The Ultimate Guide to Paid Traffic for Affiliate Marketing: Start With These 3 Sources!

Paid traffic is a great option for affiliate marketers looking to grow their business quickly and make commissions at scale.

We see a lot of our most successful affiliates on ClickBank using paid ads to generate massive paydays.

So, how can you do it for yourself? In this guide, we’re going to cover what paid traffic for affiliate marketing actually is, where you can get it, and how to get started!

(And to see how this paid approach stacks up to free traffic sources, go check out our organic traffic vs paid traffic guide!)

Why Paid Traffic?

So, what is paid traffic and why should you bother with it?

Paid traffic simply refers to online traffic that you spend money on directly, usually in the form of paid advertising through digital platforms like Facebook, YouTube, Google, and native ads.

Paid Traffic
Paid traffic for affiliate marketing

Here are a few benefits of paid traffic for affiliates:

  1. Paid lets you test and validate your strategy quickly (think 6 weeks for paid ads compared to 6 months for organic traffic sources like YouTube or a blog).
  2. Paid can be more stable and consistent than organic traffic.
  3. It’s possible to scale quickly with paid once you find a winning combination.

The main downside with paid traffic sources, of course, is that you ONLY get traffic when you’re willing to pay for it!

But as long as you’ve chosen a product to promote with a high enough price point, then purchasing paid traffic is an excellent way to grow your business!

How to Think About Paid Traffic as a Business Owner

A lot of our newer affiliate clients approach their entire online business with one question in mind: “How do I pay a platform like Facebook to give me money back?”

This sounds pretty straightforward, but the truth is, a paid ads platform is just a traffic channel – it’s NOT a business model! Algorithms change, and so do offers, but a loyal audience will endure.

Paid traffic is a powerful lever to grow your business, but for a sustainable and profitable long-term business, you should be thinking about the backend and treat paid ads as a lead generation tool, not an entire business on their own.

That means building an affiliate marketing email list for repeat business, growing a branded organic presence, and tracking both customer lifetime value (LTV) and average order value (AOV) across offers.

Ultimately, affiliates like you can benefit from a power traffic channel in paid ads, but once you actually generate those leads, how are you capturing them? Are you growing an email list in your ESP and nurturing your leads so you can sell to them with new offers down the road?

As we dive into some paid ads strategies below, I encourage you to think of your business as a “media company” in your chosen niche.

With this mindset, you are more likely to diversify and not be so reliant on a single offer or traffic source – and it even positions you to potentially create your own offer down the road!

3 Best Practices of Paid Traffic for Affiliate Marketing

Now, your mindset when approaching a paid ad campaign for affiliate marketing should be about one thing only: return on ad spend (ROAS).

For ClickBank affiliates, any metric prior to ROAS doesn’t really matter – including CPM, CPC, conversion rate, etc.

If you have any experience in the world of paid advertising, that might sound like a controversial statement, but it’s true – the whole point of your campaign is to turn a profit. All of those leading indicators can help you with testing and optimizing, but in terms of your overall goal, it’s ROAS or bust!

But to get to a positive ROAS, you need to know what to test. That’s where the 3 elements of hook, CTA, and creative come into play.

1) Hooks

Once you’ve done your own research or used an offer’s affiliate tools page to learn more about what your target audience looks like and cares about, it’s time to write a few different hooks that you think will catch their attention.

It’s best to keep your hooks to the point and readable. Much like for ad creative, the goal with a hook is to spark curiosity and interest.

Example of hook for ClickBank on Facebook Ads
Example of hook for ClickBank on Facebook Ads

Your hook needs to be so interesting that someone who is mindlessly scrolling on social media or intentionally watching a YouTube video would stop what they’re doing and start giving you their attention.

Use the hook in your ad to get people to consume more of the creative, which then leads to “selling the click” over to the next step in your funnel!

2) Creative

In 2022 and beyond, your ad creative is probably the most important and overlooked aspect of media buying. Don’t let yourself get too hung up on targeting or the technical side of media buying.

