What is affiliate marketing, and how to get started in 2024?

Imagine if there was a way to generate income whenever and wherever you want – even when you are not working. Sounds fascinating, right?

Intelligent business owners who have a booming business are aware that there is always room for new revenue streams.

And that’s where affiliate marketing comes in.

So below, you’ll find an in-depth overview of affiliate marketing for beginners. I’ll show you what is affiliate marketing and how to start your affiliate marketing journey.

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    What is affiliate marketing?

    Affiliate marketing is a method by which content creators make money by advertising a product or solution offered by some other merchant with the help of an affiliate link.

    Through this arrangement, the publisher receives payment for helping the merchant reach their goal.

    Usually, the outcome is a purchase. That being said, some merchants reward you for referrals, demo signups, click-throughs on a site, or app downloads.

    To further understand what is affiliate marketing, you can take the example of Healthish. It’s a company that deals in water bottles. With the help of this marketing method, it became a successful brand.

    Interestingly, instead of going for the conventional affiliate method, it turned to social media influencers to raise publicity for the debut of its latest offering, the WB-1 bottle.

    Healthish is a good example of what is affiliate marketing

    The company still collaborates with social media users that have a following of 100,000 or more.

    It collaborates with over 300 content creators monthly to produce updates that promote its bottles widely.

    Generally, no additional cost is required to be a part of affiliate marketing campaigns. So if you’re planning to start affiliate marketing, there is no need to stress about not having enough money.

    When executed properly, a productive affiliate marketing plan can transform your efforts from a leisure activity into a profitable e-business generating steady revenue.

    How affiliate marketing works

    Affiliate marketing involves promoting a product or service and making a commission on each sale.

    In this type of marketing, you recommend products and solutions by promoting them in blog posts, social networking sites, podcasts, or videos.

    As the publisher, you are rewarded with a certain amount of money every time a customer uses a particular affiliate link in your content to buy something that you promote.

    Let’s understand what is affiliate marketing and how it works step-by-step:

    1. You promote store X through an advertisement or affiliate link on your webpage, article, or social media platform.
    2. A visitor clicks on your particular affiliate link.
    3. They buy something from store X.
    4. You receive compensation in the form of money.

    To further illustrate, let’s take the example of Roasty Coffee. It’s a popular website that has been mentioned in numerous prominent media, such as Fast Company, Business Insider, and BuzzFeed.

    The content on the website is divided into three broad categories:

    • Buying guides
    • Coffee facts
    • How to brew

    Each section is loaded with advice on how to discover and make incredibly good coffee. The website generates revenue through display advertising, online training, and affiliate links.

    Homepage of Roasty Coffee

    In terms of affiliate marketing, the pay rates for the transactions differ according to the firm and the product being promoted.

    On one side, you can make around 5% of the transaction value. But under some circumstances, there is a possibility of making approximately 50%, generally when marketing a course or conference.

    In addition to affiliate marketing campaigns that offer a commission on a percentage basis, some offer a fixed amount per transaction.

    But before you make up your mind about becoming an affiliate marketer, it’s necessary to weigh its benefits and drawbacks.

    Advantages of affiliate marketing

    Advantages of this type of marketing include low risk, ease of execution, and ease of scaling.

    In addition to expansion in this sector which is a reliable sign of prosperity, there are other reasons why business owners are going with it. Even if you’re an affiliate marketing beginner, the following benefits still apply to you.

    Easy to implement

    As an affiliate marketer, all you have to do on your end is to manage the online marketing part of the product or service. Other parts like creation, customer support, and delivery of the product are not your concern.

    Less risk

    As you don’t need to spend any money to be a part of these marketing campaigns, you can easily begin earning with a recognized affiliate product or solution.

    Easy to scale

    Effective affiliate marketing can increase your income without increasing your headcount.

    You can offer new goods to your existing customer base and create content for more products. At the same time, your current links keep affiliate revenue flowing in.

    But be careful. Even though you have limitless goods and solutions to publicize, you should focus solely on the ones you actually use or would suggest.

    For example, The Wirecutter is an affiliate website that advertises equipment and appliances. It was taken over by The New York Times in the year 2016.

    The Wirecutter claims that it only suggests a product after “in-depth analysis, questioning, and assessing done by the group of experienced reporters, researchers, and analysts.”

    Homepage of Wirecutter

    So when delving into affiliate marketing as a beginner, vouch only for the products and services you trust.

