Want to make money with affiliate marketing but you are not sure where to start? This step-by-step affiliate marketing guide for beginners will help you! Here you’ll find everything you need to know to make your first sale if you are a beginner affiliate marketer!
When I became interested in making money from home, I started to research how you can make money with your blog.
I was pretty familiar with the most obvious ways to make money, like selling your own products or advertising, but I knew very little about affiliate marketing.
In fact, the honest truth is that I knew NOTHING about affiliate marketing!
And that’s why I called this guide “Affiliate Marketing for Dummies“!
I can still remember very well the feeling of excitement when I made my first affiliate marketing sale. It was January 14th, two and a half months into my blogging journey, and after weeks of no commission, I made my first $1.30 with Amazon.
I made it!
I now was a master in affiliate marketing (LOL)!
After the first excitement, I decided to learn as much as possible about affiliate marketing as I was such a beginner! I read, researched, took a course, and in February, only a few weeks later, I made:
with affiliate marketing alone!
And this is thanks to the tips and techniques I am going to show you in this post.
So get a good cup of coffee because this is going to be a long read…
What is Affiliate Marketing?
Affiliate Marketing Definition
According to Wikipedia:
“Affiliate Marketing is a type of performance-based marketing in which a business rewards one or more affiliates for each visitor or customer brought by the affiliate’s own marketing efforts.”
But what does this mean in simple terms?
Affiliate marketing allows you to make money (earn a commission) by recommending products and services to your readers. You get paid only when your recommendation converts into a subscription or a sale.
How Does Affiliate Marketing Work?
If you want to make money with affiliate marketing, you need to join affiliate programs, where you will receive unique links that track every time you send a customer to the program.
The unique codes look like these:
Standard link to a website:
Affiliate link to the same website:
The amazing thing about affiliate marketing is that people often don’t even have to buy the specific product you recommend. Depending on the program, once your readers click on the link, the program will save a cookie on their device.
This cookie could last 24 hours, a week, a year, or never expire.
If your readers go back to the same website and purchase anything while the cookie is still active, you will still make money for it!
Here is a great example:
Helen is reading your blog post about crockpot recipes and clicks on the link to one of the crockpots. She checks it out on Amazon but then decides it’s not for her.
She goes out for a walk, and that evening, once she’s back home, she remembers she needs to buy a new Apple laptop and logs in back to Amazon and buys a $2,000 MacBook Pro…and guess what?
You’ll get the commission for that! As long as that sale happens within 24 hours…
Ok, it’s probably not going to be this easy all the time!
But you get the point!
I love affiliate marketing because it is one of the most passive ways to make money with your blog!
You can create a post or a review and still generate passive income years down the line, with very little work needed to maintain it.
How Much Can You Make with Affiliate Marketing?
The answer is simple…There is no limit to how much you can make!
It’s pretty common for people that have mastered affiliate marketing to make tens of thousands a month using affiliate marketing!
I consider myself a beginner, and after only four months of blogging, I was making over $1,200 a month in affiliate income alone.
But some experts in this field have impressive results:
- Michelle from Making Sense of Cents makes over $50,000 a MONTH in Affiliate Marketing. She is so amazing at it that she created a course that teaches how she did it. Her course helped me understand affiliate marketing when I was starting out!
- Mike, from Stupid Simple SEO, makes over $95,000 a YEAR in passive income, using SEO techniques and Amazon – more on that later!
How To Start Affiliate Marketing in 7 Steps
We are now going to go through all the steps you need to take to be successful in affiliate marketing, and I am sure, by the end of it, this “affiliate marketing for dummies” guide will make your life much easier!
The steps to start affiliate marketing sound very easy on paper:
- Apply to the best affiliate marketing programs
- Add your unique links to your blog
- …And wait to make money!
But you will soon find out that things are not as straightforward as that.
If you really want to make money with affiliate marketing, you need to start the correct way and follow all these steps.
Table of contents
1. Choose a niche
If you want to be successful in affiliate marketing, you need to choose a niche you are going to target. If your niche is too broad, it’ll be more difficult to monetize using affiliate marketing. However, it’s not impossible (I am the perfect example of that, as my blog focuses on different niches).
Choosing a tightly focused niche will also help your ranking on Google and allow you to grow your following faster.
A few questions you need to ask yourself when choosing your niche are:
- What topics am I passionate about?
Writing about things you don’t love or know anything about for months or even years it’s probably not the best practice for building a sustainable long-term business.
And if you are passionate about something, you probably know a lot about specific products and ways to use them. This will help you to create and research epic content for your website.
But you need to make sure that if you write about something you are passionate about, you are still solving a problem. Your readers are always looking for help: if you are helping them, money will follow!
- Can I make money in my niche?
