What is Affiliate Marketing – Guide to Earning Online

Updated: 19 Jun 2024


Have you ever wondered how some YouTubers or bloggers make money online? Did you know there’s a way to earn commissions by recommending products you love? 

I know you guys are shocked, but that’s all the magic of “affiliate marketing!”. 

What is affiliate marketing, how does it work, and how can you make money? These are all queries that are going to be covered in this article. 

So, without wasting time, let’s dig in!

What is Affiliate Marketing? 

Affiliate Marketing is like teamwork, where people promote products for companies and get paid for it. Here’s how it works: First, you sign up to help a company sell its stuff. Then, you tell others about these products using special links or codes. When someone buys something through your link, you get a reward, like a thank-you bonus. 

So basically, you help sell things, and in return, you earn money. It’s a way for companies to sell more and for people to make extra cash online.

History of Affiliate Marketing

Believe it or not, rewarding people for bringing in new customers existed way before computers! 

Think about a salesperson getting a commission for each item they sell. That’s a basic form of affiliate marketing.

Birth of the digital affiliate (1989): Fast-forward to the late 1980s, when a company called PC Flowers & Gifts launched the first official affiliate program online. This means they started rewarding websites for sending them customers!

Amazon joins the party (1996):  Seeing the potential of affiliate marketing, Amazon launched its famous Associates Program in 1996. This helped make affiliate marketing a household name.

Tracking gets easier (the 1990s):  Around this time, a technology called “cookies” was invented. This helped websites track who came from an affiliate link, making it easier to pay them accurately.

Affiliate networks emerged (1998):  As affiliate marketing grew, companies called affiliate networks started appearing. These networks connected advertisers with publishers (people promoting products), making it easier for everyone to get involved.

The rise of influencers (2010s):  Social media stars and bloggers became powerful in marketing. Many started using affiliate marketing to promote products to their audience.

This is just a brief look at the history of affiliate marketing. Overall, it has grown from a simple concept in the 1990s to a multi-billion-dollar industry today!

Key Players in Affiliate Marketing

In Affiliate Marketing, there are four leading players:

  1. Merchants/Advertisers
  2. Affiliates/publishers
  3. Affiliate networks
  4. Customers

Let’s learn about these via example! 

Merchants/Advertisers: Let’s consider DGAPS, a company that develops mobile applications. To boost app downloads, DGAPS has decided to collaborate with affiliates. DGAPS becomes the merchant or advertiser.

Affiliates/Publishers: Now, imagine Abbas, a tech enthusiast who runs a YouTube channel about mobile apps. DGAPS offers Abbas a commission for every app download he drives through his channel. Abbas is the affiliate or publisher because he promotes DGAPS apps on his platform.

Affiliate Networks: Abbas joins an affiliate network called “AppAffiliateHub,” which connects him with various app developers, including DGAPS. The network provides Abbas with tracking tools and handles payments between him and the app developers he promotes.

Customers: Lastly, people like Alex are searching for new apps to download. Alex watches Abbas’s video review of a DGAPS app and downloads it through the affiliate link Abbas provides. Maria is the customer in this scenario.

Types of Affiliate Marketing

There are three significant types of affiliate marketing: 

  • Unattached Affiliate Marketing: You promote products without directly recommending them or being involved in sales.
  • Related Affiliate Marketing involves promoting products relevant to your content or audience, making it more natural and helpful.
  • Involved Affiliate Marketing: You’re actively engaged in selling the products, often through personal recommendations or experiences.

Types of Affiliate Commissions

These are the standard ways affiliate programs reward their affiliates, referred to as affiliate marketing commission structures.

  1. Pay-per-sale (PPS): Affiliates earn money when someone they refer makes a purchase.
  2. Pay-per-click (PPC): Affiliates get paid each time someone clicks on their affiliate link, regardless of whether they buy anything.
  3. Pay-per-lead (PPL): Affiliates receive a commission for generating leads, like getting people to sign up for a free trial or fill out a form.
  4. Pay-per-impression (PPI): Affiliates earn money based on the number of times users see their affiliate link, regardless of clicks or purchases.

The Benefits of Affiliate Marketing

Here are simplified explanations of the benefits of affiliate marketing:

1. For Affiliates

  • Earn Money without Products: Affiliates can make money by promoting products they don’t own.
  • Work Anywhere: They can work from anywhere, giving them flexibility.
  • Promote Many Things: Affiliates can advertise many products, increasing their income potential.

2. For Merchants

  • Cost-Effective: It’s cheaper than traditional advertising and helps find new customers.
  • Use Trusted Influencers: They can partner with respected affiliates to gain customer trust.
  • Pay for Results: Merchants only pay when they get sales or leads, making it more cost-efficient.

3. For Consumers:

  • More Choices: Consumers can find a broader range of products online.
  • Trustworthy Recommendations: They can trust affiliates’ advice when making purchases.

How to Get Started with Affiliate Marketing

Getting started with affiliate marketing is easy! Here’s how:

1. For Affiliates

  • Choosing a niche and target audience: Consider what you love and who might want to buy it.
  • Identifying relevant affiliate programs to join: Find programs that match what you want to promote.
  • Strategies for promoting affiliate products (blogging, social media, etc.): Decide how you want to tell people about your products.
  • Importance of transparency and building trust with your audience: Be honest and build a good relationship with them.

2. For Merchants

  • Developing a solid affiliate program with transparent terms and benefits: Make a program that’s easy to understand and gives good rewards.
  • Selecting the right affiliates who align with your brand: Choose affiliates who represent your company’s values.
  • Providing effective marketing materials and support to affiliates: Give your affiliates the tools and help they need to promote your products well.

Success Tips for Affiliate Marketing

Here are some simple tips for doing well in affiliate marketing:

  • Transparency and disclosure: Be open about your affiliate partnerships. Let your audience know when you’re promoting something and that you may earn a commission from their purchases.
  • Building trust with your audience: Provide valuable content and recommendations that genuinely help your audience. Engage with them, answer questions, and be authentic in your interactions.
  • Diversifying revenue streams: Don’t rely on just one product or platform. Explore different niches, products, and affiliate programs to spread out your income sources and reduce risk.
  • Tracking and analyzing performance metrics: Use tools like Google Analytics or affiliate program dashboards to monitor your performance. Pay attention to metrics like clicks, conversions, and commission earnings. 
  • Staying updated with industry trends: Stay informed about changes and innovations in affiliate marketing by following industry blogs, joining forums or groups, and attending webinars or conferences.

Common Myths about Affiliate Marketing

You might hear a few things about affiliate marketing that don’t quite add up. Let’s clarify them!

Myth #1: Get Rich Quick!

Truth: Building an affiliate income takes time and effort. You must find suitable products, make interesting content, and gain people’s trust. 

Myth #2: Big Websites Only Win.

Truth: Even small websites with engaged followers can do well in affiliate marketing. Pick a topic you know well and connect with your audience in a friendly way.

Myth #3: It’s All About Annoying Ads.

Truth: The best affiliate marketing helps people. You should recommend products you genuinely like, not just throw ads everywhere.

Myth #4: It’s Over and Done With.

Truth: Affiliate marketing is growing! More and more businesses use affiliates to find new customers.

Myth #5: You Need a Fancy Website.

Truth: You can promote affiliate products on social media, YouTube videos, or emails! There are many ways to get started.

The key to affiliate marketing is being honest and offering something valuable. Focus on creating great content and recommending products you love; success will follow!


In this article, we’ve explored affiliate marketing, from its basic definition to addressing some major misconceptions. Along the way, we’ve seen how it offers a flexible way for individuals and businesses to earn income online. 

However, like any strategy, affiliate marketing has its pros and cons. From my personal experience, I’ve found that promoting reliable products through affiliate links on your website and social platforms can lead to more sustainable success.  Being open and honest can build trust with your peeps and keep the good vibes flowing.


Here are some frequently asked questions about ‘What is affiliate marketing?’ You might find them helpful to read.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of affiliate marketing?

The major pros and cons of affiliate marketing are mentioned below. 


  • Low cost/risk to start
  • Easy to scale income
  • Potential for high earnings


  • Reliant on others’ products
  • Requires consistent effort
  • Income can be variable
How many types of affiliate marketing are there?

There are three types of affiliate marketing: 

  • Unattached (promote anything)
  • Involved (reviews, comparisons)
  • Related (niche-specific products)
How do I earn in affiliate marketing?

To earn in affiliate marketing, you promote products or services through unique links from the affiliate program. When someone clicks on your link and makes a purchase, you earn a commission.

How can I start affiliate marketing with no money?

Starting for free:

  • Use social media platforms like YouTube or Instagram.
  • Build a blog focused on a specific niche.
  • Partner with businesses offering free affiliate programs.
Is affiliate marketing easy?

Affiliate marketing can be straightforward but requires effort to succeed. Understanding your audience, selecting the right products, and effectively promoting them is key, so it’s not easy!

How to create affiliate links?

To create affiliate links, sign up for an affiliate program and access your unique affiliate links from the dashboard. These links typically contain a unique tracking code identifying sales generated through your promotions.



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