How Does Cost Per Lead (CPL) Actually Work?


There are so many different marketing terms out there that it can be incredibly difficulty to decipher them.

Cost per lead, cost per action and cost per click get thrown around like everyone should know the answer straight away. The reality is that many people and especially those that are new to affiliate marketing and internet marketing are scratching their heads and asking themselves ‘what is CPL?’

The good news is that if that sounds like you then we are going to give you not only the definition of cost per lead, how it actually works, how it differs from the other terms but also what the 3 best Cost Per Lead affiliate programs are.

Sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? So, let’s get started.

What is the definition of a lead?

Before we get into cost per lead we need to actually define what a lead is.

Have you ever seen the film Glengarry Glen Ross? With a star-studded cast from Jack Lemmon, Al Pacino and a memorable cameo from Alec Baldwin the real estate salesmen all fight over ‘leads’ for the majority of the film.

A lead is basically contact details of a targeted person who is likely to buy your product or service. That’s really it, they have given their details because they have an interest in what someone is selling and that then (potentially) leads to a sale.

CPL affiliate programs and offers

What is cost per lead?

Now that we know what a lead is, what does cost per lead mean?

This is just another way of making money through advertising. It is a model that means you can make money by referring customers to a business. These are known as leads. They could potentially lead to a sale for that company and you get paid per lead that you refer.

How much the lead cost is can vary from a few cents to a few dollars based on how profitable or valuable that lead is and what industry it is in.


Cost per lead differs from CPA or cost-per-action.

The advertiser pays for the lead when it comes to CPL whereas in the cost per action model the person has to complete an action (usually a sale) for you to get paid. With cost per lead you only need to refer targeted leads to the company to get paid and it can often be a better way to earn money from online advertising models.

Some people prefer CPA and some prefer CPL and what one works best is really dependent on how long or short term you want your money making model to be.

3 CPL affiliate programs

How do you generate income through a cost per lead model?

The good news is that there are CPL affiliate programs out there that can do the cost per lead calculation for you and make it easier to get in touch with companies who are willing to pay for targeted leads.

#1 ShareASale PPL

This is one of the most well-known cost per lead affiliate programs and they work with some of the best and well-known companies in the business.
American based, they offer a range of options and what makes them so great is that you can earn on both a cost per lead and affiliate basis.

Say for instance you refer a targeted lead then you get paid on a CPL basis. Some businesses combine this with traditional affiliate marketing so if that lead turns into a sale for that company and buys a product/service then you earn an affiliate commission too!

#2 PeerFly

It’s a good idea to work over several cost per lead affiliate programs and PeerFly is the second on our list.

The reason that it isn’t at the top is because it can be quite hard to join initially. If you are new to the game and are just starting out with a brand-new website then it’ll be difficult to get your foot in the door with PeerFly. They prefer established sites and marketers however that means that the quality of advertisers and pay outs is high.

They do have a load of cost per lead advertisers so it’s certainly worth a look.

#3 MaxBounty

Finally, we have Maxbounty.

They also have a lot of cost per lead advertisers on here however like PeerFly they can be very strict on who they let join. If you have a good reputation already and have been making some money from a CPL campaign then you should check them out.

They might not be as good as ShareASale but they are one of the best cost per lead affiliate networks out there that you can join and begin making money.

CPL and affiliate marketing

Cost per lead is often an underutilised way of generating income online.

Most people tend to focus on CPC (cost per click) or CPA (cost per action) where cost per lead is actually one of the best ways in which to make money online. You don’t always need someone to actually buy anything from that company for you to make money. In most cases, you simply need someone to give over their details and be a targeted lead for that business for you to earn money on the referral.

Anyone can start making money through cost per lead. You only need a website and a way in which you can refer people to the link and get them to give over their details to a company that they have an interest in their products anyway.

There are various ways in which you can use cost per lead to make money as an affiliate and there are many methods that you can use to promote that company in the same way that you would promote any CPL affiliate offers.

Leads can move onto sales however in most cases with CPL this doesn’t even need to be the case for you to make money from this online revenue model.

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