The Midwest is known for many things: Bitter winters, brutally hot summers, amber waves of grain, Barack Obama and the flattest of flat land.
But perhaps the most well-known trait of the region? The friendliness and honesty of its people.
It should come as no surprise then that the affiliate program known within the industry for its honesty, transparency and constant improvement to better serve its customers hails from the heart of the Midwest: Chicago, Illinois.
Skip to 17 years later, this program is still consistently improving its program. ShareASale now boasts 4,500 partners, 1,000 of which are exclusive, and is widely known as being one of the most customizable and user-friendly affiliate programs.
They even extend their arms to newcomers, simplifying the process for newbie publishers.
Here I’m going to point out the best features of ShareASale for publishers and merchants alike, as well as key you into some of its weaknesses and more challenging elements, so you’ll be able to make an informed decision about whether or not to join these friendly Midwesterners.
Review: What Makes ShareASale the Friendliest Affiliate Program
Signing Up Is a Cinch
Signing up as a publisher is a complete breeze in ShareASale. It consists of a five-step process that involves setting up a username and ID, entering your website information, email address, contact information and account/payment information.
You’ll have to pay a $5 fee that goes towards a background check, but it’s refunded after the check is completed, so it’s like it never happened!
Going forward, publishers pay a $25 monthly fee only for accounts with balances less than $50. If your balance is below $25, your account will be deleted. Since accounts are deleted below $25, as a courtesy, ShareASale will never let fees get below a minimum balance in your account without alerting you. ShareASale is honest about all fees, and won’t let any unexpected charges sneak up on you.
Given this setup, though, you might not want to sign up until you have good traffic rolling and are totally ready to commit and sell. You may want to opt for a program without a minimum balance issue, like CJ Affiliate.
For merchants, signing up with ShareASale has a bit of a steep price tag. It costs $650 (which includes a $550 initial “network access fee” and a $100 minimum deposit). What does this mean for publishers? A higher sign-up cost drives in larger merchants who can afford to shell out—which is lucky for you!
In case you were wondering what’s included in the merchant cost, there’s an “ad serving charge”, which makes ads, buttons and text links available, as well as a screening of all potential ShareASale publishers. The cost includes a merchant services feature as well, giving merchants access to training webinars, a welcome kit, program diagnostics and a best practices series.
All in all, this means that the merchants need to put some energy into signing up, sticking around and making the process of advertising their goods convenient for publishers.
For every sale made via ShareASale, merchants are required to pay an automatic 20% transaction fee. After 60 days, merchants must have at least $10 in their ShareASale account and $25 after 120 days. If they’ve got less than the required minimum, their account will be charged the difference monthly.
As mentioned above, thanks to these fees, ShareASale is a major hub for larger merchants and a boon for publishers.
Pure Ease of Use
There are very few (if any) publishers who won’t be a good match for ShareASale.
This program offers a huge range of product categories to choose from, which means virtually any type of business can work with them. Not to mention the fact that ShareASale has over 1,000 exclusive partners, making this affiliate program a necessity to all mid to large-sized publishers.
I have found ShareASale to be one of the easiest of the large programs to use. Offers are easy to pull up, view, and compare, and you can quickly locate anything you need to within the site. I have rarely been frustrated by ShareASale (and I can’t say the same about many of the other programs). It also tends to be one of the more flexible affiliate programs out there, allowing both regular and video publishing models to be used.
Merchants love ShareASale because they often see their products promoted by publishers across a range of channels, including email, PPC campaigns and social media, via mobile and desktop applications.
For the merchant, ShareASale runs pretty seamlessly from the beginning to end of each sale without too much effort. As a publisher, you won’t have much communication with each merchant, which at times can be both positive and negative.
The Ability to Create Customized Ads for Your Site
ShareASale offers tons of ad types, including text, image, banners, widgets, dynamic and pop-ups. They really excel when it comes to ad creation and usability. Ads can be changed with a few simple clicks and customized in almost any way you want.
Having said that, the customizable ad feature is a bit of a double-edged sword. Since the process of building ads is up to you, don’t expect much help from ShareASale in creating them. They essentially give you all of the necessary tools to build whatever kind of ad you want, but they don’t actually help you build them.
This feature caters very much to users who want to get their hands dirty and do everything themselves. Sure, there’s a little bit of extra effort required, but as a result, you get really unique ads, which is a major plus from my perspective.
Insightful Reporting and Tracking
To be honest, reporting and tracking aren’t ShareASale’s most user-friendly features, and it definitely takes some practice to master them. Everything you could possibly need for tracking and reporting is available, it’s just a matter of learning to navigate, which can eat up some of your time.
Despite the learning curve necessary to use this feature, reporting and tracking is one of the areas in which ShareASale has made some major improvements over the years. A recent update now makes earnings per click, reversal rates, average sale amount and average commission measurements available.
One feature worth mentioning is ShareASale’s real-time reporting, which helps you view sales as they’re happening. I think this feature is great for predicting trends and determining optimal posting methods.
Another pretty cool feature unique to ShareASale is the ability to group different stores together to see combined reporting while still being able to keep commissions separate to each website.
It should be noted that ShareASale focuses exclusively on sales and only allows cost-per-sale models to be used. That means you can’t use CPM, CPC or site-to-store models.
Customer Service for All
ShareASale does offer a “help desk” feature that can be used as often as needed with no extra charge, and many users have found the help desk to be useful in a pinch.
However, ShareASale isn’t the type of affiliate program that appoints a personal customer service representative to each merchant and publisher. I recommend thinking of ShareASale as a self-service affiliate program to keep your expectations level.
Convenient Payments to Keep You Happy
Unsurprisingly, getting paid is super convenient through ShareASale. Publishers can expect payments of $50 or more to be made on the 20th of every month. Keep in mind that you won’t be paid until sales amount to $50 or more.
They also allow publishers to choose to be paid either by direct deposit or by personal check each month. This is a big plus, as many other affiliate programs do not offer a choice in payment method.
ShareASale writes and processes all checks for no additional fees, which means as a publisher, you don’t have to worry about merchants lagging on payments.
Let’s face it, no affiliate program is perfect, and each one certainly has its own pros and cons. While ShareASale is no exception, throughout its 17-year reign, it has undoubtedly earned its place among the top affiliate programs.
With 1/4 of ShareASale’s partners being exclusive to them, ease and frequency of payment and customizable features, the extra time it takes to learn your way around this program will be well worth it.