Put simply, let’s say there is a product you like and you decide to promote it (e.g. write a blog about it and ‘link’ to the product-owner sales page). For each and every sale you make (through your ‘link’), the Product-Company-Owner will pay you a percentage of the sale price.
Affiliate Marketing Definition
Affiliate Marketing is based on Company paying a financial-reward (sales-commission) to a Product-Promoter (Affiliate) everytime the Product-Promoter generates a sale (or a lead). It is a form of revenue-sharing, it is in practice a legal performance-based revenue-generating marketing system.
What is Affiliate Marketing in practice?
Is Affiliate Marketing for you?
What does it involve?
Let me tell you how old Affiliate Marketing is… then we are going to answer all your questions.
A quick look at the early days of Internet Affiliate Marketing:
The concept of revenue-sharing with promoters earning commissions on sales predates the Internet.
Online, the most widely known and longest running business making use of Affiliate Marketing is Amazon.com which launched their Associate Progam (affiliate program) in 1996, but internet affiliate marketing had already been implemented by other companies in 1994 (PC Flowers & Gifts first, then CDNow towards the end of 1994).
I remember adding CDNow affiliate links to one of my sites back in 1995! Wow, I was much younger then! 🙂
If you want to learn more about the origins of Affiliate Marketing you can find more info here on Wikipedia-Affiliate-Marketing
Back to today folks! 🙂
Affiliate Marketing Setups
Let’s look at what does Affiliate Marketing look like today.
There are two possible scenarios:
- Affiliate – Merchant – Consumer
- Affiliate – Affiliate Network – Consumer
The Affiliate Network would include many Merchants for the Affiliate to promote. Let’s see each of these components individually.
The Affiliate Network
The Affiliate Network (or Affiliate Marketplace) acts as an aggregator of Merchants (Product Owners/Makers), the Network is an intermediary between the affiliate and the merchant.
If you want to be an affiliate (promoter) and If you register as an affiliate with a large Affiliate Network you will be able to access thousands of brands and Companies’ affiliate programs all from one place which makes it easier for you (affiliate) compared to have to register and manage multiple affiliate accounts, performance-stats dashboards and check payments-status, individually, for 10s or 100s of different brands you may be promoting.
Popular Affiliate Networks:
- Ebay Partners
- CJ by Conversant
- Amazon Associates
- there are more…
The Product Owner (a person or a company) in the case where the Merchant is a single brand. The product can be anything, a physical product (e.g. hand soap), a service (e.g. web hosting), subscriptions to a magazine or to online member-only sites, leads (consumer filling in a form with personal details with insurance companies), information products (eBook, video courses), etc…
An Online Shop in the case where you promote products via an affiliate program with a large online multi-brand retailer (although, due to the huge variety and the huge number of brands available all under one roof, you could consider a large online retailer like Amazon to be an Affiliate Network on its own right).
The Affiliate (promoter, publisher) can be anyone, an individual online marketer, a stay at home mom running a blog part-time to generate income via affiliate sales of products mentioned in her blog, an online site set up as a shop where products link to the Merchant shopping cart, a business promoting complementary affiliate products and services to generate additional revenue beyond sales of their own products, and so on…
Without the buyer, there would be no affiliate marketing (or any business for that matter). The buyer is, of course, the consumer and he or she could be anywhere! 🙂 What I mean by this is that depending on the specific niche product or niche service, the Affiliate has to find out where the potential buyer hangs online.
Where the consumer discusses facts, asks questions or search for that specific product will decide where the Affiliate has to focus his marketing/advertising resources to promote the products.
Will the consumer use search engines to search for that type of products? The affiliate marketer will optimize their promoting-pages (or blog posts) to rank high in search engine result pages for search terms (queries) related to that product. Or maybe implement PPC Advertising to show adverts on search engine pages for those same search terms.
Are there Facebook groups or pages related to that product? The target consumer hangs around content on Instagram or Twitter related to specific hashtags? The Affiliate marketer will implement social media marketing to reach the consumer.
And so on.. blogs, Quora, forums… wherever the target consumer is, there is usually a way to market to them.
Affiliate Marketing Sales
If you are wondering
- how will you be able to claim commissions on sales
- how do Merchants or Networks know those sales were your sales?
Well… it’s cookie time!
A COOKIE is ‘data’ that can hold different types of information but let’s talk specifically about cookies for affiliate marketing. In this case, we are talking about first-party cookies. These cookies may hold information about a URL Link or an Advert that was ‘clicked on’ which in turn took the web-user to a product page.
