Many of us want to make money while we sleep.
Your biggest dream is to wake up one morning, open your laptop and find money in your account.
Sounds amazing, right?
As a blogger seeking to make passive income online, affiliate marketing is one of the most popular methods in the world to help you reach your goal.
There are tried and tested ways to make it work for you.
If you’re just starting out, don’t worry as this guide has everything you need to know about affiliate marketing.
Ready? Let’s dive in.
The Ultimate Guide To Affiliate Marketing
- 1. What is Affiliate Marketing?
- 2. How Does Affiliate Marketing Work
- 3. Avenues Through Which You Can Make Money
- 4. Important Terms in Affiliate Marketing Programs
- 5. 3 Different Types of Affiliate Marketing
- 6. How to Start Affiliate Marketing?
- 7. What Are the Top Affiliate Networks to Consider
- 8. Quick Tips to Increase Your Affiliate Marketing Earnings
- 9. How to Be a Successful Affiliate Marketer?
- 10. Affiliate Marketing Frequently Asked Questions
- 11. Conclusion
What is Affiliate Marketing?
Affiliate marketing is the process in which you earn a commission for promoting a product or service that belongs to another person or company.
In other words, you find a product or service that interests you, promote it to other people and earn a fraction of the profit whenever someone buys the product.
The cost of buying a service or product through an affiliate is similar to that of buying it directly from the owner of the product.
Product owners must pay affiliates a percentage of the sales as a commission, which means they probably make less money per sale.
However, product owners gain more because an affiliate helps them to reach more potential customers (and make more sales) than they’d have done on their own.
So, it’s a win-win.
As an affiliate, you can earn a commission on a one-off purchase or earn recurring income by promoting membership or subscription-based programs.
When it comes to the actual marketing, the affiliate equation has two main parties:
- The product creator or owner
- The seller or the affiliate marketer
However, successful affiliate marketing has about three parties:
The merchant is also referred to as the advertiser, seller, brand, vendor, retailer, or creator.
It’s the party that creates the product. It can be a single person or a big, Fortune 500 company. Anyone can be the vendor behind an affiliate marketing program.
Merchants don’t necessarily have to be actively involved. All they need is a product to sell.
Also known as the publisher, associate or partner, an affiliate can also be a single person or an entire company. Affiliates can generate a few hundreds of dollars per month or tens of millions in commission.
An affiliate plays the marketing role by promoting one or several affiliate products. The party attracts and convinces potential buyers of the product’s value so they can end up purchasing it.
This party makes the entire affiliate system to go round. Without sales in sight, there won’t be revenue to share or commissions to give out.
The affiliate will make efforts to market to customers using any suitable channel whether it’s a digital billboard, social network or content marketing on blogs.
How Does Affiliate Marketing Work?
First off, you should find the product or company you’d like to promote.
Start by finding a service or product you know is relevant to your blog’s niche and one that your audience will find useful.
My quick 1-minute video will be of great help. Watch it below!
Next, you should partner with the merchant by signing up for their affiliate program. This will make you an affiliate.
After joining their affiliate program, you’ll be given a unique affiliate ID to be included in all the affiliate links you post on your site to promote the service or product.
You can promote the product in several ways including recommending it in articles, writing product reviews, sending email newsletters or displaying banner ads. Your merchant will use the unique affiliate ID to track all the traffic you direct to their website.
When a user buys a product, you earn a commission. The merchant issues your payment when the earnings reach a set threshold, and this can be anywhere between 45 and 60 days.
Google Trends shows an increased interest of 15% in the term ‘affiliate marketing’ between April 2018 and March 2019 (see the diagram below).
According to Awin, 81% of brands in the United States use this strategy, and if trends are anything to go by, this figure will increase. Everyone is responding to it!
Avenues Through Which You Can Make Money
There are different ways to make money using affiliate marketing. These include:
1. Pay per sale
This route is the most common structure in affiliate programs. Once the consumer makes a purchase, the merchant pays the affiliate a specified percentage of the sale price.
This avenue needs you to get the consumer to purchase the product before you can get paid. Your marketing strategy should, therefore, be top notch for you to earn.
