A year ago, when I ran an ABestWeb contest for the best definition of affiliate marketing, Chris, who ended up winning the first prize, summarized things both eloquently and beautifully. He defined affiliate marketing as “the art of doing a merchant’s marketing better than they can, and profiting from it.” Many successful affiliates (also known as super affiliates) are truly better experts in what they do that most of the merchants that they promote. Consequently, they can market e-tailers’ products/services in such a way that merchants get incremental business, while they themselves make a good living off the per sale commission they get.
You’ll also have a better understanding of your target audience’s needs and desires. This is essential since it helps you build trust with your visitors. If they feel like they can rely on your judgment and recommendations, they’ll be more likely to click on your links and make purchases based on your suggestions. Therefore, the best niche will have plenty of potential consumers and will be something you can create knowledgeable and trustworthy content about.
In affiliate marketing, first click is often used to describe an affiliate program where the first affiliate to get a user to click a link and make a purchase within the limits of the cookie expiration is the one to be credited with the sale, even if the user landed on another affiliate's website and actually converted after clicking on a link from the second site. There has long been a debate between whether first click or last click is most beneficial to both the affiliate and the merchant.
Some merchants will create a specific and custom landing page for an affiliate to send referrals to that contains both the merchant's branding and the referring affiliate's branding. Example – a merchant might create a page on the merchant's website that shows a lead form that contains both the merchant's logo and the specific affiliate's logo on the page. This is referred to as Co-branding. Many times merchants limit Co-Branding opportunities to only being available to Super Affiliates.
Awesome article! This is jam packed with great info. I am just starting a personal finance blog with my fiance and we were a little confused about how to start monetizing. We were initially thinking about using Google AdSense but between this post and another blog I read I am surely convinced that’s not the correct route. I’m really happy you have shared this information because it’s provided an excellent starting point for creating income.
I just LOVE your writing style, Christina! I recently purchased the Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing course, but have yet to really dig in. I had NO idea all of those crazy complications with Amazon! I’ve already been rejected once 😛 But luckily, though my ego was bruised, I pressed on and am now on round 2 (with no success so far..lol) Hopefully with this post and the course I will make something in the next 90 days!
Please note that some of the links below are affiliate links and at no additional cost to you, I may earn a commission. Know that I only recommend products, tools, services and learning resources I’ve personally used and believe are genuinely helpful, not because of the small commissions I make if you decide to purchase them. Most of all, I would never advocate for buying something that you can’t afford or that you’re not yet ready to implement.

I have a free WordPress website with 1000-2000 visitors/month. I was trying to place Amazon Affiliate ad links last night and failed/flailed mightily. I would paste the links into my posts in the HTML mode, switch to Visual mode, and could see the image. However, every time I tried to save or update the post, the image reverted to the gangly hyperlink. As some suggested, I tried cleaning the links of any formatting from the copy and paste with text edit. No dice.


Affiliate marketing was a very early implementation of marketing strategy via the web. Several different industries are associated with its origins (such as flower delivery, music and even adult entertainment) but it is difficult to track an exact origin, partially due to its rapid expansion concurrent with the rise of the world wide web in the 1990s.

Amazon Associates is one of the first online affiliate marketing programs and was launched in 1996. The Amazon Associates program has a more than 12 year track record of developing solutions to help website owners, Web developers, and Amazon sellers make money by advertising millions of new and used products from Amazon.com and its subsidiaries, such as Endless.com and SmallParts.com. When website owners and bloggers who are Associates create links and customers click through those links and buy products from Amazon, they earn referral fees. It’s free to join and easy to use.
It is important for you to learn some basic HTML as well as basic concepts pertaining to running a website. It’s not really tedious to understand and within a short period, you will have a grasp of it. Relying on purchased software might backfire because it might not give you what you really need and when things go wrong you will end up spending more than you ought to. Take time to learn these things and you won’t regret it.
Same here, this post kind of fell from the sky at such a great time. Been building a great community of readers over the years but reached a point where I’m losing money maintaining the site and newsletter. As you said, the ads don’t bring much -ironically I use Adblocks too but affiliate marketing always seemed like a weird and opaque subject. I’ve read many of Chris Guillebeau’s books in the last few months (this is how I discovered your site actually!) and I didn’t realize he had affiliate links for instance. Your post opened up a new window of possibility for me. Still need to process everything and do the work behind but a big thank you to you Sean!
That’s a great tip Sean, thanks! I was thinking about what you said in your post about some companies not putting that they have affiliate links and you having to do some digging and there are couple of companies/authors who made products I love and keep using, but I’m not sure how to go ahead and ask about the affiliate link. I read the post you linked below about asking for guest blogging, which I thought was a must-read, and so, if you think of doing a follow-up on this one, would love to read some of your tips and do’s and don’t about this. Thanks again, Sean, you’re doing some very inspiring work here!

