What Is CPA Marketing And How Do I Do It Right?

Return on investment, or ROI, is the name of the game in marketing. Nobody wants to pump money into an ad campaign only to see it flop.

But after factoring in all the expenses, it can be hard to transform your campaign spend into clicks that convert into sales.

While there will always be a little bit of risk in the world of advertising, there are a few tricks you can use to maximize your brand marketing budget.

Our personal fave is CPA marketing.

Source: FreshBooks

Instead of focusing on vanity metrics that don’t mean jack squat, CPA marketing means you’re spending money on cold, hard results.

40% of US eCommerce brands rely on CPA marketing to grow their customer base, generating $12 billion in additional sales globally every year.

No more pumping money into vague views or impressions: you pay only for each lead, conversion, or sale you get with CPA marketing.

CPA marketing is basically the holy grail of ROI for brand marketers. Know what CPA marketing is, how it works, and which tips will make the most of your budget.

How does CPA marketing work?

CPA stands for “cost per action.” It’s a marketing model where you pay only for results.

But what’s neat about CPA marketing is that you can do it with anything from PPC ads to affiliate marketing.

Source: Wordstream

This style of influencer marketing helps you understand the cost you pay per action when a consumer:

  • Makes a purchase
  • Gets a quote
  • Watches a video
  • Fills out a form

… or however you define a conversion.

To do CPA marketing, you’ll need to partner with a network of awesome affiliates or influencers. Some brands like to DIY this by building their network of affiliates or influencers, while others choose a network to fill the gaps.

Source: Directive Consulting

3 reasons CPA marketing matters

No matter how you slice it, CPA marketing is chock-full of ROI.

Done right, CPA marketing can generate $15 for every $1 you spend on it.

Aside from boosting brand awareness, CPA marketing has 3 big benefits for brand marketing.

1 - Easy setup

Not a fan of long, complicated setups?

Us, neither.

Fortunately, CPA marketing doesn’t require a fancy Google certification or hours of your time.

Just snag yourself a trustworthy influencer network—all the hassle is taken care of for you so you can hit the ground running.

2 - Low-risk

Everybody’s got to justify their budget to their boss. If you’re in that boat, CPA marketing should be your best friend.

Here’s the skinny: you only pay when you make a sale. There’s no more fussing over cost-per-view: just get results and pay for them.

CPA marketing is low-risk because you aren’t paying for non-converting traffic. That incentivizes affiliates and influencers to make awesome content that actually creates sales.

3 - High ROI

It only stands to reason that pay-what-you-earn marketing is awesome for ROI. And the data doesn’t lie, folks:

If you aren’t running CPA campaigns, today’s the day to start. Boost eCommerce sales and brand awareness with this budget-friendly marketing model.

Proven tips to boost your CPA marketing

But if you’re new to CPA marketing, you might wonder, “How do I use this, anyway?”

Here are our expert-vetted tips for making the most of your next CPA marketing campaign.

1 - Use different networks

The brands that don’t use a dedicated influencer network get better results with a collection of CPA platforms instead of just one.

You can join CPA programs like:

There are so many CPA programs out there, but most brands have affiliate and influencer agreements on more than one platform.

This way, you can DIY your way to the top, connecting with high-quality affiliates and influencers who will do the selling for you.

2 - Manage your affiliates and influencers

If you’re going all-in on CPA marketing, you’ve got to manage it. From sourcing affiliates and influencers to payments and everything in-between, someone’s got to manage all of your CPA marketing action.

Some brands hire an affiliate or influencer manager to:

  • Connect with top-performing affiliates and influencers.
  • Review your offers to make sure they’re competitive.
  • Give direction on your content.
  • Send product updates, rules, creative, and links to your affiliates and influencers.
You should be allocating at least 15% of your marketing budget to CPA marketing if you want to be competitive, which means managing the program is a full-time job.

Managing affiliates and influencers yourself can feel like herding crazed cats. If you’re really investing in CPA marketing, make affiliate and influencer management a priority.

If that’s not in the cards right now, a tool like Trend can help you connect with influencers without having to hire someone for this role.

3 - Advertise natively

We’re all for advertising, but your customers don’t want huge, glaring ads in their feed. Subtlety is still king, even with CPA marketing.

And guess what?

Your customers love native ads! They get 8.8X the clicks and give customers 18% more intent to purchase.

That’s why you have to use native advertising to succeed in CPA marketing.

Ask your affiliates and influencers to weave ads into the design of their website. After all, there’s nothing un-sexier than a flashing banner ad that looks like spam.

That means:

  • Working with influencers to create content. Influencer content can be used in ads to make them seem more native to the platform. The ads should match the site’s color, layout, and theme. If you do it right, this could get you double your customers’ attention.
  • Creating a direct landing page. If you’re hiring affiliates and influencers to push traffic to this page, make it awesome! This should match the content, theme, and tone of the ads you worked so hard to create with your affiliates and influencers.

We get the temptation to make your affiliate and influencer ads stand out, but the best course of action is blending the ads with your influencer or affiliates’ content.

4 - Get on review sites

You’re in the business of getting more sales, right?

One of the sneakiest CPA marketing hacks is to place your affiliate links on review sites. Heck, one well-placed feature on a Buzzfeed listicle can jettison your product sales overnight.

Review sites usually address several products under one niche. For example, there are different review sites for tech, beauty, and parenting.

Over 90% of shoppers trust product reviews—and many seek out in-depth reviews before they even think about purchasing.

Hunt down a feature on specialized review sites to sweeten the deal for these publishers while boosting your own sales.

5 - Create user-generated content

User-generated content, or UGC, should be your brand’s ace in the hole for boosting sales.

UGC content is more natural and interesting to your customers. Instead of you talking about your own brand, trustworthy influencers and affiliates do it for you.

After all, customers aren’t likely to believe you’re the greatest thing since sliced bread just because you said so. But influencers are more believable, and that’s the key to profitable CPA agreements that boost ROI.

UGC boosts time on site by 90%, but only 16% of brands have a UGC strategy. That means it’s your time to swoop in!

Partner with influencers to create UGC like:

  • A shot of your beauty product in use by a big-name beauty Instagrammer.
  • A mommy influencer using your new vacuum in her home.
  • A humorous review of your tech gadgets from a YouTube influencer.

This not only boosts customer trust and sales, but gives you some much-needed branded content for your own business.

But your UGC can’t be “good enough”—it’s got to be amazing.

Always go for a CPA marketing agreement with your influencers. That ensures they’re writing content that actually drives purchases, not just likes and comments.


There’s nothing wrong with getting likes, views, or comments. But if it’s high time to see ROI from your marketing efforts, go with CPA marketing campaigns.

You can get them off the ground quickly, they get results, and they create long-term relationships with trustworthy affiliates.

If you’re investing in influencer marketing, you need CPA marketing, too. But we know that managing these campaigns isn’t exactly a walk in the park.

Need a friendly helping hand? Join Trend for free. Tap into our reliable network of influencers to get sales-driven content that sells.