Affiliate Networks vs. CPA Networks

Lately I’ve checked out a number of (mostly American) CPA networks and realized how old-fashioned most affiliate networks turn out to be. Here is why I like CPA networks much better.

Programs vs. Offers

Affiliate networks are usually about merchants. Some of the programs bombard you with every possible banner, link and product feed they have and don’t really help you much in making a choice. CPA networks on the contrary are usually about landing pages. A CPA offer may have a couple of landing pages, but that’s it. Lately the affiliate networks have adopted the CPA trend and started what they call campaigns. They’re basically integrating landing-page-only programs into their portfolio.

Direct Relationship vs. Blind Network

In a traditional affiliate network the merchant (or the agency) has direct contact to the affiliate. In a CPA network the affiliate talks only to the network, not the merchant. Usually the merchant doesn’t know the identity of the affiliate either.

Approval Process vs. Instant Start

Most affiliate programs have an admission process, many of them approve affiliates manually. In a CPA network you have no direct relationship with the advertiser, so there is no approval process. Affiliates can start right away and pull their codes. Don’t you hate how long some affiliate managers sometimes take to approve you?

Open vs. Confirmed Transactions

Probably every affiliate network can assign leads and sales a certain status: unconfirmed, confirmed, denied. I can understand the point of the merchants as they only want to pay for transactions for which the customer has actually paid. But affiliates, especially those that do media buying, need to know their final revenue by the end of the day. They can’t do effective media buying if they don’t know much money they actually made the previous day. So it’s no surprise that most CPA networks don’t get into this. They solve this for example by paying for every transaction but with a lower payout.

Secrets vs. Transparency

There are still a number of affiliate networks that keep the performance of their programs secret. On the other hand, CPA networks are usually brutally honest and give you access to the metrics. Not only that you see the stuff in the interface. The other day I received an email from a CPA network with a list of all eCPCs for their search offers. I’ve never received this from any affiliate network before, even when I asked them for it.


Very simple. If you are a content publisher, stay with the good old-fashioned affiliate networks. They provide you with all the fancy ads that you can throw on your sites. Also, the really big brands want to be in control of their affiliates so you won’t find very many of them on CPA networks. However, if you are a media buyer who wants to drive hardcore sales, go for the CPA networks.

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