How to start affiliate marketing as a beginner – The Ultimate Guide
Last Updated on February 17, 2023 by Tumto Siram
Affiliate marketing is one of the best and the most effective ways to make money online and make a career on the Internet without even owning a product or investing huge amounts of money.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, I will receive a commission if you purchase through these links (without any additional cost to you), which helps us maintain this website.
According to a stat published by bloggingx.com, around 81% of brands rely on affiliate programs to promote their business and most companies allocate 15% of their total marketing budget to affiliate programs.
This clearly indicates the potential of affiliate marketing and if you are new to affiliate marketing, then this post is for you. In this post, I am going to explain to you, what is affiliate marketing and how to start affiliate marketing as a beginner.
So, let's get started:
What is affiliate marketing and how does it work?
Basically, Affiliate marketing is performance-based marketing wherein you promote products of certain companies or vendors through a unique affiliate link in exchange for a commission.
This means you get a commission by promoting others' products.
The affiliate commission is mostly based on PPC (Pay per click) where you get paid for a click on your affiliate link, PPA (Pay per action) when an action is completed as laid by your vendor like a sign-up, a sale etc. or PPI (Pay per impression) where you get the commission based on the impression generated through your ad.
The explanation in another way is that, as an affiliate marketer, you choose a product or a service that you would like to promote. And use various options available such as your website, YouTube channel, funnels or any other method to promote the product.
This then leads the customer to the company's website where the customer purchases the product or service and you get a commission for the sale. Most probably in percentages, a fixed amount or on a recurring based commission.
Affiliate marketing as a business model is a win-win situation for all three. The customer gets the desired product, the company gets its sale, and you end up making money for your effort.
It's a decent way to make money online as a side hustle or even full-time. Affiliate Marketing is possible as a side hustle with a little effort each day. All you have to join some affiliate programs or some affiliate networks to get started.
Is affiliate marketing worth it?
This question arises in almost every Affiliate Marketer's mind. And the answer to this question is, that it depends.
It depends on your affiliate marketing efforts, your dedication, the niche you have chosen and other such factors. It depends upon you, your chosen industry and your ability to optimize your content.
Most average estimated earnings of Affiliate Marketers are between $600 and $3000 per month or 7k to 36k / year.
But if you are consistent with your work then Affiliate Marketing can be a very good source of online income for you. And your income may far exceed the average one.
As an affiliate marketer, you have unlimited income opportunities. You can make as much money as you want. Affiliate marketing has no ceiling. You just need to be consistent with your work and deliver value to the people.
Now, let's have a look at the different types of affiliate marketing.
Affiliate marketing types
Although affiliate marketing, in general, is all about promoting products the types of promotions or affiliate campaigns can differ. It all depends on the company and its affiliate program types.
The most common affiliate marketing types are:
Pay per click Affiliate Marketing
In this type of Affiliate marketing, you get paid on the number of clicks generated on your affiliate link. It doesn't matter whether the person who clicked on the link buys anything or not. You will still get paid for the click.
For example, let's say you are promoting a web hosting company and someone clicks on your affiliate link but doesn't purchase anything.
In this case, you will be paid for that click. It is one of the most popular types of Affiliate marketing, however, most companies don't offer these types of affiliate programs and it's difficult to find.
Pay per sale Affiliate Marketing
This is one of the most common types of Affiliate marketing wherein you get paid a commission whenever someone buys a product from your affiliate link.
For example, let's say you are promoting an email marketing software and someone buys their plan from your affiliate link. In this case, you will be paid for that sale.
The commission rate is generally high in this type of Affiliate program as compared to other types because the company only pays when they get a sale.
So, it is a win-win situation for both the Affiliate Marketer and the company.
Pay per action Affiliate Marketing
In the pay-per-action type of Affiliate marketing, you get paid whenever someone completes an action as laid down by the vendor. The actions can be anything like a sign-up, a form submission, taking a survey etc.
For example, let's say you are promoting some kind of free version of a software product and someone signs up for it from your affiliate link. You get paid for that sign-up.
