This comprehensive guide will walk you through how to start making money in affiliate marketing, with online marketing tips and tricks to help you make more money.
Smart entrepreneurs who run a thriving business know that there is always more they can do to grow that business. one way to take things to the next level is to find an alternative income stream.
start with affiliate marketing 🎯
- what is affiliate marketing?
- how affiliate marketing works
- types of affiliate marketing
- pros and cons of affiliate marketing
- How do affiliate marketers make money?
- how to start affiliate marketing
- tips for affiliate marketing success
- examples of affiliate marketing programs
- start your affiliate marketing business today
- affiliate marketing FAQ
what is affiliate marketing?
affiliate marketing is a process where publishers earn a commission by promoting a product or service created by another retailer or advertiser through an affiliate link. the affiliate partner is paid for providing a specific result to the retailer or advertiser.
Usually the result is a sale. But some affiliate marketing programs may reward you for leads, free trial users, clicks to a website, or downloads for an app.
Most affiliate programs are usually free, so you don’t have to worry about high startup costs. Done right, an effective affiliate marketing strategy can go from a side hustle to a profitable online business idea by bringing you a healthy income.
how affiliate marketing works
affiliate marketing is recommending a product or service by sharing it on a blog, social media platform, podcast, or website. The affiliate earns a commission every time someone makes a purchase through the unique affiliate link associated with their referral.
- display an ad or link for the z store on your website, blog, or social network.
- a customer clicks your unique affiliate link.
- customer makes a purchase at store z.
- the affiliate network records the transaction.
- the purchase is confirmed by the store z.
- you are paid a monetary commission.
Affiliate sales commission rates vary by company and offer. On the low end, you’ll earn around 5% of the sale, but with a few tweaks, you can earn up to 50%, usually when promoting a class or event. There are also affiliate marketing programs that offer a flat fee per sale instead of a percentage.
types of affiliate marketing
Affiliates always carry a bit of a mystery: you never know if the person ever really used the product or if they were just promoting it for the money. both cases still exist today.
It wasn’t until 2009 that renowned affiliate marketer pat flynn divided the different types of affiliate marketers into three groups. Understanding these types of affiliate marketing can show you the different ways people make money online in this space, regardless of their moral compass.
independent affiliate marketing
The first type of affiliate marketing is known as “independent” or when you have no authority in the niche of the product you are advertising. there is no connection between you and the client. You often run pay-per-click ad campaigns with your affiliate link and hope that people will click on it, buy the product and earn commission.
Freelance affiliate marketing is attractive because you don’t need to do any legwork. Affiliate marketing companies are built on reputation and trust with a target audience online. Some affiliate marketers don’t have the time or desire to build those relationships, so this type of marketing is your best option.
“independent affiliate marketing is not a genuine business model, it is for people who just want to generate income,” explains elise dopson, founder of sprocker lovers. “Our approach to sprocker lovers is to build a community and provide free education around a particular niche first, which in our case is the sprocker spaniel dog breed, and then sell.”
related affiliate marketing
Related affiliate marketing is the practice of promoting products and services that you don’t use but are related to your niche. An affiliate marketer in this case has an audience, be it through blogs, youtube, tiktok, or another channel. A related affiliate marketer also has clout, making you a trusted source for recommending products, even if you’ve never used them before.
While related affiliate marketing can lead to more affiliate income, it comes with the risk of promoting something you’ve never tried before. it could be the worst product or service ever, and you wouldn’t even know it. It only takes one bad recommendation to lose the trust of your audience. If you don’t have trust and transparency, it will be difficult to build a sustainable affiliate marketing business.
affiliate marketing involved
participatory affiliate marketing is only about recommending products and services that the affiliate marketer has used and truly believes in. “Participatory affiliate marketing is the way to go,” says Elise. “It’s built on trust and authenticity, which is what’s best for your audience and business.”
In this type of marketing, an affiliate marketer uses their influence to promote products and services that followers may actually need, instead of paying for clicks on a banner ad. It takes more time to build this kind of credibility with an audience, but it is necessary to build a sustainable business.
elise explains that the involved approach makes advertising much easier for affiliate marketing partners. “You don’t have to hide behind expensive PPC ads and wait for clicks and sales. an organic instagram story or blog post about your experience with a product will go a long way.” Elise prefers this method because it’s honest and “the only genuine way to become a trusted source on anything.”
involved affiliate marketing is the only genuine way to become a trusted source on anything.
pros and cons of affiliate marketing
Yes, affiliate marketing is worth it, given its growing popularity. Statista estimates that 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 benefit from. immensely. But before you dive in, consider the pros and cons of entering the world of affiliate marketing.
