What is affiliate marketing?

Affiliate marketing is done when promoting products from other companies.

If someone buys them through your affiliate link, you get a commission.

When you become an affiliate, you become a salesperson for a company that is not yours.

You help this other company finalize a sale, and the company rewards you

The best thing about affiliate marketing is that it is scalable.

Usually the sellers do so with the products of one company: as an affiliate, however, you can promote the products of many different companies and earn commissions from all of them.

How does affiliate marketing work?

The merchant gives each affiliate a unique link, in order to keep track of who made the sale. When someone clicks on the link, a small file called a cookie is saved on the device they are browsing from.

Affiliate cookies have two characteristics:

  1. they help the merchant to attribute the sale to the right affiliate
  2. They (usually) have an expiration date, so the affiliate gets paid even if the customer clicks the link but completes the purchase later.

Let’s take an example.

Imagine a reader visits your post about the best winter jackets and then clicks on one of your affiliate links that leads them to a product on Amazon.

Then she remembers that she has to pick up her daughter from school.

So he leaves the house, picks up his daughter, has dinner and eventually returns to Amazon where he finds the product.

While he’s on Amazon, he decides to buy some ski equipment as well.

Here’s the good news: At first he clicked on your affiliate link and a cookie was saved on his device.

Amazon’s cookies last for 24 hours, so you’ll get paid for both your winter jacket and ski equipment, even if you haven’t advertised the equipment directly.

Nice but… how much do affiliate marketers earn?

The answer is very simple: there is no limit to the potential gain. The profit depends on the niche and the commitment you want to put into it.

The most successful affiliate marketers can earn hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars per month.

How to get started with affiliate marketing

To get started, simply follow these seven simple steps.

  1. Choose a platform
  2. Choose a niche
  3. Find affiliate programs to join
  4. Create valuable content
  5. Drive traffic to your affiliate site
  6. Get clicks on affiliate links
  7. Convert clicks to sales

Step # 1: choose a platform

In theory, you can do affiliate marketing on any platform. Even on Instagram.

But it is much easier to build an audience and increase affiliate sales with one of these two channels: a blog or a YouTube channel.

Starting a blog these days is relatively easy and inexpensive. There are tons of tutorials online that teach you how to get started. The biggest advantage? A blog will probably cost you a few euros a month.

Once the site is created, optimize it for search engines  to have more chances to rank . From there on you are free to add affiliate links to your content. (There is a better way than others to add them, and you will find out by continuing to read this guide.)

The second platform is YouTube. Creating and uploading content to YouTube is free, making YouTube ideal for many. Optimize videos for SEO  and insert affiliate links in the description.

One of my favorite examples is on BookTube , a book review channel made by several YouTubers:

Note that you need to make public that your content contains affiliate links. The Federal Trade Commissions ( FTC )  requires full transparency if you receive money in exchange for advertising.

If you use a blog, create a page of its own or insert the declaration in the footer of your site like this:

2021 Atopaz Limited. All Rights Reserved

Step # 2: choose a niche

Let’s face it: if you start a blog today, you will face a lot of competition. Statista estimates  that the number of bloggers in the United States will reach 31.7 million by 2020.

To have the best chance of success you need to specialize in a niche.

Choose a topic that pertains to a specific category . For example, the topic “food” is too broad a category. Instead of tackling that, you can try something more specific, such as grilled foods.

Keeping the topic specific helps build a more targeted audience and potentially helps you rank better on search engines .

That’s what I did when I built my first site. Instead of talking about “dance” or “hip hop”, I decided to limit myself to just dealing with breakdance. At that time I didn’t know anything about SEO , but I managed to rank for some keywords and generate about 3,000 organic visits per month.

Then when you have covered all the main topics of the category and have brought traffic to these pages, you can expand to other areas.

Now, if you are going to be the primary creator of the content, pick a topic that interests you .

Many affiliate sites are dying from lack of continuity. At least, if you are passionate about a topic you will find it much easier to move forward when the going gets tough.

If you’re not an expert on what you want to cover, don’t worry. As Gary Vaynerchuk says , you have to “document, not create”. Documenting what you have learned can become great content and attract people interested in following your progress.

Step # 3: Find Affiliate Programs To Sign Up To

You can choose from three types of affiliate programs.

A. Affiliate programs that pay a lot for niche products

These affiliate programs are about niche products with high payouts.

For example, ConvertKit’s affiliate program pays about $ 700 (about € 630) per month if 80 customers are referred to it. However, as the company sells CRM software for small businesses, the number of potential customers is limited.

