What Is Affiliate Marketing and Does It Work?

You are looking for ways to make extra money online, so your first instinct is to turn to the search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo) and do some research. As a result, you come across affiliate marketing. However, you are clueless about what is affiliate marketing, and most importantly, does it work?

For many, at first, internet marketing is a mysterious black box with loads of unknowns. So, let’s change your perception by getting you well versed in the affiliate world!

However, here is a spoiler alert! If done correctly, yes, you can make affiliate marketing work for you, and earn an income.

In this post, I am giving you some gist concerning the affiliate space, why you should become an affiliate marketer, and also helping you choose a direction for your online business.

So, without further ado, let’s dig in!

Affiliate Marketing 101

First, let’s break it down into the following steps:

What Is Affiliate Marketing and Does It Work — Diagram Process of Making Money with Affiliate Marketing.

In a nutshell, there are three components to affiliate marketing. The first one is Your Site (the affiliate marketer), then you have the Merchant, and lastly the Customer.

As shown in the image above:

You (the affiliate marketer) are the link between the merchant and the customer.

So, let’s that you have a niche website creating content by blogging about hiking backpacks. When someone buys a hiking backpack based on your recommendation, you receive a commission.

How come? Well, you are helping the merchants promote their products by giving them more online visibility, and increasing their sales, so you get rewarded for your efforts.

The amount of the commission varies significantly upon the can be anywhere between 1-75%.

Why Should You Become an Affiliate Marketer?

As tempting as it might be at first to leave your 9-5 job behind and become a full-time affiliate marketer, here is a word of caution: don’t quit your job yet!

There are a few things you need to know before jumping into the affiliate marketing arena! I like to call this your reality checklist, and here it is:

  • Affiliate Marketing doesn’t involve any magic; you won’t get rich overnight. Internet marketing requires much work, as it is NOT a get-rich-quick scheme.
  • Self-discipline is needed for working from home; you can get easily distracted by your everyday life.

Moreover, there are pros and cons, and they are listed below:


Very low start-up costs. You don’t need to carry an inventory or rent office space.

Can work from anywhere (like from home).

It’s free to join an affiliate program.

No staff is needed as you are running the show!

No need to create your own products.

Many ways to earn an income include blogging, displaying ads on your site, using pay-per-click, and so on.

No customers issue to deal with since the merchants take care of that aspect.


Working alone. It is quite easy here to get all caught up in work and forget about life. It is good to have a schedule and to stick to it, as well as allow yourself to take breaks.

False advertising. Don’t make false claims about the products to sell; this will backfire and ruin your reputation as an affiliate marketer and the merchant image.

Get your affiliate links hijacked. Some unscrupulous people might steal your affiliate links to get your commissions.

No control over the programs. You are at the mercy of the merchant. So, the merchant can change the program without any notice, and there is nothing you can do about it. However, you always have the option to opt-out and find another affiliate program that is a better fit for you.

Competition. Well, keep in mind that you are not the only affiliate of that merchant there are others as well. However, with the right set of tools and training, it is possible to make a living as an affiliate marketer.

How to Become an Affiliate Marketer?

It is very simple. Here are the steps you need to follow:

What Is Affiliate Marketing and Does It Work — How to Become an Affiliate.

Once you have figured out which affiliate program you want to join, then apply for the program.

Following your approval into the program, you will get your affiliate link, which includes an ID code. So, when you make a sale, the merchant will know that it is you and will then pay you your commission.

Start promoting the products or services through your website, social media, ads (Facebook), or PPC (paid per click). There are myriad ways to give more online visibility to the products. Just be creative!

Don’t forget to read the terms and conditions of the affiliate program. You need to get acquainted with the rules, how the program works, and all the Dos and Don’ts about promoting the products. It is always good to know what you are getting yourself into!

What to Look For in an Affiliate Program?

First off, not all affiliate programs are created equal. Some are better than others. So, check out the list below to know what to look for in an affiliate program:

(1)  The Commission

Is it a one-time or a recurring commission? Some programs offer a recurring commission where you get paid for as long as the person pays for the service or subscription.

(2)  Commission Rate

How much do you get paid per sale? Is it a fixed amount of money or a percentage? In other words, do you get paid $10 per sale (no matter the value of the item sold), or do you get 5% of the product price as a commission?

(3)  Program Incentives

Are any incentives the affiliates offer to promote the merchant’s products? For example, if you become their top affiliate, do you get paid a higher commission rate for being a super affiliate?

(4)  Product Quality

Is it something that you would buy yourself? Do you find value in the product or service? If so, it will be easier to recommend their goods, and you won’t be perceived as someone trying to push cheap products to their customers only to make a buck.

(5)  Customer Service

Look for the client’s satisfaction with the product or service. The best way to do this is to read the customer’s review on the merchant’s website or browse the internet for reviews about the seller’s products. Another option is to get in touch directly with former clients to find out about their experiences with that merchant.

