Understanding affiliate marketing for beginners can be a daunting concept at first. Currently, the affiliate marketing landscape is growing at an incredible pace. Reaching a value of around $12 billion in 2020, affiliate marketing has emerged as a powerful tool for people to earn additional income.
As more people shift their shopping habits online, affiliate marketing has become an increasingly powerful tool. With this strategy, companies can subtly reach and connect with their target audience without relying exclusively on old-fashioned advertising techniques.
Here’s your beginner’s guide to affiliate marketing, and everything you need to know to thrive in this growing landscape.
What is Affiliate Marketing?
Affiliate marketing is a powerful sales model wherein a company pays another person or company money to advertise its product or service. As an affiliate, you don’t purchase, store, or deliver products to customers, but you do play a role in growing a brand’s bottom line.
Affiliate marketers use various methods—from blog posts and reviews to “unboxing” videos—to draw attention to a specific product. Using a custom code or link, they drive customers to purchase this product and receive a portion of the earnings from every sale.
If you’ve ever seen a social media influencer promote a product with a special code or clicked on a blog link with a UTM code in the URL, you’ve been exposed to affiliate marketing.
How Does Affiliate Marketing Work?
Getting into affiliate marketing for beginners is actually much simpler than you might think. Once you find one of the best affiliate programs for beginners (we’ll cover a few below), you’ll sign up for an account with the company. The company you work with will then give you a unique link or discount code you can share with your customers.
Using a unique code or link ensures the company you’re working with can track which affiliates delivered which customers to their store.
Imagine, for instance, you write a blog post about the best juicers. Each product you list may have an affiliate link to that item on Amazon. When a customer clicks your link, the special code will place a cookie in their browser to track their purchase.
When the customer makes a purchase, the company you’re working with will be able to track it through their affiliate software. They’ll then reward you with a commission from the sale. The amount you earn will be determined when you sign up for your account.
Why Should You Do Affiliate Marketing?
Affiliate marketing is beneficial for both the affiliate and the company they’re helping to advertise. The business benefits from a more subtle and “native” approach to advertising. As buyers become more resistant to traditional ads, affiliate advertising can feel a lot less aggressive.
Similar to influencer marketing, affiliate marketing builds a level of trust and makes a company appear more trustworthy.
From an affiliate’s perspective, the benefits are clear:
- Minimal risk: You don’t own any of the products you’re promoting so you don’t have to invest in items, warehousing, or storage. You also have plenty of opportunity to experiment with different products to see what sells best for your audience.
- Passive income: Once you’ve established a name for yourself among your target audience and have a decent volume of website traffic, affiliate marketing can be a great source of passive income. You’ll continue to earn money even when you’re not actively creating content for ads.
- Scalability: Though you won’t necessarily make a fortune within the affiliate marketing space as soon as you get started, you can earn a lot. Well-known affiliates like Pat Flynn have reported earning anywhere up to $170,000 per month thanks to affiliate marketing.
How Much Can You Make as an Affiliate Marketer?
When getting started with affiliate marketing for beginners, it’s common to wonder how much you can expect to earn. Ultimately, there aren’t any real limits on the amount you can generate if you know your audience and stay on top of your traffic.
Some of the most successful affiliate marketers earn hundreds of thousands of dollars each month. One affiliate website (the WireCutter) achieved a massive $10 million in revenue.
However, generating results like this will take a decent amount of time. If you’re just getting started, your checks will likely be a lot smaller.
It’s also important to look for the best affiliate programs for beginners to increase your earning potential. Companies like Amazon Associates deliver between 1% to 10% commissions on sales. Other locations like Thrive Market give a $20 flat rate for each sale.
The amount you make will depend on how much traffic you generate, your ability to gauge which products you should be selling, and your commitment to your business.
What are The Best Affiliate Programs for Beginners?
As mentioned earlier, choosing the best affiliate programs for beginners is often an important step in boosting your earning potential.
Some affiliate programs pay more and are easier to get started with than others. While there’s no one-size-fits-all to choosing the perfect program, some of the top options include:
1. Amazon Associates
Widely regarded as one of the biggest and best affiliate programs for beginners worldwide, Amazon Associates has been supporting affiliates since 1996. It was the very first affiliate marketing program available online in the world.
Getting started with Amazon Associates is easy. All you need to do is click on the “Sign Up” button on the Amazon Associates page to begin. You’ll be asked to provide some basic insights into the niche you want to sell in, and then you’ll be able to start looking for available products to sell. There are millions of products to choose from.
- People already trust Amazon so it’s easier to sell
- Low payout thresholds
- Easy to sign up and customize links
- International payouts can be tricky
- Some commissions are low
2. ClickBank Affiliate
Clickbank Affiliate is one of the other top sites to check out when getting involved in affiliate marketing for beginners. Anyone can get involved with this affiliate program and, currently, the users on the site have collectively earned over $5 billion in commissions.
