What is Affiliate Marketing? A Simple Guide To Affiliate Marketing

Becoming a part of an affiliate network is an excellent strategy for bloggers looking to up their current income or even just to begin actually making money from their blog. There are several options when it comes to affiliate marketing as well as strategies for making affiliate marketing work for you. Below I will explain to you what is affiliate marketing, examples of affiliate marketing in blogging, affiliate strategies and some of the top affiliate networks to join.

Affiliate marketing can be a difficult concept for people to get their heads around, hence why most successful affiliate marketers are few and far between. Whenever I try to explain what I do to family members and friends, they all look at me like I’m from another planet or they say “Oh you’re in I.T”.

The ones that do show a genuine interest in what I do, can’t believe that affiliate marketing is an actual thing!

People think that there’s only one way to make money in life and that is…..go to an office or place, work for 8 hours and then come home. Repeat for the next 40 years of your life.

So, What Is Affiliate Marketing All About?

A simple definition for affiliate marketing is:

noun

a marketing arrangement by which an online retailer pays commission to an external website for traffic or sales generated from its referrals.

In its simplest form, affiliate marketing is the monetization of “Word Of Mouth” marketing.

If your friend, who you trust, recommends a product or service to you, you’re more than likely going to buy it, purely because they recommended it to you and you trust what they say is good.

That is what affiliate marketing is.

Affiliate marketing is one of the most popular ways people make money online and for some it can be a passive income once established. It is a strategy where an individual partners with a business (mainly an ecommerce sites ) in order to make a commission by referring readers or visitors to a business’s particular product or service. But that really is quite a simple explanation. To be really successful at making money with affiliate marketing there is a little more to it.

In the case of blogging, a blogger will become an affiliate of a selected company via an affiliate network or directly from the ecommerce business, and make money from being an affiliate by placing a link, button or banner within a blog post that will lead the readers to that affiliate products or services.

A good blogger and affiliate will utilize a number of different marketing channels to promote content.

Affiliate Marketing Examples and Strategies

What does affiliate marketing look like when you’re a blogger? An example of this could be blatantly creating a post that is actually about the company you are affiliated with or you could deftly weave the product or service into a post that is on a related topic.

An example of going the blatant root?

Let’s say you are a food blogger and one of the companies you are an affiliate partner of sells food processors. You can write an entire post about that food processor including:

  • Benefits
  • Pros and cons of the food processor
  • Capabilities
  • Recipes where the food processor could be utilized
  • Cost
  • Care instructions and more
  • Video of you unboxing the food processor and using it.

Then you could include a button, link or banner ad that would take the reader directly to that product on an ecommerce site or platform, and they could order it based on your recommendations. Your job is to send potential customers to your affiliate partner’s offer.

An example of going the subtle root?

If you would like to take a more subtle approach, include a product or service from your company that relates into your blog post.

For example, let’s say that you are a wine connoisseur and that is what your blog is based around. In any post that is enticing your readers to open up a good bottle of Merlot or what have you, it would be wise to embed an ad for a quality, easy-to-use wine opener, wine glasses or stoppers that keep the wine fresh.

I find the subtle approach gives me a higher click-through rates and better conversion rates once the reader leaves my site for my affiliate partner’s offer.

Here’s a very simple affiliate marketing example for you to get your head around…

You’re promoting other people’s products / services to your audience, who you’ve built up trust with. If they buy through your affiliate link, you get a percentage of that sale.

Let’s say you sign up to be an affiliate for Bob’s Amazing Online Donuts.

You get 10% commission when someone buys donuts via your affiliate link.

You set up a website all about making donuts, reviewing donut making equipment, resources on making the perfect donuts, best places to buy donuts online etc.

You then write a mini review on your page “Best Donuts You Can Buy Online”.

It then gets indexed on Google and you start getting traffic to that page.

The people searching for “Best Donuts You Can Buy Online” land on your page, read your review of “Bob’s Amazing Online Donuts” and click on your affiliate link.

They then buy a $29.99 a month donut subscription box, of which you get $2.99.

Simple. Right?

This concept works in many different niches. You can promote all kinds of products.

Why Would a Company Be Interested In Affiliate Marketing?

Companies are attracted to affiliate marketing because it can be a great way to promote their products, and they only have to pay a commission if there’s a conversion.

They don’t have to employ large sales teams to generate leads and sales, they don’t have to spend huge budgets on paid advertising. It’s just a very cost efficient way of generating revenue for a business.

