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Our Review: Can You Earn Better Payouts with Rakuten Affiliate Network?

Who’s at the top of their game?

Perhaps your first thoughts went to a sports figure or a celebrity. Maybe someone in your family just got a promotion and is feeling like they’re on top.

I personally was thinking of one of my favorite authors, because I’m that much of a nerd.

However, if you’re looking to connect with an affiliate network, it’s important for you to find out which of these many companies is at the top of their game. That way, you can make the best possible choice for you and your affiliate marketing business.

So, why do we say that the Rakuten affiliate network is at the top of their game? What can they offer publishers, and what are their faults?

We’re going to discuss all the details of the Rakuten affiliate network in this review. More than that, we’ll see how they compare to other top affiliate networks.

So, let’s get started!

Who Is Behind Rakuten?

Rakuten (formerly known as LinkShare) is definitely one of the oldest affiliate networks available. Founded in 1997 (one year before CJ Affiliate), this program is constantly expanding into new ideas and ways of working.

For six years in a row, Rakuten has been voted as the #1 affiliate network by mThink. That’s quite a feat, considering the incredible amount of affiliate networks out there.

At last count, there were 1,000 merchants in their network. And in 2016, this monolithic company facilitated over 100 million online orders.

Are you starting to see why this is one of the top networks?

Let’s dive in to what Rakuten has to offer its affiliates, and see just what makes it stand out from the rest.

Our Review: Can You Earn Better Payouts with Rakuten Affiliate Network?

The Top Features of the Rakuten Affiliate Network

Worldwide Reach

Rakuten is an international company. While they’re based in Tokyo, they have 10 global offices. These cover eight different networks which all work together for an international feel.

If you’re an affiliate marketer who’s based outside the US, you’ll find this especially useful. Rakuten functions in over 200 countries, and affiliates who live in any of those countries can receive payments easily, in one of 25 different currencies.

Tech-integrated Ads

This is a feature that truly sets Rakuten apart. If you have the skills and know-how to customize the tech yourself, you’re in for a real treat with Rakuten. However, if you’re looking for the simplest way to place ads and banners, Rakuten is still going to be your best friend. You can choose to dig deep or keep it simple.

Once you’re approved by each individual advertiser, ad units are easy to create. Just select what kind of ad you’d like, and you’ll receive the needed code.

Rotating banners are also incredibly easy to add, with a specific line of code that automatically rotates the ad units. No more difficult days of trying to code different ads yourself! More than that, you can see reports about how each ad performs in the rotating banner. This makes it easy to test ad units to find the ones that perform the best.

Deep linking features are also easy to customize, allowing you to direct the user exactly where you want them to go. If you want to create a data feed or see shopping API, Rakuten’s PopShops is a fantastic tool.

A Reporting System That’s Easy to Manage

Most of us hate the idea of learning new technology. Personally, I dread the idea of getting used to a new computer or phone.

However, Rakuten has made sure that their system is easy to manage, even for the most technologically challenged among us.

Upon logging in to the dashboard, you’ll find all of the most important metrics and information right at your fingertips, including top advertisers and information about payment. Also, the easy-to-navigate control panel gives you access to your account settings, link codes and more. You can even create customized reports, with the option to make them Quick or Advanced.

Education to Help Publishers Learn

Whether you’re just beginning as an affiliate marketer or you’re part of a large-scale affiliate operation, Rakuten’s educational tools can help you improve your skills. As a publisher, you’ll have access to video tutorials, monthly newsletters and personal training.

The Biggest Pros and Cons of the Rakuten Affiliate Network


  • Free to sign up. And easy, too!
  • Over 1,000 merchants to choose from. And it’s important to note that these include many top names and household brands.
  • User-friendly dashboard. Essential information is all in one place, and navigation is easy if you need to know more.
  • Easy setup for rotating banners. This takes the work out of ad testing, and helps you see better results.
  • Helpful education tools. Improve your skills, no matter your level.
  • Worldwide payouts. Get payouts in one of 25 different available currencies.


  • Unpredictable payouts. Rakuten pays publishers only after they’ve been paid by merchants. This means that there’s no definite schedule for payouts, and some publishers have reported waiting up to 60 days to get paid.
  • No PayPal option. You can only get paid by direct deposit or check. However, due to easy international payments on the part of Rakuten, this isn’t as big a problem for affiliates who live abroad.
  • Small affiliates need not apply. Rakuten is at the top of the line, and is only looking for top affiliates to join their network. However, if you have a good amount of quality traffic, you’ll likely be accepted.

