The ultimate reference guide to affiliate marketing jargon
The affiliate marketing industry uses a LOT of homonyms – words that are spelled the same, often even pronounced the same, but have different meanings. Think of words like address, kind, rose and well. These homonyms, in addition to the vast amount of jargon used within the affiliate industry, contribute to affiliate marketing's reputation for being a rather confusing and complex marketing model.
In an effort to clarify and simplify the semantics of common affiliate marketing-related words, we've created this Affiliate Marketing Glossary that we hope you'll find helpful.
Affiliate: A person or company that uses trackable links to promote a brand's products or services in exchange for compensation (e.g. percentage of a sale). Affiliates are brand's marketing partners. They can be bloggers, active social media posters, niche content sites, personal website owners, product review websites, shopping sites, mobile apps, app-to-app marketing platforms, mass media sites, loyalty, voucher and reward websites, and even other brands. Affiliates are compensated by a brand only after delivering on a desired action (e.g. sale, lead, new customer, etc.).
Synonyms: Publisher, Partner, Performance Partner®
Affiliate Network: A type of affiliate technology provider. Affiliate networks create tracking links for affiliate to use in their marketing promotions, store creative such as images and pay affiliates who've driven a conversion. To varying degrees, affiliate networks also run reports of the affiliates' performance data. In addition, affiliates are able to join brands' affiliate programmes through an affiliate network; some affiliates even work exclusively through the affiliate network.
Affinity group rewards partners - Also known as benefits affiliates, deliver targeted brand promotions to a select affinity group such as health workers, students and employees.
Average Order Value (AOV): The average amount spent each time a customer places an order. It's calculated using the formula: Total revenue / number of orders.
Affiliate Software as a Service (SaaS) platform – Similar to affiliate networks, an affiliate SaaS platform is a type of affiliate technology provider. SaaS affiliate technology creates tracking links, tracks affiliates' performance, stores brand creative such as images, pays affiliates once they've driven a conversion and runs detailed data reports of affiliate activity and performance. Affiliates can also join brands' affiliate programmes through a SaaS platform.
A few key differences between most affiliate networks and SaaS solutions is that there are no exclusive affiliate partners to a SaaS platform and SaaS providers do not offer programme management services. Their focus is only on the performance marketing technology.
Affiliate Text link – A clickable, trackable link that displays words (text) up to a specific character limit. When clicked on, the user is directed to a website. That action is tracked through the affiliate text link and the data is monitored by an affiliate network or affiliate SaaS platform.
Basket Abandonment – When a customer has items in their online shopping basket, is on the checkout page, and decides to exit the website without completing a purchase or desired action.
Cashback Affiliates - Websites that offer consumers an amount of cashback in exchange for a desired action, typically a sale. These websites have a loyal following of consumers and are often brands in their own right.
Click – When a customer clicks on a hypertext link or banner on a website, tablet or mobile device.
Click Active – The number of affiliate partners that have at least one click during a given period. A click active percentage can be obtained using the formula: partners who have clicks divided by total partners.
Click Stream – The different clicks that a consumer makes before completing a purchase. This is a concept can be visualised with a straight line. The start of the line is the first click; the end of the line is the purchase. The clicks between first click and purchase (including the first click) comprise the click stream. Each "click" refers to a consumer clicking on a marketing ad.
Click Through Rate (CTR) - The percentage of people visiting a web page who click on a hypertext link in a particular advertisement. To calculate the CTR, the following formulas are used:
- For ads on a website: clicks divided by impressions
- For emails: clicks divided by opened emails
Commission – Money paid to an affiliate for a customer completing an action (i.e. a sale or lead generated) that they helped make happen.
Commission Rate – The percent of a sale an affiliate will receive as payout. For example, if your commission rate is 6% on a sale of £100, the commission rate would be £6. 100 x 0.06% =£6.
Content – An article that is editorial in nature. Content could be a blog, product or service review, a video, a social media posting, an image or pictures, or other form of information.
Content Affiliates – Partners whose main form of advertising a brand, product, or service is to create content (blog, review, social media post, editorial, etc.).
Conversion Rate (CR) –The average percent that a customer will convert on a sale, action, or lead. Conversions divided by orders (leads).
Cost Per Action (CPA) - The cost it takes to obtain an action or sale. Cost divided by actions (or sales).
