Mar 02, 2022

What Is Affiliate Marketing? – Complete Guide with FAQs, Tips, Advice, & More   

what is affiliate marketing

Affiliate marketing is a technique that has gained tons of popularity over the last few years among marketers and brands alike. 

It’s a tactic that benefits all parties involved, which is why it’s something that many brands, as well as affiliate marketers, dabble in. 

However, before you jump into affiliate marketing, it’s vital that you have an idea of how it’s done correctly. Otherwise, you’ll just waste your time and effort. 

Quick Summary

In this post, we will discuss affiliate marketing and how it works. We’ll also provide a step-by-step guide on how you can get started with affiliate marketing. 

Other topics that we’ll discuss include: 

  • The different types of affiliate marketing
  • The benefits and pitfalls of affiliate marketing 
  • The most popular affiliate marketing programs out there currently 
  • How you will get paid as an affiliate marketer
  • The different types of affiliate marketing channels to choose from
  • How you can measure your affiliate marketing success
  • Additional tips to become a successful affiliate marketer

So without further ado, let’s get into it.

What is Affiliate Marketing? 

Affiliate marketing is a process through which an affiliate markets a product or a service by another brand to their followers. If any of the affiliate’s followers buy that product or subscribe to that service, the affiliate will get a commission from the brand. 

The process can be extremely simple. For example, suppose you have a product you enjoy, and you’d like to recommend that product to your followers and peers. You can check to see if the brand that sells that product has an affiliate marketing program. 

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You can register for it and recommend that product to your followers if it does. You will be provided with an affiliate link by the brand. This affiliate link keeps track of how many people were redirected to the brand’s website by your recommendation. 

If any of your followers buy a product from the brand, you’ll receive a commission from the brand. As mentioned above, this is all tracked through your affiliate link. 

The Parties Involved in Affiliate Marketing

The great thing about affiliate marketing for a brand is that anyone can market your product for you. This can be both a good thing or a bad thing depending on who’s marketing for you. It’s good because you can spread out your marketing efforts across different types of individuals. 

Since those individuals have different types of people who follow them, you can really spread your brand’s message across different audiences. This might help you tap into an audience segment that you hadn’t even thought of. 

Of course, the people who are your affiliate marketers will also receive a share of the profit. 

Let’s delve deeper into the relationships between the parties involved in the affiliate marketing process. These parties are 

  1. Brands that have affiliate marketing programs for their products and services
  2. Affiliate marketers 
  3. Consumers 

If you want to be an affiliate marketer or if you are a brand that wants to have an affiliate marketing program, it’s vital that you have an understanding of these relationships. When you know the dynamics, it’ll help you find success in affiliate marketing. 


It’s important to note that we use “brands” as an umbrella term here. You don’t necessarily need to be a huge brand or a big corporation. You could be a small business that has the resources to have an affiliate marketing program. In fact, you could even be a solo entrepreneur. 

The “brand” or the “seller” is the entity that has a product or service that they want to advertise to the masses. This could be a physical object such as groceries, tools, etc., or it could be a service such as a printing service or a massage parlor. 

When it comes to affiliate marketing, the brand or the seller is actually the least involved in the marketing process. This is because, in affiliate marketing, it’s not the job of the brand to advertise the product or service. That responsibility falls on the affiliate marketer. 

An example of such a brand could be a dropshipping company that wants to have an affiliate marketing program in order to reach new audience segments. Another example could be an email marketing tool that has an affiliate marketing program to help advertise the tool. 

Affiliate Marketers 

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There are many terms thrown around for affiliate marketers. You can call them affiliates or publishers as well. 

They can be either an individual or another brand that makes efforts to advertise another brand’s product or service to the masses. This can be done in a number of different ways, as you’ll find out later in this post. 

Long story short: The affiliate is the one who does the marketing for a product or a service. They employ their resources, time, and money to create ads and/or reviews for the product or service so that their followers may possibly buy it. 

For every customer that buys the product, the affiliate will receive a share of the revenue generated from the sale. 

Affiliates typically have a specialized audience that is interested in a specific niche topic. That’s why affiliates typically use their platform to market products and services related to their industry. This increases the chances that their followers may actually buy the product or service.

