Almost anything sold online can be reviewed if there is an affiliate program — you can review physical products, digital software or even services booked online, like ride-sharing or travel resort booking.
Affiliate Marketing 101: What it is and How to Get Started
Affiliate marketing is the process by which an affiliate earns a commission for marketing another person’s or company’s products. The affiliate simply searches for a product they enjoy, then promotes that product and earns a piece of the profit from each sale they make. The sales are tracked via affiliate links from one website to another.
Affiliate marketing is a great way to drive sales and generate significant online revenue. Extremely beneficial to both brands and affiliate marketers, the new push toward less traditional marketing tactics has certainly paid off.
How Does Affiliate Marketing Work?
Because affiliate marketing works by spreading the responsibilities of product marketing and creation across parties, it leverages the abilities of a variety of individuals for a more effective marketing strategy while providing contributors with a share of the profit. To make this work, three different parties must be involved:
Seller and product creators.
The seller, whether a solo entrepreneur or large enterprise, is a vendor, merchant, product creator or retailer with a product to market. The product can be a physical object, like household goods, or a service, like makeup tutorials.
For example, the seller could be an ecommerce merchant that started a dropshipping business and wants to reach a new audience by paying affiliate sites to promote their products. Or the seller could be a SaaS company that leverages affiliates to help sell their marketing software.
The affiliate or publisher.
Also known as a publisher, the affiliate can be either an individual or a company that markets the seller’s product in an appealing way to potential consumers. In other words, the affiliate promotes the product to persuade consumers that it is valuable or beneficial to them and convince them to purchase the product. If the consumer does end up buying the product, the affiliate receives a portion of the revenue made.
Affiliates often have a very specific audience to whom they market, generally adhering to that audience’s interests. This creates a defined niche or personal brand that helps the affiliate attract consumers who will be most likely to act on the promotion.
The affiliate will market the product/service to consumers through the necessary channel(s), whether it be social media, a blog or a YouTube video, and if the consumer deems the product as valuable or beneficial to them, then they can follow the affiliate link and checkout on the merchant’s website. If the customer does purchase the item, then the affiliate receives a portion of the revenue made.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, an affiliate marketer must clearly and conspicuously disclose their relationship to the retailer, thus allowing the consumer to decide how much weight to give your endorsement.
A disclaimer such as “The products I’m going to use in this video were given to me by Company X” gives your viewers the information they need and allows them to make an informed decision about whether or not to buy the affiliate product.
Pros and cons of affiliate marketing
There’s no doubt affiliate marketing is worth it, given its growth in popularity. Statista estimates the affiliate marketing industry will be worth $8.2 billion by 2022, up from $5.4 billion in 2017. It’s also a low- to no-cost business venture you can profit from immensely.
Easy to execute
Your side of the equation simply involves handling the digital marketing side of building and selling a product. You don’t have to worry about the harder tasks, like developing, supporting, or fulfilling the offer.
Since there’s no cost to join affiliate programs, you can start making money with an established affiliate product or service without any upfront investment. Affiliate marketing also can generate relatively passive income through commission—the ideal money-making scenario. Though initially you’ll have to invest time creating traffic sources, your affiliate links can continue to deliver a steady paycheck.
Easy to scale
Successful affiliate marketing offers the potential to significantly scale your earnings without hiring extra help. You can introduce new products to your current audience and build campaigns for additional products while your existing work continues to generate revenue in the background.
Before you get too excited, know that great affiliate marketing is built on trust. While seemingly there is an endless number of products or services to promote, it’s best to only highlight those you personally use or would recommend. Even when a product interests you or fits within an existing hobby, becoming a great marketer for that product takes a lot of work.
You’ll want to test different channels to see which connect best with your audience. Research the most relevant and credible products to promote. And spend time blogging, publishing free content on social media, hosting virtual events, and doing other lead-generating activities.
No control over program
Affiliates must obey the rules set by a company for their program. You need to follow their guidelines for what you say and how you present their product or service. Competitors must follow the same recommendations, so you have to get creative to differentiate yourself from the crowd.
How do affiliate marketers make money?
Affiliate marketing income spans a large spectrum. There are some marketers that’ll make a few hundred bucks per month and others that make six figures a year. The larger your following, the more money you can make.
But how do affiliates actually get paid? When you choose an affiliate program to promote, you’ll notice there are different payment models. Companies also call it a price model, payout model, conversion type, or another variation.
Regardless of the name, the payment model tells you what goals you will get paid for. If you’re promoting a software product, the action could be a free trial signup. For marketers that promote physical products, the goal will likely be a purchase.
Many programs run with last-click attribution, which means the affiliate who receives the last click before purchase gets 100% credit. However this is changing, as programs improve attribution models and reporting. For example, you could share equal credit for a sale if there were multiple affiliates in a buyer’s conversion funnel.
