What is Affiliate Marketing? Making Money Online for Beginners
Most people earn a living by selling their time. Work for X number of hours and get paid X amount of money. Stop working, stop getting paid.
If you want to move from selling your time to earning a passive income, one of your best options is affiliate marketing.
Estimates by Statista show that by 2022, businesses in the US will spend over $8.2 billion on affiliate marketing, while MediaKix reports that the worldwide spend on affiliate marketing is growing at a 27% compound annual growth rate.
This is a clear indicator that there’s lots of money to be made from affiliate marketing. By becoming an affiliate marketer, you have a chance to get a share of these billions.
What Is Affiliate Marketing?
Affiliate marketing is a results-based form of marketing where you (the affiliate marketer) recommend another company’s products to consumers.
Every time a consumer makes a purchase based on your recommendation, you get paid a commission.
Affiliate marketers act like freelance sales people for businesses. They help businesses make sales and they get paid for it.
The commissions are usually a predetermined percentage of the sale. This means that the more sales an affiliate marketer brings, the more income they earn.
One of the best things about affiliate marketing is that it provides a win for everyone involved.
The business selling the products gets more sales, the affiliate marketer makes money, while the consumer gets recommendations for awesome products they would not have found otherwise.
How Does Affiliate Marketing Work?
An affiliate marketing relationship involves three key parties – merchant, publisher, and consumer. Let’s check out what role each of these parties plays.
Also referred to as the seller, product creator, or brand, this is the business who wants to have their products promoted to consumers in order to generate more sales.
A merchant’s product could be something physical, such as a jacket or a coffee table, it could be a digital product, such as an eBook or an online course, or even a service, such as website design or web hosting.
The merchant provides the publisher with a unique affiliate link that makes it possible for both parties to track the sales that can be attributed to that particular publisher.
2. The Publisher
Also known as the affiliate marketer, this is the party who promotes the merchant’s products to consumers in exchange for a share of every sale made.
For instance, let’s say we have a merchant selling an online course. After signing up on this merchant’s affiliate marketing program, the publisher receives their own unique affiliate link from the merchant.
The merchant then creates content promoting the merchant’s online course and shares the content with the audience with the aim of persuading them that the online course is beneficial to them and convincing them to sign up for the course.
They also place their unique affiliate link in the content, directing their audience to the course.
When someone comes across the publisher’s content and clicks on their affiliate link, an affiliate cookie is placed on this person’s device. This cookie tracks the consumer’s online activity, and when they sign up for the online course, the sale is attributed to the publisher, guaranteeing them a commission.
Cookies usually have an expiry date, which is the duration during which it will track the consumer’s online activity. For instance, if the affiliate cookie has a 60-day expiry, it will track the consumer’s online activity for 60 days.
If the consumer signs up or makes a purchase within 60 days of clicking on the publisher’s affiliate link, the sale will be attributed to that publisher.
Note, however, that affiliate cookies from different merchants have different cookie lifetimes.
3. The Consumer
Before making a purchase, most people will look for recommendations or reviews online. When they do this, they’ll often come across content from the publisher, together with their affiliate link.
When the consumer clicks on the affiliate link, they are directed to the merchant’s website, where they make the purchase. The publisher then gets paid their commission for sending the consumer to the merchant.
It’s good to note that, in most cases, the consumer doesn’t end up paying more for the product when they purchase through an affiliate.
History Of Affiliate Marketing
When people hear the term affiliate marketing, they automatically think about the internet. However, affiliate marketing has been around for longer than the internet.
Before the internet became an everyday thing, businesses still used to reward people for referring new customers.
The rewards usually came in the form of discounts, rather than money, and there was no effective way of tracking referrals. Tracking could only be done by word of mouth.
With the invention of the internet, affiliate marketing as we know it today became possible, but it underwent several steps before getting where we are today. Let’s take a look at the timeline of affiliate marketing.
William J. Tobin (1989)
An entrepreneur named William J. Tobin was the first person to create an affiliate marketing program in 1989. Tobin, who had a company known as PC Flowers & Gifts, designed an affiliate program to promote his company’s products on the Prodigy Network.
For every sale they drove to PC Flowers & Gifts, Prodigy earned a commission. The program was such a huge success that by 1993, it was earning over $6 million for Prodigy.
Seeing the success of the program, Tobin filed for a patent of the affiliate marketing concept in 1996, and the patent was granted in 2000.
BuyWeb Affiliate Program (1994)
In 1994, a company known as CDNOW came up with the BuyWeb affiliate program, which allowed music sites to drive traffic to the CDNOW website in exchange for a commission for every sale from this traffic.
Cookies Invented (1994)
In the same year, internet pioneer Lou Montulli developed small data files that could be used to track a user’s online activity. Montulli named these files cookies.
The invention of cookies was a huge step for the affiliate marketing industry because it made it possible to accurately track the results of affiliate marketing programs.
Amazon Associates (1996)
In 1996, Amazon launched the Amazon Associates program, which is the world’s most popular affiliate marketing program to date.
Despite there being earlier affiliate marketing programs, Amazon Associates was the first affiliate program that was available to the general public.
Commission Junction And Clickbank (1998)
The affiliate marketing industry experienced a major change in 1998 when Commission Junction and Clickbank joined the game. These two companies created platforms that connected merchants to publishers looking for affiliate marketing products to promote.
To this day, Commission Junction and Clickbank remain some of the top players in the affiliate marketing industry.
FTC Rules And Regulations (2000)
Seeing the huge potential in the internet and affiliate marketing industries, the Federal Trade Commission in 2000 came up with rules and guidelines to regulate the industry.
Among these regulations was the requirement for publishers to be transparent to their audiences about the products they are promoting.
Modern Day Affiliate Marketing
Since then, the concept of affiliate marketing has remained largely unchanged. However, there have been constant improvements in the industry, for the benefit of all the parties involved. New channels of promoting affiliate products have also emerged.
Common Types Of Affiliate Marketing Channels
There are dozens of channels that affiliate marketers can use to promote their affiliate products to their audiences. Let’s check out 7 of the most common affiliate marketing channels below.
