Affiliate marketing services provide a marketplace that connects you with affiliate marketers, also known as publishers, who want to promote your products for a commission fee. You sign up for the affiliate marketing service as an advertiser. Anybody with a blog, website, video channel, or other form of web real estate who wants to make extra income from that web property, and who meet your criteria and the criteria of the marketing service, can sign up as a publisher or affiliate marketer. Once approved, these publishers find the details of your products and promote them on their own sites, social channels and blogs via trackable links. When their readers click through and purchase your product, you get the sale, the affiliate marketer (or publisher) gets a small commission, and, depending on the network you choose, they may also take a small fee. Read more articles about affiliate marketing services and other business marketing topics.

Pay Per Action & Ad Types

Most affiliate programs offer commissions to their publishers per sale, also known as cost per sale, or CPS. However, some support other pay per action models. Cost per action, or CPA, refers to a payment to the publisher (and a cost to you) each time a user completes a specific, pre-defined action. This may include signing up to a newsletter, entering their email to receive a free download such as an eBook, entering their zip code, or signing up for a free trial. Cost per click, or CPC, means you pay a fee every time a user clicks on a publisher's link to your business or products. Cost per 1,000 impressions, or CPM, means you’re essentially paying for ad views. Each time the page on which the publisher has placed your link is loaded, that counts as one impression.

The best affiliate programs also support multiple ad types to give you the maximum possible reach. Product links can include straight text links, image links, or a combination of the two. These links contain the URL to your product that the publisher is promoting, along with all the pertinent tracking data. These types of product links generally appear within text or body copy, such as reviews. Image product links are often a popular choice for price comparison and review sites, too, sitting within comparison tables. Some networks support JavaScript or interactive ads, and some have the ability to link Flash elements. Some also provide widgets to embed elements such as a multi-product box, a "buy now" element, or a search element within a publisher's site. Banner ads let publishers promote your products, services, or other offerings across their site with bold banners, some of which remain static and others that scroll with the reader.

Some companies, such as Ratuken Affiliate, offer additional services to help you round out your marketing strategy. These services may include PPC campaigns, display solutions, retargeting, prospecting, and paid search. If you want to make use of an outside marketing solution, affiliate services that offer multiple marketing solutions can be a good choice.


Rakuten Affiliate Network, formerly known as LinkShare, is a well-established affiliate marketing service that also offers an array of other marketing services, making the company an all-round marketing solution. This company is not for everyone, however, as it mainly works with larger businesses with a considerable marketing budget and significant annual sales.

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Tracking & Reporting

Once you've established that an affiliate marketing service does indeed support the publishing models and PPA or ad types you need, take a look the tracking and reporting features are. If the tracking and reporting isn't adequate, you won't be able to accurately ascertain how your products or campaigns are performing.

There are several ways affiliate marketing services help you track the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns. One is with mobile tracking. For many businesses, understanding the split between mobile customers and those using a desktop computer is key to creating an effective marketing strategy. You can also use mobile tracking to evaluate your efforts around mobile search, leads and sales.

Another tracking method is using cookies. A cookie is a small piece of data that gets stored in a customer’s web browser when they visit your website. From an affiliate marketing standpoint, these cookies remember the items a potential customer puts in their basket but doesn’t purchase immediately. If a potential customer comes to your site via an affiliate publisher and places an item in their basket but doesn't purchase right away, as long as they return and complete their purchase within the active window of the cookie, you'll still pay the affiliate publisher their commission. Using a service that offers a window of 30 days or more makes your products popular with affiliate marketers or publishers, as they'll still receive commission on a sale for up to 30 days. Some services, like Amazon Associates, use 90-day cookies.

In addition to tracking customer data, being able to track the performance of specific products, product categories, or actions is essential if you're running multiple campaigns, split testing different ad types, or wanting to promote multiple products. Ideally, you need a service with detailed, individual item reporting capabilities.

Also look for services that provide good overall reporting of everything happening with your account and campaigns. Some affiliate marketing programs give you access to weekly or monthly reports. Others take it a step further and offer daily reporting, with a 24- or 48-hour lag. Some offer real-time data, so you can see what activity is happening on your account at any given moment. For example, with real-time data, you can see how many potential customers are browsing your site via affiliate links at that instant. 

Amazon Associates

If you sell on Amazon, you automatically participate in their affiliate program as a merchant. Affiliate publishers who participate in the Amazon Associates program can promote any page or product they find on Amazon and can earn affiliate revenue for it. Amazon Associates is very simple and requires no input from merchants, but you don't have any control over commissions, and there are no management services available.

