Want to make passive income online?
If yes, you’re in luck.
That’s because 2023 is the perfect year to do it.
- There are currently 7 billion searches per day on Google (up from 3.5 billion in 2019).
- Experts estimate that by 2040, 95% of purchases will be done online.
- 1.79 billion people bought something online in the past year.*/
Seriously, this era is the best time to be alive for people like you and me (a.k.a. people who cringe at the thought of waking up at an ungodly hour and gritting our teeth through two hours of endless traffic just to get to the fluorescent-lighted office that we hate).
Now, there’s even better news.
To make a huge stream of passive income online, you don’t even need to spend years creating your own product.
You can promote pre-existing (and already-loved) products, eliminating the need to spend a ton of time and money on research, product development, salaries, and all the jazz connected with starting up your own business.
Now, if you’re a beginner and you want to know exactly what it is, why you should do it, and how to get started…
…you’ve come to the right place.
In this blog, I’ll show you:
- Why affiliate marketing is the best online business for 2023
- An in-depth, start-to-finish, step-by-step guide on how to get started (even if you’re a total NOOB)
- How to do affiliate marketing right in 2023 (it’s not the same as it was 10 or even 5 years ago)
- And so much more!
Trust me, I know what I’m talking about.
As a decade-long affiliate marketer earning $40,000/month in affiliate commissions, I’m the perfect person to guide you on your journey.
So, ready to get started?
What Is Affiliate Marketing? (What All Beginners Should Know)
Travel back in time with me for a moment.
Imagine it’s 1982, or some obscure date before the internet came to change all our lives forever.
You’re in your parachute pants or velour leggings, looking for a way to earn more money (probably to buy more parachute pants or velour leggings ?).
Now, you learn that Uncle Sam a few blocks down is making thousands of dollars in profit from selling organic hand lotions.
Since you lead a book club of hardworking moms, you know you have the perfect buyers for Sam’s lotions.
What you do next: go over to Sam’s and tell him you’ll promote his products to your book club…for a slice of the price.
In the end, it’s a win-win-win.
The moms get soft hands, Sam sells more lotion, and you make some money without having to go the extra mile to create your own product.
Sounds great, right?
That’s exactly what affiliate marketing is.
You build an audience (the book club), then find affiliate partners (Uncle Sam) whose products you can promote.
The end result is also a win-win-win.
Your audience gets a product they love, the company makes more sales, and you get a slice of the price.
Really simple, huh?
But in case you wanted a more definite description, here’s how Investopedia talks about it:
And here’s a definition from the Oxford Dictionary:
In short, affiliate marketing is a mode of marketing in which affiliate partners promote a company’s products and earn commission from everything they sell.
Let me illustrate.
Imagine you’re a fitness coach.
You build a website and start a blog teaching people how to get fit despite a busy schedule.
In time, you attract a legion of nine-to-five workers who want to take better care of their bodies.
These people become your devoted audience.
Each week, they visit your blog to learn more tips and tricks on keeping healthy and fit despite the constant hustle of their lives.
Now, let’s say you wanted to monetize your blog.
What you would do is find an affiliate partner, or a company whose products you can promote for commissions.
Let’s say you choose Gene Food.
Gene Food is a company that specializes in creating customized diets for people based on their DNA.
What you would do is sign up for Gene Food’s affiliate program.
If you get accepted (you likely will if you already have a strong blog following), you’ll receive customized links that you can use throughout your blog.
When your audience clicks these links and buys the products you’re promoting, you get a commission from each sale.
Ok, so what makes me think your audience will buy the stuff you promote?
That’s where trust and authority come in.
If you can build a blog that speaks to your audience’s heart, steps into their shoes, and solves their most pressing problems…
…they will buy what you promote.
Why Affiliate Marketing? (3 Big Reasons It’s the Best Online Business Around)
Ok, so why affiliate marketing?
Why not just sell your backyard celery online?
Or create a course and upload it on Udemy?
Here are three (big) reasons you should skip the first two suggestions and go for affiliate marketing.
