CPS Affiliates, Why Can’t We Be Friends?


Recently I was asked to speak at an event and then I was told I need to step down because of the type of marketer I am. In the affiliate industry there are certain types of affiliate marketers. The one in discussion for this posts are CPA vs CPS affiliates. These two type of affiliates are totally different in many ways. Every time I go to a conference I always see our industry in a ‘clicky’ network. Meaning one will always stay with the other crowd and never almost mingle into the other.

In the past I have been approached and have been told “Oh your one of those CPA guys” – WTF does that mean? I actually didn’t want to make a video for an open discussion about this or even a post but it affects my growth in the online space.

Why do we never see eye to eye?


I can see why our industry is “clicky” because of maybe who started in the affiliate space first and where the affiliate space is going. A lot of CPS affiliates are SEO talented and have their sites fully optimized for SERPs. CPA guys are all about paid traffic and where they can buy the next traffic. I know myself I always look for that link that says “what is this”, “advertise here”, “your ad here” etc. I am always looking for the next traffic source and testing it out.

One traffic source that has been brought into controversy is the rise of PPV traffic. The reason why CPS affiliates feel this is bad traffic because it is adware, but adware that is allowed by the end user. Most CPS affiliates feel this is spam traffic. I argued this in the past because a controversy podcast came up going against a prior podcast I have done.

One big difference is CPS affiliates don’t properly understand traffic. They think we simple spam a website and just send as much traffic as possible. With PPV or any source of traffic CPA affiliates know how to optimize the traffic to produce quality. For example with PPV, if the traffic isn’t converting then we qualify the traffic by creating a landing page or jump page before sending the traffic.

So this in essence filters out crappy traffic to qualified traffic and leads or sales.

Another thing I notice is CPS and CPA never join together for discussions even at conferences. I am friends with some big CPS affiliates but I prefer to hangout with CPA affiliates. My reason is because I don’t like to discuss SEO traffic, I find no interests in it because of the slow amount of time you get to receive data.

Most CPS affiliates I talk too are just strange and can not pick up conversation on other topics of online marketing. I am not sure why but the ones I have talked too they are totally on a different playing field than most marketers.

I just want to put this out there because I had to get off a panel which was totally not even related to any sort of paid traffic. The fact I am a CPA affiliate and my traffic sources are paid traffic, make me look bad I guess to some CPS affiliates.

CPS guys prove me wrong on this post, leave your comments.

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  • Solid points. I actually have a better time with CPA and I’ve been trying to break into CPS more with some luck. The real bitch with CPS is figuring out your profitability quickly because a % on a sale might be small or big, but you don’t know until the sale happens. Either way, someday we’ll all get along 😉

  • heres my opinion why:

    1. some CPA offers are scammy or misleading (many are not)
    2. alot of scammy affiliates promote CPA offers via blackhat methods (its all over facebook Free Ipad bullshit, and anywhere else with commenting)
    3. CPA affiliates tend to be much more aggressive with their tactics.
    4. CPA affiliates and also tend to give off a more aggressive or flashy persona in person or online via their blogs

    That being said i am VERY curious how people scale huge CPS campaigns with paid traffic sources – i really have no clue

    Paid traffic –> lander –> CPA offer just works nicely and can be scaled and tracked in realtime

    CPS offers and SEO traffic? totally foreign to me.

  • Stefanie

    This post pretty much amounts to, “Why can’t CPA and CPS affiliate be friends? Oh, and by the way I’m a CPA guy and here’s why I think CPS affiliates are dumb.”

    There are plenty of idiots and brilliant marketers on both sides of the fence. I’ve run offers and managed programs on both sides of things, and there are free and paid traffic people on both sides. SEO is not just for CPS stuff, and paid traffic is not just for CPA stuff.

    There are plenty of “minimal value-added” affiliates on both sides, too. With CPA affiliates, I’m talking about the floggers, the PPV “how about I bid on the offer domain” types, the people who exaggerate or lie about what the customer’s getting, and the trademark abusers who get away with it because the merchant is not paying attention. With CPS stuff, I’m talking about trademark bidders/abusers, questionable “reviews”, the secret incentivizers on non-incent offers, and people who really think that their coupon site is driving fresh traffic that wasn’t already headed to the merchant anyway (this last one is arguable to a lot of people, but in general a LOT of the sales would have landed with the merchant anyway).

