Affiliate Marketing: What it is and How to Start for Beginners

Are you looking for a way to generate income online without the hassle of creating and managing your own products? Look no further than affiliate marketing. This performance-based marketing strategy allows you to promote products or services offered by other businesses and earn a commission for each sale made through your unique affiliate link.

In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the world of affiliate marketing, covering everything from how it works to how to get started and succeed in this industry. So, whether you’re a beginner looking to dip your toes into the world of affiliate marketing or an experienced marketer looking to up your game, this article is for you.

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What is Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate marketing is a performance-based marketing model where businesses reward independent marketers or “affiliates” for driving desired actions. The most common action is a sale, but it can also be app downloads, newsletter signups, and more.

As an affiliate marketer, your job is to promote certain products or services from a company. In exchange, you receive a commission whenever someone makes a purchase from your recommendation.

Affiliate commissions typically range between 5-30%, but percentages up to 50% are not uncommon, especially for digital products like ebooks or software.

How Affiliate Marketing Works


The process of affiliate marketing is straightforward and involves several key players:

  1. Merchant: The company offering the products or services you’ll be promoting.
  2. Affiliate: You, the individual who will be promoting the merchant’s products or services.
  3. Customer: The person who makes a purchase through your affiliate link.
  4. Affiliate Network (Optional): A platform that connects merchants and affiliates, providing tools and resources to facilitate the affiliate marketing process.

The role of the affiliate network is to act as a mediator between the merchant and the affiliate, providing tracking and reporting tools, payment processing, and other resources to make the affiliate marketing process smoother.

Why Should You Do Affiliate Marketing?


Affiliate marketing offers numerous benefits for both affiliates and merchants. For affiliates, it’s a great way to generate passive income without the hassle of creating and managing products. You can work from anywhere, at any time, and there is no limit to how much you can earn.

For merchants, affiliate marketing allows them to reach a wider audience and increase their sales without spending money on traditional advertising methods. They only pay commissions when a sale is made, making it a cost-effective marketing strategy.

There are several great reasons to get into affiliate marketing:

  • Low barrier to entry – It’s free to become an affiliate. This makes it very easy for beginners to start earning money online through affiliate marketing.
  • Passive income potential – After your affiliate site is up and running, you can potentially generate income on autopilot. You still need to do some work maintaining it, but it’s very different from a traditional job.
  • Performance-based – With affiliate marketing, you only get paid commissions when you deliver results. There is no risk involved like buying inventory or PPC ads.
  • Be your own boss – Affiliate marketing offers a great deal of freedom since you’re promoting someone else’s products. You don’t have to deal with creating, managing and shipping a product.

Overall, affiliate marketing is a scalable and effective way to start earning money online with just a website, content, and an audience. It’s newbie-friendly but can be very profitable if done right.

Types of Affiliate Marketing


There are several types of affiliate marketing, each with its own unique characteristics and payment models. Let’s take a closer look at each type:

  1. Pay per Sale (PPS): This is the most common type of affiliate marketing, where affiliates earn a commission for each sale made through their unique affiliate link. The commission can be a fixed amount or a percentage of the sale.
  2. Pay per Action (PPA): In this model, affiliates are paid for specific actions taken by the customer, such as filling out a form, signing up for a free trial, or downloading an app.
  3. Pay per Install (PPI): With PPI, affiliates earn a commission for each installation of a software or app that they promote.
  4. Pay per Lead (PPL): This model involves affiliates earning a commission for each lead they generate for the merchant, such as a potential customer filling out a contact form.
  5. Pay per Click (PPC): In PPC, affiliates earn a commission every time a customer clicks on their affiliate link, regardless of whether a sale is made or not.

