Affiliate Marketing For Beginners: What It Is + How to Succeed (2024)

Affiliate Marketing For Beginners: What It Is + How to Succeed (1)

Si Quan Ong

Content marketer @ Ahrefs. I've been in digital marketing for the past 6 years and have spoken at some of the industry’s largest conferences in Asia (TIECon and Digital Marketing Skill Share.) I also summarise books on my personal blog.

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    14 min read

    Summarize for a quick grasp.


    Imagine all you needed to make money online was a website. You don’t have to create your own products or offer a service. Sounds good? Welcome to affiliate marketing.

    According to Statista, business spending on affiliate marketing hit $8.2 billion in the U.S in 2022 and Influencer Marketing Hub estimates that the industry will continue to grow to $15.7 billion by2024.

    Start today, and you’ll be in a prime position to take advantage ofthat.

    What is affiliate marketing?

    Affiliate marketing is where you promote another company’s product or service. When someone purchases through your affiliate link, you earn a commission. These commissions are usually a percentage of the sale price or a fixed amount.

    For example, here’s a link to a book on Amazon:

    Affiliate Marketing For Beginners: What It Is + How to Succeed (2)

    If you clicked and bought this product ($15.45 for the hardcover version), I’d earn $0.70 if I was the affiliate.

    Why should you do affiliate marketing?

    Here are two reasons why you should consider doing affiliate marketing:

    1. Low-cost and low-risk

    Starting a business can be risky and expensive because there are upfront costs for products, employees, equipment, rent, etc. With affiliate marketing, all you need is a website. If it doesn’t work out, you’ve only wasted time and a little bit ofmoney.

    2. Easy toscale

    A typical salesperson only sells products from one company. As an affiliate marketer, you can promote products from many different companies and earn commissions from all ofthem.

    Learn more: How to Start Affiliate Marketing With No Money (5Steps)

    How does affiliate marketing work?

    Upon joining an affiliate program, you get a unique link that contains a tracking ID. This allows the merchant to track if you’ve referred customers tothem.

    Affiliate Marketing For Beginners: What It Is + How to Succeed (3)

    People who click on your link also get a tiny file called a cookie stored on their device. This (usually) holds an expiry date, so you get paid even if they delay buying for awhile.

    Here’s an example of how itworks:

    1. Someone visits your post on the best winter jackets.
    2. They click the Amazon affiliate link for one of your recommendations.
    3. They close their browser to pick their kid up from school.
    4. They go back to Amazon the next day to check out the product again.
    5. They buy the recommended product, along with some skigear.

    Thanks to the affiliate cookie stored on this person’s device, you earn a commission on the recommended product and the skigear.

    How much money do affiliate marketers make?

    Most affiliate marketers earn less than $10K per year. That’s according to a survey from Influencer Marketing Hub.

    Affiliate Marketing For Beginners: What It Is + How to Succeed (4)

    Yet, roughly one in six (16.87%) make $50k per year ormore.

    Matt Giovanisci is a good example of a high-earning affiliate. His site, Swim University, made $149,991 affiliate commissions in 2021.

    Keep in mind though that these people have done an excellent job building their brand. It’s taken them years of hard work to reach thislevel.

    If you’re just starting out, your checks might look more like this for awhile:

    Affiliate Marketing For Beginners: What It Is + How to Succeed (5)

    You need to manage your expectations. You won’t earn the big bucks right off the bat, but don’t let this discourage you.

    The success of others tells you that with hard work, time, and the right knowledge, you too can potentially reach those levels.

    Learn more: Here’s How Much You Can Really Make From Affiliate Marketing

    How to get started with affiliate marketing

    Follow these seven simple steps:

    Learn more: Affiliate Marketing Course for Beginners

    Step 1: Choose yourniche

    Your niche is the category you want to talk about and promote.

    To stand out amongst the countless other websites today, my advice is to be specific. Instead of tackling a broad niche like food, go for something a bit narrower, like grilling. This helps you build a more focused audience and may also help withSEO.

    Here are four questions to ask yourself to find a goodniche:

    1. What am I goodat?
    2. What do I likedoing?
    3. What am I curious about?
    4. What do other people tell me I’m goodat?

