What is affiliate marketing? Imagine unlocking the potential of people in your marketplace who can drive potential customers to your business. How?

Affiliate marketing is one of the best ways to make passive income while also pursuing your interests.

Advertisers continually rank personal testimony as one of the most effective ways to sell a product. By participating in affiliate marketing you are becoming an essential component in that marketing engine. But what is affiliate marketing, and how can you get started?

What is Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate marketing is a tactic where a business or a product owner allows third-party people to earn compensation by generating leads to the business’s products or services. The third party is referred to as ‘’affiliate’’.

In other words, this is when major companies use freelance marketers to sell their products for them. In return, the affiliate gets a cut of each sale they make. Typically, this is a fixed percentage.

What is affiliate marketing featured image

How Does Affiliate Marketing Work?

Affiliate marketing, being a practice of recommending business services or products to potential customers, has developed with the improvement of technology. It involves four parties:

  • Affiliate marketers,
  • Vendors,
  • Affiliate networks.

The Affiliate

The affiliate is the person who does the work. On their website, the affiliate publishes customer reviews or details about the product and is sold on the vendor’s website. There is also an affiliate link that links to the advertiser’s product page.

An affiliate uses whatever channel they see fit to market to consumers. They can use digital billboards, social networks or via a search engine. Affiliates help an e-commerce merchant to reach a wider variety of internet users and online shoppers.

They implement text ads, banner ads and/or links on their website or email their clientele. The advertisement can be in the form of images, videos, articles or anything that can draw attention to a product or service.

When a visitor of the website clicks the ads or the links, they are redirected to the e-commerce site. When they purchase the service or product, the affiliate receives the agreed commission.

The price of the service or product is the same as buying directly.

What is Affiliate marketing diagram
Affiliate marketing is when freelance marketers conduct campaigns in exchange for a commission on any sales they drive. Image credit: SimilarWeb

In affiliate marketing, cookies are used to manage ads and links a visitor clicks on. They also record time and date. Thus, they help in remembering the kind of content or website liked most.

The Vendor

This is the brand who makes and sells the product or service. In return for a cut of their sales, they get a cost-effective way to market their products.

Even better, they only have to pay affiliates when they make a sale, meaning that this is a highly cost-effective channel.

Affiliate Networks

Affiliate networks are intermediaries which match affiliates with vendors. Typically, this is a kind of marketplace where vendors advertise their rates and conditions, as well as providing useful information for affiliates.

Would-be marketers can then bid to join the vendor’s affiliate team.

Online Affiliate Marketing What You Need to Know

How to Start Affiliate Marketing

There are several steps to getting started with affiliate marketing. The most basic framework involves the following stages.

Step 1: Choose a Niche and Target Audience

To start, you should sell services or products in a niche you are familiar with. Choosing products or services that represent your current occupation or interests is advisable.

Before diving into the world of affiliate marketing, it’s crucial to identify a niche that aligns with your interests, expertise, and target audience. This niche should have a substantial market size, active online communities, and a demand for products or services that can be promoted through affiliate links.

For instance, if you are an interior designer, it’s easier to sell bedding sets than automotive spares or parts. You’ll perform better in your individual marketing efforts if you sell what you are knowledgeable about.

However, there is more to choosing a niche than going for what you’re passionate about.

Different industries and types of products offer different affiliate rates. For most physical products, you can only expect around 10% of each sale. This means that, unless you only work with high value items, you’ll need a lot of sales to make a decent income.

By contrast, many SaaS businesses offer affiliate rates of 100% or even more during product launches. That’s right, they’ll pay you more than the customer actually pays for the product.

This is because digital products have no cost of reproduction, and often use subscription models.

what is Affiliate marketing most popular niches
The most crowded niches are often physical products, which are also the least profitable. Image credit: AM Navigator

Step 2: Find Relevant Affiliate Programs

Once you’ve established your niche, explore affiliate programs within that domain. Numerous affiliate networks and individual companies offer affiliate programs, each with varying commission rates, payment terms, and product categories. Research and compare different programs to find those that align with your niche, target audience, and content strategy.

