Looking to try out Affiliate Marketing? Consider these networks to help get you started!
The links in this article are affiliate links. If you use them, I may earn a small commission from the company it links to.
Before we begin, just a few quick notes on terminology.
Affiliate Program — A program offered by a company that encourages users, bloggers, influencers, etc. to refer new users to the company. A glorified refer-a-friend program.
Affiliate Network — An aggregate website that companies sign up to use. Networks connect advertisers (companies) with publishers (you). Some companies are listed on multiple Networks, and some companies have different regional websites listed on different Networks (i.e. their UK version is hosted in one place and their US version in another).
What’s the difference between a pyramid scheme/MLM and affiliate marketing?
This is the first question I asked when I got started. If I’m referring people to the website to make money, isn’t that kind of pyramid-y?
Not to mention, if I recommend publishers to use different networks, creating “sub-affiliates” isn’t that also a little pyramid-y?
I’ve found a number of websites with different answers, some even sounding a little offended.
But the bottom line is: You don’t have to buy into the program. The Fiverr Affiliate Program doesn’t require you to pay them (apart from a percentage of your earnings). It doesn’t require that you use Fiverr. There’s no monthly fee for being part of the program. Unlike a pyramid scheme.
Is there a limit to how many networks I can join?
Legally/technically? No. Join away! Some are invite-only, some require that your main source of visitors (blog, podcast, IG page, etc.) have a certain number of verifiable visits, and some are for specific niches like Travelpayouts which is for, you guessed it, travel.
However, I do recommend starting with a few. Check out their advertisers, get a feel for the layout, discover tools you can use (links, banners, widgets, etc.), and get comfortable with their program. With too many, it’s easy to lose track of which programs you’re a part of, and most of these networks close out inactive accounts (accounts that haven’t signed in, not accounts that haven’t generated traffic).
So, without further ado, the best networks for beginners.
First on the list is AWIN. Part of the reason I put it first on the list is that it’s the first affiliate network I signed up for.
AWIN is a partnership between Berlin-based zanox and London-based Affiliate Window and has been in business for just over 21 years. This means they’re trusted, they have a wide pool of advertisers to choose from, and they don’t mess around with your money.
The UI of the website is slightly dated, but I like the straightforwardness of it. There are few bells and whistles, but it has everything you need to get started. Link and Deep Link generation (deep links will link someone directly to a specific webpage rather than just a homepage. Useful when advertising a product or service.), insertable banners and images, and tools like “Conver-A-Link” which will convert all of the current links on an article to corresponding affiliate links.
Since AWIN is the product of two European companies, they have a much stronger presence in Europe, but that doesn’t mean they’re non-existent in the US. They offer more than 800 US-based advertisers for you to partner with, as well as hundreds of South American companies.
I’m fairly new to ShareASale, but the reason I mention it here is that AWIN bought it in 2017 to expand its US-based operations. It currently has over 3500 advertisers on its platform and has been in business since 2000.
Like AWIN, they offer Link and Deep Link generation, but for participating advertisers, they offer coupons or “deals” that allow you to encourage your readers/listeners/watchers to use your coupon for a discount.
If you’d like to stay within the same “ecosystem” consider signing up for ShareASale.
I first signed up for CJ Affiliates (Commission Junction) when I found that a number of advertisers I wanted to work with used CJ, such as VRBO, Booking, and StudentUniverse. It felt like it kept popping up, so I gave it a shot.
In business since 1998, I found that CJ offers partnerships with some major US-based brands like Barnes and Noble, Priceline, and J. Crew. Not to mention the thousands of other brands they host affiliate programs for.
The layout for CJ is a little cleaner than AWIN or ShareASale, allowing you to easily sort by pending applications, accepted advertisers, and advertisers you haven’t applied for.
They allow you to create links as well as place widgets on your website for easy customer generation.
This is my personal favorite because I’m in the travel niche. This program only offers advertisers that are related to travel in some way, whether it be a flight aggregate, hotel chain, and even luggage companies.
Of course, you don’t have to be in the travel niche to use them. If you’re advertising any of their companies, you can sign up to be part of the Travelpayout program.
Because of their specificity, they don’t offer relationships with too many advertisers, only around 60. However, there are rumors that they offer a better chance for acceptance into certain programs that might decline you on another site.
The only downfall I have seen is there is no way to sort by the programs you are currently a part of. This can make it a little difficult to easily make links to the programs you’re signed up for, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t break it for me.