How To Start Affiliate Marketing & Earn Passive Income?

  • Last update: 02/11/2023

Benjamin Poirrier

Digital Marketing Expert

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According to Google Trends, the interest over time for the term “affiliate marketing” has strongly increased worldwide since 2015. It became a billion-dollar industry with more and more people getting involved.

Prodima will teach you how to start affiliate marketing. As you will see, it is not an easy way to earn passive income. You need both expertise and experience to be able to monetize your content.

How Does Work Affiliate Marketing?

In a nutshell, affiliate marketing monetizes your website traffic. We will see there are many ways to get some revenue from affiliate marketing, even without having a website. Above all, you will understand how to get money even if you do not own the product or service you advertise for.

This section will explain in detail what affiliate marketing is and how it works.

What Is Affiliate Marketing?

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Affiliate marketing is promoting other brands, products, or services through your channels, like on your website or social fan pages.

To get started with affiliate marketing, you must be part of an affiliate network. It is a database where the marketer can choose relevant products that he/she is willing to promote.

When an online user purchases after visiting such a promotional channel, the affiliate marketer receives a commission for his/her efforts. This payment usually represents 5% to 10% of the product’s value but it can go up to 50% depending on the affiliate network and deal conditions.

In most cases, the merchant pays a percentage of the sales price once the marketer reaches a minimum threshold. The most popular way to get paid is the CPA which stands for Cost Per Action (or Acquisition). Sometimes, affiliate marketers also receive their commissions per click (CPC) or lead (CPL).

As affiliate marketing is a form of advertisement, the links promoting the products are often labeled as “sponsored posts” or with “this is an affiliate link.”

Affiliate Marketing Stakeholders

Here is a list of the most important actors involved in the affiliate marketing process:

  • the merchant
  • the affiliate network
  • the affiliate marketer
  • the online user

The merchant is the one who owns the product or service. He joins the affiliate network to cooperate with other companies and meet marketers who will promote his items.

The affiliate network is the system connecting the merchants and the advertisers. It usually gathers groups of businesses proposing similar or complementary products. This network is the place where affiliate marketers find their partners.

The affiliate marketer is the person or entity that will accept promoting the products or services of a selected merchant on his/her online channels.

The online user is the final customer. It is the person who will see the affiliate link, click on it, and ultimately make the purchase.

Affiliate Marketing Trackers

How do we make sure that all affiliate marketers get paid according to their promotional efforts?

We use trackers.

When an affiliate marketer decides to work for a specific product or service, he/she receives a unique affiliate link that will help keep track.

The affiliate link includes a referral code that looks like this:


As each code is unique, it is easy to follow up on the purchase sources and to identify from which marketer each sale comes. Merchants usually work with multiple affiliates to maximize their selling opportunities.

Marketers can place those affiliate links anywhere. The most common locations are:

  • blog
  • social channels
  • emails
  • webinars

They are quick and easy to set up. We will illustrate this below.

Affiliate Marketing Benefits

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People consider affiliate marketing for excellent reasons. Check below what are the benefits of affiliate marketing:

  • it’s easy to get started
  • there is no other cost than time
  • it’s quick to optimize affiliate campaigns
  • you can work with plenty of different merchants and products
  • it’s a passive income
  • there is no customer service to manage
  • you can work remotely from anywhere

Everyone can go ahead with affiliate marketing. It doesn’t even require any specific skills. If you have a computer and an internet connection, you can proceed. In the end, you only need to have a minimum of knowledge about the product you promote.

Affiliate marketing implies no risk. If you give it a try and fail, you will mostly lose some time. The financial costs to get started are null. You just need to work on your online channels, which are free on social platforms like Facebook and YouTube. At most, you may need to invest something like USD 10 monthly to maintain a website.

You don’t need to wait for years to understand if your affiliate campaign is successful or not. When you promote several products, you quickly see which ones are selling. With some testing, you can easily turn off the non-performing ones and replace them with those that bring revenue.

Affiliate marketers don’t have to stick to a unique merchant. They can work with many products and diversify their portfolio. It is helpful to not keep all the eggs in the same basket. In case something doesn’t work as expected, there will be an alternative to rely on.

Once the initial setup is done, the affiliate marketer does not have much more to do. As we will see below, he/she still must keep the online channels alive and attract relevant traffic. However, if the work is properly done, affiliate marketing is passive income that combines well with full-time jobs in parallel.

