This post about how to start affiliate marketing was updated as of September 2020 to ensure accuracy and relevancy.
It was 11pm on a dreary night in Bangkok.
It was about a week before I’d have to flee the country due to the crackdown, and I already had to leave my apartment due to gunfire and grenades going off constantly for 48 hours. (Seriously, true story).
My (now) good friends Derek and Clay had an apartment across town that they’d just moved into. Despite only knowing them for a brief period of time they let me come crash for a few days while I figured out my next steps.
While all of this was happening, Chris Guillebeau was launching his latest product called the Empire Building Kit. Among other things, it featured an email a day for a year and was designed to help you build a business during that time.
I’d hardly done anything during the previous year to monetize Location Rebel (then Location 180). But when this was released, I figured “why not?” and wrote a review talking about how cool the program was.
I went down the street to grab a coffee and when I came back and refreshed my inbox it was 11:05 – 5 minutes after the sale began.
I refreshed my email as soon as I got back, and I couldn’t believe my eyes.
There were 4 emails, each of them saying “Sean Ogle You’ve Just Referred a Sale! You’ve earned a commission of $126.99.”
In a matter of 5 minutes, I’d made $500.
I’d never made money like this via my website before. But it was that moment that I truly understood the power of building an audience and monetizing it through affiliate links.
In this post I’m going to walk you through everything you need to know to start affiliate marketing on your blog, even if you’ve never made a cent online before, don’t have a huge audience, or even if you haven’t started to build your website.
We’ve obviously got a lot of work to do, so let’s get going!
Table of Contents
How to Start Affiliate Marketing for Beginners
This is one of the most in depth videos I’ve shot on how to start affiliate marketing, so tune in while you read this post:
What is Affiliate Marketing?
This is one of the most common questions we receive, and it’s actually quite simple:
Affiliate marketing is a way for you (the affiliate) to earn a commission for recommending products or services to your friends or readers.
To simplify it, here’s the 5 step process for how to start affiliate marketing:
- You find a product you want to promote
- Do a search for “product name” affiliate program. If it’s on Amazon, you can also promote it
- Sign up for their affiliate program
- You get a special link that allows the merchant to track the people who clicked your link
- If they buy the product, you get a commission.
Pretty simple, right?
It can get much more advanced, but in this post, we’re just going to start with the fundamentals and get you to the point where you’re ready to make your first commission.
Check out our more detailed post for a bit more about the specifics of what affiliate marketing is.
How Does Affiliate Marketing Work?
There are a lot of different ways to track affiliates these days, but all are based on someone clicking your special tracking link.
The most common and basic type of tracking is via a cookie.
When an affiliate link is clicked, a small file called a cookie is stored on the users computer. Then they buy a product, the merchant can see that they were referred by you.
There are also more advanced methods based on the email used or IP address – but we won’t get into those here, we’ll stick to the
Here’s How to Start Affiliate Marketing on Your Blog in 8 Steps:
- Step 1: Create a Website or A Blog
- Step 2: Choose an Industry, and then Niche Down
- Step 3: Research Products in Your Niche that You Can Review
- Step 4: Sign Up for the Amazon Affiliate Program
- Step 5: Find affiliate programs for the other products you want to review
- Step 6: Create content in the form of tutorials, review posts, resource pages or emails and use your affiliate link
- Step 7: Optimize the page and track your rankings in Google
- Step 8: Rinse and Repeat!
We’ll cover all of these steps (and more) in detail in this post, but it’s important to understand the general process from the beginning.
How to Make Your First Dollar Through Affiliate Marketing
There are lots of approaches to making money with affiliate links. But if I was just beginning to learn how to become an affiliate marketer, and needed to say, make hundred bucks this week? This video shows you step by step, exactly how I’d do it:
One of the things I love about this type of monetization is that affiliate marketing for beginners is actually really easy to jump into (even without a bunch of technical knowledge).
Then as your site grows and your marketing skills grow you can begin to learn more advanced strategies and tactics.
How Much Money Can You Make With Affiliate Marketing?
The amount you can make will vary wildly – it honestly falls somewhere between zero and millions.
Your income will be directly related to the type of offers you promote, how much traffic you get to the site, and your grasp of other online marketing skills like email marketing and SEO.
But in this post you’ll get a pretty good sense of the earning potential from different types of promotions.
How Do You Become an Affiliate Marketer?
Here’s the thing, you can pick just about any product that you can buy online, and there will be an affiliate program that will pay you a finders fee for referring a sale.
