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.