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How to Choose an Affiliate Network

You've built your website, and you're generating sales. You recognize that starting an affiliate program will bring in even more business, but you don't have the time or technical capability of setting up and maintaining an affiliate program by yourself. You decide you will go through a middleman to take care of all this for you - an affiliate network.

What should you look for? What should you be aware of? Here's some tips to help you out.

Compare Fees
Make sure you're aware of all fees you will incur by becoming a merchant. There are plenty of fees you should be aware of including start-up fees, monthly maintenance fees, annual renewal fees, network percentage fees, etc. Make sure you're clear on exactly how much your affiliate network will be charging you.
Tip: Many affiliate networks (especially the new and/or smaller ones) have promotions for reduced fees in order to gain a larger amount of merchants - watch for these.

Tracking Sophistication
Reliable and honest tracking through the network should be always provided. The latest tracking technologies should be in place, and detailed reporting should be available to both you (the merchant), and the affiliates (the publishers) of the network.

Fraud Protection
What kind of safeguards does the affiliate network have in place to protect both merchants and publishers from fraud? This is something that should especially be a concern if you choose to go with a CPC (cost-per-click) model.

Unfortunately there are a number of affiliate networks that are just plain dishonest. Most problems lie with tracking, and commissions not being credited towards affiliates. Don't be fooled - the big players in the industry don't necessarily have a clean record either. Do your research; don't sign up with a network that has a bad reputation with its affiliates. Remember that the network you choose is a reflection of you and your business - for better or for worse.

Number of Affiliates in Network
How many affiliates are members of the affiliate network? If it's an especially small or large number, make sure you understand why. Some networks have a huge amount of publishers, but many of them are inactive, of questionable nature, or produce very few sales. The opposite can also be true; a small network of publishers can often generate huge traffic and sales for its merchants. It's best to look for a combination of quality as well as quantity. You should also learn what kind of criteria the network has in place for accepting new publishers. It may also be good idea to ask whether or not the network is still actively recruiting new affiliates.

Customer Service
This goes hand-in-hand with reputation. A good affiliate network will provide excellent customer service to both its merchants and publishers. Ideally you will want your own account manager who will work with you to help your affiliate program succeed and grow.

Direct Affiliate Contact
Similar to customer service, you should inquire whether or not it is possible to contact your affiliates directly. This may or may not be an option through the network, so it is important to ask. As an example, you may discover that a certain affiliate could perform much better if they used different creatives on their website. By being able to contact affiliates directly, you will have the option of forming closer and mutually beneficial relationships with your affiliates.

Affiliate Program Promotion
After you sign up as a merchant, what will your affiliate network do to get the word out about you to its publishers? Will it include your program in its newsletter and e-mailings, place a link on its website, issue a press release, or promote you as a "client" on a merchant list on their website? Try to get as much exposure as possible from your affiliate program network.

Make sure your newly chosen affiliate network works both with and for you. By going through a third party, you are introducing service charges into the mix. Make sure you know how much you will be paying, and exactly what you will be paying for.

Affiliate program networks are convenient and great to use - do your research before diving in head first, and your affiliate program will be a success!

Some well-respected affiliate networks include:

  • Panthera Network - Great pricing and commitment to work with publishers to maximize revenue
  • CheckMyStats - Based out of Australia, these guys feature some superb advertisers
  • OffersQuest - This affiliate network offers the absolute highest payouts anywhere!
  • Clickbank - Promote your products easily through ClickBank, which features over 100,000 affiliates.
  • Commission Monster - A leading provider of all performance based marketing solutions and affiliate programs.
  • Commission Junction - Online marketing solutions: performance-based affiliate programs & search marketing

About the Author
Veronica Dubak is an SEO expert, internet entrepreneur, and the owner of the successful SurveyBounty.com free online paid surveys directory. With a comprehensive listing of online market research companies classified by region, and background information on the online survey industry, SurveyBounty.com is the legitimate source for online surveys.