10 Commonly Misunderstood Affiliate Marketing Terms (with Examples)

Affiliate marketing industry is already more than twenty years old and, as it is with every professional field, it’s got an array of its own terms and abbreviations.

Wrong wayIndustry people use them understanding their precise meaning(s). Outsiders, however, can (and do) get easily confused by some of the words and phrases in which we operate. No wonder why… Connotations of some of these terms, actually, do differ from pure semantic meanings of the same; and in some case more than in others.

Below you may find a compilation of the ten affiliate marketing terms which are often misunderstood by those who are new to the space. The order is merely alphabetical.

1. Affiliate

Traditionally used to denote an “affiliate marketer,” this word is often being used synonymously with “affiliate marketing” as a way of marketing.


2. Affiliate Channel

A widely-spread way to call “affiliate marketing” which portrays it as a single channel of marketing. Throughout the years, I have repeatedly argued that affiliate marketing should not be equated to a marketing channel (or even a sales channel). It always encompasses an array of different ways to market a product or service, and is cross-channel in nature [my thoughts on this here].

Affiliate channel

3. Affiliate Management

Not only “management” of an affiliate program’s creatives, offers, or even existing affiliate relationships; but also: onboarding of new affiliates, activation of stagnant ones, compliance policing, competitive intelligence, and much more [see my video and post on it here].

4. Affiliate Manager

A common way to shorten “affiliate program manager” or “affiliate marketing manager.” Literal understanding of this phrase often leads to a (dangerous) top-down approach, and attempting to manage affiliates instead of the affiliate program [more here].

5. Affiliate Network

Unlike many advertisers think (especially those new to the space), it is not a “network of affiliates” you automatically get to tap into as soon as you launch an affiliate program on one. While some networks do present advertisers with internal affiliate recruitment opportunities, they are, first and foremost, technological platforms for running affiliate programs, tackling such key components as tracking, reporting, and payments [see this post].

6. CPA Network

A way that sub-affiliate networks like to call themselves. “CPA” or cost-per-action/acquisition is the core principle in which all affiliate-advertiser relationships are rooted. Traditional affiliate networks provide the core support of infrastructure (see above) while “CPA networks,” generally, bet on profiting from sub-affiliate relationships [details in my 2008 article here]. Confusing one for the other can be dangerous.

7. EPC

A metric that answers the question of affiliate earnings (as tied to the clicks referred to the advertiser) but in the United States it predominantly stands for EPHC or Earnings Per (One) Hundred (of) Clicks; not Earnings Per Click.

Sears EPC

8. Link Cloaking

Affiliate practice of managing tracking links via URL masking/shortening. Read more about it in Rae Hoffman’s post here and take into serious consideration Matt Cutts’ below advice too.

9. OPM

Originally standing for “outsourced (affiliate) program manager,” this abbreviation is now frequently applied not only to individual “managers” but also “agencies” to which brands outsource the management of their affiliate programs.

10. Publisher

Sometimes also abbreviated as “pub” (especially in colloquial speech) this one is synonymous with “affiliate (marketer).” I, personally, prefer to use the latter term, because examples of “publishers” who aren’t really “publishing” anything are plentiful (tools, domainers, and a number of others mentioned here).


I hope you find this article of help; and, as always, if I have missed anything, please do chime in with your comments using the respective area under this post.

2 thoughts on “10 Commonly Misunderstood Affiliate Marketing Terms (with Examples)”

  1. Pingback: Marketing Day: Most shared ads of 2016, IAB mobile ad updates & holiday emails

  2. Pingback: Affiliate Marketing Industry News Roundup 12-8-2016

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *