What Is Affiliate Marketing and Does It Work?


A lot of my readers and a few of my friends ask me :What is affiliate marketing and does it work? It is a common question that I will try to answer in this blog post.


There are many methods that you can use to make money online today. You can freelance, sell t-shirts, make YouTube videos, the list is endless. It all depends on your preference, how quickly you want to start earning and what your long term plans are.


Affiliate marketing is one of the most popular and I would argue, effective ways of making money online. Many people who earn a living on the internet are affiliate marketers, and for good reason. Affiliate marketing is one of the few online business models that has an uncapped earning potential, which means that you can literally make as much money as you want. The more you successfully promote, the more money you stand to make. It is that simple!






However, like any other business venture, it requires a lot of research on your part before you get started. This article will help you have a good idea of what exactly you are getting into. It is for exactly this reason that I have decided to write this guide today. I intend to create a comprehensive introductory guide to the world of affiliate marketing. Here is everything you need to know about affiliate marketing and how it works.




Affiliate marketing is a business model that allows you to make money by recommending products and services to people. At its core, it is a type of performance-based marketing where you earn a commission by promoting other people’s products and services. As an affiliate marketer, you do not personally own any of the products you recommend. You simply promote products that you believe will benefit your audience. When your readers/viewers buy your recommended products, then those products’ owners pay you a commission from the sales.


As an affiliate, your job is simple: you are expected to find a service or product that you like and recommend it to potential customers. All the money you make will be commissions from the sales that are made from your leads.


Here is a great example: let’s assume I have a bunch of apples I need to sell. I am an apple salesman. I have a few customers who keep me afloat, but for my business to thrive, I need as many people as I can get to buy my apples. Problem is, I do not have the time to go out and find even more customers for my apples while still running my business. Here is where you come in. You have a lot of friends who love apples. You came in one day, bought a few apples from me, and you absolutely loved my apples. So you approach me and we strike up a deal. You tell me you can get me several new customers, and I agree to pay you a small amount for every apple bought by the people you bring in.


So you go out, tell all your friends about my apples, and they come in droves. They buy lots of apples, and you make a lot of money. You do not own any apples, but you are making money from every sale I make. This is what affiliate marketing is. As the product owner, I get to sell more apples to people I otherwise would never have had access to. You, as my affiliate, get to make money off my apples, and your friends, the customers, get to enjoy tasty apples. Everybody is happy.


Here is another example. Try to see if you can identify the affiliate, the product owner, and the customer in this scenario:


Airbnb is a company that connects travelers with homeowners, yet it does not own any houses or apartments. It simply connects product owners to their customers and makes a commission from every successful sale. Additionally, the company has an affiliate program on its website where they get people to get the word out about their services for a commission.




Short answer: absolutely!


Affiliate marketing generally entails connecting potential customers in your network to services and products that will be useful to them. Like any other marketing channel, the larger the number of people you can pull in, the higher your earning potential will be.


The beauty of it is that you don’t have to invest any of your hard earned money or buy stock in order to get started in affiliate marketing. All you have to do is find a legitimate program which you can join and recommend products that you personally believe in to other people. The company that you make the sales for is able to tell when you send a customer their way by tracking your affiliate link or code, so you will never be cheated out of what is rightfully yours.


Therefore, there is definitely money to be made online through affiliate marketing.

how does affiliate marketing work?




As an affiliate, when you promote a brand, you are basically helping your customers to find something that they might need. When you make a sale, the brand will have acquired a new customer, you will earn a commission, and your followers will have found products/service that prove to be useful to them.


It all sounds simple and straightforward on paper. But how does it really work? How is this seemingly simple business model tracked and managed?


1. Affiliate links

This is basically what makes you an affiliate. If you have an affiliate link, you have proof that a specific sale that has been made can be credited to you. Acquiring your affiliate link is a relatively simple task. Most of the time, all you have to do is to click on the affiliate link generator or embed code on your website. Your unique affiliate link is useful in helping you track conversions whenever it is used online.


2. Traffic and followers

In affiliate marketing, spreading the word about a product or service you believe in and having customers make a purchase is what earns you a commission. Therefore, you need as many customers as you can get if you want to make even more money. Growing the traffic to your website as well as your social media following are therefore integral parts in how you can achieve success through affiliate marketing.


3. Creating content

Once you have your affiliate links, and you have a decent following, you need to get people to click your links and make your sales. The number one way to do this is by creating useful, engaging content that adds value to your audience’s lives. Do not only focus on selling and pushing your agenda on them, because there is no bigger turn off. You will only end up losing readers if you do this. Try to find creative ways to promote your products. Here are a few tips on how you can achieve this by creating content on your pages:


• Come up with a list of your top 10 favorite products

• Use your experience with the product or service you are promoting as a selling point on your social media

• Incorporate banners when you conclude your articles or add them to your website’s homepage.


Whichever way you choose to use affiliate links, the content that you are trying to promote should be of high quality, helpful, and enhanced for click-through and conversion.