You sell other merchants’ products and services. Your job is to promote the items. You do not have to handle the logistics or customer support. For many people, affiliate marketing is a “dream job” for this reason.

Eventually, the beauty of affiliate marketing is that you can do the job from everywhere, at your office or your bedroom. There are no frontier boundaries. All you need to do is to promote your affiliate links in a relevant, engaging, and useful way.

Let’s go more into detail in the next section.

Affiliate Marketing Step-By-Step Guide

As we saw in the previous section listing the benefits of affiliate marketing, it is easy to get started. That being said, it is not that trivial to make money with affiliate marketing. Your first affiliate commissions are very likely to look lame.

To be successful, you must consider products and services in niches that work well. You also need to have a solid online presence, traffic, and quality leads. We will clarify below in our step-by-step guidelines.

Choose Your Affiliate Niche

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Affiliate marketing does not require any initial investment, but it takes time. Because it is a long journey, you are better off being an expert in the product niche you want to promote.

Before even browsing the affiliate networks, list down the areas you are particularly familiar with. Keep in mind that, to engage people, you must have a good connection with your audience.

Then, narrow down your selection. You must choose a niche, not an industry. Be specific in what you are going to talk about.

Besides, you must get a niche for which there is some interesting search volume and which is not too competitive at the same time. Find your sweet spot. Analyze the market demand. Do not hesitate to research as this phase is one of the most important of the whole affiliate process.

Join an Affiliate Program

Once you are clear about the products or services you are going to talk about, it is time to be part of an affiliate program.

An affiliate network is like a marketplace where you can choose your desired items. As explained above, you must pick them as a good combination of trendiness, volume, competitiveness, and reward.

Read all the partnership conditions before making your decision. Pay special attention to the payment clause: the threshold and the percentage commission.

Confirm your choice to receive your unique affiliate partner ID. The merchants will provide you with the affiliate links that you will use to promote their products.

From this point, it will be up to you to place those links in the right positions, so people click on them and finalize their online purchases.

As a rule of thumb, the best-paying affiliate programs are those having low volume. It means you could expect a 40% commission on the sale, but you will certainly not get dozens of daily successful transactions. On the other hand, high-volume deals are paying less. For instance, Amazon proposes a 4% commission for its products.

Create Affiliate Content

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The next step is to place your affiliate links across your channels.

To achieve this, you must create content. It is where the process gets challenging: you need to publish valuable content that will attract online users.

The purpose of affiliate marketing is to convert your readers into purchasers. Having tons of people looking at your affiliate links is not enough. They must engage if you want to get paid.

Your best bet is to be (or become) an expert on the products you are promoting. If you know your affiliate items well, you should be good enough to produce useful content.

Otherwise, you can also outsource content creation and work with freelancers who have expertise in this field. It is a viable option only if you are already scaling up and making enough revenue to cover this extra cost. To begin with, you should publish in-house content.

We will explain in the next section how to engage people and properly advertise your affiliate items. The most important rule is to produce top-quality content and naturally insert the affiliate links. Better content generates authoritativeness. People are more likely to purchase from a trusted source in general.

How to Promote Your Affiliate Links?

This is where things get serious. It is simple to join an affiliate program. It is challenging to make money out of it.

We will break down this crucial section into three main parts to make affiliate revenue. First, we will show you how to increase your website traffic. Then, we will share techniques to have people click on your affiliate links. Finally, you will learn how you can invite online people to make a purchase.

Get Traffic

Having lots of online traffic is not a mandatory condition for being successful as an affiliate marketer. After all, what is the point of getting millions of visitors if no one is interested in clicking your links? Still, having traffic does help of course.

If you have not done so yet, go check out our 10 ways to get a website traffic blog. It covers the main non-paid (7) and paid (3) techniques to increase the number of visitors to your page.

Overall, there are two main ways to get online traffic:

Running digital ads is an excellent way to raise your online visibility. However, it works only for high-commission affiliate programs. Why? Because it is expensive and eats your affiliate revenue. Besides, the day you stop those ads, your traffic will disappear too (and so will your commissions). You must monitor your Return On Investment (ROI) when you consider online ads.

The other option is SEO. It has several advantages over paid ads: it is more affordable, it lasts longer, and the online users’ purchase intent is higher. Be careful though because it still has a cost, and above all, SEO takes time. You must consider this alternative only if you can afford the wait. If it is the case, you should optimize for keywords that are related to the affiliate products you market, and get ready to cash in.

