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With the multitude of options out there, the question of how to choose an affiliate network frequently becomes the first one for a merchant to answer.

 First of all, let’s clarify what we are really selecting. When looking for an affiliate network, you are looking for a vendor who will handle all of your affiliate program’s tracking, reporting, and affiliate payments.

 At the very outset, every merchant must understand that while selecting an affiliate network they are not selecting an agency that will run the affiliate program by recruiting affiliates, and driving in sales/leads. While some affiliate networks do offer management as add-on service, none do this by default.

 It appears that some merchants are merely extending the definition of advertising networks to include affiliate networks. While just as ad networks, affiliate networks do connect advertisers with publishers; they do not ensure that the advertiser actually gets advertised.

 In most scenarios, it is the advertiser’s own responsibility to manage the affiliate program and recruit affiliates. Unlike ad networks, affiliate networks do not get paid on a CPM basis.

 Affiliate networks make their money on transaction fees, which are normally calculated as a percentage of each affiliate payment subtracted from your account. You can think of it as of a credit card processing fee.

 Just as credit card processing companies charge 2-4% of the transaction amount to process it, so do affiliate networks charge you a fee on every transaction, with the only difference being that the fee is not tied to the order, but to the transaction amount that happens between you and the referring affiliate.

 So, whichever affiliate network you decide to go with, make sure you are clear on the expectations, and do have someone to manage the program.

 Speaking of the decisive factors for choosing an affiliate network, let’s look at five:

  1. Ethics – There is nothing more important that partnering with an ethical affiliate network which takes a clear stand against adware, spyware, and rogue affiliate techniques.
  2. Financial – There will be setup/integration fees, minimum monthly fees, and other charges. Get this data from different networks, analyze, and you will see the difference.
  3. Technical – It is extremely important to find out what additional capabilities, tools and technologies are made available. To name but a few, it’s worth mentioning phone order tracking, video creatives, data feed import tools, dynamic product and/or coupon feeds, etc.
  4. Popularity – You want to partner with a network that is loved and respected by affiliates.
  5. Support – It is no secret that many affiliate networks provide poor merchant and affiliate support. Do your due diligence to pick a network that cares.

 Lastly, a word of warning about free-to-join affiliate networks: do your homework in researching the network prior to joining it. There could be good ones among them, but as the famous Italian couturier Aldo Gucci used to say, “The bitterness of poor quality is remembered long after the sweetness of low price has faded from memory.”

 Geno Prussakov is the Founder of AM Navigator, and author of “A Practical Guide to Affiliate Marketing” and “Online Shopping Through Consumers’ Eyes.”


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1 Geno Prussakov March 25, 2010 at 4:09 pm

Thank you, Missy.

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