The way affiliate marketing works is simple: it’s a performance-based advertising channel in which a business pays a commission for a conversion to one or more affiliates.
The industry involves four players: brand, network, affiliate and the customer. All these players are not always involved at the same time; some brands have an affiliate program and they manage the relationship with affiliates directly. In other cases, networks have offers for the affiliates to choose from and they also take care of payments.
If you are an affiliate and want to start with a Network, which I recommend you do, use one of these from the list below. They provide reporting, tracking, payments and, most importantly, access to a large base of merchants (companies) and all type of commission packages (CPL, CPA, CPC).
It’s not easy to start with a Network if you don’t know what they offer. So Imake your life easier and review all the 10 best affiliate networks globally!
For affiliates, all these 10 networks include a central database of available affiliate programs organized by category and popularity to choose from. They are free of charge for affiliates.
Before focussing on the list of networks, let’s focus quickly on their payment methods. Networks use three models:
CJ Affiliate by Conversant is the most famous and one of the first affiliate marketing networks founded in 1998. If you already work in affiliate marketing you have heard of it. This network was in my experience the first one I have ever approached to start selling online. Formerly known as Commission Junction, CJ Affiliate by Conversant is a global network with local offices and it offers millions of different products.
Nearly every major retailer has their affiliate programs on CJ Affiliate, which makes them as close to a one stop shop as you can get in the affiliate marketing business.
I have promoted over 50 products from CJ Affiliate and didn’t have any issue at all. I like their payment method, they pay with 20 days form the day you make the first sale, which means that you’ll get your commission paid out in a timely manner each month. The reporting suite from CJ Affiliate is pretty impressive, which is a big advantage for marketers who plan to spend their time optimizing their sales performance.
Formerly Buy.com, Rakuten.com has grown into a giant. Rakuten rank among the top 3 ecommerce companies in the world with over 90,000 products from 35,000 shop owners and more than 18 million customers.
There are a few slick features of Rakuten LinkShare that differentiate this platform from the rest. For example, the offer the opportunity for testing different banners automatically: when you upload banners and start a promotion Rakuten starts testing and gives you the most popular banners. Instead of having to manually select which ad you want to run on your blog, LinkShare lets multiple versions rotate with only one small piece of code.
Compared to CJ Affiliate, Rakuten LinkShare have around 2,000 partners, this is considerably less than CJ Affiliate.
The other element that differentiate LinkShare from competitors is the attribution. Instead of looking at the last touchpoint of a customer, LinkShare shows you the whole funnel, from different devices, marketing channels, campaigns so you have a clear picture of which element of the campaign best drives your sales.
Rakuten is much smaller than CJ Affiliate with around 2,000 retailers. Also, payments seem to be an issue, Rakuten only pays when they are able to collect them from retailers so there isn’t a clear date or time frame in which payments are made.
Amazon needs no introduction. Its affiliate network, called Amazon Associates, allows you to tap into 1 million of products to advertise to your customers.
Beginners to affiliate marketing with even the most limited technical expertise will have no problems in getting up and running with the Amazon associates program, while more experienced marketers can create custom tools and websites with the APIs and advanced implementations available to them.
Amazon pays on a monthly basis, 60 days after the end of each month. For example: Payment for January is made in late March, assuming your account balance is at least $25.
The major drawback of the Amazon affiliate network is the commission structure. Their commissions start out as low as 4% for smaller affiliates, yet they can be as high as 10% for high traffic affiliates.
Here you can see the earning fees with Amazon Associates
Also, as most of the products which are sold on Amazon are physical goods, you will have very few options to refer sales that generate a recurring monthly income.
ShareASale has been in business for 15 years, exclusively as an affiliate network. Their reputation is extremely good; they are known for being an honest business. The Shareasale platform has about 3,900 merchants listed, of which over one thousand are exclusive to them.
ShareASale publishes a large amount of data on each of the offers they are running, these include:
The element that differentiate ShareASale from the competitors are the deep linking structure, which allows you to promote different products within the same category. Instead of promoting every different product from a company, you can promote the same type of product from several companies
For example search for “Throw pillows” and promote all those pillows from 4 different retailers.
Another interesting feature is the video ads. Instead of having banners, you can promote products through videos provided by the merchants.
ShareASale pays out on the 20th of every month, assuming your account balance is more than $50.
ClickBank is one of the oldest Affiliate Networks, founded in 1998 same year of CJ Affiliate and it’s now on the top 100 biggest retailers in the US and Canada. In 2015, it offered over 56,000 products in over 200 countries.
It is specialized for helping selling eBooks and digital content such as webinars and advice services. Recently thay have seen 12% growth in the cooking, food and wine category and a 56% growth in the ‘spirituality’ category.
Because Clickbank allows everyone to sign up as an affiliate, this means many affiliates do not have any experience in selling and this can be a huge waste of time.
Part of the Zanox Group, Affiliate Window provides instant access to over 1,600 brands globally across 77 sectors in 11 territories. It seems that in 2015 they have generated 39.5M sales and received a total of £196.7M in commissions.
