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Affiliate Marketing vs CPA Marketing: 4 Reasons To Do CPA Marketing Even If It Pays Less

January 23, 2023

There are many opportunities to make money online with internet marketing, such as doing local lead gen. Generally, those who want to go the route of promoting products and services for a commission decide between affiliate marketing vs CPA marketing. Although CPA marketing efforts are compensated less than standard affiliate marketing because they provide slightly less value to the brand, there are 4 reasons you should still consider engaging in CPA marketing. In the following article, we break down each business model, discuss the differences, and give you the steps and tips necessary to make money with either form of affiliate marketing ASAP!

What is affiliate marketing?

Affiliate marketing is an internet marketing strategy where brands outsource marketing efforts to third-party marketers who promote their products or services for a commission. In affiliate marketing, you usually earn the commission if you sell the product. However, you can earn commissions from other actions as well. Affiliate marketers use affiliate links in their content, which are custom URLs that contain the affiliates ID. That way, brands can see the affiliate's performance and award the commissions due. 

Where to get affiliate links?

Affiliate marketers get their commission tracking affiliate links through an affiliate network. Affiliate networks are platforms that host affiliate programs for brands and connect them with affiliates looking to earn money. 

Where do affiliate marketers promote their affiliate links?

According to Boostiny, blogs are the most popular promotional channel for affiliate marketers, with 65% of affiliates using it. Besides blogging, affiliate marketers also use:

  • SMS

  • Email marketing
  • Social media

  • Pay-per-click ads

  • Cold outreach

What is CPA in affiliate marketing?

CPA, or Cost-per-Action marketing, is a specific form of affiliate marketing where marketers are awarded when a predetermined condition occurs. Unlike standard affiliate marketing where the commission is awarded based on a specified percentage, CPA marketing commission is earned as a fixed rate per action completed. The Bluehost affiliate program is a good example of this. You earn a flat rate of $65 for each sign up, and not a percent of the sale amount like in standard affiliate marketing. 

3 Categories of CPA marketing

1. Pay per action -The CPA marketer receives a commission if the intended customer takes a specific action. Examples of actions that can result in payment include: 

  • Completion of form
  • Starting a free trial
  • Watching a video
  • Getting a quote
  • Signup up to be a customer
  • Visiting the website of the brand

  • Subscribing to a newsletter

2. Pay per sale - Advertiser pays the CPA marketer a fixed price for each sale that results from the CPA marketing campaign. 

3. Recurring payments - Recurring commission CPA model means the CPA marketer can earn a commission each time the customer makes a repeat purchase. Common for products and services with recurring monthly subscriptions like software. 

CPA ≠ Cost-per-acquisition

To avoid confusion, it’s important to note that there are two meanings for the term CPA in online marketing. Cost-per-action, which we are discussing here in this article, and cost-per-acquisition, which is completely different. Cost-per-acquisition relates to PPC advertising, like Google ads, and measures how much you pay for every lead and sale. 

4 Reasons you should do CPA marketing even though it usually pays less

1. More ways to earn money

As a standard affiliate marketer, you spend resources driving traffic to an affiliate offer that only nets a profit if customers buy. Therefore, the only way you generate money is by sale. Meanwhile, CPA affiliate marketing extends your earning opportunities and lessens the chance your time, money, and effort goes to waste. 

2. It’s easier

According to AWIN, the average conversion rate for affiliate marketing is between 0.5% and 1%. Leading quality traffic to an affiliate offer and actually getting them to buy it is not a simple task! However, convincing someone to sign up for a free trial or complete a simple form is much easier to accomplish.

3. You get paid faster

An affiliate program tracks sales using web browser cookies. These track and award affiliate sales for anywhere from 24 hours to 30+ days after the customer visits the brand through an affiliate link. Therefore, a potential customer may first visit the brand site without purchasing, and then two weeks later go back and make the purchase. When waiting for sales to get paid, you may wait awhile. With CPA marketing, you may get paid just for getting the customer to enter the website. Because there are so many ways to get paid as a CPA marketer from actions that occur before a sale, you get paid faster.

4. CPA manager to support you

As an affiliate marketer, you are on your own to find the best offers for your audience. However, when you are accepted into a CPA network, you are usually assigned an affiliate manager to help guide you to the best offers. Furthermore, affiliate managers can also suggest ways for you to make more money using their program expertise. 

How to get started with CPA affiliate marketing

Unlike affiliate marketing vs digital marketing, the process for affiliate marketing and CPA marketing is essentially the same, except for where you get the offer. 