- Affiliate Marketing Won’t Empty Your Pocket
Here’s the thing about starting up any business:
You need capital.
That’s true even if you’re starting up an online business.
For example, it’ll take money to develop your own online course (think course platform, course materials, video editing software, a camera and gear, etc.).
With affiliate marketing, all you need is the bare minimum…
…which in most cases is no more than $15 for a domain and web hosting.
Check out BlueHost’s awesome deals here.
Just think of it.
Instead of heading over to Starbucks to splurge your $15 on five venti-sized cappuccinos…
…you can start your own business and start earning passive income.
- Affiliate Marketing Won’t Load You with Risk
Why do people choose to invest in a franchise instead of building their own brand?
It’s less risky.
That’s because the brand they’ll be flying under already has proven-and-tested products, plus a devoted customer base.
The same is true with affiliate marketing.
Instead of building a name for yourself from scratch, you can promote online courses that have already helped thousands of students succeed in their lives and careers.
The list goes on.
With affiliate marketing, you can earn huge cuts in commission with minimal risk.
- Affiliate Marketing Is Flexible
Imagine that you’ve developed your own brand of dog food to market to pet lovers across the globe.
But the longer you do business, the more you realize that pet lovers don’t only own dogs.
They own cats too. And fish. And colorful parrots.
To cater to these other needs, you’d need to develop more products.
Like kitty litter. And aquariums. And bird cages.
Now, that’s a lot of work.
Scaling your business will take years and thousands of dollars.
But with affiliate marketing, it’s easy as pie.
All you need to do is find an affiliate partner to fit your newly-discovered audience’s needs.
Sign up for the affiliate program…
…and you’re good to go.
How Much Can You Earn from Affiliate Marketing? (What Fake “Gurus” Don’t Tell You)
Like I mentioned, affiliate marketing is an awesome business.
That said, it’s not a get-rich-quick scheme.
Those “gurus” who tell you to buy their program if you want to earn thousands of dollars in weeks…
Because the truth is, affiliate marketing is just like any other business.
Sure, it’s more affordable and entails much less risk than a traditional business.
But it takes the same time, effort, and persistence to build and grow.
So, how much can you earn as an affiliate marketer?
My answer: it depends.
It depends on your strategy and how much of yourself you’re willing to pour into your business.
Let’s take a look at what Zip Recruiter says about the average earnings of an affiliate marketer.
And here’s PayScale’s verdict:
Not bad, right?
Even if you only ever get to the “average” level, you can easily replace your full-time salary with automatic money (a.k.a. you can chill by the beach instead of braving two hours of a traffic-packed commute every day…and still earn the same).
But you don’t have to stay at the “average” level.
You can get to where I’m at, earning $40,000 a month in commissions as I travel the country in my trailer.
Or you can become a superstar like Pat Flynn and skyrocket your net worth to $2 million.
It all depends on you.
Quick note: you won’t earn thousands of dollars in your first month, or even in your first year.
In fact, it might take you six months to earn your first $5 (depending on how saturated your niche is).
Still…be persistent and provide your audience with quality recommendations, and you’ll slowly but surely build your way towards top-earning status.
For more on how much you can earn as an affiliate marketer (and how long it’ll take you to get there), check out my blog How Long Does Affiliate Marketing Take?
Affiliate Marketing for Beginners (A Complete, Step-by-Step Guide)
I know, I know.
You’re a beginner.
You’re not into anything techy.
You want the basics, plain and simple.
If yes, you’re in the right place.
Honestly, affiliate marketing doesn’t have to be overwhelming.
Simply follow these # steps, and you’ll be set up for success in no time at all.
Affiliate Marketing for Beginners Step #1: Pick Your Platform
To begin as an affiliate marketer, you first need a reliable platform.
Your platform will be like your store, a place from where you’ll display your goods for the world to see.
Truth be told, there are a ton of platforms you can choose from.
You can select:
And sure, there are some affiliate marketers making great money from these platforms.
But as of 2023, BLOGGING IS STILL THE #1 PLATFORM FOR AFFILIATE MARKETERS.
