Affiliate Marketing: How to Start and Maximize Commissions
This post was last updated on February 23, 2022.
Businessman and philanthropist Warren Buffet once said, “If you don’t find a way to make money in your sleep, you’ll work until you die.” Affiliate marketing is one way to ensure the money is coming in, even while you’re away from your computer. Whether you create a website, make YouTube videos, or build an audience on social media, you can use affiliate marketing to monetize your content. This introductory guide to affiliate marketing will teach you everything you need to know to get started, from its benefits to affiliate marketing trends, examples and best practices from Wix users.
What is affiliate marketing?
Affiliate marketing is when one party earns a commission from marketing another company's products. This party—called the affiliate—searches for a brand partner who promotes their products on their social media accounts, blog or other platforms, making a profit from each sale. Companies then provide affiliates with a unique link—called, unsurprisingly, an affiliate link. That way, they can track the affiliate's performance and compensate them based on sales.
Benefits of affiliate marketing
There are several reasons to become an affiliate marketer:
Low risk: Joining an affiliate marketing program is free, so you don't need to invest to start.
Passive income: Once you add the affiliate link to your post, you can earn from the sales without much extra effort.
No customer support: When customers have queries or complaints, the company—and not you—will be responsible for resolving their issues.
Flexible work schedule: Rather than sticking to a traditional schedule, you can work as an affiliate marketer on your own time.
Minimal business costs: You don’t need standard business infrastructure to become an affiliate marketer; all you need is a laptop and an internet connection.
How does affiliate marketing work?
To better understand how this type of marketing works, you'll need to know about the three major players involved: sellers, affiliates, and consumers. Together, these three parties make up the affiliate marketing ecosystem.
Sellers: The seller is the company that makes or provides the product. This could be a nationwide franchise like Best Buy or a small independent shop. The number of sellers is constantly growing. In a recent Rakuten survey, 80% of brands said they ran an affiliate program.
Affiliates: Most people get involved in affiliate marketing by becoming an affiliate. The affiliate, also known as the publisher, promotes the seller's products on their own platforms, such as a personal blog or social media page.
Consumers: These are the buyers of the product. When they make a purchase when clicking on the affiliate link, the affiliate earns a commission on the sale.
How do affiliate marketers get paid?
Affiliate marketers have a few different ways to get paid. While pay per sale is the standard practice, it’s helpful to be familiar with the other methods too:
Pay per sale: This is the most common way affiliate marketers earn money and used by 80% of programs. Consumers must buy the product after clicking the affiliate link, and the affiliate receives a percentage of the sale price.
Pay per lead: While less common, the seller may also pay the affiliate to generate leads rather than make sales. In this case, the affiliate must persuade the consumer to complete actions such as filling out a contact form or signing up for a free trial.
Pay per click: Another unusual method is for the affiliate to earn money when consumers click on their link—regardless of whether they convert to a lead or make a purchase. Since clicks can be frauded, fewer affiliate programs compensate for that method.
How to start affiliate marketing
Now that you have some general knowledge about affiliate marketing, here’s a step-by-step overview of how to get started:
01. Select a platform
You can run affiliate marketing on most platforms or social media channels. Instagram is a popular option, but using your blog or YouTube channel tends to yield the most effective results. Instagram doesn't allow users to add clickable links in their posts (only Stories), making it more difficult to direct people to affiliate links.
Blogging: If you’re interested in layering on affiliate marketing to your marketing strategy, creating a blog is simple and free of charge. You can monetize your blog by incorporating affiliate links into your articles in ways that are genuinely helpful to your readers. For example, if your post is about baking a cake, you might include a link to buy your favorite kitchen mixer.
YouTube: Affiliate marketing is a proven way to make money on YouTube. If you choose this as your main platform, you’ll need to smoothly incorporate branded products into your videos. Some YouTubers opt to create videos focused around a particular product or brand, while others feature the product as part of a broader theme.
Instagram: Instagram doesn’t offer you the same ability to add links in posts or Reels, so the platform isn’t as effective in converting your audience. Nonetheless, it’s a common choice that yields profit for some. If you go this route, post content that features the product and include a link in your bio or Story.
