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What Are The Best Affiliate Networks To Work With?

by DiTesco on February 3, 2012

best affiliate networks
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Affiliate Marketing without a doubt is one of the best ways to make money online. Note that I said best and not easy. As with anything else, affiliate marketing requires a bit of effort and while they are many ways to promote and convert traffic into sales, I won’t go into those details as the objective of this post is to introduce you to some of the affiliate networks that I have been using and of which I recommend. I know that there are several out there that I will certainly miss out, but the ones here are credible and reliable, and all of them have passed the money cycle test, i.e., promote, earn/convert, and get paid.

What is Affiliate Marketing?

Maybe the easiest way to explain affiliate marketing is that it is a way of making money online where you as a publisher receive a reward for helping a business promote their product, service or site. Such rewards are often times in a form of a commission, where you earn money, when someone follows a link you provide to another site where they then purchase something.

One general rule that you may probably see many times over being recommended by “other” bloggers is that you should not promote any product that you have not “tried for yourself”. Promoting a product is like giving your endorsement, so you may want to stay away from some of them, specially those systems that promise riches overnight. In addition, there are those who firmly believe that you can only make decent money, having your own product. While both of these statements have some truth in them, it is my opinion that there are ways around that and for that purpose, please refer to the following articles:

Anyway, following below are the recommended affiliate marketing networks, that I believe are most definitely worth checking out. They are my top performers and all are free to join (some have ref links).

Google Affiliate Network

UPDATE APRIL 2013: Recently, Google Affiliate Network announced that the program will be shut down on July, 31st, 2013. This is sad, but the other networks below are all good to go.

google affiliate network

Not many are familiar with Google’s Affiliate Network. One of the reasons for this is that the network is not tailored to certain types of niches. If you are in the blogging, make money, or related niche, that are very few products that are worth promoting. That aside, there are are many other categories to choose from. Marketing material is good, including link generator, data feeds, banners, etc. Reporting and tracking is great.

Another “big” advantage of Google’s affiliate network is that it is integrated with Google AdSense. This means that your earnings are combined with that of AdSense, thus making it easier to reach that threshold of $100 faster and get paid. Also, if you already have an AdSense account, chances are you are already enrolled on Google’s Affiliate Network.

Share-a-Sale

share a saleContrary to Google Affiliate, Share-a-Sale has many choices for bloggers who blog about marketing, themes, SEO, webmaster tools, business, and related topics. For example, most of the popular themes, such as DIY Thesis, StudioPress, Headway, eXpand2web, and SEO tools, such as Raven, InboundWriter, Scribe, etc., are all there. This makes ShareaSale an excellent choice not only for affiliate marketers but for merchants (or advertisers) as well. Merchants looking to expand their reach and increase sales can take advantage of the “sales force” this network can provide. Really one of the best.

In addition, you can also get paid for sending leads to Share-A-Sale themselves. Only downside is that they do not pay via PayPal (yet), but this is now a problem of the past with Payoneer. Payoneer is actually a great alternative for people who do not or can’t have PayPal.

SkimLinks

This is probably one of my favorite programs and one that I highly recommend. SkimLinks Affiliate NetworkIf you heard about the news regarding Pinterest monetizing its website via SkimLinks, then you might be interested in this program. Essentially, Skimlinks instantly converts any normal product or merchant link in your content into its equivalent affiliate link as a user clicks on it. For example, if you are linking to an article to SEOMoz and someone clicks on it, Skimlinks converts that link automatically to an affiliate link, if SEOMoz is part of their 17K+ registered merchants.

It is a great way to take advantage of your blogs content and you don’t have to worry about crating affiliate links and all that. Another interesting bit, is that unless you disclose that you are using SkimLinks, your users will not notice anything different because the links are not changed. Skimlinks works silently on their servers. In addition to SkimLinks, they also provide SkimWords (similar to InfoLinks) and it is also a great way to monetize your existing content.

