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Affiliate Marketing: The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide for 2024

Affiliate Marketing - The Ultimate Beginner's Guide
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In this article...

A simple walkthrough on getting started with affiliate marketing in 2024, from learning what it is and how it works to the best ways to make money by generating sales.

There’s a reason most content creators are still using affiliate marketing as a way to earn more money online or create a strong passive income. Bloggers, vloggers, podcasters, influencers, and marketers alike are monetizing their content with affiliate links from the ground up, making sure their work will not go wasted.

What is Affiliate Marketing?

Let’s start from the very beginning, shall we? Put simply, affiliate marketing has either two or three parties involved; The merchant, the publisher, and sometimes the affiliate network that connects the first two parties together.

Merchants who want to promote their products and services can either create their own affiliate platform and offer their affiliate programs, or simply join an affiliate network. Building such a platform may add extra monthly costs to their budget while joining an affiliate network means they already have a built-in interface, statistics and reports, and thousands (if not millions) of publishers already working with that network – which makes things a whole lot easier.

For merchants, that’s great news, as they can focus and invest more on customer support and satisfaction, rather than marketing themselves or their products.

Publishers who want to make money can join those affiliate programs or networks (more about that in a bit) and start earning money by keeping a commission after every successful sale they make through their affiliate links. From a few bucks to generating a strong passive income, publishers have no limitations on the number of sales they can make through their affiliate links.

What is an Affiliate Program?

An affiliate program is created by a company and focuses on promoting its products or services by other people, usually publishers/content creators. Anyone who has a website, a social media presence, or creates any type of digital content and wants to promote this company’s products and/or services can join the affiliate program.

Every company decides how its affiliate program is going to work, including the commission per sale they’re going to provide, if they’ll include any goals and bonuses, how much time cookies will stay inserted into the user’s browsers, and more. Some companies may even go one step beyond, creating and providing unique affiliate banners, text links, promotional images, widgets, feeds, and other creatives that publishers can use in their content.

So how does that work? The company will either create an affiliate program from scratch, use an affiliate platform that provides a pre-made affiliate system that can be inserted everywhere, or join an affiliate network that includes many other merchants. Publishers can then join the affiliate program by creating an account and after getting accepted, they can start promoting the company’s products using their unique affiliate links.

What are Affiliate Networks?

Affiliate networks are simply companies that created a platform that connects merchants and publishers from a single place. Merchants may want to join an affiliate network because it’s easier, faster, and can significantly increase their sales.

They don’t have to create an affiliate system from scratch or import one from a third party, and they’re also joining a platform that already works with hundreds, thousands, or even millions of publishers from all around the world.

Apart from that, they get access to a comprehensive interface from which they can track statistics, analyze their performance, create campaigns, provide coupon codes, add new offers, and anything else that can help publishers promote their products more easily.

Publishers on the other hand don’t have to register on many different websites to join their affiliate programs, as they get access to a marketplace that already has tons of merchants. Publishers can easily apply for a partnership with any merchant they want, and after they get accepted, they get access to all the available creatives, affiliate links, offers, coupon codes, etc.

Affiliate Networks vs Affiliate Programs

Some companies may provide their own affiliate program which publishers can join from the official website or domain name, while also being available in other affiliate networks. Should you choose to join from their official website or use the affiliate network?

The answer may vary, but you can start by looking at the commission per sale you get. For example, affiliate networks need to make money, so they may be keeping a percentage of every sale you make through their platform. That may not be the case when joining an affiliate program from the official domain name, as there’s no one in the middle.

In any case, it’s important to take a look at the commission per sale that you get from the official domain name and the affiliate network and make your decision based on that. Otherwise, using an affiliate network makes things easier, as you’ll only have one place to track your sales and not multiple websites.

How affiliate links work by storing Cookies

Many newcomers in the affiliate marketing field are confused about how affiliate links actually work. For example, many think that affiliate links only count once, and if a user leaves the website and doesn’t buy anything at that specific moment but completes it after a couple of days, the affiliate won’t get paid.

That is simply not true, as affiliate programs and networks are using specific custom links that let them keep track of the performance, traffic sources, and the specific publisher’s ID. They also store cookies on the user’s browsers, and that makes them able to keep track of and understand when someone has successfully completed an order.

Most affiliate programs and networks provide publishers with affiliate links that have a duration of 15 to 30 days. That means that if someone clicks on your affiliate link but doesn’t buy anything at that moment but decides to buy it after 10 days, you’ll still keep a commission, as long as they complete the order through the same device and browser, that means. In some rare cases, a merchant may even provide a 60-day duration for the cookies.

