Choosing An Affiliate Network For Your Business

When’s the last time you went shopping around for a new affiliate network? Everyone’s heard of the big networks like Commission Junction, LinkShare, Google Affiliate Network, etc. — but what about the others?

Without searching too hard, you can find hundreds of different affiliate networks on the Web with new ones popping up daily. CPA (cost-per-acquisition), CPL (cost-per-lead), CPS (cost-per-sale), CPC (cost-per-click), CPM (cost-per-1k impressions) — it all can become very confusing quite quickly.  affiliate chart

At the end of the day, you just want to know:

1.  What affiliate network is best for my business?

2.  What types of affiliates are most successful in the affiliate network?

3.  Which affiliate network will help me acquire the most new customers?

Figuring out answers to these questions isn’t as daunting as searching through the ~16,100,000 results Google returns for Affiliate Networks.

Having helped customers evaluate and choose new affiliate networks, I thought it would be helpful to highlight a few simple questions that will help you better evaluate and find the best affiliate network for your business.

Questions That Will Help You Choose

Below are five questions that should help you determine the best affiliate solution for your business.

1.  What types of merchants find the most value in your affiliate network?

Ask for a list of merchants similar to yours and why they are successful in the network. While you may not want to run on the same affiliate network as your biggest competitors, there is value in knowing what categories of merchants perform best in the network. If you’re a technology company, you may want to think about how well your program will perform in a network specializing in health & beauty.

2.  What affiliate models are most prominent in your affiliate network?

Ask about the types of offers that resonate best with affiliates in the network. This question will help you figure out the pay-for-performance model that gets affiliates excited in that network. If you’re looking for an affiliate network that will serve as a platform to grow e-commerce sales, be absolutely certain that the network is e-commerce centric with affiliates that like rev-share splits on a Cost Per Sale basis.

3.  What types of affiliates are most successful in your affiliate network?

Identifying what types of affiliates are most successful in the affiliate network and their marketing methods is very important. If you do not allow affiliates to do pay-per-click (PPC) or promote your products using coupon codes, a network with heavy hitting coupon and search marketing affiliates is probably not worth much of your time.

The affiliate network should be able to provide you a breakdown of split percentages of the different affiliate types in the network. If they can provide you this information, be sure to clarify whether or not this is “active” affiliates or a measure of their overall affiliate base.

4.  What measures does the affiliate network take to minimize fraud?

Unfortunately, affiliate fraud is something that continues to be at the forefront of the performance marketing industry. While larger brands tend to be the target for fraudsters, small and medium-sized merchants can quickly find themselves in the cross-hairs of the “bad guys.” Ask how the affiliate network monitors fraud as well as their policy and process for dealing with fraudsters in the network.

5.  What type of support should I expect working with your affiliate network?

Once the ink dries on the contract, what sort of customer experience are you in for with that affiliate network? Ask for a list of merchants that you can speak with that are similar to your business in terms of affiliate revenue or projected affiliate revenue.

Most important is that you speak with merchants that have the same service level agreement (SLA) with the network as you’re considering or lower. If you have an affiliate management agency or are signing up for a lower-tier SLA to manage your program in-house, speaking with a merchant that has a network-managed or top-tier SLA may not be relevant or as helpful.

Choosing A Network & Moving Forward

Creating a matrix to evaluate different affiliate networks is probably most effective. Your matrix should information around the questions above as well as other factors that will influence your decision, such as: upfront cost, contract term, monthly network fees, etc.

Quantifying each of the items in your matrix with a weighted value will make the selection process more efficient by making sure everyone involved in the decision process is on the same page.

network matrix

Once you’ve selected an affiliate network to handle the tracking, reporting, and commission payment of your affiliates — it’s time to think about who’s going to be managing your affiliate program.

As previously mentioned, affiliate networks sometimes offer managed services for an additional fee. Some merchants find that retaining an affiliate management agency is a better option. At the end of the day, you need to find the best affiliate network and affiliate management solution that fits the needs of your business.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.

Related Topics: Affiliate Marketing | Affiliate Marketing Column | Channel: Content Marketing


About The Author: is the CEO of iAffiliate Management, an affiliate management agency that helps consumer technology and internet retailers extend their brand to acquire customers they could not otherwise reach.


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  • Ana | Traffic Generation Cafe

    I am more on the receiving end of aff marketing, Rick (I am an aff marketer that is), but many of my readers ask the same questions you just addressed in this post.

  • Rosendo A. Cuyasen

    Thank you for sharing this affiliate insight. There’s a bunch of affiliate out there and I believe that choosing a reliable affiliate partners is important.


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