Get Clicks

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Experienced affiliate marketers know that website visitors are only the very first step of the journey. There is a whole world between an online user reading a web page and an engaged consumer making a purchase from an affiliate link.

Your Click-Through Rate (CTR) will depend a lot on the way you produce content and the position of your affiliate links on the page. It can be anywhere between 0.5% to 10%.

That’s right! At best, you should expect no more than 10 users clicking on your links from 100 visitors, and that’s only if you are doing a great job! A new affiliate marketer is more likely to have 1 click out of 100 readers, and fewer than that would not be surprising.

To maximize your chances of getting nice commissions, pay attention to your link placements. They must have context and meaning. You cannot create dozens of affiliate links on just one page, hoping that people will accidentally click on them. As a rule of thumb, avoid having more than 2 affiliate links on 1 unique web page.

Consider implementing an appealing design. Affiliate links under buttons, cards, or Call To Action layouts (CTA) work better than plain hyperlinks. Don’t forget that the ultimate purpose is to have your readers click on your links.

Get Conversions

After the click on the affiliate link comes the final step: the online purchase.

It is the most crucial milestone because whatever efforts you provide with the previous stages, you will not receive any payments if people do not finalize their transactions.

Here is a sum-up of the whole affiliate process:

  • online users see your content
  • they click on your affiliate link
  • they confirm the purchase
  • you get paid (commission)

As for the previous section, you cannot realistically expect all people clicking on your links to buy the merchant’s products. From all those clickers, you may have something between 0% to 20% of them at the big max to proceed with the purchase.

Let’s do the math. Say you have 10,000 online users reading your page. Your CTR is 1% which means 100 people will click on your affiliate link. Now let’s imagine your Conversion Rate (CR) is 5%. In the end, for 10,000 viewers, you will receive commissions for 5 sold products.

That’s why it is extremely important to follow up on website metrics like:

  • page views
  • clicks
  • conversion rate

They help you estimate how likely you are to be successful with affiliate marketing. As we warned you before, it is challenging to make a comfortable revenue out of it.

Affiliate Marketing Pitfalls

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Before closing this affiliate marketing topic, our team of experts would like to share some valuable advice with you. Avoiding these common pitfalls could save you lots of time:

  • producing quick and cheap content
  • pushing sales too aggressively
  • misleading the online users
  • choosing products that you do not know
  • choosing products that are irrelevant to your audience

Anybody can get started with affiliate marketing. In parallel, only a small number of people are successful. The main reason is that most affiliate marketers just want to go as fast as possible. They do not pay attention to their content. They create multiple new domains and think it is only a game of numbers. It is not. Affiliate marketing is more like a marathon. You must train, practice, and persevere if you want to make it through. Don’t become one of those numerous “poor-quality marketers.” The digital world doesn’t need them and they do not make money anyway.

Being too salesy never helps in general. It is true for affiliate marketing too. The point of your content is, of course, to have people clicking on your links and making a purchase. However, you must give first if you want to receive in return. Share valuable insights, talk about the products and services, and then naturally insert your affiliate link to invite the people who are interested to go ahead.

There are many bad practices out there. Cloaking is one of them. It is never acceptable to redirect users to web pages that are not relevant to the referral. We call this “black hat” and search engines like Google seriously penalize this. For example, if your web page deals with topic A while your affiliate link leads the user to product B which has nothing to do with the web page, it is the wrong way to do affiliate marketing.

To maximize their chances of receiving commissions, many marketers just pick plenty of products and services from the affiliate network and “try their luck” with them. It illustrates another wrong way to proceed. Again, affiliate marketers should publish useful content to online users. If you write an article about something you do not know, how can you share any meaningful advice?

If you already have an audience, make sure you only choose products that resonate with them. Remember that it is the very first step of the affiliate journey. Selecting the right niche is one of the most important tasks. Save yourself lots of time and effort by making it right from the beginning.

Start Your Affiliate Marketing

As you see, there is pretty much no entry barrier. You can start affiliate marketing today.

However, let’s be realistic: do not expect to receive big commissions in the next three days! If you are new to this digital business, it will certainly take some time before you can make a comfortable revenue out of affiliate marketing.

Our recommendation is to start small (and have other sources of revenue!). Build your audience and choose a niche in which you are comfortable. Consider building a review blog of your selected merchant’s products. The tutorials, pros and cons, how to use them, and personal experiences are the content that works best for affiliate marketing.