Many companies like the affiliate marketing option because more often than not they are paying a hell of a lot of money for online ads that aren’t bring in the leads and sales they require to make their business a success. With affiliate marketing, the company only pays if a sale is made or if they receive a lead.

In the meantime, other people ( affiliates ) are essentially doing all the marketing work for the brand in the hope that they can make a commission.

Companies will literally gain an army of online marketers to generate business for them. It’s a win / win situation.

There’s FOUR main parties involved with affiliate marketing.

1. The Advertiser / Merchant / Product Seller

The advertiser is anyone who has a business and is willing to pay someone else to help him/her to promote or sell his/her business. This could be a massive brand like Amazon who sell billions and billions of dollars worth of products a month or a small business like MiniFigures who sell custom miniature lego figures online. They could also be a solo entrepreneur with a physical object, like household goods, or a service that creates online courses or tutorials.

From solo entrepreneurs to startups to massive Fortune 500 companies, anyone could be the merchant behind an affiliate marketing program. They don’t even have to be actively involved. They just have to have a product to sell and affiliates to payout to.

2. The Affiliate / Publisher

The affiliate or also known as the publisher, is that company or individual who promotes a product or service from an advertiser in exchange for a commission.

The advertiser will work with the publisher on contract and will provide the publisher with creative data that they can incorporate into their website for purposes of promoting the product or service.

An affiliate marketing business can produce a few hundred dollars in commissions each month or tens of millions of dollars.

It’s where the marketing happens. An affiliate promotes one or multiple affiliate products and tries to attract and convince potential customers of the value of the merchant’s product so that they actually end up buying it.

3. The Customer / Audience

Without customers there will be no affiliate marketing. They make the whole affiliate marketing system go round. Without sales, there aren’t any commissions to hand out and no revenue to be shared.

Your target audience is key to you making affiliate commissions. You need to build a website that provides your target audience with the content they are searching for.

You as the affiliate will try to market the consumer on whatever channel they see fit. This could be via social networks, paid advertising or through search engines via quality content marketing on a blog or website ( something which I will be teaching you how to do.)

The consumer will use your tracked affiliate links to make a purchase, which will then result in you, the affiliate, getting a slice of the pie.

4. The Affiliate Network

Affiliate networks like Shareasale and CJ play a big part in the affiliate marketing wheel. A network works as an intermediary between the affiliate and the merchant.

While you could technically promote an online course someone has created and just arrange a direct revenue share with them, letting a network such as ClickBank or Commission Junction handle the payment and product delivery puts a more serious note on your affiliate marketing.

Sometimes, affiliates have to go through an affiliate network to even be able to promote the product. For example, this happens if the merchant only manages their affiliate program on that network.

The affiliate network then also serves as a database of lots of products, out of which the affiliate marketer can choose which to promote.

Examples of Websites Using Affiliate Marketing

Sometimes it’s a good idea to actually see some success stories within affiliate marketing to truly understand the concept of “affiliate marketing”. Below I have included some real examples of websites that earn thousands of dollars per month / day, with affiliate marketing.

HuffingtonPost.com

Many bloggers also happen to have published more traditional collections of their writings, which allows for some affiliate marketing opportunities within any of their online pieces. Specifically, affiliate links to online retailers can be included as part of an author’s articles or blog posts.

TopTenSelect.com

This popular product review site reviews different types of Amazon products and compiles them into comparison tables and top 10 lists. The site appears to be mainly funded by the affiliate marketing program, Amazon Associates, and only looks to gain traffic from one marketing channel (Google). The content on the site is comprehensive and gives the user great advice on what products are worth the money.

Dodoburd

Another insanely popular gift review site, dodoburd not only gains traffic organically from Google but they also have a strong Pinterest game. All their posts are optimized to be used on Pinterest and the content is comprehensive and well written. A great example of content marketing that fuels huge affiliate revenue growth.

Things to Avoid with Affiliate Marketing

With affiliate marketing it is best to approach content creation like you are trying to explain something to a friend or family member. Don’t write like a salesperson when featuring a product or service from a company you are an affiliate of or change the tone your readers are used to.

Yes, you are in fact selling something, but your blog doesn’t suddenly have to turn into a commercial or take on a voice that may be off putting to your readers. Often, bloggers will talk about how the product or service was beneficial to them while it relates to the blog’s topic.

Another thing to avoid would be to display a banner or button in the post in a way that doesn’t make sense or that doesn’t seem to relate to the post. Give some sort of introduction to the product or a lead that particularly relates to the service so that its appearance on your blog will flow seamlessly.