Looking for more choices?  Here is an article I wrote about more internet side jobs




In order to fully understand how affiliate marketing works, you need to know who the players are. Here is a breakdown:


1. The merchant/advertiser

The merchant, also known as the brand, creator, retailer, maker, or company, creates the product or service that is to be sold. The merchant can be a major company or just an individual who pitches courses online. Virtually anyone can become the merchant, and as long as you have a product to sell, you can launch your affiliate marketing program.


2. The affiliate

The affiliate sometimes referred to as the distributor, advertiser, partner, or publisher, can similarly range from a single individual to major companies/organizations. The role of the affiliate is to promote one or several affiliate products or services to attract and convince potential customers to make a purchase. The affiliate could be active social media posters, product review websites, bloggers, shopping sites, personal website owners, coupon and reward sites, mass media sites, niche content sites, app-to-app marketing platforms, mobile apps, and even other merchants.


3. The consumer

The consumer, also known as the customer, buys the product/service being promoted. With no consumer to make a purchase, there are no commissions to be disseminated and no income to be shared.


The affiliate partner will make every effort to market to the consumer through any channel they deem appropriate, whether that is a social media platform or a digital billboard. Whether the consumer is made aware that they are a part of an affiliate network system or not mostly depends on the affiliate marketer. Some choose to divulge this information while others simply don’t.


With a tracking system working in the background, the customer can simply make a purchase, allowing the affiliate to receive a commission for the same. The consumer doesn’t have to pay an additional charge to the affiliate. The merchant incurs whatever cost the commission is.


4. The Affiliate Network

The network serves as the “middle-man’ between the merchant and the affiliate. As an affiliate, you could reach out to the product owner and devise a direct income-sharing plan with them, or you could let a network such as Amazon, Commission Junction or Clickbank take care of the payment as well as product delivery. More often than not, the latter option allows your affiliate marketing to come across as genuine.


In some cases, affiliates are required to go through an affiliate network in order for them to have the capacity to promote the product. The affiliate network then also fills in as a database of a great number of products, out of which an affiliate can select one or more to promote.


Amazon is one of the biggest affiliate networks. It works by promoting a variety of consumer products. Through the Amazon Associate’s affiliate program, you can promote any product that is available for sale on their platform. If you opt to sign up, you will receive a custom affiliate link to Amazon products so that if a customer makes a purchase through the link, you will earn a commission.





getting started in affiliate marketing




To get started in affiliate marketing, you can either become the merchant or the affiliate. I will focus on becoming an affiliate, because merchants need to own products and that is a whole other thing. However, if you want to become an affiliate, things are much simpler. Here are two common ways that you can go about it:


Method 1

1. Sign up for an affiliate program. To find one that suits you, simply Google “product name” + “affiliate”.

2. Kick things off by checking and reviewing products in an industry that you decide to specialize in. Tailor everything to your target audience. This is called your niche. You can do this through a YouTube channel or a blog.

3. Create AMAZING content that is extremely helpful to your audience. Find out what their problems are. What questions do they have? Hang out in forums where your readers/viewers hang out and interact with them. Once you identify their pain points, then do everything you can to help them solve it. Answer their questions. Find a product that you absolutely believe will solve their issues and present it to them. This is the bread and butter of successful affiliate marketing. This is the step where you should spend the majority of your time. The following steps are important but this step is the key! If you cannot successfully help your audience, you will find it hard to be successful with the next steps.

4. Collect email addresses from potential customers who visit your website and build an email list

5. Market directly to your subscribers using these email addresses

5. Use live webinars or join online courses to present the features of the product or service you intend to sell and showcase how it’s different uses. Discuss its benefits as well as its downsides, and talk about your personal connection to the product.

7. When your affiliate marketing model begins bringing in profits, you can upgrade by using pay per click advertising methods.


Method 2

As a beginner, one of the ways you can generate traffic is by starting a blog. It is simple to achieve since it is relatively easy to learn and it requires minimum investment.

1. Start a blog. Ensure that it has a unique and creative layout

2. Select an industry that is profitable and then find a niche

3. Learn about your niche and identify what their issues are

3. Research affiliate products that you know will help them

4. Create content that integrates the products you choose

5. Direct traffic to your website/affiliate post

6. Capture the emails of visitors to your site by using email marketing services

7. Come up with an email sequence in order to automate the funnel

8. Focus on generating traffic and repeat the process



Here are the terms that you need to know as you get started in affiliate marketing.


1. Affiliate marketplace

Affiliate marketplaces serve as central databases for affiliate programs across a variety of niches. Examples include Shareasale and Clickbank.


2. Affiliate software

This is software employed by companies to create an affiliate program for their service or product. Example: FirstPromoter.


3. Affiliate link

This is a custom tracking link that is provided by your affiliate program that is useful in tracking the progress of the product you are promoting as an affiliate.


4. Commission percentage/amount

This is the percentage/amount you will receive in affiliate income when you successfully make a sale.


5. Affiliate ID

This is your unique ID for any given product or affiliate marketplace. It is usually featured somewhere in your affiliate link (explained above). Please note that if you are a member of multiple affiliate programs, you will have a unique ID for each one of the programs.


