7. Affiliate Marketing
In this lesson, we will cover :
- What is Affiliate Marketing?
- How Affiliate Marketing Works
- The Top 25 Affiliate Networks
What is Affiliate Marketing?
Affiliate marketing is earning commission by promoting other’s product, services, or offers. You (affiliate) find a product you like, promote it to people who might be interested in it, and then earn a piece of profit for each sale you generate from it.
For marketers and entrepreneurs, affiliate marketing imposes low or no risks. This is because you (merchant) do not pay affiliates when they send traffic to your website. You only pay when those visitors convert into paying customers.
How Affiliate Marketing Works
- First, each affiliate is assigned a unique tracking URL. This allows you to track which affiliates are sending you traffic.
- Then, your affiliate(s) promotes your products or services in several ways: reviewing products, writing and publishing blog posts, sending e-mail newsletters, creating YouTube videos and placing an affiliate link in the description, or using paid traffic (like Google AdWords).
- Third, leads or customers are generated when visitors to your offer page sign up or purchase your product or services.
- Last, your affiliates receive a commission. When your affiliate(s) drive you leads or customers, you pay them for their efforts.
Which affiliate marketing network is best?
As a merchant, this depends on if you are selling a physical product or a digital informational product.
One of the risks of affiliate marketing network sites is that many affiliates run “discount coupon sites.”
Now, the risk of discount coupon sites is that it doesn’t bring in a new customer, which is what you want as a merchant. Instead, it just eats into your revenue. This is because a customer, who is about to make a purchase, will typically search on Google for a coupon code to get a discount off his current purchase the moment he sees a coupon code field option.
Hence, there is little “value” in discount coupon sites. It doesn’t bring you new traffic, leads, and sales. Instead, it just reduces your existing revenue.
To solve this, some merchants must code unique scripts in collaboration with affiliate marketing network vendors to exclude purchases from existing customers on the site.
Top 25 Cost per Sale (CPS) Affiliate Marketing Network for 2016
Rakuten is ranked as the #1 Affiliate Marketing Network four years in a row. It gives you comprehensive tools to start a profitable program. With the help of their easy to use and intuitive dashboard, you can do several things: keep track of commissions, payments, links, and plug-ins, all from one central location.
- Signing up and becoming an affiliate with Rakuten Affiliate Network is free. This is an excellent option for bloggers or small business owners, with little or no budget.
- The rotating banner feature allows you to create a banner that automatically rotates all of the ad units randomly. This not only saves you time, but also maximizes the visibility of the ad units.
- They have a slightly unpredictable payment schedule. Publishers get paid only after the payment for each affiliate has been collected. Because of this, you might get paid within a week for some advertisers or will have to wait up to 60 days to receive a payment from other advertisers.
- Rakuten does not support PayPal as a payment option. It only supports check and direct deposit.
Clickbank was first launched in 1998 and, today, has a network of 12,000 digital products vendors and over 100,000 active affiliates. With over 26,000 daily transactions and over 700,000 unique visitors a month, Clickbank has grown into a major player in the affiliate marketing industry.
- Clickbank’s sign up process is straight forward. You only need to submit your basic contact information. Unlike other affiliate networks, you need no pre-approval from the network. That means anyone can sign up and start promoting.
- Clickbank allows affiliates from over 150 countries. If your country isn’t listed in the drop down list during the sign up process, you won’t be able to do anything.
Once signed up:
- Once you have signed up, the first thing you want to do is visit the Marketplace. They have over 1000s of products to promote. However, you must be careful picking the digital products to promote, because not all of them are high quality.
- The best way to find high quality products is to check the “gravity” of a product. It’s a number that indicates how many affiliates have made a sale for that product in the past 8 weeks. The higher the number, the better the product. We recommend you aim for a gravity of at least 30.
- You get paid every two weeks from Clickbank.
- Payment is by check or direct deposit and available in 17 countries, including the US.
- Commission on Clickbank is usually higher, many over 50%. This means you will be rewarded with higher commissions for your efforts.
Becoming a merchant is easy at Clickbank. Not only do they provide you with tons of support material, but it’s also very affordable to get started (only $49.95 to activate a product).
CJ Affiliate by Conversant (formerly Commission Junction) is one of the oldest and biggest affiliate marketing networks.
Today, this network has over 1000s of publishers and affiliates, making CJ one of the most popular affiliate networks for bloggers and small online businesses.
