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[I've tried different affiliate programs over the past five years for my web-based games. I've discovered that some pay and some don't. Let's dive in!]
Promoting an affiliate program that doesn't pay is really frustrating. Your web space is precious. The ad space you purchase may be even more so. Over the years, I spent a lot of time frustrated from promoting affiliate programs that don't pay. This experimentation has also cost me a lot of money.
However, the ones that pay well are definitely worth it, so promoting the right networks truly benefit everyone.
I have a number of blogs, sites, and social media that I participate in. I thought that for other affiliate marketers, and other indie game developers especially, this list of hits and misses may be somewhat useful.
Please note: I don't promote all of the programs equally, but I tried to take that into account when ranking them in this list. Although I made more money on some programs, they may have gotten a low ranking for other reasons as specified.
Also note that in most cases, it's not really fare to compare a program that sells products to a program that makes money primarily off of ads. I know this, but for the purpose of promoting the best performing programs, I will be recommending the networks that were the most profitable for me.
Depending on your audience, these programs may or may not be the best for you. You will have to experiment yourself, but hopefully this will give you some ideas.
An Overview of the Best
1) BMT Micro
– I will start off by saying that this program is really specific to my industry because almost all of my indie friends and associates are on it. The tracking cookie lasts for a long time (30-90 days or something) and software developers offer about 25%-30% commission, so this affiliate program is a really great way to make money for people in software.
2) Google Adsense
– We are in a depressed ad market right now, but Google continues to pay high revenue on CPC ads (cost per click). I have found it to be the best for ad revenue. If you know of another, please share in the comments below.
– This affiliate network has been surprisingly well paying for us, but it's more geared towards anime sites. If you have a fan base with anime or Japan interests, this site is rather excellent. It offers products from import games and manga to obento items! It also has some adult products which sell surprisingly well. (It's surprising to me because I always assumed that adult products were mostly pirated). They get +1 because they accept adult games.
4) Trial Pay
– Although TrialPay
is not my primary payment provider and I don't make that many sales through it, it is an excellent alternative for a variety of reasons. It works by offering your product to the customer for free as long as the buy some other retail product. You can often make more money on your software by selling something else and getting a referral fee from the vendor!
– I have 6,884 plays on my games at Kongregate
and ~$6.00 to show for it. Although this seems rather terrible, it is actually rather high paying for flash game ads. If I could make an action or RPG game and upload it here, I could probably make some decent ad revenue.
6) Big Fish Games
– I really struggled including this because it has become extremely difficult to refer new customers. Also, the games have gotten so cheap that it's difficult to make a decent profit on any sale. Even though collector's editions have increased in price, I haven't seen the revenues on my end, but it's probably because I'm not selling very many of them for some reason. That being said, if you manage to refer a customer, you may be able to make $.99 to $250.00+ over the one year that that customer belongs to you.
Worst Performing Affiliate Programs
– Amazon? Really? They are supposed to be a top paying program. You may be able to make money selling high tickets items, but those are difficult sales that people usually think about. With a tracking cookie expiring after 24 hours, it makes it difficult to make money on any customer that doesn't impulse buy.
2) Commission Junction
– I don't use Commission Junction
as much as the other programs, and I know others have had a different experience, but I included it here because it's hard for me to find products to sell, and the link code required is often very long and cumbersome. I often have trouble integrating it into my site for various reasons. If you edit the code at all, you may lose commission (they warn about this often).
will help you to distribute your flash game to many sites, but the ad revenue is still rather weak, especially depending on the territory.
– The ad revenue is just okay. They have limited products available right now, and many of them are for adults which may not be family friendly enough for your site. The payout at 200 Euros is also somewhat high for an affiliate program. They get +1 because they accept adult games.
– I've found it virtually impossible to make money on this, but I've been able to make around $50.00 on some games surprisingly. It's meant to be more of a secondary income option in addition to sponsorship. They get +1 because they accept adult games.
has been really difficult to make money on. Over 100,000 plays and only about $10.00 or so to show for it so far. However, I did give them $25 to support their efforts. I think they may have issues getting ad revenue because of the site's adult content. They get +1 because they accept adult games.
– You know... I may need to give this a second look, but so far I haven't made any decent cash on it. They pay $.04 per lead which means that your visitor needs to visit 3 or more pages to get the commission. Only tier 1 countries are included in this, but you can choose to direct other tiers to different links if you want. It's more of an option for when you can't get sponsorship for your game.
8) Project Wonderful
– How many people do you know that buy ads? Not many, right? That's why it's difficult to gain ad credits by referral, (they don't pay in cash) however they are an excellent source for cheap advertising. I've gotten clicks for less than $.01, but the click quality isn't that great.
So, should you join affiliate programs? Yes! You may be able to make more money on affiliate programs than on your direct sales.
I hope that helps you guys out. Please share any networks that have worked well for you below in the comments, and please let me know if you disagree with any of the information that I posted.
Thanks for reading and good luck!