Pay per lead Affiliate Marketing
Pay per lead is somewhat similar to pay per action, However, this kind of affiliate marketing only focuses more on collecting leads.
In this kind of marketing, you get paid for collecting emails or other forms of contacts for your affiliate vendor.
Now, let's discuss the difference between an affiliate program and an affiliate network.
Difference between affiliate networks and affiliate programs.
The difference between an affiliate program and an affiliate network is that an affiliate network can have multiple affiliate programs whereas the affiliate programs stand-alone or are a part of an affiliate network.
Affiliate networks are like a marketplace where Affiliate programs of different companies are present. Whereas Affiliate Programs are specific to one company and you need to be a part of that company's Affiliate Program to earn money from it.
For example, ShareASale is an Affiliate Network where multiple companies have their Affiliate programs present. Whereas Amazon Associates is an Affiliate Program specific to Amazon.
You need to be a part of the Amazon Associates program to earn money by promoting Amazon products.
How to become an affiliate marketer?
To become an affiliate marketer you have to go through a series of steps, like setting up your website, joining affiliate programs and many more. So, to make this guide short and sweet, I will just focus on the main steps.
STEP 1. Choose an affiliate niche
Before you start your affiliate marketing journey as a beginner, you should be considering starting with a specific niche for the beginning.
Choosing the right niche will help you be clear about your focus and it will also help you build a brand around that niche.
A niche is a segment of the market that you can target with your products or services.
It is important to choose a niche because it makes marketing much easier. When you have a specific niche, it becomes easier to identify your target audience.
For example, if you're interested in fitness you can choose fitness-related topics like healthy diets and even break it down to a micro-niche such as a keto diet or paleo diet, or maybe you are a dog lover. In this case, you can start a website based on dogs.
It's important that you choose a niche that you really understand or would love to research and learn more about because even if you don't know much about it, it will be easier and more interesting for you to learn new things.
STEP 2. Pick a domain name for your website
After you have decided on your niche, you will need a domain name for your website. And the best way to choose a domain name for your affiliate website would be to choose a name related to your niche.
For example, if you are in a dog training niche, your domain can be “puptraining.com” or “trainyourpuppy.com” or something like that.
I personally use Namecheap to find the best domain names. It also provides one of the cheapest domain names in the market.
After you've selected your niche and purchased your domain name. The next step would be to start creating your website and adding content to your site.
When it comes to writing articles for your site, it's important that you produce high-quality content in order to rank your articles in the Google search engine.
STEP 3. Start Your website and YouTube channel
The next step would be to build your website, start a YouTube channel and interlink them.
How to start your website?
If you haven't built a website before you don't have to be intimidated, you can easily find tutorials on how to build a WordPress website on YouTube or just head over to this post of mine.
Or, you can even go with easy website builders that offer websites that are easier to build and have pre-built blog website templates like Systeme.io or Wix. Here's more of the list in this post.
However, with the free ones and even some paid ones there might be some restrictions on how you use your website.
So most successful affiliate marketers choose WordPress to build their affiliate websites and I recommend that too.
And to host your WordPress website you will need a hosting service that will host your website.
My recommendation would be Bluehost for beginners. If you want to know a little bit more about Bluehost, here's my review.
But if you want to use hosting providers that make it easier for you to manage the technical side of your hosting problems and with the best customer support, you can go with either WPX or WPEngine.
You can also find some other lists of hosting providers here.
Apart from your website, it's very important that you also start your own YouTube channel because with YouTube videos, not only the affiliate conversion is high but you can also make some decent earnings through ads.
I would recommend starting your YouTube channel by showing your own face as it improves your credibility and trust, plus it also increases your brand value.
But if you're not comfortable with showing your face, you can just start a faceless YouTube channel. You can use a tool like InVideo (A video maker/editor) to make videos easily for your channel.
STEP 4. Find Affiliate Partner Programs
If you're a beginner, I would recommend you sign up for some affiliate networks first. They make it easier for you to find affiliate programs specific to any niche.
The list of some best affiliate networks are:
- Amazon Associates: Promote any kind of products that are available in Amazon's marketplace.