Like with Amazon, you’ll need to fill out some basic information and create an account with ClickBank Affiliate to get started. Once you’re signed up, you’ll have tons of knowledge resources at your disposal and a huge marketplace of products to choose from.
- Wide selection of products for every niche
- High commission rates on some products
- Easy to use with lots of resources
- Some products are lower quality
- Lots of competition for high-value items
3. Rakuten Affiliate
Widely recognized as one of the top affiliate marketing networks worldwide, the Rakuten Affiliate Network is ideal for beginners. It’s worth noting that joining this affiliate network is a little harder. You’ll need to set up an account and carefully follow the standards they’ve set to avoid having your account suspended.
Rakuten will ask you many questions about your background and how you plan on selling when signing up, before you reach the affiliate dashboard to start looking for links. There are tons of great products to choose from, and because you’ll be screened by the companies you want to work with, there’s less competition to worry about.
- Excellent commissions for beginners
- Free to use with thousands of merchants to choose from
- Intuitive with lots of learning resources
- Rakuten can be quite selective
How To Be Successful In Affiliate Marketing: 5 Tips
Now that you have your eye on some of the best affiliate programs for beginners, you can begin to develop your marketing strategy. There are hundreds of thousands of affiliates and some are definitely more successful than others. Making sure you follow these tips should ensure you have a better chance of success.
1. Choose your Programs carefully
The affiliate programs you choose to work with will have a huge impact on your earning potential. Not every program will give you access to the wide range of products you need or the best commissions.
When selecting a program, think about:
- Product type: Remember, you can promote digital products just as easily as physical products in today’s affiliate world. Consider all of your options when choosing the right program.
- Put quality first: High-quality products are important for an affiliate marketer. If your customers aren’t happy with the products you suggest, you won’t be able to develop a positive reputation in your niche, which harms your earning potential.
- Look for variety: Make sure you can choose from a range of products in your chosen niche with the vendor you choose. This will help you approach a wider share of potential audience members with your organic content or paid ads.
You can also consider the kind of payment policies implemented by your chosen program. Lifetime payouts are particularly attractive because they allow you to continue earning for as long as someone makes a purchase using your link.
2. Understand and Prioritize your Audience
People don’t necessarily hate getting suggestions of which products to buy; they just don’t like irrelevant, obvious, and annoying ads. With this in mind, it’s important to make sure you don’t become another annoying advertiser in the eyes of your audience.
Get to know your target customer and your niche and choose the products you’re going to promote based on an understanding of their specific pain points and needs. If you can, you should only promote products that you genuinely believe can benefit your audience, regardless of what the commission for those items might be.
To learn more about your audience, consider paying attention to what people in your niche are talking about on social media. What issues do they usually have that you can help fix?
3. Try Different Channels and Content Types
There are different ways to promote your products as an affiliate. While one of the most common and obvious options is to place a unique link in a blog post, don’t be afraid to experiment. Today, many consumers are becoming increasingly active on social media when looking for the products they want to buy. Promoting on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube could be powerful too.
You could even consider experimenting with the different kinds of content you create. Affiliate marketing in podcasts and videos can be a great way to reach your audience if they’re less likely to spend their time reading blog posts.
Experimenting with different types of contents and tracking your results should help you see which of your efforts make the biggest impact on your audience.
4. Offer Incentives
Where possible, it’s always a good idea to give your customers a reason to purchase from you. After all, most of your clients will know they can find the product you’re talking about just by googling it or checking for that item on Amazon or another marketplace.
This is why many affiliate programs give you the option to provide your customers with discounts, such as a 10% off code, or free shipping. In some cases, you’ll need to take a slightly lower commission rate to give your customers this bonus.
However, it’s worth remembering your conversion rate is far more important than your commission level in affiliate marketing. The more conversions you get, the more you’ll generate an audience of happy clients who trust your recommendations and even advocate for your suggestions.
5. Always Focus on Great Content
Finally, remember content is the key to success as an affiliate marketer. The only reason people are going to visit your website, click on your videos, or listen to your podcasts, is that you’re producing content they actually want to see.
When producing affiliate marketing content:
- Focus on value: Look at the benefits you can bring to your audience. Write a post comparing two products, rather than just looking at the features of one item, or highlight how a certain item fixes an issue you know your customer has.
- Know what’s trending: Pay attention to the products, ideas, and concepts gaining the most attention in your industry at any given time.
- Connect with customers: Reach out to customers on social media and in your blog comments to get their opinions on products they think are useful. You can even create an email subscription list to help nurture your customers.
Ready to start with Affiliate Marketing for Beginners?
Getting involved with affiliate marketing for beginners isn’t as complex as it seems. In today’s digital-first world, there are countless ways for would-be affiliates to get involved with their favorite brands and start making a profit online.
The key to success is constantly working on your strategy. Make sure you pay attention to the engagement rates from your affiliate campaigns and always listen to the feedback of your audience.