The Definitive Guide To CPA Marketing

What Is CPA Affiliate Marketing?

In 2019 everyone knows about affiliate marketing. Or at least we’ve all experienced it, viewing the ad videos, filling in the forms on landing pages, purchasing goods and services through affiliate links. You can’t get away unless you live under a rock.

According to research, affiliate marketing spendings in the US grow by more than 10% each year. It is predicted that in 2020 the number is to reach close to $7 billion. Naturally, more and more people want to get their share of those billions, so they get into the industry.

As you will learn in this article, diving into the CPA marketing is one of the best ways to start earning within affiliate business, with its various types, relatively high conversion rate, and an extensive list of operating partners.

But, putting it simply, this is how CPA marketing works from the affiliate perspective:

  • you create a traffic source (website, mobile app, etc.);
  • you buy banner space ($) with your money to generate traffic to your website;
  • the user clicks on the banner, visits your site, and makes the necessary action = conversion (fills the form, downloads a trial, etc.);
  • the advertiser pays you for each conversion ($$$);
  • profit!

Ready to learn more about why best affiliates choose CPA over other affiliate marketing monetization models? Don’t forget to take notes, your income depends on it, after all 🙂

Other monetization models

One of the main classifications in affiliate marketing is based on the chosen pricing model. Depending on when and why the advertiser pays affiliates, there are:

CPM (Cost Per Mille (Thousand)) where an advertiser pays for one thousand impressions, or rather, views of his ad.

CPC (Cost Per Click) — an advertiser pays for each click.

CPA (Cost per action), also known as cost per acquisition, is an affiliate marketing pricing model where the advertiser pays for a specific action, such as email submit, registration, newsletter sign up, etc.

There are some other abbreviations you may have already noticed, like:

CPL (Cost Per Lead) where an advertiser pays for some form of contact information from the prospective client.

CPI (Cost Per Install) — an advertiser pays for each mobile download of an app.

However, when it comes to any action a user can complete on your website or inside your app, it can all be considered CPA.

Although contact information from a user can be obtained under both CPA and CPL models, there is a difference in quality and quantity. CPA is usually more precisely targeted, low in volume, but requires more detailed information from a user to count as a conversion. In CPL, a simple email will suffice.

Benefits Of CPA Marketing For Affiliates

With CPM, CPC and some sub-models, why choose CPA if you’re an affiliate?

From first glance, it may seem that the easiest way to start in affiliate marketing is to work in the CPM model.

All you need to do is make as many people that fit into the targeted audience view the ad. That’s it. A thousand users see the ad — BAM!, you get your payout. Simple, right? Additionally, page views can be predicted, so you’d know what results to expect from CPM campaigns.

However, don’t expect to get more than a few dollars, unless you have tons of suitable traffic. No one is going to pay much for a thousand impressions, as conversion into sale ratio would be too low during this stage. Unless, your advertiser is a brand that’s looking for the awareness, rather than the immediate sale.

Getting closer to the final advertiser’s goal, be it a sale or an install, is the CPC model. The demand and the payouts are higher, but there’s a risk that your CPM traffic won’t convert into clicks and you won’t get paid! And if you did pay someone else for the views… Oops.

Why can that happen? If the banner is sloppy or the placement isn’t that great. Anyway, even if your ad is impeccable, CPC will hardly make you millions.

CPA on the other hand offers:

Higher demand. Advertisers are more prone to look for CPA traffic as it guarantees that they pay only for the results. It also requires more effort on the advertiser’s side, so they are more likely to stick around.

Deeper involvement. Yes, in the beginning, you will need to invest more time and expertise to make it work, but running CPA campaigns will allow you to significantly increase your income, while you will work with a less number of advertisers.

Fewer ads for your audience. This is especially crucial if you’re running a website or an app. Your audience will appreciate the lack of a myriad of annoying ads, and if the content is excellent, they might as well return over and over again.

Types Of CPA Offers

Now that we know what CPA marketing is, let’s talk about how it looks.

Depending on the desired action, CPA marketing covers various types of ads, including but not limited by the following.


Although an affiliate, as well as any other entity in affiliate marketing, can work exclusively with mobile traffic on CPI basis, it is both an action and conversion, and as such can be considered a part of mobile CPA model. CPA offers that include app install as the ultimate goal, would usually also have other KPIs, e.g., CR rate 20%, etc.

