The Ultimate Guide to Affiliate Marketing for Beginners

by Oct 15, 2020Affiliate Marketing

Making money while you sleep.

Sounds like a dream?

That’s what affiliate marketing is – making money without having any product or service of your own. Sometimes without even needing a website.

This is the ultimate guide on how to start affiliate marketing for beginners!

We break affiliate marketing down to the simplest, easiest steps so that even a newbie can follow. To get started in affiliate marketing, you just need to follow the steps below.

Before You Continue: If you’re a complete beginner and in urgent need of cash, affiliate marketing may not be that fast ticket to solving your money woes. Take a look at my course The 4-Hour Agency instead, to sell a service for immediate online income.

What is affiliate marketing?

Affiliate marketing is promoting other people’s products or services. When someone makes a purchase through your unique affiliate link, you get a commission.

The best thing about affiliate marketing is that you don’t need to have your own products or worry about after-sales service. As an affiliate marketer, you can also promote different products and earn money from all of them.

How does affiliate marketing work?

As an affiliate, you get a unique link so purchases made through your link can be tracked and attributed to you.

When someone clicks on your affiliate link, a small file called a cookie is stored on his/her browser.

This cookie has two uses:

  1. It helps the merchant attribute the sale to the right affiliate;
  2. It usually has an expiry date, so you get paid as long as the purchase is made before the cookie expires.

How much money can I make as an affiliate marketer?

The simple answer is that there is no limit. It depends on your niche and the amount of work you put in.

The most successful affiliate marketers make six or seven figures a month.

Keep in mind though that it took these people years of hard work to reach this level.

With hard work, the right knowledge, and time, you too can make lots of money in affiliate marketing.

What are some successful affiliate marketing examples?

Pat Flynn from Smart Passive Income makes over $100,000 in monthly affiliate commissions. Michelle from Making Sense of Cents makes over $50,000 in monthly affiliate commissions.

These are publicly available data as the marketers themselves posted income reports.

I’ll post more examples here soon.

How to start making money in affiliate marketing?

Just follow these six simple steps.

1. Choose a platform

First, you need an online platform. This allows you to build an audience, so you can sell your affiliate products to them.

Some examples of such platforms include:

  • Blog
  • YouTube
  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Tik Tok
  • etc.

Which platform you choose depends on where your target audience hangs out, how good you are in building an audience on the platform, and how easy it is to drive affiliate sales through the platform.

Personally, I prefer to write so a blog suits me. I can also build an audience from search traffic, i.e. people who are searching for specific terms. Running my blog also means I’m in control of my own platform.

Starting a blog today is easy and cheap, with web hosting starting from a few bucks a month.

Read: How to make money blogging for beginners

More importantly, you are more likely to clicks from a blog than a YouTube video or Instagram link. For this reason, most of the examples in this article will be for a blog.

Once your site is ready, optimize it for search engines so that your website can be found by people who are searching for specific terms.

Then add affiliate links to your content, so you get paid whenever someone buys through your links.

Note that you’ll need to disclose that your blog contains affiliate links. The Federal Trade Commissions (FTC) requires you to be transparent when receiving affiliate or endorsement income.

2. Decide on your niche

If you’re starting a blog today, you have a lot of competition. According to GrowthBadger, there are more than 600 million blogs in the world today, out of over 1.7 billion websites.

To stand the best chance of success, niche down.

Keeping your topics tight can help you build a more focused audience and potentially help you rank higher in search engines.

After that, you can always expand into other sub-niches.

Also, choose a topic that you’re passionate about. This will make your affiliate marketing business succeed in the long run, as you are more likely to enjoy what you’re doing and less likely to give up halfway.

Don’t worry if you’re not an expert on the topic. Documenting what you learn as you go along can make great content and attract people who are keen to follow your progress.

Important: Choose the right domain name with NameCheap.

3. Join affiliate programs

There are two different ways to go about joining an affiliate program:

  • Affiliate networks
  • Standalone affiliate programs

An affiliate network is a platform that allows merchants to establish their affiliate programs.  Marketers like ourselves can then search the network to find products to promote.

In short, you just need to sign up once as an affiliate, and you have instant access (usually) to sell a wide variety of products from different merchants.

