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Affiliate Marketing: A Complete Beginners Guide for Publishers

June 17, 2021

Affiliate marketing isn’t the new kid on the block. In fact, it’s been around in one form or another since 1989, but it’s only gained its massive popularity in recent years. You’ve likely seen many online creators touting their success while proudly stating that “you can do it, too!” Affiliate marketing the grandfather of digital marketing methods and one of the few strategies explicitly designed with publishers in mind.

Today, content creators, from bloggers to YouTubers and Influencers, use affiliate marketing to generate a passive income. It’s one of the first methods publishers tend to use when monetizing their sites since it’s typically considered far easier than other monetization methods.

What is affiliate marketing? Where do you start? Is it really as easy as many websites claim? Should you become an affiliate marketer? Read on to find out!

What Is Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate marketing is the process through which a publisher earns commission by marketing a brand or company’s products. Typically, your goal should be getting users to buy something. However, some programs may reward you for generating clicks or leads.

How Does Affiliate Marketing Work?

In a nutshell, affiliate marketing uses publishers to market a brand’s product or service in exchange for a commission. There are three (sometimes four) parties involved in the process:

  • The brand, also known as the seller, merchant, or advertiser.
  • The third-party platform (limited to affiliate networks).
  • The publisher, also known as the affiliate, content creator, or marketer.
  • The consumer, also known as the audience or buyer.

As a publisher, it’s your job to use your platform for marketing the seller’s products or services. You can do that through a network, program, or direct partnership. If a consumer takes the specified action, like making a purchase, you get paid a commission.

To track the process, platforms use affiliate IDs. When you’re approved for an offer, you’ll receive a unique identifier that will tell the network or program that you’re responsible for a conversion. This data is used to determine your commission.

How Are Affiliate Marketers Paid?

There are a few ways that affiliates can earn a commission, and some payment agreements can be confusing. Understanding how different commissions work is vital if you plan to make a steady income through affiliate marketing.

Pay-Per-Sale

Pay-per-sale is the standard commission structure that’s used by most networks and brands. If someone buys a product due to your marketing activities, you’ll earn a percentage of the sale price. In short, you need to get people to purchase before you earn a reward.

Different brands, products, or services have varying commission rates. Pay attention to what you’ll earn so that you can invest your time accordingly. Consider things like:

  • Commission rate
  • Sale difficulty
  • Minimum payouts

Pay-Per-Lead

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Pay-per-lead is more complex, and you’ll earn a commission if you convince a visitor to take a particular action. These can include:

  • Signing up for a trial
  • Filling out a contact form
  • Subscribing to a newsletter
  • Downloading software or files

Since there’s no actual “sale,” the commission will typically be a set amount determined by the network or brand.

Pay-Per-Click

Affiliate marketing PPC is all about web traffic. To get paid, affiliates need to funnel as much traffic to the merchant’s website as possible. The commission is typically based on the increase in web traffic.

How to Become an Affiliate Marketer

Is it easy to become an affiliate marketer? According to many online content creators, the answer is a resounding “yes!” It’s as simple as finding a platform, applying, getting approved, and then marketing various offers to your audience.

Unfortunately, that’s just a small part of becoming an affiliate marketer. Various factors can make the process easier or more challenging.

First, you need to consider your platform, niche, and existing audience. Choosing a network or program that’s irrelevant to your user base almost guarantees failure. Additionally, programs may refuse to approve your application if they believe you won’t generate the necessary traffic or sales.

In a similar vein, most affiliate platforms will consider the size of your audience and how much potential revenue you can generate. You may even face penalties if you can’t meet the requirements.

The Benefits of Affiliate Marketing

There’s a reason why 84% of publishers and 81% of brands use affiliate marketing1. It’s a highly effective way to generate an income, and it’s predicted that advertisers will continue to shift more of their spending towards affiliate marketing. For new publishers and those looking for ways to diversify their revenue, affiliate marketing holds significant potential.

For some, the benefits go beyond monetizing their platforms. Instead, they enjoy the convenience of working from home while generating a passive income. Additionally, affiliate marketing is a relatively simple monetization strategy that’s scalable and has almost no start-up costs. 

For others, it’s the flexibility of affiliate programs that are most appealing. While nearly 65% of affiliates generate traffic through blogging alone, it can be used on other content creation and social media platforms, including Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube.

Types of Affiliate Platforms

If you want to know how to start affiliate marketing, it’s critical to know about the different programs, networks, and partnerships before getting started. There are many ways to become a successful affiliate, but not all will deliver the same results. Knowing the pros and cons of each type can help you make a better choice.

Affiliate Marketing Networks

When publishers first think of becoming affiliates, they’re likely thinking of joining affiliate marketing networks. Essentially, networks are digital marketplaces where merchants (or advertisers) showcase their offers.

Networks are typically easy to join, may include dashboards, analytics, and ad creatives, and give publishers access to a wide selection of merchant products, services, or downloadable files and software.

In short, affiliate marketing networks are the quintessential middlemen. They connect publishers with merchants and take a slice of every bit of commission that their members earn.

To join an affiliate network, publishers must go through an approval process. Credible networks will verify advertisers and publishers, ensuring a certain level of quality.

