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Affiliate Networks: Definition, Types & The Best Ones To Join

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Monetizing a creative venture can seem like a pipe dream.

Luckily, the internet opened a world of advertising opportunities for companies.

But, a problem began to unfold—the watering down of company marketing campaigns.

Enter affiliate marketing.

Combined with a new brand of marketer, the affiliate influencer, brands could enjoy product placement with large audiences, minus the need for bloated marketing budgets.

As this form of marketing began to grow, a few enterprising organizations began to create networks of affiliate programs to ease the process of connecting sellers and affiliates.

Here’s everything you need to know about affiliate networks, from the definition to the best ones to join.

What Is an Affiliate Network?

Starting your journey as an influencer, blogger, or content creator can be overwhelming.

An affiliate network can help you monetize your creativity by connecting you with a group of companies that offer services and products that you market.

Affiliate networks create a collection of products or services instead of forcing you to make deals with individual companies.

What Does an Affiliate Network Manage?

Affiliate networks are beneficial for newbies, where a network’s additional services build confidence.

These services include guidance, management, and tracking support so you can focus on creating content, not managing your affiliate programs.  

1. Tracking

Use metrics to your advantage with robust tracking.

You can track which programs your audience responds to and which campaigns are falling flat.

These metrics can help you curate your content to improve product placement and conversion rates.

Eventually, you will understand your metrics at such a deep level, money will practically print itself.

2. Payment Systems

Getting paid is part of the reason you’re creating content.

An affiliate network can help you manage your payment systems, making deposits easy.

With affiliate network assistance, your payments go from infrequent guestimations to scheduled assurances.

These systems also help consolidate payments to ensure you never miss a payment.

3. Support

Creating content is stressful enough without managing affiliate programs, and when questions arise, the internet can be less than helpful.

That’s why an affiliate network could benefit you, as you can get help when things go wrong.

Affiliate networks also help connect you build partnerships and establish connections.

A solid system of support and relationships ultimately leads to more opportunities.

4. Products From Multiple Brands

Signing up for individual affiliate programs limits your product selection.

While this strategy can be helpful for specific niches, like sports, it hurts your chances to capitalize on the wide variety of products.

A network can provide a bridge for affiliate links in other industries, allowing you to branch out further.  

How Does an Affiliate Network Work?

An affiliate network works by utilizing multiple avenues for product or service positioning.

This product positioning is affiliate marketing, where there is a division of responsibilities between the product seller and an affiliate.

The affiliate is usually a content creator who uses their audience to suggest products or services.

This affiliate relationship receives payment from the seller every time somebody clicks on a link or sells a product.

When you combine an affiliate with several sellers and provide those affiliates with services and support, you create an affiliate network.

An affiliate network uses multiple sellers to increase the spread of influence of products and offer more opportunities for sellers.

Why Should You Join an Affiliate Network?

Making money from your content can be a challenge.

While a partnership between one organization can prove fruitful, one of the best tools used by affiliate marketers is the affiliate network.

Using an affiliate network can unlock a more significant untouched market, making you more money.

1. Access To Hundreds of Products

Affiliate networks allow marketers access to hundreds and even thousands of products.

Where partnering with only one company allows you a catalog of a few products, opening your network to thousands of potential companies means a broader selection of products and services.

2. Ease of Use

The affiliate marketing industry is notoriously tricky to navigate.

Joining an affiliate network takes some guesswork out of establishing a successful campaign.

Affiliate networks give users access to platforms and tools to make the most from your partnerships.

However, it’s essential to keep in mind while networks make the process easier, some are better than others.  

3. Lots of Opportunity

Because many of the best affiliate networks cover thousands of programs, there’s plenty of opportunity to make a profit.

An affiliate network opens the door to hop industries, allowing you to capture a more significant market segment.

There’s an affiliate network for any industry or market you could imagine, meaning there’s no shortage of products, services, and programs you can get involved with.  

4. Approved Products And Publishers

As with most aspects of the internet, some shady products and publishers make earning a legit buck more difficult.

Legit programs for affiliates aren’t impossible to find, and an affiliate network makes it even easier.

The approved products and publishers give you a sense of confidence, knowing the organizations you’re working with won’t scam you.  

How Do You Find Affiliate Networks?

Companies are starting to recognize the benefit of affiliate marketing.

That means it’s becoming easier to find affiliate networks.

A simple Google search reveals a massive selection of affiliate network options.

However, if you want to know the best affiliate networks, read on, as we cover the networks you should join if you’re a content creator.

What Is the Biggest Affiliate Network?

Despite the recent popularity boom, affiliate networks are not a new concept.

Many of the most outstanding affiliate programs started in the 1990s or 2000s.

Of these, there’s no bigger affiliate network than CJ Affiliate.

CJ Affiliate is not only the largest affiliate network but also one of the oldest.

They help connect merchants and sellers with more than 14 billion readers annually.

