Affiliate Marketing For Beginners: How to Develop and Manage a Successful Strategy
Every day, you probably come across a website that promotes a product or service from another company. It may be because it’s so good that it deserves to be shouted about, but more often than not it’s down to affiliate marketing.
Affiliate marketing is a fantastic way to create a new revenue stream for a website, blog or social media channel. It pays the promoter for any conversion or sale made as a result of a visitor clicking on that promotion. It’s a bit like being a social media influencer that makes money from sponsored posts or promotions.
And it’s been very successful for a lot of people. Take Zac Johnson, an early participant in the Amazon Affiliate Program, who went on to launch a website and now earns $1 million annually. Or Abby Lawson who runs a lifestyle and organizational blog and is now one of the top 21 highest paid bloggers as of 2022.
There’s a lot of money to be made from affiliate marketing and many programs out there to help you do that. In this article, we’ll start with the basics of affiliate marketing and build up so you can kickstart your affiliate career.
- What is affiliate marketing?
- How does affiliate marketing work?
- Which companies are best for affiliate marketing?
- How do I become an affiliate marketer?
- What are the best affiliate marketing channels?
- How much do beginner marketing affiliates make?
- What are good examples of affiliate marketing?
- Affiliate marketing trends
- Affiliate marketing tips for beginners
So, let’s get started…
What is affiliate marketing?
Affiliate marketing is a way for your company, website or blog to make money by promoting another company’s product or service.
Once a web visitor clicks through a trackable link on your end they are driven to a third-party landing page or site. If they take an action, you as the affiliate partner get a commission based on that click, lead or sale.
How does affiliate marketing work?
In most affiliate programs, there are stakeholders involved that you need to consider in the process which include:
- The advertiser: The brand or company that wants to sell a product or service.
- The affiliate or publisher*: The website that drives traffic to the advertiser’s website.
- The affiliate network: In simple terms, this is the software that tracks traffic and sales.
- The consumer: The person who visits the affiliate’s website, clicks a link or banner and buys the product from the advertiser.
*You can say affiliate or publisher when talking about the website that drives traffic to an advertiser’s website.
Affiliate marketing is a simple process but there are several steps involved. The cycle outlined in the image below shows the journey an affiliate program makes from a user clicking the link on your site to getting paid commission.
The most important element of any affiliate program is the link used to track activity. You need to ensure your link is trackable and identifiable to ensure you get paid at the end of the transaction. A spreadsheet to keep track of all your links or UTMs (a snippet of code attached to a link) is essential to help you measure performance and monitor revenue.
Which companies are best for affiliate marketing?
Joining an affiliate program can give you advantages such as a dashboard to record all activity, analytics, creative assets to display along with access to new content and special offers for your audience.
There are a lot of programs out there, but we want to focus on the top affiliate marketing programs that can help you drive revenue. The best examples are:
As one of the biggest sites and the most successful, every product you can imagine is available on Amazon making it easy to tie to your content. Their Associate program offers commissions between 1 to 10 percent and the most valuable product areas are clothing and luxury beauty.
With nearly 2 million merchants across categories, Shopify offers great opportunities for affiliates. It provides everything you need to set up (management tools, analytics, payments, etc.) and the commission is huge, at 200 percent for a monthly subscription if they are active for two months. In addition, when a referral signs up for a Shopify Plus account you get a $2,000 payment.
Clickbank is an affiliate marketplace and offers a huge choice of categories (arts, games, parenting, self-help, the list goes on…) so it will be relevant to most content. There are two ways to earn commission: revenue share (revshare) and CPA (Cost Per Action).
Freelance marketplace Fiverr’s affiliate program is a great example. As an affiliate, you get a dashboard to manage and monitor campaigns along with creative assets to promote their services. Affiliates can earn up to a $150 CPA for every first-time buyer or up to $1,000 per sale but commission depends on the services you promote.
A relatively new company in the email marketing sector, ConvertKit is aimed at creators to help email management and build landing pages. Its affiliate program aims to drive subscriptions and it pays a 30 percent commission for every paid referral or webinar subscriber.
One of the most popular web hosting platforms, Wix gives $100 for a premium payment from your affiliate link. The company also provides you with all the creative material so you can display banners and drive people to landing pages from your site easily. You need to reach a minimum of $300 in earnings so you won’t be paid until it reaches that threshold.