Commission Junction

commission junctionA ValueClick company, Commission Junction (CJ) operates one of the largest and most highly regarded affiliate networks that I know of. CJ is probably one of those networks that “suits” almost every type of niche. Whatever the niche you are in, you will most likely find a business partner that will fit your needs. CJ’s portfolio is best suited for “non-digital” products, meaning, you will hardly find any eBook, or similar. For that, I suggest, ClickBank or eJunkie. CJ pays via check, Direct Deposit (some countries) and does not, unfortunately, pay via PayPal. Marketing material is top notch. Includes link rotator, data feeds, banners, text links, and more.

Plimus

PlimusPlimus is known for having one of the largest “collections” of software and mobile related apps. Games, System Utilities, PC Tools, anti-Virus, Photo and Video Editors, Forex Software, etc. – there is a software or digital goods for just about anything you can think of. One of the reasons I like this network is that they have high commission structure (usually 3 times more than physical products) and most of the products have a free trial version. This is simply awesome, because not only can you take it for a test drive, you can comfortably promote the software, because users are not buying anything. They can try it first before making a decision. If they like it, and decided to purchase it, the you get your commission. One drawback about Plimus is that sellers do not have an area to provide marketing materials (banners or text links). You will have to be creative or contact the seller directly. Plimus pays via PayPal.

DigitalRiver: OneNetworkDirect

OneNetworkDirectVery similar to Plimus, but OneNetworkDirect is more focused on technology related products. Microsoft, McAfee, Laplink, Avast, nVidia, Roxio are just but a few of featured programs available on Digital River. Downside is that the commission are not so great in comparison to Plimus, having the upper hand on marketing material. OneDirectNetwork pays via PayPal and has a lead generation program.

ClickBank

clickbankWhat is there to say about ClickBank. Simply put, it is the biggest and probably the most popular marketplace for “finding” just about any type of digital products you can think of. While there are a vast amount of products to choose from, please do your research first before promoting them. There are many “stuff” in there that are sheer crap and will most likely only tick off your user. Good choice for affiliate marketers in general.

Profits King Media

For those of you who like to work based on CPA (Cost per Action), this is one affiliate network that is gaining traction, despite being in business since 2009. This is due to their growing number of offers (900+ and counting), dedicated affiliate network managers, and easy to use tracking software. Don’t know about you, but I like to know what kind of user activity I have when running a campaign. Profits King Media (PKM), for now, is tailored for niches that are involved in the Mobile, Biz opp, Health & Beauty, Credit Reports (finance), among other things. One advantage of PKM is that they pay weekly with no threshold required, via check, wire or direct deposit. For now, payment via PayPal is still not available (yet).

Other

If you are also interested in PPI (Pay-per-Install), CPA (Cost Per Action) or Pay-per-lead type programs, some networks worthwhile checking are, Shopify, RevResponse and NeverBlue. I love these three networks ;-).

That’s it! I am sure I have missed something out, and for that I am hoping you can fill in the gap. If you know of any reliable and credible affiliate network that you feel should be included in this list, please let me know. Remember to get familiar with the network and read their TOS first. These networks work well but they may not be a good fit for you.

Good luck and to your success!

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+DiTesco is a Business and Inbound Marketing Consultant, and founder of iBlogzone.com. iBlogzone's main objective is to help startups and small business owners achieve success in their online ventures. | More About Me and my Consulting Services.

Francisco has written 644 articles at iBlogzone.com

1 Rizwan Sultan February 3, 2012 at 11:09 am

Hey DiTesco,
Nice article I am just start my career on affiliate marketing but your article is great resource for me I like your article Keep it up.

2 DiTesco February 3, 2012 at 1:10 pm

You are welcome Rizwan. Affiliate marketing can be very rewarding and all you need is a bit of good “creativity” and “vision” to choose those products and promote them accordingly. good luck!

3 Eddie Gear@SEO for blogs February 3, 2012 at 12:22 pm

Thanks for the introduction to some of the best affiliate networks out there DiTesco. QQ. Did you mean to say ” what are the best affiliate networks to work with?