Sorry for the all caps.
I just wanted to emphasize how important this is.
Because as you go on you’re journey, you’ll meet a ton of doomsday mongers who’ll scream at anyone who’ll listen that blogging will soon be dead…
…but that’s just not true.
Here are three stats to prove it:
- Google is the #1 search engine of today, with over 70% of the market share.
- There are seven billion searches on Google per day.
- Content marketing is now worth $400 billion, and is set to grow another $269 billion by 2024.
What this means: with a well-optimized website and blog, you have the potential to reach the billions of searchers who currently use Google to find high-quality content.
Of course, I’m not saying this is a hard rule.
You can definitely get creative, skip the blog, and build an affiliate business on a platform like Twitter or TikTok.
But let me tell you this: blogging has been the bread and butter of affiliate marketers for a decade, and it’s still going super strong.
I know, because I’m one of those affiliate marketers. I’ve been in the business for 11 years, and I can tell you that blogging hasn’t been more alive.
Affiliate Marketing for Beginners Step #2: Choose a Niche
This is where things get a bit techy.
But not really. ?
As an affiliate marketer, “niche” simply means the industry you decide to specialize in, which determines what kind of products you’ll promote.
For instance, if you pick the fitness niche, you can promote products like running shoes, diet programs, and fitness equipment.
If you pick the pet niche, you can promote products like dog food, cat litter, and pet training programs.
And so on.
So, how do you select your niche?
Here are three options.
- Pick Something You Love
Have a special skill you want to share with the world?
Or knowledge that you gained from years of work in your field?
Or a hobby that you love?
You can use these to help you choose your niche.
For instance, let’s say you’re a professional photographer.
You know cameras, lighting, and composition like the back of your hand.
You’re a creative, and have developed your own tips and tricks on taking the perfect photo.
If this is so, then great!
You can start a blog and teach your audience what you know.
Trust me, you’re the best person in the world to talk about photography, which means you’ll soon rack up a huge following. (Writing about something you deeply know about is totally different from writing about something you only heard of second-hand.)
Once you grow your photography blog, you can promote things like cameras, gear, photography courses, and more.
Here are three reasons to pick a niche based on something you know and love:
- You have in-depth knowledge of and personal experience in the industry, meaning you’ll write about it like the real pro you are.
- You’ll always be inspired because you’re writing about and promoting stuff you love.
- Since you’re an expert, you’ll be able to monetize your blog in other ways besides affiliate marketing (for example, you can build your own singing course if you’re a professional singer).
Of course, this method isn’t perfect.
Here are two cons of going with it:
- Your niche might be overly saturated. There may already be too many sites and blogs on your topic, making it hard for you to vie for top spots on Google’s SERPs. (Don’t worry though. Later, I’ll show you how you can find out whether or not a niche is too saturated.)
- If your hobby is too rare, it might be difficult to find affiliate programs to promote. (For instance, if your hobby is growing square-shaped tomatoes, you’ll probably only attract a handful of exotic gardeners. Plus, you’ll have difficulty finding products made specifically for growing these alien-looking vegetables. ?)
- Find a Dream Partner, then Build an Affiliate Website Around Them
Have a dream company whose products you’ve always adored?
You can build a whole website around them.
For instance, let’s say you’ve always been a fan of Nike.
You love their shoes, workout gear, clothes, and equipment.
To build a site around them, you’ll need to pick a niche that’s close to what Nike stands for.
In this case, sports and fitness.
Once your site is built and you’ve driven traffic to it, chances are the company you want to partner up with will accept your application as affiliate.
Are there any cons to this method?
If you don’t yet have a strong following, your dream affiliate partner might not accept your application.
However, don’t worry about that just yet.
Focus on building your site to be the best and racking up a following first, and any company will be happy to accept you as a partner.
- Find a High Search Volume/Low Competition Niche
To be honest, affiliate marketing in 2023 is different from affiliate marketing in 2011.
I mean, WAY different.
Back then, all you had to do was create a website with a few pages, pack it with your links and some thin content, and voila!
