Have you fantasized about the “internet marketing lifestyle dream,” complete with your laptop on a tropical beach?

For too many of us, that’s all it will ever be. A fantasy.

That doesn’t mean it’s impossible to earn good money online, working from home, or while traveling where the trade winds blow.

But it won’t happen by accident.

CPA marketing and affiliate marketing offer possibilities of passive income, and even big paydays. But how do you know if this is something you can do, or would even want to do.

Let’s look closer.

What is Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate marketing is finding buyers for other people’s products or services and collecting a commission when those buyers make a purchase because of you.

If you find a YouTube video that teaches you how to raise bees in your backyard there may be a clickable link in the description for a beekeeping kit on If you click on that link and buy the kit you’ve just participated as a customer in affiliate marketing.

how affiliate marketing works

Affiliate marketing is not just advertising.

The most successful affiliate marketers try to give potential customers something of value that they cannot get if they shop directly with the product owner.

As an example, many affiliate marketers do product reviews that help consumers understand and evaluate products before they buy. These reviews may be a blog post, a YouTube or Instagram video, or a podcast.

If the reviewer seems believable and relatable, visitors are more likely to trust the review and follow the affiliate marketer’s recommendations.

This is where the magic of internet marketing comes into play. Affiliate marketers link their product recommendations to the product owner’s website.

Visitors who are persuaded to buy a product only have to click on the product link. They are taken to the product owner’s website, where they can immediately select the product and enter their payment information.

When a consumer clicks on an affiliate link it also triggers a tracking cookie, which identifies the affiliate. This tells the product owner (or affiliate network) which affiliate is responsible for the sale.

If you’re an affiliate marketer this is how you get paid.

Looking for a quick overview of getting started with affiliate marketing? Check out this YouTube video by industry expert Sam Oh of Ahrefs.

affiliate marketing video

What is CPA Marketing?

CPA marketing is a form of affiliate marketing where the prospect doesn’t need to buy something in order for the affiliate to get paid. Affiliates earn money just for getting a prospect to perform an action.

That action might be anything from watching a video, to providing their zip code or telephone number, to filling out an online application form.

CPA stands for “cost per action,” where a product owner pays the “cost” to affiliates whenever a prospect completes the desired “action”.

CPA campaigns are often used for higher priced products or services that need prospects to have multiple interactions before they finally decide to make a purchase.

Some examples are insurance policies, debt relief services, weight loss programs, and credit cards.

The greatest use of cost per action marketing is not to attract impulse purchases. CPA marketing’s superpower is in prequalifying prospects in order to move them through a sales funnel.

purchase funnel

Below, is an example CPA offer used to prequalify potential home buyers. Prospects who fill out this form identify themselves as real estate leads in the “Awareness” or “Interest” stage of buying. will pay an affiliate marketer a fee every time someone fills out this form online. In turn they will sell these leads, at a big profit, to real estate agents and mortgage brokers looking for new clients.

cpa lead funnel

Affiliate Networks

There are countless product owners who are happy to pay affiliates to market their products for them.

There are also many would-be affiliates looking for opportunities to promote other people’s products for a commission.

Affiliate networks help the product owners and affiliates find each other. In an affiliate network product owners are usually referred to as advertisers, and affiliates are known as publishers.

Affiliate networks help track actions, conversions and sales, advise advertisers on offers and make sure affiliates get paid.

Affiliate network managers help to screen affiliates before letting them run advertisers’ offers, to make sure the affiliates can provide a consistent flow of high-quality customers.

Affiliate managers can also negotiate higher commissions for affiliates who bring lots of high-converting visitors to the product-owners’ offers.

Which is a Better Fit for You?

best fit

Sometimes it’s hard to know if something will work for you, even if you believe it’s working for other people.

It’s not that they’re smarter than you. But maybe they have business connections that are going to be hard for you to make.

Or maybe it’s just not a good fit for you personality-wise.

