Do you want to escape the monotony of the 9 to 5?
What if you could earn money from anywhere, at any time, and without the overheads and responsibility of stocking and shipping products?
That’s what affiliate marketing empowers you to do.
Affiliate marketing is the process where you earn a commission for promoting other people’s products. You find a product you like, promote the product on your website, and receive a commission for every sale that you generate.
1. Join an affiliate marketing program.
2. Choose a great product you want to promote and receive an affiliate link.
3. Share the affiliate link on your website or on social media.
4. Somebody clicks your link, purchases the product, and you receive a commission on the sale.
At its base level, that’s how affiliate marketing works.
Affiliate marketing has seen a massive boom in popularity over the last decade. If we look at Google Trends, we can see that searches for affiliate marketing have nearly quadrupled over the previous five years.
Despite it being a rapidly growing industry, affiliate marketing has been around for a long time.
Back in 1989, three events changed the world forever.
In Germany, the Berlin wall came down, signifying the end of the cold war.
In Switzerland, the British software engineer Tim Berners-Lee created the royalty-free World Wide Web and the internet as we know it came into existence.
In the USA, the entrepreneur William J. Tobin founded the PC Flowers & Gifts company - the first brand ever to use an affiliate marketing program.
In just two years, PC Flowers & Gifts generated $6m in sales. By 1998, William J. Tobin had nearly 3000 affiliates promoting his products.
As with every innovation in digital marketing, Amazon was quick to notice the opportunity affiliate marketing presented. Amazon Associates was launched in 1996, and its template for affiliate marketing programs is the standard that still dominates the industry today.
Affiliate marketing has developed with the growth of the internet. With the rise of e-commerce at the end of the 90s, the boom of online publishing in the 2000s, and the ascent of the influencer and social media in the 2010s, affiliate marketing has blossomed into a $12 billion industry.
Affiliate marketing spending in the U.S. from 2010 to 2022:
Now, there are a lot of different types of affiliate websites out there, and lots of different ways you can make money by promoting other people’s products and services.
Creating your own website is an excellent option. You don’t need to make a significant investment to get started, and with so many WordPress themes and website builders out there, it doesn’t require extensive coding and web design experience.
Your job as an affiliate marketer is to help people find the products that will help them overcome problems, achieve their goals, and that offer the best value for money.
Let’s take a look at the different types of affiliate marketing websites and how they make money by helping people.
These websites help people choose the right products by providing reviews and comparisons. You can find product review websites covering every product under the sun. They offer comparisons, reader reviews, discuss the pros and cons, and more.
The goal of a product review website is to publish high-quality content that educates the reader, establishes trust, and develops a relationship with their audience.
The Wire Cutter is an excellent example of a product review website that helps its readers to determine the best products available in a wide variety of categories.
The Wire Cutter has built a solid reputation with its readers by conducting rigorous testing for every product review. Most of the reviews they publish are in-depth and are 1000s of words in length.
By comprehensively testing every product, people have come to trust the recommendations and reviews. When someone clicks a link in a product review and completes a purchase, the Wire Cutter receives a commission on the sale.
The Wire Cutter has built a massive audience of regular readers and was purchased by The New York Times for $30m in 2016.
Price comparison sites save people time and money by offering a quick way to compare the price of products online.
Founded by three university graduates back in 2001, Skyscanner has seen massive growth and was eventually purchased by Ctrip for $1.9b in 2016.
Skyscanner's sole focus is on helping people find the best value flights, hotels, and car rentals. When people find the best deal, they click the affiliate link and head over to the vendor's website to complete their purchase. The price comparison website earns a commission on the sales that they generate.
Personal blogs might not look like other affiliate websites on the list, but they still generate the vast majority of their income by promoting and recommending products to their readers.
Making Sense of Cents is a great example of a personal blog that publishes high-quality content to help people. It earns an affiliate income by recommending and promoting different products. Michelle created Making Sense of Cents to document her journey to pay off her student debts.
Personal blogs make money by publishing high-quality content to build an audience around a topic and recommending products to earn a commission.
In the case of Making Sense of Cents, Michelle makes money by promoting products and services around personal finance and making money online niches.
It’s a great example of a personal blog that has developed into a profitable online affiliate business.
While product review websites like The Wire Cutter cover lots of different categories, there are smaller review websites that cover everything in a single product niche.
HeadPhones Addict is focused solely on headphones.