Why is Affiliate Marketing important for content creators?

As a full-time blogger, I’ve been using affiliate marketing to earn extra income from my articles and podcasts for as long as I can remember. It’s a good way of generating more money from tools, services, or products that I would otherwise have already recommended to my audience, but with affiliate marketing, I can make a living by just inserting the same links, but a bit customized.

Not only that, but affiliate marketing is giving me a chance to get access to specific landing pages with offers merchants specifically create for their affiliates, while coupon codes can also be beneficial for my readers. And with that in mind, there’s really no reason for me not to monetize some of my articles with affiliate links.

And to be honest, any time I was creating a new blog or a podcast, affiliate marketing would be the first thing that would generate the first amount of money, even from small sales. And if you think that making a few bucks from the start is not important, you’re wrong. I know many bloggers who paid for their yearly hosting and domain expenses with just one affiliate sale.

In many cases, I’ve also seen some of my clients quickly generating income from their new blogs. And that’s perfect, considering that you can’t make the same amount of money with a low-traffic blog that displays ads, and finding sponsors or advertisers is not that easy when your statistics are close to zero.

So if there’s no harm in using this kind of tactic to make money out of your content, why wouldn’t you? And when it comes to ads, I wouldn’t say the same, not at the beginning at least. But – and there’s always a big “but” – there’s more to it, and publishers should only promote affiliate products and services that they’ve already used, but I’ll get to that in a bit.

The different payment methods in Affiliate Marketing

It’s important for affiliate marketers to understand that every affiliate program, network, merchant, and so on, can choose how much they will pay their publishers (commission percentage), and what types of affiliate programs they will provide. Those are also called “Payment models” and in the field of affiliate marketing, thankfully there are only a few you should consider.

First and foremost, we have the “Pay Per Sale” (or simply “PPS“), which is the most common payment model in affiliate marketing. As you can guess, publishers keep a commission for each sale they generate through their affiliate links. Then there’s “Pay Per Lead” (or “PPL“) which is basically the same, but this time the user must complete an action, such as registering and trying a service, downloading an app, signing up for specific lists, completing surveys, and much more.

In rare cases, you may also find some affiliate programs offering a “Pay Per Click” (or “PPC“) payment method, in which you earn money simply when a user clicks on them and gets redirected. Not many merchants provide this method, but there’s a possibility that you may encounter it. This is the same as how Google AdSense pays publishers with their PPC method.

There are many affiliate networks and merchants who prefer using multiple payment methods, providing even more options to their publishers. Some networks and programs also increase or decrease the commission a publisher gets based on the number of sales they make through their links. A good example of this is; Your commission split starts at 25% but it can increase up to 40% based on the number of bookings they’ve made. To get to that 40% commission you’ll have to make 501 or more successful stayed bookings that you have secured in a given month.

How to get Started with Affiliate Marketing in 2024

Getting started with affiliate marketing is relatively easy and straightforward; The only thing that you’ll need to do is basic research to find the right affiliate programs and networks that you’re going to be using. That may sound boring, but thankfully you’ll only have to do that once.

What’s not easy and straightforward is promoting those products and/or services and making them profitable, but we’ll come to that later.

1. Look for the perfect products and services

Let’s say that you’re an expert blogger, writing high-quality articles and reviews, and know how to fully optimize those posts and make them stand out in Google’s search results. You get an affiliate product, write and publish a review about it, maybe link it to a few older reviews that already have some traffic going on, and after α few months have passed, you’re still not seeing any sales.

Even if your article is in the first place in search results, if no one is searching for it, you’re not going to see any sales. And if you do, they’re probably not going to be enough to be worth the time that you’ve invested in creating the content. With that in mind, it’s crucial to do research and see what people are currently buying and which products are trending, as this information will help you create a stronger strategy.

Researching using Google Trends

Looking at what’s going on behind Google’s organic traffic is important when it comes to promoting products or services. Most people are using Google to search for a product they want to buy before buying it, or even to search for similar products, and being at the top of those results is crucial.

Google Trends is a simple and free tool that you can use to check which keywords have the biggest popularity. For example, let’s say that you’re interested in promoting mountain bikes, road bikes, and so on, and you want to know which types of bikes have the highest searches in Google, just add those keywords in Trends and you can compare their popularity.

Google Trends

As you can see from the screenshot above, the keyword “mountain bikes” was the top result, until recently, which makes sense as electric vehicles are becoming more and more popular.

Using the same way you can compare hundreds of different results, and keep notes for all the products, services, and common searches that people search the most.

