Beginner Guide – How To Choose The Best Traffic Source in 2021

a traffic jam at night on a freeway in a city

“Select a traffic source” is what they simply say in every affiliate marketing tutorial. Like this is something easy to do: picking ice cream flavor or deciding which James Bond movie is the best (it’s Casino Royale, deal with that, Connery fans). In reality, selecting the best traffic source in affiliate marketing is more like going on a date. You have to consider a lot of factors, invest some time and money, and you still may end up only with an empty wallet and a cool story to tell.

To make your life a little bit easier, I will play the role of a matchmaker. First, I’ll talk about the key strengths and weaknesses of various traffic source types and give some recommendations. Then, using science, I’ll help you select the most suitable traffic source for you and set you up for a long and lasting relationship.

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What Is a Traffic Source and How to Recognize a Good One?

Before we dig into the details, let’s start with some basics and clarify, what do we mean by ‘traffic source’.

Depending on a person’s perspective, a traffic source may be a place where you go to monetize traffic coming to your page or a place, where you get traffic.

From an affiliate’s point of view, it’s the second scenario. You want to get traffic and drive it towards your offer, usually through some tracking software.

Free Traffic Sources

There are both free and paid traffic sources available for you. Which one should you choose?

Free traffic sources include:

  • Blogs
  • Facebook groups
  • Forums
  • Google search results

The advantages are obvious but getting to the point where you can earn significant amounts of money from your own traffic source is hard. It requires a lot of SEO work, content creation to get attention and spread the word. Scaling is also difficult with this type of traffic. That is the reason why most affiliates decide to simply pay for traffic.

Your conversion rates, and by implication your profit, rely heavily on the quality of the traffic you buy. That’s why you have to make sure that you select the right traffic source. A traffic source where:

  • The prices are low and conversion rates are high.
  • Various targeting options can be adjusted for the best optimization effects.
  • The initial deposit is reasonable.
  • Market credibility is high.
  • The rules and regulations match your needs.

Let’s talk more about each of these points.

Prices and conversion rates

There are several cost model that you pay for traffic. The typical ones are:

  • CPC is the cost per click on your ad. The most logical and easy to understand.
  • CPM/CPV is a cost model where you pay per each ad view. The difference between them is in the number of views. In the CPM model, you pay for 1,000 views, while in the CPV model you pay per single ad view. 
  • CPI/CPA is a cost model where you pay for each user action (in the CPI model this action is an app install).
  • Revshare is a cost model where you pay a percentage of your payout.

Remember, traffic is subject to the same economic laws as everything else in the capitalist world. High price often means quality. It is something worth taking into consideration when comparing traffic with similar characteristics but with different price tags. The cheaper traffic may be a bargain, or it may be lower quality.

Targeting options

The more targeting options you have at your disposal, the more optimization magic you can do. It’s like having a camera with good optics: instead of shooting panoramas, you can focus on smaller image segments. Usually, traffic sources give you the following targeting options:

  • Device Type
  • Device OS
  • ISP/Carrier
  • Country
  • Language
  • Time of day

This may be enough. Or maybe you need more specific options. A zoom lens on your metaphorical camera. You may find it in some specific types of traffic.

A person holdin a photo camera with long zoom lenses looking at the distance


Traffic sources obviously cannot ask you to pay every time someone clicks an ad; they need to have your money in advance. So they operate in the same way as pre-paid phones: you make a deposit and this deposit is used for payments until it runs out. It works and it is fair.

But sometimes the minimal deposit can be too high for a beginner affiliate. Not everyone can pay $500 without blinking an eye. On the other hand, cheap traffic sources often offer traffic of poor quality. You should read each traffic source platform’s regulation to learn about the initial deposit and if it is refundable.

Market credibility

Traffic source platforms come and go. That’s life. But some of them may go away more quickly than others with your unspent deposit in their pockets. If you want to avoid losing your cash, do a little research. Check reviews of a given platform, opinions, posts in forums or social media. In the beginning, it is always better to stick with established brands.

Rules and regulations

Some advertising spaces are more regulated than others. On Facebook, no adult content is allowed and nor is any cryptocurrency ad. And you can forget about ‘Adopt a bunny’ offers…

The last one is made up.

But still, considering the rate the rules change, you may safely assume that any offer could be banned at any time because of a whim of the social giant. At the same time, rules for display traffic may not be so strict.

Select your own criteria 

So that is it, a long list of things that you should pay attention to. Sounds impossible to find a traffic source that fulfills all your criteria? No such thing in affiliate marketing. The ‘impossible’ belongs to other types of businesses, we are aiming to select the best traffic source for your affiliate campaign. 

A marker ticking the checkboxes on a checklist

Types of Traffic Sources

Like your date should match your expectations, your traffic type should be in line with offer requirements. Let’s say something straight: There is no traffic source that fits everyone. Someone may need low-quality pop traffic to display his shady banners while someone else is interested only in serious, clean traffic for his native ‘content-like’ ads. Knowing what you need is the key to selecting the best traffic source for you.

Research your audience

When you were selecting an offer to promote, you must have already had a broad idea of what your audience will be. For example, when browsing sweepstake offers for iPhone you were probably picturing the ideal offer taker. Maybe a young adult browsing web pages of questionable reputation on an iPhone? Or a desktop-user from a bigger city in one of the Tier 3 countries?

