What’s the difference between affiliate networks and affiliate programs?

Kinga Gawron
Affiliate Programs vs. Affiliate Networks

If you’re an affiliate marketer looking to make profit on promoting other people’s products or services, then you’re probably well aware that choosing the right offer may be the make-or-break element for your business. 

But in order to find that winning offer, you first need to decide where to get it from. Most of the time, the choice is one of these two options — an affiliate network or an affiliate program.

Oh, so you’re not quite sure what’s the difference between affiliate networks and affiliate programs?

In that case… just sit back, relax, and let us tell you all about it!

Affiliate network vs affiliate program

To help you better understand what we’re going to talk about in a second, let’s make a few things clear. First, let us explain who is who and what are all the parties involved in the process of choosing offers.

In the case of affiliate networks and programs:

  • Affiliate marketers (publishers) are the people willing to promote someone else’s products for a small percentage of profits made on their sales. 
  • Merchants (advertisers) are the people who own these products or offer services and want other people to help them market their offerings for a small percentage of the profits made with their help. 

In the case of running affiliate marketing campaigns:

  • Affiliate advertisersare the people who run affiliate marketing campaigns promoting other people’s products or services (see publishers above).
  • Publishers are the people who own the advertising space where the ads promoting the merchant’s products are displayed.

Now that you’re able to understand who is who, and know that publishers in one situation, may actually mean advertisers in another, we’re good to lead you even further down the affiliate funnel.

What’s an affiliate network?

An affiliate network is an online platform that brings affiliate publishers (people willing to promote other people’s products) and the merchants (people who own these products or offer services) together. An affiliate network is essentially a digital marketplace, one of the two most popular ways of finding affiliate offers. 

Various merchants, in that case, called advertisers, showcase their offers making it possible for the publishers to search through a multitude of affiliate offers coming from various programs, niches, countries, etc. The affiliate network acts as a middle man for both publishers and advertisers.

How do affiliate networks work?

As mentioned above, affiliate networks are intermediaries who connect affiliate marketers with merchants willing to outsource marketing their products and services to others. It’s almost like a matchmaking service for the two parties involved, especially given a huge number of available options and opportunities where surely both sides will be able to find a satisfying solution. 

Let’s go over the basic steps that need to be taken to enter the game:

1. Join an affiliate network

Yes, that’s the very first step for both publishers and advertisers alike. It’s also worth noting that both parties are eligible to join more than one network, thus increasing their chances of maximizing profits even further. 

2. Go through the approval process

To keep both sides satisfied and ensure high-quality service, credible networks always implement a compliance check for publishers and advertisers. Don’t be scared off, though, as it’s a routine procedure most commonly done by all other affiliate services, too.

3. Get access to a multitude of offers & publishers!

Once accepted, as a publisher, you get instant access to a variety of offers coming from various niches, offering different payout models and prices, accepting different advertising models, or working for almost any country imagined.

As an advertiser (a merchant) you get a tremendous exposure of your offers to a number of qualified marketers who are willing to help you promote your business for a small fraction of profits made thanks to affiliate advertising.

4. Use the advertising assets

Also, as a publisher, you do not only get access to offers but quite often also to a ton of advertising assets that come with an offer: ad creatives, copy texts, landing pages, visuals, email templates.

As an advertiser, you’re able to make sure your products are marketed using top-quality content and materials. Hence, ensure the credibility of your brand and maximize your reach.

5. Track affiliate sales with publisher ID

As a publisher, you get a unique publisher ID assigned upon joining a network. You then need to attach it to every campaign you launch to promote a chosen offer. When the desired conversion is fulfilled by a user who engaged with a product via your campaign, the ID allows the network and the merchant to track that conversion back to you!

This allows the network to track the sales for products you promote, and hence calculate your input and earnings. 

As an advertiser, you’re able to track the performance of your offers and see what publishers do the best job promoting your offers! You can then decide to deepen the cooperation, propose a special deal, or maybe add more offers to your affiliate network portfolio!

Affiliate networks vs. programs

Pros & cons of joining an affiliate network.

It’d be great to have just one solution that beats all the competition… that’s impossible, though. That’s why, to make the decision-making process easier for you, we’ve gathered all the pros and cons of joining affiliate networks for both advertisers and publishers alike. Have a read and decide for yourself!

