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by Mike Vestil 

What Is Affiliate Marketing And How Does It Work?

Building your own products and services can be an enriching experience, but it's not for everyone. If you prefer to let someone else do the hard work while you reap the rewards through your marketing skills, then affiliate marketing may be for you.

Affiliate marketing is performance-based marketing in which a business rewards one or more affiliates for each visitor or customer brought by the affiliate's marketing efforts.

In this article, I'll look at what affiliate marketing is, how it works, and some tips for getting started.

Defining Affiliate Marketing Meaning: What Is It And How Does It Work?

Knowing how to begin affiliate marketing starts with understanding what it is. At its core, affiliate marketing meaning refers to the marketing process that allows a product owner to get more sales to their products/services by allowing affiliates to target various audiences that might be interested in these products. The affiliates then get a commission when someone from this audience buys through a customized link. 

There are four key players in affiliate marketing:

  • The merchant is the business that has created the product.
  • The network is the platform where merchants and affiliates can find each other. It will also take care of all payments between merchant and affiliate.
  • The customer or buyer is the person who clicks on the affiliate link and buys the product.
  • The affiliate is somebody who promotes the merchant's products in exchange for a commission on every sale they generate.

But Isn't Affiliate Marketing Dead?

Many people think that affiliate marketing is dead, but it's very much alive and kicking. It's one of the most effective ways to grow a side income that might turn into a full-time job.

Some of the key reasons why affiliate marketing still works are as follows:

  • It's a low-cost way to start an online business. All you need is a domain name and hosting; with these in place, you can be up and running in no time.
  • It's a great way to make money while you sleep. Once you've built up a loyal following, you can start earning commissions from products you recommend.
  • It's a passive income stream. You don't have to worry about creating products or dealing with customer service – all you need to do is promote other people's products and earn a commission on every sale.

An affiliate marketing model also makes sense from the business owner's perspective. Here are some of the reasons businesses love affiliate marketing:

  • It's a cost-effective way to acquire new customers. The business owner only pays commission on your sales, so there's no upfront cost.
  • It's a hands-off way to grow your business. Once affiliates promote already-created products, the owner can focus on other business areas.

Despite the naysayers, affiliate marketing is still one of the most effective ways to earn money online.

Is Affiliate Marketing Legit Or A Scam?

Another common question about affiliate marketing is whether or not it's a legitimate way to make money. The short answer is yes – affiliate marketing is an entirely honest way to earn money.

However, there are a few things you should keep in mind before getting started related to the time needed to see an affiliate income being generated:

  • You won't get rich quickly. Affiliate marketing is a slow and steady way to earn money. It's not a get-rich-quick scheme, so don't expect to make much money overnight.
  • It would help if you were patient. It takes time to build a loyal following and earn commission on sales. Don't give up if you don't see results immediately – keep plugging away, and you will eventually start seeing a steady income stream.
  • Making money with affiliate marketing takes a lot of work. You need to be dedicated. It would help if you were willing to put in the time and effort required to build up a following and start earning commission on sales.

If you're looking for a quick and easy way to make money overnight, affiliate marketing might not be for you. But if you're willing to do the work, it can be a great way to earn a passive income over time.

Types Of Affiliate Marketing

With so many online businesses using affiliate marketing to help spread the word about what they do and the products they offer, you can choose from a few different types of affiliate marketing. Here are the most common:

Pay Per Sale

With this mode, you earn a commission each time someone buys through your affiliate link. This is the most common affiliate marketing type and, typically, the most lucrative.

The downside is that it takes a lot of traffic to generate sales, so this model best suits established bloggers and influencers with large followings.

Pay Per Lead

With this affiliate marketing model, you earn a commission on leads that you refer to businesses. For example, if you have a blog about car insurance and refer someone to a car insurance company, you might get paid a commission if that person becomes a lead and joins the insurance company's email list.

This model is less standard than pay-per-sale, but it can still be a great way to earn money if you have a lot of traffic and you refer people to products or services they're interested in.