    It’s hard to overstate the importance of choosing something you’re passionate about. You’ll need to create a lot of content to succeed with affiliate marketing. If you choose something you hate, you’ll find it hard to press on when the going getstough.

    That’s why, when I built my first site, I chose to talk about one of my hobbies—breakdancing. And despite knowing nothing about marketing, I grew it to an estimated 2K monthly visits.

    Affiliate Marketing For Beginners: What It Is + How to Succeed (6)

    Learn more: How to Easily Find a Niche for Affiliate Marketing

    Step 2: Decide on a content platform

    You can do affiliate marketing on any platform. This includes:

    • Website
    • YouTube
    • Social media (e.g., Instagram, TikTok)
    • Newsletter
    • Podcast

    The method you choose will depend on your preference and occasionally, your niche’s preference. For example, people who are learning breakdance will prefer videos. So, even if you prefer writing, running a YouTube channel may be a better option.

    That being said, we recommend building a website and using search engine optimization (SEO) to rank your content high on Google. This allows us to generate passive search traffic consistently, which means consistent clicks on affiliate linkstoo.


    Whether you’re creating a website, YouTube, or something else, note that you’ll need to disclose the fact that you’re including affiliate links. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requires you to be transparent when receiving income from an endorsem*nt.

    If you’re building a website, create a standalone page or include it in the footer of your website:

    Affiliate Marketing For Beginners: What It Is + How to Succeed (7)

    If you’re doing it on YouTube, include it in your description:

    Affiliate Marketing For Beginners: What It Is + How to Succeed (8)

    Step 3: Find affiliate programs tojoin

    There are three main types of affiliate programs to choose from:

    1. High-paying, low-volume — Niche products with fewer buyers. For example, HubSpot sells only to businesses but their affiliate program pays well (100% of first month and 15% monthly recurring commission.)
    2. Low-paying, high-volume — Products with mass appeal, e.g. PS5 games. For example, Amazon only pays up to 10% commission. But the good thing is they offer commissions off the entire value of the purchase (and not just the product you recommended.)
    3. High-paying, high-volume — Expensive products with mass appeal, e.g. credit cards. An issue is that these programs tend to attract affiliate marketers with deep expertise and pockets and willingness to black-hat tactics.

    Affiliate Marketing For Beginners: What It Is + How to Succeed (9)

    Which affiliate program should you join? This depends on your niche and level of expertise.

    If you’re targeting consumers, go with the second model: low-paying, high-volume. If you’re targeting businesses, go for the first one: high-paying, low-volume. Popular programs include software and web hosting-related products.

    Affiliate Marketing For Beginners: What It Is + How to Succeed (10)

    The best way to find these affiliate programs is with a Google search. Alternatively, enter a competing affiliate site into Ahrefs’ Site Explorer and go to the Linked domains report.

    For example, I know that Pat Flynn promotes a number of software products on his website, Smart Passive Income. Eyeballing the report shows that Pat links to Aweber pretty often. And if we expand the caret, we’ll see that Pat is an affiliate.

    Affiliate Marketing For Beginners: What It Is + How to Succeed (11)

    It only takes a quick Google search to find an application form for this program.

    If there is a product you’d like to promote but they don’t have a public affiliate program, reach out to the company and ask if they would be willing to build an affiliate relationship withyou.

    Learn more: 9 Best Affiliate Programs for Beginners (AnyNiche)

    Step 4: Create great content

    If you want your affiliate site to succeed, you need to create high-quality content where your affiliate links fit naturally. Don’t just blindly curate products from Amazon’s best sellers. Go the extra mile and make sure your content solves your readers’ problems.

    For example, if you’re doing reviews, you should actually purchase the product and test it. Use it over a period of time and report your findings.

    That’s what Wirecutter did for all their articles, which explains their success. For example, in order to find the best air purifiers, they tested more than 50 ofthem:

    Affiliate Marketing For Beginners: What It Is + How to Succeed (12)

    If you can collaborate with experts to review your findings, that’s even better. Again, Wirecutter goes above and beyond in this aspect, solidifying their status as the gold standard of affiliate websites:

    Affiliate Marketing For Beginners: What It Is + How to Succeed (13)

    Step 5: Drive traffic to your affiliate site

    You’ve created great content. The next step is to get more people to read it, so they will click on your affiliate links.