Once your hook is defined, find 3-5 ways to make creatives that intrigue and entice your audience. The goal of your creative is to hook, relate, and sell the next action.

Paid ad creative example for Spark by ClickBank

For example, if you are sending traffic to an advertorial, your creatives should drive enough curiosity to get users to click through your ad and continue reading. Then, let the advertorial do the heavy work of selling the next click to your hoplink, and then let the VSL or TSL from your hoplink sell the product or final action!

NOTE: When it comes to creative, test as often as you can. Test things you think will work and test things you think won’t work. Often, the best performing ads are ads that you might not even think are “good” or look “pretty.”

3) CTA

The name of the game for a call-to-action (CTA) in digital ads is to make it clear, concise, and easily accessible.

After a prospect has consumed your ad/content, there should be zero confusion about what to do next. On most ad platforms, you’ll need to insert a URL or next step as part of the ad.

Example of CTA in paid ad on Facebook
Example of CTA in paid ad on Facebook

Most of the time, the ad will feature a small button for the user to take the next step. Make your CTAs even clearer by writing them out in your copy (if applicable) and even link the URL to the next step in the copy if you can.

The more areas where users can click to get to the next step, the better.

Putting It All Together

As important as each of these elements can be, today’s media buyers put most of their attention on hooks and creative – the things that will get an audience’s attention!

These days, images are 90% of what works for us, but because your ad creative is so important to a successful campaign, we suggest you test images AND videos AND GIFs to see what performs best.

In the end, you must keep testing to find out what will get you results. Eventually, you’ll develop an instinct for what works and can put the odds on your side – but testing is a must, always!

Step-by-Step Tutorials Per Traffic Source

Now that you understand some of the important facets of any paid ads campaign, I want to walk you through the setup process for each of the biggest ad platforms out there right now.

If you follow these simple steps, you’ll put yourself ahead of 90% of people who are just fooling around on paid ads platforms without a process or a plan!

1) Facebook

First off, we have Facebook, which continues to be the holy grail of paid ads platforms.

With that said, following the iOS 14 privacy update in April 2021, we do see a lot of people moving over to platforms like YouTube, Google, and even TikTok for paid ads – it’s likely you’ll want to get familiar with TikTok Ads soon as well.

Just note that effective creative on these other platforms can be quite different than what’s effective on Facebook Ads.

For now, let’s look at how you would set up a paid campaign on Facebook!

Step 1: Create a New Campaign

To get started, we highly recommend you create a campaign optimizing for conversions. Conversion campaigns tell Facebook you want your ads placed in front of people who it thinks are most likely to buy.

If you want to test other event types after you’ve seen initial traction with an offer, that’s totally fine, but in most cases, conversions will be your go-to.

NOTE: You could also set up for lead gen or CPL (cost per lead) if you are pointing traffic to a lead magnet or some sort of opt-in, but in this case, make sure you track your metrics closely to ensure that the whole campaign backs out into profitability.

Step 2: Define Your Audience

The next thing you’ll have to do is tell Facebook who your target audience is. This is where it helps to have an ideal customer profile (ICP).

As an affiliate, you should check to see if your chosen offer has an affiliate tools page. If so, this resources page should include information about who the offer’s target market is and what they look like.

In Facebook, you should insert attributes about your target market to narrow down who your ads should be served to. Take advantage of locations, age, gender, and even detailed targeting options.

Facebook audience targeting
Facebook audience targeting

For placements, you’ll want to start with automatic. Automatic will allow Facebook to put ads where they see these buyers interacting on platform.

Facebook will also optimize for profitability here, so if one placement is outshining others, you can bet that Facebook will continue spending there. As you are scaling, you can also launch ad sets with manual placements – but you should wait until you prove out what works and find the placements that are more profitable than others.

Facebook ad placements
Facebook ad placements

Step 3: Choose Your Ad Creative

Now for the fun part: ad creative!

Your ad creative will vary drastically depending on your offer. We see a lot of people testing with static image ads in the beginning. This tends to work really well for sparking curiosity and selling a click to a blog article, advertorial, or other bridge page, which then points to your hoplink (typically with a prominent CTA like an in-text link, banner image, or button).

