This affiliate marketing for beginners guide is a great starting place for anyone looking to add this income stream. Affiliate Marketing is when a content marketer or influencer sends a customer to a product or service and receives a commission. This is most often done through web links and coupon codes.
The Best Affiliate Link Cloaking Plugin for WordPress
ThirstyAffiliates is a link-cloaking tool that allows you to manage your affiliate links and make more money. With ThirstyAffiliates, you can cloak your links, track clicks and conversions, and see how much money you make from each affiliate program.
[Hint: This article is a real-life example of how to do affiliate marketing]. If it’s passive income you are in search of, affiliate marketing might be right for you. As long as you are willing to take massive action first.
It’s fun to make money and let’s face it, money pays the bills. The digital age has made it easier than ever to earn money from home whether you’re looking to replace your regular income or just generate a little bit of extra cash.
If you’re looking for ways to make money online, you might have wondered, what is affiliate marketing.
My name is Lori Ballen, and I earn a 6-figure income in affiliate marketing.
I want to be clear that it’s a byproduct of both my Las Vegas real estate business and my coaching company. While I do earn money from affiliate links in blogs and videos, most of my affiliate income is from recurring software subscription affiliate relationships.
In this guide, We’ll Cover the following types of affiliate marketing:
- Niche Blogging
- Youtube Tutorials
- Product Reviews
- Pay Per Click Campaigns.
Affiliate Marketing For Beginners: How it works
In an affiliate marketing partnership, the affiliates are the ones who do the marketing.
The online retailer then pays them for referring new customers to their products or services. In the same respect, if you don’t generate any traffic to the business, you won’t get paid.
Affiliate marketers basically get paid to refer their followers to a business’s product or services.
Then if the reader purchases something or makes a transaction, the business pays a predetermined percentage of the sale of the item to the affiliate.
There are many advantages to affiliate marketing for beginners. The business wins by getting new clients and traffic that they might not otherwise receive.
They also receive search engine love for having additional inbound links, which of course, is good for search engine optimization or SEO.
The affiliate benefits because they have an opportunity to make a passive income from home in their spare time or build a full-time income.
Affiliates make their money, just by posting links, although that doesn’t necessarily make it an easy way to make money.
Other benefits to the affiliate are that there is no required overhead or investment, you can work as many or as few hours as you’d like, you don’t need to worry about inventory, accounting, or providing customer support.
It’s an opportunity to be your own boss without taking huge risks, and possibly while you’re still working at your regular job.
So how much money can you earn?
The truth is, it all depends. You can earn anywhere from $0 if you pick the wrong product or don’t do the work to tens of thousands per week, per month, per year.
There is no standard, nor is there a limit to the earning potential. Affiliate marketing for beginners starts at zero and scales over time.
How much you can earn as an affiliate marketer depends on how often you post affiliate links, how much traffic you get to your own website, and whether or not people click on your links.
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Affiliate Marketing Income Earned in a single year
This is an actual income sheet of affiliate marketing earned month over month. This is my actual income sheet showing commissions earned month over month. The 2nd column is the total income earned that month and each column after is the individual products promoted.
Remember, you only get paid when you refer someone to a product or service and a transaction takes place.
When it comes to earning potential, the sky is the limit and the only thing holding you back is you. Affiliate marketing for beginners requires patience.
If you work hard to generate traffic to the links and put in the work and the effort required by actively posting links, you will earn more money than someone who has a low-traffic website, who only posts a link once.
In my case, my income was built over a 5-6 year span. It started as pennies and then dollars and then hundreds and then thousands and on to 6-figures over time.
In my case, it wasn’t intentional. It was organic.
I was teaching how to use my favorite software over webinar platforms.
Someone suggested to me that I apply to their affiliate program, before which I had never heard the term.
I applied and suddenly began receiving small checks. This particular program had a scale that meant when I reached a certain number of affiliates in the program, I earned a higher monthly recurring commission.
Once I got a taste of that, I wanted more.