Your affiliate URL Links and Adverts will include what is called an Affiliate Tracking ID which is exclusive to you. See this made-up example affiliate URL:
’23ID345′ at the end of the URL would be your unique affiliate ID. It’s like having your name within the URL to tell the affiliate system that link is yours. Affiliate URLs can include additional parameters but, for now, let’s keep things simple.
If that URL Link or Advert containing your own Tracking ID is clicked, the web-user’s browser will receive and hold that piece of information and take the web-user to the destination of that link (e.g. the product shop page). The information stored in the web-user browser practically identifies you (your tracking ID) as the originator of this web-user landing on this specific product page.
Let’s not get too technical, but what happens next is that on that page, if the web-user adds the product to the shopping cart and makes a purchase, that purchase is assigned to your Tracking ID. The affiliate marketing system (software) will keep track of all of this and both you and the product-owner will be able to see this data within the affiliate program dashboard together with other stats and tracking/performance info.
Learn What Is Affiliate Marketing’ Basic Principle: Help Your audience Make Informed Decisions And You Receive A Financial Reward For it.
The principle is simple, help other web users to make an informed decision on products and you receive a percentage of that sale, and, the product does not cost any extra for the web user.
So, should you become an affiliate marketer today, and resign from your day job first thing tomorrow morning?
Any successful, honest and long-running affiliate marketer will tell you that this is not a get rich quick scheme. Yes, you can create a serious income with affiliate marketing but it won’t happen overnight. If you want to be successful with affiliate marketing you need to understand It takes:
- Discipline and perseverance: you need to be organised and consistent with your work both to keep track of your affiliate links/tools/performance and to keep working on your marketing activity every day or a set amount of hours per week. In other words, if you want to get a good business going, you need to treat it like a ‘business’ and work at it to build it up from scratch.
- Discipline and Perseverance… YES AGAIN! 🙂
If you are new to this, be prepared to dedicate time to learn new things, from creating content to way to improve your search engine ranking for specific keywords (search terms), possibly learn to create and implement advertising (e.g. Facebook Ads, Google Ads PPC when ready to do so).
Note, most Merchant will provide you with creative material (advertising images, banners, guides… so you will have something to start with)
- Discipline and Perseverance… Yes AGAIN and AGAIN 🙂
You will hit some obstacles, from something not working as expected on your website (technical problems) to have some of your content or adverts not performing well and you need to test, analyse and improve.
Only those who have the strength, the endurance and the focus to break through obstacles and find ways to keep moving forward will eventually graduate from ‘wannabe affiliate marketer’ to ‘successful affiliate marketing’.
Majority of people approaching affiliate marketing as something that will be super easy to learn and make money with… will give up within the first 6 or 12 months and blame ‘affiliate marketing’ itself for their lack of success instead of blaming themselves for not having worked at it at all!
They will say, it doesn’t work, it’s a scam… even if reality is the total opposite (unless you do try to cheat the system following scammers and getting scammed yourself).
Only when results are good enough when this side-income grows as big or bigger than your day job’s income you can evaluate what to do with your current day job.
- Do you want to keep affiliate marketing as a side-income? You may be perfectly happy with your existing day job and its income so you only needed some extra income from affiliate marketing.
- Or do you want to invest most of your time into your new online venture to make (potentially) much more money (usually day jobs have a limit when it comes to income while online marketing can be expanded into a very highly remunerative business)
Success with Affiliate Marketing – Some people will never achieve it!
I do not blame people for approaching affiliate marketing as something that will generate $30,000 in your first month… starting from scratch. I blame the number of shady internet marketers selling lies and dreams of overnight success.
Is it possible to start affiliate marketing today and make good money within the first 6 or 12 months?
It is, of course, different if you have existing experience in digital marketing, so you do not need time to ‘learn’ about marketing online, you do not need time to learn how to build social profiles or internet sites, you do not need time to learn about niche research, etc… in this case, affiliate marketing for you would simply be like adding products to your existing online work and yes, you can make it work pretty quick.
Or maybe you are in a position to invest in writers, outsource site building, etc… then you can cut some time of course.
It is also different if you do not have a lot of experience but you can work on it 8 hours per day for 6 months. That makes it easier compared to only working on it 1 hours per day.
Stay for the long run, do it right and you will see results!
Be realistic, don’t give up, you will reach your goals!
How to make it easier
If you are going to invest time into building a site for the long run, you may as well choose a niche you have a strong interest in, you are passionate about and you are happy learning more about it or you already know a lot about it.
It can really be anything from cycling to make-up or artistic radiators, a specific type of marketing service, any type of product and service.
