Affiliate marketing is like a living organism that changes and evolves by the minute. What is considered basic knowledge today, might not work tomorrow any more. That’s why it is essential to always keep up to date with the latest movements in the industry.
So what makes an affiliate network great in 2017? High commission rates? Advanced analytics? Customer support? How have the appetites of both merchants and affiliates changed over the years, and what do affiliate networks have to offer today? Read below to find out what top affiliate networks are doing differently from the rest of the crop in 2017.
Features of a Top Affiliate Network
Large Partner Base
The strength of an affiliate network is usually measured by the size of its partner/merchant base. The bigger the partner base, the larger the product pool. That helps affiliates find a unique niche with more ease, and gives them more opportunity for growth. A top affiliate network will have thousands of merchants. Some networks even offer exclusive merchants. Even though this is not essential for a network's success, it is considered an extra bonus.
Affiliate networks offer two ways of payment. Some networks wait to be paid by the merchants before giving affiliates their cut. That means affiliates can't plan ahead and are often clueless as to when they'll be paid. Top networks pay their affiliates on a pre-set date, regardless of the payment by the merchants. They do, however, require a certain minimum threshold that needs to be met before the payment can be made.
Short Payment Cycles
Being able to plan ahead is as equally important as generating any amount of income. Top affiliate networks will offer regular, short payment cycles, allowing affiliates to plan their expenses and investments ahead. Having bi-monthly recurring payments is considered a shorter payment cycle, while a payment cycle of 60 days is usually considered long.
High Commission Rates
Let's not forget what it all boils down to – income. A solid affiliate network will offer high commission rates. Even though they can vary (even within a single network), four percent of the product’s cost is generally considered a low commission rate, while around 10 percent is perceived as somewhat high(ish). The lower the commission rate, the more traffic you need to generate in order to earn an income.
Besides offering deep linking as a feature, a top network will also make finding links to deep-link with, easy.
Powerful reporting and analytics
Image: Analytics example. Credit: Monetize Pros
In-depth reporting and analytics are extremely important, as every serious affiliate will rely on the numbers and data to optimize their strategy. The dashboard should not feel old, or clunky. Instead, it needs to feel intuitive and easy to navigate. This is particularly important for beginner affiliates, as they might feel overwhelmed by the amount of reporting options.
Easy learning curve
A great affiliate network will not be too difficult for beginners to get a hang of. It is essential that affiliates need not spend hours upon hours in the dashboard, before they feel comfortable navigating through the various features it offers. Having progressive onboarding can be very helpful with affiliate networks rich in features.
Great customer support
The less time affiliates spend scratching their heads, trying to solve a problem, the more time they'll spend using the network and earning an income. A well-built affiliate network will come with strong customer support. That means much more than replying to tweets and emails fast, and generally being available all the time. A good partnership can also mean exclusive offers being opened for the account.
A great customer support includes:
- An in-depth FAQ page with a properly built-in search engine
- A regularly updated blog, offering useful, educational content
- The ability to chat with customer support via various channels like Skype, Slack, Facebook Messenger and others.
Wherever money is involved, fraudsters will always appear. Affiliate networks are no different, which is why one of the main features of a top affiliate network is a brick-solid fraud protection system, from both publisher's and buyer's side. Generally speaking, those include link tracking and IP tracking features, which allows networks to keep an eye out for publishers that buy items through their own affiliate links. Sometimes, fraudsters would click on CPC links, or repeatedly perform CPAs (cost per action) like newsletter sign ups.
Ease of use and flexibility
Joining an affiliate network, setting up an account and eventually starting to earn an income should not be hard. It needs to be fast, simple and intuitive, and the best way to get there is with a well-built, user-friendly interface. A top affiliate network will come with an interface that caters to both beginners and advanced affiliates. It will be easy to use, rich in features, and rounded off with a solid onboarding program.
Custom coupons creation
Here's a feature you don't see that often, yet is a powerful tool for affiliates – the ability to create custom coupons. Some networks allow affiliates to create discount coupons that deduct the earnings from the affiliate's commission. That way, the merchant's revenue stays the same. This is a great feature for merchants with higher commission rates that are interested in a more aggressive approach to marketing. Affiliates, on the other hand, might require some reputation building before using such a feature.
High commission rates are an important element to a well-built affiliate network, but they’re far from being the only defining factor. There are plenty of other features that can tilt the scales one way or another – being large, easier to use, having a solid customer support, or offering more bang for the buck just being some of them. Of course, nothing is stopping you from using multiple networks at once, and this is perhaps the best way to find most consistent and best-performing ones.
It is, however, important to learn what’s on the table, and hopefully, we’ve done just that.