What is Affiliate Marketing and How Can You Get Started

I may earn a commission from the companies mentioned in this post. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.

You’ve heard of affiliate marketing. You know that it’s one of the primary methods bloggers use to make money online. But that’s about the extent of your knowledge. Everything else sounds a bit like a foreign language to you. So you're still wondering to yourself, what is affiliate marketing (someone please TRANSLATE!).

Don’t worry. You’re not alone. 

I’ve met tons of new bloggers just like you who are curious about the world of affiliate marketing. Some of those faces are so fresh that they even accidentally refer to affiliate marketing as “affiliated marketing”. Cute!

So, I’m going to make things really easy for you and explain the basics right here and right now. What is affiliate marketing? Let’s find out.

What is Affiliate Marketing?

Imagine you recently bought a product online. Any product. For the sake of this blog post, we’ll say you just bought this incredibly fancy and tech-savvy, 21st century electronic toothbrush. You spent a decent sum of money on it, but you’re a hygiene freak and, well, to you it was money well spent.

The toothbrush comes to your house. You test it out for a few weeks and you fall hard into a deep love for the new toothbrush. You don’t know how you could have ever lived out your days without it in your life! You can’t imagine going on with out it now.

In fact, you love it so much that you’ve decided to share this amazing product with your friends and family. So you send them the link to the toothbrush online. Your mom, your number one supporter, decides to trust your word. She clicks on the link you sent her and, after a few minutes of reading up on it, decides to pull out her wallet and purchase the toothbrush.

Now, if you’re any ordinary consumer – that’s the end of that.

But, f you’re an affiliate marketer (and you’re an affiliate for that toothbrush company) you’ll have just made a commission off that sale.

What is affiliate marketing, you ask?

You love a product or service so much that you decided to become an affiliate.

Once you're approved as an affiliate, the company gives you a unique affiliate link (it’s unique to you, meaning if someone purchases a product after clicking your link). Anytime someone purchases the product or service through your link, the company will be able to trace that purchase back to you and – this is the best part, folks – they’ll reward you for that referral by giving you a slice of the pie.

Never struggle to think of a new blog post idea again.

How Much Money Can You Earn from Affiliate Marketing?

Yes, affiliate marketing is a lucrative venture. There's a lot to be earned, but it differs for everyone.

Every affiliate program is different. Some programs offer you a 15% commission on each sale. Some programs offer a 50% commission on each sale.

How much you earn from affiliate marketing is a direct result of:

  • your effort
  • the cost of the products & the affiliate percentage

Let’s dive into that a little bit more.

Your effort

A lot of people think affiliate marketing is this.

  1. Sign up for affiliate programs
  2. Write blog posts with affiliate links in them
  3. Make bucket loads of cash

If only it were that simple.

While affiliate marketing is conceptually simple, there’s actually a lot more that goes into it than that. In order to be successful as an affiliate marketer, you need to do your very best to ensure that you work on your blogging strategy as a whole.

For example, if your blog has only 10 page views per day, you have a lower likelihood of earning any real money from affiliate marketing compared to someone who has over 1,000 page views per day.

Does that mean you shouldn’t incorporate affiliate marketing into your strategy if you only have 10 page views per day? No, absolutely not. There’s no better time to start than the present. And, when your traffic does pick up, you’ll want affiliate links in there to be sure you don’t miss any opportunity.

But the best affiliate marketers are the ones who understand that affiliate marketing is not a get-rich-quick scheme. It’s a slow game, but a very rewarding one. If you’re willing to put in the effort required to boost your blog (by getting more traffic and increasing your authority), affiliate marketing will work out for you well down the line. Best to start now!

Cost of products & affiliate percentage

This all comes down to math.

Which is more lucrative?

1) A product that costs $150 and you get a 30% slice of every successful referral

OR

2) A product that costs $19 and you get a 50% slice of every successful referral

Number 1 will bring you in more money per sale.

See how that works?

The amount of money you make is affected a lot by the price of the products and services you recommend in conjunction with the affiliate commission rate that you’re granted as an affiliate.

Obviously, you should choose to be an affiliate for products/services based on their merit, not based on their commission rate – but this is something to be aware of.

The truth?

If you put in the effort (you get traffic to your blog and you establish trust and authority with your audience) you’ll make money with affiliate marketing. There’s actually no limit.

Some people make $10 per month from affiliate marketing. Other people early $100,000+ per month from affiliate sales. There’s really no ceiling to earning potential if you’re an affiliate. And that’s one of the best reasons to get started affiliate marketing as early as possible.

Related: How to Make Money Affiliate Marketing on Pinterest​

5 Steps to Get Started Affiliate Marketing

So far, we’ve answered the question, “What is affiliate marketing?”

Now it’s time to dive into the fun stuff - the actual "getting started" shtuffs.

STEP ONE: Know your Niche & Your Target Audience

In order to get started affiliate marketing, you’ll want to be sure that you have a clearly defined niche for your blog. Without a clear niche and target audience, you won’t be able to decide on the right affiliate programs to join. Your niche and target audience are the driving forces for everything you do as a blogger. So, naturally, they always need to be the first step.

STEP TWO: Make a list of problems/needs that your target audience has

Remember, your target audience should be central to everything you do. Your goal as a blogger is to help them and make their lives easier. So, figure out what they need and give that to them.

Example 1: if you’re a travel blogger, your target audience is filled with travelers. Many of them might not know how to backpack Europe. That’s a problem that you can help them fix. So write that down.
Example 2: You’re a twin mommy blogger who blogs about all things multiples. Your target audience is comprised of parents or expectant parents to twins. They might not know what the best double strollers are on the market. That’s a problem that you can help them fix. So write that down.

