GTM Dictionary

The Go-to-Market Dictionary: Affiliate Network

Discover everything you need to know about affiliate networks with our comprehensive Go-to-Market Dictionary.

Are you looking to expand your reach and grow your business online? Then an affiliate network may be just what you need. In this article, we'll dive into everything you need to know about affiliate networks, including how they work, the benefits of joining one, and how to choose the right network for your business. We'll also cover the top affiliate networks to consider when starting your search. Let's get started.

Understanding Affiliate Networks

First, let's define what an affiliate network is.

An affiliate network is a platform that connects advertisers with publishers who promote their products or services on their own website or social media channels. The advertiser, or merchant, pays a commission to the publisher, or affiliate, for each sale or lead generated through their unique affiliate link.

Affiliate marketing has become an increasingly popular way for businesses to reach new customers and for individuals to monetize their online presence.

How Affiliate Networks Work

When a merchant joins an affiliate network, they create an offer that outlines the commission structure, creatives (e.g. banners, text links), and any restrictions on promotion.

Publishers can then apply to promote the offer and, once approved, receive their unique affiliate link to track their performance.

One of the benefits of affiliate marketing is that it is a performance-based model. This means that merchants only pay for actual sales or leads generated by affiliates, rather than for advertising that may or may not lead to a sale.

Affiliate networks provide the infrastructure and tracking technology to ensure that commissions are accurately tracked and paid out to publishers. They also typically offer reporting tools and customer support to both merchants and publishers.

Key Players in Affiliate Networks

There are three main players in an affiliate network:

  1. The Merchant: the company or brand that offers the products or services being promoted.
  2. The Affiliate: the publisher who promotes the merchant's products or services using their unique affiliate link.
  3. The Affiliate Network: the platform that connects merchants with affiliates and provides the technology for tracking and reporting.

Merchants benefit from affiliate networks by gaining access to a wider audience and only paying for actual sales or leads generated. Affiliates benefit by earning commissions for promoting products or services they believe in, without having to create their own products or handle customer service.

Affiliate networks have also become more sophisticated in recent years, offering tools such as deep linking and attribution tracking to help affiliates optimize their campaigns and earn more commissions.

In conclusion, affiliate networks provide a win-win situation for both merchants and affiliates, enabling businesses to reach new customers and individuals to monetize their online presence.

Benefits of Joining an Affiliate Network

Now that we know the basics of how affiliate networks work, let's explore the benefits of joining one for your business.

Expanding Your Reach

By partnering with affiliates through a network, you gain access to their audience and potential customers that you may not have otherwise reached. This can be especially beneficial for businesses that are just starting out and need to build their customer base quickly. Additionally, you can target specific niches or demographics by choosing the right affiliates to promote your offer. This can help you reach a more targeted audience and increase your chances of converting leads into paying customers.

For example, if you sell organic skincare products, you could partner with a beauty blogger who specializes in natural and organic products. Their audience is likely to be interested in your products, which can lead to more sales and increased brand awareness.

Streamlining Affiliate Management

Managing individual affiliate relationships can be time-consuming and cumbersome. Affiliate networks provide a centralized platform for managing offers, creatives, and commission payments all in one place. This can save you time and effort, allowing you to focus on other aspects of your business.

For example, instead of having to reach out to each affiliate individually to provide them with new creatives or update them on commission rates, you can simply make the changes within the affiliate network platform. This ensures that all affiliates have access to the most up-to-date information and materials.

Access to Advanced Tracking and Reporting Tools

Affiliate networks provide robust reporting tools that enable merchants to track affiliate performance in real-time. This data can then inform optimization strategies and help identify trends and opportunities for growth. By analyzing this data, you can make informed decisions about which affiliates to work with and which offers are performing best.

For example, if you notice that one affiliate is consistently driving more sales than others, you may want to consider offering them a higher commission rate or providing them with exclusive offers to promote. This can help you maximize your ROI and ensure that you are getting the most out of your affiliate program.

Improved Payment Processing

Handling individual commission payments to affiliates can be challenging and time-consuming. By using an affiliate network, payments are handled automatically, saving merchants time and effort. This can also help ensure that payments are made on time and accurately.

