Affiliate marketing is a form of digital marketing often cited as the ultimate way to generate a smart passive income. Though this isn’t exactly the case, with careful planning and an intelligent marketing strategy, a budding entrepreneur or business owner can generate a generous revenue stream through affiliate marketing networks.
Though affiliate marketing has been around in one form or another since the early 2000s, it is only relatively recently that online businesses have started to tap into the enormous potential affiliate partners can offer.
It is no surprise then that as of 2021, an estimated 80% of online brands use this strategy to increase traffic and drive sales. Not only are affiliate relationships simple to arrange and cost-effective, but they are also not confined to only a handful of industries and sectors. The beauty is that anyone can get involved, no matter their niche.
The forecasts also present a hugely promising future for affiliate marketing channels. The affiliate marketing industry is estimated to be worth around $12 billion, with that figure expected to continue its positive trajectory.
In many ways, it sounds too good to be true. But those who have already taken the plunge can attest to its power and reliability. More than 80% of marketers expect their revenue streams to remain stable or increase considerably over the coming months and years.
- Learn how to become a successful affiliate marketer.
- The pros and cons of affiliate marketing.
- Find out how you can join a program and start earning commissions today.
What is an affiliate?
The first type of affiliate is a business relationship where one business has a minority stake or ownership over a second company. Businesses can also become affiliates if they are subsidiaries within the same parent company, referred to as corporate affiliates.
The second type is an international affiliate, in which a corporation attempts to enter foreign markets by utilizing affiliate networks.
The third type of affiliate is the focus of this article – a retail affiliate, where the basic understanding of affiliate marketing originated. A retail affiliate is a relationship between two companies where one sells and promotes the products or services of another. If a sale is made, the affiliates receive a commission.
It is an effective way for a smaller business to produce an additional revenue stream by using the larger company’s reach and digital product selection, with both parties benefiting from the agreement.
What is affiliate marketing?
Affiliate marketing, as mentioned, is the process of promoting the products or services of another business so you (as an individual or business yourself) can earn commission as a monetary reward.
Essentially, a company is entrusting you to promote products or services through online marketing efforts, with the ultimate goal being to drive traffic to the company’s website or online store. Remuneration is usually based on pays-per-click; every time a customer clicks on your affiliate link and follows through to purchase, you as the affiliate earn money.
In today’s online culture, most people have some form of social networking. This social media presence is a potentially untapped customer base for an online business that they can access through the affiliate.
Companies are always looking for new ways to increase their reach, and affiliate marketing is highly effective. This type of marketing channel can provide a revenue source for the affiliate even if they have developed no physical product or online service.
The different types of affiliate marketers
One of the considerations you will need to make early on in becoming an affiliate marketer is which type of affiliate program you wish to pursue. Pat Flynn, a renowned affiliate marketer, gathered all he had learned about affiliate marketing and the approaches would-be marketers took when attempting to promote products to sell and came up with three categories of affiliate marketers.
1. The unattached affiliate marketer
In this type of affiliate marketing, the affiliate has no apparent link to the online product or service they want to promote and sell. Unattached affiliate marketers do not know the niche or sector, and often there is no connection to the customer.
With this type of affiliate marketing strategy, the affiliate is simply looking to take advantage of the company’s reputation to get prospective customers to click on their affiliate link. The company has already laid much of the groundwork for this strategy.
This model type suits the affiliate who is not interested in carefully cultivating customer relationships and building trust. Instead, the goal is to obtain as many clicks as possible and high conversion rates.
The apparent advantage of this method is that it involves the least amount of work on the part of the affiliate while still having the potential to make good returns and affiliate commission. However, the lack of relationship and trust with the customer will mean that the focus is entirely on income, sometimes leading to unscrupulous practices.
2. The related affiliate marketer
The affiliate has knowledge or expertise within a given field or sector for this type of affiliate marketing. Related affiliate marketers have taken the time to build an audience based on a shared passion for this niche. As a result, companies will feel inclined to offer affiliate products within that niche as there is a potentially rich source of traffic from the already-cultivated audience.
The audience will see the affiliate as a trusted source; they have likely spent years watching the affiliate’s YouTube videos or following their blog post. If the source is trusted, an audience member will be more inclined to buy the product or service and gain additional satisfaction knowing that the affiliate will receive a small commission.
