How to make money with affiliate marketing – A beginner’s guide

Affiliate marketing is one of the best and most profitable ways to make money on the internet. Many bloggers and YouTubers have added it as a steady income stream as a part of their content monetization strategy. 

In this post, we are going to teach you how to make money with affiliate marketing. Before getting into the article, let us first understand the definition of affiliate marketing.

What is affiliate marketing and How it works?

E-commerce sites, web-hosting providers and many other online businesses, appoint affiliates who have some means of reaching an audience. These companies create affiliate programs to get affiliates enrol into the network to promote and help push their products for sale. 

Some companies use the term publisher, associates or partners instead of using the term affiliate.

After you get enrolled into their programs, you get a chance to make links to promote their products on your website or any other channel.

Customers that are sent from your site to the client’s site are tracked by using special codes on the order link placed on your website.  Every time, you refer a visitor to your partner’s site, you get a percentage if he makes a sale. Commission percentage depends on the product that you sell.

To get tracked your referrals, you will be assigned a specific user ID. Therefore, to track purchases made through your referral links, you need to include this ID to your referral link. 

Some affiliate programmers use auto generated referral links for your convenience. You can use them as well. But make sure that your referral ID is included in the link. 

Affiliate marketing starts when you, as a registered affiliate, promote and sell products of e-commerce sites, web-hosting providers, online marketplaces or any other merchants in your own marketing efforts to get commission every time a sale is made through your link. It’s like a referral service based on a revenue sharing model. 

In simple words, affiliate marketing is an online marketing strategy to earn commission by selling products that you don’t own. When you sign up for an affiliate marketing program, your client agrees to pay a referral fee for each lead or sale that gets generated from your site. 

As discussed above, to promote, you need to add a referral link to the product that is for sale in an e-commerce site or in another site. You, as an affiliate, get paid a portion of the sale as a commision when someone follows your referral link and ends up buying products or services from your merchant’s site.

Marketing channel to promote and sale a product can be any or all of the followings;

  • A blog
  • Deals and discount website
  • YouTube Channel
  • Email Newsletters
  • Facebook, twitter, Instagram or any other social media platform

Remember, it’s not an easy or rich-quick model of income as it depends on a number of factors. For instance, if you are a blogger, then it depends on web traffic patterns and followers interest on your blog.  

Few bloggers and YouTubers have based their entire business model around affiliate marketing. They promote products and services to make money.  

You can also supplement your regular income by using affiliate marketing business models. Or, you can start an online business based on your expertise to replace your regular income entirely.

To get started, you can partner with a brand like Amazon, Flipkart and any other e-commerce portal to receive a percentage of whatever purchases a follower of your site makes through your tracked referral links.

A list of affiliate marketing networks and direct affiliates is provided below in this article for your reference.

The process of affiliate marketing follows three basic steps;

  • You recommend your client’s product to a certain person.
  • Those persons purchase products from your client’s platform by using your referral link.
  • You get paid a certain percentage as commission for the purchase based on the terms and conditions of the client.

Affiliate marketing works as a cost per acquisition or cost per lead basis, in which you as a affiliate, earn commission when someone takes a defined action through your referral link. Action can be anything like, purchase of product, sign-up with a merchant for a free trial or to subscribe to an online magazine.

The cost of purchase for the customer purchasing the product from an affiliate is the same as buying directly from the source. For example, the cost price of buying a product from amazon directly and through your affiliate link will not change for your customer. 

In that way, it won’t be costlier for your followers to purchase a product through your affiliate link.

After the sales are made, the merchant takes care of everything, they need to handle the logistics involved in selling the products, shipping and payment. You as an affiliate sits back and collects a commission for each sale made through your promotional affiliate link.

Remember, if the visitor sent by you to your partner’s site did not buy a product, then you will not get paid.

How to start making money with affiliate marketing

Before taking you to the following important steps to get started your affiliate marketing journey, we suggest you to work on implementing your own marketing strategy for success.

Find your Niche

Your niche will help you develop good content for your blog or site. It will also help you to target customers easily by reviewing products in your niche.  Therefore, finding your niche and implementing marketing strategy around it can help you to get success in affiliate marketing.

Don’t jump into things on which you don’t have expertise. You will neither be able to promote nor market your products.

The best way to find your niche is to ask yourself following questions; 

  • What is my expertise?
  • Am I passionate about the topic?
  • Can I create quality content on the topic of my expertise?
  • What is the topic on which I can easily get followers by writing useful content?
  • What is the level of competition for the chosen topic?