You could be earning commissions in no time.
Today, it’s not like that.
I mean, just jump on Google and type a keyword, and you’ll get a ton of high-quality results.
What this means: you shouldn’t just dive into any niche, create a website, and expect it’ll start earning you commissions in six months.
Instead, you need to study data.
You need to know whether or not a niche is too saturated, and if you have a fighting chance of success in it.
Hold on, though!
This sounds techy, but it really isn’t.
All you need is a reliable, user-friendly keyword tool like KWFinder. (Full disclosure: this is an affiliate link. When you use it to buy, I’ll get a small commission without added expense to you.)
Personally, I think KWFinder is awesome.
For only $29.99 a month, you get an accurate, savvy, but completely beginner-friendly tool that’ll turn out to be your go-to companion on your affiliate marketing journey.
Honestly, you won’t need another tool to get all the data required for successful affiliate marketing at your fingertips.
For a more detailed review, read my KWFinder review here.
Ok, so how can you use KWFinder to help you determine whether or not a niche is too saturated to be profitable?
- Find the monthly search volume of a keyword
- Find the difficulty score of a keyword
Now, let’s look at these two steps in more detail.
- Find the monthly search volume of a keyword.
Ok, so if you want to sell something, you first need to know if there are people out there who’ll buy it, right?
And if you want to write something, you first need to know if there are people out there who’ll read it.
The good news is, KWFinder eliminates all the guesswork for you and tells you right away whether or not people are interested in a certain topic.
All you need to do is head over to the tool and type in your keyword.
For instance, let’s say you’re thinking of “sports” as your niche.
Type that keyword into the search field on your dashboard, and you’ll get results like these:
What to look at: the box in the upper right corner that shows you the monthly search volume of your keyword.
As we can see here, 13,000,000 people search for “sports” every single month.
This means that no, the niche you’re going for isn’t obscure in the least.
Should you drop everything and build a website around it ASAP, then?
Before that, you’ll need to look at the keyword’s difficulty score.
- Find the difficulty score of a keyword.
Ok, so here’s the thing.
The more people searching for a keyword, the more competitive the keyword becomes.
This makes total sense, because businesses naturally go where the market is.
If a ton of people are searching for a keyword, a ton of companies will go after and try to win the keyword (and the business that goes with it).
Which means, higher search volume = more difficult keywords.
In order to succeed, you need to find the balance between the two.
You need to go as high as possible with search volume…
…and as low as possible with keyword difficulty score.
So, let’s go back to our example of the keyword “sports.”
Let’s check the keyword difficulty score, which is right beside the search volume.
Here it is:
Should you go for this keyword?
The keyword difficulty score is way over the top, which means you’ll struggle to win it even if you own a mature site.
And as a beginner, chances are you’ll waste too much time on something that’s unattainable.
But don’t worry too much.
Just because “sports” is too competitive doesn’t mean you can’t start a website on sports.
All you need to do is niche down further.
For instance, instead of “sports” you can go for “hockey for kids.”
Check it out:
With a search volume of 3,400 and a keyword difficulty score of 41, this seems like a viable keyword (and niche) you could go for.
As a general rule of thumb, try to stick with:
- A search volume of 300 and above
- A keyword difficult of under 40
With this in mind, you’ll never go wrong and pick a niche that’s too saturated.
You won’t waste a ton of time and effort, only to find out months later that your goals were unattainable in the first place.
- Affiliate Marketing for Beginners Step #3: Find and Join Affiliate Programs
Now it’s time for the fun part.
It’s time to find and apply for the best affiliate marketing programs out there.
I know, it can get confusing!
There are a ton of companies with their own programs, and picking one that’s trustworthy plus promising when it comes to commissions isn’t a piece of cake.
To make it easier, I’ll break it down into a few steps for you.
- Choose programs to fit your niche.
As an affiliate marketer for the past 11 years, I can tell you this:
There’s no perfect affiliate program.
To succeed, you need balance.
Because basically, there are two common types of affiliate programs out there:
- Programs that are high-volume, low-commission
- Programs that are low-volume, high-commission
An example of the first type is Amazon Affiliates.