With this model, the affiliate is not necessarily involved with the product or service itself, presenting a problem. For example, an affiliate can fall foul of a substandard product if they have had no direct experience with it. In addition, if large portions of their audience then subsequently purchase the product or use the service, they may be far more reluctant to trust any additional affiliate sites and products recommended by the affiliate.
3. The involved affiliate marketer
Involved affiliate marketers have had direct experience with the product or service and can offer a first-hand appraisal. They usually have a long-standing relationship with the company and are looking to do what they can to expand the company’s reach and prospective customer base.
An affiliate using this model will have an established audience or following who will know them well. The audience may have seen the affiliate use the product or service. They will also likely tell that the affiliate is genuine in their product approval, often leading to higher conversion rates using the affiliate’s link. This type of affiliate strategy model generally takes the longest to achieve.
This model can help the affiliate build a high level of trust between themselves and their audience when successful. As long as they continue only to promote products and services they are involved in, they will likely see huge returns via affiliate sales. Other companies may see this and attempt to forge a partnership with the affiliate.
While the risk is not as high as with a related affiliate strategy, an affiliate cannot guarantee that every person who uses the product or service will have the same opinion and experience.
How to become an affiliate marketer?
If you are interested in becoming an affiliate marketer, we’re here to help with the best marketing tips and strategies to give you the best possible chance of success.
1. Find your niche
You will first need to decide which niche you will base your affiliate business within, a decision influenced by several factors. Suppose you are entering affiliate marketing from a position of strength (you already have a large target audience).
In that case, you should start with the type of products and service your established audience are likely to purchase. For example, if you’ve built your business on health and nutrition, you might want to start with a similar affiliate marketing niche, resulting in higher conversion rates.
If you are looking to start affiliate marketing with no specific audience, you should consider what you would be interested in purchasing as a customer and start from there. You may wish to conduct market research to determine if there are affiliate programs within your chosen niche and try to gauge the level of competition to evaluate whether this is a viable option.
2. Evaluate market demand and competition
Now that you’ve decided on your niche, it’s time to investigate whether it will be worth the time and effort by determining the market demand and competition.
Google Trends is an excellent tool to help determine whether there is potential in a product to promote or sell. These vital analytics provide a snapshot of what Google users have searched for over a certain period.
Source: Google Trends
You can see if products within your chosen niche have an upward trajectory, or at the very least are stable, as this will indicate a consistent interest in the products or market sector. You will also need to evaluate the competition at this stage.
Your chosen affiliate products and services may stand a good chance of selling, but if there is too much competition in your niche, the results may be disappointing.
3. Choose your channel
You have now settled on a niche and determined it is a viable option for demand and competition and a secure route to market products. You must now decide which type of affiliate marketing channels you will utilize to build your audience.
No matter which type of affiliate marketer you ultimately choose to become, you will need a website and content to populate that website. In addition, prospective customers will need a reason to click on your affiliate links or visit your landing page or website.
There are several examples of affiliate marketing channels, so decide which one best fits your strengths rather than the one you feel will generate the highest level of traffic.
Blogging and review sites
Blogging is often the cheapest and easiest way to start affiliate marketing. While its popularity has taken a hit in recent years due to the surge in short-form video and photographic content, it is still a viable option if you are skilled with words.
You can demonstrate your expertise on a particular subject through a blog to show potential readers (and therefore buyers) that you are a trusted source and that any product or service you recommend will reflect this.
Review sites are also an excellent channel for content. According to Oberlo, 54% of customers still read at least four reviews before buying a product, so these are still a highly viable avenue for your content.
They will again help to demonstrate expertise in an area. If you have an extensive back catalog of reviews for products you’ve tried, your audience is more likely to trust the higher ratings and any subsequent special deals.
If you are confident in front of a camera, you may wish to set up a YouTube channel to try and build your audience. It is no secret that the most successful YouTube personalities have been able to bring in massive revenue through Google ads and partner programs. Still, in more recent times, many have turned to affiliate marketing methods for an additional source of income.
The most significant advantage of using YouTube as your channel is that it is free to start, and the potential audience is enormous. There are videos for everything imaginable on the platform. However, this is a double-edged sword as the sheer number of channels means considerable competition for even the smallest piece of attention.
Polished YouTube videos also take time to produce, and while the channel itself is free, the equipment and editing software you will need to create content is not.
