What is a Sub-Affiliate Network? Everything You Need to Know

Discover all you need to know about Sub-Affiliate Networks in this comprehensive guide. Learn how they work and their impact on your affiliate marketing success.
Image of author Nick Cotter

By Nick Cotter
Updated Jan 10, 2024

What is a Sub-Affiliate Network? Everything You Need to Know
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Are you looking to expand the number of affiliate partners in your affiliate program?

If you've tried everything to find new publishers and the invites you sent through your affiliate network didn't work, you can try opening your affiliate program to sub-affiliate networks as another option for your brand.

Sub-affiliate networks can seem a bit confusing at first…

Another “affiliate network” wants to join my program hosted on an affiliate network?


Don’t worry.

Now, let's break this down and share our experience with sub-affiliate networks and how you should approach these partnerships.

Let’s begin.

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What is a Sub-Affiliate Network?

A sub-affiliate network is a platform positioned between advertisers and a consortium of affiliate marketers, or publishers.

Its primary role is to streamline the promotion of the brand's affiliate offers by facilitating performance-based deals and ensuring optimal collaboration between both parties.

how sub-affiliate networks work
How sub-affiliate networks work

Instead of working with individual affiliates, advertisers partner with the sub-affiliate network. This network works with different partners to advertise the advertiser's products or services.

For advertisers: It offers a way to reach multiple affiliates through a single point of contact, simplifying management and payments.

For affiliates: It provides access to multiple advertising opportunities under one roof.

If you run your affiliate program on an active affiliate network, below I’m sharing a diagram that more clearly shows the role of sub-affiliate networks in your program.

How sub-affiliate networks and affiliate networks work
How sub-affiliate networks and affiliate networks work together

How Sub-Affiliate Networks Work

Now, you’re probably wondering, how do sub-affiliate networks actually work when you have an active affiliate program for your brand?

When I first started in affiliate marketing, I’ll admit, I was always confused by the concept of sub-affiliate networks.

But, It’s actually quite a simple process.

At the heart of the sub-affiliate network system is a multi-tiered process.

Here's a simple breakdown:

  1. A program has an active affiliate program running on either an affiliate network or affiliate software.
  2. The sub-affiliate network manager applies to the brand’s program
  3. The brand will either accept or deny the application based on the application details.
  4. If approved, the sub-affiliate network will run the offer, share the brand’s marketing collateral, and invite affiliates to join the program.
  5. The brand will submit payment (based on terms) to the sub-affiliate network for all approved affiliate commissions.
Sub affiliate network steps
Sub affiliate network steps

I’ve found that it’s best to have a call with the sub-affiliate network program manager before approving the application.

There are thousands of sub-affiliate networks across the internet, and it’s best to get a feeling for how the program’s run, find out more about their reputation, types of affiliates they work with, and how they handle fraud/compliance issues.

Advantages & Drawbacks of Sub-Affiliate Networks

Now, before approving any sub-affiliate networks into your affiliate program, I’d suggest you review some of the advantages and disadvantages of working with these platforms.

Advantages of Sub-Affiliate Networks for brands:

When it comes to working with sub-affiliate networks, I’ve found some of these advantages:

  • Broader Reach: Advertisers gain access to a diverse pool of affiliates if they’ve already exhausted their current network and outreach efforts.
  • Ease for Advertisers: With one primary contact point, program management and payment processes are streamlined – just connect their platform into your affiliate network.
  • New partnership types: Some of these sub-affiliate networks offer brands new partnership opportunities; from influencers, PPC affiliates, YouTubers, etc.
  • Performance Tracking: Both brands and affiliates benefit from advanced metrics and tools that gauge campaign success.

Drawbacks & Concerns of Sub-Affiliate Networks for brands:

While the advantages are notable, there are definitely some reasons you should consider before setting up your affiliate offer on these platforms.

  • Margin Compression: With another layer in the affiliate payout offering, there might be a squeeze on earnings. The sub-affiliate network may ask you to increase the commission payout so they have margin to make on the offer as well.
  • Quality Control: The larger the network, the harder it might be to ensure consistent traffic quality. This is so important.
  • Transparency Issues: Determining the original source of traffic can sometimes be a challenge, especially with affiliates who do a great job cloaking links.

Best Practices for Brands Working With Sub-Affiliate Networks

When it comes to working with sub-affiliate networks, I’ve learned (the hard way) what to pay attention to.

Here are my best practices for working with sub-affiliate networks:

  1. Work with the most reputable sub-affiliate networks only.
  2. Schedule a call with the sub-affiliate network manager before accepting them into your program.
  3. At first, set up a stricter affiliate agreement with the sub-affiliate network.
  4. Ensure you’re not compressing your product margins by adding them to your affiliate offer.
  5. If possible, ask for a customer introduction from the sub-affiliate network.
  6. Make sure your brand’s affiliate offer in the network tracks accurately back to your affiliate software.
  7. Hold the sub-affiliate network to brand compliance
  8. Make sure the affiliates promoting your offer are complying with the FTC guidelines for promotion.
  9. Ask the network about how affiliates will promote your offer.
  10. Consider working with an affiliate marketing agency to help support the additional network.

Reputable Sub-Affiliate Networks:

As I mentioned before, it’s important you only work with the most reputable sub-affiliate networks.

By working with only the best networks, you’re more likely to have success and maintain your brand’s reputation and adhere to FTC compliance.

In no particular order, here are some of my recommended sub-affiliate networks:

Wrapping up our Quick Guide into Sub-Affiliate Networks

So, there you have it.

Our quick overview into the world of sub-affiliate networks.

These platforms not only create an environment for affiliates to thrive and maximize their earnings, but they also bridge the gap between advertisers and a wider pool of potential publishers.

But, not without safeguards in place for your brand.

I can’t stress this enough when working with sub-affiliate networks.

The last thing you want is to join a network, only to find affiliate fraud with most of the affiliates who have joined your brand.

Follow my recommendations, and of course, reach out to me directly if you have any follow-up questions: nick@growann.com

Until next time.

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Nick Cotter

Nick Cotter

Founder & CEO

With over 7 years navigating the intricate realms of marketing, and specifically B2B partner marketing, Nick has forged collaborations with top-tier tech brands, prominent agencies, and some of the industry's foremost B2B publishers and content creators. His deep immersion in both marketing landscapes showcases a trajectory of expertise and innovation. Identifying a significant void in specialized resources, he founded Growann.The aspiration? Deliver unparalleled insights and guidance, carving out a dedicated space where the broader marketing and B2B partner marketing communities can flourish.