Last Updated on July 25, 2022 by Matt Zavadil
My goal in this blog post is to provide an introduction to affiliate marketing for beginners.
You’re in the right place if you’re thinking about starting an online business and aren’t clear what all these terms mean:
- Affiliate program
- Affiliate network
- Affiliate manager
- Merchant program
How would life look if you started earning affiliate revenue passively by sending prospects to products built by others?
In essence, that’s what you can do once you understand affiliate marketing and put its power to use.
Let’s get started…
What Is Affiliate Marketing?
Put simply, marketing as an affiliate means you’re the “middle man” between someone who has developed a product or service and the folks interested in that particular product or service.
That’s it…you market the product or service and when the people you’ve attracted through that advertising buy, you get paid a percentage of the commission made.
The Basics Of Affiliate Marketing For Beginners
The skills you need to become good at are
- email follow-up with your potential customers
You can market through free methods (blogging) or paid advertising (Facebook or Google Ads, for example).
First, though, let me explain how you fit into the affiliate marketing structure.
1. Who Are The Parties Involved With Affiliate Marketing?
There are three main parties involved:
Merchants are businesses that sell products or services. They create the products and services that you, as the affiliate, sell after joining the merchant’s program.
Affiliates are the folks who market these products and services. They receive a commission by sharing an affiliate link with their prospects.
Customers are people looking to buy the products and services.
Let’s break it down even further…
2. What Do Merchants Get Out Of Affiliate Marketing?
Merchants benefit in two primary ways:
- Increased sales volume
- Increased margins (which basically means more profit)
These benefits come from the fact they don’t need to pay to acquire affiliate marketers. Instead, these third-party marketers work on their own to bring in prospects through ad campaigns or blogging directly to the merchant website where they can make purchases.
3. What Do Affiliate Marketers Get Out Of This Relationship?
Good question! You might think since you’re doing all the work, you’re going to get screwed over in some way.
That’s not the case at all LOL
Affiliate marketers hold the “power position” in this relationship.
They can earn great commissions if they generate sales and are part of a quality program with high conversion rates.
An affiliate can earn anywhere from an extra $500/month part-time up to $100,000 per month after building a successful online business via affiliate marketing.
4. How Do Customers Benefit From Affiliate Marketing?
Customers benefit because they’re able to purchase products and services from a wider range of merchants. They also have more choice when it comes to how they want to buy the product or service.
For example, if you’re looking for a new laptop, you might go directly to the manufacturer’s website. However, if you want to compare prices (or find different models), you’ll likely visit an affiliate-referral site that offers many options for laptops.
So…affiliate marketing is sort of like being introduced to a friend of a friend.
You might not have gone out of your way to meet this person, but now that you know them, you may consider doing business with them because they’ve been referred by someone you know and trust.
5. What Is An Affiliate Program?
An affiliate program is a structure set up by a merchant to attract affiliates to sell their product for them.
Typically, the company hires an affiliate manager to run the affiliate program. An affiliate manager will create marketing materials (banners, text links, product data feeds, etc.), approve affiliate applications, and keep an eye on the affiliates to make sure they’re following program rules.
The goal of any affiliate manager is to increase sales for the merchant while maintaining a high standard of customer service.
An example of an affiliate program is the Bluehost affiliate program. Instead of using an affiliate network, Bluehost has its own affiliate program with a manager who helps each affiliate partner make money by referring website hosting customers.
One way to find affiliate products is to go to the website of a product you’d like to promote and look for a link called “Affiliates” or “Affiliate Program”.
You’ll often it in the footer area. If they have an affiliate program they’ll explain how to join at their Affiliate Page.
6. What Is An Affiliate Network?
An affiliate network is a company that essentially connects merchants with affiliates.
They handle the merchant-affiliate contract and payment of commissions to the appropriate parties when sales happen in their marketplace or program. They also provide tools, technology, reporting options, and analytics for both sides.
Affiliates can work with multiple networks at once so they can market many products from different companies without signing up for each one individually. When it comes time to get paid, an affiliate typically gets paid through whichever affiliate network he/she signed up with first.
