Affiliate Marketing What It Is and How You Can Get Started featured

Affiliate Marketing in 2021: What It Is and How You Can Get Started

Do you want to learn how to make money with affiliate marketing, but you’re not sure where to get started?

Affiliate marketing is all about generating tons of profits without any effort, right? At least that’s what a quick Google search would have you believe, but as usual, the truth is a little more complex than that.

Yes, you can make money through affiliate marketing. Good money. And, yes, you can even make money while you sleep.

If you learn and implement the right strategies, you can become one of the top earners in your niche. Let’s dive deeper and get more details about affiliate marketing and one of the best programs you can subscribe to and start earning money.

get started on affiliate marketing

What is affiliate marketing?

Affiliate marketing is an online sales tactic that lets a product owner increase sales by allowing others targeting the same audience “affiliates” to earn a commission by recommending the product to others. At the same time, it makes it possible for affiliates to earn money on product sales without creating products of their own.

Simply put, affiliate marketing involves referring a product or service by sharing it on a blog, social media platforms, or website. The affiliate earns a commission each time someone makes a purchase through the unique link associated with their recommendation. Done well, this performance-based opportunity can go from side hustle to profitable business by netting you a healthy income.

It’s essentially classic advertising in a less intrusive way. Rather than promoting a product on your website with visual advertisements, like this:

affiliate marketing - blog post with too many ads

You simply embed the product link in your content, like this:

StoryChief resolves the concern of duplicate content while posting the same content on various platforms. The software enables you to retain the SEO performance of your websites and distribute your content on multiple channels. It provides readability and SEO scores to optimize your content for search engines. Both features offer the needed information to make your posts more readable as well.

In the image above, the affiliate partner is Storychief, a company that offers content marketing automation solutions.

So does that mean you can create a website, toss in a bunch of affiliate links, and watch the affiliate commissions roll in? Not quite, but we’ll get to that.

For now, you simply need to know the basics with how affiliate marketing works:

You recommend a product or service to your followers through your website, blog, or email list.

Your followers purchase the product or service using your affiliate link.

You get paid a commission for the sales made using your affiliate link.

How much money can I make as an affiliate marketer?

The simple answer is that there is no limit. It depends on your niche and the amount of work you put in.

The most successful affiliate marketers make six or seven figures a month.

If you’re just starting out, your checks might look more like this for a while: You need to manage your expectations. You won’t earn the big bucks right off the bat, but don’t let this discourage you.

The success of others tells you that with hard work, time, and the right knowledge, you too can potentially reach those levels.

How does affiliate marketing work by Quora

How do affiliate marketers get paid?

A quick and inexpensive method of making money without the hassle of actually selling a product, affiliate marketing has an undeniable draw for those looking to increase their income online. But how does an affiliate get paid after linking the seller to the consumer?

The answer can get complicated.

The consumer doesn’t always need to buy the product for the affiliate to get a kickback. Depending on the program, the affiliate’s contribution to the seller’s sales will be measured differently.

The affiliate may get paid in various ways:

1. Pay per sale

This is the standard affiliate marketing structure. In this program, the merchant pays the affiliate a percentage of the sale price of the product after the consumer purchases the product as a result of the affiliate’s marketing strategies. In other words, the affiliate must actually get the investor to invest in the product before they are compensated.

2. Pay per lead.

A more complex system, pay per lead affiliate programs compensates the affiliate based on the conversion of leads. The affiliate must persuade the consumer to visit the merchant’s website and complete the desired action – whether it’s filling out a contact form, signing up for a trial of a product, subscribing to a newsletter, or downloading software or files.

3. Pay per click.

This program focuses on incentivizing the affiliate to redirect consumers from their marketing platform to the merchant’s website. This means the affiliate must engage the consumer to the extent that they will move from the affiliate’s site to the merchant’s site. The affiliate is paid based on the increase in web traffic.

How much does it cost to join an affiliate program?

There is no charge for joining an affiliate program, however, your total cost depends on what promotion technique you are using. For example, a blog post doesn’t cost a dime, but PPC marketing, email marketing, and advertising come with various price tags.

