You are currently viewing What is Affiliate Marketing: Free Guide for Beginners

What is Affiliate Marketing: Free Guide for Beginners

Waking up to an alarm clock. Having to rush out of your home at an ungodly hour. Drive to the office through total gridlock, streets jammed with other half-asleep commuters. Feeling stuck in your cubicle for hours until the sweet release at five o’clock.

Sounds horrendous right?

What if I told you there’s a way out? What if there’s a system to escape the monotony and stupor of the rat race and you could make money from anywhere anytime — even while you sleep?

It’s called affiliate marketing. Affiliate marketing has made businesses billions and ordinary people millionaires. For 99% of people, affiliate marketing is how they get started with passive income.

If you aren’t participating in affiliate marketing, it’s time to consider taking advantage of this lucrative revenue stream.

Not only am I going to teach you the basics of how to become an affiliate marketer but I’ll also provide a step-by-step guide to the whole process, so you’ll be earning affiliate commissions in no time.

Let’s dive right in.

So What is Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate marketing is a process of earning a commission by promoting a product or service made by another retailer or advertiser. In other words, when you help another company generate sales, you get a cut.

The affiliate marketer doesn’t create the product, ship the product, or handle the payment to the merchant. He simply refers products to others on the internet, and when a sale is made, he earns a commission.

Affiliate marketers join affiliate programs, find affiliate products they enjoy, and then share those products with their audiences.

You might think your job is done after sending traffic through a link to that product, and everything after that is out of your hands right?

WRONG! There’s so much more involved to make this work well, which is why many who attempt affiliate marketing fail, or just see a few bucks coming in from their efforts.

You have to play the long game to be successful. Affiliate marketing won’t make you wealthy overnight, it’s a long process that needs to be watered every single day. Consistency is key.

Let me take a moment to share with you how affiliate marketing works and how you can get started.

How Affiliate Marketing Really Works?

Affiliate marketing predates the internet and is a modern interpretation of an age-old idea — getting a commission on a sale. But in pre-internet days, it was difficult to track when purchases were made and the referral sources for those purchases.

However, the internet has changed the whole game. Now there is an easy-to-use tracking mechanism that could show you when a purchase was made, what it was for, and the referrer who was due the affiliate commission.

Affiliate marketing is everywhere and you’ve probably been involved in it unknowingly. If you’ve ever clicked on a link to a product or service being offered on another website, there’s a good chance the owner of the website where you originally clicked the link received a commission from your purchase.

Amazon popularized the practice by creating an affiliate program whereby bloggers and content creators put links to the Amazon page for a reviewed or discussed product to receive advertising fees when a purchase is made.

Today, 84% of brands and 87% of publishers leverage the power of affiliate marketing, a statistic that will continue to increase as affiliate marketing spending increases with each passing year.

Statista estimates the affiliate marketing industry will reach $8.2 billion by 2022, up from $5.4 billion in 2017.

Let’s review how affiliate marketing works:

  • You promote a link for a company on your website, blog, or social network.
  • A customer clicks your unique link.
  • The customer makes a purchase on that company’s website.
  • The affiliate network records the transaction.
  • The purchase is confirmed by the company.
  • You get paid a commission.

Commission rates vary depending on the company and the offer. On the low end, you’ll earn about 5% of the sale but, with some arrangements, you can earn as much as 50%, usually when promoting a course or event.

The model is pretty straightforward once you understand it, and it works the same no matter what industry you’re in or how established you are as an affiliate marketer.

Who Is a Good Fit for Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate marketing can be a great income source for digital entrepreneurs, influencers, bloggers, YouTubers and anyone who has a website and is willing to build an audience they can serve authentically.

If you’re not ready to create your own product but you want to serve your audience by recommending products that may be helpful to them, affiliate marketing is your best option.

If this describes you, products exist right now that people in your market are already buying, and if you can become the middle man that recommends those products, you can generate a commission as a result.

How to Get Started with Affiliate Marketing?

Just like any business, building a successful affiliate marketing business takes time, dedication and discipline. Here’s a step-by-step process for doing exactly that:

1. Choose Your Platform

Before you get started with affiliate marketing you need to figure out the platform you want to build your audience around. Every affiliate marketer has a different approach and platform.

But no matter what approach you take, trust and audience building are the two most important elements for affiliate marketing. If you cannot authentically connect with your audience, chances are you won’t have success in converting them into affiliate sales.

When it comes to picking a platform, don’t try to build an audience on every platform you know. You simply won’t have the time. Pick your platform wisely and work on it. It’s better to be well-known on a few platforms than to be forgotten in all.

Ask yourself: What platforms do you use the most? Which platforms do you understand best?

2. Choose a Product to Promote

When it comes to choosing a product to promote, aim for something you’re passionate and knowledgeable about.

Promote products that you’ve used yourself, had a good experience with and feel good recommending. You should be confident that your audience will get the same results you did as long as they do the work.

If you’ve found great SEO success from Ahrefs or Ubersuggest, it makes sense for you to spread the word and share your results with your readers.

Make sure the items or services you promote need to be products your audience genuinely need. If you get this wrong, it will hinder your success and diminish your credibility.

If you’re wondering where to look for products or brands to work with, here’s a list of popular and reliable affiliate networks:

Amazon products, in particular, are an easy way to get started. Many newbies begin by becoming an Amazon affiliate and then scaling to other types of more profitable affiliate offers.

You also can take a more direct approach. Reach out to the owner of a great product you come across and see if they have an affiliate program.

3. Get Yourself Set Up as an Affiliate

To get yourself set up as an affiliate marketer, you’ll have to apply, be approved, and provide certain information so that you can be paid by affiliate merchants or an affiliate network.

After you apply and get approved, the merchant or the network will provide you with an affiliate link. You’re going to have to use that trackable link whenever you post about the product. It will have a long tag at the end of each link that includes your affiliate ID.

Some merchants and networks will provide you with tips and useful assets for marketing the product (often found in a welcome guide or on the affiliate website).

These could include:

  • An affiliate guide on how to use the platform and a summary of policies such as payouts.
  • Online marketing tools like banners and sidebar graphics.
  • Sample email/webpage swipe copy.
  • Ongoing communications from the merchant about promotions, new products, etc.

4. Start promoting your affiliate offer

As I mentioned earlier, you have to do some heavy lifting upfront to achieve success in affiliate marketing. The success of your program will depend on the quality of your recommendation.

You need to put your recommendation in front of your readers and you need to make your recommendation trustworthy.

Write detailed reviews of products and services you promote as an affiliate. Your reviews can focus on a single product or compare competing products side-by-side. You can create product tutorials.

Get personal. Use and test the product yourself, to ensure it’s truly something worth recommending to your readers, so you don’t risk taking advantage of their trust.

The more open you are, the more authentic you will be. Your audience will be more comfortable following your advice if they feel they can trust you. Authenticity is a key factor in your affiliate marketing efforts.

Show your audience tangible proof that the product does what it promises via a blog or social media post or case study on your website or YouTube channel.

Then and only then, you can start to market the product to your audience and have a chance to start earning good money.

Finally, you should pay a lot of attention to SEO. Ranking high in google is a sport. There are winners and losers. Like every sport, you have to practice to get a constant flow of traffic from Google.

People naturally look for information online. Research which keywords someone might use in a search engine to find an answer to a related problem. Google Ads Keyword Planner is a good tool that can help with that and it’s free to use.

Don’t forget to disclose to followers that your post contains affiliate links. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requires that you let people know you’ll earn a commission.

Even if it isn’t required by law, I recommend disclosing your affiliate links. It’s just good business and can help you connect with your audience.

Therefore, when you share an affiliate link, let your audience know that you’ll earn a small commission if they buy through you. If they choose not to use your link, no biggie.

Let your audience know that you wouldn’t recommend any products if you hadn’t used them yourself or were confident they could help them. It’s also a great idea to have an Affiliate Disclaimer page on your website.

The Pros & Cons Of Affiliate Marketing

As with any business, affiliate marketing has its upsides and its downsides. Here are the main pros and cons of affiliate marketing.


