Here I'm going to name the top affiliate networks and talk a little bit about them and then later we'll talk about linking techniques and how it is that the affiliate networks know that you are the one that should get credit for any sales you bring in.
Some companies will run their own affiliate programs so your checks will come directly from the company and all of your reporting will also be seen at the company website.
Other companies will run their affiliate programs through an affiliate network, which means that you will go to the affiliate network to get your links and to check your stats. Some companies will do both – they will have an in house program and the program through an affiliate network.
Probably the most famous in-house affiliate network is the Amazon Associates program. Amazon does all their own reporting and linking so if you want to be an Amazon affiliate you'll have to go to Amazon.com and sign up to be an associate.
Now I will list the top five affiliate marketing networks – you may want to go to them and look around and see if they have any programs that you are interested in promoting.
Commission Junction http://www.cj.com/
Commission Junction is a very large affiliate network that has been around forever.
Linkshare has also been around for a long time. The Walmart.com affiliate program and the iTunes affiliate program are some notable programs at linkshare.
Google Afiliate Network http://www.google.com/intl/en/ads/affiliatenetwork/
The Google affiliate network is actually relatively new to the affiliate scene. But that doesn't mean that they don't know what they're doing.
Shareasale specializes in small and medium-size businesses and places a special emphasis on fair business practices.
Clickbanks sole purpose is not to provide a medium to bring companies and affiliates together like the other networks, but clickbank deserves a special mention here because of the large amount of digital items that are easily promoted by any affiliate.
So once you have found a product or two to promote on one or more of these affiliate networks that question now becomes how to effectively promote the product in a way that will ensure that you get the commission that you deserve.
Each of these affiliate networks will give you a specific link to put on your website or wherever you're putting your links. You want to copy these links and paste them directly into your website exactly how they were given to you.
The links will normally include a one by one pixel image that will tell the network how many times your link has been viewed. The link will also include special code that will tell the network this is your link.
Especially as a beginner, you do not want to mess around with these links at all. Copy and paste these links exactly so you can be sure that you are getting credit for any and all sales you send to the company.
One more thing, what if you can't find the company that you want to promote at any of the top affiliate networks? This is when you go to Google and you type “company name or product name affiliate” without the quotes. You also can go to the company's website and look for a link called affiliates. Not everyone has an affiliate program but if this particular company does these two strategies should help you find it.