Over time, I noticed the growth of several products I was promoting and then began applying purpose to my “Affiliate Marketing Businesses”.
Pros of Affiliate Marketing for Beginners
- Work Independently
- It doesn’t require employees or a large team
- With great systems, you don’t even need administrative help
- It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money to grow the business.
- It’s scalable
- It doesn’t require more people on your payroll to scale it
- It grows on its own over time
- Income comes in on a regular basis from various sources stopping the roller coaster of seasonality.
- You run your own business however you see fit
- You don’t have to show up anywhere to make money
- There’s no 9-5 Job
- Once you are doing great with one product, you can add another and then on from there in order to diversify your business
- You can build in multiple industries to protect your business from industry crashes
- You can work whatever hours you choose
- Since there are many ways to do earn, you can choose based on your skillset and what you enjoy doing.
- There’s no inventory required
- You don’t have to sell anything personally to earn a paycheck
- The only relationship required is between you and the business offering the product commissions.
- When you take a vacation or have downtime, the income doesn’t change
- There is nobody to call in sick to.
Cons of Affiliate Marketing for Beginners
- Requires influence or skills in marketing (pro: you can learn it)
- Can be competitive
- It does require massive action as with any startup business
- You must spend time creating content
- You may need to invest in good systems
- There’s nobody to report to, so you have to motivate yourself
- Working at home can be distracting for some
- You need to be responsible for paying your taxes
- Affiliate income can be sporadic and unpredictable
- You may wind up with a cat sitting on your keyboard.
How To Do Affiliate Marketing For Beginners
Here’s how it works.
You are the “publisher” or the “affiliate marketer”.
You choose a product you want to promote. Provided that the specific brand has an affiliate program (sometimes called a referral program or Ambassador program), you can set up a contracted relationship.
I have a great list of affiliate programs you can browse as well.
It’s basically a marketing contract. You are going to market their product upfront and get paid only if there is a sale. This is typically a commission percentage of the sale but can also be a “bounty” or a one-time flat fee.
You may find a product that you will earn a recurring commission on as long as that “subscriber” or “customer” is still paying.
Others pay out a one-time amount.
Some affiliate marketing for beginners programs pay per click or pay per lead. You’ll learn more about that in this guide.
You promote the product offered by the “merchant”, “business”, “vendor”, or “brand”. You can promote the product through niche blogging, social media influence, video tutorials or webinars, and paid ads.
Basically, anywhere you can share a link that can be tracked, you can promote a product. Each brand will have its own terms of service which detail where you can and can’t and how you can and can’t promote their products.
For example, some allow pay per click, and some don’t.
When someone makes a purchase within a certain time frame and meets certain criteria established in your affiliate relationship, you receive a commission.
When someone clicks on a link you are promoting, there is something called a “cookie” placed which ignites a “timer” in which the start and end times of when you will get a commission.
Some brands offer a 24 cookie, others a week, some a full month, and a rare few say it’s good as long as their program is offered.
7-30 days is a standard time frame in which someone clicks your link, you get paid. I search out 30 as much as possible.
With Amazon, it’s 24 hours and you get a commission on everything in the cart.
If the person puts the item in their cart and waits, you will still get a commission on only that item for up to 30 days if they check out.
Amazon pays 4-10% with 4% being more often the average.
In addition, if you share a link to an Amazon item, and they don’t buy it or put it in their cart, and an hour later, they click on the same product through someone else’s link and then buys, someone else (last-click) gets the commission.
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Examples of Affiliate Strategies
Lori Ballen is a real estate agent who teaches other real estate agents how to generate leads online. She uses a real estate marketing platform that helps real estate agents with their marketing.
She hosts regular webinars and often features real estate products. She records tutorial videos on youtube.
She blogs about it on her coaching website and shares it with her coaching clients.
She tells success stories in her social groups.
She talks about it when she speaks from the stage.
Each time, she shares a link to the product, always disclosing that she receives a benefit.[This is mandatory, not optional]
The customer signs up for a 30-day free trial which she was given by the brand when they set up the affiliate contract.
