How to Start Affiliate Marketing: The Ultimate Guide (2018)

In this guide, I am going to teach you how to start affiliate marketing the right way.

If you have been using the internet for longer than 10 minutes, then I am sure you have heard of people making money online.

But Wait!

Can you the average person make money online?

The short answer is yes, okay that's the guide over.

Seriously, it's not only possible, but many people are making money online.

How to Start Affiliate Marketing

What is Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate marketing is the art of earning a percentage of a sale from other people's products.

Your goal is to find a product or service that you like, promote it through content marketing, and then earn commissions from consumers that purchase the product/service.

Quick Tip: A misconception that consumers believe is that they have to pay extra to purchase something from an affiliate. That is NOT true. We get a cut of the original price. For example, if I got a 10% commission on a $100 sale, I would receive $10 from that person/company.

That is the reason that affiliate marketing is so compelling, you are promoting a product to a consumer who was already looking to purchase that product, and you're receiving a referral commission.

Using affiliate marketing training as an example, if I were to recommend a platform (In this case I will use Wealthy Affiliate. a training course); then I will talk about:

  • The Pros & Cons of The Product
  • Whom The Product is Targeted Towards
  • Why I Recommend This Product Over Everything
  • Where You Can Sign Up (Add my affiliate link)

Quick Tip: I could also talk about other products/services and compare them to each other.

That sounds quite simple.

Affiliate marketing is a little more complicated than that; however, that is the basics of this profession.

The reason that I highly recommend to start with affiliate marketing is that it's the fastest to learn and the more comfortable option when getting started online.

What is a Niche? & How to Choose One

Before you do anything, that includes:

  • Buying a Domain Name
  • Build Your Site
  • Finding Hosting

Before any of that, you must understand who your target audience is.

For those of you who do not know what a niche is, a niche is a section or specific part of a general topic.

For example, Email marketing is a niche within the topic of Digital Marketing.

Another example that you may relate to more is cooking. Cooking is a niche within the health industry.

Finding a Niche?

Whenever I am looking to create a new niche site, I go through a process of choosing one that's the best fit for me.

Here's what I do:

  • Think of topics in my head
  • Write them down in a list
  • Use websites such as (Amazon & eBay) to narrow down those topics into a specific section
  • Start researching keywords that people who care about that niche would search on Google
  • Compare the data and choose

Let's Take a Deeper Look:

Thinking of Topics in My Head

This step is simple; I start brainstorming topic ideas on a piece of paper. I also use Google Trends to see what topics are people talking about online.

It does not matter how many ideas you can come up with, but I usually come up with 5 - 9 topics to research.

Create a List of Ideas

The next step is to create a spreadsheet or something similar to that and write your list of ideas down.

That is important because when you start collecting data, you're going to want everything to be as readable as possible.

The single biggest killer for newbies who want to start affiliate marketing is the feeling of being overwhelmed.

I can't stress how many people I have seen quit or not even make an attempt to start because of how overwhelmed they feel just from the idea of being an affiliate.

Use Sites (Like Amazon or eBay) to Narrow Down Your Niche

Did you know that eBay and Amazon have a directory that displays every topic that they have products on.

Here they are:

How to Start Affiliate Marketing
How to Start Affiliate Marketing

I always used this feature when narrowing down niches. Again this strategy is used so that you don't feel overwhelmed.

Quick Story: The first ever niche I chose was technology. I didn't listen to anybody, and I thought that making a blog talking about all kinds of tech would be easy. Well, there is a reason that the most authoritative tech websites have 50+ writers.

I quickly realized how tiring it could be to make high-quality content that is up-to-date with the latest tech.

I would have to make ten blogs every day, and it quickly made me feel demotivated.

That is the reason why every affiliate marketer who knows what they are talking about will tell you to start small and then scale your business later.

Where is The Best Place to Find Keywords

Researching keywords (otherwise known as SEO) is one of the most critical steps to affiliate marketing.

