How To Start with Affiliate Marketing

How To Start with Affiliate Marketing

A Step-by-Step Tutorial for Beginners

Robert Grum

Digital Marketing Specialist

Last updated: November 15, 2017


Affiliate marketing can be quickly dismissed as being too complicated or too risky – it’s neither.

We’ve created this guide to affiliate marketing just for beginners. You don’t even need to have a website.

Do you want to become a full-time digital marketer?

Or, start affiliate marketing to make money from an existing website?

This affiliate marketing guide is for you.

We’ll help set you on track to earn passive income from your website, blog or social media.

How affiliate marketing works

Affiliate Marketing – Defined

Based on different already made definitions, we will give you a dictionary match to affiliate marketing, and it’s not a bad one:

“A marketing arrangement by which an online retailer pays commission to an external website for traffic or sales generated from its referrals.”

Your website will be the external website, and by displaying adverts or links, you will refer your visitors to click through and purchase from an online retailer.

The benefits of affiliate marketing

Affiliate marketing will make you money, that’s the primary benefit.

Here’s an example of what one affiliate marketer achieved in just six months, this was just month six:

affiliate marketing revenue example

It can be a good investment of your time when compared with other options.

Earn passive income

You may have heard the term “passive income.”

With a little effort, affiliate marketing can be earning you money, literally while you sleep.

Affiliate programs are free to join

Becoming an affiliate marketer is not without work, but it won’t cost you a fortune to get started.

Get something else out of your website visitors

You will either have an existing website, which you are looking to make money from.

Or, be creating a website purely to make money from becoming an affiliate marketer.

If you fall into the first category affiliate marketing gives you more purpose for your website visitors.

For example, you own and manage a travel blog or a website for a social club. Your visitors arrive on your site to read your news, stories, and events. What if when they left, they left by clicking on an advert for a theme park, which earns you a commission.

It’s easier to become an affiliate marketer than you think

Joining an affiliate program is relatively simple via an online application form. Then with some good content on your website, well-placed links or adverts, and a good marketing plan, you can be earning affiliate revenue in no time.

It’s low risk and not time-consuming as retail

There is no investment in stock or time managing stock and orders when you are simply referring visitors to purchase on other websites.

You either earn a percentage commission from their total order or earn a fixed amount every time a visitor clicks your affiliate link.

How affiliate marketing works

Let’s start with some affiliate marketing definitions:

+Merchant or Advertiser

The company who produces the product or service that you will promote. This is the website your visitors will be “referred” to.


You are the affiliate and will promote products or services for a merchant in return for compensation.

+Affiliate Link

The merchant, or their affiliate partner, will provide you with a link which has a unique tracking code to track your results. The link will be displayed on your site, often as an advert

+Affiliate Network

A third party who provides affiliate programs for merchants and affiliates will often handle terms and transactions.

+Affiliate Program

The program offered by the merchant to the affiliate which includes the terms, rules of compensation, and usually a package of linking and advertising options.

Affiliate schemes are performance-based and you will earn money when your website visitors perform a certain action.

To affiliate market, you will have a link to your chosen merchant within your content, product review, or as an advert.

When your website visitor performs a certain action, you will receive the agreed compensation.

These compensation methods are known as:

Pay per sale (PPS) or revenue sharing

You are paid when your website visitor clicks your affiliate link or advert, then makes a purchase on the merchant’s website.

Usually, you are paid a percentage of their transaction value. This is the most common form of compensation.

Pay per click (PPC)

You are paid when your website visitor „clicks-through“ to the merchant’s website. Under a PPC scheme, they do not have to complete a transaction.

Pay per mile (PPM)

You are paid when the advert you are displaying has been viewed by 1000 visitors to your site.

They don’t have to click or purchase, only to have visited the page displaying the merchant’s advert.

Cost per action (CPA)

The amount of cost (or the amount paid to the affiliate) for a conversion such as a sale or lead.

Cost per click (CPC)

Cost of an individual click when paying on a per click basis.

Cost per thousand (CPM)

The cost (or payout to the affiliate) of 1000 banner impressions.

Commission per subscription

The amount paid for a subscription or sign-up.

Affiliate Wiz has a full Glossary of Affiliate Marketing Terms.