7. What Are The Best Affiliate Networks?
There are a lot of affiliate networks out there and it can be tough to decide which one is best for you. Here’s a list to help you get started.
- Commission Junction
- Rakuten Linkshare
Impact is an affiliate network that focuses exclusively on health and wellness merchants. They have a wide range of products in this category, including supplements, weight loss programs, vitamins, and more.
Commission Junction is one of the largest affiliate networks around. They work with over 17,000 advertisers and offer a variety of commission structures (CPA, Revshare, Hybrid).
ShareASale is a popular affiliate network with over 11,000 merchants. They offer a wide variety of products in almost every category imaginable.
Rakuten has over 12,000 merchants and a wide variety of products in many categories.
ClickBank is an online marketplace for digital products. They have a wide variety of products in many different categories, but the focus is on digital information products (like e-books, courses, and software).
You should be able to find products to promote with the above resources for just about any niche you’re interested in.
8. What Is An Affiliate Link?
An affiliate link is a unique URL that is assigned to an affiliate. It’s how the merchant knows which affiliate should get credit for any sales generated from the link.
Affiliate links are usually embedded in the text of a website’s copy. When someone clicks on the link, they’re taken to the merchant’s website where they can make a purchase.
To become a successful affiliate marketer, you must become great at getting interested prospects to click on your individual affiliate links.
Why Is Affiliate Marketing Good For Beginners?
There are two main reasons why you should learn how to do affiliate marketing:
- There’s no need to create your own product
- You don’t need to deal with product or service fulfillment
No Need To Create a Product
First, creating your own product can be a daunting task, especially if you’re just starting out.
With affiliate marketing, you don’t have to worry about that – the merchant does all the work for you.
You simply promote their products or services and earn a commission when someone buys them.
All you need is a computer and an internet connection to get started. And since most affiliate programs are free to join, there’s little risk involved in giving it a try.
Plus, affiliate marketing provides an excellent opportunity to learn how online business works. You’ll gain insights into copywriting, search engine optimization (SEO), traffic generation, and more.
No Need To Fulfill Customer Needs Post-Sale
Second, affiliate marketing doesn’t require you to deal with product or service fulfillment.
Think of yourself simply as a “connector”. As the affiliate, you connect customers with the product or service solutions they need to improve their lives.
The company then deals with everything that happens after a sale is made, such as product delivery, customer service questions, or returns.
Affiliate marketing is a “clean” way to go about making money online. You simply get good at marketing, create a sale, earn your commission, and then you’re out of the picture.
Here’s a quick visual:
By the way, I lump network marketers into the category of affiliate marketing. If you’re in MLM, did you create a product or service? No, you’re simply the middle man!
You can either run around bugging people at Starbucks or calling people you haven’t talked to in 25 years…or you can get good at attraction marketing and target the folks best suited to buy your company’s product…
…in other words, use the affiliate marketing tips below & dominate your company rankings.
Realities Of The Affiliate Marketing Model
The first thing for you to digest is that affiliate marketing takes time:
Successful folks have a long-term outlook. They don’t say, “I’ll TRY this for a couple of weeks and then quit if I’m not rich by then”.
They’re also willing to test different offers, learn new skills, such as how to do proper keyword research when driving traffic to their chosen offer, how to become better at email followup, how to become better at both free and paid advertising, etc.
If you’re interested in how to start affiliate marketing and promise yourself to think long term and learn new skills, let’s look at what this type of marketing is so you can avoid common mistakes…
Before you can expect to make any money as an affiliate marketer, you must first learn how to drive traffic to an offer.
The merchant you’re selling for will usually provide you with what are called “landing pages” or “capture pages”. Network marketers are given a “replicated website or store”.
These landing pages allow you to capture the email addresses of your prospects.
This is a must because one of the realities of the business is that if you only send your traffic to a sales page, about 1-2% of the people you send there will buy immediately.
If you don’t capture some of the other 98% so you can follow up later, you’ll die in this business.
I’ve provided you with a quick overview of affiliate marketing for beginners. Again, here’s the process:
- Drive Traffic To a Capture Page
- Follow Up Through Email
- Build a Relationship With Your Prospects as You Move Them to Your Sales Page from the Email Follow Up
- Make Money
Let’s Dive Deeper Into The Affiliate Marketing Process
Ok, so you’ve got the basics about earning affiliate income using an affiliate program or affiliate network. The challenge is that you might not know what’s meant by “drive traffic”.
