What Is Affiliate Marketing? + Best Strategies to Get You Started

What Is Affiliate Marketing? + Best Strategies to Get You Started

With the rapid growth of technology, people are finding new ways to make money.

The term “passive income” becomes more prevalent as new possibilities to monetize content or online platforms are discovered. One of the most popular methods to generate passive revenue is affiliate marketing.

This article will teach you how affiliate marketing works and how to do it successfully. We will explain affiliate marketing terminologies, the possible marketing channels, and its pros and cons.

Affiliate marketing is the process of referring a company’s products or services to a broader audience on a website or another platform. To do this, the affiliate marketer adds special links to product pages in their content and will receive a commission for every successful purchase.

It’s an advertising model that enables you to earn money online by collaborating with a business and promoting its products or services.

You will receive a commission for every customer who makes a purchase based on your recommendation. Hence, the more customers you can convince, the more money you’ll make.

Fundamentals of Affiliate Marketing Terminology

There are several terminologies you need to learn before becoming an affiliate marketer. Make sure to understand these terms to prevent future confusion.

Affiliate Marketer

An affiliate marketer or affiliate partner can be anyone. However, generally, they tend to be bloggers or content creators familiar with a specific product’s industry. The affiliate promotes a company’s products, services, or brand by including affiliate links in their online content.

A unique affiliate link redirects visitors to a product or service page. It contains the affiliate’s ID or username, letting the merchant know where the traffic comes from.

These links track the IPs of referred users and validate purchases. The amount of money the merchant will pay to an affiliate is based on the data recorded by affiliate links.

Affiliate Marketing Program

Affiliate marketing programs are company partnerships that give its members commissions for referring their products.

Joining an affiliate program is relatively easy. Companies like Hostinger have a dedicated program that lets you become a direct affiliate. If you prefer not to join directly, you can always find a suitable program through an affiliate network.

Affiliate Networks

Companies that don’t have enough resources to manage their own affiliate program typically join an affiliate network.

An affiliate network provides a database of available merchants, making it easier for affiliate marketers to find opportunities.

It also gives merchants access to a large pool of affiliates. Merchants will gain access to helpful affiliate management tools such as payment processing, refund processing, tracking, and reporting.

ShareASale homepage banner

ShareASale, ClickBank, and CJ are some of the most popular affiliate networks.

Niche

A niche is a specific interest or topic that lets you narrow down a targeted audience. Choosing a relevant niche for your audience with good monetization potential is essential.

Payments

Compared to other methods, affiliate marketing is performance-based, giving merchants a higher return on investment (ROI). Merchants pay affiliates for purchasing customers, not site visitors.

Therefore, it can be confusing when multiple affiliates are invoiced in a single transaction. Merchants might have cases where affiliates claim a commission for customers brought by other affiliates at the last minute.

A good affiliate program offers multi-channel attribution. This ensures that affiliates creating the most value receive the most payment.

Some common payment models used by merchants are:

  • Cost-per-sale (CPS) – you’ll receive a flat fee per sale or a percentage of the product or service’s price.
  • Cost-per-lead (CPL) – you’ll receive payment for every validated, completed lead.
  • Cost-per-click (CPC) – you’ll receive payment for driving traffic to the merchant’s site via ad clicks.
  • Cost-per-action (CPA) – you’ll receive payment when users complete actions you advertise, such as filling out forms or surveys.

What Are the Affiliate Marketing Channels?

Affiliate marketing businesses come in different channels and methods. In this section, we will look at five different types of affiliate marketing to consider and how they work.

Influencer Marketing

Influencer marketing refers to the activity of partnering with online personalities to promote products and services. This includes using paid advertising or an affiliate system.

This is a popular internet marketing strategy because influencers have an established audience who trust their opinions. Around 38% of customers rely on influencers’ opinions before buying stuff online.

These influencers may use any platform or social media to share affiliate links. Most use Instagram, TikTok, or YouTube.

Therefore, partnering with internet influencers is excellent for promoting products to younger audiences. Companies can use various content for their affiliate campaigns.

Blogging

Affiliate marketing is one way bloggers monetize their content. Creating blog posts is arguably one of the easiest ways to start your journey as an affiliate marketer. All you have to do is get website hosting and use WordPress to start your blog.

For new affiliate marketing partners with a limited budget, start with free blogging platforms like Tumblr. However, this option is less favorable if you plan to scale your blog in the future.

You can start by writing topics you are interested in. Eventually, you may branch out to other topics to attract more audiences.

Some popular affiliate blog types are product review sites, comparisons, and listicles. However, you are not limited to these options when creating profitable online written content.

An excellent example of an affiliate blog is The New York Times’ Wirecutter.

