What Is Affiliate Marketing? How to Get Started as an Affiliate Marketer

Affiliate marketing helps you build wealth and create passive income. But what is affiliate marketing exactly, and how does it work?

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explain everything you need to know about affiliate marketing and how to leverage it to drive revenue and success for your venture.

We will explore the affiliate marketing world, showing you how to promote products and services effectively and earn commissions for your marketing efforts.

Key Takeaways

  • Affiliate marketing is a performance-based marketing model in which an affiliate earns commissions by promoting and referring customers to a merchant’s products or services.
  • There are three primary types of affiliate marketing: unattached, related, and involved.
  • Starting an affiliate marketing campaign requires choosing a niche, joining an affiliate program or network, creating an affiliate site or platform, and promoting affiliate products.
  • Earning money from affiliate marketing requires building relationships with merchants and affiliate managers, optimizing for search engine optimization (SEO), and analyzing data to optimize promotional strategies.
what is affiliate marketing

Affiliate Marketing Definition

Affiliate marketing is a performance-based marketing model in which an affiliate earns commissions by promoting and referring customers to a merchant’s products or services.

In other words, if you have a blog or a website, you can join an affiliate program and promote the products or services of a business. When someone clicks on your referral link and buys the product or service, you earn a commission.

One of the biggest benefits is that you don’t need to create your own products or services. You can simply promote the products or services of other businesses you believe in, and earn a commission for every sale made through your referral link.

What Are Common Affiliate Marketing Terms?

You may encounter some unfamiliar terms if you’re a beginner affiliate marketer taking your first steps in partnering with affiliate networks or programs.

You’ll hear the following terms if you start an affiliate marketing business:

  • Merchant: The person or company selling the product or service you’re working with as an affiliate marketer.
  • Affiliate: The person or organization promoting the product or service.
  • Affiliate link: A unique URL containing the affiliate’s ID that allows the merchant and affiliate to keep track of the affiliate’s referrals.
  • Commission: The percentage or fixed amount the affiliate earns from each successful referral.

Types of Affiliate Marketing

There are three primary types of affiliate marketing: unattached related, and involved. The type you select will have its own characteristics, advantages, and challenges.

Understanding the type of affiliate marketing work that suits your preferences will help you determine the strategy to meet your goals.

Unattached Affiliate Marketing

Unattached affiliate marketing is when the affiliate has no direct connection to the promoted product or service. The affiliate also maintains no personal involvement with potential customers.

Unattached affiliates aim to drive traffic to the merchant’s website through advertising or other means. However, the affiliate does not endorse and recommend the product or educate the target audience on its benefits or function.

Unattached affiliate marketing examples include pay-per-click advertising, banner ads, or sponsored content on social media platforms.

While the unattached method requires less time and effort to build customer relationships, it can yield lower conversion rates as the promotions come across as impersonal or lacking credibility. Always avoid intrusive ads like pop-ups that can annoy users.

In related affiliate marketing, the affiliate has some connection to the niche or industry of the promoted product or service but does not use them personally.

In a related affiliate marketing program, affiliates create content and share their expertise within a specific subject area, enabling them to endorse or recommend products that align with their audience’s interests.

Related affiliate marketing partners include bloggers, YouTube channel owners, or influencers who create content around a particular topic but don’t necessarily have personal experience with the promoted products.

For example, a brand that manufactures a line of tents, canteens, or backpacks endorses an outdoor living enthusiast’s YouTube channel.

The content creator may prefer a different brand, but viewers value their expert opinion, encouraging potential buyers to click their affiliate link.

When an affiliate marketer relates to the product or service they are promoting, it can result in higher conversion rates than unattached affiliate marketing, as it relies on the affiliate’s credibility and ability to build trust within their niche audience.

Involved Affiliate Marketing

In involved affiliate marketing, the affiliate has personal experience with the products they promote and can directly vouch for their quality and effectiveness.

Involved affiliate marketing often includes product reviews, tutorials, or case studies to help potential customers make informed purchasing decisions.

Often the involved affiliate marketer uses the product or service in their daily routine or job and crafts a review or summary of their experiences on a website or social media platform, including an affiliate link to encourage their followers to purchase the product.

For example, a professional digital artist reviews and uses digital pen tablets and accessories on YouTube, showcasing how the product works, the benefits, and their authentic opinion.

Endorsements from involved marketers can increase conversion rates since the affiliate’s endorsement is credible, and followers and potential buyers researching the brand trust the endorser.

Common Types of Affiliate Marketers

how to start affiliate marketing

If you’re asking yourself who uses affiliate marketing, we’ve got you covered. Various content creators can make an income by partnering with an affiliate network or program.

