For those who are invested in affiliate marketing, there are many different affiliate networks to connect to. (Just to give you an idea: wecantrack integrates with over 350 affiliate networks.) But, who is the biggest out there?
To answer this question, we dived into as much relevant data as we could find. There are different approaches to the answer. Which is why this article presents a diverse set of rankings and factors to get a clearer view of the market shares of some of the biggest affiliate networks.
What is an affiliate network?
An affiliate network is a platform that connects advertisers and affiliate marketers. It functions as the middle ground where retailers and entrepreneurs who are looking for people to advertise their stuff can find affiliates with the right following.
Biggest affiliate networks based on links
When we look at the share each network represents of the total number of publisher links worldwide, Awin is clearly the biggest affiliate network with over 30% of links to their network.*
This is the top of biggest affiliate networks based on their share of links:
- Awin (30.4%)
- CJ Affiliate (15.8%)
- Rakuten (7.4%)
- Tradetracker (4.0%)
- Impact (4.0%)
- Tradedoubler (4.0%)
- PartnerAds (3.7%)
- Admitad (2.3%)
- Rewardstyle (2.0%)
- Adtraction (1.7%)
It is furthermore interesting to note that this top ten together makes up for 75% of the total market.
* This number is based on a 2021 research by Publisher Discovery. It needs to be noted that it regards browser based links to “traditional” affiliate activities. This means that in-app or social media affiliate activity was not taken into account.
Biggest affiliate networks based on active publisher sites
A different picture emerges when looking at the percentage of active publisher sites. Based on the same data of the 2021 Publisher Discovery report, this would make for the following ten biggest affiliate networks:
- CJ Affiliate (15.7%)
- Awin (10.2%)
- Rakuten (5.0%)
- Tradedoubler (4.3%)
- Impact (3.8%)
- Pepperjam (2.8%)
- Daisycon (2.5%)
- Tradetracker (2.0%)
- Accesstrade (1.9%)
- Rentracks (1.2%)
This approach would make CJ Affiliate the biggest affiliate network, with Awin taking a solid second place (owing in part to their acquisition of Share A Sale, which boosted their market share in this category from 5.4% to their current 10.2%).
What About Amazon?
The observant readers amongst you have probably been wondering about the absence of one of the major affiliate networks in those rankings: Amazon.
According to a research conducted by Datanyze, the ranking would look more like this when this behemoth is included:
- Amazon Associates (44,14%)
- Awin (11.95%)*
- Rakuten Affiliate Network (7,69%)
- CJ Affiliate (7,68%)
- Skimlinks (7,2%)
It needs to be said that, since the Amazon Associate commission cuts in July 2020, many affiliates have switched to or added different affiliate networks. Which leads to another interesting statistic in this regard: the amount of different affiliate networks that an average publisher utilizes.
* Again, owing to Awin’s acquisition of Share A Sale, Commission Factory, Zanox and Affilinet.
How many different networks do publishers use?
Another interesting statistic can be found in the 2016 Forrester report. According to this report, based on 142 major publishers, only 6% of publishers work with just one affiliate network. Most work with 3 networks, with one fifth of the publishers working with 5 or more networks:
- One network (6%)
- Two networks (23%)
- Three networks (39%)
- Four networks (12%)
- Five or more networks (20%)
The recent Amazon Associates commission cuts have likely made affiliates more cautious than ever to invest in different networks and spread their revenues, instead of depending on one network to strongly.
Conclusion: what is the biggest affiliate network and will the winner take all?
The data from Datanyze suggests that Amazon Associates still dominates the market and is – by sheer volume of participating domains – the biggest affiliate network. However, with the recent commission cuts in the Amazon network, publishers have flocked to different networks.
All the rankings have made clear that the market is dominated by a handful of affiliate networks, with Awin and CJ Affiliate vying for supremacy in the wake of Amazon Associates. The recent acquisitions by Awin have boosted their market share in all the rankings that were presented above.
However, as the last statistic made clear, affiliates rarely choose for just one network to rely on for their incomes. This suggests that whichever network would win the ongoing race to the top, the biggest affiliate network will always have competitors. It is very likely that the recent commission cuts at the Amazon Associates network has made affiliate more cautious than ever not to put all their eggs in one basket.