Regardless of which option you prefer, it's a good idea to post across various platforms so that you can cross-promote your content and expand your reach. This will also give you an understanding of which content works best for you, helping you optimize your promotional efforts.
02. Find your niche
The web is full of competition. YouTube alone has over 37 million different channels, while Instagram boasts over one billion active users. Meanwhile, there are over 600 million blogs —and these numbers are only growing.
For this reason, stand out by centering your posts around a specific category—for instance, you might opt for plant-based fast food dupes rather than simply cooking or rock climbing tourism in the Southwest rather than just the outdoors. If your blog niche idea is too broad, the competition will be high and it will be much harder for your target audience to find your content.
03. Build an audience
After determining your preferred platform and niche, you’ll need to build a fan base to gain exposure. Whether you focus on growing your Instagram account or becoming a successful YouTuber, having a dedicated audience will increase the likelihood some will click on your affiliate links. These strategies will help you to draw attention to your posts:
SEO: Short for search engine optimization, SEO is the process of strategically adjusting your content to rank high on Google and other search engines. When your blog or YouTube channel appears as a top search result, users are more likely to click on the link and navigate to your page.
PPC: Another way to appear as a top result on search engines and gain more website traffic is to invest in PPC (pay-per-click) advertising. Keep in mind that the amount you spend on ads might be more than what you make from affiliate marketing.
Email marketing: If you already have email subscribers through your website, send out newsletters pointing your audience toward your content. You can also add affiliate links directly to your email blasts.
Social media marketing: Run cross promotions to gain further exposure. Spread the word about your YouTube channel, blog or Instagram account on your other social media channels.
04. Connect with brands
Once you establish your platforms and develop a following, it’s time to start looking for affiliate marketing opportunities. There are two main ways you can find brands to promote:
Join an affiliate marketing program: The easiest way to connect with brands is by joining an affiliate program. While there are various programs out there, the most popular include Amazon Associates, CJ Affiliate and ShareASale. You can also become a Wix affiliate and earn commissions driving traffic to Wix.
Reach out to brands yourself: If you have a particular brand or product you’d love to promote, you can also reach out to companies on your own. Be sure to emphasize how they will benefit from the collaboration. You’ll need to explain why reaching your audience can bring them new customers.
05. Create affiliate content
Sellers will provide you with an affiliate link to embed in your content. Rather than promote the products directly, try to make them fit naturally within your content. By incorporating the promotion into a larger, more engaging story, you’ll be able to gently guide your audience toward making a purchase.
To illustrate, lifestyle blogger Simply Tabitha, writes blog guides about topics such as baby toy reviews. In My Review of The Lalo Play Kit article, she added a link to the product at the end of the post. Tabitha writes, “ Check it out—you can save $50 when you get the kit.” Her affiliate link is trackable with an Urchin Tracking Module (UTM) that looks like this: “https://meetlalo.com/products/the-play-kit?utm_source=tabitha&utm_medium=blog&utm_campaign=review_post.” Thanks to this unique URL, the toy company Lalo will know the website traffic and purchases that came from Tabitha and compensate her accordingly.
Here are some examples of effective affiliate content:
A list of product recommendations, either in the form of a YouTube video or blog post, with promoted items included as suggestions.
A YouTube tutorial showing your audience how to use a series of products, including the one you're promoting.
A webinar in which you teach viewers how to perform a certain task, with a relevant product recommendation included in the presentation.
A blog post offering tips or how-to advice, with a suggestion incorporating the promoted product.
An Instagram Reel or photo showing you using the product.
As you get started as an affiliate marketer, experiment with various strategies to learn which ones reach the biggest audience and generate the most profit.
06. Get clicks
By now, you should have an idea of all the key affiliate marketing ingredients: a strategic platform and niche, a dedicated audience, brand partners and, of course, great content. The only thing left is to convince consumers to click on your affiliate links.
You'll need to place your links within the appropriate context to gain clicks. Think about it: if the name of a product appears out of the blue, no one will be persuaded to click on the link. However, if you tell a story of how a product improved your life or helped you resolve a problem, your audience will be more compelled to click on it and make a purchase.
