[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]It took a bit of time to get back to this series, but I’m hoping that the research we did on coupon sites was well worth it. This series is meant as a primer for bloggers and anyone else who is just starting out in affiliate marketing. As I said in my first post in this series, this is not meant to be a series for the experienced affiliate marketer, but is a high level introduction to our industry. So if you have been around for a while, you may not get much out of this one either.
Ok, so for those of you still sticking around, let’s go over the networks. Networks basically provide a marketplace where affiliates (you) and merchants (Zappos, Luggagepoint.com and others) can connect, form partnerships and be successful together. The networks act as trusted 3rd parties that track each transaction and provide the technology and distribution tools needed by both merchants and affiliates. If there were no networks, you would have over 8,000 affiliate programs with different tracking systems, different logins and different accounts. Most of your time would be spent simply logging in to check your stats. Networks consolidate all of this so you can concentrate on selling.
So let’s give a brief run down of each of the major networks and some of the up and coming ones:
- Linkshare – “LinkShare Corporation provides ecommerce businesses with a wide range of online marketing services including Search Marketing (SEM), Lead Generation and Affiliate Marketing. LinkShare clients include Fortune 500 and other prominent and emerging companies doing business online, including J.C. Penney, 1-800-Flowers.com, American Express, and Avon Products. LinkShare was founded in 1996 headquartered in New York City, with offices in San Francisco, Chicago, Tampa, London and Tokyo.” That is from their website. Linkshare does have an awful lot of those Fortune 500 companies, so if you think that your audience wants those big brands, I’d definitely look here first. They do have some advanced linking and distribution tools available, one of their newest being their wordpress plugin. Signup here is free and pretty easy. Their reporting is ok and grabbing links is pretty easy.
- Commission Junction – “Founded in 1998, Commission Junction, a ValueClick company, is based in Santa Barbara, California and has offices around the world. Since our inception, we have taken great pride in being customer service fanatics while establishing ourselves as a global leader in the online advertising channels of affiliate marketing and managed search.” That is also from their site. CJ used to be the network to go to if you were looking to promote lead generation programs. Programs such as LowerMyBills.com and other finance type lead programs could be found there. They are still available, but CJ has made large gains into the retail space the last few years. You can’t really go wrong and if you created an account in Linkshare, you should create one here as well. I believe there are many more companies within CJ and you may find the interface and reporting a little easier to use.
- Google (formerly Performics) – “Google Affiliate Network connects advertisers and publishers who want to increase sales and drive leads through affiliate marketing. As an advertiser using Google Affiliate Network, you’ll discover pre-screened publishers who can refer consumer traffic to you. As a publisher, you can market your site to advertisers in the network; if selected to participate in an advertiser’s program, you’ll earn a percent of sales or a referral bounty.” Again from their site. I haven’t had much experience with this network from the affiliate side. They do have many big merchants, so if you had to join 3, I would add this to my list. Companies such as Barnes & Noble, Kohls, Circuit City and other brands are on this platform. It’s also now owned by Google, so expect more interfacing with the other google tools and services.
- ShareASale – “There are currently over 2,000 Merchants plugged in to the ShareASale Network. Each of these merchants has a different type of product that they are selling – and each is ready to commission you on that sale if you bring a customer to them. The idea – and the implementation – are simple. You decide which merchants to promote and how to promote them, and when commissions are generated, you can see your stats in real-time. All payments are consolidated from the programs you participate in, and are paid with one check or direct deposit by ShareASale.” ShareASale is rapidly become one of the top networks to work with. I know many of the people there personally and can attest to their professionalisms, ethics, turnaround and innovation. With over 2,000 merchants, you are sure to find one that fits your audience here. They also have many unique tools available. Sign up with them and check out their merchant list.
- AvantLink – “We’ve created a unique, open environment for Cost Per Sale Affiliate marketers. One reason we’re unique is because we only work with high-value merchants with substantial catalogspercentage of sale. This particular advertiser segment can best utilize the industry leading Affiliate tools AvantLink is known for. Tools that are free to qualified Affiliates.” I’ve only recently been exposed to AvantLink, but all I can say is Wow! They have a tool called the Affiliate Link Encoder that is really a must have for any blogging affiliate. You basically put a small snippet of code in your footer files of your blog. You then configure it to code certain words and domains in the copy of your posts to go to a certain trackable link of a merchant within the AvantLink network. This means that you don’t necessarily need to make each post that contains the word “ski”, for example, link to a ski merchant. You simply set the tool to encode certain words to go to certain merchants. And it does it all for you in your entire blog, even archived content. Becoming an affiliate of AvantLink is a little more difficult than the other networks. They don’t accept downloads of any kind or affiliates that are considered parasitic in any way. This only ends up protecting the affiliates the do get in.
There are a lot of other CPA (cost per action) networks that are considered to be in the group above. I won’t really talk about them too much here as I think that is a pretty good list to get started with. For each of the networks I did discuss, joining is the first step. You’ll need to apply to become an affiliate. If you want to know what to put in your affiliate application, check out my blog post on the subject. Make sure you avoid some of those mistakes so you can get past this first step.
After that, you’ll need to spend some time identifying who you want to work with. Each merchant and each network requires that you apply to join their program, then you are either approved or denied. When you are approved you’ll have access to all their links, banners and other distribution methods, I’ll outline some of the neat tools that are available in my next post.
So that is pretty much my brief run down of the networks I think you should get started with. I do recommend you working with all of them as they do have different merchants in each and each one offers something different than the other.
I’m sure I’m missing some things, so if you are an experienced affiliate marketer reading this post, please feel free to add anything in the comments section that you think a blogger getting started in AM will need to know.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]