What is Affiliate Marketing & How To Get Started (Beginners)

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What is Affiliate Marketing
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In making money online, affiliate marketing is a skill-based approach, anyone could learn that. It is one of those segments of the online world, that doesn’t require any degree or formal education.

Want to understand what is Affiliate marketing?

Keep reading to learn everything about this popular passive income method.

My Journey with affiliate marketing started in 2008 when I accidentally read about it on a discussion forum. I was surprised to know how something so simple and powerful is not taught in college or very few talks about it.

With this guide, my aim is to help you understand affiliate marketing, so you can apply this technique in any field you are in to make money.

Before, you embark on the journey of understanding affiliate marketing, let me show you the possibilities of affiliate marketing.

Here is a screenshot of one of the affiliate program that I promote:

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The above one took about 2 years to accomplish.

And here is another one:

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This one was outcome of 2 and half years.

However, the real question is:

How did I achieve this kind of result, and can you do it too?

Well, the key here is your zeal to learn, and how badly you want to live a free life.

I have accomplished all this working only 6-8 hours a day on things that I like. Not even a single day of my online career, has felt like pressure or something I didnot wanted to do.

The only thing that create a differentiator is, I didnot cheat my way up. Those 6-8 hours of work was complete dedication, and based on my 10 years of experience, I could definitely say:

Anyone with decent IQ could start making $3000-4000 within 6-8 months by regular practicing every day for 2 hours.

How to do this?

Well, We will dwell into details, and more technicalities of affiliate marketing as we move ahead in this free course, but for now, lets learn the basics.

Before that…

If this is your first time here at ShoutMeLoud, you should know that…

In the last 11 years, ShoutMeLoud has inspired millions of lives around the globe to help them earn passive income via blogging and affiliate marketing. 

It would not have been possible if I took the risk of living my day job to pursue my passion. When I think about this, I find it amazing as for how my life unfolded when I took the courage of starting something of my own. I feel this is something you, and others individual should try once to go beyond our limitations.

The only caveat is, this is not something you will read in academics books or a point of discussion with friends over drinks. This is one of those skills that you learn yourself by reading a guide like this or watching YouTube videos like this.

With this Affiliate marketing guide, I want to provide you all the details about:

  • Basics of Affiliate marketing
  • How Affiliate marketing works
  • How to get started with Affiliate marketing
  • Affiliate marketing Terminologies

This is your go-to guide and you should bookmark this one along with all linked articles to master the art of affiliate marketing. 

If you are someone who likes to read everything in the book format, you can purchase our affiliate marketing handbook from our store as well.

Alright, let’s get started.

What is affiliate marketing and how does it work?

Affiliate marketing is one of the oldest forms of digital marketing wherein you refer someone to any online product and when that person buys the product based on your recommendation, you receive a commission.

Every big company like Amazon, Apple, Google have an affiliate program, which is free to join by any individual across the globe. If you didnot knew about this, then pay close attention to rest of this guide, my friend, you are about to discover one of the most interesting aspect of making money from home.

This commission varies from $1 to $10,000 depending on what product you are promoting.

Here is how affiliate marketing works in 4 simple steps:

  1. You join an affiliate program (Here is a list to get started)
  2. You pick a product to promote (You will get a unique affiliate link)
  3. You share the link via Social media, Blog, YouTube videos, Facebook ads or any other form
  4. When someone makes a purchase, you earn a handsome affiliate commission.

The below infographic will help you understand the lifecycle of affiliate marketing:

What is Affiliate Marketing
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So, in simple words:

Any companies that sell products online, offers an affiliate program, which is free to join. It is as simple as creating an online profile.

You can simply sign up for the program and get your unique tracking link. Now, whenever you are writing about their product, you can simply use this special tracking affiliate link to recommend the company’s site.  If your readers/traffic buys anything by clicking your affiliate link, you will get a commission.

Is it as easy as it sounds?

Yes, and no!

Yes, because of 2 reasons:

  1. Joining an affiliate program
  2. Getting paid

Is super easy. Thanks to advancement in digital marketing, and services like PayPal and Payoneer, this all is automated.

The tough part is, how badly you want this.

To become successful in affiliate marketing, you need to train regularly (Daily). Think of this as learning to play cricket, and the only way you get better by showing up every day on the ground.