Build a website and/or YouTube Channel to create quality content

After finding your niche, the next step is to start building quality content to get followers. For that, you need to start a blog and/or a YouTube Channel.  

You can take help of any professional to build a site for you.

Before starting a blog, you should ask yourself “what is my blog about?” and what is my niche? How can I blog on my niche? Will I be able to help my followers on the topic of my blog?

Remember, content is King and marketing is queen of your success. Therefore, after setting up your platform, you need to start creating useful content and promote them to readers. 

The success with the Affiliate program will depend on how well you have built and promoted a content-rich website.

After building the platform, you can create quality content for your website and/or YouTube Channel. 

To get approval from affiliate networks or market places, you don’t need a good number of posts but to get followers and traffic to your site, you do need at least 100 posts. Credibility of your blog will depend on the in-depth knowledge you acquired on a topic and writing something about it.

You can add a subscriber option to get visitors to subscribe to your website. In that way, you can grow your email list to reach your followers. It also helps you to connect with followers when new content is posted in your blog instead of hoping them to see your content.

If you want to set up a blog, here are the simple steps to make money from a blog with affiliate marketing;

  • Set up your blog.
  • Create useful quality content.
  • Promote your blog and content to get followers.
  • Build loyalty, trust and engagement with your followers.
  • Understand the intent of your readers.
  • Join affiliate marketing networks and/or marketplace specific to your niche.
  • Promote products of your client by adding referral links to your site.

Remember, if you want to get traffic to your blog, then you need to focus on promoting your blog in addition to useful content.

YouTube channel can be another platform that can be started along with the blog. You can create quality videos to get your followers. Links to the videos can also be promoted via your blog to get more followers.

If you are a YouTube fan, then you must have seen links below the video in the description box saying “links to product i use” or “links to product i recommend”. 

Those are affiliate links to promote products or services. You, as an affiliate, can place those types of affiliate links below your YouTube videos in the description box to get paid a certain percentage as commission for the purchase made by your followers through the affiliate link.

Know your audience to select products to promote

Whatever niche you have selected, you will always find a product related to it. If the products are good then become an affiliate and recommend them. For instance, if you love reading books, then start writing review articles on books and promote them to get commission.

Knowing your audience, will help you to choose products or services they are interested in. If the product is not relevant to your audience, then you will not be able to convert the link to purchase a product. You can place contextual links within your blog posts for the product that might be interesting to your readers.

You can consider surveying your network to know the favourite product or services that might be appealing to your followers.

The best suggestion to find products or services to promote would be to start looking at other blogs similar to yours.

Today, you have many options to find products or services that you can partner up with to promote as an affiliate.

The best part of affiliate marketing is that you aren’t required to offer your own products or services for sale. Instead, you place promotional referral links on your site for other merchant’s products.

After joining as an affiliate, you are required to find a product from your affiliate network site that might be interesting to your followers, promote it to them and earn a piece of the profit for each sale that you make.

 Based on your follower’s need, you can select multiple affiliate products and try to convince them of the value of the merchant’s product so that they actually end up buying it.

You can market them in any form based on the terms and conditions allowed by the merchants or affiliate programs.  If you have a blog, e-mail list, YouTube Channel or any other marketing channels, then you can market them.

As already discussed, you need to remember that when a person clicks on your referral link, they are taken to your client’s platform to complete the transaction.  Therefore, you need to make sure that the link you placed is assigned to you specifically by the affiliate partner; otherwise your lead will not get tracked.

Here is a summary of steps you need to follow;

  • you place a referral link in your site or article, 
  • visitors click on the link, 
  • order the product within the time limit, and 
  • you get paid a commission for that sale. 

Remember, as an affiliate partner, you will get paid only if or when a specific action as decided by the client is performed. Therefore, you need to focus only on promoting products that would appeal to your target market.

If the client has a policy to pay you commission for purchase of a product, then you will get paid only when the visitor purchased the product through your referral link and did not return it. If the visitor decided not to purchase, then you will not get anything for that referral.

Choose the right affiliate network

Affiliate marketing networks are online marketplace where retailers list their products for sale.

We also have direct affiliate options where a certain service providers accept affiliate registration to promote and sell their own product. These people are generally hosting providers and web application developers.

To help them in selling, you join them as an affiliate.

There are many affiliate programs available to you on the Internet today. You need to remember, it’s not about the network you join. It’s about whether the network is relevant to the content of your site and/or youtube channel. 

To avoid unnecessary headaches you need to select the best available affiliate network based on your expertise and niche.

