By definition, according to Wikipedia, “Affiliate marketing is a type of performance-based marketing in which a business rewards one or more affiliates for each visitor or customer brought by the affiliate’s own marketing efforts.”

What’s Affiliate Marketing and How Does It Work?

Basically, affiliate marketing is when you promote someone else’s products, and earn commissions on the sales.

Did you know that some of the best information on affiliate marketing can be found on Pinterest?

Most people think of Pinterest as the go-to site for trending DIY tutorials, food recipes, clothing, hair styles, beauty products, and home décor, but it’s also a great resource for business information including finance and marketing.

I decided to do some research, and I found some very helpful and informational pins that I’ve compiled into a board on my Pinterest business page that you can check out here: Affiliate Marketing Board

~ Some of our articles may contain affiliate links. For more information, see our Disclosure Statement.

How to Start in Affiliate Marketing

There are a few different ways that you can start affiliate marketing:

Lifestyle website – A very popular style of blog. Rather than choosing a particular niche, you have several topics of interest displayed on your website.

Niche website – What is a niche? It’s a narrowed down topic of a subject of interest. For example: if you are interested in fashion, you could narrow your niche to women’s accessories, children’s shoes, or outdoor wear.

*** Most trainings will teach you to “niche down” for the best success, for the obvious reason of reaching a more targeted audience, but there’s a great space for lifestyle bloggers who are creating large incomes out there as well. Do what feels right for you! ***

No website – Just post trending product links on your social media accounts. The advantage is capitalizing on hot products. The disadvantage is that there is no passive income, and you gamble on your audience seeing your post. You also have to know which platforms allow affiliate links, and which do not. (this changes over time, so see the platform’s guidelines for the most current rules of engagement! For example: Pinterest used to allow affiliate links, then disallowed them for a while, then decided to allow them again)

Is One Method Better Than the Other?

Well, all methods are great methods for marketing products or services through affiliate marketing, and are able to produce an income. But, let’s consider the long-term viability of each:

Affiliate Marketing through Websites

Whether you decide to create a general lifestyle blog or a specific niche website, the strong advantage of utilizing a site is that you own it, and the Internet isn’t going anywhere.

A website that you build, grow, and maintain, remains online as long as you continue to pay your domain and hosting fees. As you add more and more content over time, your site establishes some credibility with both search engines and readers. Thus, you are able to retain a long-term source of passive income through your affiliate links.

Affiliate Marketing through Social Media Platforms

First off, while the Internet is likely to endure, as is your own personal website, there is no telling how long a social platform will last. You have control over your own website’s content and growth over time, but you have no control over the rules of a social media platform, it’s lifespan, or it’s termination.

If you use social media at all, I’m sure you’ve seen, or even purchased, something that is promoted through a direct affiliate link. Using this method, you could create a sizable income stream. But what happens if that is your only income stream and that social media platform goes away, or decides not to allow affiliate links anymore? You’d lose your source of income, and stop making money…. Ahhh!

The old saying “Don’t place all of your eggs in one basket” applies to making money online. Social media platforms are wonderful for affiliate marketing the latest trends, but even more so for marketing your long-term brand!

So, if you choose to use direct affiliate links with no site, do so with caution, and do your homework.

I highly recommend starting a Blog first. Then, you’ll want to learn how to Create a Business Profile and/or Page on your social media platforms of choice, and market YOU.

The Winning Combination of Link Placement

Every affiliate uses social media to some extent to make sales. It’s where all the customers are!

The best path is to optimize your earning potential, while safeguarding your income stream in the event that you lose a marketing source, meaning BUILD YOUR BLOG FIRST, then post your content (which contains your affiliate links) on social media.

However, currently, the most popular social media platforms for using affiliate links without a website are Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Each has specific rules for placement, such as Instagram will allow a direct affiliate link in your profile but not in a post. Facebook will allow direct placement in a post, but not an Ad promotion.

I can not stress enough that these rules change, so you must read each platform’s guidelines, and stay up to date with them if you are trying to use affiliate links without a site or blog.

The preferred method is this:

Affiliate Link –> Your Blog Post –> Social Media Platform

As opposed to the direct method of:

Affiliate Link –> Social Media Platform

Know that if you do not follow the rules, you risk being suspended or banned from the platform.

How to Find Affiliate Products and Programs

First, start by searching for items you favor that are related to your niche.

  1. Visit websites of products you like and scroll to the bottom of the homepage to see if they have an Affiliate or Referral Program.
  2. Do a Google search of any product followed by ‘affiliate program’ to see what’s available, such as
    ‘blender affiliate program’, ‘coffee affiliate program’, or ‘vitamin affiliate program’.

They are everywhere, and they’re free to join!