Pros and Cons of Affiliate Marketing

Like any business model, affiliate marketing has its advantages and disadvantages. Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons:


  • Low startup costs: You don’t need to invest a lot of money to get started with affiliate marketing. All you need is a computer, internet connection, and a platform to promote products.
  • No inventory or shipping: As an affiliate, you don’t have to worry about storing or shipping products. The merchant takes care of all that.
  • Passive income potential: Once you have set up your affiliate links and promoted them, you can earn passive income as long as people continue to make purchases through your links.
  • Flexibility: You can work from anywhere, at any time, and choose which products or services to promote.
  • No customer service: As an affiliate, you are not responsible for dealing with customers’ inquiries or complaints. That’s the merchant’s job.


  • High competition: With the rise in popularity of affiliate marketing, the competition has also increased. It can be challenging to stand out in a crowded market.
  • Dependence on the merchant: Your success as an affiliate depends on the quality of the products or services offered by the merchant. If they have a poor reputation, it can reflect on you.
  • Commission rates can vary: Not all merchants offer the same commission rates, and some may even change their rates without notice.
  • Requires time and effort: Affiliate marketing is not a get-rich-quick scheme. It requires time, effort, and dedication to build a successful affiliate business.

How Do Affiliate Marketers Make Money?


As an affiliate marketer, your main source of income is the commissions you earn from the sales made through your unique affiliate link. The amount you earn will depend on various factors, such as the type of product or service you’re promoting, the commission rate, and the number of sales you generate.

But how exactly do you receive your commission? Let’s take a look at some of the common payment methods used in affiliate marketing:

Affiliate Marketing Payment Models

There are several popular payment models used in the affiliate marketing industry:

Pay Per Sale (PPS)

This is the most common affiliate marketing pay structure. You receive a commission from each customer sale generated. Commissions typically range from 5-30%, depending on the company.

PPS is favorable for affiliates since you only get rewarded for actual sales. However, conversions can be challenging with higher priced goods and services.

Pay Per Lead (PPL)

With PPL, you get paid when a visitor fills out a lead generation form, such as a contact request or account registration. The requirements vary by company. PPL commissions are lower than PPS but lead gen happens more frequently.

Pay Per Install (PPI)

Popular for mobile apps, affiliates generate commissions for each user that installs the app from their link. Rates are similar to PPL and this model incentivizes affiliates to drive app downloads.

Pay Per Click (PPC)

When someone clicks your affiliate link, you generate a tiny amount of income. This model is less common but can work for brand awareness campaigns with lots of traffic. The downside is click fraud potential.

Pay Per Action (PPA)

Similar to PPL, affiliates are paid for specific user actions taken, such as completing a survey or subscribing to a newsletter. The payout is low but the action is simple.

How Do You Get Paid in Affiliate Marketing?

  1. Payoneer: Payoneer is a popular payment method among affiliates, with a fee of only 2% for receiving payments. It offers a secure and fast way to receive your commissions from various merchants.
  2. PayPal: PayPal is another widely used payment method in affiliate marketing, with a fee ranging from 3-5%. It’s easy to set up and allows you to receive payments from multiple merchants.
  3. PingPong: PingPong is a payment service specifically designed for cross-border transactions, making it an ideal choice for affiliates working with international merchants. It charges a fee of only 1% for receiving payments.
  4. Wire Transfer: Some merchants may offer wire transfer as a payment option, which usually comes with a fee of 2-4%.
  5. Stripe: Stripe is a popular payment gateway that allows you to receive payments directly from customers, without going through an affiliate network. It charges a fee of 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction.

How to Start Affiliate Marketing

Now that you have a better understanding of what affiliate marketing is and how it works, let’s take a look at the steps you need to follow to get started:

Step 1: Choose Your Niche

The first step in starting your affiliate marketing journey is to choose a niche. A niche is a specific topic or area that you will focus on when promoting products. It’s essential to choose a niche that you are passionate about and have knowledge or expertise in. This will make it easier for you to create content and promote products effectively.