And then there is another part, as we gain more responsibilities in life like (job, kids, parents, spouce, weekend parties), we find it hard to dedicate time for acquiring learning new skills.

This is where the question comes:

How badly you want this?

How badly you need this?

If your want or need falls in “unsure” segment, take a 360 view of life, and ask what is that you have to lose and what are the possible gains.

If dedicating 1-2 hours a day for few months could give you financial freedom for life, it doesnot sound like a bad deal.

Moreover, it is proven method that works!

Moving on…

Also, see:

How to Start Affiliate marketing for beginners:

You can get started with Affiliate marketing in many ways.

Here are a few that you can pick from:

  • Start a blog in a targeted niche and use it to promote a product. This is by far the chepest and easiest way to start an affiliate marketing business. For example: Start a blog about Women shoes, Work from home products, and so on.
  • Buy traffic from PPC sites like Google, Facebook, Quora and drive traffic to affiliate products or services. This is called PPC marketing, and those who have taken a basic course of digital marketing, could understand it better. For rest, give it a little time and you will understand this.
  • Create a YouTube channel and promote products.
  • Create an email list by creating a mini-website. An example if Finshots
  • Start a Podcast and recommend products.

Here are steps to get started with affiliate marketing via your blog:

This is just a rough highlight, as we move ahead in this free course, you will understand everything in greater depth and length to create your own affiliate marketing system.

  1. Start a blog
  2. Select a profitable industry and then pick a niche for your blog
  3. Choose the affiliate products that you can promote
  4. Create content around those products
  5. Drive traffic to your website/affiliate post
  6. Use email-marketing services to capture email of visitors
  7. Create email-sequence to automate the funnel (We will discuss this in details soon)
  8. Focus on driving more traffic and repeating the process.

The reason blogging is one of the most effective ways to get started with affiliate marketing is because it requires minimum investment and you can learn everything around it in no time. From here on, what really matters it how much dedication, time and smart work you put in to grow your affiliate business.

Affiliate marketing terminologies:

Here 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. These work as central databases for affiliate programs in different niches.
  • Affiliate software: Software used by companies to create an affiliate program for their product.
  • 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.
    • Example: Cheque, wire transfer, PayPal, and others.
  • Affiliate Manager/OPM: Many companies have dedicated affiliate managers to help publishers 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 also known as a 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, Thirsty Affiliates, 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.

Every affiliate program has a set TOS.

For example, payout condition, cookie policy and so on.

Let me explain cookie policy as it’s intermediate level topic but will give you an idea about the possibilities of affiliate marketing.

Many of the affiliate product offer 30-150 days cookie period, which means that if a visitor clicks your affiliate link to land on an affiliate product, now even if they don’t buy anything immediately, but re-visit the site in next 30-150 days, you will earn an affiliate commission.

How to find new Affiliate Program to join?

Finding a new affiliate program is challenging, and if you do it right, you will increase your chances of earning huge.

Here are a few ways to find new affiliate programs:

  • Affiliate Network and marketing platform: There are affiliate networks and marketplaces that would help you find new affiliate programs.
  • Affiliatizer: This is a chrome addon that would help you find the new affiliate program.
  • Competitor analysis: Analyze the top websites in the niche you are targeting, and make a list of affiliate products they promote. This will help you find high value and profitable affiliate products.

I have also published a long list of affiliate programs that is worth looking at:

Moving on…

Affiliate Marketing: FAQ

At this point, you should have a basic understanding of what affiliate marketing is and how it works.

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

How much money you can make as an affiliate marketer?

“Limitless”.
There are affiliate marketers who are making millions of dollars a month via affiliate marketing. I personally make more than $30000/month from Affiliate marketing. Below you could see a screenshot of my earnings from one such affiliate program:

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The key here is how you are approaching the whole process. Are you using a blog or using PPC to market affiliate products. The one that I have been using from the past 10 years, is via blogging. This has been the most effective one so far.

Is it important to have a blog for affiliate promotion?

Not necessarily, but 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.
This is another popular method to grow in affiliate marketing. For me, the best way to make the most out of affiliate marketing opportunities is to have a blog. Learn how to start a blog here.

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, but PPC marketing, email marketing, and 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.

Is affiliate marketing harmful or illegal?

No, it is neither harmful nor illegal, as you will simply be using the affiliate link provided to you rather than a direct link to link to any site.
However, in certain jurisdiction, you are supposed to disclose that you may be compensated for endorsing the product. Read our guide on Affiliate disclosure to learn more about it.