- Pay per sale, where you earn a commission for each sale you make. It’s a common payout model for ecommerce offers.
- Pay per action, which earns you a commission for a specific action. Many affiliate programs use this payout model because it’s broad and can be applied to different offers: a newsletter signup, a click, contact request, form submission, etc.
- Pay per install, where you are paid for every install generated from your website traffic. The goal of your content would be to promote mobile apps and software so that people download or install them.
- Pay per lead, which pays you every time someone signs up for something. It’s a popular payout method because companies use it for sweepstakes, lead generation, and other types of offers. Cost per lead offers are common for beginners because it’s easier to generate leads than to sell products to an audience.
- Pay per click, a rare payout system where you earn commission on every click on your affiliate link. Pay per click programs are used by big merchants with a goal to build brand awareness. Customers don’t need to sign up or buy anything, just to visit the merchant’s website.
How much you make depends on your affiliate niche. For example, our research* found that the highest average commission rate ($70.99) was for business-related programs. While books and media and clothing categories earned just over $6 per commission. The maximum average commission we found was around $289.06 per sale.
Highest Paying Affiliate Programs
1. Semrush: $200 per Subscription
Semrush is a SaaS company that specializes in SEO and competitive analysis tools for digital marketers. Its affiliate program offers $200 per subscription, so if you refer 10 people only, you’ll be bringing in 5000,000 per month. Plus, they offer a very generous 10-year cookie life.
Since Semrush’s affiliate program functions under a first cookie attribution model, if a referral were to cancel their subscription and sign up again in the future (within 10 years), you still get commission on that second subscription.
Exclusive Semrush promotional material is available in five different languages, and applicants are automatically pre-approved, so the sign-up process is only a few minutes, enabling you to get started right away.
2. Coursera: Up to 45% Per Sale
Coursera offers over 1,000 courses and specializations ranging anywhere from Digital Marketing to Applied Data Science and Personal Development. Each course consists of pre-recorded videos, puzzles, and assignments.
Coursera’s affiliate program runs on the Linkshare network and offers a commission ranging from 10% to 45% with bonuses for strong performance. Courses and Specializations are generally priced between $29 and $99. As a Coursera affiliate, you get access to professionally-designed banners and a monthly affiliate newsletter with curated content recommendations.
3. BigCommerce: 200% per Sale
4. Shift4Shop: $5 – $25 per Signup
Shift4Shop is an e-commerce platform with a high focus on SEO. It provides you with all the tools you need to build, promote, and grow your online store. Users can use Shift4Shop to start an online business, add a shopping cart to an existing site, or replace their current shopping cart platform.
Affiliates earn a commission from $5 to $25 on each referred customer and have access to a wide range of marketing tools and content, including banner images, affiliate marketing-specific newsletters, and more. Affiliates are also put in touch with a dedicated affiliate manager for guidance. Shift4Shop’s affiliate program runs on the ShareASale network.
5. Flywheel: 300% per Signup
Flywheel affiliates can earn up to $500 per referral. You get access to tons of creative assets, from banners to co-branded landing pages to stylish social images. The Flywheel team will even work with you to create custom images that can take your commissions to the next level.
6. TripAdvisor: Minimum 50% per Booking
Crowned the "world’s largest travel site", TripAdvisor provides travelers with the wisdom of the crowds to help them decide where to stay, how to fly, what to do, and where to eat. The site helps you compare prices from 200+ hotel booking sites so you can find the lowest price on the hotel that’s right for you.
Powered by Commission Junction, TripAdvisor’s affiliate program pays a 50% commission off the revenue generated from a user clicking on links and/or ads that send them to a TripAdvisor partner site. Which means, unlike most other affiliate programs in this list, you don’t have to wait for your referral to make a purchase to earn your commission. As soon as someone comes from your website and clicks on one of the ads or links on the TripAdvisor website, you get paid.
7. Volusion: 200% per Signup
Volusion is an e-commerce solution that enables small businesses to create, manage, and expand their online stores. They provide customers with exports to help them every step of the way, including help with domain purchase, web design, cart integration, SEO, and security.
Pro tip: Can you get your merchant to give you a special deal for your audience ? If you promise to get their product in front of a couple hundred people, they’ll often happily give you a discount or special bundle to further incentivize people to buy.
What Is Affiliate Marketing?
Affiliate marketing is promoting other people’s products in return for a small commission for each sale. You’ve probably seen headings marked “affiliate link” or “sponsored post” on many of the websites you visit; or maybe you’ve already taken the first step and signed up to an affiliate network.
If it appeals to you, sign up and wait for confirmation of your acceptance. Then, start creating content, adding the custom links the program provides. Those links track when one of your users makes a purchase, and you’ll earn a small commission.