Step 3: Select Products or Services to Promote

Carefully evaluate the products or services offered by the affiliate programs you’ve chosen. Ensure that the products are relevant to your niche, offer value to your target audience, and align with your personal brand or website. Consider factors such as product quality, brand reputation, and customer reviews before recommending them to your audience.

Step 4: Create High-Quality Content

The foundation of successful affiliate marketing lies in creating high-quality content that engages your audience and naturally integrates affiliate links. This content can take various forms, such as blog posts, social media updates, video tutorials, or email newsletters. Focus on providing valuable information, addressing audience pain points, and building trust with your readers.

Incorporate affiliate links strategically within your content, ensuring they blend naturally with the flow of the text and don’t appear intrusive or spammy. Disclose your affiliate relationships transparently to comply with ethical guidelines and maintain reader trust.

Once your content is published, actively promote it across various channels to reach your target audience. Utilize social media platforms, email marketing campaigns, search engine optimization (SEO) techniques, and paid advertising to drive traffic to your content and affiliate links.

Step 7: Track and Monitor Performance

Regularly monitor the performance of your affiliate campaigns to evaluate their effectiveness and identify areas for improvement. Utilize analytics tools to track click-through rates, conversion rates, and revenue generated from affiliate sales.

Step 8: Nurture Relationships with Affiliate Programs

Maintain positive relationships with the affiliate programs you’ve partnered with. Stay updated on program changes, new product offerings, and commission structures. Communicate effectively with affiliate program managers to ensure you adhere to their terms and conditions.

Step 9: Start a Website

Businesses will want to know the URL website that you will use as a platform to market their products or services. They do this to ensure that the contents of your website would affect the business’ reputation.

Make sure that your website has authoritative content.

For most affiliate marketers, the most expedient way to get up and running is using a website builder like WIX, which requires little design skills or knowledge to create effective landing pages.

Step 10: Join an Affiliate Program:

Joining affiliate programs is mostly free. Reputable businesses don’t charge any fee for joining their affiliate program. If you are asked to provide your credit card number to join an affiliate program, you might be getting scammed.

However, you will be asked to give PayPal or bank account information. This is so as the business can have a means of paying you your commission after successful sales. In most cases, you can be asked for the URL of your website.

Again, before you join a program, be sure to shop around. Make sure you’re getting the best rate you can for products in your niche rather than settling for one of the big name vendors.

How to Become a Successful Affiliate Marketer

Of course, affiliate marketing is one of those things that a lot of people try their hand at, but most never actually make any money. In fact, between setting up a website, taking affiliate courses, and running PPC campaigns, many new affiliates actually post a loss.

Use the following steps to get off to a good start, and actually start generating income through your affiliate efforts.

Step 1: Searching for Ideas

The best way to start looking for an affiliate marketing niche is to look at some of the most successful and highly-trafficked sites on the web. Competitor analysis is often the easiest way to figure out what works in your industry and what doesn’t.

Most affiliate marketers rely heavily on paid search.

Conducting proper competitor research allows you to figure out which channels, keywords, and targeting criteria offer the best return on investment, and which strategies are too crowded to make an impact on audiences.

Step 2: Narrow Down to Your Niche

It might be counterintuitive, but the wider you cast your net as an affiliate marketer, the less success you’re likely to see. Part of this comes down to the fact that there are so many people out there trying to make a passive income from affiliate marketing.

By contrast, if you have a tightly defined audience, you have a much better chance of standing out.

Say for example that you want to work in nutritional products and supplements. If you narrow this down to supplements for a specific sport, like cycling or running, you’ll be able to use much more targeted and effective marketing campaigns.

Step 3: Research

The better you know your audience, the stronger your pitch will be. For most affiliate marketers, the best audience research approach is creating representative buyer personas. These are fake personalities, which represent your ideal customers.

