Affiliate Programs vs. Affiliate Networks 2023

Affiliate Programs vs. Affiliate Networks 2023 

We’ve mentioned affiliate programs and affiliate networks numerous times in this article, but it’s important to understand the difference between the two because they operate in different ways.

Affiliate programs are generally set up by brands and it’s up to the brands and sellers to work together within the affiliate program’s requirements to ensure that it’s successful for both parties. Affiliate programs that aren’t run by affiliate networks are generally handled by the brand itself, and sellers must contact brands on an individual basis to become a part of their affiliate program.

Affiliate networks, however, manage affiliate programs on behalf of brands, and sellers generally sign up to affiliate networks so they can be a part of all of the affiliate programs that the affiliate network represents. There are multiple different widely-used affiliate networks (which we mention in greater detail down below) and it’s up to the affiliate networks to vet both the brands as well as the sellers they work with.

This vetting process can make it more difficult for sellers to work with affiliate networks because they often only make themselves accessible to influencers with a large reach and social following, however, it can also lead to greater rewards for both the sellers and the brands. Sellers will have access to prestigious brand affiliate programs that are high-quality, professional, well-managed, and profitable and brands will get access to sellers with large social followings which increases their potential for successful revenue generation. If you’re a brand interested in starting your own affiliate program, check out our How to Start an Affiliate Program for Your Ecommerce Store article.


  • There aren’t always any requirements to be met
  • Sometimes no approval process is required
  • Typically only working with one affiliate program at a time
  • Can make managing programs tedious, if working with many on an individual basis
  • Can sometimes lead to a less-professional or volatile experience as brands aren’t held to a network’s standard
  • Oftentimes affiliate programs must be sought out, which can take time and effort to source
  • Depending on the program, some brands may reach out to you on an individual basis to be a part of their affiliate program


  • Strict requirements must be met
  • Must be approved to the network
  • A greater offering of brands is usually available through the network
  • Can find retailers that are a great fit for your own brand
  • Brands can reach out to you more easily
  • It’s often a more professional, mediated and controlled experience
  • Makes for easy management of affiliate programs, if using multiple affiliate programs within that one network

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