Understanding different types of affiliates

Just like athletes, underwear, and even M&Ms–affiliates come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. You’ll find that your specific affiliate program may only be applicable to a handful of affiliate types. Or your program might be flexible enough to impact them all. Knowing your audience is always critical to a successful business.
Take a look at the affiliates who have signed up with your program and see if you start noticing some patterns. Do those sites have a lot in common style-wise or are they all over the place? Depending upon your audience (or potential audience) you may want to create several completely different campaigns to promote your business. Go after new types of affiliates or streamline things and focus solely on the 1 or 2 of the strongest types.

But what exactly are all the different types of affiliates? Glad you asked! We’ve put together the following list, which should give you a great overview of the many different types of affiliates currently spreading the good word on the Internet. Keep in mind that some sites can certainly cross over into more than one type.

Coupon Sites

Coupon or Deal sites are easily the most popular type of affiliate site out there today. And for good reason: they are eCommerce-friendly websites that consumers turn to when they’re looking for a deal. Affiliates will offer coupon or discount codes to their users and earn commissions on any sales that result from someone clicking through one of their links to a merchant site., and JoeShopping are great examples of this type. Some even allow users to upload coupon codes of their own.

Contest and Sweepstakes Sites

Contest sites are one of the most heavily trafficked categories on the Internet. So obviously there are quite a number of affiliates who want in on the fun. These type of affiliate sites will generally act as a directory of sorts for hundreds of current contests and sweepstakes available online. They’ll often monetize their site with banner ads and semi-related affiliate links mixed throughout.

Content Sites

News, gossip, entertainment, sports, lifestyle, etc. If a website is comparable to a magazine, you know it’s a heavy content site. These sites offer content articles and columns on a regular basis, monetizing through affiliate banners and links and even sponsored content at time. Sites that are solely user-generated such as discussion forums can fall into this category as the entire site is nothing but content created by users.

Loyalty Sites

Cashback sites are quite popular with users too. They actually give back money to members based on purchases they’ve made through the site’s affiliate links. Basically, the cashback site would get a commission for every sale, but now they give a percentage of their commission right back to the user who made the actual purchase. Means a lower profit for the site with each sale, but it more than makes up for that by highly encouraging members to make many purchases. Sites like MyPoints and eBates are good examples of Loyalty Sites.


Bloggers are really a subset of Content Types, but you’ll find many blogs that specialize in specific niches. These range from personal hobbies to consumer product reviews to tips & tricks on everyday-life topics like saving money or parenting. Depending on the blogger, they may use affiliate banners or include affiliate links peppered throughout thier blog posts.

Datafeed Sites

Sites that offer eCommerce tools like comparison shopping, rely heavily on data feeds full of products tied to affiliate links. Sites like and Shopzilla let users search for millions of products, returning appropriate results. When a user clicks through a product to purchase on a merchant’s page, it’s using an affiliate link, helping the comparison shopping site earn a commission.


Despite text messaging being uber-popular, people do still use email to communicate. And many affiliates use it to make money. Just about any type of site can put out a newsletter or collect an email list and send out regular emails full of affiliate links and banners. Some affiliates don’t even have a website; it’s solely done via email. Caveat venditor (Latin for “let the seller beware.”): working with email affiliates can be risky, especially if they’re not CAN-SPAM compliant. Affiliate fraudsters will sometimes categorize themselves as “Email” affiliates in the networks because their promotional activities tend to not be as visible to the merchant/advertiser.


Certain sites build in affiliate links to their apps. That goes for coupon or datafeed sites that have an app, but it also goes for standalone apps themselves. Popular apps like Shazam and Pandora actually use affiliate links into send users to Apple’s iTunes Store.


At the end of th day, above-and-beyond the types of affiliates we’ve outlined merchants need to consider how each affiliate drives traffic to promote their offers to ensure they’re compliant and playing by the rules.