- ShareASale: One of my favourite affiliate networks out there. Easy and user-friendly dashboard.
- Impact Radius: Comes second on my list. Lots of premium affiliate partners too.
- Commission Junction (CJ Affiliates): Slow website and dashboard, but overall nice affiliate programs.
- JVZoo: An alternative to ClickBank. It mostly consists of digital products.
- Digistore24: Another ClickBank alternative.
There are more affiliate networks out there but I think the list above will be enough for you to get started. However, if you want to check out a longer list, learn more here.
However, just joining some affiliate networks is not enough. You also need to find the right affiliate programs that you can promote and earn substantial affiliate revenue. And for this, you need to find the best affiliate products.
So, how do we find them? Let's find out.
Best affiliate products for beginners
To make a decent income from affiliate marketing you should also understand the types of commission structures various affiliate products provide.
By understanding them you can decide which product you should promote to earn more revenue. There are three types of products with different commission structures that you can promote.
Three Types of product types:
1. Easy conversion but low percentage commission.
This kind of affiliate product mostly converts easily because they have low prices. But, because of the lower prices, the commission percentage is also low and that affects your affiliate revenue.
Amazon and eBay affiliate programs are some of the examples that offer these kinds of affiliate products. The products they offer are easier to promote but the commission is low.
2. Low conversion but high commission.
In these types of affiliate products, it's difficult to get sales, but if you can manage to make a sale then the earnings are high.
These kinds of programs are also called high ticket affiliate programs. Some products that offer these types of commissions are luxury items like watches, smartphones, Laptops etc.
And if you like to talk about digital marketing and all, web hostings and online tools are the way to go as they have higher commission structures.
3. Recurring commission.
And lastly, you can start promoting affiliate products that offer recurring commissions. And I mostly go after this kind of product which is one of my affiliate strategies.
In this type of product, you get paid every month for as long as the customer remains subscribed to the service.
Most email marketing services and also some business software tools offer this kind of affiliate commission structure.
These products are hard to get conversion but when you start getting sales, you can make money from that sale for months, if not the years to come.
If you want to find out some of the highest paying affiliate programs or the programs that offer recurring affiliate commission and also some other types of affiliate programs. Find it here.
STEP 5. Drive traffic to your affiliate site organically
Most people that start affiliate marketing enter into this business structure with the wrong mindset. They think of making a quick buck and realize later that affiliate marketing is not an easy task.
The biggest myth about affiliate marketing is that it doesn't require any work, you just need to drive traffic to your affiliate link and you will start making money.
Affiliate marketing is a business, a real business and like any other business, it requires time, effort and consistency to make it work.
You can't just build a website, post your affiliate links here and there, share it on social media and start making money.
You need to have a proper plan and a strategy to achieve your desired results. Affiliate marketing is more like a marathon and less like a sprint. It takes time to see results.
The biggest factor that will determine your success as an affiliate marketer is a traffic you can generate to your affiliate site.
There are two types of traffic – organic and paid. And both have their own advantages and disadvantages. I'll get to the paid one later in this post.
My advice for beginners is always to start by trying to get organic traffic even if it goes slow in the beginning.
Because, once you get organic traffic coming to your site, it will be easier to scale up with paid methods and also it's more sustainable in the long run.
There are two ways to get organic traffic to your site. Let's have a look at them.
Organic traffic through SEO:
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of optimizing your website to rank higher in the search engine results pages (SERPS) for certain keywords.
The higher you rank, the more organic traffic you get to your website.
To do SEO, you need to understand how the search engines work and what people are actually searching for when they visit your site.
This can be a little bit technical and time-consuming in the beginning, but it's worth it in the long run.
The best way to get started with SEO is to find low-competition keywords that you can easily rank for.
You can use Google Keyword Planner from Google Adwords for this. Just enter your main keyword and it will show you a list of related keywords with their monthly search volume.
You can also use other SEO tools like Ahrefs, Ubersuggest or Moz to find low-competition keywords.
Once you have found some low-competition keywords, it's time to optimize your website for those keywords. You can use Surfer (An on-Page SEO tool) to deal with that.