Whomever this person may be, try to select a traffic source matching the picture in your head as closely as possible.

As Confucius said, “the more you know about your audience, the more precisely you can target them.”

Okay, someone else may have said that.

The Six Types of Traffic Sources

Here’s a non-complete list of types of traffic.

1. Native

Have ever read an entire article before realizing that this was actually an ad and you had no idea how it fooled you into clicking it? Yeah, me too. Native ads try to blend in and resemble normal articles. You can find them very often on high-quality web pages, such as Banners have no place there; advertisers must be cannier to convince CNN visitors to sign up for their antivirus program.

Native ads require having a lot of good content. After all, they are almost like an actual article. The distinction comes from the goal of this content, not from its quality. If you want to know more about this type of traffic, read our detailed article on native ads.

Native is a game for experienced players. If you are just starting your affiliate journey, we recommend you try something else.

  • Price: High
  • Level of experience required: Expert
  • Where to find it: Taboola

 2. Mobile

‘Mobile firstest’, it should be called. Mobile traffic is the fastest growing advertising market. It is not limited to one ad format, the term ‘mobile traffic’ usually describes push ads, in-app advertisement and more classic formats such as banners. However you want to advertise, mobile is the place to be.

This source of traffic works especially well in many Tier 3 countries, because of the easy conversion flow. Many mobile carriers offer an easy payment option that adds the price of a purchase to the phone bill. This easy flow favors spontaneous decisions.

  • Price: Low
  • Level of experience required: Beginner

3. Push/Display/Pop

The ‘old-but-gold’ cheap traffic type, still alive and kicking. Banners, pop-ups, pop-unders, they used to be everywhere and still are in many places. Tier 1 country users were subject to them for so long that they developed a condition in the industry referred to as ‘banner blindness’. But not Tier 3 countries users.

Recently, this type of traffic has been joined by a hot newcomer, push traffic. It has made itself visible everywhere, doing miracles for campaigns using this type of traffic. Want to learn more? Then read the following article on push traffic.

You can run various offer types using this traffic. But usually from generic verticals, like ‘nutra’ or ‘dating’. If your audience requirements are more specific, you should select a more tailored type of traffic. 

  • Price: Low
  • Level of experience required: Beginner
  • Where to find it: Zeropark

4. Social

The blue ‘F’ giant is still one of the first places to consider for running ads. 2.2 billion carefully researched users can make your affiliate-sense tingling. And rightly so. But the problem is that you cannot show just any offer there like you would with display traffic. Social platforms are becoming more and more regulated and restrictive with the content they show. If you have a niche product, social is one way to go: you can advertise fishing equipment to people that love to fish. But if you want to show the ‘lose-weight-instant-diet-wonder-pill’, you will be better off somewhere else.

  • Price: High
  • Level of experience required: Medium

5. Email

No, not spam. Not in the way it was before, with old POP3 types of account that accepted any message you threw at them. Today this is a criminally underused traffic type that puts content directly in front of users’ eyes.

Many newsletter publishers (for example, ezine publishers) sell their advertising space. Google does a similar thing by showing ads in its Gmail service. Not everyone visits various web pages where they can stumble upon your banners. But everyone has an email address. So reaching them relies more on your actions than theirs.

  • Price: Low
  • Level of experience required: Beginner

6. Search

Welcome to the end of the second decade of the 21st century, where people tend to ask search engines more intimate questions than their loved ones. So why not advertise your matching product at the top of those intimate answers? Your offer may look like one of those answers.

Best way to get rid of acne? A diet supplement offer.

How to get rich without working hard? An ebook.

How to have a better love life? An adult video website.

  • Price: Medium
  • Level of experience required: Medium

Has something already caught your eye? Are you ready to select a particular traffic source over another? If not, then keep reading—we have a special treat for you.

Find out what type of traffic you are

Have you ever had a feeling, that not all of the personality quizzes you see on Facebook have solid science behind them? This is not the case with our scientifically proven, but still not so serious quiz which may help you to learn what type of traffic is the closest to your heart. You may be surprised by the answer.

Complete the quiz below by selecting the closest-matching answer and get your recommendation.


If your result was different from what you expected, post it in a comment below!

surprized white male looking into his computer on a white background

Tips and Tricks

No matter which traffic source you select, there are still some universal tips when selecting and applying to one:

  • Talk to your account manager from an affiliate network. They know what traffic works with their offers and they may be willing to share this info.
  • Try to find out where similar offers appear. If you stumble upon a similar offer in a pop-up window, that’s an indication that your offer may work with pops as well.
  • Don’t jump from one traffic source to another. It is much better to stick to your guns and reach statistical significance, instead of getting little data scattered across many platforms.
  • Ask a traffic source salesperson for a lower deposit limit, if the default one is too high for you. There’s no harm in asking.

So you got some tips, completed the quiz and now you’re about to go on the first date. Be hopeful, good things are ahead of you. 

And if you want to keep track of how your dates are going

get the best affiliate ad tracker

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  1. Thanks for this article. For niche blogs, I still feel search is the most crucial traffic source. Social media can play a larger role, but cracking search can make or break. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Push, pop, will be shut down in upcoming February 2021 because of google update that will block all type of push ads. I suggest to see also networks like maxbounty, peerfly, mostcpa

  3. Organic Traffic Comes from search Engine is best way to get quality traffic. other ways like PPC, SMO and Email Marketing are effective but SEO is best.

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