How to become an affiliate and what to know before starting

Updated: Dec 2, 2021

Historically, if you wanted to make money online, you would have to start a company or find employment in an Internet company.

In fact, many people would have to commute during rush hours and stay at the office from 9am to 5pm. Enjoy only 3-4 weeks holidays each year and hope not to get sick, because sick pays are usually very short.

Not to mention the fact that if, for any reason whatsoever, your company is shutting down, you lose your job!

What’s worse, the moment you stop working, your wages stop as well, thus making you 100% dependant on your employer!

So is there a better method?

Yes, and it’s called affiliate marketing, and as an affiliate myself for the past 9 years who has recruited and managed some super affiliates for a fast-growing Saas, I am here to tell you exactly how to become an affiliate.

We’ll also write a guide on how to become an Amazon Affiliate.

Table of content:

  1. What is affiliate marketing?
  2. How does it work?
  3. What’s the difference between passive and active income?
  4. What’s the difference between affiliate and referral marketing?
  5. How much do affiliate marketers make?
  6. How are affiliates getting paid?
  7. Decide why you want to learn how to become an affiliate
  8. Differences of joining an affiliate network vs an affiliate program
  9. How to make money with affiliate marketing? Top strategies
  10. How to become an Amazon Associate: a complete guide

“Affiliate marketing has made businesses millions and ordinary people millionaires.”

So wrote Bo Bennett, the founder, and CEO of eBookIt.com and president of Archieboy Holdings. He created one of the first web-based affiliate programs.

What is Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliates simply promote a product and earn a piece of the revenue from each new sale they make. These sales are tracked via affiliates links from one website to another, using cookies.
Source: JustLearnWP.com

How does Affiliate Marketing work?

While this may sound simple, successful execution can be a big challenge even for the most seasoned marketer. If done without a strategy, affiliate marketing can be a huge waste of time and money. Specifically, works this way:

The industry involves four players: brand, network, affiliate, and customer. Not all of these players are always involved at the same time; some brands have an affiliate program and they manage the relationship with affiliates directly. In other cases, networks have offers for the affiliates to choose from and they also take care of payments.

What’s the difference between passive and active income?

Affiliate marketing is essentially a form of passive income that allows someone to continue to generate money without putting any effort.

Does it sound like the dream situation? Well, it is! And it’s easy to understand why. With affiliate marketing you can put efforts upfront and generate money even if you stop working for a period of time.

Active income is money earned in exchange for performing a service. The moment you stop performing your service, you stop earning your money.

What you getPassive IncomeActive Income
FreedomYesNo
Cash flow streamYesNo
Deal with customersNoYes
Generates money while offYesNo
Stressing to sell a productNoYes

What’s the difference between affiliate and referral marketing?

It’s easy to look at these two promotional strategies and get confused. Both affiliates and referrals generate new customers. Why would someone refer a product to a friend when there are several way of earning a commission? There are actually many reasons.

Referral marketing is about the mutual relationship between customers, their friends or co-workers, and a brand. Existing customers personally promote a brand to new users to receive rewards, ideally for themselves and their friends.

Typically, referral program rewards are free subscriptions, coupons, or discounts.

On the other hand, an affiliate does not need to be a customer to be able to generate sales. It’s a completely independent direction with no barriers to entry.

What you getAffiliate MarketerReferral Marketing
Monetary compensationYesNo
Sole control of your marketing activitiesYesNo
Unlimited number of salesYesNo
Unique link to share everywhereYesNo
Relationship with the person you referNoYes
Free product rewardNoYes

How much do affiliate marketers make?

The short answer is, it depends. There is no definitive answer for someone looking to become an affiliate marketer. The majority of affiliate marketers don’t make a lot to live from it comfortably.

However, research shows that 35% of affiliates make at east $20,000 in annual revenue from their affiliate marketing activity. It might not seem like a lot, but according to Statista, affiliate marketing spending in the US alone is expected to reach $8.2 Billion in 2022.

That said, top affiliates make over $100K a month from affiliates sales (think about Pat Flynn, Mark Ling and Shawn Collins).

Also, other middle class affiliates make something between $1K and $10K a month.

Ryan Robinson from ryrob.com makes almost $20K/month from affiliate sales and over $9K from a single product, see a screenshot of his earning from March 2021.

ryan robinson earning affiliate marketing

Adam Enfroy from adamenfroy.com made over $80,000 in affiliate, passive revenue in June 2021.

adam enfroy earning affiliate marketing

It takes time to get paid that much and it takes some initial investment, in fact both Adam and Ryan claim they were able to reach these passive incomes within 2-4 years of initial efforts.

