How To Build a (Profitable) Affiliate Network From Scratch

A group of youn poeople in the office talking

Okay, I can see that you are a bit of an individual. You want to build your own affiliate network but aren’t sure how? There are some business and technical challenges that you’ll need to address along the way. The good news is Voluum can help with the technical side, and make the business side easier too. 

Affiliate network definition

Affiliate network is a platform that connects people that have offers but don’t want to do advertising on their own with people that can do just that. This allows each party to focus on what they are good at: maintaining high-quality offers or advertising.

What you need to build an affiliate network?

Although building your own affiliate can be a really profitable business, no money comes easy. First, you need to have offers—good ones. Then, you’ll need to attract affiliates, ideally the best ones, to promote them.

In between, you’ll need to keep track of all the conversions, payouts, the quality of the traffic, the performance of your affiliates, and more. And for that, you need to use the best tracking solutions out there. Owning an affiliate network is just like owning any other company, except it’s even more about numbers, if not all about numbers. That’s why you need to be accurate.

How to build an affiliate network?

So where do you start? What should you focus on? We’re here to guide you in the right direction.

1. Start With the Partners: Find Advertisers

If you don’t have access to any compelling offers, you can be sure that you won’t attract any marketers to your network. They won’t be lured by promises—there are so many networks out there. 

Marketers already have their pick of partners in the affiliate network space that can help them earn good money. What’s even worse for you is the fact that the number of experienced digital marketers is limited. And this makes them pretty busy.

They don’t have time to scan millions of offers to find a good one. It’s more comfortable—and often more profitable—for them to join an already established network that has a set of high-quality, converting offers. 

Partnership in affiliate marketing

Specialize in a vertical to attract more partners

Just as it’s wise for affiliate marketers to specialize in a vertical—for example, mobile games, apps, etc—the same applies to affiliate networks. There’s not much success to be had in trying to position yourself broadly.

Starting an affiliate network specializing in a few verticals is always a good idea. This way, you can find experts within those domains who will be interested in finding offers that they know how to promote.

Affiliate networks give brands access to some of the most successful marketers out there, who wouldn’t be willing to work with them exclusively. And they can promote their products effectively. That’s why there’s still demand for experienced marketers who can make that sales chart go sky high straight away.

So, if they won’t come to you that easily, how do you start? By establishing partnerships with advertisers. “Which” advertisers is quite important here, to be honest. Of course, big brands with big budgets and high demand would be perfect, but they are probably too big to start working with another affiliate network. Most likely, they’re already working with some and are happy with them.

That’s why a niche or a vertical can be your main advantage. Find partners within the niche—some that are already experiencing a nice amount of traffic—and establish a relationship with them. 

How Can You Protect Your Advertisers Brand Reputation?

With affiliate advertising, advertisers don’t look like they have that much to lose. If you don’t make any sales, they don’t pay a thing. But the truth is more complicated and you should still be careful. They can be worried about their ad placements and will definitely monitor referrals—i.e., where the traffic is coming from.

Let’s give you a vivid example. Last year, YouTube experienced losses due to some major brands leaving their advertising platform. Why? Because some brands’ ads appeared with inappropriate videos and that put them in a, well, bad light, to say the least. Even in the niches, if the advertiser considers their product to be their brand, they will be super cautious about ad placement.

Don’t forget about fraud

Ad fraud can be a serious problem for affiliate networks. While cost models like CPM can protect networks from feeling the financial burden of ad fraud, advanced fraud common in mobile acquisition and lead gen campaigns are another matter. 

If your affiliates are sending you nothing but bot traffic, then you can quickly lose advertisers when they see few results, or worse payout for junk leads that never bring any profits. That’s where you need an anti-fraud tool to block the harmful bots.   

Ask yourself a very important question… Are You Experienced Enough to Build an Affiliate Network?

Is there something that you can offer the advertisers? Exactly. If you are just a beginner, you don’t have anything, actually. So for beginners who have heard about affiliate networks and think that this might be their thing, some advice: gain experience in online marketing and sales first. Running an e-commerce store or going from zero to hero as an affiliate marketer would be perfect.

