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Affiliate Marketing for Dummies

Written by: Nicole Colwell  | June 29, 2021

The first internet affiliate marketer was a man named William Tobin, who founded PC Flowers and Gifts.

He started their affiliate program in 1989 and was granted a patent for the idea of affiliate marketing in 2000.

Thanks William, you just gave us all one of easiest ways to make passive income online ever invented.

If you’re looking for a way to start making money online or just create additional income streams for an existing business - affiliate marketing is a fantastic option.

Not only is it extremely low maintenance compared to other ways to make money (like drop shipping, ecommerce, consulting, etc.) it can be extremely lucrative when done right.

If that appeals to you - which, we’re pretty sure it does - let’s dive in! 

What is Affiliate Marketing? 

Affiliate marketing let's anyone make money (in the form of commissions) by recommending products and services to people.

You don't need a product, a fulfillment team, inventory, or a unique idea - all you need is some channel where you have an audience or traffic - like a website, blog, social media platform, YouTube channel, email list, etc.

Essentially, stores (like Amazon, Walmart, Target) and individual brands (in pretty much every industry) allow people to sign up with them and send people to their website - and if you send someone to one of these places through your unique affiliate link and that person takes a specific action - you get paid.

Different affiliate programs pay for different actions.

For example:

  • you might get paid a % of what someone makes a purchase.
  • you might get paid a set $ amount when someone makes a purchase.
  • you might get paid even when someone DOESN'T make a purchase (some brands just want leads).

In any event, you benefit because you can make a recommendation, send somebody to the brand, and your work is done. The brand benefits because they can leverage tons of people with niche relevant blogs, followings, audiences, etc. to do their selling for them!

Pretty sweet, right?

How Does Affiliate Marketing Work?

In order to get started in affiliate marketing, you first have to join an affiliate program. 

We already mentioned stores that have affiliate programs, like Amazon and Walmart, but there are other ways.

Individual Brands

Individual brands have affiliate programs, and you can simply google "brand + affiliate program" or "brand + partner program" to find them.

Have a website about dogs? Google stuff like "affiliate programs for dogs" or "purina affiliate program".

Affiliate Marketplaces

There are also affiliate marketplaces that list a ton of different brands, and once you sign up with an account at the 'marketplace' you can simply one-click apply to each brand, which is nice because you can have one login and dashboard to track multiple products your promoting.

Here are some other examples of places with affiliate opportunities you should explore:

For a more comprehensive list, check out our article on affiliate marketing programs.

Getting started with affiliate marketing programs

  1. Join an affiliate marketing program. 
  2. Receive your unique links (these are important because they track each time you send someone to the program). 
  3. When someone clicks your link, a cookie is saved on their device. Cookies can last for a day, a week, a month, or forever
  4. When the person returns to that website to buy something, and the cookie is still active, guess who cashes in? You do

Here’s an example of how it works in real life: 

Let’s say George is reading your article about the best tablets on the market today. He decides that he doesn’t really need an upgrade at the moment, but later that night, he goes back on that website and orders a new laptop. 

Because your cookie is still active for George, you make money on his new laptop purchase! 

It's pretty much that simple.

If you have your heart set on getting started with affiliate marketing, the opportunities are out there.

Why Should You Consider Becoming an Affiliate Marketer? 

Well, alot of reasons. Some we already mentioned, but here they are packaged up for you in a nice list.... Because who doesn't love a nice list?

Benefit of Affiliate Marketing

  • Being able to work from anywhere in the world. 
  • It’s cheap to get started.
  • Not only that, it’s easy to get started. 
  • Leave the product and service creation up to someone else. 
  • Generate real, passive income. 
  • Have more flexibility.
  • No college degree required.
  • The sky's the limit as far as what you can earn. 

And now the moment we’ve all been waiting for...

How to Make Money with Affiliate Marketing in 7 Easy Steps

Step 1: Choose Your Niche

A tightly focused niche can help you grow your affiliate marketing following faster than a broad one.

You can do well with a broader niche, it just takes longer because there's gonna be more competitors the larger your pool is.

Take our advice and start by going as narrow as possible. Google likes niche websites.

And when we asked Google to confirm of deny if they like niche websites, their official response was:

Plus, you can always expand later.

Now, If you’re not sure what your extremely tightly focused niche should be, start by asking yourself a few questions: 

  • What am I passionate about? You know...what gets you out of bed in the morning? What can you write about with such enthusiasm that it’s contagious? 
  • Can I make money with that thing I’m so passionate about? How popular is it? Are enough people also interested in that thing to the point that it will make you money? 
  • Affiliate opportunities: Are there plenty of affiliate programs in the niche? Do a little preliminary research.

Step 2: Build Your Affiliate Marketing Website

Well truthfully it doesn't HAVE to be a website.

You can build anything that has an audience, but we like building websites because.... Well, we rock at SEO.

And if you're good at SEO you can rank for keywords that people are searching everyday, and make affiliate income on autopilot.

If you don't already have a website, check out our course called Blog Launch where we walk you through exactly how to get an affiliate website up and running and making money.
If you DO already have a website, I highly recommend checking out our course Blog Writing Mastery, where we walk you through exactly how to write your content so it kicks ass in search engines, and that users love to read.

You’ve got to have a website for people to come and check out what you have to offer!

Step 3: Choose Your Affiliate Marketing Programs

If you’ve gotten this far, you’re ready to choose your affiliate marketing program.

Check out affiliate marketplaces, big brands, and individual brands.

Step 4: Focus on Your SEO

Now you’re ready to begin creating content for your affiliate marketing site. Nice work so far, by the way. 

Don’t let the term search engine optimization (SEO) scare you. SEO is nothing more than a set of guidelines that can help your page rank well

You can implement solid SEO on your website or blog from your very first post. All you have to do is: 

  • Make sure your blog posts are engaging and interesting. 
  • Figure out what your keywords are and make sure they appear in prominent places in your content - but don’t spam them. That’s a no-no with Google. 
  • Figure out how to set yourself apart from your competition - in other words, study what the other guys are doing and do it better. 
  • Stay relevant in your writing and avoid the fluff. 
  • Use bullet points, short paragraphs, and calls to action to get people to read on and click your links. 

There are lots of different types of blog posts you can include on your site. 

  • Product reviews. 
  • Product comparisons. 
  • “How-to” guides. 
  • List articles. 

Step 5: Build Your Audience

Even if you’ve developed the best content out there, it won’t help you one bit if no one is reading it, right? 


There are lots of ways for you to build your audience. Here are a few ideas to get you started. 

Build your email list because that’s where the money is. 

Leverage email marketing to collect emails by giving away freebies on your site. 

For example, if your niche is in the health and wellness field, why not come up with a 7-day Keto meal plan PDF? People can have it for free if they simply give you their email address. 

Look for guest post opportunities. 

You may be able to write a guest post on another influencer’s blog or have them write one for yours. Either way, this is a win-win situation. 

You’ll be able to get your content in front of a bigger audience. 

You’ll also get backlinks and more authority, which is great for your SEO. 

Make your social media presence known. 

You’d be crazy not to create a solid social media presence. SEO can take some time to build, but social media gets your content in front of people’s eyes right away. 

You can probably think of a handful of sites that you can utilize, and that list should include: 

Once again, check out what your competitors are doing and make sure you do it better. That’s all you have to do to grow your following and establish your brand on social media. 

Step 6: Promote, Promote, Promote

As your audience grows, it’s up to you to provide them with value. You have earned their trust. That means that when you suggest products to them, they’ll seriously consider them. 

Key Tip: Make sure you’re only promoting products they’ll like. Otherwise, you might lose that hard-earned trust, and nobody wants that. 

Here are a few ideas to get you up and running with promotions. 

  • Include banner ads on your site - Your affiliate program probably has a lot of creatives that you can use for just this purpose. Use them!
  • Do product reviews frequently - People love product reviews, and because they trust you, they believe that if you love it, they’ll love it too. 
  • Create promotional videos and images - This can be anything from graphics that give instructions on how to use a product to unboxing videos. 
  • Include in-text content links - This is basic, and it’s something you should be doing in all of your blog posts. Your links will take people directly to the site where they can buy the product you’re writing about. Easy-peasy. 
  • Host giveaways and give discounts - People love free stuff and they love to save money too. 

Oh, and remember that email list? Use it!

Step 7: Continue Putting Out Killer Content

All that’s left for you to do now is wash, rinse, repeat. 

Congratulations! If you’ve made it this far, you’re well on your way to starting a successful affiliate marketing gig. 

Our advice to you at this point is to keep doing what you’ve been doing. Stay updated on the newest trends and keep your audience engaged. 

We believe in you. You’re going to do great! 

But First - Some Quick Affiliate Marketing Dos & Don’ts 


  • 👍 Remember that affiliate marketing is not a way to get rich quick. It takes work to make the big bucks. 
  • 👍 Realize that you might not be accepted into every affiliate marketing program you apply to. It’s OK. Just keep on keeping on until you find the right fit. 
  • 👍 Keep your expectations realistic. It might take a while before you can quit your day job. But whatever you do, don’t give up. 


  • 👎 Overcomplicate the process. It’s really not that hard, and the main reason a lot of people never get started is because they think it is. 
  • 👎 Try to go too fast. Learn what you need to learn so that once you’re ready to get started, you can do it well. 
  • 👎 Do what everyone else is doing - do it better! Pick products that others aren’t talking about within your niche to set yourself apart from your competition. 

Next Steps for Affiliate Marketing Success

If you want help getting started with turning your passion into profits, building a lifestyle business, or just adding more revenue streams to your existing business - join the free SERP University group where we give expert advice, coaching, insider information and help you on your journey by answering your questions to get you unstuck.

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