Making money online through your website, social media, or blog can be done without having to create or sell any products of your own. Instead, you can use affiliate marketing. If you’ve heard of affiliate marketing but aren’t really sure what it is or how it works, this article is a great place to start.

If you’re already familiar with the concept, and want to know how to start using it to make money from your blog or website, keep reading for some actionable tips!

What is affiliate marketing?

Before we define it, let’s be clear about one thing. Affiliate marketing is not a way to ‘get rich quick.’ You’ll not become a millionaire after just a few months.

Affiliate marketing is a way to generate mostly passive income, and if you work at it consistently, it can grow into a great income stream and give you financial freedom and independence. 

So what is affiliate marketing?

An affiliate marketer offers products from other companies to the marketer’s audience, and gets a commission for each sale or lead generated. In many ways, an affiliate marketer acts like a referral source, except that in most cases they don’t personally know the people they’re referring to specific products.

Most affiliate marketing happens online. The affiliate marketer promotes products from other companies on their blog and other online media channels, and it always includes an affiliate link. The link sends anyone who clicks on it away from the affiliate marketer’s media, and takes them to the product seller’s page. That link can be tracked so that any purchases generated from it get credited to the affiliate marketer.

Put simply, you include links to products in your blog and elsewhere, and any time someone clicks one of those links and buys it results in revenue for you, usually a percentage of the purchase price.

How are affiliate marketers paid?

Affiliates get paid based on their agreement with each company for whom they are marketing products. Payment could come based on a variety of actions, all of which are tracked using affiliate links to each company the marketer works with. You could be paid:

  • A percentage of the product sale price
  • Per lead generated, such as a form submission or newsletter signup
  • Per click
  • Per app download
  • Per free trial initiated

Being paid per click is the most rare type of affiliate marketing. Only big companies can afford to do that since no sale is guaranteed. Being paid a percentage of a sale price is probably the most common arrangement. But for software-based services, free trials and downloads are also quite common, because the people acting on those offers frequently become long-term paying customers.

Why do companies use affiliate marketing?

Companies want leads, sales, and customers, and they can never get enough of them. With help from an affiliate marketer, companies will gain access to new customer segments they likely never would have found.

For example, suppose someone writes blog posts about pet fish and aquariums. They have readers and subscribers who are interested in that topic, and most of them have aquariums in their homes. 

Now, suppose there’s a company selling various pet supplies — including those related to, you guessed it, home aquariums. The company could spend their money on digital and traditional advertising with the hopes of getting a positive return on their investment. 

aquarium with fish

Or, they could participate in an affiliate marketing program and have trusted bloggers with followers in their niche promote their products for them. Then, they only have to pay the bloggers if they get sales. This essentially guarantees a positive return on investment. 

Again, the affiliate is acting much the same as a friend referring products to another friend. Their endorsement of a product carries much more weight than a conventional marketing ad.

Become an affiliate — find products to sell

To start generating your own income from affiliate marketing, begin by considering your existing interests and media assets.

Hopefully, you already have an active blog, YouTube channel, or social media platform. Affiliate marketing is much easier to add on to existing assets than to start from scratch. It helps a lot if you’re already familiar with the basics of at least one online marketing channel. And it helps even more if you already have followers, traffic, or subscribers who know, like, and trust you.

The products you want to sell should relate in some way to your existing interests and media assets. But it doesn’t have to be a direct correlation. Again, take the aquarium blogger. Obviously, that blogger could become an affiliate for pet stores, pet products, fish food, aerators, fish tanks, and things of that sort. 

But that blogger could also easily promote affiliate products that are geared toward other things that relate to their audience. Maybe most of their followers are young families. Things like kids toys or board games might make sense to promote on occasion. 

To find affiliate marketing opportunities that integrate naturally and authentically with your online assets, here are three ways to get started:

1. Look on company websites of products you’ve purchased or know well

Many companies offer affiliate marketing opportunities. Often, it’s a link somewhere in the footer of their website. If you know and like their products already, these offer your best affiliate marketing options because your endorsements will be truthful and authentic.

2. Search on affiliate marketplaces

There are online marketplaces devoted specifically to affiliate marketing. They enable companies to search for affiliate marketers like you, and they enable you to find companies that align with your interests. Any company on these sites should already have an active affiliate marketing program, and you’ll be able to jump right in with minimal effort. 

A few such affiliate marketplaces include Clickbank, Affiliate Future, and Share A Sale.  

3. Propose affiliate marketing to companies you like

Other companies, particularly eCommerce companies that may be newer or less established, may not be using affiliate marketing, but could benefit greatly from it. 

