Everything You Need to Know About Pay-Per-Click Affiliate Marketing

Natalia Tsvetkova Natalia Tsvetkova
Reading time:  13  min.

In affiliate marketing, you make money by recommending services and products from different brands to your audience. There are two main models of calculating revenue: per click or per action. In this post, we will take a closer look at everything you need to know about pay-per-click affiliate marketing, and also answer how this model can be combined with the CPA model.

What is Pay-Per-Click in Affiliate Marketing?

The idea of the pay-per-click (PPC) model is right there in the name. You earn income when someone clicks on one of your ad placements. For example, you can link to a website that sells flight tickets and earn revenue every time your audience goes to the brand’s website by clicking on that link.

The difference between the PPC and CPA models is that, in the former model, the result of the click does not directly affect your income. If we continue the example with flight tickets, then in the PPC model, your income does not directly depend on whether a person buys a ticket or not. You will earn a profit either way, as the brand you are working with will pay for the click.

Many contextual advertising networks, such as Ezoic and Google AdSense, work on the PPC model, where you receive income for clicks. However, PPC in affiliate marketing is more advanced as click tracking is more flexible. Therefore, the PPC model in affiliate marketing should not be taken as an alternative to PPC in contextual advertising, as you can achieve much more with affiliate programs.

For a better understanding of PPC affiliate marketing, let’s take a closer look at some key points:

●  Not all clicks are paid clicks. You place a link on your blog page that leads to the advertiser’s website. As a rule, brands only pay for “qualified” clicks that meet the criteria of their affiliate program (for example, a click from the country where the traffic is paid from). You can find the rules in the description of the conditions of the affiliate program to which you are connected.

●  Clicks are paid not only on your website. A click on your website is only sometimes paid. In some affiliate programs, you get paid for a click on the brand’s website. That is, you send traffic to the brand’s website and receive a reward only if your visitor on the brand’s website clicks (for example, on the “Order” button). This type of click is sometimes referred to as a “click out”.

The fact that clicks are paid on the brand’s website is one of the key differences between PPC affiliate programs and PPC contextual networks, where you only get paid for clicks on your website.

●  The CPA and PPC models can be combined. There is also mixed remuneration model, in which the advertiser pays for some actions, according to the CPA model, and some of the clicks. For example, one of the brand’s many suppliers (flight tickets, car rental, hotels, etc.) may share some revenue with the brand under the PPC model and some revenue under the CPA model.

●  The earnings per click in the affiliate program may differ for different partners. For example, in the Skyscanner affiliate program, the cost per click depends on the quality of your traffic. The earnings per click (EPC) is higher if your traffic is comprised of people who are close to purchasing flight tickets.

In addition, the PPC model is more popular, not in affiliate marketing, but in contextual, display, and other types of online advertising. Therefore, you will most often find tools for making money on clicks that are not affiliate marketing in the truest sense of this term. However, there are many PPC affiliate programs as well.

What Is EPC and How Is It Calculated?

To understand how much you can earn, calculate your earnings per click or EPC. This metric applies to both PPC and CPA models and allows you to calculate your revenue per click.

The formula for calculating EPC is quite simple: divide the total affiliate earnings by the total number of clicks. For example, if you earned $1,000 from 100 clicks, that means EPC = $10.

An example of EPC calculation from Actual Wizard
An example of EPC calculation from Actual Wizard

EPC in affiliate program reports usually reflects only the actual income. For a better data interpretation, you can use a manual EPC calculation, taking into account your expenses. In this case, the formula for calculating EPC is:

  1. Add up the total affiliate income for the selected time period
  2. Subtract the money actually spent to achieve this income
  3. Divide the final amount by the number of clicks for the selected period

For example, you gained 100 clicks, earned $1,000, and spent $500, which gives us an EPC of $5. Using this formula, you can calculate the net income per click, which is a fairer estimate of real income since you can spend even more than you receive in terms of income (for example, when buying paid advertising).

EPC can be used to plan your marketing budget or find the most profitable earning strategies. EPC is also a key metric for choosing the best affiliate programs. You can compare the average revenue per click to understand which brand is more profitable to work with.