You can work with individual companies or affiliate networks, where you register and choose the programs that interest you. The programs are generally divided into categories to make selection easier. Once approved, start promoting your affiliate links on your website, in newsletters, on social media, and anywhere else you’re permitted to share links.
From solo entrepreneurs to startups to massive Fortune 500 companies, anyone could be the merchant behind an affiliate marketing program. They don’t even have to be actively involved. They just have to have a product to sell.
The Affiliate Marketers
This party is sometimes also known as the publisher. Affiliates can also range from single individuals to entire companies. An affiliate marketing business can produce a few hundred dollars in commissions each month or tens of millions of dollars.
It’s where the marketing happens. An affiliate promotes one or multiple affiliate products and tries to attract and convince potential customers of the value of the merchant’s product so that they end up buying it.
The consumer needs to knows they are part of an affiliate marketing system. Usually a short disclaimer like “If you purchase items on this site, I may earn a small commission. Thanks for supporting our work.” is fine.
The Affiliate Network
Only some consider the network part of the affiliate marketing equation. However, I believe that an affiliate marketing guide needs to include networks, because, in many cases, a network works as an intermediary between the affiliate and the merchant.
While you could technically promote someone else’s course and arrange a direct revenue share with them, letting a network such as ClickBank or Commission Junction handle the payment and product delivery puts a more serious note on your affiliate marketing.
How to Become an Affiliate Merchant
Third, you have to create the product . Since creating a physical product usually comes with huge investment and risks, I’ll only show you ways to create digital products. These are the best place to get started since they typically only require your time and little or no money.
What is Affiliate Marketing?
Affiliate marketing is the process of earning a commission by promoting another person’s (or company’s) product. You find a product you like, promote it to your audience, and earn a piece of the profit for each sale that you make.
Affiliate marketing is quite simply one of the most powerful ways to generate an income online. Regardless of your niche, the upside with affiliate marketing is nearly limitless if you go about it the right way!
If you’ve ever clicked on a link in a blog post to a product or service being offered on another website, there’s a good chance the owner of the website where you originally clicked the link received a commission from your purchase.
Who Is a Good Fit for Affiliate Marketing?
If this describes you, products exist right now that people in your target market are probably already buying, and if you can become the resource that recommends those products, you can generate a commission as a result.
How to get started with affiliate marketing
Step #1: Decide on a platform
One of my favorite examples is on BookTube, where various YouTubers review books:
Step #2: Choose your niche
That’s what I did when I built my first site. Instead of talking about “dance” or “hip hop,” I decided to limit myself to just breakdancing. Despite not knowing anything about SEO back then, I managed to rank for a few key terms and generate ~3,000 organic visits per month.
Step #3: Find affiliate programs to join
A. High-paying, low-volume affiliate programs
There also tends to be more competition for programs with high commissions. Since you’re probably just starting, it’ll be quite challenging to make a meaningful amount of money competing against skilled marketers with deep pockets.
B. Low-paying, high-volume affiliate programs
For example, take PS4 games. Lots of people play PS4, but the average cost of a game is only around $50, and affiliate commissions are usually in the single digits. This means you’ll earn 5000-3 per sale if you’re lucky.
The redeeming quality of these types of programs is that they usually offer tons of products to sell. Take Amazon’s affiliate program, for example. You can earn up to 10% commissions on almost anything Amazon sells.
C. High-paying, high-volume affiliate programs
How to decide which affiliate programs to join
Step #4: Create great content
Step #5: Drive traffic to your affiliate site
A. Paid traffic
B. Search engine optimization (SEO)
C. Build an email list
Step #6: Get clicks on your affiliate links
A. Link placement
Unlike being an affiliate, dropshipping requires you to establish your own business. You’ll set up a website, build a relationship with a manufacturer, and handle all of the day-to-day minutiae of running a business. It’s still low risk and can be profitable for an entrepreneur willing to learn the ropes.
Affiliate Marketing 101: Understanding Affiliate Marketing Basics
Affiliate marketing is a way for you to earn money by selling a brand’s products. As strictly a marketer, you have no inventory and work for commission. Generally, affiliate marketers receive payment when a consumer they referred buys a product or service or completes a specific task.
In other words, it’s a way that businesses can outsource their marketing to you in a way that’s strictly performance-based. This offers businesses a 100% return on their investment, which makes it unique among online marketing methods.
But to make money as an affiliate marketer, you have to understand all parties involved and what they stand to get out of the relationship. Knowing each role and how they can potentially help you make money is an essential first step when starting out as an affiliate.
The Parties Involved In Affiliate Marketing
This is you, the individual working with the merchant to sell in exchange for a commission. You’ll have a contract in place, and you’ll seek to push traffic in the form of links, ads, or in some cases unique phone numbers that you incorporate on your site.
Affiliate marketers fall under a very broad umbrella and could be just about anyone on the web. If you follow a blog or a popular social media profile, the chances are good that they are an affiliate of a brand.
