Affiliate Marketing: Everything You Need to Know


Affiliate marketing is still one of the best ways to earn passive income.  

Unfortunately, not everyone is aware of what it is or how to go about launching an affiliate marketing program of their own. We need to fix that. Today, we'll tell you everything there is to know about affiliate marketing work — from why it's great along with everything else you need to know so you can become a successful affiliate marketer yourself.  

Let's start by defining what affiliate marketing is.

What Is Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate marketing is when a blogger, influencer, or anyone with a captive audience works with a brand to promote products for a commission on sales.

You can be an affiliate marketer by finding an affiliate program yourself or by working with affiliate networks that'll help you find advertisers for your website, social media accounts, or YouTube channel.

The reason behind its popularity is that it's a win-win situation for brands and marketers. Businesses can improve their sales by having influencers promote their products to their target audience across different platforms. And marketers get to earn some money through their affiliate marketing income.  

Some affiliate marketers treat it like running a business without the need to put up startup capital or handle inventory. They can work with established brands and have them take care of everything — including shipping. All these marketers have to do is what they do best which is promote items.  

Given that there is little to no risk, it's hard not to see why affiliate marketing is a growing model, especially for people who'd like to focus on publishing content for their audience while earning money on the side to fund their operations. And here's the good news: It works. This is especially true for marketers in certain categories.  

Statistics from AM Navigator show that those in the fashion, sports, health, and travel categories see a lot of success with affiliate marketing.

We should point out that some affiliate networks will only approve affiliate marketers if they meet their requirements.  

So getting started with certain advertisers might not be as easy as some might think. Though there are programs that are open to anyone willing to give it a try.

Why Should You Do Affiliate Marketing?

Some people do affiliate marketing because they genuinely believe what they promote and think that their audience would benefit from using these products or services. And as mentioned earlier, some join affiliate programs because they want to start a business that doesn't require upfront capital to run. But most affiliate marketers treat it as a way of earning money while doing what they love the most — content creation.  

Say you're a blogger. If you want to make money out of your blog, your first thought would likely be to insert ads either through Google or other platforms. But ads aren't as effective as they once were and companies know this. So there aren't as many opportunities there as you might think. In addition, ads are often intrusive and they rarely mix well with a site's layout.  

Users have also trained themselves to ignore these ads over the years. That means they're less likely to click on any of them.  

For you, that means fewer conversions. That's not the case with affiliate marketing though.

As an affiliate marketer, you can influence your audience to try a product. You can sell its benefits using your own words and be as transparent as you want. And the best part about it is that you don't have to sell different products. You can stick to one if that's what you want and still make enough money. An affiliate marketer documented his journey and told everyone how he made $16,433 by promoting one product which is Bluehost subscriptions.

Types of Affiliate Marketing

If you're new to affiliate marketing, you should know that there are three ways you can execute an affiliate marketing program. That means you have some flexibility on how you can earn money through the traffic you generate. Start affiliate marketing right by choosing the right affiliate marketing strategy for your own website.

Unattached Affiliate Marketing

As the name implies, unattached affiliate marketing works by having a marketer promote a product without loyalty to neither brand nor audience.

That means a marketer doesn't need to have an affiliate website as most of the traffic will come from ad spending. It's not a method that we'd recommend to affiliate marketing newcomers for three reasons:

  1. It's incredibly difficult to pull off, especially for beginners.
  2. It requires users to learn how to generate ads which is another barrier to entry.
  3. It will require you to spend money on ads — something you don't want to do if you're still new to affiliate marketing.

But for the sake of discussion, let's continue talking about how unattached affiliate marketing works.

When you sign up for an affiliate marketing program, you'll be provided a link.  

That link is what you'll need to use when you promote products.

Otherwise, brands will have no way of knowing if the sale it got has anything to do with you. In short, you'll only get your commission if people use the link you were provided with. With other affiliate marketing methods, these links are placed within an affiliate marketer's website. However, an unattached affiliate marketer will run an ad campaign and use the affiliate link as the landing page.

That means an unattached affiliate marketer doesn't need to have a website to run an affiliate marketing campaign. That's one of the biggest advantages of this method. However, it also means that the marketer doesn't have a built-in audience to promote to. It can be tough to make money through unattached affiliate marketing.  

But it can be worth it if you'll understand how online ads work, know how to research keywords, and take the risk. It should be pointed out that not all affiliate marketing programs are cool with this method. Some will require affiliate marketers to have a website that generates substantial traffic.