Companies spread the word about their products and services to targeted groups that align with their ideal customers. Plus, the creators earn a kickback from affiliate sales, so it’s advantageous for both the business and the affiliate.

Here’s a look at the different types of affiliate marketers:

Bloggers and Website Owners

Bloggers and website owners can insert affiliate links into their web copy to drive referrals through unattached ads or keywords or more focused content that includes involved or related marketing.

Bloggers can write reviews and instructional guides for selecting and using affiliate products or create a list of top products or services to choose from to achieve a given result.

Vloggers and Other Video Content Creators

Vloggers, TikTokers, and other video creators often partner with involved or related affiliates or sponsors to earn a steady income with video ads and reviews or promotions. For example, it’s common for tech enthusiasts to promote popular VPN or web browser brands.

Platforms such as YouTube also run ads before, during, and after select videos that may promote an unattached or related affiliate, depending on the content. The content creator will receive revenue as part of a partner plan.


Influencers and content creators on social media platforms, including Instagram and TikTok, partner with merchants to market-related and involved products and services.

Fashion influencers marketing makeup and clothing brands have been on the rise to fill the niche of products for everyday people, inspiring followers by showcasing their favorite styles. Brands no longer need celebrities and models to promote their products on social media.

How to Start Affiliate Marketing

Getting started in affiliate marketing requires some groundwork and strategic planning. Read on to find out how to launch a successful affiliate marketing campaign.

Select a Niche

One of the first steps in starting your affiliate marketing journey is selecting a niche that aligns with your interests, knowledge, and passion.

By focusing on a specific niche, you can tailor your content to your target audience, improve your search engine rankings, and establish yourself as an authority within that industry. There are several factors to consider when finding a profitable niche.

Choose a niche you enjoy and have knowledge or experience to share about the subject. It will make content-making easier and help you engage with your audience. Analyze the potential to affiliate with a merchant and make money in a competitive market.

Join a Network or Program

Once you determine your niche, the next step is to join an affiliate marketing program or network that offers products or services relevant to your niche.

Individual companies offer affiliate programs, whereas affiliate networks act as intermediaries between affiliates and merchants. Some popular affiliate programs and networks include Amazon Associates, ClickBank, Commission Junction, and ShareASale.

When evaluating an affiliate marketing program or network, consider commission rates, payment terms, cookie duration, and available marketing resources.

Create a Website or Platform

Having a website or platform to showcase and promote your affiliate products is essential. Create an affiliate website or profile on social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, or YouTube, to reach your target audience.

Ensure your website or platform is visually appealing, user-friendly, and optimized for search engines. High-quality content that engages and provides value to your audience is crucial for building trust and driving conversions.

Remember to disclose your affiliate relationships to maintain transparency and adhere to legal requirements when marketing for a merchant.

Combine Content to Reach Your Audience

With your niche, affiliate marketing program, and platform established, it’s time to promote the products or services. Consider employing a combination of strategies, such as content marketing, email marketing, and social media marketing, to reach a wider audience.

Content marketers create blog posts, articles, or reviews relevant to your niche that provide valuable information and naturally incorporate your affiliate links.

Email marketers build a list of subscribers interested in your niche and send them regular updates, promotions, and personalized recommendations.

Social media marketers promote your content and affiliate products on social media platforms where your target audience spends their time.

What Skills and Experience Are Helpful for an Affiliate Marketer?

Good affiliate marketers have a solid understanding of digital marketing, SEO, and content creation. You should also have strong organizational and communication skills, allowing you to build relationships with merchants and stay current on industry trends.

Experience with data analysis and optimization tools can also help track and improve campaign performance. This ensures you keep track of trends, cater to your audience, and maintain high engagement.

Making Money With Affiliate Marketing

There are several ways to earn money as an affiliate marketer. You can earn a commission or even passively generate income by partnering with an affiliate network.


Affiliate marketing programs typically offer different commission structures, such as PPC, pay-per-sale, or pay-per-lead.

To maximize your affiliate income, focus on promoting high-converting products with competitive commission rates and tracking the performance of your promotional efforts.

Passive Income

Affiliate marketing can be an attractive source of passive income, as your content and promotions can continue to generate revenue even when you’re not actively working on them.

However, set realistic expectations for your affiliate marketing income, as it often takes time to see substantial earnings. Dedication and consistency are essential to long-term success in affiliate marketing.

How Much Money Does an Affiliate Marketer Earn?

The amount of money an affiliate marketer can earn varies widely, depending on the niche, product selection, promotional strategies, and the affiliate’s experience and knowledge.