The Advertiser/Affiliate relationship is a highly strategic one, as both parties need to make money for the relationship to continue. Since you’re working so closely, you need to be on the same page about your roles, responsibilities, and payment.
The consumer finishes out the relationship triangle by interacting with your marketing efforts (like clicking a tracked URL or ad) and then moving further into the publisher’s sales funnel. Once they’ve bought something or completed the action agreed upon by the affiliate and merchant, everyone receives their piece of the exchange.
You, as an affiliate, publish content or run affiliate advertising that encourages a consumer to buy from a merchant. You’ll have a set affiliate marketing method that will allow you to build an audience and promote to them.
What is An Affiliate Program?
There are several different types of affiliate programs, and you’ll want to ensure you choose one that best aligns with your audience’s behavior. Popular affiliate programs include search affiliates, review sites, email marketing programs, and coupon promotions.
What Are Affiliate Links?
Companies offering affiliate programs use these links to record the traffic sent to their website. If a person clicks the affiliate link and buys the endorsed product on the advertiser’s site, the affiliate gets paid.
Affiliate Marketing Examples for Inspiration
This massive website has been around since 1993, and at this point has made its founder Simon Nixon , a billionaire. While it’s a pretty rare example of how successful one of these sites can be, it’s the perfect model to show you how this process works.
When you scroll down on the homepage, you’ll see a vast list of products or services that you can browse through. They promote a wide variety of products, including insurance, smartphones, and travel services.
That’s how MoneySuperMarket makes their money as an affiliate. As long as you buy from a promoted site, then they will get a kickback. This site has made billions by promoting instead of selling, and they carry zero inventory.
By writing on topics that his audience needs to know about, he builds trust and acts as an influencer in their day-to-day. He also complements his blog with a direct email marketing approach that puts him directly in his audience member’s inbox.
He then takes the trust he builds with his audience and recommends specific tools that he’s an affiliate marketer for. He even has a whole section of his site dedicated to offering exclusive deals and discounts for his readers.
Much like a marketplace, if someone is referred from his site and makes a purchase, Matthew Woodward then makes a cut. But the difference is that he can also link to these deals in his blog post, or even send them directly by email when a new deal becomes available.
But it wasn’t long until she was up and running. Most notably, she decided to take stylish photos of her home and post them for others to admire. Her Instagram feed is a collection of posts that have the same look and feel as you see in this photo below.
While I don’t have exact figures on how much she’s made from this, she currently has more than 4,900 followers and gets tons of engagement on her posts. And while not all of her posts are sponsored or affiliate-marketing oriented, she still promotes brands from time to time on her account.
With success stories like these, it’s hard not to want to dive in as soon as possible. Hold on just a little bit though because you’ve got a long way to go before you can potentially have that kind of success.
What is affiliate marketing?
Affiliate marketing is when you earn a commission for the online promotion of another company’s product or service. Essentially, affiliates perform online marketing on behalf of a merchant, with the ultimate goal of driving traffic and conversions for the merchant’s website. For every click or conversion earned, the affiliate is paid by the merchant.
Generally speaking, affiliate marketers host websites where they advertise offers on behalf of businesses and brands in various ways, like blogs, videos, reviews, ads, product links and more. Affiliates receive payment on a pre-defined basis, usually when a customer clicks on the link (hence, Pay-Per-Click), but sometimes only when the customer actually buys the product (CPA, or Cost-Per-Acquisition).
How to Get Started with Affiliate Marketing?
Listen, watch, learn
The first place to start is by learning as much as you can about affiliate marketing, including the various tools and strategies that are available, and the latest trends and tactics that affiliate marketers are using. Luckily, there are loads of online affiliate marketing communities you can join and affiliate marketing podcasts to follow so you can get the starter knowledge and support you need.
The main question you need to ask yourself at the beginning of your journey to become an affiliate marketer is this: what product do you want to sell? That’s when you need to think about choosing a niche.
How to choose your affiliate niche?
If you build a website, they will come…
Most affiliate marketers operate a website or multiple websites. There are plenty of other digital marketing channels and platforms where you can promote your affiliate activity. However, if you are just starting out, you might want to invest the time in creating a website. It can serve as a central platform to work on your performance marketing skills while slowly building an income stream.
Be realistic in the targets you set. You’re not going to achieve overnight success and be driving a brand new Porsche in your first year. It may take six months or more until you start to see positive results. However, once you’ve mastered the basics and start seeing a healthy monthly income, you can then start thinking about expanding your personal affiliate marketing business.
If done correctly, your startup can generate a healthy and mostly passive income within a couple of years. By researching and making careful plans, and by linking with modern programs such as Affise Reach, then affiliate marketing can pay off in the long term. Think, research, and plan before taking that first step – and maybe a second-hand Porsche won’t be that far off.