If you are new to affiliate marketing, chances are that you have heard the phrase “affiliate network” and perhaps even signed up for one or two. Over the coming weeks, I will be writing a series of articles reviewing the most popular affiliate networks and describing their strengths and weaknesses. I hope that this will help new affiliate marketers determine where best to focus their strengths during the early stages of learning how to operate websites for profit.
Today’s topic: ShareaSale.
Based in Chicago and founded in 2000, ShareaSale is one of the more well-seasoned affiliate networks and is the network powering over 3,300 affiliate programs as of today. ShareaSale has many “marquee” merchants participating in its network, and some of the merchants that you can expect to find include Tiny Prints, Legacy Learning Systems, LifeLock, and Snorg Tees.
ShareaSale Affiliate Commissions
Because the payout for an affiliate sale is determined by the merchant rather than the affiliate program, there is no reason to compare ShareaSale to other affiliate networks in terms of the commissions they offer — they don’t control that. However, ShareaSale has merchants that offer all three of the standard affiliate program types: pay-per-click, pay-per-lead (you get paid when someone signs up for something that does not cost anything), and pay-per-sale. Some of the merchants offering the best combinations of affiliate commissions and conversion rates are listed above.
ShareaSale Payment Options and Threshold
The payment threshold for ShareaSale is $50. If your ShareaSale account reaches the $50 threshold during a calendar month, ShareaSale will issue payment by the 20th of the following month. ShareaSale will pay you via a direct deposit to your bank account (Free), a check via U.S. postal mail (also free) or Federal Express. ShareaSale deducts $20 to send your payment via Federal Express to the United States, and more to send payment internationally ($35 for Canada, $55 for any other international destination). If you opt to have your payment sent via Federal Express, you can raise the payment threshold to avoid having the fee eat too much into your earnings.
ShareaSale is an extremely friendly affiliate network to work with if you own multiple websites. You simply list the websites that you control in one text box,and provide brief descriptions of your most important websites in another box. When you apply for an affiliate program, ShareaSale provides a box in the application form that you can fill out to describe where and how you will promote the product. Although you don’t have to fill the box out, it can certainly help the application process along. Some affiliate networks give you nothing but a button to click when applying for an affiliate program, which tells the merchant little about your plans for promotion — and provides you no information if your affiliate application is declined. If you own multiple websites, you do not have to apply to ShareaSale merchants for each website that you own, greatly reducing the amount of time needed to get started marketing a new product.
Although I do not think that it is necessarily always wise to market products based on the fact that other people also market them, one feature that ShareaSale provides to make it easier to navigate the large merchant list is a search option called “PowerRank.” With PowerRank, you can quickly see the top 100 merchants based on a variety of factors at any given time.
Out of the different affiliate networks, the interface of ShareaSale is one of the best. You can easily search merchants by category, keywords, when they joined ShareaSale, or with the “PowerRank” feature mentioned above. Affiliates that have data feeds, a tiered commission structure, and approve affiliate applications automatically are clearly marked with icons.
Tiered marketing is one of the greatest strengths of ShareaSale. With tiered marketing, you can market not only the merchant itself, but its affiliate program as well. If someone signs up through you as an affiliate of a particular merchant, you receive a small percentage of that person’s affiliate commissions without reducing their earnings. This, of course, leads to more sales for the merchant due to having more active affiliate partners, leading to greater earnings all around.
ShareaSale itself has an affiliate program as well — something many other affiliate networks do not offer. If a new affiliate marketer signs up with ShareaSale through you, you receive a small commission. ShareaSale also offers a commission for affiliates who refer new merchants to the network.
All of the strengths listed above combine to make ShareaSale one of my favorite affiliate networks overall. However, the network does have two weaknesses that I have found. One of these weaknesses is the fact that many merchants offer bonuses for extremely active affiliates. Legacy Learning Systems is one such merchant, giving affiliates the ability to earn well over $1,000 in bonus money each month for referring a certain number of sales. However, ShareaSale’s interface for browsing merchants does not clearly identify merchants with bonus programs. You have to view the main page for the merchant and click “View Bonus Campaigns” each time you want to see if a merchant offers a bonus for making many conversions. Given how much information that ShareaSale provides in the form of icons as you browse the merchant list, this seems like a glaring omission to me.
The second weakness is the fact that a merchant’s ShareaSale affiliate program can be shut off without warning if their account runs out of funds. When this happens, all of that merchant’s affiliate links stop working. When a reader clicks an affiliate link, they receive a message asking them to notify ShareaSale if they feel that they were tricked by a spammer. This makes the affiliate look very, very bad. To prevent this issue from occurring, look for merchants with an icon signifying that they participate in the ShareaSale auto-deposit program. My problem here is not that ShareaSale disables merchants without the available funds to pay affiliate commissions, but rather the fact that the affiliates are not notified when this happens. If you browse the list of your active affiliate programs, you will see the message “Temporarily Offline.” If you don’t browse the list, you will never know that your links have stopped working.
A note, however: If you encounter a merchant on ShareaSale whose program repeatedly changes to “Temporarily Offline,” if means that their affiliate program is very successful. Write to the merchant and ask them to enroll in the ShareaSale auto-deposit program. I had this happen not long ago and contacted the merchant — only to discover that they were unaware that the auto-deposit program even existed. They signed up for it immediately.
ShareaSale Affiliate Network: The Bottom Line
The ShareaSale affiliate network has a great many strengths that tower over its slight weaknesses, and I highly recommend the program as a good starting point for any new affiliate marketer. Sign up for the ShareaSale affiliate network.