How do I become an affiliate marketer?
While you can create your own purpose-built tracking software, it’s probably not the easiest way to get started. The best way to set up a program is to go through an affiliate network like one of those mentioned above.
How to decide on an affiliate network
The first thing to do is choose the best network for you. There are a few factors to take into consideration such as:
- What commission do they pay and how is it structured?
- What companies and categories do they work with?
- What type of systems do they have and do they supply creative assets or analytics?
- What is the approval process to join?
- How or when do they pay out commissions?
It’s worth being thorough at this stage as it will help to match a network to your needs and create a successful partnership. You don’t have to stick to one program either, consider a few to see what the results are.
What happens when you decide on an affiliate network?
Once you choose the network, you need to open an account and set up the terms for affiliates. In most cases, your affiliate network account manager will help with this.
The terms of an affiliate program include things like the commissions paid for sales, types of sales considered valid for commission, different rates for different products, your brand guidelines, and whether the affiliates can use your brand term in Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising to drive traffic for people looking for your brand.
How do I get approved for affiliate programs?
Each affiliate program has different approval criteria. For example, Shopify requires you to have an active website, an established audience, and create original content, whereas ClickBank has no criteria to join.
Whichever platform you choose, the best way to get started is to be professional and appear like an attractive asset to the affiliate network and their merchants. Here are some tips to help you get approved:
- Make sure your website is up-to-date and active
- Create original content that focuses on a particular topic e.g. fashion, food, fitness, technology
- Optimize your content for SEO
- Show engagement with your audience through comments or likes
- Ensure you have channels driving traffic to your site (social media, backlinks etc.,)
How can I start affiliate marketing with no money?
While having a successful website that brings in affiliate revenue is the ultimate goal, you don’t have to start there. If money is an issue, use your social media channels to share affiliate links.
You can include affiliate links in your social media posts to drive traffic to particular products. You can also create videos that showcase products and include the links in the description for people to review and purchase. Read our blog if you need help choosing the best social media channels for your business.
What are the best affiliate marketing channels?
There are many marketing channels you can use for affiliate marketing. Plus you don’t have to stick to just one, boost your revenue potential by including affiliate links across your channels.
However, use judgment in your communications to avoid becoming a spammy content creator as this will turn people off. Let’s look at the best affiliate marketing channels to drive sales.
Use websites and/or blogs for affiliate marketing
One of the best ways to capitalize on your affiliate marketing is to host a website or write a regular blog. You can create original content that draws people to your site and hopefully drives people to third-party sites you can earn revenue from.
If you don’t currently have a blog, then consider starting one. It’s a great way to show off your personality and drive people to your site from other channels such as social media. Some of the most successful content for driving affiliate sales is product reviews, especially in the financial service and travel sector.
You could also feature a ‘pick of the week’ on your website which looks at a product that catches your eye. Ideally, a visitor will see something they are interested in which leads to a sale for the advertiser and a commission payment for you as the affiliate who pushed the consumer through the funnel.
Use social media for affiliate marketing
As mentioned above, you can start small as an affiliate and social media is a great place to learn and experiment.
Facebook is a great platform to start with as it’s one of the biggest channels and you can easily target people with niche interests through Facebook Watch or Facebook Live. Have a look at your Facebook feed today and you’ll come across users reviewing or promoting products that include affiliate links.
Setting up a YouTube channel is also a great way to build your presence online and provide valuable content to an audience. There are many ways to grow your audience on YouTube so be creative and try different videos to see what works for you including affiliate links along the way to monetize your efforts
Instagram is another platform that’s set up for affiliate marketing. With their Instagram Affiliate program, the social network makes it easy to get started, and selecting products and tracking is easy through their platform. Many brands actively seek out affiliates on Instagram to promote their products through enticing descriptions and great photos such as vitamin brand @ritual or luxury towel and robe brand @weezie.
Use email for affiliate marketing
Email is a great way to communicate with your audience and drive sales. With first-party data now becoming more important thanks to the demise of third-party cookies, email is a crucial part of your affiliate marketing strategy.
If you have a newsletter then use it to include links that will drive your audience to merchant sites. You can also send one-off emails to introduce special or limited offers that you have access to as an affiliate. Just make sure you provide content that your subscribers have opted into and will be interested in.