Although the payout for Amazon’s affiliate program isn’t huge (for example, you’ll earn a measly few cents for promoting their books)…
…Amazon has a huge audience, and you can make decent commissions once you start selling hundreds of their products.
On the other hand, there are programs that are low-volume but high-commission.
For example, there’s Kinsta.
Sure, not a lot of people are going to buy premium web hosting.
It costs a lot of money, and most bloggers are content with the more affordable shared web hosting.
But when you do make a sale, you get up to $500 in commissions.
See where this is going?
Toyota might sell hundreds or even thousands of cars per month…
…but a Rolls Royce is a rare and premium sale.
So, should you go for programs like Amazon Affiliates or programs like Kinsta?
It depends on your audience and your expertise.
However, as a general rule of thumb:
- Go for low-payout, high volume if you’re marketing to consumers.
- Go for high-payout, low volume if you’re marketing to businesses.
Of course, there are a few affiliate programs out there that are high-volume, high-commission.
But since the competition for these programs is super intense, I’ll skip over talking about them in this beginner’s guide.
Just keep in mind that they exist, and you can one day work your way into becoming a partner and promoting them.
- Search for specific programs you can join.
Now that you’ve decided what kind of programs you’re looking for (programs that appeal to everyone but don’t pay out much, or programs that appeal to a few but pay out large commissions)…
…it’s time to actually dive in and find those programs.
The first option is to jump on Google and type in “keyword + affiliate program.”
For instance, let’s go with “pet affiliate program.”
Here are your results:
Have a specific product in mind that you’d like to promote?
Simply type in the brand name + affiliate program into Google.
Of course, Google isn’t the only place you can go to find affiliate programs.
You can also join an affiliate platform like Impact.com.
On Impact.com, you can search for affiliate programs by category.
When you join a network like this, you deal directly with the network instead of with the companies whose products you’ll be promoting.
Sometimes, you’ll even be assigned a manager to show you how to do things more efficiently (which makes it totally beginner-friendly).
However, make sure to be diligent with your research when you join an affiliate network.
This is because you won’t be dealing directly with the companies whose products you’re promoting, and you need to be sure they’ll treat your audience well and give them what they’re looking for.
You wouldn’t want to tarnish the trust you’ve built with your fans for a few extra cents in commissions.
Affiliate Marketing for Beginners Step #4: Promote Your Affiliate Products through Magnetizing Content
Way back in the dark ages of the internet, promoting affiliate products was easy.
All you had to do was build a bare-bones website and slap it with some links and banner ads.
If you’re planning on doing something like this, stop right now.
It’ll only end up a huge waste of time for you.
I mean, put yourself in your audience’s shoes for a moment.
Would you really buy an unrelated product from a banner ad?
Something like this?
If you want to succeed as an affiliate marketer in 2023, you need to do much more than that.
You need to build trust with your audience through magnetizing content.
You need to show up consistently with quality content that really makes a difference to people.
But what kind of content should you write?
How do you promote your affiliate products on your site without appearing slimy or sleazy?
Here are two awesome ideas.
- Build an in-depth resource page.
Let’s imagine you’re a fitness coach who’s managed to grow a strong blog following.
Hundreds or even thousands of people look up to you and love the stuff you share with them.
Now naturally, they’ll want to know more about how you got to be so successful with your rock-hard abs and super-toned muscles.
They’ll want to know what you eat, what kinds of programs you’ve joined to get yourself where you are today, and even the kind of water bottle you use to keep track of your hydration.
As an influencer, you want to share this stuff with them.
And there’s an easy way to do it: through a resource page on your site.
This page will list all of the products, programs, and services you love (with affiliate links to buy them, of course).
Here’s an example of a resource page done well.
As you’ll see, this page is dedicated to all the products SmartBlogger uses and loves.
Like web hosting services…
…and even programs.
When you create something like this, you’re giving your followers easy access to all the products, programs, tools, and services you recommend they use.
And you give yourself a non-sleazy money-making page that can rack up thousands of dollars per month.