    Drawbacks of affiliate marketing

    Affiliate marketing requires patience, offers variable commissions, and gives you little control over the terms of the merchant.

    Before we move forward, let’s examine some of the obstacles you’ll encounter in going from being an affiliate marketing beginner to a pro.

    Requires patience

    Now that you have an idea of what is affiliate marketing, you know it isn’t an instant way to make lots of money.

    This marketing method can help you achieve great outcomes, particularly if you have a mass following.

    In order to build a following and persuade your followers to make a purchase decision, you need to invest your time and have perseverance.

    For example, BuzzFeed’s shopping section began as a website for gift ideas and later added reviews of numerous types of goods.

    Homepage of BuzzFeed

    The website stands out as it includes a wide range of common products, offering the best of them in three distinct cost ranges.

    Even the product reviews published by BuzzFeed are very comprehensive, which is extremely useful to its audience.

    As a result, BuzzFeed is one of the most successful websites online.

    Just like Buzzfeed, you may need to explore a variety of content types to determine which ones successfully engage your customers.

    So if you’re wondering how to start affiliate marketing, you have to take into account a lot of things. For instance, you’ll have to look into the most appropriate and reliable items to market.

    You’ll also need to engage in writing blog posts, posting free material on social platforms, conducting online conferences, and performing other tasks for building referrals through your marketing platforms.

    That’s why you need patience if you want to become a successful affiliate marketer.

    Commission-based

    A challenging part of affiliate marketing for beginners is that you don’t have an employer who gives you your salary every week.

    Instead, these campaigns pay you a certain amount of money based on the referrals, click-throughs, or purchases made with your contributions.

    Businesses utilize a short-lived browser cookie to monitor how users interact with your content. When a customer performs the required steps, you get a commission.

    For example, Urikar is a merchant that has an affiliate program with large payouts. Its total payout usually stands at $1460, as per ShareASale.

    It deals in workout goods such as massage guns, outdoor and indoor fitness gear, and appliances.

    Urikar is an example of a merchant that pays high commissions to affiliate marketing beginners

    Urikar pays its affiliates a 10% payout on each purchase made. It can total up to a decent amount if you are a wellness enthusiast with a large audience.

    One of its most well-known goods is its AI-driven muscle massager. It costs $139.99, so you’ll make $13.99 for every purchase made.

    No control over the program

    Affiliate marketers have to follow the guidelines established by a business for their campaign. So, as an affiliate marketer, you must abide by their instructions regarding what to post and how to showcase their goods or solutions.

    Since your competitors abide by the same guidelines, you must do something unique to stand out from the rest.

    How do affiliate marketers make money?

    The affiliate marketer makes a commission every time a customer buys something using the particular affiliate link or code linked to the marketer’s suggestion.

    The earnings for this marketing method range widely. Some affiliate marketers earn around a couple hundred dollars per month, while others bring in a handsome amount on an annual basis.

    Your earning potential as an affiliate marketer will increase with the size of your audience.

    According to Payscale, the typical yearly wage of an affiliate is more than $53,000.

    Now the question is, how do affiliate marketers receive compensation?

    When you opt for an affiliate marketing campaign to advertise, you’ll see that there are various payout structures.

    Businesses use a variety of terms for it, such as conversion type, price model, payout model, and various others.

    Irrespective of whatever you call it, the pay structure outlines the objectives for which you’ll be compensated.

    For example, if the item you’re marketing is a tool, the objective can be to get customers to sign up for a demo.

    And, if you’re advertising physical goods, the objective is most probably going to be a sale.

    A lot of affiliate programs use last-click attribution. This means that the affiliate marketer whose link gets the final hit prior to the sale receives a commission.

    Affiliate marketers are often compensated in one of five manners:

    Payment for each sale: Here, you receive a commission for every purchase made. It’s a common compensation strategy in the online retail space.

    Payment for each action: Here, you receive a payout for a certain user activity.

    A lot of affiliate marketing campaigns opt for this compensation structure. That’s because it’s flexible and can be linked to various activities like email registration, hits, inquiry for communication, filling up forms, etc.

    Payment for each download: Here, you receive payment on every download made by your site’s visitors. This applies when marketing smartphone applications and tools to encourage installations or downloads.

    Payment for each referral: Here, you receive a commission when a person signs up for anything.

    It’s a well-known compensation technique that businesses utilize for giveaways, building leads, and other programs.

