Affiliate marketing vs. CPA marketing

Affiliate marketing and CPA marketing are very similar. In fact, CPA marketing is a category under affiliate marketing. 

Both business models involve people promoting the products of other people for commission. However, few distinctions set them apart

In this article, we will consider the best of these two business models and see which one has the best earning potential.

What is the Difference Between CPA and Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate marketing CPA Marketing
You need to make sales to earn moneyYou don’t need to make sales to earn money
There are no strict guidelines for newcomersStrict guidelines for newcomers
You need a website, blog, Youtube, or social media followingsYou need a squeeze page or a landing page 
Pay per sale is higher Pay per action is not as high

Similarities Between CPA Marketing and Affiliate Marketing

CPA and affiliate marketing are very similar. In fact, some companies use those terms interchangeably

Cost-per-action marketing, or CPA marketing, is a marketing model where a marketer helps a business owner achieve some goal in exchange for money.  

Similarly, affiliate marketing is an online marketing method where affiliates or publishers earn rewards by promoting a product or service created by another store or advertiser via an affiliate link. 

The affiliate partner is usually compensated when they deliver sales to the advertiser. 

In both cases, an affiliate marketer and a CPA marketer can be referred to as affiliates by the company.

Affiliates in CPA marketing get paid for different things, including the following:

  • Directing customers to fill out forms 
  • Directing people to watch videos
  • Getting quotes
  • Downloading or testing running applications, etc. 

CPA and Affiliate marketing may be broken down into three basic categories:

  • Pay per Action: Affiliates in this category get their commission for actions dependent on lead generation. Take, for instance, the case when a user fills out a form or registers for a free trial. This is a typical payment model for CPA marketers.
  • Pay-per-sale: This model rewards affiliates when customers make purchases after clicking on the affiliates’ unique link. This is a typical payment model for affiliate marketers.
  • Recurring Payments: Affiliates in this category will receive a regular payment per subscriber when they continuously recruit additional subscribers. This commission will be paid to them repeatedly.

How Does CPA Marketing Work?

To properly understand how CPA marketing works, you need to know all the parties involved and their roles. 

The following CPA model breakdown should assist you in understanding how CPA marketing works. CPA marketing basically involves three parties:

The Affiliate or publisher: The affiliate is the individual or company that gets paid to attract web traffic to  websites and encourage visitors to take some specific actions  

Advertiser or Business Partner: The business partner or advertiser is the brand that collaborates with an affiliate to increase sales, improve conversion rates, or create leads by driving visitors to their website.

CPA Network: This is the term for the online platform that brings together affiliates and advertisers. CPA networks provide the role of an intermediary between your company and the affiliates that promote it.

Difference Between CPA and Affiliate Marketing

Many people would argue that CPA and Affiliate marketing are the same thing. There are many similarities between these two business models. However, some differences set them apart. 

The following are just a few of the differences that set CPA apart from affiliate marketing:

Promotion methods

It is possible to be successful with CPA even if you do not have a website. For example, you can successfully run your CPA advertising on Facebook or other advertising networks like Adsterra and Adcash

You do not need a landing page or website between the customer and the product vendor. You only need to be familiar with your target demographic, clearly understand the market segment you want to serve, and have a sufficient budget for advertising (at least $1k for beginners).

You will need to set up landing pages for individual CPA offers you promote. 

However, things are not the same with affiliate marketers. As an affiliate marketer, having a website is not a pre-requisite but most affiliates have a website, blog, youtube channel, or an audience where they promote their offers.


In CPA marketing, the affiliate partner is compensated for a particular activity such as registration, click, or website visit.

However, in affiliate marketing, the affiliate partner is often paid whenever customers purchase using the affiliate’s unique link. 


In contrast to affiliate marketing, which is intimately connected to sales, CPA marketing is not tied to sales in any way.

The CPA marketer receives payment for his efforts and the activities that come from specific actions. Affiliate marketers are eligible for commissions on sales that are completed using their unique link.   


Affiliate networks and CPA networks perform the same role. That is, connecting affiliates with the brands that need advertising. However, the two networks differ a little bit. 

CPA networks are more challenging to join than affiliate networks because of the stringent standards and constraints they impose on applicants. Plus, you will find hundreds of standalone affiliate programs to join compared to CPA programs.

CPA networks set strict standards to avoid people taking advantage of the system since affiliates can make money online without necessarily having to sell anything. 

While in a typical affiliate marketing system, all you need to do is signup for free and start marketing the products. However, to join a CPA network, you might have to undergo a screening process that sometimes involves a phone interview. 

However, don’t let that scare you; many CPAs are beginner-friendly and you still have an excellent chance to get into the program. Just be sure not to lie or hide anything during your application process.

Also, you can help yourself by actively seeking solutions that will increase your chances of being accepted.

Examples of CPA networks:


Perform came after Clickbooth, Adperio, and Ignite OPM merged in 2020. They have thousands of CPA offers covering several major online advertising verticals. 

CPA network - Perform

Source: Perform [CB]

This contains all the usual affiliate verticals, such as Finance, Lifestyle, Health, Dating, and Entertainment, among others.

This affiliate network features a wide range of promotional offers and a far lower compensation threshold than others. 

CPA network - Perform

Source: Perform


Cpamatica is a top CPA Affiliate Network mainly focusing on dating, Nutra, and White-hat Facebook offerings.

