Nick Schäferhoff

Editor in Chief

Becoming an affiliate marketer in 2021 is easier than ever.

The top reason people choose affiliate marketing is that it makes monetizing content easy. Plus, it offers room for big profits — 35% of affiliates make at least $20,000 a year. That’s a lot of money, considering once your content is out there, you’ll keep earning passive income without lifting a finger.

And affiliate marketing is on the rise. According to Statista, companies will spend $8.2 billion on affiliate marketing in 2022.

In this article, you’ll find a complete, five-step guide to affiliate marketing for beginners.


Table of Contents:

  1. Affiliate Marketing: What Is It and How Does It Work?
  2. Affiliate Marketer: How Much Money Can You Make
  3. 5 Steps to Start Doing Affiliate Marketing
  4. Step 1: Choose a Platform
  5. Step 2: Find Affiliate Programs in Your Niche
  6. Step 3: Create Content That Gets Traffic
  7. Step 4: Include Affiliate Links
  8. Step 5: Promote Your Content
  9. Statistics: 10 Beginner Statistics for Affiliate Marketing in 2021
  10. FAQs: for Beginner Affiliate Marketers

Ready? Let’s go.


Affiliate Marketing: What Is It and How Does It Work?

As an affiliate marketer, you will promote a company’s products or services and receive a commission for every purchase your audience makes.

It’s one of the best online business ideas you can start since it’s quick to set up, there are zero barriers to entry, and you can get started with no money. For example, you don’t need to invest time and money in customer service or other activities since you’re not selling any products or services directly — you’re only promoting them.

Consequently, your only real investment will be time. And the risk of failure is extremely low — it’s almost guaranteed you will make at least some profit by following our guide.

Another benefit of affiliate marketing is that you can do it at scale. That means you can promote products from multiple companies and keep receiving a regular passive income.

But how does it work exactly? Here’s a visual representation of the affiliate marketing process.

how-does-affiliate-marketing-work

  1. The company you choose will give you a unique link so they can track buyers that came from your site.
  2. When your readers click on that link, a browser cookie is stored on their device, so you’ll get paid even if they don’t make the purchase right away (although cookies usually have an expiration date).

Here’s an example of how it works: Let’s say you have a fashion blog and you review a T-shirt that costs $100. If the company you chose gives a 50% commission, you’ll receive $50 for each of your readers who clicks on the affiliate link you provide and ends up buying that T-shirt.

Pretty good, right? Let’s now see how much you can actually earn as an affiliate marketer.

How Much Money Can You Make as an Affiliate Marketer?

According to ZipRecruiter, as an affiliate marketer, you can make about $154,700 a year in potential income, while according to Glassdoor, you can make anywhere from $42,000 to $83,000.

Having said that, the amount of money you can make depends on various factors. Some of the most famous affiliate marketers, like Pat Flynn, managed to make more than $100,000 in just a month through affiliate marketing,

As a beginner affiliate marketer, that’s not the kind of money you’ll be able to see right away. It takes time to build an online presence.

But don’t let that discourage you. With patience and the right knowledge, you, too, will manage to achieve great results. So follow our steps to get started with affiliate marketing.

How to Get Started With Affiliate Marketing: 5 Steps

To start, all you need is a platform to post content. Then, you’ll choose a product or service to promote. After that, it’s all a matter of publishing great content and growing your audience.

Step 1: Choose a Platform

The most common platforms for affiliate marketing are blogs, YouTube channels, and social media platforms like Instagram.

We recommend using a blog as a primary affiliate marketing channel since that’s the best way to gain free traffic and build an audience that will read your content and click on your affiliate links.

Choose a Niche

Since there are several types of blogs in every industry, you must choose a niche to maximize your affiliate marketing efforts. Keep in mind that some niches — like personal finance, travel, and technology — usually earn higher commissions, but these are also the most competitive.

Don’t choose your niche based on affiliate marketing and the commissions you can earn. Instead, choose one that you’re passionate about. Remember that you’ll be able to succeed in affiliate marketing only by providing high-quality content that your audience trusts.

Plus, today, you can market products or services in any industry. Most companies have an affiliate program. And if there’s a company you particularly want to collaborate with that doesn’t have one, you can negotiate one just for you (as long as you have a good amount of traffic coming to your blog).

Step 2: Find Affiliate Programs in Your Niche

how-to-choose-an-affiliate-program

There are three main types of affiliate programs: low-volume with high commissions, high-volume with high commissions, and high-volume with low commissions.

3-types-of-affiliate-programs-2

Low-Volume with High Commissions

In certain niches — such as finance, banking, and business — you can find affiliate programs that pay very high commissions.