Blogging is a very popular method of marketing affiliate products. Actually, statistics show that 84% of bloggers use affiliate marketing as one of their top monetization strategies.
With estimates showing that about 70 – 80% of the world’s internet users read blogs regularly, blogging gives you a huge audience that you can market your affiliate products to.
Using blogging as your affiliate marketing channel of choice is quite easy. Simply decide what niche you want to blog about, start a blog using bluehost, create amazing content around your chosen niche and build an audience.
Once you have built an audience that loves and trusts your content, you can then start recommending affiliate products that are related to your blogging niche. The more helpful and valuable your content is to your audience, the easier it is to convert your readers into buyers and earn a commission.
2. YouTube And Instagram Influencers
Influencers are internet personalities who have a huge following (audience) on various social media platforms, in this case, YouTube and Instagram.
Influencers also have the power to drive their followers to take specific action, both online and offline. In the case of affiliate marketing, influencers use their influence to get followers to purchase the affiliate products they are promoting, thus earning themselves commissions.
To use Instagram or YouTube influencing as your affiliate marketing channel, you have to create content that people on your chosen platform love. Great content is what will help you to build a big following.
Ideally, you should focus on creating content around a specific niche. This makes it easier for you to build a loyal following that you can then recommend your affiliate products to. To achieve a high conversion rate, always promote products that are related to your niche.
3. Search Affiliates For Microsites
Microsites are small websites, usually 10 pages or less, that provide information about specific affiliate products with the hope of getting visitors to buy the products, thereby earning commissions for the owners.
Since they do not have tons of content, microsites focus on search engines and other forms of paid advertising to attract traffic, which they can then convert into sales.
To be successful with search affiliate microsites, you need to identify and target the keywords that potential customers are searching for.
When someone performs a search for these keywords, they come across your ads, which then direct them to your microsite.
On the microsite, they’ll then find highly relevant content that is aimed at getting them to buy, with an affiliate link to the merchant’s site.
4. Review Sites
Review sites are the most commonly used affiliate marketing channels. These are almost similar to blogs, but unlike blogs, which have various types of content around a chosen niche, review sites only have one kind of content – product reviews.
The idea behind review sites is very simple. Most consumers will look at product reviews before making a purchase.
The purpose of review sites is to provide consumers with information that will help them decide which product is best for them, and then, once they are ready to buy, direct them to a merchant the review site is promoting.
For higher chances of success with review sites, you should focus on a specific product niche, rather than trying to review all kinds of products. In addition, you’ll need to get your SEO right, since there is a lot of competition for product reviews.
5. Coupon Sites
Coupon sites are websites that provide their visitors and subscribers with coupons and other savings offers for various products.
Coupon sites are an effective affiliate marketing channel for one major reason. Everyone visiting a coupon site is already interested in making a purchase, which makes it easier to convert these visitors and earn a commission.
Aside from site visitors, coupon sites also maintain huge email lists with hundreds of thousands of subscribers that you can market your affiliate products to.
6. Email Lists
Despite claims over the past decade claiming that email marketing is dying, email remains to be a very popular marketing channel for one reason – it is more effective compared to most other marketing channels. This makes it a great option for affiliate marketing.
To market affiliate products on email, you have to start by building an email list. To get people to sign up to your email list, you have to commit yourself to giving your subscribers something valuable regularly. This could be industry-related news, free downloads, deals and coupons, educational content, and so on.
Once you have built your list, you can then start promoting relevant affiliate products to your list and generate sales.
One of the best things about marketing your affiliate products to your email list is that this is an audience that you own. You don’t have to rely on other platforms like Google search or paid ads to drive traffic to your affiliate products.
7. Large-Scale Media Websites
These are extensive websites that are built with the aim of consistently attracting huge traffic – often in the millions. These sites then turn this massive traffic into revenue, often through affiliate marketing.
When people visit these websites to consume the entertaining content published on these sites, they are then served with contextual affiliate banners and links that direct the visitors to the merchant’s website to make the purchase.
While these large-scale media websites don’t enjoy high conversion rates compared to other channels like email lists and blogging, they are still able to generate lots of affiliate commission due to the high levels of traffic they attract.
How Are Affiliate Marketers Getting Paid?
I mentioned earlier that affiliate marketing is a results-based form of marketing, since you get paid based on the result you deliver.
In most cases, affiliate marketers get paid when they generate a sale, but this is not always the case. Sometimes, affiliate marketers can get paid even without making a sale.
Below, let’s check out three ways through which an affiliate marketer can deliver results and get paid.
1. Pay Per Sale
This is the most common payment option for affiliate marketing. With such a program, the consumer an affiliate marketer sends to the merchant’s site has to complete the purchase for the affiliate marketer to get paid.
In most cases, the affiliate marketer gets paid a percentage of the price the consumer has paid for the product.
Pay per sale affiliate programs are the most difficult for affiliate marketers, because you have to convince the consumer to spend their dollars.
However, it is the most common payment option since it presents the lowest amount of risk for merchants. They only pay the affiliate marketer after they have earned.
When working with a pay per sale affiliate program, you have to make sure you are promoting amazing products that people love and are likely to buy. You also need to make sure that the products are highly relevant to your audience, otherwise they won’t buy, which means no income for you.
2. Pay Per Lead
With a pay per lead affiliate program, the people you drive to the merchants site don’t have to make a purchase for you to get paid. Instead, you get paid whenever a consumer you’ve referred to the merchant successfully converts into a lead.
A consumer is considered to have converted into a lead when they provide their contact information, subscribe to a newsletter, sign up for a product trial or demo, download a file, and so on.
While the consumer hasn’t committed their dollars, they are still valuable because they have demonstrated their interest in the product. They have also provided their contact information, which gives the merchant an opportunity to sell to them at a later date.
3. Pay Per Click
This is the easiest payment option for affiliate marketers. To get paid, you only need to convince a consumer to click on your affiliate link, regardless of whether or not they make a purchase or take any other action on the merchant’s website. You are basically getting paid for the traffic you drive to the merchant’s website.
