Over the past ten years, affiliate marketing has become a multi-billion dollar industry with no signs of slowing down.
According to Statista, affiliate marketing spending in the U.S. is expected to reach $8.2 billion by 2022, more than triple what it was ten years ago. For bloggers, writers and digital publishers, joining an affiliate network can offer the opportunity to earn passive income by monetizing their website.
This article will offer a complete guide to affiliate marketing, affiliate networks, and the top affiliate programs for publishers to partner with to earn affiliate income.
What is an Affiliate Network?
An affiliate network connects digital publishers with companies, brands, and merchants looking to promote their products and services.
Through an online portal, affiliate networks give publishers access to numerous affiliate marketing programs, with access to several features, such as reporting tools, training, and other resources to help publishers become successful affiliate marketers.
How Do Affiliate Programs Work?
Affiliate networks operate as a marketplace for ad affiliate programs. When publishers or website owners sign up and pass the approval process, they can then select the goods and services they want to promote, for which they will then receive a custom link. The affiliate network then offers a small commission for each of the products sold.
What is Affiliate Marketing?
Affiliate marketing has almost been around as long as marketing itself. It is the process of receiving a finder's fee when you refer a customer to a merchant.
Affiliate marketing operates in the following manner:
- A publisher introduces their audience to a product or service via their website, blog, or social media channels
- If their customers purchase said product using the unique affiliate site link, the publishers earn an affiliate commission.
Affiliate Marketing offers several referral program options, including:
- CPC cost-per-click affiliate programs that pay every time someone clicks the link
- CPL (cost-per-lead) programs that pay whenever a publisher refers a prospective
- And the most profitable of the programs, those that directly refer sales
Why Should Publishers Join an Affiliate Network?
Affiliate networks can connect bloggers, influencers, and publishers with thousands of brands and products, allowing them to monetize their websites and earn a passive income.
Benefits of joining an affiliate network include the following:
- Connects publishers with companies and merchants that are relevant to their website audience
- Affiliate networks handle the entire payment process for the publisher
- Access to rewards and incentives - the more affiliates sell, the better their commission rates
- Some platforms offer access to a referral program
- Access to analytics features and reporting tools so affiliates can track their progress
11 Best Affiliate Networks to Join in 2021
While there are literally hundreds of affiliate programs available to sign up to, here are the best affiliate networks to join in 2021.
- Amazon Associates
Started in 1996, Amazon Associates is perhaps the most well-known affiliate marketing network. Amazon is the largest e-commerce store globally, offering affiliate marketers and their audience access to a massive catalog of physical and digital products, from books to baby goods to beauty aids.
The Amazon Associates user interface is easy to navigate, and signing up is a quick and straightforward process.
Amazon also offers its affiliate partners the opportunity to earn a commission for any product their readers buy in the next 24 hours—not just the specific products they share.
- Commission Rate: Amazon Associates offers a commission of around 5%. However, this varies by product type
- Payout Schedule: Amazon Associates pays marketers approximately 60 days after the end of the month in which they earned the commission
- Payment Options: Amazon offers several payment options, including direct deposit, Amazon gift certificates, or checks in the mail. (checks in the mail incur s a $15 processing fee.) International users can get paid by gift certificates or checks
- Product Types: Millions of physical and digital products across hundreds of categories
- Best For: Any affiliate marketer, particularly those who are new to affiliate marketing
- Avangate Affiliate Network
The Avangate Affiliate Network specializes in connecting publishers with digital product merchants such as Malwarebytes and various other software companies.
Rated #1 Worldwide Affiliate Network by Blue Book Global for the past six years, they have an excellent reputation. While they offer a coupon program to help drive sales and a long cookie life, they have limited reporting tools.
- Commission Rate: Commissions start at around 25% and can reach over 50% for some merchants
- Payout Schedule: Avangate pays commission to its affiliates 20 days from the end of the month for which the commission is due
- Payment Options: Wire transfer, PayPal, or check
- Product Types: Digital products, online security, and SaaS products
- Best For: Publishers specializing in technology, SaaS, and related industries
With over 15,000 advertiser and 210,000 active publishers, Awin is one of the largest and most well-respected affiliate networks.