When you have a defined niche or a specialized topic that you typically talk about with your content. This gives you an edge as a marketer because people tend to trust your opinion more than any other typical marketer. 

This gives affiliate marketers an edge over the marketing team that a brand may have to market products on its own. 


This may or may not be obvious to you but the consumers are the ones that make affiliate marketing possible. They’re the ones that consume the content produced by affiliate marketers. 

Affiliates could advertise products to them in a number of different ways such as through blogs, reviews, videos, emails, and much more. We’ll talk about the different channels used in affiliate marketing in detail later on in this post. 

So basically, when a consumer buys a product or service from a brand through an affiliate link, the affiliate and the brand share the profits from that sale. 

It’s important to note that in most cases, the share of the affiliate usually comes out of the original retail price for the product or service. It’s not like the consumer has to pay extra when they purchase something through an affiliate link. 

Due to legal reasons, affiliate marketers have to disclose when a review or an ad they do is part of an affiliate program. They must make the customer aware that they will make revenue from the purchase if the consumer decides to buy it. 

Hence, in most cases, consumers are aware that they are about to buy something through an affiliate program. Other times, consumers may be completely oblivious to the fact they are about to buy something through an affiliate marketing structure. 

In either case, it doesn’t really affect the consumer in terms of the amount of money they pay for the product or service. Their buyer journey will largely remain unaffected after they are redirected to the brand’s website through an affiliate link. 

The Different Types of Affiliate Marketing 

Largely, you will see three different types of affiliate marketing: 

  • Unattached affiliate marketing 
  • Related affiliate marketing 
  • Involved affiliate marketing 

Unattached Affiliate Marketing 

Within this affiliate marketing model, the affiliate is an entity that has no prior relation or connection to the brand they are about to promote. In addition to that, these affiliates also don’t claim to have any authority or expertise regarding the product or service they promote. 

Hence, with this type of affiliate marketing, the affiliates do advertise the product or service but not as an authoritative entity. 

The advantage of this type of affiliate marketing is that it absolves the affiliates from any problems that any customer may face with the product or service. The customer can’t complain to the affiliate since they never claimed to be an authority. 

The obvious disadvantage to unattached affiliate marketing is that it typically has a fairly low conversion rate. When customers look up products or services online, they want to buy something that has been vouched for by an authoritative entity. 

Somebody who has expertise within the industry that the product or service is related to will have a much higher chance of converting customers. 

Related Affiliate Marketing 

This is, by far, the most common type of affiliate marketing that is practiced currently. For this type, the affiliate does have some type of relation or connection to the brand or product that they advertise. 

In most cases, this connection is based on the niche or industry that the affiliate is involved in. The industry is typically the same or closely related to the product or service they advertise as part of their affiliate marketing. 

Since these types of affiliates are involved in the same industry or niche, they have some authority and influence to generate traffic. As a result, their followers will also be much more trusting of them compared to unattached affiliates. 

As you can probably imagine, related affiliates have a much higher chance of converting consumers compared to unattached affiliates. 

However, it should be noted that while related affiliates have a much higher degree of authority, they still make no guarantees on how the product or service will perform. This means that if a customer has a bad experience with the product, the affiliate is not the one to blame. 

They’ll have to take their complaint to the brand to whom the product or service belongs to. 

Related affiliate marketing is the most common type of affiliate marketing because it has a higher chance to convert customers. At the same time, affiliates don’t have to worry about dealing with customers who have had unpleasant experiences after a purchase. 

Involved Affiliate Marketing 

As the name suggests, this type of marketing involves the affiliates much more heavily with the brand they want to advertise. 

In this case, the affiliates provide reviews or testimonials for the product or service and assure their followers that they’ll have a good experience with it. Affiliates have used the product or service on their own and have had good experiences with it. 

They are confident that if their followers purchase it, they will also have similarly pleasant experiences. 

Involved affiliates can serve as valuable and trusted sources of information. 

However, with this type of marketing, the affiliate does put themselves at risk. If they advertise a certain product or service and customers have bad experiences with it, their reputation will be tarnished. 