For beginner marketers, making significant profits from your affiliate marketing strategy can take several months or even years.

According to ZipRecruiter, the top earners in the affiliate marketing industry see incomes in the $400,000 range, while a beginner may see earnings under $25,000 annually in the United States. Keep in mind that success depends largely on choosing a profitable niche, optimizing your site successfully for SEO and consistently getting into the top positions, and creating content that draws in the correct target market.

Keys to Successful Affiliate Marketing

affiliate marketing best practices

There are several keys to succeeding as an affiliate marketer. The following strategies will help you grow faster:

Search Engine Optimization

A strong SEO strategy is essential for increasing the visibility of your affiliate web page and driving organic traffic. Optimize your content with relevant keywords, meta tags, and internal and external links to increase your search engine results page ranking.

In addition to polished content, build a responsive, accessible, and mobile-friendly website, which can be a significant factor in determining your SERP ranking.

Relationships With Merchants and Affiliate Managers

Maintaining good relationships with your affiliate partners can open doors to exclusive offers, higher commissions, and additional marketing resources.

Communicate regularly with your merchants or affiliate managers, share your successes, and actively seek opportunities for collaboration.

Monitoring and Analyzing Affiliate Marketing Efforts

To improve your affiliate marketing performance, track and analyze the data related to your promotional efforts. Google Analytics or other specialized affiliate marketing tools can help you gain insights and make data-driven decisions for optimizing your strategies.

How to Find a Good Affiliate Program or Network

Check the affiliate program’s or network’s reputation to find a good partner. Research the company’s background and customer reviews to ensure its credibility.

Read the partner’s terms and conditions to ensure you understand and agree with all the policies and requirements of the affiliate program or network.

Assess the variety and quality of products the merchant offers. Ensure the products or services are high-quality and in line with the interests and needs of your target audience without harming your reputation.

Challenges and Pitfalls in Affiliate Marketing

Like any online business venture, an affiliate model comes with challenges, such as competition and changing algorithms of search engines and social media platforms.

Stay updated on industry trends and best practices, and continuously optimize and update your content and promotional strategies to overcome algorithm changes.

It can also be helpful to diversify your income streams by promoting multiple products or joining different affiliate programs or networks as a fallback. Focus on delivering value to your audience and building long-lasting relationships to ensure a steady income stream.

Staying ahead of trends can help you remain competitive in affiliate marketing. There are several trends to consider when looking to stay ahead of the competition.

  • Social commerce: Social media platforms are becoming increasingly popular shopping destinations, creating more opportunities for affiliates to promote products and services. As search engines and social media platforms prioritize quality content, affiliates must focus on creating original content that provides value to build trust with their audience.
  • Virtual and augmented reality: Expect opportunities in emerging spaces like the metaverse as platforms like Meta’s metaverse grows in popularity. Using virtual and augmented reality, you can look for opportunities to market affiliate products in the metaverse.
  • Artificial intelligence: Leveraging AI algorithms allows for personalized customer experiences by analyzing data, predicting consumer behaviors, creating customized content, optimizing campaigns, and suggesting new products. AI is set to revolutionize affiliate marketing in unprecedented ways.

Examples of Successful Affiliate Marketing Campaigns

Now that we’ve covered the affiliate marketing meaning and how to get started, let’s look at some examples of opportunities for affiliates. There are several examples of success in affiliate marketing that you can use to guide your strategy, including the following:

  • Amazon Associates: Amazon’s affiliate program was one of the first to launch and remains one of the most popular. It offers a lucrative commission structure and many products to promote. Amazon associates make commissions from 1% to 20%, depending on the product.
  • Shopify: Shopify’s affiliate program encourages partners to promote their e-commerce platform and offers bonuses based on performance. Shopify affiliates earn anywhere from $58–$2,000 per sign up.
  • LinkedIn: LinkedIn’s affiliate program helps partners monetize their website’s traffic by promoting courses, subscriptions, and business solutions. A free trial signup grants a $10 commission, and a standalone course purchase grants a 35% commission on the sale.
  • Etsy: Etsy’s affiliate program allows partners to promote unique handmade and vintage items from independent sellers. Social media referrals offer a 2% commission, while banner ads and affiliate links offer 4%.

Final Thoughts

Affiliate marketing is an exciting opportunity to earn income by promoting products and services you trust and believe in. You can join numerous affiliates earning an income doing what you love.

Now that we have explored “What is affiliate marketing?” you can begin choosing the right niche, following the steps outlined in this guide, and embark on a successful affiliate marketing journey.