Awin offers publishers access to businesses such as StubHub, Hyatt, AliExpress, and Under Armour.
Each program must be applied to separately, however, and they do charge an application fee.
- Commission Rate: Varies by which merchant, but the average commission is around 5%
- Payout Schedule: Fortnightly, on the 1st and the 15th of every month
- Payment Options: Via BACS, international wire transfer, or ACH
- Product Types: Awin offers a wide variety of both physical and digital products, including travel, fashion, technology, finance, insurance, and e-commerce
- Best For: Both beginners and established affiliate marketers
- C.J. Affiliate (formerly Commission Junction)
Founded in 1998 as Commission Junction, C.J. Affiliate has over two decades of experience as a successful affiliate network. A large company with a strong history, C.J. Affiliate offers affiliate partners access to more than 3000 merchants assisting affiliate marketers in earning more than $1.8 billion every year.
Amongst their affiliate network services, C.J. Affiliate offers its users real-time reporting tools, meaning affiliates can monitor activity on their affiliate dashboard as it happens.
- Commission Rate: Varies by which merchant affiliates partner with
- Payout Schedule: C.J. Affiliate pays out within 20 days of the end of the month, as long as users have a minimum payment threshold of US$50 (Direct Deposit) or US$100 (Check)
- Payment Options: Direct Deposit, Check, or Payoneer for international affiliates
- Product Types: A wide range of physical products, from automotive and electronics to gardening and recycling
- Best For: Bloggers with an established audience who want a feature-rich affiliate network
Founded in 1998, ClickBank sets itself apart from the pack by focusing on digital information products, product launches, and other internet marketing products. With over six million digital products on offer, created by global entrepreneurs, ClickBank is a good choice for affiliates working with email marketing.
While ClickBank offers some of the highest commissions in the affiliate marketing ecosystem, some of the offerings can be questionable, so publishers need to do their homework.
- Commission Rate: Up to 90%, though most are much lower
- Payout Schedule: ClickBank offers flexible payment options, from weekly to monthly, depending on affiliates' preferences
- Payment Options: Check, wire transfer, and direct deposit
- Product Types: ClickBank offers more than 6 million wide-ranging affiliate products
- Best For: For online marketers looking to promote digital products exclusively, ClickBank is a good bet
- eBay Partner Network (EPN)
Despite the fact that the eBay Partner Network only started in 2008, being backed by the eBay network makes it one of the top affiliate networks for affiliate marketers to join.
With eBay offering 1.1 billion listings, publishers have access to an endless range of physical products to promote to their audience.
- Commission Rate: Varies depending on the product category
- Payout Schedule: EPN pays monthly, so long as publishers have earned $10 or more
- Payment Options: PayPal and Direct Deposit
- Product Types: Anything and everything offered on eBay
- Best For: Publishers focusing on physical products who want a trusted affiliate network to join
Founded in 2008, FlexOffers is another affiliate network newcomer. Despite their relative youth, FlexOffers has 12,000+ merchants in 25+ categories across 27 countries.
When a publisher signs up with FlexOffers, they're assigned a dedicated affiliate manager to help navigate the affiliate program, making it ideal for those just starting out with affiliate programs.
Another benefit they offer is a quick payment schedule, with top earners able to access their commissions within seven days.
- Commission Rate: Varies by merchant
- Product Types: Mostly physical products, with some digital options
- Payment Options: Check, direct deposit, and PayPal for partners outside the USA
- Payout Schedule: Within 30 days, or seven days for top earners
- Best For: Those new to the affiliate network eco-system looking for access to a variety of products and services
Jvzoo is one of the top affiliate networks, with over 800,000 active affiliates. JVZoo specializes in digital products, with most JVZoo merchants offering services in the marketing, tech, and artificial intelligence field.
Offering a user-friendly dashboard with an easy-to-navigate menu, JVZoo also provides automatic payments.
