What is Affiliate Marketing?

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By the end of this article 'What is Affiliate Marketing?', you will have a clear understanding of what is Affiliate Marketing, how does Affiliate Marketing work, how to become an Affiliate Marketer, which Affiliate programs you can enroll and start promoting, learn how to earn and make money through Affiliate Marketing, and a lot more.

And as always, for any one-on-one consulting and assistance, you may contact me at tariq@bloggersbloom.com
What is Affiliate Marketing? - Bloggers Bloom
Tariq SP
Blogger & Affiliate Marketer

What is Affiliate Marketing?
How does Affiliate Marketing work?
Can I start a full-fledged Affiliate Marketing business & earn consistently?

If you look around the internet for ways on how to make money online, you are definitely going to come across Affiliate Marketing as one of the many options. So, what is Affiliate Marketing? How does Affiliate Marketing work? How much money can you make with Affiliate Marketing? Can you be driving around a Lamborghini or a Ferrari or even living in a mansion and owning a yacht?

Well, I will answer the last question upfront.

Nope, you won’t be driving around a Lamborghini or Ferrari or living in a Mansion. Well, at least not right away. 😉 

I hate to disappoint you, but Affiliate Marketing is not a get rich quick scheme. Unlike a lot of articles and videos out there, saying it’s easy to become an Affiliate Marketer and earn money, the truth is, it isn’t easy and, at the same time, it isn’t hard either.

I would like to be upfront and honest here.

Yes, Affiliate Marketing is the easiest online business to get into, through which you could earn a very good income out of. Income, which could even substitute your day job. But, does it come easy? No way!

With the number of Affiliate Marketers out there, it is getting very competitive, if it hasn’t already. But what is encouraging to note is, not many are Affiliate marketing the right way. And that’s one area where you can benefit from. I’ve included the best practices in my course on Affiliate Marketing for Beginners.

Stick with Affiliate Marketing for the long term, treat it just like any other business, put in the time, effort and work, and slowly but surely, you will be living in a Mansion, and yes, all chances of you owning the wheels that you’ve dreamt of too.

What is Affiliate Marketing?

So, to begin with. What is Affiliate Marketing after all?

Very simply put, Affiliate Marketing is selling someone else’s product and you earning a commission out of it. Call it referral sales or partner network, etc., this is what Affiliate Marketing boils down to.

What is Affiliate Marketing

I guess we all have, in one way or the other, been promoting someone else’s product(s) all along.

Be it referring a shop to go to, or to purchase a product online, or refer the best deals, e.g., the ‘Complete Guide to Affiliate Marketing on the Web: How to Use & Profit from Affiliate Marketing Programs‘ on Amazon, or a Flipkart or a Snapdeal, etc.

Have we been getting a commission for this? Probably not.

On the flip side, if you had written an article on one of the products you referred, let’s say, an article on the bestseller laptops on Amazon. Let’s say you wrote an article and a review for a particular laptop brand. And in this article, you included a link, rather your Affiliate link, where one could go and purchase this laptop. If someone goes ahead, clicks on your link, and proceeds with the purchase of the laptop, you get a commission. Isn’t this cool?

And let’s say you get a commission of INR 1600 (USD 20) per laptop sold. And if you were to sell 20 laptops in a month, you would earn INR 32000 (USD 422) in one month from this one product. And what did you do to earn this commission? Created an optimized content (blog) around the topic laptops, which is of value and helps your audience decide and narrow down on a preferred laptop. Isn’t this very very cool? 😉

I guess that clears our first question of ‘What is Affiliate Marketing?’

Before we move along, apart from our question on what is Affiliate Marketing, the next obvious question or rather doubt would be on whether Affiliate Marketing is relevant in today’s market?

Have a look at the monthly search volume for the keyword ‘Affiliate Marketing’ on SEMRush.

Also, if you search for Affiliate Marketing on Google Trends, you will notice a positive trend both in the US and in India.

So, don’t go just by my word or my inclination towards Affiliate Marketing. You get to see the market sentiments too, towards Affiliate Marketing.

So, is Affiliate Marketing relevant in today’s market? Yes, I definitely guess so!

Ok, let’s now get into the nitty-gritty.

How does Affiliate Marketing work?
How does Affiliate Marketing work

You may have understood by now, there are three key elements in Affiliate Marketing.