Specifically, you’ll want to understand who your target audience is, in terms of demographics, interests, income, behaviour, and the core problems they face which your products can solve.

Step 4: Utilise SEO Before PPC

The reality is that it’s difficult to make large sums of money straight off the bat with affiliate marketing. Many new marketers make the mistake of overreliance on PPC, before they’ve created truly effective content and landing pages.

Then, they blow all their savings on ineffective campaigns.

The alternative is to put the work into strong SEO first. This means developing landing pages which attract and convert effective users effectively. You can experiment on what works the best for CRO, without having to spend money on acquisition.

Then, when you’re satisfied that your conversion rate is suitable for your cost per click, you can go hard with PPC, and start watching the cash roll in.

Affiliate Marketing Advantages for your Business

The potential advantages for you? Put simply, affiliate marketers can take your products to interested customers at no fee. It’s a great way of getting people to talk about the products.

Affiliate marketing can help businesses reach a wide range of customers enabling it to reach its potential.

Pros and Cons of Affiliate Marketing


  • Passive Income Potential: Affiliate marketing offers the potential to generate passive income, meaning you can earn money even when you’re not actively working. This is because you earn commissions based on the sales generated through your affiliate links.
  • Low Startup Costs: Unlike traditional businesses, affiliate marketing requires minimal upfront investment. You don’t need to create or stock products, and you can start with a simple website or social media presence.
  • Flexibility and Location Independence: Affiliate marketing is a highly flexible business model that allows you to work from anywhere and set your own hours. This makes it an ideal choice for those who value work-life balance and entrepreneurial freedom.
  • Reach a Wider Audience: Through the power of the internet, affiliate marketing allows you to reach a global audience and connect with potential customers worldwide. This expands your market potential and increases your earning opportunities.
  • Variety of Niches and Products: Affiliate marketing offers a vast array of niches and products to choose from, enabling you to specialize in areas that align with your interests and expertise. This caters to diverse audiences and provides a wide range of earning potential.


  • Competition and Saturation: Affiliate marketing is a competitive industry with a large number of participants. It requires dedication, consistent effort, and effective strategies to stand out and achieve success.
  • Dependency on External Factors: As an affiliate marketer, you rely on the quality of the products or services you promote and the effectiveness of the affiliate programs you partner with. Your success is dependent on factors outside your direct control.
  • Tracking and Attribution Challenges: Accurately tracking affiliate sales and attributing revenue to your efforts can be challenging, especially when dealing with multiple affiliate programs and complex conversion paths.
  • Time Investment and Patience: Building a successful affiliate marketing business takes time, effort, and patience. It’s not a get-rich-quick scheme and requires consistent dedication to achieve long-term success.
  • Ethical Considerations: Affiliate marketing demands ethical practices, including transparency in disclosing affiliate relationships and avoiding misleading or exaggerated claims about the products you promote.

Real Affiliate Products

Affiliate marketing encompasses a wide range of products and services, spanning various industries and niches. Here are some notable examples of real affiliate products that have generated significant revenue for affiliate marketers:

  • Web hosting services: Affiliate marketers promote web hosting providers like Bluehost, HostGator, and GoDaddy, earning commissions when users sign up for hosting plans through their affiliate links.
  • Ecommerce products: Affiliate marketers promote physical products from popular online retailers like Amazon, eBay, and AliExpress, earning commissions when users purchase products through their affiliate links.
  • Digital products: Affiliate marketers promote digital products such as e-books, online courses, and software, earning commissions when users purchase these products through their affiliate links.
  • Financial services: Affiliate marketers promote financial services like credit cards, investment platforms, and personal finance tools, earning commissions when users sign up for these services through their affiliate links.
  • Travel and accommodation: Affiliate marketers promote travel booking platforms like Booking.com, Expedia, and Airbnb, earning commissions when users book hotels, flights, or vacation rentals through their affiliate links.

