What are the limitations of using affiliate programs in networks?
As far as affiliates are concerned, the presence of a network indicates a cost center for the merchant, so conceivably, if you were working directly with the merchant, you could earn higher commission.
Also, depending on the network, there can be a limitation on the number and types of links available.
On the merchant side, some networks set up a communication barrier, so the merchant cannot directly contact the affiliate. This makes it more challenging to activate and retain affiliates.
Additionally, the network will dictate what changes will take place with the technology powering your affiliate program. Sometimes they can benefit you, and other times the changes can be detrimental to your affiliate program. There is minimal chance for customized functionality when working with networks.
There are all sorts of bells and whistles for both affiliates and merchants at the networks – poke around and determine what you want and need from a network, and use that criteria to determine whether it makes more sense to focus on independent affiliate programs.