Today I'm going to dive into one of the most popular affiliate networks in the online marketing world- ShareASale.
I'm going to show you how I use the ShareASale network interface, outline how to make money using ShareASale, and rank their top 10 affiliate programs.
(Click here to visit ShareASale and then click on Affiliate Sign Up in the top right corner).
What Is ShareASale?
ShareASale is a Chicago-based affiliate network, founded in 2000 by Brian Littleton. It's loaded with nearly 4,000 affiliate programs you can join with over 700,000 affiliates promoting the programs.
Check out my ShareASale video guide below- I'll take you on a guided tour of the network and show you how I scour it for interesting Merchants to join.
How It Works
ShareASale is an affiliate network that arbitrates the relationship between Merchants and Affiliates. If you have a website or social media property that you want to monetize, you are an Affiliate. If you have a business and want publishers to promote your site in exchange for a cut of the sale, you're a Merchant.
This guide is mainly intended for Affiliates. Affiliate networks, in general, help you create the tracking links for specific Merchant programs so you can get paid on the traffic you send to the Merchants that converts.
It essentially does all of the administrative dirty work so that the two sides can work together- figuring out things like affiliate link creation, how to pay affiliates based on different Merchant commission structures, how affiliates can discover merchants and their products, how to deal with returns, Merchant Program performance reporting & tax reporting.
How To Join ShareASale
Signup is simple- use this link to join ShareASale and click on the Affiliate Sign Up:
One thing I've learned- when you first join ShareASale, be judicious about the programs you apply to. My advice is to only join programs, to start, that you know you can send traffic to tomorrow.
If you sign up, apply to a bunch of programs without a ready traffic source, you could eventually be dropped by the Merchant.
I've slowly built up my ShareASale account over the course of a couple years now which gives me some amount of leverage when applying to join more exclusive programs.
It's pretty straightforward- you apply to join affiliate programs within ShareASale:
And then once you're approved by the program, you're able to create links using their Custom Link Generator or their Bookmarklet tool under Links > Create A Custom Link To A Page:
First, however, you'll want to evaluate the different programs by some common, industry metrics to ensure that they'll convert the traffic you send them.
Understanding The Metrics
When you begin searching through ShareASale, you'll be confronted with some merchant performance stats.
It's important to give these some consideration prior to applying to join their program.
You'll want to join programs that have healthy conversion rates and average sale amounts- which is why it's often advisable to join programs that have a top 100 PowerRank on ShareASale.
Let's review some of the common terms:
PowerRank: Surprisingly, there isn't a ton of information about this ShareASale-specific stat- but it is essentially a proprietary metric that they use to rank their most succesful affiliate programs.
I dug up this definition from their blog:
"PowerRank” statistical category for the most cumulative days in an individual year. “PowerRank” is a ShareASale specific statistic encompassing things such as EPC, Volume, Reversal Rates, Conversion, Program Uptime, etc…"
EPC: ShareAsale describes this industry wide metric as the average Affiliate earnings per 100 clicks across all Affiliates in a Merchants program (Source). This gives a baseline measurement of affiliate success with the program- it's a useful way to compare programs against one another.
Below I grabbed the performance statistics of Bean Box, a coffee gifts service.
Average Sale: This one is pretty self-explanatory. It's the average sale amount of the converting traffic affiliates have sent to the merchant.
Conversion Rate: This refers to the percentage of traffic that actually converts and makes a purchase. So if you send 100 people through an affiliate link and 5 of them make a purchase, the conversion rate is 5%.
If you begin poking around through different merchants, you'll quickly get a sense of how strong Bean Box is. It has a Top 100 PowerRank and the numbers are pretty impressive- a $78 average sale, converting at 23%, with a 10% commission rate.
If you're just getting started in affiliate marketing, take some time to evaluate all the different programs out there- it's a great way to get familiar with these important performance statistics.
Some Perspective On Performance Stats
While it's a good idea to get comfortable with these numbers, your own success with a particular affiliate network could be entirely different than the averages.
For example, you may have a great deal more success than average sending traffic to Wayfair because you have a loyal audience that engages with and trusts your recommendations.
So, while Wayfair may be converting at 1.92% over the past 7 days for all affiliates, since 12/28/17, maybe you convert at 10% because people like you and your niche fits nicely with Wayfair's home & garden product lines.
Or it could work the other direction- maybe you convert at .75%.
