The Expedia Affiliate Program [Full Review]
If you're hankering to get into the travel affiliate game, Expedia is one of the more established affiliate programs in the space. The website lets you search for travel-related deals on hotels, flights, vacation experiences and more.
In this post, I'll examine Expedia's commission structure, what you can promote, provide some travel-related keyword research, how I would drive traffic to this offer, and some travel affiliate alternatives to Expedia.
What Is Expedia?
First, some background on Expedia. The website is part of Expedia Group, which is a U.S.-based global travel technology company. For the most part, the Expedia Group's websites are travel metasearch engines and travel fare aggregators.
Besides Expedia.com, the Expedia Group owns Hotwire.com, Hotels.com, CheapTickets (Expedia's only provider of event tickets), trivago, SilverRail, Traveldoo, Classic Vacations, CarRentals.com, Venere.com, Orbitz, Travelocity, and HomeAway.
tl;dr Summary: The Expedia affiliate program operates within the CJ Affiliate network and provides 2-6% commission rates, with a 7 day referral window. It's not the best commission rate that you can find within the travel niche and the 3 month $30 EPC (earnings per click) as of this writing isn't particularly impressive.
What Does Expedia's Name Mean?
If you're curious, according to the company's first CEO, Rich Barton, the word "Expedia" derives from a combination of "exploration" and "speed".
How To Promote These Network Offers
- If you want a complete, step-by-step system to start growing your own highly profitable affiliate & authority niche site, check out AuthorityHacker's Authority Site System
- A reliable and fast hosting solution like SiteGround (it's what I use)
- A brandable domain name from GoDaddy (my guide)
- A premium theme- I use GeneratePress but there are some cool niche themes on ThemeForest
- Image & graphics from DepositPhotos (all legal and licensed)
- Content from iWriter (my review)
- An automated social media drip campaign from MissingLettr (my review)
- An auto-responder to build your email list– ConvertKit is what I'm using
- Finally- you can always refer to my free step-by-step niche selection guide and all of my free niche reports for inspiration
The Commission Structure
As you can see the EPC (earnings per one hundred clicks) is pretty low:
The current 30 day EPC (as of June 2018) is $30 over days and $3.14 over 7 days. The Expedia affiliate program offers a 7-day action referral period- so if any users convert within 7 days of clicking, you'll get paid on it.
What Can You Promote
If you look at their website, there are a variety of categories you can, theoretically, promote:
- Things to Do
- Vacation Rentals
Before you go wild creating affiliate links- you'll want to be clear on what Expedia products are ineligible for commissions.
What You Can't You Promote
Examining the Program Terms within CJ.com, the list of exclusions is kind of confusing.
My best recommendation is to contact Expedia at the affiliate contact listed within CJ.com (firstname.lastname@example.org) to get some clarification about what Expedia products are eligible for commissions and what are not.
I did write them an email asking for clarification- if/when they respond I'll update the post.
For example, under Non-Commissionable Items, they write that:
"Expedia.ca does not pay commission on pre-packaged vacations. The following will be considered a non-commissionable transaction: any car transaction exceeding a purchase price of $5,000 USD. All transactions that meet this criteria will be reversed and commission will not be awarded to the publisher’s account. Proof of completed travel will need to be provided by the customer in order to credit any car transactions exceeding $5,000. Car transactions between $1,000-$5,000 are subject to extension in the Commission Junction system and investigation by Expedia. Any transactions found to be fraudulent will then be reversed and commission will not be paid to the publisher."
As you can see, they're referring to the .ca domain, even though this is the .com Expedia affiliate program.
Sometimes you have to do some legwork to figure out the best promotional strategy- I wouldn't start promoting Expedia until I knew for sure what items are actually 'commissionable'.
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11 Alternatives To The Expedia Affiliate Program
There are a variety of alternatives to Expedia if you're looking to promote offers in the travel niche:
- Booking.com's affiliate program has a volume-based referral fee structure, with payouts ranging from 25%-40% on purchases.
- TripAdvisor is offering 50% commissions with the capacity to link to deep link to over 500,000 city and hotel pages.
- The Sandals Resort affiliate program provides a flat, starting commission rate of 4% with a 60 day referral window.
- The Skyscanner affiliate program is offering 50% payouts. Skyscanner is a travel search engine that provides users comparisons of flights, car hire and hotels.
- There's also the Airbnb referral program- I wrote up a full review of it.
- Marriott also offers an affiliate program that ranges 3-6% depending on whether it's a Vacation Package or a Hotel Stay.
- Agoda markets itself as one of the leading online hotel platforms worldwide offering low priced deals on hotels, resorts, hostels, and homes. The Agoda affiliate program, according to CJ Affiliate, offers 6% commission.
