What are affiliate networks?

Affiliate networks can be seen as intermediary platforms between advertisers and affiliates, or website owners, who allow their website to be used as an advertising platform. These networks provide support to website owners and help them with integrating links, searching for suitable advertising partners and the billing process. Through affiliate networks, affiliates and advertising partners can engage in affiliate network marketing more easily, enabling both parties to make a profit in the process.

Affiliate networks help to keep the effort and costs of affiliate network marketing low. Instead of spending time looking for suitable partners, affiliates and advertisers use affiliate networks or affiliate marketing platforms to engage in affiliate marketing. For a commission, these networks offer technical resources, provide support and take care of billing and payment processing, ensuring affiliates a successful start in the world of affiliate marketing. Advertising companies use affiliate network marketing for brand building, sales or other types of conversions. Website owners benefit as well, generating more money via their website with less effort.

How do affiliate networks work?

The process is fairly simple: if you own a blog or website, you can join an affiliate network and connect with advertisers. This allows you to earn money with your blog or website relatively easy. When a visitor to your website clicks on an affiliate link, they are redirected to a company’s website, which is often an online store. Affiliate network marketing is a type of performance marketing, as website owners, i.e., affiliates, get paid when a desired, pre-defined action such as a click or a sale occurs. Commissions are also given when potential customers fill out lead generation forms.

Advertising companies, on the other hand, use affiliate network marketing as a part of their display-advertising and real-time advertising effort. They can use affiliate networks to place links or banners for their website, extending their reach and ultimately, increasing their sales.

Advertisers also have the opportunity to track and analyse customer behavior using affiliate networks. Through tracking pixels, session tracking, post-view tracking and cookies, it’s possible to trace customer actions to a specific website. Tracking also enables further analysis of purchases and user behavior.

What services should be a part of an affiliate network’s offering?

There are a lot of affiliate marketing platforms to choose from. To find the right network for your company, you should consider certain features and services. Below are some aspects that you should think about when looking for an affiliate network:

Scope and choice of affiliate programmes

Depending on the network, you can choose from a variety of affiliate programmes, both general and niche. Companies that want to reach a lot of people should choose networks that have a lot of different types of websites. Just remember to keep relevancy in mind: even if your product is not a niche product, there still may be certain types of websites that aren’t suitable for hosting your product links.

Also note that the popular affiliate network from Google, Google AdSense, doesn’t allow you to pick and choose affiliates. Website placement is automated and based on algorithms. If being able to choose individual advertising partners and programmes is important to you, you might want to consider Google AdSense alternatives.

Usage fees and commissions

Usage fees and commissions are also an important factor when choosing an affiliate network. An ideal network is fair, lucrative and cost-effective. It’s important for both affiliates and advertisers to assess the profit opportunities that an affiliate marketing platform has to offer. For affiliates, it’s important to check if there is a registration fee. For advertisers, this fee is mandatory, so this should be considered when calculating expected profits against costs.

Choice of promotion methods

Affiliate networks usually offer standard advertising methods such as links, banners and logos. Make sure that the affiliate marketing platform offers different ways for you to promote your products or services. Using different methods will also provide insight on which one(s) work the best. Networks can also provide sophisticated promotional tools such as extensive product data feeds. These can be used to offer additional product information, to link to subpages with deep-link generators, and to embed widgets.

Customer support

A good affiliate network is a reliable one. A strong indicator of reliability is good customer support. The network should be able to answer your questions and problems fast and professionally.

User-friendly registration and activation time

Last but certainly not least, the registration process should be quick and the user interface intuitive and easy to use. The steps for signing up to the affiliate network should be straightforward and certain processes should be automated, allowing for a seamless registration process. Some affiliate networks leave the approval of new affiliate websites to advertisers, which can make the registration process for websites longer.

Tip

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The 5 best affiliate networks

Now that you know which factors you need to consider when choosing an affiliate marketing platform, it’s time to get searching for a UK affiliate network. Below are five affiliate networks that go beyond standard expectations and offer additional benefits to affiliates and advertisers:

ShareASale

ShareASale belongs to the AWIN network and was voted best CPS (cost-per-sale) network in 2022. The company was founded in 2000 and, according to their website, made 194 million sales in 2021. The affiliate marketing platform hosts over 241,000 publishers and more than 21,000 merchants that offer a wide range of products. Affiliates and advertisers alike should be able to find multiple promising partners. The network is free to join, making it an especially interesting option for website owners. Website owners are responsible for finding a company or vendor that they are compatible with, which depending on how you look at it can be an advantage or a disadvantage. In this network, the commission amount is determined by the merchant.