2. Pay per lead
With this system, you earn money when you convert leads. You need to convince the consumer to visit the merchant’s website and complete a particular action, whether signing up for a trial version of a product, filling a contact form, downloading specific files or subscribing to a newsletter.
3. Pay per click
Your goal is to ensure customers click on the merchant’s website. Engagement is critical here to ensure consumers move from your platform to the merchant’s site.
The higher the web traffic from your site the higher the payout.
Pay per click implies that affiliates get a commission for every click that customers make. This could be clicking on ads or links that promote a merchant’s product or service.
There are other pieces that fit into this puzzle as well and are critical for affiliate marketing success even though they’re seemingly behind the scenes. Let’s call them important terms.
More Important Terms in Affiliate Marketing Programs
You will encounter lots of new, but relevant terms as you look into affiliate marketing but not to worry. I’ve explained many of these terms below.
1. Affiliate Link
As mentioned earlier, an affiliate link is what you will use to redirect customers to the merchant’s website. This link is unique for every affiliate and is what they will use to track activity from your site, thereby determining your pay.
Here’s an example of an Amazon affiliate link:
2. Affiliate Manager
There will be a person managing the affiliate program on behalf of the merchant. The affiliate manager helps you find ways to increase sales by advising on the best product promotion methods based on the type of product.
3. Affiliate Network
The affiliate network brings together the merchant and the affiliate. It guides affiliates to the right merchants, provides a functioning and appropriate link tracking system, and produces sales reports. Examples include ShareAsale, Amazon Associates, eBay Affiliate program, among others.
This is the amount paid to affiliates for sales acquired. The amount per sale is usually predetermined. For example, here’s Amazon’s latest commission rate:
This refers to hiding or veiling the tracking code that comes with an affiliate link for security reasons. It also turns a long URL into a shorter and more visually appealing one lest potential customers think it is a spam link. You’ll need a plugin to do this.
Can turn into something like this:
6. Landing Page
This is the webpage you will use to generate leads or sales. It’s the first web page visitors land on when they come to your website.
Impressions are the number of times your ad appears on a page.
Vertical is the topic you’ve chosen to focus on, otherwise known as the niche.
This acronym stands for Search Engine Optimization. It refers to the exercise of optimizing or improving a web page or website for it to get a higher ranking on search engines for a particular keyword or topic.
ROI stands for Return on Investment. It is a percentage used to assess whether an investment that was made is worth it.
It is calculated so:
ROI= (Gross profit – Investment)/Investment*100
11. Custom Affiliate Income
There is a general rate offered to affiliate marketers when starting, but once an affiliate regularly brings in tons of sales, many merchants will offer them a customized payment rate.
12. Payment Mode
This is the method through which affiliate programs pay the affiliates. The most common ones are wire transfers, checks, PayPal and others.
13. 2-Tier Affiliate Marketing
With this type of affiliate marketing, you can make money when you recommend other people to join an affiliate program and when they make a sale, you earn a small commission too. It works the same way as the Multi-Level Marketing (MLM) programs. The income received from this is known as the sub-affiliate commission.
14. Split Testing
Also referred to as A/B testing, split testing is a procedure where you use two different versions of an ad, web page or sales copy to test that which works better and gives better results in terms of affiliate targets.
3 Different Types of Affiliate Marketing
There are several ways to get and send traffic, which makes affiliate marketing diverse. There are three main categories of affiliate marketing: unattached, related and involved affiliate marketing.
1. Unattached affiliate marketing
This is the pay-per-click campaigns that don’t require your authority or presence for the product you’re promoting.
In fact, there’s no link between you and the customer, and all you do is place an affiliate link before potential customers.
To achieve this, you use Facebook ads and Google Adwords hoping that end users will click on the link and purchase the product so you can earn that commission.
Unattached affiliate marketing is popular because you don’t need any presence or authority.
Building an online reputation with various groups takes time, which makes many people shy away from committing to work on a website. Some don’t have time too, and this option works for them.
2. Related affiliate marketing
Under this form of affiliate marketing, you need to have an online presence, which could be in form of a blog, social media, podcast, or videos.
You should then have affiliate links to particular products in your niche. However, these products are those you don’t use or have never used.
