Understanding Affiliate Marketing Lingo (Glossary of Terms)
I get a lot of newer, aspiring affiliates on the Sugarrae site and when you've never done affiliate marketing before, all of the terms can get a little confusing. So I created this glossary of affiliate marketing terms to help newer affiliates and bloggers understand the terminology used within the industry.
Above the Fold
The section of a website or blog that appears in a browser when someone lands on a page on your site without them having to scroll.
This is the company that produces the products or services that you promote as an affiliate. More commonly referred to as the Merchant.
Also referred to as “spyware”. Adware is usually included in free computer programs users download without realizing the Adware is also part of the package. In many cases, the advertisements are unwanted and difficult to get rid of, even after uninstalling the offending program. Most merchants will not work with affiliates who want to promote their offers via Adware. Get more information on affiliate adware.
An individual who promotes products or services for a merchant in exchange for receiving compensation for the sales or leads they drive. See my post on how affiliate marketing works for additional information.
The agreement between the merchant and the affiliate regarding the affiliate relationship. It usually defines the roles, rules, responsibilities and legalities of the relationship on both sides.
A link provided to you by the merchant that includes a unique tracking code specifically assigned to you for the merchant to track the sales you are responsible for generating for them.
The person who manages an affiliate program for a merchant. They are responsible for affiliate recruitment, ensuring that the affiliates are using above board promotional methods and for increasing affiliate sales for the merchant. They also act as the liaison between the affiliate and the merchant. The affiliate manager may work directly for the merchant or be an independent service provider contracted by the merchant to run their affiliate program. Also referred to as an OPM.
A third party who provides affiliate program management to a merchant. Affiliate networks provide the technology for tracking affiliate efforts, ensure that sales are properly tracked, commissions are paid to affiliates, handle reporting for both the merchant and individual affiliates and help expose the merchant to potential affiliates for their products and services. You can find a list of the more mainstream affiliate networks here.
A program offered by a merchant to allow individuals to recommend or refer people to their products or services in exchange for the person doing so receiving a commission based upon a predefined desired outcome generated by the referral. The “individuals” sending the referrals are called affiliates.
A software program that a merchant can use to run their own affiliate program in house as opposed to using an affiliate network that helps the merchant track affiliate efforts and generate affiliate reporting.
A unique ID attached to the links you use to send traffic to the merchant that is specifically for you to track your sales for or referrals to the merchant. Example of affiliate tracking in a link: merchant.com/?ID=YourUniqueID – get more information about affiliate tracking and how to implement it here.
Another word for affiliate.
Merchants approve or deny affiliates entry to their program in one of two ways – via automatic approval or manual approval. Auto-approval means they approve all affiliate applications automatically and instantly.
A graphical ad that an affiliate puts on their website to advertise a merchant.
Refers to a product being returned or a sale “falling through” that you were already paid for. Since the sale didn't actually finalize, the merchant will deduct the amount you were previously given in commission for that sale from your affiliate commissions. In lead generation, this can also occur if the merchant decides the leads sent were unqualified or fraudulent in nature.
In regards to affiliate marketing, click fraud most often refers to generating “fake” clicks to a merchant program that is based on a PPC compensation method. The fake clicks (which can be generated in a manual or automated fashion) have no chance of converting for the merchant since the traffic clicking the ads have no real interest in the product or service the merchant is selling.
Also sometimes spelled as “Click Thru”. This refers to the act of someone clicking on your affiliate link and being taken to the merchant's website.
Click-through Rate (CTR)
Also sometimes spelled as “Click Thru Rate”. A metric used to show the number of times your affiliate link has been clicked on compared to the number of times the link has been viewed displayed as a percentage. To find your CTR, simply take the number of clicks the link has received and divide it by the number of impressions (times the link was shown) and times the result by 100 to get your CTR percentage. Example – if you are displaying a banner ad that has had 100 impressions and received 1 click, then you would take 1 (clicks) and divide it by 100 (impressions) to get .01 (result) and multiply that by 100 to arrive at a CTR of 1%.
Hiding content on a webpage or hiding affiliate tracking code in links. Hiding content on a webpage is bad as it is against the guidelines of the mainstream search engines such as Google. Hiding affiliate tracking in a link is an acceptable and widely used practice. If you'd like more information, I wrote an article on why and how I cloak affiliate links.
Refers to a text link placed within your website or blog content versus a link that is placed in the sidebar as a more traditional advertisement.