Form submit

This is an example of a form from our website, but you get the idea.

Remember, that if you’re the one creating the form, there are specific rules you have to keep in mind:

  • every field should have a name;
  • “*” should mark the compulsory fields;
  • there has to be a button that states clearly what it does, i.e., “send the form”, “subscribe”, etc.;

When it comes to forms, the payout can depend on how much information advertiser will receive. However, more fields usually mean a lower conversion rate.



This is the type of offer that requires a customer to register in a service/product. The service can easily be a free one, even if just at first, so such offers quite often convert well.

Free trial

Although this trial landing page was apparently created by Adobe themselves, it’s still a valid example.  However, when creating your own landing for the offer, you will have to stick to some rules, which we’ll mention later on.

Playing a game

This type of offer will convert once the user plays a certain amount of time or reaches a certain level. It’s not the affiliate’s problem if the user decides against purchasing the game later in time.

How To Choose Which Offers To Promote

Now that you feel all ready to earn through CPA marketing, it may seem like a good idea to start looking for the specific offers right away.

Many experienced affiliates suggest you start with a traffic source though, determining your way of advertising products and services before anything else.

Traffic source

There are two main ways to earn as an affiliate. You can either generate traffic or purchase and resell it.

Generate traffic: create a website or a mobile app

Depending on the content, you can craft a review website, blog, landing page or even a quiz page.

Review website

A review website is a site where users post reviews about people, businesses, services or products.

Landing page

Landing pages work best with verticals like dating, health & beauty, gaming, and finance.

It usually consists of 1-3 pages, where:

  • the first one provides information about the product or service being advertised;
  • the second may contain a form if the desired action requires so;
  • the third is a “thank you” page, which usually contains a tracking pixel and traces all conversions.

Create a webpage that will be inviting and will spike the user’s interest in the offer, be it a game or a dating app. To drive traffic to your page you can use PPC advertising, bidding on keywords to get the best placing. Another great tool to use is SEO, though it’s much more tricky and will require time to get results.

Important! Make sure you don’t include advertiser’s contact information or any link to their website apart from the required action, or any other links or ads.


If you know your way with words and like to share your thoughts and opinions with broad audiences, creating a blog can help you earn money while doing what you actually love.

To monetize your traffic through the blog you will need to include links to landing pages or app store pages where the conversion will take place.

Mobile app

Are you an ambitious game developer? Or maybe you own some to-do app? Well, that’s a great traffic source right there!

Interstitial and other in-app ads will allow you to get conversions for the ads while users play your game.

Social media

This traffic source works a lot like a blog because you need to include links to the product/service landing pages in your posts. Create pages or groups on Facebook, create interesting posts, include ads that fit right in once in a while and get profit! Don’t forget to stay in touch with your followers.

The same goes for YouTube if you’re more into the video content. Once you have the attention of the audience, you can start including ad content, post links under your video and get paid for each conversion.

Before you decide on a traffic source, consider:

  • the initial cost of traffic generation (both creating your platform and reaching your audience);
  • the amount of traffic you can generate with this source;
  • what audience can you reach with it (including Geo, age, gender, OS, device, browser, etc.)

Purchase and resell traffic (media buying)

If you’re not particularly fond of the creation process, you can limit your affiliate marketing experience to media buying. Which means you’ll need to buy traffic from one source and sell it to the advertiser, pocketing the difference in cost. According to this system, the media buyer often pays for CPM or CPC traffic and turns it into CPA.

There are many platforms for getting decent traffic, but for starters, you can check these:


After deciding what type of traffic source you want to use, you can choose your vertical.

Vertical is a type of product you want to promote. The best way to start off in CPA digital marketing is to stick to a specific vertical. There is no such thing as a golden one, so no matter which one you choose, you will be able to get the desired income if you do everything the right way.



In affiliate marketing, all countries are divided into groups according to the population’s exposure to the internet, mobile devices, online ads, and payments.

Tier 1 includes USA, UK, New Zealand, South Korea, Canada, and Australia. Although users in these countries are more used to online purchases, targeting Tier 1 may prove to be difficult for beginners. It’s more expensive to test out this market and the users are more demanding when it comes to ads. Aggressive, brute ads have little to no chance to convert here.