Here are a few of the most popular affiliate programs:

1. Amazon Associates

Amazon has BILLIONS of products to promote, as well as tools and training to teach you how to monetize your site. Sign up and start adding affiliate links and banners to your content immediately.

2. Clickbank

Clickbank offers thousands of products to promote, across a broad range of categories including Home, Health, Fitness, Business, Food, Games, and ‘As Seen on TV’ products. They have excellent resources and training material for newbie affiliates. Sign up and start browsing the marketplace for products to promote.

3. ShareASale

ShareASale offers thousands of products in 40+ categories including Home, Business, Fashion, Beauty, Auto, Music, and more. Definitely one of the most popular programs among affiliates. Browse their merchants and you’re likely to find something here to promote on your blog. Sign up and start sharing!

4. Rakuten (formerly Linkshare)

Do you know how to say it? RACK-uh-ten. Recent commercials have spread the name, but they’re not new to the affiliate world. Rakuten leads bloggers to some of the largest commission payouts in affiliate marketing. Sign up and take advantage of their training and tools to kick start your earnings.

5. CJ Affiliates (Commission Junction)

Founded in 1998, CJ’s the most experienced and largest network out there. If you’re looking for a specific brand or product type, chances are it’s here. Sign up and start searching through thousands of vendors.

What Do You Do Once You’ve Signed Up To All These Programs?

Getting signed up to the affiliate programs is just the first step. Then, you need to know how to use the affiliate links to make money. Each program has their own training pages to help you succeed. Clickbank, for example, offers these tips.

Basically, you search through the vendors, find products related to your niche, copy the unique affiliate link which contains your affiliate ID (how you receive commissions), and paste it into your post. That’s it!

How Many Programs Do You Need To Sign Up To?

There’s no magic number. It depends on who has the products that you seek. You will likely be affiliated with several different companies and networks, and that’s great! The more programs you join, the more products you’ll have to promote.

Be advised that each program has a set number of days in which you need to make a set number of sales to remain an active affiliate. If you fail to make the sales, your account will deactivate. No worries, you can always reapply, but try to avoid this from happening by first:

  • growing your blog with lots of quality content
  • getting traffic to your blog through whitehat SEO techniques and social marketing

Some affiliate programs require that you have a growing site with traffic before accepting you into the program. (This is actually good. If you have no traffic, you will have no sales, and you will be wasting the active days of affiliate membership! Number one goal when you start your blog: Content! Number two: Traffic! Number three: Affiliate links!)

Where to Place your Affiliate Links

Using a Website:

[ If you don’t have a website, but want one to start affiliate marketing with long-term results, then take a look at SiteRubix, as it offers a FREE website to get started. ]

You want to create a post which details the product or service you are promoting. Your post should contain keywords in the title, the first paragraph, and again somewhere in the body.

The post should be informative for your reader, and not look like a sales page. Your affiliate links can be strategically placed where you describe the item or service you’re promoting. A couple of links is plenty. DO NOT stuff links all over your post or Google will not like you, and you want Google to like you.

Be sure to disclose your affiliate relationship. You can see our affiliate disclosure statement at the top of this article, and every article we write, as well as our full Affiliate Disclosure page.

Here’s an example of a review that I did for Wealthy Affiliate. As you can see, my affiliate links are only placed in the use of the product title. Any other links are internal, meaning they lead to other educational information on my website.

Without a Website:

If you’re affiliate marketing without a website, then you are writing very short catchy descriptions that accompany your link on your social media post. Whatever the rules of using affiliate links on the platform may be, you need to make sure you disclose the affiliate link. This can be as easy as using #affiliate in your post.


TIPS For Successful Affiliate Marketing

1. Choose Quality Products

Promote high quality products that you are passionate about, have bought, or would consider buying. Be honest in your ads and reviews, as people become buyers when they see quality and value. Highlight the positives of a product, and why people like it. Refrain from using negative ad campaigns such as “Is ABC a Scam?” because vendors and programs dislike that approach. For more info, see this advice from Clickbank.

2. Consider Link Placement

How and where you place your affiliate links will affect your success in sales. Include images and use keywords in your product descriptions. Don’t forget to test your link once you place it. A dead link is no good to you, or your customer, and non-working links can result in visitors leaving your ad or your site all together. Also, remember that you may need to adjust your placement. If you aren’t seeing any sales, try a different marketing approach. (ie: change your placement, change your wording, change your image, change your target audience, etc)

3. FOLLOW THE RULES

All programs, as well as social media platforms and sites that allow affiliate links and content promotion, have their own rules to follow, and will suspend or terminate your account if you violate any of their terms and conditions. So, read every individual company’s guidelines to ensure you are within the scope of allowed engagement.

4. DON’T SPAM

Just don’t. Nobody likes it. You won’t gain trust. You may lose connections. Don’t Spam!

