Updated: June 27, 2019
Affiliate marketing is an incredible business model.
Not only does it allow practically anyone to create a substantial income online, but the process of getting your business rolling is incredibly simple when you break it down.
With that being said.. becoming a successful affiliate takes time and effort.
I won’t sugar coat it.
Despite what many ‘online gurus’ will have you believe, there is no “magic formula” to making affiliate sales. Like anything worthwhile, you need to learn the correct process and put in the effort if you want results. The good news is that over time those ‘results’ can be very exciting.
And I’m speaking from first hand experience here…
I started my affiliate journey back in October 2015 as a complete newbie. I worked my butt off for 3 months just to earn $1.17 as an Amazon affiliate, which was actually pretty exciting at the time (lol). By the 6 month mark I was earning small, regular commissions and in less than 2 years I was earning a full time income as an affiliate.
Long story short, my life has completely changed for the better.
I’m not some ‘internet millionaire’ or anything, but I do earn enough to live a comfortable lifestyle, doing something I love, from the comfort of
home… wherever the heck I want!
Anyways, I’ve learned a LOT about affiliate marketing since starting out. I’ve literally gone from ‘struggling newbie’ to ‘super affiliate’, just by following the right process.
The same process I’m going to share with you in this ‘newbie guide’.
So set aside any distractions and read this article in full. By the time you finish reading, you’ll know exactly what affiliate marketing is, how it works and how you can get started.
Okay, let’s dive in…
First of All, What Is Affiliate Marketing?
Affiliate marketing is a business model where you earn commissions by promoting other company’s products and services.
In other words, as an affiliate, you receive a kickback for sending buyers to companies you partner with. You are the ‘middle person’ who connects vendors (sellers) with customers (buyers).
When you get this process right, the vendor is happy to pay you (the affiliate) a commission. Because you are sending them sales they would not otherwise have made.
In fact, vendors LOVE affiliates, because they’re only paying for results!
And there’s clear evidence of this when you look at the numbers. According to statista.com, companies in the United States spent $5.8 billion on affiliate marketing in 2018 alone. A number that is expected to rise to $8.2 billion by the year 2022.
These figures are staggering. Especially when you consider that the bulk of that money is going directly to affiliates!
Clearly, there’s some serious money to be made here. And it’s not too late to get your slice of the ‘affiliate pie’ either.
There are literally millions of products you can promote across practically any industry you can think of. So there’s a TON of opportunity here, and there will continue to be well into the foreseeable future.
How Does Affiliate Marketing Work?
As I explained earlier, affiliate marketing is a business model whereby affiliates earn commissions promoting other people’s stuff.
You are essentially “getting in between the customer and vendor” to earn your slice of the sale. And you are doing so in a way that helps people, which makes it a win win situation.
In the following sections, I’m going to delve into this concept in more detail, by looking at each individual ‘player’ in the process. So that you understand how the process works and what what role you play as an affiliate.
To kick things off, here’s an overview of the three main ‘players’ in the game of affiliate marketing:
customer => affiliate => vendor
Each of these players are essential to the process of affiliate marketing. Without any one of these, it simply doesn’t work.
There’s also a fourth (and optional) player, known as an affiliate network, which acts as an intermediary between you and the vendor. So instead of working directly with the vendor who’s products you want to promote, you go through an affiliate network.
Now let’s look at each of these roles in more detail…
The customer is the person who is willing to exchange their money, in return for a product or service of some kind. Pretty self explanatory.
You are the affiliate (also referred to as the “publisher”). And the customer comes into contact with your marketing efforts, at some point before making a purchase with the vendor.
For example, imagine you’re an affiliate for a “dog training equipment” company, and you have a site full of useful content about dog training. Product reviews, tips, how to articles and so forth.
The customer comes to your site in search of helpful information about dog training, which they find through a search engine or social platform. While on your site, they see an advertisement for a dog harness that you’re promoting as an affiliate, and they click on it.
Or perhaps they were on your site reading a review of a dog training collar, since most people read reviews before buying, and they click on the link to buy after reading the review.
Either way, that person is on your site and clicks on your ‘affiliate link’, which takes them to the vendor’s website, where they can then purchase the product. Thus earning you a commission.
This is the company that is actually selling the product or service you’re promoting. They handle all of the ‘hard stuff’ like payment processing, order fulfilment, shipping, warranty issues and so forth.