- The control panel is intuitive and easy to use, providing full control over your offers, reports, messages, and account settings. The main dashboard screen shows yesterday’s performance summary, with other information, such as announcements, new advertiser recommendations, tasks, and 3-month and 7-day EPC stats.
- The control panel URL is https://members.cj.com/member/
Pricing Structure & Model: Commission Junction requires a 12-month commitment, and you’d be looking at a minimum investment of $10,000. Typically, merchants must be operating websites that earn a minimum of USD$75,000 a month in online sales because of the costs. Most clients see a 10-15% lift in their current online volume after a 3 to 6-month ramping period.
Amazon needs no introduction. It is an American e-commerce company, with headquarters in Seattle, Washington, and has evolved into a cloud computing firm. It is also the biggest digital retailer in the United States.
For many publishers, Amazon is the entry-point. The Amazon Associates, its affiliate marketing network, allows you to tap into over a million products to market to your customers.
Amazon Associates is popular, probably because of its user-friendly interface and broad product offerings.
Price: Free to join as an affiliate
Commission Structure: There are two commission structures for Amazon associates – fixed rates and volume-based rates. For certain products, your commission rate will remain fixed, while for general products, your commission rate can go up to 8.5%, depending on how much you sell.
- It is a reputable and trusted brand (they’re the #1 e-commerce site in the world). Most likely, your audience must have bought something in the past from Amazon, so they’ll less likely be hesitant to buy from you.
- The sales funnel of Amazon is proven to convert well. They will provide you with everything you need to know – product information, pictures, and customer reviews, related products, and accessories you may not have thought about.
The eBay Partner Network represents eBay Inc., the world’s biggest e-commerce store with operations in over 30 countries. This multi-billion online auction and shopping site sells a wide variety of quality products and services worldwide, making it a great place for affiliate marketers.
- You can promote thousands of products, as they are the largest auction and affiliate marketing program.
- They offer fast and consistent payment. All payments are processed on the 22nd of each month. They also support PayPal.
- They have a low payment threshold – only $25. The lower the payment threshold, the faster you will reach them and get paid.
- Compared with Amazon, their affiliate marketing program is harder to get approved for eBay. Your website must have sufficient traffic composed of “quality” visitors.
ShareASale has over 2,500 merchants and an array of categories for affiliates to choose partners/offers from and earn money. The control panel and user interface are easy to use, from where affiliates can easily see reports and sales in real time.
ShareASale provides valuable resources to their affiliates. The Make-A-Video tool allows affiliates to convert their existing video into creative multimedia to use on their website. This utility also permits users to add “Cue Points” that will help promote products to their visitors.
The Make a Page utility allows affiliates to search for and select products quickly. Once they select the product, an HTML code is created with the affiliate’s personal link. Then the affiliate must copy and paste this code into their site and a page promotes and sells the product.
The registration process at ShareASale is quick and easy to follow. After hitting the “Sign Up” button on the homepage, you will be taken to a screen, where you can enter your username and password and enter the country name you live in. You will need to verify your website and your email address. Once registered, you will receive the registration confirmation the next day.
ShareASale offers several tools for generating reports, such as activity summary, transaction details, daily stats, and revenue report among other things. ShareASale also allows you to create customized reports that display only the information you need.
Avangate focuses on software and online services. With over 4000 online companies in over 180 countries, Avangate is the most popular “digital downloads” network. Avangate companies include Bitdefender, Absolute Software, FICO, Brocade, Kaspersky Lab, HP Software, and Telestream.
- Integrated e-commerce, global payments, and subscription billing means zero waiting for merchant accounts or risk approval.
- Avangate has an extended market reach. They sell in over 180+ countries with multi-currency, global payments, and an integrated affiliate network with over 500,000 partners, offering mainly software and digital goods.
Avangate offers several options for customer support, such as FAQs, online support, video tutorials, and phone support.
The affiliate network has a wide range of categories: shopping cart software, payment gateway software, system administration software, order management software, billing & invoicing software, etc. This means you will find the software you are looking to promote.
Just like Clickbank, RevenueWire is a global digital commerce platform, designed for companies that offer digital products online. With a partnership with industry-leading services, such as AffiliateWire, RevenueWire today has evolved as a player in over 120 countries.
