Affiliate marketing is a very large industry and has become a key source of online income for many thousands of professional bloggers. With more and more online businesses becoming involved in affiliate marketing, more opportunities have arisen for bloggers, like you and I, to make money with their blog.
With a wide variety of businesses who work direct with affiliates, most affiliate marketers will use an affiliate marketing network to search for offers for their blogs. Though these affiliate platforms will take a small cut of any fees generated, they do serve a valuable purpose in the affiliate marketing climate
- Aggregating offers from different vendors
- Create a directory or search engine for affiliate marketers to find offers
- Handle the administrative duties of running an affiliate network
In this post I will go through some of the most popular affiliate marketing platforms.
Best Affiliate Networks
ShareASale is another one of the large affiliate networks. The Shareashale platform has about 4,000 merchants listed, of which over one thousand of them are exclusive to them.
ShareASale publishes a large amount of data on each of the offers they are running, these include:
- Earnings per Click
- Reversal Rates
- Average Sale Amount
- Average Commission
While these figures aren’t guarantees of payouts you can expect, they’re certainly very helpful in assessing a campaign.
The advantages of ShareASale include:
- Large Partner Network. The 4,000+ merchants include more than 1,000 that are exclusive.
- Easy to Compare Offers. When trying to choose from the various offers available, ShareASale make it very easy to evaluate the best ones based on the metrics.
- Quick Payment Cycle. ShareASale pay out on the 20th of every month, assuming your account balance is more than $50.
Disadvantages of Shareasale:
- Clunky Reporting Tools.The ShareASale reporting dashboard feels old, and is harder to navigate than other networks, but it is slowly improving.
CJ Affiliate is considered to be the biggest affiliate platforms online; if you have worked in the affiliate marketing space for any amount of time, you’ve probably come across them.
Nearly every major retailer have their affiliate programs on CJ Affiliate (formerly Commission Junction), which makes them as close to a one stop shop as you can get in the affiliate marketing business. Most retailers have multiple ad sizes available for affiliates, which gives you better control of the offers you show on your blog.
With such a wide array of advertisers on the CJ Affiliate platform it makes it relatively easy to compare and segment different offers. Finding the affiliate tracking code to place on your blog is also straightforward; once you’re approved to promote an offer, you can be running lots of different offers on your site in just a few short hours.
To summarise, the advantages of the network are:
- Large Partner Network.CJ Affiliate has over three thousand advertising partners, many have lots of creative sizes and various affiliate link options.
- Reliable Payments.They offer a net-20 payment term which means that you’ll get your commission paid out in a timely manner each month.
- Powerful Reporting Options.The reporting suite from CJ Affiliate is pretty impressive, which is a big advantage for marketers who plan to spend a their time optimizing their sales performance.
Disadvantages of the network include:
- Steep Learning Curve. While the reporting capabilities are great, they’re also quite difficult for beginners to get to grips with. You’ll need to spend time in the dashboard before you’re comfortable navigating the reporting suite and can then start to take full advantage of the tools on offer.
- Limited Customer Support.Due to the large number of affiliates and merchants, it’s understandable that customer support is quite limited. But only having a contact form as the main method to get in touch with the support department can be restrictive.
Rakuten LinkShare is considered to be one of the oldest affiliate partner networks, it is now a fair amount smaller than some of the bigger players in the affiliate industry.
There are a few slick features of Rakuten LinkShare that differentiate this platform from the rest. For example, they have the ability to rotate through the various banners automatically for a product which is a huge advantage when trying to optimize your offers. 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.
LinkShare also allows for more flexible “deep linking” to individual merchant landing pages, this allows for increased customization of the types of campaigns you can run.
The advantages of LinkShare are:
- Ad Rotation. This may seem like a pretty minor feature, but it can make a significant difference when it comes to optimizing your ads.
- Deep Linking Options.LinkShare lets you choose the page you want to send your traffic to on their site, giving you more flexibility for promoting different affiliate offers.
- A Much Smaller Network. LinkShare have around 1,000 partners – this is considerably fewer than the bigger networks like CJ Affiliate or ShareASale.
- Unpredictable Payments to Affiliates.Rakuten LinkShare only pay out to their affiliates once the commissions are collected from their partners.
By quite a large margin Amazon has the largest affiliate marketing program out there, with products from more than 1.5 million sellers. Amazon has the most easy-to-use technology of all the affiliate programs I will be reviewing today. 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. The great thing about Amazon is that anything from kids toys to laptops can generate sales if they are purchased through any Amazon affiliate link.
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 9% for high traffic affiliates. 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.
If you are interested about starting your own Amazon affiliate site then check out my free Amazon guide today.
- Easy to Use. Amazon’s interface is user friendly, for both beginners and experienced affiliates.
- Very Flexible. Millions of items can be bought via Amazon, giving your ads and links a much wider appeal to your visitors.
Disadvantages can include:
- Low Commission Rates. Commissions starting out from 4% which mean that you will need to generate a higher volume of sales in order to make your online business more sustainable.
- Long Payment Cycles. Amazon’s affiliate payment terms mean you won’t get your money for more than 60 days after a sale has occurred.
There are no hard and fast rules against using several different affiliate networks all at the same time on your site, and I would suggest that you do so for best practice. Although it can add a bit of extra work running multiple accounts, this method will allow you to compare the many features of the different affiliate platforms directly.
It’s also worth pointing out that many large merchants will make the use of various affiliate marketing platforms to sell their products, therefore having accounts with different networks can be useful in finding the best performing offers. If you want to keep it simple by just working with a single network, then ShareASale or even CJ Affiliate is probably your best option.
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