For example, if you have a large number of affiliates, it can be difficult to keep track of each individual payment. By using an affiliate network, you can rest assured that payments will be processed automatically and that you won't have to worry about missing any payments or making errors.

Overall, joining an affiliate network can be a great way to expand your reach, streamline affiliate management, access advanced tracking and reporting tools, and improve payment processing. By taking advantage of these benefits, you can build a successful affiliate program that drives sales and increases brand awareness.

Choosing the Right Affiliate Network

Now that we know the benefits of joining an affiliate network, how do you choose the right one for your business? It can be overwhelming to navigate the various options available, but with a little research, you can find the perfect fit.

Assessing Your Business Needs

First and foremost, it's important to assess your business needs and goals. Are you looking to expand your reach globally, or just in specific regions? Do you require advanced tracking and reporting tools, or is a basic platform sufficient? Understanding your business needs will help you narrow down your options and find a network that aligns with your goals.

For example, if you're a small business looking to expand your reach in a specific region, you may want to consider a network that specializes in that area. Alternatively, if you're a larger business with a global presence, you may need a network with advanced tracking and reporting tools to accurately measure your performance across multiple markets.

Comparing Network Features and Fees

Once you've assessed your business needs, it's time to start comparing the features and fees of each network you're considering. Look for platforms that offer the features you need, such as multiple payment options, fraud detection, and customer support.

It's also important to consider the commission structure and any minimum payout thresholds. Some networks may offer higher commission rates but have higher payout thresholds, which may not align with your business goals and budget. Be sure to carefully review these details before making a decision.

Evaluating Network Reputation and Support

Finally, it's crucial to evaluate the reputation and customer support of each network. Look for reviews from other merchants and affiliates to gauge their experiences with the platform. This can give you valuable insight into the network's reliability, ease of use, and overall effectiveness.

Additionally, ensure the network offers responsive customer support for any issues that may arise. A network with poor customer support can lead to frustration and lost revenue, so it's important to prioritize this aspect of your decision-making process.

By taking the time to assess your business needs, compare network features and fees, and evaluate reputation and support, you can find the perfect affiliate network to help you grow your business and reach your goals.

Top Affiliate Networks to Consider

Are you looking for a way to monetize your website or blog? Affiliate marketing is a great option for businesses of all sizes to earn passive income by promoting products or services and earning a commission on sales. But with so many affiliate networks out there, how do you choose the right one for your business? Here are four top affiliate networks to consider when starting your search:


Founded in 2000, ShareASale has since grown to become one of the largest affiliate networks in the US. They offer over 3,900 merchants across a variety of niches, making them a great choice for businesses of all industries. ShareASale is known for its user-friendly interface and excellent customer support. They also offer advanced tracking and reporting tools to help you optimize your campaigns and maximize your earnings.

CJ Affiliate

CJ Affiliate, formerly known as Commission Junction, is a well-established affiliate network with over 3,000 merchants and tens of thousands of affiliates. They offer robust tracking and reporting tools, making them a great choice for businesses looking for advanced features. CJ Affiliate also provides access to exclusive offers and promotions, giving you the opportunity to earn higher commissions.

Rakuten Marketing

Rakuten Marketing is a global affiliate network with over 1,000 employees in 15 countries. They offer over 1,000 merchants across a variety of industries and niches. Additionally, they provide a range of marketing solutions beyond just affiliate marketing, making them a great choice for businesses looking to expand their digital marketing efforts. Rakuten Marketing is known for its innovative technology and personalized support, helping you to achieve your marketing goals.

Amazon Associates

Amazon Associates is the affiliate program for the world's largest online retailer. While commissions are generally lower than other networks, they offer access to millions of products and a highly trusted brand. Amazon Associates is a great choice for businesses in the e-commerce space or those looking to promote physical products. They also offer a variety of advertising options, including native ads and display ads, to help you reach your target audience.

Now that you know the basics of affiliate networks and how to choose the right one for your business, it's time to start exploring your options. Consider which benefits and features are most important to you and choose a network that aligns with your goals and budget. Remember, affiliate marketing takes time and effort to see results, so be patient and persistent in your efforts. Good luck!