Once accepted, publishers will get instant access to all the offers available on the network and the related advertising assets. You’ll also get a unique publisher ID that you’ll need to connect with every marketing campaign you run, or you won’t earn a commission. It’s the only way for the network and the merchant to track the conversion to your activities.

The Pros and Cons of Affiliate Networks

There are several benefits to joining an affiliate network:

  • Joining is typically quick and easy.
  • Instant access to a massive variety of offers.
  • Dedicated support.
  • Various set and flexible payout methods.
  • Wide variety of niches.
  • Automated tracking.

However, there are also a few notable drawbacks:

  • Significant competition amongst affiliates.
  • Loss of revenue to a third party (the network).
  • Strict terms and conditions, including quotas.
  • Minimum payout limits.
  • Impersonal support.

Affiliate Marketing Programs

In many ways, affiliate marketing programs are the same as networks, with similar rules and conditions. The key difference is that affiliate programs are run directly by brands and companies rather than through a middleman. One of the most well-known affiliate programs currently running is Amazon Affiliates.

Brands use affiliate programs to boost their sales while retaining more control over the commission process and the quality of affiliates. In turn, publishers may have access to better support and commission rates.

To join an affiliate program, you need to apply for approval first. Depending on the program, you may need to meet specific criteria or request a particular offer. Once accepted, you’ll have access to the merchant or brand’s offers, and you can start marketing!

Pros and Cons of Affiliate Programs

The most significant benefit of working with an affiliate program is doing away with the middleman. Other key advantages include:

  • Closer connection to the advertisers or brand.
  • Better commission rates.
  • Personalized support may be available.
  • Flexible deals may be available.
  • Access to products directly from the seller.
  • Somewhat less competition with other affiliates.

As with marketing networks, there are also a few drawbacks that make it harder for smaller publishers to join brand-run programs:

  • Competition directly with the brand.
  • Stricter terms, conditions, and approval requirements.
  • Brand restrictions and heavy penalties for incorrect use.
  • Fewer payout options.
  • A limited selection of offers and niches available.

Direct Partnerships

Direct partnerships are the crème of the affiliate marketing crop. They’re challenging to establish and tricky to maintain, but they can be extremely rewarding. Not only is there no middleman, but the process requires the development of a personal, direct relationship between the publisher and the brand.

To enter a direct partnership with an advertiser, publishers first need to establish contact. It’s a good idea to show your potential value through statistics such as:

  • Current website traffic.
  • Performance in other affiliate programs (not competition).
  • Percentage of the audience that’s interested in the brand’s niche.

If the brand is interested in moving forward, the negotiation process will begin. It can be a long, arduous process, and very few publishers make it past this step. During negotiations, the publisher and the brand will establish which offers will be included, the commission rates, and general terms and conditions.

The best commissions in affiliate marketing await those who make it through the process and are approved.

Pros and Cons of Direct Partnerships

Direct partnerships aren’t easy to establish, but they do come with several notable benefits:

  • Closer connection to the advertisers or brand.
  • Highest commission rates.
  • Personalized support may be available.
  • Far less competition.
  • Possible access to exclusive deals.

Before you decide to pursue direct partnerships with brands, consider the following:

  • Stringent terms, conditions, and approval requirements.
  • Deals must be negotiated with the brand directly.
  • Brand restrictions and heavy penalties for incorrect use.
  • Fewer payout options.
  • It may be restricted to a single offer, product, or service.

Negotiation is typically the most significant barrier to entry for most publishers. However, the brand may also have extremely high traffic requirements before approving you for a direct partnership deal.

Best of Both Worlds: the Rev·amp Solution

Take the variety of an affiliate network, sprinkle with the advantages of a direct partnership, add a dash of dedicated expertise, and top off with a high-commission cherry. That’s the winning Rev·Amp recipe that delights and rewards our publishers.

Beyond the deals we facilitate through affiliate networks, Rev·Amp offers publishers access to all the direct affiliate partnerships we’ve established with many of the biggest tech-industry brands.

The Rev·Amp platform was designed to help publishers take their revenue generation to the next level by revolutionizing how we approach monetization. That’s why we have a dedicated affiliation team; both to develop new and rewarding direct partnerships and support our publishers.

In short, we handle the hard work while you create content and get paid for your efforts. It’s the perfect balance between affiliate networks and direct deals, offering publishers all the benefits with almost none of the drawbacks.

Conclusion: Is Affiliate Marketing for You?

There’s no denying that affiliate marketing is an effective strategy that’s ideal for publishers. It’s an excellent way to boost revenue through monetization, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best fit for everyone. It can take a lot of time and effort to reach a comfortable “passive income” level, but that’s no guarantee that you’ll keep earning money indefinitely.

If you really want to become a successful affiliate marketer while maximizing your earning potential, you need to consider your options carefully. Choose a network, program, or partner that’ll serve your needs and your niche. Evaluate the commission structure with a critical eye.

Most importantly, build a rewarding relationship by working with a platform that sees you as a partner rather than an ID code.

1https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/affiliate-marketing/

is a digital advertising performance expert and the Director of Rev•Amp at Softonic. As a business unit leader, Fréderic is responsible for the monetization and the success of the Softonic Publisher Network. Within Rev•Amp, Fréderic oversees Product, Business Development, and Account Management functions.
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