What Is Affiliate Marketing? – A Beginners Guide

What is affiliate marketing? I can remember the first time I came across the concept of affiliate marketing, it seemed like the ultimate online business model where you could earn huge amounts of money while doing the minimal amount of work.

It seemed too good to be true and unfortunately, in my case it was, not because the business model didn’t work, it does but I was introduced to it with all the wrong information.

You see, my first encounter with the idea of affiliate marketing was through a digital MLM company, I was taught all the wrong lessons from this company and I never really progressed or fully understood affiliate marketing.

I just wanted to make lots of money very quickly and this is what the MLM company told me I could do with their training.

Suffice to say, I was hugely disappointed that I didn’t earn a six-figure income within a few months but I did learn some  very valuable lessons, they are;

1. Never make it all about earning huge amounts of money.

2. Your primary goal is to help people

3. Never get sucked into get rich quick schemes.

4. Success doesn’t happen overnight 

You see, affiliate marketing is one of the easiest ways to start an online business, you literally just need a decent laptop and a good internet connection to get started.

However, please remember just because it is easy to get started, does not mean that success will come easy and this is where you will have to be on your guard against those who try and sell you get rich quick schemes.

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However,despite all the negative things that have become associated with affiliate marketing, it is still one of the most newbie friendly ways to start an online business.

So, what exactly is affiliate marketing? There are many complex explanations around the web, I like to keep things simple.

Affiliate marketing is when a company or an individual pays you a commission to generate sales and leads for their products or services. Think of it as a referral system in which the more referrals you send to a company,the more you earn as an affiliate.

Here is how affiliate marketing works;

  1. You find a product or service that you enjoy and would like to promote
  2. Find a company that has an affiliate program
  3. Become an affiliate
  4. Promote the product through your unique affiliate link
  5. Get paid for every sale you generate

what is affiliate marketing

The concept of affiliate marketing predates the internet age, but the internet is where affiliate marketing took off.

With companies looking for more ways to expand their online reach and individuals looking to make money online, affiliate marketing provides a way to achieve both.

Affiliate marketing usually involves three or four parties:

The Advertiser (Or Merchant)  – the company or individual that sells the product/service, could be a Fortune 500 company or it could be a solopreneur. The biggest affiliate program is run by Amazon,they opened up their associate program in 1996 and is usually the go-to network for all new affiliate marketers.

The Affiliate  – the individual or company that promotes the product/service. Affiliates could be anyone, from large online magazines to individual bloggers also known as solopreneurs.

The Consumer – The final destination of the affiliate marketing journey is convincing your target audience to take action which will result in a commission. It is usually good practice for affiliate marketers to let their audience know that they will be compensated if anyone buys something through their link. Some affiliate programs like Amazons require you to do this somewhere on your website.

The Affiliate Network – Sometimes companies who want to run an affiliate program will outsource the process to a third party affiliate network. These networks will take care of providing the materials,affiliate links,guidance and even tutorials on running effective affiliate campaigns. They are also responsible for payments to affiliates. Affiliate networks have a massive database of affiliate programs in multiple verticals,to join is free but usually, you will need approval from the merchant if you want to promote a particular program.

Some well-known affiliate networks include

  • Maxbounty
  • Peerfly
  • CJ Affiliate
  • Clickbank
  • AWIN
  • AvantLink

FAQ’s About Affiliate Marketing

Can you really make money with affiliate marketing?

Yes you can and many people do make a good living from affiliate marketing, some even make over six figures annually.

There are many successful affiliate marketers who have documented their journey, many of the most successful affiliate blogs that I visit are listed below.

Pat Flynn 

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Charles NGO

Luke Kling

Matthew Woodward

Authority Hacker

Spencer Haws

Shout Me Loud

Can affiliate marketing earn you passive income?

Yes, it can, but only after you have established yourself.

There are no shortcuts in this industry, despite what you may see on places like Warrior forum, JVZOO and Warrior +, you will not become rich within a month by following push button methods.

