When your websites or blogs are seeing growing amounts of traffic, you want a way to monetize your success. Affiliate programs give you an avenue toward financially benefiting from your work online. They let you earn commissions when people reading your site click on a product you’re discussing and then buy it.
All affiliate programs are not the same, though. You can create a better match for your site when you understand how the best affiliate programs work.
The Top 6 Best Affiliate Programs
- Amazon Associates – Best overall
- CJ – Best for measurement metrics
- ShareASale – Best for seeking emerging products
- ClickBank – Best for products for active people
- Rakuten Advertising – Best Amazon alternative
- Impact – Most user-friendly interface
When you think about it, affiliate programs are a win-win for both parties. Your website makes money by earning a commission when your readers and visitors make purchases. And the retailer sells more products, improving its profits.
Amazon Associates – Best Overall
- Largest affiliate program
- Greatest product availability
- Extremely easy to use
- Your visitors trust Amazon
If you follow a philosophy that the most popular services rank so highly for a good reason, Amazon Associates is the affiliate program you will want to check first. Amazon offered the original online affiliate marketing program, starting in 1996, and it remains the industry trendsetter.
Amazon’s growth is highly impressive for retail stores, going from about $89 billion in net sales in 2014 to almost $470 billion in net sales in 2021. Its brand name is the king in the world of online retailing. Simply put, shoppers trust Amazon.
As you are seeking to drive revenue with your website or blog, being able to send your visitors to Amazon to make purchases will give your site’s product recommendations legitimacy. Some other benefits of using Amazon Associates include:
- Easy-to-use interface
- Millions of products available
- Well-established program that runs smoothly
- Pays you on time and accurately
Keep in mind that you have to follow Amazon’s highly detailed terms of service to use the affiliate program. Mistakes here could cost you potential commission money.
Additionally, Amazon Associates’ commission rates are not as high as some other programs. Amazon Associates is so popular that it doesn’t have to offer above-average commissions to draw content creators.
CJ – Best for Measurement Metrics
- Easy-to-understand metrics
- Works with large retailers
- Easily creates URLs for you
- Better for experienced users
Don’t let a recent change in name fool you. CJ, formerly called Commission Junction, is a long-running affiliate program that makes the process of receiving commissions easier for you.
If you have been working with affiliate programs for several months or longer, CJ’s user interface may make more sense to you. CJ provides a significant amount of information that can be overwhelming for novices.
Once you figure out how CJ gives you its data, you will especially like the multiple metrics that it delivers through its interface. You can see how your various programs are performing through CJ, precisely helping you determine which programs need expansion and which deserve less of your time.
CJ is highly stable, as it has more than 20 years in business. This means you should be able to trust it to give you a high level of support and to pay you on time.
One area of complexity with CJ is that every company that’s part of the CJ affiliate program has its own requirements for how you can begin linking to that particular company. This can be frustrating. Additionally, some companies take several weeks to decide if you can be part of the program, leading to delays.
ShareASale – Best for Seeking Emerging Products
- Broad selection of companies
- Multiple tracking metrics
- Works with Awin
- Offers niche products
ShareASale has been around for around two decades, making it a highly trusted affiliate program.
Unfortunately, its user interface feels like it may also be a couple of decades old. It’s not the most user-friendly interface among the affiliate programs on our list.
If you can manage to work through the interface, you will appreciate the multiple metrics ShareASale gives you. You can find detailed information about conversion rates that can help you tweak your site’s content to gain better results.
The best feature of ShareASale is that it tends to work with smaller companies rather than the biggest brand names. This makes it easier for you to find some newer and unusual products to highlight. ShareASale has a large number of potential companies that you can partner with as well, so you can find just the right option to match your site’s theme.
ShareASale is part of the same network as another affiliate program, Awin. We also like what Awin delivers as an affiliate program, but ShareASale’s ability to deliver emerging and unusual products gives it the edge.
ClickBank – Best for Products for Active People
- Focuses on active products
- High commission rates
- Long history of success
- No pre-approval needed
Rather than working primarily with physical goods that require shipping and a policy for returns, ClickBank has a significant focus on digital products and on products for people who are active. Many of ClickBank’s affiliate program products involve things like travel, entertainment, investing, and the arts. It also carries sporting goods and home improvement products.
ClickBank has more than 20 years in business, but its level of success increased significantly in the past several years. You can trust ClickBank to make your affiliate payments on time and accurately.
You do not have to receive pre-approval from merchants in the ClickBank network before you begin linking to their products. This differs from most affiliate programs that work with multiple merchants. For beginners, this is a significant benefit, as you can begin creating content, rather than waiting weeks to see if you have approval for a certain brand.
We must mention that finding trustworthy products on ClickBank does take a little bit of a time investment on your part. It often is worth the work, though, as ClickBank offers larger-than-average commission percentages.