Some popular niches in affiliate marketing include:

  • Cooking
  • Home office gear
  • Pet care
  • Software
  • Web hosting
  • health and wellness
  • crypto

Step 2: Decide on a Content Platform

Next, you need to decide on a platform to promote products. There are various options available, and the one you choose will depend on your niche, target audience, and personal preferences. Some popular content platforms for affiliate marketing include:

  • Blogging: Blogging is a great way to share information and promote products through written content. It’s also an excellent platform for building an audience and establishing yourself as an authority in your niche.
  • Instagram: Instagram is a visual platform that allows you to promote products through images and videos. It’s ideal for niches such as fashion, beauty, and lifestyle.
  • TikTok: TikTok has gained popularity in recent years and is an excellent platform for promoting products through short videos. It’s especially popular among younger audiences.
  • Facebook: Facebook is a versatile platform that allows you to create different types of content, such as text posts, images, and videos. It’s suitable for almost any niche.
  • Pinterest: Pinterest is a visual search engine that can be a powerful tool for driving traffic to your affiliate site. It’s ideal for niches such as home decor, DIY, and recipes.
  • Pay per Click (PPC): PPC involves paying for ads on search engines or social media platforms to drive traffic to your affiliate site. It can be an effective way to reach a targeted audience.
  • YouTube: YouTube is a video-sharing platform that allows you to create longer-form content and build a loyal following. It’s ideal for niches such as technology, gaming, and beauty.

Step 3: Find Affiliate Programs to Join

Once you have chosen your niche and content platform, it’s time to find affiliate programs to join. An affiliate program is a partnership between a merchant and an affiliate, where the affiliate promotes the merchant’s products or services in exchange for a commission.

There are several ways to find affiliate programs, including:

  • Affiliate Networks: As mentioned earlier, affiliate networks act as a middleman between merchants and affiliates. Some popular affiliate networks include Affiliate Future, AvantLink, CJ, ClickBank, FlexOffers, LinkConnector, and ShareASale.
  • Directly from Merchants: You can also reach out to merchants directly and inquire about their affiliate programs. This can be a great option if you have a specific merchant in mind that you want to promote.
  • Google Search: Another way to find affiliate programs is by doing a simple Google search. For example, if you’re in the health and wellness niche, you can search for “health and wellness affiliate programs” to find relevant options.

Step 4: Create Great Content

Once you’re accepted into one or more affiliate programs, it’s time to start creating content that helps readers and promotes products.

Your content should aim to teach, entertain and engage viewers or readers around topics related to your niche. This builds trust and establishes your expertise on the subject.

Naturally insert affiliate links and product recommendations within your content. Don’t push products too hard or readers will catch on. Provide honest value and recommendations tailored to what your audience needs most.

Here are some content ideas:

  • Top 10 product reviews
  • Tutorials and guides
  • Case studies
  • Product demos
  • Interviews with influencers
  • Comparison posts
  • Best starter guides
  • Gift ideas
  • Roundups

The focus should be providing value to readers first, not direct sales pitches. If you stick to this, the affiliate commissions will follow.

Step 5: Drive Traffic to Your Affiliate Site

Having great content is not enough; you also need to drive traffic to your affiliate site to increase your chances of making sales. There are various ways to drive traffic, including:

A. Paid Traffic

As mentioned earlier, PPC is one way to drive paid traffic to your affiliate site. However, there are other options available, such as social media ads and influencer marketing. It’s essential to research and choose the best option for your niche and budget.


Search Engine Optimization (SEO) involves optimizing your content and website to rank higher on search engine results pages. This can help drive organic traffic to your site and increase your chances of making sales. Some SEO techniques include keyword research, creating quality backlinks, and optimizing your website for mobile devices.

C. Build an Email List

Building an email list is an effective way to stay in touch with your audience and promote products. You can offer a freebie or lead magnet to entice people to sign up for your email list. Once you have their email addresses, you can send them regular updates, promotions, and product recommendations.

D Social media

Promote your content on all social platforms to maximize your reach, engagement and traffic.

The more relevant traffic you can drive to your affiliate content, the higher your conversions and earnings will climb.