If the customer decides to stay on after the trial and pays with a credit card, Lori receives a 15% commission. This commission is sent every month as long as that customer remains a client.
Bob has partnered with Amazon to promote its products. Amazon has given Bob payout info for each type of product they offer on their website.
Bob has a website for single dads. He often talks about kids’ products, clothing, school supplies, etc.
When he shares items that he uses, he includes an affiliate link to the product on Amazon.
Provided that person clicks his links and buys within 24 hours, he will get a commission on everything they put in their cart!
Lori has a youtube channel in which she reviews products she uses around the house. She set up an affiliate relationship with an appliance store.
Lori shows how the product works and gives her opinion on the product.
People find the video through search engines, youtube search, youtube suggested videos, and from her own promotion.
She puts the link in the description of the video when it’s uploaded. When someone buys the product she reviewed through her link, she earns a one-time commission.
Bri took an online course and enjoyed it. She felt it would the students that follow her teaching would appreciate the course as well. She sent out an email to her mailing list sharing her success with the course and included a call to action to try it themselves.
As always, she included a disclosure that said she received a benefit if they enrolled.
She earned a commission from the course sales.
Tim found a weight loss product that was sold online. After finding success with it, he went to their website to see if they had an affiliate program. They did. He contracted to promote their product which allowed for pay-per-click marketing.
When sales occurred, he earned his commission.
He found products to promote that were for sale on Amazon or with private vendors and made offers on his website for products in which she would earn a commission.
Barb had no idea what she wanted to promote. She learned about the Share A Sale affiliate network and signed up. Share A Sale had a list of merchants. After browsing the stats, she found merchants that were listed for high conversions in the wedding industry.
Being a mother of the bride 3 times over, Barb felt like this was a topic she could cover in a blog.
Barb wrote in-depth articles about etiquette, who pays for what, how to plan for a wedding, and so forth.
When applicable, she included links, images, banners, and assets that she got from the vendor through Share A Sale to include in her blog.
She built a great email list of people getting married (some a couple of years out) there her optinmonster lead magnet platform and began sending her blogs in an email campaign.
Barb earned commissions through sales from these links.
Jolene is a Millenial. She’s very frugal and proud of it. When in line at the store, she’s the first one to whip out her phone and pull up every app that will provide a discount.
She knows the rewards programs and which nights to eat where that offer freebies or discounts.
Jolene launched a youtube channel and combined it with Instagram to create a channel all about how to save money.
She covers everything even if she doesn’t have a contract to promote a product. Yet whenever she is talking about an app, website, or product, she will check if they have a program and sign up so she can receive commission or free products.
(Free products is more of an Ambassador than an affiliate generally)
Kent has lived in the same place all of his life. He was getting ready to retire and wanted to build another stream of income. When he asked himself what he really “knew” about and had a passion for, he said “Springfield”.
Kent decided to specialize in hyperlocal marketing and build a blog, video channel, and a Facebook group for the Springfield locals. He created lists of places to visit, things to do, and holiday events.
He built an email list by using optinmonster to make offers for guides, coupons, and his “best of” lists. He was able to use that list for email, text, direct mail, and retargeting campaigns.
He partnered with Groupon to offer their coupons and earns 10% on everything to do Groupon sales.
In addition, he found many local programs, hotels, spa affiliates, and more.
Kent got to monetize what he loved the most, home!
Pat runs a Podcast for athletes. His podcasts have short and long descriptions online. He will often include affiliate links to fitness and general health products he mentions in the write-up.
He also transcribes his podcast to a blog and includes his affiliate links. He will often upload the podcasts to youtube as well.
Many podcasters now record the session on video for youtube and social channels.
This is called omnichannel marketers and many are taking advantage of this today.
Over time, sponsors will often offer to pay for mentions, intros, outros, and commercial breaks as well.
Becoming an Affiliate
As simple as it really is to begin affiliate marketing, there are a few things you should know.
- Not every brand has a program.
