What Is Affiliate Marketing? Beginner’s Guide

Have you ever wondered, what is affiliate marketing? It’s a good question, and it’s something you should look into when starting or growing a blog.

What Is Affiliate Marketing? Beginner's Guide

Affiliate marketing is an excellent way to earn money online. But it’s not that easy, especially in the beginning. Read on to learn more about this income stream and why it’s so popular among bloggers.

Before we get into it, this post contains affiliate links. Read my full disclosure policy to learn more.

What Is Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate marketing is where a blogger or content creator shares a special link with their audience. The link is set up to track the clicks it gets so that a merchant can track the sales back to that link.

That means that if someone clicks on your affiliate link and buys the product, you’ll get a small commission. Affiliate marketing is one of the most common ways you can make money from your blog.

You can join one program or multiple programs. Serious bloggers usually join multiple programs. Then, they can promote more products and increase their earning potential.

Why Use Affiliate Marketing

Whether you’re starting your first blog or already have one, you should use affiliate marketing. It’s an easy way to make some money, though it still takes work.

Consider the following benefits of affiliate links.

Relatively Passive Income

I prefer to call affiliate marketing “scalable” rather than “passive.” That’s because you still need to do work to create content and share your affiliate links.

However, there’s technically no cap on how much you can make. If you were to write a blog post for a client, they’d pay you once. But if you wrote a blog post for yourself, you can make money any time someone buys a product through your affiliate link.

After you publish a blog post, you can keep making money from it. Some bloggers are able to earn thousands of dollars this way. And as you publish more blog posts, your income can increase even more.

It’s by no means passive because not publishing or promoting can cause you to lose traffic and income. But it’s less active than working a traditional job or doing a client project.

Easy to Start

Another advantage of affiliate marketing is that it’s easy to start. You can join a few programs as a new blogger. Some programs don’t require you to have any website traffic to join.

That means you could (in theory) earn a commission in your first month. Now, I wouldn’t hold your breath. I started a blog in August 2021 and didn’t earn a commission from it until November 2021.

Even then, it was only about $0.70. It took many more months to start earning more than a dollar per month. And only last month (September 2022) did it earn more than $70 in a month.

Still, affiliate marketing is easy to implement. Once you join a program or two, you can add links to your content. Just make sure the links are natural and that they’re relevant to your blog topics.

No Product Creation

When you become an affiliate marketer, you don’t have to make any products. You don’t have to do the market research, pay for product development, or hold inventory.

All you have to do is promote the product and get people to click. You don’t even really need to sell the product. The merchant should write a good sales page, so you get to focus on generating traffic.

While that is a lot of work, it’s not as much work as creating your own product. Even making a digital product takes a lot of time. That means you could start promoting your links right away and make money much sooner.

That’s not to say affiliate marketing is a get-rich-quick scheme. It took me many months to start making consistent money this way. However, there’s not as much upfront work as making your own product.

Easy to Scale

Because you don’t have to produce products or ship anything, affiliate marketing is relatively easy to scale. As your blog gets more traffic, you can get more clicks on your affiliate links.

More clicks usually means you’ll drive more sales. And more sales equals more income for you. You don’t have to worry about hiring employees to handle packing and shipping.

So you could keep your blog a one-person venture. Then, you can minimize your expenses and maximize your profits. It’s a great way to grow a business, especially if you don’t have much time or money.

Best Affiliate Marketing Programs for Bloggers

If you want to get into affiliate marketing, you may wonder what programs you can join. There are tons of programs out there, and in some cases, the right ones depend on your niche.

However, there are a few different programs that can work for any niche. That way, you can start earning money. And if you decide to pivot, you don’t have to find all new programs to promote.

Here are some affiliate marketing programs I’d recommend for (almost) any blogger.

Amazon Associates

If you only join one affiliate program, let it be Amazon Associates. You can promote anything on the Amazon website. They sell products in most niches and industries.

