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An affiliate network acts as an intermediary between advertisers (merchants) and publishers (affiliates). Merchants get to recruit and build relationships with thousands of affiliates. Affiliates get a single point of entry and the ability to find and join programs easily. Features for both parties include performance dashboards, real-time reporting, analytics, link tracking technologies, promotional tools and materials, payment options, and user support.
Networks and programs are free to join for affiliates whereas merchants pay to be on networks. Networks may also charge advertisers override commissions. Alternatively, a merchant can pay a one-time charge or subscription fee for affiliate program tracking software.
Evaluating & Comparing Networks
Joining the right affiliate network or networks can be the difference between making pennies or thousands of dollars. Affiliates (and merchants) should consider the following.
The network partners with reputable companies. Most affiliates want to promote trustworthy companies, products, and services. Therefore, affiliate networks should carefully screen and only accept legit advertisers. By contrast, a network full of dishonest companies and poorly rated products/services will lead to terrible outcomes for everyone.
There’s a wide selection of merchants, categories, products, and services. Naturally, you want to optimize your marketing activities by matching products/services to your audience. To achieve your goals, you must experiment with different programs, which can only happen if the network has many advertisers from which to choose.
The platform and dashboard are user-friendly. A network should make navigating its website smooth and seamless. Navigating and searching for advertisers, categories, program terms, links, and creative elements should be intuitive and frictionless. The color scheme and page design are critical too. Some networks mess up these aspects, which reduce publisher engagement.
Program approval rates are high and turnaround is fast. There is no point of being on a network that has high application declines (if your network profile doesn’t match the advertiser’s requirements, that’s a separate issue). Secondly, program approval/decline turnaround times should be quick, for instance, one to five business days. On one network, some of my applications don’t make any progress for weeks, which prohibits me from moving forward.
Generating reports and understanding them is easy. Much of the information affiliates want is usually available on their dashboards. However, affiliates may want to analyze reports for more insights. For example, the traffic source that yields the most clicks and conversions.
Tracking and payments are efficient. Publishers should have every confidence that their efforts are being rewarded accordingly. Secondly, networks should facilitate different payment options like PayPal, EFT, cheque, wire, and so forth.
Customer service is excellent. I haven’t called upon customer service very often, but when I have, some networks are more skilled and helpful than others. Also, customer service representatives must be able to problem solve efficiently.
Deep linking capabilities are available. Deep linking is the practice by which an affiliate creates a link to a specific page on the merchant’s site. For example, instead of using a generic homepage affiliate link, I deep link to an article that relates to my post. Most affiliate networks offer deep linking, and it’s up to advertisers to enable. Deep linking increases conversion and sales potential. Networks and programs without deep linking naturally have greater limitations.
Generic homepage link > https://website.com=affiliateid3162
Deep link to a specific page > https://website.com/search-engine-optimization-for-beginners?affiliateid3162
16 Top Affiliate Networks
Avangate Network focuses on software and digital goods. It offers you the possibility to grow your business exponentially by partnering with the industry’s top merchants.
AvantLink partners and builds relationships with merchants that understand the impact and importance of referral marketing.
The Awin group, which includes ShareASale and affilinet, is comprised of 15 offices worldwide, 1,000 employees, 100,000 contributing publishers, and 13,000 advertisers.
ClickBank is an online marketplace that connects digital content creators with affiliate marketers offering digital information products.
Commission Factory is a global performance marketing network, with a focus on the Asia Pacific. It has partnered with over 400 advertisers and 30,000 publishers in a variety of sectors.
CJ Affiliate by Conversant
CJ Affiliate by Conversant (formerly Commission Junction) provides advanced performance marketing solutions that help marketers increase online leads and sales.
FlexOffers is a premier affiliate network that builds mutually profitable relationships between online publishers and well-known advertisers spanning all verticals.
Impact is a marketing technology company that helps brands grow by optimizing their paid marketing and media spend. Affiliates must apply to join its marketplace.
MaxBounty is a performance marketing network connecting trusted and skilled affiliate marketers with vetted high paying advertisers on a cost-per-action basis.
OneNetworkDirect connects publishers and affiliates to create mutually profitable relationships. It focuses on technology merchants.
PartnerStack helps companies to build and manage influencer programs by providing solutions that identify, incentivize, and reward influencers.
Rakuten Marketing empowers marketers with integrated marketing solutions that enable them to achieve the full potential of digital marketing.
ShareASale is a retail-focused performance marketing network with over 3,500 advertisers.
Tradedoubler is a leading international performance marketing company that drives results through high-quality traffic, technology, and expertise.
Webgains connects you with the right customers fast by combining cutting-edge technology, performance marketing experience, and world-class expertise.