What is Affiliate Marketing & FAQ

What is Affiliate Marketing

Whenever I publish my income report or share how I earn money with my blog, I often use the term “affiliate marketing”. Bloggers and internet marketers who have been into online marketing for years are familiar with affiliate marketing, and with the fact that it is the most lucrative way to earn money online.

In this article, I will share the basics of affiliate marketing and all the details you need to know in order to understand how affiliate marketing works.

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What is affiliate marketing and how does it work?

Affiliate marketing is one of the oldest forms of marketing wherein you refer someone to any online product and when that person buys the product based on your recommendation, you receive a commission. This commission varies from $1 to $10000, depending on what product you are promoting.

What is Affiliate Marketing

The most common question I hear is related to how companies track the record of who is sending the traffic and making the sales. The simple answer involves a tracking URL, which is a unique link given to you by the affiliate company or product company.  This URL is used to keep track of all the traffic and sales you are making via your website or other promotional techniques. Many old-fashioned affiliate programs allow a buyer to add the email or referral details in an effort to account for affiliate sales, but this is certainly not the best way to track progress.

So, in simple words:

Many online companies who sell products such as shoes, webhosting space or any service, offer an affiliate program. You can simply sign up for the program and get your unique tracking link. Now, whenever you are writing about the product, you can simply use this special tracking affiliate link to recommend the company’s site, and if your readers buy anything, you will get a commission.

Every affiliate program has a set TOS.  For example, many of them offer a 60-day cookie period, which  means that if a visitor uses your special affiliate link to land on the sales page of the site and instead of buying today, he buys at some point within the next 60 days, you will be entitled to the sales commission.

Following are some of the common terms associated with affiliate marketing:

  • Affiliates: Publishers like you and me who are using affiliate program links to promote and make sales.
  • Affiliate marketplace: There are many marketplaces like Shareasale, CJ and Clickbank, which work as central databases for affiliate programs in different niches.
  • Affiliate software: Software used by companies to create an affiliate program for their product, for example: iDevaffiliate.
  • Affiliate link: Special tracking link offered by your affiliate program to track the progress of your affiliate promotion.
  • Affiliate ID: Similar to the affiliate link, but many affiliate programs offer a unique ID which you can add to any page of the product site.
  • Payment mode: Different affiliate programs offer different methods of payment. For example: check, wire transfer, Paypal and many more.
  • Affiliate Manager: Many companies have dedicated affiliate managers to help publishers to earn more by giving them optimization tips.
  • Commission percentage/amount: The amount or percentage you will be receiving in affiliate income from every sale.
  • 2-tier affiliate marketing: This is a great way of making money from an affiliate program. With this method you recommend that others join affiliate programs, and you receive a commission when a sub-affiliate makes a sale, (similar to MLM or multi-level marketing.) This income is popularly known as sub-affiliate commission.
  • Landing pages: A unique product sales or demo page used for the purpose of increasing sales. Most of the programs that you will be promoting have many landing pages, and you can run A/B testing to see which pages convert best for you.
  • Custom affiliate income/ account: Unlike a generic affiliate account, many companies offer custom affiliate income to people making the most affiliate sales for them.
  • Link clocking: Most of the affiliate tracking links are ugly. Using a link clocking technique like URL shorteners, Gocodes plugin, etc., you can turn ugly links into links that can be read and understood by your readers.
  • Custom coupons: Many programs allow affiliates to create custom coupons which are also used to track sales. Custom discount coupons help you to increase affiliate sales as well.

For companies offering an affiliate program, this is one of the best ways to receive free promotion, thus saving substantially on advertising. For example, whenever you see coupons or discount links, most of the time these are affiliate links, and when you make a purchase, webmasters make money.

FAQ about affiliate marketing:

At this point you should have a basic understanding of what affiliate marketing is and how it works. If you have any questions regarding any of this, you can always ask it in the comments section below.

Now, let me answer some of the common questions asked by webmasters and marketers where affiliate marketing is concerned:

Is affiliate marketing harmful or illegal?

No, it is neither harmful nor illegal, as you will simply be using the particular link provided to you rather than a direct link to link to any site.

Affiliate marketing and Adsense: Can we use both?

Yes, you can because affiliate marketing does not violate any Adsense TOS. In fact, for me affiliate marketing works better than Adsense, and that is one reason you see fewer AdSense ads here at ShoutMeLoud.

