Top 5 affiliate networks – affiliateprograms.comMany people who are just starting off in affiliate marketing have a tough time finding the right programs to promote on their website.

And then when they do find a few great programs to promote, they find that setting up and managing a variety of relationships with a variety of merchants can become a logistical challenge.

There’s an easier way to get your affiliate business started, and that’s by working with affiliate networks. In fact, when new affiliates ask me how they can learn about and participate in a variety of affiliate programs, I tell them to start off by joining an affiliate network.

Affiliate networks act as middlemen between website owners (affiliates) and retailers (merchants). For affiliates, they’re an easy way to get exposure to a variety of affiliate programs in a short time. In fact, once you join a network, you’ll find that you’re able to join dozens of programs in a very short time.

For today’s post, I’m going to tell you about the top 5 affiliate networks and why you should check out each network.

Commission Junction

Commission Junction, which is informally known as “CJ”, is North America’s largest affiliate network.  It’s a great place to connect with major retailers and merchants such as Overstock.com, Go Daddy, The Wall Street Journal, Petco and Zappos. In addition, certain niches such as web hosting and telecommunications have merchants that offer very competitive commissions.

Simply because it’s the biggest network, you’re going to want to check it out. However, don’t rely on CJ’s category listings of merchants alone when looking for a program. As you get more familiar with CJ and find that because some merchants may be miscategorized, you’ll have to resort to hunting and pecking through the lists of merchants to find the right program for you.

ShareASale

Operating since 2000, ShareASale offers affiliates a choice of more than 2,600 merchants, with an emphasis on small and mid-size merchants. You’ll recognize brand names such as Keen Footwear, Snorg Tees, Jones Soda and Café Press. When you compare them by the total number of merchants, ShareASale ranks among the largest U.S. affiliate networks. ShareASale offers terrific programs for sites that focus on web development, online marketing, niche fashion and sports products.

Amazon

The Amazon Associates program isn’t a network by traditional standards, but given the size of Amazon’s website and its wide product selection, it’s worth including in this list. Amazon carries a wide selection of everything from books to DVDs to barbecue grills to diapers. Regardless of your niche, you will find something to promote from Amazon. And don’t be scared off by Amazon’s low commission rates (4-8%). You’ll make up for it in volume.

ClickBank

ClickBank is a major presence in affiliate marketing with more than 100,000 active affiliates and more than 50,000 digital products. When you’re starting off, ClickBank is a great place to start — many new affiliates sell their first products through the ClickBank network. The single thing you’ll like most about ClickBank is how easy they make it to become an affiliate. Anyone can sign up, complete the required legal information, and sell ClickBank’s digital products.

LinkShare

LinkShare is a great way for a small affiliate marketer to hook up with Fortune 500 brands such as J.C. Penney, American Express, Disney and Avon. LinkShare also offers programs with Internet big-box retailer Buy.com, Sierra Trading Post and 1-800-Flowers.com … and hundreds of others. You’ll need to be approved separately for each program you apply to, so it’s best to sign up for LinkShare after your site is built and loaded with content.

Next steps

Joining affiliate networks is relatively easy. If you’re a U.S.-based business, you’ll need to have your taxpayer ID and W-9 form handy. If you’re overseas, you’ll need to have the tax ID information for your country.

Before you start joining networks, make sure your site is up and running, and that you’ve got it loaded with good content. Some merchants will manually review your site before they add you to their program, and that will help you pass their initial round of quality control.

Additional Resources

Amazon’s Affiliate program: Can you actually make money promoting Amazon?
Linkshare and ClickBank Affiliate Network Reviews
Commission Junction Review
ShareASale and Google Affiliate Network Reviews

Do you have experience working with any of these affiliate networks? Please leave your feedback in the comments below.