    Although the actual people who do CPA vs. CPS stuff do seem a little different (CPS people tend to skew a bit older, for one thing), most of the points you’ve made above are pretty inaccurate and they really just show a lack of knowledge about the CPA side of things. It’s great if one works better than the other for you, but don’t ask why everyone can’t get along and then slam one side of the industry as “strange” and unable to “pick up conversation on other topics of online marketing”. This post shows exactly the kind of attitude that causes the divide.

  • I find much of the same Ian. I think the main reason is a core difference in business perspective and mindset. CPS affiliates consider themselves publishers. The good ones have larger websites with pages of content, some created over time others created with datafeeds from merchants. The idea here is slow, constant growth. They have something people are interested and they want people to go to them.

    The CPA affiliates are more like advertisers or agencies. They have a product or lead, that may be available for a limited time. Thinking like an advertiser, they want to get this offer in front of the right audience. This is like clicking a banner ad running through an exchange with an adserver that’s served to a publisher’s page. The destination URL may be just a landing page. The advertiser, CPA, gets the traffic by paying for it.

    I been in both worlds. It’s just two different business models and mindsets. One thinks like a publisher or network, the other thinks like an advertiser or agency. One is slow growth with money coming over time, the other is limited time and quicker revenue. Both have “good and bad” people (whatever that means) and should find value in the other’s thinking.

  • i agree with stephanie the post came off a little insulting to CPS affiliates, however, i don’t think Ian intended it to be at all. Also, i would be pissed off if they threw me off a panel like that.

    Regardless, lets get some CPS affiliates to some meetup202 type events and see how we can all make more money.

  • At Affiliate Summit I met plenty of each. It was almost exclusively a cut off of age, Over 35 was mostly CPS. They have just been in the game longer.

    Its all about who has an open mind. I think most CPA guys are more than willing to do CPS offers if they think they can make more money. Gotta go where the money is. A few people I spoke to at ASE were CPS only and they legit pretty much walked away or ignored me the second they heard me mention that I mostly do CPA.

    There really shouldn’t be a divider line because I think each has their respected pros/cons but I would never not go see a session because the person only did SEO lol. I agree that is a weak ass excuse to be removed from a panel.

  • “Most CPS affiliates I talk too are just strange…”

    Come on now!

    You sure you’re not just still made because that CPS affiliate at ThinkTank last year thought you were a valet?

  • I’m honestly friends with a lot of people in affiliate marketing that I don’t even know WHAT they do. I meet them at Affiliate Summit parties and we hang out and don’t necessarily talk business until we’ve known each other for years. So I wouldn’t say that I am biased against CPA. As a rewards site owner, I work in BOTH the CPA and CPS worlds but have tried to move to more CPS just because of the high level of fraud in the CPAs (mainly on the part of the consumers).

    What I will say is that even at 35, I feel like there is a big generational difference between me and what I *perceive* as the CPA crowd. A lot of parties focused on sex and women and alcohol. That just isn’t fun to me. I’ll meet you on the dance floor, but not at a strip club. Maybe my perception is wrong?

    I do appreciate the post and hope that if we ever get a chance to talk, I won’t be one of the “strange” CPS people. People who know me know that I am happy to carry on a conversation about just about anything!!

  • “You sure youâ??re not just still made because that CPS affiliate at ThinkTank last year thought you were a valet?”


  • I have worked in both the CPA and CPS markets over the past 12 years or so. I started in CPS, dabbled in CPA for a few years and then came back to CPS so I have known a lot of people in both areas. And you are correct. There isn’t a lot of crossover or mingling between the two groups.

    I think the biggest factor is the age gap. The CPA crowd tends to be younger and the CPS crowd tends to be a bit older(and I am using broad brush strokes here realizing that there are older CPA guys and younger CPS people out there).

    Once again, using broad brush strokes here the CPA crowd would rather go to a club and hang out where the CPS crowd would rather just go to a bar and hang out. Just a different type of mindset.

    And it isn’t just CPA vs CPS. There are other internet marketing crowds that don’t cross over either. I have been to a few different “guru” conferences and know a lot of people in the info product marketing crowd and they are just a different bunch than the standard CPA and CPS people. We are starting to see a bit more crossover with that crowd recently though.

    There are other marketing subcultures also that while we are all “marketers” we do things very different. In any large community you will almost always find smaller groups that tend to congregate together and for the most part that is unavoidable.

    In the past year or so I think there has been more and more crossover between all the groups as people start seeing the value of what the other guy does and that will continue as this industry continues to mature.