While industry growth is a good indication of success, entrepreneurs also take this referral marketing route for a few other reasons.
easy to execute
Her side of the equation simply involves managing the digital marketing side of building and selling a product. you don’t have to worry about the more difficult tasks like developing, supporting, or fulfilling the offer.
Because there is no cost to join affiliate programs, you can start making money with an established affiliate product or service without any initial investment. affiliate marketing can also generate relatively passive income through commissions, the ideal scenario for making money. Although you may have to spend time building traffic sources initially, your affiliate link can still generate a steady paycheck.
easy to scale
Successful affiliate marketing offers the potential to significantly scale your earnings without hiring additional help. you can introduce new products to your current audience and create campaigns for additional products while your existing work continues to generate affiliate income in the background.
Before you get too excited, know that great affiliate marketing is built on trust. While there are seemingly an endless number of products or services to promote, it’s best to only highlight those that you personally use or would recommend. Even when a product interests you or fits into an existing hobby, becoming a great affiliate marketer for that product takes a lot of work.
read more: the beginner’s guide to setting up an affiliate program for your shopify store
affiliate marketing also has some disadvantages compared to other types of marketing campaigns. Before we jump in, let’s look at some of the challenges you’ll face on your path to affiliate marketing success.
affiliate marketing is not a get-rich-quick scheme. It takes time and patience to grow an audience and gain influence.
You’ll want to test different channels to see which connects best with your audience. Research the most relevant and credible products to promote. Spend time blogging, posting free content on social media, hosting virtual events, and doing other lead generation activities on your marketing channels.
There is no boss handing you a weekly paycheck as an affiliate marketer. Affiliate programs work on a commission basis, whether they pay you per lead, click, or sale.
Companies use a temporary browser cookie to track people’s actions based on their content. when someone performs a desired action, you get paid.
no control over the program
affiliates must abide by the rules set forth by a company for their program. you must follow their guidelines on what you say and how you present your product or service. competitors must follow the same recommendations, so you have to be creative to stand out from the crowd.
how do affiliate marketers make money?
Affiliate marketing revenue spans a wide spectrum. there are some affiliate marketers that will make a few hundred dollars a month and others that make six figures a year. The higher your number of followers, the more money you can earn as an affiliate marketer.
compensation software company payscale reports that the average annual salary for an affiliate marketer is more than $53,000, based on more than 7,000 salary profiles, with many affiliate marketers earning significantly more.
There are also affiliate marketers like blogger Ryan Robinson, who earns over $17,000 a month from affiliate income alone. This image below shows ryan’s blog earnings for March 2021:
But how do affiliates actually get paid? When you choose an affiliate program to promote, you will notice that there are different payment models. companies also call it a pricing model, payment model, conversion rate, or other variation.
Regardless of the name, the payment model tells you what goals you’ll be paid for. if you are promoting a software product, the action could be a free trial registration. For an affiliate marketer promoting physical products, the goal is likely to be a purchase.
Many programs run on last click attribution, meaning the affiliate who receives the last click before the purchase gets 100% of the credit. however, this is changing as programs improve attribution models and reporting. for example, you could share the same credit for a sale if there were multiple affiliates in a buyer’s funnel.
Five common ways affiliates get paid include:
- pay per sale, where you earn a commission for each sale you make. is a common payment model for e-commerce offers.
- pay-per-action, which gives you a commission for a specific action. Many affiliate programs use this payment model because it is broad and can be applied to different offers: newsletter subscription, one click, contact request, form submission, etc.
- pay per install, where you get paid for each install generated from your website traffic. the goal of your content would be to promote mobile apps and software for people to download or install.
- pay per lead, which pays you every time someone signs up for something. It’s a popular payment method because businesses 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 it is to sell products to an audience.
