Affiliate Marketing 101

If you’ve been blogging for any amount of time, you’ve probably heard the term “affiliate marketing” thrown around. Maybe you’ve even been told that if you want to start making money as a blogger, you need to be an affiliate.

But what exactly IS affiliate marketing? And why exactly do you need to know about it?

Well, in a nutshell, affiliate marketing is selling someone else’s product on your blog. When you sign up as an affiliate, you get a special link called a referral link or an affiliate link that tracks your sales. That link tells the person whose product you’re selling which customers you referred, and then you get paid a commission for every sale they make through you.

Do you ever feel like you are missing something?

Our newest free guide will show you the exact steps for identifying THE missing piece that will get your business back on track. Gain clarity and know what you need to do next to start getting traction again.

The reason you need to know about this is that it’s one of the absolute best ways to make money blogging, especially if you’re just starting out.

Here’s the skinny on affiliate sales for bloggers (and how you can use affiliate marketing to make some serious cash online):

Ways to Make Money Online

As a rule, there are four ways to make money online:

Ad Networks

Ad networks, like Google ads, pay you to show ads on your site. They basically lease a section of your site and showcase their ads to your readers. Typically, you get paid based on the number of people who view each ad.

Private Advertising

You can also get paid by working directly with a brand or company and promoting them to your audience. Typically, you’ll get a flat fee in exchange for a specific service, like an ad or a sponsored post where you review one of their products.

Selling a Product

You can also create your own products and sell them online. This one’s my personal favorite because you get to stretch your creative muscles, create things you know your audience will love, and keep all the profit from each product you sell.

Affiliate Marketing

The last way to make major money online is through — you guessed it — affiliate marketing. While selling my own products is my favorite way to make money on my blog, affiliate marketing is a close second.

How Do You Become an Affiliate?

When it comes to getting started with affiliate marketing, there’s about a million different routes you can take. But I don’t want to overwhelm you. It doesn’t have to be complicated, I promise! Here are a few simple ways to get started as an affiliate:

Become an Amazon Affiliate

Amazon, which everyone uses for everything these days, is one of the biggest affiliate partners in the business. They have a program where, once you’re signed up as an affiliate, you can generate a referral link for any product they sell on their site and make a small commission when one of your readers clicks on the link and buys the product.

The Amazon affiliate program is great because it’s super easy — all you have to do, is sign up and start generating links. If you are talking about a product that Amazon sells anyway, it can be a great way to earn a little extra cash.

The problem with Amazon is that their commission rates are super low — even at their highest tier, you’re only going to make 7 or 8% on each sale. So you need a LOT of traffic to make any sort of significant income. If you want to make it a full-time income, it’s really, really hard.

Which is why you’re better off doing this…

Find High-Commission Products That Align With Your Avatar

If you want to generate a real and substantial income from affiliate marketing, you’re much better off finding products that a) your audience would fall head over heels for, and b) pay a higher commission rate. That way, it’s a win-win: you get to introduce your audience to something that will be super useful or interesting to them, and you make a significantly higher profit every time you make a sale.

The great thing about this strategy is that when you find a great affiliate product your audience would love, it’s also typically something YOU would love. Because it’s something you would gladly use yourself, it’ll be easy for you to talk about it and get your audience excited.

For example, I’m an affiliate for Stitch Fix. Stitch Fix is a monthly subscription service that acts as your very own personal shopper. I gave them my style preferences, and every month, my stylist chooses items that she thinks I’d love and sends them to me. They send shoes, work clothes, casual clothes, accessories… the works. I get to try everything on, see how it works with what’s already in my closet, keep what I like, and send back the items that weren’t the right fit. They even send me a prepaid shipping envelope to make returns a breeze.

It’s so amazing! I love, love LOVE getting my Stitch Fix each month–it’s like a little box of happiness in the mail. My girls and I always make it an event–I do a fashion show, and they rate each item and help me decide what to keep.

And it’s also a great affiliate fit. At “Living Well, Spending Less”, I write a lot about my struggles with shopping, overspending, and buying way too much every time I go to the mall. Shopping issues are something I know a lot of my readers deal with too.

But Stitch Fix has been a big help with my shopping problem… because I don’t need to go shopping anymore! Every month, I get that nagging need to shop out of the way when I get my box, which prevents me from overspending at the store. It literally is my “fix.” And that’s what I tell my readers.