Also, you can earn a commission on anything your audience buys. For example, maybe you have a food blog. You can promote appliances or cook books. But if someone buys a computer, you’ll make a commission on that sale.

Many programs only pay if someone buys the specific product you promote. Amazon is much more flexible. And while the commission rate isn’t the best, many people trust Amazon, so you can get more sales more easily.

Unfortunately, you have to make three sales in your first six months to remain in the program. That can be a lot harder to do than you think, so be sure you give it your all if you want to stay in Amazon Associates.


eBay is another great website that sells almost anything under the sun. You can join their affiliate program to promote the products you find on their site.

I only recently joined the eBay affiliate program. It hasn’t been as lucrative for me as Amazon. However, I do get the occasional click, so I believe I can scale this income stream.

Joining the eBay program is especially smart if you tend to promote used items. A lot of people sell and buy stuff using the website. So you don’t just have to focus on selling new things.


If you want to set up a blog to make money, you should invest in a good website host. Many hosts have affiliate programs you can join, so you can include a link to your host on your blog.

For example, I use SiteGround to host all of my websites. That link I shared is an affiliate link. So if you still need hosting, you can sign up using my link. I’ll get a commission at no extra cost to you.

Tons of other hosts have affiliate programs. You may be able to join the programs without using those hosts. However, I’d recommend only becoming an affiliate for companies you use and love.

You’ll see a LOT of blogging tutorials that promote Bluehost. They allegedly have an excellent affiliate commission. But I’ve heard that the hosting company isn’t actually that great.

Courses and Downloads

If you’ve ever taken an online course or bought a download, you may have seen a message to become an affiliate for the product. I’m an affiliate of some courses that I’ve taken.

As with hosting, I’d suggest only joining the programs of products you genuinely like and can recommend to others. That will make it easier to promote the course or download.

Now, one of the benefits of these affiliate marketing programs is that the commission is usually pretty high. Amazon and eBay are great, but they only pay a small percentage of the sale.

Some digital products pay half or even more of the sale price. So if you can drive a lot of sales, you can make good money.

Industry-Specific Websites

You can also look into affiliate marketing programs based on your niche or industry. For example, my other blogs are about music, so I joined the affiliate program for WWBW (an online music store).

If you blog about pets, you could join the Chewy affiliate program, for example. So do some digging into your niche and look for affiliate programs that your favorite stores offer.

You can also do a Google search for “[insert blog niche] + affiliate programs” to see what’s out there. Some niches may have more programs than others.

But you don’t have to join all of the programs. and you probably should wait until you get comfortable with affiliate marketing. That way, you can get some practice before you have to balance multiple programs and all of their rules.

How to Start Affiliate Marketing

If affiliate marketing sounds good to you, you should get started! But you may wonder what steps to take to set yourself up for success.

Like many blogging-related income streams, affiliate marketing can take time to start generating money for you. However, it can be worth it if you follow the right steps.

Choose One Affiliate Program

You can join as many affiliate programs as you want as long as none of them have non-compete clauses. But at first, I’d stick with one program so that you can get the hang of it.

That will give you the opportunity to make sure affiliate marketing is something you want to do. You won’t waste your time applying to multiple programs only to decide on another income stream.

Also, you’ll be able to learn more about the program and how to succeed with that merchant, specifically. And some programs ask for you to have traffic or a marketing plan, so you may not get into all of the programs you apply for anyway.

Review the Rules

Next, you should go over the rules of whatever program you join. Some programs don’t have many restrictions, so you could share your links wherever you want.

However, other programs, like Amazon, have a lot of rules. For example, you can share your Amazon affiliate links in emails, digital downloads, or other “private” settings.

Breaking the rules can get you kicked out of an affiliate program. So take time now to go over those rules. Then, be sure to follow them whenever you use your affiliate links.

Set Up Payments

Next, you’ll want to fill out any necessary tax forms and select a payment method. You might not make any commissions for a while, and it can take longer to hit the payout threshold.