  1. The Merchant (Product owner)
  2. The Customer
  3. The Affiliate Marketer (You)

Let’s take the example of Amazon.

Amazon has their Affiliate Program called the Amazon’s Associates Program. Once you go ahead and register yourself, you will be taken to your dashboard.

Some merchants approve your application (registration) immediately, while some take up to 4 days. In any case, once you are approved you get a unique link for your account. This link is what is called an Affiliate link.

This is your link, which you can go ahead and include in your articles. And every time someone clicks on your link and purchases a product, you get a commission. The merchant and you can track the number of people who have clicked on your affiliate link. You get to view these from your dashboard. (shown in the video below)

In this example, when you do log into your Amazon associates dashboard, you get a clear indication of the number of click throughs, the purchases that have happened, etc. On similar lines, all merchants provide you with a detailed dashboard for you to get a fair idea of the business generated through your links.

For the sake of brevity, I will go the extra mile to explain how exactly the tracking happens.

The tracking is done by what is called a Cookie. A cookie is a piece of text that a web server can store on a user’s hard disk. Cookies allow a website to store information on a user’s machine and later retrieve it.

Merchant such as Amazon has a cookie period of 24 hours. What this means is, if someone has clicked through your affiliate link and not made a purchase right away, but instead, comes back later and makes a purchase within 24 hours (cookie period) after clicking your link, you will be entitled to the commission.

Some merchants have a longer cookie period, even as high as 6 months.

Now that you know what Affiliate Marketing is and exactly how Affiliate Marketing works, the next obvious question is how to start affiliate marketing.

How to Start Affiliate Marketing?

While I did cover this above, Affiliate Marketing is simple and you can start off by signing up with one of the merchants out there.

You identify a niche, to begin with. A niche that you are passionate about. Remember. You have to come out with articles on a regular basis. And you would be able to churn out regular content, only if you are passionate about a particular topic.

For e.g., if you are passionate about ‘Health & Wellness’ and were asked to write an article on it, I guess you’d not find it difficult to churn out a 1500 – 2000 word article in less than a couple of hours. On the contrary, if you were asked to write an article on a topic you had absolutely no interest in, chances are that you would need a much longer time to learn, research, etc. before you come up with an article. You may also find excuses to avoid writing the article.

Hence, even though it may be exciting to promote a product, one must consider products within your niche. I do get into identifying a niche and much more in my course on Affiliate Marketing for Beginners.

Nevertheless, products you can promote fall under the following category.

  • Physical Products
  • Online Courses
  • Digital Products
  • Software
  • Coaching Programs
  • Services
  • Books & eBooks

We did already mention the Amazon Associates program. This is classified as a single merchant website or an eCommerce store. In addition to such single merchant websites that you can be an affiliate of, there are more complex Affiliate Networks such as JVZoo, Rakuten, ClickBank, and ShareASale. In these affiliate networks, you can find a range of products that you may consider signing up with and promoting.

Amazon’s Associate program is one of the most common programs all newbie affiliates register for. And the simple reason being, it caters to all niches.

How Much Money Can You Make With Affiliate Marketing?

Now, I’m not one to show you unrealistic numbers. And just like you, maybe, I too am a learner.

The screenshot you see is my sales commissions from the first 15 days of June 2020. And this is by promoting one of my web hosting affiliate product – SiteGround.

I created an article on ‘How To Create a WordPress Website Using SiteGround’. I promoted this page on my various platforms. And within 24 hours, I managed to get the first sale.

So, how much can you really make with Affiliate Marketing?

Let’s take the example of SiteGround. As mentioned, SiteGround is a web hosting service provider. And the most obvious related articles would be on, how to create a website.

So, let us check the keyword phrase ‘How to create a website’ on SEMRush.

As you can see, the keyword phrase ‘How to create a website’ has a 22.2K monthly search volume in the US, and in India, the same phrase has a 40.5K monthly search. And a global monthly search volume of 106.8K.

What is Affiliate Marketing? - Bloggers Bloom

Did you know?