Popular among advertisers, it is another highly respected Canadian network, with the main focus on digital commerce. Their rise in the rankings from last year shows their popularity and commitment towards excellence.
The minimum pay at RevenueWire is $25, and the commission type is CPS.
The payment frequency is bi-weekly or twice a month.
They support popular payment methods, such as Check, ACH Bank Deposit, Wire Transfer, and PayPal.
LinkConnector has a terrific range of trusted brands and a focus on proprietary technology.
Their services to publishers and advertisers are reliable and secure, and their customer support is excellent.
They credit and send out payments on the 15th of each month. You will get your payment within 3 business days.
If you are looking for an affiliate network that pays you faster than any others in the industry, then FlexOffers is definitely the affiliate network for you.
They offer thousands of affiliate programs. If you are running a blog or website on categories, such as business, automotive, consumer electronics, education, digital products, financial services, home and garden, sports and fitness, or even travel, you will find a product or affiliate program to promote. FlexOffers has over 5,000 popular advertisers.
They also provide promotional tools in a different format. Do you need banners, text links, and deep links to promote your products? No problem.
They are one of the fastest paying networks out there. Usually, they pay once a month (which is still faster), but if you meet their criteria, you are eligible for their Net 7 payouts, meaning you can get paid within 7 days of reaching your payment threshold.
AvantLink is considered the most beginner friendly affiliate network in the industry, right now. Launched in 2005, AvantLink provides in-depth information about their merchants, tools, and features to let their prospective affiliates know what they are getting into.
They boast of having a deep well of merchants (big, mid-size, and small), wide range of categories (you will sure find a category appropriate for your website/blog), and robust set of tools and features (e.g., custom link builder, data feed manager, their API, product and ad widget, etc.).
This affiliate network is the best in Europe and increasingly popular in the USA, today. It was the Affiliate Marketing Awards 2013 winner for the Best CPS Network.
At Affiliate Window, you will have access to a wide range of merchants (over 1,600 to choose from), which includes well-known brands.
Their dashboard is easy to use and intuitive, making it easy to search for merchants or new affiliate programs to join and view your earnings and click rates.
Affiliate Window is not free to join, though. You pay a small fee of £5 during registration. They use this fee for security checks and will credit it back to your account, once you get approved. They do not provide information on what happens when you do not get approved.
13. Digital River
Digital River is still one of the most popular networks out there, but often sidelined by newer digital download networks. The World’s Largest Digital Marketplace hosts many big brands and products. That means you will sell digital products from only leading developers. Sometimes, you can even use their coupon code to promote the offers.
Launched in 2006, Digital River has over 400,000 products from one of the world’s best brands. Their products usually consist of games, software, consumer electronics, and educational products, which are always in demand.
Digital River website design is easy to use and intuitive and includes essential features, such as search option and a host of other reporting options that allow you to get accurate data faster.
Digital River is also one of the highest paying affiliate marketing networks. Once you join and get accepted, you will earn up to 60% in commission per sale.
Impact Radius offers a single platform, where you can track all direct and network partnerships, re-marketing, paid search, and display initiatives. You can track all of your customer acquisition channels, such as paid search, retargeting, display, email, and affiliate, through one central location.
The most advanced digital marketing platform offers several features, including ad tracking, affiliate portal, analytics and reporting, affiliate management, affiliate link management, referral source tracking, and conversion tracking, among others.
Impact Radius boasts of providing superior technology and direct access to advertisers, allowing affiliates to earn up to 17% higher revenue with the same traffic.
Formerly Affiliate Network, ClickBooth has a great reputation, particularly for their email campaigns, making this Manhattan-based digital download network one of the top 25 affiliate networks.
Their registration is straightforward, but it’s difficult to get in because of their strict requirements.
The minimum payment is $50, and they pay out every two weeks (N-15). You can get paid through check, PayPal, bank wire transfer, or ACH (direct deposit).
Besides the usual customer support channels, they also provide dedicated affiliate managers to help you with any issues you may have. You can contact them via email, phone, or Skype.
You can also check out these other affiliate networks below.
Affiliate marketing offers anyone (start-ups or established businesses) the flexibility and power required to grow their business quickly and make more sales that take their business to the next level.
In the next chapter, we will cover Conversion Rate Optimization, which is a process of improving the number of visitors who performs the desired action on your website. This action could be an enquiry, a sale or filling up a form.