However, these usually have two drawbacks:

  1. They’re often difficult to promote because they require technical expertise.
  2. High-paying affiliate programs tend to be very competitive.

As a beginner, consider these only if your blog is about a very technical topic that you’re an expert and authority in.

Here are two examples of high-paying affiliate programs in niches with relatively low volumes:

  • NordVPN: If you manage to get your users to sign up for a one-month NordVPN plan, you’ll get 100% commissions for every signup and 30% commissions for renewals. Six-month, one-year, and two-year plans have a 40% commission rate.
  • AWeber: AWeber offers a 30% commission, but keep in mind you will find a lot of specialized competitors with deep and technical expertise in email marketing.

High-Volume with High Commissions

In some niches, you can find programs that have high commissions and that you can also easily promote to a large audience, because of their mass appeal.

The downside of these is that they can be competitive, and some of them may require specific expertise. Here are a few examples.

  • Apple Services Performance Partners: Technology is an example of a niche with high volumes and high commissions. For example, by promoting Apple News, you can make a 400% one-time commission.
  • Fiverr: The Fiverr affiliate program is your best option to promote digital services like logo design and web development. Based on the service you decide to promote, you could earn up to $1,000 for a single conversion.
  • Teachable: Teachable affiliates earn $450 per month on average, and many earn $1,000 or more every month. You’ll earn a 30% commission for every Teachable subscription. Plus, you’ll keep getting that commission monthly, as long as users stay on the platform.
  • Luxury Card: Credit cards are a type of product in the financial niche that has mass appeal. For example, Luxury Card offers a commission of $405 per sale.
  • Shopify: If you’re in the eCommerce niche, definitely consider Shopify’s affiliate marketing program, which offers a 200% commission on paid stores, for an average of $58 for each user who signs up for a paid plan.

High-Volume with Low Commissions

Finally, there are affiliate marketing programs that are relatively easy to promote but usually have lower commissions. These are usually the best for affiliate marketing beginners.

Amazon Associates

The Amazon Associate affiliates program is one of the best for two reasons. First, you can choose to promote anything on the Amazon catalog, which has more than 350 million products. Second, conversion rates (amount of users who ended up buying the products) tend to be higher than other websites because of Amazon’s brand reputation.

The downside is that commission rates are relatively low, ranging from 1% to 15%, depending on the category.

amazon-fixed-standard-commission-income-rates-for-specific-product-categories

Let’s say you’re in the beauty industry and you choose to promote a product you love that costs $65. For each of your users who purchases the physical product after clicking on your link, you’ll get $6.50 (since the commission rate for luxury beauty products is 10%).

That’s not a huge amount of money, but since users are more likely to purchase products from Amazon, you can make a good amount of money if you have traffic and an audience that trusts you. For example, if 100 people purchase it, you’ll make $650.

purchase-from-amazon

If you want to promote services, Amazon is not the right place. However, if you want to review or suggest physical or digital products, Amazon is a safe bet as you can find any item you can think of.

Etsy

Similar to Amazon, Etsy’s affiliate program commission rate is pretty low — 4% for each qualifying sale. Something great about this program is that your commission will be paid 100% by Etsy, meaning that the platform doesn’t cut a part of the seller’s profit. Because of this, you can easily partner with individual sellers to create content — it’s a win-win.

Etsy is a great option if you’re in an industry like fashion or DIY since you can find several products related to your niche.

eBay Partner Network

eBay’s affiliate marketing commissions are pretty low — between 1% and 4%. The main reason you might want to look into it is that even if you’re a complete beginner and just starting a blog with very low traffic, you can join the program and start posting affiliate links.

How to Choose an Affiliate Program

Many affiliate marketing beginners go straight to finding programs with higher commissions, but it’s important to look at many other factors that will impact your ability to succeed and make profits.

For example, a product with very high commissions but that doesn’t sell could be less profitable than a low commission product with a high conversion rate.

Here are the main factors to consider when choosing an affiliate program:

  • Personal use: Only recommend products or services that you’ve personally tried.
  • Niche and audience fit: Make sure the product or service is a good fit for your niche and audience.
  • Product popularity and acceptance: Before you promote a product, search online and look for reviews and opinions about this product.
  • Conversion rate: Since most affiliate programs have a cost-per-sale (CPS) compensation model, make sure the program you choose has a high conversion rate if you want real profits. Known and trusted brands are usually safer bets and are more likely to turn visitors into sales.
  • Commissions: Consider the following: will you get a one-time payment or recurring payments?; what is the compensation model (CPS is the standard in the industry, but some programs work with a pay-per-lead or pay-per-click model); will you receive second tier-commissions (percentage of sales from affiliates that you refer).
  • Cookie duration: This refers to how long you’re eligible to receive commissions for a referred customer. Obviously, you want the cookie duration to be longer to maximize your profits.
  • Support and brand reputation: Since issues might arise, we recommend working with established and trustworthy brands. Try looking for other affiliates’ reviews. The best affiliate programs provide tools and resources like banner ads, creatives, email templates, and client testimonials to help out affiliates.