Look for trending products and top sellers on Amazon

Amazon Homepage
Amazon’s homepage.

If there is one place you should absolutely visit often and use for your research, that would be Amazon, the king of e-commerce. Amazon is being used by millions of people around the world, making it the perfect place to see what’s trending and what’s not.

Products have tons of reviews on them, which also gives you the perfect opportunity to see what buyers say and if they’re happy with their purchases. If a product has a low rating, you can immediately skip it and move to something better, and that’s perfect for any affiliate looking for the best products to promote.

While it’s important to check any products that are part of your niche, Amazon’s homepage includes some of the most popular products and top sellers. This is great for quickly getting informed if there’s an opportunity with a new product making thousands or millions of sales.

How do you promote Amazon’s products? You can join their affiliate program by visiting Amazon’s Associates Central and registering for a new publisher account.

Take a better look at Etsy’s top listings

Etsy Homepage

Etsy is a global marketplace with tons of unique and creative products that people just can’t stop buying. It has everything, it’s mostly focused on handcrafted pieces, and almost everyone knows it, so there’s no need for any introductions.

Etsy is the Pinterest of products, you can browse for hours and have lists and lists full of goods that you want to buy. Apart from being the perfect place for individuals to sell their handcrafted products, it’s also a source for affiliate marketers and e-commerce owners looking at the most popular products and those with the best overall ratings.

You can discover new product ideas by navigating through Etsy’s popular categories, products, and even gifts, and look for similar products to the ones that you’re selling or thinking of using for your affiliate marketing strategy.

How to promote Etsy’s products? The company provides both an affiliate program (through the Awin Affiliate Network) and a Creator Collective program for social media content creators and influencers.

2. Choose the right Affiliate Platforms for your niche

Choosing the “perfect” affiliate network (or platform) for your needs is not always as easy as it sounds. Every platform has its own merchants and partnerships, which means that some of them give you access to thousands of companies, while others only provide a few affiliate programs.

But joining a network that has a small number of merchants doesn’t always mean that it’s the wrong choice, as many of them have been partnered with some of the biggest companies in the world, making it hard to overlook.

So how do you choose the right affiliate network for your needs? You can start by looking at some basic information that most affiliates need, including:

  • Commission Per Sale (CPS): It’s important to find affiliate programs and networks with high CPS. The higher the number, the bigger the commission you’re going to get for every sale you make through your affiliate links.
  • Partners and Affiliate Program Availability: Every affiliate network has its own partnerships, make sure you’re using the ones that give you access to the most important companies you want to promote. Some networks may not have a large number of registered merchants, but they have well-known brands that are important for your niche.
  • Reports and Statistics: It’s crucial to be able to keep track of your performance, such as which affiliate programs sell the most, which of your websites or sources of traffic made the most sales, how many clicks your links had the last few days, and much more.
  • Browser Extensions: Some affiliate networks or programs may also give you important tools such as browser extensions that you can install. These little lightweight tools will help you create new unique affiliate links faster and easier than ever before, without having to access the platform to get the links.

To help you even further, here’s a list of the best and most popular affiliate programs and networks that I have tried over the last 15 years as a content creator:

3. Learn more about the FTC Guidelines and Accurate Representations

It’s crucial to know everything when it comes to legal matters and making sure you’re fully complied with any important requirements. Take for example the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) which regulates affiliate marketing activities and, in many countries, content creators who use affiliate marketing need to disclose their relationships with advertisers/merchants and any compensation received for endorsements or reviews.

It’s also important to always create accurate content that is based on your own experience before promoting a product or service. Many new affiliates think that creating fake reviews can get them that dream of having a passive income generated from sales, but most of them are wrong. Promoting a product or service that you’ve never tried means making false or misleading claims, and that includes anything in your content from the pros and cons to features and other benefits.

Failure to comply with FTC guidelines may result in fines and legal action in a vast majority of countries, so make sure you’ve learned all about the legal issues surrounding your country. Contacting with a legal consultant may be the best way.

4. Sign up and become an expert

Now that you have a list of the best affiliate networks and programs that you’re going to be using, and you’ve learned all about the FTC guidelines and how they may affect you, it’s time to sign up. Most networks and programs should only take a few minutes per sign-up, and it’s all about filling out forms.

There’s always a possibility of getting rejected from a program or a network. Some of them are declining low-traffic websites or individuals with small audiences from joining their program, while others may even decline your niche if it’s not the same or similar to their products or services. What’s important here is to make sure that all of your online profiles are professional-looking, and that you have already published high-quality content on them.

