That’s the number of affiliate networks based on the North American continent alone—and that’s only a conservative estimate.
Once you get into those affiliate networks, there are thousands upon thousands of merchants to explore.
No wonder choosing the best one or two networks is making your brain swirl!
Choosing the best network for your website can seem like an overwhelming task. You don’t want to invest time and energy in one network, only to be disappointed.
A few of the common pain points among publishers working with affiliate networks are poor website usability and complicated reporting dashboards, tricky link building features and an overall hard time getting paid when sales are made.
To make things a little bit easier for you, we’ve narrowed the list to the five best, broad affiliate networks: ShareASale, CJ Affiliate, Rakuten Linkshare, Amazon Associates and Pepperjam Network.
They’re some of the biggest names out there, so we’re betting you’ve heard at least a few of them.
Due to their broad range of merchants, these networks work for almost any type of website, regardless of niche. They’re also the least complicated to work with, since one simple sign-up gives you access to numerous merchants—it’s much easier than seeking out and applying to tons of affiliate programs from individual merchants.
And while none of them are perfect, it’s clear that their pros outweigh their cons in big ways.
Check out this list for our top five affiliate network reviews, and you’ll be able to choose the right network for you!
Affiliate Network Reviews: The Pros and Cons of the Top 5 Networks
ShareASale is one of the largest affiliate networks, boasting a cool 4,000 partners.
Since it’s been around a while (since 2000, to be exact), the creators have had time to perfect the network’s past glitches in many ways. This is a great network for your business if monthly payouts and a very clear tracking database are at the top of your must-haves list.
This probably isn’t the best network for a brand new affiliate business though, since ShareASale requires a monthly payment to stay registered.
- Of 4,000 total affiliate partners, 1,000 are exclusive to ShareASale.
- Tracking features have been updated and perfected to include earnings per click, reversal rates, average sale amount and average commission.
- The available offers from merchant partners are easy to view and compare against one another.
- Payments of $20 or more are paid on the 20th of every month (not all networks are so efficient with payments).
- While the reporting is all available, those new to the network might find that it isn’t as easy to use as other network reporting dashboards—it’s comprehensive but a bit complex.
- Every account is charged $25 per month. If balance is below $25, your account will be deleted.
CJ Affiliates (formerly known as Commission Junction) is another one of the largest affiliate networks around, with about 3,000 merchant partners.
Tons of major internet retailers have an affiliate program with CJ, including noteworthy names like Home Depot and TurboTax. This network is a great catch-all if you’re hoping to keep your active networks to a minimum.
Depending on what kinds of products and services you’re planning to promote, it’s possible that CJ ends up being the only network with which you need to work.
This network makes it simple to grab a tracking code and to compare offers, but can be a bit complicated to navigate around overall.
- The number of retailers available makes CJ easy to use for almost all of your needs, no matter your sales focus.
- Tracking codes are easy to view and can be searched by code or viewed in list form.
- Offers are easy to compare in list form.
- Payments are reliable by check or direct deposit (PayPal isn’t an option). CJ uses a net-20 payment format, which means you’ll get paid within 20 days of the month’s end.
- Of the five networks, CJ has one of the best dashboards for reporting available.
- Large network is a positive and a negative. The site is bulky and not very user-friendly for beginners.
- The large network size means customer service is stretched very thin.
- All of the information you could possibly need is available, but it takes some time to become comfortable with it.
Rakuten Linkshare is the oldest affiliate network on our top five list (beginning in 1996) and it’s also one of the most user-friendly.
Linkshare only has about 1,000 partners, but this smaller network packs a big punch. While they have fewer partners, there are several reasons why they can—and do!—compete with the big guys (just see the pros listed below).
Linkshare is ideal for companies selling physical products and often used by major retailers. It’s also the easiest network for building affiliate links, using a one-step deep linking feature.
- The deep linking box is undoubtedly the easiest link building feature across all networks.
- Linkshare’s tech abilities are endless. It’s a breeze to create ads and there are tons of options available.
- The ad rotation feature gives you the ability to rotate through banners automatically.
- Reporting is extremely easy to access and use.
- With only 1,000 partners, chances are Linkshare shouldn’t be the only network you work with.
- Publishers aren’t paid until the commissions are fully collected from Linkshare’s partners. However, you have the option of having payments made by check or direct deposit.
- Many users reported that the registration process to become a publisher with Linkshare is tricky.
- Customer service issues can only be reported by form, and you won’t have a direct contact like you would with some other networks.
Amazon Associates is the largest affiliate network by a landslide, with a whopping 1.5 million sellers. Unlike the other networks on our list, which require some practice to get used to, this is the perfect network for beginners.
From registration to getting paid, the user experience is the easiest out there. Plus, the process for getting approved or denied by Amazon is quick and painless, and it doesn’t require approval from merchants (that’s a big benefit!). The downside of this seemingly perfect network? Amazon Associates pays out very little for each sale.
- You know you’re in good hands with Amazon, as the name lends itself to a positive reputation and is well-trusted by all.
- Exceptional user experience from registration to getting paid.
- Approval/denial process is quick and easy, and you’ll get a response either way almost immediately.
- Approval from merchants listed on Amazon isn’t required.
- There are tons of ad options available.
- Commission structure means a significantly smaller payout (for certain types of products).
- Payment goes in 60-day cycles, so the turnaround is twice as slow as many other networks.
- Paid search and PPC use prohibited.
Pepperjam is another one of the older networks on our list (founded in 1999).
With 1,500 advertisers and 200,000 publishers in the network, Pepperjam’s main goal is for communication between the merchant and the publisher to be as open as possible.
Communication is so important to them that they actually reward affiliates for their transparency. Each affiliate is rated (0-5) based on how much information they give about their promotional methods. Those with a 4 or 5 rating (ratings are dynamic) will be eligible for higher payouts.
There are very few negative Pepperjam reviews out there, with users raving about the network’s ease of use and amazing customer service—everyone gets their own personal account manager to answer questions as they arise.
- Each publisher has a personal account manager. This is a big deal and will prevent many headaches!
- There are several payment opportunities available: You’ll be rewarded when someone registers through your link and posts within 30 days, as well as when someone registers and places their first bid.
- The available banners are attractive and easy to use.
- There are millions of items available for sale, and thus available for you to make commissions on.
- Payment is made through PayPal.
- Pepperjam has a very easy sign-up process.
- Design is not Pepperjam’s strong suit, so you’ll have to get past the blandness of the theme and focus on the easy usability.
The purpose of affiliate marketing is to make the process of making passive income as easy and painless as possible.
So complicated affiliate networks essentially defeat the purpose and simplicity of affiliate marketing.
With the above list of affiliate networks, when it comes to ease of use, reliability and payment structure, you can’t really go wrong.
Now go start making dough!
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