After you have established your website and have consistent traffic coming in, you will start to earn money on autopilot, however, nothing is completely ever passive. You will still need to maintain your website, add content and keep everything updated.

Is affiliate marketing a pyramid scheme?

No affiliate marketing is not a pyramid scheme,it is a perfectly legitimate system for businesses to attain customers and earn money.

However, I do understand why people may think this and this goes back to my earlier point about get rich quick schemes flooding the affiliate marketing scene.

It also does not help that MLM companies try and disguise their pay to play recruitment system as affiliate marketing. A general rule in life that will stop you from getting conned is to not fall for get rich quick schemes.

How to start affiliate marketing

1.Niche Research

Your first task will be to Identify a niche market,this is a very important part of affiliate marketing and should never be rushed. Finding a good niche that is not saturated with established brands or affiliate marketers will give you a better chance at success.

In marketing, a niche is simply finding an audience that you could help by providing solutions to their needs.

There are many ways to identify a niche,I personally start with keyword research. Carrying out thorough keyword research will give you a good idea of how popular your niche is.

Other methods include:

  • Checking Amazons bestselling products
  • Analysing Google trends
  • Trend analysing websites
  • Top selling products on the major affiliate networks
  • Niche forums

You should never go broad when trying to find your niche, for example, if you love sports (like I do), you should never target stuff like football, tennis, athletics etc, these are very broad niches and will very difficult for you to break into.

Instead, try to narrow down, so the competition isn’t as fierce for example, if I was to start a niche website around sports, I would consider the following for a niche site:

  • Lebron vs Michael – A debate that is settled with me (MJ all the way) but there are people who think differently.
  • Basketball game for kids
  • How to play tennis
  • Tennis for beginners
  • Golfing holidays
  • Golfing for kids

Of course, you will have different passions and interests but I hope you get the idea of how to come up with niche ideas.

Another thing to remember is that sometimes you will not find niche opportunities that are aligned with your interests, this is why you may have to broaden your search and look outside of the areas that you are passionate about.

Free LessonHow To Choose Your Niche

2.Build Your Website

Now that you have chosen your niche, it is time to get your website up and running.

Don’t worry if this part scares you a little, building a website is probably one of the easiest parts when starting an affiliate marketing business.

Gone are the days when it was required of you to know HTML, CSS and a few other web programming languages to build a functioning website.

With the rise of content management systems like WordPress (my preferred platform), Joomla, Drupal and others, it has become easy to create websites with no prior knowledge.

There are a variety of reasons I prefer WordPress over the other CMS, but the main reason is that it’s very easy to learn. Also, it is free and there are a ton of tutorials to help you get started.

You will need a domain name and hosting, a domain is simply your web address and hosting is where your web files will be stored and accessed by you and people wanting to visit your site.

Although many companies provide both domain name service and hosting,I always advise people to have separate providers for both.

This is because you do not want to be locked down with one host just in case you want to move to a better one when your websites start to attract more traffic.

For domain name I usually use Namecheap, they provide one of the cheapest rates for domain registration and also offer one year of free WHOIS guards protection.

For hosting, I use Wealthy Affiliate, who provide premium WordPress hosting at a very affordable price.

However, if you want a cheaper hosting service I highly recommend BlueHost, they provide good WordPress hosting and are actually recommended by WordPress.

One of the many reasons I choose Wealthy Affiliate to host my sites is because they have a fantastic website builder called SiteRubix.

SiteRubix is a powerful website builder that lets you easily create WordPress websites with little hassle. You can have a mobile-friendly website up and running in under a minute.

Of course, building a website is fun but without high-quality content, there would be no reason for people to visit your site, which brings us to our next task, content creation.

Free LessonHow To Build A Website

3.Create High-Quality Content

In 1996 Microsoft CEO and the Worlds second richest man, Bill Gates, penned an essay titled ‘Content Is King’ in it he predicted that much of the money made on the internet will be through content creation. He wasn’t wrong!!