You should also optimize the link placements. If you add the link to a blog post, place the link at the beginning and end of your article in the form of a compelling CTA (call-to-action). You should also make sure the link visually stands out on the page by making it a different color, adding a CTA button, or using a banner ad.
Affiliate marketing strategies and tips
When you begin your affiliate marketing journey, keep these tips in mind to maximize your success:
Choose sellers with high conversion rates: Before you collaborate with a seller, take a moment to research them. Don’t waste your time marketing a low-demand product. If you promote a high converting brand, the more chances your audience will buy—and the more you’ll earn as a result. Check out the brand’s online reviews, ratings and social media accounts to see if their customers have a strong online presence. This can be a good indicator the brand is in popular demand.
Promote products you believe in: Only market products you can sincerely recommend to your audience. You’ll offer genuine value to your followers while making your personal brand credible and reliable.
Stay up-to-date with trends: Whether your niche is fashion, technology or travel, keeping tabs on the latest industry trends can help you promote the most competitive products with the highest consumer demand. See which topics and themes are center stage by reading publications and following industry leaders on social media.
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket: You don’t want your entire strategy to rely on a single seller’s website, landing pages and conversion rate. Instead, maximize your chances of success by promoting products from various merchants.
Test and optimize: Continually adapt your different marketing strategies to determine which methods yield the most profit. Should you expand your blogging efforts? Redesign your landing pages? Target your audience with email marketing? Play around with different promotional strategies to determine which ones work best for you.
Affiliate marketing examples
Gain inspiration for what’s possible with affiliate marketing through these Wix user examples we loved:
Seasons in Colour's website is dedicated to luxury home accessories. The brand bakes in their affiliate marketing well using the Pro Gallery to showcase the beautiful items for sale. By disclosing “all links provided are affiliate links,” they’re building trust with website visitors.
Influencer Lizzy Hadfield uses her website as her home base. In addition, she takes advantage of YouTube to promote her affiliate links. Examine her Outfits For Cold Weather video as an example: She uses storytelling and candid video filming to come across as a trusted friend. Her approach is recommending products as opposed to modeling them as an ad. Accompanying the video, her description reads, “This video contains sponsorship with Monica Vinader, 20% discount is added automatically if you use these links.”
Baileyjst follows the best practices for making money on Instagram via affiliate marketing. To demonstrate, in this Instagram Reel, Stanworth tags ScoopClothing and prompts her 50K+ followers to use her unique affiliate code to purchase the clothes. Her video marketing content is not just trendy and visually appealing, but also educational, keeping her audience's attention.
2022 Affiliate Marketing Trends
Due to COVID-19, more business is conducted online, and many creators are getting into influencer marketing. Statista estimates affiliate marketing spending will reach $8.2 billion in 2022. Here are booming marketing trends to embrace:
01. Live shopping: More affiliate marketing will take place through live steam shopping, where streaming video is utilized to sell to a live audience in real-time. L’Oreal is one example of a brand hosting shoppable live streams featuring celebrities and influencers doing makeup tutorials and skincare routines. The streams also include various discounts and giveaways on top of the free shipping for orders made on the same day.
02. Affiliate tracking in the cookieless future: Affiliate marketing partners will need to rely on privacy-safe ways to track and report data, such as using Google Analytics 4 (GA4). The cookies policy will remove the tracking of third-party data on individuals. This means digital marketers won't be able to target ads as specifically as they can now. Cookies track data on a browser and device level, not a user. Advertisers will need to rely on other ways to understand how users interact with ads and affiliate links. Google plans to offer what they call privacy-safe reports through GA4 analytics.
03. Micro and nano influencers take center stage: Brands will work with more affiliates and creators with a smaller follower count, yet high expertise in a niche. This opens more opportunities for new creators to earn commission and work with affiliates. For instance, micro influencers Olivia and Laura took part in jewelry brand Mejuri’s affiliate program in this partner post.
04. AI and automation make an impact: Technology advancements and artificial intelligence (AI) will automate, optimize and make affiliate marketing more efficient. Affiliate marketers will use improved technology like Scaleo, MailChimp, and Referral-AI to analyze consumer behaviors faster than ever before.
By Rebecca Strehlow
Wix Blog Writer
By Lena Sernoff
Senior Digital Marketing Expert and Writer