Affiliate marketing is a type of marketing that is performance-based. Businesses hire affiliates to bring in customers or visitors. The payment received by affiliates from businesses is based on how many people they were able to bring in.
This marketing type is similar to most Internet marketing methods, especially referral marketing and performance marketing. Affiliates use the same advertising methods that other marketers use. However, affiliate marketing differs greatly in terms of motivation and setup.
During the early days of affiliate marketing, only two parties were involved: the business and the affiliate. Because it is difficult for businesses, especially small and non-tech-related businesses, to track an affiliate marketer’s activities and performance, a third party entered the fray: the affiliate middleman.
The affiliate marketing middleman can be in the form of a network or platform. What they do is to gather businesses and affiliates together. Affiliate networks and platforms do the following:
- Manage products and services to be advertised or marketed
- Track affiliate networkers’ activities and performance
- Report to the businesses and handle payments
In most cases, online retail stores and listing sites have developed affiliate marketing platforms to make it easier for their products to have greater and more effective marketing reach with low marketing costs.
Top 10 Affiliate Networks
The first step to becoming a successful affiliate is to choose the right affiliate network or platform that you will use. And choosing the wrong one may only discourage you or even land you in a scam.
To help you out, below are the top 10 affiliate networks and websites. They are chosen according to three factors: reputation, opportunity, and reliability.
In 1998, Clickbank, an Internet retailer of digital and physical products, was founded by Eileen and Tim Barber in San Diego, California. In 2014, the company exceeded more than six million distributes and clients around 190 countries in the world and dealt with more than 30,000 transactions a day.
Its greatest strength is its user-friendly website (www.clickbank.com), which attracted lots of businesses and entrepreneurs. This enabled Clickbank to have a broader list of products to advertise, which in turn attracted more affiliate marketers.
2. Rakuten.com and Rakuten Linkshare
Rakuten.com is an online retail store, which was previously Buy.com and is now based in Aliso Viejo, California. In 1997, Scott Blumm established Buy.com. Buy.com only sold computers at a low price; after multiple changes in ownership and marketing tactics, the number of products it sold grew.
In 2010, Rakuten Inc., an Internet and e-commerce company in Japan, bought Buy.com and rebranded it as Rakuten.com. Buy.com was merged with Rakuten’s e-commerce site. And because of that, its user base exponentially grew, with most of the users being based in the United States, United Kingdom, and Japan.
In 2005, Rakuten Inc. bought LinkShare. Nine years later, LinkShare was rebranded as Rakuten Affiliate Network.
3. CJ Affiliate (www.cj.com)
CJ Affiliate is one of the longest-running affiliate marketing networks in the world. It was founded in 1998 as Commission Junction. Currently, the company boasts that it is the biggest affiliate marketing platform to date, with around 200 to 500 employees.
CJ affiliate’s platform is commendable, but do expect that you will not get great customer support from the company. On the other hand, its primarily payment term is set to Net-20 (you get paid every twentieth). One drawback that most new marketers might not want is the unavailability of receiving payment through PayPal.
4. Amazon Associates
As of 2015, Amazon became the biggest Internet-based company in the world in terms of revenue generation and placed fourth in the most valuable public company in the world list.
Currently, Amazon’s affiliate programs already have almost a million members. In 2014, more than 1.2% of websites on the Internet use Amazon Affiliate. These achievements have made Amazon Associates the second most popular affiliate network — Google Ads holds the first place.
5. ShareaSale (www.shareasale.com)
In 2000, Brian Littleton founded Shareasale. Awin, a part of the Axel Springer Group, acquired the company this year (2017).
Currently, more than 3,900 programs for merchants are available in its affiliate network platform. As of now, the company is focusing on helping and servicing small- and medium-size businesses.
In terms of affiliate count, Shareasale has more than 700,000 marketers and almost 86% of the marketers are network members. In 2006, the AFP (Affiliate Fair Play) Fair Practice Award was honored to Brian Littleton. A year after that, he received the Affiliate Summit Pinnacle Award.
eBay is, without a doubt, one of the largest and oldest e-commerce sites/companies in the world. However, despite its huge popularity decades ago, its position in the global market was superseded by its competitors — Amazon most notably.
Despite its e-commerce site being barely able to keep up with Amazon’s popularity, its eBay Partner Network has gained quite a steady foothold. Back then, affiliates could earn a percentage of a product sold. Now, it uses a modern pricing model, which allows affiliates to earn base commission rates and receive bonuses when new or reactivated buyers are referred.
Avangate is one of the newer players in the affiliate marketing industry. It was established in 2006, and is currently based in Atlanta with another headquarters in Amsterdam. Unlike the previous companies, Avangate’s primary business is providing e-commerce solutions in the form of SaaS (Software as a Service).
When it comes to affiliate marketing, it can be safely said that Avangate is decently growing. As of now, it has more than 22,000 products in its database and multiple affiliate marketing tools, which can make it easier for marketers to join and earn.
Little information about Flexoffers can be found on the Web. Despite that, it has garnered a good reputation among affiliate marketers and the company has been proven to be trustworthy. As of now, it is mainly known for its cost-per-sales model.
In addition, the company provides good support to both advertisers and publishers. Being a member of the site will give you access to multitudes of tracking and reporting tools that will make it easier for you to gauge your performance and profitability. However, if you are expecting anything more or different services from this company, you might be disappointed.
Based in Utah, Avantlink was founded around 2007 — another new player. This company’s biggest strength is local advertising. Its biggest weakness, however, is its poor support.
So far, its merchant and product category database is slowly growing. Also, you should take note that the company does not want to engage with gambling, adult, and lead generation related content, which can be an advantage or disadvantage depending on your point of view.
On a different note, another thing that makes Avantlink popular is its transparency. It is one of few affiliate networks that provides detailed merchant information to affiliates, which gives more freedom and security.
RevenueWire is a Canadian company that was founded in 2007. It is one of the smaller companies in this list, having around 50 to 200 employees. It deals with digital goods, online payments, and of course, affiliate marketing.
Despite its small size, it is currently one of the renowned global players in e-commerce. Payment is quite all right, with a minimum payment value of $25. Payment methods are flexible and even include checks and PayPal.