- pay per click, a rare payment system where you earn a commission for each click on your affiliate link. Large merchants use pay-per-click programs with the goal of building brand awareness. customers do not need to register or purchase anything, just visit the merchant’s website.
how much you earn depends on your affiliate niche. for example, our research* found that the highest average commission rate ($70.99) was for business-related programs. while the book, media and clothing categories earned just over $6 per commission. the maximum average commission we found was around $289.06 per sale.
how to start affiliate marketing in 4 steps
- choose your platform and method
- decide your niche and audience
- find your products
- choose your first affiliate program
Just like running your own small business, becoming a successful affiliate requires dedication and discipline. Use the following step-by-step guide to start your affiliate marketing business.
choose your platform and method
The first step is to figure out the platform around which you want to build your audience. each affiliate marketer has a different approach and platform. there are many affiliate marketing ideas you can choose from based on different methods:
- specialized review sites and topics. These are sites that review products for a specific audience or compare a product line to its competitors. This method requires you to create content related to the review space and post regularly to attract an audience.
- digital content. Digital content creators include bloggers, youtubers or social media influencers. they create niche content that resonates with a target audience. the goal is to organically introduce niche products that your audience enjoys. this increases the chances that they will buy and you will earn an affiliate commission.
- courses, events, workshops. If you’re an educator, you can integrate affiliate partner offers into your events.
- what platforms do you use the most?
- Which platforms do you understand best?
- pay per click (ppc)
- future affiliate
- advanced link
- cj affiliate
- flexible offers
- free downloads
- new blog entries
- an inside look at your life or business
- entertaining stories
- reminders and news
- special offers
No matter which route you take, authenticity and audience building are the two most crucial elements to affiliate marketing.
To choose a platform and method, ask yourself:
Common platforms used by affiliate marketers are:
Starting with a marketing platform you’re comfortable with helps you create high-quality content. this can result in a stronger, more engaged audience that you can convert into sales.
decide your niche and audience
When it comes to choosing a niche, look for something you’re passionate about and know about. This helps you present yourself as an authentic and trusted source of information to potential customers. it also helps you assess which products and brands you want to promote.
Let’s say, for example, you started a blog about dogs. You have a sprocker spaniel and you are passionate about helping other owners care for their sprockers.
You create a blog like sprocker lovers and post regularly and encourage people to sign up for an email list and share your content. sprocker spaniels are his niche and he is going to invest in content marketing and optimization to grow his audience of owners.
“The niche you choose for your affiliate site determines how much time or effort you will need to build it to the point where you start seeing seo results,” says elise.
“software, marketing, and healthcare services, for example, are dominated by huge blog sites with even bigger marketing budgets. the secret is to find untapped areas where the competition isn’t as fierce and get in before other people recognize you.”
As you post more, you can use affiliate marketing tools like social listening, website analytics, and social media insights to find out who your audience is and what they like.
Remember, you don’t get paid to post. affiliate marketing is a performance-based online business. If you know what your audience likes, you can recommend them the best products and earn more affiliate income.
find your products
To earn income as an affiliate marketer, your audience needs to connect with what you’re saying. the items or services you promote should be products that they really want. doing it wrong can hamper your success and decrease your credibility as well as your audience.
If you’re curious about where to look for products or brands to work with, don’t worry. there are tons of affiliate marketplaces, including:
Another option is to visit the websites of the products and services you use and like to see if they have an affiliate program. Large companies often have programs that they promote on their site, like amazon associates or the shopify affiliate program.
You can also take a more direct approach. Contact a great product owner you find and see if they offer an affiliate marketing program. if they don’t, they might be happy to set up a deal with you, like offering you a special coupon code to share with their followers.
The best deals are often found when you’re the first to ask and have a relevant distribution channel, such as approaching the seller of a new fitness product if you’re a health and wellness blogger.
affiliate marketing programs will have terms of service that you must follow, so read the fine print. for example, your affiliate link will usually have a cookie with a specific time period, and some programs don’t allow you to buy pay-per-click ads using a product or company name.
choose your first affiliate program
As you brainstorm products or browse affiliate platforms, the most important criteria to keep in mind is that the product must align with your audience or the audience you hope to create. ask yourself, is this something your target audience would find valuable? Does it fit your area of expertise?
A food blogger probably wouldn’t promote beauty products, for example. a wide range of other products would make more sense, such as cookware, meal kits, gourmet ingredients, or even aprons.
