Identifying the best affiliate programs for your business can have a huge impact on your results. Contrary to popular belief, not all affiliate networks are created equal, so making the right choice can make or break your online marketing strategy.
But how do you know which partner network is right for you? With a wide range of options to choose from and a wealth of contradictory reviews on social media, it can be hard to decide which is ideal. So we thought we’d put together a short guide to the best affiliate programs in 2018.
Choosing the Best Affiliate Programs for Your Business
Choosing the best affiliate programs for your needs will depend on a number of diverse factors. There is no clear-cut answer or binary option because every business is slightly different. However by considering a few of these elements, you can start to narrow down the most appropriate options…
- Marketing goals – are you looking to build awareness? Generate leads? Convert sales? Build monthly recurring income?
- Business sector – which sector do you operate in? Some affiliate platforms have a larger reach in certain business categories than others (e.g. credit card and web host affiliates are usually easier to find than real estate).
- Target audience – who do you want to reach? Where are they located?
- Budget – some networks have higher initial sign-up fees where as others have more expensive monthly recurring charges, making them more expensive over the long term.
- Resources – do you have a dedicated affiliate manager or will you want to outsource this part? Do you have specific technical requirements like social media integration, marketing automation, customized landing pages, or recurring commission payments.
#1 – CJ Affiliate by Conversant
CJ Affiliate (formerly known as Commission Junction) is one of the best regarded networks for a number of reasons. Firstly, they’re one of the largest and most popular affiliate platforms, so they have a huge reach across 285,000 publishers. CJ emphasizes quality over quantity, with robust checks and balances to ensure only the best publishers sign up.
They also have a global set up with offices and publishers around the world. If you’re trying to expand your affiliate marketing program beyond the US and target an international audience, then CJ is well-positioned to support you. They have strong coverage in a large number of sectors and run some of the best affiliate programs on internet, telecom, shopping, business, and industry. Plus, their advertiser interface is one of the most intuitive and easy to use. CJ is popular with medium to large sized businesses who have a long-term strategy and the budget to invest in up-front fees.
#2 – ShareASale
ShareASale is an equally large network, with a stronger focus on the US and Canada. Their fee structure is slightly different with a lower initial investment to get set up. This can be more affordable in the short term and tends to appeal to smaller businesses or those wanting to test out affiliate marketing as a channel. Although cheaper up front, there are additional costs for premium placements and other optional extras.
ShareASale offers some of the best affiliate programs in sectors like food, drink, health, cooking, and recipes. They also cater to organizations looking to pay affiliate commissions in a variety of ways, including pay-per-sale, pay-per-click, and pay-per-lead basis.
#3 – Rakuten (LinkShare)
Rakuten (previously called Linkshare) is run by the Japanese music giant of the same name and is a highly efficient operation. With this background in mind, it’s no surprise that they offer some of the best affiliate marketing programs for the arts and entertainment sectors, along with music and audio. Rakuten marketing is one of the largest affiliate networks globally and have a strong presence in Japan which can be a tough market for outside companies to penetrate.
# 4 – Impact Radius
Impact Radius is a boutique affiliate network that primarily caters to the personal finance, travel, and retail sectors. They’re also able to support subscription-based revenue models and programs with recurring commissions. So, if you offer membership products or software as a service then this may be a good fit.
Impact Radius is particularly proactive about ad fraud prevention, with proxy unmasking, device manipulation recognition, and cookie stuffing detection. This can reduce fraudulent activity, improve average commission accuracy and help you squeeze a little more from your marketing budget.
#5 – Pepperjam
Although smaller than CJ and ShareASale, Pepperjam prides itself on its customizable service and accommodates a variety of resource needs. They offer Prime, Select, or Elite packages depending on whether you have an in-house affiliate manager, need consultative advice, or want a fully managed partner program solution. They may be smaller, but they generate results for big brands like Puma, Calvin Klein, and Kate Spade.
#6 – Avantlink
Avantlink places an emphasis on quality partnerships that generate impactful results. They thoroughly vet all their affiliate partners by putting them through a rigorous QA process, which means your marketing program only gets matched with high quality publishers. In fact just 30% of affiliate applications get approved, which gives you an indication of how stringent their vetting is. However one drawback of Avantlink is that they only run support affiliate networks and programs in the USA, Canada, and Australia. This means they may not be the best option if you’re looking to target other international markets.
#7 – Link Connector
Link Connector puts simplicity at the heart of their network. Their patented ‘Naked Link’ technology directs affiliate clicks directly to your landing page, instead of redirecting through its own the network. This allows for short, simple URLs and eliminates the likelihood of coding errors. If you’re looking to combine affiliate marketing with SEO or SEM then they may be a good fit.
#8 – Amazon Associates
When it comes to the best affiliate programs list in 2018, one would be remiss to not mention the 800 pound gorilla that Amazon is. Amazon covers a vast array of over 1.6 million products from millions of different vendors catering to thousands of affiliates around the world. Unfortunately due to the power that Amazon holds, the affiliates are simply at the mercy of the Amazon Associates Program. Over time commissions and payout percentages continue to get lower so you have to push remarkably large amount of sales to rack up decent earnings. The other frustration for Amazon affiliates is the delays in payment. The commission structure for Amazon is such that you won’t be able to claim the money before passing an entire 60 days after the sale occurs. This is a long time in comparison to the other partner networks where they earn commissions much more rapidly and are incentivized to drive qualified traffic.
Need help choosing the best affiliate programs for your business?
Our team of experienced team of marketing professionals can guide you on the most effective options that’ll maximize results for your business. We can have an affiliate manager do a complimentary analysis and strategy session. Contact us today by calling 866-833-0574, filling out the form below or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
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