Affiliate Marketing for Dummies – Best Affiliate Programs for Beginners
Are you on a journey of making sense of affiliate marketing? You have arrived in the right place!
I’m a travel blogger and creator that successfully makes passive income thanks to affiliate marketing. And because all good things in life are meant to be shared, I want to offer you some precious tips and tricks today. And a lot of information I’ve learned by testing and experimenting. Are you ready for my affiliate marketing guide that includes the best affiliate programs for beginners?
Let’s jump right into it.
What is affiliate marketing and how does it work?
I’m sure you’ve heard about affiliate marketing before and you may be dreaming of making huge amounts of money out of it. Who doesn’t want to wake up in the morning, open their laptop and see a big list of commissions? Heh, I know how it is. Although it’s… do-able, please be prepared for a long and often complicated journey. In order to get started, you’ll need to understand a few basic things about affiliate marketing. And I’m here to guide you:
The simple concept behind it
The simple idea behind affiliate marketing is the following: passive income. Affiliate marketing means that you, as the affiliate, promote someone else’s products or services. If they make a sale thanks to you, you’ll receive a small commission in exchange. Simple, right? Affiliate marketing and revenue sharing go hand in hand.
If you’re still confused, here’s a simple scheme so you can better understand: Affiliate promotes brand -> Brand makes sale -> Affiliate takes a small percentage of sale via tracking link.
Now, speaking of tracking links…
What is an affiliate link?
Affiliate marketing exists in the online world. So you’ll need something to redirect people to a certain product and/or service. And that thing is… a link – or a hyperlink, if you must! Links will take the customer from your platform to the merchant’s site.
Affiliate links have something that’s called a “cookie”, which is a small piece of data that will help the website remember who you are or, more specifically, how you arrived on that website. In short, cookies are magical things that help the website remember that a client has reached the website/made a sale because you directed them there.
A cookie will be active for 30-90 days (it depends on each affiliate platform, of course) to track where the sale came from. So if a sale is made within that time frame, the affiliate gets a commission. Hey, presto!
Everyone’s a winner: the reader has found a useful product, the brand has made a sale and you have generated a small commission for connecting the two. Easy-peasy!
How to make money with affiliate marketing
I’m pretty sure you get it by now: you can make income using affiliate marketing by receiving either a fixed commission, or a percentage of the sale. So the key here is to have A LOT of patience and to understand that affiliate marketing is a slow, long-term process. Different platforms offer different payout systems. Here they are below, with explanations for each:
- Pay-per-sale: the affiliate receives revenue when a sale is made/when the client actually buys something
- Pay-per-lead: the affiliate receives revenue when they refer a client to a website; this technique is focused on the interest that a client manifests for a product or service and it doesn’t necessarily imply an actual purchase;
- Pay-per-click: the affiliate receives revenue each time their ad is clicked; the merchant is interested in increasing the visits to their website. This one’s most commonly used by search engines (think about those ads in Google you see when you search for something).
Now, all you need to do is to decide which one of these works best for you and your partners. The most common option is pay-per-sale, as it doesn’t require any upfront investment from the merchant; they only pay you when a sale is actually made.
Benefits of affiliate marketing
Should you get started with affiliate marketing? Well, that’s completely up to you, but here are some awesome benefits of affiliate marketing:
- There is no cost in becoming an affiliate marketer. It literally costs you nothing to set up;
- You don’t pay if you don’t sell anything, you just don’t make a commission.
- Affiliate marketing is neck to neck with Google Adsense when it comes to generating revenue online;
Some people have got affiliate marketing down and have found a way to make a decent living from it. For the rest of us mere mortals, affiliates will start off as a nice little ‘side gig’ to our main income stream. This isn’t a bad thing at all! Small but passive income! With very little financial risk. Why not, eh?
RELATED READ: Working From Home Guidelines – 7 Essential Tips to Get You Started
When you should use affiliate marketing
The answer is simple here: when you have a strong connection to a brand or product. Everyone can smell a fraud. Don’t be a fraud. Don’t promote something you don’t believe in. This leads us to one of the most important problems regarding creators and influencers today: a lot of people are tired of seeing brands being mindlessly promoted everywhere. You don’t want to bore or exhaust your audience. You want to provide them with precious recommendations based on your experience instead. So I cannot stress this enough: you should only promote products and services that you actually believe in and that you have tried and like yourself.
