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Affiliate Marketing For Beginners in 2023: (Complete Guide)

One of the the hottest topics right now on the internet is affiliate marketing. Everywhere you look there’s another post saying how rich you can get from putting up a post on your blog. Then just sit back and make money while you sleep. 

What’s the reasoning behind this? Just take a look at the latest trends from Google!

Affiliate marketing trends in the last 12 months shows an increase
Why the sudden increase in interest? Read on...

If you want more statistics to prove how powerful affiliate marketing is, then check out this post from The most interesting statistic I found was that this is an industry worth over $12 billion with no signs of slowing down. 

Now there’s a lot of hype and spin around affiliate marketing, I’m sure you’ve seen it – Make  Passive Income Online, Make Money While YOU sleep! All that sort of stuff. 

Well I’m not going to make any false promises, affiliate marketing actually takes work

And because this is a guide of affiliate marketing for beginners, I will show you what it is and how you can get started right away, even with a brand new blog! 

We have a lot of work to do, so let’s fly! 

Disclaimer: This article includes affiliate links which may provide a small commission to me at no cost to you (it will buy me a cup of coffee though 😉). However, these are the best tools to help you with affiliate marketing for beginners. You can read more about my affiliate disclosure in my affiliate policy.

In it’s simplest form, affiliate marketing is where you take someone else’s product and then promote it yourself. 

You then get someone to click on a link and if they buy the product or service then you receive a commission for it. 

Pretty good right? No real work needed and you get to make a sale. 

But there’s a little more to it than that. You might make a sale here and there but if you’re serious about making it a proper income stream, (you’re business minded aren’t you?) then let’s break it down. 

Normally as a sales person you’re paid to sell just one type of product. The beauty about affiliate marketing is that you can promote an unlimited amount of products and receive commissions from all of them! 

the affiliate marketing wheel and how it works
Source: BigCommerce

2. How Does Affiliate Marketing Work?

Well first of all you need a blog or some sort of website/content creation platform.  

If you’ve already got a blog then let’s continue. The next thing you need to do is to find a company or a product that you want to promote. The big key here is that it needs to be something you believe in. 

I’m not talking about spiritual stuff here. But it needs to be something that is relevant and will provide true value to your readers. 

Once you find what you’re looking for, then you have now found a ‘Merchant’. 

After you sign up to the program, the merchant will then usually give you a unique affiliate link. This is your own unique ID so that way they can track who was responsible for the sale. 

Once the person clicks the link, it starts a chain reaction of tracking known as a ‘cookie’. The purpose of the cookie is as follows:

  1. Allows the merchant to see who was responsible for the sale (so you can get paid!)
  2. Has an expiration date (set by the merchant), so that if someone decides to go back and buy that product or service say a week later then you still get credit for the sale! 
affiliate marketing link - random letters and numbers

All those letters and numbers in the URL…

Here is an easy way to explain what I mean. 

Let’s say you sign up to the Amazon affiliate program, and you want to promote a set of boxing gloves. You’ve made an epic blog post on the best boxing gloves and then someone clicks the link and it takes them to the Amazon website. 

They get distracted, and need start cooking dinner. They go to sleep, wake up the next day and go back to their computer. 

Now they’re back on Amazon and they figured, hey, while I’m here I’ll get some boxing mitts and some tape to cover my hands too. 

Now comes the best part. Earlier when they clicked on your affiliate link, a cookie was stored on their device. This started a 24hr timer for the user to buy something. If they bought all that stuff then you get a commission on all of the products, not just the one you promoted.  

Not bad right?

A Deeper Dive Into the Relationships

To understand this process further so you can achieve true affiliate marketing success, we need to know how the relationships work with each other. 

Click on the headings below to find out more info. 

We’ve covered what the merchant is above, but don’t forget that it doesn’t necessarily need to be a big organisation or company. It could be a solopreneur or even a retail company. 

They don’t necessarily need to be active in the marketing or advertising campaign. 

