How to Become an Affiliate Marketer: A Blueprint for Success

Affiliate marketing is an exciting and rapidly growing industry. It’s one of the most rewarding ways to make money online, and there is no limit to how much passive income you can make. It’s fun and challenging. Also, it requires strategy, creativity, and effort.

I’ve been an affiliate marketer for years, so I know what the position entails. Here are some ideas and steps to help you achieve your goals.

How to Become an Affiliate Marketer

  • Understand affiliate marketing fundamentals
  • Consider what it takes to succeed
  • Conduct what-if scenarios
  • Set realistic goals
  • Select a target market
  • Choose primary and secondary platforms
  • Plan and execute
  • Join affiliate programs in your niche
  • Track your results
  • Review, reflect, and pivot
  • Keep learning

Understand affiliate marketing fundamentals

EducationPerhaps you know what affiliate marketing is and how it works. If you don’t, check out my introductory post. You’ll want to understand concepts like a cookie, conversion period, action, tracking, deep linking, commission, earnings per click (EPC), and payment. Commission Junction (CJ), a top-rated affiliate network, has a glossary that is worth skimming. You might also take a course or watch a few videos on YouTube to help build your foundation.

  • Consider what it takes to succeed

Have you thought about what it will take to succeed? Have you scanned the landscape to see what affiliates are doing? You should. Filling your days with Jerry Springer reruns and Kardashians won’t cut it. Like any job, the role of an affiliate marketer requires hard work and commitment. If you’re starting out, expect to work full-time. Part-time hours might come later.

Traffic in marketing circles equates to the number of visitors and users to a site. For example, 1,000 people visit your blog each month. Marketing/sales is a numbers game so the more traffic you can get, the more clicks and conversions you can expect. Most publishers use a combination of strategies and techniques to get traffic. Be open-minded and experiment to find what works for you. Moreover, don’t rule out any marketing activity or limit yourself.

I periodically evaluate affiliates and online marketers to see what I can learn, apply, and exploit. For example, what can you take from my site to increase your conversion rates? It’s difficult to know which affiliates are doing well. Some marketers publish fraudulent income reports whereas others rent homes/cars for YouTube videos to imply they’ve “made it.” (Some marketers will lie to gain your trust and loyalty.) High-income affiliates create fantastic, insightful content and attract thousands of folks to their sites. You can get a sense of a site’s traffic through SimilarWeb and Alexa.

  • Conduct what-if scenarios

GraphBrainstorming what it takes to succeed is a qualitative exercise. The quantitative side to affiliate marketing is equally important. Suppose you want to make $10,000 a month (everyone does). You must get enough visitors to your blog, YouTube channel, and so on to reach your income target, like the example that follows.

Monthly statistics

  • Traffic: 50,000 users
  • Clicks: 40,000 (80 percent of users click at least once)
  • Conversion rate: 0.50%
  • Sales: 200
  • Average commission: $50
  • Income: $10,000

See how easy it is to generate $10,000 a month. Wait! The world isn’t perfect, and neither are examples. Here are some other considerations:

  • Summer months typically experience less traffic, clicks, and conversions
  • Conversion rates fluctuate for any number of reasons, for instance, changing market trends, new pricing, new competitors, and changes to a product/service.
  • A product that converts today might not do well in a year or two.
  • A merchant could change their terms or deactivate the program.
  • Your website could go down for a few hours because of technical issues.

I’ve experienced all of the above and realize that many variables impact my results. That’s the nature of affiliate marketing. Therefore, I apply conservative estimates like a conversion rate of 0.10 to 0.30 percent and an average commission of $20. Naturally, what-if scenarios and estimates will vary among affiliates because we promote different items.

  • Set realistic goals

No matter the online endeavor, sales begin with traffic. If you have no digital assets, like a website, or aren’t getting enough visitors, it’s unrealistic to forecast commissions in the thousands. Your goals should align with your traffic data. Secondly, you should be conservative with your projections to avoid disappointment. Kidding yourself won’t increase your conversion rates, but traffic and dedication will.

  • Select a target market

Choose a market segment for your marketing activities. A market segment is a group of people who share one or more common characteristics, for example, college-educated females aged 25 to 45 or stay-at-home dads living in the United States.

Your target market can be broad or niche/narrow. Affiliates frequently target people they can relate to and who have similar characteristics, passions, and interests. My target audience includes male and female digital nomads, remote workers, global citizens, online marketers, WordPress users, freelancers, and so forth.

  • Choose primary and secondary platforms

As an affiliate, you need digital assets and platforms to deploy links. After all, you must place links somewhere. Primary platforms include websites, blogs, and YouTube channels. For example, many YouTubers add affiliate links to their channels, descriptions, and videos. Secondary platforms include email marketing, landing page funnels, and social media networks.

