Grow your startup with the top affiliate networks

published on 08 November 2023

Introduction to Affiliate Marketing for Startups

Affiliate marketing provides an excellent opportunity for startups and small businesses to generate additional revenue streams without a ton of overhead. With affiliate marketing, you partner with relevant brands and products and earn a commission when you drive sales or leads to them. There are several key benefits to exploring affiliate partnerships:

  • Requires very low overhead to get started since you don't need to create your own products or services. Many networks offer instant approval.
  • Can start seeing your first commissions fairly quickly after being approved and driving traffic.
  • Provides passive income opportunities from content you create like blog posts, videos, and email newsletters recommending offers.
  • Lets you leverage existing platforms and their audiences to expand your reach. For example, promoting a SaaS tool on Product Hunt to its engaged startup community.
  • Gives you access to performance marketing tools, personalized support, and actionable insights from the affiliate networks.

When evaluating potential affiliate networks to partner with, there are a few important factors for startups to consider including vertical focus, requirements for entry, robust reporting, competitive commission structures, and reputation. In this guide, we'll explore the top affiliate networks that cater to startups across different niches and verticals.

Choosing the Right Affiliate Network

With hundreds of different affiliate networks out there, it can be tricky choosing the right ones that closely align with your startup's goals and target audience. Here are some tips on what to look for:

Vertical Focus

Some affiliate networks specialize in certain verticals or industries. For example:

  • Health and wellness networks like Clickbank, Shareasale, and FlexOffers have a deep roster of supplement, fitness, and food merchants.

  • SaaS and online service networks like Appsumo, Software Advice, and Unicorn Platform feature exclusive deals for productivity tools, project management software, email marketing, and more.

  • Lead generation networks like CrakRevenue, Offervault, and Impact provide opportunities with insurance, mortgage, personal loans, credit cards, and other finance verticals.

  • Major ecommerce affiliate programs include retail giants like Amazon Associates, eBay Partner Network, Rakuten, and CJ Affiliate.

  • Affiliate management platforms like Refersion, Leverage, and Post Affiliate Pro help B2B SaaS companies run their own performance marketing programs.

Requirements for Entry

Some affiliate networks have strict requirements for entry while others are more open to working with newcomers.

  • Exclusive affiliate networks like Awin may require recommendations from existing members or approved invitations to join.

  • Other networks want to see you have an established blog with at least 1000 monthly visitors or 5000 email list subscribers before they'll approve you.

  • Entry level platforms like Offervault, ClickBank, and FlexOffers cater more to new affiliates without a lot of traffic prerequisites to get started.

  • There may also be membership fees exceeding $500/year or lengthy application processes for certain high-tier networks so those factors should be considered as well.

Robust Reporting

The ability to closely track and analyze the performance of your affiliate campaigns and partnerships is crucial. Look for networks that provide:

  • Dashboard views of your clicks, conversions, earnings per specific campaign.

  • Filters to break down reports by time period, channel, geo location, device, referring domains.

  • Attribution tracking to see which affiliate links are directly driving actions.

  • Automation tools to schedule reports as well as API access offered by some networks to export data.

Competitive Commission Rates

The commission structures vary quite a bit across networks so compare payout percentages and models closely.

  • Typical commissions range from 5-30% for most affiliate programs but some verticals like finance or insurance pay much higher rates exceeding 50-125% for exclusive deals.

  • Consider one-time versus recurring commission models - recurring can continue paying you for the lifetime of referred customers. This differs greatly between products and services.

  • Look for programs with higher payout thresholds so you can cashout earnings faster, ideally around $50. High volume programs may pay out daily.

Reputation and Recommendations

Thoroughly research reviews and testimonials from fellow affiliates who already actively use the network.

  • Positive affiliate feedback and ratings on programs like FlexOffers, Clickbank, Shareasale, Rakuten are good signs.

  • Ask for personal recommendations from other startups and businesses in your niche that are seeing solid results.

  • Check for any complaints about advertisers not paying fairly or other issues with the network itself.

Top 10 Affiliate Networks for Startups

Here are 10 of the best affiliate marketing networks for startups and small businesses to consider joining:


  • Wide selection of 3900+ merchants and brands with recurring commissions up to 40%.

  • Generous payouts and easy to use interface and reporting. Minimum payout of $50.

