September 22, 2023
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Are you an affiliate marketer wanting to learn more about ShareASale? Or are you a merchant considering ShareASale for your affiliate program? Either way, you’ve reached the right place for the ultimate ShareASale review for affiliates and merchants.
While there are other ShareASale reviews, very few authors have experience using the platform as an affiliate and merchant. I have both, allowing me to provide insights into the different user roles. So, let’s evaluate ShareASale and its features, pricing, pros, cons, and more in this comprehensive guide.
What Is Affiliate Marketing?
Affiliate marketing brings merchants (advertisers) and affiliates (publishers) together to generate sales. First, affiliates (bloggers, YouTubers, influencers, content creators, etc.) add links and banners to their content. Next, traffic flows from their links to a merchant’s site to convert sales.
In 2016, I joined ShareASale as an affiliate marketer. I generate thousands in commissions annually through partnerships with ProWritingAid, Shift4Shop, Weebly, etc. On the merchant/agency end, I help companies launch and grow on the platform.
ShareASale is an award-winning affiliate network and software. Secondly, it brings thousands of affiliates and merchants together to form marketing and sales partnerships.
ShareASale began operations in Chicago in 2000. Awin, another affiliate network, acquired it in 2017.
Affiliates use ShareASale to find and partner with merchants, get affiliate links and creatives, monitor performance, and receive commission payments.
Merchants use the software to manage their programs, implement tracking, view reports, recruit and communicate with affiliates, monitor fraud, ensure compliance, and process commissions. Finally, agencies can manage multiple merchant programs on the platform.
ShareASale is an excellent affiliate network for marketers and merchants. First, affiliates can find and partner with many reputable SMBs in nearly 40 product categories and sectors. Secondly, ShareASale’s portal is user-friendly and offers standard functions, including merchant search, link generation, performance metrics, reporting, and payment processing. Lastly, ShareASale is suitable for beginners in affiliate marketing.
ShareASale is a no-frills and low-cost yet robust affiliate marketing app and network for North American-based start-ups, small businesses, Shopify retailers, merchants without proven online sales, and companies that want to tiptoe into affiliate marketing. Alternatively, Impact offers a premium Partnership Cloud and a cost-efficient Starter Edition for established and new companies globally. Therefore, its tools will accommodate various marketing budgets and sales targets.
Let’s start with reviewing ShareASale for affiliate marketers. Click here to skip to the merchant section.
ShareASale makes the signup process fast and efficient for affiliates. One critical requirement, however, is that you have a website. Add a link to your social media profile instead of a site, for example, a YouTube channel or TikTok account.
- Click here to visit the new affiliate account creation page and enter a username, password, and country of residence.
- Enter your website address and information. Next, confirm your content and promotional strategies.
- Enter your contact details.
- Enter your payment information.
That’s all for now. ShareASale will review your application and follow up within a few business days. Then, you can log in to apply to programs.
Features for Affiliates
The homepage showcases multiple widgets. The first item is an activity feed highlighting transactions, merchant newsletters, and other recent events. To the right, you can see your current balance. Different sections include merchant searches, advertisements, performance stats, recent transactions, new blogs, and more.
The Reports tab gives access to 17 types of reports, such as activity details, payment summary, invalid links, and merchant summary.
The Merchants tab is where you’ll search for affiliate programs to join. You can also review coupons, deals, and sales events like Black Friday.
You can search by keyword, featured category, and trending merchants. Use the Modify Search form to refine your parameters by program type, status, product category, join date, product/country availability, and performance metrics.
There are nearly 40 merchant categories: business, clothing, education, food/drink, health, financial, marketing, and travel.
The Links tab is where you’ll get and generate your affiliate links. First, click on Get a Link/Banner. Next, select the merchant of interest. Then, get your link by clicking Get HTML Code. There, you can copy the HTML code or URL.
Affiliates can deep-link to different merchant pages with the Custom Link Generator. The benefit of deep linking is directing traffic to specific pages relevant to your content, for example, a particular product model. Other link tools include merchant product feeds, coupons, videos, and gift card offers.
You’ll find API reports and legacy tools on the Tools tab.
Account settings, program statuses, violations, and feedback are on the Account tab. On the same page, the Account Details tab contains your account information and security features, such as two-factor authentication.
The Payments tab controls your payout options. Payment options include direct deposit, check, and wire. (Get free bank account details for USD, EUR, GBP, and other currencies.)
The bell icon will notify you of items that warrant your attention.
Help is available with a knowledge base and ticket system using the Zendesk app.
In addition to category search, marketers can find merchants with ShareASale’s Power Rank, which shows the top-performing brands on the network.
