Affiliate Marketing for Dummies

Well, let me put it straight to you. It’s a post on Affiliate Marketing for Dummies.

And, it’s also a post for beginners in Affiliate Marketing.

So, if you are looking for really good stuff on how affiliate marketing works, then let me assure you that you are perfectly in the right place.

Here, we will take through a basic understanding of affiliate marketing.

Moreover, the article covers all the essential aspects of affiliate marketing that every beginner wants to know.

At the moment you may have doubts and questions.

However, as you go on to read the post, you will get crystal clear about affiliate marketing.

Get Started with Affiliate Marketing

In fact, affiliate marketing has a huge potential as such. It gives an opportunity to make money online (and quite big sums) using this form of marketing.

The massive growth of the internet and the wide prevalence of e-commerce gave businesses the opportunity to market their products and services through millions of websites.

Affiliate marketing emerged as a cost-effective solution where businesses got customers through the efforts of publishers or affiliates.

Let us give the numbers.

A report published by Forrester Consulting estimate that affiliate marketing sales are expected to cross $16 billion by 2024.

So, it means that there is a big opportunity for you waiting to be cashed as you learn all the essential details of affiliate marketing.

The post has lots of information that is key to understanding affiliate marketing.

However, we prefer to be realistic.

It’s simply to give you a true picture.

When you know the reality, you prepare yourself well to take on any challenge that comes in your way to making money through affiliate marketing.

If you’re looking to get started with Affiliate Marketing, the stats paint a very realistic picture.

Affiliate Income - Affiliate Marketing for Dummies

It might well be an eye-opener.

You’ll see that about 40% of people into affiliate marketing make very little money or no money at all!

However, it does not take the zing out of affiliate marketing in any way. It can definitely be a big source of income for you.

Moreover, it is definitely a very lucrative opportunity to get in on, and if done right – you can get yourself in the top $500k+ fraction (about 3%) in a few years. Something that is definitely not achievable at a day job (you’re not a banker are you).

And, it all starts with getting to know, what is affiliate marketing.

So, the very first question is – “What exactly is Affiliate Marketing?”

Here’s what Wikipedia says:

Affiliate marketing is a type of performance-based marketing in which a business rewards one or more affiliates for each visitor or customer brought by the affiliate’s own marketing efforts.

What it means is that a company will pay you every time you help them make a sale or any other action that they are willing to pay for (say, a call or a form-fill-up). It is as simple as “Paying for Referrals.

In other words, Affiliate marketing can be understood as an online marketing technique wherein a merchant pays money (known as commission) to publishers for referring new customers to their site.

In affiliate marketing terminology, the publishers who send referrals to the advertiser’s website are known as affiliates.

However, it should be noted that Affiliate Marketing is performance-based, so publishers or affiliates are only paid when an actual transaction happens due to their promotional efforts.

In totality, affiliate marketing involves three parties:

  • The merchant – the party that creates the products
  • Affiliate or Publisher
  • The consumer

The merchant, seller, or brand is ready to pay the affiliates who help them in selling or promoting their products or services.

The affiliate or publisher can be an individual or company that goes on to promote the product of the merchant and gets paid by the merchant if the referred customer performs an actual transaction (sale, call, or even form fill-up).

Here, the consumer is the person who acts upon the ad and performs an action such as clicking the link and purchasing a product or even submitting their info through an online form. Without the consumer, affiliate marketing is simply incomplete.

What are the Mechanics of Affiliate Marketing?

First up, the affiliate (and of course, you are concerned with what the affiliate needs to do) has to sign up for an advertiser’s affiliate program. Under the affiliate program, the affiliate selects the products that he wants to sell.

The merchant or seller then assigns a unique “affiliate link” to the affiliate that will be used for referring traffic to their site.

The affiliate links are studded with an inbuilt tracking mechanism that makes sure that the affiliate is credited for every sale made by them.

So, when a consumer goes to click an affiliate link, then the seller comes to know who (which affiliate) sent the customer to them.

The affiliate programs are operated and run via affiliate networks. There are programs that are consolidated on a single network, and there are also programs that run on multiple networks.

Further up, cookies are those elements in the network that keep track of a customer as they land on the affiliate’s website and through to the shopping cart of the seller.

The commission is paid to the affiliate (for referring customers who complete an actual transaction) by the network, and it is based on the rules that are put by the seller.

Usually, commissions resulting from the sales of the previous month are paid out on a monthly basis. However, it can vary depending on the payment policy adopted by the merchant.

This nifty infographic from Pepperjam sums it up!

Affiliate Infographic

While it sounds very simplistic, Affiliate Marketing has a lot more to it. Here are the first things that you ought to know:

“What if I don’t have a blog, what market should I pick then?”

That’s a good question, and while you do not have a blog – you can certainly have one. Yes, you! Think about it – There must be something that you’re good at. Think about something that you have prided yourself on! That chip on the shoulder.

Is there anything that your friends turn to you for help or expertise? Don’t discount anything! If your neighbors ask you to teach their son Word or Excel, or people ask you for gym advice – even which should be good to go!

