New to Affiliate Marketing? Here Are 4 of the Best Affiliate Networks that Can Bring You a Hefty Amount of Monthly Passive Income

Affiliate marketing is the number one source of passive income for online marketers.  But not many people realize you can earn a lot of money online as a full-time affiliate marketer.  Affiliate marketers have racked up a bad record and are regarded as 21st-century charlatans willing to sell you the latest youth elixir.

While there are certainly some affiliate marketers as crooked than a ram’s horn, most are trustworthy and follow a code as exacting as a samurai’s.

You want to be that kind of affiliate marketer. One that an audience can trust, one that won’t sell their soul for gold.

Ethics aside…

What is affiliate marketing?

Affiliate marketing is essentially a type of internet marketing based on revenue sharing.

It is a system in which an affiliate promotes other people’s products and earns a commission on each referral sale they make.

Affiliates aren’t limited to promoting things like consumer products alone. In fact, promoting software usually pays off handsomely.

The B2B (business to business) and SaaS (software as a service) niche can be very lucrative.  Businesses have and are willing to spend hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars to spend on software that can make them more productive and profitable.

Affiliates can also promote services such as consulting too.

If you already have a sizeable audience and you want to monetize, joining a good affiliate program is a step in the right direction.

Can I make a lot of money from affiliate marketing?

Well, you can, depending on the size of your audience and how much credibility you’ve built over time.

I mean, Jon Morrow, owner of the smashingly popular Smartblogger, regularly makes thousands of dollars every month just by promoting products like the SiteGround hosting.

Smartblogger earns anywhere from $75 – $125 as commission from any user that buys Siteground hosting from links on their website.

When you factor in the hundreds of thousands of monthly visits, their earnings can easily add up to tens, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars.

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But wait.

Before you get all excited at this proposition, just consider that Jon, by virtue of his many years of experience, has become an expert in the blogging niche and therefore has a massive following.

If there are only tumbleweeds on your desert-like website, there’s no way you can make a decent amount of money from affiliate marketing.  Your first priority is increasing traffic and producing regular, quality content.

We’ll look at some of the most profitable affiliate programs in a bit.

But in the meantime, let’s first examine some of the finer differences between an affiliate program and an affiliate network.

What is the difference between an affiliate marketing program and an affiliate network?

To clearly understand the difference between them, and to avoid any confusion, we’ll have to look closely at the individual components that comprise an affiliate marketing system

First, there’s the merchant.

The merchant is the one who starts the ball rolling. The merchant creates products and services.

A merchant can create anything from a physical good to an intangible service.

Anyone or any company can be a merchant as long as they have a product they’re willing to sell through affiliates.

The affiliate, also sometimes called the publisher, is the party that promotes the product through specialized, affiliate links that track the sale to the advertiser. The ‘product’ could be anything from a consumer product like (skincare products), to a service like consulting.

The consumer is the most important part of the system. No consumer means no audience to market to.

Let’s examine the differences between an affiliate network and an affiliate program.

An affiliate network is a managed software platform that connects both merchants and affiliates. It provides a platform that allows affiliates to join affiliate programs.

The work they do is two-fold.

For merchants, an affiliate network offers reporting instruments, tracking technology and payment processing with the added benefit of access to a large base of affiliates.

On the other hand, it provides services like payment aggregation for affiliates and one-click application to new merchants.

An affiliate network is essentially a service that provides a platform for merchants to offer their affiliate programs and for affiliates to join those programs.

In contrast, an affiliate marketing program is an agreement between a merchant and an affiliate created, offered or initiated by the product creator.  The merchant agrees to pay an affiliate a commission for directing traffic and/or sales their way.

However, to get paid commissions, the affiliate has to join the merchant’s program and agree to their terms and conditions.

In short, a merchant, in a bid to give his product or service some more exposure, creates an affiliate program where affiliates can join and then earn commissions for every sale they make for the merchant.

And Affiliate Manager is your advocate with the merchants in your network.  They advise you on which affiliate offers work well for your audience and how to promote it.

How do affiliate programs work?

Affiliate marketing is usually done via online media, like websites and blogs.

When an affiliate marketer signs up with a merchant, the affiliate gets a unique affiliate link (which they will add to their website). This affiliate link will be tracked by using cookies.