It’s also crucial to make sure that you’ve read the affiliate’s network or program’s guidelines and terms of use, as some may disapprove of some methods of promotion, including creating advertising campaigns on social media platforms such as Instagram and TikTok. Advertising on those platforms may be something important for your online strategy.

Becoming an expert on every platform that you’re using is also important, as many of them may give you access to various tools, widgets, banners, and other features that affiliate marketers use to better promote the products and services. You can also take a look at how other affiliates are using those networks and how they make their most sales, what types of content they create, and how people are finding them.

Best ways to make money with Affiliate Marketing

There are several ways you can make money with affiliate marketing, some easier and cheaper, while others are more complex but have higher chances of creating a passive income. Whichever way you choose to make money with affiliate marketing, keep in mind that you may need to invest lots of hours if you truly want to see quick results.

Create an affiliate e-shop

Nowadays it only takes a few minutes to create your own beautiful and professional e-shop without coding or having any special skills. The only thing you’ll have to do is choose the right platform for your needs and budget and start by simply registering for a new account and choosing a plan.

Most of these platforms provide all the tools and features that you’ll need to create, manage, and publish your own affiliate e-shop, which is a great way to start your new online affiliate business. With an e-commerce store, you’ll also get the chance to promote the products and services by optimizing them for search engines, while blogging can help you get indexed in even more results.

Best platforms to quickly create an affiliate e-shop:

  • WordPress & WooCommerce: The best solution when it comes to creating simple and minimal to more advanced and complex affiliate e-shops, blogs, and other types of websites. WordPress is also the most popular CMS platform in the world, has a huge community, and there are thousands of pre-made themes and plugins that you can use to extend even more its capabilities.
  • Shopify: This is one of the most popular platforms for creating e-commerce stores, including affiliate and dropshipping e-shops, and it has an easy-to-use interface and a plethora of available pre-made templates to choose from. Shopify is possibly the easiest platform to get started within minutes.
  • Squarespace: This is another pretty popular platform for creating various types of websites, and it comes with a minimal and modern interface that is easy to use. Squarespace has some of the most modern and minimalistic pre-made templates, ideally made for any type of e-commerce store, and it gives you all the options and features that you’ll need to manage your affiliate products.

If you don’t want to waste any time on the technical side of things, I would go either with Shopify or Squarespace, while WordPress and WooCommerce are best fit for more complex websites.

Create a blog and write high-quality content

Content marketing is still one of the best ways to make money online by monetizing your articles with affiliate links and/or affiliate banners, widgets, feeds, etc. Even if you just created an e-commerce store, you’ll probably want to integrate (if not already integrated) a blog in which you’ll be posting as many high-quality articles as you can.

It’s all based on your niche too, which means that you can promote any affiliate product or service by writing and publishing reviews, personal opinions, tips and tricks on using them, and whatever people are looking for those specific products. You can also write guides, provide step-by-step tutorials for specific services, or even compare multiple similar products/services.

You’ll also need to optimize your articles for search engines, so make sure you stick to some of the most important factors when it comes to SEO. To help you get started faster and easier than ever, here’s an SEO checklist for you:

Based on my experience, starting with the most popular topics of your needs or the top-selling products is probably the best way to go, even if the competition is high. So make sure you’ve covered your most popular affiliate products and services with high-quality written articles.

Don’t know how to start a blog? Well, here’s the fastest, easiest, and most popular way of creating beautiful websites without spending a fortune or learning how to code:

Keep in mind though that blogging is pretty much a huge time investment, as you’ll have to write and publish as many high-quality articles as you can, and beat the competition in Google and Bing’s search results, something that can be a long, long way of creating, editing, changing, publishing, reviewing, and improving your content.

Note: It’s crucial for bloggers to implement the “sponsored” value as Google recommends for quality outbound links. If you’re on WordPress, you can use plugins such as Rank Math SEO which can handle the affiliate links and gives you the option to set them as “no-follow” and/or “sponsored”.

Another good starting point is writing evergreen content, which is basically articles that people can read years after they’ve been published, and still be relevant. However, you’ll need to do keyword research before getting into a writer’s mode, so you won’t lose any time by writing blog posts that will never get you any serious traffic or generate any affiliate sales.

Create videos or podcasts

Videos are the most popular and preferred type of digital content as of this moment of writing. Well-known platforms such as YouTube (now with Stories), TikTok, Snapchat, and Instagram, just to name a few, can help you promote your affiliate products and services by making unique videos. While it’s not easy or fast to build a strong audience, many have seen TikTok or YouTube’s algorithm giving the boost of their lives just a few days after they started uploading their first videos.

