What are Affiliate Networks?

Lainie Petersen

Affiliate networks bring together and manage the relationship between website publishers and advertisers. Also known as partner networks, these businesses enable companies to establish affiliate programs, recruit publishers, and maintain accountability and transparency standards between both parties. In addition to managing relationships, affiliate networks typically provide the technology and programming on which an affiliate program operates. Affiliate networks gives merchants access to cost-effective advertising and help make website publishing profitable.

An affiliate blog is a blog written in conjunction with a corporation, and is officially affiliated with said corporation.
An affiliate blog is a blog written in conjunction with a corporation, and is officially affiliated with said corporation.

An affiliate program is a system of online advertising that allows companies to advertise on other websites and blogs without having to pay for the ad itself. Instead, an affiliate merchant pays a website publisher for sales generated by the ad placement. For example, a webmaster places a merchant's banner ad on its website. Whenever a visitor clicks the banner and buys something from the advertiser's store, the webmaster receives a percentage of the sale. If the website's visitors do not click on the ad and buy the merchant's offerings, the webmaster does not earn any money from the ad placement.

Pay per click programs require the advertiser to pay the website owner when the banner or link is clicked.
Pay per click programs require the advertiser to pay the website owner when the banner or link is clicked.

Key to a successful affiliate program is the ability of online merchants to recruit well-trafficked websites whose visitors are likely to purchase the merchant's offerings. Affiliate networks provide a hub where merchants and web publishers find each other. For example, the owner of a blog on bicycles can use an affiliate network's search engine to find companies that sell bicycles, bicycle tools and parts, as well as gear for riders. The blogger can apply to the program, and once the merchant approves the relationship, the blogger places the merchant's ads on his blog. Merchants can likewise use affiliate network search engines to locate websites targeted to the merchant's clientele.

Since running an affiliate program requires specialized web software, money management, and fraud prevention measures, many merchants need to contract with a third party to provide these services. Affiliate networks often feature merchants' ads on partner website pages, which means that all that webmasters need to do is add a bit of JavaScript or HTML to their sites in order to activate merchant ads. More importantly, affiliate networks frequently manage webmaster payments for merchants. Merchants add funds to an account held by their affiliate network, and the affiliate network keeps records of traffic and purchases so that it can pay webmasters directly. By having a third-party monitoring affiliate program performance and ensuring that payments are made to webmasters, participants can have more confidence in their affiliate program participation.

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Discussion Comments


Yes, agreed on traffic. It is better to get a niche blog site so building traffic can be easier and faster. I do both PPC and CPA and so far I am doing well. I also try to mix up my ads- from direct advertisers to affiliate networks. Although I find few legit and trusted affiliate networks out there. I mostly prefer Global Matrix Media for aff networks. They both do good and surprisingly Global Matrix Media is simply the best!

I was a bit hesitant with them since I've read some negative reviews about them online but quite contrary they paid me on time. I got five payments from them, hassle free!


@David09 - I used to frequent message boards on Internet marketing. I've read that it takes a lot of work and it’s not easy, whether you are the merchant or the advertiser.

I believe the statistic about the 1%, but what I learned from other marketers is that the important thing is to build a brand first. Don’t just have a website, but have something unique to you – something that sets you up from the competition.

Then, start giving out free information to people who visit your site. Give out ebooks of reports or free electronic courses and stuff like that. What will this do? It will help to build a fan base, or a list, of eager subscribers to your great wealth of wisdom. Then and only then should you plan on selling. That’s what it takes to be an effective marketer from what I’ve learned.


@everetra - Yeah, I would have to agree. In affiliate network advertising, I think it’s better to be the merchant rather than the advertiser.

As the merchant, you can have the whole world selling your product, whether they are high traffic sites or low traffic sites. Either way, you will make some money.

As the advertiser, if no one knows who you are, it’s best not to try to monetize your site just yet. So why not be the merchant instead? Write an ebook on something you know, offer a generous commission to your affiliate network partners, and reap the passive income. That makes more sense, wouldn’t you say?


Let me let you in on a dirty little secret in the world of affiliate marketing. Only 1% of affiliates ever make any real money. You don’t hear that when you see those ebooks advertised telling you how you can get rich in affiliate marketing.

Well, you can get rich, but it’s not the affiliate network alone that is the key. It’s whether your website brings in enough traffic, as the article points out.

If your website is not bringing in much traffic, then slapping an affiliate ad on the website won’t make you rich, even if the merchant offers you a generous fifty percent commission on each sale. So my word of advice is to focus on making your website high traffic first, then start investigating the affiliate merchants and their products.

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