As you look for programs to join, you can create and add them to a favorite list by clicking the star icon on the merchant’s search result or program bio page. Additionally, the plus icon reveals a program’s performance metrics for the past 30 days, including the average sale value and commission, reversal rate, cookie duration, and product feed. Click on the merchant’s name to visit its ShareASale program bio for complete details and statistics.
A merchant’s page includes the following details:
- Merchant description
- Terms and conditions
- Commission rates
- PPC keyword rules
- Program status (online/offline)
- Last offline
- Active since (launch date)
- Auto-approval of affiliates (yes/no)
- Desktop/mobile percentage (traffic source)
- Seven and thirty-day performance metrics
- ShareASale is a reputable affiliate network with years of experience. Therefore, affiliates can be 100 percent confident in the platform, tracking technologies, and payment processes. Secondly, ShareASale is under the umbrella of Awin, one of the most prominent players in the affiliate marketing space.
- There are thousands of merchants to partner with and different ways to find the top brands. ShareASale features more advertisers than most affiliate networks, so marketers will have ample opportunities to partner with the products and brands they love. Furthermore, various filters allow users to analyze brands for earning potential, for example, 7-day EPC, 30-day EPC, Power Rank, sale commission, lead commission, etc.
- EPC, or earnings per click, is a valuable metric describing how much money is earned per 100 clicks sent to the merchant’s site. The formula is (Commission Earned/Clicks) x 100. For instance, suppose a merchant receives 250 clicks through affiliate links, resulting in $75 in commissions. Therefore, the EPC will be $30.
- ShareASale makes monitoring your performance straightforward with links to reports in multiple places. The same applies to merchant metrics, which are available throughout the platform.
- ShareASale’s UI is user-friendly and efficient. Also, its platform is easy to navigate and uncomplicated. For example, the primary menu has six tabs, three of which you’ll infrequently use, including Account, Payments, and Tools. Furthermore, I typically use only two tabs, i.e., Merchants and Links.
- Creating links takes seconds, allowing affiliates to decrease their content turnaround times. Additionally, ShareASale’s deep linking generator is efficient, and there’s a bookmarklet tool to grab links while browsing the web.
- Payment processing is robust. Since I’ve been on ShareASale, I’ve never had a problem getting paid. Commission payments arrive on or near the 20th of each month if I meet the minimum threshold of $50.
- The biggest brands and companies are absent. While Esty, Reebok, and Weebly use ShareASale, household names like Walmart, Target, Adidas, and other trending large-cap companies use Impact and CJ Affiliate. Therefore, you might have to join those networks to access more established enterprises. By contrast, ShareASale attracts small businesses, Shopify stores, start-ups, and newbies to affiliate marketing.
- PayPal is ubiquitous in affiliate marketing and payment processing but is unavailable on ShareASale. Therefore, one would think that somewhere in the past 20 years, ShareASale would integrate PayPal to compete with other platforms and attract more affiliates at home and abroad.
- UI and feature updates are rare. While ShareASale is a turnkey app for affiliates, they hardly make significant updates to their software, and innovation doesn’t seem to be a priority. By contrast, Impact releases new functionality monthly to improve the UI and UX.
- Many educational resources are brief and need updating. For example, a search for a topic can reveal a ShareASale post from 2005. For optics, however, it makes ShareASale look like a laggard, not a leader, and a company that is complacent/stagnant.
Now, let’s review ShareASale as an affiliate marketing software for merchants. First, however, let’s cover affiliate marketing software types.
Types of Affiliate Marketing Software
In-house software is an app developed by a company’s internal software team. As a result, it’s unique and tailored to the company’s goals. For instance, Amazon, TubeBuddy, and VidIQ use in-house software to run their affiliate programs.
Like many in-house apps, standalone software offers a one-to-many relationship between the merchant and its affiliates. When affiliates log in, they deal with one merchant. For example, Post Affiliate Pro and Partnerize offer standalone (or private) affiliate marketing software. There are also many standalone affiliate software apps for Shopify users.
Affiliate networks provide a many-to-many relationship experience. When affiliates log in, they can search a database of merchants for partnerships. On the other hand, merchants can search a database of affiliates to invite them to their programs. ShareASale, Impact, and CJ Affiliate are well-known and reputable affiliate networks.
Which Software Is Right for You?
Unless you’re a household name like Amazon and Fiverr, you should join a network because affiliates won’t automatically flock to your program. In-house software can be costly and slow to develop, maintain, and manage. In addition, standalone apps sit on an island, reducing discoverability and searchability by marketers. Those factors make recruiting affiliates much harder. By contrast, networks offer the following advantages.
- Thousands of affiliates are already on the platform.
- Merchants and affiliates trust networks.
- Networks are convenient.
- Affiliate commissions process automatically.
- Networks have large budgets and teams to improve their platforms constantly.
- The top networks monitor and adapt to the latest industry news and trends.
- There are solutions for different budgets.
