Affiliate programs (also called Joint Ventures, Referral Programs or Partnership Programs) are essentially commission-based sales schemes. You recommend a site or product to your readers and visitors and pick up a percentage of any sales those folks generate. You benefit from the commission and the site benefits from sales it wouldn't otherwise have made. If you've ever gone to a web site and seen links to Amazon, those were affiliate links.
Affiliate programs work two ways: you can join them to make money from someone else’s product, or you can run one to get others to sell your product.
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