How to start affiliate marketing: 8 steps to a successful affiliate marketing business

10 min


Business grows when it expands its audience and increases sales. It seems simple – just find new customers and sell more to them. 

However, challenges often arise: where to find paying customers, how to fund advertising, how to scale into new markets, and so on. One tool for developing your business is affiliate marketing. 

It comes in handy when you need to reach a new customer segment or territory, strengthen your brand through collaboration with well-known companies, and reduce marketing costs. If you ever wanted to become an affiliate, this article is for you.

It will help you learn how to get started with affiliate marketing in 2024, so make sure to read it to the end, especially if you are just at the beginning of your journey.

How to start affiliate marketing: 8 steps to a successful affiliate marketing business
Affiliates embed partner links as part of their website content. Image: Pixabay

Step 1: Understanding affiliate marketing

Affiliate marketing is a marketing strategy where a seller collaborates with other companies or individuals (affiliates) to promote their products.

This allows brands that start affiliate marketing to tap into a new audience and attract buyers through a partner network. Partners, in turn, gain an additional source of income from their resources: websites, blogs, and social networks.

While not the simplest form of marketing, it can bring significant profits to both the business and the affiliate providing customers.

This marketing approach suits various companies and brands that want to:

  • Expand their audience and sales.
  • Extend their sales geography and attract new customers from different regions or countries.
  • Cut marketing costs by using affiliate programs as a tool to attract new clients.
  • Enhance their reputation and increase visibility in the market through partners with a loyal audience.
  • Diversify their business and expand their product range.

Affiliates embed partner links as part of their website content or as a call-to-action (CTA) button. These unique links direct customers from the partner’s site to the seller, indicating that the user was referred by that specific partner.

This is one of the most important things in this case, so make sure to learn how to create affiliate links properly.

Successful partners who effectively promote the seller’s site and drive traffic receive compensation. Affiliate marketing for beginners may offer several different commission models, it’s crucial to find the one that suits you best.

Step 2: Why business in affiliate marketing can be profitable for you

Affiliate marketing for companies works well when businesses are looking to acquire thousands of new customers within a short timeframe, typically ranging from six months to a year.

Moreover, affiliate marketing allows to attract a targeted customer at a lower cost compared to other internet advertising channels or offline promotions. Sounds advantageous, doesn’t it?

However, it’s essential to note that the success of an affiliate marketing program still requires significant investments and meticulous, persistent effort. Managing such a program involves numerous ongoing and long-term tasks: recruiting, launching new campaigns, team management, and more.

Many individuals, starting affiliate marketing, later decide they want to sell products and services independently. If you choose to become an independent seller, you can leverage the knowledge gained as an affiliate.

Furthermore, new sellers can create their own affiliate programs. You’ll know which products and services are in demand, and you can use your experience to establish better working relationships with affiliates promoting your products or services.

Managing affiliate programs

If you want to manage affiliate programs, there are three main approaches. They differ based on the resources available to the business at a particular moment:

  • In-house Management. This approach involves launching the project independently or with the help of another company employee. In this case, a team is assembled with a project manager at the helm. 
  • Network Management. This approach utilizes previously established affiliate networks that can offer various options for managing your program. 
  • Outsourced Program Management (OPM). Opting for an external program manager (OPM) is a choice for businesses looking for cost-effective solutions. 
How to start affiliate marketing: 8 steps to a successful affiliate marketing business
There are plenty of affiliate marketing cases on the internet in different niches. Image: Lukas

Step 3: Formats and tools of affiliate marketing

If you want to know how to start affiliate marketing, you have to understand it’s tools for effective collaboration with affiliates:

  1. Offer integration. Partners showcase your special offers and promo codes on their online platforms.
  2. Content integration. Partners publish information about special projects, quizzes, articles, guides, and interviews on their resources. Nearly all major affiliate programs have their blogs where they include content from their partners.
  3. Product integration. Two or more affiliates collaborate to create a joint product.

Partnership possibilities in marketing are not limited to these formats. You can invent unique interactions with affiliates and adapt existing methods to suit your goals.

Among the popular tools of affiliate marketing are:

  • Affiliate links. Deep links that partners place on their websites or social media to attract customers to the advertiser’s site. It is crucial for beginners to know how to create affiliate links.
  • Coupons and promo codes. Special codes distributed by partners to their audience, offering discounts on products or services to attract customers to the seller’s site.
  • Banners. Graphic images with advertising offers from the advertiser that partners display on the internet.
  • Email campaigns and messenger marketing. Partners send promotional emails or messages to their audience, encouraging them to visit the site and make purchases.
  • Social media. Promoting products or services through affiliates’ social media accounts.

