When you start out as an affiliate marketer, one of the best things you can do is to strategically think about which networks to join. Although it might be tempting, you won’t get anywhere by joining every single one out there. If your attention is scattered between every affiliate network out there, you’ll probably have a harder time maximizing your profits with one. Especially as you’re starting, it’s smart to hand-pick the best ones and use only them for a period of time. Here are five of the top affiliate networks out there:

  • Rakuten Affiliate Network — A highest ranked network for a few years now.
  • Amazon Associates — Everyone’s heard of this one. A reputable company that many people use regularly already.
  • ShareASale — This network is growing in popularity and has a reliable history.
  • Avangate — Especially useful for consumers who want digital downloads.
  • eBay Partner Network — Yes, eBay has an affiliate program! They have great tracking and reporting tools for affiliates to use.



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What To Look For In An Affiliate Network

Of course, you’re not supposed to apply to every single program out there. But if that’s the case, then what are you supposed to be looking for? What distinguishing criteria will help you decide on the best programs for you? While it’s not a perfect science, here are some suggestions to make applying for your top affiliate programs much easier.

Make Sure It Fits Your Site And Your Niche

No matter what topic you’re wanting to cover, there’s an affiliate program out there for it. With this wide array, from travel to makeup, remember that just because it exists doesn’t mean you have to sign up for it.

You’ll really only experience success as an affiliate marketer if you come off as knowledgeable in your field. While it’s always great to push boundaries a little, if you suggest products and services that are well out of your range, people who follow your site will start to lose interest. If you start linking makeup from your car repair site or expensive electronics to your childcare affiliate site, then the audience may feel confused. Unless there’s a connection to be made between the products you recommend through that affiliate program and your niche, don’t risk losing credibility. Find top affiliate programs that fit into your subject naturally and don’t require a lot of work for people to feel excited about. This means you’ll have a much easier time growing your audience and you’ll end up making more in sales as well.

Customer Service

Consider the different sites that the affiliate network includes and do a little research. What is it like buying from them? How do they handle returns? How do they operate? Think about things in the mind of the consumer.

You want to do this because the consumers and their purchases are what get you your income. If you find that a lot of unhappy customers feel that their products are poor quality and end up returning them, that’s a lost commission for you. If, however, the site works hard to keep customers happy and keep sales, then you can rest assured they’re on your side a little more. The way that these sites operates actually says a lot about you as an affiliate, and the experience your audience has with them will greatly affect how they view you in the end.



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Commission Rates

Don’t get too hung up on this since even small amounts do add up, but obviously you should know what your payment will be. Examine the kickback you get on certain items in each network and see if one network offers more consistently than the other. If that’s the case, you might not even need to apply to both networks; instead, start with the one that will give you more pay.

Average Order Size

If you can get this information, it can be valuable for comparison. Sometimes sites will offer small perks to customers that will increase their order size, such as free shipping or a small free gift. This is incentive for the buyer to get a little bit more and receive something nice or convenient for them.

If these add-ons are tempting enough, it means that you can recommend products that fall under this threshold and actually end up with more in sales overall. People will purchase your recommended product and add other things onto their order to get the perks, and you reap the benefits as well.

Cookie Length

When visitors click on your links, it leaves a cookie for a certain amount of time on that site. Depending on the program, it could be a couple of days or a couple of hours. This means that people who visit the recommended site again after the fact will still count towards your commissions if they make a purchase.People sometimes get really caught up about the cookie length, and the truth is, it’s not as big of a deal as everything thinks it is. A longer cookie length does not equal a better affiliate program. It does, however, need to match up with your audience’s buying habits. If the affiliate network cookie only lasts for an hour but your audience tends to mull over purchases before buying, this can help inform your decisions on what affiliate networks to join.

Terms And Conditions

Let’s face it: no one likes getting caught by unexpected surprises in an affiliate network. Always make sure you read the fine print before agreeing to join to ensure you won’t encounter anything you didn’t already know about. Most affiliate networks will be straightforward, but it’s still smart to read the terms and conditions to understand how they operate fully.