Let’s cut right to the chase…
If you want to find the best affiliate networks in 2021 so you can start earning some sweet passive income, you’ve come to the right place.
There’s no fluff here.
No overwhelming list of 100+ affiliate networks that all sound the same.
No superficial content that doesn’t help you answer the only question that matters: what’s the best affiliate network for me?
Here’s what we’re going to do:
I’m going to briefly answer some common questions, show you the top affiliate networks we recommend for 2021, and quickly break down each of them for you.
You will then take the information, choose an affiliate network to join, and start making money online.
Then let’s get started.
Affiliate Networks: Q&A
Up first are the questions and answers.
Already an affiliate marketing network aficionado? Feel free to jump ahead.
What is an Affiliate Network?
Affiliate networks are middlemen connecting bloggers and entrepreneurs (“publishers”) with companies (“merchants”) offering affiliate program opportunities for their products or services.
Through a single portal, affiliate networks give publishers access to numerous affiliate programs.
If that sounds like a bunch of gobbledygook, don’t worry. Here’s the important part:
You monetize your blog with these affiliate programs by using a process called affiliate marketing.
What is Affiliate Marketing?
Affiliate marketing is a new twist on an old idea: getting a finder’s fee when you refer a customer.
You introduce your audience to a product or service and, if they buy using your unique affiliate site link, you earn a commission. There are even CPC (cost-per-click) affiliate programs that pay you every time someone clicks your link (PPC or “pay per click”), as well as CPL (cost-per-lead) programs that pay whenever you send a them a prospect.
However, many of the most profitable affiliate websites are those that refer sales.
In other words: find a product or service you like, promote it to your blog’s readers, and earn part of the profit on each sale.
Can You Really Make Money with an Affiliate Marketing Program?
Slightly (ahem) on the other end of the spectrum, one of my affiliate programs has earned $3,450 over a span of 3 years.
That’s not “quit all of my freelance jobs” money. It’s not even “hire Nicolas Cage to attend my birthday party” money.
However, as passive income resulting from a single landing page I created years ago, with minimal time spent on outreach and SEO, it’s not too shabby.
Your mileage can and will vary, of course.
But it’s definitely possible to make real, tangible, passive income through affiliate marketing.
Smart, attractive people just like you do it every day.
So, that begs the question…
What is the Best Affiliate Network?
That’s what I’m going to help you figure out.
I’ll give you the breakdown (in no particular order) — you choose the network that best fits your needs.
Let’s get to it.
The Scoop on ShareASale
- Long track record. Founded in 2000 (and acquired by Awin, formerly known as Affiliate Window, in 2017), ShareASale (affiliate link) has been around the block a time or two.
- Numerous affiliate opportunities. ShareASale offers over 3,900 affiliate programs in 40 different categories.
- Safe and secure. With zero customer complaints on file, the Better Business Bureau gives ShareASale an A+ rating.
- Consistent payout schedule. On the 20th of each month, so long as you have a balance of at least $50, ShareASale sends you money.
- Different payment options. You can have ShareASale pay you via checks in the mail, wire transfer, or direct deposit. International men and women of mystery can use the transfer service Payoneer. No PayPal, though.
What Makes ShareASale Different?
Thanks in part to its solid reputation, ShareASale is trusted by quite a few big-name companies.
Over 1,000 merchants and influencers, such as WP Engine and OptinMonster, are exclusive to the network.
If you want to advertise their products, you can only do so through ShareASale.
That’s one of the reasons entrepreneurs like Jessica Bishop of The Budget Savvy Bride swear by it:
ShareASale was the first network I joined as an affiliate, and it is still my favorite to this day, nearly a decade later! They have a huge assortment of merchants across a variety of niches so you are sure to find lots of great stuff to promote.
Who Should Join ShareASale?
Anyone who’s looking for a reliable affiliate network that offers a wide variety of affiliating marketing options (thus eliminating the need to join multiple networks) should give ShareASale a try.
Whether you want to offer services, physical goods, SAAS (software as a service), or digital downloads to your audience, ShareASale (affiliate link) has you covered.
The Skinny on ClickBank
- Track record of 20+ years. Founded in 1998, ClickBank has been around longer than M. Night Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense. (Spoiler alert: Bruce Willis was wearing a toupee the whole time.)
- Millions of options. ClickBank offers more than 6 million unique affiliate products.
- Quick to respond. With zero unresolved complaints as of this writing, ClickBank sports an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.
- Flexible payment schedule. ClickBank lets you choose how often you want to get paid. Want monthly payouts? You got it. Weekly? Done.
