How can I do a competitive analysis?

When you are setting up a new affiliate program, or optimizing an existing affiliate program, a competitive analysis can give you some insight on what your competitors are doing in the affiliate marketing space. This article is based on a blog post from


To get started, you’ll need to select 6 – 8 of your competitors in the affiliate marketing space. One thing that sometimes throws merchants off is exactly who their competitors are. For the affiliate marketing channel, they may be different from other marketing channels.


For the Affiliate Marketing Competitive Analysis, you need to look at who your affiliates see as your competitors. Affiliates examine programs based on where they will fit into their websites, and how they can best promote them.


By doing this analysis, you will be able to examine your competition (for affiliate placement) and can adjust your payouts, return days, and promotions to ensure they are highly competitive with those merchants.


For example: You sell costume jewelry and most pieces are priced under $25.

Who you might think your competitors are: Jared, Blue Nile, Kay Jewelers, etc.…

While those are nice jewelry brands, they are not your competitors for those purchasing items costing $25 or less.


Here are some of the merchants your affiliates may view as competitors: limogesjewelry, CharmingCharlie, etc...


How to Get Started:


After you have selected 6 – 8 competitors, you will need to decide which items you’d like to evaluate. Here is a general list of items typically examined in affiliate programs. You can always add more, or less, it is up to you exactly what you want to examine.



Examine and record which networks the program is on. Make note of all networks, including private platforms.

Note: If a program on your list does not have an existing affiliate program, they are probably not a good merchant to use, as a competitor of yours, in the affiliate space.



Examine the payout(s) for each network. Make a note of all payment variables (tiered structures, if payments are consistent across networks, etc.…) Do they pay coupon sites less, or offer content-based sites more?


Return Days / Cookies

Make a note of how many return days / cookies are permitted in the program



A quick Google search, and a scan of the merchant’s website, can update you on all of the promotions each merchant is offering. These typically include things like buy one get one free, buy one get one half off, $ off coupons, % off coupons, Free shipping, Free shipping on set amounts, and various coupon codes.


Bidding Policies

Do the merchants allow brand bidding? If so, what are the parameters? Do they allow non-branded bidding?



If you are able to view the panel of their affiliate program, are their links current and up to date? Is the creative fresh or outdated?


Network Ranking

How are they rated by the network?

How to Analyze the Information You Have Gathered:

Once you have all of these factors pulled together, you can compare each section and make an educated guess on how to best position your program for success.





When examining which networks affiliate programs are on, you want to take notice of any patterns. If they are all on Commission Junction, for example, and their network rankings are high, that might be a great network to place your program on. If you find that none are on network X or Y, it may be because that affiliate network doesn’t have a dense user base of affiliates in your niche. You should always do your homework and speak with the network directly, or have your affiliate management team do so, but having an idea where other programs are placed can often take the guesswork of where your program may be placed for the best chance of success.



As an example, you examine 8 programs and find that, for all the programs you examined, their payouts were in the solid 5% - 10% range. At the very minimum, if margins allow, you are going to match that 5 – 10% payout, but optimally, you want to do just a little bit better. By making your program offerings better, it will may persuade potential affiliates to work with you over your nearest competitors, or, at the very least, give your brand better placement.

If you want to offer more, but your margins won’t allow it for every sale, you can set up a tiered structure, which will pay an affiliate progressively more, the higher their sales are, which will automatically reset each month. This way you can advertise that you pay “Up to 15% commission on every sale” honestly…. But the affiliate will need to reach the top sales tier to earn that higher rate.

You’ll want to ensure that everyone is paid a minimum of what your competitors are paying, regardless of the tier structure. You can’t ‘trick’ and affiliate into thinking they are going to earn more. Affiliates are very sharp, and most make their living doing this marketing, so you need to make sure the program payouts are as attractive as possible to engage them. The days of saying " You can get rich selling our stuff" are long gone!


Return Days / Cookies

Return Days, often called Cookies, are the number of days after the initial click, that an affiliate will get credit for a sale, after the customer clicks away from their website. Industry standard hangs around 45 days, depending on who you talk to. We highly suggest meeting or beating the return days of your competitors. The fact is, many people wipe out their cookies anyway, so the chance of a cookie hanging around forever is unlikely. However, when comparing apples to apples, having a cookie that meets or beats your competitors could be a definite edge in getting an affiliate to work with you.



Every merchant has different thoughts about promotions, but consumers, for the most part, all have the same thought, they want a deal. Whether it be free shipping, $ off, % off, or just every day clearance bins, they will shop where they find the best deal. If you do a search and find that all your competitors are doing promotions, consider adding promotions that mirror, or beat, those of your competitors.

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