That audience leads to $1.8 billion in profits for affiliates.

What Is the Best Affiliate Network?

Once you realize that there are countless affiliate networks, it’s natural to wonder which affiliate network is the best.

Several options provide various features and support for marketers and creators.

But, not every network will be perfect for everyone.

Here are a few of the best affiliate networks you can find.

1. Refersion

Refersion connects marketers with various big-name partners like Spotify, Shopify, and Paypal.

Unfortunately, Refersion is not free, but if you want to see how they work, you can request a demo from their website.

2. Amazon Associates

Amazon Associates provides marketers access to the largest online retailer.

You can earn commission on millions of products, including services like Audible.

It’s easy to qualify for, but rates can be less than ideal.

3. ShareASale

ShareASale is a long-time network that connects users with more than 4,000 programs.

It pays commission on a wide range of products, but marketers complain that the user interface is somewhat challenging to navigate.

4. Awin

Awin is a massive affiliate network that owns several other networks, including ShareASale.

As one of the largest networks, you can access more than 15,000 programs.

Awin does charge a $5 application fee, and you have to apply for each program individually, which can be time-consuming.  

5. eBay Partner Network

The eBay Partner Network is a unique program that allows marketers to promote a diverse selection of items.

eBay’s Partner Network is perfect for those looking to promote one-of-a-kind items or antiques.

However, not every item is “Buy Now,” requiring some of your audience to bid on items.

6. FlexOffers

FlexOffers is also an extensive affiliate network with access to more than 12,000 programs and 500 premium advertisers.

What’s nice about FlexOffers is the dedicated account manager and the quick approval process, meaning you can start selling immediately.

7. LeadDyno

LeadDyno is a SaaS solution meant to help you build your own affiliate program.

Using the LeadDyno software, you can access tons of tracking and automation features that take the stress out of the entire process.

8. Rakuten Marketing

Another well-known network is Rakuten.

Rakuten represents large brands like Wells Fargo, Virgin Holidays, and Ecco, making it perfect for more seasoned professionals.

9. Avangate Affiliate Network

Where most affiliate networks provide access to sellers focusing on physical goods, Avangate Affiliate Network specializes in digital goods.

These digital goods include software and digital security, which is an ever-growing market.

Unfortunately, Avangate does have limited reporting tools, meaning you could miss out on vital data.  

Affiliate Associates for Beginners

After getting a feel for some of the affiliate networks available, you’ll want to know which ones are the best for beginners:

  • Amazon Associates – Amazon Associates is free to join and one of the most accessible programs to get approval. You also have access to millions of products and services.
  • CJ Affiliate – CJ Affiliate is the largest network out there, leading to almost unlimited opportunities.
  • ClickBank – ClickBank is also easy and free to join. You also have access to free resources to grow your selling knowledge.
  • Impact Affiliate Program – Impact Affiliate Program represents well-known brands like Target, Best Buy, and Levi leading to confidence in new users.
  • Etsy Affiliate Program – Etsy Affiliate Program provides a way to promote hand-crafted goods. Like the selling platform, the affiliate program is simple to use.
  • Fiverr – Fiverr is a services platform, and the affiliate program pays a commission for each first-time buyer.

Be sure to keep the commission rate in mind.

It might be nice to get a 15%-20% commission, but if the products never sell, you may need to rethink your strategy.

How To Build an Affiliate Network

If you want to build your own affiliate network, you should follow a few tried and true steps to get started:

  1. Find the best advertisers – A newbie advertiser won’t know how to build a winning campaign. Don’t cheap out and invest in quality advertisers; you’ll thank yourself later.
  2. Choose the right software – Just because fancy software promises results doesn’t mean it’s right for you. Find the software that works for your strategy.
  3. Attract the right affiliates – Affiliates should be authentic. Authentic brands and personalities build organic audiences that are more likely to purchase affiliate products.
  4. Create incentives – Humans respond to rewards. There’s no better way to attract the right talent than with a winning incentive package. Don’t be afraid to get creative, either!
  5. Track performance and results – Data is power, and when you make the data work for you, there’s no telling what you can accomplish.

Frequently Asked Questions

Despite the wealth of information about affiliate networks, there are always some questions.

Here are a couple of common ones!  

What is the difference between a network and an affiliate?

An affiliate is an individual creator or brand that positions a product or service on a particular platform.

A network is a collection of sellers that use affiliates to help sell their products and services.  

Are affiliate networks free to join?

It depends on the network.

Some affiliate networks, like Amazon Associates, are free to join.

Others like Refersion charge users.

Final Thoughts on Affiliate Networks

Affiliate networks are an excellent way to capitalize on your creativity.

Although there is a lot of confusion behind affiliate networks—what they are, how to join, and the best ones—understanding their benefit leads to more profit.

Now that you know what an affiliate network is, start applying for the one that suits your needs and see your income increase!

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