NOTE: Many ad platforms don’t like ClickBank hoplinks (i.e. tracking links). In fact, some affiliates have had their ad accounts shut down after putting their hoplink directly in the ads. That’s why we always recommend using a bridge page to protect against this!

Facebook destination
Facebook destination

Try this method the exact same way with a few different interests. You also definitely want to test broad. Try creating ad sets with little to no targeting and run them against single interest campaigns like we’ve set up here.

A lot of times, broader targeting ad sets will work better! When you target more broadly, you are giving Facebooks algorithm larger pools of people to find buyers in!

2) YouTube Ads

YouTube Ads are another huge opportunity for affiliates, many of whom haven’t traditionally looked at the platform before.

The good news is, if you have experience with Facebook (or you followed along in our Facebook Ads tutorial above), then you’ll be right at home with YouTube Ads – YouTube Ads setup process will feel super similar to Facebook!

What’s important to remember here is that creative is VERY different! With YouTube ads, we obviously have to focus on video, and more specifically pre-roll ads, as opposed to the static ads common on Facebook. (We’ll go into more detail on that in the creative section below.)

For now, let’s talk about the steps of creating a YouTube Ad.

Step 1: Create a New Campaign

To start out, you’ll create a new campaign. I recommend choosing to create a campaign without guidance for the most flexibility and customization.

YouTube campaign without guidance
YouTube campaign without guidance

Next, we will want to select Video, since we are focusing on YouTube in-stream or pre-roll ads.

YouTube video campaign
YouTube video campaign

Once you input your budget, we can move down and look at inventory and excluded inventory types.

For the first tab – titled “inventory type” – we are going to leave it as “Standard” inventory.

For excluded types, you can exclude where you see fit. At a minimum, you should exclude live streaming videos, as we typically don’t see great results with that placement anyway!

YouTube excluded types
YouTube excluded types

Step 2: Define Your Audience

Now, it’s time to start inputing details about our target audience. Again, it’s best to be broad here.

For the initial tests, just start by targeting location, age, gender (if applicable), and maybe an interest. Similar to Facebook, we will want to test this against broad, no targeting, or very little targeting ad sets to see what is going to perform best.

YouTube audience
YouTube audience

For your initial test, I’d recommend just starting with “Topics.” If you are promoting a weight loss or supplement offer, you could try a topic such as “weight loss,” “keto,” “women’s health,” etc. Think about who your target audience is and add a topic you think they might be interested in. At this stage, it might be worth searching around and actually confirming a few topics.

Step 3: Choose Where the Ads Will Appear

After you’ve dialed in who you want to show your ads to, you’ll need to focus on where you want your ads to be shown!

For this example, we are selecting “Skippable In-Stream Ad.” This will play your ad before, during, or after a user is watching another video.  This is the placement I’ve seen top affiliates have the most success in.

YouTube placements
YouTube placements

For creative, it’s important to remember that you only have 5 seconds before a user can decide to skip your ad or not.

So, make sure you have a STRONG hook to keep users interested. It’s a good idea to test multiple hooks in the first 5-10 seconds of your video to see where you get higher view and click rates!

Ultimately, the idea here is the same as with Facebook – you’ll want to use an affiliate bridge page for the same reasons above. Ad accounts can and will be shut down using native hoplinks from ClickBank.

NOTE: To learn more about Facebook vs YouTube ads, check out our comparison guide for the two heavyweight ad platforms!

3) Native Ads

Lately, we’ve seen a lot of top ClickBank affiliates moving over to native ads. The main difference here is that you’re reaching an audience of blog or article readers on popular websites, rather than appearing on a social platform like Facebook or Instagram.

We’ve already got a great article on how to create native ads from our friends over at Outbrain, which I’ll summarize below. But be sure to check that post out if you want more information!