For those reasons, ShareASale is an excellent platform to launch and scale your affiliate program.
Visit the new merchant account creation page and enter your contact, website, and user information. Next, enter the setup wizard, which will take you through eight steps to activate your account, including:
- Attract affiliates
- Manage affiliates
- Tracking code installation
- Testing your tracking code
- Setup fee and deposit payment
- Customize campaign
- Activate account
The steps above are self-explanatory, and the process shouldn’t take 30 to 40 minutes to complete. Furthermore, most account details, such as the commission rate and tracking gap (cookie duration), can be changed after activation. Secondly, you can submit a help ticket if you require assistance.
ShareASale will review your application and follow up within a few business days. They’ll approve your account or ask for more information. Once you’re approved, you can begin your journey into affiliate marketing.
You’ll likely receive a webinar invitation from ShareASale about using its platform. Many merchants skip it, but I recommend registering for it. Alternatively, ShareASale has pre-recorded webinars and tutorials on its YouTube channel.
ShareASale has articles covering each step in its setup wizard, and watch the video below for a preview.
Features for Merchants
Merchant Landing Page: ShareASale is unique because it allows merchants to design description pages to promote their programs. Additionally, advertisers can add keywords to help with searchability and discoverability on the network.
Commission Rates: Pay affiliates for sales, leads, or both with a two-tier commission structure. Secondly, percentage and flat rate commission options are available. Lastly, ShareASale supports recurring commissions.
Tracking Gap: While the standard cookie duration in affiliate marketing is 30 days, merchants can decrease/increase their tracking gap.
E-commerce Apps: ShareASale’s setup app does an excellent job of helping merchants integrate tracking. Also, ShareASale has apps for leading e-commerce software providers to make integration even more manageable, for example, ShareASale’s Shopify app.
Reports: Merchants can access 10+ real-time reports, such as transaction details, year in review, affiliate timespan, and banner performance. Additionally, reporting layouts and data are user-friendly.
PPC Rules: Add protected keywords to inform affiliates of what they can’t use in their advertisements. ShareASale will also monitor those words for program compliance.
Approval Rules: Update your settings to approve or decline affiliates who apply to your program automatically. For example, set it to automatically accept marketers from the U.S. and Canada.
Autoresponders: Email autoresponders notify affiliates of their application statuses, i.e., pending, approved, or declined. Use ShareASale’s default text or create your own. (Tip: The approved/accepted email acts as a welcome email, so you’ll want to update the content to make a great first impression.)
Affiliates: User lists and tags make managing affiliates and monitoring their performance efficient.
Newsletters: Send affiliates newsletters about new products, sales events, and updates to keep them active and engaged. Alternatively, download affiliate email addresses and add them to your email marketing provider.
Event Trigger Newsletters: Send new and existing affiliates emails when triggered by a condition or event, for instance, an affiliate’s first sale.
Creatives: Add banners, text links, videos, HTML, deals, and coupons.
Recruitment Tool: Review hundreds of profiles and invite affiliates to join your program.
APIs: Save time by automating everyday and repetitive tasks, for example, void or edit transactions, update banners, and receive reports every Monday.
Intelligent Tracking Prevention: ITP (Apple’s cookie disruption technology) negatively impacts sales attribution. However, ShareASale uses Awin’s MasterTag first-party cookie tracking solution to ensure ITP compliance and futureproof your business. Secondly, it eliminates the reliance on third-party cookies.
Agency: Merchants that use agencies to run their programs can add user/team access. Additionally, agencies that manage multiple accounts can apply for an agency account, which unifies their clients under a single user account.
- ShareASale is a leading North American affiliate network with tens of thousands of publishers on the platform. That makes attracting and recruiting affiliates much easier than in-house and standalone affiliate marketing apps.
- ShareASale’s software works like clockwork and has everything merchants need. First, various reports are ready at the touch of a click. Next, ShareASale’s relationship with Awin has improved tracking technology and combating ITP. Also, funding commissions and payment processing are efficient and not problematic, freeing time to focus on building your business.
- ShareASale offers the best value for money with low-cost pricing. While other networks charge fees in the thousands, ShareASale has a one-time setup fee ($625) and network transaction fee (commission override) of 20 percent. Learn more about ShareASale’s fees.
- The user interface is simple but does the job. Also, newbies to affiliate marketing will love ShareASale’s uncomplicated and clutter-free dashboards.
- Program Boost services can help improve your program and attract affiliates to it. These program marketing and optimization services range from $50 to $1,500. (Note: It would be advantageous to read merchant case studies and results to understand the benefits of these services. Currently, none exist.)
