May 19, 2022

A Guide to Understanding Your Affiliates

By Alex Cramer

If I told you a bunch of animals broke out of the zoo, you’d probably be pretty curious about what kind they were. If it was elephants and lions, you’d grab your kids, lock your doors and hide in the basement. But if it was flamingos and meerkats, you’d probably try to get some cute pics for the ‘gram.

The point is that the details matter, and you can’t just use one word, like ‘animal’ to describe hugely different things

And yet, for some reason, we use the word ‘affiliate’ as if it means just one thing when the truth is that there are dozens of different affiliate types, each of which offers its own unique sets of benefits and uses.

That’s why it’s finally time to break down everything we mean when we talk about building your affiliate network. Consider this your quick guide to understanding some of the most important types of affiliates that we work with and the value that they can provide to your brand.

Content Publishers

This is probably the most common affiliate type and it covers a wide swath of potential partners, ranging from bloggers to news sites to review sites. For the most part, a content publisher is the first point of contact between your product and your potential customer, which means that they’re the right affiliate to pursue if you’re prioritizing brand awareness.

However, the real strength of content publishers is that they provide the reviews and validation for your product that consumers are looking for. A study by Trust Pilot shows that 89% of e-commerce shoppers read online reviews before making a purchase.

That’s why you don’t only want to consider audience size when partnering with a content publisher, but also whether they’re a trusted source of information for your vertical because they’ll provide the kind of 3rd-party validation shoppers are looking for before they make a purchase.

Cashback and Coupon Sites

Shoppers will use content publishers to determine what they want to buy. Then they’ll turn to cashback and coupon sites to get the best deal on it.

Cashback and coupon sites are a step down the sales funnel from content publishers and they’re the affiliates you use to close the deal with cost-conscious consumers (and these days who isn’t?).

A cashback affiliate will give a portion of the commission they receive for making a sale back to the consumer, while a coupon site will use part of their commission to give shoppers a discount on the final price of their purchase.

Cashback and coupon sites work best as lower funnel affiliates to help motivate consumers who are interested in your product but want it at a better price.


Social media influencers are similar to content publishers but they have their own unique benefits. Influencers connect directly with their followers on a personal level, which can give them a high level of engagement and credibility.

A key advantage of influencers is that they can meet people where they’re at. A traditional content publisher, such as a review site, you might only visit when you’re actively interested in buying a specific product.

On the other hand, an influencer is already part of a social network that your buyer probably visits every day to look at pictures, check out their crush, or just kill time when they’re supposed to be writing blog posts for a successful affiliate management company.

Additionally, influencers should be the affiliate of choice if your brand is targeting younger consumers because they have a much higher level of credibility with Gen-Z and Millennial buyers than more traditional celebrity endorsers.

Email Marketing

While the affiliates listed above depends on your buyer actively seeking them out, email marketers can put your product directly into their inbox. Email marketers can provide a number of different specialized services. For example, they can follow up with customers who have abandoned items in their cart and offer them a discount to come back and hit the buy button. 

They can also be particularly valuable to brands that sell high-end products that have a longer sales funnel. Typically, when the price of anything gets into four figures, consumers like to take their time reading reviews, comparing prices and considering their options before they make a big-ticket purchase. 

Email affiliates can send buyers news, deals and reviews about your brand, so you don’t get lost in the shuffle when they’re considering all of their options. 

If you want to build a car engine, it’s important to know what all of the different parts do. And if you want to build a successful affiliate network it’s essential to know how all of your different partners can work together to drive sales for your brand.



Are you getting started in affiliate marketing or looking to improve your current program?

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