How to Make Money with Affiliate Marketing: From Clicks to Cash đź’°

default image

Hi there! As a fellow tech geek and data analyst, I‘m excited to dive into the world of affiliate marketing with you. I‘ve been researching this topic extensively and want to share everything I‘ve learned to help you start earning commissions online.

Affiliate marketing is one of the best ways to make money online without needing to create your own information products. By sharing your unique affiliate links and driving traffic to merchant sites, you can earn lucrative passive income.

But how exactly does it all work? And what does it take to succeed as an affiliate marketer? Let‘s dig in!

What is Affiliate Marketing?

At its core, affiliate marketing is simply a performance-based arrangement where you earn a commission from promoting someone else‘s products or services on your platform.

As an affiliate, you sign up to partner with a company through their affiliate program. You then receive a unique affiliate link to track your referrals. When someone clicks your link and completes a desired action (like making a purchase), you earn a commission.

It‘s a win-win arrangement – the company only pays when your link directly generates a new customer, while you earn income from your marketing efforts.

According to recent statistics from the Affiliate Marketing Benchmark Report, over 81% of brands now use affiliate marketing to help drive sales. And 15% of all digital media revenue comes from affiliate partnerships.

So there is huge potential to earn substantial commissions and passive income as an affiliate marketer.

Benefits of Affiliate Marketing

Here are some of the top benefits of affiliate marketing:

  • Low barrier to entry – It‘s free and easy to join most affiliate programs, so you can start right away. No huge upfront costs.

  • Passive income potential – Earnings can keep rolling in from content you created months or years ago. Recurring commissions are common.

  • Variety of products to promote – You can become an affiliate for physical products, digital downloads, services, lead generation offers, and more. Lots of options!

  • Performance-based pay – You only earn commissions when your marketing efforts directly lead to new sales or leads. Affiliates take on less risk than product creators.

  • Unlimited earning potential – With high ticket and recurring commissions, your earnings can really add up over time. Top affiliates make 5-6 figures per month.

  • Work from home – No office or commuting required. You can perform affiliate marketing remotely from anywhere with an internet connection.

With so many upsides and flexibility, it’s no wonder affiliate marketing is an increasingly popular online income stream for bloggers, content creators, and influencers.

How Does Affiliate Marketing Work?

Affiliate marketing involves several key players and steps:

1. The Merchant

The merchant is the company who sells a product or service and wants to boost sales. They create an affiliate program to leverage influencers and content creators to promote their offers, without paying unless it directly drives a new sale or lead.

For example, a merchant could be an ecommerce retailer like Amazon, an online course creator, a SaaS software company, an insurance provider, and much more. Any business can benefit from affiliate marketing to grow revenue.

Merchants handle all the logistics like order processing, customer service, and product fulfillment. Affiliates simply refer new customers to them through links.

2. The Affiliate

The affiliate marketer joins the merchant’s affiliate program and receives a unique link to track referrals. They promote the merchant‘s offers to their audience and earn a commission on any resulting sales or leads.

Affiliates drive traffic to the merchant’s site in various ways – through blogs, YouTube videos, social media, email newsletters, paid ads, etc. I‘ll cover the most effective marketing tactics later in this guide.

3. The Customer

The customer takes a desired action that triggers an affiliate commission – usually making a purchase. Without the customer completing the transaction after clicking an affiliate link, no affiliate income is generated.

4. Affiliate Networks (optional)

Affiliate networks provide technology to connect merchants and affiliates at scale, acting as an intermediary. For example, ShareASale and CJ Affiliate operate large affiliate marketplaces.

Networks make it fast and easy for anyone to get started with affiliate marketing, without directly reaching out to companies. They generally handle all tracking, reporting, and affiliate payments as well.

Types of Affiliate Marketing Models

There are several different types of affiliate program structures you’ll come across:

Pay Per Sale (PPS)

This is the most common affiliate marketing model – earn a commission when someone referred from your link makes a purchase. Commission percentages are typically 5-30% of the product price.

Pay per sale works very well with review sites, deal sites, and influencer promotions. You only get rewarded upon driving new customer conversions.

Pay Per Click (PPC)

Some affiliate programs pay a fixed commission every time someone clicks your affiliate link. This is rare for ecommerce but sometimes used for lead generation offers.

Since clicks don’t always lead to sales, the payout per click is usually fairly small, like 5-20 cents. But it can add up.

Pay Per Lead (PPL)

You may see this referred to as cost per acquisition (CPA) or cost per action (CPA). Most common with lead gen, you earn commissions for user sign ups or submissions.

For example, an insurance company might pay affiliates $20 per email lead. Software companies often pay $5-200+ for free trial sign ups.

Pay Per Call (PPC)

Some specialized affiliate programs in industries like legal services and insurance pay affiliates when a referred user calls the merchant’s phone number. Rates are on a per-minute or per-call basis.

Two-Tier Affiliate Programs

More advanced programs allow affiliates to refer other affiliates. You earn commissions directly from your promotions, plus a percentage of sales from any affiliates you refer.

