Since affiliate networks are the intermediary between you and all the individual merchants, it's important to carefully evaluate the affiliate network you're considering. Study their affiliate agreement, and consider the following (check out Article 13 for more information):

Among affiliates that have used them, what is their reputation? Have their payments been on time, and have they received what they were promised? Have there been complaints from affiliates about late payments, poor support, poor communication, or poor reporting?

An affiliate network that has a vigorous vetting process for merchants in its network is actually a good thing, even though the process may be more complex and time-consuming for you. I have good experience using networks that promote storytelling in business however your mileage may vary. You don't want to be promoting products of merchants who don't support their product, whose products have a high return rate, or whose products are poor quality. You don't want to be part of an affiliate network that just lets in anyone and gets a reputation as a source of scams and low-quality offers.

The size of their slice: The affiliate network is an intermediary between you and the merchant. If your promotional efforts as an affiliate result in a sale, the commission from that sale first goes to the affiliate network.

Why? The affiliate network provides you a convenient way to find and sell the products of thousands of merchants. Just think if you had to go around searching for all those individual affiliate programs, evaluating all those separate programs, and filling out and qualifying on all those individual applications. And that's not all. You'd have to fill out all those individual W-9 forms -- not to mention filing all of those W-9 forms with your taxes. You'd also need to visit all the individual websites of the affiliate programs to keep track of your commissions.

All of this help and convenience comes at a price. The affiliate network keeps a portion of your affiliate profits for its help. The size of the slice of the profit they keep varies among affiliate networks. We've seen some affiliate networks keep up to 25 percent of their affiliates' profits. It's up to you to determine whether their help is worth the cost. If you don't feel it is, look for affiliate networks that keep a smaller percentage of your profits.

Affiliate networks have a review and/or application process to join. All the factors that apply to joining an affiliate program also apply to joining affiliate networks (see the earlier section "Joining an affiliate program" for details). However, the application process for networks usually adds a couple of steps. Affiliate networks give new affiliate marketers access to thousands of affiliate programs once their applications have been accepted, so the extra effort on your part in the application process is worth it.

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