Start by creating new pages or blog posts and target those keywords. Make sure to use the keywords in the title, in the headings (H1, H2, H3) and throughout the text.
You should also add alt text to your images with the keywords. This will help the search engines to understand what your page is all about and rank it higher. If your site is on WordPress, you can use SEO plugins like RankMath to optimize your content.
In addition to on-page SEO, you also need to do some off-page SEO. This means building backlinks to your website from high-quality websites. The more high-quality backlinks you have, the higher you will rank in the search engine results pages.
You can build backlinks by guest posting on other blogs, leaving comments on other blogs, participating in forums and discussion boards, submitting your website to directories and creating helpful resources that other people will want to link to.
Organic traffic through Social Media:
Another way to get organic traffic to your site is through social media.
You can use social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest or LinkedIn to drive traffic to your website.
The best way to do this is to share interesting and engaging content that will get people to click through to your website.
Here's a full guide on how you can increase your website traffic in case you want to know more.
Types of affiliate content you can write in your blog.
Now, let's have a look at the most common type of blogs you can write to attract more visitors and make affiliate sales.
The first type of post you can write is a comparison post. In this type of post, you compare two or more products side by side.
This is a great way to help your readers make a decision and choose the right product for them.
To write a comparison post, you need to find two or more products in the same niche that you can compare.
Let's say you want to compare two different types of running shoes. The first thing you need to do is to find affiliate programs that offer both products.
Then you need to write a post comparing the two products. Make sure to include your affiliate links so people can buy the products through your link.
The second type of post you can write is a product review.
In a product review, you talk about a specific product in detail and tell people whether or not you recommend it. To write a product review, you need to find a product in your niche that you can review.
Again, you need to find an affiliate program that offers the product so you can get your affiliate link. Then you can write a detailed review of the product, talking about its pros and cons.
List-post can be a great way to drive traffic to your website. They are also very easy to write because you don't need to do a lot of research.
All you need to do is find and make a list of the same kind of products in your niche that offers similar features and write about them by ranking 1 to 10 or 15, the number of products you're going to add.
For example, if you are in the fitness niche, you can write a post like “10 Best Exercise for Weight Loss” or “5 Most Effective Workout Routines”. Here's one of my list-post if you want to check it out.
How-to (Tutorial) guides
Another type of post you can write is a how-to guide. In a how-to guide, you show people how to do something.
This can be anything from “How to start a blog” to “How to lose weight”. To write a how-to guide, you need to find a topic that you can write about in detail.
Then you need to write a step-by-step guide that will show people how to do it.
Another great tactic many affiliate marketers use is by adding a resource page or a section to their website. In fact, I've also added a resource section in my main menu.
In the resource section, you can link to Affiliate Programs, Affiliate Networks, Tools & Software that you use or recommend.
This is a great way to help your visitors and make some affiliate sales at the same time.
There are many different types of posts you can write to drive traffic, bring engagements and eventually make sales as an Affiliate Marketer.
Just try to be a little creative and come up with different ideas. If you somehow struggle coming up with blog post ideas, I am pretty sure this article can really help.
Why affiliate marketing can be a great way to make money online?
Now that you have an overall idea of what affiliate marketing is and how to start it, let's discuss the benefits and advantages of affiliate marketing as a business model.
Starting an online business may be challenging and expensive too, especially if you're thinking of starting an e-commerce business.
The cost of a website, products and promoting it through Facebook and Google ads might just be too much for a beginner, plus the uncertainty and the risk involved whether the business will work or fail like most startups.
So the other way around can be to start a business that is cheap, scalable and modelled to work for sure in the long run, of course, if you put in the work.
And that's non-other than starting affiliate marketing. And here are some of the most common benefits and advantages of it.
Cheap to start
There was a time when you needed a lot of capital to start even a small business. But in this age of information, starting a business has become a lot cheaper, especially in recent years. Thanks to the Internet.
And of all these businesses, affiliate marketing is one of the cheapest to start. You just have to start a website and start sharing affiliate links of the products you want to promote.