For example, you could refer a blogger in your niche to an affiliate program and make money when they promote it to their audience as well.

Is Affiliate Marketing Worth It?

With so many ways to make money online these days, is affiliate marketing still a worthwhile pursuit?

The short answer is yes – affiliate marketing remains extremely lucrative. Top affiliate marketers make 5-6 figures in monthly passive income through affiliate partnerships alone, without even creating their own info products.

And according to stats from the Affiliate Marketing Benchmark Report, 97% of merchants surveyed believe affiliate partnerships help them acquire new customers. The vast majority of brands now invest in their affiliate programs to drive growth.

Now that we’ve covered the basics of what affiliate marketing is and how it works, let’s look at how to actually become a successful affiliate marketer and start generating commissions.

How to Become an Affiliate Marketer

Getting started as an affiliate isn’t too complicated. Just follow these steps:

Choose a Niche

Pick a niche you’re genuinely interested in and can create valuable content around. Make sure it has affiliate potential.

Examples include beauty, business, photography, fitness, crafts, cars, music production, gardening, home improvement, and more.

Get hyper-focused instead of being all over the place. Promoting highly targeted, relevant affiliate offers that match your niche builds trust with readers.

Set Up Your Website

Build a website or blog to be your hub for affiliate promotions and recommendations. Make sure it loads fast, looks professional, and clearly communicates your niche focus.

Self-hosted WordPress is a great blogging platform. You’ll also need web hosting and a domain name registered.

Join Affiliate Networks

Sign up for large affiliate networks like ShareASale, CJ Affiliate, Impact, etc. to access thousands of partner programs.

They provide dashboards to easily apply to relevant merchants in your niche with just a few clicks. Approval is quick.

Start driving targeted traffic to your site through effective marketing tactics like SEO, social media, email lists, and more (I‘ll cover specifics shortly).

Subtly incorporate affiliate links or banner ads into your content alongside authentic recommendations. Make sure to disclose your financial relationship clearly.

Track and Optimize Performance

Use affiliate software to monitor metrics like clicks, impressions, conversions, commission rates, etc. See what marketing campaigns are working well or performing poorly.

Continuously test new affiliate offers, placements, creatives, and traffic sources to improve your results.

Following this simple affiliate marketing process, anyone can start earning commissions relatively quickly. But certain strategies will lift your income faster.

Tips for Affiliate Marketing Success

Let‘s dig into some pro tips to maximize your commissions as an affiliate marketer:

Start a Niche Site or Blog

Building an entire website around a specific niche provides more real estate for affiliate offers compared to social media alone. Plus you can capture and retarget site visitors across multiple pages.

For example, a hiking gear site can link to affiliate products on pages about the best hiking boots, tents, backpacks, etc. Site visitors view multiple recommendations.

Focus on SEO Traffic

Search engine optimization gets your website ranking high in Google for valuable keyword searches. This brings in targeted visitors actively looking for recommendations.

According to a study by Rakuten, SEO traffic converts at 13x higher than social media users. Focus on unique, informative content built around buyer keywords.

Build an Email List

Email marketing converts at 40x better than social media, according to Invoca. Collect emails with a lead magnet like a discount or free guide. Send new content and affiliate product recommendations directly to subscribers.

Promote High Ticket Products

Bigger ticket purchases equal bigger individual commissions for you when a sale is made. Promote premium products & services that offer top dollar commissions of $50-100+ to maximize income.

Utilize Product Comparison Posts

In-depth comparison articles get lots of search traffic. You can feature product strengths & weaknesses and multiple affiliate link recommendations.

For example, a "best pet insurance 2021" guide compares plans from 5-10 different affiliate providers.

Market to Engaged Audiences

Target communities like Facebook Groups centered around your niche. These engaged users are ideal for recommendations. Partner with influencers who have loyal niche followings.

Clearly disclose affiliate links so readers understand your financial relationship. This builds trust. Never be deceptive or bury disclosures.

Diversify Affiliate Products

Promote a mix of products at varying price points. High ticket commissions provide big payouts while lower priced affiliate products move volume.

Write In-Depth Reviews

Detailed, honest reviews build authority and get lots of search traffic. Link to the product with text like "Read my full review" instead of direct affiliate links when possible.

Avoid excessive promotional language. Link affiliate products naturally where relevant throughout content, without sacrificing quality just to hit money keywords.

Top Affiliate Networks and Programs

Now let’s explore some of the best affiliate marketing networks and vertical-specific programs to consider for those just starting out:


  • One of the most popular affiliate networks with over 4000 merchant programs across nearly every niche.

  • ShareASale provides excellent tracking and reporting features. You can monitor impressions, clicks, sales, commissions, and more down to the product level.

  • The platform makes it easy to find and apply for relevant merchant affiliate programs within your niche. Approval is generally very quick.

  • ShareASale pays affiliates bi-monthly via check or ACH transfer. The minimum payout threshold is $50.

