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The 7 Best Travel Affiliate Programs to Earn Big Commissions

Adventure, escape, backpacking, world travel, hotels, exotic locations.

Is all of this in your wheelhouse?

Then you’re in luck.

These words are starting to appear more and more across the internet.

People are clamoring to know everything there is to know on these travel topics.

Websites dedicated to travel are becoming more and more popular, and many of them are funded solely through affiliate marketing.

Why is there such demand? One very good reason may be that the travel industry is continually growing. Nomadic millennials, along with those who just wish to escape their routine for a short time, are continually giving this industry a boost.

In 2016, the travel and tourism industry generated USD $7.6 trillion in the global market, and it already shows signs of increasing this year.

Along with this continued increase, today’s modern generations are turning away from the traditional travel agents and tour guides. Now the internet is their favorite source of information for travel, and they’re turning to websites and blogs that produce quality travel content.

For websites dedicated to travel, now is the time to monetize through affiliate marketing.

So, how can you do this?

Best Practices for Affiliate Marketing in the Travel Industry

Although this niche is profitable for affiliate marketers, it can be easy to get lost in the competition. How can you make your website stand out?

Create Unique and Useful Content

Many of the travel websites currently available are run by people who lack experience in internet marketing. They may have a story to tell, but they lack the skills in writing for business that make a website stand out.

So how can you compete with these myriad travel sites? Focus on quality. Your content team should be prepared to write articles that attract attention and are easily shareable. These are the articles that attract backlinks like magnets. (Getting a backlink just means that someone has linked out to your website from theirs.) And backlinks, for any SEO newbies out there, are vital if you want your site to appear at the top of search engine results.

For example, you can just pop your site’s URL into this Free Backlink Checker to see which of your articles people are sharing on their own websites. It’s interesting to see who’s sending traffic to you, and it gives you insight on which content is most shareworthy for your audience. But we’ll talk about this again in a minute.

Pool your collective knowledge about specific destinations, ones that you know like the back of your hands. Provide as many details as possible. Include specific bus routes, entrance ticket costs, restaurant recommendations, etc. Rise above the crowd of amateurs by creating professional content that adds value to your site.

Not all of your articles need to be focused on buying or booking, either. Draw your audience in with useful and information-filled articles. The people who read these types of articles are probably already planning a trip. All you need to do is give them the information they’re looking for. Then, subtly recommend an affiliate product or service that will aid them in their travels. If they purchase your recommendation (or something else on the affiliate program’s site), you’ll get a commission!

In the end, everyone’s happy!

Insert Contextual Links

Where you place your affiliate links will affect the user experience and also your SEO ranking. Try to include links in the text where keywords naturally appear. Don’t force them in, or write around the links.

Long-tail keywords within your content are also a good place to put links. These contextual links don’t break up the text of your website, but are still visible to the reader.

Make Your Niche More Specific

A great number of the travel websites currently available online are very general. To stand out in the crowd, focus on a specific subject within the travel niche. For example, you could devote your website to a certain type of travel (adventure travel, family travel, budget travel, luxury travel, etc.) or to travel within one particular area.

To make sure you’re choosing a profitable niche, check to see what kind of affiliate products are available. What kind of commission can you get? Which niche can get you a better commission?

Continue to Analyze and Improve

Trending keywords and topics are constantly changing. This makes it very important for you and your content team to continue refining your process.

The first step is to record and analyze what is and isn’t working for your site. What’s ranking? What isn’t ranking? What’s earning tons of precious backlinks for your website? Where are readers being converted into paying customers?

Our recommendation is to get yourself an SEO monitoring tool like Monitor Backlinks. There are plenty of good tools out there, but this is our go-to for beginning affiliates and SEO newbs. It’s designed to be super easy to use and it’s got a free 30-day trial you can take advantage of.

Monitor Backlinks also has the right combo of tool for most affiliates, namely: keyword rank tracking, organic traffic reporting, competitor SEO analysis and backlink monitoring.

travel-affiliate-programs

And you’ll always know what’s going on with your keywords, which is a big deal for affiliate marketers:

travel-affiliate-programs-keywords

That’s how you know which posts are visible and bringing in your organic traffic. If you’ve got questions about SEO and linkbuilding in the travel niche, start by reading this guide.

Apart from watching your keywords and backlinks, keeping up with the latest trends on social media and current travel news will give you the best chance of creating a popular site.

Feeling extra competitive? That Monitor Backlinks tool above will get you head and shoulders above your toughest competitors. You’ll discover brand new ways to outrank, outpace and outsell competitors thanks to Monitor Backlinks competitor research features.

Which of your chosen keywords are your competitors already ranking for? Where are they scoring backlinks? Which of their articles are being shared thousands of times across the internet? You can find out with a tool like this—then make their strategies your own.

Having insight on the latest travel deals (hopefully within your travel affiliate program) will also earn you brownie points with your readers.

 

So now that we know some basic methods of affiliate marketing in the travel industry, which travel affiliate programs can get you the best commissions possible?

We’re going to take a look at some of the most popular and most lucrative travel affiliate programs. By using one (or a combination) of these sites, you’ll be able to earn the best commission from your travel website.

The 7 Best Travel Affiliate Programs to Earn Big Commissions in 2017

travel-affiliate-program-bookingBooking.com

It’s very likely that, while planning your travels, you have either looked at or booked hotels through Booking.com. This website is one of the largest hotel websites in the industry, boasting over 1 million places to stay across the world. Their easy-to-use affiliate program is relied upon by over 12,500 websites, which definitely adds to their credibility.

Commission Structure

Booking.com’s travel affiliate program gives you a percentage out of the commission that Booking.com takes from each confirmed booking. This means that when someone books a hotel through your affiliate link, you’ll get paid only after they complete their stay.