Pay Per Click

With pay-per-click affiliate marketing, you earn a commission every time someone clicks on your affiliate link. This can be a great way to generate income if you have a lot of traffic, but it's not as lucrative as pay-per-sale or pay-per-lead.

Can Beginners Profit From Affiliate Marketing?

When it comes to affiliate marketing strategies for beginners, it's essential to know that it can be a bit overwhelming to know the right direction to head towards. 

That said, following the proper training is key, with some of the best affiliate programs for beginners showing a step-by-step guide on how to get started with affiliate marketing. 

There are also various free affiliate programs available for beginners. You can start with these programs to get a feel of how everything works before you move on to the paid versions that require a more significant investment.

Must Have Tools For Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing tools come in various shapes and sizes, each with its purpose and function. However, there are some essential tools that every affiliate marketer should have in their toolkit.

Some of the must-have affiliate marketing tools include.

An Email Service Provider For Building Your List And Sending Out Newsletters

While selling other people's products, it's critical to start building your email list from Day 1. This will allow you to capture leads who may not buy anything right away but who you can nurture into becoming loyal customers down the line.

Several great email service providers include MailChimp, AWeber, and ConvertKit. These platforms for affiliate marketing offer free plans for small lists, making them ideal for starting affiliate marketers.

A WordPress Plugin To Help Manage And Automate Your Affiliate Links

One of the most tedious tasks for any affiliate marketer is manually adding affiliate links to their blog posts and pages. This can take a lot of time, especially if you're linking to multiple products in a single post.

That's where a WordPress plugin like Pretty Links can come in handy. This plugin automates adding affiliate links to your WordPress site, making it a much quicker and more manageable task.

An Analytics Tool To Track Your Traffic And Conversions

If you're not tracking your traffic and conversions, you're not doing affiliate marketing as you should. After all, how can you tell if your efforts are paying off if you don't know how many people are visiting your site or clicking on your links?

Google Analytics is a great free tool that can be used to track your website traffic.

A Social Media Scheduling Tool To Help You Share Your Content Across Various Platforms

Social media is a powerful tool for any affiliate marketer. Not only does it help you reach a wider audience, but it also allows you to build relationships with potential and existing customers.

That said, manually posting to social media can be time-consuming. A social media scheduling tool like Buffer or Hootsuite can help you automate the process and save valuable time.

An SEO Tool To Help Optimize Your Website And Blog Posts

If you want your affiliate website and blog posts to be seen by as many people as possible, then you must ensure they're optimized for search engines. This process is known as search engine optimization (SEO).

Several great SEO tools exist, such as Yoast SEO for WordPress, SEMRush, and Moz. These tools can help you optimize your website and content for better search engine visibility.

A Keyword Research Tool To Help You Find The Right Keywords To Target

Building up your search engine rankings as your affiliate site becomes more widespread leads to more traffic and, ultimately, more conversions.

One of the most important things you can do to improve your SEO is to target the right keywords. Keyword research tools that come as part of the above SEO solutions, along with tools like Google AdWords Keyword Planner and KWFinder can help you find high-volume, low-competition keywords that will help you get more traffic to your site.

A Link-Building Tool To Help You Get High-Quality Backlinks

Another critical factor in SEO is link building, or getting other websites to link back to your website. This helps search engines see your site as more authoritative and can boost your rankings.

Several excellent link-building tools exist, with the ones provided by Ahrefs and SEMrush considered some of the best in the market.

A Tool To Help You Create High-Quality Content

Of course, none of the above will matter if you're not creating high-quality content people want to read. That's why having a tool like CoSchedule or Quora in your arsenal is essential.

These platforms offer great resources for finding topics and ideas for blog posts and articles. Some also provide helpful editorial calendars and writing tools that make the content creation and scheduling process quicker and easier.