Some merchants will create a specific and custom landing page for an affiliate to send referrals to that contains both the merchant's branding and the referring affiliate's branding. Example – a merchant might create a page on the merchant's website that shows a lead form that contains both the merchant's logo and the specific affiliate's logo on the page. This is referred to as Co-branding. Many times merchants limit Co-Branding opportunities to only being available to Super Affiliates.
The predefined money or fee a merchant pays an affiliate for generating a predefined, desired outcome for the merchant.
Getting a user to take a specific, desired action. It could be buying a product or service, filling out a form, signing up for an email list or whatever the intended goal may be.
A metric used to show the number of times your affiliate link has generated a predefined conversion compared to the number of times the link has been viewed displayed as a percentage. To find your conversion rate take the amount of sales a link has generated and divide it by the number of impressions the link received and multiple the result by 100 to get your conversion rate percentage. Example – if your link was viewed 100 times and generated 2 sales, then you would take 2 (sales) and divide if by 100 (impressions) to get .02 (result) and multiply that by 100 to get a conversion rate of 2%.
A text file that is sent from a website to a file within a user's web browser. Cookies are used for various reasons on the web as a whole. In regards to affiliate marketing, Cookies are used to assign an ID to a user that has clicked on your affiliate link to get to a merchant website for a predefined period. If the user returns within that predefined period (whether or not they click on your affiliate link again) then you will be credited with the sale. Example – a user clicks your affiliate link (cookie gets “dropped” to their browser) and then bookmarks the merchant's website to buy later. The user returns before the Cookie Expiration and makes the purchase. You would receive credit – and this commission – on the sale.
The amount of time a Cookie set by someone clicking on your affiliate link has to show a conversion before you are no longer credited with a sale even if that user eventually ends up making a purchase. The standard length of a Cookie is typically between 30-90 days. Anything below 30 is considered low/short while anything above 90 is considered to be healthily above average.
A practice that underhandedly deposits cookies from merchants onto users computers when the user has never visited the merchant through the affiliate's link and potentially may not have even the affiliate's website. Cookie stuffing is done with the intent of stuffing as many cookies as possible onto as many user computers as possible in the hopes that they eventually come accross the merchant website and make a purchase. The larger and broader the merchant, the more likely that is to occur (think Amazon). Cookie stuffing is heavily looked down upon by legitimate affiliates and most merchants ban affiliates using cookie stuffing in their affiliate agreements.
Cost Per Action (also referred to as Cost Per Acquisition). Refers to the amount of money paid to obtain a desired outcome (usually something like a sale or signup).
Cost Per Click. Refers to the amount of money paid to generate a click by a user on one of your links. Example – if you spent $200 on an ad campaign and received 100 clicks on that campaign, then your CPC would be .50 cents (clicks generated / campaign cost = CPC).
Cost Per Thousand. Refers to the amount of money it costs to display an advertisement per 1000 impressions. Example – if you wanted to buy advertising on a website that offered their advertising at a $6 CPM and you wanted that ad to show 10,000 times, then you would need to pay $60 (desired impressions / 1000 * CPM) for that advertising.
A type of graphical ad or text link provided to the affiliate for use in promoting the affiliate program.
Also referred to as a commission. A bounty is the predefined money or fee a merchant pays an affiliate for generating a predefined, desired outcome for the merchant.
A file that contains a listing of all products a merchant sells. This will typically include images of the products, descriptions for the products, the price of the products, your affiliate links for the products, etc. Affiliate datafeeds are often used to make online stores featuring affiliate products.
A page or notice on your website or blog that makes your site visitors aware if you are being paid or compensated (via affiliate marketing or any other methods) for any purchasing recommendations or product or service endorsements you make on your site. A disclosure is required if you're doing affiliate marketing to be in accordance with FTC laws. You'll find more on that here.
An affiliate link with the specific intent of being utilized in an email advertisement.
Stands for Earnings Per Click. Your earnings per click is the average amount you earn every time someone clicks on your affiliate link. To find your EPC you would take the amount you have generated in commissions from an affiliate link and divide it by the total number of clicks that link received. Example – if an affiliate link has generated $4000 in sales over the lifetime of your affiliate relationship and the same link was clicked on 12,000 times, then you would divide $4,000 (sales) by 12,000 (clicks) to get an EPC of 33 cents. This means you earn an average of 33 cents each time someone clicks on your affiliate link.
