What Is Affiliate Marketing & How Does It Works

Deepak Choudhary
| | October 19, 2020

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Many bloggers around the world are making a full-time living blogging and promoting products with affiliate marketing.

There are many success stories around the world who are making thousands of dollars per month, some even make the same amount per day, from affiliate marketing.

Revenue from affiliate marketing is increasing year after year, and it reached $6.4 billion in turnover in 2019 alone. Since 2015, affiliate marketing revenues jumped 52% and the market is expected to expand to $6.8 billion by the end of 2020.

Before you jump into to join affiliate marketing, please remember that this is not something that will make you rich overnight.

Affiliate marketing is not a get-rich-quick scheme.

To get success with affiliate marketing you must

  • choose the right affiliate product for promotion
  • be willing to work hard
  • be willing to learn and implement your learning in the right way

Read on if you are willing to work hard and have passion to learn and implement the learning with patience.

Let’s begin!

What is Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate marketing is a process where you, as an affiliate, promote other's products, and you earn a commission in return.

Let see an example below how the affiliate marketing model works.

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Step 1 - You apply to join an affiliate program 

Company A has a product X whose market price is Rs Y. If anyone helps this company in selling its product, the company will give 30% as commission.

You apply before this company to join as an affiliate to promote its product.

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Step 2 - Company will give you an affiliate link 

When the company accepts your application, they will provide affiliate product's banners and links containing unique affiliate ID to you. This ID will help you and the company to track sales.

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Step 3 - You place affiliate link on your blog 

Now, you will write an article on this product on your blog explaining in detail its features, benefits, pros & cons, and the price. In this article, you will place the banner or link provided by the company containing your unique affiliate id.

Other than blog, email marketing and social media sites are other places to promote your affiliate product.

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Step 4 - Buyer purchases the product through your affiliate link and you get commission 

When your site visitors click on your affiliate link, they would be redirected to the company website. Now, if they purchase the product, you will get a 30% commission on the product's price.

Let’s learn some common terms related to affiliate marketing that you will come across in this guide.


Affiliate: One who promotes products or services of others in return for an agreed commission for the sale made or lead generated.

Affiliate Program: These are the programs of the merchant that an affiliate promotes to earn a commission.

Before you start promoting the product, you must agree to the terms and conditions of the affiliate program.

Affiliate Link: This is a unique link given by the merchant to the affiliate marketer to promote their product. This link is embedded with a unique tracking code to track sales or leads.

Affiliate Manager: An affiliate manager is a person who manages the affiliate program. You can take the help of Affiliate Manager in framing the best strategies to promote the product.

Commission: A merchant may pay an affiliate either in percentage or a fixed amount as may be agreed upon in the affiliate program terms. This payment is called a commission.

ROI: Return On Investment (ROI) is a percentage to calculate how much return you are getting for your investment and efforts.

The formula for calculating ROI is:
ROI = (Gross profit – Investment) / Investment * 100

Three main payment types in affiliate marketing are:

  • Pay Per Sale: On sale, you get a percentage of the product sale price.
  • Pay Per Click: You get paid for only directing visitors from your affiliate site to the merchant’s website. Making a sale is not mandatory for payment.
  • Pay Per Lead: You get paid when a visitor fills out a contact form giving his details like name, email, phone, etc.

Affiliate Toolkit Needed To Get You Started

Here is the list of some must-have tools for affiliate marketing.

1. Web Hosting

For creating a blog, you need to buy a hosting plan. To make your website live on the internet, you need a host for your website. A web hosting company provides space on its server to host your website so that users can access your website on the internet.

Thus, when you purchase a hosting plan, you are buying a space for your website from the web hosting provider to host your website files.

Beginners can go for shared hosting to promote affiliate products. They are cheap and would cost around $4 to $10 per month, depending on the hosting plan you purchase.

Following are the best web host from which you can buy the shared hosting plan-

(1) Dreamhost
(2) A2 Hosting
(3) Siteground

You can buy shared hosting from any of these three as they are industry leaders in web hosting.

2. Content Management System (CMS)

WordPress is the most popular content management system managing about 33% of the websites around the world. WordPress is free to install, deploy, and upgrade.