What to Choose: Affiliate Networks or Affiliate Programs?

When entering the internet marketing space, newbies are often confused by the terminology used. Therefore, the most common questions that I get are the following:

  • What is an affiliate network?
  • How is it different from an affiliate program?

Well, the difference between the two is a mere technicality!

Let me explain how it works. An affiliate network regroups a wide variety of affiliate programs. It is the go-between, if you will, between the affiliate marketer and the merchant. The affiliate network manages all the aspects of a particular affiliate program, including providing the affiliate links, keeping stats about the sales, and paying out the commissions.

Because of this, many companies prefer to join an affiliate network to avoid managing their own affiliate program.

So what is best? It all comes down to your personal preferences!

Let’s say you want to promote a wide range of products as part of your online business. You have three choices:

(1)  Join Loads of Individuals Affiliate Programs

You can sign up for all the affiliate programs that offer the products you want to promote as part of your online business.

So let’s say you want to sell a wide range of products such as e-books, electronics, sports equipment, etc. You would have to sign for separate affiliate programs offering each product! Now, you see where I am going with this. Having that many affiliate accounts would be a nightmare to manage and very time-consuming.

(2)  Affiliate Networks

To alleviate having to join multiple affiliate programs, you should opt for an affiliate network, such as CJ.com, where you will find thousands of products to promote, all in one place.

It will be a big-time saver as you will have only one account to manage. Within the affiliate’s network dashboard, you will have access to all your statistics for all the affiliate programs you are part of. Moreover, you will be paid through a single payment for all the commissions earned from the various programs.

(3)  Amazon Associates

Another option is to join the Amazon affiliate program called Amazon Associates. Amazon is by far the biggest seller of products online as it offers more than 500 million products to promote worldwide. Thus, there is no need to join many affiliate programs!

Here is a list of the most popular affiliate networks:

  • Awin
  • Amazon Associates
  • Partners
  • CJ by Conversant (formerly known as Commission Junction)
  • Clickbank
  • Rakuten

Where to Go to Build Your Thriving Affiliate Business?

What Is Affiliate Marketing and Does It Work — Welcome to Wealthy Affiliate.

Nowadays, there are so many offers in the online world claiming to be the best that it becomes quite a colossal undertaking to go through all those offers to find which ones are legit opportunities.

So let’s cut to the chase. There is no need to do further research to find where to go to set up your business! Since I have been through the process myself, I have done all the research for you and found the most innovative marketing platform within the affiliate space, and it’s called Wealthy Affiliate.

The Wealthy Affiliate platform provides all the tools and the training needed to learn about affiliate marketing, hosting, and websites, as well as extensive support from a community of well-minded affiliate marketers to help you every step as you build and grow your online business.

There are two levels of membership at Wealthy Affiliate. The first level is the Starter Membership. I strongly suggest you choose this option first as it’s free to try. Doing so will enable you to “test drive” all the platform’s features. The second more advanced membership level is the Premium Membership, where you get full access to the whole platform for less than $2/day ($495/year).

If you have any questions about affiliate marketing or want to share your ideas for your business with me, please leave a comment below. I am looking forward to hearing from you and helping you become a success in the online world.

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

  1. Hello there, I find your post which explained how affiliate marketing works to be a very comprehensive and honest depiction of the affiliate marketing world. 

    Since I am very new to the affiliate space, I am always looking to educate myself. Your post helped me gain a better understanding of affiliate marketing. 

    You inspire me! 🙂

    Keep on writing more, please 🙂 

    • Thanks for your feedback, I am thrilled that I was able to educate you better and further your knowledge about affiliate marketing.

      Always keep in mind, that if you are willing to put in the efforts and are dedicated to becoming an affiliate marketer that affiliate marketing can work for you and enable you to earn a living while doing something that you love! 🙂

  2. Very interesting read. It was also to my surprise to read that affiliate links can be hijacked and I see you explained in another comment how this could happen. But could you also advise how to avoid this? It sounds actually very terrifying – you work hard, steal the time from your family and reduce the rest time to earn some money, but some people just take the fruits that you have earned.

    • The best way to avoid your affiliate links to be stolen by unscrupulous people would be to use a URL shortener to hide your affiliate ID. There are many plugins available that you could use. One of the best plugins is Pretty Link. Plus, this plugin provides stats about your links.

      If you don’t want to use Pretty Link to hide your affiliate ID in your URL, my best advice would be monitored your stats for any discrepancies closely. By the way, it is always a good thing to keep track of the traffic on your website with Google Analytics! 

      I don’t want to get into too many details, but there is a way in Google Analytics to see how many people are clicking on your links. If there are discrepancies, you should first investigate further before jumping the gun and assuming that your affiliate link is being hijacked. There might be many reasons why the number of clicks and sales don’t add up. 