- Variety of payment options. Check, wire transfer, and direct deposit are available. International users can get paid through Payoneer. Alas, no PayPal here either.
What Makes ClickBank Different?
By focusing on digital products created by entrepreneurs from all over the globe, ClickBank offers some of the highest paying affiliate opportunities (man of which you can’t find anywhere else).
But be careful…
While ClickBank itself, the network, has a solid reputation, some of the products offered by its merchants can be questionable.
You have to do your homework. If you do, you’ll be fine.
If you don’t, and you end up promoting some subpar products, your audience won’t be happy.
(For the record: this advice is applicable to every affiliate network.)
Who Should Join ClickBank?
If you’re looking to exclusively promote digital products, and you want (literally) millions of options (many with high commissions), ClickBank is a good bet.
3. CJ Affiliate (formerly Commission Junction)
The Lowdown on CJ Affiliate
- Two decades of experience. Founded in 1998, CJ Affiliate was around during Y2K and lived to tell the tale.
- Lots of brands. CJ Affiliate gives you access to more than 3,000 merchants.
- Too big to fail. CJ Affiliate is part of Alliance Data Systems, which is a Fortune 500 company. It also has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.
- Get paid monthly. CJ Affiliate combines all your affiliate commissions into one monthly payment.
- Two payment options. Get paid by direct deposit or checks in the mail. PayPal is a no.
What Makes CJ Affiliate Different?
It offers lots of bells and whistles, such as real-time reporting.
That means you can monitor activity on your account as it happens.
(No more having to refresh your browser every five seconds like a caveman.)
Who Should Join CJ Affiliate?
Anyone with an established audience who wants a feature-rich affiliate network will find a lot to like with CJ Affiliate.
However, it may not be a good choice for beginners.
Because accounts are deactivated if you go six months without earning a commission, and because their merchants have a reputation for being picky on who they accept as publishers, CJ Affiliate is best for those who get steady traffic to their websites.
However, if you already have an audience of modest size and engagement, you’ll appreciate what CJ Affiliate has to offer.
4. Amazon Associates
The Rundown on Amazon Associates
- One of the first online marketing networks. Started in 1996, Amazon Associates is old enough to legally drink alcohol.
- Huge selection. Publishers can promote Amazon’s massive catalog of physical and digital products.
- Backed by Amazon. Valued at over $1 trillion, and with over 90 million paying Prime subscribers in the United States, Amazon’s massive e-commerce offerings aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. The Better Business Bureau gives the company a B+ rating. And because it’s a trusted company, Amazon products typically rank very well in Google search engine results.
- Not the best payment schedule. Amazon Associates pays you approximately 60 days after the end of the month in which you earned your commission.
- Several payment options. You can get paid by direct deposit, Amazon gift certificates, or checks in the mail. (Tip: Avoid checks in the mail since there’s a $15 processing fee.) International users can get paid by gift certificates or checks (with the $15 fee waived).
What Makes Amazon Associates Different?
By offering the entire Amazon catalog, no affiliate network can match the sheer volume of physical and digital products offered by Amazon Associates. Plus, Amazon’s conversion rates tend to be very high.
Heads up, though:
Including affiliate links in emails is against Amazon’s company policy, so keep this in mind if email marketing is your primary method for promoting affiliate products.
Who Should Join Amazon Associates?
Affiliate marketers who are familiar with the Amazon ecosystem will feel right at home with Amazon Associates. Though its commission rates aren’t as high as others, Amazon affiliate offers are typically solid.
Those looking to promote services should look elsewhere, but anyone who wants to focus on physical and digital products will find millions of different opportunities in hundreds of different categories with Amazon Associates.
5. eBay Partner Network (EPN)
The 411 on eBay Partner Network
- Founded in 2008. Though the eBay Partner Network is a relative newcomer on the affiliate network scene, its parent company (eBay) is an e-commerce mainstay that’s been around since 1995.
- Billions of opportunities. eBay has 1.1 billion listings. You’ll never run out of physical products to promote to your audience.
- Backed by eBay. With 175 million buyers purchasing over $23 billion of merchandise each year, EPN’s parent company (eBay) is built to last. The Better Business Bureau gives the company an A+ rating.
- Reliable payment schedule. So long as you’ve earned the minimum of $10 needed for payment, EPN pays you monthly.
- PayPal! For those who prefer to use the service, EPN allows you to be paid via PayPal. (Direct Deposit is also available.)
What Makes eBay Partner Network Different?
