written by
Mike Speer

The Beginner’s Guide to Affiliate Marketing

marketing 4 min read

Imagine this: One morning you wake up to see that you’ve made hundreds, even thousands of dollars while you slept. Are you still dreaming?

Nope! (And don't worry. This isn't a pyramid scheme.)

Bloggers, vloggers, and social media influencers all use this technique to turn their content into cash. It's a process known as affiliate marketing.

What is Affiliate Marketing?

You know those emails you get that promise 20% off a company's products or services when you refer a friend? Well, affiliate marketing works in a similar way.

Affiliate marketing is a revenue sharing model that rewards people for promoting a product for another person or business. For most people, blogging or making videos is their method of choice for affiliate marketing. (Social media can be tricky since these platforms can change the rules of the game on a whim). Either way, these marketers leverage their content, audience, and influence to drive the sale of their partner’s products or services.

Businesses benefit because they're able to expand their reach to potential customers by partnering with affiliate marketers. The marketers benefit because they earn commission for successfully encouraging their audience to click or make a purchase. How's that for a win-win situation?

The Players:

  1. Advertiser/Seller—pays to have another person (referred to here as the promoter/affiliate marketer/partner) promote a good or service through that person’s content
  2. Promoter/Affiliate Marketer—is paid a commission for promoting an affiliate’s product and converting their audience
  3. Consumer—buys the seller’s product through the recommendation of the affiliate marketer
  4. Affiliate Network (Optional)—acts as a liaison between sellers with affiliate marketers

Where Can I Find an Advertiser?

Woman with laptop and cosmetics in background

Sometimes, sellers will reach out directly to content creators in their niche and ask them to promote their product. More often, however, affiliate marketers go through an affiliate network which connects the seller and the marketer in a symbiotic relationship. Because the network acts as a intermediary between the two sides, it clears up some of the messy logistical issues that tend to pop up.

The network also acts as a database of products that the marketer can browse and choose from to promote, allowing you to have control over which products you want to promote.

Some popular affiliate networks include:

How Do I Promote an Affiliate Link?

Most affiliate marketing guides will tell you that affiliate marketing is a great way to make money when you don’t have a product. I don’t think of it that way.

If you want to be a successful affiliate marketer, you need to think of content as your product, and you make money by selling that content to advertisers. If your content sucks, affiliate marketing won't work for you.

With that being said, there are certainly some glaring mistakes that many affiliate marketers make when they first start out, and bad marketing manners are guaranteed to make your audience jump ship. (Miss Manners would be ashamed.) To make sure you're not turning off you audience through your promotion, follow these simple rules of etiquette:

1. Don’t force a sale. (That’s the advertiser’s job.)

If you create content solely with monetization in mind, you will fail. No one wants to buy a substandard product, and no one wants to read a blog post that does not add value to their life. Sure, promote the products you like, but don’t try to be a salesman.

2. Don’t over-promote or over-promise.

Be honest! Your recommendations reflect you as an authority. Put yourself in your readers’ shoes, and imagine that you are browsing a woodworking blog for tips on a project. In one post, the blogger suggests a tool to make the job easier and provides a link to the product. However, after purchasing the tool, you see that it’s shoddily-made and falls apart after one use. Are you going to trust that blogger for any advice in the future? Hell no. You reputation is everything. Don’t put it in jeopardy by over-promising, and if the product isn’t up to your standards, don’t promote it.

3. Partner with brands that are relevant to your audience.

If you run a baking blog, partner with a manufacturer of baking products. If you run a fashion blog, partner with a clothing store. It’s that simple, but some affiliate marketers get greedy. Shilling any old product is a great way to lose your audience. Your main goal should always be to provide value. If a product doesn’t add value to your specific audience, don’t promote it.

4. Disclose affiliation.

Not all affiliate marketers choose to disclose the fact that they are paid commission based on their audience’s purchases. However, transparency is trending, and consumers appreciate the honesty. Simply let your audience know that, although you're getting paid to promote a product, you'd recommend it regardless (which, as I already mentioned, should be the case).

Try It for Yourself

Now that you know the "what,"where," and "how" of affiliate marketing, it's time to get out there and give it a shot. If you already blog or make videos, then affiliate marketing is a great way to start making money off your hobby. And, if you aren't already creating content, don't worry. There's a niche out there for everyone. (Seriously, I've seen people writing about everything from children's toys to microwavable meals.) Just find something you're passionate about, and get started.

About the Author

Mike Speer is a digital marketing executive at Michael’s Wilder. He shares his experiences with entrepreneurship, creative marketing, and balancing a hectic work schedule with his life as a devoted husband and father.

Reach out, and say “Hi!” on Instagram | Facebook | Twitter or check out mikespeer.com for more content.

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