Terms and conditions: Finally, make sure you fully understand the payment terms and methods, and the marketing terms and conditions that the affiliate program you’re looking at offers.

How to Find Affiliate Programs

To find affiliate programs in your niche, think about brands, products, and services that you use in your daily life and that are relevant to your audience.

Choose products you use yourself or think will be valuable to your readers. Also, make sure you can integrate these organically into your content, without making it look like an advertisement. For example, if you have a tech blog and you write an article about internet security, it might make sense to include an affiliate link for antivirus software.

To start, just go to one of your favorite companies’ websites and search for an affiliate program page. If you don’t find it, try searching for BRAND NAME + AFFILIATE on Google.
google-search-affiliate-network

To find additional affiliate programs, you can also join affiliate networks — these are intermediaries between you and the companies.

As an affiliate, you might choose to join an affiliate network to easily work with multiple merchants. Plus, some brands only offer affiliate programs through these networks.

Most affiliate networks also provide conversion metrics, which will help you understand which merchants convert visitors to sales best.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself when choosing an affiliate network:

  • What is the cost? Some affiliate networks will require a starting or fixed monthly fee. Since the main advantage of affiliate marketing is that it doesn’t require startup costs, you should avoid these.
  • Does it fit with your niche and audience interests? To find this out, scroll through the list of companies and see if there are many in your industry

Does it offer customer support? Try to choose a network that offers various customer support options.

Best Affiliate Networks for Beginners

Since there are many affiliate networks, we put together a list of the most reliable ones that usually work best for affiliate marketing beginners. We suggest you sign up for some of these and find products that would be good fits for your audience.

ClickBank

Clickbank is a good affiliate network option for beginners since it offers more than six million unique affiliate products. The downside of that is that there are also a lot of bad products, so it might take a while to sort through them to find the best ones.

To get started, you can just sign up and start browsing through the different categories (e.g., health & fitness, games, etc.). Once you click on a product, you’ll be able to see details like:

  • Avg $/sale: The average revenue other affiliates are making from this.
  • Gravity: The higher the gravity, the easier it is to promote the product. Keep in mind that if the number is too high, there might be a lot of competition. A sweet spot we suggest is about 80 for gravity.

Clickbank is the best option if you want millions of options to choose from or if you want to promote mainly digital products. Just make sure you do your research, and only promote products you genuinely like and trust.

ShareASale

With thousands of products and services in 40 different categories, ShareASale is the most used affiliate network.

Because of the large number of options, when you sign up, you can start doing a brand or product search by using the keyword search feature.

One of the main reasons you might want to choose ShareASale is that many companies, including WP Engine and OptinMonster, only do affiliate marketing through this platform. That’s important to keep in mind because you might not be able to promote products or services from these or other brands unless you join ShareASale.

Rakuten Affiliate

Rakuten Affiliate is the third most used affiliate marketing network, and it’s a great choice for beginners.

That’s due to its ease of use — just click on ‘Programs’ and ‘Categories,’ and start browsing through the different programs. Once you find one that might work, you can easily apply and you’ll then be able to create affiliate links fast.

Step 3: Create Content That Gets Traffic

If you want your affiliate marketing strategy to succeed, you need to create high-quality content that gets traffic.

Why is that important?

Your audience won’t click on your affiliate links unless they see you as a trustworthy and reliable source.

Fortunately, you can create many types of content, so make sure you choose one that is suitable for your audience and industry.

The best content formats for affiliate marketing include tutorials, product reviews, listicles, and resource pages.

Once you’ve created content on your blog, you need to drive traffic to it.

You have two main options: paid search and content marketing.

Paid traffic is a great way to complement your efforts for a successful affiliate marketing strategy. In particular, it can be worth it for high-paying affiliate programs.

But if you’re a beginner, you probably have a limited marketing budget, and you’ll want to start with low commission affiliate programs.

In these cases, paid traffic is probably not a great idea, and you’ll want to start getting traffic through search engine optimization (SEO), which consists of optimizing pages to rank high in search engines like Google.