Pay per click affiliate programs offer very low commissions because they offer a very low return on investment for merchants.
Why Earn Money As An Affiliate Marketer?
There are several reasons that make affiliate marketing one of the best options for anyone looking to make money online. Below are five reasons why you should consider becoming an affiliate marketer.
1. Passive Income
The greatest allure of affiliate marketing is that it allows you to make money passively. In other words, you don’t have to work constantly in order for you to earn.
For instance, if you are a freelance web designer, you have to get up each morning and work on clients’ websites, otherwise you’ll have no money at the end of the month.
Similarly, if you are a copywriter, you have to work on your client’s projects if you want to make money. This goes for a lot of businesses.
With affiliate marketing, however, your income is not tied to the number of hours you work. Once you have built your affiliate marketing channel, you continue earning even when you are not working.
For instance, let’s say you have a review site where you promote various WordPress plugins as affiliate products. Once your review site is live, it will continue promoting your affiliate products around the clock, like a robotic sales person.
Imagine waking up in the morning to notifications that you made money through the night while you were asleep? This is actually possible with affiliate marketing.
2. No Customer Support
Providing customer support is one of the most hectic aspects of running a business, but it is a necessity if you want to keep your customers happy and your business running.
For instance, if you have an online clothing store, you have to handle complaints from customers who believe what they ordered is different from what they received, handle returns from customers who gave wrong sizes, deal with customers complaining about long delivery times, and so on.
Not only can this get frustrating, but it can also eat into your margins, especially if you have to hire someone to handle customer complaints and provide them with helpdesk software.
With an affiliate marketing business, you don’t have to worry about customer support. Your only responsibility is to persuade your audience that they need to purchase the product you are promoting, and then send them to the merchant’s website to complete the purchase.
If a customer is unsatisfied or unhappy with their purchase, it is the responsibility of the merchant to sort the issue out for the customer. The merchant is also responsible for handling things like returns and refunds.
That said, you should only partner with merchants who have good products and provide excellent customer support. If you recommend products from merchants with poor customer support, this can ruin your reputation and affect your income.
3. Work From Home
Another great advantage of running an affiliate marketing business is that it gives you the freedom to work as you please, from wherever you please.
A lot of businesses require you to show up to a physical office to get your work done. This means you have to wake up every morning, dress in business attire, and beat the morning traffic in order to do your work.
In addition, you have to contend with other issues like managers breathing down your neck every single second and office politics.
If you become an affiliate marketer, none of this will be a concern anymore. Since all aspects of an affiliate marketing business operate online, you can work from wherever you want. Feel like working from bed? Totally fine. Want to work from a hotel room with a seaside view as you enjoy your vacation? Even better.
In addition, being an affiliate marketer means you are your own boss. No one to give you deadlines or KPIs or determine whether you can go on leave or not. Affiliate marketing gives you the freedom to work as you want, whenever you want.
The only downside to this freedom is that you don’t have anyone to hold you to account, which means you have to be highly disciplined if you want to succeed as an affiliate marketer.
4. Low Cost To Start And Run The Affiliate Business
One of the things that holds people back from starting their own business is the lack of capital. Starting and running a business needs money. You need money to lease business premises, money to purchase stock, money to pay your staff, and so on.
Affiliate marketing provides a viable option for anyone seeking to start their own business since it doesn’t require much capital to start. All you need is a decent connection to the internet and you’re good to go.
For instance, if you decide to use social platforms like Instagram as your affiliate marketing channel, you can get started without spending a single cent.
You simply need to set up your social media page, create awesome content to build a following, and start sharing your affiliate link with your followers.
Even if you decide to use a blog or a review site as your affiliate marketing channel, the costs of getting started are minimal. You can set up a blog or review site with Bluehost for just a few dollars every month. Buying a latte at the café down the block actually costs more than starting your affiliate marketing business.
Running an affiliate business is equally low cost. There are no overheads, no employees to pay, and no unexpected expenses. You can run your affiliate business with little to no costs and still make good money.
5. Performance Based Rewards
If you are employed, your hard work has very little impact on your income. You could work 60 hours a week, bring in a ton of clients, or come up with the most brilliant business strategies, but at the end of the month, you’ll still earn the same salary. There’s literally no incentive for hard work.
The beauty of affiliate marketing is that it puts your earning potential within your control. The harder you work and the better results you deliver to merchants you are in partnership with, the more you earn.
What’s more, unlike with employment, you are not selling your time. Your affiliate business runs around the clock and is highly scalable, which means there is no limit to the amount of money that you can potentially earn.
Steps To Become An Affiliate Marketer
If you are interested in becoming an affiliate marketer but don’t know where to start, below are four steps that will help you start earning an income from affiliate marketing within a short time.
1. Start Reviewing Products In Your Niche
Find A Niche
The first thing you need to do before becoming an affiliate marketer is to pick a niche that you are going to focus on.
Of course, it is possible to become an affiliate marketer without focusing on any particular niche, but you’ll only be making things more difficult for yourself.
Picking a niche serves two purposes. First, niching makes it easier for you to build authority and credibility. This is crucial to making money as an affiliate marketer.
For instance, let’s say you want to buy a gaming PC, so you do an online search for the best gaming machines. The first review is from an ardent gamer whose only job is to review gaming machines and give tips related to gaming.
The second review is from a guy who reviews everything under the earth, from kettles and shaving machines to drones, lawn mowers and gaming PCs. Which of the two would you trust?
It is very unlikely that the second guy is an expert in all the niches he reviews, so most people will trust the review from the first guy.
Second, niching lowers the amount of competition you have to deal with. If you try to review all kinds of products like the second guy from our example, you’ll be competing against every other affiliate marketer on the internet.
If you focus on one niche, however, you’ll only be competing against other affiliate marketers within your niche. With less competition, it becomes easier for you to build a name for yourself and attract a loyal audience.
Create Awesome Reviews
Once you have your niche locked down, it’s now time to start reviewing products within that niche. Reviewing products is all about one thing – helping your audience find the best product for them.
