If you’re just starting out with affiliate marketing, trying to find a good affiliate network can be a bit daunting.
There are literally thousands of affiliate programs you could try. In fact, you could probably find an affiliate program for just about any type of product on the planet, and most of those products will have their own private affiliate programs.
However, if you’re new to this kind of business model, it might not be ideal to go track down a bunch of individual affiliate programs for a bunch of different products. That takes loads of time, research, and, in some cases, even relationships.
Instead, we recommend newbies look at larger affiliate networks.
Affiliate networks are essentially third-party companies that help affiliate managers connect with marketers.
Using a large affiliate network provides a few major benefits. First, large networks take care of the payment process for you. So, instead of having to track payments from multiple different vendors, you can track everything all in one place, and you can be sure it’ll be paid on time.
Secondly, large affiliate networks “collect” vendors. You don’t have to do a bunch of research to find all the affiliate programs. If you join one or two of the biggest networks, you can usually find several products most markets (and some markets will have hundreds).
Of course, not all vendors join affiliate networks, so it might still be worth researching other affiliate programs in your space, but the point is simply that joining a couple big affiliate networks is probably one of the best ways to get started.
What should I look for in a good affiliate network if I’m a beginner?
Ease of Use
The first thing you want to look for probably ease of use. This is also one of the big advantages affiliate networks have over private affiliate programs: they’re typically very easy to use.
I recommend signing up for a few networks and getting a feel for their back end. Talk to an affiliate manager if you can. See what the promotion and payment processes are like. You want something that feels comfortable, so you can spend time promoting products instead of dinking around in the back end of your affiliate account.
Products in Your Market
This might seem obvious, but you’d be surprised. It’s vital to make sure a given affiliate network actually has products in your market (or the market you want to get into).
More importantly, you want to make sure there are multiple products in that market. You’re not going to make a living on just one product (probably), so having multiple things to promote essentially lays a much sturdier foundation for your business.
And perhaps most importantly of all, you want to make sure other people are actually making money on the products you’d like to promote. Most affiliate networks will be able to tell you which products are most popular and where the money is.
It’s also important to look for affiliate networks that have a lot of users, especially if you’re new. First, popular networks will have a lot more money (because they’ll have more customers). And that usually means they’ll have more resources (e.g. affiliate managers).
Bigger networks also attract more vendors, which means a wider selection of stuff to sell. And if you have more stuff to sell, you have more chances to find something that works without having to go find a bunch of other affiliate programs.
Lastly, you want to look for affiliate networks that have support—for both their affiliates and their vendors. There’s going to be a lot of money changing hands, so you want a network who is equipped to handle disputes.
What are some good networks for newbies?
ClickBank is probably one of the largest and most well-known affiliate networks out there. It’s got a great UI, tons of products, and a lot of support.
Commission Junction (CJ)
Commission Junction is another old, established network that has done a good job keeping up with the times and the needs of both advertisers and publishers. They’re chocked full of products and have excellent tracking and analytics.
The Amazon Associates program isn’t really an affiliate network, but it’s one of the largest affiliate programs out there (likely the largest). They have a shorter cookie and lower commission than lots of products, but they convert like crazy.
eBay Partner Program
The eBay Partner Program is similar to the Amazon Associates program. It’s not a network; it’s the private program of a major online retailer.
Of course, there are loads of great affiliate networks out there, but if you’re new, these should be a great start.