CPA Marketing: How It Works & How to Build an Effective Strategy

Michelle Ofiwe

Oct 22, 20216 min read
cpa marketing


What Is CPA Marketing?

Cost per action (CPA) marketing offers a commission to an affiliate partner after their readers complete a specific action. When an affiliate or influencer promotes your products or services to their audience, you’ll only pay a fee once a reader has taken the action you want.

Many consider CPA to be cost-effective because it only costs you money when someone interacts with your ad. Your target action can include filling out a form, clicking through to a specific webpage, sharing a video, using a voucher code, and more. 

Examples of CPA Marketing

  1. Review websites: These websites compare different products or services within an industry. Their content usually weighs the features, benefits, and cons of each option. Readers often browse these sites when trying to compare their options for purchase.
    Review websites work great for CPA marketing because you can include a link to each product you review. Once readers are ready to purchase, they can click through to your website or a landing page.
  2. Splash pages: A splash page appears like your website, app, or online game loads. Major brands like Apple or Disney tend to use splash pages, as it’s likely their visitor is already familiar with their brand.
  3. Affiliates and Influencers: Affiliate and influencer marketers can boost your CPA marketing strategy. Standard affiliate marketers come from various places, like popular blog sites, fundraising pages, cashback sites, etc. Influencers are most commonly found on social media and YouTube and often have celebrity status, which helps sell products to their target markets. 

How to Build Your Own CPA Marketing Plan

  1. Determine what to promote: Your CPA marketing campaign should aim to make potential customers aware of something: your brand, a new product, an event, a discounted service, etc. Ultimately, what you choose to promote will affect the brand’s creative and the affiliate partners you use.
  2. Determine who should see it: Targeting your audience works best here because you’ll want to ensure your ad or links only appear to people that would likely be interested in your offer. Targeting your audience also helps you determine the best affiliate partners, networks, and influencers to work with. You can use the Market Explorer tool to view your audience’s demographics and interests under the Demographics tab:
    Market Explorer "Demographics" report for ""
  3. Determine how to promote it: To reach your target demographic, you’ll need to consider the affiliate options that work best with your budget. Can you afford to work with an affiliate network? Would you be better suited to working with individual affiliate partners and influencers? Where do you want your ads to appear?
  4. Choose Your Prospects: You’ll need to determine the best partners, affiliate networks, and influencers to boost your CPA campaign. 

How to Find Prospects for Your CPA Marketing Strategy

Once you have done the research and are comfortable with what you are promoting, it is time to turn your attention to finding prospects for your CPA marketing strategy. 

1. Research Your Competitors

More often than not, you’ll be sharing your target audience with competitors in your industry. It’s important to understand your place in the market and how much market share your competitors already have.
Market research can also help you identify companies you’ll likely share affiliate marketers and influencers within your industry. You can use Market Explorer’s Overview report to discover significant or new competitors and important audience demographics.

To get started, toggle the Find Competitors view on the tool’s home page. Enter your domain, your country, and name your list:

Market Explorer tool

The Overview report’s Growth Quadrant visualizes your competitive landscape at a glance. You can view up to 20 competitors with the quadrant. Hover over each competitor to see their stats, including their referral traffic earnings: 

Growth Quadrant in Market Explorer tool

Toggle the Benchmarking tab to see how each competitor stacks up against the total market. Use the Traffic Generation Strategy widget to break down each competitor’s traffic acquisitions by channel:

"Market Traffic vs Selected Domains Trends" section in Market Explorer

Use this data to determine your biggest competitors and their current referral traffic. When building your strategy, ask yourself how you can match or beat their referral numbers.

2. Research Affiliates

You’ll want to work with affiliate marketers and influencers compatible with your brand and are already marketing to your target audience. But you don’t have to start from scratch — you can target your competitors’ affiliate partners. Working with your competitors’ affiliates saves time, and you can ensure they already have marketing experience.

Begin by making a list of your strongest competitors from the Growth Quadrant. Then for each competitor, you can navigate to the Traffic Journey report in the Traffic Analytics tool, scroll down to the Traffic Journey Details chart, and toggle “Referring Sites” to see which sites send the most traffic to your competitors.