Rather than publishing reviews in a host of different categories, niche review websites focus entirely on a single category. HeadPhones Addict has established itself as an authority on all things headphones and built a trusting audience. It earns commissions through affiliate links to headphone retailers.
Product review websites help people find the best products, price comparison websites help people find the best deals, and how-to websites help people to accomplish a task with step-by-step guides and tutorials.
Website Setup is a perfect example of a how-to website that has established itself as an authority in its field with in-depth and extensive content.
How-to websites earn a commission by including affiliate links to products and services that help people accomplish tasks.
In the case of Website Setup, it’s a how-to website that teaches everything you need to know to get a website up and running. They make money by promoting affiliate links for web hosting, domain purchasing, and more. The key to a successful how-to website is exceptional content and tutorials.
Coupon websites help people save both time and money by providing coupons and vouchers for everything from restaurants to e-commerce stores. The first paper-free voucher has launched by Coca Cola way back in 1881, and people have been crazy about discounts, exclusive deals, and coupons ever since.
Research from Hawk Incentives reveals that 92% of U.S. consumers claim to “always” be on the lookout for deals and discounts.
Voucher Codes is a perfect example of a high-quality coupon website.
Coupon websites make money by providing affiliate link deals and discounts to their visitors. When a user clicks on a discount or voucher, they are directed to the retailer's website, and the coupon website receives a commission on the sale.
Voucher Codes provides vouchers and codes for over 2,000 UK retailers, restaurants, attractions, and online shops - helping people save money with their purchases and earning an affiliate commission.
Helpful tools are a great way to attract people to your website and earn an affiliate income. While Money Saving Expert (MSE) focuses on personal finance, publishing in-depth reviews, blog posts, and price comparisons, it’s the sophisticated free tools on offer that generate so much traffic and affiliate income.
Originally a one-man website owned by Martin Lewis, MSE has grown to become the leading personal finance website in the UK. The site was sold to MoneySupermarket for £87m in 2012 but maintains its excellent reputation for helping people with their finances.
MSE offers a heap of excellent free personal finance tools to help people, and it generates a substantial income through affiliate links. From credit card eligibility calculators to helpful templates and comparison tools, MSE helps people get to grips with their finances and earns a considerable affiliate marketing commission.
As long as you consistently maintain a stream of traffic to your website and your affiliate links, you can make a decent income from affiliate marketing. While some people use it to supplement their existing income, lots of people go full time once they’ve built up their website and are generating significant streams of affiliate income.
But how much money do affiliate marketers make?
In 2017, VigLink conducted an in-depth survey to find out how much affiliate marketers earned in 2016. The results show that 9% of affiliate marketers made more than $50,000, and around 65% generated 5 to 20% of their total yearly income from affiliate marketing.
The survey also showed that the longer you have been affiliate marketing, the more money you are likely to earn per year - 60% of the highest-earning affiliate marketers have been running their affiliate business for five years or more.
The best affiliate marketers make $2m plus per year. In a 12 month period, Jason Stone achieved $7m in retail sales through affiliate marketing.
Affiliate marketing is a great way to make money online without any substantial financial investment. That’s not to say that it doesn’t require work. You need to be dedicated and remain hungry to learn if you’re going to succeed.
Your first step is to decide which affiliate program to join. There are heaps of affiliate programs out there, with some tied to the biggest brands like Apple and Amazon, and others acting as an affiliate marketplace with multiple products and retailers you can choose to promote.
The Amazon Affiliate Program is one of the best programs for beginners and experienced affiliate marketers alike with a smooth on-boarding process.
Whichever type of affiliate website you decide to create, the rules remain the same. Your job is to drive traffic to your website and your affiliate links. You do that by offering value and a reason for people to check out your website. Once you’ve got something worth people’s attention, there are plenty of free ways you can drive traffic to your site.
It’s essential that you track your performance. Keep an eye on what’s bringing in sales and which products aren’t appealing to your audience. However you choose to promote your affiliate links, focus on helping your audience, and offer value to grow a sustainable affiliate business.
Affiliate marketing empowers you to make money from the comfort of your own home, and without the hassle of sourcing, stocking, and shipping the products you promote.
How successful you become depends entirely on how hard you are willing to work. You can dedicate some of your free time to supplement your current income, or you can put in the dedication to make affiliate marketing your primary occupation.
The choice is yours. Put in the work, and you'll soon be earning the first affiliate commission of your new career.