STEP THREE: Make a list of products/services that will help fix your target audience’s problems

Make a list of all the products and services that will help solve some of the problems that you listed in step two.

In example 1, you might have great recommendations for backpacks, canteens, hiking shoes, and other compact travel gear required of any backpacker.

In example 2, you may have tried and tested tons of double strollers, write out your favorites.

STEP FOUR: Search if there are affiliate programs for all the products and services you listed in step 3

You don’t want to join just any affiliate program. More affiliate programs will not equate to more money. Yes, there may be dozens of stroller brands, but remember you only have so many favorites. Pick just a few and apply to those affiliate programs.

If you’re a blogger who teaches about email marketing, you don’t need to be an affiliate for every email service provider on the market. Just apply to be an affiliate for the one that you recommend.

In order to find affiliate programs, you can search right in Google. Super simple!

Example:

"ConvertKit affiliate program"

Most affiliate programs are very easy to join and they’ll let you in right away. Some, however, are a bit more restrict and will remove you from their program if you don’t make a certain number of sales in the first 30-90 days.

My advice? Join affiliate programs, do your best and, if you get kicked out, remember that you can always reapply later on!

STEP FIVE: Get your unique affiliate links and start scattering them throughout your blog strategically!

Once you're accepted into an affiliate program, the company will give you a unique link that you can use throughout your site when referencing the product/service.

There are tons of ways to incorporate affiliate links throughout your blog. I won’t name them all here, but I’ll start by naming a few.

  1. Create a resources/recommended products page on your site. All of those products should include affiliate links!
  2. Write reviews of your favorite products & include affiliate links
  3. Interview experts in your niche about their favorite products and become affiliates for those products (include those links, for sure!)
  4. Write a tutorial on how to use a certain product

Truly, there are countless ways that you can incorporate affiliate links in your blog posts so be strategic and get to writing.

I always recommend that once you join affiliate programs and get those links, start by going through your existing blog posts and optimize them with affiliate links. Chances are, you already have a ton of blog posts that reference products and services you love. So go in and swap out those ordinary links for affiliate links!

Make sure to cloak your affiliate links! For more information on that, keep reading. ​

GRAB YOUR FREE GUIDE:

Affiliate Networks – What are they?

Affiliate networks are essentially middlemen between affiliates (you) and merchants (the companies that directly sell the products and services that you, as the affiliate, recommend).

Oftentimes, affiliate networks have thousands upon thousands of merchants within their network.

Typically, all you need to do is apply to the affiliate network in order to gain access to all of those merchant affiliate programs.

Example: Amazon Associates. All you do is apply to be an affiliate of the Amazon Associates program. Once approved, you get to put links to any product on Amazon throughout your site. If anyone clicks on your link and makes a purchase on Amazon (even if it wasn’t for the exact product you linked to) you get to take home a slice of that purchase.
Example: Commission Junction. You apply to commission junction once then, once approved, gain access to tons of affiliate programs.

Legal Disclosures

As a reader, you might have noticed that certain blogs contain disclosures that announces the use of affiliate links throughout their site. You’re probably wondering, is this required?

Yes, it most certainly is. And for good reason, too. People need to know that you could receive a commission from their purchase. And though purchasing through your link will not increase the cost to them, it’s still necessary to reveal that you could benefit from their purchase.

If you fail to disclose affiliate links, you could face severe repercussions. It’s best just to avoid trouble and follow the rules from the beginning.

To make things easier for me, I display an affiliate disclosure automatically on every blog post that I write. I downloaded a simple WordPress plugin and it does the job for me, actually! No thinking involved. Done, and out of the way.

If you’re sharing an affiliate link in an email to your list or even in a social media message, you must disclose that it is an affiliate link. It’s easy to do so, though. Just use a hashtag (#aff #afflink #affiliate #affiliatelink) or just say directly that it’s an affiliate link.

Affiliate Link Cloaking

Sometimes when you join affiliate programs, they will give you UGLY, LONG, affiliate links. These are horrible and they are one of the main reasons why you want to use a link-cloaking tool.

Cloaking your links enables you to customize an affiliate URL so that it matches your website domain. But it also enables you to make an affiliate link look like a regular link. Search engines don’t particularly like to see websites filled with affiliate links. So, by cloaking your links and making them look like ordinary links, you ensure that your site won’t be unnecessarily beaten down by the search engines.

To cloak my links, I use a simple WordPress plugin called Thirsty Affiliates. It’s 100% free to use and works like a charm.

It turns an ugly affiliate link into one that looks like this:

Edenfried.com/link/convertkit

How to Learn More about Affiliate Marketing

There are lots of ways to become an affiliate marketing expert. Personally, I learned the majority of my skills through enrolling in an affiliate marketing course. Shortly after I enrolled in this self-paced, online course, I started making decent affiliate income. Yes, you can learn a bunch online. But I enjoy the convenience of online courses. I want all the information I need in one easy-to-access location so that I don't need to waste time hunting for content and weeding through fluff. Affiliate marketing became so much simpler after enrolling in this course!

Concluding Words

What is affiliate marketing?

Well, hopefully now you’re better equipped to answer that question yourself when confused family and friends look to you for answers.

Affiliate marketing is one of the greatest ways to monetize your site. Once you incorporate affiliate links into your blog posts, they work for themselves. You could, one day, make money in your sleep. It’s the very best feeling in the world to receive a notification that your blog generated a sale!

Related: 19 Successful Bloggers Recount their Very First Affiliate Sale

So, what do you say? Do you plan on incorporating affiliate marketing into your blog monetization strategy? Let me know in the comments!

Did you enjoy this post? I'd be tickled if you considered sharing it! Photos from Styled Stock Library

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