Also make sure that the product or service you’re promoting fits the platform you’re promoting it on. For example, home decor and clothing are well suited to image-heavy platforms like Instagram. however, if you promote more in-depth purchases, like software, your conversion rates may be higher on longer-form platforms, like a blog or youtube.
tips for affiliate marketing success
As we mentioned earlier, income from affiliate marketing can eventually turn into a form of passive income, but you still have to do some heavy lifting up front. the success of your program will depend on the quality of your review.
To create a good review, it’s best to be personal. Share your experience on your blog, social media post, instagram story or youtube video. If you are writing a personal review, please provide an honest opinion based on your experience and knowledge of the product. the more open you are, the more authentic you will be. people will feel more comfortable following your advice if they feel like they can trust you.
Trust is a key factor in your affiliate marketing efforts, because people need to trust you enough to follow your recommendations. The level of trust you’ll need to make affiliate sales depends on your industry and the products you’re recommending; for example, it takes more confidence to be an effective affiliate for a $1,000 course than for a $20 t-shirt.
Beyond simply sharing your experiences, you can build trust by limiting the number of affiliates you promote or by only becoming an affiliate for products you personally use and sticking to your area of expertise. For example, people trust my Canadian financial app recommendations, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to have much luck as a Sephora affiliate.
talk to a product expert
Another option is to interview other people who use the product or service, or even interview the person who makes or sells it. this can give your review more depth, creating a narrative for the reader.
create a product tutorial
While your success with affiliate marketing may depend on the total size of your followers, another way to generate traffic is to provide a tutorial on the offer.
People often do “how to” searches like “how to save money for college” or “how to decorate a laundromat.” If you offer a tutorial that solves a searcher’s problem and clearly shows the value of the product, your referrals will make more sense in context and provide a stronger incentive for the customer to buy the product you’re recommending.
build an email list
An email list is a list of contacts you have gathered who would like to receive information from you. Building a contact list is important because it’s one of the best ways to connect with people outside of social media. When it comes to purchases made as a result of receiving a marketing message, email has the highest conversion rate (66%) when compared to social media and other marketing channels.
Collect emails from your content and send a weekly or bi-weekly newsletter to subscribers. affiliate marketers can send many different things to subscribers on their list:
Use your email list as an opportunity to show value to subscribers. if you get an email back, respond. Be consistent with the timing and quality of your newsletter. then, from time to time, promote an affiliate product or two to subscribers.
There is no hard and fast rule on how many times to send these promotional emails. just don’t always send them or it will look spammy and unreliable. If you promote good products once a month, you are only providing value to subscribers who need them.
find relevant search terms
If you’re promoting an offer through a blog post, research what keywords someone might use in a search engine to find an answer to a related problem. Google Ads Keyword Planner is a great tool that can help. (It’s free to use, but you’ll need to create an account.)
read more: what is seo marketing and how does it work?
consider your angle
Depending on your offering, estimate how much energy to spend on how-to or tutorial content, which is often a natural lead for someone to try a product for themselves.
for example, you can record a video of yourself using and taking full advantage of a physical product or showing the benefits of a digital product, such as software. Unboxing posts are popular, so if you receive the product in the mail, please document your opening experience.
establish your distribution strategy
Once you’ve written your promotional content, share it on your website or social media platforms. If you have a list of subscribers, you can create an email marketing campaign. And make sure you have an affiliate marketing hub on your website with a resources page where you share a quick list of all the tools you use and love.
try to offer a bonus
Sellers sometimes promote their affiliate programs by offering bonuses to anyone who purchases the offer. For example, you could give away an ebook you wrote to any follower who makes a purchase.
Promotions like this encourage customers to buy by upgrading the deal. They’re especially persuasive if the bonus you’re offering is something you normally sell, because then buyers can see its actual dollar value right on your site.
You can find several examples of affiliate bonuses in action when business coach Marie Forleo opens her popular high school for entrepreneurs each year. To encourage signups through her affiliate link, Laura Belgray, Forleo’s own copywriter, is offering a custom writing session as a bonus.
keep things legal and honest
Don’t forget to inform followers that your post contains affiliate links. For one thing, it’s required by the FTC. but explaining the reason for your membership can also help you connect with your audience.
for example, the financial independence bloggers at frugalwoods offer this information: “frugalwoods sometimes runs sponsorship and affiliate ads, which means that if you click on a link and buy something, frugalwoods might receive a percentage of the sale , no additional charge.” cost to you we only write and promote products we believe in. We promise not to tell you silly things.”