4 DiTesco February 3, 2012 at 1:08 pm

hi Eddie. Thanks for the heads up. Was writing this post last night and it did “slip” :) Thanks for stopping by

5 Eddie Gear@SEO For Blogs February 4, 2012 at 2:50 am

Also, Can you tell me a bit more about DigitalRiver: OneNetworkDirect. What are the requirements for bloggers to join. Its a new network for me.

6 DiTesco February 4, 2012 at 11:34 am

Hi Eddie. From what I can tell on OneDirectNetwork, the network has no major requirements. If you are referring to minimum impressions and all that, you should be good to go. Now, the matter comes when joining programs in the network. Some merchants approve your application individually, but there are many that are “auto approve”. Best thing is to give it a go and see how it works for you. That way, you can move on :)

7 Richard February 3, 2012 at 1:34 pm

I like Commission Junction as well as Linkshare. They have a large variety of products and generally high quality affiliates to promote. I also look for products that provide free trials as I want my readers to feel comfortable trying things out without risking their money on an untried product.

8 DiTesco February 4, 2012 at 12:11 pm

Hi Richard. I am still thinking why I left out LinkShare out of this list. I do use them but for some reason, I have missed that one out. Perhaps is it because I don’t use them as much. Anyway, I am looking at this one later today.. thanks for stopping by.

Oh, I think now I remember. I had one merchant that was on LinkShare and they decided to move to another. I was not aware of that and for weeks I had broken links all over the place. I think this irritated me a bit, but I am still not sure if this happened with LinkShare or with another network. Checking :)

9 Richard February 4, 2012 at 3:49 pm

I’ve never had that issue with Linkshare. Hopefully it was just an anomaly. Overall, Linkshare has good high quality merchants. I believe they are the only ones that Apple uses for affiliate marketing, so if you write about apple products and apps, it’s a must have.

10 DiTesco February 4, 2012 at 4:07 pm

Hi Richard. I am sure it was an anomaly and I obviously won’t judge the network as a whole because of that. I don’t promote Apple products (difficult for me for some reason), but I am thinking of giving the network another visit to see what new :)

11 Mike February 3, 2012 at 1:52 pm

Commission Junction and Plimus works best for mew. CJ is good for large blogs and websites as they have so many different advertisers and product offering that you can find great deals for everything.
Plimus is also good but most product there are digital ones and most of them are questionable and refund rate is way higher but they don’t care from where you get traffic so it’s good for people who doesn’t use the most legit ways to gain traffic

12 DiTesco February 4, 2012 at 12:07 pm

Hi Mike. Plimus is very similar to CB and as with anything else, there are the good and there are the bad. I only use “known” merchants on Plimus and since most of them have free trials, It is not that bad to test drive some of them your own. They pay like clockwork though and that is important for me :) As for the “less legit” ways, I think that this is a “general” issue and not exclusive to Plimus affiliates..

13 Diana February 3, 2012 at 2:16 pm

I monetized my site (very lightly) with Amazon. i heard other networks can offer better payouts though, so I’ll try maybe Commission Junction. I saw they have some baby products, as well…

14 DiTesco February 10, 2012 at 2:15 pm

Hi Diana. CJ and Google Affiliate Networks have indeed some baby related products that you can check out. And you heard right, they pay better than Amazon, unless of course you are selling well as an associate. Their commission structure starts low, but it can go as high as 15% in some cases. Good luck!

15 Jarret February 3, 2012 at 2:36 pm

I monetize my websites via cpm ads primarily though I have used affiliate banner ads to fill defaults.
One disadvantage of Share-A-Sale that you didn’t mention is that it uses just an image link/click thru link, so it doesn’t track Ad impressions.
So far, my efforts to monetize end of chain banner ads with with either CJ or Share-a-Sale has been an epic failure. :p
I served over 3 million ad impressions for CJ and about 10 x more with Share-A-Sale. Zero revenue from SAS and just under the minimum payout from CJ. lol…

16 Richard February 4, 2012 at 4:05 pm

With affiliate marketing, I find that banner ads don’t perform very well. However, if you write a post about the product and either recommend or review the product with in text links. Conversions shoot way up. Also, it helps to have some personal experience so you can add a personal story about the product to your post.

