Affiliate Network vs Affiliate Program: Which is Better?

Affiliate marketing is one of the most effective ways to advertise your products and increase your conversions. However, it can be confusing when you first start.

If you’ve never worked with this kind of digital marketing before, you may be wondering if you should join an established network or create your own program.

There are a few critical differences between using an affiliate network and establishing your own affiliate marketing company. Joining an existing program gives you access to a pool of influencers, whereas starting your own gives you more control over your marketing.

In this article, we’ll look at the benefits of joining an affiliate network vs. starting an affiliate program, so you can see which one is better for your business. Let’s begin!

What Is an Affiliate Network?

An affiliate network is an established platform with a database of members. It enables marketers and companies to connect. As such, you can use it to reach out to influencers and get them to promote your products.

For example, Amazon Associates is a network where affiliates promote Amazon products:

The Amazon Associates affiliate network

An affiliate network is an established program, and you agree to its terms and conditions when you sign up. Similarly, affiliate marketers must register to be part of the site.

If they decide to promote your products, they make a commission from every click that results in a sale.

What Are the Pros of Joining an Affiliate Network?

One of the key benefits of joining an affiliate network is that it already has an established infrastructure. You don’t have to search hard for influencers and convince them to promote your business.

They are already in the database, making it much simpler to get them on board.

These affiliates also usually have to pass vetting criteria to join the network. Therefore, there is a lower chance that you will partner with inactive marketers or those with low conversion rates.

Furthermore, affiliate networks have an existing reputation. Before you sign up, you can research these companies and read testimonials to ensure that the platform will suit your business.

What Are the Cons of Joining an Affiliate Network?

There are also disadvantages to joining an affiliate network. One of the most significant of these is cost. Most platforms charge sign-up or subscription fees.

Additionally, they may also take a percentage from your affiliate commissions. As such, you will need to subtract these fees from your overall profits.

In addition, affiliate networks give you less control over your business. You have to agree to terms and conditions when you sign up for the program:

An excerpt of the Amazon Associates terms and conditions

The affiliate network may determine commission levels on your behalf and control how much you make from each sale. It might also have a cap on the number of affiliate links you can create.

Therefore, joining a platform may not be the best choice if you want full control over your business.

What Is an Affiliate Program?

An affiliate program is a platform that you set up yourself. You can invite marketers to join, and they work to promote your products. As with a network, these influencers make money when customers purchase through their links.

You use software to set up an affiliate program. For example, you can use our handy Easy Affiliate plugin to create one on your WordPress site. It integrates easily and has all the tools you need to run your own marketing business:

The Easy Affiliate plugin homepage

Later on, we’ll discuss how you can create your own affiliate program. For now, let’s go over the advantages and disadvantages of choosing this route over joining a network.

What Are the Pros of Starting an Affiliate Program?

One of the main advantages of starting your own affiliate program is that you have control over almost everything.

For example, you can determine:

That means you can set up and run your affiliate program in the best way for your business. You also have the freedom to adjust your settings without worrying about external terms and conditions.

Additionally, affiliate programs are usually more affordable in the long term. Although they have startup costs, you won’t have to pay a sizeable sign-up fee.

Plus, ongoing costs are often lower than with affiliate networks. Furthermore, you won’t have to give away a percentage of your payouts to a third-party platform.

What Are the Cons of Starting an Affiliate Program?

However, there are also some disadvantages to starting your own affiliate program. For starters, you will have to find affiliate marketers to promote on your behalf. You can do this by reaching out to influencers and celebrities in your industry.

It’s pretty easy to find them by searching hashtags on social media platforms or by attending conferences such as Affiliate Summit:

Upcoming events for the Affiliate Summit conference

Finding affiliates is not impossible, but it could be more time-consuming than choosing influencers from a network database.

Setting up the program also takes some time. You’ll need to configure all the settings that we discussed before.

Additionally, you’ll have to learn how to use your chosen software to manage your affiliates and analyze your data. Fortunately, there are various productivity tools to simplify the processes.

How to Start Your Own Affiliate Program

After reading all the pros and cons, you may have decided that you’re ready to start an affiliate program. Choosing this option is affordable, and gives you more control over your marketing strategy.

First, you’ll need an ecommerce store to sell your products. WooCommerce is one of the most popular options for its customizable settings and user-friendly dashboard:

The WooCommerce homepage

You can sign up for an Easy Affiliate pricing plan that fits your business’ needs. Then, install and activate the plugin on your website. Next navigate to Easy Affiliate > Settings:

The Easy Affiliate plugin settings

You can navigate to each menu and configure settings such as the affiliate dashboard, commission levels, and ecommerce platform integrations. You can also come back at any point to adjust your choices.

Next, head to Easy Affiliate > Creatives:

The Creatives tab on the Easy Affiliate dashboard

Click on Add New and upload your affiliate links and promotional materials. These will enable your influencers to market your products effectively.

Now, you just need affiliates to join your program, and you can start profiting from their sales!

Conclusion

Affiliate networks and affiliate programs are two of the most effective ways to make money from digital marketing.

Both methods enable you to partner with influencers and increase your brand reach. However, there are some key differences between them.

Here is a recap of the difference between using an affiliate network vs. an affiliate program like Easy Affiliate:

  1. Affiliate networks: Provide a pool of influencers, but have higher ongoing costs and offer less control over your marketing strategy.
  2. Affiliate programs: Give you complete control and have lower costs, but you will need to source your own marketers.

Do you have any questions about the difference between affiliate networks and affiliate programs? Let us know in the comments section below!

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