Which Affiliate Network Has More Affiliates?

This is one of the most frequently asked questions by merchants that are deciding between different affiliate networks. Today it came to me in the following form:

Which network was the highest number of strong affiliates?

My answer is twofold: (i) most affiliate networks do not disclose such information, but (ii) every major/strong affiliate has accounts with all worthwhile affiliate networks (Commission Junction, LinkShare, Google Affiliate Network, ShareASale, buy.at, etc).

Some affiliates do prefer to work with one network only, but this is seldomly so, especially when we are talking “strong affiliates”. Smaller affiliates may prefer to stick only with one affiliate network for the purpose of consolidated payments across different affiliate programs they promote. But even smaller affiliates have to join different networks when they decide to promote multiple brands/merchants (even in the same vertical). Looking at the famous online malls, for example, we will see that the Overstock.com’s affiliate program is now on Commission Junction (CJ), Walmart.com is on LinkShare (LS), Target.com is with the Google Affiliate Network (GAN), whereas Amazon.com is an “indie” (in-house affiliate program). Looking at the insurance sector, as another example, we will see that Insure.com runs their affiliate program through buy.at, InsureMe.com is with CJ, Medex is with GAN, QHealth.com is with ShareASale, and the list of such examples could go on through every category.

I believe that it’s not the number of affiliates within any given affiliate network that one should focus on, but rather on the quality of the network (this includes, but is not limited to: tracking and reporting, unique tools and technologies, level of their technical and customer service support, overall reputation among merchants and affiliates, etc.) and how their offer fits into your existing marketing plan, budget, and strategy.

12 thoughts on “Which Affiliate Network Has More Affiliates?”

  1. “Which network has the highest number of strong affiliates?” = typical merchants

    What I think these merchants are ignoring is the fact that they have to find a “quality” network that will “work with them” to improve their programs and attract as many as affiliates possible. Even if network A has billions of affiliates, who knows how many are active/inactive and if the network reps are dedicated to deliver beyond merchants’ expectations.

    Another thing to note is merchants have to think about long term commitment. Affiliates do not want merchants to move from one network to another because it creates more work for them. In order to establish long term relationship, I think it is very important for merchants to examine if network candidates take care of their affiliates or not. If networks do not take care of affiliates, that will affect merchant’s brand image.

    Unfortunately, it is easy to say all these things, but merchants usually end up working with some networks simply because they have heard of them. No matter which networks they end up choosing, I hope every single affiliate are treated with great care because after all without affiliates, merchants/networks do not exist!

  2. @Betty: Thank you.

    @Ayako: All great points. The reality is that there are very few affiliate networks out there that truly care about the opinion/needs their affiliates may have. The truly listening ones (e.g.: buy.at, ShareASale, AvantLink) will win in the long term. It may take some time, but quality always prevails over quantity.

  3. Hello I’m starting a blog, I’m just wondering if you could be so nice to give me a list of good reliable affiliate networks, as many as possible?!

  4. Stellan, thank you for your question.

    If you’re going to be blogging, much will be tied to the topic of your blog, and/or the vertical/direction you’re going to be concentrating on. If it’s gonna be software or digital products, you’ll want to look into networks like oneNetworkDirect and ClickBank, if wedding – you’ll want to look at the list quoted below as well as networks like Bridaluxe, if health and beauty- major networks + MarketHealth.com, and so on.

    I have listed close to a dozen of major North American affiliate networks here and while that post was directed at merchants/advertisers, you can still get them names of the networks from there. Out of all, at the time of this writing, I especially admire AvantLink, buy.at and ShareASale — the three most proaffiliate networks at this time.

  5. Thank you for the good information!!
    My blog is going to be about recording your own music and publish it.
    So there will be equipment, websites, books, software and more to advertise.
    I signed up to Amazon because they have alot of what i´m using, but theres not much % to earn there.
    And I can´t lead everything on the site there, people will think Amazon own the site.
    I´m really new to this so it´s hard to find information that is not “to much” i get the thinking i just need the rest.
    Any tips of where to start out and so on would help med alot!!


  6. This adds the clarify I’ve been looking for.

    I see a number of music-related programs on ShareASale (SaS), Commission Junction, LinkShare, and Google Affiliate Network. There are also indies and “dual” options (e.g.: my friend Matt McWilliams is currently managing the Legacy Learning Systems program — both in-house and on SaS) available out there. Join the above networks and search their lists of merchants/advertisers.

    Advice: get the blog up and running first (and have a few posts added to it) and you’ll stand much better chances of being accepted into affiliate networks. If you don’t currently have that blog up, you want to start working on that first.

  7. @Stellan You can definitely check out our program. You are right up our alley. Music sites do great with us. Our award-winning Learn and Master Guitar, Learn and Master Piano, and Learn and Master Drums courses are great sellers. We have additional music courses coming out late this year and next year. Our site is http://www.learnandmaster.com/affiliates

    We would love to have you!

    @Geno, as usual your post is spot on.

    “Which network was the highest number of strong affiliates?”

    Answer: Probably CJ, but we still don’t work with them. I think that every week the number shifts just enough towards ShareASale and my guess is that within 2 years or so, they should be equal to CJ and LinkShare. I can only base this on feedback from affiliates though.

    Thanks for the kind words bud. 🙂

  8. Thanks, Geno, for another great article that examines every side of a topic — and special thanks for the MEDEX mention! 🙂

    Do you find there’s a drawback for merchants to be on more than one network (assuming they can meet the monthly minimums on each)?

  9. Sharon,

    Thank you for your kind words. I picked the niches at random. Are you working for Medex?

    Re drawbacks for merchants to be on multiple networks: yes, I believe there are several. The main one is connected with unethical affiliate behavior. If a merchant runs a program on affiliate networks A and B, and Network B allows for unethical affiliate behavior (parasitism, forced clicks, stealing exclusive coupons, etc), there is practically nothing an affiliate on Network A can do to fight these (unless the merchant/affiliate program manager is collaborative, and weeds out the unethical affiliates from Network B for good affiliates on both Networks not to suffer).

    A good article on the topic was written slightly over a year ago by Brian Littleton, CEO of ShareASale, in the FeedFront magazine. It stresses several things that can go wrong in a scenario when a merchant is running an affiliate program on different networks. You may read it by following this link: “Pros & Cons of Utilizing Multiple Networks”.

  10. Geno,

    I’ve been with MEDEX since March 2009 and we’ve recently launched our affiliate program but we have a long way to go!

    I really appreciate the link to Brian’s article. I’ll definitely want to come up with possible solutions to the problems that he has posed before launching with multiple affiliate networks.

    Thanks again!

  11. You’re most welcome, Sharon. Keep in mind though that Brian is being diplomatic in his article. That third point he’s making (“different compliance rules”) is well illustrated in the comments to my post on exclusive coupons and buy.at’s solution (see Jon’s question #1 and Gav’s answer to it). When a merchant runs a dual affiliate program (program on two networks) there is no way for an ethical network to prevent unethical behavior of affiliates on the other network.

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