Benefits of joining affiliate networks

✔︎  Quick and easy way to join.
✔︎  Instant access to a multitude of offers and potential candidates to advertise them.
Approval process ensuring credible participants.
Flexible deals for both publishers and advertisers.
Dedicated support, technology plus end-to-end tracking for both publishers and advertisers.
A large number of payout/pricing models for publishers.
✔︎  Conversion limits protecting advertisers from overspending.
Flexible payouts for publishers.
A wide variety of niches.
Attached advertising materials and assets.
Offer restrictions that must be obeyed to protect advertisers’ brands.
Automated tracking.
Quick and easy way to maximize reach, exposure, and profits.

Potential drawbacks of joining affiliate networks

  With such an abundance of potential offers, but also publishers, the competition is tight.
  There’s always a third-party involved — and that’s the affiliate network.
  With a variety of choices and tight competition, your results are the deal-makers
  Affiliate networks may also place some conditions upon both publishers and merchants that have to be ultimately met.
  There’s always the network’s commission.

List of the best affiliate networks (examples)

There are too many affiliate networks to list them all in one article. Still, we’re able to recommend a few choices for Zeropark customers that we know are credible and profitable options for both budding and advanced affiliate marketers.

Crack Revenue

CrakRevenue is a CPA network created by some of the industry’s biggest affiliates. What separates it from other CPA networks is that instead of having hundreds of different offers, the CrackRevenue team makes available only the highest converting products tested over millions of hits by their in-house team.

VERTICALS:  Dating, Nutra, Gaming, Cam, Adult


Mobidea is a leading affiliate network with 10+ years of experience. Take advantage of their exclusive offers and experienced AMs. Offering a wide range of verticals and insights on top-performing inventory, Mobidea brings success closer to affiliate marketers of all kinds.

VERTICALS: Push Smartlinks, Smartlinks, Dating, Sweepstakes, Adult, Leadgen, Mobile Content


ClickDealer provides a huge portfolio of direct offers and exclusives along with a unique traffic distribution algorithm that allows monetizing your entire dating inventory with 1 link – ClickDealer SmartLink.

VERTICALS: Dating, Nutra, eCommerce, Sweepstakes, Leadgen, Mobile Content


MyLead 1600+ affiliate offers, 6 payment methods, original content locking, 15 smartlinks, inhouse offers. Everything in one place.

VERTICALS: Smartlinks, Dating, Nutra, Downloads, Gambling, Cam, Sweepstakes, Mobile Content, Crypto


Gotzha combines its international network of established partners with customized deals and deep knowledge of the industry, so your business can reach its true potential.

VERTICALS: Dating, Antivirus, Nutra, Gambling, Sweepstakes


MOBIPIUM is one of the top mobile-first agencies worldwide. They specialize in in-house Carrier Billing, Dating & Push Notifications Offers, and work with 1000+ advertisers, agencies and publishers.

VERTICALS: Push Smartlinks


Traffic Company is a well known and trusted CPA network with its own inhouse and (exclusive) offers from partners, which can be promoted by direct links or a SmartLink.

VERTICALS: Push Smartlinks, Smartlinks, Click2Call, Sweepstakes, Mobile Content


Youmi (a.k.a. Adxmi) is a top network with 10+ years history. They specialize in CPL (dating, sweepstakes), Carrier billing, CPI, and Smart Links. 

VERTICALS: Smartlinks, Dating, Sweepstakes, Mobile Content


AdCombo is an international CPA network with unique offers from trusted advertisers. AdCombo has appeared when very few people knew about traffic media buying. They release the payment twice a week in time, have competitive rates, and the widest geography of offers around the world. AdCombo is definitely a reliable affiliate partner.



OliMob is a mobile CPA network with vast experience in Mobile Content (mVAS), Sweepstakes, Crypto, Dating, Gambling offers.

VERTICALS: Antivirus, Downloads, Sweepstakes, Adult, Mobile Content


EPC Club was established by a group of international financiers and global online marketing professionals who saw a need to change the nature of affiliate marketing for the better. In a few short years, they combined their over 20 years in financial and marketing experience to create a new way to affiliate market and have never looked back!

VERTICALS: Trading, Crypto

Sublime Revenue

Sublime Revenue is an online performance marketing network, which designs thoughtful experiences and beautiful brand aesthetics. It brings beautiful experiences. Globally.

VERTICALS: Dating, Gaming, E-commerce, Cam, Sweepstakes, Adult

lemonads logo

Lemonads is an affiliate network with over 10+ years of worldwide experience. They used to function under the name Spicy Offers. Despite the rebranding, it’s still one of the best customer-facing affiliate networks.

