by Dave

October 9, 2020


What is Affiliate Marketing?

There are many opportunities to start a successful Internet Marketing business and to begin to make money online. Affiliate Marketing is one the most popular of these. That's due to its minimal startup costs and significant profit potential. There will be much for you to learn on the path to becoming a Super Affiliate. But, it's much easier than starting a conventional business.

With Affiliate Marketing there are no:

  1. Special qualifications,
  2. Required technical background or ability,
  3. Age limitations
  4. Need for a college degree — or even a high school diploma.

All you really need is some time, a computer with access to the Internet, and the ability and willingness to learn while you earn.

That's not to say that you can't make your startup easier and speed things up if you have some money to invest in your new business. Clearly, that would put you in a better position to get started. But, there have been people who started with free information and computers at the local library. And, “some money” to get started as an affiliateis still way below what it takes to open even an inexpensive franchise operation.

With Affiliate Marketing, you will need to learn four basic skills. You'll need to know how to:

  1. Drive traffic to an offer,
  2. Capture your leads' contact information,
  3. Follow up with those leads, and
  4. Convert some portion of your leads to paying customers.

It sounds like a lot. But compare that to trying to develop, produce, and sell your own products or services.  In addition to these four skills, you would also need to take care of payment processing, fulfillment, refunds, customer support, warranties and guarantees, employees or outsourcing, customer and employee complaints, and product development!

But What Exactly is Affiliate Marketing?

In a nutshell, Affiliate Marketing is a form of performance-based marketing. You, the affiliate, send qualified traffic to the vendor. You're then rewarded (earn a commission) for every visitor who makes a purchase.

Actually, not all affiliate offers require a purchase in order for you to receive a commission payment.

what is affiliate marketing

There are many different ways in which you can earn money with affiliate offers.  Depending on the offer, you may be paid based on a pay per click (PPC), pay per call (PPCall), pay per action (PPA), or pay per sale (PPS) basis.

Pay Per Click simply refers to when someone clicks a link and visits a website.

As the name suggests, with PPCall you get paid for making the vendor's phone ring by qualified callers.

Pay Per Action is when someone clicks your link, goes to a merchant's web site and takes a specific action (subscribes to an email list, gives their zip code, takes a quiz, etc). As the referring affiliate, you are paid for each action a visitor takes.

Pay Per Sale is when you refer someone who buys from the vendor and becomes a paying customer. You, the affiliate, are paid a commission on that sale.

Some affiliate programs also pay a percentage of each sale made by other affiliates who you referred to the program. These are generally referred to as two-tier affiliate programs. Multi-tier affiliate programs that pay on more than two levels fall into the realm of network marketing (aka multilevel marketing or MLM) which, although similar in some respects, is its own, unique business model.

You can think of Affiliate Marketing as an elaborate word-of-mouth marketing system. The difference is that, in this case, your mouth is replaced by your Internet marketing skills.

How Does Affiliate Marketing Work?

affiliate websiteThere are three people involved in each Affiliate Marketing transaction. As in a traditional sale, the buyer purchases a product or service from a seller who provides the product or service and all other customer care functions. Affiliate Marketing adds the affiliate to the process. The affiliate's role is to recommend the seller's offerings to the buyer in exchange for a commission paid by the seller.

For example, let's assume you have an interest in roses. You provide little-known tips about growing roses in your blog, which has become quite popular. You have excellent content that you aren't monetizing.

Until now, you have been blogging just because you enjoy roses and wanted to share your passion and knowledge with others. Now, however, you would like to see if you can make some money sharing your blog content.

How? Simple! Join an affiliate program that sells rose growing supplies and post a number of banners on your website site. Done deal! Again depending on the offer, you'll get paid per click, per action, or per sale when one of your readers clicks one of your banners.

You should also be able to locate a number of related products and services to offer to your readers. You could recommend gardening tools and gloves, raised flower beds, organic soil, fertilizer, and pest control products. And, you might even find a couple of programs that sell rose bushes and starters.

To promote each product, add a banner within the relevant content. Some percentage of your blog visitors will click the banner and buy the product. The company collects the income and you get paid a commission.

In addition to banners, you could also start actively marketing these products by posting product reviews and making recommendations to your readers.

Getting Started in Affiliate Marketing

As discussed, you can start an Affiliate Marketing business quicker and easier than you could start most other small businesses. You'll still need to put in some effort to make sure your business is built on a solid foundation and that you have the minimum resources and tools to have a successful start.

