What is an Affiliate Network, and Why Does Everyone Have One?

The banner ads are everywhere, the tiny text ads are everywhere- they want you to be an affiliate. If you have a website, you will most certainly be rich with no effort on your part. Most of the hype is just that, but there is some money to be made by small sites that sign up to be affiliates. If you are incredibly internet savvy, this article may not be for you. But if you are struggling to figure out a lot of the ecommerce systems, as I was until recently, here is an introduction.

The affiliate phenomenon started with Amazon.com, when years ago they began offering site owners a tiny percentage of any sales that Amazon got through advertising on the site owner’s website. This could be put on the site in a number of different ways- a recognizable ad, a link somewhere on the page, etc. People who click the links and are taken to the commerce site have the option of buying the product that appears. That sale makes a small amount for the site owner, but just clicking through the ads may make the site owner money as well.

Affiliates are paid in a couple of ways- either through click throughs and sales that are made, or just through the sales. See the text ads on the pages here? Those are AdSense ads sponsored by Google. Website owners pay Google to get page views and sales on their sites, and Google places their ads on sites with content that is relevant to the retail website.

Affiliate networks are not just confined to the bigger sites anymore, and they are not just confined to sites seeking a few affiliates to spread the word about their products. There are now second-tier affiliate programs, meaning that affiliates actually find more affiliates to join the network, and they get a percentage of the amount their referral makes. This is making affiliate networks bigger and providing low-cost publicity for the retail sites.

So are there big bucks to be made? Could be. Some people do make a living from it. Some people are content with enough to pay for the website. It all depends on what you want to do with it. I know someone who made five dollars as an affiliate and was thrilled with it. Then there are larger websites that rake in six figures a year. Many site owners will join several affiliate networks or run several sites with each one tying to a larger website, further increasing the possibility of click throughs and sales.

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