What is Affiliate marketing?: The Short and Sweet Version

Disclosure:  This blog post contains affiliate links, so if you buy anything or sign up through the links, I may receive a commission.

Affiliate marketing is selling and promoting someone else’s product or service in exchange for a fee or commission. You’re essentially getting paid to refer traffic to a specified product (physical or digital)  or service site.  This is one of the easier ways to make money online, with little to no upfront costs to get you started.  It is arguably, one of the best free ways to make money from home online.

Some of the major benefits to affiliate marketing is that you don’t need to carry any inventory, there is no overhead cost, no worries about payment collection or processing,  and there are no dealings directly with customers.  This makes the barriers to entry extremely low. It’s also a great way to earn residual income on autopilot!

 

Some companies establish their own affiliate programs for others to get the word out about their products.  There are also affiliate networks which allow third party companies (may be called advertisers) to offer an affiliate program through the network.  Affiliate marketers (sometimes called publishers) can join the network and select from among hundreds or thousands of programs listed through the network to promote.

 

Most affiliate programs work like this:  An affiliate marketer joins the program and is then given an affiliate link with their own unique tracking code.  The tracking code is used to determine where any referrals and sales come from.  So when a customer or prospect clicks on the affiliate link and takes a specified action, then the affiliate marketer receives credit.  Reputable affiliate networks and programs provide an easy way for its affiliates to check of all their stats and run reports through internet dashboards. So, all the sales, clicks, commissions earned will be viewable through the dashboard.

 

Some affiliate programs pay marketers when a lead signs up for a program, makes a phone call, fills out a form or buys a product (Cost per sale, Cost per action, Pay per lead, etc.).  Also, there are programs which pay a one-time commission to affiliates, while others pay recurring commissions or lifetime commissions on sales.  It depends on the affiliate program rules and the type of product promoted.

 

The amount of money that the affiliate marketer earns varies according to the affiliate program rules.  Some programs pay a flat rate and others pay a certain percentage of a sale.  Referral programs usually work in a similar way.

 

Affiliate marketers make most of their money by writing sales copy, articles or product reviews which are directly related to whatever they are promoting. They put the copy on a website (usually niche), an e-mail newsletter, social media websites or forums (if allowed) and incorporate their affiliate links into the copy.

 

Good marketers know how to write effective copy, that provides helpful and relevant information to the customer and then make subtle product suggestions without being pushy and aggressive. The truth is that customers don’t want to be sold to. And, they don’t want to buy products from people that don’t make a good impression. It makes no sense to promote products and services that aren’t related to the topic of the content presented.

 

Affiliate programs have different ways to pay their affiliates once the payout minimum is reached.  They may pay by either check, PayPal, direct deposit, gift certificate or through some other payment processor. The pay schedule varies depending upon the merchant or program.  Usually, payments are sent out either monthly or bi-weekly.

 

Here are a few well-known affiliate programs and networks:

Amazon Associates

Clickbank

ShareAsale

Commission Junction

LinkShare

VigLinks

SkimLinks

eBay Partner Network

 

You can also find an affiliate program by visiting a company’s website.  Most of the times there is a link to the affiliate program at the bottom or at the top of the home page.  Usually the link will say “promote our products” or “join our affiliate program”. Reputable affiliate programs are normally free to join.  Be very cautious about joining any affiliate program that asks for a fee upfront.

 

Here are some important considerations regarding affiliate marketing; It takes times to build up a business.  Most people who start a business based on affiliate marketing do not make significant amounts of money right away.  Depending upon your skill set and knowledge, it may take a few months or it may even take some years to build up interest, a customer base and consistent, sustainable levels of income.  It also requires a lot of hard work, consistency and dedication.

 

Realistically speaking, affiliate marketing is not for people looking for a push-button, get-rich-quick type scheme which doesn’t require much effort.   Be wary of affiliate marketing gurus who say things like “Learn how to make $100,000 in just two weeks”.   Some of these people may be good natured.  Perhaps, THEY are capable of earning $100,000 or more in a short period of time.  However, in most cases these results are not typical for the average person starting out with no knowledge, no credibility,  no website traffic or experience.

Here are a few websites where you can find further information and training (some of it is free and some of it comes with a cost) on how to become an affiliate marketer:

AssociatePrograms–  This website used to be owned by internet marketer, Allan Gardyne. The website was sold to his business partner and revamped.  It contains a wealth of free information on how to get started with affiliate marketing.  There is also another website started by Gardyne called lifetimecommissions, which is sort of a directory of affiliate programs.

WealthyAffiliateUniversity–  I am a member of this active, online community that offers visitors a free, no-strings attached,  “starter membership” and access to some free training modules on  affiliate marketing.  They also provide instructions on how to build a niche website from scratch.  Access to the premium content comes with a $47 monthly membership fee, though.

WarriorForum– This website is not a training website per se.  It is more for someone who has a little more knowledge than a person who is totally green with internet/affiliate marketing.   It has a fair amount of decent user generated content but it is somewhat scatter shot.   Warrior forum is also a place where internet marketers and entrepreneurs bounce ideas off of each other and ask questions.

Now with that said, you have to watch out for people who put misleading information on the forum.   Some of the members are abrasive in their commentaries and responses towards other members’ ideas.  And, once in a while there are a few “warriors” who are just down right rude and condescending to new members.  Don’t be distracted or fall prey to anyone offering scam products or business opportunities.  Otherwise, it is a good place to network with other internet marketers.