[Earn with us!

We credit you 30% commission for each person who signs up to ConvertKit using your affiliate link. But not only. That 30% will come to your account every month as long as that person’s ConvertKit account remains active.

Do you want to see immediately how much you could earn?

Move your cursor over our Commission Calculator to see how much you could earn.

PS The scale only shows commissions for referrals on our basic monthly plan. You can earn MUCH more if your referrals have larger email lists.] 

Also for high commission programs there tends to be more competition. You are probably starting out, so it will be quite difficult to make a significant amount of money if you are competing with experienced marketers who make a lot more than you.

B. Affiliate programs that pay little for popular products

These affiliate programs advertise products that have a low payout but are capable of grabbing the attention of a large audience.

Let’s take PS4 games for example . Many people play PS4 , but the average cost of a game is around $ 50 ($ 45), and the affiliate fees are usually in the single digits. This means that if you are lucky, you will earn 2 or 3 dollars (more or less 2 or 3 euros) per sale.

The feature that makes us re-evaluate these types of programs is that they usually offer a lot of products to sell. Let’s take Amazon’s affiliate program for example. You can earn up to 10% commissions on almost any product sold on Amazon.

[Take advantage of our experience

Earn up to 10% commissions with a recognized e-commerce leader]

The other good thing is that commissions are often calculated on the total value of the sale, and not just on the product you advertised.

To make this type of affiliate program profitable, you will need a lot of traffic.

C. Affiliate programs that pay a lot for popular products

These are affiliate programs on popular products but which also pay high commissions.

One example is credit card affiliate programs.

We all need a credit card, and most people stay with the same bank for years  (some even decades!).

The downside to these types of products is that they attract very experienced and very well paid marketers into affiliate marketing. Some even use spammy tactics that you simply will never be able to compete with.

This is a tutorial designed for beginners, so we won’t go into more detail.

Suffice it to say that this type of program exists.

How to decide which affiliate programs to join

It depends on your niche and your level of experience.

If your target is customers of popular products, you will probably choose the second model, the one with low commissions and high sales volumes.

If, on the other hand, you are interested in a business clientele, you will probably choose the first model: affiliations that pay high on niche products. The most popular programs of this type involve hosting software and services.

google search

[best software affiliate programs]
Alternatively, you can enter your competitor’s affiliate site in 
Ahrefs’ Site Explorer  and go to the 
Linked domains report 
.
For example, I know that Pat Flynn promotes various software on his Smart Passive Income site. 
Looking at the Linked domains report I find that Pat links to Aweber very frequently.

Step # 4: create valuable content
If you want your affiliate site to be successful, you need to create high quality content where affiliate links are placed naturally.
Here is an example. 
Tim Ferriss 
interviewed 100+ famous people , asking them this question:
What purchase of $ 100 or less has most positively impacted your life in the last six months (or in recent memory)?
Which purchase of up to $ 100 has had the best impact on your life in the last six months (or the last period)?
He posted the responses in a blog post and placed affiliate links on the products mentioned:
[Kelly, Kevin: I recently upgraded the 
1Password password manager to the Team / Family plan 