    Here are three traffic strategies to consider:

    A. Paid traffic

    This is where you pay for traffic to your site. You can do this using pay-per-click (PPC)ads.

    The advantage of paid traffic is that the moment you start paying, you get traffic.

    However, there are some downsides.

    First, running ads will dig into your profits. It’s quite normal for advertisers to lose money before they make it… if they everdo.

    Affiliate Marketing For Beginners: What It Is + How to Succeed (14)

    You need to be realistic about how long it takes to optimize a paid traffic campaign.

    Secondly, once you stop paying for ads, your traffic willstop.

    Generally speaking, ads are a great traffic strategy if you’re part of a high-paying affiliate program and can make the numbers work.

    But if you’re completely new to paid marketing and have no marketing budget (or are working with lower commission programs like Amazon Associates), then it might not be such a greatidea.

    Learn more: PPC Marketing: Beginner’s Guide to Pay-Per-Click Ads

    B. SEO

    SEO is the practice of optimizing pages to rank high in search engines like Google.

    For as long as you can rank high in the search engines for your target keywords, you’ll get consistent and passive traffic.

    On the most basic level, SEO isabout:

    1. Understanding what your target customers are searching for
    2. Creating content around those topics
    3. Making sure Google understands clearly what your page isabout
    4. Acquiring or earning links to push your pages higher in the search engines
    5. Ensuring Google can find, crawl, and index your content

    Learn the basics in this video or read our beginner’s guide to SEO:

    C. Build an emaillist

    Email lists allow you to communicate with your readers anytime.

    Use them to tell fans about new content and keep them coming back to your site for more. This leads to more affiliate clicks andsales.

    You can even add affiliate links in the emails to your audience:

    Affiliate Marketing For Beginners: What It Is + How to Succeed (15)

    To build an email list, you need to persuade the readers on your site to sign up. That means offering something valuable, like a free eBook, an email course, andmore.

    Step 6: Get clicks on your affiliate links

    Just because you have an amazing piece of content doesn’t mean people will click on your affiliate links.

    There are a few things you need to consider.

    A. Link placement

    If all your affiliate links are at the bottom of the page where people rarely scroll, clicks will be few and far between.

    On the other hand, makeevery other word a link in your introduction, and your content will look spammy.

    You need to balance link placement with the other factors below.

    B. Context

    Let’s say you were writing an article on the best kitchen knives for under $50.

    Your introduction probably shouldn’t look likethis:

    Today, I’mreviewing thebest chefknives.

    The links look out of context and spammy.

    This would make moresense:

    Today, I’m reviewing three different chef knives you can buy on Amazon for under $50. These are, product name 1, product name 2, and product name3

    C. Callouts

    Using callouts like buttons, tables, and boxes can help attract your readers’ attention and make the post more skimmable.

    For example, the Wirecutter uses eye-catching boxes with product links anytime they share a toppick.

    Affiliate Marketing For Beginners: What It Is + How to Succeed (16)

    Good Housekeeping takes a different approach and creates a table with buttons:

    Affiliate Marketing For Beginners: What It Is + How to Succeed (17)

    Step 7: Convert clicks tosales

    In affiliate marketing, two conversions need to take place for you to makemoney.

    The first conversion is the click to the product page.

    You’re 100% in control of this action. Use the tactics above to improve your chances of getting thatclick.

    The second conversion is the visitor purchasing the product.In the case of affiliate marketing, the merchant controls the checkout, and their conversion rates are out of your control.

    The trick is to play the game to your advantage and look for merchants with programs that convert well.

    Here are a few ways to findthem:

    A. Public income reports

    If people are making decent money from an affiliate program, then it’s likely that the product converts well.

    How do you know if people are making money?

    Look at public income reports where bloggers publicly reveal how much money they’re making from their affiliate deals.

    You can find these reports on Google.

