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Affiliate Network Comparison: Basic Overview
Pros and cons of the major affiliate networks
Affiliate networks aggregate offers from different brands and handle the link tracking, payment, and reports for the sales that you generate.
Promoting affiliate offers is the #1 way that you’ll generate revenue from your content site. There are other ways to generate money from your site (LINK), but they pale in comparison the amount of revenue you can earn from promoting affiliate offers.
These are the main networks you should sign up for. This is a basic overview. I will be posting in-depth guides on how to maximize your revenue for each one of these for paying subscribers in the near future.
ShareASale is one of the largest and most popular affiliate networks. They have over 4,500 brands representing a diverse array of both digital and physical products.
This is the first network you should sign up for when you’re conducting research to determine which niche to go into (LINK).
ShareASale’s search feature is kind of a pain in the ass to use since it frequently autofills with a similarly-named brand that you aren’t actually searching for. Unfortunately, every single affiliate network has flaws in their user experience and this is the most egregious one that ShareASale has.
My favorite aspect of ShareASale is that they pay out on a predictable schedule: you get your payments from every single brand you promote on the same day each month. A major problem with other affiliate networks is that they let the brands decide when they pay, which can be extremely hard to track if you have a large site with hundreds of different brands that you promote.
Their dashboard makes it really easy to see exactly how many clicks, sales, and commissions you’re getting from each brand. When it comes to tracking, ShareASale is one of the easiest to use.
ShareASale is one of the big hitters and they’re used by many major brands, so they are definitely trustworthy. The minimum payout is $50.
This is the affiliate network that I’ve personally had the most success with.
It’s much easier to use from the brand perspective, since they can decide on their own when they will pay out commissions.
This is a double-edged sword from the point of view of you, the affiliate.
Since the brands love having more control over the payment schedule many of them are migrating to this platform from others like ShareASale. This means that there is a large and growing selection of affiliate programs that you can sign up for.
The downside is that you have to wait much longer for your commissions to pay out after referring a sale. Some brands that I partner with won’t pay for up to three months (annoying). There is no place in the dashboard that lets you see exactly how much money you’re getting on a specific date from all of the brands that you’re promoting, so it’s hard to keep track of when you’ll get paid.
The user experience on Impact Radius is slightly more modern and easy-to-use compared to ShareASale. There is a section where you can create deep links for all of your brands using a drop-down menu right on the main dashboard, which contrasts with other networks where you have to search for the brand and go through a convoluted process to create deep links to specific pages.
If you’re going to sign up for one affiliate network this is the one to choose. It’s growing much faster than others and is easier for a beginner to use. The minimum payout is $50.
CJ (formerly known as Commission Junction) has by far the worst user experience out of any affiliate network I’ve ever tried. It looks like they created it in 2002 and never even though about updating it.
For some reason, there are a lot of brands - including major household names - that like using it so it’s an essential network to sign up for.
There is a steep learning curve when compared to more intuitive dashboards like ShareASale and Impact Radius. Creating deep links is extremely non-intuitive and you’ll likely have to spend quite a bit of time trying to figure it out when you first start.
They don’t make it easy to find which brands you’ve already signed up for. You literally have to use the search feature to find them by clicking on “Advertisers” and then clicking on the button for “My Brands” and then clicking the search button. This gets to be incredibly annoying.
Since the learning curve is so steep, I recommend that brand new affiliate marketers stick with IR and SaS at first. Once you have more experience with navigating affiliate network dashboards then you can take the plunge into the frustration that is CJ.
The minimum payout is $50.
Rakuten is a much smaller network than the big three that I mentioned above. If you’re brand new, you can likely skip this one for the time being unless you find a brand that you really want to work with.
Their user interface is easier to navigate when compared to CJ, even though it looks very similar. One thing that I like about Rakuten is that they make it really easy to search by category with a clean interface (i.e. not spamming promoted offers).
You can easily create deep links using a drop-down menu. Click on “Links” then “Deep Linking” and you’ll be taken to a page where you can easily switch between brands. One thing I hate about affiliate networks is when they make you go to the brand page for each individual merchant to create deep links (looking at you, ShareASale). It wastes too much time, which luckily isn’t a problem with Rakuten.
The minimum payout is $50.
I haven’t used Clickbank in years. They are mainly focused on digital products. Frankly, most of the offers here completely suck. That’s why tons of spammy social media affiliate marketers use them to promote cheap-looking eBooks and similar products.
Most of the merchants here are no-names selling things that you would likely never buy. There aren’t really any big-name brands that use Clickbank that I know of. Almost everything on this network is low-quality.
I recommend staying away from the Clickbank style of affiliate marketing. You might be able to spam some links and get stupid people to buy a nonsense course, but it’s not worth it in the long run.
The only way that you’ll need to worry about Clickbank is if you’re in a niche that is promoting primarily digital products.
The minimum payout is $10.
Flexoffers is a huge affiliate network with over 12k publishers looking for affiliates to promote their products. This network is extremely popular with huge retail brands that everyone has heard of, so if you’re in a more mainstream niche then you’re likely going to be using Flexoffers often.
The dashboard is actually modern looking, which is a breath of fresh air compared to most affiliate networks. You don’t feel like you’ve taken a time capsule to 2005 when you use Flexoffers.
It’s really easy to find offers to promote and keep track of your earnings. Unlike other networks, their customer service is actually responsive and will help you out if you have any issues with using their network.
I highly recommend signing up for FlexOffers and browsing their selection of merchants when deciding which products to promote.
The minimum payout is $50. One downside is that if you’re located outside of the United States, the only payout option is PayPal.
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