Why? Because if you know how to drive traffic and conversions to your partners’ offers, you can offer them just that. It’s a common practice—first show that your network brings profits, and from that point, you’ll be able to move to step number two, which is…

2. Find Affiliates

After working with advertisers and proving that your network is profitable, to build your affiliate network you need to find affiliates that will help you maintain the performance while you start to minimize your own efforts in advertising.

When pitching your network to affiliates, you need to have some solid numbers. They want to know whether the offers are worth their time. But you know that, right? That’s why you’ve started promoting on your own. 

What should you do if the offers aren’t that good? If they have some potential, work with your partners to optimize them—change copy, visuals etc. Other wise, I’m afraid you’ll just have to go out and find some better ones. 

Good offers can build up interest, but there’s more to the success of an affiliate network. For example, the payment structure—it should be transparent. You need to make sure that all the commissions and pricing are clear to the affiliate. To keep the marketers with you, you’ll need to be as flexible with the payments as you can. 

Pay them on time and when they want it, or, again, set clear rules that they can accept. Moreover, negotiate good conditions with the advertisers and offer the maximum possible commission.

That’s a lot of effort—and we’re not done yet. Next: How do you know how everything is performing?

3. Keep Track of Your Network

You need to track every aspect of the network’s performance and be accurate in doing it. After all, behind conversions or other goals is real money. You’ll want to use a reliable tracker that supports affiliate networks.

Voluum supports the part of the tracking that affiliate networks need. We are seeing an increase in the number of affiliate networks that want to base their analytics on our infrastructure. Of course, you can’t run your whole network with Voluum only, but our clients are happy with the tracking capabilities.

With the new Collaboration Tools, you can use the whole suite—Workspaces, Multi-User, and Shared Reports—to keep up with all the sides of your business.

Workspaces feature in Voluum

A. Assign users to workspaces

Workspaces and multi-users allow you to provide limited access to affiliates who sign up with your network. 

You can use Workspaces to group offers in any way you want and to show them to the affiliates of your choice. You can also share all your offers and even lander elements if some of your partners include landing pages.

With Multi-User, you can invite affiliates to track their own performance and work on their offers. Even if they use the same offers, they’ll see only the results that they’ve generated.

B. Share real-time reports

In the meantime, you can use Shared Reports to get in sync with your advertisers. This feature allows you to share all the data you choose with just one link. So you can generate a real-time report to make sure that your data and your partner’s is instantly synchronized.

You can also use these real-time reports to let the affiliates see their performance if they choose to use another tracking solution.

Shared Reports is a really powerful solution that more and more affiliate networks are using.

Alternative – provide campaign URLs to affiliates

There is an alternative system that doesn’t require adding all your affiliates as users. Instead, you create a campaign for each offer that an affiliate registers for. That could be a direct linking offer or an offer with a lander. 

Next, give the affiliate the campaign URL for the campaign you just created. From the affiliate’s perspective, it is their offer URL and they can use it in their own tracker if they like.   

Collaboration Tools – Voluum Affiliate Tracker

Do you want to be a co-creator of the brand-new tool for managing your own affiliate network?

We at Voluum know all there is to know about tracking. Managing your affiliate network requires the same stability, intuitive UI and robust database as tracking your affiliate campaigns. That is why we decided to use our experience to build PowerAff – a state-of-the art tool for affiliate network owners designed by industry experts.

We listen to the needs of our customers and we listen well. If you want to join our open beta, visit the PowerAff website and sign up. We can guarantee – your voice will be heard, and you’ll have a chance to shape this tool specifically for your needs.

Does building your own affiliate network seem simple?

If you have some experience in digital marketing, then yes, running an affiliate network can be simple. On the technical level, at least. 

You just get Voluum, plug in both sides of the business, and manage all that stuff in between. In real life, however, it won’t come easy. The beginning can be harsh, but over time, as you get higher-profile partners, it can become a walk in the park. And a highly profitable one.

Get access to Collaboration Tools. Select a plan and Register for Voluum today.

Key Insights:

  • Before you build an affiliate network, it’s best to have digital marketing experience
  • Niche networks, focused on a few verticals are easier to run, manage, and scale
  • You should start by running the network by yourself
  • Then, it’s time to look for advertisers
  • With advertisers, you can pitch the network to the affiliates
  • An accurate and reliable tracking solution is crucial to running an affiliate network
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