Of course, there are other ways to promote your affiliate link, but to make it a passive one, in the long run, a website combined with a YouTube channel would be the best way to start an affiliate marketing business.
If you are just starting out and don't want to take the hassle of building your own affiliate marketing websites or are even short on cash.
You can start out with some free blogging platforms where you can promote your affiliate products. The best ones are Blogger, Medium and Tumblr.
There are some other options as well that you can try. Check out this post where I shared a list of some additional platforms where you can start your blog for free.
How much does it cost to start aff marketing?
Just like any other business, the cost of starting affiliate marketing depends on the way you choose to start it.
For example, if you choose to start by creating your own website, It can cost you around $50 to $100 or even more.
And if you're thinking about how to start affiliate marketing with no money? It is possible but you will find it difficult to start it without any investments.
Besides that, you might find it difficult to get enrolled on many affiliate programs without a website. As affiliate marketing involves blogging, here's a post I shared about how much it might cost to start a blog.
No inventory and customer service needed
One of the difficult aspects of running e-commerce or a dropshipping business is having a space for your inventory and the other one is customer service.
Being an affiliate marketer gives you the edge on this too as you won't be needing a storeroom or a shop for any kind of product inventory.
People might argue that you don't need an inventory in dropshipping too, but they do have to deal with the customer service and the headache of product returns and refunds. While you don't have to deal with those in affiliate marketing.
Less work as time goes
As a beginner affiliate marketing might be confusing for you if you haven't tried it before and working online might still be a new concept for many.
But with a will to learn anyone with basic education and a decent knowledge of computers gets involved in the affiliate marketing industry. There are lots of free resources to learn from on the internet.
It might also be hard in the beginning, like building a website, producing content and promoting it. but as time passes by, you will grow your online marketing skills and it will get easier.
The other thing you can do is you can outsource your work when you have built enough traffic and your affiliate income starts pouring in.
Fiverr can be a great place to get started with hiring freelancers to handle your work.
Work from anywhere
The Internet has allowed many businesses the freedom to work remotely, however, most of them often demand your physical presence where the business is located but not in the case of affiliate marketing.
As affiliate marketing is based on content marketing and promotion all you will need to run this as a business is to be available online whether it's your website or any other source that you use for promoting your links.
All you will need is an internet connection and a laptop. Nowadays with the emergence of android and ios, almost all of your online work can even be done through applications from your smartphone too.
Once you have got to the point of generating a stable monthly revenue you can scale your content to a broader niche too so that you can broaden your product base.
This can be done by broadening your niche into a general category. for example, if you have a piano review website, you can add other musical instruments too.
This can be done by broadening your niche into a general category. for example, if you have a piano review website, you can add other musical instruments too.
Earn Passive income
The term passive income has different definitions. Some insist it means earning money without working at all. But I have a different approach to defining it.
In my opinion, passive income is a kind of income that comes from less effort and the efforts we have put in the past. For example, rental properties once it is built, you just need a little effort on your side and the monthly income flows in.
Just like that affiliate marketing needs a lot of effort in the beginning, but once you have enough content and a good amount of traffic to your website with the best SEO practice, you will be earning even while you are sleeping.
Can be started as a Side Hustle
There might be a chance you are a person with a job or even a student. And in this case, Affiliate marketing might be your best side hustle as it is easily doable by only giving a few hours per day.
For the ones that are in a job, it can become their second source of income and the students can cover their tuition fees and even their pocket money.
The good thing is that, as your business grows, there is a possibility that affiliate marketing might just become your full-time source of income.
Now, let's have a look at some of the other ways you can promote your affiliate products which also involve paid ads.
Other ways to promote your affiliate products
Apart from your blog and YouTube channel, you can also promote your affiliate products through paid ads.
And for that, you might need a place where your paid visitors find your products and affiliate links.
These places are basically same as web pages but a little different from a typical website.
Some of those are:
Affiliate Landing Pages
Affiliate landing pages are pages that are designed to promote a single product.
This is one of the most effective ways to increase your conversion rate as it removes all the distractions from your page and the only thing that the visitors see is your product.