Rakuten Advertising – Best Amazon Alternative
- Offers a variety of products
- Long history in Japan
- Get help from account managers
- Relatively easy to use
Although Amazon Affiliates is the biggest and most popular affiliate program, some of you may want to steer clear of it. Perhaps you’d just prefer to not be reliant on Amazon. After all, when Amazon Affiliates announces a cut in its commission rates, as it did in 2020, it can be a significant blow to a website that relies solely on it.
That’s one reason why we like Rakuten Advertising as an affiliate program that can work as a substitute to or in conjunction with Amazon for you. (You can make use of as many affiliate programs with your site as you want, so using Rakuten can be a substitute for Amazon or work alongside it just as easily.)
Additionally, Rakuten is a nice alternative to Amazon because it has such a large number of products and retail brands available. It doesn’t quite match the full number of products that Amazon has, but its product selection is quite a bit deeper and broader than many other affiliate programs.
If you are not familiar with the Rakuten brand name, that’s probably because it started in Japan before becoming a global company. It has a long history of performance there, making it a trustworthy option.
Impact – Most User-Friendly Interface
- Large product and brand selection
- Excellent interface and dashboard
- Good customer service team
- Excellent tracking metrics
For beginners who want to begin using an affiliate program for the first time, Impact makes the signup process as easy as possible.
Impact also has a great-looking dashboard that simplifies the process of requesting acceptance from the brands involved in this affiliate program. The dashboard gives you a number of metrics to track the performance of your website’s program.
One potential drawback: Impact’s larger brands tend to be pickier than some of the other affiliate programs on our list. These brands often only want to partner with websites and blogs that have a track record of steady visitor volumes.
If you have questions about how to receive a higher level of acceptance with Impact’s brands, the service also has a strong customer service team. This is not always the case with affiliate programs.
Impact isn’t quite as experienced as some of the other affiliate programs on our list, but it is a trustworthy program that makes payments to you on time and accurately.
How to Find the Best Affiliate Programs for You
Although it seems like affiliate programs should perform basically the same processes, they have significant differences. Finding the program with services that closely fit what you are trying to do will give you the most successful results.
Types and Range of Products
Think about the type of clients and visitors your website draws. Do these people have an interest in a narrow type of product category, or will they have interest in a range of products? Do your visitors want in-depth knowledge of unusual products, or do they prefer highly popular product categories?
If you need to create links to affiliates that carry unusual or niche products, you may only have a few options. This may limit your ability to shop around for a higher commission rate.
When you need to deal with a wide range of products, you can try to stick with an affiliate program like Amazon that carries nearly any product you can imagine. Or you could try to create accounts with multiple affiliate programs, making sure you have coverage for all potential product categories.
Commission Earnings Potential
The commission amounts you can earn vary quite a bit from program to program.
- Varying percentages: Different affiliate programs are going to offer you varying percentages on commissions on products sold.
- Type of product: Some affiliate programs offer a varying percentage of commission based on the type of product. A product that sells easily may carry a low commission percentage, while a product that is difficult to sell may earn you a higher commission percentage.
- Pay per click: Some programs may pay you a little bit for every visitor you send to the retailer’s website, even if those visitors don’t buy anything.
You should consider all these items when trying to find the perfect affiliate program for you. Fair warning: This involves a lot of math, especially if the commission percentages change based on the product being sold. But if you really want the best potential for earnings, you need to focus on the details.
Complexity of Process
You probably spend quite a bit of time creating and perfecting the content on your site. You know how valuable your time is.
So when it comes time to create the links that your site will use for product listings, you want the affiliate program’s interface to make this process easy. If you have to spend several hours trying to link a dozen products, the amount you earn may not be worth it.
The good news is that most affiliate programs know they must have an easy-to-use interface for creating links, or bloggers will migrate to other sites.
Affiliate programs tend to use their own in-house software to help with creating links, so each program is a little different. Generally, the larger the affiliate program and merchant, the easier its software is to use.
To start, we would recommend reading some customer reviews of the affiliate program you are considering. This should give you a feel for the process of using the interface. Make sure you are reading current and recent reviews. If the affiliate program reworked its interface to make it easier to use, such changes won’t be evident in older reviews.
Additionally, visit the affiliate program’s website and read through the process of adding links. If you are having a hard time understanding the process, this may be a red flag that it is more complex than you want.
Connection With Your Competitors
If you have a few sites that you consider high-quality competitors, take some time to visit those sites. Look at the affiliate programs they are using.
Are you interested in linking similar products to what your competitors use? If so, you may want to consider using the same affiliate programs. Should you want to focus on different types of products than your competitors, you may want to explore some different affiliate programs than the competitors are using.
Ultimately, this is an information-gathering process that can give you some ideas about programs you may want to consider.
The Top Affiliate Programs in Summary
You may want an affiliate program that gives you access to emerging products and brands or that offers a greater commission rate. Taking a bit of time to figure out the best affiliate program for your needs and – more importantly – for the audience for your website or blog is the key to having success with the best affiliate programs.