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What is affiliate marketing and how do affiliates make money?

By Academy Xi

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Interested in exploring ways to earn money online? With 83% of marketers using affiliate marketing to raise brand recognition, there’s no sign of the approach waning any time soon. Swot up on the details of what’s involved and how you can get amongst it.

Academy Xi's guide on affiliate marketing

What is affiliate marketing?

Essentially, affiliate marketing is a referral arrangement between a company offering services and/or products and affiliated third parties. The referrals generally take place between online platforms via unique links, with the affiliates being compensated for promoting the company offerings.

How do affiliate marketers make money?

If you create content that includes links to external providers’ products and services and those links are clicked on and actioned by your site visitors, you can receive a payment from the company in the form of a commission. Depending on the agreement between you as the affiliate and the company, you might receive commission for actual sales that came through via your links, or purely for generating more traffic to the company website.

Common ways to get paid via affiliate marketing:

  • Pay per sale: A literal sale is processed as a direct result of the affiliate link 
  • Pay per lead: Persuasion of consumer to complete an action, which generates a lead
  • Pay per click: Every visit to company site directed there via an affiliate link
  • Pay per install: Each time a user installs an app or software via an affiliate link

Types of affiliate programs

There are three main types of affiliate marketing:

  • Unattached 
  • Related 
  • Involved 

Unattached affiliate marketing

In this approach the affiliate has no connection to the product or service they are linking to. The affiliate doesn’t have any related skills or experience and therefore isn’t an authority or able to make any claims about the product or service they’re linking to. They aren’t recommending or advising their site visitors to click through to the company.

Related affiliate marketing

With related affiliate marketing, affiliates have a connection to the product or service they are linking to. The affiliate likely has influence with site visitors and has expertise to generate traffic and they’re likely viewed as a trusted source of information. It’s important to note that the affiliate in this instance doesn’t make any claims about the use of the products or services included via the links. 

Involved affiliate marketing

In this case, an established connection has been achieved between the affiliate and the products or services they are linking to. They’ve probably used the product or service and have first-hand experience of it and are sharing the link because they’re wanting to openly promote what’s on offer based on their positive encounter or outcome. 

The affiliate is using their experience as an advertisement for the company’s offering, however, the affiliate needs to be mindful of what they associate themselves with directly, because they are viewed as a trustworthy source of information. Should the affiliated link lead to a negative experience for someone, this could result in reputational damage for the affiliate. For this reason, it’s not a bad idea to include a disclaimer of sorts to cover your back. 

How to start affiliate marketing and make money

We’ve rounded up some essential steps to get your affiliate marketing dreams into full flight.

Step 1: Create a content-rich website

Step 1: Create a content rich website

Once you’ve selected your niche and registered your domain, it’s time to set up your website and then pump it full of quality content. The better the read and the more shareable your material, the more traffic you will get to your site. Keep the content coming, with regular updates on topics that your target audience wants to read about.

Step 2: Get targeted traffic from Google

There are several ways you can get targeted traffic from Google, including:

  • Running paid search ads, as well as targeted and re-targeted social media campaigns
  • Optimising your website for mobile traffic
  • Ensuring your site is search engine optimised (SEO)
  • Continually creating and uploading quality content (preferably including SEO keywords)

Step 3: Promote products in your niche

Step 3: Promote products in your niche

With your quality content and traffic increase, it’s time to start promoting products within your selected niche to your target market audience. Affiliate links are needed for these products and services, along with a clear disclaimer that you use affiliate links within your website.

Step 4: Promote products that offer high affiliate commissions

Step 4: Promote products that offer high affiliate commissions

Be on the lookout for products and services that compensate you as the affiliate with a higher commission rate. Partnering with these guys will see your earning capacity increase much faster than mucking about with the lowest rates on the affiliate market. Just be mindful to only promote products and services that resonate with your website target market.

Other ways to make money online

Combining the social media influencer life with affiliate marketing could be a hot ticket, or shifting over into the world of freelancing can also see you earning coin online. Remember, these can be part-time ventures while you work your day job. Once things pick up and become more sustainable, you can consider jumping ship and working online, freelance, to replace your day job. The sky’s the limit!

How to get into affiliate marketing

At Academy Xi, we offer flexible study options in Digital Marketing and Social Media Marketing that will suit your lifestyle and training needs and provide you with the perfect foundation for your future as an affiliate marketer.

Whether you’re looking to upskill or entirely transform your career path, we have industry designed training to provide you with the practical skills and experience needed.

After a career change? Take a look at our Transform course: 

Planning to upskill? Our Elevate courses are perfect for you:

If you have any questions, our experienced team is here to discuss your training options. Speak to a course advisor and take the first steps in your affiliate marketing journey.