How do I find an affiliate link for any product?

Not all companies offer an affiliate program, of course, but for those that do offer affiliate programs, you can check their website for related information. When searching, be sure to check the company’s FAQ page if they have one.

Another way find this information to do a simple Google search. For example, one could place the following phrase into the Google search engine:  “product name + affiliate program“. Replace product name with the name of the product you are promoting, and this should bring you to the landing page. Many companies use an affiliate marketplace like ShareASale, CJ, or Clickbank. These are free to use and allow you to create a free account.

How to find new products to promote?

Affiliate marketplaces such as those mentioned above are the best places to start your affiliate marketing research. You can browse your niche and see the top performing affiliate programs. Alternatively, many niche-based forums are great places to find new products to promote. For example, I often use Warriorforum to find products related to IM and blogging niches.

Alternatively, you can keep an eye on blogs in your niche and see which products they are promoting and what methods they are using.

Is it important to have a blog for affiliate promotion?

Not necessarily, however a blog is really the best promotional tool. With that said, you can always use methods such as PPC or advertising to promote a product as well. This is more like hit-and-run affiliate marketing however.  The best way to make the most of your affiliate marketing opportunities is to have a blog and use it for hard and soft promotion.

How much does it cost to join an affiliate program?

There is no charge for joining an affiliate program, however your total cost depends on what promotion technique you are using. For example, a blog post doesn’t cost a dime whereas PPC marketing, email marketing or advertising come with various price tags.

What qualifications do I need to become an affiliate marketer?

There is literally no qualification required to become an affiliate marketer, though having good copywriting skills and marketing skills will be an added advantage.

Are there programs available which automatically converts links into affiliate links?

There are a few networks like Viglink and Skimlinks which automatically convert normal links into affiliate links. They use Javascript so it’s SEO friendly, and you do not need to sign up for an individual affiliate program.

How much money can one make from affiliate marketing?

As I mentioned above, there is no limit to the amount of money you can earn from affiliate programs. It all depends on which program you’re promoting and how much conversion you are making. I started with $47 as my first affiliate income, and now I make almost $4k-5K/month by promoting products which I use day-to-day.

Alright, I now understand what affiliate marketing is all about.  How do I get started?

Here at ShoutMeLoud, I and many guest authors have covered some of the best guides to help you to understand in depth about getting started, and some of the pros and cons. Following is a list from our affiliate marketing archive which will help you to get started:

I hope this beginner’s guide to affiliate marketing will help you to get started. If you have any additional questions, feel free to ask me in the comments section below.

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Article By
Harsh Agrawal is a blog scientist and a passionate blogger. He is blogging since 2008 & writes about Blogging, SEO, Make money online & tech. His blog, ShoutMeLoud receives 1 million Pageviews/month and have over 700K subscribers.


COMMENTs ( 43 )

  1. Mickey says

    Problem is, in the 15 years I’ve been online, I’ve purchased through an affiliate link a grand total of once. Maybe twice. I’ve got nothing against them, but they don’t match my shopping style. I research stuff to death and then go directly to a retailer…most of the affiliate marketers out there just become part of the research stage. Most of the people I know are the same way.

    Which is why I don’t understand how this business model could possibly work.

  2. Rahul says

    Hello Harsh! I want to make my website on affiliate program which is based on top ten websites lists…before I can i listed these websites name can i required to get any permission before i listed these websites name..

  3. Gaurav says

    Hello Sir,
    My question is that, As a indian affiliate marketer what are the licenses we required and also what are the laws ?For legal.

  4. Hiren says

    sir, your article on affiliate marketing is very goods. it clear most of my doubts. i went to know about amazon and flipkart. if i am displaying in my website x product that link is clink by my viewer but after clinking it purchases other product say y product in this case can i get commission or not. if i went get most of product than i have to make general link to product link electronic or mobile get more product from get commission.
    thank you in advance

  5. Manoj Mali says

    Hi Harsh,

    I wanted to know if I can track the list of items sold with my affiliate id? and if is possible the way by which we can achieve it?

    Manoj Mali

  6. says

    Hello Harsh,
    Happy you hear that we can use affiliate marketing and Google Adsense at the same time.

