You’re done creating and structuring your affiliate program, and ready to launch – now it’s time to bring affiliates onboard. But, how can you be sure that you’re choosing the right people?

In order to assess prospective affiliates within the right context, you have to know what you’re looking for. So, having clearly defined goals and a plan of action is key! Your target audience, the products you want to promote, and your brand image are just a few of the things that will affect your decisions, but you want to develop a standard set of requirements for your approval process.

In this post, we’ve narrowed down some qualifiers you can use to decide if an affiliate is the right match for your program.

What does qualified even mean?

The truth is, you get to decide how to assess your affiliates. OK, sure, all affiliate publishers want to make money – that much is obvious. But, which affiliates are going to bring in the most money, or make the biggest difference, and why? And which ones will be more of a headache than they’re worth? What constitutes a qualified affiliate?

For instance, you might decide that less is more; maybe you would rather deal with fewer high-performing affiliates than many average ones. This will impact how selective your process is. Or, maybe you want to reach customers across multiple related niches, so you decide to assess affiliates accordingly.

Are your products highly specialized? Perhaps a qualified affiliate would be someone with relevant industry expertise. Are your products more general? Maybe you want to seek out career affiliates that aren’t necessarily tied to one niche.

Is it really that important to get this specific? It’s up to you, but if you’re going to put in the time, effort, and money into managing an affiliate program, including designing creatives, writing emails and newsletters, and overseeing all of the technical and marketing elements that come along with it, you probably want to be sure you’ve got the right people for the job! Not only that; making sure that your affiliates are a good match for your program empowers them from the beginning, setting a good foundation for success.

The red flags

When it comes to assessing prospective affiliates, there are some universal red flags that you should try to avoid. After all, not all affiliates have the interest, know-how, and drive to succeed, and some could end up being more of a burden than a benefit. It’s better to identify the wrong affiliates early on, rather than having to clean up after them or even boot them from your program later!

In general, watch out for applicants who:

  • Use odd-looking email addresses. This could be unusual characters, nonsense words, or first and last names that are switched or reversed.
  • Are not responsive or respectful in their communications. This is an indicator that they may not be able to have a mutually respectful and productive relationship with you.
  • Have a history of spamming people. Your brand could be tarnished if associated with spam.
  • Have defunct websites or social media accounts. The best affiliates will be people who are regularly active in their communities.
  • Come from countries that are higher risk for fraud. While this may not be a disqualifier, it should put you on higher alert and perhaps justify more intense scrutiny.

Things to look for in an affiliate’s application

So, we’ve covered what to avoid – but how about what to look for? While finding good affiliates isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach, here are some indicators that an affiliate will be a net positive for your program:

  • They are clearly committed to affiliate marketing. They have experience in affiliate marketing, with proven results, or are actively working as an affiliate.
  • They have industry authority. Some of the most effective affiliates are those with large followings of their own. People with a “name” or some kind of industry authority can simply produce more returns.
  • They are active within their niche. Affiliates should be well-connected. Because the premise is to sell to their own communities, contributing to discussions, commenting, providing advice, reviews, sharing experiences, or just generally engaging with others is usually a positive indicator.Are their social media accounts active? Do they have a significant following? Do they post regularly? Do they engage with others? How engaged are their followers?
  • They have good communication skills. Affiliate marketing is based around communication – and affiliate sales come from effective marketing.Look for affiliates with good writing, spelling, grammar, and interpersonal skills if you want to find people who will represent your brand in a polished and professional manner.
  • They are assertive. On the whole, proactive personalities tend to get more done!
  • They have a professional website. From tidy design and clear language to providing information that’s useful to your niche audience, a quality website is a good representation of an affiliate’s overall professionalism.
  • They provide useful data about their audience. This isn’t a deal-breaker, but things like website stats, number of followers, and number of email subscribers can all help you understand the reach and exposure you might receive from an affiliate.
  • They make it clear how they intend to promote you. It makes a big difference whether they just add a link on a resources page, or they actively send emails to their list, write a review about your product (evergreen content), or use specific channels such as social media to promote your business, etc.

A case for experimentation

In some sense, finding the right affiliates is a process of trial and error, as there’s only so much you can do before you see people in action. If you’re able to bring on a strong starting team of people that are already in your immediate network, you will be able to observe what works particularly well. From here you can adjust your criteria to make the most effective choices for your program.

Your affiliates are an extension of your business

It’s important to remember that the affiliates you choose are going to be representing you, your products, and your brand – and you (or your affiliate managers) are going to be dealing with them on a regular basis. With this in mind, you want to find people who are a good “fit” in terms of niche, personality, and marketing style.

Consider your affiliates an extension of your business; your team. They don’t need to be exactly like you per se (after all, “it takes all types” to make society work), but they should “jive” well with your values, your message, and your brand image; they should be able on your wavelength, and they should be the kind of people you would want to be the face of your brand.

Once you’ve settled on the criteria that will produce the best results for your specific goals, it will be easier to evaluate incoming applicants and streamline your process. Hopefully this post has given you a jumping-off point, so that you can make the most of your program and see big results!

What have you found most useful when it comes to evaluating prospective affiliates? What criteria do you use in your own program? Let us know in the comments below!


To our readers: This is our last article for 2018 whilst we take a little break! Thank you for your support and we hope you’ve enjoyed reading. If there’s something specific you’d like to see us write about in 2019, please share your ideas with us in the comments, and we’ll be back in the New Year! 🙂

Mandy Jones

About the author: Mandy Jones is a product marketing specialist at Sandhills Development, a music maker, and digital product creator. A Minnesota native, she's a frequent traveler and animal lover with a passion for creative work and digital business. When she’s not writing blog posts and doing other marketing stuff for Easy Digital Downloads and AffiliateWP, she can often be found hanging out with other people’s pets.

One comment

  1. Thanks, this is very useful. Would be nice to see an affiliate application questionnaire with top questions to ask your affiliates before accepting them to get/accept the most suitable affiliates.

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