So, in short, you can use affiliate marketing when the following two statements are true:
- You feel like you can provide additional value to your audience – this means you can offer something your readers will benefit from, something that makes their lives easier, or when you can offer them a useful discount.
- You have built trust with your readers – if your readers trust your knowledge of your niche, they are more likely to take your advice when you recommend a product.
Important things to know before getting started
There are many wrong impressions and assumptions about affiliate marketing. Don’t get fooled and don’t get discouraged either. But watch out:
- Affiliate marketing won’t get you rich fast. This is about playing the long game! Your goal is to generate a large, engaged audience who love clicking the links on your content.
- Depending on the products you promote, your commission will be small. So you’re looking to get multiple sales.
- Choose what products you put your efforts into wisely. Some may bring in $10-30 per sale while others will only give you a couple of cents. None of these options is wrong, you just need to analyse your audience and the products you’re promoting wisely.
- Promoting cheap, inferior products is the fastest way to destroy trust between you and your readers. Always prioritise your relationship with your readers above any affiliate partnership. If it doesn’t work for your readers, it doesn’t work for you!
- Make sure to update content that is no longer relevant. You will need to go back through old posts and update these to be current to continue to get good results with certain affiliate links.
- Link hijacking – okay, I know this sounds terrifying, so let me quickly explain to you what this is. This is when someone hacks into your website and replaces your link with one of their own. If you’re just starting out, this isn’t likely to happen to you – but it’s worth keeping in mind and if it’s something that worries you, you can think about increasing your website security.
There are plugins you can get to protect your site, such as Jetpack.
My best affiliate marketing tips for beginners
This beginners guide to affiliate marketing wouldn’t be complete without some useful tips. Correct? Correct. So, without further ado, here they are:
HOW TO GET STARTED. Think of the brands you already love and you already talk about. Or products that fit perfectly into your niche that you can include seamlessly into your content. This is the best way to choose products to promote. If you’re already promoting a product, why not get paid for it?
TEST THE PRODUCTS AND SERVICES YOU ARE RECOMMENDING. Are you doing a product review? Make sure you have actually tested the product. Once again, no one likes a fraud. This will give you peace of mind that you are backing a good product and give proof to your audience that you actually use it / see it’s value too.
THINK ABOUT TIMING AND NEEDS. Think of things that your audience needs right now. There needs to be a sense of urgency to their purchase or your links won’t convert to sales. eg. If you’re a fashion blogger, you don’t want to be promoting wooly jumpers in spring. However, promoting beachwear would be perfectly in time for the summer holidays.
BE TRANSPARENT. Affiliates should disclose that they are promoting a brand. You are offering something of value – there is no need to hide or trick your audience into giving you a commission. Also, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) now requires that anyone who promotes a product and receives some form of compensation must do so transparently. Check it out here. If you want, you can hide a specific tracking link with a bit.ly link or other link shorteners, but make sure to not hide any collaborations from your audience.
BE CLEVER ABOUT HOW AND WHERE YOU PROMOTE YOUR LINKS. Use all your platforms – blog, YouTube, newsletters, instagram stories (those swipe up links man!). But, also remember that there are places that you won’t be allowed to use these links. For example, Amazon won’t let you use links in any emails (newsletters included!), PDFs, pop up pages, downloaded guides or e-books (even if they’re free).
AFFILIATE MARKETING WITHOUT A WEBSITE. Yes, it is possible. You don’t necessarily need to have a website in order to make affiliate marketing work for you. You can use your Instagram account, your Youtube channel, your newsletter or even your Facebook page.
Okay, now that you know all the basics of affiliate marketing together with some useful advice to make it work for you and your niche, let’s see how other people are successfully using it to create income.
Different ways of promoting your affiliate links
Let’s say that you now have your affiliate links all approved and ready to be posted. How do you promote them in order to not seem obnoxious? That’s a pretty sensible subject because, as I mentioned before, being honest and transparent is an important thing in establishing a strong relationship with your following. You don’t want to spam them with sponsored links all day long. You want to provide precious information and recommendations for them instead.
