An affiliate network is essentially an intermediate between publishers and merchant affiliate programs. Affiliate networks help publishers or affiliates as they are commonly known, to easily find out the affiliate programs that will generate more traffic and hence more revenue for their websites. It also allows the online merchants to promote their affiliate programs to all publishers who are participating in the affiliate networks. It is a mutually beneficial scheme for publishers and online merchants to gather at one place and reap in the benefits.

Affiliate networks are based on the concept of revenue sharing that is, they let merchants offer a part of revenue generated to him from visitors to the publisher’s site. This may also be a fee for each visitor on the site that undertakes and completes a particular action like making a purchase, or for registering and subscribing for a newsletter or a magazine. But generally revenue sharing is the common method as compared to or opposed to a fee-per-action model. Affiliate networks with many advertisers also attract a large pool of the publishers. Big affiliate networks generally do not need to recruit publishers as the publishers already flock to them on their own. Generally websites that attract the same kind of target audience as the advertisers but without any competition in them are typical affiliate network partners.

Affiliate networks have grown rapidly since their inception. Viewed as marketing toys in early days of internet, they have become an integral part of business plans of many organizations around the world. In fact they have been so successful that they have grown into bigger businesses than the existing offline business. The total sales amount generated according to one source by affiliate networks is £2.16 billion in UK alone for the year 2006. In the same year for the USA the total bounty amounted close to US $ 6.5 billion.

Affiliate networks are primarily used in variety of sources like retail, gaming and gambling, personal finance, travel, education, telecom and publishing. Traditionally the affiliates are allowed to join the network free of cost while there is generally a nominal fee for the merchants to participate. The network also charges an initial setup or a membership fees which can be recurring. Although affiliates join for free but they pay a certain percentage of their earnings as commission to affiliate network.

Affiliate networks are a large conglomeration of publishers and merchants working towards a common goal, profit realization. Merchants derive benefits like tracking technology, payment processing, reporting tools and a large pool of publishers from the affiliate network. On the other hand affiliates derive services and benefits like affiliate programs, reporting tools and payment aggregation using the network.

Affiliate marketing is an enterprise which involves a number of individuals, companies and various other entities. It is truly one big platform of people who have gathered together to promote a product, a company or a service. Affiliate marketers are always scouting around for prospects and have developed various ways in which to draw out people and have them notice what they are doing. Communication is something no affiliate network can do without. It is all about how you interact with customers and affiliates and how effective you are in getting your message across and convincing people about the benefits of your program.

The tools that the internet provides today to the affiliate marketer are phenomenal. There are just so many options to choose from that gone are the days when people had to go about visiting friends and relatives and organizing get-togethers and meetings just to talk about their program. Money was also spent on advertising and introducing their programs so people could get to know more about their products and hopefully get interested in joining up as well.

Today, internet makes all this possible at absolutely no cost. There are just so many ways of getting across to people that if one method fails there is one just around the corner to experiment with next. Earlier it was not possible to follow up on leads as there was little hope of getting back in touch with possible prospects. Today with a simple email, the affiliate marketer can send in a gentle reminder to the prospect to jog his memory and maybe goad him into revisiting the program.

Launching websites, blogging, participating in forums and social networking are just some of the many options available today to the affiliate marketer to get in touch with affiliates and merchants and prospective customers and to keep flashing information about his program and making it visible all over web space. The distance between the merchant and the affiliates has narrowed and making contact is just so much more easier with all that the internet has to offer. It is also not possible for frauds to disappear as easily as they could have a few years back. Affiliate marketing now has a stable and secure base from which to operate and a number of user-friendly options are available if only the marketers, merchants and affiliates can exploit them and utilize their full potential to take their network to all time highs.

Trends and technologies touch new horizons almost everyday and the smart affiliate marketer knows how best to put them into use to reap the benefits of a powerful program which when driven the right way can lead to monetary success like never before.