cpa marketing guide

CPA Marketing in 2021: Getting Started with Cost Per Action as a Seller or Affiliate

If you’re interested in becoming an affiliate or seller in the exciting world of online marketing, it pays to understand CPA marketing

This is one of the hottest ways for entrepreneurs to make money online right now! 

What is CPA Marketing? 

I have nothing against certified public accountants (heck, one of my favorite uncles is a CPA), but in the marketing world, CPA is actually an acronym that stands for “Cost Per Action.” 

CPA refers to an affiliate commission model where affiliates (often publishers with websites) promote a specific action to their audience in exchange for a flat payment per action from sellers (also called advertisers).  

In practice, CPA marketing is just a subset of “affiliate marketing,” focusing specifically on payment for a specific action, rather than just a sale. This action could be a video view, a submitted form, a downloaded app, or even a click – but often, the action is still a purchase/sale. It’s just treated differently than the more traditional commission model, which we’ll cover a little later.

For now, think of CPA as a way to get paid when you drive the completion of certain actions for sellers or advertisers.

A Teaser for CPA on ClickBank

We’re looking at CPA marketing, but why listen to us at ClickBank ramble on about CPA? What would we know about CPA, anyway? 

Well, one good reason we’re talking about it is because everybody wanted CPA on ClickBank for years – so we finally developed our own CPA model!

Successful product owners and brands wanted CPA so they could attract the biggest media buying affiliates, and affiliates wanted it because it could help them maximize their affiliate commissions with less risk.

The good news is, ClickBank has delivered an innovative cost per action (CPA) commission model that anyone in the affiliate marketing world can use to grow a more profitable online business. Overnight, ClickBank launched one of the best CPA networks on the web.

There’s a great story there – but before we dive too far into how CPA works on ClickBank, let’s take a look at why CPA marketing is worthwhile for both affiliates and sellers!

Why is CPA Worth It?

The CPA model differs from the traditional revenue share commission model in a few ways:

  1. While revenue share is paid as a percentage of the total sale, CPA is paid as a flat rate – no matter what the total order value (including upsells) is! 
  2. Additionally, with a RevShare model, affiliates are typically on the hook for any refunds that may occur. However, with CPA, affiliates keep their commission no matter what (even if a sale is refunded). 

There are a lot of reasons why CPA is attractive, but the main benefit of CPA vs RevShare is that it’s a static amount of money changing hands. This allows all parties in the transaction to make calculations and plans more easily.

Both affiliates and affiliate managers can plan for ad spend and how best to further invest in their marketing strategy when they know exactly what the total cost (or revenue) will be. By contrast, if there’s a series of upsells in an order under the RevShare model, the total affiliate commission is a lot more variable and hard to predict. 

CPA Marketing in Action

Talking about CPA can get pretty abstract, pretty fast – so the best way to understand CPA is to see how it works in practice!

Here’s a quick example: We have a product on the ClickBank marketplace that sells for $37, but if the customer chooses the physical version, their total goes up to $46 due to shipping. And then, there are up to 3 additional upsells that could bring the total order value up to a possible $151.

Typically, an affiliate gets a 75% RevShare commission on this offer, which means a roughly $28 commission on the low end, all the way up to a $113 commission for the highest possible order value. You can see the obvious problem: If you’re an affiliate promoting this offer, you have no idea what kind of revenue you can expect!

But on a CPA commission here at ClickBank, you can coordinate with the product owner to get paid a flat amount for every action (ie sale) you deliver to them, say $50 every time. As a seller, if you know what your average order value is, you can offer a CPA commission that’s higher than just the initial order value to account for upsells and attract high quality affiliates that drive results.

And if you’re an affiliate, you aren’t on the hook if that sale ends up getting refunded – so you can know exactly what your revenue is for every conversion.

Ultimately, that means you’re able to predict your margins and scale faster as an affiliate. And as a vendor, you can attract those big media buyers who need reliable numbers before they promote your offer! 

Where to Find CPA Marketing Opportunities

There’s a lot that makes ClickBank CPA special, but it’s worth understanding all the different CPA marketing opportunities available to you.

With so many different CPA networks, you can find some that specialize in almost anything, such as:

  • Types of actions – mobile app installs, leads, sales, impressions, etc.
  • Types of verticals – cryptocurrency, mobile offers, gaming, health, etc.
  • Types of locations/regions – The US, Europe, etc.

Clearly, there are a lot of options here, so how do you pick the right one?

I would compare payouts – obviously, for any given amount of work, it’s always nice to get paid a higher commission.

You also should research the CPA network itself, including the company’s history and reputation. These companies are intermediaries that collect and distribute money, so whether you’re a seller or affiliate, you want to pick a network you can trust!

Last but not least, I would take a look at the quantity and quality of offers on a CPA network. If you’re in a particular niche, try searching [your niche] + CPA in Google to see what comes up.

When it comes to quality, the way to evaluate offers as an affiliate is to find out more about them, including looking at their swipe files for affiliates and any other information on their affiliate tools page. And of course, once you find offers you want to promote, you need to be approved – does the network you’re looking at make it easy to reach out to affiliate managers and get approved to promote CPA offers? 

CPA Marketing Terms Defined

Speaking of affiliate managers, there may be some affiliate marketing terms that are new to you if you’re trying out CPA for the first time. 

Let’s break some of the most important ones down for you! 