I find that this is where the online world gets interesting. I’ve been online since 2004. I’ve seen it all. I’ve coached folks in niches ranging from local business owners to course creators to network marketers to coaches to eCommerce stores to Clickbank affiliates to “you name it”.
The common theme is everyone wants a couple of affiliate marketing success tips and tricks…
…and then jump into “selling & making money”.
What I get angry at are all the “gurus” who perpetuate this myth that you just,
“Buy my system & make huge commissions starting NOW BABY!”
Let me get “real” with you:
You will never turn a quality, consistent profit in online/network/affiliate marketing until you take this seriously and learn how to generate your own traffic.
How To Generate Traffic To An Offer
All right, if you’re still with me it means you’re not the person looking for scammy, spammy, silly “get-rich-quick” stuff.
You want to know how to join affiliate networks and turn it into a long-term, scalable online business.
Great to have you here! Nice to “meet” you 🙂
Now we can talk “brass tacks”.
If you want to kick ass selling stuff online you need your own social media HUB. No, I don’t mean:
Do you need to move into “working” those social channels eventually?
Maybe…because you can scale into making affiliate marketing work in a big-time way without using social media.
Successful Affiliate Marketing Pros Use a Blog
Even if you end up using social media in some manner, it’s not where you start because you don’t own and control your social media profiles.
I’m assuming you want to build a solid affiliate income that will bring you profits 5 and 10+ years from now. The way to do that is to start a blog inside the niche that your product offerings place you in.
You “own” your blog.
You can say what you want on your blog without some faceless Facebook stormtrooper in a bad mood shutting you down for violating a 1,000-page Terms of Service agreement you never bothered to read.
As you build your blog page-by-page, your traffic will grow.
Soon, you’ll have free search engine traffic providing you prospects interested in what you’re selling.
This is one of the biggest affiliate marketing secrets most folks gloss over…probably because it takes work to grow your blog…but it’s SO worth it for your future affiliate marketing success…
Don’t Take My Word For It
If you haven’t heard of Chris Brogan, Google him. He’s a social media/traffic generating expert. He’s written books such as The Impact Equation: Are You Making Things Happen or Just Making Noise?
Why Is a Blog Essential For Affiliate Marketers?
Remember above when I mentioned the landing pages (for affiliate marketers) or replicated websites (for network marketers) that each company you’re reselling for will provide you?
How will you get your best prospects to land on those pages in to buy from you?
I want you to stop and just think hard about that for a second.
How’s it going to happen?
You’ve just joined some Magic Guru’s Amazing Work From Home In Your Underwear Best Product In The Entire Universe affiliate program.
Your “guru” has promised you riches inside his “never done before” Business In a Box.
Your “guru” has promised that money is about to flow like never before. All you gotta do is share his “magic landing page”.
Where will you share this Magic Landing Page (or magic replicated site if you’re in MLM)?
Let’s Spam Twitter & Facebook!
Yup, that’s what happens.
Network marketing companies and “guru” affiliate product creators are notorious for saying B.S. like,
“Just share this link all over your social media profiles and watch the money roll in cause EVERYBODY needs this. “
So you go to your Twitter, Facebook or, LinkedIn account and start pasting your coded affiliate link all over.
Crickets…or worse, complaints…or even worse Facebook eventually bans your company URL because of all the complaints…now you can’t even spam any more folks…bummer!
That’s Why Affiliate Marketers Need a Blog
Here’s what works: you identify your niche.
Selling personal development ebooks? You’re in the personal development niche.
Selling Avon? You’re in the makeup niche.
Selling weight loss info? You’re in the weight loss niche.
Selling paint-by-number paint supplies? You’re in the hobby painting niche.
See what I mean?
No matter what you’re selling you need to identify your niche.
This then allows you to position your blog content so it’s attractive to the people already interested in your topic.
And that’s the KEY. A properly positioned blog will attract only the best prospects for what you’re selling. They are actively typing keywords into a search engine that are questions about solving a problem they have.
