Affiliate marketing is a great way to make money recommending to others the tools and resources that you love. Some people are able to create entire business models based on recommending other people’s products generating tens of thousands of dollars in revenue each month.
Even if you don’t want your primary source of revenue to come from affiliate marketing, it’s a great way to make a few extra dollars each month. We’re not nearly as intentional as we could be about affiliate marketing, and we still make a few thousand dollars each year promoting products we use and enjoy.
How Affiliate Marketing Works
Typically affiliates of a product or service are given a link or code to share with their audience. When a customer uses that link or code to purchase a product, the affiliate receives a commission, which is generally a flat fee or percentage of the purchase.
Each business will have its own affiliate terms and conditions, and it’s important to understand what you’re getting yourself into before signing up.
Here’s are a few things you should look into before joining any affiliate program:
How are affiliate purchases tracked?
Affiliate purchases are usually tracked by a special link or a code. When a link is used, the visitors are “cookied” so that the visitors are recognized even if they leave and return to the website. The cookie usually lasts for a certain amount of time before expiring.
The advantage of a link is that it requires no additional action for visitors—there’s no code to remember at checkout. The disadvantage is that visitors may unknowingly do things that cause the link to not work. For instance, if someone were to completely clear their browser history and cookies, that may cause the website not to recognize them at checkout (if the affiliate system doesn’t use other means of tracking). Thus, you wouldn’t get credit for the purchase.
Codes are a simple, straightforward way to track affiliate purchases. Often a code also provides a discount for the user as well, which provides incentive to use it. As we mentioned, the downside of a code is that people need to remember to take the extra step of inputting it at checkout.
If purchases are tracked via link, is it a first-click or last-click model?
If someone were to click on two or three affiliates’ links for the same product, who would get credit for the purchase? It depends whether the model is “first-click” or “last-click.”
First-click models give credit to the affiliate whose link was clicked first. Last-click models give credit to the affiliate whose link was clicked last. This information is good to know, especially if you’re an affiliate for a product that has a narrow launch window.
What’s the commission structure?
Affiliate commissions are often either a flat fee for each purchase referred or a percentage of the purchase price. However, there are a few other models, too. For instance, some affiliate programs offer a greater commission depending on how many customers you’ve referred.
Our favorite affiliate programs offer a recurring monthly or annual commission. Software-as-a-service (SAAS) businesses that collect a monthly subscription will sometimes set-up their affiliate programs so that the affiliate receives a commission each month the person they referred decides to stay with their business.
What are the payout terms?
Affiliates will typically not be paid out after every sale. Some affiliate programs will only payout once the affiliate has reached a certain dollar amount in commissions. Elementor, for instance, only pays out after the refund period of 30 days has passed, and the affiliate has earned more than $200 in commissions.
It’s also important to understand that commissions may be subject to chargebacks if a customer successfully disputes a payment with a business. Basically, if the customer succeeds in getting their money back from the business, the business might ask you for your commission back. We’ve never experienced this before with the affiliate programs we participate in, but it’s not uncommon to see a note about chargebacks in an affiliate program’s terms and conditions.
Are there guidelines for sharing or signing up?
Some affiliate programs have guidelines for who can become an affiliate and how often affiliates must share. For instance, some businesses require affiliates to be users of their product or service in order to be an affiliate. Others might require a blog post to be written or information about their product to be shared on a regular basis.
Nearly all affiliate programs have guidelines for how you can share about their product or service. It’s important to pay attention to a brand’s style guide and follow best practices when sharing. Being shady about how you’re sharing a product will likely result in being removed from an affiliate program.
Where to Get Started with Affiliate Marketing
A great place to start is by reaching out to some of your favorite companies to see if they have affiliate programs. If you’re a user and the business has some sort of online dashboard, you might check there first. Many companies, especially online businesses, make it easy to share about their products by building referral link portals into their products.
It’s also worthwhile to think through what businesses make sense to share about with your audience. There are lots of tools that we use but don’t actively promote because they wouldn’t be useful to our audience. There are other tools like Elementor that make a lot of sense for us to promote since we build and sell Elementor website designs.
Another consideration is whether the commission is “worth it.” Better affiliate programs typically provide commissions between 25-50% of the purchase price or provide recurring commissions for subscription products.
How to Maximize Affiliate Marketing Effectiveness
I assume most people who get into affiliate marketing—even casually—are hoping to make more than $20 here or there. It’s easy enough to grab an affiliate link and embed it in a post, but there’s a few things we’ve found that make affiliate efforts more effective.
Here are five tips for maximizing your affiliate marketing efforts:
- Take advantage of the business’s affiliate marketing tools. More built-out affiliate programs will likely have a suite of resources available to make it easier for their affiliates to promote their products. Typically that will include graphics and swipe copy. Some programs, however, will also regularly host trainings and run promotions that you can promote to your audience. It’s typically easier to get people to a free training than a sales page, and it also takes a little of the pressure off you to convert that person into a customer for the business.
- Identify your most visited pages and posts, and—if it makes sense—embed relevant affiliate links. This is a great way to take advantage of your best performing pages instead of having to do the additional work of creating new content (and optimizing that content and so on…). Of course it might not make sense to do that depending on the product you’re promoting. We wouldn’t recommend randomly slapping affiliate links on pages that have nothing to do with the product you’re promoting.
- Create content consistently that promotes your affiliate products. Even creating one post about a product that ranks well in search engines can be a powerful way to share a product you’re promoting. But if you create one or two blog posts and that’s all you do (without optimizing the post, sharing, etc.), it’s not likely you’ll see much passive income from those posts. Another factor is how related the product is to your business. For instance, there are entire businesses created around how to set-up and implement ConvertKit. It makes a lot of sense for these businesses that provide help with ConvertKit to embed their ConvertKit affiliate link everywhere.
- Share your affiliate-related content frequently. I’m more likely to trust something that someone recommends frequently. If it comes off as a one-off post that’s sole effort is to promote a product, don’t be surprised if it’s ignored.
- Applicable to launches: Understand the launch schedule and how your affiliate link works. If you’re helping someone promote a product that’s only available during a launch week, it’s important to understand the promotion schedule and whether you’re using a last-click or first-click model. It’s not uncommon for businesses to share their promotion schedule with their affiliates. Pay attention to when you’re allowed to promote because the window is smaller and there will likely be other people promoting the product as well.
Many of the marketing strategies that work for promoting your own products will also work for promoting affiliate products.
Templates for Sharing Your Favorite Tools & Resources
There’s lots of earning potential in affiliate marketing. And for blogger and influencer types who want to make affiliate marketing a central aspect of their business, check out the following website templates:
But even if you’re not interested in becoming a full-time affiliate marketer, you can still make a few extra dollars each month sharing your favorite tools & resources. If you’re looking for an easy page you can add to your website highlighting all your favorite products, look no further than the Tools & Resources add-on page (available for Showit and WordPress).
Have other questions about affiliate marketing? Let us know in the comments below.