlight… I mean, sign up and start tracking with the best affiliate ad tracker on the market.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You May Also Like