How Do I Get Paid as an Affiliate Marketer? 

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It’s understandable why many people want to become an affiliate marketer, it’s a great way to earn passive income and steadily increase your monthly revenue. Most affiliate programs are also quite easy to get into as well.

However, you might wonder how exactly you’ll be paid after you’ve put an affiliate link out there for a brand. 

Well, the answer is a bit complex. The way you get paid will depend on the affiliate marketing program you choose to register for. Brands set the terms and conditions for their affiliate programs and they also determine how you’ll be paid for your efforts as an affiliate. 

As an affiliate, you can get paid in the following ways: 

1. Pay Per Sale 

This is by far the most common payment structure that is utilized in most affiliate marketing programs out there. 

Basically, when a person uses your affiliate link and purchases something from the brand, only then are you compensated. A portion of the revenue generated from the sale is provided to the affiliate by the brand. 

Hence, you have to actually get the consumer to invest in the product or service before you see any revenue as an affiliate. 

2. Pay Per Lead

Pay per lead programs are fairly similar to pay per sale programs but rather than a sale, the brand wants you to get the customer to complete a specific action. 

This could be anything from filling out a form, registering for a trial for a product, subscribing to a newsletter, or something else. 

3. Pay Per Click 

This method is purely based on how many people are redirected from the affiliate’s site to the brand’s site through the affiliate link. 

This is a method that brands use in order to generate traffic on their website. Affiliates are compensated for every click on their affiliate link. 

This is a method that was fairly common in the past but is rarely used by most brands these days. That’s because it was subject to a lot of fraud in the past with affiliates setting up bots and scripts to click on their links. 

The Benefits and Pitfalls of Affiliate Marketing 

Just like every other technique and tactic out there, affiliate marketing also comes with its own set of benefits and pitfalls. 

The reason why it’s such a popular form of marketing these days is that it genuinely generates great value for all the parties involved. However, there are definitely some pitfalls that you need to watch out for as well. 

Let’s start with the benefits first: 


To start off, it’s fairly obvious that affiliate marketing can benefit both affiliates and the brand financially quite well. 

The brand benefits from extremely low-cost advertising from its affiliates. Not only that but they also don’t have to provide any creative input since the content is all determined and manufactured by the affiliates. 

The affiliates benefit from it when they receive revenue from all the customers they convert with their affiliate links. 

The Return on Investment (ROI) for affiliate marketing is usually very high for brands. This is because they only have to pay affiliates whenever a sale is made. If no sale is made, the brand has to pay nothing at all to the affiliate. 

Affiliate marketing programs can be a great option for brands also because they allow them to set up their own terms and conditions. You have complete control over how you want your product or service to be marketed by potential affiliates. 

If you’re a brand that wants to set up an affiliate program, make sure that you take your time to carefully set up your terms. Remember that you do have the freedom to set up terms to ensure your product or service is not advertised in a fashion that you don’t want. 

Most affiliate marketing programs that are currently present online have strict rules set on how leads are generated. Fraudulent or shady methods for affiliates to get clicks on their links are strictly not allowed. 

Many affiliate marketing programs can also layout terms related to how their product or service is discussed or talked about by an affiliate. 

In short, as a brand, you have a lot of control over how your product or service is advertised through your affiliates. However, you need to ensure you spend time to draft the appropriate set of terms and conditions to ensure no fraudulent or shady practices take place. 

Another great advantage you have as an affiliate (as long as you’re not an involved affiliate) is that you don’t have to deal with customers or provide any customer support. 

If somebody checks out your content, uses your affiliate link, and purchases a product from the brand that you advertised, they will now deal with the brand exclusively. Any problems they run into with their product will be addressed by the brand, not by the affiliate. 


As briefly discussed above, if you’re a brand that has an affiliate program, you’ll come across some shady affiliates sooner or later. 

These are affiliates that use fraudulent methods to fake clicks on their affiliate link. This is highly unethical and it can be extremely harmful to your business. 

There are many different ways through which affiliates can fake clicks on their affiliate link or try to trick you into paying them. They can also use unethical means to get potential customers to click on their affiliate link. 

