Affiliate Marketing For Beginners (2020) | What It Is and How It Works


Affiliate Marketing For Beginners (2020) | What It Is and How It Works

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Affiliate Marketing 101

Apr 07 2020

37 min read


37 min read

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Is affiliate marketing for beginners as well or only for experienced marketers? Let's find out how it works?

In this detailed guide, I'll cover what affiliate marketing is, how it works, how you can find profitable affiliate products to promote and make money from. Plus all the other questions that beginners have about getting started with affiliate marketing.

But why should you get into affiliate marketing in the first place? Is it still a legit business in 2020?

Yes is it! In fact, affiliate marketing is growing faster than ever before.

Here's proof...

If you study the chart below, from Google Trends, you'll see that the interest in affiliate marketing has more than doubled over the last 5 years.

Source: Google Trends

A Forrester study found that in the US alone, affiliate marketing will become an $8-10 billion industry by 2021.

Clearly, affiliate marketing is the most popular online monetization method that's becoming more popular with every passing day.

But what exactly is affiliate marketing and how can a complete newbie, who knows nothing about it, start making money from it?

In this detailed article, I'm going to tell you all the fundamental concepts of affiliate marketing and how you can use them to build a successful affiliate income.

Let this article be your reference point for everything related to affiliate marketing.

Let's dive in and give you a full affiliate marketing education...

What Is Affiliate Marketing And How Does It Work For Beginners?

So if you're wondering like many others are..."What is affiliate marketing?".

Let me start with a basic definition...

Affiliate marketing is a business model in which you get paid as an affiliate for promoting and selling someone else's products or services. It's a performance-based agreement in which you get paid only when you make a sale (or generate leads).

The concept of affiliate marketing, earning a commission on a sale, is nothing new and has been around for ages.

Look at this vintage advertisement in a British Newspaper that's offering 17.5% commission on selling Christmas hampers...

Source: British Nostalgia

With the advent of the internet, affiliate marketing has grown into a complete business model on its own that's generating millions of dollars for thousands of marketers every month.

Look at the findings of this recent survey of more than 1000 bloggers.

Source: GrowthBadger

57% of bloggers who make $50K+/year from their blogs consider affiliate marketing the best way to make money online.

Why? Because if your blog has a regular audience, affiliate marketing is the most convenient way to make money from it.

You just need to find and promote products that are in line with the interests and needs of your audience.

When people trust you, they buy from you and this is the key difference in affiliate marketing and banner advertisements or Google Ads.

People don't trust banner ads anymore because they view them as promotional messages that have nothing to do with you or your blog. They're just ads from some random company.But when you vouch for an affiliate product, people buy it because of your credibility and your relationship with them. They know it's a good product because they trust you.

This is why popular bloggers are able to sell even high-ticket affiliate products so easily.

Are you surprised I haven't said anything about making a quick sale by setting up a one-page niche site that reviews random products that you've never even used?

Contrary to the popular belief, that's not affiliate marketing. That's just a cheap and short-sighted way to make a few bucks.

Affiliate marketing is a proper long-term business that's built on relationships, value, and consistent quality.

Don't believe me?

Read this post where I've listed 19 affiliate sites in different niches that are sustainably making thousands every month.

In the next section, I'm going to describe exactly how the affiliate marketing business model works so that you know what you're getting into and where you fit into the equation.

Keep reading to see how affiliate marketing works and how you fit into the cycle between buyer and end retailer...

So How Does Affiliate Marketing Work For Beginners?

So how exactly does affiliate marketing work?

There are four main roles in the affiliate marketing business model

  • Product Owner/Seller/Advertiser: The person who creates and owns a product.

  • Affiliate Marketer/Publisher/Blogger: The person who sells/promotes the seller's product for a commission.

  • Affiliate Platform/Network: The platform that connects sellers with affiliate marketers and helps them track sales, manage payments, and resolve disputes.

  • Customer: The person who buys the seller's product through the affiliate marketer's link.

The infographic below explains the complete affiliate marketing cycle, look at each of the 3 people involved in the process carefully to fully understand it...

Source: PepperJam

As the infographic shows, the product owners/sellers recruit affiliate marketers to promote their products and offer them a commission on every sale or (in some cases) lead generated.

Recruitment usually takes place through an affiliate marketing platform.

Here's what happens:

Step 1 - You apply for registration to an affiliate marketing platform (usually free).

Step 2 - The platform reviews your application and approves if it meets the requirements (which can vary from your website topic, how high quality it is, whether you have traffic and appear credible or not).

Step 3 - You're given access to the marketplace from where you can choose affiliate offers and products to promote on your website.

Step 4 - When you choose a product, you're given a unique tracking link by the affiliate network that you need to use so that all the sales you refer are credited to your account.

Step 5 - You promote the products on your website, email list, or any other platform where you have an audience.

Step 6 - Someone from your audience clicks your link and buys the product.

Step 7 - The sale is credited to your account by the affiliate network and your commission is added to your digital wallet immediately or after a certain period (in some programs)

Step 8 - You get paid when the payment date arrives or when you choose to withdraw it (varies with platforms - it can range from 30 to 90 days typically)

This is the typical cycle with most affiliate programs.

You can also directly sign up with a seller for their affiliate program (I'll explain later).

Once you sign up as an affiliate, you need to make sure that you comply with the seller's terms & conditions while promoting products.

For example, a seller might prohibit using email traffic or traffic from forums for driving sales. Some require that you don't directly quote product prices on your site (Amazon are strict about this due to the fact their prices change regularly).

Other than that, you only need to focus on driving traffic to the products you're promoting and ensuring that your referrals purchase the products.

You might be wondering, though, why sellers/product owners need affiliates when they can promote the products themselves? Why share a percentage of their profit with someone?

In the next section, I'll explain why sellers need affiliates like you to promote their products (this might surprise you)...

Why Do Businesses Want Affiliate Marketers Promoting Their Products?

Without going into the details, I want to quickly tell you why affiliates are so valuable to product owners and sellers. Understanding this is important so that you understand the value you're adding to the overall sales cycle.

Sellers can market and promote products themselves and in fact, most sellers do but they still recruit affiliates.

Here's what a survey by Forrester and Rakuten Marketing of 151 different companies with a minimum annual revenue of $200 million found...

Source: Rakuten Marketing

81% of the surveyed brands had active affiliate programs because that's how important affiliates are.

But why? Because they offer several benefits...

Broader Reach

Affiliates have their own websites, email lists, and loyal audiences. By recruiting them, product owners enjoy broader market reach and get instant access to audiences that were previously unavailable to them.

Third-Party Endorsement

When you promote a product as an affiliate, it works as an independent third party endorsement for the product owner. As compared to the seller praising their own products, neutral product reviews have a much greater impact on consumers.

Pay On Sale Only

Affiliate marketing is a zero-risk strategy for sellers because they only pay a commission when you sell their product. Compare this with Google Ads or Facebook Ads where sellers need to keep pumping in money to run ads with no guarantee of sales.

Free Content Generation

This is another major benefit of recruiting affiliates.

To promote products, drive sales, and earn commissions, affiliate marketers publish product reviews, blog posts, videos, online reviews, etc. This serves as free marketing for the brand and helps spread their message across the internet for free.

Increased Search Traffic

Google gives a lot of value to brand mentions on third party sites. If a product/brand keeps getting mentioned on different sites, it contributes positively to its search position.

Product owners achieve this by recruiting affiliates who constantly churn out content and build backlinks to products they're promoting.

These are just some of the benefits sellers get by recruiting affiliates.

But what's in it for the marketers?

I'll cover this in the next section so keep reading to see how you'll benefit from affiliate marketing...

Major Benefits of Affiliate Marketing For Beginners

For bloggers, influencers, and content creators, affiliate marketing is one of the best ways to monetize their audience and earn a consistent income without doing anything extra.

If you already have an audience (or plan to build one) you just need to position products within your content that are relevant and useful to your audience.

Here are some of the other major benefits of affiliate marketing because of which you should seriously consider adding it to your content monetization strategy.

There's No Entry Barrier To Affiliate Marketing

There's literally no barrier to becoming an affiliate marketer.

You don't need to be an expert, you don't need to invest thousands of dollars, you don't need a degree, you don't need any endorsements.

For example, here's the signup page for the affiliate program of GetResponse, a leading email marketing tool.

Source: GetResponse

To become an affiliate, you just need to tell them your website URL and the primary traffic source you plan to use for your marketing campaigns.

Most affiliate programs are like that.

They'll let you promote their products if you have a legitimate website that's relevant to their niche.

Many don't even require a website (though it's recommended you have one if you're serious about earning as an affiliate).

People Prefer Buying Through Affiliate Marketers

Contrary to popular belief, consumers prefer buying products through affiliates marketers.

Rakuten Marketing recently released its annual consumer insights report and here's what it found about consumer preferences when it comes to affiliate links, this will definitely surprise you...

Source: 2019 Influencer Marketing Global Survey

As you can see, more than 60% of consumers said they'd happily click on a sponsored link by an influencer.

64% of women and 54% of men said they don't avoid clicking sponsored links from trusted influencers.

Why is that the case? I've already told you but here it is again...

When people trust you and have a relationship with you, they don't have any problems buying from you.

In fact, they prefer buying through your content because it gives them extra assurance about the utility of the product.

There Are Unlimited Products To Choose From

No matter what niche you're in, you can find affiliate products to promote.

Amazon, the world's largest eCommerce company that also runs the biggest affiliate program, has more than 100 million products listed across hundreds of categories.

Source: Oberlo

As an Amazon Associate, you can promote and earn commissions on any of these 119,928,851 products.

And that's just Amazon.

There are dozens of other affiliate programs for digital and physical products plus several niche specific affiliate platforms where you can find relevant products to promote.

In short, irrespective of your audience's interests and the kind of content you publish, you can find relevant products to promote as an affiliate marketer.

It's the Closest Thing To Passive Income

Let's be honest, there's no such thing as 100% passive income.

One way or the other you have to be involved in a business to make money from it. However, affiliate marketing is certainly the closes thing to passive income.

There are several ways to do this but let me share a couple of examples.

After that, you only need to build backlinks to your content and keep driving traffic to your site to boost your search rankings and earn money consistently.

  • The other way is to set up automated email sequences that are triggered as soon as a visitor signs up to your email list. The sequence will contain information emails followed by promotional emails and direct product pitches.

To make this work, you only need to keep driving traffic to your site so that visitors keep turning into email subscribers.

It Allows You To Work From Anywhere

Affiliate marketing is a location independent business model that allows you to work from anywhere in the world.

All you need is an internet connection and a laptop (sometimes even a smartphone is enough)

Sean Ogle, for example, is a popular freelancer turned affiliate marketer who lives a location independent life and shares his strategies on his blog.

Source: LocationRebel

That's just one example.

Stuart himself keeps hopping around whenever he wants.

This independent lifestyle is one of the biggest reasons people are attracted to affiliate marketing.

The Seller Handles Customer Support

A major advantage of promoting products as an affiliate marketer instead of a reseller or franchise owner is that you don't have to worry about after-sales support.

Once the sale is done, and you collect the commission, your job is done.

If the client has any problems with the product or needs support, the seller looks after it.

These were just some of the major benefits of affiliate marketing.

But what exactly are you supposed to do as an affiliate?

I'll explain that in the next section...

Can You Make Money With Affiliate Marketing As A Beginner?

Affiliate marketing is a multi-billion dollar industry.

So, of course, you can make money from it.

But not the way you think.