Some affiliate marketing expenses are not directly related to income for the selected period. For example, if you prepared an article and paid a copywriter for it or if you bought photos for an article. This expense cannot be calculated in a particular month, since the article will generate income for a long time. In this case, you can focus on the effective earning per click or choose the period in which such expenses are taken into account (for example, one year).

EPC is calculated similarly for the CPA model. Even though, in this case, you earn revenue from your audience’s actions, not clicks, you can divide the total revenue from actions by the total number of clicks to find out how much one click generated on average. This is a great way to compare whether it is more profitable for you to work on a PPC or CPA model.

How to Increase Your Earnings?

There are essentially two ways to increase your revenue with PPC affiliate marketing:

●  Increasing the number of clicks

●  Increasing the average cost per click

The first is working on the quantity, while the second is improving the quality of traffic and affiliate products. Let’s look at both options on how to increase your earnings.

5 Ways to Increase Click Rates to Earn More

You can increase the number of clicks by increasing the total volume of traffic and by increasing the click rate (CR), which goes up when more people click on your links with the same amount of traffic. Ideally, you should work on both.

1. Increase Total Traffic Volume

The method of increasing traffic entirely depends on the format of your website, as well as the current traffic volume. For bloggers and website owners, organic traffic from search engines is one of the key sources to focus on.

SEO and organic traffic can be classified as free traffic sources, since you do not buy traffic directly, but spend money on creating quality content and optimizing your search results. The essence of this method in a nutshell:

●  Chose the topics of future articles. You can use Keysearch.co or its alternatives to find the best content ideas that will give you a chance to achieve a good position on Google.

●  Prepare content that is not worse (and is ideally better) than that of your competitors.

●  Place affiliate tools inside your content.

●  Get organic traffic from Google and, as a result, get more clicks and revenue.

This method is applicable not only to new content, but also when working with existing materials. Whether you have 10 or 1,000 blog posts, you can use SEMrush or Ahrefs to check which of your articles are already near the top of the Google search results and refine these materials to get more content.

The peculiarity of the method is its speed. Even if you create content quickly and have a great site that ranks highly on Google, it will probably take you several months before you see your first results. This is because it takes time for Google to appreciate your quality content.

To learn how to attract more organic traffic to earn money in affiliate marketing, you can take this free course from Sharon Gourlay.

In addition to organic traffic, there are more traffic sources to consider:

–        Social networks

–        Email newsletters

–        Direct

–        And other traffic sources

For example, Oke Osevwe, the creator behind okeventures.com, successfully gains traffic from Pinterest. She shared her method in detail in this success story. You can also actively use Pinterest or other platforms, such as Quora, Reddit, etc.

Pro Tip: Whatever traffic source you choose, always avoid spam. Few brands allow spam to drive clicks. Furthermore, intrusive and unwanted advertising messages to the audience also rarely work effectively. Always remember that your ultimate goal is to increase the amount of traffic that you can further monetize through PPC affiliate programs.

2. Increase Traffic Quality

While trying to increase your total traffic volume, do not forget about the quality of that traffic. It is unlikely that you need an extra 10,000 people per month who will make 0 clicks, because you will not earn anything from these visitors. In PPC affiliate marketing, just like with the CPA model, you only earn when your audience makes specific actions. In PPC, those actions are clicking on affiliate links.

Quality traffic in PPC affiliate marketing is comprised of people who are interested in the product or service being advertised on your page. For example, you’re better off recruiting one person who reads your United Airlines flight rules material and clicks on a link to buy tickets than 10 people who just read the material and don’t click on the link.

To attract high-quality traffic, it is important for you to take the intentions of your reader into account while writing your article. Ideally, your reader should have an immediate intention to buy a service or product, or at least be close to it. This intent can be predicted from the words in the search query. For example, queries that contain one of the following words can drive high-quality traffic to your website:

●  #buy#

●  #order#

●  #cheap#

●  #book#

Search queries with this type of intent are called commercial queries. We will analyze them further with examples, but if you want to learn more about the types of search queries, check out this article.

