Affiliate marketing is an online sales tactic that lets a product owner increase sales by allowing others targeting the same audience—“affiliates”—to earn a commission by recommending the product to others. At the same time, it makes it possible for affiliates to earn money on product sales without creating products of their own.
Simply put, affiliate marketing involves referring a product or service by sharing it on a blog, social media platforms, or website. The affiliate earns a commission each time someone makes a purchase through the unique link associated with their recommendation. Done well, this performance-based opportunity can become an important part of your business by netting you a healthy income.
How does affiliate marketing work?
To participate in an affiliate marketing program, you’ll need to take these five simple steps:
- Find and join an affiliate program
- Choose which offers to promote
- Obtain a unique affiliate link for each offer
- Share those links on your blog, social media platforms, or website
- Collect a commission anytime someone uses your links to make a purchase
Commission rates vary dramatically, depending on the company and the offer. On the low end, you’ll earn about 5% of the sale but, with some arrangements, you can earn as much as 50%, usually when promoting a class or event. There are also affiliate marketing programs that provide a flat rate per sale instead of a percentage.
Benefits of the affiliate marketing model
Affiliate marketing offers several benefits to affiliates (i.e., you), one of which is its ease. Your side of the equation simply involves handling the “marketing” side of building and selling a product—educating customers. You don’t have to worry about the harder tasks, like developing, supporting, or fulfilling the offer.
Affiliate marketing is low risk. Since there’s no cost to join affiliate programs, you can start making money with an established affiliate product or service without any upfront investment. Affiliate marketing also can generate relatively passive income through commission—the ideal money-making scenario. Though initially you’ll have to invest time creating traffic sources, your affiliate links can continue to deliver a steady paycheck.
Finally, successful affiliate marketing offers the potential to significantly scale your earnings without hiring extra help. You can introduce new products to your current audience and build campaigns for additional products while your existing work continues to generate revenue in the background.
Before you get too excited, know that great affiliate marketing is built on trust. While seemingly there are an endless number of products or services to promote, it’s best to only highlight those you personally use or would recommend. Even when a product interests you or fits within an existing hobby, becoming a great marketer for that product takes a lot of work.