Keywords (or search terms) are phrases that people type into search engines to learn about something or to purchase something.

If you have ever typed in Facebook into Google's search bar, then every single result that you see are websites targeting the keyword "Facebook."

Keywords are not only essential to brainstorm new content, but used for finalizing which niche you want to target.

As you can see from the screenshot below, using a keyword tool named Jaaxy, I can gain a decent idea of how many people search for the term "Affiliate Marketing."

How to Start Affiliate Marketing

Quick Tip: One thing that you will hear from most people is to start big and work your way down, the same as I mentioned when brainstorming niches.

If you target huge keywords at the beginning, then you will fail unless you know what you are doing.

Start out with search terms that have less competition and build your brand to success.

Google is getting smarter & smarter.

Rand Fishkin from Moz published an article last year talking about Google and how they have indeed changed the search results forever by understanding the users intent behind searches.

It's a pretty cool article; I highly suggest that you take a look.

Knowing what search terms your target audience is going to search for is essential.

However, understanding WHAT your target audience is searching for and WHY they are trying to find information on that subject is the difference between building a successful brand or not.

That is where keyword tools come in handy.

Recommended Keywords Tools to Get Started

Ubersuggest is a free keyword tool recently purchased by Neil Patel. I have to admit, for a keyword tool that is free to anyone it's quite good.

1. Ubersuggest (Free)

It gives you basic stats such as:

  • Volume
  • CPC (Cost Per Click)
  • & a Competition Grade

It also gives you some other keywords so that you can get a detailed understanding of how popular a specific "set" of search terms are.

I would recommend using this if you're a beginner and do not have the funds for any of the other tools mentioned in this article.

Another tool you can use is Google's Keyword Planner.

2. Longtail Pro ($37/MO)

Like the rest of the tools on this list, Longtail Pro is a paid keyword tool that has the basic needs and then some.

The tool recently went through a significant update going from software that you had to download onto your PC (meaning that you could only use it on the PC you installed it on), to a cloud version.

That is a massive benefit for long-time users but also for newer users as well.

When I first purchased Longtail Pro in 2016, I was so baffled that I couldn't use the keyword tool.

That put me off.

Luckily that problem has been fixed now.

So let's talk about the features. The basic elements are:

  • Keyword Volume
  • Keyword Competition
  • CPC Worth

However, where this plugin beats Ubersuggests or Google Keyword Planner is with:

  • Ability to export data
  • Save Keywords in a List
  • Majestic Domain Authority Metrics

With the ability to export data, you can grab a bunch of keywords (and the data of those keywords) and put them into a spreadsheet.

3. Jaaxy ($49/MO)

Jaaxy is another paid keyword tool that is similar to Longtail in many ways. Before, I would only recommend Jaaxy because it was cheap. Now they have gone through a rebrand which also included a price increase.

I would still recommend them because of features like their alphabet soup section.

Their alphabet soup section takes your keyword and adds each letter in the alphabet to gain new keywords and ideas.

For example, if your target keyword was "Recipes," You can then find keywords such as:

  • Christmas Recipes
  • Japanese Eggplant Recipes
  • Easy 30 Minute Recipes

You can also track your rankings for various keywords using SiteRank.

Unlike Longtail, Jaaxy doesn't focus on CPC so if that is something you are looking for then Jaaxy isn't for you.

The creators of Wealthy Affiliate own Jaaxy and they allow you to use their tool for free if you join their affiliate training as well.

Do your research and see which keyword tool best fits your needs.

How to Start Affiliate Marketing (Things You Need)

Now that you have chosen a niche and done a little bit of keyword research, it's time to build your website.

There are a lot of different ways you can create a site; I would recommend going through my guide on how to make a website using WordPress.