Related Affiliate Marketing

Related affiliate marketing is what typically comes to mind when people talk about affiliate marketing in general.

This method involves posting banners on your website or inserting an affiliate link in your posts. This method treats affiliate links like ads in that you don't necessarily have to know much about the products you're promoting. You're just presenting them to your audience — sometimes without any context. However, this method would work best if the brand or product you're working with is still related to your niche.  

For example, an affiliate marketer whose main audience is fitness enthusiasts will be more receptive to affiliate campaigns about health and wellness. If this is the case, you can try promoting fitness apparel or gym memberships. One of the potential downsides to this approach is accidentally recommending a faulty product.  

Since you're promoting a product or service that you haven't used, you could end up promoting a product that's not up to your standards. This is especially true if you're working with a vendor with little to no track record. And if your audience ends up buying bad products they discover through your site, you can end up losing their trust. However, related affiliate marketing opens you up to more opportunities since you're not stuck to promoting brands that you've personally used. So it's up to you whether you'd take the risk or not.

Involved Affiliate Marketing

Involved affiliate marketing must be the best way to start your online marketing career.  

This method isn't that far off from related affiliate marketing. But with involved affiliate marketing, you get to experience the products or services you're promoting before recommending them to your audience. This gives the product more credibility in front of your audience. And you get to be more creative on how you sell it to them. Here's an example. You can write a blog post about setting up a website aimed at beginners. Then you can include a link to an affiliate that you've used like, say, a web hosting platform.

Because setting up a website is dependent on a web hosting service, your recommendation has value to your audience. And because you've used it, people are more inclined to use it as well. That's the reason why involved affiliate marketing is better for first-time affiliate marketers. It's the most organic way of tackling affiliate marketing out of all the methods we've listed.

That makes it the easiest way to achieve affiliate marketing success. The only downside to using involved affiliate marketing is that you'd have to get your hands on the products that you'd like to promote — which is easier said than done. If you really want to verify a product's claims and features, you might have to spend money to test it out.  

Some companies are willing to send free samples though especially if you have the right audience that they're looking for. Also, you might want to brush up on certain search engine optimization skills to generate enough traffic for your domain. The more site traffic you get, the more opportunities you'll have at earning commissions.

How and Where to Promote Affiliate Links

Not only are there different types of affiliate marketing, but there are also different ways to get your affiliate links out to your audience.

Blogs and Websites


The simplest way to promote affiliate links is by posting them on your website or blog. It makes the most out of your built-in audience and you can make promotions come off as organic as you'd like. If you're a travel blogger, for example, then it's easy to work in an affiliate link for Airbnb or a hotel booking company.  

Or if you have a website that's dedicated to helping people take better care of their pets, then you can add affiliate links to pet grooming products and services. You don't even need a standalone affiliate site to get started. You can try affiliate marketing on Medium before buying your own domain and building a website from scratch.

That way, you can gauge if affiliate marketing is right for you. We should also mention that it's possible to add affiliate links on third-party websites through guest posting or other link-building tactics. However, webmasters can be picky about what links you can insert in a post. Some won't even let you add links at all.

So you might have a hard time finding webmasters who'd let you add affiliate links.

Email Campaigns

While promoting affiliates through emails can be challenging, it's certainly is possible. If you don't have your own website, then consider sending affiliate links through email instead.  

To do this, however, you'll need to have an email list. That means you'll have to collect email addresses from your site visitors or launch an email marketing campaign to generate leads.  

If that doesn't feel like something you'd be into, then you can consider the other options in this section. Building an email list is understandably not something every newcomer in the affiliate marketing space would be into doing. After all, customers are not that open to receiving emails filled with affiliate links.  

So you'd have to be careful about the promotional emails you send out. And you'd have to make sure that they're catered to your audience's wants and needs. And since you'll have to rely on an email list, you're limited to how many people you can promote to at a given time.

That's why some affiliate marketers will only launch email campaigns as part of an overall strategy that includes other affiliate marketing efforts.

Social Media

You can generate affiliate sales through social media as well.

As explained earlier, all you need to start your affiliate marketing journey is to secure a link from your affiliate program of choice. So you can promote products and services to your social media followers by adding affiliate links to your social media pages and still get commissions after closing sales.  

It could be tricky to get affiliate sales through your personal social media accounts though since your family and friends might have different opinions about the brands you're promoting since they'll likely have different interests. For instance, not all of them would have a need for online courses about creating a website. So it would be best to start social media pages that are designed for a specific type of audience. If you're focusing on promoting affiliate products in the tech space, then create social media pages for that audience.


