What is Affiliate Marketing and How Do You Earn Money?

Affiliate marketing is a way of earning commissions from selling someone else’s (or maybe your own) products and it’s a great way for new internet marketers to earn money. The idea is pretty simple and here’s an example:

Let’s say you own a website (more on that later) and you have a good amount of visitors viewing your pages every month. Your current way of earning money is from ads placed a key points in your posts, but you’re only making pennies per click and want to improve your income.

So you decided to explore affiliate marketing. For most beginner affiliate marketers, the simplest way to get started is to join a network such as:

  • Affiliate Window

  • Commission Junction

  • MaxBounty

  • Trade Doubler

  • JV Zoo

Once signed up, you just need to sort through the various advertisers and find one that fits your niche. For example, if you run an outdoor gear review site and your biggest pay days come from a page reviewing brilliant products like the Garmin Fenix 6 (here’s a great example of this kind of post) then you’ll sign up as an affiliate for the likes of REI, or Mountain Equipment.

Once signed up, you will have access to affiliate links.

What are affiliate links?

Put simply, they are special URLs that allow the affiliate networks and advertisers to track various metrics, including:

  • Number of clicks

  • Sales

  • Customer tracking once they land on the advertiser’s site.

How do you use affiliate links?

This part is really simple. Once you are accepted by an advertiser and have access to their product feed you simply search for the item you want to promote, copy the corresponding URL and paste it into your post, or page.

When a visitor comes to you site, reads the content and decides they want to buy the product you’re promoting, there is no need to search the web for suppliers. All they have to do is click the tracking link on your page and go direct to the seller’s website.

As long as the visitor buys the item you’re promoting through your link you’ll earn a fee from the sale.

Is affiliate marketing really so simple?

Yes, but as many of you already know getting traffic (visitors to your website) and converting into sales is the real magic. But we’ll talk about that in another post.

For now, you are going to focus on the important questions that surround this type of internet marketing.

Affiliate Marketing Takeaways:

Affiliate marketing has a low entry barrier. This means it’s really easy to get started.

Affiliate networks are where you go to find companies and products you promote.

Commissions for sales can vary from as little as 1% to as high as 100%.

Do you need money to start affiliate marketing?

It helps if you do have some money to start your affiliate marketing business, but the simple answer is, ‘no’. And that leads us onto the next question…

So how can you start affiliate marketing with no money?

There are many ways to start affiliate marketing when you have no money. But there is one critical point you need to consider before you start on this exciting journey: you’re going to have to invest a lot of time to make a success of affiliate marketing.

Before you jump in and start creating content, or planning your future days working 3 hours from the comfort of your beach lounger, you need to stop and consider exactly what it will take to achieve your goals and desires.

The biggest input you will have in the early days of your journey is time. So ask yourself now: do you think you can cope with rising early every morning and working late into the evening, sometimes after a long day at your job, to make your side hustle a success?

If the answer is yes, well done. Let’s start your journey to a financially secure future (because, that’s what you’re really aiming for, right?)

Now that you’ve committed to long hours and hard work, you need to work on your marketing plan and build the content and traffic required to bring sales and commissions. And you’re going to do this with no money to start with.

Now you understand that affiliate marketing is easy to get into, let’s look at where we can put our affiliate links…

Where can I promote affiliate products for free and without fear of spamming?

A few years ago, promoting your affiliate links was easy and many marketers spammed the internet in order to get a sale. Times have changed and the tactic of spamming is fading fast.

Yes, spam is still out there but software is getting better and better at detecting and dealing with unsolicited cotent nad messages. Think about it: how often do you see a spam email in your email inbox? Not very and this is thanks to the complex tools designed to protect you from the perils of scammers, spammers and trolls.

Mass posting your links to forums, in blog comments, etc will produce every diminishing returns and probably see you being banned from participating in any conversations on the various platforms.

Here are a few places you can use to promote you links without becoming a spammer.


Do you really need to pay for blogging software? No.

There are plenty of free blogging services out there that will let you build a site and start getting your content on the internet in minutes.

But you need to have a plan.

Creating a blog is easy, but there is always some kind of payment required. If you sign up for a free-to-use platform and write the blog posts yourself, you’ll need to invest time. A lot of time.

Not only will you need to write, but also do some planning in the following areas:

  • hot and growing topics

  • keyword research

  • competitor analysis (I’d say this is less important when you first start out, but you do need to think about how you’re going to track your competitors)

  • writing schedule

Social Media

When used in the right way, social media can bring you huge rewards and without the need for a huge number of followers.

We’ll talk about followers in another post, for now it’s important to understand the basics of marketing using social media and we’ll use Instagram as an example of what can work.