Are you an expert in conversion optimisation, sales funnels, SEO, website building, copywriting and proofreading? If so, you have a better chance than most newcomers. Chances are, if you’ve only just heard about affiliate marketing, you don’t have all or even any of these skills just yet. In this case, settle down for the long haul. This is going to take some time, but you will get there – as long as you don’t give up along the way!
Affiliate marketing is a technique that involves inter-brand cooperation in promoting a good or service. In one of its simplest forms, affiliate marketing consists of one brand, company or individual promoting a product (likely in exchange for some sort of commission) on behalf of another brand, company or individual. Its intended function is to expose one brand to another’s customer base, and is typically done when there is some sort of similarity between the two brands that might draw common interest. The rise of the internet has enabled a diverse range of opportunity in affiliate marketing, largely by way of data tracking (such as web cookies) and analytics.
Alright, I know that was a lot to digest, but if making passive income was easy, don’t you think we’d all be walking around, draped in velvet like the fancy people we truly are? Making money off blogging, passive income no less, is super difficult… and it takes hard work and dedication. With these basics out of the way, it is my genuine hope that you now feel (somewhat) less confused and more motivated than ever to tackle this beast. If you haven’t run away to the woods yet, you might be wondering, “ugh crap what do I do now?”

File-Sharing: Web sites that host directories of music, movies, games and other software. Users upload content to file-hosting sites and then post descriptions of the material and their download links on directory sites. Uploaders are paid by the file-hosting sites based on the number of times their files are downloaded. The file-hosting sites sell premium download access to the files to the general public. The websites that host the directory services sell advertising and do not host the files themselves.
Ooh that makes sense! Yeah, surname would probably be a big one. I’ve also heard that they keep tabs on any old addresses you’ve registered and if the address is the same as someone buying from you, then that doesn’t count either. I can’t imagine they’d be able to know who ALL your friends are, but a good thing to be mindful of! When I first started I thought, hey, why not just make a FB post and tell everyone to buy off me? haha then I realized maybe it’s not that simple.
I built several small sites that only sell ‘small’ items for sale on Amazon. Typically $4/$5 an item, and items that are usually bought in bulk. Painting supplies, for instance. I then take out a small Facebook ad at the start of the month promoting that site. Usually 2 or 3 orders of multiple products is enough to send my commision percentage up, then it’ll stay that way until the end of the month. Hope that helps someone. 🙂

Be sure to check what kind of customer support you can expect from your affiliate program once you have signed up. Do your research online and if possible, speak to other sellers using the program to get their thoughts. Can you speak to someone via phone or Skype or do you have to wait 72 hours for email responses? Be clear on this because trust me, you will need support at one point or another. 
I thought I would just bring something else to your attention; I did take a second to look at your site; you know why I left within just one second? EXACTLY! You have less then 3 seconds to make your first impression on visitors; if your visitors are bouncing off your site at the speed of light, they either found your site by mistake, or they were not impressed with your site, and left, which means? right, they did not trust your site!!! What happens if you have a high bounce rate? right, you can certainly lose rankings! Is google going to keep sending you traffic if you have nothing to offer? nope! I can not say this is your problem, or you could have multiple problems going on at the same time to cause you to lose rankings. I can tell you one thing for sure by just taking a 1 minute look at your link profile; You have quite a few links, and you have almost no authority, what does this mean? This most likely means you are spamming your link to poor quality sites. You also have a massive amount of do-follow links which does not look natural vs your no follow links, and with your site having low trust flow, do you think your site deserves that many do-follow links? I wonder what google thinks? at first glance, your anchor/link diversity does not look to bad, so your anchor/text does not look over-optimized, but whoever is building links for you, consider firing them immediately, as you are getting all the wrong links. I am going to assume at this point google has certainly given you a penalty; Your next move to to hire someone to audit your site, and start disavowing/removing bad links from your portfolio, over time, your rankings may come back, and that may depend on other factors also, but at this point, it certainly looks like you have link issues. Just a little bitty research goes a long way. good luck.

Also referred to as CID tracking, MID tracking and TID tracking. “SID” is the abbreviation for the sub campaign tracking abilities offered by Commission Junction. Almost every mainstream network refers to it differently. SIDs allow you to create specific tracking codes for your affiliate links to track the success of a specific effort. I wrote a whole article about SID, CID, MID and TID tracking codes if you'd like more information about what they are and how they're used.

Since the emergence of affiliate marketing, there has been little control over affiliate activity. Unscrupulous affiliates have used spam, false advertising, forced clicks (to get tracking cookies set on users' computers), adware, and other methods to drive traffic to their sponsors. Although many affiliate programs have terms of service that contain rules against spam, this marketing method has historically proven to attract abuse from spammers.
The Amazon Associates affiliate program uses a tiered commission structure to pay out to affiliates. The more you sell, the more you will earn. That’s why many affiliates will attempt to promote two different types of products – cheap and expensive. By promoting cheap products under $10, you will likely receive a lot of purchases. For example, many affiliate marketers will promote e-books that may only cost $5. Since Amazon only pays up to 8.5% commissions, you’re not going to earn much by selling a $5 e-book. However, making a lot of sales of smaller items helps to boost your sales count in the, which also boosts the amount of commission you receive. Here is the current Amazon Associates Affiliate Program commission structure:
One great traffic driver for me has been my new Travel Resources page. I put it up less than a month ago, created some pretty pins for it and it has done superbly well on StumbleUpon and Pinterest (racking up over 1.5k repins). This boost in traffic has helped substantially increase my conversions for Amazon, which was not a huge earner for me before. So, traffic + affiliate links = happy money dance.

The person who manages an affiliate program for a merchant. They are responsible for affiliate recruitment, ensuring that the affiliates are using above board promotional methods and for increasing affiliate sales for the merchant. They also act as the liaison between the affiliate and the merchant. The affiliate manager may work directly for the merchant or be an independent service provider contracted by the merchant to run their affiliate program. Also referred to as an OPM.

Great article. Great resources. I do find it quite odd that people will reject sellers. As an affiliate marketer and new blogger myself, this is extremely frustrating. Now, I know there could exist a reason for rejection, especially within marketplaces, however, I haven’t the faintest idea why they would off the bat. I have heard it reduces epc’s (earnings per click), but, I don’t get why people care about this other than for some contests internally. Which in my opinion hurts less than refusing essentially free eyeballs on your products.


5) Favorites tools/equipment blog posts: Your audience wants to know how YOU do something. Let them know by writing a blog post that tells them exactly what you use in your business. For example, one post I have planned is “My Favorite Tools for Livestreaming on Facebook.” I will have links to my lighting equipment, microphone, and camera on Amazon via affiliate links.

Ebates is a fan favorite. Even though they have been around for years, a lot of people still aren't using it. And it's easy money. Who doesn't love that? Because it crosses so many industries, it can be an easy program to promote. Even if you aren't in the save money/make money industries, if you are talking about your organizing your office or trip to Jamaica it's an easy mention. “Don't forget to stop by Ebates first to get 8% back on your The Container Store purchase” or “Get 12% back this week when you book your Hilton stay through Ebates.” Bonus points: Ebates gives people an extra $10 when they sign up and make their first purchase. And you get $15! (Plus bonuses.)

In electronic commerce, means of achieving greater market penetration through websites who target specific groups of internet users. For example, Amazon.com (which sells books, electronics, pharmaceuticals, toys, and many other items) has thousands of affiliated interest specific websites from where the visitors can reach products offered by Amazon. The entire sales transaction takes place at Amazon's website which is equipped to handle the complete online payment acceptance process. Amazon passes on a percentage of the sold item's price as commission to the affiliate website from where the sale originated.
This site might seem authoritative, but it doesn’t really cater to the visitor. As you can see the site contains a ton of ads, and doesn’t do much to provide a good reading experience. The content is long, but it’s also very hard to read. You could easily create a site that reviews this product and provides a better reading experience and higher-quality review.

Two-tier programs exist in the minority of affiliate programs; most are simply one-tier. Referral programs beyond two-tier resemble multi-level marketing (MLM) or network marketing but are different: Multi-level marketing (MLM) or network marketing associations tend to have more complex commission requirements/qualifications than standard affiliate programs.[citation needed]
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