How do affiliates get paid?

While it seems very tempting to start earning passive income and seeing your revenue increase every month, there are a few things you need to know when it comes to payments.

When you first start as an affiliate, not being able to offer much to a brand other than a promise of selling their products, your most popular method of getting paid is the pay per sale.

Pay per sale

This is the standard affiliate marketing payment structure. With pay per sale the affiliates gets a piece of the sale price of the product, after the consumer purchased it. Before affiliates are compensated, they have to persuade the consumer to buy the product.

Pay per lead

In less complex method, the affiliate must convince the consumer to visit the brand’s website and complete a desired action – filling out a contact form, signing up for a free trial or subscribing to a newsletter.

Pay per click

This is the best payment method for top affiliates, who proved brands they can drive high volumes of valuable traffic that converts quickly and easily. In this case, the affiliate will simply have to move the consumer from his website to the brand’s website and get paid for the click.

Decide why you want to learn how to become an affiliate

It should be easy assessing whether affiliate marketing is right for you and why you should do it.

I encourage going through this brainstorming process as it’s the only way to ensure you are 100% committed to becoming an affiliate (and you are doing it for the right reasons).

Here are some questions for you to decide you want to become an affiliate:

  • Are you a digital marketer or a freelancer consultant with a new business trying to earn money without having to risk your own time and resources?
  • Are you a blogger looking to monetise your blog so you can enjoy passive income?
  • Do you want to leverage your SEO skills and knowledge to rank highly for very lucrative keywords?
  • Do you have a well-established website and you want to monetize it to diversify your income streams and land consulting projects?
  • Do you have a large number of products you want to review and you need to start promoting?

These are questions that not everyone is asking themselves, and certainly do not underestimate the power of SEO, content marketing, blogging, link building, and other marketing channels. People naturally look for information online and that’s why if you know SEO, you should be able to rank for keywords about “best product” or “product review” on Google.

if you already know how to do SEO and know how to use an SEO tool, you are halfway to becoming an excellent affiliate marketer.

Differences of joining an affiliate network vs an affiliate program

You might prefer a network or it might prefer to work directly with companies. But to find out which you need, answer these questions:

  • Do you need to find a product niche?
  • Are you actively looking for products to promote for the first time?
  • Have you got already an established website and a target audience?
  • Is your audience based across the world?
  • Do you need tracking technology?

If you answered “yes” to all these questions, then it’s a no-brainer: you need an affiliate network.

Use cost-per-action (CPA) affiliate networks like CJ, Affiliate Window, Zanox, Tradedoubler, FlexOffers.com and Webgains to check what affiliate offers they have.

Sometimes networks have very useful relationships with big companies and can therefore help you grow your revenue very quickly. And they have a merchant team that builds the relationship with the company on your behalf.

Networks will also manage the payment side of the program, which is a big plus because companies not always have the right Affiliate Account Manager to manage the relationship with you.

What’s the catch?

One of the disadvantages of working with a network is that they charge a commission, which is normally up to 30%. For example, this is how it works: Brand C affiliate program might sell $1 million of clothing. They pay their affiliates a 10% commission, so the total commission of the program would be $100,000. The affiliate network would then charge 30% override on this figure so the brand would pay $130,000. The affiliates would get the $100,000 commission and the affiliate network would get $30,000 override.

Depending on the network, you may also need to pay setup costs. This covers the cost of integrating you to the network and testing tracking etc. Start-up fees can range from nothing to over $5,000. I have been asked for $30,000 before and, obviously, I never started with that network. This cost is often negotiable when you discuss contracts with the network, but it is worth noting when considering the start-up costs.

How to make money with affiliate marketing: top strategies for 2021

One of the most important activities for an affiliate is to keep their audience engaged and motivated to buy promoted products. Not all affiliates use the same methods, in fact there are several strategies they might leverage.

1. Write great product reviews

The only blog format you need as an affiliate marketer: product reviews.

Bloggers could start by conducting keyword research in their area, looking for product-related terms. These are keywords that are used by people looking for product reviews and frequently contain the word “best.”

Product comparison blogs provide an even larger potential to sell since if a visitor decides one product isn’t for them, they have numerous options to pick from. It’s a win-win situation for everyone, and it’s a great method to generate more referrals.