For example, you may be a blogger and your niche is in internet marketing, and you may choose to promote web hosting companies or email service providers that offer affiliate marketing services like the ones John Chow talks about. You can still earn from such marketing even if you don’t use those services.
When I was still new online, I remember seeing most websites with a 125×125 pixel ad for text link ads.
It was an older promotional strategy where advertisers would pay to place specific text on your site and link it to your products.
On most finance-based blogs, you may find several affiliate ads for financial institutions.
I don’t think everyone who puts some of those links on their website actually uses those services and products, and that’s fine.
Adding affiliate links on your site that are relevant to your niche is a powerful approach to earn passive income.
You can place the ad as a banner on the sidebar or as a text link below a blog post. Since you own a website and post useful content, web visitors can trust you and the ad you place on your site.
3. Involved Affiliate Marketing
Some affiliates only promote services and products they use, and the process of doing this is known as involved affiliate marketing. Such affiliates only promote products that they strongly recommend and believe in.
Unlike related affiliates who may use links or banner ads to drive traffic to affiliate offers, involved affiliate marketers typically promote offers through content. In their content, they write featured pieces of particular services or products.
For example, if you enjoy mountain biking and you like a specific mountain bike model, you can promote it with confidence and authority, and your audience will find a reason to trust you and purchase the product from your merchant.
You can choose any of these three affiliate marketing types, provided it suits you, but as Pat Flynn, an affiliate marketing expert advises, it’s good to promote products you’ve used and experienced their benefits in some way.
How to Start Affiliate Marketing?
If you choose to go with related or involved affiliate marketing, your starting point will be to create a blog. You can begin by going through a guide on starting a blog. Choose a blogging platform that won’t restrict what products you can link to.
Once your site is up, make sure you create a disclosure page telling your readers you’ll be making money from the page and how exactly.
With your website up and running, here’s what to do next:
Step 1: Pick a niche
Is there a topic you’re particularly passionate about? Is there something that you find yourself easily talking about like fitness, parenting, or mobile technology?
A niche is your chosen general topic. It is most often where your heart and interests lie, and there’s no denying it, something that piques your attention will have you writing much better content.
Choose a niche you’re comfortable with and can churn content for without too much fuss.
Step 2: Find relevant products
The best place to find affiliate products is affiliate marketplaces. Search under your niche on affiliate sites, and you will find several products on offer.
You can also take a peek into blogs in your niche to see what products they are promoting and how they are promoting them.
One product is equal to one income stream so why not diversify? Pick several products and different merchants to expand your portfolio and increase your income.
After all, if you can make money using affiliate marketing, why limit yourself? Why put all your eggs in a single basket?
You can even choose to promote products you are already using! These would be much easier to convince people to buy since you’ve experienced firsthand how useful they are.
This will only be possible if the product creator has an affiliate option for that particular product. Check on the product’s website for an affiliate link to determine this. It’ll most likely be at the bottom of the page.
If there’s no information on a product’s affiliate program, you can go ahead and ask the company. It could be that they just aren’t promoting their affiliate program because they prefer doing it via invite. Ask them, and they could be your new client.
Different merchants have varying conversion rates and various commissions. Having a little of everything gives you a much steadier income than relying on a single source.
Step 3: Create The Right Content
Content is king. You can’t write mediocre pieces and expect people to click on that link.
Remember there are those consumers who will still be on the fence about that purchase and you have to convince them to cross over. Sharpen your writing and sales skills, and you’ll be sure to notice a difference.
Curate the right content for your target audience too. The tone, the style and the general approach you use on someone looking for car parts will be different from what you use on someone looking for a car seat for their baby regardless of the physics involved in both products.
Step 4: Promote
We’ve talked about content in the form of blog pieces. Now you need to send these pieces out into the world and promote your product of choice.
Remember to recommend the product as opposed to asking people outright to buy the product. Helpful recommendations will keep your audience coming back for more.
Blogs and websites are the most commonly used methods, but you can capitalize on other ways too.
No Website? No Problem!
You can also learn how to do affiliate marketing without a website. Want to know your options?
Take a look at these:
Have you seen unboxing videos? Think of what you can do with the product you’re trying to promote.
Talk about the product and show the product to your audience if you can. Walk them through the pros and cons and anything else you think is essential.
