What is affiliate marketing? And how do you become an affiliate marketer?
Affiliate marketing has become a hot topic over the last decade, and for good reason, too.
Although time consuming, it’s one of the cheapest ways to make money online while also being one of the best ways to generate revenue from content you already create for your blog, YouTube channel or podcast.
In this post, we’re going to define affiliate marketing then cover the steps you need to take to become an affiliate marketer. We also share a few tips here and there.
Let’s get into it.
What is Affiliate Marketing?
Affiliate marketing is a form of product marketing in which you, an affiliate of a company, promote a company’s product or service in exchange for a commission of any sale you generate for that company.
Let’s use the Starfish Reviews affiliate program as an example.
When you join our affiliate program, you’re assigned a unique affiliate URL that lets our system know you were the one to refer a customer to our WordPress plugin.
You can promote your affiliate link in a variety of different ways:
- In a review of the Starfish Reviews plugin.
- Mentioning our plugin in a blog post related to review marketing.
- Including us in a blog post about review marketing tools.
- Listing our plugin on your Resources page if you use it to get or showcase reviews.
- Assigning it to banner ads around your website.
- Mentioning us in a YouTube video or podcast episode.
- Mentioning us on your link in bio page on Instagram or TikTok.
Once you know where you want to feature your affiliate link, it’s just a matter of getting traffic to that page, hyping up our plugin and attaching your link to a clear call to action.
When one of your readers clicks on an affiliate link, a cookie gets added to their browser.
How long this cookie lasts differs between affiliate programs.
Cookies generated by the Starfish Reviews affiliate program last for 45 days or until the user clears their browser cache.
This means if one of your readers clicks on your affiliate link for Starfish Reviews on October 1, they’ll generate a commission for you so long as they purchase a license for Starfish Reviews by November 15.
How Do Payouts Work in Affiliate Marketing?
Okay. You placed your affiliate link for Starfish Reviews on a few pages. Now, those pages are generating traffic, your affiliate link is generating clicks, and a few customers have even gone on and purchased licenses for Starfish Reviews.
What happens next?
Well, you receive payouts for the commissions you generated, but it’s not quite that simple.
Every affiliate program has different terms when it comes to payouts.
Our terms are pretty standard among the affiliate marketing industry, so we’re going to continue using the Starfish Reviews affiliate program as an example.
We pay a commission rate of 30% on first-time purchases to affiliates.
So, if a reader purchases a month-to-month license for the Business tier of Starfish Reviews, which costs $47/month, you’ll receive $14.10 from their first payment.
If they opt for the annual license instead, which costs $444/year, you’ll receive $133.20 from that payment.
Each commission is subject to a 60-day verification process. This is a standard practice among affiliate programs for SaaS products like Starfish Reviews.
This is to ensure we retain the customers you refer to us.
You’ll receive payouts via PayPal on a monthly basis. Our minimum threshold for payouts is $100.
These are terms you can expect to find across the affiliate marketing industry as a whole, especially affiliate programs for SaaS products.
How to Become an Affiliate Marketer
You can become an affiliate marketer in a few simple steps:
- Grow an audience or customer base.
- Join an affiliate program.
- Promote your affiliate link in various ways.
Steps 2 and 3 are relatively easy. It’s Step 1 that’ll take some time.
Most affiliate marketers grow an audience through a blog, YouTube channel or podcast.
If you’re a service-based business, you can also promote affiliate products to customers.
For example, if you have a review marketing business, you can promote the Starfish Reviews WordPress plugin to your clients and have them use your affiliate link when they sign up.
That way, you’ll earn commissions when they pay for their original license fees.
Once you’re ready to start making a bit of money from whatever it is you want to promote affiliate links through, you can start joining affiliate programs.
How to Find Affiliate Programs to Join
The easiest way to find affiliate programs to join is to consider the products and services you already use in your niche.
For example, if you offer online reputation management services, you might use the following products and services:
- Accounting and invoicing application, such as FreshBooks.
- Local SEO tool, like BrightLocal.
- Review management platform, such as Birdeye.