If you do manage to reach the number 1 position in Google for your keyword, you manage to get 33% click-throughs from the search traffic? (Source: Search Engine Watch)

how to start affiliate marketing

So, from our SEMRush report, the monthly global search volume is 106.8K. And based on the study, if we manage to get to the first position on Google, 33% of 106.8K works to about 35,244 click-throughs to our article on ‘How to create a website’. [Related article: How to create a WordPress website using SiteGround].

Considering a 10% sales conversion out of the 35,244 click-throughs, we end up with 3,524 sales.

I get a commission of $50 per sale. And out of 3,524 sales?

I end up with $176,200 from one product on one day. And for 30 days? Well, you can do that maths.

Just goes to show,

  • It’s more than sufficient if you promote only one product
  • There is a lot of money in Affiliate Marketing
  • Traffic coming from Search engines is the best
  • Focus on SEO and Content creation

If you can master SEO & Content creation, you will be a huge success in Affiliate Marketing.

How to Become An Affiliate Marketer?

As mentioned earlier, Affiliate Marketing is the easiest online business to venture into. All you have to do it, register for an affiliate program with a merchant, get yourself approved, obtain the affiliate links, and start promoting. As simple as that.

As part of the approval process, some merchants check if you have a website (platform), the source and amount of traffic your platform receives, the nature of products you promote, etc.

So, is a website really required for Affiliate Marketing? If you ask me, I would say yes.

I see a number of affiliate marketers go ahead and post their links of various platforms, be it forums, social media, etc. Again, to each his own. But my question is, are you considering Affiliate Marketing for the long term? Are you seriously considering Affiliate Marketing as a full-time business? If yes, wouldn’t you create a website for your business?

Another way to look at it is, let’s say these platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, Quora, etc., stops accepting posts that have affiliate links. Or for all you know, they shut down. Highly unlikely, but nevertheless, worth considering. What then? Would you stop Affiliate Marketing?

I guess you would then have to restart your business by building your platform – your website. Your website is your owned property, your own platform. And you decide how you want to play around with it.

Another reason to have your own website (platform), is so that you can start building your email list. It is an area of online business, most marketers and business owners neglect.

Consider having a lead magnet (an ebook, or a course related to your niche) given away free of cost. Create a nice landing page on your website, offer this lead magnet free of cost, and capture the email address. Once registered, start off a drip email marketing system. Offer content, be it blog articles, infographics, videos, images, news, etc., on a regular basis without hard selling. Build a relationship with your audience. And guess what. Slowly, but surely, you will have an audience that trusts you and with whom you have built a personal relationship.

When you post an article, ensure it goes to all your members. And the next time you have an offer, chances are that you will have a far bigger conversion rate. Yes, these steps do take time. Business in general takes time. But businesses built over a long time earn the trust with their audiences and those businesses last forever.

If you are considering an email marketing software that takes care of not only the landing pages, email subscription forms, broadcast emails, but also start automation and sequencing, I highly recommend ConvertKit. I’ve really used a lot of mailing tools since 2004. And ConvertKit is head and shoulders above all of them. I will be creating a tutorial on ConvertKit very soon and will have the link included here.

But having said all this, just like any other business, Affiliate Marketing has its share of advantages and disadvantages. And as you would realize below, the advantages are way more than the disadvantages.

What are the advantages of Affiliate Marketing?

1. You can start off immediately, with no initial investment

Well, to begin with, you do not have to create a product of your own.

Imagine the time, effort, and money you spend on creating a product. And once your product is ready, will the response from the market for your product be on expected lines? It may or may not be. Would you take that risk? Wouldn’t it be better to promote someone else’s product which is in lines with yours from day one, test the market, start earning a commission out of it, and most importantly, start building an email list?

2. Logistics is not your concern

Another big advantage of Affiliate Marketing is that you are not responsible for delivery, customer care, etc. You are merely facilitating the sale of a product. Your product could either be a physical product or a digital product or even a service. Whatever be the case, you are merely introducing a product to a potential customer.

The customer clicks on your affiliate link and gets redirected to the merchant’s website. And once the sale happens, you get your commission. The merchant takes care of the delivery of the product. The merchant’s customer care takes care of the concerns and issues if any.

Yes, you would earn more brownie points and customer loyalty if you do help solve the customer issues. But, just going to say, it really is not solely your responsibility. You can concentrate on generating more sales.

3. Flexible working hours

This is a huge plus. You are your own boss. You can set your working hours. And you can work from anywhere. While there are no fixed hours, I would like to give a few words of advice.