As part of your reviews, explore the features of each product, the pros and cons of each product, compare different products, and so on. You are basically trying to give your audience all the information they need to make a good buying decision.
To be successful as an affiliate marketer, it is advisable that you focus on products that you are familiar with. It is a lot easier to give genuine reviews and convince others to buy these products if you are talking about products you have used yourself.
You also need to make sure that the content you are creating is of the highest possible quality. High quality content will make it easier for you to build a loyal audience, and will also help boost your search rankings.
Finally, don’t forget to include your affiliate links in your content, since the intention is to get people to click on these links.
2. Build An Email List With Your Prospects On It
It’s good to note that most people won’t click on your affiliate links and purchase the products you are promoting the first time they come across your reviews.
To make matters worse, many of them won’t come back to your blog or review site, which means you won’t get another opportunity to sell to them.
To avoid losing such opportunities, you need to build an email list. When you get people to join your email list, you have their contact information and can therefore reach them in future and promote your products to them.
We recommend using email to promote your affiliate marketing products because email offers the highest ROI compared to other marketing channels.
It’s good to note that most people won’t give you their contact information simply because you have a sign up form on your website. You have to give them a reason to join your email list. So, how do you do this?
Use Lead Magnets
The best way to get people to sign up on your email list is to use a lead magnet. A lead magnet is something valuable that you give to your site visitors for free in exchange for their email address.
For example, if you create reviews for gaming PCs, you can create a video sharing gaming tips, and then use this video as a lead magnet. For people to access the video, they’ll have to provide their email address.
Videos are not the only kind of content you can use as lead magnets. A lead magnet could be an eBook, a downloadable (worksheets, templates, calendars, scripts, etc.), a free email course, a free webinar, a coupon, a virtual gift, a newsletter, a resource guide, and so on. You just need to figure out what works best for your audience.
A good lead magnet is one that solves an immediate and highly specific problem for your audience, and one that can be consumed and acted upon quickly. A good lead magnet also needs to showcase your expertise and authority.
Once you have built an email list, you can now start sending out useful emails and newsletters to your audience. Don’t forget to include your affiliate links in your emails.
To effectively run your affiliate marketing campaigns on email, you will need access to email marketing software.
These are platforms that allow you to create beautiful email campaigns, create personalized and highly targeted emails, segment your audience, send emails on autopilot, and so on.
While there are many email marketing platforms to choose from, we recommend using ConvertKit, Constant Contact or GetResponse. We have found these three to be the best email marketing platforms in the market.
3. Educate Your Audience With Live Webinars
While email is an effective affiliate marketing channel, you can take things a notch higher and increase your conversions by taking advantage of the power of video. And the best way to do that is through live webinars.
Webinars are live, interactive events that are held over the internet. You can think of webinars as seminars that are held virtually. Just like in-person seminars, webinar participants can ask questions during the webinar, share the comments, and so on.
The main reason why we recommend using webinars to promote affiliate products is because webinars are one of the best ways of attracting high quality leads.
In addition to generating high quality leads, webinars will also help you to:
- Build your authority and credibility within your niche
- Promote your affiliate products in person
- Build a stronger connection with your audience
- Increase audience engagement
To use webinars to marketing your affiliate products, the first thing you need to follow these steps:
1) Determine Your Goals
The first step to hosting a great webinar is to ask yourself why you are doing it in the first place. What do you want to achieve from the webinar?
In your case, your goal could be something like making a certain number of sales, or attracting a certain number of qualified leads.
2) Find A Webinar Topic
Once you know what you want to achieve from your webinar, the next step is to come up with a topic that will help you achieve this goal.
The key to coming up with a great webinar topic is to think about your audience. Based on your goal, who are the people you want attending your webinar? What topics matter to these people? What is their greatest pain point?
If you come up with a webinar topic that solves a huge problem for your target audience, you won’t have a hard time getting them to attend your webinar.
3) Find A Good Webinar Platform
Your chosen webinar platform can easily make your webinar a massive success… or a total failure. Therefore, you need to make sure that the platform you are hosting on is reliable and supports all the features you need.
You can use these in conjuction with LeadPages to set up a landing page for your webinar.
4) Create Webinar Content
With a reliable webinar platform in place, you can now start creating content for your webinar.
Create a structure for the webinar, develop the slides, come up with a CTA for the webinar, and generally focus on creating a webinar that will deliver great value to your audience.
5) Promote Your Webinar
You might prepare the greatest presentation ever, but if you don’t promote your webinar, it will still be a huge flop.
Therefore, once your content is ready, it’s time to start creating awareness about your webinar. Use channels like your blog, social media, and email to spread word about your webinar and get people to register.
6) Deliver Value And Convert Attendees Into Sales
Now that you’ve gotten people to register for your webinar, it’s time to deliver value with an amazing webinar. Here, it is very important that you focus on content that is helpful to your audience, rather than solely promoting your products.
Actually, product promotion should come at the tail end of the webinar. If the rest of the webinar content was useful to your audience, it will be a lot easier to convert them into buyers.
4. Grow Your Affiliate Revenue With Pay-Per-Click Advertising
Once you start making some money from your affiliate marketing business, it’s now time to go full throttle by using paid (pay-per-click) advertising to market your business.
This basically means that you are going to be paying for your ads to be shown to prospective buyers. You’ll be charged for every click that your ads generate. Your two best options for PPC advertising are Google Ads and Facebook Ads.
For your PPC advertising campaigns to be effective, you have to conduct thorough keyword research and target the keywords that prospective buyers are searching for.
PPC ads can be expensive, so you need to be smart about your ad campaigns. If you run ads to promote your reviews, there is no guarantee that the people who click on your ads will actually buy your affiliate products, yet you are paying for these clicks.
The best approach, therefore, is to run PPC ads to get people to sign up to your email list or to your webinar.
Even if these people don’t end up making a purchase right away, you’ll still have their contact information, which means you still have the opportunity to sell to them in future and convert them into paying customers.
Done the right way, PPC ads can give you hundreds, and even thousands of leads that you can then promote your affiliate products to and make serious money.