A quick summary of affiliate marketing in action:

  • You, the website owner, join an affiliate program, or scheme, with a merchant.
  • The merchant provides you an ID and a specific URL to use – your link
  • They may also provide you with adverts or banners to display which will include the link
  • Your website visitor, the buyer, performs an action which earns you compensation, either viewing, clicking, or eventually making a purchase
  • The merchant or affiliate program records the actions and the source of them using the ID/URL
  • You are rewarded for the agreed actions to your affiliate account
  • The merchant or affiliate program pays commission or compensation at agreed intervals

affiliate marketing actions

(Image Source: SmartBlogger)

How to become an affiliate marketer

To become an affiliate marketer, you need a beginners guide to affiliate marketing – just like this one!

First, you need to choose your niche

Having a specialist website will allow you to better rank in the search engines with more focused keywords for your chosen sector.

It will also better engage your visitors, who will be interested in your content.

Choosing affiliate schemes which match your content, and will be of interest to your visitors, will give you a better chance of getting them to click on your affiliate advertising, and make you money.

7 steps to earn your first commission

  1. Choose your sector
  2. Find and compare affiliate programs
  3. Build a website, or choose how you will promote your chosen merchants
  4. Create your website content
  5. Add your affiliate offers and links
  6. Promote, and drive traffic to your website with your digital marketing efforts
  7. Repeat steps 4 to 7 until you are making money!

You’ll notice point 7.

To earn money, you’ll need to work at affiliate marketing. However, once you have a good base of content, chosen affiliate programs, and an audience, it will get easier.

To rank in the search engines, driving important traffic to your website you will need to create fresh content on a regular basis. You will need new adverts, affiliate promotions and offers, or your audience will disengage.

New content, some SEO, and plenty of digital marketing will drive traffic to your site.

To become an affiliate marketer you need to focus on four areas.

#1. Making your choice and selecting a program

It’s important to choose a focus for your website and affiliate program choices that fit with your existing content and audience, or your planned content and audience.

Choose a niche sector for your website and affiliate marketing

There are many categories of affiliate programs to browse through. Some average higher earnings for their affiliates than others.

Here are a few popular sectors to consider:

  • Tickets for events and attractions
  • Travel, tourism, and recreation
  • Health, beauty, and wellness
  • Fashion
  • Software and technology e.g. SaaS
  • Education
  • Electronics and technology

If you have specialist knowledge or experience in a certain niche you will find it easier to create good content. Good content will mean higher traffic to your website and chosen merchants.

experience in a certain niche you will find it easier to create good content

Use the knowledge and experience you have to your advantage, a less popular choice might actually work better for you.

We like Ninja Outreach to find out who is operating in your sector, who the influencers are and what they are up to.

High earning affiliate niches

A few examples of niche sectors with high earning affiliate niches:

  • Insurance
  • Trading, wealth management and investing     
  • Payday loans
  • Web hosting
  • Gambling
  • Dating

TopTips to find YOUR niche

#1. Choose something you are enthusiastic about

#2. Make sure there is demand for the products you will promote

#3. Are there affiliate programs available which fit?

#4. How much competition is there? Can you compete?

#5. What kind of commission is available?

Pat Flynn created a blog about internet marketing in 2008 called Smart Passive Income. This is his income report and the programs he was using in January 2017. He earned $157,131 USD in that one month.

Choosing an affiliate network and program

There are literally thousands of affiliate programs out there, some better than others.

We pick a few of the best affiliate networks where you can browse, or sign up and choose, some affiliate programs.


With nearly 4,000 merchants, a thousand exclusive to just them, ShareASale are one of the larger affiliate networks. They simplify the comparison process, so can really help you to choose the right scheme. They pay monthly on the 20th.

CJ Affiliate

One of the biggest and most established. They used to be Commission Junction, and have many of the major retailer’s affiliate schemes available. Handy if you are looking for the safety of big brands, or one place to start your affiliate journey.

Flex Offers

Another affiliate site which has been in the industry for a decade. They too have some big brand products, they also have an excellent tracking system, and a feature which displays the best program at the time.

Click Bank

A well-known affiliate network which covers many niches with over 10,000 products. It’s also excellent for new affiliate marketers. It has a simple interface and it’s easy to setup your account to receive your payments.Click Bank is known for higher commissions on certain products. Click Bank offer training and guides created by some of their 7-figure earners.

Amazon Associates

Another simple to join a program, with lots of support and over a million products you can advertise to your customers. There is up to 10% commission, which is average. There are higher paying schemes but Amazon is a very trusted retailer. Many of your website visitors may already have Amazon accounts so the chances of them making a purchase, and making you money, is high.

#2. Creating your affiliate marketing website

The next step is to create your website, while you are building it, you can start to think about SEO and content.

It will be your content marketing, as part of your overall marketing strategy, that is likely to give you the best results from your affiliate programs.

