Last Updated: 5/24/2021
If you’re a blogger, influencer or another type of publisher, then earning commissions through affiliate marketing is one of the most profitable ways to monetize your content. Affiliate marketing is responsible for about 16% of global ecommerce sales and more than 80% of brands offer affiliate programs.
While ecommerce megastores like Amazon and eBay offer their own basic affiliate programs, there are also many other affiliate networks you can join to establish more direct relationships with your favorite brands, negotiate higher commissions, and start earning passive income with your own custom affiliate links. Affiliate networks can connect you to thousands of companies looking to promote their products or services while also offering you reporting tools, training, and other resources to help you become a successful affiliate marketer.
What is Affiliate Marketing?
An affiliate network connects companies (advertisers) looking to promote their products or services to publishers (such as blogs, YouTube channels etc..). Every time a publisher delivers a sale, lead or other action, the advertiser will pay a small commission on that sale. Depending on the items, those commissions can range between 5 and 15%.
Most networks provide resource such as training and tools to help you build a profitable and successful affiliate marketing program.
So, which affiliate network is best for you? This will depend largely on how well-established your digital channels are and what niche(s) your content is in. There are dozens of affiliate networks to choose from and each one has its pros and cons depending on your needs. To help you select the best affiliate network, here’s our list of the best and most reliable affiliate networks out there in 2021.
If you're looking tips on growth, you can read our article How to Grow Your Affiliate Marketing Program.
CJ Affiliate (formerly Commission Junction)
CJ Affiliate is one of the largest, oldest and most popular affiliate marketing networks. The platform helps affiliate marketers around the world earn more than $1.8 billion every year. On CJ Affiliate, you’ll find some of the world’s biggest ecommerce brands in retail, software, travel, finance and more. The new affiliate approval process is pretty fast, and you won’t need to pay any fees to apply. You can begin applying to merchants’ affiliate programs right away, and each product is ranked based on earnings per click [EPC] - a useful metric for figuring out which products will be the most likely to help you earn.
Comprehensive, real-time reporting that lets you monitor activity as it’s happening
Combined monthly payments (direct deposit or mailed check)
Your account will be deactivated if you make 0 sales in a 6 month time period
Potential competition with mass media and well-established online publishers; merchants can be selective when it comes to new affiliate partnerships
Intermediate to experienced affiliates with an established audience and consistent, high traffic volume to their websites
If you need helping launching your affiliate marketing program read our article How to Launch an Affiliate Program on CJ Affiliate.
If you’re new to affiliate marketing or your website is not yet garnering significant traffic, ShareASale is one of the best platforms to get started on. Based in Chicago, ShareASale is another well-established affiliate network that’s been around for decades. As a ShareASale affiliate, you can connect with more than 15,000 international merchants from automotive to online dating, and earn average commissions between 5-20%. Signing up is free and fast, as long as your email ID uses the same domain as your website. If not, the verification can take more time.
Consistent payouts on the 20th of each month (as long as you hit the payment threshold of at least $50)
Free platform training available
Responsive customer care team
Interface can be slightly less than user-friendly
Starter to intermediate affiliate marketers
Rakuten Marketing (formerly LinkShare)
Originally called LinkShare, Rakuten is another affiliate network that launched in the 90s and has been connecting merchants to publishers for over two decades. Originally a Japanese e-commerce brand, Rakuten Advertising has been ranked #1 by the industry publications mThink and IPMA. It’s a smaller network compared to CJ Affiliate and ShareASale, but boasts hundreds of top brands like Wells Fargo, Lilly Pulitzer and JetBlue Vacations. They also offer regional Networks in the US, Canada, Brazil, Europe & APAC.
One of the most user-friendly, intuitive interfaces
Robust reporting system
Direct deposit, check, and PayPal (in certain markets)
Only about 1,000 merchants on the platform (though many are household names)
A long time between sale transactions and commission payment - Rakuten only pays you after the merchants have paid them.
Established affiliate marketers with consistent monthly traffic.
Of all the major affiliate networks established in the Y2K era, Clickbank offers the largest selection of things to promote with more than 6 million unique physical and digital products like e-books, training courses, videos, software, and more. Be careful, because not all of them are high quality or made by companies with a great reputation. Overall, ClickBank is easy to join for new or established affiliates in any niche.
Over 6 million unique affiliate products
Flexible payment schedule; choose how often you want to get paid (monthly or weekly)
Variety of payment options. Check, wire transfer, and direct deposit are available. International users can get paid through Payoneer
High commission rate possibility (up to 90%!) though most are much lower
Free training resources are limited: ClickBank University training costs money
Not all brands on platform are reputable; not all products are high quality
New or established affiliate marketers that are not necessarily in a particular niche
Though Pepperjam has been in the digital marketing game since the 90s, it didn’t launch its own affiliate network until 2015, making it a very new network compared to its competitors. Compared to ClickBank, it doesn’t compete with volume or merchants or products on the platform, but Pepperjam sets itself apart by being selective and about which brands it does work with. The result is a well-curated selection of high-end brands like DVF, Everlane, Puma, Tarte Cosmetics and Burrow. Affiliates and merchant partners on this network enjoy an average order value of $161, an 18:1 return on ad spend, and a 60% new customer rate. The affiliate application process on Pepperjam can take 2-3 days. Applicants with a well-designed website with steady traffic and a large social media following are most likely to be accepted.
Lots of payment options. Direct deposit, check or PayPal (which is the default payment method.)
Payments are 2x per month (around the 1st and 15th) if you meet the monthly minimum $25 balance, Pepperjam pays you twice a month.
Responsive, fast customer support
Intuitive interface that allows you to easily communicate with merchant partners directly in the platform
Thorough platform training and guides
Only 1,500 merchants
Can be selective with affiliates it allows on the platform; you should have a well designed website and active, well curated social media feeds before applying.
Affiliates in the fashion, beauty, and/or health and wellness space who are very active on social media