    Pay per click: Payment on every click is an uncommon way of giving commission. Here, you receive a payout whenever someone clicks on your affiliate link. Big retailers use this model to increase brand recognition.

    In this compensation strategy, visitors are not required to register or make a purchase; they only need to view the seller’s site.

    The amount of money you earn relies on your area of expertise in affiliate marketing.

    For instance, a study done by Shopify reveals that the best payout ($70.99) is given in B2B campaigns.

    In contrast, books/media and clothing make slightly over $6 for each sale. The highest usual payout that they found was approximately $289.06 for each transaction.

    Statistics of average commission and conversion rate for affiliate marketing beginners

    Image source: Shopify

    How to start affiliate marketing for beginners

    Start your affiliate marketing journey by picking your platform and method, deciding your niche and audience, finding your products, and finally, choosing your first affiliate program.

    To be an effective affiliate marketer, you should have the same commitment and focus that you need to operate a small company.

    So, if you’re wondering how to start affiliate marketing, follow the detailed guidelines given below.

    Pick your platform and method

    Start by choosing your preferred marketing platform and approach. Pick a platform affiliate marketers commonly use, like Instagram, YouTube, Blogging, etc. It should be the one you use and know the best. Similarly, choose a method such as a review site, digital content, workshops, and more.

    The initial step is choosing the channel on which you want to create a following.

    Each affiliate works in a different way on any channel. So you can pick from a variety of methods:

    Product review and comparison websites: These websites offer product reviews targeted at a particular market segment. As another option, they assess a product range in comparison to its competing products.

    For this technique to work, you’ve to give your opinion on products on a frequent basis.

    For example, CNET provides thorough recommendations and reviews for a variety of goods.

    You can find a range of content here, like single product reviews, lists of the finest options, comparisons, and award winners.

    CNET is an illustration of how to start affiliate marketing using a product reviews and comparisons platform

    In the screenshot of the CNET blog post given below, you can see the finest laptops from various merchants. On top of that, the post covers their costs and the options to access their websites to make a purchase.

    CNET article showing product recommendations for the best laptop for 2022

    Online content: 59% of marketing firms and companies employ people with a large following to be a part of their affiliate marketing campaigns.

    In this method, online content developers create blogs, YouTube videos, or social media content that appeals to a particular market segment.

    The objective is to organically promote goods that align with the preferences of their target market.

    This boosts the chances of customers making a purchase and for you to earn commission as an affiliate.

    For instance, Anna Karsten is a travel enthusiast with a large following. Her posts generally feature her child dressed in apparel she is promoting.

    Anna’s Instagram posts are a great illustration of what is affiliate marketing. This is because the description of her photos does not directly promote the apparel.

    You can only learn from tapping on the URLs that she’s endorsing kid’s apparel from Amazon, Maisonette, Saks, and Ralph Lauren.

    Also, both the pictures and the descriptions of her posts are intriguing.

    Anna Karsten’s post demonstrates what is affiliate marketing using online content

    Training, conferences, and seminars: In case you’re a trainer, you can incorporate affiliate membership deals in your seminars.

    Regardless of the path you choose, credibility and creating a large following are among the two most important aspects of affiliate marketing.

    So if you don’t genuinely engage with your target market, you probably won’t turn them into buyers.

    Now, to choose a channel, consider these questions:

    • Which channels are you most active on?
    • Which channels are you most familiar with?

    To help you get some inspiration, affiliate marketers usually utilize the following channels:

    When you begin with a marketing channel you’re familiar with, you can focus on producing exceptional content. Because of this, you can build a bigger and more loyal following that you can convert into buyers.

    Decide your niche and audience

    Choose a niche that’s still not tapped by others and that’s something you’re passionate about, as you’ll have to invest a good amount of time and effort to dominate it.

    Being an affiliate marketer, you want to establish a name for yourself in a field. But the question is, how to choose your market segment?

    When picking your target audience, consider topics in which you are interested and informed.

    This enhances your credibility as a reliable source of knowledge for prospective buyers. It also helps you choose the products and companies you intend to market.

    The target industry you select for your affiliate marketing website determines the time or work you’ll have to invest in developing your website in order to see marketing benefits.

    For instance, take SEO. Search engine result pages for technology, digital marketing, and fitness are all occupied by massive blogs with more room to spend on promotional activities. If you choose such an industry as your niche, you’ll have to put in a whole lot of effort to see results.

    The key is to discover and enter less crowded markets before others do.

