Affiliate Network vs Affiliate Program – What’s The Difference?

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Dale is a former electrician that has since gone on to generate over $1 million in all-time affiliate commissions & become officially recognized as a Super Affiliate by the world's largest affiliate marketing training platform. Alongside running his own affiliate marketing empire, he now also teaches affiliate marketing to others through the Commission Academy platform.

An Affiliate Network is the host of multiple Affiliate Programs from different merchants or advertisers. It is essentially an online marketplace that brings together merchants looking to optimise sales and affiliates (publishers) willing to promote merchants’ products and services in exchange for sales commission.

An affiliate program is the merchant’s offer for affiliate marketers inviting them to promote their products for a certain commission % or flat commission on each referred sale.

Basics of an Affiliate Program

An affiliate program does not necessarily require an affiliate network. Sometimes companies opt for independent advertisers who run these programs. These advertisers have contacts with publishers, influencers, or affiliates in different countries.

The basic structure of an affiliate program includes the following ingredients:

  • Disclosure of product or services pricing or subscription fee
  • Declaration of the commission structure (% or flat for each product line)
  • Provision of a unique URL for each affiliate/publisher
  • Declaration of Cookie Tracking Duration or Referral Window (Maximum duration – in days – within which the purchase from an affiliates’ referral is attributed as valid for commission, starting from the day he or she visited the merchant’s site for the first time)
  • Payment Term (how and when an affiliate can withdraw his earnings)

This basic structure becomes complex during its implementation since it involves the latest technological solutions, such as a real-time performance tracking dashboard for each affiliate, an efficient cookie tracking system, extensive database maintenance and high-end security protocols.

Running an affiliate program is a complete job in itself. This is why companies have to hire a highly credible advertiser with all the latest technologies and resources to host the program while keeping the company’s management away from extra burden.

However, most merchants still prioritise Affiliate Networks over independent marketing agencies.

Basics of an Affiliate Network

The Affiliate Network, aka Affiliate Marketplace, has the following essential ingredients:

  • Up-to-date customised user dashboards
  • Affiliate and merchant support
  • Host multiple affiliate programs, each with its exclusive terms and policies
  • Promotion tools for affiliates
  • Manage affiliates’ earnings, payouts, and payment methods

Affiliate Networks work like freelancing marketplaces. Clients posts their projects, and freelancers bid on these projects. The marketplace receives funds from the client on the behalf of the freelancer and pays the freelancer when the project is delivered and approved by the client.

But there is one big difference. Freelance marketplaces cut their commission from both the client and the freelancer. And there are certain monthly and yearly subscription fees as well.

Affiliate Networks charge a subscription fee (monthly or yearly) from merchants. Most affiliate networks do not charge any subscription fee from affiliate marketers.

As an affiliate or publisher, you signup for free by submitting specific details through the application or signup form. These details include your Name, preferred niche, country and link to your online platforms such as YouTube Channel, blog, social media page, or website.

Affiliate Network Advantages for Publishers

  • Hundreds of active affiliate programs to choose from
  • Easily find the most promising affiliate programs in your preferred niche
  • No need to fill application forms from scratch
  • Once you get going, your performance on the affiliate network speaks for itself
  • Most affiliate networks are free to join
  • Customised database and promotion tools
  • Top performers are more likely to be invited to promote the most lucrative affiliate programs

Affiliate Program Advantages for Publishers (Hosted Independently)

  • Mostly performance-based commission structure – you get what your efforts deserve in the long run
  • More likely to negotiate commissions if you generate considerable sales
  • More likely to get exclusive incentives, discounts, and bonuses
  • Cookie life (referral window) is generally longer than the affiliate programs hosted on affiliate networks
  • Less intense competition among affiliates

The Bottom Line

The reality is that affiliate networks & affiliate programs do not compete with each other. An affiliate network facilitates affiliate programs, and it cannot operate if there are no programs.

Similarly, most merchants cannot afford to outsource expensive marketing agencies with all the required resources to host their affiliate programs. But it is not primarily a question of affordability because many industry giants with no shortage of funds have preferred affiliate networks for their affiliate programs.

As an affiliate, your game plan should be to make the most of multiple available opportunities. Do not limit your potential by sparing a good platform only because you preferred programs that are only hosted on your favourite affiliate network.

Make the most of both worlds.

And if you’d like to learn how to find the best paying affiliate programs & convert the most amount of your clicks into sales, do be sure to check out our free training before you leave.

In it, you’ll learn our insider tips & you’ll discover a method for generating unlimited amounts of free, highly-targeted traffic to your offers.

But whatever you decide to do, we hope that you found this post insightful. And if you have any extra questions or comments, don’t hesitate to leave them below.

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