You don’t want potential customers to be tricked into coming to your website. Not only will that annoy them but they may end up developing a negative association with your brand. 

For example, some affiliates try to get potential customers to install spyware or adware on their devices. This causes them to be led to the affiliate’s page that has their affiliate link constantly. 

Do you really think that a person who’s constantly being forced to visit a link will have a good association with the brand they’re being led to? Of course, they won’t. 

Hence, while affiliate marketing programs can be beneficial, they need to be monitored to ensure affiliates are following your terms and conditions as a brand.

As an affiliate, one disadvantage that can be quite crippling for you is the fact that you may have very little creative control over the content that you create for the brand. 

As mentioned above in the benefits for brands, brands can set up strict terms and conditions for their affiliates. This includes dictating how their product or service is to be discussed within the content that the affiliates make. 

Hence, as a content creator that wants to be an affiliate, this can be quite discouraging. 

A brief note about technology: As technology has developed, we have made better ways of keeping track of user history and the links they click on. 

As a result of this, many of the shady practices previously employed by unethical affiliates have now become obsolete. 

For example, in the past, many brands with affiliate programs would pay their affiliates based on cost per click (traffic) or cost per mile (impressions). This was abused by affiliates as they would set up scripts to fake traffic and impressions. 

In recent years with the evolution of technology, we have much better ways of keeping track of what people are viewing and whether it’s a real human or a script. 

Cookies have played a major role in ensuring shady affiliates cannot use such practices. 

The focus has shifted a lot from cost per click and cost per mile to actual sales and conversions that occur thanks to an affiliate’s link. 

It’s possible to keep track of whether a customer bought something through an affiliate’s link thanks to the evolution of cookies within web browsers.

Different Examples of Affiliate Marketing Channels 

When it comes to the tone and presentation of the content, many affiliate marketers tend to follow the same pattern. However, when it comes to the channels they use to distribute that content, it can be quite different. 

The fact that people consume news and information in many different ways on the internet requires affiliate marketers to use different distribution channels. These could be text content such as blogs or it could be video content such as video reviews.

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Some common examples of popular affiliate marketing channels include but are not limited to: 

Influencers on Social Media and Video Platforms

Influencers are individuals that already have a big audience on a specific social media platform or several different platforms. 

Examples of influencers include Instagram models, Youtubers, TikTokers, and much more. They hold great sway over the opinions of their followers which is why they can often benefit brands if they become affiliates. 

Not only will the brand benefit because their product or service will be promoted to the influencer’s following, but the influencer will benefit as well. That’s because of course, they will receive a percentage of the revenue generated through their affiliate link. 

Instagram is an extremely popular social media platform that is utilized by influencers to market different products and services. Influencers hold special sway over their audience because they are often considered to be experts within their specific niche or industry. 

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That’s why they can become trustworthy sources of information for their followers. Influencers often have campaigns on social media for different brands. They include their affiliate link within the captions of the posts they create. 

The posts themselves can be an endorsement or a review of the product or service of the brand that has the affiliate marketing program. 

When an influencer is in the middle of a campaign for a specific product or service, they can also have their affiliate link within their bio. This can be difficult for some since the bio has a strict character limit. 

However, this issue can be resolved if you use a URL shortener to shorten the affiliate link you have. 

To shorten your link through Pixelfy, go to the website and register yourself. Then, you can log in.

Step 1: After you log in, you will see the main dashboard of Pixelfy. From here, you can check out analytics of shortened links you created in the past. 

You can also use the URL shortener box at the top of the page to create a new shortened link. 

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Step 2: To create a new shortened link for your affiliate marketing, copy and paste your affiliate link into the URL shortener box as shown in the screenshot below. 

You should automatically be taken to the next page. If you are not taken to the next page, click on the “Shorten” button. 

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Step 3: You will receive the shortened version of your affiliate link which you can then add into your bio on Instagram.

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Bloggers have strong expertise when it comes to search engine optimization (SEO). They know how to incorporate the correct information into their content so they can find the right audience for the product they promote. 

That’s why bloggers can work exceptionally well with brands that offer affiliate marketing programs. Bloggers can benefit from commissions while the brand will benefit from the traffic that the bloggers pull in. 