VERTICALS: Nutra, Sweepstakes, Leadgen, Mobile Content

All of the above recommendations can be also found in the Zeropark Deals section… which additionally gives our advertisers bonus payouts and exclusive deals for the top industry tools! If you’d like to check it out, go to your Zeropark account and click on the Deals tab. For offers go to the Offers tab.  

Offer Wall

What’s an affiliate program?

Various businesses, both digital and brick-and-mortar ones, launch their own affiliate programs. Essentially, the same rules apply. 

Publishers apply to join a program and promote the company’s products or services. In return, the company shares a fraction of the profits made with their help. The difference between affiliate networks and programs is that such programs come directly from a given company, without any intermediaries.

Affiliate marketing programs are widely used to boost a company’s marketing efforts and bolster its sales. It’s an extremely profitable way for a company to market its products, with tens of eager publishers who want to do the advertising job for them. In return, they earn a small percentage of profits ONLY IF the desired action, for example, a sale, is actually made and tracked back to them. 

How do affiliate programs work?

Affiliate programs work on the very same premises as affiliate networks, which we already explained in this article. Only this time two parties are enough, the merchant and the publisher, no intermediaries involved. So if you’re interested in joining an affiliate program, have a look below!

1. Pick an affiliate program!

Affiliate programs are usually a part of a particular company’s marketing strategy. That’s why their offer selection is limited to products and services a given company sells. In that sense, picking a program means also picking a product or a service you’ll be promoting as an affiliate publisher/advertisers (depending on the perspective).

2. Get approved!

Depending on the program, the approval process may differ. It may take place upon joining a program or requesting a particular offer, but a credible program will always make sure its products are promoted by eligible marketers. That’s also a clue for publishers, ensuring they apply to work with trustworthy associates.  

3. Get an offer!

Getting your offers directly from an affiliate program means a smaller selection of choices, though there’s still plenty of offers and programs available! Once you get approved as a publisher, all you need to do is find the right offer and discuss its details and tracking options.  When the formalities and technical requirements are agreed on, you’re good to go!

Pros & cons of joining an affiliate program.

Some of the world’s biggest companies need no middlemen, like in the case of Amazon’s affiliate program. In such cases, advertisers and publishers collaborate directly with each other. As always, there are pros and cons to both types of arrangements.

Benefits of joining affiliate programs

✔︎  Direct relation to your advertiser/publisher.
✔︎  Better rates, no middlemen commission involved.
✔︎  Personalized support (if available) thanks to direct relationships with offer owners.
✔︎  Strict approval process ensuring credible participants.
✔︎  Flexible deals if proven successful.
✔︎  Attached advertising materials and assets.
✔︎  Offer restrictions that must be obeyed to protect advertisers’ brands.
✔︎  An effective way to maximize reach, exposure, and profits.

Potential drawbacks of joining affiliate networks

  A limited selection of offers to promote for publishers
  A limited selection of niches to promote for publishers
  Fewer payout options
  The approval process may be more restrictive

List of the best affiliate programs (examples)

Again, there’s a never-ending list of affiliate programs that’s impossible to fit into one article. And again, we’ve got a few direct programs we can recommend to our customers, at all levels of experience. These also can be found in Zeropark’s Offer Wall, bonus payouts and exclusive deals included! Just go to your Zeropark account and have a look at the Offers tab.  


BigBang Ads specializes in SOI lead generation offers in more than 24 countries in Asia, Europe, South Africa, and Latin America.



DirectAffiliate is one of the biggest advertisers in the affiliate marketing industry with an exclusive selection of in-house Nutra CoD (cash on delivery) products in Europe.

VERTICALS: Education, Nutra, E-commerce


OneHash is a bitcoin mutual betting and online casino. Their Affiliate Platform offers top-notch marketing materials, in-depth analytics, and a competitive commission scheme.

VERTICALS: Gambling, Crypto


CyberDice is a one of a kind & simply the best bitcoin dice game. Powered by OneHash, its Affiliate Platform offers marketing materials, landing pages, and in-depth referral analytics.

VERTICALS: Dating, Gambling, Crypto


Black Hawk Survival is a US company specializing in providing high end branded survival and tactical products.

VERTICALS: E-commerce

List of well-known brand’s affiliate programs

But if you’re looking for more general examples, here’s a list of well-known affiliate programs offering various types of advertising opportunities. These are global giants when it comes to using affiliate marketing as a means of gaining new audiences, keeping existing users engaged, and maximizing sales through affiliate partners. Also, these enable all kinds of affiliate activities so even if you’re not sure these are cut out for you, it’s always worth to have a look and see what these marketing pros have to offer.

