Affiliate vs Partner | What’s the Difference and Which is Better for Your Business?

Whether you're trying to join an affiliate marketing program or building one for your own company, understanding the difference between affiliate vs partner is important.

In the world of affiliate marketing, the term affiliate has been used for over 20 years, so the sudden push in changing it into "partner" can be quite puzzling for both old-timers and newbies alike. Therefore, check out our affiliate marketing courses reviews we posted earlier and affiliate fees, to boot.

Is calling the people promoting your product "partners" better than calling them "affiliates"? Or is just semantics? This post should clear up this issue for you. 

Affiliate vs. Partner: What's Really the Difference?

Historically, these terms were defined like this:

  • Affiliates: In the 18th century, the term "affiliate" was coined from a Latin stem "affiliate," which means "to adopt." At the time, the term is used when a person "becomes affiliated" whenever he/she adopts the ideals or goals of a particular group.
  • Partners: From the Latin word "partītiōnem" or its singular accusative of partītiō (“portion”), the word partner is defined as "one who has a part in anything with another." A partaker, an associate, or a sharer.

As you can see, "partners" and "affiliates" have very close meanings, which is likely why people use them interchangeably.

making  a deal

However, in the affiliate marketing industry, using one over the other could mean something new.

What is an Affiliate?

Technically speaking, an affiliate is a type of partnership between:

  • the affiliates: This can be an individual or third-party company promoting a particular product or service to earn performance-based payment from an advertiser;
  • and the merchant: This can be the company hosting its own affiliate program, or an affiliate network that handles affiliate programs of third-party brands and companies.

In the past, the affiliates often refer to bloggers, website owners, and similar publishers whose main goal is to earn revenue from affiliate programs. This is the main reason there are thousands of blogs promoting Amazon products.


These content publishers already know how to succeed in affiliate marketing, so whenever they build a website or publish a post promoting a product, they follow a tried-and-tested approach with an end-goal to attract potential customers and lead them to Amazon, Awin, ShareASale, CJ Affiliate, Rakuten Marketing, ClickBank, Avangate, and other similar networks. 

Affiliates actively search for new income stream opportunities online, so they could promote many products, services, or brands at the same time. The affiliate-merchant partnership is almost automatic since the merchant no longer has to get and attract affiliates to promote their products in order to grow.


The merchants (affiliate network or company with an affiliate program) usually set uniform fees paid to their affiliates and publishers. The guidelines for publishers are also the same across all types of affiliates.

What is a Partner?

Big-name endorsers like Michael Jordan, Cristiano Ronaldo, Tiger Woods, and other similar celebrities have always pulled in money to promote particular brands. During the rise of influencers, the affiliate marketing industry has seen the value of online influencers (YouTubers, Twitch streamers, Instagram models, and so on).

It is also during this time that the tracking technologies are improving at a rapid pace, so businesses and merchants were able to expand their market significantly.

great shoes

Since then, brands and marketing agencies have begun using the word "partner" as a way to differentiate traditional affiliates (who would find business proactively) with potential partners that the brands themselves still need to negotiate to "grow with" and encourage to promote a certain product or service.

In most cases, partnerships with content publishers make a smaller percentage compared to affiliates, but because of the potential influence these would-be partners could make and attract new customers to a brand, they could help in growing a company's sales significantly.

How an Affiliate and Partner is Similar

Both roles contribute to the sales of a merchant. For example:

  • If you're a blogger who writes for the best air fryers in the market and you read, review, and even try out all the new air fryers around, you bring value to the kitchen equipment market. This is because whenever you post an article and say recommendations and things that could promote a particular air fryer brand or kitchen equipment store, you bring out "word of mouth" into the world. Even if you've written that article last year, or a long time ago, some potential buyers may still see this article and maybe encouraged to actually buy.
  • If you're a YouTuber chef whose channel shares new cooking videos every week and you were suddenly approached by a business to promote their air fryer, you can provide value to your viewers by agreeing to become a partner and work on a way to become a fair reviewer without selling out.

Both an affiliate and partner may help a business increase its revenue, especially if done marketing the right way.

Affiliate and Partner: So What Should You Use?

The term affiliate and partner used to be pretty interchangeable, but because of the ever-so-changing industry of affiliate marketing, there's a sudden push to start using either affiliate or partnership to differentiate the two types of content publishers.

However, this isn't a rule and it shouldn't have to be.

good relationship

Relationships Matter Most, No Matter How You Call It

Even just last year, many marketers continue to get confused on what term is best to use. While a lot of them say that a change really is needed, many marketers also disagree.

Some marketing agencies recommend that if you're joining a new affiliate marketing, or you want your company to create one affiliate program, you shouldn't be focusing your energy deciding on which term between "partners" vs. "affiliates" is better.

Instead, you should make a dent in the affiliate marketing game by bringing value to partnerships as a whole. Focus on relationships by:

  • Creating a well-loved network where all types of affiliates and partners would like to share to the world
  • Making sure the partnerships are a priority over the business since after all, you cannot put a price tag on partnerships. They may not all come for free (since some brands would have to pay endorsers they've partnered with), but these partnerships can really bring much change to a business financially.
  • Comparing how other affiliate platforms take care of their partners. And then work to copy only the good things you see, until your version of the affiliate program becomes unmatched within your niche.
  • Ensuring that you check your affiliate programs are inclusive and flexible. Take a look at older affiliate platforms and you'll discover that past merchants used to take a bigger chunk of the pie, yet make it hard for partners to feel the deal was worth it. Make your deals a win-win to both parties and it will bring hundreds (even thousands) of sales back to you.
all for one

Now that you know the definition of both affiliate and partner, their difference in the world of affiliate marketing, and the reason why the most important thing is taking care of relationships formed, we're sure you'll be able to navigate creating your own affiliate network, or joining one from a third-party company.

Leave a Comment