You do your best to make your site content, your overall digital marketing content, ‘helpful’ to your audience.
Chances are, there will be other affiliate marketers in your same niche but a good number of them will be copycat sites with generic content mixed with affiliate links ‘hoping’ to get clicks/sales.
If your site has more genuine and unique content and deserves more trust, the audience will prefer to visit your genuine site and not one of those generic other marketers’ sites.
Chances are, the audience will prefer to take your advice and recommendations (because genuine) and buy products through your links. Give good reasons to your audience for visiting your site. If your audience can read/learn relevant information form you, sales should follow.
Set a daily or weekly ‘sacred’ time where you will keep the promise (to yourself) to work on your affiliate business. Be consistent and you will see improvements week after week.
Consider ‘obstacles’ and ‘new things to learn’ to be nothing more than steps you need to climb to get to the top and the view from the top will be worth it!
Don’t give up… even take a step back at times, look at obstacles from different angles… then break through them and move forward!
Be prepared to, and actually enjoy, the fact that there is always something new to learn, to test. Things to change and improve…
Affiliate marketing will not bore you, that’s for sure!
So, what if you want to learn more about
- getting started with affiliate marketing
- those notions of digital marketing you will need to learn to actually be able to get your affiliate marketing work going.
What if you want to avoid shady ‘get rich quick schemes’ and marketers selling lies?
The learning resource I used in the past and I am still using today in relation to some of my affiliate and online marketing activities is an ‘online marketing business learning community’ you can access for free (really for free).
I also wrote a thorough review of this resource – Wealthy Affiliate Review 2018 in my review section of DigitalMarketerSteps.com
Note, I am active in that member site myself, indeed you will find me there, and can send me private message/questions from within the member area.
As you can see I can recommend this affiliate marketing resource because I use it myself every day.
Not only I am a member but I am a ‘paying’ member (premium membership instead free membership) because I do believe the paid membership offers incredible value. I am only saying this to confirm I use, benefit from and even market this resource myself.
Don’t worry about the paid premium membership. It is always better to take a good look at things for free before considering paying any money for anything. Indeed their free membership is a ‘real’ free membership without time limit and no need for credit card details, you can register for free just with your email, that’s all.
The reason why I suggest you start with this free member site is that you will be able to access
- Level 1 Course in Online marketing
- Level 1Affiliate Marketing Bootcamp
- Can create two free websites (on their free WordPress hosting) to get started
- You can access a lot of members’ created training content which is awesome!
- You will meet people that are just getting started, people who are starting to earn affiliate income and people who generate great affiliate marketing income. Real people!
I talk more about what you can get access to in the WA Full Review, of course, no space to talk about it here.
This way you can really get familiar with internet and affiliate marketing without having to spend any money.
Of course, the paid membership comes with many more additional features, but really, if you are new to affiliate marketing, keep your money in your pocket and start learning from their step-by-step free membership training and ask questions to other members of the community, in there, you will never feel alone.
See my detailed WA review here
Leave your comments below:
- did this post help you learn the basic concepts of Affiliate Marketing?
- will you be starting Affiliate Marketing?
Wow! I’m really impressed with your article. It is really informative and helpful especially for a person like me who is interested in affiliate marketing but I am just getting started and I know very little about this.
I can’t explain how useful this article has been for me. I’m amazed, your article is full of information and really specific to what is affiliate marketing, how does it work and I can see the different cogs in the system of affiliate marketing.
I will surely follow your guides and hope that I could start earning money.
Thank you for your comment, I am glad to hear you found this article helpful. It makes us happy 🙂
It is excellent that you can now see the high-level picture of all the Affiliate Marketing cogs. The more familiar you are with the territory the safer and easier it is to walk within it.
You can surely start earning money if you take it as a real business which will require some time and effort to establish.
Talking about safe and easy, my number one recommendation to get started with affiliate marketing is the free membership site I review here Wealthy Affiliate Review 2018. Great step by step training and live help on top of a number of useful internet marketing tools.
All the best
This is such a thorough overview of affiliate marketing. I want to echo your sentiments about the Wealthy Affiliate program. I felt as though I was constantly running into walls trying to monetize my site until I joined the program and have found success ever since.
I also want to thank you for taking the time to point out the fact that success is very rarely achieved overnight. I feel like there are so many people who get discouraged when they are not successful right away.
It takes time, it takes work and it takes a growth mindset. Thank you for sharing this!
Thank you for your comment, and thank you for reinforcing the idea that it takes work to achieve goals.
Excellent to hear you have found success, you didn’t give up, you kept looking for the right path until you found it.