High Ticket Affiliate Marketing

Another aspect of affiliate marketing that's good to consider is high-ticket affiliate marketing. With this, affiliates earn a commission on products worth a lot of money.

For example, if you were to promote a high-end piece of jewelry, you could potentially earn a few hundred dollars per sale. This is opposed to promoting a lower-priced item, where you might only make a few dollars per sale.

High affiliate marketing can be more profitable but requires more effort. You'll need to create content that's specifically designed to sell the product, and you'll need to build up your platform and authority to reach a wider audience.

But if you're willing to do the work, high-ticket affiliate marketing can be a great way to earn some serious money.

Promoting Affiliate Marketing Products And Services

While there are many ways to promote your affiliate links, it comes down to these two choices: either having a website/social media account(s) where you can entice people to click on your affiliate links or go without them. Let's look into both of these in more detail.

Building An Affiliate Marketing Website Or Blog

One of the most common ways to promote affiliate links is through a website or blog. This gives you a platform to share your content, build your audience, and include your affiliate links.

With various website builders such as WordPress and Squarespace, it's easy to set up a website or blog and start sharing your content. Once you have decent traffic coming to your site, you can begin including your affiliate links in your content.

Just be sure to disclose that you're using affiliate links and be transparent about what products or services you're promoting.

When it comes to social media, the primary way to do this is through social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

With social media, you can share your affiliate links with your followers and direct them to the products or services you're promoting.

The downside is that you'll need to have a large enough following to make an impact. And if you're promoting controversial products or services, you could risk losing followers by sharing your affiliate links - and potentially your account.

Also, many networks won't allow you to post direct affiliate links, so you'll have to find alternative ways to include such links, which isn't always easy.

Doing affiliate marketing without a website

Doing affiliate marketing without a website is possible, but it's not as easy as it sounds. 

There are various PPC affiliate programs that aim to get people to click on your affiliate link and go directly to the merchant. This tactic is not recommended for beginners as it can be easy to lose a lot of money if you don't know what you're doing.

As an affiliate, you'll find networks that allow you to promote their products and services without having a website. But these networks are few and far between, and they're mostly populated by big brands with the marketing budgets to support such an initiative.

Affiliate Marketing - FAQ

Can Affiliate Marketing Really Make You Money?

The answer to this question may seem obvious, but it depends on your definition of "really make money."

For some people, affiliate marketing is an excellent supplement to their income. Others can quit their 9-to-5 jobs and live solely off the commissions they earn from affiliate sales.

Whatever your definition, you need to have a plan and a strategy to be successful with affiliate marketing. You can't just throw up a bunch of links on your website and hope that people will click on them and buy something.

You need to have a system that converts traffic into sales. This system will require some initial investment of time and money, but it will be worth it in the long run.

What Are Some Common Affiliate Marketing Examples?

There are a few different types of affiliate marketing, but the most common one is probably pay per sale.

In this type of affiliate marketing, you only get paid if someone buys something after clicking on your affiliate link. As such, you need to drive high-quality traffic to your website to see any results.

Another type of affiliate marketing is called "cost per action" or "CPA." In this type of affiliate marketing, you get paid every time someone takes a specific action, such as filling out a form or signing up for a newsletter.

CPAs are often used in combination with other types of affiliate marketing, such as pay-per-click or pay-per-impression.

What Are The Best Programs To Learn Affiliate Marketing?

There are a few different ways to learn affiliate marketing, but the best way is probably through an online course or program.

The 15 day challenge affiliate marketing course is a great way to learn the basics of affiliate marketing and start seeing results quickly.


Having a plan when starting affiliate marketing is key to your success. It would help if you defined your goals from the beginning, found the right affiliate programs, and invested time and money into a system that will convert traffic into sales.

With the right approach, affiliate marketing can be a great way to supplement your income or even replace your 9-to-5 job over time.

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About the author 

Mike Vestil

Mike Vestil is an author, investor, and speaker known for building a business from zero to $1.5 million in 12 months while traveling the world.

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