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.
Merchants or advertisers are those who have a product to sell. They are interested in increasing their profit by working with affiliates and allowing them to promote the product on their behalf. Merchants do so by using an affiliate program where they provide everything needed for the promotion of the product(s) including the affiliate links. The course represents a guide for merchants to create an affiliate program and a strategy to encourage affiliates to join.
In February 2000, Amazon announced that it had been granted a patent on components of an affiliate program. The patent application was submitted in June 1997, which predates most affiliate programs, but not PC Flowers & Gifts.com (October 1994), AutoWeb.com (October 1995), Kbkids.com/BrainPlay.com (January 1996), EPage (April 1996), and several others.
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After being accepted into an affiliate program, marketers receive a unique URL that includes their affiliate ID. They share that unique URL with their subscribers, site visitors, and social networks via text links or ads. When someone clicks on that link, affiliate software records that click and any resulting product sales in the affiliate’s account. When commissions reach a pre-determined threshold, the affiliate is paid.