High Paying Affiliate Marketing Networks For Affiliate Marketers
As an affiliate marketer, the easiest way to find affiliate products to promote is to join an affiliate marketing network.
Affiliate marketing networks are platforms that bring together merchants looking for publishers to market their products and publishers looking for products to promote. You can think of affiliate marketing networks as digital marketplaces for merchants and publishers.
There are dozens of affiliate marketing networks on the internet, but not all of them will help you make good money. Below, let’s check out 4 of the best and highest paying affiliate marketing networks for marketers.
ClickBank is a popular affiliate marketing network that focuses solely on digital products and services. Started in 1998, ClickBank has been around for over 20 years. During this period, ClickBank has paid over $4.2 billion in commissions to affiliate marketers.
Some of the things that make ClickBank a great affiliate marketing network include…
- High commissions: Since they focus solely on digital products, ClickBank is able to pay very high commissions. Some products pay as much as 90% in commissions.
- Recurring commissions: When you sell products with a subscription, you’ll continue earning a commission every time a client renews their subscription.
- Free signup: While some affiliate marketing networks have a signup fee, joining ClickBank is free, thus helping you minimize the costs of getting started.
- Wide product selection: ClickBank has thousands of products spread across 276 categories. This means that regardless of your niche, you’ll find products to promote.
- Multiple earnings withdrawal options: ClickBank offers you multiple ways of getting your money. You can get your money sent to you through a direct deposit, wire transfer, check, or even Payoneer for international users.
2. CJ Affiliate
Formerly known as Commission Junction, CJ Affiliate is another popular affiliate marketing network that was among the first in the industry. Every year, CJ Affiliates pays about $1.8 billion in commissions to affiliate marketers who use the platform.
Some of the benefits of CJ Affiliate include…
- Great product selection: CJ Affiliate boasts over 3,000 merchants, including large brands like Priceline, Lowe’s and Barnes and Noble, which means publishers will easily find great products to promote.
- Free Signup: CJ Affiliates does not charge publishers anything to join the network and connect with merchants.
- Content Certified program: CJ Affiliate has a program known as Content Certified, which connects affiliate marketers with over 10,000 unique monthly page views to the top brands and merchants on the platform.
- Lots of great features: The CJ Affiliate platform offers publishers tons of useful features, including affiliate personalization, specialized business guidance, cookieless tracking, and in-depth insights and analytics.
One major downside for CJ Affiliate is that any new marketers who do not make a sale within their first six months risk having their accounts deactivated. Therefore, it is advisable to join CJ Affiliate when you are already attracting some steady traffic through your chosen affiliate marketing channel.
Founded in 2000, ShareASale has also been around for over 20 years, during which the company has built a reputation as a leading and highly reliable affiliate marketing network.
Some of the benefits that affiliate marketers can get from ShareASale include…
- Huge product selection: ShareASale gives publishers access to over 4,800 merchants. Over 1,000 of these merchants, including big names like OptinMonster and WP Engine are exclusive to ShareASale. ShareASale gives publishers access to physical and digital goods, services, and SAAS products.
- Multiple payment models: ShareASale affiliate marketer can choose to earn through the pay per sale model or the pay per lead option.
- Multiple earnings withdrawal options: ShareASale gives you the option of having your commissions sent to you via wire transfer, check, direct deposit, or Payoneer for international publishers.
Amazon Associates is one of the largest affiliate marketing networks on the internet today.
While Amazon Associates does not offer the highest commissions, the Amazon brand and the ease of purchase on Amazon provide a huge advantage, making it easier for marketers to earn.
Some of the things that make Amazon Associates one of the best affiliate marketing networks include…
- Easy signup: Anyone can sign up on Amazon Associates and start promoting products. To get approved, you only need to have an active YouTube channel, blog, or social media account.
- Massive product selection: Once you join Amazon Associates, you can promote any of the millions of products that are listed on Amazon.
- Backed by Amazon: All the products available on Amazon Associates are backed by the Amazon brand, which is trusted by millions of people around the world. As a result, Amazon Associates has very high conversion rates.
- Amazing commissions model: The best part about Amazon Associates is that the people you refer to Amazon don’t even have to buy the product you were promoting. If you send someone to Amazon and they purchase anything during that visit, you earn a commission for everything they purchased.
List Of High Paying Affiliate Programs
Unlike an affiliate marketing network, which connects you to thousands of merchants looking for affiliate marketers to promote their products, an affiliate program is created directly by a specific merchant.
For instance, let’s say merchant A wants affiliate marketers to promote their products, but doesn’t want to join an affiliate marketing network.
Merchant A can create their own affiliate program, which interested marketers can then join. On this program, marketers only earn by promoting merchant A’s products.
There are thousands of affiliate programs on the internet, but many of them are low quality programs that won’t bring you any significant income.
Below, let’s check out a list of some of the highest paying affiliate programs on the internet.
Web Hosting Affiliate Programs
- Hostgator: Earn as much as $125 for every client you get to sign up.
- Bluehost: Get $65 in commission for every successful referral.
- Cloudways: Earn up to $125 for every sale. You also have the option of earning lifetime commissions.
- WP Engine: Earn $200 for every sale you drive.
- A2 Hosting: Get commissions of up to $125 for every successful referral.
Website Affiliate Programs
- Shopify: Shopify pays $58 in commission per converted referral.
- BigCommerce: Earn a commission of 200% of what your referral spends on their first payment. You can also earn as much as $1500 in commission for referring enterprise customers.
- 3dcart: Earn a commission of 300% of your referral’s first monthly payment.
- Wealthy Affiliate: You can potentially earn as much as $121 per sale, with an option of recurring lifetime commissions.
- Fiverr: Earn up to $150 per client referred, or $10 plus 10% of the revenue generated from that client during their first year.
VPN Affiliate Programs
- StrongVPN: Earn commission of up to 200% of the amount spent by a referral on their first purchase.
- CyberGhost: Get paid as much as 100% of your referral’s first spend.
- IPVanish: Earn a 100% commission for every new sale driven, and 35% commission for every subsequent purchase by the same client.
- VeePN: Get paid 117% in commission for new referrals, and 35% commission every time they renew the service.