    One way to do this is to find what’s interesting for you. What do you personally purchase? You can begin with that. You can also explore these categories to decide your niche:

    • Interests like photography, traveling, and gambling on sports.
    • Money and investing, like credit cards, debt settlement, and personal finance.
    • Fitness matters like organic items, exercise, and proper diet.
    • Everyday purchases, like dating platforms, trendy clothes, and premium products.
    • Products related to households like security systems, gardening, and baby items.
    • Tech-related items such as virtual private network (VPN), software as a service (SaaS), and web hosting.
    • New-age products like self-improvement, essential oils, and CBD.

    Another method is to look for a target industry with less competition and a high search volume.

    For this, what you need is a trustworthy and easy-to-use piece of keyword research software such as KWFinder.

    The only thing you have to do is go to the software and enter your keyword.

    For example, suppose you are considering “sports” to be your target industry. Enter the keyword into the search box on the dashboard, and the following results will appear:

    KWFinder keyword search result for ‘sports’

    Pay attention to the section in the top right of the screen. It displays the per-month keyword search volume.

    KWFinder keyword search volume for ‘sports’

    You can notice from the image that 16,400,000 individuals a month look up “sports.” This indicates that your target industry is not at all unknown.

    Next, you should examine the difficulty score of the keyword. Keyword difficulty increases with search volume.

    To be successful in affiliate marketing as a beginner, you must strike a middle ground between search volume and keyword difficulty.

    You should aim for the maximum search volume and minimum keyword difficulty score.

    Now, coming back to the illustration of the keyword “sports.” See the keyword difficulty score located next to the search volume.

    KWFinder keyword difficulty for ‘sports’

    As you can see, the keyword difficulty score is really high. This implies that you’ll have a difficult time succeeding if you don’t have a well-established website.

    So, you need to simply narrow down your target industry further. For example, you may choose “hockey for kids” in place of “sports.”

    KWFinder keyword difficulty and search volume for ‘hockey for kids’

    The keyword that has a search volume of 3,400 and a keyword difficulty score of 41 appears to be a suitable choice.

    So when conducting keyword research, pay attention to these basic guidelines and follow them:

    • The search volume for a keyword should be at least 300
    • The keyword difficulty score of a keyword should be below 40

    So you won’t make an error in choosing a target market that’s already crowded.

    Once you’ve picked your target niche, you should gain a deep understanding of your audience, including the primary reasons that motivate them to follow you.

    When you continue to publish content, utilizing tools such as social media analytics, monitoring social media channels, and website reporting can help you identify your prospects and their preferences.

    By understanding your prospects’ preferences, you can recommend the most suitable items to them and in turn, increase your earnings.

    Find your products

    Look for products that your audience can connect to. To do so, you can check out various marketplaces (Affiliate Future, AvantLink, etc.) or the availability of affiliate programs on websites of products or services you use and prefer.

    In order to generate income as an affiliate, your target market must relate to the message you’re conveying.

    This means marketing products or solutions that they’re truly interested in. If you fail to do so, it can negatively impact your future growth and reputation.

    If you want to know how to find companies to collaborate with or which products to promote, don’t stress yourself.

    I’ll help you. One effective way to choose the products you want to promote is by being part of an affiliate marketplace.

    An advantage of affiliate marketplaces is that they usually have additional information regarding a product’s sales performance. So they help affiliates choose the most suitable products to market on their website. You can use this information to boost your earnings.

    While there are a variety of affiliate marketplaces to choose from, some of the most well-known ones are:

    For instance, a well-known affiliate marketplace is Amazon Associates. In fact, Amazon Associates (45.81%), CJ Affiliate (8.14%), and Rakuten Affiliate Network (7.85%) are presently the three largest in the industry.

    Amazon Associates is an example of a marketplace to start affiliate marketing

    Coming back to Amazon Associates, it provides a variety of products. It’s an excellent starting point for affiliate marketing newbies. Content developers and website owners can utilize an Amazon referral URL to point their target market to product suggestions. And with these affiliate URLs, they can generate revenue on verified sales.

    Another way is by taking into account the products and solutions that you currently use and consider beneficial. This will make it easy for you to persuade your followers regarding the product as you are well aware of its benefits and drawbacks.

    Once you’ve decided which product to promote, the next step is to find campaigns for these products. One way to do this is by visiting the product’s website and looking for words like ‘affiliates, affiliate program, or partners.’

