What Are Affiliate Marketing Programs and How Do They Work?

A quality product would speak for itself, but in the age of ubiquitous advertising, marketing has become an essential part of leveraging your brand’s power.

Competition has been steep and to meet the needs of brands today, affiliate marketing has been born. But what is affiliate marketing and how does it work?

Put simply, affiliate marketing is the process of advertising people or companies’ products in exchange for a commission, which is usually negotiated between you and the aforementioned parties.

Each sale brings you a small profit and, the best part is, you don’t have to knock on doors, canvass around an area, or waste time traveling as all marketing has been focused on the Internet.

Affiliate marketing and programs are two powerful tools that already account for an estimated 16% of all conversions and purchases and are high drivers of the gambling industry. In comparison, organic traffic accounts for 20% of conversions.

Here are some reasons why you should at least consider affiliate marketing as a career or, in the very least, a source of supplementary income.

Affiliate Marketing for Beginners – What Makes Affiliate Programs So Tempting?

Cost-efficient, affiliate marketing programs are easy to get into. They require a nominal investment and usually allow anyone with a knack for advertising to give it a shot. There are some specific upsides to picking an affiliate program, including but not limited to:

  1. Passive income
  2. Low-risk investment
  3. Convenience and flexibility
  4. Ability to work from home
  5. Great business scalability
  6. Not limited to physical locations
  7. Do something you love

The rates are very fair to the marketeer whether this is a blogger, influencer, or site owner. Commissions can start at as little as 1% of the sold item or service, and all the way up to 45%, and often more.

Some affiliate programs even allow you to continue to generate passive income years after you have brought the customers to a company’s website, providing that the customers continue to shop and purchase services.

Let’s talk about each point separately.

#1 Passive Income

The biggest draw in affiliate marketing programs is their ability to be continuous sources of revenue with or without your oversight. Most affiliate programs pay off months and even years after you have laid the initial structure, allowing you to generate additional income based on your initial investment.

#2 Low-risk Investment

Affiliate programs do not cost much to get into. Depending on what channel you utilize, your initial entry cost will range. Some people prefer to stick to a simple blog and develop it over time. Others turn to Instagram and TikTok, but most expert marketers prefer to lay a simple website, as this infrastructure usually brings long-term benefits once properly established and developed. The cost of the investment is usually very low, not accounting for the personal time you invest.

#3 Convenience and Flexibility

Unlike an office job, affiliate programs do not expect you to be there tending to their needs on a daily basis. You can fit any affiliate program into your daily schedule and allocate as much time as you have to spare. Consistency will allow you to continue developing your project even if you are operating with a small budget and under time restraints.

#4 Ability to Work from Home

Once an affiliate program starts paying off and you are generating a comfortable living income with a good surplus to either save or reinvest, you may think about making affiliate marketing a more permanent gig. You can balance between working on your own project and working for other people’s projects, improving your knowledge and understanding of the sector, as well as tying up new and important relationships.

#5 Great Business Scalability

Not least, affiliate programs have fantastic scalability. Once you start seeing passive income ticking over, you will have the money to afford yourself to hire extra help, launch new projects and continue building across different niches you feel are lucrative or hold the potential to turn a profit.

#6 Not Limited to Physical Locations

Affiliate marketing and affiliate programs are global and you can advertise to any audience and any country so long as you comply with the program’s prerequisites. This means that you can live in one place, but seek an income in another, where economic opportunities may be much better, without being physically located there.

#7 Do Something You Love

You can simply choose a niche you love. Whether this is carnivorous plants, pet food, board game miniatures, or video games, there is no objective limit to what niche you can advertise in. Therefore, pursuing a hobby and turning it into an affiliate marketing opportunity will even give you an edge as you will speak with authority on the specific subject you are trying to promote.

How Do Affiliate Programs Pay?

All affiliate programs establish specific terms and conditions about payment, but you can expect any program you participate in to award you in one of three ways. They are all efficient and how much you generate will usually depend on how well you negotiate with the affiliate manager in charge or the company. Here are the ways affiliate programs pay you.