Now I can share with my family and co-workers the security, simplicity and liberation of using a good password manager. 
We can securely share the right passwords.
Koppelman, Brian: My 
Butterfly Petr Korbel Ping Pong Racket  Because when I bought it I knew I was training as a ping pong player. 
I’ve always loved playing it, and I’ve always told myself that someday I’d try to get good at it. 
Buying the racket was like saying that day has come.] 
Judging by the comments, those who follow him liked it.
This is the method you need to imitate when creating content for your affiliate site.
Don’t make a trivial review of Amazon’s best-selling products. 
Make an effort to make sure your content solves the page viewer problem.
How to do? 
If you do a review, 
buy the product and test it . 
Wirecutter did so, and this explains its success.
[Our reviews are made with reports, interviews and tests, done with passion by a team of experienced journalists, scientists and researchers. 
[…] We are proud to follow journalistic standards and such a rigorous journalistic ethics, and our editorial line remains independent of economic matters.]
If you don’t have the money to buy every single product, you can always start with the ones you have at home. 
For example, if you have a blog that talks about technology, you could create reviews of the gadgets you already own.
Step # 5: Drive traffic to your affiliate site
You have created valuable content. 
The next step is to get more people to read it, and get them to click on affiliate links.
Here are three strategies you could try to gain traffic:
A. Paid Traffic
Paid traffic means paying to get visitors to your site – you can use 
PPC advertising to get it 
.
The advantage of paid traffic is that the moment you start paying you get traffic.
There are some drawbacks though.
Advertising will undermine your profits in the first place. 
It is quite normal for advertisers to lose money before they make it… if they ever make it![… You will not optimize a Google Ads campaign in the first week or in the first two weeks. 
[…] It takes time and will probably only cost the first few months.]
You have to keep your feet on the ground and understand how long it takes to optimize a campaign to get paid traffic.
Second, when you stop paying for advertising, the traffic will stop coming.
In general, advertising is a great strategy to generate traffic if you are part of an affiliate program that pays a lot and can engage a lot of customers.
On the other hand, if you’re completely new to paid marketing and don’t have a marketing budget (or work with low-commission programs like Amazon Associates), it might not be a great idea.
B. Search engine optimization ( 
SEO )
Doing 
SEO  means optimizing pages in order to better position themselves on search engines like Google.
As long as you rank well in the search engines for the keywords you have chosen, you will get quality passive traffic.
At 
the simplest level possible , doing 
SEO means:
understand what the customers you want to attract are looking for;
create content on the topics being searched (blog posts, product pages, etc.);
dealing with “technical” aspects to push pages higher in search engine results (for example by doing 
link building ).
C. Build an email list
Email lists allow you to communicate with your readers at any time.
Use them to inform your fans about new content and to encourage them to come back to your site to read what’s new. 
This way you will get more clicks and more affiliate sales.
You can even email affiliate promotions directly to the list:
Step # 6: Get clicks on affiliate links
Just because you have amazing content doesn’t automatically mean people will click on affiliate links.
Here are some things you need to take into account.
A. Link placement
If all of your affiliate links are at the bottom of the page where scrolling is rarely reached, clicks will be few and far between.
On the other hand, if you turn all the words of the introduction into a link, your content will look like spam.
It is necessary to balance the positioning of the links with the other factors that we list below.
B. Background
Let’s say you are writing an article on the best kitchen knives for sale for less than 50 euros.
The introduction probably shouldn’t look like this:
 Today  I do a 
review of the best 
kitchen knives 
.
The links are clearly out of context and look like spam.
It makes much more sense to write like this:
Today I am reviewing three different kitchen knives for sale on Amazon for less than 50 euros. 
These are 
productname1 , 
productname2,  and 
productname3 .
C. Callout
Using callouts, i.e. buttons, tables and boxes, can help you grab the attention of readers and make the post more immediately understandable and readable.
For example The Wirecutter uses very attractive boxes with links to products every time it shares a better affiliate product.
Step # 7: convert clicks to sales
In affiliate marketing, two conversions have to take place to make you money.
The first conversion is the 
click to the product page .
You have full control over this action. 
Use the tactics we explained earlier to increase the chance of getting that click.
The second conversion occurs when the 
visitor buys the product . 
In the case of affiliate marketing, it is the merchant who has control over the checkout and the merchant conversion rates are out of your control.
The trick is to play the game to your advantage and look for merchants with programs that convert well.
Here are some ways to find them:
A. Public Earnings Reports
If other people get decent from an affiliate program, the product is likely to convert well.
How do you know others are earning?
Just look for public earnings reports where bloggers publicly reveal when they make money from their affiliate relationships.
You can find these reports on Google.
For example, if you search for “amazon affiliate earnings report”, you will see several posts explaining how bloggers have earned revenue from the Amazon affiliate program.
B. Ask questions
If there isn’t enough information on an affiliate program you would like to join, sign up and ask questions.
For example, you might want to find out what the average conversion rates are or want to get an estimate of the monthly commissions paid to the best affiliates.
These questions can help you figure out if the affiliate program is one worth promoting.
C. Go to intuition
In some cases, the right thing to do is to use intuition.
If the program or product you’re researching doesn’t seem like a great deal to you, or if you personally wouldn’t recommend it to a family member or friend, then don’t promote it.
Final considerations
In this guide we have not rediscovered the hot water of affiliate marketing: we have retraced the basics and if you apply them you can start on the right foot.
Don’t expect to earn life-changing sums or have the freedom to be fired from your steady job overnight. 
Affiliate marketing takes time.
In the beginning, focus on taking home your first affiliate sale. 
As your site grows, set yourself new goals and keep experimenting.
This way you will gradually build a site that will eventually allow you to make a decent income.
Do you have any questions? 
You can get them in the comments or 
on my Twitter profile .