Making your own high-quality and unique videos shouldn’t add a big investment in your budget, as nowadays you can start with your smartphone’s camera and spend a few bucks on a microphone to improve the sound quality. If you’re looking for smoother shots, you can invest in a gimbal instead of purchasing a new phone altogether.

Affiliate marketing works great with social media platforms – apart from Instagram, which still doesn’t let us share links in our descriptions or comments – as you can promote any product or service just by providing the affiliate link in your video’s description. You can also increase the clicks by letting your audience know they can find any website, product, or service you’re referring to in your video’s description.

If you’re not into videos, podcasting may be a more interesting approach. While podcasting is the least popular way of creating an audience or promoting affiliate products and services, it doesn’t mean it can’t generate earnings or even ultimately generate a passive income. You can create episodes and talk about specific products or services, share your skills and experience with your audience, and help them make the right choices for their needs.

As with videos, you can also add as many URLs as you want in the descriptions of your podcast episodes, and most streaming platforms keep them active, making it easier for someone to click and automatically get redirected to that specific affiliate page.

Share on Social Media

Here’s the thing; If you’re looking to make money from affiliate marketing using the world’s most popular social media platforms, the secret is to choose the right ones. You could use them all together, but you’ll either have to invest more time in publishing on different platforms and adjust your content for every single one of them, either use a (mostly premium) tool or service that lets you connect and publish your content in multiple social media platforms from one place.

So how do you find the right social media platforms? Well, that’s based on the affiliate products and services that you’re going to be promoting. For example, if you’re promoting tools and services that professionals use for their work or businesses, you may find platforms such as LinkedIn more useful, as their audience is mostly centered on businesses, professionals, and individuals looking for jobs.

If you’re going to be promoting anything art-related, handcrafted products, home decorations, clothes, and so on, Pinterest may be the perfect choice. Tumblr is also pretty popular when it comes to art, and it gives you lots of ways to promote any type of content you want. If you’re good at writing short content, maybe X (Twitter), BlueSky, or even Threads can help you quickly increase your affiliate sales, just by adding links to your posts or profile descriptions.

Sharing short videos on Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, and YouTube Shorts is probably the best and fastest way of quickly building an audience from scratch and watching your content going viral – and sometimes that may result in hundreds or thousands of sales in a very short time. But there’s tremendous competition when it comes to videos, so make sure they’re unique, not boring, and to the point.

Use your email list (newsletter)

Email marketing is far from dead. Anyone has at least one email account that they’re using for creating accounts on various websites, apps, and online services. And as long as the Internet is email-based, meaning that having an email address is still crucial for accessing a big part of the web, marketers and content creators are still using it for promotions.

If you’re a content creator and you already build an audience, it will be easier to start promoting affiliate products and services that are based on the niche or your audience’s personal preferences. If you’re starting now, you’ll have to choose an email service that you’ll use to create, manage, and send your newsletter campaigns, have all of your subscribers organized, and tools that you may need to improve even further your affiliate marketing strategy.

One of the biggest problems with email marketing is pricing though. Many email services cost quite a bit when it comes to increasing the number of subscribers you can have and the maximum number of emails you can send on a daily or monthly basis. Make sure the email service that you choose is the one that you can afford as you’re building your audience.

Conclusion: Is Affiliate Marketing a good way to make money online in 2024?

Well, the answer depends on the time you can invest, the ways you’ve chosen, and the quality of the content you’re going to create. Affiliate marketing has big competition and millions of people are trying to make an income or even create a passive income from online sales. But that doesn’t mean you can’t make a good amount of money or create your own passive income.

Investing as much time as you can – and I can’t stress this enough – for research is crucial if you don’t want your time going to waste after months of trying without any sales. Anyone can choose an affiliate network, register, and start promoting their favorite merchants, but not everyone can generate a good amount of sales.

Use as many tools and services as you can to research the most trending products and services, find the best affiliate networks for your niche, and how people are searching and finding these products or services. Make sure you’ve read all the reviews, checked many different sources, and what are the biggest pros and cons of any product/service that you’re promoting.

If done smartly and properly, affiliate marketing can make your time worthwhile.

Have any questions, stories, or tips on affiliate marketing that you’d like to share? Drop them in the comment section down below!

Panos Sakalakis

Meet Panos Sakalakis, a web wizard, blogging buff, podcasting pro, and SEO sorcerer with over 15 years of enchanting experience. When he's not weaving digital spells with his keyboard, you'll likely spot him conquering mountain trails with his trusty Hard-Trail MTB bike, in hot pursuit of the ultimate adrenaline rush and the perfect blog post inspiration.

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