  • I think the differentiation is not CPA vs CPS, it’s the PPV component that is seen as not acceptable by some networks on both sides. My clients are 99% CPS, but we are launching a CPL offer on Shareasale today actually. Paying per lead or per sale isn’t the issue, it’s more about how you get your traffic.

    I’ve worked at CPA networks, and have been a consultant for some. I know both “sides” as you put it. It seems there is a problem with some of the newer affiliates not connecting with the “older” players and seeming to be standoffish. That works both ways. I have a number of affiliates that run both kinds of offers, but they are generally quiet about it.

    I’ve been approached by more strictly CPL affiliates at recent events because they realize they need to have some more long term programs in their portfolio and not just the volatile CPL offers. They also get tired of having to be on top of the “next best thing” to make money. There are also very legitimate email marketers that are starting to promote CPS offers.

    So the rift that you see I think is more about the way people get traffic, not necessarily the CPA vs CPS that you are seeing. PPC, PPV, email, SEO – those are more where I see people not wanting to share. And maybe the CPA network “churn and burn” colors the CPS affiliates view too. Not only do you have to find the right offers, you have to find the right networks, with the right managers, at the right time. I actually admire those of you that are able to maintain an income in that space and invite you to talk to us about what you can promote from the CPS side.

  • I do both CPS and CPA and have found that forums where CPS guys hang out are really heavy with the ‘White Hat SEO’ preaching, which I’m usually in agreement with, but I can’t stand telling people they’re doing things wrong if it’s making them money and that’s all they care about. It almost gets as bad as religion arguments lol Some of those guys are just too caught up in themselves to listen.

    Then there’s the CPA guys who think SEO is stupid, yada, yada… but the biggest players I know would NEVER leave out SEO, but that’s where things differ. Sticking to strictly CPA offers or CPS offers is fine if it makes you money, but making claims that one traffic source is not worth it is simply an opinion, not fact. I still hear that offline advertising doesn’t work for websites, yet I’m fairly certain that FreeCreditReport.com made a nice chunk of change as affiliates.

    The problem is that our industry is filled with too many know-it-all’s who talk about testing, but would rather give out their opinions over tested facts.

    CPS guys also tend to think CPA guys are running shady offers or shady campaigns while they shine their halo’s.

    Not sure why people aren’t more open minded in this industry, but to each their own, I guess. 🙂

  • Ian – which event removed you from the panel?

  • Ian

    @shawn never you shawn your not weird! love you! lol that might have started it… o the memories. also ill email you tomorrow – out right now.
    @hustler its tru! ask rubacky
    @affiliit agree that most affiliates rely on 1 sort of traffic and maybe do not understand SEO vs PPV. as an example, I dont understand SEO that much just the basics to understand it but not enough as I should to make money on it.
    @joe I agree there are others, example clickbank affiliates are totally different from the CPS (merchant) and CPA side
    @loxly agree find people that are willing to work with you, but how if our 2 industry rarely collides?
    @tricia def would like to meetup, I like talking to new people.
    @mike yea it is, just because I do PPV traffic and the majority of CPS users dont like PPV

    @all I try to keep an open mind on everything. I guess the main discussion it seems like is the ‘type’ of traffic being used. Maybe this post should have been titles “SEO Why cant we be friends?”

  • Rehan

    This just about sums up what most CPS folks think of the CPA industry:

    The track records of some of the CPA networks speak for themselves, too. When was the last time a CPS-focused network was fined for spam or fraud?

    IMO, the issue is not old vs young or SEO vs PPC, but rather business approach and ethics. The CPA industry seems to put the dollar above everything else — if people are spammed or scammed in the process, so be it. You won’t find many CPS people with that mentality. The affiliates that do think that way tend to already be working on the CPA side (cause it’s easier!).

  • I disagree that it is age related. I think it is a basic attitude and misunderstanding. As with anything in any industry, just talk to people and you can be in their “click”. Just don’t steal their clicks or cookies 🙂

  • I’ve certainly fallen into paid traffic. Gotta agree with you about SEO being suited for a different personality type.

  • To follow on what Loxly said, it’s not as cut and dry as an age thing.

    While affiliate marketing was mostly CPS at the start, there has been CPA dating back to those early days, too.

    Before the mainstream affiliate programs in the mid-90’s at sites like CDNow, PC Flowers & Gifts.com, and KBKids, the adult sites were doing it.

    First, they ran CPC affiliate programs and evolved to CPA due to click fraud.

    There have always been a decent number of CPA programs at the “traditional” affiliate networks like CJ, LinkShare, and ShareASale.