So you are sending customers to the vendor site, where they can then make a purchase. And if the person you send to the vendor does buy, you’ll earn a commission.
How much you earn, depends on the individual agreement, but this is typically 5-10% for physical products and 50-75% or higher for digital products.
The reason vendors love affiliates is because they are literally only paying you for RESULTS. You send them a paying customer, they give you a slice of that sale.
The reason this is so awesome for affiliates, is because you don’t need to worry about 95% of the BS that comes with running a traditional business. No inventory, shipping, dealing with annoying customers and all of that stuff.
The downside for affiliates is you don’t get to make repeat sales on those customers. Once you’ve made a sale, that’s it.
But this can be more than made up for by promoting recurring commission offers, and by incorporating email marketing into your campaigns. Which I explain later in this article.
Optionally, the Affiliate Network
An affiliate network is not always involved in the process of affiliate marketing.
But when it is, it acts as a kind of ‘silent player’ in the process. It “ties it all together” and makes sure everything is working as it should, like an intermediary between you (the affiliate) and the company who’s products you want to promote (the vendor).
Joining any of these affiliate networks is 100% free of charge. And as an approved affiliate, you’ll have the ability to promote products from a multitude of companies. In some cases, big name brands like Nike, Apple and even Gucci.
Once you choose a product to promote, the affiliate network will provide you with a special link called an ‘affiliate link’. This is a link that is unique to YOU and the product you’re promoting, so that the affiliate network knows which sales you brought which company.
When you work with an affiliate network, you rarely (if ever) deal directly with the vendor. Because everything goes through the affiliate network.
However, as I said earlier, using an affiliate network is optional…
Some companies, like Amazon for example, run their own affiliate program called Amazon Associates. So you can literally just go straight to Amazon and sign up directly, and get instant access to promote millions of products.
Summing It Up
As you can see, the process of affiliate marketing is quite simple when you break it down.
You signup with a vendor or affiliate network, choose a product, get your affiliate links and start promoting to earn commissions. It’s a simple process and one that can be very lucrative over time.
It’s also beneficial for the vendor, since you’re sending them sales. And it helps the customer, since you are directing them towards buying quality products you know they’ll love.
With that being said, you might be wondering if the ‘average joe’ can really make money doing this stuff. And if so, how long is it going to take to start making money? Read on.
Can You Really Make Money Doing Affiliate Marketing?
Yes. You absolutely can make money with affiliate marketing.
If you follow the right process and take massive action, then it’s really just a matter of how much money you’ll make, and how soon you’ll make it.
Which in my experience boils down almost exclusively to how much effort you put in and how persistent you are when it comes to building and scaling your business.
Affiliate marketing is a simple business model and it can be very lucrative. But like any worthwhile endeavour, it does take effort and time to get into profit.
So you will make mistakes along the way, you will doubt yourself at times and you may sometimes even feel like quitting. But if you stick with it- you can and will succeed.
And the rewards are WELL worth it in my experience.
To help put things into perspective, I often compare the path to becoming an affiliate marketer, with that of doing a traditional university degree.
On one hand, you could rack up $10,000’s in debt and spend 3-5 years of your time going to university. In the hopes that ‘maybe’ you’ll get an entry level job that you’ll probably end up hating before too long.
On the other hand, you can learn how to become an affiliate marketing, without going into debt, and within 2-3 years be earning a full time income. And unlike a typical ‘job’, you’ll enjoy what you do, and have the freedom only an online business can give you.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against traditional education. But I do think this comparison helps to put things into perspective.
As an affiliate, you are building a longterm, viable business that you can scale to any height you want. You just need to be willing to take massive action.
Those who are persistent and put in the effort, reap the rewards. Those who dive in ‘half cocked’ and want everything to happen overnight, earn very little (if any) money at all.
It’s really that simple.
Newbies Guide to Building an Affiliate Business [4 Step Process]
Up to this point, I’ve explained what affiliate marketing is and how the overall process works.
In this section, I’m going to show you how to actually get started, so that you can build an affiliate business that you can be proud of.
And I’ve broken the process down into the following 4 steps:
- Choose your niche
- Build a simple website
- Attract visitors to your site
- Earn revenue with affiliate offers
This is a simple and effective process that is proven to work. I can say this with absolute confidence, because this is the exact process I use to earn 6 figures per year online as an affiliate.
