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Affiliates are going to gravitate to whichever programs have the highest payouts for a given product or service. Whichever program has the highest payout, the word is going to get out among affiliates and that's the program they are going to sign up for and promote. The only way to beat a higher paying program is to have a much better conversion rate for your similar products or services - often a difficult thing to achieve.
Affiliates are out there busting their butts to make you money and promote your business. In the end, if you have many satisfied, dedicated affiliates it will not only increase sales a lot but also develop a lot of brand awareness since ads for your company are going to be everywhere. The first place to start to achieve this is with an appropriately high commission rate. Pay affiliates what they are worth to you and watch your business grow.
Something I'm looking at even more than commission amount is length of return days, or cookie duration.
If the niche has one or two recognized authority sites, it might be worth running some paid ads there, unless the cost is too high or the site(s) are already plastered with similar ads. You may not even have to buy ads if you can send them an interesting enough article about your business and what you're trying to do - written, of course, by someone who understands the people who frequent that site.
If you have the time - or someone else to do the research - you could find some good niche-related forums that allow people to post links to their own websites. Follow ones that look promising to see the quality of the sites and whether you might want to contact the best ones directly.
As an affiliate, I've never experienced "high transaction reversal rates" because I avoid product categories like web hosting that have high reversal (cancellation/refund) ratios, but I've heard lots of recent complaints about high reversal rates -- for example, for clothing and shoe merchants.
The bottom line is that most affiliate programs require substantial effort to recruitment, which must include OFFLINE follow-up via phone calls and actual postal mailings to key affiliate prospects. If affiliates are skeptical, it may be necessary to pay something up-front to persuade the affiliate to link.
[edited by: eljefe3 at 3:22 am (utc) on May 31, 2007]