Before we start we should consider what exactly is an affiliate network?
My definition of what an affiliate network is; An online platform and intermediary that provides the tools and tracking a brand needs to create and run their affiliate program. A network allows advertisers to manage their affiliate program directly with their affiliate partners. Affiliate Networks also provide opportunities for affiliates to join and manage multiple programs in one place.
The Best Affiliate Network
Wondering what my top recommendation for new Shopify Merchants considering an affiliate network to launch their affiliate program on is? ShareAsale.
My reasoning is that this affiliate network provides all the tools you need to launch and run a successful affiliate program and is affordable. ShareASale has the trust of all major traditional affiliate partners, subnetworks, premium publications, bloggers, and influencers, When launching your program you can expect your program to take 3-6 months to begin generating an ROI. I would prefer to see you spending your budget during this period on paid opportunities to grow your program over watching you pay for large network setup costs and fees.
For more established brands and e-commerce merchants, there are a variety of quality Affiliate networks to choose from and they all have both merits and drawbacks. Regardless of which affiliate network you choose it is imperative to realize that none of these networks will do all the work for you. Even when you have access to the Affiliate Network’s marketplace of registered affiliate partners they will expect you to pay to manage to recruit those partners. Many of the registered affiliate partners will not have up-to-date emails or use alias emails when registering and you will need to still build relationships outside of the affiliate network to recruit the partners, onboard them into your specific program, and continued optimization outside of the network.
Other Affiliate Network Options
While choosing an affiliate network be sure to research each of the following affiliate networks considered some of the top affiliate networks.
- Impact Radius
- Rakuten Advertising (LinkShare)
- CJ (Commission Junction)
- Ascend (Pepperjam)
You may find while researching what affiliate network to choose for your program blog posts mentioning the top affiliate networks that include affiliate networks such as Viglink and Flex Offers. I am not including them in my list because they aren’t true affiliate networks. They are Sub-affiliate partners that you will find working within most of the above-mentioned affiliate networks on a CPA basis. This means you will have access to partner with all of their registered affiliates by simply setting up your affiliate program with one of the above affiliate networks.
I haven’t included Awin or Advent Link as options because they both segment their programs and pricing for merchants geographically. So to work with partners from different countries you are required to have multiple programs. Most affiliate partners I work with do not have an audience that is limited to a specific country or region in this manner. While they may have a primary audience of 60% + from one main country, they will still have traffic and potential customers from other countries as well. A really good example of this is separating a Canadian audience from a US Audience. Many Canadians will shop from a US brand – especially if you reduce shipping costs to help compensate for duty charges. Vice versa – Americans may value the lower dollar exchange rate that they find from Canadian merchants.
Awin has purchased ShareaSale and I am hopeful that they will not swallow the network up into their existing structure. If they do, chances are a new network will step up to meet the need that Shareasale provides to merchants.