Many new or aspiring affiliates think that to make money from affiliate marketing they need to build "Affiliate Sites" by writing product reviews with copied content and use black hat SEO techniques.

Then they hope to skim off affiliate commissions from naive searchers reading their fake product reviews and clicking their affiliate links.

If that's what you think about affiliate marketing, you need a system reboot (it worked years ago but is much less effective now).

Those are the things you should NOT do as an affiliate.

Your job as an affiliate marketer is to be a solid and reliable bridge between product sellers and consumers.

You need to be the first person your audience thinks of when it needs advice before buying a product.

You need to be the person whose recommended products solve problems, save money, and create better lives for your audience.

Look at the image below.

Does it tell you why people turn to affiliates instead of directly purchasing from sellers?

Source: Nogre

84% of millennials don't trust traditional advertising and can tell when promotions/reviews are sponsored by brands.

They turn to you for authentic and unbiased information that they can trust.

Similarly, why do sellers and product owners recruit affiliates?

Because they know independent product endorsements (that appear unbiased) are more effective than ads.

Both the sellers and the consumers want you to be the go-to person for everything related to your niche.

How do you become that person?

By NOT looking to sell at any cost but by thinking about the needs of your audience and promoting products that'll help them.

There's a difference between a cheap car salesman and an affiliate marketer. A legitimate affiliate marketer who's in business for the long-run focuses on building relationships first.

Because selling is all about trust. When people trust you, they buy from you.

To build trust, you need to publish detailed, unbiased, and actionable content that aligns with the needs of your audience and pitches relevant products as solutions to their problems instead of directly selling them like a desperate salesman.

Instead of reading like a long advertisement, your content should list down the pros and cons of every product you promote and help readers make informed decisions.

I don't say this without proof.

A survey asked consumers in the USA and the UK a simple question "What makes a good product review?"

Have a look at the results below and tell me what you think...

Source: TrustPilot

Among other factors, more than 60% of consumers in both countries feel it's necessary to list down both the pros and cons of a product for a high-quality and unbiased review.

In short, your job as an affiliate marketer is that of a facilitator, not a product advocate.

Create unbiased, useful, and actionable content that's based on factual information and experiences.

That's the only way to make money as an affiliate marketer in the long run.

How Much Money Can You Make As An Affiliate Marketer

Can you make a million in your first year?

$1000 in your first month?

$100 today?

Yes, you can.

But it completely depends on the products you promote and the strategy you adopt to market them.

Affiliate marketing is a business.

And just like any other business, your earnings depend largely on how much value you can offer.

But just to give you an idea of how much you can earn as an affiliate marketer newbie, here are a few examples.

Adam Enfroy started his blog in mid-2019.

In less than a year, his monthly income has reached $45K out of which $25K is from affiliate marketing.


Michelle runs MakingSenseOfCents.com, a popular personal finance blog.

She earns well over $100K per month from her site out of which almost 40% comes from affiliate marketing.


She started her site in 2013 and took almost one year to reach $1000/month from affiliate marketing.

MoneySavingExpert, another hugely popular personal finance site, earns well over $1 million per month mostly from affiliate marketing.

WhatMomsLove is a relatively small niche blog about knitting which makes $20K+ per month from affiliate marketing.


You can find more than a dozen examples of different small, medium, and large affiliate sites and their monthly revenue details in this article I wrote a while back.

All of these sites make a handsome amount of money from affiliate marketing.

But if you look closely, all of them have one thing in common.

They have worked hard on building their audience, understanding its problems, and creating free value to solve those problems.

Some took a lot of time to do it.

Others like Adam Enfroy did it in less than a year.

But nobody skipped this step.

However, these examples represent a very small portion of affiliate marketers who take the longer route and focus on building sustainable affiliate marketing businesses.

The majority don't have that kind of patience and want to start earning right away.

And this is why most of them never make any money.

Take the ClickFunnels affiliate program as an example.

In 2018 alone, ClickFunnels paid over $22 million to its affiliates.

But 80% of its affiliate made less than $1000 in the whole year.

This means almost all the $22 million went to only 20% of the top affiliates.


Becuase they took the longer route and focused on building an audience based on real needs instead of pushing out desperate sales content just to make a quick buck.

So let me repeat your question.

"How much money can I make as an affiliate marketer?"

As much as you want - that's my answer.

Affiliate marketing is not a job.

You don't need to wait for your annual appraisal to earn more.

Nobody can stop you from earning a million dollars a year from as an affiliate (thousands of people already are)

But your earnings depend on the strategy you adopt.

Spammy affiliate marketing techniques like purchasing email lists and bombarding them with sales messages doesn't work anymore.

To build a sustainable business, you need to grow an audience and offer value BEFORE you can persuade them to spend their hard-earned money on the products you recommend.

Got it?

In the next section, I'll explain the main types of affiliate marketing and how you can make money from them...

What Are The Main Types of Affiliate Marketing?

The concept of affiliate marketing is simple.

You get paid for selling/promoting someone else's product/services.

However, there are different types of affiliate marketing based on what the seller wants from you.

Let me explain.

Pay Per Sale

This is the most common affiliate marketing model in which affiliates are paid when their referrals buy the seller's product.

In this model, your job as an affiliate is to drive sales because no matter how much traffic you generate for the seller, if there's no sale, you don't get paid.

This is the model used by Amazon Associates, the biggest affiliate program in the world, and most other leading affiliate programs.

Within the Pay Per Sale model, there are two more categories - one-time commission and recurring commission

Amazon Associates offers the following one-time commission per sale for different product categories


The other type, recurring commissions, is mostly found in SaaS products and online services. In this model, you keep earning a fixed commission every month as long as your referral keeps using the product/service.

ActiveCampaign, a leading email marketing automation software, offers up to 30% recurring commission to its affiliates.

Source: ActiveCampaign

The commission rate for Pay Per Sale programs is usually higher than other types of affiliate programs. But it's also a bit harder than the other types since you only get paid when your referrals purchase the products you're promoting.

Pay Per Lead

In Pay Per Lead affiliate marketing (also called Cost Per Action or CPA), your job is to refer visitors to the seller's site who perform a specific action already defined by the seller.

Most sellers require actions like signing up to the seller's email list, downloading an eBook, installing a mobile app, filling a form, filling a survey, calling a number, etc.

Here's a screenshot from Offervault, a platform that lists CPA offers from different companies. Note that each offer also mentions the payout amount per lead.

Source: OfferVault

The moment your referral performs the required action, you get the commission (even if it doesn't result in a sale)

Pay Per Click

In Pay Per Click affiliate marketing, your job is to simply refer traffic to the seller's site. Beyond that, it doesn't matter if your referrals immediately bounce back or don't purchase the seller's product.

These were the main types of affiliate marketing.

But within these types, there are different product types that you can promote.

I'll cover them in the next section.

What Type of Affiliate Products To Promote?

There are 4 different main types of affiliate products to promote...

As I've already mentioned, affiliate marketing a vast field and companies from every industry are hiring affiliates to give more exposure to their products and services.

This is why there are several types of products you can promote as an affiliate.

Depending on your target audience, each product type has its advantages and disadvantages.

Let me describe them below.

Downloadable Digital Products

Digital products are downloadable resources that customers can pay for and instantly access online.

For example, Amazon has the world's largest collection of eBooks that you can promote as an affiliate.

The main types of digital products include.

  • eBooks/Reports

  • Tools/Software

  • Mobile Apps

  • Audio/Video Content

You can find all of these digital product types on platforms like Amazon, ClickBank, CommissionJunction.

SaaS Products and Online Services

Online tools and products based on the Software as a Service (SaaS) model is another huge market for affiliates.

These typically include tools for email marketing, SEO, invoicing, graphic design, and web hosting companies.

Customers pay a monthly or annual subscription fee to use these products.

They're lucrative for affiliate marketers since many of them offer recurring commissions.

Source: BeRush

SaaS products are also popular among affiliate marketers because they're easy to sell since customers can start using them by paying a small monthly fee.

Physical Products

Thanks to Amazon, physical products are the most popular product type among affiliate marketers.


The majority of affiliate niche sites are built around different physical products available on Amazon (which isn't the best approach)

The global rise in eCommerce sales and the high prices of physical products make them ideal for affiliate marketers looking to earn a full-time income from their sites.

Online Courses

Online courses and video training programs have grown like mushrooms over the last few years. No matter what niche you're in, you can find relevant online video courses in it.

Many individual online course creators, as well as platforms, have affiliate programs where you're paid for bringing in students.

For example, Udemy, which is one of the largest platforms for online courses, invites affiliates to promote relevant courses to their audiences and get paid per sale.

Source: Udemy

Jeff Walker, a leading online course creator, regularly recruits affiliates for his programs. And he's not alone, countless other course creators use affiliates to spread their message and attract more customers.

Depending on your target audience, you can use any of the product types I've described as a part of your affiliate marketing strategy

But how do you find relevant affiliate products?

Don't worry, I'll explain everything in the next section...

How To Find Affiliate Products to Promote & Make Money From

Finding the right products to promote as an affiliate is crucial for your business because it not only has an impact on your earnings but also on your brand image.

If you promote low-quality products or products that are plain scams, your audience will stop trusting you.

This is why ideally you should only promote products that you've personally used.

Doing so is easier for digital products and online courses but if you plan to promote physical products, testing them yourself is harder because of the costs and logistics involved.

But you can minimize the risk of promoting cheap or low-quality products by choosing products from reliable sellers and eCommerce platforms.

There are a couple of ways you can find high-quality affiliate offers.

Affiliate Marketing Platforms

Affiliate platforms are sites that work as a bridge between sellers and affiliates. They invite sellers to list their products in different categories so that affiliates can evaluate them and promote the products that are relevant to their audiences.

I've done a detailed article that lists the most popular affiliate marketing programs and platforms you can use.

But I'll quickly list some of them here.

There are many other industry-specific affiliate platforms that you can find with a few Google Searches (if there's a need)

Bu the ones I've listed cover every industry imaginable and will not only help you find reliable products to promote as an affiliate but also help you manage payment and any disputes with sellers.

Direct Partnerships

Many brands and companies advertise their affiliate programs on their websites instead of recruiting affiliates through networks.

For example, ClickFunnels is a leading marketing automation tool that offers a recurring commission program on its website.

Source: ClickFunnels Affiliate Program

How do you find such programs in your niche?

By using Google Search.

For example, here's what I found when I searched for weight loss affiliate programs

Most of the results are lists of different weight loss programs.

They're useful as well.

But I chose to click on a company website with its own affiliate program.

Source: Elite Weight Loss

You can reach out to companies, even if they don't have any public affiliate programs, to see if they're interested in hiring you as an affiliate.

You'll be surprised how many times you'll get a yes for an answer.

How Does Tracking Work In Affiliate Marketing

The popular affiliate marketing platforms like Amazon Associates, ClickBank, CJ, etc. and even individual affiliate programs by Shopify or ClickFunnels have thousands of registered affiliates.

At any given moment, they're collectively promoting thousands of different products from these platforms to millions of people across the globe.

How do they track all these sales and credit them to the right affiliates? Good question.

Let me explain.

All affiliate marketing platforms use two things to track sales and credit them to the right affiliates.

  • Unique affiliate tracking Ids

  • Cookies

I'll quickly describe them below.

Unique Affiliate Tracking Id

When you sign up for any affiliate program, it gives you a unique affiliate id. It's usually a number or an alphanumeric id that's used to identify your referrals.

Some affiliate programs let you create your affiliate id.

Others simply generate a unique id and send it to you via email.

How does it work?

Whenever you're promoting a product as an affiliate, you'd use your tracking id at the end of the product URL.

Suppose I am a Shopify affiliate with a tracking Id NicheHacks1234.

Here's the link I'd use to promote Shopify to my followers.

When someone clicks on this link, the unique tracking Id at the end of the URL will tell Shopify that I am the referrer.

Different programs have different affiliate URL structures but the fundamental role of the tracking Id remains the same.

When you promote affiliate products on your blog, email list, forums or any other platform, you need to ensure that you're using the right URL which has your tracking Id.

This is the only way an affiliate platform can identify your referrals.

If you promote a URL without your affiliate Id, you won't get the commission.

It's that simple.

No matter what affiliate program you sign up for, make sure you understand their URL structure and use the right URLs for your affiliate promotions.

But here's another question.

You promote a product using your affiliate link, someone from your audience clicks on the link, and visits the product page but doesn't purchase the product.

Do you still get the credit if they buy it a month later?

After all, it was you who introduced your audience to the product, they saw it because of you, but they didn't buy it immediately.

This is where Affiliate Cookies come in.

Affiliate Cookies

Without getting into the technical details, cookies are files that websites leave in the browser caches of their visitors.

Affiliate platforms use browser cookies in combination with your unique tracking Id to identify your referrals.

When someone clicks on your affiliate link and visits the site you're promoting, it leaves a cookie in their browser.

Every affiliate platform has a different cookie duration.

For example, the duration of an Amazon Associates cookie is only 24 hours.

In comparison, the ClickFunnels affiliate cookie lasts forever (has no end date).

This means that if you're an Amazon affiliate, you'll be credited with the sale if your referral purchases the product within 24 hours of clicking it.

If your referral purchases AFTER 24 hours, you won't get the commission.

There's no such time limit for ClickFunnels affiliates becuase their cookie never expires.

Affiliate programs use this combination of cookies and affiliate ids to track referrals and credit them to the right affiliate accounts.

This is how they make sure you get paid for every customer you refer to them.

What Is The Best Affiliate Marketing Program For Beginners

You can find hundreds of affiliate programs in every niche.

But not all of them are suitable for beginners.

In fact, many don't even accept you as an affiliate unless you have an established website and a large audience.

Where do you start if you're just entering affiliate marketing?

As a beginner, you need to evaluate certain factors before choosing an affiliate program.

Let me quickly describe them.

Affiliate Sign Up Requirements

Every affiliate program has its own set of requirements based on the kind of affiliates it wants to attract.

As a beginner affiliate marketer, you need to carefully study the minimum sign up criteria of the program you want to join.

For example, the Shopify affiliate program requires you to be a Shopify customer as well. Their affiliate program is free but their basic product membership costs $29/month.

Are you ready to pay that to become an affiliate? That's for you to answer.

Amazon Associates, on the other hand, would welcome you as an affiliate as long as you have a legitimate website with original content.

That's much easier to manage for a new affiliate.

Some affiliate programs also have a minimum traffic requirement for affiliates. Any applicants who do not meet that minimum number are not accepted in the program.

Similarly, some affiliate programs only offer payout via PayPal or Stripe or some other exclusive payment gateway.

If that payment option is not available in your country, there's no point become g an affiliate.

In short, you need to make sure that you meet the minimum requirements of the program you want to join.

As a newbie, go for a program that offers relaxed terms and encourages the affiliates to grow with it.

Product Complexity

Selling technically complex and high-end products is much harder than commonly used products that people already know about.

The reason is simple.

Selling is all about trust.

The more complex or expensive a product, the more credibility you need to sell it.

That's hard to achieve as a new affiliate.

I'm not saying it's impossible but it's not the right approach because you want to be targeting the lowest hanging fruits first instead of going for products that can take you months to sell.

As a beginner affiliate, your focus should be to get quick wins under your belt to build confidence and experience the affiliate marketing business model.

This is why starting from a popular retail affiliate network is much easier.

Product Brand Image

This point is connected to the last one.

As a newbie, you don't want to be promoting a brand nobody knows or trusts.

Experienced affiliate can do that because they have their own audiences who already trust them.

But when you're a nobody, promoting an unknown product brand only makes it harder for you.

Go for a well-known affiliate program or a platform people already trust so that even if they don't know you, they still buy the product because they know the brand personally.

Traffic Limitations

Many affiliate networks offer specific traffic guidelines to their affiliates.

For example, Amazon doesn't allow direct product promotion via email.

Similarly, many programs do not allow direct promotion via FB Ads or Google Ads.

You need to be aware of such limitations before signing up for an affiliate platform.

Ideally, go for a platform that allows all the major traffic sources like search engines, social media, advertising, email marketing, etc. without any restrictions.

As a newbie, if your primary traffic source is an email list or a social media group, you don't want to sign up for a program that forbids you from driving traffic from these sources.

So keep a close eye on this part as well.

Commission Structure and Payout Schedule

Finally, you need to evaluate the earning potential of a program before fully committing to it.

Don't be fooled by the individual product commission rate.

Look at the total sales potential.

Let me explain.

A program that offers $15 per sale but sells thousands of units per month is much better than a program that offers $50 per sale but hardly closes 3-4 sales.

Amazon Associates is a great example of this.

Their commission structure isn't great but becuase of their sales volume and the degree to which people trust them, affiliates make a lot of money by promoting Amazon products.

With the points I've mentioned above, let me recommend a few affiliate programs for beginners.

i) Amazon Associates


Amazon Associates is undoubtedly the best affiliate program for beginners.

Their product variety is unmatched anywhere in the world, people trust them so you don't have to try too hard to sell their products, and their sales volume is huge so even small commissions can add up.

Plus, the signup process is easy and the payout cycle is also newbie-friendly.

It's certainly one of the best places to start your affiliate marketing journey.

ii) ClickBank/CJ


Both ClickBank and CJ are among the top affiliate networks for digital products.