In affiliate marketing, first click is often used to describe an affiliate program where the first affiliate to get a user to click a link and make a purchase within the limits of the cookie expiration is the one to be credited with the sale, even if the user landed on another affiliate's website and actually converted after clicking on a link from the second site. There has long been a debate between whether first click or last click is most beneficial to both the affiliate and the merchant.
An impression is measure of how many times a ad is shown on a page. For every time the ad is shown, one impression will be counted.
Refers to a merchant who runs their affiliate program by themselves using an Affiliate Software and not by using an Affiliate Network.
Short for “independent affiliate program” and refers to a merchant who runs their affiliate program in house themselves using Affiliate Software and not via an Affiliate Network.
Joint Venture (JV)
This typically refers to a business relationship for one event, product or project versus an ongoing, more permanent relationship. Example – if two well known bloggers were to create a single product together and market it simultaneously as a joint effort, it would be referred to as a Joint Venture or JV partnership.
In affiliate marketing, last click is often used to describe an affiliate program where the last affiliate to get a user to click a link and make a purchase is the one to be credited with the sale – even if a valid cookie from a prior click on a different affiliate's link still exists on the users computer. There has long been a debate between whether first click or last click is most beneficial to both the affiliate and the merchant.
Merchants approve or deny affiliates entry to their program in one of two ways – via automatic approval or manual approval. Manual approval means that the merchant or affiliate manager for the program look at each individual application for entry to their program before deciding whether or not to approve them for participation in the program.
Master Affiliate Network
This is the company that produces the products or services that you promote as an affiliate. Less commonly referred to as the Advertiser.
A specific topic or vertical. Example – if you own a site about dogs, then your niche would be dogs – as well as pets in the broader definition of a niche.
Outsourced Program Manager. Also known as an Affiliate Manager.
The percentage of people who subscribe to your mailing list out of the total number of people who were presented with the opportunity. If 100 people see your email list subscription form and 1 person signs up, you'd have an opt-in rate of 1%. See more information about how I increased my opt-in conversion rate 56+% here.
Stands for Pay Per Sale. In a PPS based affiliate program, the affiliate is paid a commission whenever an actual sale is generated.
Stands for Pay Per Lead. In a PPL based affiliate program, the affiliate is paid a commission whenever a lead is generated. A lead could be a form filled out, a quote requested or whatever else the merchant has specifically identified as a commissionable lead.
Stands for Pay Per Click. In a PPC based affiliate program, the affiliate is paid a commission whenever someone clicks on their affiliate link to the merchant, whether or not a sale or lead is generated. Pay Per Click can also refer to an advertising option like Google AdWords.
The dollar amount of commissions an affiliate has to accrue before being paid. Some merchants set a minimum payment threshold themselves (to lower accounting costs by paying less frequently to people sending very few sales) while others allow the affiliate to do so (usually to avoid receiving frequent smaller checks and instead receive one larger one).
Point of Difference. This is the service, product, content, advantage or angle your website has versus competitors within the same niche that makes your website or blog different and stand out.
PLR stands for Private Label Rights. This refers to content that you can obtain and market it under your own brand, as being your own resource, and choose to edit as you see fit.
Refers to a term often used in affiliate reporting that allows you to see how many overall clicks have occurred on your affiliate link. Raw clicks show every click that occurs, even if it is the result of the same person clicking an affiliate link 8 times in a day. Raw clicks are often shown in conjunction with Unique Clicks to give an affiliate a fuller picture of affiliate link activity.
Most commonly offered by “Services”. With recurring commissions you are paid on the initial signup of the customer and continue to receive commissions as long as the customer continues to pay for the service. Example – if you refer a visitor to a hosting service that offers recurring commissions and they sign up, you will be paid a predefined commission for the initial signup and receive a predefined commission for every month the customer continues to stay with and pay their bill with that hosting program.
Also referred to as “lifetime commissions”. In an affiliate program that offers residual earnings, you are credited on the lifetime sales for any new customer you refer to them, indefinitely versus only being paid on the first, initial purchase made by the referral.