Their quest is transactional in nature.

Take a look at what comes up when you Google “best credit card”:

All top ranking sites are affiliates:

  • moneysavingexpert.com
  • money supermarket
  • money.co.uk
  • which.co.uk

It’s dominated by affiliates.

And these affiliates are making money any time that someone signs up for a credit card via one of their affiliate links.

Let’s see another one: “best cloud storage”

Yet again, you see bloggers dominating: creativebloq, cloudwards, zdnet, crazyegg.

What is the reason for this?

Users seeking product categories on the internet are looking for unbiased third-party reviews. They aren’t ready to be sent straight to a brand’s product page for these queries; instead, they want in-depth information from a blog.

For example, if they wanted to go straight to a product page, they’d search for the precise product, such as “Brooks Adrenaline GTS 20,” because they’ve already done their homework and are familiar with the product (and probably first read about it on a blog).

Find products that are currently being offered in your niche and rank for them (and sell). After that, you can outrank the brands and take a part of their profits.

Even if Nike is on the first page of Google for “running shoes,” they won’t be able to take up all ten search results. To scale their message, they must collaborate with other websites. This is where affiliate partnerships come into play.

Here is a complete list of 14 affiliate website examples and their income reports.

2. Email marketing

Email marketing is still one of the most profitable marketing and sales channel. Some affiliates have large email lists they can use to promote other companies’ products, while others send newsletters with affiliate links in order to earn a commission if someone buys that product.

That’s why it’s important to build email lists ahead of time. This can be achieved with various campaigns like gated content, ebooks, newsletter subscriptions and pop-ups.

3. Large media websites

Online magazines with a huge amount of visitors every day to the millions can promote other companies products. This massive audience can find banners or product lists with affiliate links in the copy.

For example, if you search for “best blackhead remover products”, on Google you’ll find the results dominated by beauty media companies with audiences of millions:

This combination of extra-large audience and search engine results domination is the recipe for huge earnings for both the sellers and the affiliates.

4. Only propose products that you are very familiar with

In affiliate marketing, building trust with your audience is crucial, and the quickest way to destroy trust is to promote items you haven’t tried or that aren’t a good fit for your audience.

Also, remember that you are only suggesting a product when you encourage someone to buy it. The more helpful you are and the more great recommendations you provide, the more likely your website visitors will return to benefit from your knowledge.

5. Test and optimise your conversion rates on a regular basis.

Let’s assume you have a promotions page where you use affiliate links to promote a product. You have 100 referrals if you receive 5,000 visits each month and a 2% conversion rate. You may either work on acquiring 5,000 additional visits or just raising the conversion rate to 4% to reach 200 recommendations.

Which option appears to be the most straightforward? To acquire more organic traffic, instead of spending months developing Domain Authority through blogging and guest articles, simply improve the conversion rate by 2%. Landing page optimization, call-to-action testing, and having a conversion rate optimization plan in place are all examples of this.

6. Create a store on your website

You don’t have to rely solely on editorial mentions to drive affiliate sales. You can establish a storefront that functions similarly to an online store; the only difference is that every link connects to the companies you promote rather than a checkout page on your website.

Storefronts are an excellent choice because they need little upkeep and content creation. When visitors arrive at your site, they will find it straightforward and quick to navigate through the items. Another advantage is that the links aren’t buried behind other material.

If you are ready to open an e-commerce website, check out the comparison of 15 website builders and make your choice.

How to become an Amazon Affiliate

The Amazon Affiliate programme, often known as Amazon Associates, is a kind of affiliate marketing. Becoming an Amazon Associate is completely free for website owners and bloggers.

They promote Amazon products on their websites by including links to Amazon.com. Customers earn referral money when they click on the links and purchase goods from Amazon.

How does the Amazon Affiliate program work?

Associates earn commissions in the Amazon Affiliate programme by generating unique product links, marketing the links on their website, and driving referral traffic back to Amazon. This is how it works:

  • On the platform, website owners register an Amazon Affiliate account.
  • Amazon assigns a unique Associate ID to each website owner.
  • Associates can begin generating affiliate links in their Amazon portal after their application has been accepted.
  • The links are subsequently placed in blog posts or other areas of the affiliate’s website.
  • The associate receives commission when someone clicks on the link and makes a purchase.

How much can you earn from Amazon Affiliates?