Affiliate marketing and CPA marketing require attention to detail and a willingness to work through what may seem like failures. Not sure if that’s a good fit for your personality? Then, keep reading.

What an Affiliate Marketer’s Day Looks Like

First the good news. An affiliate marketer has the luxury of setting his or her own work hours and work locations.

That might mean getting up early or working late. Or it might mean taking care of the kids or other family members first, and fitting affiliate marketing tasks around family priorities.

When it’s time to work, affiliate marketers focus on four things: 1) finding good affiliate offers, 2) creating ads or attractive content, 3) getting the ads or content in front of as many qualified prospects as possible, then 4) optimizing conversions.

A Typical Affiliate Marketer’s Work Day

1) Starts the work day looking for good affiliate offers to promote. Researches the quality of each product and decides if it’s something they’re comfortable promoting.

Poor quality products mean more unhappy customers, more refunds, less future business from customers and loss of reputation for the affiliate and his or her online business.

They check how much demand there is for each product, using keyword tools, Google Trends and any platform specific metrics.

For example, if the affiliate marketer is evaluating “Carbofix,” a Clickbank product, they would check how well it’s selling using the Clickbank “Gravity” score, and what the average payout per sale is.

Carbofix’s Gravity score is currently around 200, which means approximately 200 affiliates have made a sale of the product within the last 12 weeks. The average commission value is $109. The payout is high for Clickbank, but so is the competition.

2) Creates ads or attractive content.

The affiliate writes a product review for a “Wham-O Slip N Slide Wave Rider” sold on The review is in the form of a blog article posted to the affiliate’s niche website, “”.

Amazon Affiliate Productdog product

The affiliate shoots a video of their dog wearing pajamas from (where they have an affiliate account).

Posts it on YouTube with the title “Let Sleeping Dogs Lie – In Comfort.”

3) Gets ads and blog content in front of visitors.

Runs a Google Shopping Ad with a picture of the Slip N Slide that links to the blog review article.

Posts the Dog PJ video to Facebook. Looks for popular Dog Blogs and reaches out to Blog owners with requests to embed the Dog PJ video on their websites (for a fee or a share of profits). Also runs it as an ad on YouTube, targeting popular dog-related videos.

4) Reviews sales stats for other current affiliate campaigns. Identifies which ones are doing well and puts on to-do list to create more ads or improve Search Engine Optimization to get more visitors searching on the internet.

Kills worst performing ads.

The Daily Routine of CPA Marketers

Since CPA marketing is a form of affiliate marketing, daily routines will have many similarities.

The focuses are still on finding good offers, creating ads and content, showing the ads and content to as many qualified prospects as possible and optimizing conversions.

But, finding good CPA offers involves a few important differences.

CPA offers are often found on third party CPA networks, which assign affiliate managers to the affiliates who promote the network offers.

Part of the CPA marketer’s day will involve communicating with their affiliate manager. Building a relationship with the affiliate manager helps the manager to know and recommend the types of offers the affiliate does best with.

Building relationships with affiliate managers also opens doors for higher commission cuts when you can demonstrate that you’re providing lots of high quality traffic to offers.

The Pros and the Cons

Affiliate Marketing Pros

  1. 1You can earn money while you sleep
  2. 2It’s a huge and growing market
  3. 3You don’t need an MBA
  4. 4You can work wherever and whenever you want
  5. 5Potential to make a lot of money
  6. 6It’s easy to find products to promote in a niche you’re passionate about
  7. 7You don’t need inventory

Affiliate Marketing Cons

  1. 1There’s lots of competition
  2. 2It takes time to become successful
  3. 3You need to beware of hackers and scammers
  4. 4The 24/7 nature of the business can eat you up if you let it

CPA Marketing Pros

  1. 1It’s easier to get visitors to take actions that don’t require them to spend money
  2. 2The market is huge and growing, with lots of offers to promote
  3. 3Massive earning potential
  4. 4Works with many traffic sources

CPA Marketing Cons

  1. 1It takes time and effort to learn and become profitable
  2. 2It can be difficult to get approved for offers and networks
  3. 3There are often strict rules for promoting offers
  4. 4There is lots of competition
  5. 5There are lots of ways to get scammed

Why Affiliate Marketers Fail

There are lots of moving parts to affiliate marketing and it takes time to learn them.