The more referrals you send to Booking.com’s site, the better commissions you earn.

The commission rate is a tiered structure. The lowest you can get is 25% of Booking.com’s commission, but if you refer 501+ confirmed bookings per month, you’ll get 40%.

Pros

  • Easy (and free!) sign-up
  • Banner and interactive search box options
  • Easy-to-use system
  • Official WordPress plugin makes the process even simpler

Cons

  • Monthly payout only when you reach $100 of commission
  • Commission counted 30 to 60 days after completed booking

travel-affiliate-program-tripadvisoTripAdvisor

Another well-known brand for many travelers, this affiliate program gives you a lot more variety when it comes to your recommendations. While there are plenty of hotels that you can recommend, TripAdvisor also offers tours, tickets to activities (like museums) and more.

TripAdvisor’s affiliate program is run through CJ Affiliate. So, if you’re already doing affiliate marketing through CJ, signing up for TripAdvisor’s program will be made even simpler!

Commission Structure

When a reader clicks from your website to TripAdvisor, they’ll see ads promoting TripAdvisor partner sites. If the reader clicks on one of these commerce links, you get 50% of the gross revenue generated. As an added bonus, TripAdvisor offers incentive programs to their affiliates, paying extra to affiliates who drive a set amount of traffic back to TripAdvisor’s website.

Pros

  • Easy to start for those already affiliated with CJ
  • 24/7 reporting
  • New items added regularly
  • Over 500,000 city and hotel pages to link to

Cons

  • If you’re not already using CJ Affiliate, you’ll need to sign up there first

travel-affiliate-program-agodaAgoda

Agoda offers over 925,000 places to stay around the world, giving you plenty of options for recommendations. These are both hotels and private rentals, meaning you’ll have a better variety for your audience. Set-up is specially designed for people like me (non-techies), which means you can get started within minutes of approval.

Commission Structure

Agoda’s affiliate program has a tier-based commission structure. The lowest tier (under 50 referrals) gets you 35% commission. Referring over 1,000 completed bookings per month gets you into the highest tier of 60% commission. Commissions are based on the net total after Agoda takes out their commission.

Pros

  • Easy to set up and track commissions
  • Support for 38 languages
  • Good support for affiliates

Cons

  • $200 minimum payout

Amazon Associates

It’s time to get away from the hotels and travel deals. Obviously, Amazon.com has plenty of opportunities for those who want to get into affiliate marketing. However, those who want to recommend travel gear, clothing and travel-related accessories should definitely get on board with Amazon’s affiliate program.

Commission Structure

On March 1st, 2017 Amazon changed their commission rates. Now, percentages are calculated by category instead of by volume.

Categories that would fit in with a travel website might include apparel, luggage, handbags & accessories, which all earn a 7% commission. If you’re recommending hiking or camping products for travel, that would be classed under “outdoor,” which earns a 5.5% commission.

Pros

  • Extremely well-known
  • High conversion rate
  • Commissions can be earned on any product purchased after following your link (not just the product you linked to)
  • Lots of resources to help you get started

Cons

  • Lower commission rate

travel-affiliate-program-cruisedirectCruise Direct

If you’re looking for a travel affiliate program to recommend cruises, then Cruise Direct is your best option. They offer cruises all over the world, so you certainly won’t be limited for choice.

Also, they have 45-day tracking cookies. This means that if someone follows your affiliate link today, but books their cruise more than a month from today, you’ll still get your commission!

Commission Structure

Commissions on Cruise Direct are 3% of gross sale. This might seem like a small number, but let’s just remember that the average price of a cruise could be anywhere from $1,000 or more per person! If a family of four books a cruise (a total of $4,000), you’ll be receiving $120! That’s not bad for just one referral.

Pros

  • Banners, links and search boxes all offered
  • Easy to start
  • Weekly opportunities for extra commissions
  • 45-day tracking cookies

Cons

  • Lower conversion rate

travel-affiliate-program-open-loopOpen Loop New York

As the name implies, this is a New York based company. Open Loop offers tours throughout the greater New York City area, ranging in price from $39 to $192. Their affiliate program is also run through CJ Affiliate, which is a bonus for those already using this affiliate program.

Commission Structure

Affiliates earn a 15% commission on all sales generated through the links or banners on their websites. You can also use their links within emails and newsletters.

Pros

  • One of the highest commissions for a US-based travel affiliate program
  • Easy to set up for those already using CJ Affiliates

Cons

  • Only useful for travel websites writing about New York

travel-affiliate-program-sandalsSandals Resorts

One of the most well-recognized names in Caribbean resort travel, the 15 Sandals Resorts offer luxurious vacations for couples or families. This travel affiliate program earns you commission by referring people to book either a stay in one of the Sandals Resorts, or an activity there.

Sandals’ travel affiliate program also runs through CJ Affiliates.

Commission Structure

Sandals gives its affiliates a 4% commission on bookings. Keep in mind that these are luxury resorts, meaning rates per night per person range from $150 to over $2,000. Imagine that a couple books a romantic week in a Sandals Resort at the cost of $500 per person per night. That’s a total of $7,000, and would earn you a commission of $280!

Pros

  • High earnings per click rate
  • Recognizable brand
  • Affiliate incentives (including free trips!)
  • Dedicated manager to help each affiliate
  • Monthly payments
  • 60-day cookies

Cons

  • Only worthwhile for travel websites dedicated to luxury travel in the Caribbean

Conclusion

While travel websites are continuously on the rise, this market is still one of the most profitable for affiliate marketing. Travel affiliate programs abound, and many of them are linked through larger networks such as CJ Affiliates. This gives affiliate marketers easier access to a wider range of affiliate programs.

Take advantage of these travel affiliate programs to boost your website’s earnings!

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