AWIN

AWIN, who acquired ShareASale in 2017, has the same number of merchants and affiliates, however, both companies operate as their own network. The advertisers and affiliates in these networks are international and cover different industries. The company was founded in Germany and focuses on merchants based in Europe, such as those in the UK. You can sign up with a website or a social media handle. The affiliate network works similarly to ShareASale, but you need to pay a $5 deposit when you sign up. The deposit will be returned when you reach your payment threshold.

CJ

CJ is one of the leading affiliate marketing platforms worldwide and is currently used by over 4,000 advertisers and more than 80,000 affiliates. CJ offers scalable affiliate programmes for key industries such as finance, retail, travel and technology. CJ’s commission model includes common commission types such as cost-per-click, cost-per-sale, cost-per-lead and lifetime. In addition, you have access to personal customer support, enjoy an easy setup and can choose from multiple tracking types (cookie, session, server-to-server, parameter and post-view).

ClickBank

With over 25 years of experience, over 100,000 listed affiliates and almost $6 billion in sales (according to their website), ClickBank is another popular affiliate network choice. You don’t need a website or a social media account to register and the platform offers higher commissions than other well-established networks. The network offers an array of niche products that you won’t find anywhere else as well as a high volume of digital products. Additionally, ClickBank also has a range of subscription products that you can choose from. It’s important to be careful when choosing a merchant. Clickbank’s vetting process sometime lets some lesser quality products through. You should also make a note that the network has an extensive return policy.

Amazon Associates UK

If you are looking for a UK affiliate network, Amazon Associates is currently available in 18 countries (as of March 2023) and is one of the largest affiliate marketing programmes in the world. As a leading online marketplace, Amazon is a great affiliate marketing platform for beginners and advanced affiliates alike. Seasoned affiliates benefit from the Amazon Product Advertising API, which lets website owners find the items that they are looking for and display different information about a product on their site. To sign up, you need to have a website or a mobile app. Influencers who use established social media channels can use the Amazon Influencer Programme to generate additional revenue from their content. Commission varies according to product category.

What role do affiliate networks play in affiliate network marketing?

Affiliate networks are an important part of affiliate marketing. They automate and simplify the whole affiliate marketing process by offering a networking platform to both advertisers and affiliates and taking care of the payment process between these parties.

Benefits for advertisers

The success of advertisers depends on a targeted marketing mix including online marketing basics such as content marketing, display advertising, search engine optimisation, mobile advertising and real-time advertising. Affiliate marketing can be seen as a crucial part of many of these different types of digital advertising.

Affiliate network marketing can be part of a successful content marketing strategy. This type of marketing can boost reach, visibility and brand awareness. Affiliate networks can easily tell where and how conversions happen, allowing companies to analyse and optimise attribution models in online marketing. You can also optimise your social media advertising and social selling via affiliate marketing. By choosing especially influential bloggers or websites, it can also function as a form of influencer marketing.

When choosing networks and affiliate websites, it’s important to carefully examine your options. This can keep the costs and risks associated with using affiliate networks relatively low. And in the best-case scenario, you’ll gain new customers and more revenue through such partnerships.

Benefits for affiliates

Since affiliates usually don’t have to pay to register to an affiliate network, there’s generally speaking no cost to join. When you have enough visitors to your website or blog, it can be rather easy to monetise your content as you don’t need your own shop or products. Like advertisers, affiliates also need to pay attention to certain factors when choosing a network. They should opt for a network that offers them a wide range of possible advertising partners that fit with the overall theme of their blog or website. It’s also important to look for networks that offer different compensation models such as cost-per-click, cost-per-sale, cost-per-lead or lifetime commission.

Summary: the advantage of affiliate networks

Reliable affiliate networks help advertisers and affiliates find suitable programmes and collaborate. Website and blog owners can generate more revenue through commissions by embedding different types of advertising on their websites or social media channels. Advertisers, in turn, increase their own reach and brand awareness at a relatively low cost and risk. It’s important, however, for both parties to find the ideal affiliate network. To do this, we recommend comparing networks, making sure to assess their services, commission models, affiliate programme types and available advertising measures.