Affiliate Windows pay 2 times a month in multiple currencies for a low threshold of as little as $20.
They differentiate themselves on transparency of payments, which they call “Traffic Light Payment System”, that shows the timescale when affiliates gets paid. It works as follow:
Another plus is their amazing support, they offer live chat for all affiliates and deal with every issue in a tamely manner.
They focus mainly in Europe, in the UK in particular. They still have a US presence and it’s increasing over time but nothing if compared with CJ, Amazon or Clickbank.
Founded in 1999, Tradedoubler has grown into one of the world’s leading performance marketing companies. They are a small network if compared to the previous one; they provide around 2,000 advertiser brands and have an affiliate network of over 180,000 active publishers. In 2015 they generated around €2.1 billion in revenue for their clients through e-commerce and mobile commerce across 69 countries.
Founded in 2005, AvantLink is focussed on US, Canada and Australia only, not truly a global network but one that can provide the highets quality of merchants. It’s difficult to become an affiliate with AvantLink becuase they have a strict application process, i.e. they only select affiliates that have a website to promote ecommerce products. Bloggers, website owners, publishers can all join the network and earn a commission on sale (CPA).
Advanced feature called Link Encoder (ALE). This powerful function allows an affiliate website to automatically convert all existing links from your merchant into affiliate links. So instead of creating manually one affiliate link per each product you want to promote, Avantlink converts all products into affiliate links for you, so you will get quickly a list of products and start promoting wihtin minutes.
AvantLink explains this tool with an example:
“Example: Let’s say you have a beauty blog / website that has been live for quite some time and you post regularly. Now you have a ton of content – both current and historical posts – and you want to go back and ensure that affiliate links are added so you’re able to monetize your content. The good news is that you don’t have to go through every single one of your posts.”
Another good thing is that if you have a hot affiliate website with many visits and you can produce large volumes of sales, your chances of making money will increase thanks to the paid placements tools. Paid placement is a bidding system that allows merchants to bid to secure promotions from hot affiliates and if they want to beat competitions, they have to bid higher. As an affiliate you will receive many bids and the more sales you make the more high bids you will receive because merchants will want to compete to be on your website.
They make a payment when you reach $25 in account balance every month.
When you start you will only get up to 10% commissions so for a long time you won’t make much money with AvantLink.
They have a strict selection process, they only select affiliates with experience in copywriting, blogging, affiliates with large social media following and with websites useful for ecommerce merchants.
Founded in 2006, MaxBounty is not as big as CJ, Amazon or ClickBank, they only offer 1,500 compaigns to choose from within the following industries: market research, diet, dating, finance, real estate, social games, travel, downloads, education and a few more.
One of the distinctive features of MaxBounty is the $1,000 bonus to new affiliates. Yes, you heard me!
They gift new affiliates with $1,000 if you satisfy these conditions: you have to register as MaxBounty new affiliate, earn at least $1,000 each month for the first three months and in the forth month you are gifted with $1,000 bonus.
Weekly payments: you do not have to wait 1 month to see commissions in your bank account, MaxBounty pays you quickly every week with the most common payment methods: via Check, PayPal, Payoneer, eCheck, ACH, Wire, or even Bitcoin.
MaxBounty University: they offer free training for new affiliates. They are video based training program exclusively for MaxBounty affiliates.
Not so many industries to choose from if compared to CJ, Amazon and previous reviewed networks.
When you apply as an affiliate they will call you to ask if you have any experience in producing high volumes of sales. So the process to become an affiliate can actually be difficult.
They only offer a Cost-Per-Sale commission so you can’t earn anything from generating leads or clicks.
RevenueWire is a comprehensive solution for ecommerce websites that want to outsource their sales to them. For affiliates, RevenueWire becomes RevenueAffiliates, the affiliate department dedicated 100% to affiliates promoting the ecommerce products. RevenueAffiliates offers only digital products, not phisical goods. This is similar to ClickBank.
They don’t disclose any information about number of offers but I know that they extend to over 200 countries worldwide and make payments in 63 different currencies so we can say it’s pretty big.
They select their advertisers strictly, which means they only recruit those companies that can pay high affiliates commissions. Their top affiliates earn over $250,000 a month!
They pay every 2 weeks so it’s pretty quick.
The commission can be ah high as 75% of the total product sales amount! This is way higher than most affiliate networks such as CJ, Amazon, ClickBank
Your payment will arrive as long as you have $25 in your account balance.
They are very strict in approving affiliate sales. This is due to several checks during the sale approval process, which can take a long time. Unfortunately with digital goods, there is a high number of frauds and RevenueWire doesn’t take any risk, they check everything.
Knowing which network is the best it’s not an easy task. In my opinion, these 10 networks differ so much from eachother that it’s hard to say who is the winner. Choosing which one is best for your affiliate needs goes down to what you need to promote and what your capabilities are. For example, if you look for quick payments, choose RevenueWire or MaxBounty, they pay weekly or by-weekly.
But if you look for a well known and respected company, go for Amazon Associates and CJ by Conversant.
I hope I have given you a good comparison of the top 10 affiliate networks globally.
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