- Affiliate programs change terms and networks frequently
- An affiliate program can be canceled at any time. Just when you get that commission check up to $2000 per month, you get the notification that they have decided to discontinue their program. This is why diversifying is key.
- Many brands want you to have a business license, tax ID number, and prove that your business is in line with their brand
- When you apply for a program, it’s a good idea to send a note along explaining what your reach or influence is and why you think you would be a good partner for them.
- In most cases, you will be approved to use the link, banner or other assets on one website or pre-approved channel (social/youtube, etc) and will need to apply specifically for additional channels.
- Social networks such as Pinterest frown on spamming the channel with links. It’s better to create a blog post and share that, or a video and share that, or a how-to guide, and share that, each with the affiliate links inside.
Marketing Assets: Links, Banners and More
There are some incredible affiliate programs out there. There are platforms such as teachable, the e-course building platform that will host a webinar, and provide you with a unique link to the webinar.
Wealthy Affiliate is another program that gives you links to training you can share, free time on the website, and more.
There are some affiliate marketers that would never send a person directly to the brand or product. They use a landing page (such as lead pages) as an in-between and capture the lead before sending them to the brand’s website directly. That way, they can market to them and follow up with that product or similar products.
To use a link, you are typically given a short URL, personalized link, or a long hideous looking link. Generally, you can shorten these with a site like bit.ly.
Amazon gives you a short link and has rules about where you can and can’t use them. They also don’t allow you to mask their links with bit.ly.
Amazon, in fact, doesn’t want you using the affiliate links in ebooks, emails, or in private Facebook groups. They explicitly say that all links must be public and anything else would be a violation of terms.
In my experience, people are more likely to convert on a clicked link from a personal endorsement than a banner or ad of any kind. Ads and banners are often ignored, but a sentence like “Here’s what I use (link)” is often acted upon.Lori Ballen, 6-figure Affiliate
Ann is a Ketogenic Lifestyle coach. She has a blog about the Keto Diet. She has built a members list for her coaching program. Each week, she sends out an e-newsletter that is a digest of articles. She features keto products in her Newsletter.
Ann can’t just post Amazon ads or links in her email since it’s against the terms of service and she would risk losing her affiliate status.
Instead, she creates a page on her website for the product or series of products using the tools Amazon gives her to create ads.
In her newsletter, she includes links and images to the product page on her website and the product links then are for Amazon and she can make the commission.
Some brands will give you banners. Often, they are a small piece of code that you add to your webpage and the banner is then created dynamically. Others might give you the banner as an image and you have to link it once it’s in your blog or on your social channel.
They will generally offer you banners in various sizes so you can add them to headers, footers, and sidebars on your website as well as within the content on your page.
Here are some affiliate assets in the form of banners:
Don’t be overwhelmed when you think website. The strategy is not overly complicated.
Here’s how to do it:
Determine your Audience
Determine who the audience will be for your niche website. You want small enough to be unique but not to small that you have nobody to sell to.
If you go too big, the space will probably be too competitive and both SEO (search engine optimization) and SEM (search engine marketing) will be expensive and complicated.
Here’s an example: Product: Collagen Creamer. Audience: People -> People who want to improve hair, skin, and nails -> Women who want to improve hair, skin, and nails -> Women over 40 who want to improve hair, skin, and nails (When you now know that you are talking to women, who are 40 + that all have a problem where they want to improve hair skin and nails, you know who you are talking to and how to market to them.
Set up a WordPress Website
If you are a premium member of the Wealthy Affiliate forum, you can set up many WordPress websites and themes for no additional charge.
A free WordPress Website from WordPress.com is not designed for this.
If you want someone to put it together for you, consider Jeff and Paul Helvin at Ballen Brands. 702-917-0755.
Next, you’ll want to create very in-depth articles for your niche audience. Think problem-solving, informational, tutorial articles that answer questions people search online.
SEMrush is a great pro tool that will help you determine topics, shows you questions people search online, and allows you to look up your competition and see exactly what articles they have created, ads they are running, and how much traffic flows to each page or topic.