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Services & Fees

Your business has different resource levels from others. You may have the personnel, skills and time to code your own banners, ads, and affiliate tools, or you may not have these foundations. Affiliate marketing networks like CJ Affiliate by Conversant offer a range of service levels and can even tailor service packages to meet the needs of your business. Other affiliate marketing services have fewer options. Regardless, choose your affiliate partner and service level based on your own or your company's skills and resources. If you've got a tech-savvy marketer on your team, you can go for a "bare bones" pay per performance option. In this scenario, you basically simply get access to the stable of publishers, but you have to do all the link building yourself. In some cases, you may need to take care of manual payments to the publishers, too. Some services provide an easy link-building tool kit, and they can also handle or automate payments. If you go for a full-service affiliate management plan, they'll do the whole lot for you. You provide the necessary information about the products you want to promote, and the marketing service takes care of coding widgets, banners and trackable links.

Of course, differing levels of service come with a range of fees, and it's crucial to know exactly what you'll be paying, and what for. Some services have a signup or setup fee as well as their ongoing fees. However, the best affiliate marketing programs don't generally require setup costs. On most service plans, you'll be engaging in a pay-for-performance plan, where you're billed each time a publisher makes a sale or completes your required action. The affiliate network may also take a small percentage of each sale or action, depending on the service plan. For example, if a publisher makes a sale of $10 and earns 10-percent commission, they'll earn $1. If, on the same transaction, the affiliate network charges 5 percent per action, it will earn $0.50. In this scenario, the total action costs on the $10 sale would be $1.50, and you would keep $8.50.

Companies that offer full, partial and tailored account management service plans are likely to bill monthly, annually or quarterly for their services, rather than per action. However, you may find some companies charge an account management fee as well as the pay per performance fee.


CJ Affiliate by Conversant, formerly known as Commission Junction, is a global affiliate marketing service that offers a variety of affiliate services, including an exhaustive list of pay per action, or PPA models, publishing models and ad types. CJ Affiliate works to include only serious, reputable affiliate publishers in their network with a robust application process and publisher contract. Notably, this company only offers affiliate marketing services.

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Essentially, if you choose a pay-per-performance affiliate marketing service, you let publishers, or those looking to monetize their web properties, do a large portion of your marketing for you. You only pay for results, so it's classed as low-risk, high-ROI marketing. You don't spend without seeing results.

The best affiliate programs have large databases of active affiliate marketers ready to start promoting your products and an array of user-friendly tools and systems that make the process fast and easy. Whether you sell physical or digital products, choosing the affiliate service that best aligns with the needs of your business can help drive traffic as well as increase conversions and sales.

Knowing what you want to achieve from using an affiliate marketing service is the first step to choosing the right one. Yes, overall, you want to see an increase in revenue, but there are different ways of getting there. Whether you’re looking for lead generation, list growth, traffic, or sales, make sure the affiliate network you choose offers the features and payment models that are most likely to result in your desired action.

Publishing Models

There are various kinds of publishers that an affiliate marketing service supports for promoting your products, and which type you use will depend on your ultimate marketing goal. Bloggers and article or content sites are popular types of supported publishers with most affiliate programs, and work well for most businesses.

Different types of publishers can provide particular types of marketing. For example, if you want to reach a large audience on a regular basis to increase your potential customer base long-term, for example, email capture is a good option. Affiliate publishers can encourage their audience to sign up for your newsletter or enter an email address to get your free whitepaper or email. You get a larger email list or set of potential leads, and you pay the affiliate marketing service and the affiliate publisher a fee for each email address they provide. If your affiliate marketing service supports loyalty rewards and coupons, publishers can also get a fee each time they get someone to sign up for your promotion or use your coupon.

On the other hand, when your primary concern is showing how great your product is, or how inexpensive it is, or how much better it is than similar offerings, using comparison websites through an affiliate marketing service is a solid choice. To make the most of social marketing, make sure the service you choose supports affiliate link promotion through social channels.

If you plan to offer extra incentives to your customers, such as special offers or coupons to encourage sales or capture emails, leads, and customer data, it's a good idea to choose an affiliate network that supports this type of marketing, as well.

Support & Fraud Prevention

However many whistles and bells a company has, the level and type of support the service provides is generally a good indication of how much it values its clients and how well it performs.

Even if you don't have a full account management service plan, you still need to work with a company that provide a high level of customer support. Programs with telephone, rapid response email, and online chat provide quick help when you need it. Ideally, the company should offer self-serve help in the form of FAQs, tutorials, and video help.

Because there's always a risk of affiliate fraud, you need a service that actively protects you against fraudulent publisher or buyer activity. Many companies do offer this protection, in the form of link and IP tracking, so that publishers are not able to purchase items via their own affiliate links and earn commission, nor are they able to repeatedly click on CPC links or perform similar unethical actions.

Make sure you clearly identify your business goals and needs before signing up with any affiliate network. Once you know what you're looking for, and providing you keep these key factors firmly in mind, you'll be much better placed to make the right decision about which service to choose. Decide, for example, whether you want to just focus on increasing sales of specific products and services or whether you want to build a lager email list. Decide whether you want social affiliate promotion to be figured into your marketing plan or if you're only interested in email campaigns, blogging or price comparison sites. If you aren't entirely sure, choosing an affiliate marketing service with plenty of options ensures that you can do as much testing as you want to see which features or combinations of features gets you the best results.