This is a very efficient way of availing yourself of thousands of products that you can promote.

Examples of popular affiliate networks are:

A standalone affiliate program, on the other hand, is offered by the merchant itself. Hence, you are only able to promote items sold by the merchant.

To promote items offered by different standalone affiliate programs, you will need to sign up separately for each affiliate program.

To start off, I would definitely recommend first joining the big affiliate networks mentioned above, to get a feel of the products offered.

You can also think about what products you are currently using and are a big fan of. Then search for its affiliate program on its website. Or you can google “(name of the product) affiliate program”.

For example, I love my email marketing tool, Aweber. So I would look for “Aweber affiliate program”, and fill up the application form.

Many affiliate programs will look at your blog before approving your application, so I would definitely recommend you have a ready-looking blog with at least a few posts before you start submitting applications.

4. Create great content

To succeed in affiliate marketing, you need to create high-quality content that people will read. Your affiliate links should also fit naturally within your content, so it doesn’t seem like a hard sell or spam website.

Don’t just blindly promote products from Amazon. Go the extra mile to ensure your content solves your reader’s problem.

How? If you’re doing reviews, it helps that you are already using the product. If not, actually purchase the product and test it.

Promoting products that you don’t really believe in or that you haven’t used it yourself will only hurt your blog’s credibility in the long run.

5. Drive traffic to your affiliate platform

The next step is to get more eyeballs on your content, so people will click on your affiliate links (and hopefully make a purchase).

Here are a few common traffic strategies:

Paid traffic

This is where you pay to drive traffic to your blog. You can do this using either PPC ads or Facebook ads.

The advantage of paid traffic is that it is immediate. Ads are a great traffic source if your affiliate program is high-paying (at least hundreds in commission per sale) and you can make the numbers work.

However, running ads will cost you money before you even make any. Also, once you stop paying for ads, your traffic will come to a halt.

If you’re completely new to paid marketing or have no marketing budget, then I don’t recommend paid traffic.

Search engine optimization (SEO)

SEO is the practice of optimizing pages to rank high in Google and other search engines.

For as long as you can rank high for your target keywords, you’ll get passive and consistent traffic.

I’ll talk more about SEO in another post.

Build an email list

Having an email list of subscribers means you can reach out to your readers anytime you want.

With your own email list, you can tell your followers about new content and get them to come back to your blog again and again. Ultimately, this results in more affiliate clicks and sales.

You can even send affiliate links directly to your email subscribers. (Note: Many email providers do NOT allow this. That’s why I highly recommend Aweber, which is cool on affiliate marketing.)

To build an email list, you need to persuade your website readers to sign up. That means offering something valuable in exchange for their email addresses.

6. Get clicks on your affiliate links

Just because you have awesome content doesn’t mean people will click on your affiliate links.

There are a few things to consider here.

Link placement

If your affiliate links are at the bottom of the page where most readers will not scroll to, you’ll get far fewer clicks.

Also if you make every other word in the introduction an affiliate link, your content will appear spammy.

In short, spread out your affiliate links, but you’ll do well to put the most important ones on top.

Anchor text

Let’s say you are writing an article on a robot vacuum cleaner.

You probably shouldn’t do this:

Today, I’m reviewing the best robot vacuum cleaner.

The link looks way out of context.

This would make more sense:

Today, I’m reviewing the best robot vacuum cleaner.


Using visual callouts like buttons, tables, and boxes can help attract attention and make the affiliate links more likely to be clicked on.

Final thoughts

These are the fundamentals of affiliate marketing. Applying them alone will get you far ahead of most affiliate marketers, and make you money online as a complete beginner!

Success in affiliate marketing takes time and effort. Focus on making that first affiliate sale. As your blog grows, set higher goals, and keep experimenting.

Eventually, you’ll build an affiliate blog that generates a decent income that affords you the freedom you want.

In the future, you may even want to learn how to start an online store and sell your own products for greater profit.

If you need immediate income replacement, the best thing to do is to generate fast cash by learning how to start freelancing work, start a digital marketing agency or start a consulting business. Then, on the side, build your affiliate business for long-term passive income.

Got questions? Let me know in the comments below!