What Is Affiliate Network? How Does It Work?

By Carol / Published on Wednesday, 22 Feb 2017 11:10 AM

What is affiliate “network” and how is it different from signing up for one affiliate program? Well, as the term “network” implies, affiliate networks are a collection of different companies with affiliate programs to create a network. And the network website plays a role as a “matchmaker” between you and a company. It may be easy to understand it if you imagine a dating site. When you sign up for a dating site, you can access tons of profiles of people who registered for the service, and you can choose ones that you are interested, right? It is the same with affiliate network websites. When you sign up, you can access numbers of companies that joined the network. You can pick the ones that you want to partner up with to promote their products and earn a commission. And unlike many dating sites, affiliate networks are free to join.

One such network is called Rakuten Marketing (aka, LinkShare).  It has major companies such as BestBuy, Walmart, and Macy’s within its network. When you sign up for Rakuten Marketing as an affiliate member (they call it “Publisher”), you can access those companies affiliate programs within one system. It’s convenient in that you save time, you can promote products from multiple companies at the same time, and you receive one payment. If you are just starting out and still debating about your niche, joining an affiliate network may help you come up with an idea as to what direction your website should set, hence a niche.

Before you read on about affiliate networks, be sure you know the how making money through affiliate marketing works. There are 5 steps of how to earn income via affiliate marketing.

  1. You have a blog/website (Build it free)
  2. You pick a product to promote
  3. You sign up for the affiliate program (Here you can join the affiliate network instead)
  4. You market (write about) the product
  5. A visitor purchase through your website and you earn commission

You can read more about the five steps above in What’s Affiliate Marketing?

So, How Does It Work?

A network (e.g. Rakuten Marketing) agrees to list a campaign by a company (or “Advertiser”). You, the affiliate member (or “Publisher”) see the campaign listed on the network website. You like Product A, and think it is a good product to write about and promote on your website. So, you opt in to take part in that particular campaign and get an affiliate code with your unique ID attached. This code may come in the form of a text link, button, or banner. You use them effectively within your content (blog post) as you write about Product A. Sometimes you need to apply for the specific campaign to be part of it. It depends on the affiliate network and/or the company.

List of Affiliate Networks

Where can you find those affiliate networks? One way to do this, of course, is to search on Google. If you just type in the search bar “affiliate networks” or “affiliate program networks,” you can find a bunch of affiliate network websites that exist on the internet. Below I list the examples of well-known affiliate networks.

Rakuten Marketing(formerly known as LinkShare)


Commission Junction

Amazon Associates

Don’t Go Affiliate Crazy! – Relevance is The Key

Sometimes people question “How may affiliate products can I promote?” You can absolutely promote as many as you like, by joining as many programs/networks you want. But it needs to make sense in a very relevant way to your website. You can’t just promote stuff because you have a product to promote. For instance, if your niche is about losing weight, promoting diet pills or exercise equipment makes perfect sense. However, if your site is about gardening, and you promote diet pills, you will look like you don’t know what you are doing. At worst, you may appear to be a “spammer” to the visitors.

Once you are branded as a “make-money-quick” type of spammer, it is extremely difficult to regain a good reputation. In the same respect, the last thing you want to do is to flood your website with a bunch of affiliate links. Google will not rank you if it views the main purpose of your site is to send off people over to another website (affiliate program), instead of trying to help them on your website. As always, your priority should be helping people. Write for the readers. Try to provide valuable information for them, build trust, and then income comes after that.

As long as you keep that in mind, it is a matter of time and effort that you become a successful online entrepreneur. Affiliate programs are the simplest way to start out and you can browse a bunch of companies by joining one network. Feel free to leave any comments and questions down below.