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Affiliate Software vs. Affiliate Network: 5 key differences 

Affiliate marketing is one of the most common marketing models today. Authority Hacker estimated that over 81% of businesses launch at least 01 affiliate program to raise brand awareness and boost sales. 

When it comes to creating an affiliate program, there are 02 main options to choose from: 

  • Affiliate Network
  • Affiliate Program

This article will make clear their difference, and which one is more suitable for your business. 

Summary: the difference between Affiliate Software vs. Affiliate Network

Here is a brief of all the things you need to consider while choosing a platform that is suitable for your program.

FeatureAffiliate Software Affiliate Network
Definition Software platforms facilitating affiliate program management.Intermediary platforms connecting merchants and affiliates.
ControlThe company has full control of every aspect of the program. Affiliate networks and companies share partial control of the affiliate program.
CostSubscription (monthly-based or yearly-based). Cancel anytime. Net work requires set-up costs, maintenance fees, and a share of affiliate commission. 
Easy of useAffiliate managers need to learn to run the software. Affiliate programs from brands look alike in almost every aspect. 
Affiliates reachThe brand actively reaches out to affiliates. There are affiliates ready to work with any company in the network.

A management platform will stay along with your program for years. Choosing a suitable one is the first step in creating a program that converts.

What is an Affiliate Network

An affiliate network is a platform that connects merchants (those selling products/services) with affiliates (those promoting products/services) in a centralized marketplace.

In simple terms, it acts as an intermediary, facilitating partnerships between merchants and affiliates.

Affiliate networks typically offer a wide range of products or services from various merchants, giving affiliates multiple options to choose from.

Affiliates join the network and can browse through available merchants and their respective affiliate programs.

Examples of affiliate networks include Commission Junction, ShareASale, and Rakuten Marketing.

Pros of Affiliate Networks

  • Ease of finding affiliates: Networks streamline the process of finding affiliates by providing a pre-established pool.
  • Program promotion: Networks actively promote credible programs to their affiliates. 
  • Help on online visibility: Simply, programs that are listed on such networks have a better presence on SERP, which is later transmitted into databases of various well-known program directories. 
  • Affiliate Management: Networks handle repetitive administrative tasks. It includes providing links, tracking sales, and managing payouts.

Cons of Affiliate Networks

  • Costly: Networks levy various fees, including joining fees, a cut of commission payout, and maintenance fees. 
  • Limited Control: The brand can make major changes (that go beyond the network’s framework) 
  • Competitive: Affiliates may prioritize high-paying programs. 
  • Weak bond with affiliates: With most communication tasks done automatically and affiliate interference and lack of brand vibe, it’s difficult for affiliates to have a particular connection with the brand.  

What is an Affiliate Marketing Software

Affiliate software, also known as affiliate tracking software or affiliate management software, is a tool used by merchants to manage their own affiliate programs.

It enables merchants to create, track, and manage their affiliate programs independently, without relying on a third-party network.

Merchants can use affiliate software to set up commission structures, provide promotional materials, track affiliate referrals, and process affiliate payments.

Affiliate software is typically installed directly on the merchant’s website or hosted on a separate platform.

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Pros of Affiliate Software    

  • Cost-effective in the long term: Software typically requires a monthly or yearly subscription fee – with no additional fee. 
  • Full control over affiliate programs: Businesses have control over all aspects of the program. 
  • Very few limits on customization: Brands can customize their program in any way they want, as long as the developer can do it. 
  • Enhance relationship with affiliates: Software streamlines direct communication and engagement with affiliates, solidifying strong partnerships.

 Cons of Affiliate Software

  • Affiliate Recruitment: Businesses must actively recruit affiliates, requiring additional promotional efforts.
  • It takes time to learn about the software:  It takes time and effort to learn how to use affiliate software effectively.
  • Technical Issues: Sometimes affiliate software may have technical problems or stop working, which can disrupt tracking and payments.

05 key differences between Affiliate Software vs. Affiliate Networks 


Here’s a breakdown of the differences between affiliate software and affiliate networks:

1. Purpose

  • Affiliate Software: Individual businesses typically use Affiliate software to manage their affiliate programs in-house. It helps merchants track affiliate activities, manage commissions, and provide marketing materials to affiliates.
  • Affiliate Networks: Affiliate networks act as intermediaries between merchants and affiliates. They bring together a variety of merchants and affiliates on one platform, allowing merchants to promote their products or services to a wider audience of affiliates.

2. Control

  • Affiliate Software: Businesses have full control over their affiliate program when using affiliate software. They can customize commission structures, branding, and program rules according to their needs.
  • Affiliate Networks: Merchants have less control over their affiliate programs within affiliate networks. They must adhere to the network’s terms and conditions and may have limited flexibility in setting commission rates or program rules.

3. Affiliate Reach

  • Affiliate Software: Businesses using affiliate software are responsible for recruiting and managing their affiliates. They have the task of finding suitable affiliates who match their target audience and promotional strategies.
  • Affiliate Networks: Affiliate networks provide access to a pool of affiliates already registered with the network. Merchants can tap into this existing network of affiliates, potentially reaching a broader audience without the need for individual affiliate recruitment efforts.

4. Cost

  • Affiliate Software: The cost of affiliate software typically involves an initial setup fee or purchase cost, along with ongoing maintenance or subscription fees. Costs may vary depending on the features and scale of the software.
  • Affiliate Networks: Joining an affiliate network may involve setup fees or transactional fees for each sale or lead generated through the network. Additionally, some networks may charge monthly subscription fees for access to their platform.

5. Ease of Use

  • Affiliate Software: Businesses using affiliate software have full control over the platform’s features and functionalities. They can tailor the software to their specific needs and preferences, but this may require some technical expertise.
  • Affiliate Networks: Affiliate networks offer a ready-made platform with built-in features for managing affiliate programs. Merchants may find affiliate networks easier to use initially, as they don’t need to set up and maintain their software. However, they have fewer customization options compared to dedicated affiliate software.

What is suitable for your business?   

Deciding between affiliate networks and affiliate software will depend on your business’s unique needs and objectives. 

Affiliate Networks are ideal for businesses that require a large number of affiliate partners to promote their products or services. However, it’s important to note that: 

  • There are usually fees or commissions paid to the network in addition to affiliate payouts.
  • Compared to using in-house software, there may be limited control over affiliate recruitment and program management when working with an affiliate network.

Affiliate software is an ideal solution for businesses that want to have greater control over their affiliate program, more customization options, and direct management of their affiliate relationships. You should consider these factors before launching one: 

  • It is important to note that using affiliate software typically requires more effort in recruiting and managing affiliates compared to leveraging an existing network. 
  • Additionally, the initial setup and implementation of the software may require technical expertise or additional resources.

I have been working in marketing for four years, passionate about creative writing and copy writing. Love to be alone at watersides, sip coffee, play games or read anything that is thought provoking.


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