      Often the culprit for the discrepancy will be relevancy between your call of action or message within your post with the product that you are trying to sell. Because people are clicking on your links expecting to buy something, yet, they end up with an entirely different product, which they don’t purchase. This could very well be the explanation for the important difference between the number of clicks on your links and the sales and not necessarily the hijacking of your affiliate links.

      I hope it helps if you still have any question, please drop me a line below and I will gladly further help you out.

  3. Great article- I like how you warn people not to expect millions the minute they start. Whenever I read articles on affiliate marketing, usually they make it sound a lot easier than it is. It takes hours and hours of work to be successful, and it’s not the lazy men way out.

    I didn’t know that affiliate links can be hijacked. How does that work?

    • There are different ways that your affiliate links can be stolen, or hijacked.

      The first way, is when someone is hovering over your affiliate link or either click on it and see that it is an affiliate link. So, instead of buying the products through your link, they sign up for the same affiliate program to get an URL with an affiliate ID and use that link to buy their products and get the commissions for the sales instead of you.

      The other way to hijack your affiliate link is by using malware and or trojans, which will replace the identifying part of the affiliate URL with someone else affiliate ID.

  4. Excellent read Sonia. Thank you.
    The more I read, the more I realize that there is much more to Affiliate Marketing than some would have us believe. No business will succeed without in the time and effort put it. You have definitely covered the do’s and don’ts in this well-written article.

    • Well, unless you win the lottery, you won’t be able to get rich overnight! Like most things we undertake in life, it takes time and a lot of patience and perseverance to achieve success. And affiliate marketing is no different. However, when you better understand how it works, you have a head start toward being successful. 

      It is why Wealthy Affiliate is where you should turn to for learning and building your online business. So, if you are interested in learning more and starting your adventure into the affiliate world, read my review explaining extensively all about Wealthy Affiliate.

  5. Hi Sonia,

    Love your post.

    As a newbie in Affiliate Marketing, I learned a lot regarding what Affiliate Marketing is and how to make money with it.

    The pros and cons were definitely interesting and honest. I have started my own site this week, and I think your website will help me a lot.

    Thanks for sharing and keep up the great work.

    All the best,


    • You should then bookmark my website and visit on a regular basis as I will be adding more comprehensive posts and reviews to help out people (newbies as well as seasoned marketers). I will also provide a wide range of affiliate marketing tools to help you grow and manage your online business.

      Best of luck to you with your website/business!

  6. This was a great introduction on what is affiliate marketing. I am new to online marketing and I am still waiting to see a significant amount of revenue through Affiliate marketing. 

    Alas, the truth is exactly as you explained it to be…. don’t quit your job. Affiliate Marketing is NOT a get rich quick scheme. I had to join several Affiliate programs AND networks before finding the right mix of products to help my customers. 

    My question to you is, as a first step, do you recommend your clients join an affiliate program or should they start building their website first?

    • I recommend, as the first step, building a website and choosing one of your passion as your niche. If you need help selecting your niche, click here.

      Next, once you have a website with some content, then sign up for affiliate programs or networks that have the products related to your niche.

      Hope it helps. If you have more questions, don’t hesitate to drop me a line.

  7. It seems to me that affiliate marketing is the current buzz word for those who would like to start an online business. 

    There is so much opportunity out there and as you quite rightly point out in your article, this open to everyone who is willing to work hard.

    You have covered this topic very well. Would you agree that this is a growing market?

    • Absolutely, Affiliate marketing is here to stay! There are more and more people online every day, doing all kind of research as well as buying stuff online.

      Currently, there around 3.75 billion people online and this number is still growing. I personally believe that the number of people browsing the web will soon reach the 4 billion mark!

      So, with close to 4 billion people which are all potential online customers, the future for affiliate marketers has never been brighter in my opinion!

  8. Affiliate marketing is my favorite way to make money online! You don’t need your own product or anything like that. Just sells someone else’s product an earn a great income! 

    Of course, it might not be easy, because like anything in life, it requires dedication and consistency to succeed at this. 

    I always prefer to choose affiliate offers that give bigger commissions like 60% or something like that, but if the product is really good and it sells, something like 5% commissions can be great as well.

    • I think that you should always choose your affiliate program based on the quality of the product, and pick something that is reasonably priced even though with a lower commission rate. You should not base your selection on the amount of commission you get for each sale. Pick something that you feel comfortable promoting.

      Because if you choose something that is very expensive, it will tougher to get a sale as people will be more cautious, review the product carefully, weighs all the pros and cons before deciding if the purchase is worth it. On the other hand, if you are selling products with a lower price tag, people usually feel less guilty for purchasing such items as they buy more on an impulse.

      Also, you have to keep in mind, that you will have to put a lot more efforts to sell a high ticket item that you would for a low-cost item. So it might be better to opt for a high-quality product reasonably priced with a lower commission. You won’t lose many revenues as you will make up for it because of the high sale volume that you will get.


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