What is Affiliate Marketing?

At its core, affiliate marketing is an online referral program where merchants pay commissions to publishers on sales generated by customers they’ve referred. The merchant can be an online retailer like eBay, or a service provider. Individuals and companies referring the traffic are called publishers, or affiliates, who publish content on the web promoting the merchant’s offerings. Customers are the people that click on the promoted content and make a purchase or complete a specified action. Payment is typically in the form of commission, but sometimes merchants offer a flat rate for a specific action, or a bonus for a type of visitor. EPN offers both commissions and bonuses.

WHAT IS AN AFFILIATE NETWORK?

An affiliate network is the platform that serves as an intermediary between an affiliate and a merchant. Some merchants work with third-party networks, while others, like eBay, operate their network in-house.  We provide our partners with the resources needed to be successful – including tracking, reporting and payment.

 

A BRIEF HISTORY OF AFFILIATE MARKETING

Affiliate marketing is one of the earliest forms of performance-based online marketing. The 90s ushered in the age of the internet. Organizations and individuals began creating websites and content in droves and – when search engines began cataloging websites and pages, making it easy to find and navigate to this content – marketing changed forever.

The web became a place where people could find information, news, products, opinions, inspiration, data. Terms like e-commerce, website traffic and banner ads emerged. As the world increasingly decided to spend their time and money online, marketers began inventing ways to leverage this communication channel, and opportunities for website owners to partner began. Content creators conceptualized ways to monetize their sites – ways to get paid for the exposure they could give merchants to their site visitors. Merchants found ways to reach new audiences and pay only when they converted.

Online advertising started to take shape – Cost Per Mille (CPM) models and paid placements were important components of the marketing mix, but difficult to measure. An emphasis on quality traffic and conversion helped transition marketers from buying impressions and site visitors, to paying exclusively for traffic that resulted in a sale and affiliate marketing lead the charge.


HOW DO AFFILIATES EARN MONEY?

Photo of a person holding a camera illustrates your vision and your choices to promote items on eBay to earn commission.

Affiliates can be compensated in many ways from commissions on the sale of goods and flat fees paid for the completion of a form, to bonuses paid on the types of visitors you send. Each partnership is different in terms of payout structure and rates.

It's as simple as Find, Share, and Earn

  1. Find what you want to promote – a product, a great deal, etc. – and create a trackable link
  2. Share it on your website, blog, or social media post
  3. Earn a percentage of the revenue when the traffic you drive results in the sale. 
 

HOW DOES AFFILIATE TRACKING WORK?

In order to track the activity and effectiveness of affiliate marketing, you need two things: an affiliate link, and a cookie.  

When you decide to promote, or point traffic to, eBay.com, you’ll provide an affiliate link. An affiliate link is a link that includes a unique ID given to you by the merchant – EPN calls this a Publisher ID. Then, when someone clicks on your affiliate link, the affiliate ID gets stored on that person’s browser within a text file known as a cookie. The EPN cookie contains several pieces of information, called “parameters”, including Publisher ID, to help us track activity of users after they click on your link and ensure you get paid a commission.

 

AFFILIATE MODELS TODAY

The emergence and evolution of the Internet created an opportunity for different types of publishers – ranging from individuals with a Facebook account or blog, to content review sites, deal aggregators, and app developers. As people continue to invent new ways to refer traffic to merchants, new models will surface, but here is a quick list of the popular models today, summarizing the primary promotional method.

Content Affiliate: Blogging

The publishers create valuable content, unique to their site, that is of interest to its visitors. Content sites including news and op-ed outlets, blogs, review sites, and more. 

Deal & Coupon Affiliates

Publishers aggregate and provide their visitors with coupons that can be redeemed or deals that are currently running on the merchant’s site. 

Loyalty & Rewards Affiliates

Publishers provide either a reward or incentive for purchases in the form of points, miles, cash back, charitable contribution, etc. 

Online Comparison Shopping (OCS) Affiliates

Publishers aggregate product information from multiple retailers to enable customers to search for items and compare products based on price, reviews, features, and other criteria. 

Email Marketing Affiliates

Publishers promote merchants via email – featuring deals, promotions, and products they think the customer might be interested in purchasing.

Social Sharing Affiliate

An individual, or group of individuals that have a sphere of influence that they can monetize. 

Tools & Mobile App Affiliates

Publishers who develop technical solutions that enhance or simplify the online shopping experience. Tools range from browser extensions and downloadable software, to mobile applications.