They have thousands of different products for all types of affiliates.

If you're in the online education industry or want to promote training programs to your audience both these platforms have some great options for you.

I've already done a detailed post about the ClickBank affiliate program.

If you prefer watching videos, this Nichehacks video will tell you everything you need to know about ClickBank.

iii) Offervault


OfferVault is another platform where you can find thousands of different digital products and affiliate offers.

The advantage with OfferVault is that it lists lead generation and CPA offers as well.

As a beginner, you'll need to dive into their database to find the right offers for your audience because there are just so many offers listed there.

iv) BlueHost Affiliate Program


BlueHost is not only among the top shared web hosting companies in the world but has perhaps the most popular affiliate program in the web hosting industry.

Almost every popular blogger is a BlueHost affiliate.


Becuase the service is great, their pricing is newbie-friendly, becoming their affiliate is easy, and the commission is a healthy $65 per sale.

It should be one of your top affiliate programs if you're a blogger in the digital marketing space or make money online niches.

Apart from the ones listed, there are many other great affiliate programs you can find in this article.

Affiliate Marketing For Beginners - 7 Proven Success Tips For Newbies

Affiliate marketing is a fast-paced and continuously evolving industry.

However, certain fundamentals will always remain the same.

To become a successful affiliate marketer, here are some things you should always remember.

01 - Identify The Real Needs of Your Target Audience

After niche selection, the most important step of building any type of marketing strategy is to understand the actual problems of your target audience.

Without having audience insights, you can't create content, can't target the right problems, can't use the correct marketing angles, and can't even create a basic sales pitch.

So the first thing you should do before promoting a product (or even choosing one) is to understand the problems you're looking to solve.

For example, if you're looking to become an affiliate for a mattress brand, find out the reasons why people buy mattresses.

What's the real need that motivates them to spend several thousand dollars on a new mattress?

Of course, they want to sleep well.

But why?

Is that the only need a mattress fulfills?

What do you think about the article below?


If you dig deeper as a mattress marketer, you'll find that people want comfortable sleep because it boosts their productivity, improves their relationships, helps them focus better, creates a more romantic environment in the bedroom, allows them to read a book while relaxing in the bed, and so many other things.

And that's still surface-level knowledge.

The deeper you go, the better you'll understand why people buy different products.

Use these insights to create better marketing content, content that gives people the knowledge they want, content that establishes you as a niche leader, content that makes it impossible to ignore your recommendations.

That's the kind of research you need to do before jumping into any niche.

02 - Understand Your Role As An Affiliate Marketer

What's the role of an affiliate marketer?

To spam different websites and forums with affiliate links and publish cheap sales content in the hope of getting a few sales?

If that's the kind of affiliate you want to be, it's better to do something else because your future isn't very bright.

An affiliate is a bridge between consumers and genuinely useful products.

Consumers are looking for reliable and unbiased affiliates who can help them purchase the right products for their needs.

Your role as an affiliate is to be their go-to source for everything related to their niche.

And you can only do that when you create genuinely useful content that gives them a clear picture of why a certain product is better for them as compared to the other options.

This is the longer route.

But when you do this consistently, your earning grow exponentially because as more people realize that you're a genuine source of unbiased recommendations, they'll start turning to you every time they need to buy something.

That's your role and that's the kind of affiliate marketer you should aim to become.

03 - Learn To Think Link An Affiliate Marketer

Let's get a bit more specific here.

How do you think like a growth-minded affiliate marketer?

You keep a close eye on all the key numbers and metrics of your sales funnel because that's the real measure of the impact you're creating.

Here are the key numbers to keep in mind.

Total Impressions

Impressions are the number of times your content, affiliate link, or banners have been viewed by your audience.

This is your first real engagement with them in terms of the sales process.

When you publish content and people view, you get a chance to communicate your message give them the option to click on your affiliate links.

As a marketer, your first objective is to increase the number of impressions on your links and content.

Becuase the more impressions you get, the brighter your chances of getting clicks on your affiliate links.

Total Clicks

Impressions are of no use if you can't get clicks on your affiliate links.

This is the second metric you need to work on.

Smart marketers are always looking to maximize the clicks on their affiliate offers so that they can convert cold traffic into subscribers, leads and customers.

Total Conversions

Conversions are the number of people who clicked on your offer and converted into subscribers or customers (depending on the structure of your funnel).

This is the metric that matters.

Thousands of impressions and hundreds of clicks are of no use if your traffic isn't converting.

Does that mean it's useless to track impressions and clicks?

Not at all.

By breaking down your sales process into three different stages, you can identify exactly where you need to improve.

For example, if you're getting a lot of traffic but no clicks, you know you need to make your links more prominent and create better CTAs.

If you're getting clicks but no conversions, you know there's something wrong with your offer or the way it's pitched.

If you're getting clicks and conversions, you know that your sales will increase if you can increase your total impressions.

This makes it much easier to diagnose the actual problem in your sales process and make improvements where required.

04 - Promote Products That Solve The Key Problems Of Your Audience

Your product selection will play a key role in your success as an affiliate marketer.

Don't promote a product unless you're 100% convinced about its usefulness.

Ask yourself if you'd buy this product if you had the same problem. If your answer is a confident yes, recommend the product to your audience.

But if the answer is no, it's better to find a more effective alternative.

Why do I say that?

Because when you eventually become an authority figure in your niche by offering great value to your audience (as we've already discussed) people will trust you and buy the product you recommend.

They might buy something just because you've said it's good, but when they find out that it's not, your credibility will take a hit.

Eventually, all the hard work you put into branding and relationship building can go to waste.

So make sure you only promote genuinely useful offers.

05 - Diversify Your Content Strategy To Maximize Sales

Content marketing will play a huge role in your success or failure as an affiliate.

I've already covered the part of what your content should be about.

Let me quickly share a few tips on diversifying your content strategy.