There are six basic steps to getting started as an affiliate:

  1. Select a niche
  2. Find one or more products to promote
  3. Drive traffic to your offer(s)
  4. Follow up with the majority who don't buy on their first look
  5. Close sales
  6. Scale

Niche Selection

The best way for you to start is to select a niche in which you want to specialize. This will hopefully be a topic in which you already have an interest and some knowledge. The more you already know about a niche, the shorter the learning curve.

Spend some time getting to know your niche and the common challenges or interests of your prospective customers. What can you do to help them get what they want?

Finding Products

To make money with Affiliate Marketing, you will want to focus on promoting products or services that are relevant to your target market (your niche). Ideally, they should help address a common “want” within that community.  See the examples in our rose blog discussion, above.

An easy way to find products to promote is to identify affiliate platforms or programs in your niche and see which of their products are most popular.

After that, it's a relatively simple process to apply to the vendors for approval to promote those products.

You are also able to represent multiple vendors. You’re not restricted to one particular manufacturer when selecting products you want to sell. This enables you to look around for the best products and the best affiliate programs to meet your own business objectives.

It is also important that you read, understand, and follow each vendor's guidelines to avoid having your affiliate account shut down.

Drive Traffic

You will also want to become a student of Internet Marketing. You can learn enough fairly quickly to decide how you will want to promote the products you represent. Will you create a blog? Do video marketing? Use paid ads on social media? Or will you find some other way to generate traffic?

Initially, you should pick just one or two lead generation methods that interest you. Become good at them or learn to automate them before adding more methods. Resist the urge to try to master everything at once.

Don't get stuck here, you can always change your mind later.

Follow Up and Close

Whatever methods you choose to generate traffic, I highly recommend that you include email marketing and list building. That way you can keep your products in front of the prospective customers you attract. Since very few prospects purchase after the first contact, this will greatly increase your long-term conversion rate (sales and commissions) over time.

Although you can start by driving traffic directly to the vendor's sales page, you'll be giving up commissions and building the vendor's email list instead of your own. Plus, one-off sales is a hard way to go.

You've probably heard that “the money's in your list.”  I prefer to say the money is in your relationship with your list and the level of service you provide to your list members. Thus, bigger isn't always better, but a responsive, loyal list of people who know, like, and trust you is invaluable.

Many people delay when it comes to list building and email marketing due to concerns over the details. Perhaps you're wondering how often to email, what to say, etc. I'll be addressing all of that in future videos and blog posts. Until then, there are some good training courses out there and most vendors are willing to provide swipe copies of emails you can use.

Scaling Up

As you begin to get experience, you will naturally want to grow your business and increase your earnings. There are several ways to do this. You can do more of what you're already doing, but this is a self-limiting approach. After all, you only have so much time.

You could also consider adding new traffic sources, more products, higher ticket products, or some combination of these to your mix. Or, you could outsource activities that you don't enjoy, don't do well, or are lower yielding activities. You could even expand into new niches. Ultimately, you might want to get on the other side of the affiliate equation by creating and marketing your own product(s).

Or, you could expand beyond Affiliate Marketing and get into other types of Internet Marketing, publishing, training, coaching, or a variety of other fields.

How you scale is ultimately up to you. Following the process that others have used successfully to get to where you want to go next is a tried and proven system.  As the saying goes: if you do what they did, you'll get what they got.

Can You Make Money in Affiliate Marketing?

A quick reality-check before I end this.

Affiliate Marketing is a great way for you to get started making money online. But, you shouldn't believe all of the “easy money” hype on the Internet. In fact, I can't promise that you'll make any money at all. After all, I don't know anything about you and what you bring to the table.

Certainly, it is possible for you to make a significant income in the Affiliate Marketing arena. But, you need to be prepared to roll up your sleeves and do the work!

Especially if you're new to making money online, you'll need to learn the art and science of Internet Marketing. You'll want to know about the use of free and paid marketing, tracking conversions, producing videos, hosting your own website, and many other topics.

It isn't for the faint of heart, but it is definitely doable with some consistent action. In fact, it can be the most interesting “earn while you learn” program you'll ever encounter.

Think long term.

I suggest you begin by focusing on the “critical few” and only expand as you have the bandwidth to do so comfortably. Shiny object syndrome and leaping from one thing to another is one of the biggest dream stealers in our industry.

And, when you have your marketing systems in place and automated, they can provide a continuing source of recurring, even passive, income.

Looking for More?

If you're ready to get started and want more help, please check out and subscribe to my YouTube Channel. I create videos more often than I blog, so you'll get the latest information faster via my channel.


About the author 


Dave Strayer is a full-time Internet and Affiliate marketer and coach. Contact him for further information about the information in this post or to discuss how he can help you learn, internalize, and get maximum benefit from the skills, beliefs, and behaviors that you must have to succeed online.

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