Passion is one thing, but can you monetize the niche you picked? You need to make sure whatever you decide to write about will make you money. And if making money is your ultimate goal (and it probably is if you are reading this!), you need to pick a niche that will allow you to make a profit. And this sometimes will have to overcome your passion.
Four niches that have a huge market and always have buyers ready to make a purchase are:
- Health & Fitness
- Money (Making and Saving)
- Diet & Nutrition
- Beauty & Fashion
These niches are perfect if you are just starting out with your research and have no idea where to look!
- Is my niche wide enough?
As much as you want to narrow down what you are writing about, you also need to make sure the niche you pick will give you enough topics to write about. If you pick pink collars for dogs, it’s going to be hard to write 50 or 100 articles on that, but if you decide to go for dog accessories, you might have more luck!
No matter what niche you decide to go for, make sure you write about products you are familiar with! The most important thing you need to do to make money with affiliate marketing is to help your potential customer.
Helping your readers to solve a problem needs to come always first! You need to be confident that what you are recommending will really be useful to your customers.
2. Build your own website
The second step to learning affiliate marketing for dummies is to build your own website! If you already have a website or a blog, skip to point 3.
If you already have a blog, great! Job done!
If you don’t, it’s time to put your research into action. If you have never built a website before, you need to know that if you want to make money from it, your website will need to be self-hosted on a web server that gives you the complete freedom to customize it.
There are a few steps you will need to follow to set up your website the right way:
1. Pick a domain name
Domain name is just a more complicated way to say website’s name.
My top tips for picking a name are:
- Pick a name easy to remember
- Make it easy to spell
- Keep it short
- Pick a name that relates to you and what you want to write about
You can check if your domain is available by clicking here.
2. Choose the right platform
WordPress.org is the most popular website platform in the world. It’s free and extremely flexible, and it’s what I use for Gathering Dreams.
Although WordPress.org is free, you will need to host your files on a server (using a hosting provider). This option comes at a cost, but you won’t be able to apply to all affiliate programs if you set up your website the wrong way.
3. Buy hosting for your website
I use Bluehost as my hosting provider (the company that will keep all your files stored on a server online!).
You just need to click on the blue button Get Started Now to choose your package.
4. Install WordPress
Once your hosting is set up, you need to install WordPress. If you are using Bluehost as your hosting, you will just be able to install WordPress with one click, which means it will only take you a couple of minutes to have WordPress installed and ready to go on your website!
5. Select a theme
A WordPress theme will provide all the styling you need for your website.
- page layout
- font styling
- widget locations
- navigation menus
There are many free themes and some beautiful paid ones.
If you need more help in building your website, check out my step-by-step guide to start a blog to go through everything you need to know more in detail!
3. Find the best affiliate marketing programs for beginners
Once you have decided on your niche, you need to find out which are the best affiliate marketing programs and products you want to promote.
It will take you a bit of time to select the perfect programs, but don’t be afraid to invest in this process as this could make or break your affiliate strategy.
There are 2 different types of affiliate programs you can join:
- Affiliate Networks: Affiliate networks group publishers that have affiliate programs under one single website (like Awin). If you are accepted into an affiliate network, you will find it easier to find and apply to several affiliate programs and keep track of the different offers and conversions.
- Individual Affiliate Programs: Some companies offer their own affiliate platform, and you need to apply to each company separately (like Survey Junkie).
Here you will find the list of high-paying affiliate programs that help me jump from $0 to $1,264 in less than 30 days.
The best affiliate networks I am currently using:
The best affiliate programs I am currently using:
Things you need to know before applying to any affiliate marketing programs
1. You need to have content on your website, and sometimes you will get rejected!
If you want to join an affiliate program, you need to go through an application process. This normally requires filling in information about your website, your location, your website traffic, etc.
Depending on the specific requirements, you might get rejected. The trick is to make sure you have at least 5-15 articles on your website and make sure your website looks good and legit. And if you get rejected for one affiliate program, try to find an email contact and ask why you were rejected. You might just need to improve some posts or to get more traffic from a specific location.
Don’t get demoralized! It’s normal to get rejected from time to time!
I know as I have applied to lots of affiliate programs, and not all my applications were successful!
2. There is a minimum threshold payment you need to reach before you get paid
Most affiliate programs have a minimum payment threshold. This can be as little as $10, but it can also be $100. Therefore don’t get too excited after you make your first sale. It took me a few months to get my hands on my $1.30 from Amazon!
Make sure you check the minimum threshold on each of your affiliate programs.
3. It can take up to three months to receive your payments
Some affiliate programs pay just 15 days after the end of the month, but most affiliate programs will take between 30 days and up to three months to pay you. This is normally because they need to verify the sale and because sometimes they offer a 30-day refund. If someone decides to cancel their purchase and ask for a refund, you will lose your commission.
4. Check how much commission you will receive
Each affiliate program is different. Sometimes you will get paid a fixed amount based on someone subscribing to a service. Some other times you will get paid a fixed commission on sales.
Make sure you know exactly how much money you can make with each affiliate: this will give you an idea of how profitable a program can be. And remember, every little bit adds up.
As much as it’s great to get a $100 commission for recommending a $250 product, you are much more likely to get your readers to buy into a free subscription to an app and get $2 for it.
5. Keep track of your affiliates
It can be overwhelming to apply to affiliate programs, especially at the beginning. Make sure you keep a list of all the programs you have applied to and if you have been accepted or rejected.
I use a simple Google Sheet to track all my affiliate programs and how much I earn every month.
Other ways of finding affiliate programs
A great way to find affiliate programs is by doing a google search. Just enter in google:
“company + affiliate program”
For example, if you google “Amazon affiliate program,” you will immediately find the Amazon affiliate program.
This is an easy way to find if companies relevant to your niche have a program that you can join.
Spy on your competitors
Another great way to find affiliate programs is to look at other websites in your niche and look at what products they are promoting. By clicking on their links, you might be able to find who they are using to promote a specific program, or you can email the company directly and ask them how to become an affiliate.
4. Create outstanding content and be relevant
Having content on your website or blog is essential to your affiliate marketing success. You need to make sure you create relevant content for your niche, but you can’t just create average content.
If you want to make money, you need to create engaging content that is worth sharing, relevant, and to the point! By creating in-depth blog posts with “call out” actions, short paragraphs, and bullet points, you will make sure your readers will have a fantastic experience on your website.
In other words, your content needs to be outstanding!
There are different types of content that you can create in your affiliate marketing strategy:
Reviews help your readers to make a final choice on a product they are looking to buy. How many times before buying a specific product or service do you type “product name+review” in Google?
The Wire Cutter, for example, has become a leading expert in reviews of several types of products, and every time someone decides to purchase by clicking on a link, they earn a commission.
This is another great way to help your readers. If there are a couple of key competitors in your niche, you can create a comparison and list the different products’ pros and cons.
If someone is looking for a comparison, he/she is probably ready to buy. And all you are doing is helping people making the final decision on what product or service is best for them. You can see an example of a comparison from The Wire Cutter by clicking here.
List articles are a great way to attract readers. People LOVE lists. And if you can create lists that are relevant to your niche you might receive thousands of shares and comments, which will translate into affiliate marketing commissions.
Tutorials and “How to Guides”
Being helpful to your readers is one of the best ways to create trust. And once you have created trust, people are more likely to listen to your advice about choosing one product or invest in a service.
But remember, you genuinely need to help!
Tutorials or guides that will teach you “How To” are perfect to create this trust and will pay off in the long run.
5. Learn to master SEO
SEO, aka Search Engine Optimization, will help you to get page views from Google.
Organic search is one of the most important traffic sources for any website, especially if you want to target affiliate marketing.
If you want to be successful at combining SEO and Affiliate Marketing, you need to understand user intent.
User intent describes what a user is looking for when they conduct a search query. It basically tells you what a user is really looking for when they type a keyword. By understanding what your target readers are looking for and giving them an answer, you will create more specific sale funnels to optimize your sales.
Mike, from Stupid Simple Seo, has mastered SEO techniques for affiliate marketing and now drives over 1 million visitors a year to his website in the outdoor niche. By working on his website only a few hours a week, he is able to make over $95,000 a year in Amazon sales!
6. Build an audience
Creating outstanding content isn’t enough to master affiliate marketing for dummies! If no one reads your content, you won’t be making any money!
Building an engaged audience is one of the most important steps that will make or break your success!
Here you will find some of the best ways to generate page views and create traffic to your website:
Build an email list
Email marketing is one of the most important steps for affiliate marketers. A lot of successful affiliates will tell you that “the money is in the list.”
Start collecting emails as soon as you launch your website!
Create freebies that will help your readers and will encourage them to subscribe to your list. Add a call to action to subscribe to all your posts. Make sure you target your niche with relevant content and engage your readers in your emails.
Emails are a great way to connect with your audience on a more personal level. Let your audience know you, build trust, and when the time is right, they will be ready to listen to your recommendation.
Guest posts on high-traffic blogs relevant to your niche & contact influencers in your niche
Creating your own content is very important, but when you are new to the game, guest posts will really help you for two main reasons:
- They allow you to showcase your content to a much bigger audience than your own
- They help you to get backlinks and authority, which will help your SEO game
By guest posting on relevant sites in your niche, you will eventually grow your own engaged audience.
Another great way to get your content in front of more people is to contact relevant bloggers and influencers in your niche and let them know about your resources. This is a great way to gain a bigger audience, but it needs to be done correctly, using effective influencer outreach strategies.
Invest time in Pinterest
Pinterest is a great marketing tool that will help you build your audience, especially when you start out!
Being found on Google and optimizing SEO takes time. Although I really recommend you to start implementing SEO from the beginning, if you want to build traffic from day one, you also need to master Pinterest.
Pinterest used to be viewed as a place to find pretty kitchen pictures and recipes, but it has become much more than that.
It has over 175 million users, and it’s an amazing tool for generating page views. And although a few years ago, Pinterest users used to be mostly women, over 40% of new subscribers are men! People go on Pinterest to be inspired, and they love seeing content from websites: over 75% of images saved on Pinterest are created by bloggers and business owners.
This creates a unique opportunity to share products and content that people are actually looking for.
The best tips to utilize Pinterest to engage your audience are:
1. Look at trending images on Pinterest to check what’s popular
Bu analyzing what’s “trending” on Pinterest, you will be able to discover what your potential audience loves and looks for in a product or service.
2. Analyze successful pins to be inspired
Look for popular images and analyze why they are successful: is there a particular color people love? Any seasonal trends your brand needs to aware of? Use this information to drive your marketing strategy and content creation.
3. Check what your competitors are doing and what works for them
As Pinterest is becoming more and more popular, it’s likely that your biggest competitors have a presence on this social platform. Analyze what works for them and use that as inspiration for your business.
If you haven’t created a Pinterest profile for your website, it’s time to start now!
By using these tips, I gained over 100,000 visitors a month on my website in less than three months, generating thousands of dollars in extra revenues.
Invest in paid advertising
I have to admit, this is something I have no experience in. My budget for paid advertising so far has been ZERO. But it’s a proven way to generate more traffic to your website and drive sales.
For example, Neil Patel managed to generate $3 for every $1 spent on Facebook ads.
If you have got this far in your step-by-step guide to affiliate marketing for beginners, it means you are ready to promote your affiliate products and make money!
Once you have built an audience and gained their trust, you can start suggesting valuable products. Always remember to promote products that your audience will genuinely be interested in. Otherwise, you risk losing the trust that your readers have gained in you.
But what are the best ways to highlights the products and services you are an affiliate with?
You can add banners on your site to promote your affiliate offers. Most affiliate programs will provide you with their own creatives once you become an affiliate. Placing banners in high traffic and relevant posts can lead to great conversions. People are more likely to click on an image as it captures their attention.
Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing: Michelle’s course helped me go from $1.34 to $1,264 in affiliate marketing in only 4 weeks. If you want to learn how to master affiliate marketing from one of the best people out there, check out Michelle’s course here. She makes over $50,000 a month in affiliate marketing alone
Product reviews are a great way to promote affiliate products. Remember always to be honest, as your readers are looking for your genuine opinion. Always highlights the positive and negative points of the product.
You can then add your affiliate link to the review, and if people are still genuinely interested, they can purchase your page.
Promotional Images and/or Videos
Similar to banner ads, you can create images that showcase the product in action. This will help your readers to understand how to use the product. It can give them ideas of functionality or just a better view of what they will receive with their purchase.
In-text Content Links
This is probably the most common and easier way to promote affiliate products. Most of the time, when you see a link on a website and click on it, it will lead you to an external page, and if you purchase through that link, the website owner will make a commission.
The in-text content links blend well with the rest of the content on your website, they are not intrusive and are a great way to promote products without being too salesy.
Discount Codes and Giveaways
From time to time, affiliate programs might offer discount codes or get in touch about hosting a giveaway to get your audience to know the product. These are great ways to introduce people to useful products, and the discount or giveaways will provide real added value to them.
Once you have built up your email list, you can start promoting offers via email. And when I say “built up,” I mean one person will do! Get used to sending emails to your readers, and make sure you create a relationship with them before you start to promote offers. You don’t want to come across like that person that only cares about making a sale! Be genuine, share tips and only promote when there is an honest offer that will fit your audience.
How can I learn more about Affiliate Marketing for Beginners?
I hope this guide for beginners has helped you to understand what affiliate marketing is.
And if you really want to become successful in Affiliate Marketing, you can check out these two courses:
Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing. This course helped me go from $0 to over $1,000 in affiliate marketing in 30 days! I made $0 in affiliate marketing for the first two and a half months of my blogging journey, and after investing in Michelle’s course, things started to change very quickly. I made my money back over and over again in only a couple of weeks.
Carly’s Affiliate Marketing Course: This course dives deeper into the insight of affiliate marketing, and it’s perfect if you already have some basis and want to learn more techniques to up your game! Plus, it’s incredibly affordable!
Ok, I know this was a long read! But if you made it this far, you now know everything there is to know about Affiliate Marketing for Dummies!
Affiliate Marketing takes time and effort initially, but once you get it right, it’s one of the best ways to make passive income from your website or blog.
If you have any questions, let me know in the comments!