Is affiliate marketing harmful or illegal?

No, it is neither harmful nor illegal, as you will simply be using the affiliate link provided to you rather than a direct link to link to any site.

However, in certain jurisdiction, you are supposed to disclose that you may be compensated for endorsing the product. Read our guide on Affiliate disclosure to learn more about it.

Which affiliate networks should you join?

You should join affiliate networks that have the products you want to promote. You can join multiple affiliate networks for different products. We use all the above networks and few others.

Make sure that you always check the network program policies. You also need to review program policies of individual products and merchants. This will give you a clear idea about your earnings, payments, additional incentives, and more.

How do you become an affiliate marketer?

Here’s the thing, you can pick just about any product that you can buy online, and there will be an affiliate program that will pay you a finders fee for referring a sale. 

However, just because you can promote anything, doesn’t mean you should.

The most important thing to consider when selecting a product to market is, “is it relevant to your audience?”


How to Get Started with Affiliate Marketing

First, you need to make sure that you are using the right blogging platform , and you are allowed to run affiliate marketing campaigns on your website.

For example, if you are using, then there are some restrictions regarding the products and services you can link to. 

If you haven’t created a website already, then you can get started right away. Simply follow the recommendations on how to get the most of your website, and you’ll be up and running in less than 30 minutes.

Next, you need to let your users know how you make money from your website by adding a disclosure page. See WPBeginner’s disclosure page and feel free to use it as a template.

You will also need to add a privacy policy and terms of service page to your blog.

These are amongst the must have pages for every WordPress blog . They not only save you from legal issues in the future, but they also help you build trust with your audience.

Simple steps to start with affiliate marketing

Understand each role in affiliate marketing

Before you jump into affiliate marketing with both feet, it’s good to understand the three roles involved in affiliate marketing:

1. The first role is the company who manufactures and ships the product.

2. Affiliate partner: By becoming an affiliate partner (role #2), you essentially promote their product but when a sale is made, they have to handle the order fulfillment and shipping. This is great news for bloggers and entrepreneurs who are more interested in creating content than handling the back-end tasks of running a dead-simple shop.

3. The consumer, meaning the person who clicks on your affiliate link and makes a purchase. Without them, you may be spending precious time creating affiliate content that doesn’t give you any return. You and the company both need the consumer for your partnership to be successful.

Choose your niche

Now that you know how affiliate marketing works, you can brainstorm ways to become a better affiliate partner for the companies you promote. One way to do this is by choosing your niche early on in the process.

Narrowing down your niche gives you an advantage over competitors that create broader content. While you may think that having a niche means you won’t connect with as many people, it’s actually quite the opposite.

Having a niche means you are focusing on one segment of a larger audience and coming from a different perspective or angle than other content creators.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself if you are struggling to decide on a niche:

  • What topics am I already passionate about?
  • What would I like to be known for?
  • What perspective can I offer that my competitors can’t?
  • What unique experience do I have?
  • What industry is my business or brand in? How is it different from others?
  • What is my elevator pitch? (what you do, who you are, who you help, how you help, etc.)

You can write your answer down in a journal or on your Notepad app. Remind yourself of your answers over the next few days and see what comes from your reflections. Spend some time exploring what niche you want to pursue and keep an eye on what niche your competitors are in.

Choose your product

Once you have your niche, you can move into the phase of choosing the affiliate products you want to market to your audience. Since you’ve spent a lot of time building trust with your audience, you don’t want to lose it by promoting a brand that doesn’t fit into your values.

It’s best to choose products that you have used and would recommend to a friend. You want to choose not only products but also companies you can stand behind. If you partner with companies who have a poor reputation, you run the risk of having that rub off on you.

Try to do your research before you promote any affiliate product, even those that you use and have experience with. When you create your own product review, be honest about the benefits and pitfalls of the affiliate product. You’ll win points with your audience if you are upfront about your full experience.

It’s also a good idea to choose affiliate products that fit within your niche.