If a person is looking for, for example, #Cheap guided tour in Barcelona#, there is a high probability that they want to buy such a tour. It can be assumed that the probability is higher that they are ready to make a purchase than if they were using the query #What to see in Barcelona#. Although both visitors can be offered, for example, tours through the Viator affiliate program, the chance of making money is higher with the person who is closer to making a purchase.

Pro Tip: Tours and activities is one of the most profitable niches among travel affiliate programs. To successfully monetize your content with tours and activities affiliate programs, such as Viator, GetYourGuide, and others, download this free guide.

This method has a downside. The closer a visitor is to purchasing a service or good, the more in demand that visitor is. This means that the competition for such a search query may be higher, as other affiliate marketers and brands are targeting this audience as well. In Sharon Gourlay’s free course, you can learn how to choose the best search queries.

3. Post Links on New Platforms

Depending on the rules of the affiliate program you are joining, you can significantly increase the number of clicks by adding affiliate links to alternative traffic sources.

For example, if you have a group on a social network, a Pinterest page, etc., you can drive traffic from these resources to the brand’s website and receive income from clicks or sales.

Please note that each brand sets its own rules for which traffic sources are paid for. Before placing an affiliate link, be sure to read the rules.

If the brand you work with does not accept traffic from one of your platforms, you can still make use of those traffic sources. For example, even if the brand you work with does not accept traffic from social networks, you can use your social media pages as sources of traffic for your own website to drive traffic to a website where affiliate links are placed. Thus, you can increase your total traffic, the number of clicks, and your final income.

4. Optimize Your Link Placement

You can get more clicks (and more revenue) for the same amount of traffic if you optimize actual tool placement. To do this, you can use the best practices from the free guide for placing affiliate tools:

●  The link should stand out visually. If your text is black on a white background, you can make the link blue with an underline. For an example, see how it’s done on the Travelpayouts blog. You can choose any color. Just be sure that the link stands out from the general text.

●  A reader must understand what awaits them when clicking on the link. Be sure to indicate what the reader will get by clicking the link either before the link or in the anchor text.

●  Place links where they will be in demand by the reader. It is rare that an affiliate link is needed in the first line of an article, since the person has not yet formed the intention to click. Moreover, Google may consider your article useless if its main goal is to immediately redirect a person to another site.

●  Use navigation for affiliate links as well. You can add the most popular links to the menu or sidebar of your site.

●  Provide your audience with different options. Often, you can find two or more affiliate programs that match the interests of your audience. You should not bombard the reader with options; however, suggesting several alternative options at once may increase your final income.

In addition, you can create visual blocks on your site, where all affiliate links that are useful to the reader will be collected. This is a convenient element for your audience, since all the necessary services and products are collected in one place, while for you, this is an extra chance to display affiliate tools that can positively affect your income. An example of such a placement can be seen below:

Screenshot from paulinaontheroad.com showing an example of the link box at the end of the article. The example shows one title and seven useful links with short information.
An example of a block with links from paulinaontheroad.com

5. Experiment With Formats

Although the method we are discussing is called “pay per click”, you are not limited to using only links. If the terms of the affiliate program are not prohibited, you can use other placement formats, such as banners.

A click on a banner on your site is the same as a click on a link. A banner is not only a picture inside an article or in a sidebar, it is a much more flexible tool. For example, you can set up a pop-up or banner when the reader tries to leave the site. Such elements will allow you to draw attention to a partner product or service and get an additional click on your ad.

Pro Tip: If your site is powered by WordPress, then you can use ready-made plugins for displaying banners and advertising placements, such as Simple Banner and Ads by WPQuads.

Up to 46% of Internet users use ad blockers. To reduce the risk of your banner being blocked, try to avoid naming conventions such as ads.jpg, banner.jpg, and other advertising-related names. Such names can immediately give away that your banner is an ad. To reduce the risk of being blocked, if possible, use non-standard image sizes, such as 450x50px instead of the classic 468x60px.

3 Ways to Increase Your Earnings per Click (EPC)

The second strategy that allows you to increase your income with PPC affiliate marketing is increasing the average cost per click.

While working to increase your EPC, keep in mind that advertisers don’t look for clicks as much as sales, as most brands make money by selling products or services. You get paid for clicks, but further down the chain of sales are actual purchases. It is important to keep this in mind when working on a PPC model.