Wirecutter affiliate blog post

To succeed, ensure your blog posts provide useful information and are relevant to your target audience.

Videos

According to Cisco, 82% of global internet traffic in 2022 will come from video streaming and downloads. It makes sense for affiliate marketers to use video content to generate leads.

Nowadays, video content creators have various choices when it comes to platforms. YouTube is the recommended site if you prefer long-form videos. This video hosting giant reportedly gains one billion hours of daily watch time, giving you ample opportunity to gain audiences.

YouTube allows creators to share affiliate links in the video description or within the video itself using annotations. The only downside of this platform is that you will have more competitors depending on your chosen topic.

Meanwhile, affiliate marketers who prefer shorter videos can use social media like Facebook, Instagram, or TikTok. Since short-form videos have gained popularity over the last few years, they can be an excellent opportunity to earn affiliate income.

Podcasts

Podcasts are another content type that has gained significant popularity in recent years. Around 62% of the US population above 12 has listened to a podcast. Moreover, 26% listen to at least one podcast every week.

With their large audience base, podcasts have become a great medium for companies to promote their products.

There are many ways for podcasters to collaborate with brands and monetize their content. Affiliate marketing is one of the most popular ways.

Since many podcasts provide informative and educational content, they allow creators to discuss topics in a more in-depth manner. Audio content is also convenient for most audiences since it requires less attention.

Therefore, many potential customers favor podcasts since they provide real value and are not just a branding tool.

The most common way creators promote affiliate products is by mentioning them during a podcast episode and including the link in its description.

Email Listings

Using an email list for digital marketing campaigns helps you target audiences with the most buying potential. After all, it is better to focus on those genuinely interested in your product.

This channel also works for your affiliate marketing efforts. With email lists, you can stay connected with your potential or existing customers using personalized messages. It is also a great channel to deliver product updates and deals in your affiliate program.

The key to a successful email marketing program is keeping your messages concise, engaging, and valuable. Avoid sending irrelevant promotional emails that will end up in their spam box or push them to unsubscribe from the email list.

Types of Affiliate Marketing

There are three main affiliate marketing types, each with its benefits and disadvantages.

Unattached Affiliate Marketing

In unattached affiliate marketing, the affiliate typically has no connection or expertise regarding the product or service they promote. They don’t act as a voice of authority and can’t make any statement about how the product or service performs.

Marketers in related affiliate marketing have some connection and familiarity with the industry and product they promote. They have enough knowledge and influence to have people trust them and become interested in the product.

However, affiliates in this marketing model are not necessarily actual users of the product they promote.

Involved Affiliate Marketing

Affiliates in this marketing model share a close relationship with the affiliate products and services they promote. They actually use the product and find it satisfying and valuable.

Their positive experience with the product allows them to recommend it more confidently. The affiliate’s audiences see them as a voice of authority and are more likely to trust their opinion.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Affiliate Marketing

Like any other online marketing method, affiliate marketing has advantages and disadvantages. While it can be lucrative, it’s vital to know affiliate marketing pros and cons before joining.

Affiliate Marketing Advantages

Let’s start with the pros. If you’re considering affiliate marketing, here are five potential perks:

  • Low-cost marketing – you can begin affiliate marketing with little or no money since the programs are free to join. The company will handle the service or product, so you don’t have to worry about the inventory.
  • Performance-based incentives – most affiliate programs reward you based on your performance. Your income can change depending on how much effort you put into promoting the affiliate product or service through your platform.

This makes affiliate marketing a highly flexible business model. For example, you can stop promoting a product if it is too difficult to sell.

  • Less focus on customer support – one of the most challenging and complex parts of running an online business is providing good customer service.

However, in an affiliate marketing business, you are less likely to engage with clients regarding their purchases or shopping experience. The merchant will handle all the fulfillment processes, and you can focus on improving promotion methods.

  • Easy to run – most programs, including Amazon Associates, provide their affiliate partners with all the necessary marketing tools. You can make ad banners and unique affiliate links to add to your own website.
  • Good passive income source – one of the main reasons people are interested in affiliate marketing is because it helps you make money 24/7. All you need to do is include the affiliate links on your platform, and you can gain passive revenue.

Affiliate Marketing Disadvantages

As great as affiliate marketing seems, it’s not entirely perfect. There are some downsides you should expect:

  • No control over the affiliate program – since you only promote products from vendors, you have no control over their quality and fulfillment process. As an affiliate, you are also bound by the program’s rules which may change over time.
  • No revenue guarantee – accurately predicting how much an affiliate earns from an affiliate marketing program is nearly impossible. It involves many intricate factors, and it is unlikely that you will get your desired revenue immediately.
  • Possible fraudulent practices – even though most affiliate marketers in the industry do not practice it, affiliate links can be hijacked and used to scam customers and vendors.
  • Advertising restrictions – some affiliate programs enforce advertising restrictions, such as not allowing email marketing or blocking specific keywords in pay-per-click (PPC) ads.
  • Payout requirements – some affiliate programs will only give you your payment once you’ve performed to a certain degree. Therefore, affiliate marketing is unsuitable as the primary source of income.