Merchants usually leverage affiliate sites to help promote their product or service. This could be useful if they want to reach a new audience. 

This is you. Whether you’re an individual or a company, it is up to you to market the seller’s product to your audience. It needs to be appealing and something of value to your audience. 

If you’ve done a good job of convincing the customers, then the seller will pay you a small commission for it. 

The reason this works is because your audience know, like and trust you. This is why it’s important to only promote products you actually believe will benefit them in some way. Don’t lose that trust over a few dollars. 

Whether you scroll your social media feed, or read other people’s blog, you are also the subject to affiliate marketing (whether you know it or not!). 

Most of the time, affiliates will disclose they may receive a commission as a result of any sales they make (this is good practice). Sometimes though consumers may be completely unaware (not recommended). 

When a consumer buys a product as a result of affiliate marketing, they won’t necessarily pay more for the product, the merchant and affiliate take a piece of the profits each. In most cases the consumer may even receive a discount on the product as a result of it (win-win!).

3. How Much Money Can I Make?

Now you’re probably thinking, that sounds great so far Chris, but tell me how much can I make? 

Unlimited is the answer. 

What it will depend on though, is how much work you’re willing to put in and of course the kind niche you’re in. 

Want more proof? Head over to my blog post on how to monetize your blog and check out the affiliate marketing section. I show you some of the top bloggers and how much they are consistently making per month. 

But in the interest of keeping things moving, here’s a snippet from Pat Flynn. Bear in mind this is just from affiliate marketing. 

Pat Flynn's Affiliate earnings for Dec 2017. 105k!
Just in one month!

Don’t get too excited yet though. To reach this level you need time, dedication and patience. This will not be happening fast.

As you’re just starting out though, expect to see something more along the lines of…

The first affiliate check. In the order of a couple of dollars and cents
I'm not lying by telling you that you'll buy me a cup of coffee (which is really appreciated by the way).

Don’t let that discourage you though. If you’re constantly providing value to your readers then you will gain their trust and eventually be compensated for it. 

The potential is there for the taking. 

How Do Affiliate Marketers Get Paid?

You don’t always need to get the consumer to pay for a product that they’ve clicked a link on to get paid. The program will determine how you will be paid. Here are a couple of other ways you can get paid as an affiliate. 

Click on the headings below to find out more info. 

This is the most common type of payment. It’s what we’ve been talking about so far, where you get a commission of the purchase. You need to get the customer to actually make a sale before you get paid. 

A little different to making a sale but the same idea. You need to convince the customer to head over to the merchant’s website and complete a certain action. Whether that’s to give an email address, sign up to a newsletter, download an eBook, etc. 

It’s similar to paid advertising. In this situation you convince the customer to head from your website and land on the merchant’s website. You are then paid because of an increase in traffic to the merchant’s website. 

4. Why be an Affiliate Marketer?

Why would you even want to be an affiliate marketer? What’s the benefit of doing all this work?

Relatively “Passive” Income

As much as I hate the term passive income, as there’s rarely something that will give you money for doing nothing. Affiliate marketing though, comes close to being passive. 

You invest the time upfront and then you will get returns from all that hard work you did for weeks and months afterwards. 

Even while you’re not at your computer you’ll still be receiving commissions. 

No Customer Support

I love this one. With a physical product you are constantly refunding, answering questions, sending out emails, etc. Because you link the customer to the seller, then the seller is the one who will deal with any issues to the product. 

One of the best things about affiliate marketing is no customer support so you can relax how you want to.

No customer support means you can relax how you want to…

Work From Home

Ahhh the good old work from home. If you’re receiving an income from your laptop then technically you could be anywhere in the world while still marketing offers to consumers. Especially now during Covid-19, more and more people are looking to find a way to make an income online. 

Cost Effective

This is essentially the cost of running and maintaining your blog. You could do affiliate marketing with a YouTube channel was well, but seeing as we’re bloggers we’ll focus on your website. Affiliate programs are free to join as well. 

Be wary if one is asking for money to join. You also don’t need to create the product either so that’s time saved. 