If you manage to do this, you’ll get free, consistent traffic to your blog.

To succeed with content marketing, make sure you understand what topics your audience is most interested in and create informational blog posts that answer their questions or solve their problems.

Step 4: Include Affiliate Links

Once you’ve created great content, it’s time to get your readers to click on your affiliate links. These are some factors to keep in mind for your affiliate links:

  • Placement: Don’t place affiliate links in sections of the page that many users won’t see, like the bottom of the page.
  • Context: Make sure the products, services, or brand you’re promoting are in line with the content and what you’re writing about.
  • Callouts: Consider adding buttons, tables, or boxes through your content to attract your readers’ attention to the affiliate links while, at the same time, making the post more skimmable. For example, consider using a comparison table to create a great user experience and make the links stand out more if you’re comparing two products.

Below is an example from our best web hosting guide.

bluehost-best-hosting-site

Step 5: Promote Your Content

Once you have high-quality content on your blog, it’s time to promote your content to increase visibility. If your content is high-quality, informative, and well-written, it will gain attention automatically. But in the beginning, promotion is needed to help speed up the process.

You have many options when it comes to promotion.

As a starting point, you can promote your content on social media or in a newsletter (if you don’t have one, we suggest you consider creating one). For channels like these, you can turn your content into an infographic or interesting image, and invite users to read the full article.

You can also repurpose your content into YouTube videos.

Consider guest posting — writing articles for other blogs — to promote your content and also build a backlink portfolio. Since this can take a lot of time, make sure you create content that will make readers want to learn more about your blog or website and click on your links.

If you’re in the B2B space, you can use LinkedIn to repurpose your content into a new article and allow users to share it on LinkedIn and other social networks.

Now you have a complete overview of how to get started with affiliate marketing and its benefits. Let’s look into the key affiliate marketing statistics you should be aware of as a future affiliate marketer.

10 Affiliate Marketing Statistics for Beginners in 2021

Often considered one of the easiest methods to monetize a website, affiliate marketing is a great choice to start earning passive income online. Read through the stats to find out things to keep in mind as you get started.

  1. The U.S. affiliate marketing spend is expected to reach $8.2 by 2022. (Statista)
  2. The top reason publishers like affiliate marketing programs are that they make content monetization easy (76%). (Viglink)
  3. 45% of publishers say a benefit of affiliate marketing is that it does not disrupt the user experience. (Viglink)
  4. Content and blogs generate almost 40% of publisher commissions from affiliate marketing. (Awin)
  5. 71% of U.S. affiliates work with three or more affiliate networks and only 6% work with one affiliate network. (Forrester Consulting)
  6. Search engine optimization is the number one (69.2%) traffic source for affiliate marketing. (Affiliate Summit)
  7. ShareASale is the most used affiliate network (55.78%), followed by CJ (43.03%). (Affiliate Summit)
  8. Most affiliates (24.46%) find new programs to join directly on the merchant’s website. (Affiliate Summit)
  9. 35% of affiliates disclosed an annual revenue of at least $20,000. (Affiliate Summit)
  10. The number one reason affiliates choose a program product or service relevancy (18.15%), followed by affiliate program reputation (15.97%). (Affiliate Summit)

Beginner Affiliate Marketing FAQs

Now let’s take a look at the most frequently asked questions.

Do you need a website for affiliate marketing?

The short answer is yes. When you apply for affiliate programs, most of these will ask for a link to your website. However, if you have a good source of traffic coming from another platform like Instagram or Facebook, you don’t necessarily need a website.

Can you make money from affiliate marketing?

While it takes time and effort, if you have good traffic and publish quality content, it’s almost guaranteed that you will make at least some money from affiliate marketing. With time, you can even turn it into a passive source of income that can replace your job.

How do I get into affiliate marketing?

As outlined in our guide for affiliate marketing beginners above, after you choose a platform to post content, all you need to do is browse through affiliate marketing networks or go to your favorite brands’ websites and try to find a product or service related to your niche.

How can I start affiliate marketing with no money?

One of the main benefits of affiliate marketing is that you can do it for free. However, if you want to maximize your efforts, consider making a small investment in a self-hosted blogging platform.

Wrapping Up: Become an Affiliate Marketer

As you’ve seen, affiliate marketing is one of the easiest ways to start making money online. As a beginner, you first need to focus on creating a professional-looking blog with high-quality content and get traffic to it.

Follow our five-step process and start earning money from your blog by promoting the products you love.

For more information on affiliate marketing including its benefits and how to choose an affiliate program, check out our infographic below.