So - you’ve seen it all around the internet. Everybody’s talking about it - everywhere you look, you see affiliate marketing this, affiliate marketing that… It seems like the internet today is concerned with nothing else but this one specific topic. For a person who has never dealt with anything even remotely related to internet marketing, the natural question arises - what is affiliate marketing?
Well, today’s your lucky day - I am here to tell you all about this strange term that you’ve seen floating all around! In this tutorial, we’ll cover everything related to affiliate marketing - how does affiliate marketing work, what is an affiliate program, how does this type of marketing work and how you can make money from it.
So, what are you waiting for? Let’s jump in straight into the tutorial!
Table of Contents
Understanding Affiliate Marketing
To put it very simply, affiliate marketing is a form of marketing where people promote certain specific items or services and get a share of the revenue that the sold product generates.
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The people promoting this item or service are usually online influencers or social media enthusiasts. However, even though it is truly much easier to earn money with affiliate marketing when you have an online presence, theoretically anyone can become an affiliate.
The products or services that these affiliates promote can honestly be almost anything and everything - it all depends on the company supplying these products (services).
People often ask - what is an affiliate program? Does it differ from affiliate marketing, is it a part of it or a completely different thing? I’ll put it very simply - an affiliate program is the same thing as what is affiliate marketing - it’s just a more narrowed down concept. While “affiliate marketing” refers to the broad definition of the concept itself, “affiliate programs” are more specific processes. These programs are usually issued by various companies or websites to attract potential new users and offer them something in return.
How Does Affiliate Marketing Work?
Since this tutorial is centered around affiliate marketing for beginners, I’ll cover the question of “how does affiliate marketing work?” in a wide and informative way.
When it comes to what is an affiliate program, this concept usually consists of three key parties: there’s the product or service provider, the affiliate himself and the customer (potential new user).
What you’ll most commonly come across while browsing the web is that a lot of other guides and tutorials mention the fourth party in this equation - an advertiser. Advertisers are usually the guiding links between product or service creators and affiliates. I have made a conscious decision not to put them into this guide. Why? Well, mainly because when you’re just starting with affiliate marketing (especially when you only want to know what is affiliate marketing), you’ll mostly encounter companies that do the advertising and promoting themselves - whether it be Google targeted ads, social media promotions, affiliate programs or anything else of that nature.
So, let’s stick to the three-party formula. For the sake of clearance, I’ll firstly cover the main functions and responsibilities that all of the three groups have. After that, we’ll talk about the general process of affiliate marketing.
The Creator (Vendor, Product or Service Provider, etc.)
At the top of the affiliate marketing chain, we have the actual product or service merchants.
These merchants can wary immensely - starting from small, one-person-run handmade item shops to huge and worldwide-known companies. No matter the actual size of the company, though, they all carry the same two, huge responsibilities when it comes to what is affiliate marketing - producing quality goods (services) and choosing respectable, worthy affiliates.
When it comes to having a quality stock of merchandise or services, this is honestly a no-brainer. Even if you were to own a very small business and specialize in, let’s say, handcrafted jewelry, this is still the biggest factor. No affiliate will want to work with you if the merchandise that you sell is cheaply made (but marketed and advertised as expensive and high quality) and prone to breaking. People value quality, and a potential affiliate will be much more interested and have a lot of good things to say about awe-inspiring items.
Affiliates are one of the main cornerstones of what is affiliate marketing and choosing a good affiliate marketer is also no easy task. This part is mainly dependant on your size as a company, the budget that you are willing to provide for the affiliate and the type of product or service that you provide.
Again, if you own a small company, it’s not advisable to aim at the top-tier affiliates in the game - most likely, the amounts that they charge for their promoting services are a bit too high for a small business. There are a lot of good and reputable affiliates that are just starting in the business. More than that, aim at content creators - YouTubers, Instagram models, and other social media celebrities are becoming amazingly popular in the field. And they probably won’t ask you “what is affiliate program?” - chances are that they have been contacted by other companies with similar kinds of offers.
So, to put it short - make cool stuff that people want to buy or order, try to work with affiliates that would represent your brand in a way that you would love and never stop the grind!
Ah, the affiliate. The main role that you probably came here to find out about. Surely, if you want to know what is affiliate marketing or how does affiliate marketing work, you must know a lot about the affiliates themselves.
In this context, affiliates have the highest amounts of responsibilities. I'll list them below for the sake of a fluid read and then talk about every one of them separately.
- Good content (IF you have a social media presence);
- Common decency.
Honestly, this only applies to those affiliates who have some sort of a social following. However, if you’re planning on getting into the affiliate business long-term, then you’ll not only need to know the basics but to also start building some content of your own.
What do I mean by good content? Well, it’s pretty simple: produce content that would not only be advertiser-friendly but would also get you noticed by both the general public and the advertisers themselves.
When you fully understand what is affiliate marketing it lets you unleash your inner creativity. When you have good and inviting content (whether it be blog posts, YouTube videos, Instagram photos, etc.), it becomes much easier to garner an audience. Furthermore, you become much more likely to attract potential advertisers and product (service) providers who would be willing to work with you.
This is a tough one.
How many times have you seen somebody promoting a product, and felt that they were hiding something?