Here is a list of most popular affiliate marketing platforms and merchants site to start with;

  • CJ Affiliate (formerly Commission Junction: http://www.cj.com)
  • Amazon
  • Flipkart
  • Click Bank
  • Skimlinks
  • ShareASale
  • Awin
  • V-commission
  • Impact
  • Partnerstack
  • Rakuten
  • Alibaba Affiliates
  • LinkShare
  • PeerFly
  • Godaddy
  • Hostgator
  • Bluehost
  • Bigrock

While choosing the right affiliate marketing network, you need to focus on following things;

  • It must be a trusted brand
  • Commision should be based on market standards
  • Availability of related products – It’s necessary because people generally buy more than one item at a time and you get commision for all the purchases made by them.
  • Easy affiliate link integration to your site.
  • Terms and conditions for getting commission and use of affiliate links. It’s a must read before using affiliate links.

Monitor you progress

All affiliate marketing networks and market places have their online tools to easily track your performance. You can login to your account maintained by these network companies to know how well your marketing strategy works in order to sell a product or service.

To be successful, you need to promote only those products or services that match the needs of your audience and on which you have expertise. This means, don’t promote products that are not relevant to your visitors.

Product should be selected based on your niche on which you have built your website and/or YouTube channel. Which means it should be related to your content.

To start with, you can list all those products and services you use and then write honest reviews to promote those products.

Here are some more tips on how to make money from affiliate marketing;

  • Select the right affiliate products and merchants to promote.
  • Do your own research before promoting the product or services to make sure that your followers will get proper after sale service.
  • Use your marketing channel to get more traffic to affiliate partner’s site. The best way to get more followers is by offering useful content on your site and/or youtube channel. Use your writing skills to write in-depth reviews of relevant products.
  • Be trustworthy, promote those products that are high value. If you promote a product or service which is not high in value and it doesn’t turn out to be useful, then they will lose trust on your recommendation and stop acting on them.
  • If you are running a blog, then you should put content marketing strategy on your high priority list as it’s the life blood on which site and your marketing exist.
  • Know the payout method and minimum payout amount before applying for the affiliate program.

Like any other form of business model, affiliate marketing has its own advantages and disadvantages. Before getting into affiliate marketing business models, you should understand these pros and cons.

Advantages of affiliate marketing

  • It’s an additional income source if you already have a blog or YouTube channels to promote products. Depending on your marketing strategy, it can give a very good additional income.
  • Very low cost to get started with the model as you are not required to pay anything to join the program.
  • No need to physically deliver or store the product with you as you are just referring a customer to your client who does everything after the customer purchases the product or services.
  • You have flexibility of working anything and from anywhere with internet access.
  • You don’t have to have your own products or services to sell. You are also not required to provide customer support. All you have to do is to use your marketing skills to promote the company’s product or services with your link via blog post, display ads, social media.

Disadvantages of affiliate marketing

  • As the referral links are managed and monitored by the tools available with your client, there are chances of affiliate hijacking. This means, you will not get paid for your referral links even though a customer has purchased the product or services by following your referral link. To avoid such circumstances, we suggest you to stick to trusted and reputed e-commerce platforms or merchants. Trusted e-commerce platforms will give you all the information to track your referral links and purchases made by them. By using their tools, you can easily monitor the success of your affiliate programs.
  • A bad affiliate referral link in your blog can ruin your credibility as you will be judged by the product or service you promote. Therefore, focus on the quality of your recommendation and do your own research before putting any affiliate link in your blog. As discussed above, another suggestion would be choose products and services that match your niche and your blog.

To build trust of your audience, you need to be transparent enough. Make sure that your policies are clear. 

Countries like the USA, have their own laws which require certain mandatory disclosure if you are using affiliate links in your website to promote a product or service. Similarly many other countries might have their own laws. You as an affiliate should take those things into account.

We suggest you put your reader’s interest first and add a disclosure to your blog post or somewhere in your site to let them know that you have placed affiliate links to get a percentage of sale as commission. 

If it’s your YouTube channel, then disclosure can be placed in the description box below your videos.

Remember to do thorough research before getting into affiliate marketing as it requires commitment of time and patience to get success.

We hope this article on how to make money with affiliate marketing helped you to learn to become an affiliate marketer. With your hard work and dedication, you can build a solid source of income from affiliate marketing. If you liked this article, then share it with your friends by using below given social links and start following us on facebook and twitter.

is a fellow member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India. He lives in Bhubaneswar, India. He writes about personal finance, income tax, goods and services tax (GST), company law and other topics on finance. Follow him on facebook or instagram or twitter.