June 7, 2023

A Guide to Choosing Your Affiliate Network

In the world of affiliates there’s lots of nuances you have to get familiar with in order to be successful and to develop a strategic approach to your program. It’s difficult to find your footing in the beginning if you don’t know what recruitment and optimization means when talking about affiliates and that’s not even the half of it. The first obstacle to tackle is deciding which affiliate network to join. While lots of affiliates are in more than one network, unfortunately brand’s can only pick one so it’s important to do your research before you spend resources getting set up in a network that can’t deliver what you’re looking for. 

What’s An Affiliate Network?

First let’s clear the air and define what a network is, what it does. A network is essentially an intermediary that gives brands access to their host of affiliates. You set up a store page for your brand, give affiliates some collateral and deals to work with, and any affiliates in that network have the ability to apply for your program and start driving revenue for you.

Advertise Purple works with more than 10 of the biggest affiliate networks, which gives us access to every affiliate within each. Our team manages the entirety of our clients’ affiliate programs identifying strategic partnerships, recruiting and onboarding, and coming up with unique ways to optimize with the most profitable affiliates. Large affiliate programs take a lot of time and dedication to upkeep but have some of the highest ROIs in digital advertising. Getting started in one affiliate network is the perfect way to test the waters and see if your brand can swim. And when you’re ready to take those next steps and dive into the deep end, we’ll be waiting eagerly to scale your affiliate program ten-fold. But first, let’s give you a little guide starting out. From all the networks we work with these are a handful of user-friendly networks that are ideal for someone starting their first affiliate program.

Getting started

Some things you should keep in mind when thinking about which network is right for you…

  1. Commission options
    Take a look at what payment methods they offer, how they structure affiliate commission rates, and how flexible they are. Especially in the beginning you want to make sure that the payment model suits your company’s position and needs. Affiliate marketing is pay-for-performance but optimizing with a temporary increase in commission or the opportunity for a tiered commission structure is a great incentive to push publishers to promote you and making sure it is easy to adjust your commission rate is vital to be able to do those optimizations. 
  2. In-network analytics
    If you’re just starting out and this is going to be your only insight into the world of affiliate, you want to take a hard look at what data analytics are available to you in each network. By working with a dozen affiliate networks, our agency has a robust data pool we use to figure out strategic plans for each of our clients based on past profitable partnerships for similar brands. Figuring out strategy on your own is more difficult with limited resources, but insights into affiliate performance and commission history can help you figure out which affiliates will drive the best results at the best price for you. You’re also going to need an easy to read dashboard that gives a snapshot of your program’s KPIs so you can stay on top of performance at all times.
  3. Extra tools and resources
    Every network has the same basic value proposition so all the main features dealing with recruiting and tracking affiliates within your program are pretty consistent across the board. Where they become distinct is in the extra tips and tools they give you to help you become successful. Whether it’s industry newsletters with expert recommendations or if it’s a detailed creatives page to help affiliates create better content on your behalf, it’s the small differences that distinguish each of these networks as uniquely valuable.


ShareASale has one the most simple UI which makes it extremely easy for beginners. In fact, the majority of clients joining our SaaS platform get set up in ShareASale because they get the hang of it the fastest. They offer a very diverse marketplace working with brands and publishers in every vertical. The network’s strengths lie in its ease of use, reliable performance tracking, and a massive community of over 270K affiliates. However, brands who want more advanced reporting features might find ShareASale’s analytics capabilities somewhat limited.

Commission Junction

Commission Junction, or as we call it CJ, combines performance-driven strategies with extensive expertise in the performance marketing industry specializing in the affiliate channel. Their network gives you access to some of the top-performing affiliates around the world and provides more robust analytics than some of the other networks. With a strong background in data-analysis, CJ offers more tools to help you understand your affiliates’ performance and guides your decision making by making patterns in data more evident. 

Rakuten Advertising

Rakuten Advertising is a global leader when it comes to affiliate marketing and we are proud to be one of the few agencies to become a Platinum Partner with them. Rakuten boasts over 25 years in the industry and over 100 in-house industry experts working to make the most valuable platform for brands starting out in affiliate. Over 150K top-tier publishers partner with Rakuten and with their expedited integration process you can be up and running in the network in a matter of weeks with affiliates already driving traffic for you. Particularly if your brand was to expand globally, Rakuten Advertising has the infrastructure and expertise to support you. That being said, it is a bit more pricey than some of the other network’s pricing structures and you will need a dedicated plan to maximize return on investment so make sure you’re taking the time to become literate in affiliate strategy to succeed with Rakuten.


Impact is another great network for brands looking to foster real relationships with their affiliate partnerships. Being transparent and direct with affiliates is key to establishing a profitable business relationship. Working personally with affiliates gives you the ability to negotiate and figure out terms that work for both parties. Impact’s innovative technology and real-time tracking empowers brands to optimize their effectively and efficiently. However, the UI does throw some users for a learning curve especially if it’s your first time in an affiliate network. But putting a little extra time and effort into learning the platform and how to use it to maximize the features it offers will pay off in the long run with competitive ROIs and data-backed strategy.

If you’ve made it this far you must be pretty serious about starting an affiliate program and we wish you the best of luck! Remember the most important thing is finding a solution that delivers everything your company needs for the right price. And once you give affiliate marketing a try and start to see the value and growth it can generate for your brand remember we’re always one call away ready to scale your program to new heights. And if you’re already convinced, reach out to a team member today to hear how we’d help your company specifically navigate the world of affiliate.

Are you getting started in affiliate marketing or looking to improve your current program?

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