Negotiating commissions: How successful publishers broker better contracts with brands

Asking for higher affiliate commissions requires clear communication and a mutual understanding of each party’s needs and goals. Discover the techniques you can use to identify negotiating opportunities and persuade brands to pay you more.

Negotiating commissions
Laura Press
Head of Affiliate and Partnerships Education, PXA
Read time: 7 minutes

If you’re a publisher working with brands, it might feel like you have to stick with whatever contracts or terms the brand offers you. Thankfully, you have room for negotiation. 

You can use different payment methods and incentives to sweeten the deal for brands while boosting your commission earnings. You can make the most out of each partnership by learning the right negotiation commissions strategies.

An affiliate payment model to fit your goals

It’s easy to feel limited with payment options. Some brands only pay when customers complete a purchase. However, your audience and interests might fit best with a different payment model. 

Understanding your options and how to pitch them to brands can make a huge difference—especially regarding sustainable growth and commission earnings.

Cost per sale (CPS)

This partnership payment option keeps things simple: publishers get commissions each time a customer follows their specific link (or uses a code) and makes a purchase. 

Cost per lead (CPL)

Contracts get more flexible with this payment model. Brands and publishers agree on commission earnings for each lead on a potential customer—gauging traffic and interest on top of simple purchases. 

Leads can refer to: 

  • Email signups
  • Free trials
  • Completed contact forms
  • Applications for services

CPL agreements offer a perfect solution for more complex products and can complement existing CPS agreements as well. 

Cost per install (CPI)

The CPI payment model fits best with mobile brands and services. Publishers refer their audience to a brand’s app to download, which earns the publisher a commission.

Similar to CPL, CPI works seamlessly alongside CPS contracts. 

Sourcing new customers

Marketing teams from all industries face a similar challenge: finding new customers. Savvy publishers generating many new customers can showcase their value to brands and suggest modified payouts. Check that the brand you work with has this capability. 

Performance incentives

When publishers reach specific goals or boost traffic by a set amount, commission rates may go up. Brands might alternatively give bonuses for reaching a specific target. 

Participation bonuses

The affiliate model often pays publishers based on last click. But for many consumers, the buyer’s journey begins with reading articles and then completing their purchase elsewhere—such as a coupon site. This causes many content publishers to miss out on commissions. 

Publishers positioned at the beginning of the buyer’s journey can ask the brand to consider providing a participation bonus. It comes at no additional cost for the brand. They simply assign a percentage of the CPS as the participation bonus. 

Stacking commissions earns more revenue

There’s often more to the customer journey than just clicking a link and buying a product. If you work with a brand that measures varying costs-per-action (CPAs), you can earn more by combining different rewards and commission earnings. 

By stacking commissions, you make the most of your audience. Brands also value you more for helping build lasting connections with customers in a short amount of time. 

pitching commission rates

How stacking works

Let’s say you partner with an outdoor gear brand. The brand wants to grow its email program and promote an upcoming sale. 

In your email newsletter, you encourage your audience to sign up for the brand’s email list and access an exclusive discount code. 

The next week, you send another newsletter promoting the sale. You also remind users to get the exclusive brand discount code during the event. This may be enough to encourage some users to purchase. 

In this scenario, you’ve encouraged a user to perform two actions so you’d earn two types of payments: 

  • A CPL reward for the email sign-up
  • A CPS commission from the purchase

Identifying opportunities to negotiate

Brands should pay you more as your expertise, audience, and performance grow. Through the right partnerships, brands and publishers can expand their reach and foster lasting success. So, when is the best time to start these discussions?

In-depth reporting plays a key role in timing negotiations. Without accurate performance metrics, it’s tough to notice trends and use real-world information to back up your points. 

Dig into your reports and look for:

  • Areas of growth. When looking at your reports, choose specific date ranges and compare performance year-to-year (or month-to-month, quarter-to-quarter, etc.). Look for above-average conversion rates, increased actions, and higher average order values (AOVs).
  • Competitor commission rates. If other companies in the same industry pay more, gather that data and show they need to stay competitive. Brands want your traffic and are often willing to pay the same rate (or more) than competitors. 
  • Successful product categories. If your audience converts well in a specific product category, there may be an opportunity to request higher commissions for products in those categories.  
  • New customers. When you see more new customers discovering a brand through your content, use those reports in your negotiation.  