  • Must hit $5+ each month to cashout. Offers weekly payments.

CJ Affiliate

  • Connects you with 2800+ advertisers across all industries.

  • Tiered commission structures based on your traffic and influence as an affiliate.

  • Robust discovery features to find relevant offers and advanced tracking options.

  • $50 minimum payout and you need $25+ to cashout each month.


  • Specialized in high ticket offers like mortgages, insurance, and loans.

  • Exclusive deals can pay over $125 cost-per-action.

  • Minimum payout is $100. Dedicated affiliate managers provide support.


  • Easy entry for new affiliates and great merchant support.

  • Efficient reporting and tracking features offered.

  • Competitive recurring payouts on sales you drive.

  • $100 minimum payout with weekly payments available.


  • Popular marketplace for digital info products with 75% recurring commissions.

  • Categories include business, fitness, hobbies and more.

  • $10 minimum payout and pays affiliates bi-weekly.


  • Connect with big brands like Nike, Macy's, Best Buy.

  • Robust promotional tools and customized affiliate links.

  • $50 minimum payout and monthly payments.


  • Apply for top-tier affiliate deals with higher commissions.

  • Advanced API and reporting. £20 minimum payout. Monthly schedule.

  • Carefully vetted merchants across many niches.

  • Higher payouts on niche verticals like outdoor gear and apparel.

  • $50 minimum, weekly payments available.


  • Focus on SaaS and online service deals.

  • Tiered commissions up to 65% on recurring sales.

  • Dedicated account managers provide support.

  • $50 minimum, pays monthly.

Unicorn Platform

  • Curated SaaS and startup focused affiliate opportunities.

  • Lifetime recurring payouts up to 40%. User-friendly platform.

  • Low $25 minimum payout, weekly Friday payments.

Getting Started With Affiliate Marketing

Once you've selected a few affiliate networks to apply for, here are some tips to get up and running:

Signing Up for Networks

  • Carefully review terms and conditions before accepting affiliate agreements.

  • Provide accurate website and tax info during the application process.

  • Use referral links from other affiliates when signing up to earn bonuses.

  • Focus on applying to 3-5 key networks first instead of signing up everywhere at once.

Building Your Site

To promote affiliate offers, you need a platform - ideally a website or blog:

  • Register a domain on SiteGround or Namecheap and get hosting.

  • Use WordPress and a theme like Astra to easily build out your site.

  • Make sure your site is mobile responsive.

  • Add affiliate disclaimers on pages. Enable caching plugins.

Drive traffic to your affiliate content using various channels:

  • Research keywords to create content around.

  • Promote your content and offers on social platforms like Twitter, Facebook groups and Reddit.

  • Run paid ads on Google, Facebook, Quora to amplify your reach.

  • Analyze traffic sources and campaigns in Google Analytics to optimize performance.

Tracking and Optimization

Closely monitor your affiliate links using UTMs and analytics to optimize:

  • Append unique UTMs to each affiliate link to track performance.

  • Review click-through and rejection rates by offer in Affiliate Manager.

  • Analyze earnings by source, creative type and offer in Analytics.

  • Run A/B tests on your landing pages to improve conversions.

  • Automate reports to easily identify top sources and offers.

Compliance Practices

Maintaining complete compliance is vital to succeed in affiliate marketing long-term:

  • Follow all network terms, guidelines and advertisers' policies closely.

  • Clearly disclose paid or sponsored recommendations to your audience.

  • Be fully transparent about any affiliate relationships.

  • Provide honest, unbiased reviews and testimonials of products you recommend.

  • Check in with affiliate manager about any compliance questions.

Key Takeaways

  • Affiliate marketing is a strategic channel for startups to generate revenue from owned content and channels.

  • Select networks that align closely with your niche, audience and business goals.

  • Vet offers thoroughly and read terms diligently before promotion.

  • Build high-quality content focused on driving conversions from your traffic sources.

  • Maintain full transparency and compliance to build audience trust and results.

  • Consider tailored SaaS affiliate platforms like Unicorn for relevant startup partnership opportunities. Their vertical focus and recurring commissions can provide a nice additional revenue stream for your business.

With the right strategy, affiliate marketing can provide a valuable income stream and help expand your startup's reach. Choose networks relevant to your business, promote offers ethically to aligned audiences, and closely track performance to optimize your efforts.

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