The point is, these numbers are averages and while useful, you need to test performance with your own traffic.
One important note- you should be careful joining affiliate programs that are really new or don't have much history. They may drop out of the network and you'll have to replace all of the links, which can be a real hassle depending on how you've implemented them.
The ShareASale Tools I Use
ShareASale has a bunch of tools to help you promote their merchants. Below, I'll walk you through the functionalities I most commonly use.
The ShareASale Product Discovery Tool
This is a handy tool that lets you create custom, deep-links directly from your browser.
The way it works, you install it to your bookmarks in Chrome and when you want to link to a a product in a program you participate in, you navigate to the product page, click the link in your bookmarks, and as long as you're logged in to ShareASale itself, you'll get a custom affiliate link to the product.
You can also create custom, deep links from within ShareSale itself, but I find it much faster to use this product discovery tool.
Finding & Analyzing Merchants
One of the most important elements of a good affiliate network is its ability to facilitate the discovery of niche affiliate programs you can join to monetize your internet properties.
ShareASale provides some useful tools to help affiliate marketers discover and apply to join these programs. Below, I cover some of the basic tools you can use to filter through their inventory.
Affiliate Program Pages
Besides helping you discover affiliate programs, ShareASale gathers important performance data for each program.
Below, you can see NFLShop.com's 7 and 30-day affiliate-marketing performance statistics. You can see what the Average Sale, Average Commission, EPC, Conversion Rate,the Cookie Duration (how long your link-click will last before sales stop being attributed to you) and other important metrics.
ShareASale's recent modernization of their user interface makes it easier to search and discover merchants within the network.
As you can see below, the left panel provides a granular drop down that separates the different merchants by category.
Along the top, there's a Featured Categories section that highlights popular affiliate categories.
You can also conduct a kewyord search to find either merchants or specific merchant products to promote.
For example, if I want to promote "dust extractors", I can simply input that keyword and get a list of all the merchants that have products matching that search term and then apply to join them.
Below, you can see that by searching for "dust extractors", I turn up 4 Merchants with products matching the search query.
Clicking the links the red arrows are pointing to, ShareASale will show you the product's prices, and the estimated commission if you were to successfully convert a buyer using the program's affiliate link.
Analytics & Reporting
ShareASale provides useful Analytics information about your performance including activity details, a traffic report, invalid links and more. Besides that, on the Merchant side of things, ShareASale gathers important metrics regarding how the program converts, the average order value, and a variety of other stats.
Under Reports, there's an Activity Details section. This is generally where I spend most of my time- analyzing which programs are converting.
It essentially gives you a breakdown of your most recent commissions by program.
There's also an option to Filter Results using quick and advanced search parameters. This is useful to examine the performance of particular merchants.
Another useful Analytics tool, the Traffic Report breaks down how much traffic you're sending to specific Merchants, how well it's converting.
The column breakdown displays Unique Hits, Net Commissions, Net Sales, Number of Sales, Number of Voids,Conversion & Net EPC.
This is another helpful tool. If an affiliate program within ShareASale closes, all of the links on your site will be invalid. ShareASale helpfully lists out all of your invalid links- although it doesn't always show which page the link is coming from. It might require some digging to figure this out- but at least you can correct the error and find an alternative program to promote.
How To Make Money With ShareASale
If you want to make money with this network, the basic formula is pretty simple.
Traffic + Offer = Profit
There are a number of ways to get traffic- you could start a niche organic-traffic site, build up a social media profile, market to your own email list, and you can even buy traffic.
Buying traffic is a bit tricky because many of these affiliate programs stipulate that you can't compete with them on certain keywords.
It's also complex because you'll need to find a program with a high payout and a high converting offer- you'll need some healthy earnings margins if you're spending money to acquire traffic.
Another risk is that AdWords doesn't look too favorably at affiliates directing traffic to a third-party page using affiliate links.
In my own case, I've focused on organic traffic- so the traffic flows through the site and I can selectively monetize my content with links from different affiliate programs. It's slower growth than paid traffic. I have a content pipeline that routinely pumps out long-form posts that compete for search engine traffic.
Perhaps you're big on YouTube or Instagram- these platforms are another viable traffic source. As long as you have attention, there's an opportunity to monetize your content.
Email Marketing Traffic
Email marketing is another great traffic source. What I especially like about it is that you can quickly send targeted traffic to an affiliate offer by messaging your list. Or just incorporate affiliate content into your autoresponder and send targeted, recurring traffic to your affiliate offers.
