A third party who provides affiliate program management to a merchant. Affiliate networks provide the technology for tracking affiliate efforts, ensure that sales are properly tracked, commissions are paid to affiliates, handle reporting for both the merchant and individual affiliates and help expose the merchant to potential affiliates for their products and services. You can find a list of the more mainstream affiliate networks here.
Once you’ve done all the heavy lifting of niche selection, keyword research, and competition analysis, then you can finally start building your site. It’s important not to skip all the steps above. You’d hate to spend months on a site, only to learn that it won’t be profitable at all. All that hard work for nothing. You can read more about why I use WordPress for my Amazon sites.
Although I have never done much affiliate marketing, Peters's AFFILIATE MARKETING FOR BEGINNERS seems to me to be an excellent introduction. It surprised me that a lot of the material presented was useful for making money online in other ways than affiliate marketing. For example, there are recommendations concerning outsourcing content, on- and off-page search engine optimization, and press releases. I am not unfamiliar with such topics, and the recommendations seem very good. The whole book is clearly organized and well-written. There is even a bonus e-book provided at its end. This book is an outstanding value.
Once you've protected your prospecting pool, maximize your affiliate program by working with the best and leaving the rest. As the old 80/20 adage implies, most of your revenue will come from a very small percentage of your affiliates. Because it can be time-consuming to manage a larger affiliate network, consider selecting only a few companies initially, and interview them before signing them on. Affiliates are an extension of your sales force and represent your online brand, so choose partners carefully.