Step 1: Create a New Campaign

Launching a native ads campaign is easier than you might think! Here is a quick look at the setup you should follow each time inside of Outbrain if you’re looking to acquire cold traffic:

  • Campaign 1: Target desktop and tablet in one campaign, choose semi-automatic conversion bid strategy. If you’re targeting across the U.S. as a whole, CPC should be set to $0.60.
  • Campaign 2: Target smartphones, choose semi-automatic conversion bid strategy. If you’re targeting across the U.S. as a whole, CPC should be set to $0.35.
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is FsRTSZz05_jsf7rwVjATCMhmd5QTwiKyX-mO3jrlCw5VO2In8FCbqagaWCJsX3t4UL5n1892r2CeVuOjDA2jqlWo42ljOiKbZHvynFU-16qSMLACCSWcL3qUQJgoVOVJGdIX10oM

At the start of a campaign, that should be all you need – no additional targeting should be layered, and no other toggles should be switched on or off. For your first week of a campaign, it’s all about collecting data and letting the platform’s algorithm get enough data to optimize.

Step 2: Set Up Your Campaign

Sometimes, over-targeting in your campaign can hurt instead of help. What we’ve seen work best is going broad with the actual targeting, and then choosing creative that will “over-qualify” your audience. 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is _NrDJCs2HFLSwvpFg5KV2eZ7wj4w2Xxoih6BA9xhhnDqTNwviJdtiINLrcKcjKusW48C8GCVmgNWH7Q75hq7UJpgEecQpov2-x40sjA8oSoOEJ5zUdFo8M5kqMmQOgklpiRRlxUQ

What does that mean?

Think of it as one of those callouts at the beginning of a TV commercial, like the following:

  • “Are you over 65?” 
  • “Tired of dealing with back pain?”
  • “Attention, all remote workers!”

With this approach, you’re letting the algorithm have more of an opportunity to optimize your campaign, rather than trying to do its targeting for it.

And as we’ve already discussed, you’ll usually see better results from a campaign when the platform gets to do the optimization.

Step 3: Test and Optimize Your Campaign

Speaking of optimizing, you still have a role to play in making sure your native ads campaign is running optimally.

How do you know if your ads are performing well? Here’s a good benchmark for Outbrain CTRs:

  • Desktop & Tablet: CTR above 0.08%
  • Mobile: CTR above 0.12%

Of course, as we discussed before, it’s not really about the CTR or the CPC – it’s about your customer acquisition cost (CAC) and your overall ROAS.

So, what can you tweak to improve your campaign’s performance? The three main areas for this are creatives, publishers, and time of day.

Adjusting creative is self-explanatory, but with native ads, you have the unique option of choosing which publishers (i.e. websites) your ads will appear on. A native ad platform like Outbrain has a huge inventory of publishers.

You can actually make manual bid adjustments on publisher sections within your individual campaigns to eke out as much benefit from ad spend as possible. Try bidding up 30-35% for higher-converting sections and bidding down 50% or so for your lower-converting sections.

Lastly, Outbrain shares when your conversions occur by time of day, making time of day another effective lever to pull if you want to improve your native campaign.

Final Thoughts on Media Buying as an Affiliate

I hope this post on paid traffic for affiliate marketing was helpful! We all know that paid ads are a powerful channel for growing your business, promoting offers, and getting paid.

With all that in mind, here are a few parting thoughts to think about:

  1. Are you reinventing the wheel with every offer? (There are general angles and pain points that carry over from one offer to the next, especially within the same niche, so focus on the longer-term business.)
  2. Because of spy tools, you may be at risk of competing affiliates or sellers stealing your great ideas. The comeback for that is making original content – if you physically make your own creatives and can prove it to Facebook, they’ll take down the competition’s ads.
  3. With targeting, at least on YouTube and Facebook, it’s generally best to set a broad audience and let their algorithms do the targeting for you.

And remember, your best friend is ROAS. If you can achieve a ROAS of 2:1 or higher, then you’re profitable!

If you want more insights on how to get the most out of your affiliate campaigns, I highly recommend checking out Spark by ClickBank!

We have powerful courses on Facebook Ads by Robby Blanchard and Max Finn, as well as email marketing, copywriting, organic traffic, and TikTok. Go take a look!