Best Affiliate Programs – Including Amazon Associates

Looking to break into affiliate marketing and make some serious side-hustle money? We’ve done the research to find the best affiliate programs that work for you.

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Putting down the right foundations as an affiliate marketer can be daunting – and it all starts with choosing the right affiliate program. Amid a side-hustle culture that's seeing plenty turn their hands to creating online stores and trying out the uncertain fortunes of dropshipping, affiliate programs are increasingly becoming a tempting alternative for generating money online.

You heard the impressive success stories where marketers make thousands by promoting products on their channels. Are you asking yourself what the magic formula is to emulate that financial ego boost?

That’s why we’ve done the research and put our expertise in digital marketing to good use to source you the best affiliate programs. We’ll break it down to give you the real picture – how generous is the commission rate? Is it beginner-friendly? You keep on hearing about Amazon Associates, but is it the right choice for you?

Based on our research we can tell you that these are the best affiliate programs and what they’re best at. In our research, we’ve compared them based on:

  • Ease of sign up
  • Commission rates
  • Cookie life
  • Features
  • Affiliate marketer support.

Here’s what we thought each provider was best at:

  • Amazon Associates – Best for beginner affiliate marketers
  • Commission Junction (CJ Affiliate) – Best for reporting and insights
  • Shopify Affiliate Program – Best for ecommerce brands
  • eBay Partner Network – Best Amazon Associate alternative
  • Rakuten Advertising – Best for flexible commissioning
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Amazon Associates

Commission Junction (CJ Affiliate)

Shopify Affiliate Program

eBay Partner Network

Rakuten Advertising

Best For

Beginner affiliate marketers

Best For

Reporting and insights

Best For

Ecommerce brands and affiliate support

Best For

Amazon Associates alternative

Best For

Range of commissioning options

Cookie Duration

24 hours

Cookie Duration

45 days

Cookie Duration

30 days

Cookie Duration

24 hours

Cookie Duration

Varies by merchant

Commission Rate

1-20%, depending on product type

Commission Rate

5-10%, depending on merchant

Commission Rate

200% of merchant’s monthly subscription

Commission Rate

1-4%, depending on product category

Commission Rate

Varies by merchant

Strengths
  • Amazon links are trustworthy
  • Access to global marketplace
  • Million of products to choose from
Strengths
  • 360 reporting features
  • Access to fraud detection software
  • Long cookie duration
Strengths
  • High-paying affiliate
  • Access to library of insights that support content creation
  • Countless small businesses on Shopify
Strengths
  • Billions of items sold via affiliate links
  • Established marketplace for ultra-niche items
  • Intuitive affiliate dashboard
Strengths
  • Easy to use interface
  • Lots of customer support options

What is affiliate marketing?

Before we dive into the granular details of each program, let’s do a quick affiliate marketing refresher. Affiliate marketing is the promotion of someone else’s product by yourself, in return for a small commission on each sale made. Basically, you use your own personal platform (YouTube, website, social media account) to create engaging content promoting a product. This should appeal to your target audience so that they click on your affiliate link and buy the product.

In short, you:

  1. Create a website, YouTube channel, or social media account
  2. Produce engaging, relevant content that appeals to your target audience
  3. Consider which products will appeal most to your target audience
  4. Create an affiliate account using an affiliate platform (more on this in a second)
  5. Set up your affiliate links and begin earning commission on sales as your audience clicks on them

Amazon Associates – Best for beginner affiliate marketers

  • Commission rate: 1-20%, depending on product type
  • Cookie duration: 24 hours
  • Payment: direct deposit, check, or Amazon gift card

You’ve probably heard of Amazon Associates. It has become the number one destination for beginner affiliate marketers, and with good reason. It currently has 45% of the market share of affiliate networks, making it the largest affiliate program online. It’s a great option if you’re a newcomer to affiliate marketing. Compared to the other provider, Amazon is a recognisable, reputable, and reliable brand that sells pretty much anything under the sun so you have ample room for choice. The other great part is that all supplier vetting is done by Amazon, which means you can trust that the products will be high quality and that they will get to your audience’s doorsteps on time. Amazon also offers you a large market of purchasers – 67% of people over the age of 18 like using Amazon.

