Affiliate Marketing for Beginners: The Basics

Affiliate marketing is a popular and effective tactic for boosting conversions, driving sales, and ultimately earning a passive income online. However, considering that it's such a dynamic and expansive field, figuring out where and how to get started can feel overwhelming.

Fortunately, all it takes is some simple guidance and research. Once you understand the basics of affiliate marketing for beginners and how it works, you can use it to your advantage and increase the income you earn through your website.

In this post, we’ll begin by discussing what affiliate marketing is and its benefits. Then we'll explain how it works, and provide you with some tips for getting started. Let’s jump in!

An Introduction to Affiliate Marketing for Beginners

In short, affiliate marketing is a strategy in which a brand pays a commission to affiliates based on sales generated through their referrals. The key parties involved are:

  • Sellers (sometimes referred to as merchants, retailers, or brands) can range from individual entrepreneurs to global enterprises. They are the creators of the products or services being promoted and sold.
  • Affiliates (also referred to as publishers or advertisers) promote the seller’s products to their audiences by using affiliate links and ads. If their promotion or referral leads to a sale, they earn a commission from the seller.
  • Customers purchase the product or service from the seller based on the affiliate’s referral.

Essentially, affiliate marketing is a form of profit-sharing between sellers and advertisers. The commission earned comes out of the product price, so it doesn't create an additional cost to the customer.

Whether you participate in affiliate marketing as a merchant or an affiliate, there are many advantages when compared to other types of marketing. One of the biggest draws is the amount of control and flexibility available.

For example, a merchant can create an affiliate marketing program based on the products and services of their choosing, while affiliates can decide which programs to participate in. The shared goal is getting product promotions in front of relevant audiences who are likely to convert.

Affiliate links and banner ads are often used in informative, appealing, and engaging ways that are actually useful to users, such as through video tutorials or product reviews:

An example of a product review video that contains affiliate marketing content.

Affiliate marketing is also cost-effective. Most affiliate programs are free to join, and operate on a performance-based system. This means that commissions are earned only when a consumer completes the intended action (a purchase, sign-up, etc.).

How Affiliate Marketing Programs Work

When you sign up for an affiliate marketing program, you’re issued a unique ID and a trackable URL to use in your content promoting the merchant’s product(s). When a user clicks on your affiliate link or banner ad, it adds a cookie to the user’s browser.

If you click on an affiliate link or ad, you might notice the referral code or identifier within the URL. Generally, the link looks longer than it would if you were to visit the merchant’s page directly:

An example of an Amazon Affiliate referral code in the browser URL.

As an affiliate program manager, you would use these special IDs to verify the referral source of a customer. In other words, these codes are critical for confirming and crediting affiliate partners.

Not all affiliate programs operate the same way, of course. Some common commission models include:

  • Pay Per Click (PPC): Affiliates earn credit any time a consumer clicks on their affiliate links.
  • Pay Per Sale (PPS): An affiliate earns a percentage of the referred sale.
  • Pay Per Lead (PPL): If an affiliate’s link results in a qualified lead, they receive a fixed commission.

Ultimately, the structure and terms depend on whether you’re using a self-hosted program or an affiliate marketing network. Networks such as Commission Junction and ShareASale are popular places to get started.

These third-party services act as an intermediary between sellers and affiliates. Although they can help with finding and managing affiliate accounts, they don’t offer as much control or autonomy as self-hosted programs, such as what you can operate through Affiliate Royale.

With the latter, you can create your own program and exercise complete control — and it's simpler that working with a third-party service.

Tips for Getting Started With Affiliate Marketing

If you’re interested in getting started with affiliate marketing, the first decision you need to make is whether you want to participate as a merchant or an affiliate. The side of the affiliate marketing relationship you’re more interested in will influence your next steps.

For example, if you’re a blogger or have a large social media following, becoming an affiliate partner to other companies and brands can be incredibly lucrative. Not only will it help you earn money online, but it can also help to grow your confidence and familiarity with affiliate marketing programs, perhaps even paving the way to starting your own.

To begin, it's smart to make a list of the brands and products you're most passionate about, and brainstorm potential affiliate programs you might join. You can check the website of your favorite brands to see whether they offer an affiliate program (this information is usually listed in the footer):

The footer of the MemberPress website.

On the other hand, if you are a business owner with existing products or services to sell, starting your own affiliate marketing program makes the most sense. If you do decide an affiliate program is right for your business, the next step is to launch your affiliate site.

Fortunately, our own affiliate program plugin can make doing this quick and easy:

The Affiliate Royale WordPress plugin website.

Built to simplify affiliate marketing for beginners, our all-in-one management plugin comes with all the features and functionality needed to set up and run an affiliate program. This includes a personalized dashboard for affiliates, shopping cart integration, banner and link creation, and more.

Conclusion

Whether you're interested in promoting other companies' products to earn a passive income, or you want to grow your own business through a network of talented publishers and advertisers, affiliate marketing can help. Although the structure, pricing, and terms vary by program, there are plenty of ways to get started.

As we discussed in this post, as an affiliate partner you have the opportunity to earn a commission every time someone uses your affiliate link. We recommend looking into affiliate or referral programs offered by your favorite brands. If you're ready to create your own program, our Affiliate Royale plugin can simplify and streamline the process.

Do you have any questions about getting started with affiliate marketing? Let us know in the comments!

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