- The Air France affiliate program offers payouts based on whether flights are short, medium or long haul.
- The Hotels.com affiliate program has a solid 7 day EPC of $136.89, with commissions ranging from 1-4%.
- The Cheap Flights affiliate program is paying big commissions: 65% - 75% payouts.
- Another popular option is the Priceline affiliate program- it sits within the CJ Affiliate network and offers a rather convoluted payout structure, with 3%-100% commissions and $4 flat payouts.
Travel is pretty saturated. If I were to enter this niche, I'd consider finding low competition 'destination' terms, do a detailed writeup (1,500+ words), and then use hotel, flight, vacation package affiliate programs to monetize the content.
Below, I extracted 1,000 of the best-performing organic keywords for Expedia:
Expedia Keyword Research
As you can see, they have some great rankings- things like "cheap hotels", "cheap tickets", and "cheap cruises" give you a sense of how consumers use Expedia.
A big segment is apparently searching out travel discounts.
TripAdvisor Keyword Research
Another example, check out this TripAdvisor keyword research I did below- it shows a ton of destination terms that are really low competition.
There are a bunch of interesting, low-competition search terms you can rank for. For example, there's the term "the social orlando"with a Keyword Difficulty of 0 and pulling in 6,500 searches a month:
These low competition 'destination search terms' provide a great way to cash in on travel affiliate programs- whether it's flights, hotels, car rentals or vacation packages.
Another one is "oldsmar flea market" with a Keyword Difficulty of 1, raking in 6,600 searches a month.
If you're looking to build out a niche site- I'd consider specializing in a certain region and finding low-competition keywords, like those in the Expedia keyword research table above.
I'd write up definitive guides- these content-rich landing pages would naturall draw a ton of organic traffic.
Besides just 'doing SEO', I'd take a broader approach to content marketing.
I'd figure out how to make a promotional video out of the content, create visual content for Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook, outsource the graphic creation and social media to Virtual Assistants from UpWork, and churn out as much content as possible.
One gray area to get images from is screenshots of YouTube videos- so if you're trying to rank for "oldsmar flea market", I took a screenshot from a vlogger's video tour of the flea market:
You can see the video below- the point being, this is a unique way to generate some unique images.
Google loves unique images and you can manipulate the images a bit with Canva to create a fun graphic for the different social platforms. I made this one in a about a minute- just using a general Canva template:
The worst part about building an authority site is that you 'have' to build backlinks.
I've never done any meaningful link building for my primary affiliate site- and it's currently making over $30k a month.
If you could suck it up and acquire 25+ backlinks to your domain, you'd be surprised at how far that can drive you up the Google Search rankings.
Just set that as a goal. Choose one of the backlink strategies- guest-posting, broken link building, skyscraper and execute on it until you've built at least 25 backlinks.
A good way to drum up some content ideas if you want to promote Expedia or another travel affiliate program is to examine Expedia's own rankings.
Obviously- social is an important aspects of user acquisition and engagement.
To my mind, content marketing comes first- as you can see above, I endorse a holistic content-creation strategy.
Create interesting and dynamic, cross-channel content that pushes people back to your site so that they click affiliate links or ads.
Regarding social- all of the content you create should be drip fed to your different social media platforms. I use MissingLettr to automate all of that.
I also endorse capturing emails on your site and marketing your content to your audience.
One thing I'll say about that: you'll have greater success capturing emails and marketing to your audience if you're in a narrower, specialized niche.
For example, if you specialized in U.S. travel- that's incredibly broad.
It's unlikely you'll have the wherewithal to compete with a site like TripAdvisor that has over 53 million indexed pages, as of this writing (use site:tripadvisor.com in Google to see how many pages they currently have indexed).
But, if you specialized in a particular region 'the South', or a particular state, like Florida, you can produce a greater amount of content that resonates with a niche audience. If you're too broad, your site focus will seem scattershot and your site visitors won't feel that it's relevant enough to justify a subscription.
For email, I recommend using ConvertKit- it's a visually pleasing autoresponder that makes complicated email automations simple to perform.
When it comes to promoting the Expedia affiliate program- you really need to find a unique angle because it's a competitive niche.
I know people that think they can just clone a travel aggregator site and somehow they'll get people flocking to use it.
It's not going to happen.
The best way to play in this saturated space is to find low competition keywords, produce engaging content, distribute it across social media channels and be patient.
Once you have some traffic to your site you can begin playing around with different affiliate programs and seeing which ones convert for you.
Overall, this can be an incredibly fun niche- but you need to have a coherent traffic acquisition strategy if you have any hope of making legitimate money in it.