    Several businesses are constantly searching for affiliates to market their products. For this purpose, they usually provide a link to their affiliate program at the bottom of their website.

    Affiliates link in the website’s footer of OptinMonster

    There is another straightforward option as well. Here, you can directly contact the seller of an excellent product you’ve discovered and check whether they’ve an affiliate marketing campaign.

    Suppose they don’t currently have one. But they may be open to negotiating a deal with you, like providing a unique promo code to offer to your audience.

    You can usually locate the most attractive opportunities if you’re the first to show interest and have a suitable outreach channel. For example, if you blog about fitness and nutrition, you can reach out to the owner of a new health product.

    When participating in these campaigns, you should learn and follow their rules and regulations. For instance, the affiliate link given to you may have a cookie with a limited active period. Also, some sellers forbid you from buying PPC advertisements that mention their brand. So, it’s necessary that you carefully go through the guidelines.

    Choose your first affiliate program

    When choosing your first affiliate program, make sure it aligns with your audience, expertise, and platform.

    When you think about which products to choose or check out various affiliate marketing programs, remember your audience. The product should be according to your target or potential market’s needs. You can start with these questions:

    • Do you think your market segment will consider it helpful?
    • Does it relate to your field of specialization?

    Plus, you need to ensure that the product or solution you’re endorsing aligns with the platform on which you’re doing so. For instance, apparel and interior design are appropriate for visual channels such as Instagram.

    But, if you’re endorsing something complex, like a computer software, your sales might be better on channels that support lengthy content. Such channels include YouTube and blogging.

    I understand all of this can puzzle you. But don’t worry, I’ll simplify things for you by breaking down this information into a couple of stages.

    Generally, you can find two kinds of affiliate merchants:

    • Merchants that offer a low payout but their affiliates can expect a large number of sales
    • Merchants that offer a great payout but their affiliates can expect relatively fewer sales

    An example of the first category is Amazon Associates.

    While the commission for this affiliate marketplace is not that great, its market is massive. This means you can generate a lot of money but only if you sell in large numbers.

    Another category is the one with a low number of sales but it offers a greater payout. Kinsta is an illustration of this type of program.

    In fact, not many individuals will purchase high-end online hosting. Yet, once someone buys the hosting, you can earn approximately $500 as a payout.

    Now the question is, which is the right category for you, merchants like Kinsta or merchants like Amazon Associates? The answer relies on your market and your knowledge of the industry.

    That being said, try to stick with these basic guidelines:

    • Choose affiliate programs that offer small commissions but have a large number of sales when targeting individuals.
    • Choose affiliate programs that provide a large commission but relatively fewer sales when targeting companies.

    Also, make sure that the company whose affiliate products you’re promoting is credible and well-known.

    In case, you’re uncertain if a company has a good reputation, you can look it up in a search engine and read its reviews. To do so, examine:

    • Websites that provide product opinions
    • Message boards
    • Customer feedback on Google
    • Latest information on the company’s website
    • Social networking accounts such as Facebook

    When a company has significant engagement on social networking sites, you’re more likely to believe in its products. Favorable testimonials, user scores, and fewer product refunds are all positive indicators showing that the product is top-notch.

    If it’s possible, searching for testimonials from former or present affiliates is another great method. Following these approaches will allow you to have an idea about how people perceive the company and make it easy for you to choose your first affiliate marketing program.

    Frequently asked questions about affiliate marketing

    Here are answers to some common questions about affiliate marketing.

    What does affiliate marketing mean?

    The term “affiliate marketing” refers to making money by marketing a product or solution of a business. As an affiliate marketer, you receive compensation when you deliver a particular outcome to a retailer or promoter. This outcome can be referrals, app downloads, product purchases, and more.

    What are the top affiliate networks?

    The top affiliate marketing networks are:

    Summing up: get started with affiliate marketing

    Generating revenue through affiliate marketing campaigns can be a profitable method to create an additional source of income with minimum investment. This means your desire to generate residual income is not merely an unrealistic dream but a fully possible venture.

    But affiliate marketing requires patience. If you invest the time and effort to identify the appropriate affiliate marketplace and optimize your plan, you can create an affiliate system. And this system will produce a continuous stream of residual income in the long run.

    Of course, it may not be a quick-fix solution or as simple as plastering Google Adsense everywhere on your website. Yet with some learning and consistent effort, you can surely make it happen.

    Did I miss anything? Did you try these tips? Do you have any questions or comments? Share your thoughts below in the comments section.

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