The commission rate varies according to product type. For example, if you run a games blog, you may make 20% on every transaction. If you sell three $100 games in one day, you’ll make $60 from those three sales. You’d make $600 per month if you sold the identical thing 30 times every month.

It is crucial to investigate the Amazon Affiliate program’s commission rate each product category before signing up on the platform. You may then calculate how much you could possibly make based on the niche of your website.

Here are Amazon fixed standard commission rates for specific product categories:

Product CategoryFixed commission rates
Amazon Games20%
Luxury Beauty, Luxury Stores Beauty, Amazon Explore10%
Digital Music, Physical Music, Handmade, Digital Videos5%
Physical Books, Kitchen, Automotive5%
​Amazon Fire Tablet Devices, Amazon Kindle Devices, Amazon Fashion Women’s, Men’s & Kids Private Label, Luxury Stores Fashion, Apparel, Amazon Cloud Cam Devices, Fire TV Edition Smart TVs, Amazon Fire TV Devices, Amazon Echo Devices, Ring Devices, Watches, Jewelry, Luggage, Shoes, and Handbags & Accessories4%
Toys, Furniture, Home, Home Improvement, Lawn & Garden, Pets Products, Headphones, Beauty, Musical Instruments, Business & Industrial Supplies, Outdoors, Tools, Sports, Baby Products, Amazon Coins3%
PC, PC Components, DVD & Blu-Ray2.5%
Televisions, Digital Video Games2%
​Amazon Fresh, Physical Video Games & Video Game Consoles, Grocery, Health & Personal Care1%​
Gift Cards; Wireless Service Plans; Alcoholic Beverages; Digital Kindle Products purchased as a subscription; Food prepared and delivered from a restaurant; Amazon Appstore, Prime Now, or Amazon Pay Places0%
All Other Categories4%

How to get started with Amazon Affiliates

Once you have decided that the commission rates are good enough for your product categories, you can now become an affiliate with Amazon following these simple steps:

1. Create a website or a blog

You must have an active website, blog, app, or YouTube channel to become an Amazon Associate. It’s also beneficial if you’ve already content on your website with material, so it seems active and legitimate to both consumers and Amazon.

If you don’t have a website yet and want to get started, read my guide on how to start a blog.

Remember that as part of the application process, you must be able to define the objective of your website. So, know why you’re establishing your site, who you’re going to target, and how you’re going to generate visitors.

2. Sign up as an Affiliate

To become an Amazon affiliate, you must first open an Amazon Associates account. To do so, go to the Amazon Associates webpage and click the Sign Up button. You’ll next be asked to sign in to your current Amazon account or create a new one.

3. Enter your account information and website address

Enter your account information (including the name, address, and phone number of the payee).

Then enter your website URL, app, YouTube channel.

4. Choose the website topics

Enter your preferred store ID (usually the same as your primary website name), explain what your websites hope to accomplish, and select Amazon topics your links will likely target.

Then you can choose your website topic from a list of topics

5. Clarify your traffic generation strategies

Amazon wants to know what method you use to generate traffic to your website and how many visitors on average you can bring to Amazon.

6. Choose your payment method

Last step in creating an Amazon Affiliates account is to provide the tax ID and the payment method.

7. Create your affiliate link

At this point, you can create your affiliate link and start promoting Amazon products on your website and start earning money.

Pros of Amazon Associate Program

  • Huge product choice, with millions of products for sale, you can basically sell anything you wish
  • High conversion rates. Amazon is a selling machine and people that visit the website already are at the last stage of the funnel, ready to buy
  • Translated in many languages. You can sell across the world and reach even bigger audiences.

Cons of Amazon Associate Program

  • The commissions are very low and you have to create high volumes of referral traffic to make any money
  • Cookies last 24 hours. Amazon thinks that if someone lands on their website from an affiliate link and doesn’t buy anything in 24 hours, this customer won’t buy anything later on, which is why they only have a short window on cookies.

What now

Now that you have learned how to become an affiliate marketer, it’s time to take action and bring yourself one step closer to enjoying passive income and living the life of your dreams.

If writing product reviews on your blog and dominating search results are what you want to do, and you are serious about investing 2-3 years of your life and your business for the better by getting your blog out there in the world, then you need my step-by-step plan to follow.

Luca Tagliaferro is an SEO consultant for some of the biggest brands in the UK, with 9 years of experience in digital marketing under his belt. His work has been featured on SEMRush, Moz, CrazyEgg, SmartInsights, SEObility and many more. Read more

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