September 13, 2023
Playing Match Maker: Finding Your Perfect Affiliate Network
If you’re reading this you probably recently came to the conclusion that it’s finally time to start your own affiliate program to scale your brand and its audience. In 2023 over 80% of brands are using affiliate marketing to increase their sales by leveraging the power of affiliates including influencers, websites, news publishers and more to penetrate new audiences and gain new customers. When it comes to starting your first partnerships program there are several things to consider – what types of affiliates do you want to work with? What commission rate do you want to pay? One of the most important questions to ask though is where am I going to find affiliates and how are they going to find me?
This is where your affiliate network comes into play. In order to participate in the pool of affiliate advertisers you have to join a network. What this network is going to do is basically act like a job posting board. You create a profile and affiliates within that network can apply to join your program if they think they’ll be a good fit.
Affiliates can join multiple networks but brands can only choose one so it’s best to do your research and understand the differences between networks before you wind up making the wrong selection.
At Mosaic we work with 10 of the largest affiliate networks, which gives us (and you) access to every affiliate within each. Getting started in one affiliate network is the perfect way to test the waters and see if your brand can swim. When you’re ready to take those next steps and dive into the deep end, we’ll be waiting to scale your affiliate program ten-fold. Or if you’re a natural born self-starter like ourselves you can join Mosaic without an affiliate network and we will get you set up with a network and give you the ability to recruit from the top publishers in the game right off the bat.
Whichever path you choose we’re here to help you along the way. Based on years working with each network, here are a few consider the best networks for your first affiliate program. They are the most user friendly and intuitive to get set up and navigate. That being said, some general things to think about when looking at different affiliate networks are..
Payment terms and conditions
Understand what payment methods they offer, how they structure and when they pay commissions, and how flexible these terms are. Especially in the beginning you want to make sure that the payment model suits your company’s needs. The ability to adjust commission rates on an individual basis is key to performing optimizations with affiliates. Adding a delay on payouts can be crucial if you have a 30 day return policy to make sure you’re not losing money on returned sales. Making a list of your payment needs can help make sure you don’t miss anything when reading through the terms and conditions.
Figuring out strategy on your own is more difficult with limited resources, but insights into affiliate performance and commission history can help you figure out which affiliates will drive the best results at the best price for you. You’ll also need a performance dashboard to stay on top of your key performance indicators.
Extra tools and resources
Networks have the same basic function of providing a space for affiliates and brands to connect so the main features are fairly consistent across the board. Where they become distinct is in the extra tips and tools they give to help you become successful. Whether it’s newsletters with expert recommendations or if it’s a detailed creatives page to help affiliates create better content on your behalf, it’s the small differences that distinguish each of these networks from each other and will help differentiate the best one for you.
ShareASale has one the most simple UI which makes it extremely easy for beginners. In fact, we set up the majority of launches in ShareASale because users get the hang of it the fastest. They offer a very diverse marketplace working with brands and publishers in every vertical. The network’s strengths lie in its ease of use, reliable performance tracking, and a massive community of over 270K affiliates. ShareASale gives several predefined filters allowing you to specify which types of affiliates you want in your program vs those that you don’t. In addition, feedback scores give you an idea of how well an affiliate has worked for other brands by aggregating reviews from past partnerships. Brands who want more advanced reporting features might find ShareASale’s analytics capabilities on their own somewhat limited which is why it’s great to pair with a more in depth reporting software like Mosaic.
Commission Junction, or CJ, combines performance-driven strategies with extensive expertise in the performance marketing industry specializing in the affiliate channel. Their network gives you access to some of the top-performing affiliates around the world and provides more robust analytics than other networks. With the founder’s strong background in data-analysis, CJ offers more tools to help you understand your affiliates’ performance and guides your decision making by making patterns in data more evident.
Rakuten Advertising is a global leader when it comes to affiliate marketing and we are proud to be one of the few agencies to become a Platinum Partner with them. Rakuten boasts over 25 years in the industry and over 100 in-house industry experts working to make the most valuable platform for brands starting out in affiliate. Over 150K top-tier publishers partner with Rakuten and with their expedited integration process you can be up and running in the network in a matter of weeks with affiliates already driving traffic for you. Particularly if your brand was to expand globally, Rakuten Advertising has the infrastructure and expertise to support you. That being said, it is a bit more pricey than some of the other network’s pricing structures and you will need a dedicated plan to maximize return on investment so make sure you’re taking the time to become literate in affiliate strategy to succeed with Rakuten.
Impact is another great network for brands looking to foster real relationships with their affiliate partnerships. Being transparent and direct with affiliates is key to establishing a profitable business relationship. Working personally with affiliates gives you the ability to negotiate and figure out terms that work for both parties. Impact’s innovative technology and real-time tracking empowers brands to optimize their effectively and efficiently. However, the UI does throw some users for a learning curve especially if it’s your first time in an affiliate network. But putting a little extra time and effort into learning the platform and how to use it to maximize the features it offers will pay off in the long run with competitive ROIs and data-backed strategy.
Refersion is a user-friendly affiliate network platform that offers robust tracking and analytics tools, making it suitable for businesses of all levels of experience. It supports various commission structures, integrates with popular e-commerce platforms, and automates payouts. However, its pricing structure, especially for businesses with large affiliate networks, can be relatively high. While it provides tools for affiliate recruitment, attracting quality affiliates can require additional effort as with any network. Customization options are available but Refersion has some limitations that restrict highly specialized program needs.
Commission Factory has a vast network of affiliates, enhancing its accessibility and partnership opportunities. However, the availability of quality affiliates can vary by region and niche, impacting program success. It provides comprehensive tracking, reporting tools, and customizable commission options. However, its pricing structure, involving setup fees and monthly charges, might be cost-prohibitive for smaller businesses. Additionally, there may be a learning curve for newcomers to affiliate marketing, and some users have reported occasional delays in commission payments.
If you’ve made it this far you must be pretty serious about starting an affiliate program and we wish you the best of luck! Remember the most important thing is finding a solution that delivers what your company needs at the right price. Once you give affiliate marketing a try and start to see the value and growth it can generate for your brand remember we’re always one call away ready to scale your program to new heights. And if you’re already convinced, reach out to a team member today to learn more about how Mosaic can help you build an unbeatable partnerships program with affiliates from each of the top networks.