Step 6: Get Clicks on Your Affiliate Links

Getting clicks on your affiliate links is crucial to earning commissions. Here are some tips to help you get more clicks:

A. Link Placement

The placement of your affiliate links can significantly impact the number of clicks you receive. It’s best to place your links within your content, where they are relevant and make sense. Avoid placing too many links in one place as it can come across as spammy.

B. Context

Context is essential when promoting products through affiliate links. Make sure to provide enough information about the product and why you recommend it to your audience. This will make your links more compelling and increase the chances of getting clicks.

C. Callouts

Using callouts, such as banners or buttons, can also help draw attention to your affiliate links and encourage clicks. Just make sure not to overdo it and keep the design clean and professional.

Step 7: Convert Clicks to Sales

Finally, the ultimate goal of affiliate marketing is to convert clicks into sales. To do this, you need to ensure that the products or services you’re promoting are of high quality and relevant to your audience. It’s also essential to be honest and transparent in your recommendations to maintain the trust of your audience.

Affiliate Marketing Tools


As an affiliate marketer, there are various tools and resources available to help you succeed. Some popular tools include:

  • Affiliate Networks: As mentioned earlier, affiliate networks provide tools and resources to facilitate the affiliate marketing process.
  • Link Management Tools: These tools allow you to track and manage your affiliate links in one place, making it easier to monitor your clicks and commissions.
  • Analytics Tools: Analytics tools, such as Google Analytics, can help you track your website’s performance and identify areas for improvement.
  • Keyword Research Tools: Keyword research tools, such as SEMrush and Ahrefs, can help you find relevant keywords to use in your content and improve your SEO.
  • Email Marketing Tools: Email marketing tools, such as Mailchimp and ConvertKit, can help you build and manage your email list.
  • Social Media Management Tools: Social media management tools, such as Hootsuite and Buffer, can help you schedule and manage your social media posts.

Tips for Affiliate Marketing Success


Here are some tips to help you succeed in affiliate marketing:

  • Develop a rapport with your audience: Building a relationship with your audience is crucial in affiliate marketing. Engage with them, respond to their comments and questions, and show them that you genuinely care about their needs.
  • Make it personal: People are more likely to trust recommendations from someone they know and relate to. Share your personal experiences and opinions about the products you promote to make your recommendations more authentic.
  • Start reviewing products and services: Product reviews are an effective way to promote products and earn commissions. Be honest and thorough in your reviews, and always disclose that you are using affiliate links.
  • Use several sources: Don’t rely on just one platform or source of traffic. Diversify your efforts and use multiple platforms and strategies to reach a wider audience.
  • Choose campaigns with care: Not all products or services will be a good fit for your audience. Choose campaigns that align with your niche and target audience to increase your chances of success.
  • Stay current with trends: Keep up to date with the latest trends and changes in the affiliate marketing industry. This will help you stay ahead of the competition and adapt your strategies accordingly.

Affiliate Program Examples

To give you a better idea of how affiliate marketing works, here are some examples of popular affiliate programs:

  • Amazon Affiliate Marketing: Amazon Associates is one of the most popular affiliate programs, with a wide range of products to promote and competitive commission rates.
  • Etsy Affiliate Marketing: Etsy offers an affiliate program that allows you to earn a commission for promoting handmade and vintage items.
  • eBay Affiliate Marketing: eBay’s Partner Network offers affiliates the opportunity to earn commissions by promoting products from their marketplace.
  • ClickBank: ClickBank is an affiliate network that specializes in digital products, such as e-books and online courses.
  • FlexOffers: FlexOffers is an affiliate network that offers a wide range of products and services to promote, including fashion, health, and finance.
  • ShareASale: ShareASale is an affiliate network with over 4,000 merchants and various commission structures to choose from.

Conclusion – Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing can be a lucrative and flexible way to earn money online. By choosing the right niche, creating quality content, and promoting products effectively, you can build a successful affiliate marketing business. Remember to always prioritize building trust with your audience and staying up to date with industry trends to achieve long-term success in this field.

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