Cost Per Click (CPC) - The average cost for a click. Costs divided by clicks.
Cost Per Thousand/Cost Per Mille (CPM) - Refers to cost per thousand impressions or email list size.
Deal Affiliates – An affiliate that promotes brands' offers (e.g. discount or other incentive) through images and descriptions. Deal site editors curate deeply discounted or Best of Web prices. Deal affiliates are often considered a hybrid of a coupon and content partner.
Email Affiliates - Manage or own large consumer databases. They have access to vast amounts of consumer demographic data and are able to segment their databases to run highly targeted campaigns.
Geo-Targeting – The process of identifying a group of customers by their geographical area and advertising to those customers in that specific area.
Incrementality* – An action or metric (like revenue) that would not have occurred without the action being taken. Incrementality is the ability to directly tie spend (or other efforts) to revenue produced (or any other KPI).
*a company's definition of incrementality will vary from one company to the next depending on goals and KPIs.
Influencer – A person who has a dedicated following on social media or blog readership whose audience trusts their opinions and recommendations. Influencers are often compensated by brands on a flat-fee basis (or free product) at the outset of the partnership before results have been delivered.
Influencer Network – Companies that can offer a breadth of resources, giving brands access to thousands of influencers within their network. Before being allowed to join, each influencer is thoroughly vetted by the influencer network.
Insertion Order (IO): An insertion order is a contract between two parties. The insertion order is a binding contract detailing the payment details and terms and is usually signed by the affiliate partner and brand directly. Insertion orders also are considered contracts in SaaS platforms with the designated commission rate, timeline and programme terms and conditions.
Keyword: Keywords are words or phrases that people type into a search engine to obtain relevant results. In affiliate marketing, keywords can be used to search for a specific brand or category on affiliate sites.
Lead Programme: In affiliate marketing, some companies use their affiliate programme to drive high-value leads for their business (often B2B companies). The objective is to reach an audience that's interested in the company's service by capturing their identifiable information. This identifiable information could captured through an email sign-up, a form-fill or other information submission form.
Loyalty Affiliates: Websites, apps or companies that actuate consumers with a reward in anticipation of a desired action, typically a sale. Other actions may include accepting free trial offers, signing up for a service or subscription and more. The rewards they offer vary based on business model and include redeemable points, airline miles, education fund accounts and applying rewards toward charitable organisations.
Mass Media - Mass media publishers are notable online and offline publications and media companies. They produce quality content and deliver it to their highly engaged, well-established audiences.
Offer: An offer is a promotion that a brand shares with their affiliate partners to promote. For example, jeans are £10 off today through Friday.
Pacing –distance from a goal, often displayed as a percentage. Current metric divided by goal. For example, if your goal is £100 and you have £75, you are pacing at 75% to goal or £75/£100. If a media package was booked with an affiliate partner for the month and the partner guaranteed a return on ad spend (ROAS) or a revenue goal, the brand would review revenue month-to-date and confirm if the partner is pacing to hit the expected goal.
Paid placements – Ads that appear on an affiliate's website or influencer's posts that are negotiated at a set price between the brand and the affiliate/influencer or between an affiliate marketing agency and the affiliate on behalf of the brand.
Paid Search Affiliates - Partners that specialise in PPC (Pay-Per-Click) advertising campaigns. They can complement existing search activity and run Product Listing Ads (PLAs) via the affiliate channel.
Partner: A person or company that uses trackable links to promote a brand's products or services in exchange for compensation (e.g. percentage of a sale). They can be bloggers, active social media posters, niche content sites, personal website owners, product review websites, shopping sites, mobile apps, app-to-app marketing platforms, mass media sites, loyalty, voucher and reward websites, and even other brands.
Synonyms: affiliate, publisher, Performance Partner®
Performance Partner® - An affiliate/partner that promotes a brand's product or service in an aligned, transparent way. Their activity is monitored by a link they use in their promotional efforts and tracked through a technology platform (e.g. SaaS). The performance partner is compensated only after they've delivered a desired result (e.g. a sale, a lead, a new customer, etc.).
Price Comparison Affiliates - They aggregate and compare advertiser data based on price, products, service and availability. This allows consumers to compare between different brands for similar products in order to make an informed decision on the best option for them.