Summary of The Affiliate Marketing Process

  • Research and apply to Affiliate Marketing Programs
  • Find niche products to promote on posts already on your blog
  • Find related products you would like to promote and write reviews for your blog to contain the links
  • Share your informational post or review post on social media platforms and content sites
  • Receive commissions on the products any time someone makes a purchase through your link (the purchase does NOT have to be of the product you promoted or reviewed!)

Related Articles:

My #1 Recommendation for Starting a Blog

How to Earn Money Online with a Blog (+ Beginners Q & A)

How to Write a Blog Post and Make Money (In 6 Steps!)

How to Use Social Media in Marketing (10 Benefits and Tips)


If you found this article helpful, please Like, Share, or Comment below!

Cris

Comments (18)

  1. Gomer

    Reply

    This is the kind of article that my fellow distributors in network marketing business need to read. From being focused on promoting their products offline, more and more of these people are now promoting online to which most of them are doing things wrong. I find network marketers as one of the most hard-headed marketers on Earth.

    I used to be focused only on network marketing, but then I realized affiliate marketing is a simpler business model, and something I can do without guilt. Of course, there are legit network marketing businesses, but because my heart has evolved into someone with passion of helping people start their own online business, I find affiliate marketing a better fit for me.

    • Cris

      Reply

      Ha! This gave me a chuckle, as I have experience in network marketing as well, and I do see where you are coming from. There are legit businesses and scams alike in both realms. The important thing is to do your due diligence in researching the product and business well before promoting, of course. Though I enjoyed networking, I must agree with you on your statement of the business model, and I do prefer affiliate marketing myself as well. 

      I hope our content here is of assistance to you in your online venture, and I wish you great success! Thanks for commenting.

  2. Gwendolyn J

    Reply

    Cris,
    As an affiliate marketer, I am struggling with traffic generation and conversions. I have good content, that has been indexed on SERP first pages, but no sales. It is a frustrating situation because I spend hours working on these sites. I know it will happen, it just has not happened yet. 

    One thing we need to accept is that affiliate marketing is not a fast money game. It takes patience and perseverance. It may be due to the newness of my sites which is just over 3 months. I appreciate your tips and I will be bookmarking your site for future reference.

    Take care!
    Gwendolyn J

    • Cris

      Reply

      Gwendolyn,

      You’re absolutely right on track if you are working on quality content, and it’s getting indexed! It does take patience. For most, it’s around the 6 month mark if you are consistently adding content to your site. Google likes to see a good amount of content, and activity. So after you post, try to get traffic to it as soon as possible. You can create free business accounts on social media platforms to get the ball rolling. See these posts for tips on getting free traffic:

      How to Get Free Traffic to a Website (Updated Guide)

      How to Use Social Media in Marketing (10 Benefits and Tips)

      I hope they help you on your journey! Happy blogging!

  3. Andria

    Reply

    Hi Cris!

    I just love your site. 

    I too am a former corporate robot and have been looking for a way to work on my own terms without the glass ceiling telling me what I am worth.

    I am older and just so amazed at technology and the career opportunities available to work from home.  I really wish this was available 30 yrs ago when I was a young struggling single mom. But, onwards and upwards. Your site is filled with so much great and timely info on Affiliate Marketing, something that I am currently studying. 

    Thank you!

    • Cris

      Reply

      Hi Andria!

      Thank you very much! I’m glad I could be of some help in your online journey! 

      It’s never too late to learn how to start an online business. The internet continues to grow daily, as does the number of people using it. There is a lot of opportunity out there, especially for affiliate marketers. Since you are currently learning, I’ll suggest that you check out my review of WA, as they provide an excellent online business training program. (I use their tools myself!)

       I wish you the best in your studies and your new venture!

  4. Nate MC

    Reply

    All great tips and advice, especially choosing quality stuff to promote. I remember 10+ years ago loads of marketers were peddling crap like article spinners and passing it off as quality stuff, even though Google has always had it out for spun content. So, quality (real quality) is crucial!

    And you’re right about not putting all your eggs into one basket, or one social media site in this case. These days, there are dozens and dozens of social media sites and apps out there, so no use limiting yourself to just one. 

    • Cris

      Reply

      Yes, that’s true. Though there are still tools for spinning content out there, Google is less than impressed by it, and often changes it’s algorithm to provide searchers valid, quality and original content. 

      There are so many options for social media marketing, and the various platforms are great for brand promotion. The important thing is not to put all your efforts into one platform. If you lose it, you lose everything! Thanks for commenting! You may like these articles, if you haven’t already read them:

      How to Get Free Traffic to a Website (Updated Guide)

      How to Use Social Media in Marketing (10 Benefits and Tips)

  5. John

    Reply

    Thanks Cris for your great post. You’ve opened my eyes to a few things.  