This doesn’t mean that you have to disclose every single bit of information regarding the promotion. But it’s quite clear and easy to see (even though it might seem otherwise) when a person is being completely honest and transparent and when he’s trying to hide something.
This isn’t a point that should be discussed. Don’t lie. Period. Unless you want to lose all of your online audience and any possibilities to have future affiliate promotions.
When you think about what is affiliate marketing, can you ever imagine yourself promoting something that you don’t like yourself?
A lot of people would probably quickly answer a loud and resounding “NO”, yet there are so many people doing this, that it becomes worrisome.
Remember - it’s always better to say no to a promo when you don’t actually like it, rather than going along and deciding to follow through, only to discover that your fans have noticed that you’re not being truthful, and them turning their backs on you because of that.
This might sound like a strange one, but in truth, it’s more like a sum of all the previous points.
Don’t promote and shove products or services that you haven’t tried yourself or that you don’t believe in. Don’t ever lie to your audience - always disclose that you are doing a paid promotion. And, last but not least - stay humble! Humility is key to a long-lasting relationship between you and your clients. Remember, many people might know what is affiliate marketing and be quick to judge you for your endeavors to sell the product if you do no stay humble.
- Simplistic design (no unnecessary information)
- High-quality courses (even the free ones)
- Variety of features
- Nanodegree programs
- Suitable for enterprises
- Paid certificates of completion
Honestly, when it comes to affiliate marketing, the customer has the least amount of points to keep in mind.
The only thing that you (as a customer) should truly be on the lookout is fake and deceitful promotions. Don’t ever be afraid to call out people who are trying to promote something that they have no idea about.
Also, don’t hesitate to support content creators who are transparent and honest about what they do. This will come full circle because while they will feel valued and appreciated, you’ll get something nice (and maybe useful?) in return.
When you’re in the “customer” position, you don’t tend to wonder what is affiliate marketing. However, if you’ve already dealt with the subject before (or perhaps you’re doing it now?), you quickly start to notice it all around you. A platform like YouTube is a great example of this: almost all of the bigger YouTubers associate themselves with some form of affiliate marketing. They usually get approached by companies that want to work with them - this is a wonderful thing. It shows the rest of the world that YouTube has entered the mainstream and that individual creators can make a living out of their creations. Also, the fact that huge and powerful brands are willing to work with these people is a great statement to the rest of the mainstream world.
Affiliate Marketing: The Process
I assume that by now you have a pretty good what is affiliate marketing and how does it work. If not, I’ll try to give you a TL;DR, yet an informative version of the most common processes that occur in the world of affiliate marketing.
First of all, let’s say that you don’t have any or all social media presence. You’re not an Instagram model, a YouTube vlogger or anything in between - just a simple guy or gal looking for a way to earn some extra cash on the side.
Remember when we talked about what is an affiliate program? Well, these types of programs are probably going to be your go-to thing. As soon as you find a program like that and establish that you want to participate in it, you can move on to the actual promotions.
BitDegree is currently holding an affiliate program. It’s cool and has a lot of potential rewards for willing and interested affiliates. You can look at it from a gamification point of view - you'll unlock certain new rewards with each new tier that you access.
After you’re set with the program, next comes the actual promotion. Now, in this situation, your best bet would probably be internet forum sites. Reddit is a great way to start, and you can move to more specific, targeted forums from there on out.
What is affiliate marketing special about is that you’ll get your unique referral link? This is your personal property - whenever a person clicks on it and makes a purchase (or anything else that is required) of the product or service at that site, you get a share of the revenue.
Naturally, you’ll want to promote the link as much as possible. Be cautious, though! Don’t spam - that’s the fastest way of getting banned from a forum site. Also, don’t shove the link down people’s throats - only post it if you truly believe that the product or service would benefit the people in that specific situation.
After you do this for a long enough time, you’ll probably start to notice that your links are starting to gain traction and garner more and more attention. This is a really good time to start thinking about your content - you could start a blog or a YouTube channel, and promote the product (service) there. At that point, you no longer need to wonder what is affiliate marketing or how does affiliate marketing work - you’ll already know!
Truth be told, affiliate marketing is a great concept when it comes to making a passive income online. If you have a day job that allows you some free time in the evenings, this type of activity could not only be interesting but bring a lot of profit at the same time.
Don’t be sad or disappointed if things don’t go your way the first or second time around. People who wonder what is an affiliate marketing and how they could use it for their advantage often forget that it’s pretty difficult to be a successful affiliate in the first place. Every day there is a countless number of affiliates that are struggling and “fighting” for the customer's attention - it usually all comes down to the presentation and the merchandise (service) in question.
Honestly, though, I have only scratched the surface of this topic. After all, this guide was intended as “affiliate marketing for beginners” type of a thing. When you delve into the world of affiliates, you’ll see that there are a lot more nuances to be encountered and explored. However, if you came here with the solemn question “what is affiliate program?”, I don’t think that extra complex information would have done you any good.
We have reached the end of our tutorial. If there’s one thing I’m hopeful for, it’s that you no longer need to ask “what is affiliate marketing?” - you already know a lot about the whole process in question! In other words, I hope that this affiliate marketing for beginners' guide was useful for you!
Also, if you’re thinking about getting into the affiliate marketing business, but still don’t know where to start, don’t forget to check out the BitDegree affiliate program. You can more information about it here.