Cookies are a value stored on an end user’s computer, and in this case, they are used to track affiliate sales.

Cookies usually have terms like cookie length and cookie life to describe their life cycle.

If the user clicks on a link with a 30-day life (or duration) and a sale is made within that time, the affiliate is credited with the sale and consequently receives a commission.

In order to be successful with affiliate marketing, you need a lot of traffic, merchants with generous payout policies and you need to promote only products that are relevant and suited to your audience niche.

How does affiliate marketing work?

As easy as this all sounds, you can’t just throw an affiliate link or display ad on your blog sidebar and expect to roll in the cash.  It’s not going to happen.  You have to create a way to funnel your audience into the path of the sale.  Which, as a blogger, isn’t nearly as hard as it may seem.  Many affiliate marketing campaigns are straight forward and promoted with organic and paid traffic from social media and search engines.

If you are writing a blog post on fitness, you would appropriate affiliate products (like fitness clothing, exercise equipment, weight loss offers), that you can link to as you write your article.  And with tools like Widgetly, you can create your own native and banner ads to sprinkle throughout the content.

By driving traffic to your site, either to specific blog posts or the root domain, you can increase the number of impressions (eyes that see the ads) and the conversion rate (people who buy).

Some of the most lucrative affiliate programs for beginners.

It’s no secret.  Not all affiliate marketing programs are created equal.  Some are more equal than others.  Bloggers who have a decent audience and want to monetize can join the following affiliate programs through affiliate networks.

We’ll examine each network and its pros and cons respectively.

Amazon associates.

This is the brainchild of the retail giant, Amazon.

Amazon associates is great for beginners as they take the sales process out of your hands so you can focus on bringing in as many leads as you can through your website.

Amazon associates can pay a commission of anywhere from 1-10 % depending on the category of the product.  Items like clothes and luxury beauty products tend to have the highest commission rates which can be up to 10%.  The commission on the sales of books can be even higher. They can be as high as 15%.

Although this commission rate isn’t so much in the affiliate marketing universe, it is quite plenty on the Amazon associates planet.

Amazon doesn’t hold its cookies for too long. They, however, do have a staggering number of products that virtually anyone can promote.

They are popular for another reason too.

If a user clicks on a link to buy a product on an affiliate’s website, and didn’t end up buying the product, but purchased another one instead, they still get a commission from this sale.

All in all, although the affiliate commissions aren’t as high as some others, Amazon associates is well suited to a beginner just learning the ropes of affiliate marketing.  And with enough traffic, affiliate marketers can make a lot of money with Amazon associates.

Click Bank

This is another affiliate network that has been around for a while. They have, in fact, been in business for more than 17 years, and in that time, they have evolved and become more efficient while still providing a fantabulous user and customer experience

They previously used to allow just any product to be sold and promoted through their network.

This relaxed attitude towards quality control resulted in a profusion of low-quality products on their network.  As you can imagine, affiliate marketers and customers alike were not happy.  Fortunately, their policies became more rigorous and the overall quality of their service improved.

Clickbank is widely known for working with affiliate marketing newbies. Their service is free to use, and they still offer a myriad of programs that affiliates can join.

With a cookie duration of up to 60 days and commission percentages of up to 75% in some cases, Clickbank can easily become lucrative for newbies.

Commission Junction (CJ affiliates)

Commission Junction is another popular and well-established network.

With over 300 established big-brand advertisers like Go Pro and Priceline, and an impressive 43 % year on year growth in commissions, this network is definitely for the big players.

And occasionally for small players who aren’t so small anymore.

On this network, cookie life can be anywhere from 1-120 days, depending on the merchant.

ShareASale

This is another vast affiliate network. With over 3,900 merchants and 1 million+ affiliates, they have become a leader and a force in the industry

Some of their verticals include fashion, home and garden, food and drink, and even B2B products.

They are an affiliate network that is easy and intuitive to use and navigate. In addition to this, they pride themselves on their speed, efficiency, and accuracy.  This platform is a solid recommendation for beginners who want to get their toes wet in affiliate marketing.

The Big Dogs

As you can imagine, the more exclusive the affiliate network is, the more lucrative it has the potential to be.  Networks such as MaxBounty and Clickbooth are not for newbies.  You need established and successful affiliate income and traffic history in order to promote their offers.  These are intermediate and advanced level affiliate networks.

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