Step 1: Choose a niche

The first step for CPA and affiliate marketing is to choose a niche you can develop an audience of targeted traffic to promote to. Unlike local lead gen, affiliate marketing is a competitive industry. It’s essential to take the time to do market research or else you may find yourself in a saturated niche. According to EasyAffiliate, some of the most profitable niches right now are:

  • Technology 
  • Lifestyle and wellness
  • Personal finance
  • Pet care

You can avoid competition with established publishers in the affiliate space, like NerdWallet if you go for personal finance, by niching down. Niching down is targeting a smaller segment of a larger audience. For example, if you choose personal finance, you could niche down by focusing on personal finance for recent college graduates. If you’re a recent college graduate yourself, you can better relate with your audience and have a clearer understanding of common issues they may face. This makes it easier to create authentic content your audience can resonate with. Furthermore, niching down also increases your conversion rates because you can better match the affiliate or CPA offer to your audience.

Pro Tip: If possible, choose a niche you are interested in or have expertise for. It will make the content creation process much more enjoyable. 

Step 2: Sign up for a CPA affiliate network

Affiliate and CPA networks are where you get offers to promote to your niche. They are platforms where brands host their affiliate marketing programs and affiliate marketers go to find the best offers for their audience. If you primarily want to earn just from generating sales for brands, you can sign up for one of the popular affiliate networks, such as:

If you want to get paid for actions beyond just generating sales, check out some of these CPA networks: 

  • CPALead (Best CPA network for beginners)
  • CrakRevenue
  • MaxBounty
  • Admitad
  • Peerfly

Important note: Whereas you can often get approved for an affiliate network with minimum hassle, approval for CPA networks are not as easy. In order to join a CPA network, you’ll usually have to do a video interview with the CPA network’s account manager to discuss your experience. However, the benefit is that if you’re approved, you’ll also have an account manager to support your success on the platform.

Step 3: Create content to attract audience and promote offer

Once you have your niche and access to affiliate offers through a marketing network, it’s time to create content to build up a traffic source. There are many channels you can choose to promote through, with blogging and influencer marketing through social media being two common options. Because most affiliates use blogging and it’s easier for the majority of people to establish a blog following than become a social media influencer, we’ll look at an affiliate blog example.

Let’s say you’re a teacher who enjoys traveling. You could create a website with a domain name like and create blog content with articles relevant to teaching and travelling. Your blog would be relevant to both teachers and travellers, and ultra relevant to teachers who travel. You could then promote travel and teaching-related products in your blog, such as travel insurance or other products teachers would be especially interested to have while travelling. 

Here’s a similar real life example. This blog is called The Broke Backpacker, and the article goes over the best places to stay in Thailand. The article has affiliate links to many budget hotel options and an affordable travel insurance, in line with the theme of the blog.

Step 4: Consistently publish new content to grow your audience base

Search engines like Google and YouTube are powered by algorithms that decide which content ranks for which keywords. If you want the search engine to trust your content and view it as valuable information that should be shared with the largest potential audience, consistent content publishing is essential. According to Wordable, it’s optimal to post 3 to 5 blog posts per week if you want to grow organic website traffic. 

Tips for success with CPA affiliate marketing

Use paid CPA advertising to extend reach

Paid traffic from a Facebook or Google ad generates more clicks to your content with affiliate links and therefore increases your opportunities to make money. Furthermore, a paid ad campaign allows you to target specific segments of your audience or niche so you can test and learn who converts best to better focus your content efforts. 

Don't skip keyword research 

You can’t have a successful CPA marketing formula without keyword research. Keyword research before your CPA campaign can increase your chance of success by narrowing down a niche with high-profit potential and low competition. Continuing to implement keyword research during your CPA marketing work will enable you to create content around the search terms your target audience is searching. That way, you can help your target customers to more easily find your content and increase the likelihood they will take an action that results in you making money.

Some of the best keyword research tools for CPA affiliate marketers are:

  • Google Keyword Planner
  • Ahrefs
  • Semrush
  • Moz Keyword Explorer
  • Ubersuggest

Include banner ads on your website

Humans process visual data 60,000 times faster than text, and 90% of information that reaches the brain is visual. Therefore, banner ads, which are branded visual advertisements, are incredibly effective. Many brands create banner ads for affiliate and CPA marketers to use that you can easily get through the affiliate program. By placing banner ads on high-traffic areas of your website, you can drive more audience interaction with the brand.

Follow the advice of your affiliate manager

If you have one available, listening to the advice of your affiliate manager can provide a boost to your performance. An affiliate manager has immense expertise for the programs in the affiliate network and access to the data to make data driven recommendations. They also have a high-level of knowledge for the overall industry, so it’s a good idea to at least hear them out.


Even though the affiliate marketing industry is incredibly saturated and competitive, you can still find success with the right opportunity. However, there are many opportunities to make money in the world of online business. Take the necessary time to do thorough research, then make a decision and start working on it. Many people aspire to create the lifestyle online business allows, but most get stuck in analysis paralysis. They never give themselves the opportunity to succeed. Whether you're deciding between affiliate marketing vs forex trading, or find the best opportunity is local lead gen, get going. 

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Ippei Kanehara

$52K per month providing lead generation services to small businesses is for digital hustlers, industry leaders and online business owners.

His #1 online business recommendation in 2024, is to build your own lead generation business.

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