If you want to read more about affiliate marketing examples, there are plenty of cases on the internet in different niches and with various profit numbers.

Step 4: Payment and commission for affiliates

In affiliate marketing various models reward partners differently:

  • Pay-Per-Sale (PPS): affiliates receive a percentage of the sale amount. This model strongly motivates affiliates to bring targeted audiences to your site.
  • Pay-Per-Lead (PPL): partners are rewarded for generating leads, and whether those leads convert into sales depends on you.
  • Pay-Per-Click (PPC): payment is made for each click. However, this model can be inefficient, as dishonest affiliates might use tactics to generate useless traffic.

The most common in affiliate marketing for beginners is the PPS model, where affiliates earn a percentage of the sales amount. It motivates affiliates to drive quality traffic to your site.

The CPA (Cost-Per-Action) payment scheme implies that partners receive compensation for the initial contact a user makes with you. Whether they make a purchase depends solely on your product and strategies.

PPC involves payment for clicks, which is often ineffective as unscrupulous affiliates may generate useless traffic through various tricks.

Affiliate commissions

One of the most common questions when you become an affiliate marketer is about commissions. Typically, commissions range from 5% to 30% of the sales amount or even higher. Some affiliate programs offer commissions as high as 50%. Essentially, the company delegates the task of attracting traffic and the associated expenses, paying you a commission.

Earnings potential for affiliate marketers

The income from affiliate marketing depends on several factors, making it challenging to determine an exact figure. They may include:

  • The niche you operate in
  • Your experience
  • Traffic to your site
  • The number of social media followers

If you want to become an affiliate, you can earn between $100 and $1,000 per month in your first year. This figure gradually increases as the specialist gains experience and the site’s traffic grows. If you already have a stable traffic source, you can expect higher earnings over time.

How to start affiliate marketing: 8 steps to a successful affiliate marketing business
Firstly identify sectors and products that could attract an interested audience. Image: Mikhail Nilov

Step 5: Choosing affiliate programs

One of the key questions for beginners in how to start affiliate marketing is how to choose a good affiliate program. Unfortunately, there’s no straightforward answer to this question. However, if you want to avoid mistakes and not waste your efforts on scammers, follow our advice.

Firstly, when you start affiliate marketing, identify sectors and products that could attract an interested audience, potentially one you already have. Your task is to promote relevant products that align with your audience’s interests.

If you already have an established traffic source, consider reaching out directly to brands. For those without a blog or similar platform, explore affiliate programs on affiliate platforms.

Regardless, risk diversification is a good strategy for novice affiliates. It’s crucial to understand that there’s no one-size-fits-all affiliate program. You’ll find that the market is a mix of low-paying programs with high sales volume and high-paying ones with lower turnover.

If you become an affiliate and manage to find the perfect combination of high turnover and high pay, you’ve hit the jackpot!

Step 6: Pros and cons of affiliate marketing

In every business, there are both positives and negatives. Let’s delve into the positive and negative aspects of affiliate marketing.

Pros

Profitable partnerships. Businesses gain access to the audience of partners and establish relationships with other players in the market. The more verified partners help promote your brand, the more loyalty and trust your audience develops towards your product.

Comprehensive analytics. Immediately after launching affiliate activities, you can track conversions and analyze which communication channels are more effective and which ones to reconsider.

Universal tool. Affiliate marketing for companies is a suitable promotional method with different advertising budgets. It does not require significant investments in organizing partner campaigns and promotions. Additionally, businesses can ensure a steady flow of customers through the affiliate network.

Easy launch. To start working in affiliate marketing, it is sufficient to choose an affiliate platform and place an offer for partners. Businesses find it convenient as they only need to select a service and register, while intermediaries on such platforms find it easier to discover suitable offers. Alternatively, you can go another route by developing a custom commercial proposal and directly sending it to companies.

Cons

Complex partner search. Large brands may not always agree to enter into partnership if the company’s product is niche or is just entering the market.

  • Unstable results. Affiliate marketing is an additional, not the primary advertising tool. To achieve high results, it is impossible to do without advertising on social networks and using other traffic arbitration tools.
  • High competition. For businesses this means that affiliate marketing may not bring the expected effect, and intermediaries may take a long time to achieve high income.
  • Tarnished reputation. This can happen if you offer your loyal audience a low-quality product.

These factors should be considered when deciding whether to implement affiliate marketing as part of a business strategy.

How to start affiliate marketing: 8 steps to a successful affiliate marketing business
Large brands may not always agree to enter into partnership. Image: LinkedIn Sales Navigator

Step 7: Checklist — how to work in affiliate marketing effectively

If you have finally decided to become an affiliate marketer, here are some tips to help you make as few mistakes as possible at the beginning.

