You're working on growing your business as a brand, influencer, or personality. Adding a passive income stream is a smart business as you diversify how you reach clients and customers. One of the most popular and high-earning passive income generators is Affiliate Marketing.
Affiliate Marketing involves promoting other people's products in exchange for a commission on any sales. It's the process by which an affiliate (you) earns a commission for marketing another person's or company's products. Your search for products you like, promote them on your socials and website, then earn a commission from each sale they make. The sales are tracked via affiliate links.
Affiliate marketing is highly beneficial to both brands and affiliate marketers. Affiliate marketing spending in the U.S. increased from $5.4 billion in 2017 to $8.2 billion in 2022. And there is still tons of space for those new to affiliate marketing to earn.
Once you've decided to dip into the vast waters of affiliate marketing, you'll soon see there are plenty of boats in those waters. To be clear, by boats, we mean affiliate marketing programs. If we continued with the metaphor, the 'fish' in the sea would be buying consumers. Clever right?
So, where do you start? Which affiliate marketing platform suits you best? Let's look at four popular affiliate programs to see how they stack up.
As one of the broadest affiliate programs on the planet, Amazon Associates allows anyone with an online audience can create links and earn referral fees when someone clicks those links and buys a product from an Amazon site.
You can choose between two different types of affiliate programs with Amazon. One is called "Amazon Associates," and the other is called "Amazon Associates Program." Both offer the same commission rates. However, the first requires you to register as an individual seller, while the second allows you to join as a business owner.
Like most other affiliate programs, it's free to join. And it's pretty easy to use:
- Create your Amazon affiliate links
- Write quality content to promote a product(s) on Amazon
- Earn money for every purchase.
Amazon also runs regular retail promotions — fixed discounts and free shipping offers — designed to help affiliate marketers drive traffic.
Once approved, though, as an affiliate, you are required to achieve three sales within the first 180 days in the program. That means you have six months to make three sales. Organic impressions won't cut it if you are just starting as an affiliate marketer.
Getting Paid by Amazon Associates
While Amazon is widely known and used, being an affiliate won't earn you a spot on Bezo's rocketship anytime soon. The affiliates' commission rates vary from 1% (house and personal care) to 20% (digital games).
Quality of Support
Becoming an affiliate with Amazon does open the door to a larger market, thanks to Amazon's reach. However, with extensive agreements, low commissions, and weak customer support, keeping up with the constant changes to their Amazon Affiliate program presents challenges.
Synture's affiliate program is different than the others on this list. Both in size and offerings. And that's a good thing. Synture is an enterprise focused on educating business owners and empowering their businesses to make informed decisions.
Synture Academy is the feature of their affiliate program. It has webinars, books, and resources for all ages and sizes of businesses seeking to grow. New video series are regularly launched in Synture Academy. As their offerings continue to expand, the opportunity to generate income by referrals grows too.
The Synture Academy helps businesses in these critical areas:
- Understanding Business Credit
- Actively builds Business Credit with Credit Lenders
- Providing a robust content resource center
Quality of Support
Synture's affiliate program is easy to join and easy to share. Thanks to its structure, Synture offers direct contact support and a suite of tools to use on your site or social media. They do most of the heavy lifting. All you have to do as an affiliate is share it. Check out a preview of what Synture offers.
Getting Paid by Synture
Synture's Affiliate program offers its affiliates 10% for each sign-up to their academy. Commissions are paid weekly via direct deposit.
ClickBank has been around for quite a long time. Its network of affiliates launched back in 1998, making it one of the original affiliate programs. ClickBank is also slightly different from most affiliate marketing networks because it focuses mainly on digital products.
It's a marketplace where digital product creators upload their products, although a few physical products are available now.
Becoming a ClickBank affiliate marketer is pretty easy for first-timers.
Because you don't need approval for most affiliate products on ClickBank, you can start selling immediately, which isn't the case with other affiliate networks. There is a very low barrier to getting on ClickBank. They don't ask for SEO numbers, which makes joining appealing.
Plus, their commission rates are some of the highest at up to 90%. This rate keeps them competitive as so many products are not brand names.
With such a vast network and history, ClickBank has built up an extensive affiliate program and products to offer. ClickBank isn't for you if you want to work with a high-profile online retailer—most of the brand names you likely won't recognize.
The interface of ClickBank's marketplace shows its age. It's been doing the same job for 20+ years and is not up to modern standards. But, it does the job, just not beautifully. Creating an affiliate link with ClickBank is usually easy but sometimes requires extra steps.
Once you find the items you want to share, click 'promote' and then choose 'create hop-link'. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee there are graphics or banners to share. Each vendor is responsible for uploading them.
So if the product you want to share has no graphics, banners, or other sales material, it's up to you to email the vendor and ask about them. A straightforward task that can spiral into several email exchanges.
Getting Paid by ClickBank
ClickBank offers bi-weekly payments but can take 6-8 weeks before your first payment arrives. Once you build a steady income, it will feel closer to bi-weekly. Payments come in either check or direct deposit.
The biggest challenge working with ClickBank is their refund policy. They offer a 90-day money-back guarantee. Some people take advantage of this by buying digital products, downloading them, then asking for a refund. This ongoing platform issue can eat into your commissions.