1. Pay Per Lead

Most companies and people who hire digital marketeers expect the advertising they pay for to bring results. Therefore, pay-per-lead programs expect affiliate partners to help them bring potential customers to their websites and fulfill the desired action. This may be filling out a contact form or providing contact information, signing up for a newsletter, or participating in a survey. As long as the prospective customer has completed the action, you will receive your share.

2. Pay Per Sale

Pay per sale is a standard agreement between big merchants such as Amazon and potential affiliates. A commission is only paid out, usually 1%-3% for most e-commerce portals, after the transaction has been completed and a product has been purchased. In other words, the people you bring must always make a purchase for you to receive your share.

3. Pay Per Click

Some programs expect you to just drive traffic to the owner’s website. You will have to incentivize potential customers to click through and go to the advertised website, no more, no less. Then, based on how much traffic you have successfully redirected, you will receive a payment.

4. Revenue Share

Many companies, especially those within the gambling industry, offer affiliate program members the ability to choose a revenue share option. This provides you with a portion of the customer’s lifetime spendings on the product which could be better, in the long run, depending on the quality of the lead.

Who Does Affiliate Marketing These Days?

While anyone can go into affiliate marketing these days, there are some conditions that have to be met either way. For instance, building infrastructure is usually limited to a few powerful options. So, who does affiliate marketing these days?


Another popular medium to tie up an affiliate program is a dedicated website that describes a product or service in-depth and strives to promote select brands. Good examples are websites that help you plan a wedding or a party.

Readers can get valuable insights into what they would need to host a company party or plant their wedding, and just as it happens, they would find the places they can purchase any products from as well as find the exact brands they need.

This type of affiliate marketing can extend to any niche, whether it’s health, lifestyle, veganism, fitness, sports, and virtually any sector that potential customers would be interested in.


With the rise of Instagram, people have been able to share their ideas with hundreds of thousands of followers, and often even millions of people who tune in to get updates. In fact, brands are already prepared to spend over $15 billion on influencer marketing.

This has presented an interesting opportunity for companies who are eager to get the word out there, and what better than advertising to an already engaged audience? Influencers, though, take a while to build their following and not everyone is successful. It also requires a certain mindset, openness, and perhaps even good looks or a charismatic personality.


Specialists in certain niches gain popularity soon enough. Even though the Internet is full of blogs, those that manage to target audiences well enough and provide value, tend to achieve organic rankings and conversions. Blogging is all about bringing expertise to the table and engaging the audience. You can use blogging to promote a product or, then again, you can use it to provide your readership with worthwhile insights, which usually means better engagement and higher conversion rates.


Streamers are their own breed of influencers. While most people think of Instagram or Twitter when they hear influencers, YouTube and Twitch streamers are gaining quite a bit of popularity.

You can once again have a streamer in virtually any industry. Some streamers are even paid millions to just try a product out or switch their streaming platform entirely. If you do have an established footprint in this sector, you can monetize the interest in your personality or channel and reap further benefits through affiliate marketing and programs.

How to Start Affiliate Marketing and Be Successful

Starting out fresh can be daunting. While the excitement of being your own boss can instill a heady feeling, the realities of managing an entire marketing campaign, or a number of campaigns, will soon bring you down to earth.

However, there is no need to panic as there are established practices and a virtually inexhaustible trove of information available online. Here is how you can be a successful affiliate marketeer in the 21st century and beyond.

1. Promote Products You Are Intimately Familiar With

Knowledge is crucial in being a successful marketeer. While you need a fairly small investment to start, you will be best off focusing on a niche that you know in and out.

Whatever the niche, your success in affiliate programs will depend on how well you understand the product and how well you advertise it. However, it’s essential not to directly ask potential customers to buy. This applies to both how you present your content in writing as well as through advertisement.

This brings us to the second rule of thumb that will give your program the best chances of success.

2. Add Value Through Your Writing and Advertising

While affiliate marketing has a clearly promotional purpose, adding value should be a key focus on any advertising strategy. The most successful affiliate marketers achieve conversions not by having the largest offer, but by organically ranking their content in a sustainable manner that guarantees discoverability and, most importantly, adds value to the reader.

By accessing your blog, Instagram account, or website, potential customers can find answers to popular questions they have about the product. Conversion is a byproduct of satisfying a customer query. To be a successful affiliate marketer today, you need to provide added value to readers.

3. Promote Products by Different Brands and Companies

There is no need to be stuck with a single product or a brand. Most people who go into affiliate marketing make sure to promote various brands. This creates competition between brands that ultimately favors you. If you grow big enough, a brand will be willing to pay you more to advertise its products over a competitor’s, which is still more dividends for you.

You will also diversify your commissions as well as the revenue stream and create a better user experience as you provide a factual comparison of products in the same niche, which readers and potential customers would appreciate.

4. Target Your Affiliate Campaigns to the Right Audience

Traffic is great but to be able to achieve conversions, you need to target your audiences. There is no point in attracting people interested in fitness supplements to your website advertising pet food and vice versa. Instead, you want to gear your website towards an audience that is the most likely to make a purchase and bring you a commission.

You will certainly stumble on some easy ways to generate traffic as you tinker around with your product, but you shouldn’t tip over and try to rank for this unrelated traffic as it wouldn’t guarantee a better stream. Instead, use the alternative traffic source to start a new project, provided there is enough room for growth.

5. Use SEO and Optimization Tricks

Good, strong, and honest content is always bound to rank. Well, almost. There are many search engine optimization (SEO) tricks that come into play. You will want to build your project in a way that allows it to scale and rank through Google’s ever-changing and demanding algorithms.

Trying white hat SEO strategies will almost certainly end up in boosting your website’s rankings and your pages reaching out to more potential customers. Another thing to keep in mind is to try and diversify your traffic.

Don’t depend too much on a single source of traffic as this may backfire. Instead, mix it all up by adding social, paid, organic, and emails. Google News is another angle you can pursue by creating informative and newsworthy content that pertains to your product and helps you boost your authority as a specialist in a niche.

Which Affiliate Marketing Programs Pay the Most?

There are several popular affiliate programs you are bound to have heard of. Yet, just because an affiliate program is famous, this doesn’t mean you should always opt into it. There are hundreds of great programs you can sign up, so there’s no reason to rush into any specific one.

Amazon Associates

Amazon is perhaps the first program you will hear about. The e-commerce giant owned by Jeff Bezos allows you to turn a small tidy profit on every sale you generate for the platform. However, since April 2020, Amazon has scaled down its affiliate commission from 8% to 3% leaving a dent in the funding of many affiliate companies. Still, Amazon offers an overwhelming number of goods which still makes it a good option to diversify your commissions.

Shopify Affiliate Program

The Shopify Affiliate Program is one that will definitely catch your eye. With an average payout of $58 per individual user and a guaranteed $2,000 payout for a “Plus” referral, Shopify advertises in a more affiliate-friendly way. There are dedicated managers who assist newcomers and established customers, and unlike other affiliates, and specifically Amazon, there are no monthly fees or a minimum sales target.


CommissionKings is an iGaming and sports betting affiliate program. As such, it offers one of the highest payouts per converted, paying player or bettor, at an estimated 35%-45% of the revenue generated by the customer.  

The issue with this affiliate program is that it might take an estimated two years to begin seeing any conversions in the first place and you need a lot of time and effort to lay the groundwork. However, if you do break into leading positions, the 45% revenue share will be one of the best you have ever experienced.

Better yet, as long as a customer continues to play and deposit, you will be entitled to the revenue even after you have stopped referring new customers. This could continue years after you have closed shop, for example.

A Final Word on Affiliate Programs

Affiliate marketing is a great way to give yourself a fair start in life. Generating passive income is everyone’s dream, but not many people feel inclined to embark on a journey that may take years before seeing any feasible results. However, finding like-minded people such as a motivated social media manager, a talented content writer, and an SEO specialist who keeps up to date with Google’s ever-changing trends, could soon turn into a successful business model.

What matters most is to take it easy and continue to expand your knowledge in a given area. You don’t have to make affiliate marketing your primary income, but turning a project into a success and generating some passive income could never hurt. There is always a way to make your money work for you if you are willing to try and allocate the necessary effort and show grit and consistency.

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