It also helps you collect the email addresses of your visitors so that you can follow up with them later.
Landing pages can be built on your own website too, but it might be a bit difficult for some non-tech person like me, and in that case, you can use online software like GetResponse, Systeme.io, AWeber etc which also have inbuilt email autoresponders and other features.
Simple Sales funnels
Sales funnels are a process of moving your potential customers towards your product through a funnel step by step.
A simple sales funnel can be something like this:
The first step is to make them aware of your product(this can be done through content marketing, paid ads, social media etc).
The second step is to interest them in your product( this can be done by providing more information about your product, case studies, testimonials etc).
The third step is to get them to take action( this can be done by providing a discount, a free trial or a special offer).
Email marketing is another way you can promote your affiliate links.
There are many ways to collect emails from your potential customers. The first way would be to ask them to sign up for your newsletter in exchange for something valuable like a free e-book or a discount coupon on your website.
You can also put an email signup form in your blog posts or in your landing pages as I've mentioned in the Affiliate landing page section.
And once you have a good amount of email addresses, you can start promoting your products through email marketing.
There are many email marketing software like GetResponse, AWeber, ActiveCampaign, MailerLite etc which can help collect emails from your visitor. To know more about some more email marketing services, check out this post.
And to learn more about how to grow your email list, read this post.
Paid ads you can use to bring traffic to your offers (Landing Pages)
To drive traffic to your landing pages and funnels, you will need to run some ad campaigns. Some of the best places you can run your ads are:
- Facebook Ads – You can run both image ads and video ads on Facebook. And you can target your audience very accurately on Facebook.
- Google Ads – Google ads are one of the best when it comes to driving traffic to your landing page or website. With them, you can target your audience based on keyword search terms, which converts visitors very highly.
- Bing Ads – Just like Google ads Bing ads are also very powerful, but the thing is not many people use them. So you can get cheaper clicks here.
- Native Ads – Native ads are a different kinds of ads, they are not like the usual display ads that we see. They are more like sponsored articles or product recommendations etc. And they are very effective in getting clicks. The most common native ad platforms you can try are MGID, Taboola or Outbrain.
Running paid promotions to drive traffic to your website or landing page is one of the best affiliate marketing strategies to make quick conversions and income.
However, even in most seasons affiliate marketers lose money in some bad campaigns sometimes.
That's why I recommend you to start with the organic method first and try the paid methods only after you start seeing some traction in your affiliate business.
Here are some additional tips that you can implement in your affiliate marketing business.
Get familiar with your vendor's Terms and Conditions
When you sign up for an affiliate program, make sure to go through its terms and conditions thoroughly.
Some vendors have very strict rules about how their products can be promoted. For example, some vendors might not allow their products to be promoted through PPC campaigns or native advertising.
Some doesn't allow you to use their branding in your ad campaigns.
So it's very important that you get familiar with their terms and conditions before promoting their products.
Track and increase aff revenue
If you want to be successful in affiliate marketing, then it's very important that you track your results and analyze your campaigns.
You need to find out what's working and what's not working. And once you find out what's working, you need to scale it up and make more money from it.
To track your results, you can use affiliate tracking software like Afftrack. And you can use plugins like PrettyLinks if your site is a WordPress website.
And to increase your affiliate earnings, you need to constantly test and experiment with new things.
For example, you can try new ad networks, new traffic sources or new promotional techniques.
Open an online wallet account
When you start getting sales from your affiliates, you will need to have a place where you can receive or store your money.
The best way to do this is to open an online wallet account. With an online wallet account, you can easily receive your affiliate commissions directly through your bank account.
You can open an account with any of the following companies:
Other than these, just check out your affiliate partners' guide on how to withdraw your earnings and which payment providers they work with.
Affiliate marketing is a great way to make money online. And it's not that difficult to get started with it. You just need to find a good niche, sign up for an affiliate program and start promoting their products.
And Lastly, I hope this guide was helpful to you and if you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below. Plus, you can also join our Forum “Hustler's zone“, where you can connect with other affiliate marketers.