It’s Performance Based

The harder you work on your campaigns, the reviews you write, the content you put out there, and the amount of value you provide, will determine how well they convert for you. Work on those skills and it will pay off. 

SEO is Still Relevant

Just because you’re marketing a product doesn’t mean you can neglect SEO. By writing a “best of” or a comparison review will help your on page SEO. Of course if you want more info, go here to find ways to optimize your content. Or here if you want a free eBook on SEO

5. How to Get Started With Affiliate Marketing?

If you’re convinced by now that you want to get started then here are 4 easy steps. Even if you’re still not convinced, you will be by the end of this post. 

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Just because you can promote any product, doesn’t mean you should

Your readers are already in the market looking for something. They’re going to buy something whether you give them advice or not. 

What you need to do now is help them make a more informed decision than they could if they didn’t have your help. That is exactly how you provide value to your readers and the reason why you get paid.

So let’s see how we go about doing that. 

Step 1. Choose Your Product

Because you’re an honest blogger, there’s really only two options for you to choose which products to promote. 

Option 1: Products You Already Use

This is probably your best option to start with. If you’re already using it then there’s a reason for it. Obviously you’ve then had time to thoroughly test out the product, and if you’ve had a good experience it then it should be an easy recommendation for you. 

How often have you bought something, or read a book and you’ve just wanted to shout out from the rooftops to let everyone else know how much it has helped you?

Now, we just need to see if the company has an affiliate program. You’d be surprised how many do! Go to the merchant’s website and search for ‘Affiliate Program’, ‘Partners’ or ‘Affiliates’.

Alternatively you can just check the footer of the website as this is where most of the links are. 

Affiliate Program link on ConvertKit's website. Usually in the footer.
ConvertKit's affiliate program link...

If there’s nothing in the footer, then it definitely pays to email them directly asking if there’s an affiliate program. 

Some merchants “hide” their program. They won’t openly advertise that they accept affiliates. They’ll usually reserve access for influencers who they feel will drive converting traffic for them. 

They’re the higher end for affiliates, but I wouldn’t worry about that for now. 

These are the easiest ways to get started, so that when you start having a proven track record you can also access the highest commissions

Option 2: Find Products Through an Affiliate Network

If you’re new to the space and not sure which products to promote, this is where affiliate networks come in. They are basically the middlemen. They connect bloggers (you) with merchants (companies/other entrepreneurs) who will offer you a commission to promote their product or service. 

Warning: Be careful here not to promote something that just pays the highest. Take the time to either purchase the product first or do extensive research on what the product can offer your audience. 

Most of the time, merchants using affiliate networks are less known and so you may not have heard of them before. Find out if they share the same values as you do before you jump in. 

The most popular affiliate networks include, but are not limited to:

Most people who are new to affiliate marketing usually sign up to the Amazon affiliate program as it’s an easy way to get started with a whole bunch of products and brand names that people know. 

For example, if you’re in the photography space and you do a review of a Nikon vs Canon camera, you could link to both of those and if anyone clicks on the link and buys one you receive a commission for it. 

Update: Amazon has revised the amount of commission they are paying out now, so do your research before going into it. Some categories are as little as 1% commission of the sale price!

Step 2. Joining as an Affiliate

As weird as it may seem, you still need to apply and be approved to join the affiliate program of your choice. You may get assigned an affiliate manager if you have any questions as well. 

To get paid though you will need to provide them with a couple of things:

  1. Your personal information, or business entity details for tax purposes. This is so they can determine the right form to fill out if you’re outside of that country. 
  2. Your bank account or PayPal details for you to actually receive your commissions. If you’re from outside the US like I am then I totally recommend Wise. They even provide a debit card for you to use from your account! 

Once you’ve provided the details the merchant will then issue you with a particular affiliate link. Whenever you post about that product, you can then use this link to redirect people. Make sure you use this link otherwise you won’t get paid. 

This is what an affiliate link looks like:

Example of an affiliate link a whole bunch of letters and numbers
Before ThirstyAffiliates...