If you’re not successful right away, it’s hard to make yourself spend time and money on advertising campaigns and not see a profit.

Most marketers give up before they get their breakthrough.

the smartest bear

              Is It True?   (Even if you’re the  Smartest Bear in the Room? )

Why You’ll Never Succeed Online

(by John Thornhill)

CPA Marketing Obstacles

If you read John Thornhill’s “Why You’ll Never Succeed Online” you’ll see that it applies to CPA marketing as well as affiliate marketing.

The usual suspects are “too much competition,” not knowing enough about the products you promote, not building relationships with your customers, and not testing enough.

But CPA marketing has a few extra obstacles that come with the territory:

  • Not building relationships with your Affiliate Managers
  • Trying too many offers and too many traffic sources at the same time
  • Being unwilling to lose money up front on ad campaigns

focus like a king

When Affiliate Marketers Succeed

  • They focus – they master only one niche and one traffic source at a time
  • They promote products that will actually help users – this builds trust and lets you sell more products to your customers
  • They know the products they are promoting – they may even actually buy and use the products before promoting them (this also builds trust)
  • They provide valuable content to their users, such as product reviews, “how-to’s”, or solving problems with the product
  • They create email lists of their customers, give ongoing value, build relationships, and market to them over and over again
  • They run retargeting campaigns to their prequalified visitors
  • They track, analyze and optimize their campaigns

CPA Marketers Who Win Big


It’s easy to spend money promoting CPA offers. It’s not so easy to make consistently good profits.

Here’s what successful CPA marketers do better:

  • Just like affiliate marketers, they focus – they get good at one vertical (niche) and one traffic source at a time
  • They develop good relationships with their affiliate managers
  • They always provide value to their customers
  • They send high quality (prequalified) traffic to their offers
  • They focus on mobile traffic
  • They run retargeting campaigns to their prequalified visitors
  • They track, analyze and optimize their campaigns

Do you have the Right Personality?

Affiliate and CPA marketing works best for people who are able to communicate well and gain the trust of potential customers, product owners and affiliate managers.

Besides these people skills, however, a lot of the work involved is solitary. If the thought of spending hours at a computer or mobile device without interacting directly with people is not appealing, then maybe this isn’t the best fit for you.

CPA marketing, in particular, requires the ability to focus on numbers. You don’t need to be a math genius, but you do need to be able track, compare and tweak campaign variables in order turn losing campaigns into profitable ones.

the smartest bear

Still Not Sure if this is a Fit for You?  

Take the Affiliate Marketer Personality Test

(takes about 2 minutes to complete)

Should You Go All In?

Affiliate and CPA marketing is not for everyone. You may need to test the waters before you know.

It’s also not necessary to jump into this full-time. You can learn affiliate and CPA marketing over time and run test campaigns without spending a lot of money.

As you learn and start to run profitable campaigns, then you will know better if and when it makes sense to quit your day job!

How to Get Started

Getting Started with Affiliate Marketing

1. Learn the Basics – If you focus on making money instead of learning affiliate marketing you will probably lose money and probably quit before you find consistent success.

“You won’t win big if you can’t win small.”

If you’re thinking about taking a course or finding a mentor, this is the time to do it.

the smartest bear

Learn more at

2. Pick a Marketing Niche – The best affiliate marketing niches are fairly specific, with lots of passionate people, where you can offer solutions that will help them with a problem or desire.

Some broad interests that you can dig down in to find more specific niches with lots of profitable affiliate products include:

  • Home Security
  • Online Dating
  • Fitness
  • Weight Loss
  • Travel
  • Gaming
  • Personal Finance

There are hundreds more. As you go through potential niches you can check Google Trends, and also consider niches you are personally passionate in or an expert in.