I have pages on this site that only has one mention of a particular product with just one small anchor text link, and that generates well over $1000 a month.

Always Disclose Your Affiliation 

It’s important to note that as an affiliate marketer by law you need to have an affiliate disclosure statement on all pages that contain affiliate links. This is a requirement by the FTC (Federal Trade Commission). You can check their guidelines here.

Making Money As An Affiliate Marketer

How exactly does an affiliate make money? Believe it or not, an affiliate marketing business is probably one of the most profitable you’d likely to come across. Set up correctly, it can be very lucrative.

An affiliate’s payment is based off of affiliate commission from the company they are an affiliate of or are paid via an affiliate marketing program or network such as Shareasale or Awin. The buttons, links or banners of the products you are trying to sell contain your unique user ID when you embed the HTML code into your blog that makes the ad appear.

When the user clicks that ad / link / image and chooses to buy the product, the company will be alerted that you were the affiliate that led them to that purchase. As such, you will receive a commission from the company for being responsible in driving traffic and new customers to their website.

Why affiliate marketing is great for online influencers.

If you’re already an influencer in your niche and have a ready built audience, then potentially you can do very well with affiliate marketing.

Since social media has blown up over the past 4 years with the rise in popularity of platforms like Snapchat and Instagram, social media influencers have been killing it with affiliate marketing. Influencer marketing has become one of the biggest and hottest trends in affiliate marketing in 2018 and will no doubt increase in 2021.

Influencers have established social media followings on Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube and Snapchat, and provide marketers with an opportunity to reach niche audiences and build relevance at scale.

Online influencers have a great opportunity to utilise the earning power of affiliate marketing and incorporate it into what they do best. Influencers on YouTube can easily make thousands of dollars per video by simply reviewing or mentioning a product to their audience. This mention influences others to purchase the product that the influencer is talking about.

How Do You Get Traffic To The Products Or Services You Are Trying To Sell?

One of the main reasons why most newbie affiliate marketers give up after 3 months is the fact that they can’t build up traffic to their affiliate website. It’s a thorn in most marketers’ sides, but one that can be easily resolved if you put the effort in. Below I have covered a few areas that will get you good targeted traffic to your affiliate deals.

Create resourceful quality content

Easier said than done you might say. It’s true. Creating something truly amazing and resourceful takes time, effort and dedication to the project. But you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Have a look at these great content ideas that you could use for blog.

Make your posts engaging and offer a lead that will capture readers attention and make them want to read on and learn more about the product or service.

Practice effective SEO techniques

Just as with any blog post, utilising good SEO strategies and driving traffic from search engines can be a good source of quality traffic.
The skyscraping technique is a great way to not only rank for loads more keywords naturally, but also to generate links to your content by becoming the best and most comprehensive resource on the web. It’s a common tactic used in online marketing for building organic traffic.

Skyscraping is when you find the best content for a particular keyword and then create your own version, but make it even better than the original. This can be done by covering areas that might be missing from your competitors piece or expanding on those topics, and become the ultimate resource for that subject.

Paid Traffic

The majority of affiliate marketers pay for their traffic via platforms like Facebook, Google Adwords (PPC) and other ad networks. For me I’d rather gain traffic for free via search engines and social media. Be careful when promoting your affiliate links on social networks as most of them will not entertain the idea of you publishing direct links to your affiliate offers. It’s always best to send social traffic to your own landing page on your site.

Email List

They say the money is in the list. Building up a solid email list of subscribers is one sure fire way to generate income from affiliate marketing and online marketing. Good email marketing is key. To do this you need to action some email list building ideas in order to attract people to signing up. Ideas like creating a giveaway such as a free ebook in exchange for their email works really well. Once you’ve built up trust with your audience, they will be more inclined to buy from your suggestions to them. This is where the money comes rolling in from affiliate sales. I can’t stress enough how important it is to get onboard with email marketing, as it gives you the edge over other affiliate marketers in your niche.

Upsell

Upselling is a sales technique where the salesperson encourages a more expensive purchase by a customer by persuading them to get an upgraded version of an item or to purchase add-ons. Remember our food processor example? That food processor could probably be best used with a book of recipes, which also can be purchased at the same company’s website. Upselling is an affiliate marketers’ secret weapon to gaining extra affiliate sales.