Here are some affiliate marketing examples that you can use in promoting your links across different platforms:
One of the best ways to promote a product or service is to make an honest review about it on your platform (blog, Instagram, Youtube etc). The keyword here is honest, of course. Even if you’re paid to promote a product, it’s important to offer a sincere opinion and, more importantly, it’s mandatory that you have tried the product or service yourself. If the product is good, then it’s worth promoting it and your audience will appreciate it even if you’re not praising everything about it!
This idea is pretty similar to a product review, but you can actually “trick the system” and compare not one, but two good products. You can present them as alternatives, accentuating the differences between the two and recommending them to different categories of people. This is a popular method among beauty bloggers, for example, or people who review web hosting companies – but it can work across a wide range of products/services.
Again, a similar idea to the reviews I was talking about above. The tutorials can actually be more informative and extensive than the reviews, if you wish. The key here is to offer a complete tutorial for a certain product or service and to address all the questions and concerns new users might have.
You can naturally insert affiliate links in listicle-type of articles, such as lists of your favorite products – favorite shampoos, “January favourites”, favorite boots for fall etc. This idea works on a blog or Youtube channel best, if you ask me, because you can naturally insert the affiliate links as hyperlinks on the text or in the description box of your video.
If you have a blog, website or an extensive mailing list, you can create a landing page that would serve as a resource page for your audience, promoting your favorite products/services related to your niche.
These are just some quick ideas that I’ve brainstormed here for you. Remember: you need to create strategies and come up with personalised ideas that will work for YOU and YOUR platforms. In order to do this, analyse your audience and their needs and you’ll quickly understand what to do next.
Best affiliate programs for beginners
Heh, it’s hard to make a complete list here, especially if you’re looking for top paying affiliate programs exclusively. This really is completely dependent on your personal niche. I would really recommend sitting down and delving deeper into understanding your audience and what they want.
Confused? I got you. In order to help you out, I recommend downloading my free questionnaire to help understand your target audience.
However, after researching a lot, I found that there are some general beginner affiliate programs that I would whole-heartedly recommend. Here’s my list of the best affiliate marketing programs for beginners:
- Amazon – ecommerce; one of the top affiliate programs used by SO many people!
- Net-A-Porter – fashion retailer;
- Revolve – fashion retailer;
- ASOS – fashion and cosmetic retailer;
- Hotels.com – hotel aggregator;
- Booking.com – hotel aggregator;
- TripAdvisor – reviews, booking hotels, buying vacation packages;
- Get Your Guide – tours aggregator;
- Ticketmaster – online ticket seller;
- iTunes (Performance Partners Program) – Apple’s media player and broadcaster;
- eBay – ecommerce;
- Target – online retail;
- Kmart – online retail chain;
- Walmart – online hypermarket;
- Etsy – handmade and vintage products;
- Fiverr – they offer online services and it’s one of my favorite high paying affiliate programs
- BlueHost – website hosting
- Wix – website builder;
- SurfShark – VPN services;
- Shopify – ecommerce platform for online stores;
Best affiliate networks you can join
If you’re still struggling about how to find affiliate marketers, I have another amazing tip for you. Other than individual websites and merchants, an excellent idea is to sign up for affiliate networks. These affiliate marketing companies are specialised platforms that can manage the entire affiliation mechanism for you; they’re basically a link between you and several different merchants. This means no communication between you and the owner of the product/service! You just need to apply and get accepted by your favorite merchants listed in each affiliate network’s database and you’re good to go.
Here are the best affiliate marketing websites for beginners out there:
Most of the affiliate networks above offer you some pretty sweet insights as well, such as average conversion rates and sales for the merchants you can apply to.
In case you were wondering how to get started with affiliate marketing, my guide above is a very good resource to get you up and running – or at least a starting point for further research. I tried to combine all my knowledge and all my best tips and tricks in order to make your life easier!
Remember: affiliate marketing is a slow process, so you’ll need quite a lot of patience and determination. Do your research. Find your niche and the best products and services for your audience. Don’t expect to get rich overnight. And you’ll be just fine.