To make it look a little nicer on your website, I suggest using a plugin like ThirstyAffiliates

URL after the use of Pretty Links for affiliate marketing. Much nicer
After ThirstyAffiliates...

Now that we’ve got our links, it’s time to move onto…

Step 3. Promoting Your Special Offers

For you to be successful, two things need to happen. The first, is the customer clicking on the link that takes them to the product page. The second, is then the customer actually purchasing the product. 

For this to happen, you to put this recommendation in front of your readers for sure, but you also need to make the recommendation seem trustworthy

You may notice some affiliate marketers slapping banners and pictures all over their website that links to their chosen affiliate program. In most cases they’re only ever promoting the one product. 

What not to do with affiliate marketing.
Would you trust a website like this? What's their main focus?

Instead, look at the most successful affiliate marketers. There is no straight selling and stuffing their site with ads everywhere. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying not to use ads, but be smart about it

Here’s my recommendations to help build trust and authority. 

Recommendation #1. Resources Page

Let’s take a look at my own resources page for a second. While I’m still building it out, I’m only choosing products I love and stand behind. 

I could have a lot more products on there but I choose not to. That’s not what I’m about, nor what my business values are about. 

This is meant to be an educational page. Some people love to know what resources a particular blogger likes to use. Some people it will appeal to and some it won’t. 

That’s ok. You can’t please everybody. But the ones that do trust you will be the ones who benefit from it. 

Your readers should benefit from a resources page because it is all located in one place. Don’t make it hard for them to find the information. 

Recommendation #2. Custom Content

To succeed at this affiliate marketing thing, you need to create high quality content and then fit in your affiliate link where it’s appropriate. Not just for the sake of it. 

A great example of this is Tim Ferriss. On one of his blogs, he interviewed 100+ world class performers and asked them this question:

 “What purchase of $100 or less has most positively impacted your life…”

What he did next is awesome. He wrote down all their answers and included affiliate links to each of their products. 

A section of Tim Ferriss' blog post showing Affiliate Marketing in action.
Plenty of affiliate links...

While this is a great idea, I don’t recommend going out there and doing a review of Amazon’s top 100 products and putting in affiliate links everywhere. 

Remember your content needs to solve your visitor’s pain points. What do they need help with?

Reviews: These could be for one product only or a comparison. The second has the advantage of the reader then choosing which one is better for them rather than you recommending all the time. 

What a lot of affiliate marketers also do with reviews (which I don’t particularly like), is where they will write up a review and then not really recommend it, but at the end will have words like “check out my number 1 recommendation here”. 

This then drives them to a review that they have done extensive research on. They will eventually want them to click on this link (maybe it gives them the most commissions?), but it’s the same program every time

Definitive Guides: This is like a “how to” guide type of content post. 

One example here is just like my blog post on how to start a blogging business. In here, it includes affiliate links to all of my favourite hosts and other plugins to help you get set up faster.

Try to make this kind of content evergreen. It’s where this kind of post never really goes out of fashion but be sure to keep it updated

Of course be sure not to make it a sales page. Instead focus on the building of trust and authority. It will make it easier for you. 

Finally, don’t forget to pay attention to SEO. You will want to optimize your post to make it rank better and be seen by search engines. 

Step 4. Don't Forget The Legal Stuff

This part of affiliate marketing doesn’t get covered as much but I believe it’s equally as important. The last thing you want to do is be building your business only to be sued or receive a cease and desist letter. 

So it’s critical that you protect yourself

In the United States, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requires that you let people know you’ll be receiving a commission. To be honest, I agree with this because not only is it best practice, it also helps build trust with your readers. 

Don’t be afraid to be open with your audience. They will appreciate your honesty and in turn will want to repay you. The way they do that is by supporting your affiliate links.

After all, if you’ve provided enough value to them to make their lives better why shouldn’t they? 

So where you share an affiliate link (posts, pages, even emails), be sure to include a little disclaimer like the one at the top of this blog post that you’ll receive a commission if they buy through you. 