Affiliate Manager: The affiliate manager is the individual who manages an affiliate program for a specific vendor, seller, or brand. This person is responsible for finding affiliates, optimizing their performance, and making money for the seller. 

Affiliate Marketplace: The affiliate marketplace is a marketplace where sellers list offers to be promoted, and affiliates can browse and find offers to promote in exchange for a commission. 

CPA: CPA stands for “Cost Per Action.” On ClickBank, this specific action is the first conversion in a seller’s funnel. With CPA marketing, the affiliate is paid a static amount rather than a percentage portion of the total sale amount. 

Conversion: A conversion is a completed action (typically, a sale).

Deposit: Some CPA affiliate networks require vendors to pay forward a deposit that the CPA commission can be paid out of. On ClickBank, the CPA commission is paid out of each sale, so there is no deposit required. 

EPC: EPC stands for “Earnings Per Click.” This is the amount of money, on average, that an affiliate will make per click, calculated by taking total affiliate earnings divided by the total number of clicks to an offer page.

HopLink: A HopLink is ClickBank’s unique tracking link that affiliates generate to make a commission. Learn more in our affiliate link promotion strategy guide.

Landing Page: A landing page is a single standalone page that users land on from an ad or other traffic source, for the purpose of completing a certain action. Usually, this action is to sign up for an email list (converting site visitors into leads) in exchange for a lead magnet or resource. To learn more about landing pages, check out our guide on how to make a landing page like the pros.

Refund: In the affiliate marketing world, some sales result in refunds. It’s inevitable. As an affiliate operating on the RevShare model, you may have to return your commission in the event of a refund, but with CPA, you get a flat commission for a sale – and if a refund happens later, you’re not affected. 

ROI: ROI stands for “Return on Investment.” ROI is a ratio calculated by taking the amount spent, subtracting it from the amount earned, and dividing it by the initial investment. For example, if I spend $100 on Facebook Ads and I earn $250, then first, I’ll take $250-100 = $150. Then, I’ll divide $150 in net earnings by $100 in ad spend = 1.5. This means the ROI was 1.5X, or a positive 50% return.

For our full list of affiliate marketing terms, check out our ultimate affiliate marketing glossary.

How does CPA on ClickBank Work?

Now that we’ve covered a lot of the general information about CPA, let’s talk CPA on ClickBank! 

CPA Marketing on ClickBank
CPA Marketing on ClickBank

For years, ClickBank offered Revenue Share (RevShare) commissions only. So, a vendor with a product could list it on the ClickBank marketplace, and an affiliate could come along and promote the product in exchange for a commission % of each sale.

However, for reasons we mentioned earlier in this post, many of our top sellers and affiliates wanted a CPA option – a way to offer a flat commission in exchange for a successful sale.

There are a LOT of CPA networks out there with one-size-fits-all CPA offers, but ClickBank is different.

For one thing, ClickBank product owners and sellers can manually set up a unique CPA rate for each and every affiliate they work with. As an example, one affiliate might be worth a $25 CPA commission to you, while another might be worth $40. Or one of your offers might require a lower CPA commission than another. You have the flexibility to set the rate that best in each and every case. 

Another big difference with ClickBank CPA is that we use historical data to eliminate a lot of the headaches you get on other CPA networks. Based on historical sales, our powerful Commission Calculator helps pinpoint the amount you should pay affiliates – and we pay them out of each sale, there’s no need for a deposit or a hold on your money.

Ultimately, marketing a product, offer, or business can present a challenge to even the greatest entrepreneur. But with ClickBank, we work hard to keep the math simple, remove the burden of marketing, and make growth and scaling easy for both sellers and affiliates. 

How You Can Get Started With CPA Today 

If you’re interested in CPA for your business, we have good news for you: Getting started with CPA as an affiliate or seller couldn’t be easier! 

Starting CPA as an Affiliate

If you want to be an affiliate with ClickBank CPA, all you have to do is sign up for a free account here on ClickBank.

Then, you can browse our affiliate marketplace to find offers that you want to promote (or check out our monthly top ClickBank products post and look for the ones that offer CPA).

Some sellers will promote CPA front and center, while others will be happy to offer it if you ask them. Just check for the affiliate manager’s contact info in the product listing to reach out and discuss CPA as an option. 

Many of the best CPA commissions are $100 or more on ClickBank!

Starting CPA as a Seller

If you want to start CPA as a seller, you’ll also sign up for a free account and grab an account nickname. Then, you’ll have to go through the process of listing your product on the ClickBank marketplace. 

Once you have the product set up and affiliates are out there promoting it, you’ll need to wait 90 days to establish a sales history – and then you can transition over to CPA for any affiliates who want it, for any offer you sell. And unlike with other networks that only offer one or the other, you can easily switch between CPA or RevShare on ClickBank without getting locked into one commission type. 

Best of all, ClickBank CPA doesn’t require a deposit and doesn’t hold onto your money, as affiliates are paid out of each sale when they happen. You also get access to our powerful Commission Calculator, which helps you determine the optimal commission amount to offer for every affiliate you work with. 

It’s all taking place on ClickBank, one of the most respected and long-standing affiliate networks ever. That means no risks, reliable payments, and stress-free scaling!

CPA Marketing Wrap-up 

CPA marketing is an ideal marketing method for affiliates and affiliate managers who want more opportunities to scale. 

With what you know about CPA, you’re armed with everything you need to grow your business as a seller or affiliate!

Please visit the ClickBank CPA page to learn all about our new CPA commission option.