You could be their first affiliate marketer! Especially if you’re a loyal customer, there’s a good chance you could get access to a manager or administrator and make a presentation about how much affiliate marketing could improve their revenue and broaden their customer base. 

list of partners with the Affiliate for WooCommerce extension

As part of your presentation, you could show them the Affiliate for WooCommerce extension.

This extension allows WooCommerce stores to add affiliate marketers, track purchases, pay commissions, and perform various other affiliate marketing related tasks, without having to invent their own software. 

How to become a successful affiliate marketer

So far, you’ve learned what affiliate marketing is, how to make money from it, and how to find products that are relevant to what you’re doing online already. 

Pick just one product to get started, and then begin using online marketing strategies to push your affiliate links to as many people as possible. The more buyers you can attract, the more revenue you’ll produce. As you get a feel for it, add more products and services from more companies. 

And remember, the most effective affiliate marketing happens for products you actually like and have used. Or, even if you haven’t used them, you admire them and could market them authentically. 

Here are some tips for how to make more money using affiliate marketing:

1. Review products in relevant niches

Start reviewing products using your blog, and include the ones that generate revenue for you among the top ranked products. Review sites are popular and trusted within niches.

For example, if you’re an educator, you might write a blog post about the best educational birthday gifts for three-year-olds. Then, you can include products in the list that you’re an affiliate for, and describe why it’s a great option.

2. Start producing digital content beyond blog posts

Blogs are a starting point. But when you start churning out guides, how-to manuals, videos, eBooks, podcasts, and webinars, your perceived authority elevates, and any products you recommend will be met with less resistance, regardless of price.

3. Use courses, events, and workshops

You’ll gain even more authority using these methods. Any time you can get on a stage, whether actual or digital, you become the authority in the room. Speak at conferences, trade shows, conventions. Use online courses, workshops, and webinars. 

4. Interview product experts

This works best if you interview someone who works with or is very familiar with the products you’re trying to market. Interviews are powerful.

5. Create how-to content

For blogs in particular, how-to content works very well for affiliate marketing because you can present the product as the solution to the problem being addressed. It’s a natural and authentic fit.

For example, if you write a blog post about how to clear up dry skin, you might recommend your favorite healing lotion.

6. Email your subscribers, frequently

If you have email subscribers, you should be emailing them at least once a week already. When you begin affiliate marketing, you can toss in emails and side comments about those products now and then. Don’t abuse your list by doing this every day. But as part of your communications, you can tell stories about and express admiration for products you’re marketing.

7. Use social media

Just like with email, if you have social channels and are using them effectively, adding affiliate marketing is a natural next step. All you have to do is post occasionally about products you use or admire, and some of your followers will click the affiliate links. This is true whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Pinterest, or even LinkedIn if you’re an affiliate for business-related products.

8. Create an affiliate store

You can organize all of your recommendations in a single place and let your followers browse them like they would any other store. All you need is WooCommerce — the powerful, free eCommerce solution for WordPress.

When creating a product, simply set it to be an “external/affiliate” item. Then, you can include all the pertinent information — like a title, description, price, and image — and add the affiliate link for the product. Your products will all show up in an attractive, easy-to-navigate online storefront. 

adding an affiliate product with WooCommerce

This is also particularly useful if you do sell any physical or digital products yourself. For example, if you run a food blog, you might sell a digital cookbook along with recommending affiliate products like pans, knives, and spices.

See full instructions for adding affiliate products to WooCommerce.

9. Consistency, frequency, courtesy

Whatever you do to promote affiliate products, keep doing it. Be consistent, whether that’s daily posts, weekly emails, bi-weekly blogs, monthly podcasts. Be consistent. Keep showing up. 

And do it frequently enough to generate revenue. If you’re using multiple channels, frequency is easier. You can write a blog post one day, send an email the next, write a Facebook post the next, record a podcast after that, and go live on Instagram to finish off the week. 

As for courtesy, this means to keep your affiliate marketing content helpful. Remember, you’re a trusted source of information for your audience. Share products and solutions that really do make their lives better in some way. Be authentic. 

You can put affiliate links just about everywhere — email, social media, blog posts, web pages, and even direct mail. The links are trackable no matter where you put them. 

Affiliate marketing works

The ‘easy’ way to do affiliate marketing is to just put links on your blog posts and web pages and leave them there. You might get some revenue as a result, but the more tips from the above list you start using, the more money you’ll make from affiliate marketing.

So it’s not effortless. It’s not without some investment of time. But you can engage with it at whatever level works for you. And if you do it long enough — consistently, frequently, and helpfully — you will start generating passive income from it.

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