No? Ok, how about this – Call or Walk over to your friends and ask them what “they” think “you” are good at! It’s a deceptively simple step, and you know what – it works! As human beings, we are so hard on ourselves that we just overlook most of our strengths!

“What products should I promote?”

Actually, this is such a big question that I wrote an entire post on it. Feel free to check out:

How to find best affiliate products to promote.

“Which Affiliate Networks should I join?”

As I explained in the previous post (you read it, right?), it’s not just about picking a product! It’s about picking a product that fits your market. Likewise, it’s not about picking an affiliate network.

20 Best Cost Per Sale (CPS) Affiliate Networks

20+ Best Costs Per Action (CPA) Affiliate Networks

You see, lots of people who have products just don’t go to an affiliate network! They have their own affiliate tracking system. Here’s how I find them (and you can too!):

Affiliate Program Search

That said – is it safer to start off with some of the reputed affiliate networks? Absolutely! Here are our top 5 recommendations:

CJ (Commission Junction)

Pick the one which has the most relevant products for your market. For instance, if a physical product will suit your needs – Amazon is probably the way to go (people trust it the most!). Feel free to explore Linkshare, ShareASale, and CJ as well, though! If you want to be an affiliate for an information product, though, Clickbank is probably the way to go.

“How do they know I have made a sale?”

That’s an excellent question! Affiliate networks provide you with a special link that they sometimes call a Tracking link/ Tracking URL. This is different from a normal URL because it tracks that the visitor came from your website.

How does it do that? Well, that’s where cookies come into the picture. Once the user clicks your tracking URL, a cookie will be placed in his browser.

Web cookies

This cookie will have a tracking period say, 30 days. Now, if the user purchases a product in the next 30 days, you make a sale!

Different networks and programs have different policies for cookies. Amazon has a 1-day cookie period! But, you get the sale for everything the user buys in this period on Amazon.

Often, that really adds up! You’ll find products that have one full year of the cookie period! How cool is that!

On a side note, it’s not unethical at all! Websites place cookies in the browser pretty much all the time. This is how websites deliver a custom experience.

For example, a website may offer its content in different languages. On your first visit, you may choose to have the content delivered in French, and the site may record that preference in a persistent cookie set on your browser. When you revisit that site, it will use the cookie to ensure that the content is delivered in French.

“Do I need to have a Website?”

That is totally up to you! If you don’t think you’re ready to invest in your business just yet, you can pick one of the websites that allow you to post!

Do I need to have a Website? can get you started. However, this does have a caveat, several websites like Hubpages have seen a massive drop in their Search Engine Rankings and hence, Traffic – so, it is not as lucrative as it used to be!

On the other hand, free website providers will usually have ads (like Weebly). Make sure you read through the terms of service when you get started with one of these. (not the self-hosted version) does not tolerate any kind of promotional material, and it will delete your website if you’re violating!

If you’re ready to invest in your business, you can definitely get yourself a domain, a hosting service and use (the self-hosted version). If you want to cut short your learning, you could upgrade and pay a premium for services like Weebly!

“How would someone come to buy on my site?”

This is one of the most fundamental activities of an Affiliate Marketer – Driving Targeted Traffic! You see, you need to have people visiting your website, who want what you have.

Driving Targeted Traffic

RELEVANCE is the key word here – if you have a ton of people who will come in totally disinterested, only to leave your website in 6 seconds or less, you’ll not be able to make a sale!

Which brings us to the real question – “How can I get traffic?”

There are several ways, and the first key decision that you need to make is whether you are going to pay for traffic or drive free traffic.

Again, if you are looking for results to come in a bit faster and are willing to invest in your business, you can pay for traffic – using Google AdWords. Here’s our last post – which will help you get AdWords Clicks for Cheap!

Otherwise, you can drive traffic for free by getting your web pages to rank in the Search Engine (say Google). We call this SEO. And that’s an entire section that you can browse! Now, let’s get to the last bit!

“How can I sell something to my visitors?”

One of the common misconceptions in Affiliate Marketing is that – “You need to sell.” That is totally untrue. You see, the final page, the one that the user purchases from – that is the page that needs to sell, not YOU!

What you need to do is – PRE-SELL!

That still sounds a bit dodgy, doesn’t it? See it this way – you have to match interested people to products that will solve their problems. That’s it.

Like a good matchmaker, all you need to do is tell them why you think it’s a great match! The good, the bad, and the ugly!

To summarize, here’s what you need to do to get started in Affiliate Marketing:

  1. Find a market that you are interested in, and spot a problem that you’d like to solve
  2. Sign up for becoming an affiliate of the network
  3. Explore products on the network and Find a relevant product that you’d like to sell
  4. Drive Targeted Traffic to your website/blog
  5. Write pre-sell content that converts and use the tracking URL to drive affiliate sales and get commissions!

If you feel a bit overwhelmed with a lot of jargon thrown around, feel free to visit our Glossary of Affiliate Marketing Terms.

Have a look at this great video on Affiliate Marketing by Young Entrepreneurs Forum

Hope you liked this article on Affiliate Marketing for Dummies and found it valuable to get started with affiliate marketing.

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