It’s also (hands down) the lowest cost method of building your business. So you don’t need a large bankroll to build your business or for advertising.
In the following sections I’m going to break this 4 step process down in detail…
1- Choose Your Niche
This is a critical step in building a successful affiliate business, and unfortunately it’s one that trips a lot of people up.
On one hand, you need to choose a good niche if you’re going to be successful. Get this wrong, and you’ll end up putting a lot of effort into your business, for minimal returns.
On the other hand, choosing the right niche can make your journey both enjoyable and profitable, for many years to come.
The good news is, choosing a profitable niche is a LOT easier than you may think, and I’m going to break it down for you.
So what exactly is a niche?
A niche is just a group of people looking for stuff online.
When choosing a niche, all we are doing is identifying a group of people that we want to help with our site.
For example, “weight loss” is a niche and the group of people you are helping, is people who want to lose weight.
On the same token, this is quite a broad niche, so ideally we would narrow this down to something more targeted, such as “weight loss for men” or “weight loss for men over 50”.
This is a better choice for a niche because it’s more targeted. Which will lead to you becoming an authority within that niche, and your conversions will be higher as a result.
How do you know if you have a good niche idea?
Well, first and foremost, practically ANY niche can be profitable. If you can get eyeballs on your site, you can make money. But there are a few questions you can ask yourself when selecting your niche that can steer you in a more profitable direction.
- Are you interested in your niche?
- Is there traffic potential within this niche?
- Are the people in your niche buying products online?
Asking yourself the above questions will help you choose a niche you’ll actually enjoy building your business around, and one that will actually create you a profit.
Let’s take a closer look at each question…
Are You Interested in Your Niche?
Being interested in your niche goes a long way, and this is where I recommend you begin when coming up with niche ideas.
Because your main goal as an affiliate is helping people with your site, which is a lot easier when you are interested in the topic. You will be spending time researching and creating content (because this is how you will be driving traffic to your site), which is going to be a LOT easier if you’re interested in your niche.
Not to mention, people can see when you care about helping them, versus when you’re just trying to ‘sell’ them something. Which can have a huge impact on conversions.
It’s possible to turn virtually any passion or interest into a profitable site. So while there are other factors to consider when selecting a good niche, starting your search around topics that interest you is a great way to go.
Is There Traffic Potential Within This Niche?
Traffic (visitors to your site) is your bread and butter as an affiliate. Without traffic, you’ll make zero dollars. With it, you’ll thrive.
There’s over 4 billion people online, searching for information and buying products. Which means there is a lot of traffic potential within countless niches.
Assuming you don’t choose a niche like “healthy smoothies for women over 60 who are suffering with allergies”, you’ll find there’s plenty of traffic to go around.
As you develop your skillset as an affiliate, you will come to learn how to do keyword research. Which is one of the best ways to gain insight into the traffic potential within a given niche. I’ll explain more about this process shortly.
Are the People in Your Niche Buying Products Online?
You can be interested in the topic, and be getting lots of traffic, but if those people aren’t buying anything online you aren’t going to be making any money as an affiliate.
So you want to make sure people are actually buying products and/ or services within your niche. Which in most cases they are, because most people buy stuff online these days across virtually any niche you can think of.
One way to gauge ‘buyer interest’ is to visit sites like Amazon and look for customer reviews. If people are regularly leaving reviews for a given type of product, then chances are a LOT more people are actually buying.
You don’t need to limit yourself to physical products either, there are many digital products and services that you can promote. As long as it’s relevant to your audience, you can promote it. And it goes without saying that if it’s a digital product, people are buying it online.
In any case, by asking yourself these few simple questions, you will be well on your way to selecting a profitable niche.
Whatever you do, do not overthink choosing a niche. Because action trumps overthinking any day of the week. Even if your first niche doesn’t work out, it almost certainly won’t be your last, and you’ll learn a lot in the process.
So take action, and do not overthink this step!
2- Build a Simple Website
Building a website is an integral part of the process of affiliate marketing.
This is the foundation of your new business. And the primary tool you are going to be using to generate traffic and affiliate sales.
You can do affiliate marketing without a website, and some people see great results this way. But in my opinion, building a website is superior in practically every way possible.