Key Affiliate Marketing Secret
To send a ton of targeted traffic to your affiliate program of choice, you simply blog about solutions to problems.
Build “how-to” or “best of” or “review” posts.
If you do this, you’ll generate quality traffic of people who will naturally be interested in the affiliate products you’re selling.
Become a Problem Solver
Your job in affiliate marketing is to identify the problems the product you’re reselling solves…become a problem solver.
That’s it…pretty simple actually.
- Then, you start a blog.
- Then, you blog about those problems. You give helpful tips and info that will gain the trust of your readers.
- Then, you simply recommend your affiliate product as the ultimate solution to their problem.***
How To Get Started Making Money With Affiliate Marketing
Now it’s time to take the necessary steps to make money like you see other affiliate marketers doing.
1. Choose Your Niche
You can’t be all things to all people. Decide which niche you’ll play in. Here are points to consider when selecting your niche.
Identify trends: What are people buying? You may have an interest in a niche where products don’t sell well. That’s not a good niche to be in.
Identify patterns: Identify whether people buy items impulsively or do they plan and research their purchases.
Gauge competition: How competitive is the niche? You can determine this by looking at how many competing websites are in the top results of a Google search. Use tools like Ubersuggest or ahrefs to conduct research.
Investigate the best affiliate programs: Look to see if your niche has plenty of what you would consider to be the best affiliate marketing programs that should sell well and that will pay a competitive commission.
Don’t rely only on passions: Avoid advice that says you should blog about your “passion”. What if your passion is knitting or football? You’re not going to make much money here.
Focus on the areas of:
Human beings will pay money to fix their problems in these three main areas.
Don’t be afraid to remain broad: Avoid advice that tells you to “niche” down tightly. That’s old, outdated thinking.
What if you create a blog about fly fishing called flyfishingtips.com and find that you can’t rank well?
You can’t pivot into “outdoor furniture” with that domain name and find other affiliate programs to sell.
Affiliate managers will look at your strange trying to figure out why you’re looking for the highest paying affiliate programs in lawn chairs with a fly fishing site.
Go a bit broad first. Look at your blog’s analytics to see what’s ranking and then go “all in” with that direction.
Word of caution: While you shouldn’t rely on “passion”, you should select a niche where you have life experience already.
It helps to establish credibility in the niche.
Plus, you’ll invest time and energy on your blog and social media profiles. There’s nothing worse than working on an area of life or business you don’t enjoy to some degree.
I made this affiliate marketing mistake myself several years ago when I attempted to earn money through affiliate networks inside a niche I didn’t know anything about. I’ve seen clients fall into this trap, too.
And you should only recommend affiliate programs you believe in 100% to add value to the lives of others.
As well, only promote affiliate networks that fit your overall blog topic.
2. Build Your Blog
If you don’t have a website yet, you need to get that build next. Here are the basic steps to starting a blog.
Select a web hosting company: Some web hosts are better than others. You don’t want to select a host based on price alone because you need access to features and support.
Install WordPress: This is free blogging software that makes it easy to build and manage your blog. It’s what most blogs use as their back-end content management system.
Create your blog’s design: To get started, select a free WordPress theme. You can get fancy later.
3. Conduct keyword research
Your goal is to find keywords with decent search volume (how many people are searching for your topic).
Look at the competition and ask yourself how easy or hard it is to get in Google’s top results. If you see that other sites have hundreds of backlinks, it’s probably a competitive niche. You need to consider whether you can compete there.
4. Create Outstanding Content
You need quality content first before finding the best affiliate programs to place on your pages.
Most beginners make a mistake by looking for an affiliate program before writing excellent content. Your content comes first.
5. Perform SEO
SEO, or search engine optimization, is the strategy used to get traffic to your blog. You’ll use two basic SEO methods.
On-page SEO is the practice of optimizing your blog posts for search engines. It includes using the right keywords, formatting your posts correctly, and adding images and videos.
Off-page SEO is the process of optimizing your website to rank higher in Google search results. It includes building links to your site naturally.
6. Choose An Appropriate Affiliate Program
Let your site’s metrics tell you when it’s time to monetize your blog with the best affiliate marketing programs.
