An affiliate program is a partnership between your site and an online merchant (that is, a website that sells goods or services). When you join a merchant's program, you can link directly to its site.
LinkShare hosts a password-protected website that offers affiliates a choice of hundreds of merchant programs. On the site, affiliates can join new programs, get links to put on their sites, and then see reports about how their links are performing and how much they have earned.
When a visitor from an affiliate's site clicks on a link and goes to a merchant's site, LinkShare keeps track of all of the transactions that the visitor makes. If that visitor buys something on the merchant's site, you get a commission.
In some cases, affiliates are compensated even if the visitor doesn't buy anything, just for having driven traffic to the merchant's site.
LinkShare also provides affiliates with customer service, notifies affiliates about new programs and new opportunities, and offers resources for affiliates to learn about how to get the most out of their programs.