    For example, if you search for “income report amazon affiliate”, you’ll see a few blog posts showing how bloggers have made money from Amazon Affiliates.

    Affiliate Marketing For Beginners: What It Is + How to Succeed (18)

    Looks like one blogger made over $47,000 from Amazon Associates:

    Affiliate Marketing For Beginners: What It Is + How to Succeed (19)

    If you’re in the same space, you can also take a look at where her other affiliate income comes from, and potentially promote the same products.

    B. Ask questions

    If there isn’t much information available about an affiliate program you want to join, sign up and ask questions.

    For example, you might want to find out what their average conversion rates are, or a ballpark figure of their top earners’ monthly commissions.

    This can help you figure out if the affiliate program is worth promoting.

    C. Use your intuition

    Sometimes, it’s best to go with your gut feeling.

    If the program or product you’re checking out feels “off,” or if you would personally never recommend the product to a friend or family member, then don’t promote it.

    Affiliate marketing tools

    Tools are your friends in affiliate marketing. They help you do your job faster and easier.

    Here are some of our recommended affiliate marketing tools:

    • Ahrefs — All-in-one SEO tool that’ll help you research keywords to target, audit your website, research your competitors, find content ideas, andmore.
    • Rank Math — WordPress plugin that ensures your pages have optimal on-page SEO.
    • Google Search Console — Find and fix technical errors on your website, submit sitemaps, see structured data issues, check your Core Web Vitals, andmore.
    • Google Analytics — Provides crucial data and analytics for your affiliate website.
    • Thirsty Affiliates — Keep track of your affiliate links, see statistics to know which links are getting the most clicks, and prevent others from easily copying your website and swapping the links with their own affiliate IDs.

    Learn more:


    Frequently asked questions about affiliate marketing.

    What is EPC in affiliate marketing?

    EPC stands for earnings per click. It refers to the average amount of money you earn each time someone clicks your affiliate links. Here’s how to calculate EPC:

    EPC = total amount of commissions you earn / number of clicks on your affiliate links

    What is cookie duration in affiliate marketing?

    The cookie duration is how long the affiliate program will attribute the purchases to your cookie. The cookie duration is usually set to 30 days. So, that means that if someone clicks on your affiliate link and buys within the 30 days window, you’ll be attributed the sale and therefore get the affiliate commission. If that person clicks on your affiliate link but buysafter30 days, you will not be attributed thesale.

    How do you start affiliate marketing on Amazon?

    All the principles above apply to Amazon affiliate marketing. For a in-depth guide on how to build an Amazon affiliate site, I recommend reading thisguide.

    Recommended reading: How to Build a Successful Amazon Affiliate Site (Step byStep)

    How do I do affiliate marketing without a website?

    As long as you have a way to drive people to your affiliate links, you can do affiliate marketing without a website. For example, there are many people who drive clicks on their affiliate links via their Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, andmore.

    How do you do high-ticket affiliate marketing?

    High-ticket affiliate marketing is the promotion of products or services with large payouts. A payout becomes “high ticket” once you get above $100 but can go as high as five figures.

    Read the guide below to learn how to do high-ticket affiliate marketing.

    Recommended reading:High-Ticket Affiliate Marketing: How to Make Big Commissions

    Final thoughts

    No affiliate marketing wheels were reinvented here. These are the fundamentals, and applying them will get you off on the rightfoot.

    Just don’t expect life-changing income or the freedom to quit your 9-5 overnight. Affiliate marketing takestime.

    Focus first on making your first affiliate sale. As your site grows, set new goals, and continue experimenting.

    This is how to build up a site that eventually generates a decent income.

    Got questions? Ping me on Twitter.

    Affiliate Marketing For Beginners: What It Is + How to Succeed (2024)


    Affiliate Marketing For Beginners: What It Is + How to Succeed? ›

    Affiliate marketing can be a source of high passive income, as some successful affiliates make over $100,000 per month. However, it requires effort, patience, and consistency to succeed. To be successful in affiliate marketing, it is important to choose a niche that you are genuinely interested in.