Traffic Journey Details chart

Use this list to determine potential affiliate partners. You can reach out to these sites to ask them to review your products, include your affiliate links in their copy, or build a custom marketing campaign. 

Toggle Social Network on the report to see the top social media platforms sending your competitor traffic. Use this list to determine where to scout for influencers. Your competitors’ most popular influencers likely operate on these networks.

Social Network section under Traffic Journey Details chart

Although it’s essential to understand your competitors’ strategy, your strategy will ultimately look different. Competitors often miss opportunities, so you should be prepared to work with affiliates your competitors don’t. 

3. Research Affiliate Networks

An affiliate network is an online platform that brings affiliate marketers and the brands that want to hire them together. They’re one of the most popular ways to find affiliates.

With multiple affiliate networks available, it can be challenging to know which ones to use. Understanding your options is an essential step to building your strategy. 


  • Affiliate networks collect a large number of affiliates in one place.
  • Many affiliate networks provide merchants with account managers, so you’ll have an experienced guide working with you.
  • Affiliate networks become easier to navigate after initial training.


  • There is a cost to using the service, which can sometimes eat at your profits.
  • Finding the right affiliate can be a process. Some affiliate networks could be more transparent about their process and actual traffic.

Use the Traffic Analytics tool to determine each prospective network’s traffic quality to narrow down your options. The tool can show you each domain’s overall traffic and any important user engagement metrics, like their average visit duration and bounce rate:

Traffic Analytics overview report

Avoid paying for useless leads you can’t convert: use Visits and Unique Visitors metrics to estimate the size of the site’s affiliate audience. Review Pages per Visit, Average Visit Duration, and Bounce Rate to understand the site’s user experience quality. Sites with good user experience metrics mean that visitors spend more time browsing your partner’s site, increasing the odds of earning a click on your affiliate links. 

It’s also vital to check on the network’s advertisers. You’ll want to know who’s already placing advertisements with your potential partner and how many views they’re earning (if any.)

And you can easily do that with a tool like AdClarity

It collects, analyzes, and aggregates real-time display, video, and social ads across 650,000 publishers from 51 global markets. 

Which means it can help you:

  • Analyze your competitors’ ad campaigns
  • Identify the best-performing advertisers in your niche
  • Find your competitors’ most valuable publishers and traffic sources

Just enter any domain you’d like to analyze. And the tool will instantly show four different reports. 

Like this:

AdClarity reports for ""

Use the tool to learn from your competitors’ hits and misses. Replicate what’s already working—in a better or similar way.

4. Research Review Sites

Working with review websites can be effective if they are trustworthy and get a good level of traffic. You can always check a prospective site’s Authority Score and traffic data with the Domain Overview tool.

Enter the site’s domain into the tool, review the Overview report for their score, and estimated organic traffic. You can also filter for your target country or device:

Domain Overview report

Finding a review site with a good Authority Score is a bonus for your CPA strategy. A higher Authority Score can be a good indication of the implementation of better SEO practices, smoother site performance, and trustworthiness.

Best Practices for CPA Marketing 

1. Manage Expectations

Establish achievable expectations and goals when developing your strategy. Although it seems logical to set your sites on the biggest affiliates and influencers seems logical, but this isn’t always achievable with a newcomer’s budget.
Affiliates and influencers can charge at their discretion to promote products. Usually, the more traffic the affiliate gets or the bigger following an influencer has, the more they charge to promote a brand. Aim to work with affiliates and influencers at each stage of your business’ growth.

2. Review Everything

Your CPA marketing strategy will likely change as your business grows, so a review is essential. Set weekly, monthly or quarterly checks to track your campaign’s ROI. Keep an eye on important metrics like your overall traffic growth, your Affiliates’ traffic, and your competitors’ performance. 

Key Takeaways

Whether you have CPA marketing as part of your strategy already or are new to it, using the tips and steps in this guide can help you build an effective strategy for your brand. 

Author Photo
Editor and writer, deeply dedicated to good copy. Based in Houston, TX.