Programmatic Marketing – A marketing strategy that uses an automated, real-time bidding process to purchase ad inventory; can help brands advertise to specific users in specific contexts.
Projections – An estimate of results for an outcome of a specific event or programme. For example, if a brand is planning to spend £10,000 for a homepage placement for a week with an affiliate partner, the brand will typically require a projection to tie back to their specific return on ad spend goal. If the brand must meet a £10.00 ROAS, the partner would need to drive £100,000 in revenue for the placement to be successful.
Publisher: A person or company that uses trackable links to promote a brand's products or services in exchange for compensation (e.g. percentage of a sale). Publishers are brand's marketing partners. They can be bloggers, active social media posters, niche content sites, personal website owners, product review websites, shopping sites, mobile apps, app-to-app marketing platforms, mass media sites, loyalty, voucher and reward websites, and even other brands. Publishers are compensated by a brand only after delivering on a desired action (e.g. sale, lead, new customer, etc.).
Synonyms: affiliate, partner, Performance Partner®
Push notification – Clickable pop-up messages that appear on users' browsers via a phone app, desktop or tablet. Many affiliate partners especially loyalty partners have their own APPS. They can market their push notification packages to engage with their app users and drive incremental traffic and revenue.
Quarterly Business Review (QBR) – A quarterly report and analysis of an affiliate programme; includes recommendations/strategies for the future.
Retargeting Affiliates - They have technology which allows advertisers to reach and re-engage with customers who visited their site but did not make a purchase. This usually takes the form of display advertising but could also be site overlays and pop-ups.
Return on Ad Spend (ROAS): Critical business metrics for online advertisers. Captures how effective media investment was in delivering positive value versus how much was spent on that media. ROAS is especially important to brands who want to identify which aspect of their media spend deserves more budget. Historically, brands have used ROAS to evaluate the effectiveness of a specific marketing campaign, ad group and even the overall effectiveness of a specific keyword.
Revenue – Money earned from the sale of a product or service
Sale Active – The number of affiliate partners who have driven one sale during a given period is calculated with the formula: Partners who have sales divided by total partners.
Search Engine Optimisation – The process of optimising a website to attract organic (un-paid) traffic from a search engine's results page.
Search Engine Marketing – The use of paid advertising and other marketing strategies to increase a website's position and visibility in search results. This is most often used in the context of paid search ads, which are ads on search engine sites like Google, Bing, and Yahoo.
Statement of Work (SOW): A contract that outlines the work one party will perform for the other.
Sub-Affiliate Network – A company that offers services and support to both brands and affiliates (content creators, bloggers, influencers, website owners, etc.) and helps these "sub-affiliates" monetise their blog, website, social channel, etc. on a cost per action (CPA) basis.
Sub-affiliate networks can help affiliates simplify the process of monetising their site by acting as the affiliate of record within a brand's affiliate programme. The sub-affiliate network provides the centralised link building, communications, reporting and payments from the brand to the sub-affiliates on their platform.
Technology Affiliates - Partners that can be added onto a brand's affiliate programme and paid through a performance basis for specific outcomes.
Brands can choose to partner with a variety of different types of technology affiliates, including:
- Site and basket abandonment/remarketing
- Product recommendation
- Basket value increases
Total Return on Ad Spend - A measurement of revenue divided by all costs or additional costs relevant to the marketing channel. This could be revenue divided by (commission + paid placement costs + platform costs + agency costs).
Tracking Pixel – Specific code that is placed on a website to track online activity. In affiliate, the links that affiliates use in their marketing content or information to promote a brand has tracking pixel code embedded into it so that the affiliate's activity – and the performance generated from that activity – can be tracked.
Trademark Plus (TM+) Campaign – In affiliate marketing, a TM+ campaign is when a brand gives select affiliate partners permission to bid on their trademark search terms. This is typically done in exchange for a complementary paid placement on the affiliate partner's site and as a way to help brands block competitors/unauthorised bidders and generate incremental exposure.
Voucher: A voucher is an offer that includes a discount typically with a code for the consumer to use at check-out
Voucher Affiliates - Partners that offer deals and promotional messaging, usually in the form of a digital voucher. This could be a percentage off the customer's order, free delivery or gifts with certain purchases.