- Review management plugin, such as Starfish Reviews, to collect and display reviews and testimonials on a WordPress site.
- Web host.
- WordPress theme and plugins.
Each of these has an affiliate program, so you can join them, then use affiliate links when you recommend them to your audience and customer base.
To find other affiliate programs, enter “your niche + affiliate programs” in Google, such as “candle making affiliate programs.”
Here’s what to expect when you research affiliate programs to join.
Some companies run their own affiliate programs. Others join an affiliate marketing network, such as ShareASale.
When a company runs their own affiliate program, they’ll have you sign up directly through their website.
Some companies require you to be a customer. Others let you sign up regardless of your customer status.
Some have prerequisites or require you to wait for your application to be approved. Others let you sign up and create an affiliate link in a matter of minutes.
When a company operates their program through an affiliate marketing network, they’ll have you sign up through the network’s website.
Affiliate Marketing Terms to Know
Here’s a quick recap of affiliate marketing terms you’ll see as you search for affiliate programs to join:
- Commission – The percentage or flat rate you’ll earn per sale you refer to the company you’re affiliated with.
- Ongoing/Lifetime Rate – Commissions for customers you refer who keep their subscriptions active. For example, if you refer a customer in January and they keep their subscription active in February, March and April, you’ll earn commissions for all four monthly payments.
- Cookie Duration – The amount of time a cookie remains in a referee’s browser. You’ll earn a commission so long as they purchase within this timeframe. However, the cookie will be lost if your referee clears their cache.
- Payment Verification – The amount of time it takes for the company to verify sales you earned commissions from.
- Threshold – The minimum amount of money you need to earn in order to receive a payout.
How to Join an Affiliate Program
Generally speaking, all you need to do is follow a few simple steps in order to join an affiliate program:
- Visit the affiliate program’s page.
- Click the Apply/Join/Sign Up button.
- Fill out the sign up form. This will likely include listing your PayPal email address for payouts.
- Accept the program’s terms and conditions.
- Create a username and password so you can access your affiliate account.
However, this process differs between programs.
If the company doesn’t have an approval system, they’ll typically have you fill out a short form.
If the company does have an approval system, you’ll typically need to fill out an application.
This helps the company verify your content beforehand to ensure they aren’t approving affiliates with illegal or spam-ridden websites.
Other companies only approve affiliates with large followings, in which case, the application process will help them determine if your follower count matches their criteria.
9 Best Places to Use Affiliate Links
Here’s a quick summary of the best places to promote affiliate links on:
- Product reviews.
- List posts.
- Resources page.
- Guides and tutorials.
- Link in bio page.
- Website footer.
- Behind the Scenes page.
- YouTube video descriptions.
1. Product Reviews
Product reviews are one of the most effective ways to utilize affiliate marketing, especially for products you already recommend to your audience or products you have a positive opinion of.
All you need to do is publish a review of the product wherever you publish content to. Blog posts and YouTube videos are especially effective.
If you’ve never published a review, research product reviews from competitors, particularly popular competitors, to see how they approach this type of content.
Then, put your own little spin on it.
You can also publish comparison content alongside product reviews and include affiliate links for each product you compare.
2. List Posts
List posts provide one of the best affiliate marketing opportunities for bloggers and YouTube influencers alike.
This is because you can include multiple affiliate links in a list post, one for each product or service in your list.
Be sure to include highly recommended products and services in your lists regardless of whether or not they have affiliate programs.
Source: Wide Open Spaces
Maintaining a sense of trust with your audience is one of the most important pillars of a blog, YouTube channel or other source of content.
If you only create content for affiliate products, your audience will catch onto this and become suspicious.
Some may even begin to distrust you and begin seeking answers elsewhere.
As such, you should always mention quality products and services on your blog, even if you aren’t affiliated with them.
You should also be selective with the products and services you do affiliate yourself with.
3. Resources Page
A Resources page is an underutilized source of content on websites, especially blogs.
It’s essentially a list post, but you create it as a page instead.
Source: Minimalist Baker
In it, you categorize and list all of the tools you use in your niche and business as well as on your website and social media platforms.