- Commission Rate: Varies by merchant
- Payout Schedule: Varies according to publisher
- Payment Options: PayPal, Check, JVZooPayManual Payments
- Product Types: Digital products in online marketing, A.I., training, and financial fields
- Best For: Affiliates specializing in I.T., A.I., and digital marketing fields
A relatively new player in the affiliate marketing game, Peerfly promotes itself as the "fastest-growing affiliate network". With a user interface that is easy to navigate, Peerfly offers access to a wide range of products and services from brands such as Target, Fiverr, UGG, and CBS.
However, as each of the companies has its own requirements, it can be time-consuming to set up, particularly for those new to affiliate programs.
- Commission Rate: Varies by merchant
- Payout Schedule: Affiliate partners can request to withdraw funds anytime they've met the $50 threshold, in as little as 1, 3, or 7 days
- Payment Options: PayPal, Payoneer, Direct Deposit, Postal Check
- Product Types: Mostly physical products
- Best For: Established affiliate marketers
- Rakuten Marketing (formerly LinkShare)
Formerly Buy.com, Rakuten Marketing is another great affiliate program for bloggers in the e-commerce space who want to focus on physical products. A comparable alternative to Amazon, Rakuten Marketing represents industry-leading brands such as Walmart, Sephora, and New Balance.
While they are one of the smaller affiliate networks, Rakuten Marketing are one of the best affiliate networks when it comes to their technology and reporting system.
- Commission Rate: Commission varies widely depending on the advertiser
- Payout Schedule: Rakuten only pays publishers after the merchants have paid them. This tends to make payment roughly two months after each sale
- Payment Options: Check; Direct Deposit; PayPal
- Product Types: Retail Goods, Physical products
- Best For: Tech-junkies looking to partner with retail brands
Based out of Chicago and founded in 2000, over 1,000 big-name merchants and influencers, such as W.P. Engine and OptinMonster, are exclusive to the ShareASale network. For publishers who want to advertise the above products, they can only do so through ShareASale.
They currently have over 3900 merchant programs available through their website and over 1.2M participating affiliate publishers.
- Commission Rate: Varies depending on the merchant
- Payout Schedule: Affiliates can collect commission after they have earned $50
- Payment Options: ShareASale offer payment via Check and direct deposit
- Product Types: Home & Garden, Fashion, Green, and Business
- Best For: For anyone looking for an affiliate network offering a wide variety of affiliating marketing options
What To Consider When Choosing an Affiliate Network
Several elements should be evaluated when a publisher is considering which ad affiliate platform is right for them.
Publishers looking to sign up to an affiliate network should consider the following:
Firstly, publishers should evaluate who makes up their customer base and followers. By assessing who they will be marketing to, publishers can choose a platform that offers the best online tools and marketing analytic platforms to suit their audience.
Some affiliate platforms offer more simple user interfaces than others. Bloggers and influencers should choose a network that suits their level of technical expertise.
Affiliate commissions earned by marketers can vary greatly from network to network, so it is crucial to check this before signing up to an affiliate network platform. Marketers may also want to research how the affiliate network handles payment processing, for example, via PayPal, direct deposit, and how often a payout is made.
This is perhaps the most crucial element to assess when looking at affiliate networks. It is essential that the affiliate network will connect bloggers with brands and physical products that their audience will be interested in.
What are the approval requirements for the affiliate program? Some networks require sites to be well-established with a certain amount of traffic.
Some affiliate networks charge fees for training, setup, or customer service.
Cookie duration refers to how long a program tracks and gives credit to a prospective buyer. Durations can vary drastically from platform to platform. For example, Amazon's cookie duration is 24 hours, while Avangate is 120 days.
Which of the Affiliate Programs is Right For Your Business?
Whether you are a seasoned website developer or a newly published blogger, joining an affiliate network is one of the easiest and most effective ways to monetize your site and earn a genuine passive income.
When evaluating affiliate networks, it is imperative to conduct thorough market research to ensure the platform you choose is right for you.
Ease of use, payment methods, customer support, and ensuring the affiliate network offers appropriate products for their audience should be at the top of every publisher’s checklist.