Free Affiliate Marketing Programs - Which Program to Join?


W hen I first started to write online, I wanted to monetize my site with AdSense and Affiliate links. So I tried everything and ended up me...

When I first started to write online, I wanted to monetize my site with AdSense and Affiliate links. So I tried everything and ended up messing up my site. One of the biggest mistakes that I made was to join every free affiliate marketing programs. It was hard for me to get payment from several of these companies due to their minimum threshold rule. I was writing for all the programs and there were so many products to promote. It comes to a point where it was unmanageable.

NOTE: This article was originally published at

There are thousands of these affiliate marketing programs. But not all are worthy of your time and effort. Choose them wisely and don't do the same mistake that I did. By getting overloaded with tons of products from several programs to promote. Then not meeting the minimum threshold for your commission payment.

What Are the Best Free Affiliate Marketing Programs to Promote?

Or, which is the best affiliate program to promote?

There is no definite answer to this. The best program should carry products that will match your niche and requirements. If you are new to this, I suggest you join only ONE program and work hard on it. As you get better at the technique, you can if you wish, add another program to your list.

(Note: In Affiliate Marketing, you are not SELLING the product, but PROMOTING it. You do this by writing an in-depth product review, product comparison, or how to use the product etc.)

In this post, I will do a brief review of four of the top affiliate programs. They carry several product lines, which I am sure to have a few products that will match your niche. I will highlight their strengths and weaknesses. These should help you decide which program to join.

1. Amazon Affiliate Program  

With over a million products to choose from, Amazon affiliate program is the most varied and the largest in the world. The product range is extensive and there must be a few that will match your niche. This explains why many bloggers use Amazon as one of their affiliate programs.

It is easy to join. Once you are in the program, you don't need another advertiser's approval. In other affiliate programs, you need to do this.

To join, go to Amazon Associate and on the top right-hand corner of the page, click on 'Join Now for Free'. 

(Note: To register for this program, you need to have an existing Amazon account).

Depending on your target market, you can either sign up with (for the US market), Amazon UK or ten other Amazon sites.

If your website is new and traffic volume is low, Amazon may approve your affiliate membership but subject to a three-month trial period. If there are sales during this period, Amazon may give full membership. Otherwise, it will be terminated. Hence, the best time to apply is when your site has gathered enough traffic that may click and buy.

The other problem with Amazon affiliate is the low commission rate. Your initial Amazon affiliate commission starts at 4%. It can go up to 10% depending on the volume and product category. Cookies last for only 24 hours. If your reader clicks on your Amazon affiliate link and buys within this 24-hour period, you will earn a commission. If the reader buys something else instead of the product promoted on your blog, you will also earn the sales commission. This is something you will not find in other affiliate programs.

Commissions will be paid on a monthly basis. This is either by check, gift card, or direct deposit; subject to the threshold amount.

So to conclude;

The Good:

  • Reputable & recognizable brand name.

  • Product reviews by buyers to help you decide on which product to promote.

  • You will earn a sale commission even if the reader buys another product within the cookie period.

  • Easy cut and paste link to a specific product or page.

The Bad:

  • Low affiliate commission rate when compared to others.

  • Only 24-hour cookies (others even have a lifetime cookie).

  • If you sign up with but a reader with Amazon UK account or another country's account buys through your link, you don't earn a commission. To overcome this, you register with all the Amazon country sites (United States, Canada, Brazil, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, United Kingdom, China, Japan, India, Mexico, Netherlands and Australia). These can be difficult as some countries impose strict requirements, so I suggest you focus only on these countries: US, UK, CA, DE, FR, IT, and ES Amazon programs.

  • Amazon payment options are also limited. You can ask for either direct deposit to your bank account, payment by checks ($15 fee for every check), or by Amazon gift certificate, which is redeemable only at
Despite the low commission rate and short cookie period, I recommend you choose Amazon Affiliate Program as your initial program. It has an extensive range of products and buyers will not hesitate to buy through Work on this program and if done properly, you can earn good monthly earnings.

2. CJ Affiliate Network   

When I signed up with CJ Affiliate, they were then known as Commission Junction. In 2014, through merger and acquisition, it changed to CJ Affiliate by Conversant.

The company started operation in 1998. It is now one of the largest affiliate marketplaces with a large selection of advertisers. It is free to sign up for CJ program. Go to CJ website and click on 'Sign Up Today' button. It will take you to another page for your contact information, your website URL etc.

However, once you sign up as a CJ Affiliate member, you still need to apply and be approved by the respective advertisers whose product you intend to promote. Your application may or may not be approved. But sales commission is paid through CJ and not by the individual advertiser. Once you reach the threshold, the consolidated payment will be released.

Sales commission and cookie periods also vary with each advertiser. You have to sift through the large selection of advertisers to choose one that meets your requirement. You also have to do a thorough check and read reviews of these publishers/advertisers as some have questionable reputations or poor product lines.

The Good: 

  • Varied choice of advertisers to work with (more than 3,000 merchants).

  • Several types of links to use, banner ads, flash links, text link, content links, product links, etc.

The Bad:

  • CJ is not obligated to pay affiliate if there is insufficient fund in the advertiser's account. This explains why on CJ forum sites there are several complaints about commission earned but not paid.

