Analysis of 550 Best Affiliate Programs Reveals Top 20 Niches

Among questions most frequently asked about affiliate marketing, queries about “hot niches” and “best affiliate programs” always abound.

There are various ways to reflect an affiliate program’s comparative ‘bestness’. CJ by Conversant utilizes a 5-bar scale, ShareASale places their top advertisers into a Top 100 PowerRank, Affiliate Window scores merchants according to their AWin Index. In some instances we enjoy a fairly clear understanding of the criteria that go into making one affiliate program rank higher than another, in others we do not. There are, however, three key performance indicators that can help us set aside the better-performing affiliate programs from the rest — especially when we use these KPIs in a bouquet. They are: earnings per click, conversion rate, and comparative payout volume.

In an effort to analyze America’s best affiliate programs, I have reached to all major U.S. affiliate networks. In some cases (with CJ Affiliate by Conversant (formerly Commission Junction) and ShareASale) I was able to pull the data myself; in others (with Rakuten Affiliate Network (formerly LinkShare), AvantLink, Affiliate Window, and LinkConnector) the networks kindly provided me with the data on their top affiliate programs. Some networks couldn’t supply me with the data requested, but with a final count of 550 affiliate programs across 6 networks, I believe I have analyzed a representative sample.

Today I begin publishing my observations (and conclusions, where relevant).

One of the things that jumped at me while I was cross-matching data received from different affiliate networks was that fact that out 550 top affiliate programs 486 (or some 88.4%) may be placed into 20 broad categories.

Here they are:

Top 20 affiliate categories

Furthermore, when we analyze just the top 10 categories, we see that they are represented by a total of 391 affiliate programs (or 71.1% of the 550 sample), and the pie chart looks as follows:

Top 10 affiliate niches

For clarity, here are the types of advertisers and niches that were grouped in each of the above ten categories:

  1. Fashion (apparel, accessories, footwear)
  2. Sports & Outdoors (recreation, fitness, sports apparel, fan merchandise)
  3. Health/Wellness & Beauty (supplements, health-related products, weight loss, skincare)
  4. Travel (air, hotels, car rentals, etc)
  5. Home & Garden (home furnishings, décor, kitchen, gardening, home improvement)
  6. Computers & Electronics (computers, peripherals, ink, etc)
  7. Education & Training (textbook rentals, education-related software)
  8. Business (supplies, office furniture, marketing tools, etc)
  9. Financial & Insurance (checks, credit-related services, loans, insurance, ID protection)
  10. High-End & Luxury Stores

More information from this study will be published in my following blog posts. So, stay tuned for more observations ahead, and enjoy your weekend.

15 thoughts on “Analysis of 550 Best Affiliate Programs Reveals Top 20 Niches”

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    1. There are quite a few electronics- and finances-related affiliate programs on the U.S. networks that I have analyzed. However, when we look at the top ones across the networks, they only score #6 and #9 respectively.

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  3. Home and garden at the 5 th position. I was planning to start a new niche blog and now I can decide in a better way . I never knew that there are good affiliate programs for Home and gaden .

  4. Very useful info, Geno! I admit it was a little bit surprising that there’s no digital goods nor software among the top niches, though I’ve seen SaaS in one of the charts.

    1. Andra, first of all, you gotta remember that we’ve analyzed traditional affiliate networks (CJ, LS, etc), while software and digital products are generally sold on more targeted networks (like Avangate, Clickbank, RevenueWire, etc). Secondly, SaaS is still on the list (it’s #13 on the first chart). Thirdly, I must add that there was also some software in categories #7 (Education and Training) and #8 (Business). So, you’re good. 😉

  5. Geno,
    Thanks for such a meticulous job. Surprisingly, I can’t find the web hosting companies and digital download sites. Was this by omission or they have been merged into some groups?
    Are the fashion affiliates dominating in all three KPIs you used in classifying them? I ask because I love to know what kind of affiliate programs I should promote for a better result.
    Do have a lovely weekend.

    1. Efoghor, to answer your first question: hosting was included in the Business category, while and software in the SaaS category. The likely reason why you do not see a proliferation of “downloadable digital goods” on the above lists is that they tend to run/focus on specific networks (from Clickbank to AvantLink, AffiliateWire, and oneNetworkDirect) which we didn’t analyze, focusing on the more traditional networks (that encompass multiple niches/verticals).

      As for the Fashion segment (and any other, for that matter), you may see how specific niches stack up (on each of the six analyzed affiliate networks) in my Top Affiliate Program Categories on 6 U.S. Affiliate Networks article.

      Speaking of the KPIs, I believe I addressed this question in the 2nd paragraph of this post.

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