Choose your niche

The first step in affiliate marketing for beginners, and perhaps the most challenging one, is to determine the industry and niche you want to focus on. When choosing a niche, start with a category and then delve deeper.

Things to consider when selecting a niche:

  • Ensure you have experience and knowledge in this area.
  • Find a niche with a sufficiently large audience to ensure a steady customer base.
  • Learn to create interesting content on this topic so that people keep coming back.

If you are not willing to learn and improve your skills, you won’t be able to build a sustainable business.

Select your marketing channel

Find a way to connect with your target audience that is cost-effective, not too labor-intensive, and helps you generate income from traffic.

Marketing channels you could use include social networks, YouTube, Twitch, and others where your target audience already exists.

Tip: in affiliate marketing for beginners one of your best options is to check where your competitors are getting their traffic. Is there an untapped channel? Can you create better content on an existing channel? Learn from others’ mistakes — it’s cheaper than figuring out your own.

Analyzing сompetitors

This directly follows from the previous point. Analyzing competitors helps determine the direction to take and factors to consider in developing a successful strategy. Here are key aspects to focus on:

  • Organic traffic volume
  • List of keywords the site is ranked for
  • Paid traffic volume
  • Advertising campaigns: creative elements used, their functionality, the results they yield, and so on.

Increase your traffic

Before you can propose anything in affiliate business, you need to direct traffic to your own channels, which you will then redirect to your partners. At this stage, you should invest most of your energy into ensuring inbound traffic. Use search engine optimization (SEO), manage your social media, or acquire links from other authoritative sites.

Since your traffic is essentially a product you sell, make sure it is interesting and appealing.

Discuss commission

Just because an affiliate program offers a specific commission deal doesn’t mean it’s the only available deal. Experienced affiliates know the value of their traffic and set their own prices. If you plan to set a higher price, make sure that you:

  • Can accurately tell your partner how much traffic to expect
  • Know where your traffic comes from geographically and demographically
  • Can demonstrate the value of your traffic
  • Can justify why your traffic is more valuable than that of other affiliates.

Optimize processes

Experienced affiliates never settle for their current income. They are always looking for new ways to increase traffic and conversions. If you are serious about your business, you should adopt this approach and continuously learn from other affiliate marketing examples.

To start optimizing your affiliate business, you can:

  • Use tools like Google Analytics to understand where your traffic is coming from, what interests users on your site, and how to enhance your search engine efficiency.
  • Increase your presence on social media using paid advertising or aggressive ad campaigns.
  • Negotiate new deals with existing partners based on the effectiveness of your traffic. The higher the quality of your traffic, the more advantageous deals you can make.
  • Look for new people to collaborate with. Experiment by dividing your traffic among several affiliates and see which ones work best.
  • Promote new products or services related to your niche.
How to start affiliate marketing: 8 steps to a successful affiliate marketing business
Since your traffic is essentially a product you sell, make sure it is interesting and appealing. Image: Kampus Production

Step 8: Launch your affiliate program

When you start your affiliate business, begin by finding affiliates, either independently or through specialized platforms.

Carefully consider the terms of the affiliate program before moving on to campaign preparation. This typically involves the following steps:

  • Formulate collaboration terms and payment schemes.
  • Prepare links that you want to be placed on affiliate websites.
  • Develop creatives: banners, widgets, lead forms. Plan content that will positively highlight the brand image.
  • Create a partner dashboard with a user-friendly interface. This is a crucial element that simplifies not only analytics but also overall campaign management.
  • Prepare a landing page or website section for clients with a detailed description of the program’s terms. Explain why participating is advantageous.

After that you can discuss tasks, desired outcomes and deadlines with partners, finalize the format and involve technical specialists.

Conclusion

Affiliate marketing is an excellent way to earn income individually or make your business more profitable. Whether you choose to be an independent affiliate or launch your affiliate program, understanding how this field operates is crucial — specialists in this area are highly valued.

By following our advice in this article you will know how to start affiliate marketing, and choose a path where you will be able to engage your audience, turn them into active customers and increase your income in the chosen niche. 

Also make sure to study how to create affiliate links and work with them efficiently, we described this in one of our previous articles. You can read it right here.


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We’re not just a group of anonymous affiliate marketing experts; we’re a close-knit team that’s been working together for over a decade. Our journey began at the inception of this industry, where we laid the foundation for the very first verticals. If you’ve ever been intrigued by traffic arbitrage case studies, chances are you’ve already come across our work.