When I look at my stats at the end of the month, I literally see zero revenue from banner ads, but $800-$1000 from links within blog posts.

17 DiTesco February 4, 2012 at 4:18 pm

That’s great. And yeah, I agree with you. Banner ads for certain type of affiliate products do not convert well. Big difference when you write a post about it ;-) BTW, I noticed that you are on Audible? You should try using their link generator.. I use it and it converts really well. Your article for example could link (or one of them) to this page instead.. http://www.audible.com/offers/2749?asin=B002UZZ93G > more enticing :) Just a suggestion

18 Richard February 4, 2012 at 4:28 pm

Thanks for that tip! They do convert really well! It’s one of my favorite programs. I didn’t even realize they had a custom link generator. I’m totally going to start using it.

19 Ashley {The North Carolina Cowgirl} February 3, 2012 at 10:05 pm

So glad you posted this list. I just recently have started thinking about doing some affiliate marketing but only new about Google, CJ, and SAS. I’m going to look into the rest. :)

20 DiTesco February 10, 2012 at 2:18 pm

That’s good Ashley. Sometimes it is a wise idea to “try” other opportunities. You never know which of them will work well unless you give it a go :) Good luck!

BTW, how are you doing on Google Aff and SAS?

21 Mitch Mitchell February 3, 2012 at 11:34 pm

Hi DiTesco,

First, I belong to a lot of these, so you did a nice job in recapping them

Second, you know what the overall problem is? The reason most people don’t make much, if any, money from these programs (include me in there) is that no one teaches us how to do it. I belong to these programs, find something I like, post it on my blog and maybe talk about it. If you get lucky to have someone click on it they go to a page where now it’s up to the look or the presentation of someone else to make the sale, and that’s where things often fail, especially with Clickbank.

Not only that, but sometimes you know you’ve made a sale and you don’t get paid, and none of these networks will help you. They’ll give you an email address & tell you to contact the company, but if they don’t respond you’ve just lost money and that’s disappointing as well. I think overall that I’ve lost more money via sales that the affiliate wouldn’t pay me for than the money I’ve made in 5 years; that’s a shame.

Still, a nice list. I would add Linkshare because a lot of affiliates that leave either GAN or CJ head there.

22 DiTesco February 4, 2012 at 12:00 pm

Hi Mitch. OK, for $150 an hour, I’ll be glad to coach you on this, lol. Just kidding..

Seriously, I think you may have given me an idea about making a series or perhaps even some video tutorials. Will have to think about that. I do have some articles here that help. Anyway, affiliate marketing in my experience works best on “niche” sites. For blogs, it has to be relevant and the article you write should essentially make the sale. I know that some “landing” pages (ClickBank like you said) from merchants are horrible, boring and tedious and this is why, the best way is to write a review about a particular product. Then again, there are those great landing pages but still nothing. The key sometimes is to promote the right products that people want to buy and focus on them. See what kind of marketing marketing material they have, look at their landing page, etc. For example, hosting is something that a lot of people buy, and there are a lot of people selling or promoting. The best way to promote them is by making “comparisons” and bundle it with something to be different. Sort of “buy hosting from me” and I will install WordPress and essential plugins for free…

For the second part, I now how disappointing that can be. As with anything business, it is a risk one has to take. This is why, I try to “learn” as much as I can from a vendor and the network they work with. Sometimes, it is not the vendors problem. There are users that buy something and days later ask for a refund. This is why looking at “reversal” rates are also important. I normally stay away from products that have a 15% or higher reversal rate.

As far as apyment is concerned, I have to admit that either I am lucky or I have a sharp eye on picking partners :) I never had problems receiving any payment, including CB (which I got paid just days ago). As I mentioned in the earlier part of this post, they all have passed the “revenue cycle”–

23 Mitch Mitchell February 4, 2012 at 3:05 pm

Then you’ve indeed been lucky, DiTesco. Every time I’ve been stiffed I’ve written about them on my blog. The last company not only stiffed me, but on the same day dropped me for not making enough sales for them. That was inexcusable, and makes it hard to trust anyone else.