What’s great is that it’s SO easy for me to promote Stitch Fix because it’s something I genuinely use, love, and believe in, and I know my readers will use, love, and believe in it too. AND I make a way higher commission than I would promoting more generic products off of Amazon.

How Much Can You Make?

There is no universal pricing structure for affiliate programs, but as a general rule of thumb, you’re going to make a much higher commission when you sell a service or a digital product than you will when you sell a physical product.

Typically, commission ranges run from:

  • 4 – 15% for physical products
  • 40 – 60% for digital products or services
  • A flat fee per signup or subscription

How much you make all depends on how many sales are made using your affiliate link. The more you promote your affiliates, the more money you can make!

If you’re not sure where to get started finding affiliates, start with the products and services you’re already using. Go to their website and see if they have a “Become an Affiliate” page. You can also check out affiliate networks like CJ Affiliate by Conversant or ShareASale, and see if your favorite products and services are listed there.

How to Be an Amazing Affiliate

Here’s the thing about affiliate marketing: not all affiliates are created equal.

Taking that path can hurt more than it can help!

If you promote products or services that aren’t a good fit for your audience or aren’t the kind of quality your readers have come to expect from you, you risk losing their trust. There’s not a commission in the world that’s worth losing that trust.

I look at it this way: I’m a curator. It’s my job to search the internet to find the products and services that are the most helpful, most exciting, or most life-changing for my audience. Then it’s my job to spread the word and tell them about the product so they can enjoy the benefits.

Also, before you become an affiliate and promote a product or service, you always, always, ALWAYS want to use the product or service yourself. In order to be an effective affiliate, you need to be able to talk about what you’re promoting with a certain amount of experience and enthusiasm. There’s no way to get that experience or enthusiasm without using the product or service yourself. Plus, if you don’t test out what you’re promoting, there’s a chance it might not be at the quality level your audience deserves, which again can put their trust in jeopardy. As a rule, I never promote something until I’ve tried it out — and fallen in love with it — first. That way, I know for a fact that everything I’m promoting to my audience is something they’re likely to fall in love with, too.

Affiliate marketing is a fantastic way to make money online. As long as you put your audience first — and only promote the things that are the best fit for them — it can be a win-win situation: a huge benefit to your audience and a huge profit generator for you.

And if you are a blogger who is already benefiting from affiliate marketing, I’d love to have you weigh in on this topic! What are your favorite (& most profitable) affiliate programs?


Similar Posts


  1. Thank you for this article. I’m just now seriously trying to do affiliate marketing after half-heartedly doing it with Amazon. Amazon covers pretty much every topic, but now I’m going to do some research on being an affiliate for something that more closely resonates with my audience.

  2. It’s awesome to have big goals to work towards, Alison! I look forward to seeing you in EBA in 2018!

  3. I am such a newbie at this blogging and really trying to feel my way through the dark per se. However, baby steps and I am getting there. I had heard of becoming an affiliate with Stitch Fix which is one of my favorites as well Ruth, let’s face it, it’s like CHRISTMAS each time! 🙂 But, I am struggling with page views and now trying to take your advice and top refreshing my stats page every 5 minutes to find that I am not getting views. They have dropped, and seriously even thought I am NOT high like most of you, I’m at only 1 today when I have had MANY more. So, time to get serious and start learning a bit more. THANK YOU for this article, FINALLY after 5 months I have someone that is straight up explaining HOW TO MAKE MONEY! Thank you Ruth!

  4. Ruth, I have been watching all your promo information about EliteBlog academy and I was so close to joining for this year but here’s the real scoop. I’ve decided I’m going to be the 1st person to sign up for EBA in 2018. I don’t have $797 – not even in 3 payments right now. I intend to have money saved so that I won’t have to think about the price tag next year. I’m 100% sure that your program will be so worth it and pay for itself. So why am I not “pulling the trigger”? The truth is I’m at square one. I’ve never blogged a day in my life. At this point, I have ideas but no definite direction for my (currently non-existent) blog. But because of the information you have shared… I KNOW I CAN DO IT! I am going to spend 2017 focusing on my health and my blog direction. I want to create a healthy share of that “killer content” you talk about and hit the course at full speed next year. I wish it was sooner than that but I tend to dive into things before I’m ready and get overwhelmed and give up. I’m giving myself license to take it slow, experiment with my direction and be ready for 2018. Thank you for what you have already shared, just with the information leading up to EBA. I’ll be ready….360 days from now. I am excited and looking forward to it!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *