Affiliate marketing is one of the best online business models that you can leverage to grow your passive income and scale your ventures. In an industry where spending is projected to hit $ 8.2 billion by Statista, prepping yourself for a cut is vital.
If you want to start affiliate marketing and make money online, this guide is for you. I have included everything you need to get started, but first, we need to understand the concept of affiliate marketing.
What’s Affiliate Marketing?
Affiliate marketing is a popular online monetization model that many merchants and bloggers have adopted to grow their income. It refers to a system where publishers like you are paid a commission for every sale you generate while talking about a product or a service.
As an affiliate (sometimes you’re referred to as a publisher), you are paid to promote a product on a commission basis. You earn a percentage of the sale for every qualifying sale that you bring in through your channels or for an action that your referral takes on the merchant’s website.
Brands leverage the audience that affiliate marketers have built over the years to reach new markets and make sales that they probably wouldn’t have made otherwise. This is a win-win for the two partners as the merchant gets a new customer, and you, the publisher, get their own share of the pie.
The fun part of this model is that you get to promote the products you are using and genuinely love.
For instance, your web host provider. Are they any good? What about that online course you recently completed?
But before settling for this online business model, you need to know how it works.
How Does Affiliate Marketing Work?
When you sign up as an affiliate of a particular brand, you’re given marketing assets. These are unique product links, images, and banners. You can then place these marketing assets on your website. You can include affiliate links when mentioning these brands in your posts.
These unique links are tracked and reported on your affiliate dashboard. You will be able to see the clicks, conversion rates, and actions that determine your earnings.
A helpful term you will come across when finding affiliate products is the cookie period or cookie duration. This refers to the time limit within which you can earn a commission from your referral after clicking your link.
For instance, a 30-day cookie period means that if someone clicks on your affiliate link and doesn’t buy from the partner immediately but returns within 30 days and completes a purchase, the commission will be attributed to you still.
Some affiliate programs have long cookie duration, e.g., 90 days or 365 days or even more, while others like Amazon associates only have a 24-hour cookie period.
How Do Affiliate Marketers Get Paid?
Affiliate marketers can accrue commissions based on three models:
- Pay per Sale (Cost per Action): This is the standard model of affiliate marketing that many merchants use. This means for you to earn a commission; your referral has to make a purchase.
- Pay per lead: This is a model that rewards you for generating leads for your partners. Your referrals have to either sign up for a free trial, subscribe to a list, or book a demo. Most merchants will then pay you another standard pay-per-sale commission if this referral ends up making a purchase down the road.
- Pay Per Click. Well, if you run Google ads, then you know what PPCs mean. These are programs that reward you for directing your traffic to their websites. Your referrals don’t have to take any action on the partner’s site for you to be rewarded. Well, these programs will pay you a few cents, but if you have massive traffic, this can be easy income to generate.
In terms of pay, pay-per-sale pays more, followed by pay-per-lead, while pay-per-click pays way less. However, with pay-per-lead, you get to lock your referral, and you will get commissions if they end up making a purchase down the line.
Remember, once someone opts in, they are put into a funnel that warms them up and hence more likely to purchase the product or service, earning you a commission.
That said, most programs employ the pay per sale model, and so your focus as an affiliate will be conversion; otherwise, you won’t be in business.
Why Affiliate Marketing?
I always recommend incorporating affiliate marketing into your online business, even if it totally relies on the other models. And that’s because your online business revolves around product recommendations.
For instance, your students will want to know what Learning Management Platform you are using, what tools are running your business, or if you are running a podcasting business, what equipment is required. Without affiliate links, that is money you’re throwing away.
What could an extra $75 from Bluehost or Siteground as a result of your student signing up through your affiliate link mean to your business?
A lot, actually. You can use that to:
- Renew your subscriptions.
- Get a new standing desk for your online business.
- Buy a lifetime software deal from Appsumo.
What’s more, is that a few monthly sales across your favorite products, and you can easily add another stable $750 income stream to your bonnet.
If you don’t know what to promote, that’s okay too, but I suggest you check up with the brands that you use for your online business:
- Your website hosting: Bluehost, Hostpapa, Siteground, Hostgator
- Graphic design tool: Canva, Photoshop, Picmonkey
- Your outsourcing platform: Fiverr, Writeraccess
- Social media management platform: Publer, Buffer, Hootsuite, Tailwind
- Project management tool: Trello, Asana, Miro
There are four main reasons why you need to think about adopting affiliate marketing:
Passive income: Now, I only use the term passive income here at the PennyMatters to refer to income that needs initial momentum and can then be scaled without much input afterward.
For instance, once you’ve written a product review and ranked it on page one of Google, you can continue making money from that post even if you don’t add another post about the product for the next decade. This is the beauty of affiliate marketing. The groundwork is demanding, but once you are done, you can sit, relax and enjoy.
No Maintenance cost: Read customer support. This is where affiliate marketing beats digital products. While selling your own digital products such as online courses and mastermind classes can be quite profitable, you need to be there to answer student questions and concerns. With affiliate marketing, support is left on your partner’s end, giving you more time to scale your business by creating more content or building links.
Work from Home (Or anywhere): Now, since we are talking about work from home businesses, affiliate marketing is one of your best shots. With time, it can guarantee you a stable monthly income. This means you can save those 2 hours a day traveling to and from the workplace and invest them somewhere else, like in spending quality time with your family.
Cost-Effective to Start: To start affiliate marketing, all you need is to sign up for affiliate programs and start recommending them to your friends, colleagues, or work colleagues.
Yes, you actually don’t need a website. You can promote your links on social media or offline. However, since PennyMatters is about building sustainable business models, we recommend having your own website. Grab your affordable web hosting here.
How to Start Affiliate Marketing
Let me now take you through my 7 simple and actionable steps to starting a niched affiliate marketing model.
Step 1: Discover a Profitable Niche That Interests You
As an affiliate, you’ll be blogging a lot, so you need to choose a niche that you are passionate about and profitable in the long run. The key here is to go super niche. Knowing what you want to blog about for affiliate marketing can be tricky, but I suggest you carry out the following exercises:
- Write down all the topics that you are passionate about. Don’t think of monetization at this stage (anything generic, kids, pets, dogs, nature, wildlife, dreams, talents, home décor, juice recipes, travels, book reviews, movies, etc.) Aim to have at least 21 items.
- Narrow down to your favorite 7. These should be topics you are well versed about or, at least, excited to explore.
- Determining the profitability of these 7 blogging topics. Remember, these are still generic, and so you will still have to niche down even further. To check their profitability, just do a quick search to see if you can find online courses, books, software, and products around them.
- From the seven niches above, choose 3 that are most profitable.
- Do quick keyword research and competitive analysis to determine which of the three is the easiest to rank. You can do this by writing down ten popular topics in each of the three niches and comparing each topic’s keyword difficulty using a tool like Ubersuggest or Semrush.
- The next step is to take the niche you’ve settled on and find all the possible sub-niches you can think of. Repeat a few steps above, finding the sub-niches you are familiar with, easier to rank, and broad enough to expand later on. For instance, if you settle on Pets, you may list pets’ food, dog training, dog behavior, dog food, etc.
- Make an informed decision based on the metrics above and settle on one sub-niche.
It may be a gamble at first, but you will begin to uncover topical ideas that you had never thought about as you go through this process. This is a discovering process, so you approach it with an open mind.
For Your inspirations, I have a blog post on this blog that outlines 1041 profitable niches across 20+ industries. Simply jump to the section that interests you to find great niche ideas.
Step 2: Brand Your Business.
The right branding is vital from the word go. You’ve come up with a niche, and now is the time to name your business. If you can find a domain name that carries your main keywords, the better.
You want your brand to pop, so short but catchy names do magic. Use a tool like Namemesh for ideas. Simply enter your main keyword, and you will get suggestions of domain names that are available for registration.
After you’ve found your catchy name, then head over to Bluehost and register it for free when you purchase web hosting through them.
Other assets that your business need include:
- Brand logo
- Social media assets
- Website mockups etc.
You can create these brand assets easily using Canva (It’s free, but you can use my link to try Canva Pro for free for 30 days)
Unless you are a professional, I recommend hiring someone to do your logo and the favicon. Unlike all the other assets, you need high-quality SVG logos rather than simple PNG images.
The cheapest way to do this is to head over to Fiverr, search for logo design and peruse the suggested services to find a designer that works for you. Logo design services at Fiverr range from just $5 to $50 or slightly more.
Step 3: Build Your Affiliate Website
This will be the heart and soul of your affiliate business. You don’t need a complicated site, but you want to ensure that the site is user-friendly and dynamic—factor in SEO from the beginning.
Making money with affiliate marketing is easier with a great website or blog. For detailed instructions, read my guide on how to start a blog and make money blogging.
Follow these quick steps to build an excellent affiliate website in an afternoon (or over the weekend)
- Signup for affordable hosting at Bluehost
- Install WordPress using Bluehost One-Click Install
- Log in to your site and install Astra free theme
- Install Elementor page builder to help you build unique websites and landing pages.
- Install recommended plugins (Pretty links, WP Fast Cache, Akismet,
- Install and Setup SEO plugin by Rankmath (better option to Yoast SEO)
If you would rather have your website designed by a professional, you can hire us over at Levatin Designs. We build highly professional and converting sites for our clients.
Step 4: Set up Legal Pages:
You need to ensure that your website is ready and compliant with different regulatory laws. Until you have the legal side of your business set up, you are not ready to welcome any visitor to your site.
With the enactment of the GDPR laws, you now need to display complete disclosures on your website to serve visitors from the EU countries. Some of the legal pages you need for your affiliate marketing website include:
Terms and Conditions: Here, you detail what you expect from your audience and what they can expect from you. This is most relevant when offering services and digital products, but still, you may need one even when you only have a blog. This page is crucial as it safeguards your intellectual property and restricts legal liabilities if you ever run into issues.
You also need to set up some of your website’s core pages, such as home, About, and Contact pages.
Step 5: Signup for Affiliate Programs
Now you need the actual affiliate programs to promote. You want to find products that are most relevant and useful to your audience. Begin with the products that you are using yourself, pick out the ones you love and see if they have an affiliate program that you can apply to join.
Most websites will include a link to their affiliate program page in their footer section, so be sure to check them there. You can also find relevant products using affiliate networks such as Flexoffers, Impact Radius, Rakuten, Shareasale, and Awin.
Step 6: Displaying Affiliate Banners on Your Website
Most of these affiliate programs will offer you banners that you can place on your website and earn a commission. This is perhaps the easiest way of doing affiliate promotion. You can display them on the sidebar or within the content.
When you copy the embed code and paste it on your website, these banners are often seen as ads by adblockers, and so if your readers have adblockers enabled, your banners will not be displayed. Your affiliate programs are no ads, and so they shouldn’t be blocked.
To counter this, we grab the banner image, save it and then upload it to our website. We then display this using a widget and link it to our cloaked affiliate link. To create friendly affiliate links, you can use the Prettylinks plugin or ThirstyAffiliates
Step 7: Create Affiliate Posts.
This is where the real work of affiliate marketing begins.
You need to create content that targets your top affiliates. These could be list posts, how-to guides, product reviews, tutorial videos, or affiliate funnels. Crafting these contents will take much of your time, but it’s an investment. You can outsource content writing to help you scale faster if you have a marketing budget.
Types of affiliate content to create:
- A list post containing some of your affiliates. For instance, 7 Best web hosting companies for WordPress, or 13 best WordPress plugins for Food Bloggers
- A resource page containing tools and resources for your industry.
- Product Reviews
- Product comparisons, e.g., Elementor vs. Thrive Architect
- How-to Guides: e.g., How to Build an Online Store with WordPress
How to Find Profitable Affiliate Programs
There are a few different ways that you can use to find highly paying affiliate programs in your niche:
1: Promote the Products you’re Already Using: Look for products that you are already using and research to see if they have affiliate programs. Since these are the products you are already familiar with, creating affiliate posts will not be much of a hustle for you.
2: Explore Affiliate Masterlists: These are databases of well-researched affiliate programs put together by affiliate marketers. These lists are often segmented into several niches, making it easy to quickly find the programs suitable for your blog. Some of the masterlists include Ana’s Masterlist is containing 600 affiliate programs segmented into 17+ niches. And Chelsea’s 3000+ Affiliate Database.
3: Read Affiliate list-posts: Bloggers are continually publishing list posts of the best and profitable affiliate programs that you can join. Use search queries such as best affiliate programs, affiliate programs to join, [niche] + affiliate programs, etc.
4: Join Affiliate Networks: If you want to have a single dashboard where you can research and apply for affiliate programs while tracking all of your earnings in one place, then think affiliate networks. Some of the best affiliate Networks include: Flexoffers, Impact, Partnerstack, ShareASale, Rakuten, CJ
5: Individual Programs: Various brands and bloggers run their own affiliate programs. If you’ve recently bought a premium course or a particular service, then you may already be eligible for their affiliate programs. Some of these programs include Bluehost, Mailerlite, SendOwl, Etsy, FreshBooks.
Managing Affiliate Marketing Assets
As your site starts to grow and your affiliate marketing business starts booming, you will find that you have dozens, sometimes hundreds of affiliate links to manage. We want our business to work for us, not us working for our businesses.
That’s why making use of online tools is a critical element. I’ll be sharing more on this in the Systems Module. For now, here are quick ways to manage your affiliate links so you can quickly grab them whenever you need.
1: Using a Shortening Plugin.
The pro versions of these plugins will let you automatically insert your affiliate links based on Keywords or even replace your existing non-affiliate links. Thus, if you’ve mentioned a tool before in your posts without using an affiliate link, all you need is to create a pretty link using either of the plugins and include all keywords and URLs you wish to replace.
The plugins will then auto-link all your mentions of those keywords across your site with your shortened affiliate link, thus saving you time.
Plus, you now have a one-stop place to manage your affiliate assets. Suppose your affiliate link changes, and you have to edit individual posts to include the new link. All you have to do is go to your Affiliate Links dashboard within your website, find the link you want to edit, and simply replace the target link, and all of the instances of that link across your site will now point to the new affiliate link.
This is useful, especially when you are promoting time-sensitive offers like those on Appsumo that are only available for a limited time. With Prettylinks pro, you can also set the expiry date of those links.
This feature can help you set up your own time-sensitive offers. When someone clicks on your offer after the time lapses, they are redirected to a non-offer page where they will have to pay the full price. There are many ways to achieve this, but this is just a cool one without complicating your funnels. (We will talk about sales funnels in the Systems module)
Note: ThirstyAffiliates now include an uncloaking feature that you can enable to uncloak your Amazon links. This ensures that you can comply with Amazon’s TOS and still enjoy the other features that a shortening plugin offers, such as auto-linking based on keywords and easy editing and management of your affiliate links from one place.
2: Using Evernote.
This is an essential tool for taking and easily retrieving notes across devices. While link shortening does so much in ensuring that you can easily remember your affiliate links, you still need to have a place where you can keep all of your affiliate links for easy access without logging in to the backend of your site.
If you are an Amazon associate, then this, my friend, is your best friend. Since you cannot shorten your Amazon affiliate links using a plugin like Prettylinks, I recommend you create a notebook in Evernote for all your affiliate links.
Under this notebook, you can create folders based on niches. At least, this is how I do it. So, I have a folder for Books, Computers, and Work from Home.
I know some bloggers who keep their affiliate links as cards on Trello, but I do not recommend this. Creating a card for every affiliate link will just mess up your boards. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a board for your links on Trello. You just have to use it a bit differently.
For me, I have a board called Resources with the following lists:
- Affiliate Links
Under Affiliate Links, I add cards with links that open up my notes on Evernote, where I keep specific affiliate links. So, my ‘Trello Affiliate links’ list looks something as follows:
- Amazon eBooks
- Impact radius links
- Flexoffers links
- Partnerstack links
- Rakuten links
- Amazon Work from Home
- Amazon Tech
Where the bulleted items are cards in my affiliate links list on my Resources board.
Best Affiliate Marketing Strategies for Beginners
To grow a viable affiliate marketing business, you need to be intentional. You can’t throw around content in the hope that something will stick. You have to make it stick.
To do that, you need to implement some of the proven affiliate marketing strategies, whether you want to make your first affiliate sale or grow your earnings.
Here are several ways to promote your affiliate links and make your first dollar online with affiliate marketing:
1. Promote Genuinely Great Products:
Think with me for a moment.
If you were selling your own digital products, you would definitely spend time improving, soliciting feedback, and modifying them as the need arises.
Reason? This product is associated with you. Mess something up, and your brand gets hurt.
This, my friend, is exactly how you need to approach your affiliate programs. You do not need to have personally purchased the products you are promoting, but you need to be assured that they are worth someone’s money.
There are several ways you can validate the usefulness of a product. For instance, finding critical reviews that talk about the program, assessing the quality of their sales pages, and what people generally say about the brand and the seller.
If you want to promote a high-end product but don’t want to purchase it, you can utilize their free trial if they have one. Having first-hand experience with the product will help you develop much more comprehensive and detailed content.
Your key role as a content creator is to find useful resources that help others achieve particular goals. By only promoting great products, you foster loyalty and trust.
2. Promote the Products you are Familiar With
This is important as it will help you craft effective content much faster. With new products, there is a learning curve. You will have to figure out how certain software works, what it can do, what it can’t, other people’s experiences with it, and so forth before you can pull out a detailed review.
This can drain you off, especially when you are starting off as an affiliate marketer.
Look for products you are already using and visit their sites to see if they have an affiliate program. Simply check on their footer section for a link to their affiliate program page. A quick ‘brand name + affiliate program’ Google will give you an answer as well.
- Your web hosting service such as Hostgator, Bluehost.
- Your email service provider such as ConvertKit, Mailerlite
- Your page builder such as Elementor Pro
- Your web design agency. Etc.