Instagram is a social media platform you upload photos and images to. Like other social media websites you build connections with friends and people with similar interests.

Built into Instagram is a voting system called ‘Likes’, which is the same as FaceBook and other sites. The more likes your images get the more exposure you get on Instagram.

But it’s not just about who likes your content – you also need to spread it far and wide. And your secret weapon that can be used to create more views, likes and sales is tagging.

I’m not going to give a detailed write up of how to use tags today, we’ll look at that in a different post. But even a simple understanding of how to search for popular tags and use them to your advantage will put you way ahead of many of your competitors.

There is one really important point you need to think about when using a platform like Instagram: your images need to make people want to click the little heart-shapped button and follow you. Poor quality images taken in low light and that don’t focus on one idea will not succeed.

Now compare this approach to Twitter where the majority of the content is text based and you’ll start to understand that each social media platform has particular requirements around the type of content you promote.

You get the idea, right? How you use social media will vary from platform to platform, but the central idea is that you always need to deliver quality content for your followers.

How you display your affiliate links is important if you want people to click on them. For example, Instagram doesn’t allow clickable links in your posts, you add them in your bio and use the post content to direct potential buyers to the link.

Some networks banned affiliate links for a long time. One example being Pinterest (although they have now reversed that decision). Whatever you do, check the terms and conditions of a social network before signing up and blasting your fans with links only to be banned 7 seconds later!

Where can I post affiliate links on Social Media?

Right now in 2020 you can post affiliate links on these major social media sites:

  • Facebook

  • Instagram

  • Pinterest

  • Twitter

The list will change and grow over time and I’ll update every week.

Social Media Marketing Takeaways

Build a band of loyal and engaged followers.

Understand how to use tags to reach more people.

Always, always make your content the highest quality.

Check the terms and conditions of the network before signing up


For a long time we’ve been told that forums are dead, but this simply isn’t true. FaceBook might have made it easy to build communities, but many people don’t want the social media giant gobbling up their personal data and selling it advertisers.

And that’s why the internet is home to many millions of forums.

Like social media, posting your affiliate links on a forum is really easy. But be careful if you want to remain a member as many forum owners tend to be very protective of their members, content and reputation. Spam a forum and you’ll be banned.

Two methods that work well when promoting your affiliate links in a forum are:

  • Having a link on your bio page

  • Placing your affiliate links in your signature

If you’ve invested some serious time in building up your forum profile, become a trusted member, and you own a website, you can periodically link to pages on your site containing affiliate links.

Forum Marketing Takeaways

  • Place your affiliate links in your bio and signature.

  • Surround your links with content that will help people understand what it is you’re promoting e.g. “I earned an extra $100 a day using this simple, done in minutes technique”.

  • Don’t spam the forums unless you want to be banned.

  • Be part of the community as you’ll make some great connections that have benefits for everyone involved.

Email Marketing

Email marketing is a great way to promote your links. Building up an email list can take time, but the payoff is huge.

Let’s explore why email marketing is the very best way of promoting your produccts and links.

Email lists give you permission to market

Everyone who signs up to your email subscription list does so for a reason – they want to hear what you have to say, or buy in to your services. What this means is that you’ll never have to compete to get people to see you message in the search engines. Your list is already hungry and hanging on your every word.

Only one person can take your email list away from you

Only you can take your list away from you. Sure, some people might decide they no longer want your emails because they’ve changed their mind, or have leanred all they need. But, unlike ranking in the search engines, there is no competition for your list. All you have to do is deliver what your email subscribers want and they’ll remain fans.

Emails lists let you tell a story

One of the keys to building, mainting and marketing to an email list is to use story telling. As we all know, stories and how we tell them can make the difference between engaged and disinterested subscribers (what I mean is, getting as a sale or not). Sure, you can tell stories on your blog, or in an ad, but you’re still competing for views. Once you have a list you have a competition free way of telling stories that get sales.

Email lists can be sold to repeatedly for free

Unlike online advertising and ranking in the search engines, you list can be marketed to repeatedly with the associated cost or effort. One word of warning though: treat your email subscribers like a cherished gift from the person you most love. If you abuse and fail to maintain it then you have only yourself to blame when it fades and crumbles.

Email Marketing Takeaways

  • Always aim to build a list from day one.

  • Treat your email list with respect and care.

  • Tell stories in your emails in order to connect with people.

  • Marketing to an email list is easier than ranking in the search engines.

Did you find this affiliate marketers guide for beginners useful? If so, please share with anyone else who is interested.

We’re going to finish here. Affiliate marketing is a big topic and over time I’ll be updating and adding to this guide. If you found the post useful then please link to it if you own a blog, or share it on social media using the links.

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