- ZenMate: Earn 100% commission when a referral signs up, and 35% commission on recurring sales.
Recurring Revenue Affiliate Programs
- Elegant Themes: Earn 50% recurring commission for all sales driven.
- ClickFunnels: ClickFunnels offers 40% recurring commission on all front end sales.
- SEMRush: Get paid 40% recurring commissions for every sale.
- GetResponse: Choose between earning a one-time $100 commission for every sale driven, or 33% recurring commission.
- ConvertKit: ConvertKit pays 30% commission per successful referral.
Travel Affiliate Programs
- SkyScanner: Commissions start at 20% for every successful booking.
- TripAdvisor: Earn 50% commission or more for every successful booking. TripAdvisor’s affiliate program allows marketers to earn even when referrals don’t make a booking.
- Discover Cars: Earn 70% commission from profits made from car rentals, and 30% commission from the full coverage revenue.
- Travelpayouts: Earn up to 70% commissions from revenues earned from your marketing efforts.
- TourScanner: TourScanner pays 10% commissions for every sale driven.
Tips For Publishers To Make More Money With Affiliate Marketing
Not everyone who starts an affiliate marketing business is going to be successful and make serious money. Actually, data shows that 90% of affiliate clicks and conversions are driven by just 10% of affiliate marketers.
If you want to become part of this elite 10% of marketers that drives 90% of results, you need the right approach to affiliate marketing.
Below, let’s check out some tips that will help you make more money with affiliate marketing.
1. Find Your Niche With High Revenue Potential
One of the generally accepted rules of affiliate marketing (as well as many other online businesses) is that if you want to succeed and make money, you need to pick a niche.
Don’t try to appeal to everyone. Instead, focus on a specific industry and become the leading authority in that industry.
Very often, “internet marketing experts” and “make money online gurus” will tell you that the best way to find a niche is to find something you are passionate about.
While passion certainly counts for something, there is nothing to be gained from choosing a niche you are passionate about if you cannot monetize it.
For instance, let’s say you are super passionate about anime neckties, but only a handful of other people are actually interested in anime neckties.
Despite your deep passion, you are unlikely to make much money from this niche, because there simply aren’t enough customers within the niche.
Similarly, let’s say you are super passionate about building sand castles, and there are millions of other people out there who are interested in sand castles. However, if none of them are willing to purchase products related to sand castle building, you cannot monetize this niche.
So, how do you find a niche with high revenue potential?
A niche that has a high revenue potential needs to have to have the following two qualities:
1) Significant Market Demand
A niche can only be profitable if it generates enough demand to allow you (and other players within the niche) to make enough sales to keep your business going.
If there’s only a handful of people interested in a niche, this means you have a limited market to sell to, which in turn means that you won’t make enough money to meet your income goals.
So, how do you tell whether a niche has enough market demand?
The easiest way is to use a tool like SEMrush to find out the number of searches being done within the niche. The higher the number of searches, the more interested people are in the niche.
Alternatively, you can go to Amazon and search for products related to the niche. If there are lots of Amazon products with lots of reviews (100+), this is another sign that there is a lot of demand within the niche.
2) Others Sellers Already Making Money In The Niche
If a niche has a high revenue potential, there will already be other marketers making money within the niche. If no one is making money from that niche, there is a very high chance that you won’t be able to make money from it either.
A good way to tell if there are other people making money within the niche is to search for keywords related to the niche on Google and find if there are any people running Google Ads and sponsored content around the niche.
If other marketers are running ads around the niche, then it shows that there is enough money to be made within the niche to offset the cost of advertising.
2. Create SEO-Optimized And Conversion Optimized Content
Affiliate marketing is a numbers game. The more people you drive to your website, the higher the number of people who will click on your affiliate link, and the higher the number of people who will eventually purchase the products you are promoting.
If you want to make more money with affiliate marketing, you need to find a way to drive significant traffic to your website. The best way to do this is through search engine optimization (SEO).
SEO basically means creating content that will help your website get found by people searching for products related to your niche.
For instance, let’s say someone wants to purchase a camera drone. However, they don’t know which is the best camera drone for their needs, so they search for “best camera drone” on Google.
Among the first few results, the person finds an article on your website that is optimized for the keywords “best camera drone.” They click on the article, read it and make up their mind on which drone to buy.
They then click on the Amazon link for the drone from your site (your affiliate link) and purchase the drone. Since you referred them to Amazon, you get paid the commission from the sale.
In such a situation, this potential customer only found your website because it was SEO-optimized and it therefore appeared among the first few search results on Google.
So, how do you optimize your content so that it is easily found by searchers?
For instance, if you are promoting products that help people lose weight, searching for this on SEMRush will show you the related keywords that people are searching for.
Once you have identified the keywords that your audience is searching for, the next step is to create content that is optimized for these keywords.
This means incorporating the keywords in your headlines and sprinkling the keywords naturally within your body content.
It is not enough to optimize your content for search engines. You also need to make sure that your content is conversion optimized, otherwise all the traffic gained from SEO-optimization will leave your site without being converted into leads or buyers.
Some tactics you can use to optimize your content for conversions include writing highly captivating headlines, adding data and statistics to your content, using an easy-to-read format, creating a sense of urgency, having a compelling and highly specific CTA, and so on.
3. Promote Affiliate Products From Different Merchants
Choosing to promote products from a single merchant can make it easier for you to market the products, since you don’t have to create tons of different content.
Unfortunately, this also limits your options to what is offered by that one merchant.
If that merchant decides to change their commission rate or structure, you are stuck with them. If their products decline in quality, your income takes a hit. If they have a poor landing page and low conversion rates, you lose out on lots of potential sales, despite driving tons of traffic to their website.
To avoid such problems, you are better off promoting a wide range of affiliate products from multiple merchants. This way, changes to a merchant’s terms or way of doing business will not significantly affect your income.
For instance, if a merchant discontinues a product you have been promoting, you already have several other products you are promoting that will keep generating an income for you.
If a merchant has poor conversion rates, you can focus on merchants with better conversion rates where your efforts provide the highest ROI.