    But I have one question, What if somebody is already having 3 Google ads unit and what if he/she adds one or 2 more affiliate links ? Will it now violate Google adsense terms ?

  7. Sanjay Sajeev says

    Hi Harsh. I don’t want to praise your blog post about affiliate marketing. because it has already done by the above commentators. So Harsh, How many affiliate links a post is suitable? I’m already an affiliate partner of Aweber, but i have just started my blog and getting only 10-20 traffics per day. So that I’m going to write a review post about Aweber for including my affiliate link. I know that it will be very difficult to make sales from my blog with this traffic. So I’ll promote my Review post via facebook promotion. In future, my blog will have a decent amount of traffic, that time i will join more affiliate programs. That why i asked the above question. How many affiliate links a post?

  8. Ashish says


    Let me know that my website is already running Google ad-sense so will it be possible that I shall display ads of any company as a affiliate program along with adsense.

  9. Vibhuti says

    Very well written article about affiliate marketing. You have described everything about it. I really needed to know about basics of it so that i can continue your article ” how to start with affiliate marketing ” :)

    • says

      Hello sir Harsh agarwal sir ,

      It is not easy to get traffic , sales and leads with a website sir .

      It takes some days / months / years .

      I assume that the following are necessary to work the cj with a website .

      1) Domain name / web hosting / designing

      2) SEO / PPC / Adwords / adsense

      3) free traffic sources and paid traffic sources like adwords etc

      4) Email marketing like Aweber / getresponse etc

      5) Content writing / youtube videos creation / creation of landing / squeeze pages etc

      6) Hiring freelancer

      I think the cost of above 6 points is including more than 1 lakh per month .

      But there is no gurantee to get traffic / sales and leads .

      Then , What is the use sir ?

      Why should i do these sir ?

      I unable to do from 1 st to 6th points sir

      What should i do ?

      Is it possible to get traffic with out a website sir ?

      What is ur best suggestion sir ?


  10. Yogita Aggarwal says

    Thanks Harsh for mentioning all the basics of Affiliate marketing. Though I am totally new to affiliate marketing this one is the great read for me.

  11. keyur savaliya says

    Harsh,i am new to all this as i am mechanical engg. student.
    could you answer me following questions?
    is it possible to make money by become affiliate of any top e-commerce site and promote their products via facebook ads or any other way?
    is it against of e-comm. site affiliates?

    • Kishor Mhaskar says

      Hey Keyur,

      If you become affiliate for any product/ services. You can promote it by various means as you want ( as long as ethical ). For example Blogging , Email marketing, PPC and lot more. You should check with affiliate program what is allowed and what is not. There may be some restrictions ad you must follow them.

      Yes Facebook Ads are one of the good way. I am doing lot more stuff with facebook.

      Kishor Mhaskar

  12. kapil says

    hi harsh i understand affiliate program can you tell me any affiliate program of online shopping mall actually i started with a company (online shopping mall) but now they are not sending products to customers so please tell me i want to start online store again if you know any company than pls tell me with their website link
    thanks & regards

  13. Abhishek Mishra says

    OMG, Trootrac, Icubeswire and Clickzoot are some more good affiliates networks in india

  14. Ankur Khanna says


    Great article on Affiliate Marketing for newbies. I am an affiliate marketer myself and have been using OMG India’s affiliate network to sell products. I’ve tried different networks like tyroo, vcommission but if I were to rate them, OMG India would definitely come first.

    I’ve been getting constant payouts (60days) and I do call them up whenever I have any tracking problem. If you guys haven’t tried any indian affiliate network, then I really urge you to try Omg India! You can google more about it if you want :)

  15. Kishor says

    Thanks Harsh for such a detail info. This would be like a quick reference guide for beginner Affiliate Marketer.

    I am very much an of your writing and truly speaking you and Amit Agarawal ( from labnol.org ) are the marketers who inspired me a lot to start in IM 2 years back.

    It would be very nice if you can write ( and I know you will) more about this like , different networks, different methods and mainly legal and taxation procedures for Affiliate / Internet marketers in India.

    -Kishor Mhaskar

  16. Me Passionate says

    You have discussed only the concept of affiliated marketing which can work only for out of India visitors.
    But Now, there will be a boost in India for affiliated marketing as online shopping websites are coming and their investment plan for advertisement is huge as you are watching TV almost 50% Ads of online shopping website.