These are the platforms you are already using, and it will be easier creating content around them and doing content promotion. Other affiliate ideas include your WordPress theme provider, your blogging tools such as laptop, microphones, camera, etc. All you need is to join Amazon associates and start reviewing these products.
To make money with affiliate marketing, you need an executable strategy. This means you not only need to think of creating content but also how to promote these affiliate posts to get more traction, increase conversion and make more money while still being helpful.
3. Create Relevant and Helpful content.
Content marketing plays a critical role in affiliate marketing. You want to push out content that people will love. This is hard to achieve when you are being too promotional. Your affiliate posts should guide people into making independent decisions.
Whether it’s a product review, a list post, or a tutorial guide, make sure that you are giving people value. This is the only sustainable blogging model I can think of at the moment. The good news is that once these contents begin to pick up, you will start generating sustainable blogging income without the need for extra work.
Invest in your content, and it will pay off later.
Remember to always:
- Make your content natural, engaging, and useful: Your affiliate content needs to blend well with your overall blog topic/purpose. To hone in, you need to create useful detailed content around particular affiliate products and programs. These could be anything from product reviews, tutorial guides, product comparisons to case studies.
- Develop content that outranks your competitors: SEO is big for affiliate marketers. While you will make sales within the first few days after publishing your content since you will be doing heavy promotions, you need to ensure that your strategy has a long-term game plan. Develop content around keywords that you can easily rank for and that are evergreen.
4. Put Together a Resource Page.
Every blog today has a recommendations page, and it’s for a good reason. Your resource page is one of the most visited pages besides the Homepage and About Page. People visiting your resource page are looking for tools they could use.
You want to mix free and paid tools on your resource page. Share the tools that you truly love and those that have helped you transform your business.
The design of your resource page can also help a lot in boosting your conversions. Sample a few resource pages you like and try to model their designs.
5. Work with the profitable affiliate programs:
You have to earn those dollars, yet you only have a limited time to create affiliate content. Thus, it makes sense to only join affiliate programs that are relevant to your audience and pay well in terms of commissions.
A profitable product resonates well with your audience, pays a higher commission, and has an elaborate sales funnel that is high converting.
Here’s your guide on finding high-paying affiliate programs to join.
6. Continue growing your best source of high-quality traffic.
Find one source that works for you and invest heavily in it. Spreading your time and budget all over may not be a sustainable model for most solopreneurs who don’t have the luxury of extra hands in the business.
If you find out that Pinterest is bringing you targeted traffic that converts really well, then consider doubling down on the platform by creating more pins, consulting experts, and optimizing your boards. This applies to LinkedIn, Facebook groups, and Search traffic as well.
7. Build a list of engaged email subscribers.
The success of any online business lies is on the list. You want to build an audience around your main affiliate product. For instance, if you are promoting a web hosting company like Bluehost, you may want to start a 7-day free blogging course.
When all is said and done, your email list still remains the most valuable asset of your business.
8. Be useful, be relatable, and be caring.
Hard selling will not cut with. When recommending products, do so without being annoying.
- Send only the emails that you need to send.
- Write a copy that isn’t just purely promotional.
- Share affiliate links on Facebook groups only when your recommendations will be of impact to your users.
- Give people a way out of your promotional content.
9. Work hand in hand with your affiliate manager.
Most popular affiliate networks and affiliate programs will assign you an affiliate manager. These are your awesome partners per se. They are experienced working with hundreds of affiliates and will give you actionable tips and even increase your commissions with time.
10. Shorten Your Affiliate Links.
You do this for two reasons: To easily share your affiliate links with others, and two, to track which links are highest performing in terms of click-throughs.
11. Promote Your Affiliate Links and Assets Strategically
To make sales and earn commissions for your affiliate products, you need to drive relevant traffic. To do that, diversify your sources. A few ways to do that include:
- Join relevant Facebook groups, follow the rules, engage and occasionally share your affiliate assets when relevant.
- Join relevant LinkedIn groups and start engaging.
- Start using Pinterest to drive traffic to your affiliate assets. You can also link directly to your affiliate programs on Pinterest if they allow.
- Paste your affiliate links in YouTube descriptions.
- Use affiliate links on Twitter without spamming users.
The winning affiliate marketing strategy is one that involves 3 major aspects: Quality affiliate products, Useful content, and Quality Traffic.
What affiliate marketing Strategies have worked well for you? Let me know below. I also suggest joining affiliate marketing forums as the community will help you with tons of tips that are currently working for them. I’m part of the AffLift forum and am loving it. Lots of insights and resources for the members. Join AffLift for free.