Affiliate Networks

Affiliate networks serve as intermediaries between merchants (product or service providers) and affiliates (individuals who promote the products or services). They provide a platform for affiliates to find and join relevant affiliate programs, manage their affiliate links, and track their earnings.

Some of the most popular affiliate networks include:

  • Amazon Associates: Amazon’s in-house affiliate program, offering a wide range of products and competitive commission rates.
  • ClickBank: A global affiliate network known for its diverse marketplace of digital products.
  • Commission Junction: A long-established affiliate network with a vast network of merchants and affiliates.
  • ShareASale: A leading affiliate network with a focus on high-converting products and services.
  • Rakuten Marketing: A comprehensive affiliate network offering a variety of products, services, and network features.

Earning Statistics

The earning potential in affiliate marketing can vary significantly depending on factors such as niche, target audience, content strategy, and promotional efforts. However, here are some examples of real earning statistics to provide a sense of the earning potential:

  • Top affiliate marketers reportedly earn millions of dollars annually.
  • A study by Pat Flynn found that 33% of affiliate marketers earn $100 to $500 per month, while 18% earn $500 to $2,000 per month.
  • The average affiliate marketing commission rate is around 5%.
  • Affiliate marketing can be a lucrative business model, but it requires dedication, hard work, and effective strategies to achieve significant success.


Q: What is affiliate marketing?

A: Affiliate marketing is a performance-based marketing strategy where you earn a commission for promoting other people’s products or services. When someone clicks on your affiliate link and makes a purchase, you earn a percentage of the sale.

Q: How does affiliate marketing work?

A: The basic process of affiliate marketing involves 5 steps:

  1. Choose a niche: Identify a specific area of interest or expertise.
  2. Find relevant affiliate programs: Research and select affiliate programs that align with your niche.
  3. Select products or services to promote: Evaluate and choose products that resonate with your audience and align with your brand.
  4. Create high-quality content: Develop engaging content that integrates affiliate links seamlessly.
  5. Promote your content: Utilize various channels to drive traffic to your content and affiliate links.

Q: How much can I earn with affiliate marketing?

A: The earning potential in affiliate marketing varies depending on factors such as niche, target audience, content strategy, and promotional efforts. Top affiliate marketers can earn millions of dollars annually, while the average affiliate marketer may earn hundreds or thousands of dollars per month.

Q: What are the pros and cons of affiliate marketing?


  • Passive income potential
  • Low startup costs
  • Flexibility and location independence
  • Reach a wider audience
  • Variety of niches and products


  • Competition and saturation
  • Dependency on external factors
  • Tracking and attribution challenges
  • Time investment and patience
  • Ethical considerations

Q: What are some real affiliate products and networks?

Real Affiliate Products:

  • Web hosting services (e.g., Bluehost, HostGator, GoDaddy)
  • Ecommerce products (e.g., Amazon, eBay, AliExpress)
  • Digital products (e.g., e-books, online courses, software)
  • Financial services (e.g., credit cards, investment platforms, personal finance tools)
  • Travel and accommodation (e.g., Booking.com, Expedia, Airbnb)

Affiliate Networks:

  • Amazon Associates
  • ClickBank
  • Commission Junction
  • ShareASale
  • Rakuten Marketing

Q: What are some tips for success in affiliate marketing?

  • Choose a niche you’re passionate about.
  • Research and select high-quality affiliate programs.
  • Create valuable and engaging content.
  • Promote your content effectively.
  • Build relationships with other affiliates and influencers.
  • Stay up-to-date with industry trends and best practices.


Affiliate marketing can be a rewarding and profitable business model for those who are willing to put in the time, effort, and dedication. It offers the potential for passive income, flexibility, and the opportunity to work from anywhere in the world.

However, it’s important to approach affiliate marketing with realistic expectations and a commitment to providing value to your audience. By following the tips outlined in this article and staying persistent, you can increase your chances of success in affiliate marketing.

Could you benefit from unlocking new leads for your business? Contact ProfileTree today to find out how.

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