Let me explain…
First of all, having your own site means you OWN that asset. One that you can potentially sell for a considerable profit down the road, once your site is in good shape. And unlike affiliates who rely on social media sites like Facebook for example, your site won’t suddenly be ‘taken down’ for breaching a rule you didn’t even know existed.
Second, by using the website approach, you can leverage free quality traffic through Google and Bing, which is incredibly beneficial to your business. Traffic is the lifeblood of every affiliate business, as I explain in step 3.
Third, with the website approach, you’ll naturally build a lot more trust with your audience and those you partner with. Because you are giving people value, instead of just trying to sell stuff. Which in turn will lead to higher conversions and more opportunities to work with better quality companies.
If you want to learn more about some of the key differences, you can read my full comparison between affiliate marketing with versus without a website here.
Anyways, now that you know why building a website is key to your success as an affiliate, it’s time to learn how it’s actually done.
And believe it or not, this is one of the easiest steps of all. Because thanks to advances in technology, you can create a professional looking website in less than a minute.
But for those who like to know how things work, here’s what goes into creating a website:
- Domain name
- Web hosting
- Content Management System (CMS)
A domain name is the ‘virtual address’ of your site (for example affiliateunguru.com is a domain name). This is how people know how to get to your site.
Web hosting is what makes your site ‘live’. Without this, nobody would be able to access your site, so every site needs hosting.
A CMS (AKA ‘website builder’) is the platform you use to create your site and the content that goes into it. I personally use WordPress, as do millions of other site owners, because it’s simple and effective.
You can buy a domain name for about $14 per year, get halfway decent hosting for about $10 per month, and WordPress is free to install. So as you can see, the costs are very low when it comes to building your site.
However, trying to put all of these elements together as a newbie, without proper training, can be an absolute nightmare. And you really don’t want to spend ANY more time than necessary on this step. Because if you do, you are wasting your time that could be far better spent on building your business.
So to get rolling as quickly and easily as possible, I recommend you skip all the technical stuff and learn how to create a free affiliate website on this page.
By following that above link, you can have a professional looking website up and running within minutes from right now. Fully live, hosted and ready to go.
3- Attract Quality Visitors (Traffic) to Your Site
Traffic is the life blood of every affiliate business.
As an affiliate, you want as many of the right type of people in front of your affiliate offers as humanly possible. And there are TWO main ways you can get this traffic:
- Traffic you buy
- Traffic you earn
Buying traffic is good if you’re an intermediate to experienced affiliate, and you have a decent bank roll. This can be an excellent way to scale your business and create a lot of success.
But it’s not the best option for newbies in my opinion.
Unfortunately, most ‘make money online’ programs teach ‘quick and easy’ paid traffic methods, like buying solo ads. Which is one of the main reasons why so many people fail at affiliate marketing.
Earning traffic is a FAR better approach for a beginner.
Because first of all it’s 100% free, which significantly reduces your risk and allows you to the time you need to learn, before you start spending huge chunks of cash on ads. And second of all, free traffic can also be VERY high quality. So free doesn’t mean ‘cheap’ in this case.
Specifically, I’m talking about free traffic through search engines like Google.
When you follow the right process, you can have your content ranking high in Google search, which will bring you free, targeted, quality traffic.
It’s not hard to learn how to do this effectively, but it does take time and effort. In fact, this is where the bulk of your affiliate efforts are going to be within the first 3-6 months of building out your site.
So how do you get quality free traffic to your site?
Well, the process of getting rankings and traffic from search engines, mostly comes down to these TWO things…
- Performing keyword research
- Creating good quality content
These are ALL skills you can learn and become very good at over time.
I was in construction before I started doing affiliate marketing. And now I drive 100,000’s of visitors to my sites each year, just by doing these things well.
So you can learn this stuff, it just takes some effort.
A ‘keyword’ is just a search term people are typing into Google to find something.
For example “how to lose 10 pounds in 2 weeks” is a keyword. And the reason keyword research matters, is because this is how you know what you’re going to write about.
The idea is to find out what keywords your audience are using to find information, and create your content based on those keywords.
There are endless amounts of good keywords across every niche imaginable. So once you learn this process it will open up a lot of doors for you.
Quality content is by far the most important element of all. But at the same time, you don’t need to be a fancy writer to create high quality content.
All you need to do, is create content that helps your audience in some way.
For example product reviews, how to articles, guides… anything your audience is searching for, is something you can create blog posts around.
