Before you can dive into a glossary of key affiliate marketing terms you have to have a bit of an understanding of exactly what affiliate marketing is. There are many definitions of affiliate marketing available online, some more confusing than others. As an affiliate manager who has been involved in affiliate marketing for over ten years this is my simple definition of what affiliate marketing is:

“Affiliate marketing is the process of an online retailer or service provider creating a program that allows them to work with outside partners who generate sales or actions that are digitally tracked for the purpose receiving a commission on each action.”

Here are some key affiliate marketing terms that you should know as an affiliate or merchant entering affiliate marketing.

Affiliate: Also referred to as a publisher or partner, this is the person or company that is promoting the affiliate offers. I like to use the term publisher as most affiliates are publishing content in some way whether they are bloggers, influencers, or creating ad content.

Advertiser: Also referred to as a brand or merchant, an affiliate advertiser is a company or person who owns a product or service that is being promoted.

Affiliate Network: An online platform and intermediary that provides the tools and tracking a brand needs to create and run their affiliate program. A network allows advertisers to manage their program directly with their affiliate partners. Affiliate Networks also provide opportunities for affiliates to join and manage multiple programs in one place.

Sub Affiliate: A sub-affiliate should not be confused with an affiliate network they are themselves affiliates who have created a platform that allows multiple affiliates to join under them. They work directly with brands and earn revenue on all their affiliate’s commissions.

In House Affiliate Program: This is an affiliate program that is created and operated outside of a major affiliate network. The brand may have the software installed locally or use a cloud-based software solution for operating its affiliate program.

Affiliate Program: this term is used to encompass all aspects of a brand’s affiliate offers including; terms, agreements, serving, and management.

Affiliate Manager: The point of contact person hired by the brand to manage the affiliate program.

Tracking Link: A unique URL created for an affiliate that sends viewers to an offer in order to track affiliate sales and commissions.

CPA/Cost Per Action: All affiliate programs operate on a CPA model (although some brands offer hybrid opportunities for qualified affiliates.) It is the amount paid for each action which can include sales or other actions that may not result in a sale such as a lead.

Attribution: The process of determining which affiliate will receive commissions. Traditionally in affiliate marketing, this would be the last click; however, attribution models can vary to include a variety of points on the customer journey.

These are a handful of key affiliate marketing terms that every affiliate partner and affiliate advertiser should be familiar with. You can find a more in-depth glossary of affiliate marketing terms here.