One thing that sets EPN apart from other affiliate networks is the way it lets you promote… unique offerings.
The great Weird Al Yankovich once sang about buying William Shatner’s toupee on eBay.
With the eBay Partner Network, if such a transaction ever takes place, you could earn a commission on it.
Who Should Join eBay Partner Network?
If your focus is on physical products and you want the peace of mind that comes with doing online business with a large company you’re already familiar with, eBay Partner Network is a great option.
The Skinny on FlexOffers
- New (ish) kid on the block. Founded in 2008, FlexOffers is a relatively new affiliate program. As such, doesn’t have as long of a track record as most of its competitors.
- Growing list of affiliate platform opportunities. FlexOffers has 12,000+ merchants in 25+ categories across 27 (and counting) countries. And they say hundreds of new merchants are added each week.
- No rating with BBB. Partly due to its relative youth, FlexOffers doesn’t have a rating with the Better Business Bureau. On the upside, BBB shows zero complaints with the company.
- Quick payments. One of the areas where FlexOffers shines is with payments. When you refer a sale, your commission is paid within 30 days (so long as you meet the minimum balance of $50). And if you’re a top performer, it’s possible to be paid within 7 days.
- Standard payment options. U.S. residents can be paid by check or direct deposit. PayPal is available for those outside the USA.
What Makes FlexOffers Different?
When you sign up with FlexOffers, you’re assigned a dedicated affiliate manager to help you navigate the affiliate marketing waters.
This makes it a good fit for both beginners and veterans of affiliate marketing.
Who Should Join Flexoffers?
Don’t let its youth fool you.
If you want lots of affiliate options, great support, and quick turnaround on payments, FlexOffers is a solid contender.
The Scoop on Pepperjam
- New to the affiliate network game. Though it’s been in the digital marketing business since the 90s, Pepperjam started its own affiliate network in 2015.
- Quality over quantity. With only 1,500 merchants, Pepperjam has fewer options than its competitors. Why? Well, according to Pepperjam, it’s because they only work with brands they love.
- An open book. The Better Business Bureau gives Pepperjam a B+ rating. With its focus on transparency and communication (more on that below), Pepperjam goes out of its way to show it has nothing to hide.
- Payments twice a month. So long as you meet the minimum $25 balance, Pepperjam pays you twice a month. Payment cycles are around the 1st and 15th of each month.
- Lots of payment options. Pepperjam lets you get paid via PayPal (which is the default payment method), check, or direct deposit.
What Makes Pepperjam Different?
Publishers and merchants can communicate with one another inside the Pepperjam system.
That’s very unique.
Want to ask a merchant who caught your eye a question? Have at it. Flirt away.
Pepperjam actually encourages communication so strong relationships can be built.
Who Should Join Pepperjam?
If you value transparency and customer support, you’ll be hard pressed to do better than Pepperjam as an affiliate network.
8. Rakuten Marketing (formerly LinkShare)
The Lowdown on Rakuten Marketing
- One of the oldest affiliate networks. Founded in 1996, Rakuten Marketing (formerly LinkShare) has been hooking up merchants and publishers for over two decades.
- Only 1,000 merchants. Though it’s been in the affiliate networking game longer than most, Rakuten’s list of brands is shorter than most. However, this somewhat shortlist is made up of many household names.
- Loved by BBB and guys on social media. Rakuten has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau. It’s also been called “cool” by someone named Kenny on Twitter.
- Sporadic payments. Rakuten only pays you after the merchants have paid them. So, if you earned a commission in January, it would be invoiced in early February, the merchant would have a due date to pay Rakuten by February 28, and Rakuten would pay you in March.
- Solid payment options. Direct deposit, check, and PayPal (in certain markets) are all offered by Rakuten.
What Makes Rakuten Marketing Different?
It’s been ranked the #1 affiliate network for 9 straight years by an industry publication that presumably knows about such things.
Who Should Join Rakuten Marketing?
If you want an affiliate network with an intuitive user interface, a great reporting system, and the kind of solid reputation you can only earn by being in the business for two decades, Rakuten Marketing is a great selection.
It’s Time to Choose an Affiliate Network
Let’s cut to the chase one more time…
Which affiliate network are you joining today?
Which one is going to launch you on the path towards Pat Flynn and John Lee Dumas levels of ginormous passive income in 2021?
You now know the track records and distinguishing details of 8 great affiliate networks. You have the know-how.
So now it’s time to choose.
Passive income isn’t a myth.
It’s real. It’s out there. And it’s yours if you want it.
Are you ready?
Then let’s do this thing.