I’m glad it’s all worked out for you; I’ll just have to hope for better success as time goes on.

24 DiTesco February 4, 2012 at 4:09 pm

Yeah, I read that post and it is indeed unacceptable. I understand why you are disappointed and why it is a bit difficult to “trust” another network. Anyway, I am sure that eventually you will find the network that suits your needs and one that will work for you… Thanks for your input, valuable as always

25 Ammar Ali February 4, 2012 at 6:45 am

All of above are really nice but which one you would recommend. I am a newbie so i confused which one to use.. Which can give payment in Pakistan

26 DiTesco February 4, 2012 at 11:30 am

Do you have a PayPal account or something similar? Can you receive checks and deposit them in a Bank account without a problem? From what I saw on your blog, it appears that blogging tips and themes are strong topics you blog about. In this case, the ideal situation would be Share-a-Sale, CJ and perhaps ClickBank. Then again, it will depend on the answer to my frirst two questions..

27 Ammar Ali February 4, 2012 at 4:22 pm

I lives in Pakistan there Paypal is not available. But I can get payment from bank or through checks. Well, Share-a-sale works best for me..

28 Ammar Ali February 22, 2012 at 8:55 am

Hi. I have verified paypal account. I want to use Shareasale. But don’t know how to setup it with paypal. I have no bank account.

29 DiTesco February 22, 2012 at 11:26 am

Hi Ammar. Sadly SAS does not make payments via PayPal. For the moment they only make payments via check or direct deposit (for certain countries). An alternative to SAS that pays via PayPal is Plimus and Avangate. Hope that helps.

Another way you can use SAS is if you have someone that you really “trust” (family member for example) that has a bank account. This way you can use them without problems as you can define the “payee” on SAS

30 Ammar Ali February 22, 2012 at 12:55 pm

What if my family members lives in Pakistan? Than is SAS support pakistan too?

31 DiTesco February 22, 2012 at 1:07 pm

Try signing up for SAS. You have to provide the country you are in. If the country (in this case Pakistan) is available there, then Yes, if not, I am afraid you will have to wait until they make it available.

32 Ammar Ali February 23, 2012 at 8:44 am

Pakistan is not available in SAS. Now which one is other best affiliate network..

33 abejith February 4, 2012 at 12:16 pm

I made some bucks with Google affiliate network.But i don’t know if they added it to my adsense.
Good article.

34 DiTesco February 4, 2012 at 4:05 pm

If you look at your unpaid earnings statement on AdSense, it should show there.. thanks for stopping by

35 Abhi Balani February 4, 2012 at 5:50 pm

I didn’t know about Google affiliate networks. Will have to check.

And thanks for your LIKE on my contest entry over Jane’s contest, DiTesco.

Thanks a lot.

36 Promit February 17, 2012 at 9:04 am

I have never tried google affiliate network. I only use adsense. Affiliate marketing is very hard for newbie. what do u think?

37 DiTesco February 17, 2012 at 10:50 am

Hi. Affiliate Marketing, just like anything else, is never easy, even for more advanced bloggers. You just have to focus on one project at a time and continue your efforts. You will never know until you give it a try. Good luck!

38 NFL Stadiums February 21, 2012 at 7:32 am

In my own experience, Linkshare and Pepperjam Network are also two very good networks. Commission Junction, however, is the program I have had the most success with, with Shareasale a close second. Once you get the hang of converting sales, making money becomes second nature.

39 Amit Shaw February 21, 2012 at 7:39 am

Hi DiTesco,
I know only about ClickBank. I am newbie in this blogging arena, i want to ask you which one you would recommend for my site? I’ll apply for google Adsense after 6Mnth(My Blog age 2mnths only) so for next 4mnths what would you recommend for me. Please waiting for your kind reply.
Thanks
Amit Shaw

40 Brankica February 26, 2012 at 3:59 am

I may have missed it but I think you forgot LinkShare which lets you be an affiliate for iTunes and Apple apps :)

Awesome post, I don’t use all of these but you made a great list!