  • Easy to get started
  • Very low-cost business
  • Unlimited earning potential
  • A plethora of different niches and industries
  • Work from anywhere in the world


  • Not a quick fix
  • Requires patience and dedication to make it work (6 to 12 months)
  • Less control
  • Competition and audience fatigue
  • Not all affiliate programs are created equal

How Do Affiliate Marketers Get Paid?

The three main types of affiliate payments are: Pay per Sale, Pay per Lead and Pay per Click. Let’s take a look at each one of them individually.

1. Pay per Sale

This is the most common type of payment in affiliate marketing. In this system, the merchant pays the affiliate a percentage of the sale price of the product after the consumer purchases the product.

2. Pay per Lead

A more complex system, pay per lead affiliate programs compensates the affiliate based on the conversion of leads. In this system, the merchant pays an affiliate according to the number of converted leads that they produce for the merchant.

3. Pay per Click

This system focuses on incentivizing the affiliate to redirect consumers from their marketing platform to the merchant’s website. The affiliate is paid based on the increase in web traffic.

How Much Can You Make From Affiliate Marketing?

One of the best things about affiliate marketing is that you don’t have to invest the time and effort to create a product to sell. You can sell a product as an affiliate as soon as you have a platform to sell it on.

However, as I mentioned before, affiliate marketing is not a way to get rich quick. Like all businesses, it takes time, strategy and effort to create a decent revenue stream.

But how much can you make once you’re up and running with your affiliate marketing business? Top affiliates make over $100k a month from affiliate sales and middle-class affiliates make anywhere between $1k to $10k a month.

Your earnings really depend on how committed you are to making it work. There is no real limit on how much you can make as an affiliate marketer. The more work you put in, the more you can earn.

Commission percentages also vary depending on the affiliate company you partner with, and the types of products or services you’re promoting. For eg, digital products and services usually offer higher margins up to 50% due to their lower costs of production.

On the other hand, physical products tend to offer lower percentage margins, sometimes in the single digits because of manufacturing, shelf space and shipping costs.

Examples of Affiliate Marketing Program

Let’s look at some of the companies that participate in affiliate marketing that will provide you with inspiration and assure you that this is a legit and high-paying revenue stream.

Amazon Associates

Amazon’s affiliate marketing program, Amazon Associates, is one of the world’s largest affiliate marketing programs. Affiliates sign up to have Amazon products and services shared on their websites and various channels, and in return, receive a commission for the sales their sites generate.

An Amazon Associate can earn up to 10% in commissions for qualified sales. Commission percentages vary based on product and program categories. As a bonus, Amazon offers special commissions on certain events.


Shopify’s Affiliate Program is a network of entrepreneurs, educators, influencers, and creators who send referrals to Shopify. It’s free to sign up for the program, you only need to apply.

Once approved, partners get a unique referral link to share with their audience. They earn affiliate income each time someone signs up using their link. On average, Shopify Affiliates earn $58 for each referral who signs up for a paid Shopify plan.

eBay Affiliate Marketing

eBay’s Partner Network is eBay’s affiliate marketing program that pays partners for sharing their personal listings outside of eBay. The affiliate earns a commission and may earn credit towards their final merchant fees.

Commission rates depend on the category of items sold and range from 1%-4%. No more than $550 will be paid on any one qualifying sale.


Wirecutter is an affiliate marketing website owned by The New York Times Company. Wirecutter tests and reviews the best tech, appliances, gear, and more.

Doing Affiliate Marketing the Right Way

I’ve mentioned this before and I’ll mention it again – the biggest element to success with affiliate marketing is trust. Earn trust from your audience first, and only recommend products that you’ve used yourself and know your audience will benefit from.

A lot of affiliate marketers do it the wrong way by taking an income-first rather than a serve-first approach. Don’t push random products and over-promote them without providing true value to your audience.

After you earn trust from your audience, following these ten steps will help improve your chances of success.

  • Create solid content
  • Track your success
  • Know your products
  • Engage your visitors
  • Concentrate on one niche
  • Provide information and help, rather than sell
  • Choose the right products
  • Always be testing and improving
  • Dedicate the time
  • Set proper expectations

If you follow these steps, maintain your audience’s trust and have them thank you for your recommendations, you will go a long way.

Dream big, put in the work, be consistent and good luck!

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