Stands for Return on Advertising Spending, also shortened many times to Return on Ad Spend and can also be referred to as ROI. It refers to the amount of money made as a result of a specific advertising campaign. To find the ROAS of a campaign, you take the revenue divide it by the ad spend and multiply the result by 100. The result is presented in percentage form. Example – if you spent $200 to run a campaign and you made a gross profit of $600, you would take $600 (revenue) and divide it by $200 (ad spend) to get 3 and then multiply that by 100 to get 300 – displayed as a 300% ROAS. The amount over 100% using this method of calculation is your profit. In this example, that would mean you received a 200% profit on the campaign.
Return on Investment. I can be calculated via the same method as ROAS, but in the interest of diversity, I'll show you an alternate option to calculate it. To calculate the ROI on a campaign, you can take the gross profit from running the campaign minus the cost of running the campaign and divide it by the cost of running the campaign and times it by 100 to get a percentage that the investment returned. Example – if you spent $200 to run a campaign and you made a gross profit of $600, you would take $600 (gross profit) – $200 (campaign cost) to get $400 and then divide $400 by $200 (campaign cost) to get 2 and multiply that by 100 to find a 200% ROI for the campaign.
Search Engine Optimization. The practice of optimizing your website to get it to show up higher in the search engines for specific topics and keywords.
Also referred to as CID tracking, MID tracking and TID tracking. “SID” is the abbreviation for the sub campaign tracking abilities offered by Commission Junction. Almost every mainstream network refers to it differently. SIDs allow you to create specific tracking codes for your affiliate links to track the success of a specific effort. I wrote a whole article about SID, CID, MID and TID tracking codes if you'd like more information about what they are and how they're used.
Also referred to as A/B testing. The process of testing two versions of content, sales copy or advertisements against one another to see which version performs better for whatever goal you're trying to achieve.
Refers to a page where designed to only have one goal or desired conversion in mind. Typically, squeeze pages remove any and all distractions for the desired goal. Example – navigation elements on the page may be removed to keep the user focused solely on the specific “pitch” being made.
Refers to the top affiliates in an affiliate program – usually the top 5% who combined typically generate more than 80% of the total sales for the affiliate program. In the early days of affiliate marketing, this term was also used to refer to affiliates who made more than $10,000 per month promoting various affiliate programs.
Refers to the kind of tracking a merchant or network uses to track affiliate activity, sales and leads.
Refers to a link that is formed by linking text to a webpage versus using a banner ad or other image to link to a webpage.
Same thing as affiliate tracking. A unique ID attached to the links you use to send traffic to the merchant that is specifically for you to track your sales for or referrals to the merchant. Example of a tracking code in a link: merchant.com/?ID=YOURUNIQUEID – You'll find an in-depth article on what affiliate tracking codes are and how to use them here.
Turnkey Websites / DFY
Turnkey websites – marketed by some as Done For You – are websites promoted under the premise that someone else will build you a site that you can purchase and then watch the checks from affiliate commissions roll in. I don't have a high opinion of these sites. More here.
A two-tier affiliate program allows affiliates to not only earn commissions on their own sales, but to also get a percentage of the commissions (usually much smaller) earned by people they've recruited into the affiliate program (either directly because they knew them or indirectly – meaning someone signed up to be an affiliate by using the first affiliate's link).
Refers to a term often used in affiliate reporting that allows you to see how many unique people have clicked on your affiliate link versus seeing all clicks (Raw Clicks) that have occurred. If a person on their home computer clicks your affiliate link 3 times, then 1 of those clicks would be considered a unique click. What is defined as unique typically resets after 24 hours with most programs. So, if that same person in the above example comes back 6 days later and clicks on your affiliate link 1 more time, they would now account for 4 raw clicks and 2 unique clicks.
Whitelabeling refers to a merchant allowing an affiliate to sell products under their own brand with no mention of the actual merchant. Visitors to the affiliate's website would likely believe it was the affiliate who was actually selling the items or taking the leads since there is no mention of an outside merchant. This typically occurs by the merchant creating a website branded solely to the affiliate on their own server under their control and allowing the affiliate to “mask” that website as appearing to be a subdomain on the affiliate website. Many times merchants limit Whitelabeling opportunities to only being available to Super Affiliates.
This stands for Warrior Special Offer and is specific to Warrior Forum – an affiliate forum site. Offers listed under the WSO board are supposed to be special offers made by members to promote their content with special deals. The true value of WSO opportunities is debated online, so proceed with caution.
If you feel like I missed anything or need to add something, please let me know in the comments below!
Please note – I use affiliate links on this site. This means I might earn a commission if you click on a link and sign up for something.