6. Affiliate manager/OPM

These are individuals employed by a company to help affiliates earn more by offering them optimization tips. Some are helpful while others are a waste of time. If you are new, they can help you navigate simpler issues and questions that you may have about the product/service that you are promoting. Some of the better ones can even help with simple technical issues.


7. Landing pages

This is a unique sales or demo page for the product you are trying to sell that is intended to help boost sales.


8. 2-tier affiliate marketing

This type of affiliate marketing requires an affiliate to recommend an affiliate program to other people, and when a sub-affiliate successfully make a sale, you receive a commission, otherwise known as a sub-affiliate commission.


9. Link cloaking

These are techniques that you can use to turn “ugly” affiliate tracking links into readable links that can be understood by visitors to your sites.


10. Custom affiliate income/account

Many companies offer affiliates who make the most sales for them (they are called super affiliates) a custom affiliate account. This can come with perks like the ability to give their own customers exclusive discounts.

final thoughts




As you can see, there is really nothing intimidating about affiliate marketing. It is a pretty straightforward business model through which you can find products/services you are passionate about, promote them to others, and earn a percentage of the profits. It is a completely legitimate way of making money online, and if done right, it can literally change your life.


Just keep in mind that like any other business, affiliate marketing also requires your dedication, time, and hard work. It is not a get-rich-quick scheme. If you are willing to put in the time and hard work, you will be pleasantly surprised at what this business can do for you.


While Affiliate marketing is not difficult, there are a lot of skills that you will need to learn. You can certainly do the research online and gain the knowledge required to be successful. But that takes time and a lot of trial and error. I would like to recommend the training program that I followed when I started ( I still follow it today). It is training built by affiliate marketers, for people that want to reach their financial freedom on their own terms. It is free to get started. No credit card requirements. You just check it out, take it for a test drive and see if you like it. It was life changing for me and I hope you give it a try!






This article is full of helpful information. I hope you found it useful. While I tried to include as much information as I could, the topic is just too deep to cover in one or two posts. Check out the community I referenced above. You will find information about each individual component of affiliate marketing. You will also find 10 starter courses that cover the basics of affiliate marketing! I hope you take advantage of these resources!


To your success,


Mike Aha

6 thoughts on “What Is Affiliate Marketing and Does It Work?”

  1. Hi.. It is clearly understood how affiliate marketing can be a good choice for making money online by your article. All processes and all ways to do affiliate marketing has been described nicely. The example of apple business was great and it made the think easier. You provided examples of marketplace, marketing software but did not explain where and how we can find them. How can we get started with them. It will be more helpful it at least one would be described.
     However this article is very informative to get started. thank you

  2. Thank you for a very comprehensive article on Affiliate Marketing.I understand that you are saying that there is so much to learn on the subject that it is best that you join the free training you promote or join a community of people like you to learn more.However, I would like for you to give more details on two areas of Affiliate Marketing that I find especially difficult to do.The first is how to promote my website.I am not able to get sufficient visitors to my site.Without visitors all the other techniques are pointless.The other concern I have is how to collect E-Mails from the few visitors I have.If I post a form on my blog wouldn’t some visitors just leave without reading the blog? How you avoid that? You are obviously an authority on the subject so I would appreciate your further comments.

    • Hi Carlos,

      Those are two excellent questions.  Let me give you y take on each one of them.

      1st) How do you promote your website? There are many schools of thought on this subject.  The one I subscribe to is that you need to build enough momentum by creating enough great content to start getting noticed.  Your great content will naturally start to get backlinks which will increase your authority and eventually the amount of traffic to your site.  Please note that I am not suggesting that you buy or trade links as these methods are very dangerous and risk your site getting penalized by the search engines.  Also make sure that you submit your posts to Google console and Bing webmaster so they can get indexed.  Finally, make sure to add social media marketing to your strategy.

      2nd)  How to collect emails?  I find that placing an optin on the sidebar of your site works fairly well.  You can also add a call to action at the very end of your posts.  This will ensure that they will read all the way through the post before getting a signup opportunity.  Finally, you can use popups.  I know they are said to be very unpopular but look at most extremely successful websites and you will see that they still use popups!  That is because they work 🙂

      I hope this helps,

      To your success,

      Mike Aha

  3. Mike, you answered the questions about Affiliate Marketing in great detail.  I liked the examples you gave about the owner of the product, the customer, and the affiliate who facilitates everything.  I found myself clicking on your links and learning even more.

    You are also right on the mark about Wealthy Affiliate.  It’s the only program I know of where you can learn a whole new career without investing any money. They are an honest company with an honest product that has changed the lives of many people. I’m one of them.

    All the best,


    • Hi John,

      I want to thank you for your comment.  Wealthy Affiliate is the program I follow and that has tough me to learn to make money online.  I have several sites that make me decent money day in and day out! 

      Here is a wealthy affiliate review that i just wrote.  I hope it helps you and any other reader that is interested

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