Building a website – Pick your domain name and hosting providers

Your domain name needs to be carefully chosen, but you can still find a good domain name for just a few dollars. Think about your chosen niche and if you can include any of your website keywords in your URL.

Choose a domain provider and hosting service together, it makes a beginners life easier. Security, speed, and credibility are things to consider from your host, established providers like 123-Reg and Bluehost have straightforward hosting systems and excellent guides.

Build your website in WordPress

Watch out for our guide to “Building a wordpress website”.

We really like WordPress, there are thousands of themes available so finding a design to suit is easy, creating your content SEO is also straightforward.

As you learn more you can do more with WordPress, it’s also an excellent platform for the advanced user.

For some ideas for WordPress themes for affiliates try 25 Best WordPress Themes for affiliate marketing

TopTips: WordPress with WooCommerce is made for affiliates

The eCommerce plugin for WordPress – WooCommerce, is perfect for affiliates. You can create products for sale directly on your website, but the “buy” link can go directly to your affiliate merchant. When you add a product WooCommerce has a setting for “External/Affiliate product.”

Types of website which work well for affiliates

  • eCommerce Websites

Using WooCommerce you can create your own eCommerce store listing affiliate products instead of products you sell directly.

  • Product review websites

Reviewing products, and creating product comparison pages is another great option for affiliates. You can add your affiliate links to your reviews AND you are giving some useful information to your readers.

The Review WP Theme comes highly recommended by Wpexplorer for creating magazine-style review websites in WordPress.

  • Blogs

By creating or using your own blog on your chosen topic you can subtly include your affiliate links either as adverts or within your content. Your content could include:

  • your own stories
  • news
  • “how to” guides
  • product reviews
  • videos and podcasts

How to 5x Your Affiliate Income with These 6 Article Types

Affiliate marketing with a website

This beginners guide to affiliate marketing is for you if you have an existing website or blog, which you are looking to monetize with affiliate programs, or are looking to create a new website and begin your affiliate marketing efforts.

There are several ways you can promote your affiliate links or merchants:

  • Review their products and link to them
  • Display banner and side adverts alongside your content
  • Include text links to products in your content
  • Create an Amazon Affiliate store, which looks like a shop, but actually, the purchase will be made via Amazon

Affiliate marketing without a website

Is this possible?

Yes, you can still affiliate market without a website.

Here are a few ideas:

Be a YouTube star

Okay, you don’t have to star in your own YouTube videos, but you could. Or, you can create video tours, guides, and animations with, or without voiceovers.

Can you share something funny? Creative? Teach something? You can monetize your videos with the YouTube Partner Program.

It’s worth knowing there are lots of free apps out there to help you to create engaging content, like videos and guides, we like Atomi for recording screen activity, video editing and creating eLearning guides.

Use Social Media

If you have a Facebook page, or Twitter account, with lots of followers, you can promote your affiliate merchants and links amongst your posts. The simplest way is share or recommend a product.

Social media platforms also work well to promote your affiliate website, or YouTube channel as part of your digital marketing strategy.

Post on blogs and forums

You can post your affiliate links to comments on blogs or forums. To be successful you to need to be clever with this, it’s not just about posting a blatant link to a product or service.

Use your experience, answer a post that you can talk authoritatively about and use a link to a product or service you recommend.

Write a viral eBook

You could write an eBook, and sell it on other websites, eBay, even Amazon or Google Books, or give it away for free. Free books are popular if they have good content.

#3. How to market your affiliate website or monetized pages

Marketing your website is essential. To make money from affiliate marketing you need visitors to your website, those visitors need to stay on your website long enough to find, and click, one of your affiliate links.

You need traffic. To get the traffic you need a digital marketing strategy.

  1. Think about SEO, research and set your keywords
  2. Create awesome content, include your keywords
  3. Market your website via social media
  4. Start to discover a more in depth digital marketing strategy and adopt new methods

Here at Digital Ads Online, we hope to teach you every aspect of digital marketing.

Optimise your visitor experience

You have a website, you’re getting traffic, now to optimise your visitor experience so they stay:

  • Keep your website design simple and your pages uncluttered and easy to navigate
  • Make sure your website works on mobiles and tablets, choose a responsive WordPress theme
  • Make sure your web pages load quickly Google PageSpeed Insights can help
  • Ensure your content has meaning for the reader, give them information, tips, and ideas that they need
  • Add visuals, or even video for better engagement
  • Really go into detail, in-depth content will set you ahead of your competition
  • Stay focused within your niche, stick to closely related products rather than spreading your content too thinly
  • Use internal links on your website, as well as external links, encourage your visitor to stay
  • Improve your content and push out more sales.