Promote products you would buy

Do you have zero interest in an expensive mountain bike the company you are an affiliate of sells? Well, you probably don’t want to feature it on your blog, as it is extremely difficult to persuade readers (or anyone for that matter) that they should buy something you wouldn’t be caught spending a single penny on. When you are passionate about a product or–at the very least–interested in learning more about it, this will come through to your readers, engage them and better coax them to buy

Examples Of Affiliate Networks

There are several options when it comes to joining an affiliate network. It would be also be wise to join several, so that you have a variety of products and/or services at your disposal to write about and a wealth of affiliate commission.

Here are just a few that have been of great benefit to me over the years:

Amazon Associates
One of the oldest affiliate networks on the web, Amazon associates is one of the main reasons why Amazon has become the monster it is today. For me, it’s been the easiest way to earn affiliate income. I have built countless Amazon niche sites where I have earned money through reviewing products that appear on Amazon.com or .co.uk

You can become an Amazon affiliate really easily. Click here to find out more.

Also take a look as some of the most popular and trusted affiliate networks.

If you’re interested in learning more about these affiliate networks then you might want to check out my in-depth comparison of the top affiliate programs.

Building enough traffic to make a meaningful income just from affiliate sales isn’t quick or easy. It’s a slow process, especially when you’re going down the free traffic model of affiliate marketing.

Start small and build gradually.
Stay focused and stay strong.
Keep at it.
Keep grinding.

Further Resources On Affiliate Marketing

There are loads and loads of affiliate marketing resources online. There is no point initially signing up to any premium content about affiliate marketing. You can pretty much pick up the information you need for free. It’s all out there. From video tutorials to detailed guides and resources.

Here’s just a few that you can check out.

  • How Affiliate Marketing Works – Rae Hoffman (SugarRae) has a great visual explanation for how the affiliate marketing process works, from the initial signup to getting paid.
  • Passive Income Ideas A whole long detailed list of passive income ideas that you can easily set up in just a matter of months.
  • The Rise of Dr. Ngo – This multi-part series from Charles Ngo is one of the most honest, in-depth accounting of an affiliate marketer’s successes and failures. Getting through all eight parts will take you a while, but is absolutely worth your time.
  • Affiliate Marketing 101 – Ahmad Ben is documenting his journey from the 9-5 to becoming a full time internet marketer. His post on Affiliate marketing is a great primer for beginners.
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Jamie

My name is Jamie Spencer and I have spent the past 5 years building money making blogs. After growing tired of the 9-5, commuting and never seeing my family I decided that I wanted to make some changes and launched my first blog. Since then I have launched lots of successful niche blogs and after selling my survivalist blog I decided to teach other people how to do the same.

9 thoughts on “What is Affiliate Marketing? A Simple Guide To Affiliate Marketing”

  1. Thanks Ben. I agree with you 100%. It’s an unsung art form that a lot of people bypass. Their loss is our gain. ;)

    Reply
  2. I’ve had some success with Affiliate Marketing recently and its extremely rewarding.

    You can build a true business with residual income if you work hard and provide real value.

    This article is really informative and a great starting point for anyone trying to get in the industry. There’s gold in the first paragraph under the headline”Things to Avoid with Affiliate Marketing”.

    My takeaway from that message is to help others solve problems like you would a friend or family member and you’ll be rewarded more times than not. I practice this in my business and can verify it works amazingly!

    Thanks for the great read!

    Reply
  3. Hi Jamie. Just a couple of questions for you regarding affiliate marketing.

    1. What are the steps/requirements to get started in affiliate marketing?
    2) Being new in the business, what type(s) of online businesses can be started up?

    Reply
    • Hi Ufon

      It is often a lot easier to have a website already set up so that the affiliate managers can approve you.

      You will then have to sign some tax forms, agree to the merchants terms and conditions and give them your bank details or Paypal account so you can be paid.

      If you are looking for some online business ideas then check out this post of about 20 ideas that work:

      https://makeawebsitehub.com/online-business-ideas/

      Jamie

      Reply
  4. I have just entered in affiliate marketing and struggling at the moment. But the perks have motivated me to actually keep pursuing and hopefully I will share the results in a year with you.

    Reply
  5. A great little post on affiliate marketing here. I myself am in the affiliate marketing space but wasn’t aware that websites like IMDB and the huffington post use affiliate marketing. I’ve learnt something new today! :-)

    I believe affiliate marketing is by far the most popular and can also be the most lucrative business model out there. So many positives to it that make it stand out compared to other traditional business models, like franchising for example.

    Reply
    • Thanks Ben. I agree with you 100%. It’s an unsung art form that a lot of people bypass. Their loss is our gain. ;)

      Reply

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