A great example would be Judner Aura’s YouTube channel — UrAvgConsumer.
After a quick unboxing and review of the products he’s trying to promote, he slides in his affiliate link into video descriptions:
Webinars take video to the next level. Your audience can ask questions and get to interact with you in real-time, and this makes the experience a little more wholesome for some consumers.
The most common avenue for this is banner ads. Ads are somewhat underrated but can be a good income source.
Choose a website with high traffic because this will increase the chances of your banner getting an audience. There’s no SEO, no content, no blog post or video required.
All you have to do is find websites that are related to the product you’re promoting and receive many visits.
Check if there are any ad spots available and buy them. Place your ad and wait for the traffic to come in.
BuySellAds offers this service, and their rate is $10 for every 1000 impressions. This is not a bad rate, and this is also why you need to choose websites with high traffic for you to rake in more.
Make sure that the amount you spend buying ads will come back with interest once you start earning from the ads. It’s known as a positive return on investment (ROI).
You’re in it for the money, so it has to make business sense. Otherwise, you’re doing charity work, which is not bad but then again you wouldn’t do it for corporations, now would you?
The content you post on Hubpages is hosted on the Hubpages website, so there’s no need to worry about starting a site or looking for hosting.
The downside is that you don’t own this content. Your content can, therefore, be removed at any time which of course puts you at a disadvantage after all the hard work you’ll have put in.
The good side? Hubpages generously provides “capsules” where ads can show.
This means less coding for you and more writing.
Many people are on social media, and yes, they mostly use it for interaction but, you can have them kill two birds with one stone if you advertise to them. Many respond to ads if done right.
Appeal to their senses with great visuals and catchy copy, and you’ll hear your next cheque calling your name!
Again, Judner Aura — AKA UrAvgConsumer — makes excellent examples of what I’m talking about.
Posting on forums
Do you consider yourself an expert in your niche? Consider answering questions in forums. Be as helpful as you can so the audience can see you as the go-to person for information on that particular topic or niche.
Some forums will allow you to have affiliate links on your profile or as your signature and with your reputation as a credible source, that could mean traffic to your profile and then possibly to your affiliate links.
Of course, the questions you’re answering should ideally be in line with your niche and the products you’re promoting. Otherwise, the effort you put into answering questions could potentially be a waste.
The best affiliate marketing forums include AffplayBook, Warrior Forum, STM Forum, and Affiliate Fix.
What Are the Top Affiliate Networks to Consider?
We talked about affiliate networks when defining terms, so you have a clue as to what they are. Now let’s list the best affiliate networks on these internet streets.
On ClickBank, you’ll get so many different products since it’s a marketplace for affiliates. They give a high commission, but with thousands of products listed, you will have a hard time finding and choosing products worth your time.
Even with that challenge, ClickBank is among the good ones. You’ll find lots of learning resources so you’ll be able to make moves even if you’re a beginner.
Amazon is among the most famous sites, and its big name can help you earn thousands or even millions of dollars.
They offer varying commissions for different categories. Owing to its popularity, other marketers are already promoting many of the products. You will have to carefully scour the site to find products you can focus on.
Another affiliate marketplace, Shareasale offers thousands of products for promotion. You’ll receive everything you need as an affiliate, and you can get access to detailed statistics of the product you choose to promote.
You can choose from a broad array of product categories including baby products, men’s fashion, women’s fashion, computers, pet supplies, software, books, automotive and more. And when you click on a product category, the products are so many that you’d be spoilt for choice.
It’s a great place to do your marketing because it has a comprehensive package for its marketers. There are banners, affiliate links and useful reports on your affiliate income.
4. CJ Affiliate
Formerly known as Commission Junction, CJ Affiliate is an affiliate marketplace. Just like on ClickBank, you’ll find thousands of products waiting for you to promote. Signing up is free, but you may need their approval to promote some products.
How Do You Choose Affiliate Networks?
There’s a large number of affiliate networks to choose from in addition to those mentioned above. How do you settle on one or two or five?
It’s all about your preferences. Which products do you want to promote? Choose affiliate networks for the products available because you’ll spend a lot of time creating copy and marketing strategies for them. You can sign up on more than one program for the same reason.
