Some merchants run their own (in-house) affiliate programs using dedicated software, while others use third-party intermediaries to track traffic or sales that are referred from affiliates. There are two different types of affiliate management methods used by merchants: standalone software or hosted services, typically called affiliate networks. Payouts to affiliates or publishers can be made by the networks on behalf of the merchant, by the network, consolidated across all merchants where the publisher has a relationship with and earned commissions or directly by the merchant itself.

Affiliate programs are arrangements where an online merchant that’s selling products pays an affiliate website a commission for any sales generated from their referral traffic. The affiliate website places affiliate links pointing to the merchant’s site to track transactions. Each agreement between an affiliate and a merchant features the commission structure and payout information.
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