Web Marketing

What Are Affiliate Programs?

Bloggers Can Make Serious Money Via Affiliate Programs

If you’ve ever spent some time on blogs, you’ve probably come across something like this.  “In this interest of full disclosure, some of the links or banners below are affiliate links and I may receive commission should you click a link and/or make a purchase.”  You might not have even noticed it, but you’ve probably come across something like it.  Even top publishers are required to include a statement like that at the beginning of a post containing affiliate links or ads.  These statements are known as disclosure agreements and they ensure readers are swindled into making purchases without knowing who gets the money from that purchase.  Though you now know what that statement at the top of a blog post is all about, you’re probably still wondering what affiliate programs are.  Without further ado, here’s what an affiliate program is.

Affiliate Programs: Using Sleeve-A-Message as an Example

To communicate what an affiliate program is as clearly and effectively as possible, I’ve decided to use Sleeve-A-Message, a St. Louis-based company specializing in custom printed coffee sleeves and coasters, as an example.

Meet the Advertiser

In an affiliate program, there are always at least two parties: the advertiser and the publisher.  The advertiser basically creates the affiliate program.  In this case, Sleeve-A-Message is the advertiser.  In many cases, especially pre-internet, a program like Sleeve-A-Message would go directly to news stations, publishers, or enthusiastic customers and entice them to market their product by offering them commission on the sales linked to their marketing and sales efforts.  Now, a company like Sleeve-A-Message would, more than likely, use a third party to reach publishers.

So, Sleeve-A-Message wants to get the message out about their custom printed coffee sleeves and custom printed coasters.  The first thing they’ll do is find an affiliate program.  For example, CJ Affiliate allows advertisers like Sleeve-A-Message to create campaigns to entice publishers to market their products.  Publishers, also linked to CJ Affiliate, will be able to apply to join Sleeve-A-Message’s campaign.  Sleeve-A-Message can post links, interactive banners, or just plain old picture ads to CJ Affiliate.

Meet the Publisher

In this example, we’ll use a travel blog, TravelUpdate.com.  A blogger on TravelUpdate will apply to join CJ Affiliate.  Once approved to become a publisher on CJ Affiliate, they can then apply to join a company or organization’s marketing or affiliate campaign.  If approved, the publisher will then be able to see the links, interactive banners, or picture ads the company (Sleeve-A-Message) has posted to their campaign.  The blogger over on TravelUpdate.com will then be able to select from a variety of Sleeve-A-Message ads including links and banner ads which they can include in blog posts or throughout their website.

The Benefits of Affiliate Programs

It’s pretty obvious to see how affiliate programs benefit the advertiser.  The advertiser can effectively get links and ads out via publishers.  These links and ads funnel traffic to the publisher (Sleeve-A-Message) and that should equate to more sales.  But how do affiliate programs benefit publishers?  As I alluded to above, publishers earn commission on sales or just clicks.  When TravelUpdate posts a Sleeve-A-Message link on one of their posts, they have the opportunity to earn commission via clicks or sales.  Depending on the advertiser, publishers earn commission via clicks or leads, however, most commission is typically earned through sales.  Commission is tracked via the affiliate link.  It’s also important to know that just because someone clicks a link but decides not to make a purchase at the moment, it doesn’t mean they haven’t given the publisher any commission.  Affiliate links typically come with a tracking cookie that will generate ads to the advertiser because the consumer had clicked one of their links recently.  Depending on the duration of the cookie, you could still be generating commission for a publisher days after visiting an affiliate link.


Affiliate programs are beneficial to both advertisers and publishers.  Advertisers get their products out to consumers quick and inexpensively while publishers make some money.  Additionally, it’s somewhat beneficial to the consumer as consumers who enjoy a certain niche blog will receive relevant ads after visiting their favorite blogs.