However, just because you can promote anything, doesn’t mean you should.
The most important thing to consider when selecting a product to market is, “is it relevant to your audience?”
For instance, for me to try and advertise for dumbbells on Location Rebel probably isn’t the smartest thing, because 99% of my audience could care less about them.
However, for me to promote, say, WP Engine a WordPress hosting company – makes much more sense, since almost every one of my readers either has or has considered starting a website.
And just recently, we promoted Streak as an awesome tool for freelancers to use to monitor leads right from their inbox. Once again, that’s something that speaks directly to the audience.
Questions to Ask Before Promoting an Affiliate Product
When I’m trying to decide what to promote I always ask myself the following questions:
- Do I use this product?
- Will the vast majority of my readers benefit from using this product?
- Is the buying process easy?
- Is there a good affiliate commission rate? (Not always necessary)
If I answer yes to each of these questions, then it’s probably a good fit and worth promoting.
Action Item: Make a list of products that you use that you think your blog audience would benefit from using as well. Try to think of as many as you can.
And remember, these can include complementary products as well. If you write about travel, for instance, you can include tons of complementary products like luggage, headphones, backpacks, and clothing too.
Start Affiliate Marketing: Physical Products vs. Information Products vs. Services
Ok, you should have an idea of which products you might want to promote – now it’s time to decide which of those are the best fit for you and your audience.
There are three different types of affiliate products you can promote:
- Physical Products
- Information Products
Each of these has pros and cons, and we’re going to look at those now.
Amazon Affiliate Marketing: How to Market Physical Products
Physical products are probably the easiest thing to promote for one reason, and one reason only: Amazon.
Amazon has the world’s largest affiliate program, and once you sign up, you can get a link for any product on the site, earn a (small) commission on it!
Check it out using this example from my site Breaking Eighty, a golf bag.
So you see at the very top there I have my Amazon Associates links. What I do is type the item into the the search box and then click on the type of link I want (usually text).
Here it is in action.
I type ‘golf bag’ into the search box.
And then, once I’m on the page of the bag I want to highlight in my review I click ‘text’ from the Get Link bar at the top.
You’ll see that there will be a store and tracking ID (I’ve blocked these) and then in the text box, a shortened link that will go right to this golf bag.
Anytime someone clicks that link, their cookie is recorded in Amazon as coming from me, so when they buy something I will get a small % of commission.
Pretty cool, right?
Well, yes and no.
Commission rates on physical products are notoriously low, due to all of the factors that go into selling them (manufacturing, wholesaling, shipping, etc). And in 2017, they made a few changes to the rate structure.
Then in April of 2020 they made even more drastic changes to commission rates.
Here’s a look at part of the rate table today. You can check this link for a full listing of the rate information.
So you can earn a 4% commission on a lot of stuff, as high as 10% on luxury and fashion, and as low as 1% on video games.
Even if you’re selling thousands of items a month, you’re still making less than a 10% commission. Because of this, I know a ton of people who make a little bit of money off of Amazon affiliate websites, but few who make thousands.
Average Physical Product Commissions: 1-10%. Anything over 10% is very good.
How to Sign Up for Amazon’s Partner Program
Signing up for Amazon’s affiliate program is an excellent starting point.
Because the chances are good you already use Amazon, are familiar with it, and your readers are too.
You can sign up and get links immediately from the Amazon Affiliate program right here.
If you want to find affiliate programs for specific companies, I would start with Flex Offers.
Many of the largest companies work with them (for instance many of the golf companies I work with), and building a relationship with a larger affiliate network can lead to more opportunities that you might not have found otherwise.
We did a whole post on Amazon affiliate marketing if you want to learn more about how to get started. Just keep in mind, this was shot before the most recent rate decrease.
If you’re serious about Amazon affiliate marketing? I’d recommend you check out “The Affiliate Marketing Video Course” it’s a small investment, and the dude behind it is the smartest affiliate marketer I know. I can’t recommend the course highly enough.
Quick Tip on Promoting Physical Products
If you want to promote physical products, there’s probably a better place to do it than Amazon over the long term if your niche is somewhat specialized.
Amazon is tough because they have a 24 hour cookie. That means that if someone clicks your link, and then buys anything, anytime within the next 24 hours you get the commission.
This is an extremely short period of time. Compare it to some other affiliate programs where the time frame can be it 90 days or more.
For instance, when I’m promoting golf products for