Affiliate Links Explained

Why do we have affiliate links?
An ‘affiliate link’ is a special URL that contains your unique affiliate ID (or Network Affiliate ID when working with a network). You use them when driving traffic to a particular place. Vendors use affiliate links to track who sent traffic to their websites. This is how they know to whom to credit a sale. As an affiliate, you will use these links as part of your advertising efforts be they through social networking sites, pay per click ads, your own website, etc.

 What do affiliate links look like?

Affiliate links look like any other URL or hyperlink, except that they contain additional key bits of information (e.g. your unique site or affiliate ID, plus the ID of the particular offer or landing page you are advertising – thus allowing the customer to land on the correct page). The placement of these elements in the string varies depending on the vendor or network. For instance, Commission Junction (CJ) places the site ID before the offer ID, whereas Google Affiliate Network does the opposite.  This is important to remember when using affiliate links for if you get it wrong, you may inadvertently credit some other affiliate with your sales! Regardless, all affiliate links function the same way. They identify you, and where you want people to go. In addition, affiliate links are used to plant the ‘cookie’ with your unique affiliate information on your customer’s computer. This way, if the customer purchases something in the future, the vendor will know to whom to credit the sale.

Example of a Commission Junction affiliate link:

In the above example, the number 4240873 is your affiliate site ID.  The number 3215923 is the destination page on a vendors website.

Example of a GAN (Google Affiliate Network) link:

In the above example, the number 123456 is the destination page on a vendors website.  The number 777444 is your network affiliate ID.


Advanced Technique; Additional URL Parameter

All affiliate networks offer an additional parameter (i.e. space for another set of numbers/characters) in the affiliate link string allowing you to use it for whatever purpose you like.   This is geared more toward the advanced affiliate, who may insert various tracking strings/numbers to see where particular sales came from, etc.   The usefulness of this will become more apparent to you as your overall knowledge of affiliate marketing increases.  Each network has a different name for this extra parameter (see below).

Affiliate Network Tracking Parameter
Commission Junction (CJ) sid
Google Affiliate Network (GAN) mid
LinkShare u1
ShareaSale (SaS) afftrack
EpicDirect/AzoogleAds sub
Ebay customid
Pepperjam Network sid
OneNetworkDirect subid1


Example affiliate links with tracking parameter
PJN UniqueID?sid=123456

In all these links our tracking parameter is ‘123456’ but it could be any other value. You should always check the network documentation for the exact acceptable values of the tracking parameters. This tracking parameter is so important in becoming a super affiliate that I will cover it again in more details.

Affiliate links may seem intimidating at first, but once you break them down and become familiar with the various elements you will find they are quite logical and easy to work with.  I hope you have found this information useful, and will visit again for more fantastic affiliate marketing tips!

5 comments on “Affiliate Links Explained
  1. Neil Thomas says:

    How do I get an affiliate ID?

  2. Good question! To get an affiliate ID you have to join an affiliate network or an affiliate program. This is very easy, just pick a network or affiliate program and fill the online form to become a new affiliate/publisher. Sometimes an affiliate is also called a publisher. For example, you can join it is free and an excellent way to learn about affiliate links. Best!

  3. Evan Toder says:

    Advice to all new affiliates is AVOID joining an affiliate program for a single website or product. Stick with the larger affiliate networks like CJ, Clickbank etc. The reason for that is there is a LOT of dishonest companies that will rip you off and shave commissions. Larger affiliate networks don’t do this. I am Evan from affiliateswitchblade Hope this helps.

  4. Linwood Toyne says:

    Hi, regarding affiliate marketing – do you have recommendations about improving conversions on a varied site? I own a image sharing webpage and as such it’s extremely to match products to the visitor. regards

  5. Hi Linwood,

    Many techniques to improve conversion. A powerful one is A/B testing. Measure conversion under A and compare to B. Keep highest conversion. Rinse and repeat.


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