- Write about specific products.
As an affiliate marketer, your main goal is to help your audience make the right buying decisions.
That’s why although you’ll need info articles to build a relationship of trust with them, you should also spend time writing in-depth guides about the products you promote.
There are three ways you can do this:
- Write product reviews. These reviews are comprehensive blogs dealing with the features, pros, and cons of a product you’re promoting. Check out our KWFinder Review for an example of this type of writing.
- Write product comparisons. These blogs consist of a showdown between two products. In it, you’ll compare one with the other to help your audience reach a buying decision more easily. Check out an example of a product comparison here.
- Write list posts. List posts are blogs that list down a number of products you recommend. For instance, 15 Best Fitness Affiliate Programs is a list post.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you’ll stop writing your regular info articles, educating and entertaining your audience the way you do best.
But even in your info articles, you can find creative ways to promote your affiliate products.
For example, here’s how we did it in our blog How to Choose a Niche for Affiliate Marketing in 5 Easy Steps.
Sure, the main goal of this blog is to educate readers on how to choose a niche for affiliate marketing.
But we still managed to slide an affiliate link in there (in a totally natural, related, non-sleazy way, of course).
What you’ll find out as you grow in your affiliate marketing journey is that the more sincere you are about the products you’re promoting, the easier it’ll be to find creative ways to promote them.
For more on how to write for affiliate marketing, check out our guides:
- How to Write for Affiliate Marketing
- How to Write a Listicle that Won’t Make Your Readers Hate You (With Examples)
- How to Write a Product Review for Your Affiliate Site (Six Steps to Success)
- How to Write a Product Comparison (Step by Step Guide)
- How to Write an Info Article for Affiliate Marketing (+Examples)
Affiliate Marketing for Beginners Step #5: Drive Traffic to Your Site
What good will a perfectly-built affiliate site be to you if no one ever sees it?
Answer: no good.
That’s why you need to invest constantly in driving quality traffic to your site.
Of course, if you already have a strong following, you can keep doing what you’re doing to bring those eyeballs to your content.
But if you don’t, here are three foolproof ways you can get website traffic:
- Learn the basics of SEO. I don’t mean nerdy technical SEO. I only mean the foundations such as keyword research, how to use keywords in your content, and so on. For more, check out our in-depth (but super beginner-friendly) guide: SEO for Affiliate Marketing – The Ultimate Guide.
- Use social media to attract people to your blog. Can you promote your affiliate products on social? Maybe. But you’ll probably need to be a big social influencer to succeed. The alternative: use social to drive traffic to your blog. For instance, post quotes, summaries, and teasers with a link that’ll take people to your site. For more, check out our blog: How to Use Social Media for Affiliate Marketing – Pro Tips.
- Build an email list. Not all affiliate marketers do this, but when they do, it’s uber profitable. When you have a large email list, all you need to do is send them updates and get them to click through to your blog, and your site traffic will ramp up quickly.
Honestly, driving traffic to your blog isn’t rocket science.
As a beginner, you don’t even need to perfect all the three methods I mention above at once.
Simply pick one, learn how to do it, and improve as time goes on.
In no time, you’ll see huge results you never even thought were possible.
Affiliate Marketing for Beginners: It’s Really Not that Hard!
Ok, so you want to quit your 9 to 5.
You want to sip cocktails by the beach or go on a 6-week vacation to Africa or India.
But how do you do it?
Here’s how a ton of successful people have done it: affiliate marketing.
Mind you, when I say successful, I don’t mean extra smart or special in some way you’re not.
Take me: I was an average guy who didn’t do too well in school, but I ended up with my business, which currently earns $40,000 a month in affiliate commissions.
You can do it too.
Because affiliate marketing for beginners isn’t that hard.
All you need to have is the desire and passion to make it work.
So start today.
Scroll back up to the top of this blog, and start doing the steps. One by one.
In no time at all, you’ll see yourself at the helm of an uber-successful business, earning passive income as you travel the world, spend more time with your family, or do whatever it is you dream of doing.