YouTube is the new frontier when it comes to generating affiliate income. Even everyday vloggers are now part-time affiliate marketers since most of them learned how to connect with their audience and convince them to try different products and services. And one of the reasons why YouTube is a great platform for affiliate marketers is that people go there to find solutions to their problems.

That means they're willing to spend on products that will help them. You don't even have to mess with paid advertising. If you already have a channel with a good following, you can start adding affiliate links in the description of your videos. You can then publish videos explaining the perks of the product and why your audience should give it a try.  

And because it's more visual than a blog post, you'll have a better shot at converting users. YouTube also does a great job of promoting videos on your behalf. That means there is a chance that someone will stumble upon your content as long as it's related to their search queries and browsing history. So you don't have to exert as much effort compared to running your own website.

Top Affiliate Marketing Programs

You'll never run out of affiliate programs to work with as there are plenty of brands looking for affiliate marketers to do business with.

But not all programs are the same. Some companies offer better commissions for their partners. Here's a list of affiliate marketing programs that you might want to check out. Some of them made the list because they give you great commissions. Others are here because they offer a wide variety of products to make money with. We've also considered brand recognition when we compiled this list. If you work with well-known affiliates, you'll have an easier time convincing potential buyers to check products out.


When it comes to affiliate marketing, web hosting companies like Bluehost are great companies to work with. Not only is it a recognized brand but it's also generous with its commissions. For every qualified web hosting purchase you helped generate, the company will give you $65. If you're an influencer in this space and already have a huge following, you could end up earning a hefty commission every month.

Amazon Associates

Amazon Associates is a fantastic platform for beginners since you're recommending products from a platform that almost everyone uses daily.  

There's a good chance that your followers already have an Amazon account. So it's not that big of a stretch to assume that they're comfortable with buying products from this online retailer. How much you'll earn will depend on the products you promote as some will return better commissions than others. But according to Amazon, you can earn as high as 10% from qualified purchases.

Target Partners

Target Partners is another reputable affiliate marketing platform that you'd want to check out. Its commissions are good since it lets you earn as much as 8% of qualified sales.  

And just like Amazon, it's not that hard to find a product to promote since Target is home to over a million products. So if your website doesn't fit a specific niche and it's more like a day-in-the-life sort of deal, there's no doubt that you'll always find products worth sharing with your audience.

Teachable Partner Program

The Teachable Partner Program is a great starting point for an affiliate marketer that wants to recruit experts and creators to join the Teachable platform.  

And for your efforts, you can earn up to 30% in commissions. With a 90-day cookie window, you'll have that much time to earn sales for every referral. In simpler terms, that means that even if a potential customer closes the referral page and only registers for a Teachable account on the 90th day since your link brought that person there, you'll still get the commission.

Top Affiliate Marketing Networks

If signing up for an affiliate program doesn't suit you, then you can sign up for an affiliate network instead.  

What's the difference? With an affiliate program, you're bound to a specific vendor. So when you sign up for Amazon Associates, you'll only sell products from Amazon.  

That is unless you sign up for multiple programs — a practice that's not only time-consuming but also impractical. An affiliate network connects you with its partners so that you'll have a wider range of products to work with. An affiliate marketer might favor this setup since it frees them from having to deal with multiple affiliate programs. If this sounds great to you as well, here are some affiliate marketing networks that you might want to check out.


ClickBank touts itself as the world's leading affiliate marketplace. It offers several incentives to keep its affiliate partners happy such as reliable payments, revenue sharing for top performers, dedicated support, and affiliate marketer training.


Awin gives influencers and content creators to work with different brands to make money from commissions. Its main advantages include access to Awin's easy-to-use platform which makes it easier to connect with the right advertiser for your audience. And there are a ton of big-name brands on the platform including HP, Under Armour, Naked, and AliExpress.


Impact is a great choice if you want to work with high-profile advertisers like Adidas, Airbnb, Allstate, HSBC, Lenovo, and Levi's. Since a lot of the advertisers on Impact are global brands, you might have some luck getting sales from other countries. That means you'll have a better chance of making commissions even if your core audience lives elsewhere in the world.


Pepperjam is a platform that lets influencers and affiliate marketers find brands that they can potentially work with.  

The platform makes use of its own technology to match affiliates with brands based on the advertiser's preferences and data. This affiliate marketing network will also help affiliates keep track of their progress and recommend actionable insights to improve their performance.