10 Affiliate Marketing Strategies That Generated Us Over $1M in Income

SEO simplified

There are lots of SEO techniques for affiliates you can learn and adapt. To get you started there is a simple route to rank quickly in the search engines

Identify long tail keywords

Long tail keywords are simply – longer. They are more specific. Think about your niche, the products you are promoting. Then think like your customer. What will they search for?

These are your keywords.

You can check how many people are searching for these terms and get suggestions using Google Keyword Planner or Long Tail Pro

Create SEO content

Write a blog post, a landing page, or a permanent webpage which uses your long tail keyword. Aim to use your keyword once in the title, once in the opening paragraph, once in the closing paragraph and once in a subheader somewhere in the middle.

Publish new SEO content every day

Google loves naturally written, fresh content, and will rank it higher. Create a new post or page every day using different keywords but make sure your content is still interesting.

Landing pages optimised with a single long tail keyword can drive traffic to your website. It’s easy to create visually engaging landing pages with Leadpages.

Starting out in affiliate marketing can be confusing when you also have to learn website building and digital marketing too – all in one marketing platforms like Get Response are handy.

TopTips to drive traffic to your website

#1. Create well-written content that is SEO optimised

#2. Build your social media following and share your website content to them

#3. Watch your competitors carefully – what is working and who is linking to them?

#4. Build your own brand too, be a website people want to find, or return to

#5. Make sure your website traffic comes from lots of different places e.g. Google, different social platforms, guest posting, forum commenting, and so on.

Essential marketing ideas for affiliates

Guest posting on other websites

If you are a capable writer and can produce good articles around your niche topic, “guest” posting them on bigger websites is a proven way of both improving SEO, promoting your own brand and driving traffic to your site.

Jeff Bullas has an excellent guide on: How to Start Guest Blogging When You are Completely Unknown

You don’t want to use affiliate links directly in your guest posts. They will probably be rejected, you need to include links back to your website. From there, your visitors will find your affiliate links.

3 Tips for Using Links Effectively in Guest Posts

Email Marketing

Email marketing works well for affiliate marketing beginners. Affiliate marketers can be discriminated against in the search engines so you need to make the most of every visitor and build an audience of visitors who trust your content. Email marketing can do this for you but you have to:

  1. Capture email addresses of your social media followers and website visitors
  2. Use an Email Marketing program to deliver excellent content to your subscribers

We like the Email Marketing program GetResponse who also have a guide with 11 Killer Email Marketing Tips for Affiliates.

#4. Getting paid from affiliate programs

Superb! You have website visitors, they are clicking your links and making purchases on your affiliate merchants. You are making money. Now how to get paid from your affiliate programs.

Depending on the affiliate network, or merchant you have chosen, your affiliate program will have a dashboard where you can find reports on your earnings.

When you sign up for your affiliate program you will have been made aware of the payment method for your referral revenue, the frequency, and any minimum threshold before you can be paid.

Monitor your reports, at least weekly, and if you are serious about affiliate marketing you are likely to be checking them daily. Use what you learn from the reports to refine your affiliate marketing.

What products are working? Which links or merchants are paying the most commission? What content or marketing channel received the most response?

Use the information you learn to refine your strategy, choose your affiliate products and create new content.

Repeat! Will a little effort every time you do this you will earn a little more!

Here’s a quick reminder from Universal Blogging Tips who earns $1,000 per week from affiliate schemes for just a few hours work.

affiliate marketing standard earnings

Mistakes to avoid when starting your affiliate marketing journey

  • Don’t expect to make money immediately, or without any effort
  • Don’t market products that don’t match your content, it won’t work
  • Don’t be lazy – your content needs to be excellent or your visitors won’t stay long enough to click your links
  • Don’t SPAM!!!! You will earn a bad reputation. Whatever your marketing strategy focus on good content with occasional affiliate links
  • Don’t promote bad products, even if the commission is really high, people won’t buy them
  • Don’t try and promote too many products at once
  • Don’t forget your audience, your visitors, you need to entertain and engage them before they click-through to anything, or they will just leave, what a waste…
  • DON’T GIVE UP! A little perseverance, learning and effort and you WILL make money from affiliate marketing

You might not make any of them, you might make all of them, here are 22 Common Affiliate Marketing Mistakes You Need to Avoid

The most important thing is to watch out for the ones you know and learn from any mistakes you make.