Because affiliate marketing doesn’t require affiliates to offer their own products or services for purchase, but only to place promotions on their sites for other merchants’ products, it frees affiliates from many of the responsibilities and complications of traditional sales models.
Affiliate marketing programs typically work by having the merchant handle all the logistics involved in selling products or services, processing customer orders and payments, and shipping merchandise—all while the affiliate sits back and collects a commission for each agreed-upon action completed by the visitors the affiliate sends to the merchant’s website via an affiliate link. As long as the affiliate has done her homework and chosen a trustworthy affiliate program, she needn’t worry about non-payment.
Affiliate networks administer programs for individual merchants, handling all the work involved, while generally providing tracking and reporting capabilities to their affiliates to help them keep tabs on their revenues and determine which products or services are producing the best returns. These tools can be helpful to an affiliate in fine-tuning the line of products she decides to promote on her site and, ideally, increasing revenues as a result.
However, all affiliate programs are not created equal. Which are the most popular programs available today?
Reportedly the largest affiliate network, with over 10 million affiliate partnerships, LinkShare took the number-one spot in the Blue Book of Top 20 Affiliate Networks for platform strength, support quality, and international capabilities.
LinkShare offers over 2,500 affiliate programs and lets you choose whether to have every aspect of your affiliate channel managed for you or whether you would rather manage your own program using the company’s various service and support options.
Said to be the largest affiliate marketing network in North America (though it operates globally) and claiming the number-two spot in the Blue Book of Top 20 Affiliate Networks for being “the best at balancing the relationship between the merchants, the network, and the affiliates,” California-based Commission Junction, owned by ValueClick, Inc., offers affiliate, media, and tracking services and provides either a self-management or company-managed option for your affiliate relationships.
In addition to its regular pay-per-action affiliate program, the company also offers a convenient PayPerCall program to help affiliates “ensure they get paid commission for the leads they generate, thus further monetizing existing ad placements and having the opportunity to expand their promotional…online and offline campaigns.”
Claiming the number-three spot in the Blue Book of Top 20 Affiliate Networks for being the “overall best performance marketing network in the world today,” Chicago-based ShareASale has over 2,500 merchant programs and features brands such as HootSuite and PS Print.
ShareASale has received excellent ratings, with the company’s reputation/security, ethics, customer service, and ease of commission payment receiving glowing reviews.
Placing fourth in the Blue Book of Top 20 Affiliate Networks, for a reporting system that “far surpasses other big networks,” this is one of the largest and most diverse affiliate programs available.
As most people know, Amazon.com offers such a wide array of products that there’s bound to be something to fit your niche. In fact, they offer over a million products from which you can choose to monetize your website or blog. Amazon Associates is a pay-per-sale affiliate program.
According to the network’s Overview page, “Google Affiliate Network helps advertisers increase online conversions on a performance basis and enables publishers to monetize traffic with affiliate ads.”
Google Affiliate Network is a pay-per-action network that pays commissions to its affiliates for driving conversions (sales or leads). The network requires a Google AdSense account for posting ads to the affiliate’s website or blog and facilitating affiliate payments.
ClixGalore is an Australian PPA (pay-per-action) affiliate network that also has offices in the US, UK, and Japan. The company offers various types of programs, including PPM (pay-per-impression), PPL (pay per lead), PPS (pay-per-sale), and PPC (pay-per-click). Many programs pay in US dollars.
Some well-known brands that use ClixGalore for their affiliate offerings are Bluehost, Time Life, Trend Micro, Citibank, and Fox Sports Shop. While not as widely known as some of the other affiliate networks, ClixGalore is a solid network that offers thousands of potential merchant programs. The network also offers a two-tier network. By referring other affiliates to the network, current affiliates can receive a portion of their earnings.
PeerFly is a PPA network with its own proprietary software system. The network made the Blue Book of Top 20 Affiliate Networks, which stated regarding them, “They are courteous, helpful, and point you in the right direction.”
The network also took the number-four spot in the Blue Book of Top 20 CPA Networks, for its high popularity, great staff, and excellent platform. PeerFly accepts publishers from all over the world and offers thousands of merchant programs.
A well-known affiliate network, ClickBank features digital products, such as e-books, software, and membership sites. The program reportedly offers up to 75% commissions on its tens of thousands of products. Commissions are paid weekly, and direct deposit is available to its affiliates.
MaxBounty came in sixth in the Blue Book of Top 20 CPA Networks, though it didn’t make a showing in the Blue Book’s top 20 affiliate networks. In business since 2004, the network was founded on the philosophy of paying its affiliates more.
MaxBounty pays affiliate commissions weekly, and the company appears to have a good reputation among its affiliates. In fact, the network is popular among many top affiliate marketers and has received numerous positive reviews and writeups and critiques over the past several years.
Neverblue is a pay-per-action affiliate program that pays its affiliates for lead, download, and sale generation, as well as for new affiliate referrals. While Neverblue didn’t make the Blue Book of Top 20 Affiliate Networks, it did take the number-one spot in the Blue Book of Top 20 CPA Networks.
Despite this, the affiliate program has stated the following: “This filing will not impact Neverblue’s ability to meet client needs in any way—we intend to continue to operate business as usual without interruption. Neverblue’s business is fundamentally strong and we intend to make all affiliate payments on schedule, in a timely and reliable manner.”
Its management is just as confident that the sale will not affect Neverblue’s ability to meet its affiliates’ needs in any way. While this company tends to inspire high confidence among affiliates, you’ll have to decide whether to jump in now or wait a while to see how things go after the sale.
What’s your favorite network?
If you’ve been thinking of trying affiliate marketing to monetize your blog, consider testing these ten programs to see whether they fit your niche and audience. If you’ve used any of these programs, we’d love to hear your thoughts on them in the comments.