However, you should still complete those forms now. That way, when you do reach the threshold, you can get paid. You won’t have to rush to figure out the finances.

If you live in the US, you’ll usually have to submit a W-9. Many programs, especially larger ones, walk you through the process. Then, you can decide how to get paid if the company offers multiple options.

Common payment methods include a bank transfer or a PayPal deposit. Some payment methods have higher thresholds. For example, Amazon requires $100 to send a check but only $10 for a bank transfer.

Know How to Get Links

Next, you’ll want to figure out where you get your affiliate links. Just being an affiliate doesn’t mean you can get a public link and have it trace back to you.

Most programs will provide you with some sort of dashboard. You should be able to find your affiliate links or a link tool there. Some programs, like Amazon, are even easier.

I use SiteStripe to get links right from the Amazon main website. That way, you don’t have to go into your portal every time you want to get a link.

Other programs, like courses or hosting, will only give you one link. You can copy and paste that somewhere more convenient. Then, you won’t have to go back into the portal to find your special link.

Brainstorm Content Ideas

Now, it’s time for my favorite part of affiliate marketing: content creation. I’d recommend coming up with content ideas before you just start writing post after post.

You want to make sure the content you create is relevant to whatever product or program you want to promote. That way, it will be much easier to put your link into the post.

For example, maybe you want to promote your website host. You could write a hosting review. Or if you want to promote your computer, you could do a roundup of the best laptops.

You can also create more informative content and link to your affiliate products when you mention them. Be sure to come up with plenty of ideas and write them down for when you get writer’s block.

Add Your Links

As you write a blog post, be sure to add your affiliate links. Like I mentioned, you should make the links as natural as possible. That will help keep you from coming off as spammy or salesy.

You can add links to multiple products or focus on just one. This might depend on the blog post you’re writing. For example, you could link to one product for a review but multiple for a best-of list.

If you’ve already written a few blog posts, go back and edit them. Figure out where you can easily add an affiliate link or two. Then, you can start to make money from those posts.

Now, when you add an affiliate link, you’ll need to add a disclaimer earlier in the post. I usually add a short paragraph after the intro. That way, it’s easy to see the disclaimer, and I link the reader to my full policy if they want to learn more.

Note: this is not legal advice. Please contact a lawyer if you need more help.

Promote Your Content

Once you’ve published some blog posts, you need to get traffic. That way, you can turn your readers into customers. Even if you use SEO, it can take a while for search engines to start showing your blog posts.

For now, you need to share your blog posts yourself. You can use Pinterest, Facebook, and other social platforms. Be sure to share your blog posts regularly to help get consistent traffic.

If you want to start making money from your blog, I’d recommend spending as much time promoting your content as you do creating it. That can help you drive even more traffic to your website and affiliate links.

Rinse and Repeat

Every time you join a new affiliate marketing program or write a new blog posts, follow these steps. Make sure you join relevant programs based on your niche and that you understand the rules.

Remember where to find your links when you’re writing a post. That way, you can add the links right away and keep from missing out on an opportunity to get a commission.

Over time, affiliate marketing will get easier. You’ll learn what does and doesn’t work for your blog. So don’t be afraid to experiment a bit to see what can help you earn more money.

Can You Make Good Money With Affiliate Marketing?

You can make good money with affiliate marketing. While it’s not my main income stream, it is for some bloggers.

As long as you’re consistent and use the right strategies, you can turn it into a good stream of income. Then, you can use it to help support yourself if you want to make your blog your full-time job.

Can Beginners Use Affiliate Marketing?

Beginner bloggers can use affiliate marketing. You can join a few programs that don’t require blog traffic.

Now, you shouldn’t expect to get rich overnight as a beginner. But if you put in the work now, it can pay off down the line.

Will You Try Affiliate Marketing?

Many bloggers want to know, what is affiliate marketing? It’s the act of earning money by promoting products for other businesses.

Some bloggers can make a ton of money this way. But it requires consistency, strategy, and a bit of luck.

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