Common Misconception: The More Affiliate Networks, The Merrier

An affiliate manager has emailed me:

I’m researching possibilities to grow and expand our affiliate program and would really appreciate your advice on the following:

Currently our company is present as a merchant on CJ, ShareaSale and we have in-house program as well. Since you are familiar with our service, could you recommend any other networks/possiblities as a good fit for our affiliate program?

Regardless of what your niche is, my answer to such questions is always the same:

  1. The More Isn’t The Merrier — The common reasoning behind the idea of joining multiple networks is that by doing so you’re going to make your program available to more affiliates, and hence, ensure the affiliate program’s growth.  The fact, however, is that every major/strong affiliate has accounts with all worthwhile affiliate networks [more here], and if you’re already on a major network (like CJ or ShareaSale mentioned above), better concentrate on recruiting new affiliates and activating stagnant ones instead.
  2. Focus on Network Quality — Did you know that joining some of the affiliate networks may actually be detrimental to your affiliate program’s growth? I’m not going to point fingers here, but what is unacceptable in one network (e.g.: malware, forced clicks and cookie stuffing, trademark violations, etc) is frequently tolerated in another. And since “last cookie wins” is still the predominant rule across present-day affiliate networks, a bad affiliate on one of your affiliate networks will negatively influence the income of a good affiliate on another one.
  3. Consider International Expansion — The only circumstances when I do recommend shopping around for more affiliate networks are when you are seeking to grow internationally. As mentioned here, in such cases it does make a lot of sense to add new (local!) affiliate networks and partner with local agencies.

As always, if you have anything to add to the above, I’d love to hear  your thoughts on the subject. Please use the “Comments” area below to post your ideas and/or experiences.

19 thoughts on “Common Misconception: The More Affiliate Networks, The Merrier”

  1. Most of the time, I am a one network girl. However, I do find that different types of affiliates gravitates to different networks. In one of my programs, I find more niche, content focuses affiliates on Shareasale while the larger full time affiliates are on CJ. I don’t feel the two compete with each other. Additionally, I have higher response to my communication with affiliates in Shareasale vs CJ. Not sure why but consistently true.


    1. Interesting comment, Stephanie. Thank you for chiming in with these. Over the years I’ve run several programs on CJ+SaS, LS+SaS, and GAN+SaS; and, in general, I agree with both of your observations.

      1. Philosophically agree Geno, and also wanted to point out though that networks like AvantLink have many strong and niche oriented affiliates that are exclusive to our network because of our unique set of affiliates tools.

  2. Multi network programs lose points in my book. When I’m researching on whether to join a new program or not and see that they are working with certain other networks, it can be the deciding factor. Not always THE dealbreaker, but it is not in my best interests, not a positive element.

  3. Spot on Geno, as always. Speaking from experience running a program on two networks wasn’t worth it. All of our top producers on a major network had accounts on ShareASale.

    Regarding Stephanie’s comment about “larger full time affiliates are on CJ” – they are on ShareASale too (and GAN, PJX etc). The ones that aren’t on SAS are probably not worth working with anyway.

  4. Would agree with the local comment Geno. We have found on a regular basis that international merchants coming into the Australian marketplace have greater success with affiliates in that marketplace when they’re present on a local network.

    It’s not ALWAYS the case, but the Aussie affiliates certainly do like to see a global retailer investing in their country. Maybe it’s considered a signal of longevity/sustainability and taking the market seriously.

  5. With multiple networks(SAS+CJ+GAN+LS), I see an overwhelming increase in duplicate orders: same order number but from different networks. Affiliate networks will internally over-write their tracking cookies so that, if a customer clicks on multiple affiliate advertisements within the same network, that network will attribute a sale to the last affiliate click. But different networks are competitors and don’t talk to one another, there’s no automatic attribution. Is there any solution for duplicate orders ?

  6. Hi Geno,

    What is your strategy for approving affiliates on CJ? What criteria do you look at when deciding whether to approve or not approve applications?

  7. Thanks. On first day I declined those with blogspot blogs or inaccessible sites and approved the rest.

    Will review that strategy after reading your posts.


  8. Thank you for a great post, Geno!

    I totally agree with you that every top affiliate has accounts with multiple networks. At the same time, I find that many of those affiliates still prefer one network over all others and are more susceptible to offers and communication via that network.

    1. Very good point, Liliya. But I would argue that in the above-quoted scenario we can confidently state that between CJ, ShareASale, and the in-house program, the vast majority of affiliates will be covered. Had the program been just one small network, the situation might’ve been different.

  9. Hey Geno this is a great post. I agree, the more isn’t merrier phrase is true not only in affiliate marketing, but many aspects of life.

    That is a point that many new affiliate marketers should be well aware of before diving into the journey of being an affiliate.


  10. Pingback: Affiliate marketing? Still great and getting better! IAB Affiliate Advertiser Survey 2012

  11. Affiliate Glossary

    You mentioned that joining some affiliate marketing networks out there could be detrimental to ones affiliate marketing program. How is it possible to tell them apart. I know that the big ones like ShareASale and Cjunction are more likely to be good ones, but what about if one is starting out and doesn’t have the funds required to join up the big leagues?

    1. Unfortunately, judging by the size (of the affiliate network; or, even, an individual affiliate) isn’t always the best strategy. The reality is that there are violators on every single large affiliate network out there. To avoid falling prey to these violators merchants/advertisers must diligently police affiliate compliance, regardless of the network.

      Speaking of smaller merchants who do not have the funds required to start an affiliate program on a major affiliate network: in-house platform (like HasOffers, or Performance Horizon’s ExactView) is always an option; but I always recommend starting with a network first (especially, if you are a smaller merchant).

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