While doing research and looking for the best CPA networks out there, it won’t take long before a giant question mark spawns above your head as you scratch it in confusion. On one side, there will be people praising them, claiming they’ve made huge successes thanks to them. On the other side, there are people and businesses out there that loathe CPA networks, saying they’re a waste of time, money and effort.
So which one is it?
A little bit of both, probably. In all honesty, CPA networks aren’t all milk and honey – they do come with disadvantages of their own. And depending on the type of business you’re running, or the type of clients you’re handling, some pros might outweigh the cons and vice-versa. That is why it is important to know what to look out for when searching for the best CPA network, so that you may make the best decision.
What do you consider spam?
First, let’s address the elephant in the room: one of the first things that you’ll come across when researching CPA networks is that they ‘push a lot of spam’. More often than not, you’ll hear accusations that CPA networks deal only with spammers, and that for that reason, they should be avoided. Don’t fall for this trap.
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The fact of the matter is, many people seem to have trouble distinguishing legitimate commercial emails from spam messages. Don’t forget – email marketing is still a legitimate (and very potent) business practice. The CAN-SPAM Act, a law that ‘sets the rules for commercial emailing’, has been established years ago, and with rules in place, it should be easy to distinguish spammers from legit businesses.
Any self-respecting CPA network will have zero tolerance for real spam. Even without debating the moral ground of working with spammers, the end result is most likely a shutdown ISP, and litigation risks, just to name a few potential troubles.
CPA networks got this bad rep as back in the day, the majority were operated by companies with a history in email marketing. As email marketing was mostly considered spam (regardless of if it actually was or not), CPA networks undeservingly ended up with a bad label.
Do you have patience to wait in line?
Becoming part of an awesome CPA network comes with a challenge that flies under the radar most of the time. Great CPA networks only want traffic of high quality, making them a great catch for businesses, as well as affiliates. But because they are weeding out unwanted traffic, getting permission to enter can be quite the endeavor.
The best CPA networks have strict rules and regulations of their own, and many might have some serious adjusting to do, which, obviously, takes time. In some cases, CPA networks will even demand a phone interview before they decide to let you in. Also, keep in mind that in some cases, companies need to pay a fee in order to join an affiliate network. However, knowing how much time, effort and money would be needed to set up a new network of affiliates, it is definitely worth the investment.
Cutting out the middlemen
Obviously, whoever is looking for a CPA network, is looking to make some greens, so it’s important to know how much one can expect to be charged for the service. A legitimate question arises – if CPA networks act as a middleman between an affiliate and a merchant, can they offer a higher payout?
Would you earn more with, or without the network?
The majority of affiliate programs are operated through a network that charges fees (25 percent seems to be a typical threshold). CPA networks will collaborate with merchants outside the affiliate network to avoid these fees. The network will earn a cut, true, but it is usually way below the 25 percent mark. This is why CPA networks can end up actually paying higher than if you’d go directly through an affiliate network.
Theoretically speaking, everyone could go outside the affiliate network, do the work directly and essentially be like a CPA network themselves, but the majority doesn’t have the necessary volume, time or money. Or knowledge.
Think globally, act locally
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Another distinguishing feature is the CPA network’s presence. Many aim to be globally present, with affiliates scattered all around the globe for maximum coverage. Tempting as it may sound to be seen and heard of from Tokyo to New York, or from Amsterdam to Cape Town, not all businesses would benefit from such a feature.
Does the network offer an affiliate manager?
There’s this urban myth that all you need to do is launch a program on an affiliate network and bam! – results. Actually, a CPA network will provide you with a platform where you can list, view and keep track of your campaigns and their performance. Without an affiliate manager, expect poorer results and a lot of friction. On the other hand, with a dedicated affiliate manager (either in-house or outsourced), it becomes easier to look for new affiliates, assist existing ones, keep the standards high on promotional material, or simplify reporting.
It’s funny how opinions on CPA networks can be antithetical. While some businesses see great success employing them, others see them as a complete waste of time, money or effort. But the reality is that not all networks are created equal. There are hundreds of them out there, each with their unique advantages, pros and cons.
The best are the ones that have exclusive offers or vertical specialization of their own, which is an important factor when choosing the right network. Many networks have different payout systems, which can also be a defining element. Reputation is something that absolutely must be taken into consideration. Some are just more popular than others, drawing in affiliates and businesses in swathes. Understanding if your business needs to be in such an environment is a key factor to choosing the best CPA network. Just be careful not to fall for the ‘spam trap’. Most CPA networks, especially the best ones, have zero tolerance for spam.