What Are Affiliate Marketing Networks?
There are four main players in the affiliate marketing industry – the merchant, affiliate marketer or promoter, the customer, and finally the network.
An affiliate network is the link between merchants and promoters. It works both ways – as a place for affiliates to find merchants, who are selling products that are related to their websites, as well as a place where merchants can find a large group of affiliates who are interesting in promoting products on their websites or blogs.
Affiliate networks give merchants access to tracking tools and technologies that help them monitor the effectiveness of their affiliate marketing campaigns. Easy access to a number of merchants and a secure payment gateway are just a part of what’s in it for promoters.
There are several well known and recommended networks. Some of these include:
• Google Affiliate Network
• Share a Sale
• eBay Affiliate Program
• Amazon Associates
Generally, affiliate networks charge merchants for their listing, whereas promoters are allowed to join for free. The networks can make their money either through these membership fees, or by charging the merchants a percentage of the commission earned from affiliate marketing efforts.
There are certain criteria to watch out for while identifying a good affiliate network to work with. Some of these are:
1. Availability of niche markets: When a business is selling a product that comes from a niche market, it is important to find other websites who are into the same industry as you. A good affiliate marketing network will allow you to find people who are in the same niche market as yourself.
2. Does the network allow you to communicate with your business associates? Certain networks allow you to communicate and directly share marketing material with your affiliates, whereas some don’t. It is important to be able to do this, as you can then provide your affiliates with ideas as to how you want your product marketed.
3. What is the commission model? Are you being charged a high annual membership fee, or a large percentage of commission from your affiliate marketing earnings? Ensure that whatever network you use is not eating into your profits.
4. Does the network provide you with additional resources? Many networks share a wealth of resources with both affiliates and merchants, including tracking applications, knowledge series, and tips on how to make the most of your affiliate marketing campaigns. It would be of great value to both the affiliate and merchant, to have access to this.
Whether you are an affiliate marketer or a merchant, you must choose the right network to ensure that at both ends, the campaign is a success.
However I am seeing more and more merchants promoting without networks. With today’s software capabilities, merchants can easily manage their own promoter programs. In this instance affiliate marketing networks are not needed.