If you don’t have an email marketing strategy, then think about creating one as it’s a fantastic way to engage with your audience.
Use microsites for affiliate marketing
Microsites are a great way to address a niche market. They offer you a way to talk to a particular audience and provide value in a way that your more generic website may not be able to.
Microsites are commonly used by charities to promote a campaign or event. This interactive example from Waterwise named ‘Every Last Drop’ was developed to demonstrate how much water is wasted in the UK each day Your microsite doesn’t need to be this fancy or complicated, but it just shows how effective one can be if you want to capture the attention of a target audience.
How much do beginner marketing affiliates make?
In the U.S, affiliate marketing spend is predicted to hit $8.2 billion in 2022. That’s a lot of money in circulation for you to take a slice of, if you’re prepared to put the work in.
So, is affiliate marketing a good career? In short, yes it can be. If you have a great website or blog that draws people in or you create social media content that’s getting noticed, why not look at making money from it?
There are tiers in the affiliate world with those that have more experience and have been doing it longer typically earning a lot more. As a beginner, you are just getting started and in affiliate marketing it takes time to build up links, audience, and revenue so be prepared to earn a small amount when you get started.
According to PayScale, an affiliate marketer earns an average of nearly $53,000 a year. That can go up to nearly $100,000 for those with more experience. However, some bloggers report earning between $3,000 to $31,000 a month through affiliate marketing and other activities.
Earnings can also differ by industry. 80 percent of the world’s brands have affiliate programs so if you do your homework right there are plenty of opportunities out there.
The most profitable industries in 2022 are
- lifestyle and wellness
- technology which includes gaming,
- travel (now recovering post-pandemic)
- home and lifestyle
- personal finance, and
- pet care
How much do affiliate marketers make per sale?
The amount you can make per sale depends on the commission structure you’ve signed up to. It also depends on which affiliate network you join as they have different payment structures.
Let’s take one of the most well-known, Amazon, as an example. You can earn between 1 to 10 percent commission on each product sold depending on the category. If it’s a luxury beauty product you can earn the highest amount so if the value of that product is $50, you’ll get $5 from that sale. However, if the product is on the lower end at 1 percent for a $10 sale that will make you $1.
With affiliate marketing, it’s about being smart with the product you choose and spending your time wisely. You may sell more of the $10 product but its value to you in terms of the commission will be a lot lower.
What are good examples of affiliate marketing?
Let’s look at some great examples of affiliate marketing on websites and blogs.
Owned by the New York Times, Wirecutter features thousands of reviews on products across categories from tech to gifts. With over 12 million visitors a month the affiliate site drives a huge amount of revenue for the New York Times.
As a review affiliate site for financial products, Nerdwallet has been around for some time. It offers useful comparison content on products from credit cards to insurance and mortgages, handy guides, blogs, and tools to draw people in such as ‘What kind of mortgage can I afford?’. The site makes revenue purely from affiliate marketing with big financial brands.
Let’s go back to top-earning blogger Abby Lawson. Through her home organization and decor blog Just a Girl and Her Blog, she shares ideas on how to clean and improve your home and peppers content with affiliate links. She also has a sidebar that displays ads for various companies and features ads in the middle of blog text. She’s capitalized on traffic by developing ebooks and courses to drive revenue through her site.
Your Dream Coffee
The perfect site for coffee lovers, Your Dream Coffee has gained a legion of fans over the past few years and is part of Amazon’s Affiliate Program among others. Its content ranks highly on Google due to its original content and imagery. From recipes to brewing guides and coffee bean recommendations, it’s a small site that packs a punch in a niche market.
Affiliate marketing trends
With affiliate marketing on the rise, there are going to be trends you should know about. Here are four of the biggest to keep an eye on and examine to see if they impact your affiliate marketing strategy.
1) Collaborations with micro or nano influencers for hyper-targeting
The secret to being successful in affiliate marketing for both the brand and affiliate is specificity. Brands want affiliates that have some link to their product or service so are looking for influencers as part of their outreach strategy in an area that’s relevant to them. Think a yoga company and healthy recipes or a home improvement retailer and decor tips.
This means there will be more opportunities for nano (500 to 10,000 followers) and micro (10,000 to 25,000 followers) influencers across marketing channels. If you fit into that category and have a captive audience, think about brands you can become an affiliate with on platforms like TikTok and Instagram.