How to Start Affiliate Marketing

To start with affiliate marketing is relatively simple compared to other online ventures. Here are the four general steps to follow:

  1. Have a dedicated platform – having a dedicated platform like a blog or a website lets you have complete control.
  2. Thoroughly research affiliate marketing programs – before joining an affiliate marketing program, make sure that it suits your preference regarding commission model, product type, and brand reputation.
  3. Create quality content – to boost traffic, you must publish engaging, valuable content. Your content types should match your audience niche’s preferences and be relevant to the current trends.
  4. Scale your affiliate marketing business – grow your affiliate platform by improving your website, promoting other products, and utilizing social media to reach a wider audience.

Once you have a deep understanding and established method as an affiliate marketer, you may want to join other programs to diversify your affiliate marketing income.

Best Affiliate Marketing Strategies

Building a successful affiliate marketing business takes time and strategies to maximize opportunities. Let’s look at eight helpful online marketing tips to gain more traffic and boost your affiliate income.

Optimize Your Affiliate Site

If your website has dedicated pages that showcase the affiliate marketing products you promote, make them the main focus. These product pages determine your conversion rate and your affiliate marketing success.

Use a user-friendly layout for essential pages so visitors can easily navigate them. Avoid hiding product pages behind unnecessary menus. This makes it difficult for the affiliate’s site visitors to find them.

Making your site aesthetically pleasing is also an important factor. If you use a CMS like WordPress, there are many ready-to-use themes to make your site more unique. Utilize high-quality images to showcase affiliate products or services whenever possible.

Another way to further optimize your product pages is to make them load faster. There are many ways to speed up your website. This can prevent potential customers from leaving your site because of the slow loading time.

Promote Products Through Your Email List

As mentioned in the previous section, email marketing can be a great way to improve the success of your affiliate program. Setting up your first email list is relatively quick when you already have the right tool.

Mailchimp homepage banner

Email marketing tools help you promote affiliate products through a mailing list, including HubSpot, Mailchimp, and Sender. Some of these email marketing solutions are free, making them suitable for beginners who have just started their affiliate marketing business.

Email marketing can help you engage with people who subscribe to your affiliate website even when they are not actively using it. Keep them up to date with new product information, seasonal discounts, and other relevant offers to keep your affiliate brand on the top of their mind.

Use Social Proof by Doing a Giveaway

Social proof is an excellent method to build brand trust and credibility. One way to do this is by doing giveaways for your loyal audience. This can help you form positive relationships with them while promoting products as an affiliate marketer.

However, a giveaway requires some financial investment, depending on what product you choose as the reward. Avoid using this method if you are just starting a business since it is less likely that you will already have a stable revenue stream.

Instead, we recommend making a deal with the merchant or affiliate platform so they can sponsor the giveaway. Therefore, the merchant will handle the logistics for the giveaway, and you won’t have to spend any money.

Link cloaking is the practice of changing a URL to hide hard-to-read information, making it more appealing to users. Many affiliate marketers cloak links to make them more trustworthy and memorable.

Aside from the visual benefits, link cloaking is useful for affiliate link management. Some link cloaking tools allow you to organize your links, categorizing them based on different affiliate programs or campaigns.

Cloaking your links also enables you to track their performance. This lets you know what type of URL works best for a particular product, helping you improve your future affiliate marketing strategy.

Important! Make sure your merchant or platform allows link cloaking in their program. Some platforms, like the Amazon affiliate program, ban link cloaking in their terms of services due to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulation.

Collaborate With an Influencer

Partnering with social media influencers can open up new opportunities for your affiliate brand. It makes it easier to reach new customers since most influencers already have an established audience base who trust their opinions.

However, it is important to do your research before deciding which influencer to partner with. Make sure you know the right influencer type for your affiliate business. Consider the three Rs of influence, which are:

  • Relevance – the influencer must have an audience that aligns with your affiliate niche.
  • Reach – assess the number of followers an influencer has. Make sure they have enough followers to fulfill your goals.
  • Resonance – each influencer has a different ability to engage with their audience. Look for someone who can actively get audiences’ attention and trust.

Once you find the appropriate influencer partner, reach out to them professionally. Use their preferred contact channel if they have one and start discussing the possibility of a partnership.

