The Ins and Outs of Affiliate Marketing for Beginners

So, you’re ready to make more money online. Let’s be honest, who isn’t?

Maybe you’ve tried your hand at all sorts of ways of bringing in some extra income online, or you’re a merchant that’s looking for ways to branch out your marketing strategy. But if you’re still wondering about the key to success, chances are you haven’t yet ventured into affiliate marketing.

To generate a decent income online, you have two real options. You can either sell your own stuff, in the form of products, content or services, or you can get paid for promoting (and selling) other people’s stuff.

Affiliate Marketing Is Easier Than You Think

If you’re unfamiliar with affiliate marketing, it can seem like this mysterious marketing entity that only a privileged few have access to. The fact is that nothing could be further from the truth.

Not only is there nothing mysterious or intimidating about affiliate marketing, it’s actually quite easy for anyone with an online channel to tap into.

The basic premise goes something like this.

An online entity, usually a blogger or social media influencer with a sizable following, becomes an affiliate and promotes a merchant’s products or services. When a sale occurs as the result of the affiliate’s recommendation, the merchant makes a payment to them. Sounds simple enough, right?

It actually is. Whether you are a merchant looking to promote your product through affiliate marketing, or you’re looking to generate income as an affiliate yourself, it’s one of the most effective performance based marketing strategies in existence.

The Affiliate Merchant Relationship

Anyone can work as an affiliate, but the most successful ones are typically bloggers, content sites and social media personalities that are somehow related to the merchant’s industry. For example, if you want to promote a line of tools, you might seek out a highly trafficked home improvement blogs, rather than an influencer that’s known for their culinary creativity.

It’s all about the perfect pairing of product and affiliate.

The affiliate’s job is to take the merchant’s brand and introduce it to their audience. The goal is for the affiliate to promote the merchant in a way that seems natural, so that the audience feels that the affiliate genuinely supports the product.

Want to know the secret for coming across and genuine? It’s the existence of a respectful relationship between the affiliate and the merchant. This means that as an affiliate, you should avoid the temptation to dive into every potential lucrative opportunity that comes your way and stick with brands that your respect and trust. It’s pretty much guaranteed that your audience will pick up on being “sold” to, so make sure that what you’re promoting actually offers value to your market.

Let’s Talk About the Money

So, the process goes something like this. The affiliate promotes the merchant’s brand through a blog post, banner ad or even offering a discount code specifically for their viewership. Their followers click and purchase. Then what happens?

As an affiliate, you get paid per transaction. This means the more audience engagement you have, the more income potential you can generate. Being paid per transaction, rather than a flat rate for promoting the brand also means that you’re probably going to put a little more work into convincing your audience of the value of the merchant’s brand.

As the merchant who is using affiliate marketing to promote your brand, affiliate marketing produces a higher ROI then other channels of promotion because it’s performance based. With affiliate marketing you’re paying for conversions. This is in contrast to other marketing strategies, such as PPC where your paying for clicks whether or not they actually lead to a sale.

Simply put, with the right relationship, affiliate marketing is a win-win situation for everyone, even the consumer.

But, Is There a Downside?

Affiliate marketing sounds like a dream come true, doesn’t it? No matter which side of the relationship that you’re on, affiliate marketing is an almost guaranteed way of generating even more revenue. But, is it too good to be true?

Is there a downside?

Just like anything, there’s always opportunities for things to go wrong. That said, with some forethought and smart business sense, affiliate marketing almost always goes right. To protect yourself no matter which side of the transaction you’re on, consider these following points.

  • The wrong relationship can ruin your credibility. This is true for both affiliates and merchants. Choose your partners wisely, and keep your own image and professional goals in mind when forming affiliate relationships.
  • Make sure that there is an intuitive connection between the merchant and the affiliate. Affiliate relationships that produce results with minimal effort are a waste of time and energy for both parties.
  • When you’re just beginning in affiliate marketing, start off slow. There’s always a learning curve, so give yourself enough time to get used to the process and learn from your own mistakes before expanding your affiliate marketing efforts.
  • Don’t rely on affiliate marketing alone. Let’s say that as an affiliate you have landed a great contract with a well-known brand. You might have dollar signs in your eyes, but don’t forget that you actually need to drive traffic to your site before you can be successful. Affiliate marketing only works when you also focus on other marketing strategies that increase traffic to your site.
  • As an affiliate, take care to not overwhelm your audience. Always keep your focus on your market.

Affiliate marketing is a performance based model that drives success. It is one simple strategy that generates income, broadens your audience and can increase your overall value to your market. When you’re ready to take your online presence to the next level, affiliate marketing is one of the most successful tools for making it happen.


Jon Clark is the founder of Fuze SEO, a boutique digital marketing company in New York. He writes regularly providing thought leadership on SEO and social media best practices. When not working or writing, Jon enjoys documenting his travels on his travel blog 1 Way to Wanderlust. You can follow him on Twitter @jonleeclark.



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