Affiliate networks play an important role in the relationship between affiliates and merchants. They are the meeting point, which is why most affiliates and merchants will be a member of at least one of them. This chapter focuses on what affiliate networks are and how they work, with the process being explained for both affiliates and merchants. The chapter concludes with five popular affiliate networks in the industry at this moment with most prominent features and benefits highlighted for each of them.
Since the emergence of affiliate marketing, there has been little control over affiliate activity. Unscrupulous affiliates have used spam, false advertising, forced clicks (to get tracking cookies set on users' computers), adware, and other methods to drive traffic to their sponsors. Although many affiliate programs have terms of service that contain rules against spam, this marketing method has historically proven to attract abuse from spammers.