Create Content For All the Stages Of The Content Funnel

Most newbies think product reviews and comparisons are the only content type they should publish on an affiliate site.

Reviews are important but you'll miss out on thousands of potential customers if you only focus on Bottom Of The Funnel (BoFU) content (reviews and other sales content).

For long-term business, you need to create content for all three stages of the content marketing funnel

  • Top Of The Funnel (ToFU) - Informational content that targets broad niche keywords with high search volume.

  • Middle Of The Funnel (MoFU) - Content that shows a relationship between your product and the problems it solves.

  • Bottom Of The Funnel (BoFU) - Content that focuses on commercial keywords and aims to close the sale.

Here's a graphical representation of the content funnel


Informational content in the ToFU stage helps you get traffic and create awareness about your site. Creating this content consistently will ensure that your site gets a steady stream of search traffic.

MoFU content is mostly based on comparisons and different ways your product can be used by your prospects to solve their problems. This content helps acts as a soft sales pitch for your content.

BoFU content mostly comprises of product reviews and sales content. This is where you persuade the readers to turn into customers.

You need content in all three funnel stages.

I've described this much more detail in this article.

Use A Combination Of Lists, How-To's, and Other Content Formats

Research shows that list posts and How-To guides are the most popular blog content formats not only in terms of traffic but for engagement and social shares.

A recent SEMrush study also backs this claim.


Publish different types of articles like guides, lists, comparisons, reviews, tips, interviews, round-ups, etc.

This will help you engage your audience more effectively and create a well-rounded content strategy.

Leverage Video Content To Generate Additional Traffic

Video content builds instant credibility, makes your content more engaging and helps you stand out from the competition.

Along with text content, make sure you create videos regularly and publish them on platforms like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and others.

An easy way to do that is by repurposing your blog content into videos.

This would save you from creating a new video script and help you increase your content's life as well.

06 - Diversify Your Affiliate Income To Build A Sustainable Business

Warren Buffet believes no business should ever put all its eggs in one basket.

As a beginner affiliate marketer, make sure you always have income diversification at the center of all your business strategies.

You should start from a single product, but as soon as your audience starts growing and your traffic numbers improve, you should add new products and affiliate programs to diversify your income.

But diversification doesn't mean you jump into completely irrelevant product lines.

An easy diversification strategy is to promote multiple products from the same niche.

For example, if you promote email marketing tools as an affiliate, why limit yourself to just one service?

Promote 3 or 4 of them as an affiliate.

Similarly, there are dozens of different web hosting services. Pick 2or 3 of the top ones and market them.

In case an affiliate program doesn't allow you to promote competitors, go into complementing industries. For example, if you're promoting a weight loss training program to your audience, also start promoting fitness products from Amazon since that's a natural choice for your audience.

In short, don't rely on one affiliate program for all your income.

Keep diversifying.

07 - Build An Automated Affiliate Marketing Funnel For Passive Income

Finally, when you get familiar with affiliate marketing, aim to build man automated affiliate marketing funnel so that you can enjoy the benefits of passive income in its true form.

How do you build an affiliate marketing funnel

Let me quickly share the steps with you.

  • Identify the core problem of your target niche. Let's say your audience wants to lose weight and live a healthy life.

  • Create a lead magnet like a free eBook, a video series, or a cheat sheet that shares actionable weight loss tips.

  • Turn this lead magnet into a professional-looking document with a design tool like Visme or Canva.

  • Place this lead magnet on a landing page with an opt-in where people can download it by entering their email address.

  • Now create an email autoresponder series that your subscribers will start receiving once they sign up to your list.

  • In your email series, use a couple of informational/educational emails, then share a few practical weight loss tips, and finally share 2-3 emails that directly sell your affiliate product (if it's a digital product or a training program)

  • If you're an Amazon Affiliate, use your email autoresponder to drive traffic to your product reviews and blog content that has your affiliate links.

  • Now that everything's ready, promote this lead magnet using Facebook Ads. Also, place it on your blog and any other places where you can find an audience.

  • This would start the whole process in which strangers will turn into your subscribers by downloading the lead magnet, from there they'll start getting your automated emails which also have your affiliate links.

  • Once the autoresponder series is over, start sending 12-3 emails per wee to your audience (a mix of educational and promotional emails).

  • Also, keep them updated with any new content you publish on the site.

You can use an email marketing automation tool like GetResponse, ActiveCampaign or ClickFunnels to execute this strategy.

I've given you a high-level view of this strategy without going into a lot of details.

But it's a proven method that'll help you automate your affiliate marketing business to a large extent.

How To Start Affiliate Marketing With No Money

Okay, so what if you want to start affiliate marketing with no money at all?

Is it possible to become an affiliate marketer with empty pockets?

Thankfully, yes.

However, since you don't have any money to invest in advertising, you'll need to take the longer route and build your audience using organic methods.

I can't give you all the details in this article but let me give you the broad steps you need to take.

  • Choose The Right Niche: Niche selection is the first and the most important step of your affiliate marketing journey. But it's a long topic so I've covered it in this article.

  • Gain Audience Insights: I've already talked about this a lot so no need to repeat this part. Just make sure you understand the real needs and problems of your audience before you start.

  • Competitor Analysis: Analyze your competitors, their content strategy, and their primary traffic sources. What methods are they using to build their audience? What type of content they're producing and where are they promoting it?

  • Start a Blog: You can start a free site on WordPres.com as well but I'd recommend that you purchase a BlueHost shared account and start a WordPress site with a brandable .com domain. All of it will cost you just around $100.

  • Create A Lead Magnet: Again, I've covered this in the last section.

  • Publish BoFU Content: Start publishing product reviews, comparisons and other affiliate content that's meant to make you money. Make sure you've done your keyword research before creating content.