Within the content, in the headers, footers, sidebars, and so forth, you can include calls to action that invite the visitor to browse your affiliate programs.
You’ll notice, whenever I mention the affiliate marketing training forum called wealthy affiliate, it’s a live link.
I’m inviting the user to check it out by simply including a link attached to the words “Wealthy Affiliate”.
I use a plugin called Thirsty Affiliates to auto-link. That way, every time I include a particular set of words, a hyperlink is automatically created that takes the visitor to the product or page I want to send them to.
Even better is when you can say something as part of your blog or article such as “I’ve had great success with the wealthy affiliate program which has live webinars, how-to guides, a full library of training, and a huge support group.
They are more likely to click on that personal testimonial than a banner like this: (unless it’s positioned in exactly the right place)
Build a List
Better than referring to lists of people that have filled out your form as a “mailing list” or “email list”, it’s really a contact list.
Today, we can build campaigns out of contact lists to be used for: SMS text campaigns, messaging campaigns, push notifications, retargeting, email, direct mail, social impressions, and more.
Many lead magnet tools today such as optinmonster collect name, email, phone, and other custom fields as well as the IP (internet protocol) address. With this data, we have a lot of remarketing options.
Recently, I added the Elementor Pro page builder to my websites. I can now make offers with pop up’s and subscriber forms.
Mailerlite is a popular email software bloggers are using today.
You are required to always disclose when you are benefiting from a link. It is not enough to put it in a footer and you shouldn’t try to “disguise it” in flowery language or say things like “it helps me out”.
The bottom line, the FTC believes it’s the consumer’s right to know that you receive a benefit when mentioning a product.
Therefore, disclosures must be obvious. You’ll notice there is one towards the top of this blog in addition to the website footer.
A disclaimer should read something like: “I receive a benefit when you make a purchase through my link”.
Some believe that placing a hashtag such as #ad or #affiliate will suffice. The FTC would have to determine if the consumer would understand that.
Amazon has an explicit disclosure that they require when using their special links.
When it doubt, disclose!
How Do I Choose an Affiliate Product?
If you already have a platform such as a website, social media influence, networking, or another way of reaching an audience, find a product that blends well. When you use a product and have success with it, it’s much easier to talk about.
That being said, you can also choose a product and build a website or channel around it specifically.
There are Affiliate Networks such as CJ.com, Awin, Shareasale, Flexoffers, Clickbank, and more that list top-performing products. You could find a product that has high conversion and allows pay per click and create ads and go from there.
If you are building for an audience you have, choose a product that fits the group. If you are starting from scratch, consider a product from a strong brand with a great affiliate program that will provide assets for marketing.
And Lori Ballen, a 6-figure affiliate marketer, will tell you: the magic is in the recurring subscription-based income, especially when they scale or offer multiple levels.
It’s where a person (called the affiliate or publishers) promotes a product to their audience (website, youtube, social, podcast etc.) and provides a link. When the customer clicks the link and buys the product, as long as that link was a unique link distributed to the publisher from the brand, they will receive a commission based on their partnership agreement
If you can find a mentor that is proven in the practice, that would be a great learning experience. You could also take a look at Warrior Forum or Wealthy Affiliate.
Absolutely yes! Lori Ballen, a 6-figure affiliate will tell you that Youtube is a great platform, as are podcasts and social media channels. You can do affiliate marketing purely with a landing page and pay-per-click ads or a strong email list. While niche websites can still be a great way to earn income, they aren’t required.
A network is a portal. It’s a platform that offers up many affiliate programs and their products. For example, Wayfair has an affiliate program in which it offers furniture. In order to join, you must sign up with the Shareasale network to apply and set up the relationship. Sometimes, the brand will have its own process, and many times they are part of a network
Amazon affiliates are part of the Amazon Associates program. Go to Amazon and scroll down to the “make money with us” section and then find become an affiliate. You have to apply. Not everyone is approved. They have very strict terms of service on how you can and can’t market their brand.
Others have read this list of the best affiliate marketing tools.