If they don’t click then it’s no problem as well. 

Just assure them that you don’t recommend any products you haven’t used before or were confident that it could benefit them in some way, shape or form. 

It’s also a good idea to have an affiliate disclaimer page on your website. 

Affiliate Disclaimer Example
An example of an affiliate disclaimer taken from my website...

6. What Products Can You Promote?

So far we’ve gone through how to set up your affiliate marketing success. Now comes the old question of what can I promote that will make me an income so I can leave my job?

The beauty about the internet is that you can use all of these or just one of these but remember, it needs to make sense to your audience. 

Option 1. Digital Products

We are on the internet after all, so it makes sense that this is first. Digital Products is anything that can be downloaded

That means, eBooks, software, PDFs, audio and video files. This is a great path to market because the customer gets it immediately. They don’t need to wait for a package to arrive like they do for a physical product. 

eBooks – Amazon is a great way to get started.
Software – This can be things like games, or plugins for WordPress like Elementor
Mobile Apps – Yes, did you know you can be an affiliate for iTunes? I haven’t found one specific for Google Play and Android yet, so let me know if you find one. 

My Recommendation

Yes! do this type of affiliate marketing. It's easy and very cost effective. Because of that, commissions are usually smaller. You'll need to make a lot of sales to make up for for it.

Option 2. Hosting and Professional Services

Being online, you’ll be attracting visitors from all over the globe. So it makes sense to give them an option that won’t limit them just because of where they live. 

What we’re talking about here is professional services like:

• 99 Designs
• Hootsuite
• Hubspot 

Whereas some examples of hosting/online services include:

• Wix/Squarespace/WordPress
• Leadpages
• ConvertKit/MailChimp

My Recommendation

Yes! Definitely add these types of services. A lot of these types of services have higher commissions than the digital products above, they also can come with recurring commissions as long as your customer stays with them. The only downside is that sometimes your favourite companies won't have an affiliate program.

Option 3. Online Courses

No matter what you are after online, I can guarantee you that there’s a course for it. It is big business these days. They can range in price from just a couple of dollars to a couple of thousand dollars! 

Online platforms like Udemy and Teachable come to mind when talking about courses. They have got everything. 

You can also become an affiliate from LinkedIn Learning if it helps you and your audience. They’ve actually got some great courses. 

My Recommendation

Yes! Do it. But you may need to go in beforehand and validate that the course will actually deliver to your audience. If it ticks all the boxes this can be a great way to make some big money. Better yet, why not have your own course?

Option 4. Physical Products

If having a physical product works for your niche, for example you’re in the fishing or camping space. Having a go to e-commerce store can be a great way to deliver to your audience. 

The best way to promote these would be if you’re actually using them yourself. 

Depending on the affiliate program you’ve signed up with, in general, physical products have a lot more costs involved. Things like the cost to actually make the product, shipping, warehousing, pick and packing, delivery, and everything in between. 

Because of this, there’s usually not much money left over for you. So while it’s a great way to market products, especially with big brand names, you’re probably not going to be making big commissions off of these products. 

My Recommendation

Yes! Add it to your bank of products. However, make sure it is relevant to your niche audience. For an added bonus, if you happen to find products that the customer can't just go to the shop themselves and buy it, then this will have a greater conversion factor.

Bottom Line

What we’ve just gone through isn’t anything new. In fact all I’ve done is filtered out the noise so you can get started on the right foot. 

Just don’t be thinking that you will be making plenty of money straight away either. This is a long game strategy. Something that is built off the back of trust and authority. That takes time

Set goals for yourself. Look to making your first sale, and then think about scaling, revise those goals, and then the dream that most affiliates sell to you could become a reality as we’ve seen. 

Final key take aways – be patient, upfront with your readers, and honest. Your efforts will eventually be rewarded. 

Let me know in the comments below what ways you plan to promote affiliate marketing? 

It’s time to the be the pilot of your life and not just a passenger.