41 DiTesco February 26, 2012 at 11:05 am

Hi Brankica. I agree with you, LinkShare is a good network too, but the only reason it did not make the list is because it is the only affiliate program that up to now, I have not yet completed the “revenue cycle”. All the others here have been through that, so I can safely recommend them. However, since you are giving it the thumbs up (and I do too), I will take your word for it. I trust you :) Thanks for reminding me about it BTW..

42 Ronald K. Asuncion June 15, 2012 at 3:11 pm

I absolutely love this post. Really hit the nail on the head with this one. I do have one question. My site is linked with Commission Junction and Clickbank. It’s a site dedicated to those looking for answers to help them with their weight &/or health goals. Which affiliate program do you think is suitable for me to work with?

Your feedback on this will be really appreciated. Thanks, bro :-)

43 DiTesco June 15, 2012 at 9:19 pm

I think that those two affiliates have already a pretty choice of products to work with. If you want to extend your offerings and try other methods, perhaps you can try Amazon and Neverblue. Neverblue has good CPA offers.

44 Swasha August 4, 2012 at 1:15 am

I worked with commission junction and linkshare for an year. I never got any personal attention from any of those affiliate managers, but I made some money. So, I finally moved to AffiliateVentureGroup dot com, their managers are very helpful and guide me well to get more valuable leads.

45 Sunardi August 5, 2012 at 10:19 pm

I have been more three months running an affiliate program of amazon and other affiliate programs in Indonesia. I have made money from both in Indonesia, but I don’t know why, I couldn’t do the same from amazon.
And I will try what you share.

46 Naomi August 9, 2012 at 12:10 am

I am researching this topic for a book that I am writing – VERY informative information here! ClickBank was the only program that I had ever heard of.

One question that I have is if you can still participate in the Google Affiliate program if you don’t participate in AdSense?

I know that you posted this at the beginning of the year, but it is very helpful in pointing me in the right direction.

47 DiTesco August 9, 2012 at 9:40 am

Hi Naomi. Unfortunately, you can not participate on Google Affiliate (GAF) if you don’t have AdSense. Reason being is that all payments on GAF are integrated on AdSense. Before you can, but this has changed to supposedly make it better for publishers to reach the threshold they require faster. IMO, it is just to “soft force” publishers of being on AdSense too

48 Danny September 30, 2012 at 6:33 am

Nice post, Francisco…

Am currently using Share-a-sale, and I do need to do far more ” Product / service research before I can honestly make any any positive or negative judgement on this particular Merchant network….

I am also curious how well the Google affiliate program performs, as I have not heard all that much about it.

49 ravi badoni October 23, 2012 at 2:05 am

Hi admin. Which affiliate network should i consider first.I am new to affiliate network and heard that affiliate is better than ad network???

50 DiTesco October 23, 2012 at 9:13 am

HI. Affiliate and ad networks are different. Ad networks to work requires that your sites traffic is reasonable and affiliate marketing does not need that. Depending on the case, you don’t even need a website for affiliate marketing. As for the best? They are right here :)

51 Meghan October 24, 2012 at 10:10 pm

In case anyone wanted more information on Skimlinks or wondering what makes us the leaders of the automated affiliate marketing space, I wanted to share some 411 with you. Check out The Skimlinks Advantage for the highlights: http://blog.skimlinks.com/2012/10/24/the-skimlinks-advantage/

Great, inclusive piece! Thanks for mentioning us!

Meghan
Skimlinks

52 Andre Joe November 9, 2012 at 6:05 pm

I love Google affiliate network. It is integrated with Adsense. Clickbank offers many products and one of the best affiliate network for me.

53 DiTesco February 23, 2012 at 11:05 am

That’s unfortunate. Try One Direct, Plimus and Skimlinks. They are good and they pay via PayPal.

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