1. Improve the Quality of Your Traffic

A number of affiliate programs offer rewards per click based on the quality of your traffic. For example, the Skyscanner affiliate program pays a commission based on how many sales come from your audience.

Therefore, you can work on the quality of your audience by determining who exactly visits your site and who you redirect to the advertiser’s site. The closer your audience is to making an actual purchase, the higher the cost per click can be.

Some brands also pay more for traffic from specific countries. For example, if a brand offers a higher bid for clicks from the US, you can work on driving traffic to your site from the US.

2. Get Individual Conditions

Large publishers sometimes have individual conditions. As usual, those conditions are not publicly announced on the landing pages of brands, but if you have a significant volume of high-quality traffic, you can discuss individual conditions with the brand.

Brands are interested in getting as much quality traffic as possible. For example, if you are willing to offer an exceptional ad placement to a brand, without mentioning competitors or other improvements on your part, you may in some cases receive better terms.

This method of increasing earnings per click is available to only a select few partners. Brands are ready to work on individual terms, but most often, this is only true in exceptional cases. If your traffic source is a leader in its niche or if you can offer special terms of cooperation to a brand, you can try this method.

3. Switch to Another Affiliate Program

Different brands offer different conditions. You can test another affiliate program that offers higher rewards. In this case, it is best to work with affiliate networks or platforms, such as Travelpayouts. In this case, in one personal account, you will have access to hundreds of affiliate programs, which you can try out.

The commission rate should never be the only criterion by which you choose an affiliate program. For example, if a service or product doesn’t match your audience’s interests in the same way as your current brand, you may receive fewer clicks and, therefore, less revenue.

To figure out a better and more profitable solution, you can conduct A/B testing. To do this, distribute traffic equally between the old and new brands. For this, you can use tools like Google Optimize or ClickMeter. To choose the best option, this experiment must be carried out on a statistically significant sample. We wrote more about split tests in this blog post.


The way to become a PPC affiliate is no different from becoming a CPA affiliate. CPA and PPC are two of the most popular reward models in affiliate marketing and should not be opposed to each other. It is better to consider these models as complementary, as brands use both models in different cases.

But the main difference between the two methods is that PPC affiliate marketing is more risky for brands since you, as a partner, are not responsible for the result. Even if a person does not buy a service after clicking the link, you will still receive income.

Although the PPC model sounds safer for partners, this is not always the case. Brands carefully calculate the cost of one click so that their economy converges. According to the laws of economics: the less risk, the lower the income. In the PPC model, the main risk is on the brand, so the partner often receives less income.

There is no universal rule that CPA is better than PPC or vice versa, since it all depends on the quality of your traffic, brand product, and other factors. Therefore, in order to choose a more profitable option, if you have comparable offers, it is always worth trying both options to understand which one is better in practice. Ideally, you can organize A/B testing to compare which option is better on a statistically significant sample.

What Are the Best Pay-Per-Click Affiliate Marketing Programs?

There is only one way to become a PPC affiliate, which is by joining a PPC affiliate program. If you are looking for PPC affiliate programs, definitely pay attention to such programs as the Skyscanner affiliate program or the Cheapflights affiliate program. 

You can find a PPC affiliate program in most niches (for example, if you work in B2B, technology, travel, or other sectors). Although, in the travel niche, there are usually more CPA programs, as brands prefer to pay for the actions over clicks.

How to Earn per Click With Pay-Per-Click Affiliate Marketing

What is pay-per-click affiliate marketing? In layman’s terms, it is a way to earn on clicks. The way you are going to earn per click with PPC affiliate marketing depends on your traffic source and niche.

To earn on clicks in affiliate marketing, you need to join an affiliate program that pays for clicks. You can also work on the CPA model and receive income from actual sales. The result will be the same: you will earn on traffic.

In the case of high-quality traffic, CPA may yield higher income than the PPC model; however, you should conduct a split test to find out the real best way to make money.

To evaluate the profitability of any PPC or CPA affiliate program, you can use the EPC (earnings per click) indicator. To increase your overall income, you will need to work on the quantity and quality of traffic, as well as on how actively people click on your affiliate materials.

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