If you need help deciding what language to use in a disclaimer, it’s worth taking some time to consult an attorney.
read more: 16 affiliate marketing tips & strategies to earn more money
examples of affiliate marketing programs
Looking at some of the companies involved in affiliate marketing will provide you with inspiration as well as proof that it is a legitimate and well-paying source of income.
The Shopify Affiliate Program is a network of entrepreneurs, educators, influencers, and creators who refer Shopify. It’s free to sign up for the program, you just need to apply.
Once approved, affiliate partners get a unique affiliate link to share with their audience. they earn affiliate income every time someone signs up using their link.
On average, Shopify affiliates earn $58 for every referral that signs up for a Shopify payment plan. affiliates can earn as much as they want, it all depends on how much time they spend on their affiliate marketing strategy.
I have worked with dozens of companies during my 11 years online, and I have to say shopify has been one of the best to work with! Your affiliate managers and program have made it easy for me to promote your product, earn money, and provide value to my community.”
healthish water bottle retailer used affiliate marketing to build a million dollar brand. Instead of taking the traditional affiliate route, he used Instagram influencers to raise awareness for the launch of his key product, the WB-1 bottle.
The brand continues to work with influencer accounts, from those with 100,000 followers and up. works with around 300 creators per month to create content that markets and sells the bottle at scale.
learn more by reading pre-launch strategies for a million dollar brand.
the wire cutters
the wirecutter, an affiliate website promoting gear and gadgets that was acquired by the new york times in 2016, says it only makes recommendations after “vigorous research, interviews, and testing by teams of veteran journalists”. , scientists and researchers.”
shopping on buzzfeed started as a gift guide and expanded into reviews of various product categories.
What makes the site unique is that it covers a variety of ordinary items, offering the best selections at three different price points. buzzfeed product reviews are quite comprehensive which provides a lot of value to the reader. Here’s a post about toilet paper and another about women’s white t-shirts as examples.
One of the most common examples is Amazon’s affiliate marketing program, known as Amazon Affiliates. In fact, Amazon Affiliates currently hold the largest affiliate network market share (45.81%), followed by CJ Affiliates (8.14%) and Rakuten Affiliate Network (7.85%). ).
Amazon affiliates offer different products in many different categories. is a great way to get into affiliate marketing as a beginner. Creators, publishers, and bloggers can use an Amazon affiliate link to direct their audience to product recommendations. From the link referral, you can earn money on qualifying purchases.
Let’s take sprocker lovers as an example. The site’s owner, Elise Dopson, wrote a blog post titled Are Spaniels Good Running Companions? & 6 tips to run safely. In the article, she recommends a tip on how spaniels should wear a high visibility dog jacket when running at night.
If a reader wants to purchase a high visibility dog jacket, they can click the link and head over to amazon to complete the purchase.
Retailer Urikar offers a high-cost affiliate program with average commissions of $1,460, according to data from Shareasale. sells fitness and wellness products like massage guns, indoor and outdoor workout equipment, and accessories.
urikar offers a 10% commission on all sales, which can add up quickly if you’re a fitness influencer with a large following. Its most popular product, an AI-powered muscle massager, retails for $139.99, which means you’ll earn $13.99 for each sale. The urikar program also provides its own dedicated account manager and affiliate dashboard to track conversions and sales.
start your affiliate marketing business today
Making money with affiliate marketing programs can be a rewarding way to add a new source of income for little or no initial investment. Affiliate marketing takes time, but by spending hours finding the right affiliate network and dialing in your strategy, you can create an affiliate system that will generate passive income for years to come.
click here to apply to the shopify affiliate program.
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Collected data (program name, industry, average commission, average conversion rate) from an affiliate network site of 200 affiliate programs, 20 random programs each from 10 industries. the data comes from a seven-day measurement period (December 7-14, 2021).
data is collected only from an affiliate network site. not all categories could be included due to program unavailability and time constraints for data collection.