It is also very user friendly. Thus, I would recommend you to create your blog on WordPress.

Thousands of plugins and themes power a flexible and simple interface, which reduces development costs and deployment time.

Now install a premium WordPress theme on your blog.

GeneratePress and AstraPro are the two most popular themes among affiliate marketers.

When you buy any of these, you get a license to build an unlimited number of websites using these themes.

Check out this link to know more about how to create a website.

3. Affiliate Products to Promote

I have compiled a list of 55 most popular affiliate programs which many affiliate marketers are promoting and have earned thousands of dollars from these programs.

Some of the product categories where you can start affiliate marketing are given below.

1. Amazon Associate Program
2. Web Hosting
3. WordPress Themes
4. WordPress Plugins
5. Shareasale
6. JVzoo
7. MunchEye
8. vCommission
9. Maxbounty
10. Clickbank

Also Read: Best Affiliate Programs for Beginners

Download the list of 55 affiliate programs here.

4. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

After you have selected an affiliate product to promote, now write a detailed review of the affiliate product for end-users.

The review should highlight the product’s features, benefits, price, and pros and cons.

A review must be written keeping in mind search intent of the end-users. It should solve all the pain or problems of the targeted user.

When a user finds that a product is a solution to his problem, he is more inclined to buy it.

After the review is completed and published, you can adopt two strategies to promote your affiliate product:

(1) Driving traffic from a search engine like Google and
(2) Paid ads

5. Driving traffic from Google

For driving traffic from search engines like Google, you should focus on the SEO of the content you have written.

You must follow proper on-page SEO and off-page SEO strategies to drive traffic to your review post without spending any money on paid ads.

In this strategy, you must have patience, as driving traffic organically to your site takes time. It could take anywhere between 3 months to 6 months.

Pro Tip:

Use RankMath plugin for SEO. It is one of the most popular plugins and contains some features that are present in only premium SEO plugins. 

It will provide you with guided tips as to what you need to do with your content to make it more optimized for the keywords you are targeting.

6. Driving Traffic From Paid Advertisements

If you don’t have patience and want quick results, you can go for paid ads like Facebook Ads or Google Ads .

You can hire an expert who can run paid ads for you. Or you can learn for yourself how to create paid ads on Facebook or Google.

Below are some of the courses I recommend which you can purchase to learn everything about Facebook Ads:

7. Email Service and Autoresponder

One of the most effective online marketing strategies is email marketing. You should start giving priority to start building a list of emails from day one.

For effective email marketing, you need an email service provider like Aweber or GetResponse.

These service providers have essential features to automate your emails, segment or tag your subscribers and many more.

So, start using any of these email service providers. Later in this guide, I have mentioned how to use email marketing effectively to promote your affiliate products.

8. Affiliate Link Management Tools

Affiliate links are normally long and look ugly. A traditional affiliate link looks like this:

http://www.affiliatesite.com/products/AS9061YTNP/?ref=5522

You can shorten the above link by using the link cloaking method to make it look like a branded URL as shown below.

http://www.yoursite.com/go/productname

There are some wonderful WordPress plugins that can help you to cloak affiliate links you have put on your website for promoting affiliate products.
These plugins are - (1) PrettyLinks or (2) ThirstyAffiliates

Right from day one, you should start cloaking affiliate links using any of these plugins as they make those URLs appear more friendly and clickable.

How much you can earn from Affiliate Marketing?

As I have stated in the beginning of the article that when you start a blog on affiliate marketing and put your efforts in writing some very good SEO optimized articles (around 30-40 articles) then you can expect to earn at least $500 to $1000 per month.

But you will have to work hard for at least 6 months before seeing any meaningful results.

You may ask why 6 months?

Because ranking any articles on Google takes time. You will have to do both off-page and on-page SEO. You will also have to create backlinks for your articles.

Implementing all these strategies takes time. It's not that you optimized your articles and created backlinks and right from tomorrow your article will ranking on first page of Google.

It may seems harsh, but reality is that ranking your article higher on Google takes anywhere between 3-6 months.

But if you work hard result is guaranteed.

So, motivate yourself to work hard and you will rewarded with a successful affiliate marketing career.

What is affiliate marketing
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