The two primary players in any affiliate marketing arrangement are the content-creating affiliate and the product-selling merchant. But as affiliate marketers know, networks such as Commission Junction and LinkShare are key components of the “ecosystem” as well. Just as many sites that monetize via display advertising attempt to establish direct relationships with advertisers and cut out ad networks, successful affiliate marketers may wonder about eliminating networks and working directly with their merchants.

A sound product strategy is a must for new affiliate marketers. Ideally, you should choose a niche that you can make money online with and has a lot of product vendors. This will give you a wide selection of products to offer your online community. However, limit yourself to two or three products at a time, so that you become the expert others turn to and trust when reaching for their wallet.
Affiliate marketing is commonly confused with referral marketing, as both forms of marketing use third parties to drive sales to the retailer. The two forms of marketing are differentiated, however, in how they drive sales, where affiliate marketing relies purely on financial motivations, while referral marketing relies more on trust and personal relationships.[citation needed]
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