Top Affiliate Network Comparison: Which One Is Right for You?

So, is Rakuten really at the top? Who else is hovering around number one, and why?

Here, we’d like to discuss how the top affiliate networks, Rakuten, CJ Affiliate, ShareASale and PepperJam, compare and contrast in five different areas. Then, you’ll be able to tell which is best for you.


Rakuten: 1,000

CJ Affiliate: 3,000

ShareASale: 4,500 (1,000 exclusive)

PepperJam: 1,000

Obviously, we can see who has the biggest amount of merchants. However, quantity isn’t as important as quality.

Both Rakuten and CJ Affiliate boast partnering with some of the most well-known brands in the world, including Apple, Home Depot, TurboTax and others. There are plenty of options for publishers across many different sectors.

That being said, while ShareASale’s merchants may not be as well known, they do span across an incredible variety of niches. The sheer number of merchants makes it easier for publishers to connect with brands that fit their niche.

PepperJam seems to be a bit behind in this area. Although 1,000 advertisers is still a good number, there aren’t as many well-known names on the list. Even though they’re a relatively new network, they still have managed to include a few big brands and they’re growing quickly.


Rakuten: Direct deposit or check, in 25 different currencies

CJ Affiliate: Direct deposit, check or Payoneer

ShareASale: Direct deposit or check

PepperJam: PayPal

ShareASale and CJ Affiliate both have a regular payout schedule that’s reliable, as long as you have $50 in your account.

With ShareASale, if you have less than $50 in your account when payments are due, they take a $25 fee. If you have less than $25, your account will be deleted.

Rakuten’s program has a few more steps, as they’ll only pay publishers after they’ve been paid by the advertisers. But this setup instills more confidence in the advertisers, meaning they may stick around longer.

As for PepperJam, publishers are paid twice a month, as long as they’ve earned $25 in commissions. This is the only network of these four that pays through PayPal.

Advertising Options

Rakuten: Ads, rotating banners, deep linking, data feed

CJ Affiliate: Ads, banners, widgets, deep linking automation

ShareASale: Ads, banners, widgets, dynamic, pop-ups

PepperJam: Ads, deep links

CJ Affiliate and ShareASale definitely give you the best customization options for your ads. CJ also gives you the ability to automatically generate deep links, saving you time.

Rakuten is great because it gives you more options: Customize or not. If you want to get into the code you can, or you can spend very little time and still have a great-looking ad. Their rotating banners also set them apart, as they’re the only network with this option.

PepperJam again falls a bit behind, but this network is constantly improving itself, so more options are sure to follow.


All of these major networks provide in-depth, real-time reporting tools and metrics for publishers.

CJ Affiliate’s dashboard is probably the most difficult to understand, making this network the underdog in this area. ShareASale’s dashboard also lacks a user-friendly design, and feels a bit clunky. With both of these networks, time will be needed for you to adjust and learn the reporting and tracking features.

PepperJam races toward the front lines with reporting, offering you easy-to-understand graphs, charts and a number of customizable reports. All of the information is easy to understand and locate quickly.

Rakuten ties for first place with PepperJam in the area of reporting. The easy-to-use Rakuten system gives you all the information you need at first glance, along with customizable reports to see specific data.

Customer Support

CJ Affiliate fails hard in this regard, giving a contact form as the main method for getting in touch. Response is slow, at best.

ShareASale is next up, offering a help desk for users in need of assistance. However, they offer no general help, such as an FAQ, and they have very limited personal support.

Rakuten improves on this, giving you an email and phone number. Their customer service is available in different languages. Also, they have an incredible education center for publishers.

However, PepperJam is the one that comes out on top here. Upon sign-up, you’ll be assigned a personal account representative, who will be available to you at any time. Some affiliates report responses within minutes after sending emails. This is a clear winner for customer support.

Final Thoughts on Rakuten

Depending on what you value and the features you’re looking for, you’ll decide which affiliate network is best for you. In this Rakuten affiliate network review, we’ve shown you the best and the worst points for Rakuten. We’ve also seen how it stands out from other affiliate networks, and where it lags behind.

This network is absolutely one of the top contenders in the world of affiliate marketing. Signing up will allow you to be a part of a growing network that’s giving out millions of dollars in commissions every year.

The real question is, why wouldn’t you leverage this network for better affiliate payouts?


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