All of these data points can support your discussions with brands and show your worth as a partner. 

Reporting tools can make a huge difference

Detailed reports play a vital part in determining the right time to start a conversation with brands. Identify patterns and structure your pitch around them. With accurate data and justifications at your fingertips, your arguments will have more weight behind them.

Partnership platforms help users gather and view useful data for negotiations. Joining an affiliate network with robust reporting tools, like the Marketplace, helps you dig deeper and tap into your partnerships’ full potential. 

Reporting can be challenging if you’re a large media publisher working within many affiliate networks. Valuable insights are often siloed across multiple platforms and require manual collection. Data aggregation tools like Trackonomics—a part of the for Publishers suite—unite this information in one place so you can easily identify negotiation opportunities.

8 tips for successfully pitching higher commission rates

As you approach brands to negotiate, keep your value and role in mind. Publishers are effective partners for brands: expanding brand recognition, bringing in new customers, collaborating on marketing campaigns, and more. 

Make sure brands know what you bring to the table—and focus on these essential tips:

negotiating commissions with brands

1. Lean into the negotiation process

You don’t need to accept the first contract a brand sends your way or accept a contract renewal on the brand’s terms. Negotiating can initially seem intimidating, but you know the value you bring to the table and your strengths. 

Use knowledge of your business, brand partner’s goals, and additional payment models to make a counterproposal. 

2. Create a clear case

Avoid confusing pitches. You can make your arguments as compelling as possible with real-time data and organized information. Visually compare performance metrics, year-over-year (YoY) stats, and where the competition stands. 

3. Focus on value for brands

Make the brand upsides as straightforward as possible. Highlight your strengths and selling points. If you know you can boost brand awareness, tell them how. Are they looking for a better return on their investment? Show your performance data. 

When brands see the full context of how you can support each other, they’ll want to buy in. 

4. Present the big picture

Let your brands know where they stand in your roster. If you’re working with multiple brands in the same industry, highlight what their competitors are doing right (and wrong). 

Brands want to know if their competitors are more appealing to high-value partners. Provide the publisher perspective and show the big picture—without sharing confidential info from your other partners. 

5. Play to the brand’s strengths

If you’re pitching a CPL or CPI payment model, make sure your partners have the right technical capabilities. Can their system differentiate between new and repeat customers? Can they help you stack commission payments? 

Ensure you’re making reasonable proposals and playing to the brand’s strengths. 

6. Keep performance incentives in your back pocket

Brands usually propose performance incentives to publishers. But, proactively proposing performance-based rewards to brands can pay off—especially if you’re confident on delivery. 

Publishers can use performance incentives to lower risk for brands. Instead of setting a high commission rate at the start, negotiate contracts where performance affects your earnings. This approach allows risk-averse companies to see what you can do before raising commission rates. 

7. Continue refining your message

If the commission rate discussion goes differently than you hoped, take the opportunity to learn and improve for next time. 

Approach your strategy from the brand affiliate manager’s perspective. How can you earn more commission and help them succeed? Look for ways to demonstrate your value as a partner—like boosting a competitor’s sales or hitting a set bonus. 

8. Remember that you have leverage

If you’re a larger publisher that generates decent traffic for brands, then you have leverage. Don’t be afraid to use it. 

If you try to negotiate with an existing brand partner and don’t get the commission you asked for, send your traffic to a different brand that offers the same product. When the brand sees a dip in sales, they may be more open to discussing compensation changes.

Negotiating commissions is a win-win situation

Publisher contracts aren’t set in stone. If you provide value for brands and boost traffic, focus on improving your partnership terms. These negotiations can help both sides. Brands that appeal to publishers through flexible payment models and rewards stand out from their competition. 

Want to learn more about navigating partnerships, earning higher commission rates, and improving your content business? See more of’s free PXA training courses

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