  • Create ToFU Content: Publish informational content that targets long-tail keywords and links to your BoFU content. Make sure this content is link-worthy because you'll be using it to build backlinks to your site.

  • Start Guest Blogging: Since you can't invest in link-building and advertising, guest blogging is your best chance to get high-authority backlinks to your site. It's one of the best content marketing strategies that will continue to pay back even years after your posts are published. Make sure you publish guest articles on relevant high-authority blogs that are aligned with your target niche. Include at least one or two backlinks in your guest posts to your ToFu content and lead magnet. This is how you'll gradually build your audience, add them to your content funnel, and eventually turn them into customers.

  • Use Social Media, Forums, and Other Platform: I've done a detailed article on NicheHacks that shows you exactly how you can drive tons of traffic to your site from completely free sources.

In your initial days as an affiliate marketer, you'll have to create a lot of content for your website. Gradually though, your focus will shift mostly to traffic generation.

You'll still have to create new content, but it won't be as frequent plus it'll mostly be about different informational topics related to your product.

But I don't want to give you any false hopes.

It will take time to build an affiliate business with this strategy.

Affiliate Marketing For Beginners - Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Short on time? Here are quick answers to some of the most questions about affiliate marketing and how it works.

What is affiliate marketing?

Affiliate marketing is a way to monetize your website or online business in which a marketer promotes products owned by someone else (i.e. another business or brand) and earns a commission (a percentage of the product price) on every sale.

What is an affiliate product?

A product that marketers can promote for a commission. These can be physical or digital products, courses, tools, and even services and experience (i.e. flights, insurance, hotels, travel). Anything that is sold can, potentially, have an "affiliate program" in place.

What is an affiliate site?

It's a website that's built primarily to earn income through affiliate marketing and promotes affiliate products in order for a commission on every sale (usually using content such as reviews and comparisons of products, discount coupons, offers, etc.).

What is an affiliate marketing platform?

A platform that connects affiliate marketers with product owners. You can sign up for the affiliate platform or network as an individual and apply it to promote a company/business/brand's products.

How do I become an affiliate marketer?

Anyone can become an affiliate marketer by signing up as an affiliate for a particular brand or by joining an affiliate marketing platform. Almost all affiliate platforms are free to join and are typically easy to get accepted to regardless of your experience or background

Is affiliate marketing a pyramid scheme or fraud?

No, affiliate marketing is a transparent and legitimate business model where product owners pay commission to marketers for marketing and selling their products. It's been around for decades and continues to grow bigger every year.

Can I become an affiliate marketer without any money?

Yes, you don't need any money to sign up as an affiliate. But you do need to invest in creating a website, publishing content, and growing your traffic otherwise, it will be difficult for you to earn any affiliate commissions.

How much money can you make as an affiliate marketer?

If you adopt the right approach and follow proven strategies, there's no limit to how much you can earn with affiliate marketing. To give you an idea, there are numerous marketers who make 6-figures per month with affiliate marketing. But there are thousands who make nothing.

Like any other business model, your earnings depend on your strategy. Despite the simplicity of the concept it isn't a miracle or a get rich quick scheme.

How much time does it take to make money from affiliate marketing?

Theoretically, as soon as you start making sales. If you already have traffic to a website, people interested in the products you're recommending, or a product that solves a problem then you can make money immediately after starting.

In reality, though, it takes newbies 3-6 months before they can start seeing results when starting from scratch and even that isn't guaranteed as it depends on you and your approach.

Do I need a website to make money from affiliate marketing?

You can try without a website but it won't be long-term and it's not recommended. Spamming affiliate links all all over the web is not a good strategy.

For a sustainable and long-term affiliate income, you need a website and an audience (which NicheHacks Academy can show you how to build).

Do I need to learn "black hat" SEO (aka shady Search Engine Optimization) to succeed at affiliate marketing?

No, you can stay completely white-hat and still make money with affiliate marketing. This is what I recommend you do if you'd like to build a long term affiliate income that potentially changes your life for the better.

Can I copy other people's content to create an affiliate site?

You can but it won't work because Google will find out and penalize you so hard that you won't be able to recover. Plus you'll get yourself into trouble by copying other peoples work that doesn't belong to you.

To build a real business, you need original content.

What kind of content do I need to publish as an affiliate marketer?

Content that answers the questions of your audience and positions the products you're promoting as the solution to your audience's problems.

It may be product reviews and comparisons, or discount coupons, it could be answering their questions, it could be showing how the product you are recommending solves a problem they have in life (e.g. such as a new mattress giving them a better nights sleep and stopping them being tired all day at work).

Wrapping Up This Beginners Guide To Affiliate Marketing

I've told you all the fundamental things you needed to know about affiliate marketing.

I believe I've clearly answered the question "What is affiliate marketing? in-depth and beyond covering everything you need to know. Now it's time to decide...

If you think it's for you, I'd also recommend that you read the following articles in which I've described the different strategies you need to follow to become a successful affiliate marketer.

There's no doubt affiliate marketing is a potentially life-changing income stream that can help you earn millions in the long-run and make you completely location independent.

If you're willing to work hard in growing your knowledge and building a business that's based on the needs of your target audience, there's no reason why you cannot succeed as an affiliate marketer.

It's no rocket science and there are thousands of much lesser talented people than you making a full-time living from affiliate marketing.

It's all about taking action and improving with time.

So stop thinking and start making money from affiliate marketing today with the topics I've covered in this guide.

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August 21, 2021
8:14 AM

Awesome post. Shared very effective information about Affiliate Marketing here.

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August 21, 2021
4:24 PM

Great content. He share many tips for beginners to start Affiliate Marketing and promote it.

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July 4, 2021
2:58 PM

I’m thrilled. I loved it. I was actually looking to find something like that. Affiliate marketing isn’t easy. I’m learning that you have to invest a lot of energy, effort, and testing into this before anything works for you. It’s quite a process. And your guest post is surely a lightning rod.