Quality of Support
The support at ClickBank is a bare minimum. There is a ticket system or their knowledge base if you encounter any problems. There is also Google. ClickBank has been around long enough that most issues are posted in threads all over the internet.
ShareASale is one of the oldest and most highly trusted affiliate networks. They source merchants that other networks have no interest in but work great for affiliate marketers. Currently, ShareASale has 4,500 merchants listed on its site. While they boast a few brand names you'd recognize, their focus is on small and medium enterprises instead of big brands. Focusing on small and medium enterprises can be advantageous for two reasons.
Firstly, big brands can be very picky in selecting affiliates. Second, smaller and medium enterprises are hungrier to expand their sales reach. So they're more open to the idea of small site owners promising to work hard to promote their products.
While ShareASale is easy to use, like ClickBank, their site is functional but looks dated. They feature the top 10 most popular merchant programs on the main page as an easy way to get started. Instead of having to scroll through tons of merchants, ShareASale makes that process easier than anyone else.
ShareASale likes to keep things very simple, and creating an affiliate link is no different. Once you've selected 'get a link,' you can choose the creative tools you need and grab the HTML code. There are also some very cool additional tools for publishers.
Getting Paid by ShareASale
ShareASale's Affiliate payments are issued on the 20th of each month, based on a net 30 model. So any revenue made before July 20th would be paid on August 20th. This model works to avoid refund issues showing up on bank statements, keeping things clean and simple. ShareASale offers direct deposit, check, or Payoneer. Much like ClickBank, there is no payout until $50 is generated by your links.
Quality of Support
ShareASale customer support needs an overhaul. There is an email address and a telephone number to contact them—no FAQ or knowledge base. You may find better support amongst your SaleAShare peers by searching your issue online.
C.J. Affiliate (Previously Commission Junction)
C.J. Affiliates is a well-established network of over 100 brands. C.J. has got one of the best selection of big brand names compared to any other affiliate network. Barnes & Noble, Zappos, Verizon, and IHG (International Hotel Group) carry a lot of weight when attracting affiliate marketers and advertisers to this network. Now, the other 3,000 advertisers on the C.J. Affiliate network are far from impressive. If you stick to the heavy hitters, you likely won't care.
Joining the C.J. Affiliate program is as easy as other affiliate sites. However, to access most programs on C.J., you need to generate sales on the network before being approved. Yet, you can't generate sales without first being accepted to at least one program. Quite a few C.J. Affiliate advertisers have this catch-22 structure when it comes to new affiliates.
Your main dashboard has a fairly minimalist design which adds to the ease of use.
To get started, click on 'Advertisers' from the top menu, and you can then run searches by keyword or the advertiser's name.
You can search by categories but also by:
- Advertiser type
- Advertiser status
- Serviceable area
- Advertiser's Country
- Geographic Source
While this amount of categories is overkill, you can save your search, which will save you time. Set up one or two thorough parameter searches, and each time you log in, you're one click from results. One of the most significant benefits of being an affiliate marketer with C.J. Affiliates is the ability to filter advertisers by profit potential. This filtering tool is something other affiliate programs should aspire to replicate.
C.J's way of creating links has not changed much – click on 'Links' and then 'Search.' You can choose your advertiser and review the creatives on offer. C.J. Affiliates focuses heavily on optimized mobile offers, so they push those types of links to create. This push can be annoying. To help though, C.J. also offers two excellent additional link creation tools.
There is a 'Deep link generator,' the bookmarklet for your browser, which allows you to create a link to a specific page of an affiliate program.
The widget feature lets you create a slideshow, collage, or grid featuring products from any affiliate program you've joined. This process is easy enough that a beginner can do it.
Getting Paid by C.J. Affiliates
C.J. Affiliate offers a significant 20-35% commission fee with most advertisers but must generate at least $50 in commissions before receiving payment. Like most other affiliate programs, commissions are paid on a net 30 basis. Payments are sent for your referrals 30 days after the purchase. Payment options are direct deposit, check, or Payoneer.
Quality of Support
C.J. Affiliate's primary support source is their support center or knowledge base. Frequently asked questions and concerns are shared and answered here. C.J. also offers a contact support menu option that connects you with a live web chat or contact form. A Google search will provide a phone number to contact them, but you won't find that on the C.J. Affiliate site.
Choosing an Affiliate
When you decide to enter the affiliate game, you want to align yourself with brands and productions that fit your site, socials, and style. If you are launching a financial website, partnering with products that enhance your credibility and trust with your customers makes sense. With each click-through, your reputation is partially linked to the quality of the product or service you share.
Being an Affiliate is a fantastic way to generate passive income, yet it still requires work. You may need to:
- Build an email list to promote your affiliate content and products
- Buy pay-per-click to drive traffic to your site
- Share content on social media
Deciding on which affiliate program to join, it can be tempting to look for higher commission sites first. But if you are planning on going the distance with growing your affiliate influence and brand, choose programs that have growth potential. Find your niche and stick to products that speak to and enhance it. Overall, it would be best if you enjoyed what you were sharing.
By Darryl Sykes CEO of Synture.com