If you run an outdoor lifestyle blog but start creating affiliate content about your favorite journals, it might create a disconnect with your audience. If you do choose affiliate products that are a little outside of your industry, make sure you tie it into your overall theme in a creative way.

Research affiliate programs

There are two main ways you can sign up to be a part of existing affiliate programs.

One is to directly search for companies you love and look for their affiliate program page when visiting their website. If there is a tool you use inside your business or a product you just can’t stop talking about, going directly to the source is a great idea.

The other is to look at multi-brand affiliate programs that allow you to take advantage of several affiliate programs through their service. You will commonly see lifestyle, fashion, and beauty influencers using these affiliate programs because it makes affiliate marketing multiple items really easy.

Keep in mind that each brand will offer a different commission inside the program.

When you are looking at what affiliate programs you should partner with, here are a few questions to ask yourself before creating an account:

  • What does success look like for me with this affiliate program?
  • What percentage of each sale do I get as a commission?
  • Does the commission make it worth my time and effort as a content creator?
  • Does the affiliate program give me additional resources that help me market their products as a better affiliate? (We love creating this kind of content at ConvertKit for our affiliates!)

From time to time, some affiliate programs also offer special incentives, allowing you to either benefit from a higher pay-out or to offer better deals and services to your audience. For instance, some networks might offer you a better incentive during Black Friday in order for you to promote their products and stand out of the crowd.

Build a blog or website

Many affiliate marketers start by posting their affiliate links on social media, but there’s only so much you can do on social media without coming off as spammy. Your content is also shortened on social media because on many platforms, you only have so many characters before your content becomes overwhelming.

Building a separate blog or website for your personal brand allows you to create a home base for your affiliate marketing content. Then you can use your social media accounts to drive traffic to your website.

You have more control over the look and feel of your blog and website than you do with social media. Also, if your primary social media platform disappears tomorrow you will still have a central hub for your audience to interact with. This is essential if you want to create a sustainable income with affiliate marketing.

As you build your website, you will also want to start creating high-value content. You don’t have to put affiliate links into every article you write or every video you record.

In fact, it’s good to pair affiliate-driven content with content that is only meant to be educational. You can also include personal storytelling, tips, and tutorials inside your affiliate content to make it unique and feel less like a traditional sales pitch.

How to promote a service or product

Now that you know how to start affiliate marketing, you can take everything you’ve learned and put it into action! As you prepare to sign up for affiliate programs and create affiliate product reviews, we have some best practices for you to keep in mind.

After joining an affiliate program, most publishers will have a set of assets available to use in order for you to get started straight away. These materials could include eBooks, links, banners, or widgets. Using your affiliate link, you can use the promo materials to promote the product or service in your emails, articles, and social media pages.

Some programs for example allow you to choose specific banners, links, eBooks, Banners, or Widgets.

Sum it up

Affiliate marketing is an ideal solution for those looking to gain control of their own income by focusing on performance-based revenue options. Working in tandem with a seller, a motivated affiliate marketer will be able to achieve a passive income from the comfort of their home without worrying about producing their own product or service.

Although the success of the job does depend on the affiliate’s marketing skills, it can prove to be an effective way to meet your income goals as either a primary career or a profitable second job.

An elegantly straightforward process, affiliate marketing via reviews, blogs, social media, webinar software, and other platforms is a new frontier in marketing that’s just waiting to be utilized. Follow the tips included in this article, and you’ll be able to engage your audience, convert passive readers into active consumers, and enhance your paycheck one click at a time.

Additional Resources

44 of the Best Affiliate Programs That Pay the Highest Commission ➡️

Make Money With Affiliate Marketing – Investopedia ➡️

How to Run an Affiliate Program on Instagram – Later Blog ➡️

Referral Marketing vs Affiliate Marketing – What’s the Difference? ➡️

1 thought on “Affiliate Marketing in 2021: What It Is and How You Can Get Started”

  1. Great Post. It really zeros in on the steps to starting affiliate marketing in the right way. A lot of people starting off are taken back by what really needs to be done to be successful, but just putting in the work and learning as you go is the best route IMO. It’s how I started and it is what I teach my students.

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