There are thousands of Affiliate Programs out there to choose from and dozens of Affiliate Management Companies for you to work with.  So how do you know which one is the best one for you and your needs?  Should you go with the Merchants that have the highest payouts?  The ones who have the longest cookie lives?  The ones with the better Managers?  It can be tricky which is why I wanted to share 5 of the top things that I look for when evaluating a Merchant to promote on Affiliate sites.

1.  Leaks.  Leaks are things that distract the website visitor you send to a Merchant's site and provide them with a way to leave for another site.  They include Adwords, Ads, Links to other sites, etc...  Think about it, why would you want to send your traffic to a Merchant who sends your traffic elsewhere when you only get paid if a sale is made.   Because the Merchant is showing ads to make money off of clicks, etc... you could be losing money since your traffic is now leaving for other sites which you will not get commissioned on.

2.  Coupon code boxes.  One thing that I usually do is go through the shopping process.  If I see there is a coupon code box or something similar, I look to see if they partner with coupon sites.  If they do, there is a good chance that when your traffic hits that coupon code box, they may go looking for a coupon.  If they click a link on the Coupon Affiliate's links while on their site, you have now lost the sale to that Coupon Affiliate, even though you introduced a new customer to that Merchant.

3.  Adware Affiliates.  If you don't know much about adware or adware Affiliates, this one will be hard for you to check out.  I highly recommend you learn what parasiteware, adware, reminderware, couponware, loyaltyware, etc... is, because there is a good chance that if your website visitor goes to the merchant site and has a toolbar, etc... on their computer, your commission is as good as gone since the adware can overwrite it or help to create a click which overwrites your cookies.  Adware theft is a huge problem in my opinion and I try to avoid Merchants that work with it.  Unfortunately many of the ones who do work with it don't even know they have it in their programs.

4.  Shopping process.  When I'm going through the shopping process, I look to see if the Merchant is upselling or cross selling products that I would get commissioned on.  If they are, their AOV may be higher for me than their competitors which means I have the potential to earn more.  If the process involves a ton of steps like registering, repetitive fields in checkout, etc... then my conversion rate may go down and I may make less even though I had a higher AOV.  The shopping process should be a huge part of any Affiliate's decision to work with a Merchant because it could help you forecast your earning potential.

5.  The age and standing of the program.  If you have a massive site and your links will be buried deep within your blog or content, you know how much of a pain it is to have to change links when a program closes or goes offline.  Check out how long the program has been around and if they are in good standing.  If they go offline regularly, don't payout or have low account balances, or if they aren't very old and don't respond to questions when you have them, you may want to move on.  One of the worst wastes of time is having to replace links because advertisers go on and offline all the time or have a good chance of closing down.  Either way you'll need to replace their links and that takes a lot of time away from being able to build new pages, sites, guest posts, etc...

There are a ton of things you should evaluate when looking at Affiliate programs to join.  These are 5 of the things that I look for first because it helps me to determine the potential profit I can earn or what I would lose if I choose one Merchant over the other.