Email Compliance: Managing Affiliates Via Tracking Platform vs Network

Email Compliance: Managing Affiliates Via Tracking Platform vs Network

According to research from Forrester Consulting, total advertiser spending on affiliate marketing is expected to exceed $4 billion between 2015 and 2016. Forrester’s survey also revealed:

  • The majority of online buyers visit two or three websites before making a purchase.
  • Affiliate marketing “favorably increases consumers’ perceptions of brands.”
  • Nearly seven in ten consumers say they don’t think less of a brand that runs promotions on a coupon website or comparison shopping site.

So it’s no surprise you’re planning to recruit third-party mailers in your digital marketing, too. We’ve blogged before about different options for managing email marketing affiliates (in-house vs. outsourcing), and the factors that should impact your decision.

But what about email compliance? Which affiliate management model helps you find the most relevant, reputable partners? And which model best supports ongoing compliance efforts—including partner monitoring for adherence to CAN-SPAM best practices? We sometimes hear from advertisers who tell us the confusion around partner monitoring makes them gun shy about email.

The truth is, affiliate email compliance isn’t just doable; it’s easy—provided you have the right tools on hand. So here’s a look at your email affiliate management options, along with compliance approaches for each:

Affiliate Tracking Platforms

Affiliate tracking platforms like Cake and HasOffers have the technology to drive your entire performance marketing program—including affiliate email. Within them, you can create offers, generates links for affiliates’ conversion pixels, plus integrate with a system like ours to ensure ongoing email compliance. With UnsubCentral, unsubscribe keys are transferred automatically and securely to partners’ preferred tracking platforms. Want to see how it works?

Keep in mind: a tracking platform is a hands-on solution—one where you’re actually creating the links and monitoring the reports directly. On the upside, you have access to partners’ complete information (i.e. not just a bunch of affiliate IDs, but actual names and contact details) at your fingertips. You also have complete control over each relationship.

One-to-one relationships are important when you’re just getting started with affiliate email or when you have a small percentage of affiliates driving a large portion of your revenue. Tracking platforms give you more flexibility, in terms of budget. You can afford to pay high-performing publishers more, because you’re not also paying a network to broker the deals.

Affiliate Networks

Outsourcing affiliate management to a network makes sense if you don’t have the experience or the bandwidth to find, vet, educate, and patrol all your email partners. Networks set up all communication streams and monitor reporting. They create and test tracking links, deal with affiliate support (potentially for hundreds of partners), and intercept questions that would otherwise fall on you (e.g. “Why isn’t this tracking correctly? Why can’t I piggyback my conversion pixel? Can you help us set up server-side tracking? Can you explain these creative guidelines?”).

Networks also often have in-house compliance teams or anti-fraud teams at the ready, to address email compliance concerns and investigate unusual trends. Many of our favorite network partners have fantastic compliance teams; they monitor activities among all partners and affiliate channels. For email, this means keeping an eye on things like number of opt-outs generated, list scrubbing practices, and timely suppression list downloads.

Last but certainly not least, networks offer scalable support. Program growth potential is virtually unlimited. Networks can even accommodate international affiliate regulations and attribution rules.


OPM stands for outsourced (affiliate) program management. OPMs support brands using either of the above models. OPMs can help if you’re managing email affiliates as an in-house effort, or they can work with affiliates gathered through a network.

If you’re drawn to the control and flexibility of an in-house program, but you don’t have a designated affiliate manager, consider using an OPM in combination with a tracking platform strategy. On the other hand, if you’re looking to leverage niche expertise in your particular market, an OPM/network arrangement does more than just manage affiliate logistics. OPMs, for example, can advise on you on the best publishers/content affiliates within a given network.

Finally, OPMs have a different commission structure than networks. If you have any concerns about a conflict of interests (paying a network commissions on the partners it oversees), you may want to explore OPM services in conjunction with potential networks.

We hope this post answers some of your questions on managing affiliate email partners, particularly in terms of email compliance. Meanwhile, if you’re still uncertain about the benefits of adding email as an affiliate channel, here’s today’s reading assignment:

Email acquisition marketing

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