Tier 2: Portugal, Japan, Russia, Colombia, Greece, China, etc. Most countries fit into this Geo group, being recognized as developed. Most of the population have access to mobile phones and can make online payments, however, they have a smaller income.

These Geos considered being a great place to start your first campaigns, as the market is less saturated.

Tier 3 includes India, Morocco, Thailand, Brazil, etc. Users in these countries have less access to mobile devices and secure internet payment services. It’s more difficult to achieve good CR in these regions, though it may become a good opportunity to test out your campaigns.

Where & How To Get Your First Offers

Now that you can generate decent amounts of traffic and know which offers you’d like to promote, it’s time to get in contact with CPA networks.

Best CPA Networks for beginners

These networks require little to no effort to get approved.

  1. CPALead
  2. AdWork Media
  3. CPAGrip
  4. CPA Trend
  5. AdsMain

Tips To Get Approved By CPA Advertising Networks

If you are applying to a lot of networks right away (which is a good idea), you will eventually have to get approved. 

The first thing you need to understand is that, at the end of the day, you’d be dealing with people. And human beings are all different, which means that there’s no magic keyboard combination that will get you in.

There are, however, a couple of things that most networks would appreciate.

Display professionalism

Show them that your intentions are serious. No matter what traffic source you decide upon, your own brand should stand out. Create a website, where you present yourself as an online marketer, share the areas you work in, include the benefits of working with you. Basically, it will be something quite similar to an online CV. Create an email on your domain to show even more professionalism.

Be approachable

Like most businesses, this one requires quite a lot of communication. You need to keep in touch as much as you can. It will show both your interest and dedication, prove you’re willing to commit and that you are a responsible pro.

Be honest

Being forward with what you can and can’t do might get you rejected by some CPA networks. However, honesty is the basis of trust in this industry. Be open about your expectations and opportunities and in most cases, you will receive help from support managers, which will allow you to grow and develop.

Be active and proactive

When applying — be ready to contact the representative if they don’t get back to you soon enough. Ask questions that matter, make sure they see how motivated and serious you are about making this partnership happen.

Apply a lot

At least when you’re just starting out, you’d want to apply to at least a couple of networks to have a wider choice of offers. Plus applying doesn’t always mean getting accepted, right?

Tracking conversions with postback URL

After you’ve established connections with networks, and start advertising offers, you can finally turn to optimization.

Unless affiliate marketing is your hobby, you’d eventually look for ways to improve your results and find ways to earn more with less effort.

To do that, you’ll need more data on conversions for each of your campaigns. This is where the postback URL can become pretty handy.

Postback URL is a link that allows you to get detailed information about conversions that occur on your landing page, website, etc. It can help you understand which ads work better, which keywords to use, and even when to advertise to get more clicks and reach your CR goals.

How to implement postback URL tracking with any network that uses Orangear Performance Marketing Platform

Follow the steps below to get more data on your campaigns:

1. First, you log into the platform.

2. Next, go to the list of offers and choose those that you want to create a postback for (they have to be open for you to promote). Click the “Promote” button to view details.

3. Then, alter the tracking link with any additional variables you need.

4. Finally, once you’ve changed the tracking link with your specifications, copy and paste it to your system and create postback URL.
Give the final URL to your manager on the network’s side, and they will add it to their platform.

After that, you will be able to view all the data on the specifications you added to the tracking link, along with the primary conversion information.

Final Tips

  • make sure the offers you choose fit the overall theme of your traffic source or at least can be interesting for your audience;
  • if you’re just starting out — test various low-payout offers (that are easy to convert) with different targeting options to see what works best for you and your traffic source;
  • be honest in your communication, with your audience, networks, advertisers;
  • never forget about optimization — there’s always room for improvement.

To sum everything up, these are the questions you need to answer before you start out:

  • do you want to be a publisher or a media buyer?
  • what traffic source seems more interesting to work with?
  • which vertical work best with your chosen traffic source?
  • what audience can your reach with the chosen tools and what would be the suitable targeting settings?
  • which offers could be interesting for your audience, which are more likely to convert?

Once you have these covered, it would be much easier for you to search for your first offers and get in touch with the best networks to get them.