If a merchant lowers their commission rates, making them unsustainable for you, you can simply drop them and focus on the other merchants whose products you are promoting.
Promoting affiliate products from multiple merchants provides you with a way of diversifying your income sources and ensuring that you have a steady revenue stream.
4. Constantly Test And Optimize Your Conversion Rates
The best-performing affiliate marketers know that data is a very important part of affiliate marketing, so they are constantly tracking their site visitors and collecting data to help them figure out what is working and what is not, as well as how to maximize conversions.
Why conversions though?
Promoting affiliate products costs time and money. You have to spend time creating content to attract visitors and optimizing your content for search and money paying for ads to drive traffic to your website.
If you spend all this time and money to bring people to your website, but then allow most of them to leave without converting them into buyers, you are not getting the best ROI from your investments.
Optimizing your conversion rates allows you to make the most out of the people visiting your website, and provides you with the quickest route for increasing your affiliate income.
For instance, let’s say you are running Google ads that cost you $0.5 for every person who clicks through to your website. Every month, you spend $5000 to drive 10,000 people to your website.
Your website has a 5% conversion rate, which means that out of the 10,000 monthly visitors, 500 people end up purchasing the product you are promoting. If every converted visitor earns you a $50 commission, that translates to $25,000 in revenue, and $20,000 in profit ($25,000 less the $5000 spent on ads).
If you wanted to double your revenue, one option is to drive more traffic to your website, which would mean spending $10,000 in ads.
Doing this would drive 20,000 people to your website. At a 5% conversion rate, that translates to 1,000 sales, $50,000 in revenue, and $40,000 in profit.
The second option for doubling revenue would be to double the conversion rate to 10%. This time, from the 10,000 monthly visitors, you’d get 1,000 buys, $50,000 revenue, and $45,000 in profit, since you didn’t increase your ad spend.
Basically, optimizing your conversion rate allows you to earn more from the same amount of traffic without any additional investment.
To improve your conversion rates, test different headlines, try different copy versions on your landing pages, test different CTAs, experiment with different conversion techniques, and so on.
From these experiments, you can then identify the tactics that drive the highest conversions and then implement these tactics all over your website.
5. Have Clear And Realistic Affiliate Marketing Goals
Finally, to make more money from affiliate marketing, you have to be clear and very realistic about your goals.
A lot of people get into affiliate marketing with the assumption that they will be making $50,000 per month within a couple of months and become millionaires within their first year.
When this doesn’t happen, they get disappointed and give up, even though they were headed in the right direction.
The truth is that, while it is one of the best ways to make money online, affiliate marketing is not easy, and it is not a get-rich-quick scheme. It takes lots of work, and for you to start making good money, it will take some time.
It is important, therefore, that you set clear and realistic goals right from the start. Instead of aiming for 10,000 sales in your first month, which is very unrealistic, try to get your first 10 sales, then aim for 100 sales, then 500, and so on.
Once you understand this and focus on gradual growth, the small steps will give you the motivation to keep working and keep growing, and eventually, you’ll get to a point where your affiliate marketing business is generating enough sales to provide you with a decent income.
How To Become An Affiliate Marketing Merchant And Increase Sales With Affiliate Marketing
Just like becoming an affiliate marketer, there are four steps that one needs to take if you want to become an affiliate marketing merchant. Let’s check them out below.
1. Come Up With An Online Product Idea
As a merchant, you are going to be selling your own products, which means that the first thing you need to do is to determine what product you are going to create and sell.
As an affiliate merchant, you can choose to create physical products such as furniture or clothing, digital products such as eBooks and videos, software as a service (SaaS) products, consulting offers, services products, online courses, and so on.
The hardest question for most people, however, is how to come up with a viable product idea.
In truth, there are numerous product ideas all around you. The only problem is that people try to come up with a product that is truly unique.
As the saying goes, there’s nothing new under the sun. Whatever idea you think is unique, chances are that someone else has tried it before.
If you look at many of the most successful companies, you’ll realize that they were not the first ones in their industry.
Facebook was not the first social media site. Amazon was not the first online store. Apple was not the first computer company, nor was it the first company to build a smartphone.
All these companies built brilliant products by looking at existing products and figuring out how to make them better than what was available at the time.
Similarly, you can easily come up with product ideas by looking at an existing product that is lacking on some front, and then finding ways to improve it.
A good way to identify such products is to go on Amazon, search for similar products, and then look at the reviews to find what most people are complaining about. You can then create a product that resolves this complaint.
For instance, let’s say you are interested in leather wallets. Go to Amazon, search for leather wallets, and then open multiple products and check their reviews. What is the number one thing people are complaining about?
One common problem we noticed is that people are looking for wallets with RFID blocking capabilities.
Therefore, if you create a wallet that is truly RFID blocking, you already have a good product idea.
Another way to come up with product ideas is to find out which topics are performing well on the internet, and then think about products that you can build around these topics.
To find highly trending topics, I recommend using Buzzsumo. Simply enter the niche you are interested in on the search bar and Buzzsumo will tell you the most popular topics around that niche.
For instance, if you are interested in fishing tips, searching for the term “fishing tips” on Buzzsumo will show you that the most popular content around this niche is an article on how to grow pearls at home.
Now that you know this is something that people are interested in, you can come up with a product idea around this topic. For instance, you could write a book or create an online course on how to make money growing pearls at home.
2. Validate Your Affiliate-Readiness For Your Product
Just because you have found a product idea that people are interested in, this doesn’t mean that people will actually pay for your product if you create it.
Sometimes, people might only be interested in a topic simply because they want to learn about it, but they have no intention of actually paying for products around the topic.
If you create a product around such an idea, you won’t have anyone to sell your product to. So, how do you confirm whether people will actually pay for your product?
The best way to confirm whether people will actually pay for your product is to ask them to pay for it beforehand.
Going back to our example about growing pearls at home, let’s assume that you have decided to create an online course on how to make money growing pearls at home.
The first thing you need to do is to find people who are actually interested in growing pearls at home.