High-quality content is what will drive traffic to your site,it is what people want when they search for a solution to their queries. It is also what Google looks for when they rank websites.

You want to establish yourself as an authority in your chosen niche and the only way to do that is through authoritative content.

I will be honest with you,this is the most time consuming part of affiliate marketing and if you hate writing (like I do) it can get frustrating. However,if you put in the time and effort to producing high quality content,the rewards will be more than worth it.

Before writing any kind of content,you will have to do some research into your audience.

There are a few ways you can do this,my favourite is keyword research. Basically, keyword research is finding out what your customers are searching for online, you can then use this information to write your content.

There are a few tools both free and paid that will help you with keyword research,I use a variety of tools.

For keyword research, I use Jaaxy, which comes free with a premium membership of Wealthy Affiliate. I also use KWfinder,which is a fantastic SEO tool.

I also make use of the following websites to help with content research

Popular content ideas for affiliate marketing websites include the following

  • Product Reviews
  • Best of lists
  • Tutorials and guides

However,not all niches are the same and you will have to do your own research to see what kind of content works for your niche.

When you have found your content ideas, it is time to start producing some high quality articles.

Free LessonHow To Create High-Quality Content

4.Attract Visitors

There is no point in producing high-quality content if no one sees it, which bring us to our next task, which is attracting your audience to visit your website.

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

There are many methods to do this, one of the most popular ways for affiliate marketers in building an audience is through SEO. Search Engine Optimisation takes a while to see results, but if done properly it can bring you consistent traffic and passive income.

SEO is a process of optimising your content for search engines, explaining SEO is beyond the scope of this article,however, I have linked to a few resources that will aid you in better understanding SEO and good SEO practices.

Getting Your Site SEO Ready

Creating Keyword Rich Content

Social Media Marketing

Social Media provides ones of the easiest paths to attracting visitors to your site. Unlike,SEO where you have to wait for Google to rank your site,with social media the people are already there.

Although it’s good to have a presence on all the major social media platforms,my advise would be to first find out which social media platform best works for your niche. You can find this out by investigating your competitors and seeing which platform sends them the most traffic.

After you have mastered one social media channel,you can then move onto the other ones. This is not to say that you shouldn’t have a presence on all of them,you definitely should but do not waste time trying master traffic generation with all of them.


If you are good in front of a camera,you should definitely utilise video sites like YouTube,Vimeo and Dailymotion to drive traffic.YouTube is the second largest search engine (behind its parent company,Google) so should definitely think about utilising the huge platform to drive traffic.

You also have the option of paid advertising,however I would advise you to only go this route if you have a large budget. Paid advertising takes a lot of testing and if you are not careful you can burn through a lot of money quite quickly without getting a positive ROI.

5. Find and Promote Affiliate Offers

Now that you have a website with a decent amount of content, it is time to find and promote affiliate offers.

There are many places you can search, however I always advise new affiliate marketers to start with Amazons associate program.

It is easy to get accepted and as Amazon sells nearly everything, there will be something in your niche that you could promote.

There is a reason that Amazon is the biggest online retailer and that is because people trust them. So, as long as you can get people from your site to Amazon,a decent percentage of your traffic will be converted into buyers which means more commissions for you.

If you do not want to use Amazons associate program, don’t worry there are plenty of other networks, many of which have superb offers and high commission rates.

I have already mentioned some of the more popular networks near the beginning of this article,I will mention a few more;

  • eBay Partner Network
  • Rakuten
  • Shareasale
  • Clickbooth
  • CPALead
  • Commissionsoup

One other good way to find affiliate programs is to google the following

“Your niche + affiliate programs”

So for example;

Tennis affiliate program

Golf affiliate program

Basketball affiliate program

One other piece of advise I want to give is not to stress too much about the commission rate, many new affiliate marketers only look to promote products with high commission rates because that is what they have been told by the gurus.

Yes, it is nice to have large commissions but if your focus is always on just making big commissions and not helping your audience, that is a road to failure.