Amazon Associates

Amazon Associates is one of the largest affiliate marketing programs in the world. It helps content creators, publishers and bloggers monetize their traffic while allowing millions of affiliate marketers to earn profit on mutual cooperation. With tons of products and programs offered by Amazon, affiliates use easy link-building tools to direct users to promoted products and capitalize on their purchases.


eBay connects millions of buyers and sellers all over the globe… and creates the opportunity for all. Affiliate marketers can easily earn from driving traffic to specific items or any traffic that results in a sale. Funneling users to eBays’ high-converting landing pages can really bring amazing profits.


Skyscanner is one of the leading global travel search sites. It provides instant online comparisons for flights, hotels, fares or car hires. Join the Skyscanner community to start earning flights and car hire affiliate programs. Note that their revenue share starts at 20% which gives you great value!


Booking.com program gives affiliates a unique opportunity to join one of the world’s most recognized online accommodation booking platforms and maximize profits together! All the program’s partners need to do is integrate Booking.com’s products into affiliate websites to maximize the brand’s reach. Earning a favorable commission for each booking made through it in return.

Trip Advisor

TripAdvisor allows affiliate marketers to partner with one of the world’s largest travel sites while helping users discover great ideas for their next travels! TripAdvisor’s affiliate program allows you to leverage the company’s brand to enrich your content, earn a steady revenue stream on hotel traffic, and provide users access to a rich selection of nearly millions of reviews and places worth visiting.


Airbnb offers a win-win solution to its affiliate partners. Affiliates help grow the brand by promoting Airbnb’s services and providing more choices to their audiences, and in return, make a commission for each conversion brought. Simple yet effective, and especially profitable if done with a well-established brand that billions of visitors engage with regularly.


Cupid Media gives affiliate marketers access to a diverse network of dating sites that are focused on niche markets, ranging from ethnicity, religion, physical appearance, sexual preference, or special interest niches. Also, allowing them to earn 75% of each initial sale referred by affiliate partners.


eHarmony is a personalized dating service that delivers carefully selected and compatible matches for its users. They believe in taking the time to get to know their customers, discovering characters, beliefs, and values so that matched singles can instantly click! Joining the eHarmony affiliate program gives advertisers a chance to earn commissions on completed registrations, questionnaires, and subscriptions. All that by tapping into a heavy demand, indeed!


NordVPN’s trusted brand and effective promo material means the traffic you send is bound to convert. Especially that individual support is offered for any inquiries affiliate partners might have, be it set-up or campaign best practices. Also, NordVPN offers the highest commissions in the VPN market with lifetime revenue share!


PrivateVPN invites you to join their team by becoming an affiliate partner. Help spread the word about quality products and get rewarded for the efforts. The program’s system tracks referrals and pays top commissions for every client affiliates sent their way. Commissions go up to 50%!


Kaspersky affiliate program allows partners to earn commission on qualifying sales of Kaspersky security products. The program is free to join and Kaspersky’s affiliate team is keen to help support any sales activities. Also, all sales are tracked for 60 days from referral. That means even if a customer takes a little while to decide to buy, affiliates can still earn a commission.


Turbotax is a top tax-related service in the US. Joining its affiliate program gives advertisers a wide range of products and services to offer to highly engaged customers. In return, earning on the commission that tends to spike through the roof during the hot US tax season.

HR Block

H&R Block affiliate program permits affiliates to help audiences access the HRBlock.com, the online home for one of the world’s largest tax services providers. Having already prepared over 650 million returns since its inception over 60 years ago, the company continues to provide tax solutions for U.S. citizens in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and U.S. military bases abroad. Again, especially worth considering during the US tax season!

As visible from the example presented above, these are some of the biggest companies globally. That’s why advertisers (meaning publishers for networks/programs) may usually need to exhibit a high-credibility profile to be eligible for promoting the brand’s products. 


Affiliate marketing is full of opportunities and everyone can find something for themselves. But the most important thing is to know what you’re looking for and then go find it.

  • Looking for a wide selection of opportunities from various niches? Join an affiliate network! 
  • Looking for more direct cooperation, with no intermediaries involved? There’s plenty of affiliate programs just waiting for you to promote their products. 

Whatever niche, ad format, or offer type you’re specializing in, always talk to the representatives of a network or program you choose to join. They will surely be able to find the right fit for you and maximize your chances of making profit… for all parties involved.

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Kinga Gawron

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