Be sure to look at the policies beforehand, so you are aware of your possible earnings, any additional incentives, payment rules, and any other relevant information.
Quick Tips to Increase Your Affiliate Marketing Earnings
I’ve said this before, and I’ll repeat it; you’re here for the money prospects. There’s no shame in that!
We’ve talked about the framework of the inner workings of affiliate marketing. We need to look at the meat now. We need to look at how to make your bank account fatter by the day as you go about your affiliate business.
Here are some useful affiliate marketing tips:
1. Product and Company Choice
How do you ascertain whether a product is good? Many times, it will be from using it or from other people’s experience of it.
A product that is of good quality and comes from a reputable company is more likely to sell faster than those that come with many uncertainties or a lack of assurances.
Choose your products and companies well because it will count for sales. If you want to promote a product but haven’t used it, talk to the company. Many of them are usually very willing to offer their products or services for testing or review.
2. Think of your Audience
Different products come with various commissions, and that’s normal. It can be very tempting to go for those products offering higher commissions but are you confident of their integrity?
If you promote something that doesn’t work you are very likely to lose your audience in the long run.
What does your audience like? What is your niche? Look for products that will interest your audience because they are related to the subject matter.
A food blog, for example, would do well to advertise gadgets and gizmos that would make work less cumbersome in the kitchen, new kitchen accessories and quality spices for delicious meals. Related products are bound to keep them longer on your site thus increasing the chances of a purchase.
3. Throw in Discounts
Okay, I know the products you’re promoting are most likely not yours so you may be wondering how that will benefit you. You can talk to the merchant or the creator of the product to run a campaign of sorts.
Ask them to offer discounts maybe to a certain number of people in exchange for you getting their product visible to a certain amount of people.
Who doesn’t love a discount? Consumers are likely to engage and buy a good chunk of the product, and that translates to commissions for you and profits for the merchant or creator. Everybody wins!
While on your site, consumers are likely to scroll around looking for other products and that could increase your sales as well.
4. Content Quality
Your affiliate links will always have space on your website, and that’s great. These links need to come with useful content for the whole exercise to make sense.
Your readers need some convincing before they can buy a product and you can do so with detailed product reviews, product comparisons, video reviews, a list of pros and cons and anything else that could be useful.
Case in point, our content should be valuable to the user.
How to Be a Successful Affiliate Marketer
Affiliate marketing offers an opportunity for the perfect balanced lifestyle that is void of spending hours in a daily commute or having to work for someone else at a dead-end job feeling unsatisfied.
Making money online is perfect, and it gets better when it is passive income since cash continues to flow in even when you’re not working.
This should not take away from the fact that you must put in the work first. Using every strategy possible to make this gig successful is therefore paramount.
Need a few strategies to help you become more successful?
1. Conduct Proper Research
You’ll need to do some product research. Promoting a product that doesn’t attract many sales will dramatically reduce your sales and therefore your income. Take time to find out which product your audience needs and is likely to respond to favorably.
2. Build a Rapport with your Audience
Affiliate marketing becomes a little easier when you choose a niche. From this niche, you will write different pieces and run ad campaigns.
As you go along, it is best to engage your audience and actively keep them in your sights. This slowly builds their confidence in you and increases the likelihood of them buying using your link.
The idea is to look like an expert in that niche. People trust experts and are likely to buy because of their recommendation.
3. Make it Personal
Well, making it personal means you buy all the products you’re promoting on your site so you can earn a bigger commission. Okay, maybe not.
There’s a large number of products waiting for promotion. This doesn’t mean you should pick just any product. A good strategy is to choose products that are useful to you and that you believe in.
Recommending useful and reliable products gradually turns you into a reputable brand.
Later on, people will have an easy time taking your recommendations not only because of the product itself, even though this is top on the list, but also because they’re sure you wouldn’t promote bogus products.
That’s a great way to build a following!
4. Make Use of Several Avenues to Bring in Traffic
Getting visitors to your site is great, and you need all the visitors you can get. This doesn’t mean you should only place ads on your site. Look for relevant sites, place ads using Google AdWords and expand your options.
Data is essential when talking about traffic. Tracking and measuring whether advertising strategies are working is important because it’ll tell you where to focus your efforts.
It’ll also give a clear picture to help you decide whether to abandon some other strategies or not.