Some social media platforms like TikTok also offer a built-in affiliate partnership feature that allows businesses to connect with creators directly.

TikTok affiliate program banner

Begin Brand-To-Brand Partnerships

Another way to boost your marketing capabilities is by collaborating with non-competing companies. Co-marketing allows you to share exposure and resource to make your promotional effort more effective. According to a survey by Partnerize, 54% of companies say partnerships drive more than 20% of the total company revenue.

Collaborating with a brand that shares your values and target audience demographic is key.

Then, set actionable and measurable metrics before engaging in the brand-to-brand partnership. This allows you to determine the initiative’s success and what must be done to improve your campaign.

If the initial partnership benefits both parties, consider exploring opportunities to expand your collaboration. For instance, you may join a new affiliate program or conduct cross-promotion using an additional marketing platform.

Content marketing is a popular method used by most affiliate marketers. It provides real value instead of merely promoting products for them to buy.

There are many content types affiliate marketers can choose as their promotional medium. Written content like product reviews or listicles is popular in affiliate marketing.

Implement search engine optimization (SEO) methods on your blog post to increase your website’s traffic. When done correctly, this can help improve your affiliate sales rate.

Other types of content, such as video marketing and podcasts, can work equally well. No matter the format, the key is always to provide content value and relevance to gain your audience’s trust.

Make Use of Coupon Offers

Discounts and special offers attract potential buyers. People’s buying intention increases when offered the opportunity to save a few dollars for the product. That is why leveraging coupons from vendors can help boost conversion.

Distributing discounts using coupons is more manageable since you can control who can get the deal. Use coupons to attract new customers, reward loyal clients, and maintain good relationships with them.

Coupons are also easier to track and measure. You can get a clearer picture of how much it impacts your conversion rates.

Thoroughly examine your target market’s behavior and preferences before using this method. Determine the best time to distribute the coupons and choose the right affiliate product to include in the deal.

Conclusion

The potential to earn affiliate income in recent years has increased due to the rapid growth of online media and virtual shopping habits. Almost anyone can join an online affiliate marketing program and gain passive side revenue from it.

Affiliate marketers can utilize various channels and media, including social media platforms, blogs, videos, podcasts, and email marketing to promote products.

There are three types of affiliate marketing depending on how involved you are with the product you promote:

  • Unattached affiliate marketing
  • Related affiliate marketing
  • Involved affiliate marketing

The following affiliate marketing strategies maximize opportunities and increase conversions:

  • Optimizing your affiliate site
  • Utilizing email list
  • Doing giveaways
  • Cloaking links
  • Collaborating with influencers
  • Joining a brand-to-brand partnership
  • Creating content
  • Making use of coupon offers

Hopefully, this beginner’s guide has helped you better understand affiliate marketing and how to get started. Through more learning and practice, you’ll be able to become a successful affiliate marketer. Good luck!

What Is Affiliate Marketing? FAQ

Here are some of the most common questions related to affiliate marketing.

How Do I Find an Affiliate Marketing Program?

Start by checking popular affiliate networks like ShareASale or Rakuten Marketing. Join the network, then start searching for available affiliate platforms. Most networks allow you to filter programs based on keywords and categories to match your niche.

Can Affiliate Marketing Be a Career?

Affiliate marketing can be a primary source of income once it is established. However, it may require a long process and a lot of hard work. You can learn online through affiliate marketing courses, but we recommend seeing it as a side business, especially if you are just getting started.

How Do I Create an Affiliate Website?

Creating an affiliate site can be easy, depending on your chosen platform. Options like WordPress or other CMS require some technical expertise, but they allow you to scale the site easily. On the other hand, website builders are better for beginners who want to start affiliate marketing quickly.

Can Beginners Do Affiliate Marketing?

Absolutely – if you have a website, simply join affiliate programs available in your niche. Once you have an affiliate account, simply grab your unique link, include it on your landing page or website, and start promoting.

Which Method Is Best for Affiliate Marketing?

That depends on your niche. In general, PPC (pay-per-click) advertising is a cost-effective affiliate marketing method, but many successfully use social media, SEO, blogging, coupons, email marketing campaigns, webinars, or simply posting reviews.

How Much Money Do I Need for Affiliate Marketing?

While it’s possible to get started for free, many affiliate marketers spend between $500 to a few thousand dollars on various tools before they start making money.

Author
The author

Jerry L.

Jerry is a technology geek, SEO junkie, and a full-time dad. He's also the founder of WebHostingSecretRevealed.net (WHSR) and BuildThis.io.

Author
The Co-author

Prasasti P.

Pras has a background in IT education and experience as a website administrator, he hopes to share his knowledge with other tech enthusiasts. In his free time, Pras likes to play video games.