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What Is An Affiliate Network?
The world of digital marketing has expanded over the years and become a rather complex science. The idea of generating traffic seems simple and has been the need for every website since the beginning of the internet.
However, sourcing traffic and monetising traffic has opened up into a range of new opportunities.
In the past, generating traffic would be one of the battles while the second would be to either sell banner space on your site, as publishers do today or sell products like eCommerce sites or services like lead generation sites.
As the internet and traffic generation becomes more complex, it takes from handling both sides of the business or requires you to cut into your margins to hire specialists to assist you.
Finding an affiliation that makes sense
If your skillset lies in generating traffic, be it via social media, blogging, paid search or email marketing, then monetising your traffic is of the utmost importance to you. As I mentioned previously, banner advertising was one option, and selling products and services was another.
Selling products may not be an attractive option because of all the effort, but what if you could refer your traffic to sites that offer relevant products and services.
What is affiliate marketing?
Affiliate marketing is essentially the process of promoting other companies' products and services via tracked links. When someone you refer completes a purchase through your affiliate link, you will receive a commission. As an affiliate, you're a salesperson for the company. You help to make a sale; the company rewards you.
Affiliate marketing is attractive to site owners and social media influencers since you can do it at scale. While a typical salesperson only sells products from one company. As an affiliate marketer, you can promote products and services from different companies and earn commissions to generate multiple income sources.
How does affiliate marketing work?
To leverage affiliate network, you would approach a merchant who would provide you with a unique affiliate link which can track who was responsible for a sale. When someone clicks that link, a small file called a cookie gets stored on their device.
This affiliate cookie will do two things:
- It identifies a sale and attributes it to the right affiliate;
- It (usually) holds an expiration date, so you get paid even if the buyer delays their purchase.
How does an affiliate link work?
Let's say for example you have a blog or a popular social media account and you either write a review article about why you like this new winter jacket you bought or post a photoshoot in your new jacket on social media. Naturally, readers of this article or viewers of the post would be interested in finding out where they can find the jacket if the merchant you purchased it from has an affiliate program.
You can include an affiliate link in your blog article or social media post, and if any users click off from that link and end up purchasing the jacket, you'll get a fee for every purchase you refer.
Depending on the merchant's affiliate system, they may pay you only for the product you refer to or for the entire basket. So if a user adds more than the promoted product and ends up completing a purchase, you will get compensated for both the winter jacket and any additional products —even though you didn't promote the latter.
What Is an affiliate network?
Now that you know how affiliate marketing works, it's time to find merchants who have these programs available. One way of doing this is through search engines. You can search for affiliate programs in your country or niches you feel will complement your content. This will be a manual process, and you'll have to manage all these accounts yourself adding to your admin.
Alternatively, you can sign up to an affiliate network which is a group of associated (or affiliated) companies that sometimes offer compatible or complementary products and will often pass leads to each other. At times, affiliated companies may not operate in the same industry.
Affiliate networks curate various affiliate programs and allow you to monetise your content with a simple tracking service easily and then take a piece of your commission in return for streamlining the process.
The benefits of an affiliate network
As mentioned earlier, affiliate networks reduce admin and help make it easier for users wanting to promote content to find the best deals that will suit their content.
They also allow you to leverage multiple offers and create cross-promotional deals, encouraging your audience to purchase from a range of brands and services that you recommend giving you a greater chance of securing a sale.
Understanding affiliate networks
You may understand why traffic providers may want to join an affiliate network, but you may be asking why service providers and eCommerce stores would want to join these networks.
For companies using an affiliate network is a chance to give up some margin for high-quality traffic. Instead of creating the content and their marketing campaigns, they leverage the available resources from affiliate network creators to generate a significant outbound sales effort.
Affiliate networks are great for those who do not have a strong brand or digital presence or a substantial advertising presence. They may also have advertising, but they are looking to tap into potential customers in an unrelated industry or customers they cannot otherwise reach this stage.
Affiliate networks also reduce costs and can allow a business to focus on its core competencies, rather than on obtaining the contact information of interested parties.
Joining an affiliate network
When signing up to an affiliate network, it's essential to read the terms and conditions of each service. Also, it's essential to make sure you want to align yourself with both the network and the companies within their network.
Additionally, you want to consider the compensation models, of which there are two famous payment structures, namely:
- Revenue Share Model: This is where a publisher takes a particular share of the merchant's revenue as their price for putting the ad up on their site.
- Fee For Action: This is where publishers would get paid for every visitor who completes a particular set of actions on the merchant's website. Examples would be taking steps like registering for a mailing list or newsletter, participating in a raffle or survey, purchasing a product or service, etc.
Granted there is money to be made in affiliate marketing. Still, it is by no means a silver bullet to online income success, generating traffic and then referring that traffic tot he right service providers can be challenging.
Depending on the niche, and you will need to measure your performance and continue to improve traffic. As well as your conversion rates, as you would with an eCommerce site or lead generation site.
Are you affiliated?
Have you joined an affiliate network yet? Which affiliate network has been your favourite? Let us know in the comments below
Are you looking to promote your business?
South African Business owners can create your free business listing on nichemarket. The more information you provide about your business, the easier it will be for your customers to find you online. Registering with nichemarket is easy; all you will need to do is head over to our sign up form and follow the instructions.
If you require a more detailed guide on how to create your profile or your listing, then we highly recommend you check out the following articles.
If you enjoyed this post and have a little extra time to dive deeper down the rabbit hole, why not check out the following posts on affiliate marketing.
- Affiliate Vs Referral Marketing Which Is Right for You
- How To Turn Your Blog Into A Business
- How Much Traffic Your Site Needs To Make R1000 A Day With AdSense In South Africa