Split testing will show the best campaign to use and possible changes to make.
Many affiliate networks will give you basic statistics, but you should take it a step further. Make sure to analyze what you get but go further with the help of different tools to make the most out of it.
6. Stay up-to-date on Techniques
Things change very fast in the digital world and strategies you once branded ‘tried, tested and effective’ suddenly become obsolete.
Competition is tight out there, and you need to stay ahead of the game to earn. Make time to learn new things and unlearn what may be irrelevant.
7. Make Use of Tools
There is so much to do in affiliate marketing, and some things can easily slip through the cracks.
Adding links, making sure everything is SEO-optimized, finding out whether ad campaigns are effective and generally keeping the whole operation productive can be plenty.
Tools make this easier and sometimes even automated. You can use ThirstyAffiliates to manage link addition and making them easy to look at since links can be long and ugly.
AdSanity helps you set up banner ads and manage third-party ads without issues. ClickMagick gives you great analytics, showing you your best-performing links and any gaps for you to fill in terms of opportunities.
Don’t do all the complicated, repetitive work when there’s a plugin for it.
Here is my list of best affiliate marketing tools.
8. Patience and Persistence
Affiliate marketing may look simple and straightforward from the outside, but it takes a lot of work.
It’s a continuous learning process, and once you’ve applied all the information and put in the work, you need to sit back and wait for results.
You can get frantic trying to add more products, but many times you need to focus your energies on a few products and then wait for these to pan out.
The first few weeks may be discouraging because nothing seems to be happening, but you’ll need to hang in there. Don’t give up too soon.
Instead, look for ways to increase your chances. Look for gaps and loopholes and find out possible solutions to these.
9. Learn Some More and Be Open to Change
This is a dynamic industry. You need to be open to learning new things as often as possible. Keep in mind that you’ll be encountering new trends often and so learning will become inevitable. You can take these affiliate marketing courses to equip yourself fully.
You’ll also need to keep an open mind. Changes happen so fast in this industry and not going with the flow could easily cripple your business. Expect change and be ready to embrace it.
We’ve covered a lot of ground, but questions are inevitable. Let’s take a look at a few of the issues that come up a lot.
Affiliate Marketing Frequently Asked Questions
How much money can I make?
The potential is limitless. You can earn hundreds of dollars or thousands per month depending on how you approach it. Some even make millions.
Your cheque is blank when you start. What figure appears on it is up to you. This is why reading wide and putting it to practice is your best bet in this industry.
Is Affiliate Marketing legal?
Affiliate marketing is perfectly legal. It is also not harmful; in case you’re wondering. You may look at the earning potential and wonder whether you’re contravening any laws, but that’s not the case here.
Do I need a Blog?
Not really. You can still earn some money without a blog. A blog will, however, add other possible income avenues to what you’re already making.
How much will it cost me to start?
Joining an affiliate program is free. Your total expenditure, however, will depend on the approach you choose. For instance, ads and PPC will cost you some amount, but blog posts won’t cost you anything.
What qualifications do I need?
There’s no education qualification required, but you will need to write well and sell.
Don’t know how to write? No worries. Not all successful affiliate marketers are great writers, but they hire good writers.
A blog post must be engaging and done in the right tone and style to keep your audience reading and eventually get them buying.
Can I still use AdSense with Affiliate Marketing?
You definitely can because AdSense Terms of Service are okay with it. Affiliate marketing has a higher earning potential, but you can still use both.
Where do I find new products?
Affiliate marketplaces and blogs related to your niche are the best places to find new products. There, you should see top-performing products and a wide array to choose from.
Affiliate marketing is not just a trend but a real business you can engage in. It takes a lot of hard work, determination, and an open mind to make it work, but it is doable.
This is one of the avenues where you can earn quite a lot without having to worry about unruly coworkers, bad bosses or getting caught doing something illegal.
Stories about those already actively involved in affiliate marketing and have become successful at it should encourage you to keep going.
There are so many resources you can take advantage of so get down to it already.
This very informative guide is only the beginning but gives you a perfect launching pad for this journey. Take it all in and dig deeper.
All the best!
To learn affiliate marketing step-by-step, check these best affiliate marketing training programs.