What is an Affiliate Network?

An affiliate network is a place that connects publishers (affiliates) to merchant advertisers. Acting as an intermediary, the network enables publishers to join advertisers’ programmes.

After signing up and being accepted onto a merchant’s programme, the publisher can begin to promote the merchant advertiser’s products or services via their website.

For example, a consumer looking to buy some golf balls may visit a comparison website such Kelkoo to search for deals currently offered by various golf retailers. From here they may see a good deal at American Golf and click through to the merchant advertiser’s website. The merchant, in this case American Golf, will then pay a commission to Kelkoo since Kelkoo was the publisher that referred the sale.

How does affiliate marketing work

Major affiliate networks are home to thousands of publishers and advertisers from across multiple business verticals and in multiple global markets. Any advertiser or publisher joining an affiliate network gets access to that network’s portfolio of potential partners.

Are you a visual learner? The explainer video below makes the affiliate marketing process simple.

Affiliate networks like Webgains don’t only facilitate connections, but also provide many other services and benefits to both publishers and the advertisers. The best affiliate networks will typically provide the following:

  • Reporting tools – auto-generated data visualisations, charts and spreadsheets to show various aspects of the performance of any affiliate programme and the players within it.
  • Tracking technology – robust tracking is essential for affiliate marketing. It ensures that the purchases made on merchant websites can be attributed to the publisher that referred them.
  • Payment management – networks process payments and ensure that publishers get paid for any sales that they help generate. This payment is called commission and is normally a fixed percentage of the sale amount. However, publishers are sometimes paid for another specific pre-agreed action by the consumer. For instance, if they sign up for the merchant’s newsletter.
  • Training and support – the affiliate channel can be an extremely rewarding one with unrivalled ROI potential if the right strategies are adopted by both advertisers and publishers. Affiliate networks should provide training and support to those that join them. Not only in terms of using the network’s features from a technical and operational perspective, but also from a strategic point of view.

To summarise, below are the main benefits of joining a network for merchant advertisers and for publishers respectively.

Benefit for merchant advertisers
To find and partner with the publishers best suited to promoting their products and services with a goal to reach as many new customers as possible.

Benefit for publishers
To source the merchants, products and services that they can promote via their website that convert to sales. The more sales they refer, the more the publisher earns in commission.

You can learn more about affiliate marketing at the Webgains Academy. All Academy courses and resources are free to access.