CPA (cost per action) marketing, also known as ‘performance marketing’ is an offshoot of affiliate marketing. What makes it quite unique, is that (unlike traditional affiliate marketing), you don’t actually have to sell something.

This means that payouts will be low, but this coupled with very low cost traffic sources mean it’s something you can ‘play about with’ without much outlay at all.

In this post, I’ll take you through the basics, and point you in the right direction if you’d like to learn more about it.

CPA marketing
Sweepstakes are huge in CPA Marketing

Table of Contents

How Does CPA Marketing Work?

You will get paid by publishers for getting users to take an action.

There are many possible actions but the most popular ones are:

  • Optin to a form (email submit/details)
  • Download and install an app
  • Click to call (premium rate number)
  • Credit card submit
  • Click to buy (e-commerce)

So, just like in affiliate marketing (see my post for a breakdown on what affiliate marketing is) your ‘job’ is to drive traffic to the offers.

If the offer converts, you get paid a commission. But of course people aren’t going to pay you a fortune to get an email or download an app.

So payouts can be very low – especially in lower-tier countries – ranging from a few cents up to a few dollars for USA/Canada.

So the name of the game is volume – if you’re earning (for example) $0.15 a conversion, you are going to need a LOT of conversions.

So how do you do this? Well, traffic sources you probably wont have heard of if you’ve never done CPA…

Best traffic sources for CPA marketing

There are two main traffic sources people use for CPA Marketing – Pop and Push traffic.

If you’re running higher payout stuff, then people also use more conventional sources link Bing, Facebook, and Google.

But let’s assume for now we’re talking about the lower payout stuff.

What is Pop traffic?

Pop traffic is short for Popunder traffic. A user visits a website, clicks on a link and page appears ‘underneath’ / in the original browser tab.

If you’re buying Pop traffic then it’s your landing page that is left underneath (or the publishers if they are allowing you to direct link).

As you would imagine, Pop traffic is low quality as the audience is (stone) cold.

They weren’t searching for the thing you’re wanting them to see – and chances are the website they were on at the time had nothing to do with the offer you’re promoting.

BUT – this doesn’t mean that Pop traffic doesn’t convert. It does, surprisingly well actually. You just need to have offers that are appealing in that context.

For example, download a free game, enter your email to win an iPhone 12 is not a huge ask of the user – you’re not asking them to part with any money.

Pop traffic to try and sell something for $20 would bomb – hard.

So Pop is very much a numbers game, the traffic is incredibly cheap because it’s so low in quality – so you can get tens of thousands of impressions for a couple of dollars (much less in countries like India).

When you buy Pop traffic, you are usually bidding CPM – Cost Per Mil – which actually just means how much you are prepared to pay for a thousand impressions.

An impression is each time one of your pop-unders is shown to a user.

It’s also worth noting that if you are providing your own landing page, you’ll be wanting it to be very fast loading – you want to flash up instantly for the user.

How Do You Get Pop Traffic?

There are loads of Pop Traffic networks, the most popular ones are :

Propellar ads pop traffic
Propellar ads pop traffic

The list goes on…

Most of these networks will have a minimum deposit starting at around $100 (eg Propeller ads) although PopAds lets you start for just a $10 deposit – which makes it very beginner friendly.

Push Traffic

Push traffic is when the user receives a push notification on their phone/browser and then chooses to click through to it (or not).

Push ads for CPA marketing
Push ad example

As it requires more interaction on the part of the user, you can get more qualified traffic than through Pop – of course, this means it is more expensive (although oddly not by a huge amount).

Push campaigns can run on CPM like Pop, but there is also the option to pay per click (CPC) – you’d be surprised how cheap a click can be, even in a Tier 1 country like the USA.

I’ve run campaigns on Propeller in the USA for $0.08 per click – try doing that on Google ads!

Push campaigns will require you to set up a push ‘ad’ – which is basically a headline, an image and short bit of copy (a sentence basically).

Push ad sweepstake example
Sweepstake Push ad example
Push ad sweepstakes CPA in Marketing
Push ad sweepstake example 2 (NB use Amazon logos at your peril!)

Your choice here is either clickbaity ad (get as many click throughs as possible) OR qualified ad (try and make sure those clicking through are interested in the offer).