FlexOffers works with companies like Microsoft, Lowe's, Dell, Nike, Kohl's, Sephora, and Hulu just to name a few. What makes this platform stand out from others like it is its Flexlinks technology. By adding a snippet of code to your website, it can automatically generate affiliate links for you. It instantly recognizes new and existing products that brands have yet to monetize. That means less work for you.

Affiliate Marketing Pros and Cons

While being an affiliate marketer has its upsides, there are things about it that you should be wary of. Being aware of the potential downsides will better prepare you for what's ahead.

Advantages of Affiliate Marketing

  • You can start a business minus the downsides of building one. You don't have to worry about startup costs. There's no need to handle inventory. You're not expected to handle customer complaints and queries. And you're not even on the hook for shipping and logistics. You just promote the products and let the brands worry about everything else.
  • You control how and where you sell. You can promote products through your blog, social media, email, or even through YouTube. It's more flexible in the sense that you dictate how you want to promote a product. For example, you can create how-to videos and mention the affiliate link toward the end.
  • You can set it and forget it. While you'll earn more if you actively promote new products, there's nothing to stop you from pausing your affiliate campaign and still earning from previously published content.

Disadvantages of Affiliate Marketing

  • You need to draw visitors to your landing pages. Be it through YouTube, social media, or a personal blog, there will always be a need for you to bring in new visitors. So affiliates who have a good knowledge of digital marketing and SEO will have the advantage.
  • You'll only earn through commissions. We've compared affiliate marketing to starting a business, only without the hassles associated with it. But the drawback is that you'll only earn through commissions — which isn't necessarily a bad thing. However, you'll want to set your expectations as it can take a while to see substantial gains.
  • You have no control over other affiliate marketers. Depending on the affiliate niche, you might find yourself surrounded by competing marketers. And you can't do anything about it. If you enter a saturated market, you might struggle with generating revenue from affiliate marketing.

How to Be a Successful Affiliate Marketer

We have covered a lot here, but you may still have the question... affiliate marketing how to start ? Here are a few tips on how you can become a successful affiliate marketer.

Get Niche Research Right

While being a jack-of-all-trades might sound like a good idea when it comes to affiliate marketing, it would be better for beginners to find the right niche and stay focused on it.

There are plenty of ways to determine which niche best suits you. You can base it on your interests and hobbies. From there, you can figure out a lot of things including who your competitors are (blog sites, influencers, etc.), what products have the most earning potential, who your target audience is, and which affiliate platforms you should work with.

Focus on the Benefits and Not the Features

When promoting a product or service, try to focus more on its benefits instead of its features. This is especially true for those who choose to promote items through product reviews. While people will want to know what makes a product special, what's more important to them is knowing how a product can help them. Providing examples and scenarios is a good way of conveying that message.

Build Your Email List

You'd be doing yourself a huge favor if you build an email list as soon as you start with affiliate marketing. That's what many affiliate marketers do. They use their email leads to promote affiliate links through email. These serve as an extension of their main affiliate efforts.

Find a Product With Low Competition

It's tempting to promote products from a popular brand. However, there's a good chance that you'll encounter a ton of competition if you go down that route. So consider promoting a product that has low competition — at least in the beginning. Once you find your groove, you can adjust your product list accordingly.

Avoid Being Aggressive

Don't be pushy. Your audience will not appreciate the hard push. And you don't want to sound desperate when selling an affiliate product. Don't bombard them with emails or social media messages. Let your content speak for itself. If you do a great job with your content, it should be enough to convince users to try a product.

Affiliate Marketing FAQs

Can You Include Affiliate Links on Medium?

Yes. You can add affiliate links on Medium.

Is Digital Marketing the Same as Affiliate Marketing?

No, since these refer to two different things. Digital marketing is a broader field that can include affiliate marketing. You'll need digital marketing skills to be an effective affiliate marketer.

Which Type of Affiliate Marketing Is Best?

Involved affiliate marketing is the best type. It's easier to talk about and sell a product that you personally believe in.

Can Affiliate Marketing Make You Rich?

Yes. Some people make a great living with affiliate marketing.

How Much Does It Cost to Start Affiliate Marketing?

You can start an affiliate marketing campaign at no cost. Though you'll have an easier time with it if you already have an audience to promote products to.


Affiliate marketing is a great way to make an income passively, especially if you have access to a captive audience. You'll still have to do your research though to find the right products to sell. It will take some time before you start making anything significant though so learn to be patient. Great things come to those who wait.

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