In short, you need to have these things to begin:

  • Great hosting
  • Brandable name
  • Email autoresponder
  • Great content

Let's Take a Deeper Look:

How to Choose The Best Hosting for You

It doesn't matter how good your website looks or how good your content is, if you do not have hosting then nobody will see it.

Luckily, getting hosting is easy when you know which brand you want to choose and which package will fit your needs.

Read my tutorial (the WordPress link above) to see what hosting platforms I recommend.

Quick Tip: You can spend a bit of time researching a hosting provider. This decision will determine how fast your website will load which is one of the most critical aspects of a site.

According to Kissmetrics, If you own a website that is making over $100,000 per day, a 1-second delay could potentially lose you up to $2.5 million in sales each year.

That's just 1 second.

Creating a Brandable Name

Back in the day, you could pull more weight to your site for a specific keyword by using that keyword as your domain name.

For example, if you wanted to rank for "How to Start Affiliate Marketing," you can use the domain howtostartaffiliatemarketing.com and Google would give your site a little more weight.

That doesn't happen anymore.

Matt Cutts (A former employee at Google) made a video back in 2011 talking about the topic of keyword domains vs. brandable domains.

Check out what he has to say below.

Let's take a look at a few brand names that everybody knows.

Google

For those of you who don't know, Googol is the orginal spelling which is the number 10 powered by 100. For reference, this is a googol:

10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.

At the very beginning, Larry Page and Sergey Brin named their search engine "BackRub."

Not that awesome is it?

Knowing this, they wanted to change the name to a name that represented an immense amount of data.

After mentioning Googolplex - which is the number 10 powered by a googol - they decided to short it down to Googol.

You may have noticed that Google is spelled differently to Googol.

The reason behind this is because they accidentally spelled it wrong; they realized that but still liked this new spelling of googol, so they registered the popular domain that you know today.

IKEA

IKEA is the perfect brand to represent how brandable names can stick. As many of you may know, IKEA is a company that originated in Sweden.

However, IKEA isn't a Swedish word. IKEA is the initials of the founder Ingvar Kamprad and the locations where he grew up Elmtaryd and Agunnaryd.

Quick Tip: Do not spend much time on thinking up of a brand name because it will eat away at the time you could be spending creating content and ranking in the search engines.

Take a look at my brand name AnthonyBcks. The story behind that is simple. Anthony is my first name, and Bcks is my last name "Beckles" shortened down.

Building an Email List

Building an email list is very important. When you have a large email list, then you can accomplish a lot.

Most users wouldn't trust you enough to purchase your recommend products on their first visit.

Unless they were planning on buying the product on that day and decided to look through some reviews one last time, people are not going to buy anything from you.

That's where an email list comes in to play.

First off, having an email list means more direct connections with your readers. Every person will receive the same email which can be powerful if done correctly.

Next, people still use their email accounts.

I have gone days without checking my social media accounts, yet I always check my email every single day.

Lastly, unlike your social media - where you have to post content that all of your audience will accept - email lists can be highly customizable. You can have email lists on any topic no matter how broad or narrow that it is.

Also, It is less expensive than PPC campaigns; especially if you use MailChimp which gives you your first 2,000 subscribers for free.

Having a Content Strategy

I am sure you're wondering why I am mentioning content again.

I am going to be drilling this into your head as much as I can. Fantastic content will be the driving force behind your affiliate marketing brand.

Remember, with your money posts (or reviews); you are trying to take a person from "I am thinking about getting this product," to "I am going to buy this product right after I have finished reading/watching this review."

Quick Tip: High-quality content isn't something determined by the number of words in my opinion. High-quality content is content that can bring emotion out of the consumer, whether it's excitement, curiosity, hatred or sadness.

I highly recommend that you read this article on WordStream. It will help you realize some of the benefits of creating content.

Finding The Best Affiliate Programs

When I was starting affiliate marketing, I thought I could add any Amazon products link to my reviews, and somehow they would know that I referred that person.

That isn't the case of course.

You have to sign up for affiliate programs. A misconception is that you have to pay to join an affiliate program.

Quick Tip: If you have to pay to join an affiliate program, run for the hills screaming. In its core, affiliate marketing is free promotion for the company who sell the product you're talking about; If you have to pay to join their program, you are essentially paying to give them free promotion.

How to Find The Best Affiliate Programs

Before we get into finding good affiliate programs I have some bad news...

You're going to have to do maths.

To determine which programs are the best fit for your brand, you will have to do some calculations.

For example, if a product is being sold for $1,000 and your program offers you a 10% commission for each sale, you will get $100 for each sale.

Once you have calculated how much you will get from one sale, you have to figure how much sales you need to make to reach your target income.

Using the previous example, if you wanted to make $1,000 a day (or $30,000 a month), you are going to need to make ten sales every day.

After some quick math involving random traffic averages, you are going to need at least 17,000 visitors every day to make $30,000/MO.

(The example above is just an example, you could make more or less money with more or less traffic).

That's a lot.

So your goal is to look for affiliate programs with higher payouts.

Let's take a look at a real affiliate program. At the moment for affiliate marketing training, I am partnered with Wealthy Affiliate.

I partnered with them because I went through their training that set me in motion to where I am today.

If I were to refer a person to their course, I would receive up to 50% commission if they went premium.

That's much better than the 10% in our other example, though it's not typical.

Amazon has a set percentage for different types of products which I suggest you read.

How to Start Affiliate Marketing

Best Places to Get Started With Affiliate Programs

Amazon

Amazon is one of if not the largest retail store online.

There are many advantages to both sellers and affiliates. With millions of products across the site & the trust that they have built, it's the best place (in my opinion) to get started.

The most significant difference between joining an affiliate program from a company vs. any other is how versatile it can be. You get to choose which products you want to do a review on and promote. You are not stuck to one product.

Amazon also gives you credit for anything purchased as long as your cookie is still fresh (Click this link to find out what a cookie is).

Meaning if I promoted a Gaming Monitor and a user purchased a washing machine through my link, it would still count as my sale.

I remember when I got started, my fiancee and I use to look through my sales every month to see what funny things people purchased through my link.

ClickBank

Amazon is one of the most popular sites in the world, but ClickBank is regarded as the most prominent affiliate programs out there.

Just like Amazon, they offer tons of different products that you can promote, but the difference is that ClickBank is more geared towards digital products.

Though some of the products that ClickBank allow people to sell is questionable; the commission is better than most places online so you will have to do a lot more digging to find amazing products to promote if you join ClickBank.

Setting Up Your Blog

In this guide, I am going to be setting up the blog through my previous hosting account at Wealthy Affiliate.

If you are going to be using another hosting provider, for example:

  • Bluehost
  • WPX Hosting
  • InMotion Hosting

Then it's highly recommended to read my guide on setting up a blog through WP.

The reason for this is because Wealthy Affiliate does not use cPanel like Bluehost.

Installing WP (Using Wealthy Affiliate)

Once you have made your account, you will get messaged by:

  • Carson or Kyle (The Owners)
  • The Person Whom You Joined Through
  • Other Members of The Community

You can leave those messages for now and focus on your website.

To purchase your domain, you need to be a premium member. 

Assuming that you are let’s move on. Once you have purchased your domain name, it is time to move over to their site builder.

How to Set Up a WordPress Blog

There are four steps to installing WP:

  1. Choosing Which Domain to Install WP Under
  2. Naming Your Website (Usually The Same as Your Domain)
  3. Selecting a Theme (Just Choose a Random One)
  4. Install WP

That is all there is to it!

Setting Up an Amazon Affiliate Account

The first thing you need to think about when making an affiliate account (especially with Amazon) is where the majority of your audience lives.

If most of your audience is located in the USA, then you are going to need to register your affiliate account to Amazon's American website.