Stay focused.

When you work on your own, we do procrastinate. I speak for myself too here. Affiliate Marketing, all said and done, is easy to start and work on. But, you must treat Affiliate Marketing just like any other full-time business. Just like any new business or venture takes time to build, Affiliate Marketing takes time. And you have to put in the time early on to build your system, the platform, your content, the reviews, etc., to finally see the passive income coming in.

4. No expertise needed to start

All you need to do is identify your niche, find a suitable merchant, sign up as an affiliate, and once approved, you are ready to start. Absolutely no prior expertise or sales & marketing experience required. I’ve created a step-by-step course on how to identify your niche, and how to start a full-time Affiliate Marketing business in my course on Affiliate Marketing for Beginners.

5. Passive income

Once set up, this is truly your passive income machine. You can be earning commissions as long as your platform (your website, your social media channels, etc.) is live and your articles and content are delivering value.

You must create an ‘epic’ article or review on a particular product or your niche. Optimize that content for search engines. You can even promote that content on social media. You would agree that as long as your platforms are live, your article is out there. And as long as your content is out there, chances of people clicking on your affiliate links within the content is high.

Hence, the primary focus has to be on churning out epic articles that start showing up on Google, ensure your article comes up on page 1 of Google, and even better on rank #1. Again, if you want to learn the basics of SEO (methods to rank your article better in Google for relevant keywords), I have covered it all in my course on Affiliate Marketing for Beginners.

6. The sky’s the limit

Yes, it all depends on (like the old saying goes), how much fire is there in your belly!

Even with just one product, you really can be earning much more than your day job. It doesn’t happen overnight, but over the course of time, making daily improvements, you will be able to achieve huge success in Affiliate Marketing.

In addition to the above advantages, a few other advantages of Affiliate Marketing would be

7. It is a global industry worth well over $12 billion. (Source: Statistica)
8. Affiliate marketing is suitable for all ages (Source: Statista)
9. Fast growth with no signs of stopping! (Source: Business Insider)

Any business has its downside too. While I wouldn’t necessarily call these disadvantages, let’s dwell upon a few of the downside to Affiliate Marketing now.

What are the disadvantages of Affiliate Marketing?

1. A lot of competition

As I said, I really cannot call this a disadvantage.

If there is a lot of competition, it really means, there is genuine money in this business. Hence the number of people turning out to be Affiliate Marketers. As indicated earlier, while there are a number of Affiliate Marketers around, there is a handful of people doing Affiliate Marketing the right way.

What is the right way of doing Affiliate Marketing? Well, yes, I have covered that too in my course on Affiliate Marketing for Beginners.

2. Takes time

Again, not much of a disadvantage. I’ve mentioned this under the advantages too.

Affiliate Marketing is not a get rich quick scheme. You have to work on it on a daily basis. Your articles take time to show up on the search engines. It could take anywhere from 4 to 6 months to start showing up.

It’s but obvious when you have more than 500 million blogs out of 1.7 billion websites in the world. Gulp!

Yes, there are ways to increase your search traffic. You can also run paid ads for your article or blog. But, without a doubt, the inquiries and clickthroughs you get out of search traffic (organic traffic) are the best. And hence, this does take time.

3. There is no guarantee of revenue

Unlike a 9 to 5 job, wherein you are ‘more or less’ assured of a paycheck by the end of the month, in Affiliate Marketing or in business, in general, you cannot predict or guarantee the paycheck you would receive month on month. You have some great months, you also have some not so great months. And when you do average them out, you, more often than not, earn a bigger chunk as compared to your day job.

Disadvantage? I really don’t think so.

4. Appears spammy in nature

A lot of people feel Affiliate Marketing is spammy in nature. And one reason for this is the way it is being promoted by many.

If you do look around various groups and networks, you will find a lot of people posting links arbitrarily. To each his own. But tell me honestly. How many times would you go ahead and click on such links? Or, let me rephrase my question. Would you go ahead and click on such links.

And let’s compare that to you having written an article or a review on the same link that has been promoted arbitrarily. Would you click on the article link? Yes, there are more chances of that happening.