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 to find this information is to do a simple Google search. For example, one could place the following phrase into Google Search:  “(product name) + affiliate program”. (Replace “product name” with the name of the product you are promoting.) There is an interesting chrome addon called Affilitizer is available which makes this process easy.

This should bring you to a landing page. Many companies use an affiliate marketplace like ShareASale, CJ, or Clickbank. These are free to use and you can create a free account.

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

Affiliate marketing and AdSense: Can we use both?

Yes, you can use both as 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 get started with Affiliate marketing?

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.

Read: How to start an Affiliate marketing business

Here is a list from our affiliate marketing archive which will help you to get started:

I would also highly recommend you purchase ShoutMeLoud’s The Affiliate Marketing eBook. This a comprehensive guide on getting started with affiliate marketing.

Update: ShoutUniversity Affiliate video course is live (New). Available at introductory price of $69 (Regular price $299)

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

Be sure to join ShoutMeLoud email newsletter to get more similar tips and updates.

If you find this article informative, do share it with your friends!

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What is Affiliate Marketing
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Authored By
A Blogger, Author and a speaker! Harsh Agrawal is recognized as a leader in digital marketing and FinTech space. Fountainhead of ShoutMeLoud, and a Speaker at ASW, Hero Mindmine, Inorbit, IBM, India blockchain summit. Also, an award-winning blogger.

113 thoughts on “What is Affiliate Marketing & How To Get Started (Beginners)”

  1. Hey Harsh,
    I’m a big fan of you and your blog. I have been blogging for 6 months here at gosview.com. I got my first affiliate commission from Mythemeshop. But I think it totally your cooperation. Because I have gathered my most of the affiliate earning methods from your blog.

    Thank you so much.

  2. Hi Harsh Agarwal

    You are doing an awesome job to help other people start their blogs. what niche should I target to start blog ? I am confused to choose a niche.

  3. Great post…and thanks I’m an avid follower of SML from south africa and just want to thank you as I learnt so much. I started a few months back with creating my affiliate marketing website for a trading niche. Read your posts on the basics as I had no experience what so ever. From getting hosting to creating the site and basically everything. Made my first two affiliate sales $200 end of Aug started the site in July… and wow what a feeling hey…thanks to you and the SML with the guidance of your site I would have never got this far.. it’s still new and not many visitors yet but looking ahead and hoping for the best. Thanks again..always look forward to your posts.

  4. hey harsh!
    i getting 40000+ clicking and 5000 conversion/day.
    i need a affiliate manager can you pleaee suggest the best way to find good staff and a Manager. provide me your contact no. please.

    1. Hey Umesh,

      you can find on freelancing sites like Upwork, fiverr etc. Otherwise you can place your ad on ProBlogger job board and your own website.

  5. Hello Harsh,

    Very detailed and informative Topic and explained so well with examples and Question/Answers.

    So it is Easy to understand.

    I am big fan of Affiliate Marketing and it works so well for me and even from the first month of my Ease Bedding Site, I made few dollars.

    I don’t like Adsense at all, because if someone has very little traffic, then using Adsense is useless, but with the help of Affiliate Links, someone, even despite of having little traffic can generate Sales and make at least few dollars.

    Thanks for sharing this valuable article!!

  6. Muhammad Mairaj

    Hi Harsh,

    Well thanks for sharing with us an elaborate guide about affiliate marketing. Bloggers are trying numerous methods for money making online. In my opinion Affiliate marketing is the best and the lucrative method. Your step by step guide will be an excellent resource for bloggers who want to become a successful affiaite marketer in future..

    Many thanks for quality share šŸ™‚

    Regards

    Mairaj

  7. very impressive sir, I am buying a domain soon from bluehost.com. Previously I bought domain from bluehost.in but was not satisfied with their cpanel layout and customer support. Now the problem is the I am thinking of two theme(niche) about my blog. As I am a computer engineer gradute I love technology, but the problem is the to acquire know technology its takes time, I will be exploring technology whenever i get experienced. And second niche is the result update of various exam and job alert. Sir, how should i start now?

  8. Thank you for the easy to follow information and clear explanations. The sample disclosures will be quite helpful

  9. Mewara Gajendra

    Thank you so much @Harsh for sharing information about affiliate marketing nd I gained lots of knowledge via this blog.