Quick Tip: You can set up an unlimited amount of affiliate accounts. However, when starting out, I recommend only signing up for the version where the majority of your target audience lives.

Now that you are on the Amazon associates page, you can sign up for their program using your default Amazon account.

Quick Tip: When you are signing up for affiliate programs, make sure that you have content on your website already. Many businesses will want to check your site to see if it's worth partnering with you.

Usually, they expect to see at least a blog or an about page.

Once you have set up your account (and Amazon have accepted you), this is the page you will see.

How to Start Affiliate Marketing

That is the central hub of your affiliate efforts. This hub is where you will track:

  • How many people have clicked your links
  • The number of people who have purchased a product after clicking your link
  • How many orders have been shipped
  • The amount of money you have made within a specified period (Usually within 30 days)

You also can search for products from your hub. You can either search by keyword or ASIN/ISBN.

Next, I am going to cover content. There are three main types of content, and they are "Informational Content," "Entertainment Content," & "Promotional Content."

As an affiliate, promotional is the most important type of content.

It's the piece of content that determines whether or not you will get that affiliate sale.

Though promotional content is the focal point of your website, it isn't the only form of content.

Creating Your First Review

Product reviews will always be significant. As long as products are being released to the world, there will be product reviews.

It's crucial that you understand how to create a review of a product that leads people to purchase.

Choosing a Product to Review

The first step is to find the product that you want to review. Usually, I would go to Amazon and look for products within my niche that meet certain conditions.

Those conditions are:

  • Popular high-quality products
  • Poor low-quality products
  • Unpopular high-quality products

I have seen many review sites, and one mistake they all make is that they only review the best products.

That's not too bad, however, if somebody were to view your site and see how fantastic everything is they probably wouldn't trust you as much.

People are starting to realize that other people do not care about them and only want to sell product after product.

By reviewing products that focus on the good vs. bad points, people won't see you as just another affiliate trying to get a sale out of them.

Researching The Product Vs Buying The Product

It's been awhile since I heard anyone debating this topic, but it was the topic that most beginners were talking about a few years ago.

Is it unethical to research the product and do a review?

No, I wouldn't say that it is unethical to review products that you haven't purchased personally.

There are benefits for researching the product, and there are benefits for buying the product.

If you are starting your brand and you don't have a budget to buy a ton of products to review, then it is best to do as much research as you can and even ask others who have purchased the product what they think about it.

If you do have the budget to continually buy products to review then go ahead and do that.

People do hold more weight to somebody who has purchased the product, but I have had great conversions on products that I had never owned.

Creating Your Review Template

If you want to be successful in any business, you must work smarter not harder.

If the world worked in a way where people who worked the hardest were paid the most then soldiers, factory workers, hotel maids or any other job that requires you to shed blood, sweat & tears would be the billionaires.

Sadly, that isn't the case. Efficiency is key.

Creating a template for your reviews helps you with two things:

  • Outlining Your Review
  • Creating Your Review

Here is a video I would like you to watch about creating "content patterns."

How to Add Affiliate Links

Adding affiliate links is simple, but for those who are a little confused, I am going to cover it here.

In this example I will be using Amazon; however, this is how you add an affiliate link to your content.

Adding Your Affiliate Links in Video Content

If you make video content whether that is on YouTube or Facebook, then you can add your affiliate link in your description.

How to Start Affiliate Marketing

Quick Tip: It is recommended to shorten down your affiliate links or make them "Pretty." By using Pretty Link, you can change your affiliate links from amzn.to/4g2lA90 to yourdomain.com/go/amazon.

Adding Your Affiliate Links in Written Content

If you're more of a writer like me, then you will be writing your content instead of making videos. To add affiliate links to your blogs, highlight the word or phrase that you want to turn into anchor text and add your affiliate link in the provided space.

sHow to Start Affiliate Marketing

Creating Other Pieces of Content

Product reviews are going to be the pillar of your business, but you can't build a house only having pillars. You need content that supports the pillars.