  • I’m pretty sure there are interesting guys in both side.
    But I really think CPA is not Marketing.

    Persuading someone to let his zip code or email and having a chance to win a free ipad is so easy…

    I could bet that 98% of CPA marketers can not sale a thing by themselves on Internet !
    No offense, just my opinion 😉

  • hey fake “newjersey” stop posting as me with your SEO comment spam – thx

    @julien – I would have to disagree. people banking 5 figs a day slanging free trial rebills know how to sell.

  • Wow, “But I really think CPA is not Marketing.” If CPA is not marketing and is “so easy” then we should all be internet marketers, eh?

    Like Joe, I’ve been back & forth from CPS, to CPA, to CPS, to CPA and now CPS again. But when I find a way to scale CPA, I run with it until it dies out. CPA is not PPV. CPA is not scamming users. Affiliates can use PPV and scam users on CPS offers, too.

    Granted, I tend to hang out with the CPS crowd, but only because I’m not a big fan of the way CPAs party (well, maybe not all CPAs – I don’t want to stereotype anyone). But CPA parties are usually loud with half-naked dancing girls and tons of alcohol being poured. I prefer to talk to people, make connections, and be able to wake up in the morning without a hangover. Even if a CPS network is throwing a party that I can’t hear the person next to me talking, I leave.

    But just because I don’t party with the CPA crowd, doesn’t mean I don’t network with them. I’ll gladly talk to anyone about internet marketing.

    I think the CPS people are going to get pretty scared when some world-class CPA marketers make the move, and become big affiliates with the “traditional” networks.

  • Piper

    I think the real difference is that us CPS affiliates “work”. CPA affiliates, as I understand it from EWA newsletters, do something called “grinding”.

  • “as I understand it from EWA newsletters, do something called “grinding”.”


    don’t forget ballin

  • J Will

    Hey Ian, here’s a few things to keep in mind.

    CPS people usually make more money than CPA affiliates.

    In most cases, the networks you send traffic to are CPS afilliates who are just paying you a little bit less than they get on the sale because you need your money now now now. Yes, even the big networks run most of those lead offers they give you CPS style. Sometimes they do it rev share too. You still get the short end of the stick though. lol

    Just because people choose CPS doesn’t mean they don’t do PPC, PPV, etc. They do, but the difference is that they have enough money to handle the float between when traffic is bought and when they get paid. Although sometimes it’s just as fast as CPA marketing it still usually costs more to test. But remember, everyone who does CPS doesn’t do SEO as their main or only source of traffic. But everyone should have a property that they do seo, because if an affiliates life is based on sending bought traffic then in reality they don’t have anything but a house of cards.

    Overall this is why the CPA crowd is younger:

    1. The pure CPA guys usually don’t have enough money to test CPS offers or wait for the payout. Their money is always in flux because it’s shorter.

    2. It takes time to be comfortable enough financially to make the switch to CPA marketing.

    People with 2 to 3 years of skin in the game usually DON’T KNOW they are getting fucked by taking the fast money CPA version of offers that also pay CPS – OR – They just don’t know how to setup the backend for those zip submits that they love.

    Fast money is usually short money. If you are getting it right now I highly suggest you start running some CPS or revshare offers. In dating for instance, if you think 7 or 8 per lead is nice, run a good revshare offer wait a few months and then let us know how the 12 or 14 per lead feels to ya after you do the math. 😉

  • Really awesome video to watch. I think affiliate marketing is the best way to earn huge profit. But its then possible when someone has depth knowledge of it. great post…

  • I think beginners should start with CPA short form fill offers, and then slowly move towards CPS. But no matter we choose CPS or CPA, the network is very important too. because I’ve seen lots of instances from people where they joined some unknown network and then the network never paid them because the network did not get paid from the merchant or the product owner. At least big networks have the ability to pay you no matter when the merchant pays the network…

  • I disagree that it is age related. I think it is a basic attitude and misunderstanding. As with anything in any industry, just talk to people and you can be in their â??clickâ??. Just donâ??t steal their clicks or cookies 🙂

  • CPS is new thing in my knowledge , I know only CPA and CPM theory thanks for this advice

  • a lot of CPS guys are not running strictly affiliate sites. a site like mine has a lot of affiliate links but the main goal is to build the site up to be huge and that means keeping it interesting for repeat visitors with quality content.

    it’s more about building a legitimate brand with your sites, building long term value for readers and in the serps. lowering risk, getting more reward.