How do an affiliate and a merchant find each other? That is where affiliate networks come into play.

What are some of the top affiliate networks?

There are literally hundreds of websites currently on the internet and because of this, finding the best affiliate website can be rather difficult. Here are the top 10 affiliate network sites:

  • ClickBank
    This site has over 10,000 products that deal mostly with digital downloads. The commissions are usually higher than other sites ranging from 40% to 50% and are paid out every two weeks. This is an easy to use site that offers superb tracking.
  • Commission Junction (CJ) —
    Currently owned by ValueClick, this site offers commissions ranging from 3% to 15% along with performance bonuses and incentives. In addition, CJ offers invaluable training sessions and seminars. Payments are made once a month and they do offer direct deposit.
  • LinkShare — Similar to Clickbank and CJ,
    this site has some of the best tracking and stats available. With tons of Fortune 500 companies listed, it is very easy to find a company and product to promote. Payments are made once a month.
  • Affiliate Window
    This is a UK based network that offers top brand companies, monthly payouts, and good commission rates.
  • Amazon
    Amazon.com has become a trusted household name which makes it very easy to sell products from this site. Although the commission rates are somewhat lower than other sites, the trust that this name carries far outweighs this slight inconvenience. Payouts are now made once a month.
  • Shareasale
    With over 1,700 products and merchants, this is a very easy to use site that offers payouts the month following your sales.
  • Google —
    Okay, so Google isn’t your traditional affiliate website, in that it doesn’t offer products for you to promote but via its AdSense program, it can be extremely lucrative. Payments are made monthly.
  • LinkConnector
    This site, which was launched in 2004, is still fairly new but has a lot of promise in that it offers many different types of affiliate programs.
  • CPA Empire
    This site is geared towards affiliates who work mainly with email marketing and promotions, acquiring leads, and sign-ups.
  • RevenueLoop
    This is a great site that gives affiliates 100% of the profits minus just a small fee! In addition, they provide personalized customer support.

Why should I choose an affiliate network as opposed to using my own in-house affiliate program?

If you are just starting out in affiliate marketing, it is best to use an affiliate network because they offer support and training. It will help to get your feet wet. Once you become a more established affiliate marketer, there is nothing wrong with using your own in house affiliate program as they tend to have higher payouts. However, affiliate networks will assist you in getting started and getting your name known to merchants.

Sounds great! But what are the negative aspects of using affiliate networks?

Even though affiliate networks offer numerous benefits, there are also a few disadvantages to using these services. For example, some sites may require a fee to sign up which can be frustrating considering many people start this venture to make money, not spend money.

In addition, all the links you post must go through the affiliate network and all of the program promotions are intended to be advantageous to the network, not the affiliate.

So, now that I know what affiliate marketing is, the advantages and disadvantages of affiliate networks, and the best affiliate networks available, how do I actually make money?

The first step to making money using affiliate networks is to find a niche or specialty. Poker, mortgage, and education seem to be the top three best affiliate markets.

Once you have decided on your niche, the second step is to build your own website or create your own blog because you will need to have a place to promote your products.
Be sure your site is easy to use and eye-catching.

Content is king so be sure you have a lot of useful information — preferably information that other sites are lacking.

Third and probably most importantly is to drive traffic to your site. Traffic is what the visitors to your site are called. The more traffic you have, the higher the probability that they will click on your links. You can drive traffic to your site by promoting it on social networking sites, blog listing sites, and article submission sites. These three steps should be mastered prior to joining any affiliate network or promoting any products.

The fourth step consists of finding products that match your niche and fit in with your site. Create links to your affiliates and encourage your visitors to want to click on your links.

Overall, affiliate marketing with the use of affiliate networks can be extremely lucrative but it is imperative to remember that you will not get rich overnight. It takes a lot of patience, determination, and savvy to succeed.