    Can you really be successful with affiliate marketing? ›

    Affiliate marketing can be a source of high passive income, as some successful affiliates make over $100,000 per month. However, it requires effort, patience, and consistency to succeed. To be successful in affiliate marketing, it is important to choose a niche that you are genuinely interested in.

    What is the first thing to do in affiliate marketing? ›

    1. Decide on a Niche. The first step in any successful affiliate marketing strategy is to select a niche – a segmented target market or audience. A market niche is typically characterized by a shared interest or demographics, influencing product quality and price point.

    How can a beginner learn affiliate marketing? ›

    Let's have a recap of our beginner's guide to affiliate marketing:
    1. Decide on a niche. ...
    2. Create an affiliate marketing site. ...
    3. Join an affiliate program. ...
    4. Write excellent content to drive traffic to your affiliate site. ...
    5. Track your affiliate marketing performance. ...
    6. Boost your income.

    How much can a beginner affiliate make? ›

    How much do beginner affiliate marketers make? Affiliate marketing commission rates start as low as 1% of the total sale price of a product but beginner affiliate marketers can make up to 30% commission per sale.

    What is the monthly income for a beginner affiliate marketer? ›

    Affiliate Marketing Salaries in India

    The average salary for Affiliate Marketing is ₹1,57,049 per month in the India. The average additional cash compensation for a Affiliate Marketing in the India is ₹1,32,240, with a range from ₹30,424 - ₹2,11,500.

    Can you make $100 a day with affiliate marketing? ›

    Affiliate marketing presents immense potential, but the journey to consistent earnings can be frustrating. While the internet is full with claims of making $100 or even $1,000 a day, the real challenge lies in differentiating fleeting tactics from sustainable strategies.

    What are the 3 secrets for becoming a high earning affiliate marketer? ›

    The best affiliate marketing strategy involves understanding your audience, creating valuable and SEO-friendly content, and building trust through transparency and genuine recommendations. Diversifying affiliate programs and continuously analyzing performance for optimization is also crucial for making more money.

    What is the highest paying affiliate niche? ›

    8 Highest Paying Affiliate Niches: Boost Your Earnings Today
    • Health and Wellness Niche. ...
    • Personal Finance Niche. ...
    • Technology Niche. ...
    • Online Learning Niche. ...
    • Beauty and Fashion Niche. ...
    • Home Improvement Niche. ...
    • Travel Niche. ...
    • Pet Care Niche.
    Jan 9, 2024

    How do I start affiliate marketing with no experience? ›

    How to start affiliate marketing
    1. Find a niche.
    2. Choose an affiliate program.
    3. Choose a traffic source.
    4. Create content to build trust.
    5. Grow an audience.
    6. Respond and chat with your audience.
    Dec 6, 2023

    What are the 3 main types of affiliates? ›

    The three main types of affiliate marketing are unattached affiliate marketing, involved affiliate marketing, and related affiliate marketing.

    Can I teach myself affiliate marketing? ›

    There are a number of ways to learn about affiliate marketing, including taking one of many online training courses. Experience is often the best teacher, and you can also learn about affiliate marketing by trying it out!

    How long will it take to learn affiliate marketing? ›

    It typically takes two months for you to learn the basics of affiliate marketing and another six months to start earning good money from your strategy. Many affiliate marketers utilize their website or blog to market products and create a steady cash flow.

    How much money do you need to be successful in affiliate marketing? ›

    In general, there is no fixed amount of money required to be a successful affiliate marketer. You should set out a monthly budget for paid traffic and additional tools to help you progress from a beginner to an intermediate affiliate.

    How long does it take to succeed in affiliate marketing? ›

    How long does it take to make money as an affiliate marketer? Based on my experience and speaking with many affiliate marketers, on average, it takes around six to 12 months to start earning money as an affiliate marketer and around two years to earn enough money to quit your day job.

    How do I start affiliate marketing with no money or experience? ›

    How to Start Affiliate Marketing With No Money in 2024
    1. Find an affiliate program and a niche.
    2. Decide your traffic channels.
    3. Target the right keywords.
    4. Create killer content that builds trust.
    5. Promote hard and grow your audience.
    6. Engage with your audience.
    7. Scale it up.
    Jan 22, 2024

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