It’s a waste of time to choose the Amazon affiliate program, for example, before you know which pages get traffic.
The affiliate marketing industry is littered with people who quit after wasting time putting affiliate program after affiliate program on pages with little to no traffic.
You’ll make passive income and become one of the most successful affiliate marketers by finding the best affiliate program based on whether Google ranks and sends traffic to a page.
7. Use Proper Link Placement
An affiliate marketing business works well after you learn how to find affiliate programs and place a unique affiliate link in strategic areas of a page that’s bringing your website traffic.
Quality posts to create include “how-to” and “best” posts.
For instance, look for software in your niche, write a “best software” post, and wait to see if you get traffic to it.
If you do, now it’s time to find high paying affiliate programs that will pay out more than the small commissions offered by the Amazon affiliate program.
Successful affiliates typically place the link to an affiliate marketing program in positions one through three on each post because those positions get the most affiliate site clicks.
8. Build An Email List
Don’t forget to build an email list, too. Later in your affiliate marketing business model journey, you can monetize the list with:
- Membership sites
- Online courses
- Physical products
- Selling services
Don’t promote physical products or your own digital products until after you first create passive income via the Amazon Associates program, CJ affiliate network, or a great affiliate program offered by other merchants you discover.
9. Consider Paid Ads
Work hard to get free Google traffic because it’s dependable long-term. However, you might use paid ads at first to initial traffic to test one affiliate marketing program against another.
Most affiliate networks have paid advertising rules to follow.
Affiliate Marketing Example
For example, let’s say you sell a monthly membership offered by an expert dog trainer.
Start a blog and write about dog training. Perform keyword research to see what people Google about.
Let’s say you see people typing, “how to stop my puppy from peeing on the couch”.
Great! You create a blog post offering 7 tips that help a puppy owner keep their puppy from peeing on the couch.
If that post gets traffic eventually, you’ll encourage site visitors to click over to the landing page given to you by your dog trainer’s affiliate platform.
Now You May (or May Not) Use Social Media
Once you get an affiliate sale from that dog training content, you might consider using your social media channels to promote the post more.
Rather than spamming social media contacts generic affiliate offers that don’t connect with them, you can provide them value by linking them to your blog post.
Now you look like a helpful “advisor” instead of a scammy affiliate marketer.
Because you are being helpful…and you’ll stand out from everyone else who doesn’t know how to market properly.
As long as you’re building social media profiles that attract followers who are puppy and dog owners, you’ll do better than most new affiliate marketers.
Those folks will click from your Facebook page or Twitter profile and love your free tips about keeping their dog from peeing on their couch.
When you recommend your monthly membership product they’ll listen to you.
Will 100% buy? Of course not! That’s the silly “get rich quick” thinking about affiliate programs that gets folks in trouble.
But some will. Over time, your traffic numbers will increase. More people following your blog = more people buying from your blog’s affiliate offers.
Start getting good at building an email list and now you’ll make more follow-up sales over time.
Again, your blog is your marketing HUB.
You create awesome content, attract free search engine traffic, add affiliate links, and then attract leads and sales on the blog.
Reverse Engineer The “Gurus”
Think about the folks online who are successful with affiliate programs.
Don’t they all have blogs they sell their stuff on?
Isn’t that interesting?
Frequently Asked Questions
How much money do you need to get started in affiliate marketing?
You don’t need much money at all. Starting online businesses simply takes website hosting fees (under $100 per year) to begin.
From there, work to join affiliate programs, promote products, make that first affiliate sale, and generating income consistently before sinking additional money into the process.
Is affiliate marketing easy?
Relatively speaking, affiliate marketing isn’t hard. Start by selecting a niche, build your own website, generate targeted traffic, join affiliate programs (such as Amazon’s affiliate program or companies selling digital products), and start making money.
So, that’s affiliate marketing for beginners explained simply…well, as simply as humanly possible!
By the way, did you learn something new today about affiliate marketing? Let me know in the comments below how you’ll now use that knowledge to earn more money online…
If you think others can benefit from understanding more about affiliate programs and creating online revenue, I’d greatly appreciate it if you shared it with them!