Home / Digital Advertising & Marketing Glossary / Affiliate Network

What Is an Affiliate Network?

An affiliate network acts as an intermediary between publishers (affiliates) and merchant affiliate programs. It allows website owners and online merchants to connect, with the aim of promoting products or services through affiliate marketing. This network provides a platform for affiliates to find affiliate programs that are suitable for their website and helps them earn income by generating sales, leads, or clicks for the merchant's site.

What Constitutes an Affiliate Network?

An affiliate network is made up of three core components: merchants, affiliates, and the platform itself. Here is how each part contributes to the ecosystem.


Merchants are businesses that want to sell their products or services. They use an affiliate network to find affiliates who can promote their offerings. In return, merchants pay commissions for sales, leads, or clicks generated.


Affiliates are individuals or companies that promote the products or services of a merchant. They use various channels like blogs, social media, or email marketing to reach potential buyers. Affiliates earn a commission for each action completed through their referral.

The Affiliate Network Platform

The platform is the technology that powers the network. It tracks referrals, commissions, and manages the interactions between merchants and affiliates. This software simplifies the process for both parties by handling administrative tasks and providing reporting tools.

How Do Affiliate Networks Work?

Affiliate networks bridge the gap between merchants and affiliates. They facilitate the partnership, track performance, and manage payments. Here’s a closer look at the process.

  1. Merchants join an affiliate network to list their affiliate programs.
  2. Affiliates sign up for the network to find programs that match their niche.
  3. Once approved by a program, affiliates receive a unique tracking link.
  4. Affiliates promote the merchant's products or services using this link.
  5. The network tracks the performance of these promotions.
  6. Commissions are paid to affiliates based on the agreed terms.

What Are the Benefits of Affiliate Networks?

Affiliate networks offer numerous benefits to both merchants and affiliates. Here's a closer look at the advantages.

For Merchants

  • Access to a wide pool of affiliates
  • Cost-effective marketing since payments are performance-based
  • Increased exposure for their products or services
  • Streamlined process for managing affiliate programs
  • Detailed tracking and reporting of marketing efforts

For Affiliates

  • A variety of affiliate programs in one location
  • Easy tracking of earnings and performance
  • Timely payments from the network
  • Support and resources provided by the network

How to Choose an Affiliate Network?

Choosing the right affiliate network is vital for both merchants and affiliates. Here are some factors to consider.

Reputation and Reliability

Look for a network with a solid reputation in the industry. Read reviews and testimonials to gauge reliability.

Variety of Programs

The network should offer a diverse range of affiliate programs. This ensures a good match for a variety of niches.

Commission Structures

Assess the commission structures offered. They should align with your goals and offer fair compensation for your efforts.

Tracking and Reporting

Affiliate marketing relies on accurate tracking and reporting. Opt for networks that provide detailed, real-time data.

Support Services

Excellent support is essential. The network should offer help and resources to both merchants and affiliates.

What Are Some Popular Affiliate Networks?

There are several well-established affiliate networks in the market. Below are a few notable ones.

  • ShareASale
  • Commission Junction (CJ Affiliate)
  • ClickBank
  • Amazon Associates
  • Rakuten Marketing

How to Get Started with an Affiliate Network?

Starting with an affiliate network involves a few key steps for both merchants and affiliates.

For Merchants

  1. Research and select a reputable affiliate network.
  2. Set up your affiliate program details, including commission rates and promotional materials.
  3. Approve affiliates who apply to your program and fit your criteria.
  4. Monitor performance and optimize your offerings based on affiliate feedback and sales data.

For Affiliates

  1. Join an affiliate network that aligns with your niche and audience.
  2. Browse and apply to affiliate programs within the network.
  3. Promote chosen products or services through your channels using the provided affiliate links.
  4. Track your performance and optimize your strategies for better conversions.

Affiliate networks play a pivotal role in the affiliate marketing ecosystem. They offer a platform where merchants and affiliates can thrive through mutually beneficial partnerships. Whether you're looking to promote products or searching for affiliates to showcase your offerings, understanding and leveraging an affiliate network can propel your marketing efforts to new heights.