3. Join an Affiliate Network or Platform with Products in your Marketing Niche.

Start with one, then add more as your experience and success grows.,, and are examples of larger platforms that sell physical or information products through affiliates.

4. Find a Good Product or Offer to Promote – You’re going to see big differences in payouts for each conversion. Generally, the higher the payout, the harder it will be to get conversions.

Higher earnings per click (EPC) may be attractive, but these offers also have more competition from experienced marketers.

You can also check Google Trends to see if products are trending. Also consider if there are ways for you to promote the product uniquely.

5. Attract Visitors to your Offer – Create ads, a website or a landing page.

Getting Started with CPA Marketing

1. Again, Learn the Basics – If you focus on making money instead of learning the essential skills of CPA marketing it’s like wearing a blindfold.

Even if you get lucky and make some money, you won’t know why and you won’t be able to repeat it.

blindfold marketing

You can learn on your own, watching YouTube videos, and by trial and error.  Or you can learn from experts.

One of the best free places to start is Charles Ngo’s “The Ultimate Guide To Affiliate Marketing.”

2. Pick a Marketing Niche (see Affiliate Marketing above)

3. Join an Affiliate Network  CPA Offers in your Marketing Niche. 

A few of the best networks that focus on CPA offers include MaxBounty, Perform[cb], Mobidea, CPALead and ClickDealer.

Some CPA networks only want experienced publishers. If your application gets rejected, don’t worry, just apply to another one and answer their questions honestly.

But, don’t assume all CPA networks are honest. Do your homework and look for feedback before you choose.

4. Find a Good Product or Offer to Promote – You’re going to see big differences in payouts for each conversion. Generally, the higher the payout, the harder it will be to get conversions.

You can find many offers at or, along with the networks that have the offers.

5. Attract Visitors to your Offer – Create ads, a website or a landing page.

If you focus on offers in one niche you can also build out your website to focus on that niche. This will add credibility and authority to offers you run from your site.

6. Start with a Small Ad Budget as you learn. Consider running lower payout offers with higher conversion rates.

Some of your offers may still fail, but you will not lose much money. And you will learn every time you create and run a campaign.

7. Track the Performances of your Offers – Find out which offers perform the best and focus on one at a time. Make bank.

How to Knock it Out of the Park

If you stick with it you will eventually start making money with affiliate marketing.

But, what do you need to do to take it to the next level?

  1. 1After you know what you’re doing, it’s time to Outsource. Don’t be the bottleneck to your business growth. Hire a virtual assistant to research and find the best offers. Or contract out a copywriter or ad specialist. You get the idea.
  2. 2Use Paid Traffic. No matter how many affiliate commissions you get from people finding your popular blog post, it’s not scalable. But, if you can get a 20-30% profit margin using paid ads you can scale your profits simply by increasing your ad spend.  This is the path to potentially earning thousands of dollars per day in a single campaign.
  3. 4Find CPA Offers with No Maximum Caps. You may need to work with your affiliate manager to show that you are providing high quality (high-converting) traffic. Your affiliate manager may be able to get offer caps raised or removed, or find you offers with no caps.
  4. 5If you’re providing lots of high quality traffic to a CPA offer you need to ask for a Commission Bump from your affiliate manager.
  5. 6Retarget users who view, click on, or convert on your offers. These are warm leads and will probably be the cheapest converting source of advertising you can find. This works in general with affiliate marketing and specifically with CPA ads.
  6. 7Spy on your Competitors to find the most successful campaigns (this could also be done by a virtual assistant). But, don’t stop there.  Improve your competitors ads, or find similar offers that will benefit from their approach.  There are many spy resources available. Two of the best (not cheapest) are Adplexity and SimilarWeb.

The Best Beaches for Your Laptop


Seriously?  When this becomes a real choice, no one else can tell you where to go!

This is a guest post from Rickey D Williams, if you would like to be considered for a guest post please contact me.

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