When you combine good keyword selection with quality content, you will be in a position to drive a lot of traffic to your site.
There are other elements that go into ranking in Google, but these are paramount.
At the end of this article, I’ll show you how you can get your hands on a free training that walks you through this, and every other concept I’ve explained, in a lot more detail.
For now, just know that by getting these three elements right, you will get traffic. And as a result, you will be in a prime position to earn regular affiliate commissions.
4- Earn Revenue With Affiliate Offers
This is the fun part of being an affiliate- earning revenue.
This step is all about recommending relevant products and services to your audience. Which in turn, will equate to a profit if and when a percentage of your visitors buy.
And this step is easy when you’ve followed the previous three steps properly.
Firstly, you’ve already got targeted traffic on your site, and the people in your niche are already buying the types of products you’re promoting. So ‘recommending’ something you know they’ll enjoy, is easy.
Second, you’ve started the relationship with your visitors by giving them value, through your helpful content. As a result, you’ve built trust and goodwill, which is essential to making affiliate sales.
Third, the actual process of signing up with an affiliate network, getting your affiliate links and inserting them into your site, is very simple. The first time you do it, you’ll probably want to slap me for saying that, but like every other aspect of this process, over time it will become like second nature.
All you are doing is inserting your affiliate links within your content, to encourage people to make a purchase.
You are not ‘selling stuff’. You are ‘recommending quality products’ that your visitors are going to be interested in. Obviously not everyone will buy, that will never be the case, but a percentage will.
Affiliate marketing is a numbers game.
The more quality traffic you have, and the more you fine tune your marketing over time, the more money you will make.
Also worth mentioning is that there are different types of affiliate products you can promote, and what you choose to promote can make a big difference to your bottom line.
For example, physical products and digital products are very different because physical products will net you much smaller commissions than digital products.
But there’s also high vs low ticket offers, one time payments versus recurring billing and other variations of offers you can promote.
Personally, I love recurring subscription affiliate offers.
Because this creates steady, reliable income for you. Even if your traffic deviates from one month to the next, the money keeps rolling in since you’ve already made the initial sales that keep on paying.
In any case, as you progress in your business and develop your skillset, you will come to learn what works for you and your niche. And you can experiment by promoting different types of products to see what converts best.
You can also delve into things like email marketing once your site is in good shape.
Once you have the foundation of your business in place (ie. a website that generates steady traffic), building an email list is easy. And doing so can help you build better relationships with your audience, and ultimately increase affiliate revenue.
In any case, you don’t want to spend too much time worrying about this step, at this stage of your journey. The most important thing is to build an audience which you will do by following the previous 3 steps.
When you follow the process, making affiliate sales is easy.
Getting Your Affiliate Business Started
If you’ve read this far… well done.
This was a huge article so you’re clearly serious about building an affiliate business, which is good to see.
I love sharing this stuff with you guys because it works. There is SO much opportunity within affiliate marketing, that anyone willing to put the effort in can be successful.
Once you get the process dialed in, you can (literally) be earning money while you sleep. In other words, you are earning ‘passive income’. Which trumps any other form of earning out there.
Cool… but where do you go from here?
Well, one option is you could take what I’ve shown you and try to ‘go it alone’.
There’s certainly enough information and resources both here and across other sites on getting started with affiliate marketing.
But that’s not the best approach in my opinion.
Because it’s VERY easy to get ‘lost in the noise’ when you consider the sheer volume of information (and misinformation) online. It’s beyond overwhelming, so ‘going it alone’ would almost certainly lead you to information overload and frustration.
Long before you’d have a chance of putting all of this together.
Not to mention, you’d probably end up spending a lot more money than you need to, to get your business rolling. Because every second ‘online guru’ you come across will tell you that you ‘need’ to buy their amazing program or ‘system’ if you want to be successful. Which is BS.
So what you need is a proven step-by-step training course, proper tools and support from people who actually know what they’re talking about.
Which is why I wholeheartedly recommend Wealthy Affiliate. This is the platform I used to go from total newbie, making zero dollars, to super affiliate, earning 5 figures per month. Making affiliate sales all day, every day, like clockwork.
Literally everything you need to build a thriving affiliate business is ALL under one roof.
Tools, websites, hosting, domains, step-by-step training and access to a thriving community of successful affiliates to help you along the way. The whole nine yards.
That’s it from me, I hope you found this article helpful!