If you know the product/service will help your visitors, promote it , even if it does have a low commission rate. As long as your providing fantastic content and promoting good offers, your customers will trust you and continually purchase from your recommendations.

6.Repeat the Process

Now that you have high-quality content and promoting good affiliate offers, your goal is to repeat the whole process. You want to build a brand where people trust you and buy whatever you promote, the way to do that is to consistently produce high-quality content and grow your following.

Affiliate marketing can provide you with a life-changing income, however, there is a lot of work to be done before that is possible and a lot of that work involves being consistent 


Affiliate marketing is a legitimate way to start an online business, it is easy to start but will take time and a lot of effort to see success.

The key is to be consistent and treat it as a real business, do not fall prey to gurus who tell you that they have the secret to affiliate marketing riches.

There is no secret, everything you need to succeed with affiliate marketing can be found online for free, however, if you are a lot like me and need a structured training program to help you get started, I do highly recommend Wealthy Affiliate.

Not only do they provide up to date training but you will also have access to some of the best tools and services that you will need to start an affiliate business.

Ready to change your life and start an online business? Click on the button below and create a free account with Wealthy Affiliate and join the largest affiliate marketing community on the internet.

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21 thoughts on “What Is Affiliate Marketing? – A Beginners Guide”

  1. I learned a few good stuff from your article. As a new blogger, there are still areas where I am confused about traffic generation. It’s good to know that affiliate marketers are out there to provide values through content.

    I’ve only been using Google Instant and a keyword tool to generate ideas, but saw that you’ve listed more alternative site for me to check out. It never crossed my mind that you could use YouTube for that, so thanks for the tips.

  2. It’s so important to just FOCUS on one traffic source at a time. It’s especially tempting to spread ourselves out too thin because we want immediate gratification but like you said, that doesn’t work. I’ve tried.

    So instead, I have to remind myself to focus on one method at a time. The hardest part of building any type of online business is patience! It’s never an overnight success, far from it and you make sure to point that out. I think that’s what gets most people discouraged because they’re not mentally prepared for the long haul that is affiliate marketing. When you get good at driving traffic to one thing, then you can “rinse and repeat” to create multiple streams of income. But getting that first steady flow is the hardest of all.

    What did you first focus on when you started promoting your first affiliate offer?

    • Hi Annette

      You are so right,when people realise that starting an online business takes time,many just give up. My main strategy is and always will be SEO. It takes longer than all other forms of traffic generation methods but if you have a good SEO strategy ,the long term benefits of free targeted traffic from the search engines is worth it.

      Thanks for your comment and all the best

  3. I am a new affiliate marketer and was looking for affiliate programs to join and promote. I see that you have a few here that I didn’t know about so thanks for sharing this within this post. A lot of people just go to Amazon and ClickBank, and I am their affiliate already. I was looking for more though, as I know there are tons of affiliate programs out there.

    • H Reyhana
      Thanks for your comment and I am glad you found my article helpful. There are way more affiliate networks out there,the ones I have mentioned are just more well known.

      All the best

  4. Hi Minhaj,

    Thank you so much for this guide. I really enjoyed reading it. I have heard about affiliate marketing before but I never really understood it. Therefore, I decided to look a little deeper into it. That’s how I found your article and I have to say that you do an excellent job explaining affiliate marketing!

  5. This is such an in depth explanation of affiliate marketing ! Thank you !

    I think it is often overlooked that all online businesses require hard work, and that includes affiliate marketing. I like your guide on blogging to promote affiliate products, but I was wondering, is it possible to make money doing affiliate marketing with paid traffic?

  6. Another good article more I have read in this blog, for us bloggers that we are starting sometimes is very difficult to differentiate which marketing affiliates can be the best for us.

    What I read is that there are some who force you to make purchases or pay a certain amount of money to be able to have them as members, fortunately something like this has not happened to me.

    The information I read here seems very true and very helpful.

    Thank you again.

  7. I think you hit the nail on the head. These bad apples have caused the entire tree to be labelled as bad. Affiliate marketing is as you said, simply referring people to companies offering a product or service, and then getting paid a small percentage by the company for telling the customer about them.