I like to call it supportive content (I know very original).

Supportive content consists of two types of content, Informational Content & Educational Content.

I define these two types differently.

Informational content is articles that help people understand your business. That could be:

  • Update Blogs
  • About Page
  • Upcoming Events

Whereas Educational content is blogs like:

  • How to Guides
  • Lists Posts
  • Tutorials
  • Online Courses

The reason I call them supportive content is because that content not only helps my readers, it also links out to my "money blogs."

Google doesn't like sites with a ton of affiliate links all over the place. It looks spammy and can hurt the user experience.

By centralizing your reviews and linking to them through your supportive content, it stops Google from viewing your site as a spammy, low-quality site; and It gives people extra information about a product (Which will increase the chance of them purchasing it).

  • Why it's important to not only create product reviews
  • Other types of content to create
  • Finding KGR keywords (Doug Cunnington)

How to Scale Your Profits

Here is the fun part!

After having to spend a decent amount of time creating content, you will start to see the number of users your receive from Google per day rise.

You will also start to see sales trickle through.

In this FAQ section, I will be answering questions regarding money and what to do with that money once you start making it.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Long Does It Take to Start Making Money?

What is A Good Commission Rate for Affiliates?

What are HTTP Cookies?

What Companies Offer Affiliate Programs?

Will My Efforts Be in Vain?

What to Take From This Article

Now you fully understand how to get started with affiliate marketing. The main points to take away from this guide are:

  • Affiliate Marketing is Profitable
  • You Must Focus on The Long-Term
  • It's Easy for Anyone to Do It
  • You Need to Create High-Quality Content

I understand that can be difficult to grasp at first, which is why I want to help you. As I have mentioned a few times in this article, Wealthy Affiliate is an excellent training course for those wishing to become affiliate marketers.

They claim to be tailored to everyone; however, I think it's only suited to complete beginners, which is why I recommend to give it a go.

I will be there as well to help you get on your feet, whether you need help building your site, tips on creating content or signing up to affiliate programs.

You will have my support 100% of the way.

If you have any further questions or would like to add any input, feel free to comment below and I will get back to you within 24 hours.

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  • NievesD says:

    Hi, Anthony the information you have here is excellent.

    I will try to do some of the steps on your web that you have mentioned; I will be working a little bit more on my niche and web pages

    Your affiliate marketing guide is simple; I have a problem with reading and writing, so I’m going to be using your guide, to see if I can progress faster.

    Thank You

    • Editorial Team says:

      Thanks for the comment, NievesD.

      If you need any additional help, then feel free to contact me through my WA profile or use the comment section here.

  • Nekko says:

    Wow, this is a fantastic guide to affiliate marketing! 

    Thank you for taking the time to write such a detailed and helpful guide. 

    Do you think that someone just starting out in affiliate marketing should focus on only one product, or should they start by promoting many related products? 

    Is there certain types of products that sell online better than others, or with the affiliate marketing business model

    • Editorial Team says:

      Hey, Nekko,

      I would recommend recommending a bunch of products that are in the same niche. If you were selling your product, then I would advise you to do the opposite and grow your product. You can create multiple reviews on products, or you can review all of them in a comparison review. They both work well.

      You can experiment to see what works for you but I would recommend splitting your Promotional Content & your Informative Content 60/40.

  • Dave says:

    Hello there,

    Thank you very much for the information here.

    I have been looking for the best way to start with affiliate marketing, and I am happy how you have boiled things down in the simplest way possible since I’ve been confused by other bloggers.

    I am going to follow your steps, word for word as I apply them, and then rinse and repeat them. If I get issues can I ask for personal help from you?

    • Editorial Team says:

      Yes, Dave. I will be here anytime you need help, feel free to ask any questions you may have. In addition to that if you are a member of Wealthy Affiliate, then feel free to connect with me on my WA profile.