    1st Pinterest –  yes, I had thought of that as a platform mainly for fashion, recipes, decorating etc. But you’re right, there is loads of great info there about blogging and affiliate marketing. Pinterest is also a search engine which is really fun to use.

    2nd the website choices you suggest – Lifestyle or Niche website in any hobby, passion or area of interest.  When I think of this, the possibilities are endless! 

    3rd It’s interesting about starting without a website and only with social media.  Pinterest doesn’t allow this and other platforms like Facebook give very little reach to external links.  From the three social media platforms you mention Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, what is the best for affiliate links in your experience?

    Great article. I learned a lot about affiliate marketing using a website versus just social media, so that’s really helpful.
    Thank you! John

    • Cris

      Reply

      In my experience, it is best to create a website which includes posts containing the affiliate links, then share the posts on social media, forums, various community platforms, etc, to gain traffic back to your website. Platform rules change often, and in an effort to keep spammers and scammers away, they have gotten more strict over the years as e-commerce and online marketing continue to grow. It’s a good thing, but keeps us affiliate marketers on our toes. 

      Of those three, it seems that more recently Instagram and Twitter have risen in popularity, and Facebook has fallen slightly, though all three are good sources. Where and how you market can depend on your niche, and what kind of traffic you are trying to find. Think about this: Who is your target market? Where do you find them?

  6. Vicki

    Reply

    Hi Cris!

    I am so glad I found this site as I have been wanting to learn about Affiliate Marketing for so long. Reading through this post and couple of others you have written gives me so much to look forward to.

    I am 60 and want to start affiliate marketing so I can earn extra money for my retirement and this is so great – I am off to join Wealthy Affiliate now and I am excited about my new journey so thank you for your help!

    • Cris

      Reply

      Glad that my site has helped you to learn enough information to move forward with your new online venture! Be sure to connect with me on the WA platform, as there is MUCH more training to make your journey a success!

  7. Jordan Smith

    Reply

    Great article Cris, I am trying to making money with blogs through affiliate marketing. I’ve watched tons of video and read so many different articles. I’ve worried and questioned a lot, but after reading this post I feel like something clicked and now I know what to do next and how to make money through my blogs. Thank you for sharing…very helpful!

    • Cris

      Reply

      Thank you, Jordan! Glad my post was helpful. Isn’t great when things finally “click?!” Wishing you all the best with your new blogs!

  8. ROBERT JONES JR

    Reply

    That was a lot of good information!  I have just started my blog and I am trying to build traffic. How much traffic should I have before I try to apply for an affiliate program?

    and please how do I establish a link between my twitter account and my blog? I noticed in your posts you mentioned not to spam. I have heard of spam and sometimes I get these in my email account. How do I avoid doing it?

    • Cris

      Reply

      Any traffic is good traffic when you’re getting started! The reason you want to have some traffic before applying is because most programs will have a requirement of so many sales in so many months, or they may deactivate your account. In most cases, you can just reapply, but then you may have to reset links, which is time consuming. 

      That being said, you typically have months to make the minimum requirement, so as soon as you have a good amount of quality content on your site, and you are seeing some traffic come in, then you can apply to some programs. In the meanwhile, you can do some research to look for products and programs that pertain to your niche/topics and have some ready to go for when you’re ready to start linking. There are countless programs to consider!

      As far as social media goes, I will direct you to these articles:

      How to Get Free Traffic to a Website (Updated Guide)

      How to Use Social Media in Marketing (10 Benefits and Tips)

      And you can avoid spamming people by focusing on providing maximum quality content with a minimum sales approach. When posting on social media, or sending emails to your email list, for example, you want to GIVE information more often than you ASK for a sale — provide several posts or emails with only reader desired content, then throw out a post or email with a call to action or an affiliate link.

      Hope that helps!

  9. Israel

    Reply

    Thanks for making this post highly-informative and engaging, Cris! Yes, the best way to make the most out of affiliate marketing is to own a business website. Building brand credibility becomes feasible with the consistent production of quality content. Retaining long-term passive income by promoting the most prominent affiliate marketing programs is achievable and rewarding.

    It’s great to know that Amazon has so many products anyone can promote and significant training tools to help show the best way to make money with a website. I can remember Clickbank was my first attempt as far as trying out affiliate marketing is concerned.

    There’s no doubt to say CJ happens to be the biggest affiliate marketing network. There are hundreds of vendors for anyone to take a good look at and I got my Grammarly affiliate account approved through the Commission Junction platform.

    • Cris

      Reply

      Thanks for commenting here Israel! Grammarly is a wonderfully useful tool, and offers a great affiliate program. That’s a win-win for any affiliate marketer. Continued success to you!

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