You do need to be careful what you say in these ads BUT nowhere near as careful as you would on Google and Facebook. You can pretty much get away with anything, as long as you are telling massive lies or (more importantly) infringing on any trademark names/logos etc.

Where do you get Push traffic?

The list is basically the same as for Pop traffic. All the major networks offer both (except PopAds).

Recent surveys hold Propellar ads as being the most popular push traffic source.

The importance of tracking in CPA marketing

CPA marketing is all about volume, data and optimiziation. This means you need to be tracking your campaigns very carefully to ensure you are getting the most bang for your buck.

In CPA you can track everything from the user’s country all the way down to the user’s IP address, phone type, network – the list goes on.

Peerclick CPA Marketing tracker
Inside Peerclick CPA Marketing tracker

Pretty much every CPA network will require you to track your impressions, clicks, and conversions. So you need a tracking tool.

By tracking your campaigns in detail, you will be able to make decisions about which offers are profitable, which zone, networks, devices (and many more things).

It sounds complex, but once you get into the swing of it, it is actually quite fun.

Thankfully, if you’re just starting out you can actually get a tracking tool for free (yup!).

There are two tools I would recommend, Bemob and Peerclick – both tools let you use them for free for a maximum of 100,000 events per month. If you’re just starting out and having a play – this is plenty.

I was using Bemob for quite a while, but I’ve recently switched to Peerclick (on a paid plan) – I think the interface is nicer to use but they both do the job.

How To Learn CPA Marketing

To be fair there is quite a lot to take on board when you start out with CPA marketing.

So if you fancy trying it, you will need to get some kind of training behind you (you are NEVER going to set up tracking right on your own – trust me lol).

The weird thing is, once you start getting used to it, it’s not nearly as complicated as it first seems (well, I suppose that’s true of most things).

So, based on my own personal experience – I’m going to make two recommendations to get your started on the right path.

1. Afflift forum

Afflift is a forum dedicated to affiliate marketing and a HUGE amount of it is dedicated to CPA. It’s very active and has a lot of users.

Afflift CPA community and training
AffLift forum and affiliate community – a great place to learn CPA Marketing

You can have a look around for free, but to get to all the tutorials and juicy stuff you do have to pay a membership fee.

As well as tutorials, there are a lot of ‘follow along’ posts, where (experienced) marketers will take you through a campaign they are running – this is a brilliant way of seeing how all this stuff works for real and a great insight in the minds of an experienced CPA marketer.

At the moment to make their 3rd anniversary, they are doing 33% off monthly, 6 monthly and lifetime plans. I strongly recommend you check this out.

2. PPC Steps

PPC steps is a paid membership course by Neil Moran, creator of Commissions Lead Machine (you can read my review of that here).

PPC Steps CPA Marketing course

PPC steps is specifically focused on CPA marketing for beginners and takes you through everything from setting up your tracker, your first campaign through to optimisation strategies.

Neil is a great (and funny!) teacher, and I learnt loads from this course. It is also incredibly cheap (not as cheap as Afflift membership – but for a full course VERY cheap). This also comes with access to a private Facebook group where you can ask Neil for help and advice (which is is very generous with).

You can try out Neil’s course for $3 for 3 days to see what you think.

Both Afflift and PPC steps are a great way to start off.

If you can get both, do it.

If you can’t afford both its hard to choose between the two, but hmm I dunno I guess Afflift is cheaper overall, but Neil makes things really easy to understand – but if you want to start CPA you WILL need to get some training.

Honestly, these are the best CPA Marketing resources you will find. #stuapproved

Summing up

CPA Marketing might not be for everyone, and it 100% relies on using paid traffic. But paid traffic can be very cheap indeed with pop and push.

If staring at data turns you off, then CPA marketing is not for you.

BUT if the idea of optimising campaigns and running volume traffic across the world appeals to you, then definitely give CPA a go.

As pop and push traffic is so cheap, you really could get started for $10-$20 and get a surprising amount of data (and conversions).

You can afford to make some mistakes when your spending $5 on a campaign, and making mistakes are how you learn to get better 🙂

I’d also note that this is a great way of understanding how to test campaigns that you can take forward to more ‘traditional affiliate marketing.

Bottom line – I think everyone should give CPA marketing a go. Try it, you might like it!