Amazon Associates

  • As the largest online retailer, Amazon‘s program is a staple for affiliates. You can promote nearly any physical, digital, and household product imaginable.

  • The commission on most products is around 4-10%. But specialty categories like luxury beauty can earn 10-20%.

  • Amazon provides custom text, image, and video links to help drive conversions and publisher insights into performance data.

  • Payouts are monthly when you hit the $10 minimum. You can get paid via direct bank deposit or check.


  • Rakuten’s cashback affiliate program lets you easily earn from over 2500 stores by shopping online through their portal.

  • Simply install their browser extension or app. Then browse partner stores and earn cashback you can withdraw anytime with no minimum balance.

  • Rakuten also pays affiliates to refer new users. You can earn $30 for each sign up that earns $30 cashback within 90 days.

  • Payout options include PayPal and check. The program is completely free to join as an affiliate.


  • ClickBank is a large digital marketplace focused on info products like ebooks, software, and online courses. Commissions on these types of affiliate products run 30-75% typically.

  • They make it easy to identify top-selling offers and sort products by commission payouts, so you can promote the most profitable ones.

  • ClickBank pays twice per month once you hit the $10 minimum threshold via PayPal or check.

  • They also provide tracking analytics to see your clicks, conversions, average sale amounts, and more. Extensive training resources are available.

CJ Affiliate

  • A reputable affiliate platform, CJ Affiliate connects you with leading advertisers in various verticals like retail, technology, travel, financial services, and more.

  • Exclusive deals and higher than average commissions for niche products are common within the CJ marketplace.

  • CJ provides real-time performance tracking and pays affiliates monthly by check or direct deposit once $25 minimum is met.

  • Their customizable link tracking capabilities let you create links by ad size, color, text, and more to match the look and feel of your site.

This covers some of the best affiliate programs and networks to get started with as a beginner. Once you gain experience, you can also pursue direct partnerships with niche brands relevant to your audience.

Common Affiliate Marketing Mistakes to Avoid

As a beginner affiliate marketer, steering clear of these common pitfalls will help set you up for faster success:

Promoting too many random products – Don‘t bounce around different niches. Focus your efforts around a consistent area of expertise aligned with your brand.

Using disclosure-free affiliate links – Make sure you inform readers of your financial relationship thoroughly and clearly. Don‘t try to hide that you earn commissions.

Over-optimizing for money keywords – Avoid cramming posts with affiliate links or repeating the same money terms over and over just to catch clicks. Provide genuine value.

Driving irrelevant traffic – Focus on reaching engaged users genuinely interested in your niche, not just chasing volume. Targeted traffic converts much better.

Not tracking campaign performance – Use affiliate software to monitor key metrics so you can optimize efforts. Analyze what‘s working and refine what‘s not.

Patience and avoiding these pitfalls as a new affiliate marketer will pay off in spades if you stick with it.

Tips to Create A Successful Affiliate Website

Driving focused traffic to a website is one of the most effective affiliate marketing strategies. Let’s look at some tips for creating a profitable affiliate site:

Choose a niche – Pick a tight niche like mountain biking gear or PHP programming books instead of broad ecommerce. This allows you to target affiliate offers extremely effectively.

Build a user-friendly site – Create a clean, functional website focused on user experience. This builds organic traffic and conversions for your affiliate links.

Create useful content consistently – Publish new articles regularly that provide value to readers. Target buyer keywords to boost SEO rankings.

Be transparent about affiliate links – Disclose clearly when you have an affiliate relationship with brands you recommend. This establishes reader trust.

Monitor site metrics – Use Google Analytics to track traffic volume, referrers, page views, bounce rates, conversions and more. Identify opportunities.

Promote affiliate links ethically – Avoid overly spammy language. Link to relevant affiliate products naturally within content to provide value.

Test new offers continually – Keep researching new affiliate programs and products to promote within your niche and seeing what converts best.

Following this approach will position you for long-term passive income growth through your affiliate website.


I hope this complete guide provided you with an in-depth look into affiliate marketing and how to get started as an affiliate.

The income potential is huge, and the barrier to entry is very low – you don‘t even need to create your own products.

By applying the tips covered, anyone can begin earning commissions by promoting affiliate products they believe in to aligned audiences.

Just remember to disclose affiliate relationships clearly, focus on driving targeted organic traffic, and track your performance data to optimize efforts.

Over time, you can scale earnings through SEO, social media, email marketing,expanding into more affiliate partnerships.

Affiliate marketing remains one of the most lucrative ways to monetize your platform and make great money online.

So pick a niche you’re passionate about, join a few relevant affiliate programs through networks like Shareasale and CJ, then put your marketing skills into action!

I hope this guide empowers you to achieve success. Let me know if you have any other affiliate marketing questions!


Written by Alexis Kestler

A female web designer and programmer - Now is a 36-year IT professional with over 15 years of experience living in NorCal. I enjoy keeping my feet wet in the world of technology through reading, working, and researching topics that pique my interest.