It’s also a great hub for recommending content and courses to your audience.
As such, it provides the perfect opportunity to insert a variety of different affiliate links on a single, high-traffic page.
4. Guides & Tutorials
A good blog or YouTube channel creates a variety of different content. This includes informative guides and tutorials related to your niche.
You probably mention a lot of different products and services in these types of posts.
Heck, some of your tutorials may be written about products and services you recommend frequently in your content.
This makes guides and tutorials great affiliate marketing opportunities. In fact, they’re one of the best ways to insert affiliate links naturally in your content.
Contrary to popular belief, banner ads aren’t just for displaying Google ads across your site.
They’re also a great way to advertise affiliate products without having to mention them in your content.
All you need to do is create banner-sized graphics for the product or service you want to promote, then showcase them in your sidebar or within your content.
Some companies even make their own graphics for affiliates to use.
Instead of attributing ad code to the graphic, attribute your affiliate link to it instead.
6. Link in Bio Page
Instagram and TikTok are some of the web’s most popular social media platforms. However, they only allow you to insert one link in your bio and zero links in posts.
To combat this, many influencers create a “Link in Bio” page, then link to this page in their profiles.
Either way, the page is meant to be a simplified web page with no header or footer.
The only content is a list of links you’ve mentioned in your posts as well as products you offer.
This makes this sort of page a fantastic hub for affiliate links.
7. Website Footer
Some websites list their web host and WordPress theme in the copyright section of their website’s footer.
It becomes a simple way to insert affiliate links for the products and services you use to power your website.
Source: Blogging Wizard
8. Behind the Scenes Page
This is similar to the Resources page we mentioned earlier, except this page focuses on your website, YouTube channel, podcast and social media platforms.
It’s meant to showcase the process you go through to create a blog post or YouTube video and run your business.
It’s also a great way to explain everything that powers your website, other content and business.
It’s another great affiliate marketing opportunity because of this.
9. YouTube Video Descriptions
If YouTube is a part of your content marketing strategy, be sure to list all of the tools, products and services you use to create your videos in the description section of every video you create.
You should also list products and services you highly recommend in your niche.
Include affiliate links for any product or service you’re affiliated with when you do this.
FAQs About Affiliate Marketing
Do affiliate marketers make money?
The amount you’re able to generate from affiliate marketing depends on how much traffic you generate and how high your engagement rates are.
It can also depend on the affiliate programs you join and how well you promote affiliate products.
Here are a few real-world figures:
- The blog It’s a Lovely Life generated $103,720.49 in sponsored and affiliate revenue in August of 2019. Their total revenue for that month was $222,857.
- Ron Stefanski of One Hour Professor earned $12,003 in partner and affiliate revenue in October of 2022. His total revenue for that month was $24,271.
- The blog Sadie Smiley generated $4,534.43 in affiliate revenue in March of 2022. Their total revenue was $16,717.21.
How do affiliate marketers get paid?
Most programs issue payouts automatically once a month.
Others let you issue manual payouts whenever you want so long as you meet a specified minimum threshold, such as $100.
Most affiliate marketers get paid through PayPal as is dictated by most affiliate programs.
PayPal does have a debit card system you can utilize if you want to keep your money in PayPal. However, most affiliates opt to transfer their payouts to a bank account.
If a company doesn’t use PayPal, they’ll typically issue payouts directly to your bank account instead.
Is affiliate marketing good for beginners?
Affiliate marketing is one of the best monetization strategies for new marketers.
Most affiliate programs don’t require you to have a large following, so anyone can join them. Plus, they’re free to join.
Overall, affiliate marketing offers the best way to start generating revenue from brands you’re already mentioning in your content.
All it takes is one engaged reader or customer to start earning revenue in this way.
If you’re just getting starting, set your goal to 1 commission or 1 completed payout, then go from there.
What is an example of affiliate marketing?
Let’s say you run a blog about fly fishing and publish a list post for the best flies to use for bass.
You can insert an affiliate link for each fly you feature in your list.
This is a common example of affiliate marketing.