Although joining Amazon Associates as a newbie is very tempting, do keep in mind that the cookie window, relative to other options, is extremely short. You only get 24 hours to get your audience to buy a product with your affiliate link, which can hurt conversion rates. Therefore, this program might be best for those that already have a solid and established audience. The other downside is that you’ll only receive payment for the current month 60 days after the month ends. This means that you’ll only get paid in March for earnings made in January. If you’re looking for frequent liquidity, we'd recommend looking at Commission Junction or eBay.

Pros
  • Amazon links are trustworthy and well known
  • Access to a global marketplace, which is great if you want to tap into larger audiences and selection of products
  • Millions of Amazon products you can choose to market so easily fits most kinds of businesses
  • Can build an ecommerce Amazon affiliate store on Shopify, which gives you access to the Shopify app store and other benefits
  • Can choose to get paid in different ways
Cons
  • Cookie duration is very short (only 24 hours)
  • Can't promote via email, so not great for those who have an established mailing list
  • Commission rates are comparatively low compared to Shopify
Did you Know?

According to Zip Recruiter, the top 1% of earners make between $111,500 and $121,000 (£90 – 97k) while the lowest 10% earn between $16,500 and $26,000 per year (£13 – 21k). 

Commission Junction (CJ Affiliate) – Best for reporting and insights

  • Commission rate: usually around 5-10%, but depends on the merchant
  • Cookie duration: standard is 45 days, but can be set from between 1 to 120 days
  • Payment: within 20 days of the end of the month through direct deposit or check. Offers over 150 local currencies with zero clearing fees

Part of securing your success as an affiliate marketer is understanding how you’re performing. How do you grasp how savvy you’re being with your marketing? With state of the art reporting and insights tools. CJ Affiliate's strongest muscle is definitely in analytics – it offers real-time reporting, helps you understand how new, lapsed, and returning consumers interact with your partners, and lets you analyse how you stack up against your competitors. CJ Affiliate also lets you enhance your partnerships with your own solutions. The Developer Portal provides access to CJ’s APIs, which gives you the necessary flexibility to manage your relationships in a customised way, access offers, discover products to promote, and view program performance details. The other CJ tool at your disposal that is really handy is the Incrementality Calculator which, in simple terms, helps you get a forecast of the potential earning you could make with different affiliate channels. Overall, we think CJ is equipped with lots of genuinely useful features that are great for more seasoned affiliate marketers looking to polish their operation.

However, the downside is that because of all the functionality it offers in reporting, it might not be the best option for newbie affiliate marketers. It’s likely that if you’re just learning the ropes, you won’t really be able to squeeze out all the juice that you could if you were more experienced. The other weakness is that it’s mostly oriented towards B2C brands, so it’s not suitable if you’re looking to do B2B marketing.

Pros
  • 360 reporting features that give you valuable competitor insight
  • Access to fraud detection software
  • Long cookie duration that helps you improve conversion rates
  • Spoilt for choice when it comes to number of affiliate marketers
  • Joining is free and there are no monthly or annual fees
Cons
  • Advanced reporting tools that are more suitable to seasoned affiliate marketers
  • Better oriented towards B2C brands, rather than B2B
  • Primary audience is mostly in the US and Canada
What even are cookies and why do they matter?

The answer is no, they're not the cookies you're thinking of. In affiliate marketing lingo, cookies are a piece of data from a website that is stored within a web browser that the website can retrieve at a later time. Essentially, cookies are used to tell Safari, Google Chrome, or whichever browser you use that you have returned to a particular website. Therefore, as an affiliate marketer, you should look for cookie durations that are longer as they give you more chance of making a sale if the customer takes longer to return to the website that you linked.