One way to do this is to search for the topic on Twitter and find people who have sent out tweets related to the topic.
You can also find whether there are any Facebook groups, or any other online forums around your chosen topic. All these are people who could potentially buy your online course.
Once you have found people interested in your topic, all you need to do now is to reach out to them and ask them if they would buy your online course on how to make money growing pearls at home.
If they say yes, ask them to preorder your course, and inform them that you will build the course once you get a certain number of preorders. You can easily do this using crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo.
If you get a significant number of preorders, you can then go ahead and build your product, with the confidence that you already have your first customers.
3. Create Your Digital Product
Once you have confirmed that there are people interested in and willing to pay for your product, you can now start creating the actual product.
Creating products can be a time consuming and expensive affair, which is why we always recommend creating digital products, rather than physical products.
Digital products offer several advantages over physical products. The biggest advantage of digital products is that they are usually cheaper to create.
For example, you can write an eBook by yourself and put it up for sale without incurring any costs. Similarly, if you have a camera and a mic, you can create a video series, or even an online course without any significant monetary investment.
With physical products, on the other hand, you will undoubtedly have to spend money to develop your product.
Another major advantage of digital products is that they are highly scalable. Once you create a product once, you can sell it to a million people without having to go back to production again. This is impossible with physical products.
The process of creating your digital product will vary depending on the kind of product you are building. However, this process can be broken down into the following 5 steps:
- Choose your topic: Determine the topic that your digital product is going to focus on. Ideally, you should figure this out when coming up with a product idea.
- Develop a buyer persona: Who are the people that are going to buy your product? What is their biggest pain point? How much are they willing to spend on your product? What formats do they prefer?
- Determine the best format for your product: Is your digital product going to be an eBook, an audiobook, a video series, an online course, an infographic, or a consultation service? This decision will depend on your buyer persona’s preferences.
- Conduct competitor research: What kind of products do your competitors have? How do you intend to make your product better than what your competitors are offering?
- Do the actual product development work: This is where you actually create the product, whether that means writing the content for your eBook, or recording the videos for your online course or video series. You can either do this by yourself, or outsource the actual product creation to a freelancer.
4. Find Affiliate Program Partners
Once your product is ready, it’s now time to find affiliate marketers who will promote your products in exchange for a share of the revenue generated from selling the product.
The easiest way to do this is to join and submit your digital product to affiliate marketing networks like ClickBank, ShareASale and CJ Affiliate so that publishers (marketers) can find and promote your product.
It’s good to note, however, that affiliate marketers won’t immediately jump at the opportunity to promote your product. Remember, you have a new, untested product, and many marketers don’t even know about your product.
The best course of action, therefore, is to reach out to affiliate marketers who would be a perfect fit for your product and request them to promote your products in exchange for a share of the sale.
So, how do you find affiliate marketers who would be interested in promoting your product?
Simply find bloggers, vloggers, and social media influencers who create content related to your niche and reach out to them.
For instance, if your product is an online course about dating for divorcees, find YouTubers, Instagram influencers, and bloggers who create content around the dating and relationships niche and talk to them about promoting your online course.
One thing to note here is that your commission rates will have a huge influence on your ability to bring affiliate marketers on board.
Fortunately, due to their scalability, digital products don’t have a lot of overheads, which allows you to offer generous commissions that will act as a big incentive to get affiliate marketers on board.
Affiliate Marketing FAQ
No, affiliate marketing is not dead, and neither is it on its deathbed. Data from Statista shows that the amount of money spent on affiliate marketing has been growing year on year, with the figures set to hit $8.2 billion in 2022. This is a clear sign that affiliate marketing is doing better than ever before.
The myth that affiliate marketing is dead has been driven by the large number of people who have ventured into the industry.
With millions of people engaging in affiliate marketing, competition has become stiff, which means that what worked in the yesteryears won’t work today.
Therefore, if you want to be successful at affiliate marketing today, you need a smart approach.
This includes focusing on niches with high revenue potential, acing your search engine optimization, using data to constantly improve and optimize your affiliate marketing, and having clear and realistic affiliate marketing goals.
The beauty of affiliate marketing is that it offers performance-based rewards. This means that the amount of money you stand to earn lies solely on you and your effort.
If you are a dedicated, smart and hardworking affiliate marketer using well thought out strategies, there is no limit to the amount of money you can make as an affiliate marketer.
If you are lazy and uncommitted, on the other hand, you won’t make much of a meaningful income.
Statistics show that the top 3% of affiliate marketers make northwards of $150,000 per year, whereas the majority of affiliate marketers (48%) earn $20,000+ per year.
Whether you’ll be part of the 3%, the 48% percent, or the remaining group who don’t make $20,000 per year will all depend on your effort.
As an affiliate marketer, it is a wise idea to have your own website. However, having a website is not a prerequisite for earning money as an affiliate marketer.
Some ways of earning money as an affiliate marketer without a website include promoting your affiliate products on social media platforms, promoting exclusively on your email list, marketing on other people’s email lists, promoting your affiliate products on online communities and forums, running PPC ads, using publishing platforms like Medium, and so on.
To earn money as an affiliate marketer, you only need to find a way to drive traffic to your affiliate links. It doesn’t matter how you do this, provided you get people to click on your links.
Therefore, it is not an absolute necessity for you to have a website in order to make money with affiliate marketing.
Start Making Money With Your Website With Affiliate Marketing
Affiliate marketing is one of the best ways of consistently making money online.
As an affiliate marketer, you get to earn a passive income, you can work from home (or wherever you prefer), you don’t have to worry about customer support, the costs of starting and running an affiliate marketing business are very low, and the best part is that there is no limit to your earning potential.
If you are interested in making good money as an affiliate marketer, all you need to do is…
- Build your own website (or social media platforms) and start reviewing products in your niche
- Build an email list with your prospects on it
- Educate your audience with live webinars
- Take advantage of pay-per-click advertising to grow your affiliate revenue
Are you ready to start making money with affiliate marketing? Build your website today, join an affiliate marketing network, aggressively promote your affiliate products and watch as money starts flowing into your bank account.