All in all, ShareASale provides a pretty intuitive way to dig through their various programs.
Whether you're still brainstorming a niche, or already are an established player, perusing their Merchants will undoubtedly stimulate your imagination. There are a lot of affiliate offers out there that might be tangential to your niche.
For example, if you run a personal finance blog, there are incorporation services and even business check printers you can logically be an affiliate for.
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ShareASale's Top Affiliate Programs
1. The Fanatics Affiliate Program
Fanatics specializes in licensed sports apparel. If you're in the sports niche, this would be a logical Merchant to promote if you're at all involved with the NCAA, NFL, MLB, NHL, NBA, UFC, MLS or NASCAR. Currently they're converting at 9.45% and offering 10% commission per sale.
2. The MyPillow Affiliate Program
I constantly hear these guys advertising on AM radio and TV so it's no surprise that they're in ShareASale's top 10. Their proprietary pillow is designed with interlocking fill to create a customized sleep fit. They're offering 3% per sale and are converting at 26%. This would be a good product to promote if you're in the health or sleeping niche.
3. The Cricut Affiliate Program
Cricut produces a crafts machine called the Cricut Maker. It's a DIY, crafts tool- so this would be a great program to join if you run a DIY or maker-type of site. They offer 12% commission and are converting at 8.86%.
4. The Minted Affiliate Program
Minted is sort of like a Etsy- a community of freelance creators. According to their site, "Minted is a design marketplace. We source creative content from a global community of independent artists, then sell the best content in the form of art, home décor, and stationery, directly to consumers."
They appear to have a big focus on weddings- producing creative, artisinal designs. This would be a good program to join if you're in the weddings and bridal showers niche. Currently they offer 10-12% per sale and are converting at 2.44%.
5. The Wayfair Affiliate Program
This one is a personal favorite- it's my best performing affiliate program within ShareASale. They specialize in home & garden products. In comparison to Amazon, they might not beat them on price, but they do compete on depth- often featuring a deeper product selection for different categories. Since I run a general product review site, Wayfair is a viable complement to the Amazon affiliate program.
Plus they often have many customer reviews- which helps users decide to purchase a particular product. I've also begun seeing more Wayfair television commercials- an indication to me that they're an ambitious e-commerce brand. They're converting at 1.92% and offering 5% commission.
It's a good program to join if you have a lot of product reviews and want an Amazon Associates complement/alternative, or if you're in the home & garden niche specifically.
6. The NFL Shop Affiliate Program
The NFL Shop is another sports apparel affiliate program- it's the official online store of the National Football League. It offers a huge variety of officially licensed NFL apparel and merchandise. Obviously a good program to join if you're in the sports and memorabilia niche. It offers a 6% commission and is converting at 13%.
7. The Gymboree Affiliate Program
According to their program page, they specialize in "high-quality, stylish children’s clothing". So if you run a parenting blog, for example, this would be a solid option to promote. They're converting at 9.26% paying 8% per sale.
8. The Deluxe Affiliate Program
According to their program page, the Deluxe Affiliate Program spans several different brands – including Bags & Bows, Deluxe Business Services, PsPrint, InkHead, and VerticalResponse. They provide business products and services like forms and checks, general office supplies, enterprise services and promotional products.
They're offering 10-30% product based commissions and are currently converting at 17%. This would be a good niche if you specialize in a particular industry.
For example, a legal blog could conceivably affiliate with Deluxe to promote them as an office-products supplier for law firms.
9. Checks Unlimited Affiliate Program
This affiliate program specializes direct mail check printing. They bill themselves as "America's leading direct-to-customer check provider" and offer custom printed checks and accessories. They're offering 20% commissions and converting at 27%. If you're in a business or personal finance niche, this could be a good program to join.
10. The Incfile Affiliate Program
This program provides LLC, C-Corp, S-Corp and Non-Profit Incorporation Services. Having just incorporated myself, I understand how lucrative this type of service can be. Incorporating is pretty expensive, so if you're looking for an under-the-radar high-paying affiliate program, this is a really good one.
If you're in the personal finance space, it's an especially viable niche affiliate network you could experiment with.
Top 100 ShareASale Affiliate Programs
If you're looking to join an affiliate network- ShareASale is a good place to start. It really specializes in physical products, but regardless, just by perusing their different programs you're guaranteed to stumble across some interesting monetization options.