Shopify Affiliate Program – Best for ecommerce brands and for affiliate support

  • Commission: 200% of the merchant's monthly subscription fee for general plans (Basic, Shopify, Advanced) and equal to £1,650 for a Shopify Plus Subscription
  • Cookie duration: 30 days
  • Payment: PayPal and direct transfer

Affiliate marketing can represent a big learning curve. Shopify acknowledges this and, in turn, has created a program that offers lots of educational content and support that will help you sharpen your affiliate marketing game. Alongside 20 million other merchants, you’ll have access to a global creative library, lead magnets, a monthly newsletter, and curated email programming that are all designed to support content creation and conversion rate. These materials are great for ecommerce brands. You can also access great content guides and free online courses, all of which can help you exit the amateur circle of affiliate marketers. Interestingly enough, Shopify encourages affiliate marketing ‘work progression’. Through measured performance and referral quality, eligible partners have the opportunity to join Shopify’s Commerce Coach program that offers high commission rates and a wide variety of exclusive benefits. Besides its educational materials, Shopify also has generous customisation for affiliate links. You can create links with unique identifiers, like campaign name, content, source, and medium.

The downside to Shopify is that it’s not necessarily the most scalable alternative income solution. You’re getting a bounty commission of £120 for a subscription that the visitor is paying for monthly, which cumulatively becomes more valuable than the commission you get for it. You’re also limited to brands selling only on Shopify, meaning you have less range than if you were doing affiliate marketing with Amazon or eBay.

Pros
  • Access to global creative library, lead magnets, monthly newsletter, and curated email programming that are all designed to support content creation
  • High-paying affiliate program relative to Amazon or eBay
  • Shopify is one of the most reputable names in ecommerce software, making it an easy sell like Amazon or eBay
  • Countless small businesses on its books that you can partner with but...
Cons
  • Limited to brands selling only on Shopify
  • Bounty commission of £120 arguably not as attractive considering the amount of money a visitor pays monthly for their subscription

eBay Partner Network – Best Amazon Associates alternative

  • Commission: 1-4% depending on product category
  • Cookie duration: 24 hours
  • Payment: 10th day of every month for accounts that have earned more than £10. Payment via direct deposit or PayPal

Even before you embarked on your hunt for the right affiliate program for you, it’s likely you heard a lot about Amazon Associates. It tends to be the number one destination for newcomers. However, it’s not for everyone, which is where eBay comes into play. With 25 million active sellers and 175 million active buyers, eBay has a comparatively large marketplace as Amazon and boasts high conversion rates. Like Amazon, it’s a well known brand and appeals to almost any demographic because you can sell pretty much anything on eBay. The definitive edge it has over Amazon is that you get paid for your earnings quicker – every 10th of the month the money, you get money for the accounts that earned more than £10. It also has a comprehensive range of affiliate marketing tools including Smart Links, which lets you add a code snippet to your site, ensuring that every current or future link to eBay is monetised and generates mobile-specific ads for maximum conversion.

Just like Amazon, however, eBay offers a very limited 24 hour cookie duration and caps how much you can earn per sale, regardless of the sale value. You might want to choose another option like CJ if you don’t have an established audience as conversion rates could be hurt by the narrow window of time you have to make a sale.

Pros
  • Billions of items can be sold via affiliate links
  • Only established marketplace for ultra-niche items
  • Intuitive affiliate dashboard
Cons
  • Very limited 24 hour cookie duration
  • Complicated commission structure at times
  • Caps on how much you can earn per sale, regardless of sale value

Rakuten Advertising – Best for range of commissioning options

  • Commission: depends on merchant
  • Cookie duration: varies by merchant
  • Payment: direct deposit or check

Besides looking to make that sweet side-hustle income, you might also want to find an affiliate program that has more dynamic commissioning. Rakuten is great at checking that off your affiliate wish list. It offers three types of commission: dynamic, coupon, and multi-touch commissioning. Perhaps the most interesting one is the latter, which allows you to get credit for contributions at any point in the customer journey. Do keep in mind that this is reserved for publishers who are influential in the early stages of the user journey, but if you’re right on the money and have an engaged audience, you should have access to this feature. An added plus of Rakuten is that it offers solid affiliate support. It has email support, an online live chat, and phone affiliate support. It also gives you access to articles and educational materials.

The downside is that it’s difficult to forecast your earnings as Rakuten doesn’t display the Earning Per Click (EPC) for any merchants. This can make it slightly frustrating when you’re picking which brand or product to market for. Better options in this arena are Amazon Associates and eBay Partner Network.

Pros
  • Leverage to get big names on board with their network
  • Easy to use interface
  • Lots of customer support options available than the other providers in this list
Cons
  • Doesn't display EPC for any merchant programs
  • Customer reviews often complain about delayed payments
  • Doesn't offer PayPal as a payment option

How to choose the right affiliate program for you?

With plenty of options in the affiliate market-verse, choosing the right program can be daunting. However, there’s some guidelines that you can use as shortcuts to help you find the right choice for you.

  • Search for programs that offer competitive commissions rates
  • Find a program that lets you promote products that fit your niche
  • Choose a program that allows you to market a product you know or have used before
  • Consider the cookie duration
  • Check how robust the tracking system for sales is
  • Assess how robust their support for affiliate marketers is – do they have educational content, guides, or anything else that could help you polish your skills?
  • Check customer reviews

Conclusion

By now, through the help of this article, you should have a rough idea of which affiliate marketing program might be best for you.

Depending on your experience and what you’re looking to get from affiliate marketing, the answer of which affiliate program is best for you can change. However, if you’re an affiliate marketing newbie who already has an established audience, we’d recommend Amazon Associates or eBay Partner Network. If you’re also a beginner, the Shopify Affiliate Program is another great option as it has lots of support and educational content that can help you gain new-found confidence as an affiliate marketer. If you’re a bit more savvy and want lots of reporting tools to get a 360 view of your marketing performance, go for Commission Junction. Lastly, if you’re looking for something that has different types of commissioning because you want more flexibility, Rakuten is a solid choice.

However, a recommendation that we can give you regardless of the program you choose is to be aware that affiliate marketing is not designed to be a replacement for your full time position. It takes time to start earning as an affiliate marketer, and you don’t want to be stuck in a tough situation with minimal income, especially as pockets get tighter during the cost of living crisis.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • Which is the best affiliate program in the UK?
    The best affiliate program in the UK based on range of the market and how beginner-friendliness is Amazon Associates
  • Which affiliate is best for beginners?
    We recommend Amazon Associates or eBay Partner Network if you're completely new to affiliate marketing. It has a very expansive range of products that you can market so you won't have to work hard to find your niche!
  • What is the highest paid affiliate program?
    The highest paid affiliate program is Shopify Affiliate Program. You can get 200% of the merchant's monthly subscription fee for general plans and £1,650 for a Shopify Plus Subscription
Written by:
Fernanda is a Mexican-born Startups Writer. Specialising in the Marketing & Finding Customers pillar, she’s always on the lookout for how startups can leverage tools, software, and insights to help solidify their brand, retain clients, and find new areas for growth. Having grown up in Mexico City and Abu Dhabi, Fernanda is passionate about how businesses can adapt to new challenges in different economic environments to grow and find creative ways to engage with new and existing customers. With a background in journalism, politics, and international relations, Fernanda has written for a multitude of online magazines about topics ranging from Latin American politics to how businesses can retain staff during a recession. She is currently strengthening her journalistic muscle by studying for a part-time multimedia journalism degree from the National Council of Training for Journalists (NCTJ).

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