2) Build communities and respect privacy
With the demise of third-party cookies on Google in 2023 to protect user privacy, advertisers are looking for other ways to capture customer data.
To fill the gaps, brands can use affiliate marketing to drive traffic to a website, microsite, or blog to join a newsletter list or sign up for a special offer. The key will be working with affiliates that engage with their audience and have built up trust by providing valuable and relevant content.
3) Live shopping
In China, live shopping is commonplace and is a great way for brands to showcase their products and services to a live audience. It’s gaining popularity on platforms like Twitch (where brands are now looking to advertise) and YouTube debuted live shopping on its platform.
This will become more popular as a way for brands to offer special offers and discounts live. It will drive a sense of urgency among their audience and enable users to connect with a presenter or influencer through Q&A.
4) Improved reporting
Reporting is one of the most important things about affiliate marketing. If you promote a brand or product you will want to know if promoting their link results in a click, lead or sale.
To improve reporting MMP (Mobile Measurement Partners) will become useful to track attribution. MMPs can integrate with most affiliate networks and ecommerce apps, so make sure yours has the capability.
Social networks also continue to improve their analytics and reporting to help drive better click-through rates and sales. Continuously monitor your key data points and KPIs to measure performance to improve titles, messaging, and imagery.
Affiliate marketing tips for beginners
Now that you know the basics of affiliate marketing and some great examples, let’s look at some simple tips to get you started:
1) Recommend products you know
The best way to become a successful affiliate marketer is to gain the trust of your audience. So, only recommend products that you’re familiar with and know. Ideally, you should try a product or service before recommending it and give honest feedback. What you don’t want is a visitor coming back to you with a complaint that you can’t respond to honestly.
2) Recommend products aligned with your brand
People will visit your website because you have expertise in a particular area. Whether that’s coffee or knitting or artificial intelligence (AI), the products you recommend should be relevant and aligned to your content. Stay on message to build up your personal brand by sticking to what you’re good at as it will pay off in the long run.
3) Promote several products
Don’t just count on one merchant or brand when you start. As a beginner, you need to test products to see what resonates and sometimes it’s not what may seem like an obvious fit to you. Keep products aligned to your brand but experiment and get creative by trying out several products at once.
4) Test and optimize your conversion rates
Keep an eye on your landing page and blog conversion rates. Say your conversion rate is 2 percent and you get 2,500 visits a month which works out at 100 referrals. To get double that conversion rate you need to bring in 2,500 more visitors. But there’s an easier way.
Look at conversion rate optimization by improving your landing pages, load speed, testing a new call-to-action, or swapping out visuals to make it more engaging. It’s amazing what a few tweaks can do to improve your conversion rates and resulting revenue.
Watch our A/B testing video and download the toolkit to find out more.
5) Produce valuable content
It may seem obvious, but you need to create original and engaging content to get people to your website or blog in the first place. Don’t just rehash someone else’s work or reuse a blog from another site. People want unique content.
Also, think about other content types. What about an infographic or ebook to drive traffic and capture customer data? Or could you create a simple video without hiring a professional for YouTube or TikTok?
6) Consider partnerships
Driving traffic to your site or social media can be hard work so make connections with other affiliates to help each other out. If you’re in the same sector you can swap tips or share each other’s content by including links or resharing social posts.
You can also consider guest blogs both on your site and on other people’s to drive backlinks and traffic. Every little bit helps when it comes to affiliate marketing and making friends in the industry can help you, especially at the start.
7) Learn the basic concepts of digital marketing
To get the most from your digital marketing activities and affiliate marketing career, you need to understand the fundamentals.
It’s not enough to just post videos on social media or start a blog. What makes great content and how do you measure that? How do you analyze your data to get meaningful results that will help you drive conversions?
The answer? Learn new skills and hone new ones with a short or long digital marketing course that will give you the most up-to-date information and knowledge to succeed.
Affiliate marketing wrap-up
As you can see, affiliate marketing can be a lucrative and rewarding career. It allows you to set your own hours and pick the products and brands you want to promote. For those willing to put in the time and effort the rewards can be huge. We hope this blog gives you everything you need to get started.
Kickstart your affiliate marketing career today!
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