It is a worldwide partner network that strives to ensure its customers’ success. Affiliates have high earning potential with Cpamatica. They are successful with both mainstream and dating offerings.

You get the finest deals, a specialized account manager with Cpamatica. It presently has over 800 offerings on its affiliate panel.

Moreover, Cpamatica provides advertisers and affiliates with a variety of offers, attractive payments, and superior customer service. Partnering with Cpamatica enables businesses to enhance their online marketing skills and realize their full potential.

CPA network - CPAMatica

Source: Cpamatica


CPA network - ClickDealer

Source: ClickDealer

ClickDealer is another popular CPA affiliate network. Their popularity comes from the fact that they offer lucrative deals to affiliates in their network. 

Plus, they have an outstanding affiliate manager that is always willing to assist you if there are any problems. 

You do not have to worry about payment; ClickDealer provides on-time payments and direct deposits. If you seek a reliable CPA network, ClickDealer can be an excellent choice.

Panthera Network

Panthera Network, which ranks in the top 20 CPA Affiliate Networks, is another significant CPA Network worldwide. 

It was founded to establish a worldwide network of performance-based publishers, and it is effectively achieving this mission. 

Panthera Network already has thousands of publishers and can produce millions of monthly leads/sales for its advertising customers.

It provides campaigns in almost every section of categories, including surveys that may be marketed through email, mobile, social media, the web, etc. 

Publishers should anticipate a vast array of offers, around-the-clock individual service, and high payouts, among other benefits.

CPA network - Panthera Network

Source: Panthera Network

Ad Combo

AdCombo has the most aesthetically pleasing website of all the networks reviewed. In addition, they promise to provide unique campaigns in 12 verticals that are not offered by any other CPA affiliate network. 

Additionally, they support over 40 languages, enabling you to construct geo-specific landing pages. Each is supplied from its global network of servers to ensure the quickest load times possible.

AdCombo focuses mainly on Health & Beauty offerings but also provides Dating and Antivirus options. AdCombo pays their affiliates twice each week, with no delays or holds.

CPA network - AdCombo

Source: AdCombo

Popular examples of affiliate marketing networks: 

Here are some networks to find and join affiliate offers.

Amazon Associates

Amazon Associates is perhaps the most popular affiliate network. As the most prominent online retailer in the world, Amazon gives access to millions of items, including baby gear, household goods, and cosmetics, among others.

The site is relatively simple to use, and getting started takes a few moments. In addition, you may earn a commission on anything your readers purchase during the following 24 hours, not just the ones you promote.

However, their terms and conditions may be rather stringent, and their commission rates are often lower than most other platforms.


AWIN Group bought the affiliate platform ShareASale in 2017. ShareASale, a service provider with dozens of accolades, assisted the AWIN Group in generating $1 billion in income for publishers and $14 billion for advertisers.

Joining the network and applying for programs is free, which is ideal if you have no funds to start affiliate marketing.

CJ Affiliate

With an 8.15% market share, CJ Affiliate (previously known as Commission Junction) is one of the largest affiliate networks. 

CJ, which was founded in 1998 in Santa Barbara, California, is trusted by many affiliates. 


FlexOffers is another massive affiliate network to investigate. It has over 12,000 advertisers, including major brands like Samsung, Sephora, and Wayfair. Although the platform’s color palette may be improved, it is user-friendly and straightforward to browse.

FlexOffers is a terrific alternative for people who like to promote well-known affiliate products, but it’s also an excellent choice for those who wish to begin affiliate marketing for free.

Final Verdict: Which is better for beginners?

Affiliate marketing is a better fit for beginners because you do not need money to start. However, for CPA marketing, most offers require you to run paid ads in order to generate results.

Also, you are competing with top marketers with big ad budgets to promote offers. So, your success with CPA marketing relies on your ability to find less competitive verticals to join.

If you have some budget for ads, then you can always consider starting with CPA marketing because it is very profitable and scalable since most offers are promoted via paid ads.

FAQs | Affiliate marketing vs CPA Marketing

I answered some other frequently asked questions below.

Which is better, affiliate marketing or CPA marketing?

Both CPA marketing and affiliate marketing offer benefits as well as potential drawbacks. CPA marketing may provide you with a quick return on investment (ROI), but it’s a relatively high-risk business model. On the other hand, the potential earnings can be higher than with affiliate marketing.

However, I recommend affiliate marketing to beginners with no money to invest. And CPA marketing to someone who is willing to burn some cash before getting results.

What does CPA stand for in affiliate marketing?

CPA stands for cost per action or cost per acquisition. It is a system where you receive a commission whenever someone performs a specified action such as filling out a form, leaving an email address, installing an app, etc.  

Can CPA marketing make money?

The amount of effort you put into your CPA marketing will significantly impact the amount of money you can make from it. For example, the price of a single conversion may fall anywhere between $0.10 and $10. 

Rates have the potential to increase, particularly in circumstances in which customers are expected to provide their credit card information in exchange for a free trial of a product.

With a good strategy, you could be looking at profits of about $1,000 over the course of a month. However, like any business, your earning potential will depend on your marketing effort and consistency.

If you are consistently executing your ads, marketing, and improving your CPA offers, you could be making a considerable amount of money in no time.

Is affiliate marketing really paying?

Affiliate marketing is a great way to make money online. In fact, the earning potential is more in affiliate marketing as affiliates earn more per sale. The only downside is you have to make sales to earn money with affiliate marketing. 

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