You need a primary platform to get enough traffic. Using only secondary channels will likely lead to failure, for example, only posting affiliate links on Facebook. You might be able to get enough clicks on social media alone, but it’s highly unlikely. Secondly, most marketers promote through multiple channels. However, focusing on two primary platforms equally or using too many channels is challenging, which is why I stick mostly to one primary and one secondary platform. Lastly, some mediums are better than others for influencing and link deployment.

  • Plan and execute

With your platforms chosen; you need a plan. Your plan should outline what you’ll do daily/weekly to reach your content objectives. For bloggers, it could be posting twice a week, and for YouTubers, it might be uploading two to five videos. As you create your content and add affiliate links, consider the FTC’s disclosure guidelines. You should aim to create a transparent and fair platform, which will increase trust in your brand and recommendations.

Checklist Flat IconLike your target market, you can be broad or narrow regarding your content. Start with four to six related categories to give yourself options. One or two categories may yield very few topics to cover. As an extension of my target audience, I create content about working online, marketing, money matters, self-publishing, and WordPress. Those are my main categories. I have a few videos on YouTube that address the same. I have experience in these areas and enjoy writing about them.

  • Review and join affiliate programs in your niche

Consider which products/services appeal to your target market and join a few programs, like five to ten. In this post, I discuss how to choose affiliate programs. The top affiliate marketing networks have more than thirty program categories like automotive, clothing, computers, education, business, travel, and more. Networks make it convenient for publishers to review, apply, and join programs. Standalone and in-house programs are available too. Once you get the hang of things, participate in as many programs as you can manage efficiently.

Having a website makes getting accepted into programs a lot easier for four reasons.

  1. A website ties you to a digital asset and online platform.
  2. A site creates a level of accountability and credibility.
  3. Affiliate managers can accurately track and analyze data from your site.
  4. Your site can be reviewed for compliance.

Many affiliate managers check to see if members have websites. They do this as a safety measure to weed out bad actors. If you don’t have a site, you don’t exist in the minds of most managers. A social media profile is not equivalent to a website.

An affiliate manager can decline your request/application. Reasons for declines vary, and you can email the program manager for more details. You want to ensure it isn’t because you don’t have a website since you might not get a second chance.

Your website can be simple and should have a few standard pages such as an about page. Also, it helps to have some content published before you begin joining programs. I cover websites, domains, hosting, and WordPress in this post.

Can you do affiliate marketing without a website? Yes, having a site isn’t mandatory, but it will increase your program approval rates, support relationships, and expand your online footprint. The critical question is, what portion of high earning affiliates operate without a site? Probably a low percentage in the single digits.

  • Track your results

StocksTraffic and income are two items you should monitor. They indicate how you’re performing in real-time.

Google Analytics is a suite of free tools to track and analyze site data. It’s an essential tool for affiliates and online marketers. It measures five traffic sources, i.e., organic search, direct, referral, social media, and email. Suppose five people click on a search engine result and come to my site. Google Analytics will record that. Google provides free tutorials, and I recommend taking Google Analytics for Beginners.

I track my income on a spreadsheet. When I receive payments, I record them. I check affiliate networks and programs daily to quarterly depending on my activities and expectations. For example, I login quarterly to review programs I hardly promote.

  • Review, reflect, and pivot

Like any business, you should review and reflect on your plans, activities, and results. Each month I assess my traffic, income, marketing strategy, search engine rankings, website design and functionality, competitors, existing content, and so forth. Additionally, if a program starts producing above average commissions, I’ll weave it into my marketing mix.

Pivoting and changing priorities is a way of life for many affiliates, entrepreneurs, and ambitious individuals. As you review your activities and experiment, be open to change and new opportunities. For example, you might start off as a travel vlogger than shift to blogging because you prefer the writing process. I’ve made hundreds of big and small pivots with more forthcoming.

  • Keep Learning

BooksLifelong learning and developing new skills are the paths to take. Successful affiliates are well-rounded critical thinkers who understand online marketing, search engine optimization, web design and management, relationship building, partnerships, persuasion methods, e-commerce, money matters, sales, and more. Identify your strengths, weaknesses, and consider what you must learn. Then, create a learning plan to develop your skills. Some of your educational options include blogs, YouTube, and e-learning platforms like CourseraCreativeLivePluralsight, and Skillshare. You won’t become a super affiliate overnight, but perhaps one day if you keep at it.


About this Post

I use affiliate links on my website, but my opinion isn’t for sale. I may earn a commission if you click on an affiliate link, but it won’t cost you extra. I only recommend what I use, have used, or vetted in the best interest of my readers. For more details, see

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