  • Some advertisers have the dubious reputation and poor product line.

  • Need to apply to every advertiser for approval before you can join their respective affiliate program.

  • Must have at least $50 in the account to get paid monthly.

3. Rakuten Affiliate Network    

Rakuten Affiliate Network, just like Amazon Affiliate and CJ Affiliate Program, was one of the early pioneers in affiliate marketing. It started in 1996 as LinkShare. Through mergers with Rakuten, it was known as Rakuten LinkShare (2005). Then in 2014, it was rebranded as Rakuten Affiliate Network with its headquarters in Tokyo, Japan.

With just over 1,000 merchants, Rakuten Affiliate Network is much smaller than Amazon Affiliate or CJ Affiliate.

In 2016, it was again named the world’s top affiliate program for their superior services, for the fifth consecutive year!

(Note: Rakuten Affiliate Network, just like CJ Affiliate Network, is an affiliate network site that does not have a product of their own for you to promote. Their role is to act as an intermediary party between the advertisers (or merchants) and you (the affiliate or publisher).

Just like CJ, it is free to join. Go to Rakuten signing up page here. But you still need to get approval from each merchant before you can promote their product. Likewise, cookie period and commission rates vary from merchant to merchant.

The Good: 

  • One of the best things about Rakuten is their rotating banner that will automatically rotate the advertiser's banners at random. Hence, you don't have to select which banner to use. With just one link, it will automatically select and display ALL the ads, at random. It will save your blog space and you can test which ad works best for conversion.

  • The flexible deep linking capability will take your reader directly to the product landing page instead of the advertiser's homepage.

  • The dashboard is easy to navigate.

  • If you are new to affiliate marketing, there are several training tools and videos to get you started.

The Bad:

  • The payment schedule is sporadic as Rakuten will only pay affiliate once merchant credits the payment. So, if the merchant delays this payment, it will affect your payment schedule.

  • Despite winning the top affiliate program for their superior services for five consecutive years, there are still lots of complaints from affiliates. These are apparent from the forum site.

  • Customer support can be improved further.

  • The reporting system, not as detail and developed as others.

    4. CLICKBANK     

    ClickBank is essentially a marketplace for digital products such as an e-book, software and membership sites in almost any niche you can think of. It has thousands of products with high converting rate, but it also carries poor products that do not convert well.

    It started in 1998 and has now more than 100,000 active affiliates (from their 3 million+ affiliate members). It is free to join but before you do so, you must be aware of their payment terms, which helps to explain the low number of active affiliates at ClickBank.

    By default, payment threshold is $100, but you can lower this to $10. However, ClickBank will deduct $2.50 for each check payment (so your net pay is only $7.50 for a $10 threshold). Before this payment can be made, you need to meet ClickBank’s criteria of FIVE minimum sales and sales made from two different payment methods i.e. either from MasterCard, Visa, and PayPal etc. If you think this is bad then the next requirement will make you think twice about joining ClickBank.

    If your account is positive with some cash balance BUT is not active with no earnings for the last 90 days, it will be classified as dormant account. A dormant account will be charged $1 per pay period after the 90 days of inactivity, $5 per pay period after 180 days and $50 per pay period after 365 days of inactivity. So if a reader clicked on your affiliate link in your initial month and nothing happens for the next four sales within the three month period, there will be no payment. When there is no activity within the three-month, any money earned will go to pay for the $1 or $5 penalty! You can check the detail at ClickBank ACCOUNTING POLICY webpage.

    Note:  Pay period is dependent on YOUR selected Payment Frequency. It can be once per week, once every two weeks or once a month etc. 

    The Good: 

    • The low number of active affiliates can be an advantage and better opportunity for you.

    • Higher commission rates with an average of 55%.

    • Recurring commission on product renewal (e.g. membership renewal).

    The Bad:

    • ClickBank's strict payment term as spelled out in their Accounting Policy (as detailed above).

    • Their commission priority rule states that if a reader visited a sales page on several occasions through links from different affiliates, then the last affiliate gets the commission (this can be good or bad depending on your status of when your link was used!).

    • Need to do thorough research as some products do not deliver as promised.

    • ClickBank's guaranteed 60-day refund policy means you will not get commission until after this period, in the case of a buyer returning the product.  

    So, Which of these Free Affiliate Marketing Programs to Join?

    Based on the above analysis and as mentioned earlier, I strongly suggest you focus on ONE of these free affiliate marketing programs or networks. Which program to join, will depend on the niche content that you will be writing. However, my personal choice is Amazon Affiliate due to its vast product range and user/reader acceptance of buying through Amazon, whereas the other marketplace is only an intermediary party.

    Although I am a member of most of these programs I am now focussed on Amazon Affiliate program.

    If you want an easy start to earn online then Affiliate Marketing is the right vehicle. Decide on which affiliate marketing programs to join to help you earn that extra cash on the side. The biggest advantage of Amazon is reader's acceptance of Amazon brand name.

    Still Unsure How to Get Started with Affiliate Marketing?

    Watch this 2.35-minute video by CJ Affiliate as it offers some good advice on how to start your affiliate marketing business.


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