- There’s a lack of feature updates. I’m sure ShareASale employees are hard at work maintaining and improving the backend of the software. On the user side, however, there’s much room for improvement. For example, the recruitment tool has limited filters and doesn’t allow merchants to filter by country or search by keyword. Furthermore, the “search by domain name” option appears nonsensical. Another example concerns email message UIs and making them more user-friendly and practical.
- The network transaction fee doesn’t decrease. I suppose high-volume merchants can negotiate lower transaction fees, but I can’t find that text on the website. So, I’m left to think the 20 percent override stays constant. Still, ShareASale charges much less than other top affiliate networks.
- Reviews suggest ShareASale’s merchant support is inefficient. So, if a lack of customer service impacts you, visit ShareASale’s YouTube channel and Merchant Program Academy for tutorials or contact me for help.
What are the best ShareASale alternatives? Awin, its parent company, isn’t my favorite platform for multiple reasons, starting with its confusing user interface and dated appearance. Still, it’s a top consideration for advertisers based in Europe. On the other hand, if you operate globally or focus on the North American market, Impact, CJ Affiliate, and Rakuten Advertising are worth exploring.
Impact is the outright leader in partnership marketing software and was founded by a team of internet marketing and technology experts. Its mission is to deliver disruptive innovations to help its clients navigate the digital landscape successfully. Impact focuses on every type of partnership, including affiliates, influencers, strategic business partners, mobile apps, and publishers.
What’s there to like about Impact? Everything. It’s the top choice among the Fortune 500, publicly traded companies and successful start-ups. For example, Walmart, Square, Coursera, and Binance use it. Also, eBay and Shopify moved their million-dollar affiliate programs to Impact. Lastly, Impact has terrific dashboards, reporting, layouts, and in-app messaging and constantly releases new features.
Impact’s Starter Edition is for new companies entering e-commerce and with smaller marketing budgets.
CJ Affiliate (formerly Commission Junction) is a global affiliate marketing network specializing in pay-for-performance programs that drive business results. Its marketing ecosystem helps you achieve scalable and sustainable growth. CJ Affiliate is a part of the Publicis Media Groupe, a French multinational advertising and public relations company.
Before Impact, CJ Affiliate was the leader in affiliate marketing. While it has fallen behind, it offers a trusted platform with many tools to onboard, discover, engage, and optimize partnerships. Also, it provides affiliates with robust performance data to understand the earning potential of merchants.
Some well-known brands on CJ Affiliate include GoDaddy, Chime, Hostinger, Priceline, and Bebe. Unfortunately, CJ doesn’t come cheap and costs $3,000 to join the network, in addition to high renewal, monthly minimums, and override fees. Given that handful of fees, start-ups and newbies to affiliate marketing/e-commerce may want to avoid CJ.
Rakuten Advertising combines a unique media inventory, affiliate network, machine learning, and consumer insights to deliver results that increase brand awareness and marketing performance. It’s part of the Rakuten Group, a global Japanese retail company.
Merchants can access thousands of publishers worldwide and identify affiliates and partner opportunities across content, influencer, loyalty, and more classifications. In addition, Rakuten Advertising has many tools for commissioning, compliance, and partner development.
Like CJ Affiliate, Rakuten Advertising has fallen behind. First, it doesn’t offer performance metrics like on other networks, such as merchant EPCs. Secondly, its new dashboard is buggy, clunky, and a step backward compared with its previous one. Still, many popular brands use it, such as Microsoft, Samsung, Macy’s, and Lululemon.
Awin is an affiliate network targeting the United Kingdom and Europe. It owns ShareASale and Commission Factory. Awin’s platform is dated compared to Impact and CJ Affiliate. However, it’s a viable affiliate marketing solution with prices starting at £75 monthly (+ VAT per month + 2.5% tracking fee).
ClickBank is not a worthy alternative to ShareASale. However, let’s cover it briefly because many marketers discuss it.
ClickBank is an affiliate network based in the U.S. and bills itself as an “e-commerce platform with a global affiliate marketplace.” It welcomes sellers who have digital and physical products, courses, and direct response offers. “Over 100,000 affiliates worldwide choose ClickBank as their preferred marketplace.”
First, I’m not one of the 100,000 who use ClickBank. I stopped using it because their software is antiquated and inefficient. Secondly, finding a well-known merchant on the platform is nearly impossible. Instead, I found suspicious merchants selling get-rich-quick, gimmicky, and unproven products. For those reasons, I recommend honest merchants and affiliate marketers avoid ClickBank.
|Affiliate network||Setup fee||Annual renewal||Monthly minimum||Commission override|
*Fees taken from website archives.
ShareASale is a terrific, affordable, reliable affiliate marketing and tracking solution. In addition, the platform is ideal for new businesses, companies with no or low online sales, and SMBs trying affiliate marketing. The network, however, primarily targets the U.S. market, so foreign entities and global enterprises should seek alternatives, such as Impact.