Affiliate Marketing Terms, Definitions and Abbreviations - Part 1: Key Players

Affiliate marketing can be incredibly complicated, especially when throwing around various industry terms, slang and abbreviations. Here are a few of the most commonly used / seen terms and expressions used in the affiliate marketing space.


Key Players

Before we get into defining commonly used terms, it's important to point out who the key players are in the affiliate marketing / performance marketing space.


Merchant / Advertiser

This is the company or person selling and distributing the good or service to the end user. They are also known as internet retailers, e-commerce stores, service providers and a few other terms. However the two most commonly used are "merchant" or "advertiser". It's the affiliate's job to promote the merchant in order to drive traffic that will ultimately generate a sale (or other desired action).


Affiliate / Publisher / Associate

These are the guys who promote the merchant in the hopes of earning a commission or "payout" on the sale. There are many terms for affiliates, such as "internet marketer", "publisher", "advertising partner", "performance marketer" or "associate". The two most commonly used terms to describe the person who works on a performance based model to drive traffic to the advertiser's site are "affiliate" and "publisher".


Super Affiliate

This is a term that's very subjective and there are different definitions of what a "super affiliate" is depending on who you ask. Some people will define a super affiliate as the top performing affiliate in one specific program. Others will define super affiliates as those who earn more than $100,000 per year. Others, those who generate over $1,000,000 per year in affiliate commissions. I'm not sure there is a solid answer to this question other than, a super affiliate is always one who has potential to drive a significant amount of traffic and sales for your particular program.


Affiliate Network

An affiliate network is just a fancy term for "affiliate tracking platform". The job of the affiliate network is to help track affiliate sales and performance, assist with technical issues as needed, connect affiliates to merchants through exposure and support, help with payouts and at times compliance. There are options to get your own internal tracking so you don't have to work with a network, however if you're serious about making your affiliate program work, you will need to decide on a network at some point. The four biggest affiliate networks in the retail space are Commission Junction, Linkshare, Google Affiliate Network and ShareASale.


OPM / AM - Outsourced Program Manager / Affiliate Manager

In order for your affiliate program to be successful it needs a proper affiliate manager. You can either hire an affiliate manager in house (I strongly recommend this person is experienced and knows what they are doing) or you can outsource your affiliate program management to what we call an "OPM"or outsourced program management company, such as All Inclusive Marketing.

Affiliate Managers and OPMs are responsible for the day to day operations, planning and execution of your affiliate marketing efforts such as recruitment, activation, training, optimization, reporting and compliance.


Buyer / Customer / Consumer

Probably THE key player in the affiliate marketing game is the end user, also known as the buyer, the consumer or your customer. Without the buyer, the merchants would have no need to work with affiliates, and affiliates would have no one to drive traffic to their merchant partner's sites.

Stay tuned for part 2 when we talk about common affiliate program models.


Scott Jacob

11 years ago

Great write up Sarah, I'm afraid to say I will use it to educate clients of mine... So I feel I should contribute a bit.

I have used the distinction Super Affiliate to define large operators that can negotiate directly with the merchants bypassing the networks all together. This stature, of course, comes with a long and profitable track record and often a lengthy contract and subsequent legal fees. And yes, I'd agree the revenue numbers would be in the millions. The become more of a partner at this level and less an affiliate...

Sarah Bundy

11 years ago

Hi Scott,

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this, and I'm pleased to hear you can use my posts to help your clients 🙂 I've broken this up into (now) a 4 part series because there are so many terms that are thrown around, it can get very overwhelming for people newer to the space (and even some people who'd been in the space for some time). I like your definition of "super affiliate" and think everyone has a slightly different take on this, but yours absolutely makes sense! Thanks for sharing 🙂

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10 years ago

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Affiliate Marketing Terms, Definitions and Abbreviations P1



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