Again, if a blog is about a specific niche and it promotes a product within that niche, their word will be considered to be quite trustworthy. This is because successful blogs within their niche are often trusted by their readers and members of that specific industry. 

Email Marketing 

While email marketing is definitely considered to be an older distribution channel in today’s day and age, it’s still a viable option for affiliate marketers. 

Many people take advantage of email lists that they have developed over the course of many months or years through different avenues. Examples of such avenues include sign-up forms on landing pages, subscriptions to newsletters, etc. 

They can use these email lists to advertise products or services by other brands and benefit through their affiliate links. You can also include hyperlinks to products within newsletters you may have. 

Which Affiliate Marketing Program Should You Choose?

When you first start out as an affiliate marketer, your head might spin due to the dizzying number of affiliate marketing programs available. 

It can be difficult to make a decision about which affiliate marketing programs to pursue. 

That’s why we’ve made this list of the best affiliate marketing programs out there currently. 

We took several factors into account such as

  • Percentage commission per sale
  • Level of creative control
  • Ease of use
  • How long does it take to get paid?

And much more.

The best affiliate marketing programs you can choose from currently are 

  • Amazon Associates
  • Kajabi
  • Teachable
  • HubSpot
  • Elementor
  • Thinkific
  • Wix
  • WP Engine
  • GreenGeeks
  • LeadPages
  • ConvertKit 
  • AWeber
  • Kinsta
  • Target 

Additional Tips for Affiliate Marketers

Many people look at the end result of how successful affiliate marketers benefit from the affiliate income they receive. They fail to take into account the amount of work that went into setting up that affiliate income. 

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The truth of the matter is that to actually earn a sizable amount of revenue from affiliate links, you have to build yourself up to be someone with a level of authority. Otherwise, no one will click on your affiliate links. 

Some things you can do to ensure you find success as an affiliate marketer include: 

Develop Authority and Rapport 

Before you start affiliate marketing, you have to find and cultivate an audience. There’s no point advertising your affiliate links if there’s no one there to even see them. 

It’s a good idea to have an audience within a specific niche. Once you’ve developed a loyal audience, they’ll consider you to be a trustworthy source of information. You can then start to add affiliate links to your content for your followers to enjoy. 

This goes without saying but you’ll find a lot more success if the affiliate marketing programs you join are related to products within your specific niche.

Talk Like a Friend 

Whether you’re a Youtuber or a blogger, it’s important that you be human and talk to your audience on a one-to-one level. You want to make it personal when you talk about a product you want to promote as part of affiliate marketing work. 

Tell your audience about what your experience with the product was like and how pleasant you find it to be. Not only will this boost the conversion rate through your affiliate link but it will also build the trustworthiness of your own brand as an affiliate marketer. 

Review Products and Services Within Your Niche 

Once you have developed an audience within a specific niche, you can start to review different products and services related to it. 

Since you’ve developed a community around your brand, you can leverage your opinion as an expert within your niche to promote products and services. People will trust your word and you’ll see an increase in conversions within your affiliate links. 

It should go without saying that you should choose products and services for affiliate marketing with great care. 

You don’t want to promote a mediocre product by saying that it’s the greatest thing to grace the market. That will hurt your image as an affiliate marketer and people might lose trust in you. 

Hence, always choose affiliate marketing programs for products and services that you genuinely think are worthwhile.

It can often also be a good idea to do comparison reviews between two similar products and have affiliate links for both of them within your content. 

Test a Variety of Strategies 

You may start off on just a single platform but that doesn’t mean you have to stick to it forever. 

Go ahead and experiment with different distribution channels. Maybe start a blog or an email campaign. It’s a good idea to test all available avenues in order to get an estimate of which ones work best for your specific audience. 

Wrapping Things Up… 

With affiliate sales through the roof, affiliate marketing is still one of the most popular forms of marketing in today’s day and age. 

While it’s definitely a great way to generate a source of passive income, most people forget the hard work involved before it becomes that. 

You have to take the time to do the planning, research, and well-thought-out execution to create a successful affiliate marketing business. 

If you have any more questions, please reach out to us in the comments section below.