    I think it is quite honest as everybody is (or should be) aware of of what is going on. It is in an affiliates best interest to be honest and transparent at all times because if you are not people will see through you and simply go somewhere else.

  8. I didn’t know that MLM companies were starting to call their programs affiliate marketing. It’s a shame, because real affiliate marketing is a legitimate business opportunity, whereas MLM is undoable in most cases. The products are  normally outrageously priced, and one has to put together a downline of thousands of people in order to make a living from it. Most MLM participants spend more money on the program than they earn, if they earn anything.

  9. I set a goal for myself to never stop learning and even when i think i have understood a certain principle to always look out for some additional knowledge. And that is exactly what i got here, it is so refreshing to reach this article ! I will explore more closely the video option of creating traffic for my website. Thank you as well for all the examples to the successful marketers, very inspiring and again more to learn 🙂

  10. People new to the internet world have this illusion that they will make money overnight. I know differently now and your blog has just confirmed this. I agree with you we need to build trust with our readers and above you should provide a service and or a product that will be of great benefit to your prospect. Once you have that in place your customers will become repeat customers year after year.

  11. This is a complete educative information about affiliate marketing. I was wrong in my idea of affiliate marketing until I read your post that reshape my thinking about affiliate marketing. I have been doing affiliate marketing all these while but earn nothing but I know if I apply what I learnt from this post , I am very sure that things we start rossy for me in affiliate marketing. Decide my niches, get good keyword , and pick best domain and hosting which I know wealthy affiliate can do , will kick start my career at affiliate marketing. I find a link at the bottom of your post on wealthy affiliate which I think is the best company to start affiliate marketing with.

  12. Hi there, 

    This is quite an insightful read and a great article on Affiliate Marketing. As an aspiring internet marketer, I found this useful because it helps me open up my mind of what Affiliate Marketing is all about and that it takes time for it to earn income, and gain some ideas on where to find other available affiliate programs.

  13. You have given people million dollar advice.  As a member of Wealthy Affiliate myself I to fell for many of these get rich quick schemes in the past.  My advice to anyone reading is that you cant go wrong with Wealthy Affiliate.  If you are serious about earning online then you need to get involved now.

  14. Hi Minhaj, you have excellent and refreshingly honest information here! I work in affiliate marketing myself and like you I know that it isn’t a get rich quick scheme. It requires systematic and longer term thinking to build it up over time.  

    I get my sites hosted through Wealthy Affiliate as I love their SiteRubix website builder. 

    I’m not familiar with KWFinder so I’ll check that out, thank you for the tip. So far I have found Jaaxy to be excellent but I’m always happy to hear about new tools and resources to help me in my affiliate marketing endeavours. Thanks Minhaj and all the best to you.

    • Hi Melissa

      Thanks for your comment, KWFinder is a fantastic tool, they do have a free membership with limited searches per day, you should definitely check it out.

      All the best

  15. Hi Minhaj,
    After reading your articles i must say you have quite the grip over your niche. I am grateful for the guides you are putting up for newbies like me, the details are just mind blowing.
    I hope you can help me out with affiliate marketing related issue because i am considering to integrate with it ASAP.
    Actually, I am an blogger too, but my blog is only content based running on adsense alone and even though it’s been just a year and some, i have recently generated a lot of traffic and earned good followings too. I want to introduce my blog to affiliates/affiliate marketing and if you can help me out here a little bit, that would be great.
    I need to know which affiliate program would be better for me as my contents are multi niche based and there are so many options out there that it has become an headache to choose one decent and hassle free program. Some of those program which are providing that kinda data are too hard to work with or even get approved.
    Here in UK we have many programs like this one company that i came across offering free CMS tools and 100 % commission on sales made IF subscribed to their stores data feed. revglue.com/free-wordpress-plugins here is the address to their plugins, if you guide me through a little bit, that would really be great and helpful.
    Any suggestions are welcomed and appreciated.


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