Hence, it really goes to how you are promoting your affiliate products. And that is one of the tactics of promoting Affiliate Marketing, the right way. More of the right way of Affiliate Marketing in my course on Affiliate Marketing for Beginners.

Again, this is not a disadvantage. It is more perception and changes with the way we go about promoting our links.

5. No control on product pricing & commission

Yes, now this is a real disadvantage.

We are not promoting our own products. We are promoting someone else’s product. We earn a commission, which is mentioned initially, from every sale of the product.

But, what happens when the merchant changes the product, or revises the pricing or even changes the commission slabs? Well, this is not in our control.

An example for this is when Amazon itself recently revised its commission structures for various products. (Related article: Amazon slashes commission rates for Affiliate Program)

6. Can’t collect Customer information

As you may have realized, we promote a product using a link generated by the merchant. So be it our article, or our videos, or our platform in general, we merely send the customer over to the merchant’s product page.

What happens to the customer post leaving our site, really cannot be measured. We get intimated when the sale happens. That’s about it. We really cannot capture customer details.

When a customer visits your platform, it has resulted from the work you have put in. And the customer may have found value in your article and hence the clickthrough. So, wouldn’t it be great to capture the customer details and add them to your email list? They can be your customer in the future too.

While there are ways and lead magnets of capturing your client details, typically, it is difficult to capture customer information.

Now that we are done with the advantages and disadvantages, I guess you would agree there are more advantages to starting an Affiliate Marketing business.

What are the Top Affiliate Marketing Program?

There are a number of affiliate programs that you can enroll.

From physical products to digital, there is one for every niche. The Amazon’s associate program is a hit and a common program for all Affiliate Marketers due to this simple reason. It has a niche for everyone.

While there are a number of programs you could join, the key is to select one which is in line with your niche.

Remember, end of the day, you have to create content for your product. And when I say content, it can be blog articles such as ‘how-to’ articles, product review articles (e.g., Product A vs Product B review), top 10 or best 10 articles, or even video reviews, etc.

I have a free ebook on the 150 Top Affiliate Marketing Programs. You could find your niche amongst these and enroll.

Again, more than enrolling for a number of programs, join one to start off with. Create articles, videos, landing pages, lead magnets, etc. Start promoting this one product and get a feel of the market. Once you have mastered this art of selling this one product, you can scale it up and add more products & programs.

As I’ve mentioned earlier, you can promote even one product to earn BIG in Affiliate Marketing. The key is, how to promote your product. There is a right way and a wrong way of promoting your products.

And all this and more has been covered in my course on Affiliate Marketing for Beginners.

Affiliate Marketing for Beginners (Online Course)
How would you like it, if you wake up, check your mails and see this?
What is Affiliate Marketing? - Bloggers Bloom

This is a sale from one of my many Affiliate Products – SiteGround.

And what you see below is the commissions I’ve earned for the month of July, well, for the first 15 days of July 2020.

So, do I know how to make money through Affiliate Marketing? 😉

I’ve used all my experience and knowledge and created a course on Affiliate Marketing for Beginners. I’ve had it featured on Udemy too.

And these are the ratings, reviews and number of enrollments the course Affiliate Marketing for Beginners has garnered in less than 2 months since it’s launch.

My course featured on Udemy

My course under the Most Popular Category

My course under the Top Courses Category

Affiliate Marketing for Beginners Course Reviews

Affiliate Marketing for Beginners
What is Affiliate Marketing? - Bloggers Bloom
Affiliate Marketing for Beginners
What is Affiliate Marketing? - Bloggers Bloom
What is Affiliate Marketing? - Bloggers Bloom

My Instructor Rating

This is just to let you know, you are in safe hands! 😉

I’ve created a step by step course on Affiliate Marketing for Beginners, along with my one-on-one consultation.

I will handhold you and assist you in building your online business, setting up systems, and offer you tips & tricks to succeed.

This course is full of short & to the point, precise chapters with actionable steps, assignments & interactions. I really hope you do complete it. The only way you will see results, is if you take action.

This course is at a one-time fee of Rs. 499/- (limited period only)

Once you have completed the payment and registered into the platform, you will have full access to the course and to my consultation.

All the best, and do take action TODAY!

I hope you found value in this article.

Please do share your views and feedback in the comments section below. It will only help me improve and in turn, help me in bringing out quality content for you.

Thank you!

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