Influencer marketing is often subject to a high level of hostility, with many questioning the authenticity of those who make it big on the platform. However, there is no denying its power and capability to drive traffic to affiliate websites.
Short-form videos and aesthetically engaging images are particularly appealing to younger demographics, who are more likely to trust and listen to influencers they trust. There is also considerably less user input and time required on Instagram when compared to YouTube. As a result, affiliate marketing can be formidable in selling online products and services.
Facebook is well on its way to dominating all facets of the online space, and affiliate marketing is no exception. It is perhaps more difficult to build large followings on Facebook than on YouTube and Instagram.
Facebook Groups have a massive presence on the platform, and many will fall within your chosen niche. There is also the option to utilize Facebook ads to help drive traffic to your desired locations, though these can often be costly.
It is also worth pointing out that you need to treat affiliate marketing via Facebook groups carefully. Most members will not care about your promotions and actively resent them if you post too often. As with any affiliate marketing strategy, trust and authenticity are essential if you wish to yield results via this method.
4. Create consistent, high-quality content
Now that you have a chosen channel, it is time to populate it with content designed to build and cultivate an audience, otherwise known as content marketing. Aside from blog posts and reviews, here are several other types of content you may wish to try:
- Case studies: They are often more focused than blog posts and tend to study specific topics more deeply. Content creators use case studies to offer a deep dive into products or services they are affiliated with. Use this content strategy once you have established trust and authenticity within your audience.
- Tutorials: A type of content that is perhaps more suited to YouTube, how-to tutorials often generate big audience numbers, especially if the product or service is something that everyone will need. There is an added advantage if the tutorial is an active demonstration of an affiliate product.
- Product comparisons: Compare affiliate products or services to competitors within the same niche. It is ideal to legitimately demonstrate that your affiliated product is the best in specific categories, though the comparisons must be honest to maintain integrity and trust.
- Podcasts: The podcast industry has seen massive growth over the last couple of years. You could consider relating your reviews and comparisons as spoken topics, or you could look to conduct interviews with leading figures in your niche or creators of the products or services you are affiliated with.
5. Join an affiliate network or program
You have an established channel. You create high-quality content regularly, and you now have an audience that enjoys your content. You should also have a good understanding of the type of audience you have been able to cultivate in terms of potential online products and services that may be of interest to them.
Join an affiliate network or affiliate program to start reaping the benefits of affiliate marketing. This will allow you to access the brands and businesses actively looking for affiliate partnerships.
Amazon Associates are one of the amazon-affiliate-marketing/”>leading affiliate networks currently operating, which is hardly surprising given its vast range of products and services. In addition, almost every niche is covered in some form, so this associate program will likely be accessible to most people.
If you have achieved an exceptionally high level of success in your social media following, you may also be eligible for their Amazon Influencer Program. Amazon affiliates are tasked with driving traffic to Amazon’s website in return for generous commission rates that can reach up to 12%. Other affiliate programs that pay include Commission Junction and Rakuten Marketing.
Choosing the right program for your particular business is a huge decision and can often make or break an affiliate marketing business. Consider the following before making your choice:
- Commission: The ultimate goal of affiliate marketing is to make money, so you will want to know what you will receive for your efforts. Each program’s commission package is slightly different so do your research to find the best deal. You will also need to be aware of any refund policies if a customer refunds via your affiliate link.
- Relevancy: Each affiliate program will have a different portfolio of brands and products. It should go without saying that if you are a relevant or involved affiliate marketer, you should choose the products or services most relevant to the content you have been producing.
- Payment logistics: There are generally two forms of commission; flat rates and recurring rates. Flat rates are typically linked with products, with the commission being made per sale, whereas recurring rates are associated with successful subscription renewals for a service or website.
- Creative assets and brand websites: Some brand websites are more appealing than others. Some brands put a lot of traction into helping their affiliates by providing banners and coupons to draw attention to your links, so you should also investigate this. At the other end of your affiliate link is a landing page or website — if the affiliate link lacks quality, it could put off potential buyers and lose you a commission.
- Cookie lifetime: A slightly more nuanced consideration is the number of days a cookie will remain on a user’s computer from the moment they first click on your affiliate link. Some cookies have a lifetime of a day. So the user must go through to purchase within the day for you to receive a commission. Some cookies remain valid for up to 30 days, giving a big window of opportunity to secure the sale.
6. Generate traffic
You now have everything in place to become an affiliate marketer. All that remains is to maximize your potential earnings through the traffic that comes to your website or landing pages.
If you have built an established audience, you will already have a firm footing from which to operate, generating traffic through every new blog post or video. Now you need to increase the level of traffic generated:
- Email lists: You should start to populate this early on. It lists people who have consented to you using their email addresses for marketing purposes. These lists can be used to send product and service updates, newsletters, and any new affiliate deals you may be part of that may interest them.
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO): Effective SEO is vital for any form of marketing. Keywords within your blog posts and metadata, or tags on your videos, need to be carefully geared toward and linked with your affiliate products to give search engine users the best possible chance of coming across your website.
- Paid traffic: If you have just started to bring in an affiliate income (or your YouTube videos are monetized and bringing in revenue), you may wish to reinvest some of this capital into paid traffic through ads. It is not a guaranteed method of increasing affiliate clicks, but it can be an effective way to increase traffic to your website or landing pages.
Is affiliate marketing worth it?
Affiliate marketing is not a guaranteed avenue to monetary success, but there are some great reasons to try it and some not-so-great considerations.
Affiliate marketing pros
Perhaps the most notable advantage of affiliate marketing is that there is quite a low barrier to entry. You do not need to build a complex and multi-faceted business from the ground up, and you do not have to worry about product development and improved service updates and features. You need as many eyes as possible on those products and services.
The risk is relatively low initially, and while you may need to invest in some video equipment here or there or web hosting, there are no painful overheads to bear. You don’t own the products or services, so you have no responsibility for them should things go wrong.
Lastly, the monetary rewards of affiliate marketing largely correlate to how much time and effort you put in. Affiliate marketing offers freedom and flexibility, whether you see this as a full-time income or just a little extra spending money.
Affiliate marketing cons
The low barrier to entry can also be a disadvantage. It has resulted in many markets and sectors being oversaturated in terms of available affiliate choices for an audience member. As a result, you will need to put in a very high level of work to ensure they click on your links and not someone else’s.
While you do have control over the products you choose to promote, you don’t control how your audience will perceive them. One lousy recommendation could set you back a long way in terms of your credibility and trust with your audience. You will also have very little say in the commission rates.
Source: The Balance Small Business
This lack of control can also result in shady practices such as ‘clickjacking.’ This is where an individual hijacks an affiliate link and redirects it toward their setup, thereby stealing your commission. Some affiliate programs are also quick to exploit those who don’t conduct their due diligence through loopholes in payments and other unethical practices.
The affiliate marketing industry is not going to go away any time soon. The relationship between companies and their affiliate marketers is often hugely beneficial to both parties. As such, the likelihood is that affiliate marketers will make their presence felt even more than they already do.
Content creators hold a lot of leverage. Bloggers, video creators, and (like them or loathe them) social media influencers are looking to jump on the affiliate marketing bandwagon to diversify their revenue streams. It’s time for you to do the same.
At Flippa, we have committed to bringing buyers and sellers of businesses together via our online marketplace for over ten years. As a result, we are now the market leader in helping entrepreneurs and business owners to buy and sell digital real estate.
Flippa can offer expert guidance in making sure you can maximize your earning potential when selling your business. If you are looking to increase your business portfolio or have a business you are considering selling, contact us today.
Frequently asked questions
What is affiliate marketing and how does it work?
Affiliate marketing is when you share a product or service on a website, blog, podcast, or social media platform to earn a commission from the sale of that product or service. When someone purchases after clicking on the affiliate’s one-of-a-kind link, the affiliate receives a commission.
Is affiliate marketing worth it?
Yes. Statista predicted for the affiliate marketing sector to grow from $5.4 billion in 2017 to $12 billion in 2022. As it is a low-cost or no-cost endeavor, businesses can profit from it easily.
How to make money with affiliate marketing?
There are a number of ways you can make money with affiliate marketing but the key is to provide content that matters. Include promotions for your own products within the content and make the most of the traffic you have already.
What is an affiliate program?
Affiliate programs are agreements in which an online merchant site pays a commission to an affiliate site for sending traffic to it. These affiliate websites put up links to the merchant’s website and get paid based on the set agreement – usually based on how many people click on the link to the merchant’s site.