    Again Thanks:)

  10. Thanks for sharing info on affiliate marketing. Learned a lot. I have been an affiliate for some programs but never made success with the same mainly because I haven’t done it right. Also,traffic on your site needs to be really good and targeted to make things work. Need to work on traffic first and then can think about affiliate marketing.

  11. Dear Harsh,

    You are really great, who is supporting with providing and sharing your knowledge to the globe, and thank you very much for your all efforts.

    I have over 20 years professional experience in many positions. I am very hard worker and energetic personality. Recently I am interested making money in online. I am going to start from scratch. Do you think I can success ?

    My over 20 years professional experience in (1) Marketing & Sales (2) Business Development (3) Contracts Management (4) Legal Management and (5) Project management with international company in Telecommunication, Law Firms and Construction company. I am also very good in English writing ( I don’t claim I am super but good enough).

    Your blog impress me lots, where found lots of technique including name of the Affiliate networks. I have one question, which marketing tools is better for Affiliate Marketing ? (1) Blogging (2) Email marketing (3) Whatsapp marketing ? Any other tools ? Can you please write something about Whatsapp markeing ? Thanks

    1. @Faruk
      Your experience & interest area sounds fantastic.
      Regarding your another question,
      1) Blogging + Email marketing is best way.

  12. Your Blog were very helpful to everyone who is interested in affiliate marketing. But due to having lots of tools as an option , I get so much confused. Actually I am working as an email marketing specialist. And I want to start Affiliate marketing. I have List of email IDs as a resource for now. I want to promote the products by Email Marketing. Can you please guide me which tool would be suitable for my need? What more things do i need to be affiliate marketer and how can i do it?

  13. I have become an affiliate for amazon products.Please suggest other except amazon to do affiliate marketing for best commissions. Please also suggest best ways except website to earn a descent income. I will be waiting for your reply as I have been learning a lot from your blog since several years..

    1. It depends on what niche are you blogging about. If you have a tech blog, you can join flipkart, snapdeal. If you are into webhosting, then you can join webhosting companies affiiate program.

  14. Hi, iā€™m just wondering about the affiliate program. As the advertiser, do we need to buy the item first or the company will give us for free for us to promote it? How does it work?
    Thank you

    1. Megha Agrawal

      Hello, Maggie…!
      No, you don’t need to buy anything.
      Let’s clear it with a day-to-day life example.
      Suppose you have opened a shop and selling something. One day one of your friend came to you and said – I want to earn some money in part time, can you help me for that…?
      And you said, – Sell my few products and I will give you a few amount of money earned through your sell.
      So here, your friend doesn’t need to purchase your product first. The same things happend while you are selling online using affiliate marketing technique. You get some percentage of the amount as a commission only if the products sold out by clicking on your affiliate link by any process, whether by Facebook, blogging, sharing whatever….

  15. I agree with the second last comment that affiliate marketing is a great way to learn especially when dealing with informational products niche.

    I would also add that the best way to improve ones strategies and conversions are not by studying the courses that we buy and review, but by carefully observing how the sellers we buy from actually sell to us and then model off of that.

    For example, I might find a top selling course on click bank that I actually want to buy and when I buy it I can study all of the sales pages and up sells. I’ve found that I have learned much more from doing this than any actual courses. šŸ™‚

  16. Hello Harsh,

    That’s quite an excellent article on affiliate marketing – I am a nascent affiliate marketer myself and this is a good reference point.

    You speak about legality – I would like to understand one thing. UK and European Bookmakers also offer Affiliate marketing as an option using the same concept (you promote them and they pay you some percentage of the revenue they earn). Would you be able to say that’s legal in India, i.e. can a website in India promote a British bookmaker without falling afoul of the law?

    Thanks in advance.

  17. Hi Just started off with my first blog(wordpress), that involves aggressive use of affiliate links, mostly of amazon.
    My concern regarding those affiliate links is that, how should i block those links from google crawlers?
    Somehow through robots.txt or any other medium?
    If it is through robots.txt, then how?

  18. One thing I want to know if I have an affiliate link of a shoe and anyone go through my link on the product site and purchase any other product in place of the shoe, then will i get commission for that purchased product?

    1. @Sk Singh
      Yes, you will earn the affiliate commission for that sale. This is another biggest advantage of Affiliate marketing.

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