    So be ready for that and tell if there is anyone passionate blogger who would like to invest time and money to make our own online store by using our own experiences. No one alone can eat the competition.

    What you think Harsh??

  17. aditya says

    Hey there,
    I am a blogger already however need to deep dive into affiliate programs. Thanks for the wonderful and informative post on affiliate!
    I want to know how do you keep track of the affiliate links? For example, if you want to check total sales at one place for all the different brands and different products you were running affiliates for. Like if i have affiliate links for Hostgator and Bluehost and lets say Godaddy, I want to avoid going to their individual dashboards to check the total sales and see all the sales at one place in some common place/dashboard. Any suggestions?

    • says

      There is a software call Nifty stats which works with many affiliate marketplace including AdSense.. But as you mentioned (For HG, BH, Godaddy), it won’t work with it..And I have not come across any such software which works with them…!!
      If I will come across any such software, I would let you know. Thanks for your comment. :)

  18. Umm-E-Abdullah says

    You have very nice & informative blodg. One thing I would like to ask that Can I use affiliate programs on blogger hosted blog?

  19. Pradeep Venkatesan says

    Hey,Harsh recently i logged on to the CJ website and i was reading the terms and conditions the publisher must know to promote an advertiser’s product .I came across this line that all the relations with an advertiser are “on a contract basis” and the “publisher is obliged to do his job for payouts ” .Does this mean that for suppose any XYZ reason i am not able to dynamically make updates as an affiliate ..would that create kind of a loss to me in terms of money ! ???

    • says

      CJ is a marketplace, and when you apply for any particular affiliate product, you need to accept the TOS put by the affiliate company. That means, minimum payout, and usage of ads and similar terms…. You will not lose money, but your payout may delay, if you can’t fulfil the minimum requirement…

  20. Ambika Choudhary Mahajan says

    Great post, as usual! :)
    While affiliate marketing can earn you much more than adsense can (as you have also pointed out), the most important thing is to get traffic to the blog.
    Nothing will work well- neither adsense nor aff mktg or direct ads as long as you are not getting enough traffic.
    Once you start getting traffic, particularly organic traffic, the sky is the limit!
    I am sure Harsh will agree to this- he has been doing it successfully for a long time now.

  21. Santanu says

    Wow!! Harshe you are a genious man. Just gone through this article. Never read affiliate marketing in such a detail. But my problem is, for a multi niche blog like i run, can you please tell me wheather there is any scope of affiliate programs that I can target….Thanks in Advance.

  22. Newton Adera says

    I am glad about this post that Harsh has explored in deep .I agree with you,but many newbies like i dont have website.Many sites asks for personal website.Again sites like ezine.com will allow you to write good content articles and then you place aff.link in Resource Box

  23. Shiwangi peswani says

    Hey Harsh, you have given a detailed post about affiliate marketing but the only thing which I want to learn about Affiliate Marketing is still missing here and that it ‘How To Promote A Product with your Affiliate Link?’

    • Amit Shaw says

      Shiwangi, There are lots of way to promote your affiliate product, You can do offline as well as online.
      If you have blog with targeted visit then i will suggest you to write review on that product and do some on-page SEO and try to rank on SERP and get ready to boost your sales.
      Here are some other way : Email Marketing, Banner Ads, Signature Etc.
      Thanks for this Post Harsh. :)
      Cheers :)

  24. Alan Tay says

    Probably you might want to start a post on why newbies usually fail in affiliate marketing ;)

    There is no doubt that affiliate marketing is one of the method to earn from internet and I personally prefer this over Google Adsense.

    However, being a starter as an affiliate can be a challenge because there is a lot of doubt whether, “Does this really works?” or ” Why would people buy from me?” and etc.

    • says

      One simply rule: If someone is recommending a good product with all the honestly, it will surely work. Newbies, usually impose product on readers, rather than giving them an option, and unbiased review…. This is one reason, most of newbies struggle to fail…. \

      More over, a good idea is to pick a complete new product, which is useful and not mentioned at lots of places…

  25. akhilendra says

    Affiliate marketing is a very good way of learning also. When you do affiliate marketing, you are constantly looking for good products and then you come across something which you cannot only sell to others but also it extend your knowledge base.