The world of affiliate marketing has evolved so quickly in a span of a few years. There has been a strong spike in public networks available and technology partners that offer you the possibility to have your own private network.

If you are placing your bets on your affiliate partners to win you more traffic, leads or sale, you will want to read on as we dive into the main differences between public and private affiliate networks.

Why are public affiliate networks so popular?

When businesses consider affiliate marketing, their first thought is often on public networks. These networks have become a million-dollar business. But how did they get so popular?

In general, they are great for businesses starting out with no prior experience. After all, their main USPs include:

  • A large pool of publishers
    Public networks tend to have numerous publishers – in particular long-tail partners. This means you would have a quick start in affiliate marketing, by simply joining the network and selecting the type of partners you need – even if you have never done it before.
  • Availability of expertise
    Most large public networks have extensive account management support, which means help is on the way even if you are completely new to affiliate marketing.
  • Financial flexibility
    When working with a public network, you have little financial commitment as you simply participate in an existing running program. Therefore, you can start and stop your campaigns as you wish!

Why have a private affiliate network then?

You might’ve noticed that the advantages to public networks tend to be greater if you are new to affiliate marketing. If you have established your network of partners, there is great value in creating and managing your own private affiliate network, even if it looks like more work at first glance.

  • More control over your campaigns and partners
    Having a private affiliate network means having a direct contract with your affiliate partners. This direct working relationship leads to better control of whom you wish to include in your network, being more personal with your partners, and working together more intensively together.
  • Your pool of partners remain yours alone
    Want to stay ahead of your competitors? With a private network, you can. You not only ensure that your strategic partners are not being shared with your competitors, you can also build up more trust and a stronger relationship based on individualized terms.
  • Lower costs in the long run
    Public networks often charge a network fee, as well as commissions. Depending on the network, this could be up to 25% of the total affiliate marketing budget. Working with a private network means you can skip all of this. It would then be up to you if you would like to use this money saved to invest in the top publishers or in other marketing activities.

What about a combination of networks?

Public networks clearly have their advantages, especially with their large pool of long-tail publishers that businesses would otherwise not have known of. Private networks also clearly have their advantages – with greater control, transparency and flexibility. How now?

As the title of this article suggests, the question commonly asked is whether private or public networks are better. Similar to most things in life, there’s no black and white answer but rather a huge grey area. The real question to ask when it comes to private and public networks is: How do I marry the two perfectly?

Technology that enables you to do both

It could be that your business is ready for a combination of both public and private affiliate networks. Logitravel shows a great example of this, by having direct relationships with strategic partners through their private affiliate network, yet maintaining a presence in public affiliate networks to reach out to partners they are not yet aware of. 

Therefore, the real challenge is in finding the right tech partner for you or your preferred affiliate or performance network. (After all, ever more performance networks, such as belboon, Cube Group and energyAds, are switching technologies to empower their clients greater transparency along with expertise!)

Here are some of the most important factors to consider:

  • The convenience of measuring all networks and top partners in one platform
    Does the technology allow you to monitor the performance of your public affiliate network AND set up your own private network on a single platform? Better yet, your technology should be able to map all your paid channels, so that you can better understand your marketing performance in a holistic manner.
  • Accuracy in tracking and data
    Is the tracking implemented on your domain? In times of ETP, ITP and co, it is of utmost importance to reduce data loss through poor tracking. After all, if you only manage to track 30% of your data, any analysis you make out of it is pretty much unrepresentative.
  • Flexibility in defining customer journeys
    Are you able to determine when your customer journey should end? We believe the definition of a customer journey is in the eye of the beholder. This differs greatly from business to business. For some, it ends where interest (i.e. lead) is generated; for others, a sale. For many e-commerce players, it is also important to string the customer journeys together into one, so they can better measure customer lifetime values.

At the end of the day, the point of an affiliate network is to help boost your business, be it by increasing brand awareness, leads, or sales. Its performance is best improved when you know which is strategic to your business. And you would know which is strategic to your business when you have an accurate analysis of your business.