Online Affiliate Marketing – a Starter Guide for Small Businesses

affiliate marketing

Affiliate marketing is one of the most popular ways to make money online from your blog, website, or even social media account. It allows a site owner to generate a steady income stream from commission payments paid by a company they have partnered with. Sound confusing? It’s really not. This short guide will help you to understand how the industry works and what you can do to get your slice of the pie!

What is Affiliate Marketing?

By definition, affiliate marketing is a referral arrangement where an online retailer or service provider (the advertiser) pays you a commission when consumers purchase their product or visit their website from your own, personalized referral link.

This isn’t traditional pay-per-click advertising where the publisher gets paid for every click on the link or banner. Instead, affiliate marketing works on a CPL (cost per lead) or CPA (cost per acquisition), which means you only get paid a commission when the buyer or end-user either buys the product, signs up for a free trial, or signs up for a membership.

Affiliate marketing programs can be very lucrative. Because there is virtually no risk to the advertiser, the commission rates are much higher than the likes of Adsense (Pay per Click Google advertising).

So How Does Affiliate Marketing Work?

Affiliate marketing is fairly easy once you get the hang of it and understand exactly the level of input required.

Firstly, you need to find a company, product, or service (let’s call them Merchants for now) that you want to promote on your blog, website, or social media account.

When selecting a Merchant, you should definitely stick to something that will interest your readers, is in line with your own service or brand, or something that is popular in today’s market – so pick something that is current, rising in popularity, or trending. For example, if your blog is about wine then team up with a wine retailer. If you write about books, then find an online book retailer.

The next thing you must do is partner up with the company by joining their affiliate or partner program. This makes you their ‘Affiliate.’ Some brands use the terms associates or partners… scroll down on any retail website, and there will more than likely be a link at the bottom near the Contact Us section.

Once you have joined their affiliate or partner program, you will be given a unique affiliate ID which you will need to use in all the links you add to your website or blog.  How you promote your chosen Merchant is entirely up to you.

Whether you decide on writing in-depth product reviews, or design display banner ads for your website, or just including the links in your newsletter or social media accounts – the choice really is yours. All the traffic sent to your Merchant’s website via your unique affiliate ID will be tracked, and once a consumer has made a purchase, you get your commission payment. Simple, right?

USEFUL HINT: Before you choose your partners, make sure that you are using the correct blogging platform for your website., for example, has restrictions about what you can and can’t link to, whereas a self-hosted site using has no restrictions, and you can partner with whoever you want.

A Word on Suitable Industries

This is really down to you.  Whether you pick something that you are interested in and already use or look at what other bloggers are recommending, it’s your choice at the end of the day, here are just a few ideas of industries you could consider.

Goods and Products – Amazon runs an affiliate marketing program called Amazon Associates and is well worth a look.

Gambling – Online betting is big business, and gambling affiliate sites like this one are a great place to start if you want to see how others do it. With the rise in online casinos and consumers always looking for new casinos to play at, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better industry to start your affiliate marketing journey with, although it is highly competitive

Digital Services – With this industry, the possibilities are high, and Fiverr Affiliates has been ranked as one of the best Merchants to start off with, especially if you are a beginner.

So, now you’ve picked your industry, what next?

Getting Traffic – SEO

Whether you are placing banners on your own website or blog page or using your social media platforms, you will need to sort out your Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). This will allow you to start appearing for relevant keywords in Google’s index.

Add keywords that are directly linked to your Merchant and their products and services. Say, for example,  you have chosen to work with a fashion retailer specializing in Faux Leather Clothing, you would need to add tags such as “Faux Leather Clothing,” “Fake Leather Clothing,” “Clothing that is Faux Leather” within your SEO, so search engines pick it up.

Hashtags and Hyperlinks

In your blog posts, social media updates, etc., you would also need to include hyperlinks and #hashtags that relate to the product or service you are promoting, along with your own unique affiliate ID. This way, anyone who clicks on the link is taken to the relevant Merchant’s site, and the click is tracked back to you and your link.

Social Media and Digital Marketing

Social media marketing and influencing are becoming a thriving business for many, with some reporting incomes of thousands of dollars per month. So, using your social media accounts as a form of affiliate marketing is just one way to make sure you’ve got all your bases covered.

Newsletters and email marketing campaigns are two more great ways of reaching your audience and promoting your chosen Merchant’s products and services.

Now Go Get Your Slice of the Pie!

There are no two ways about it; there is money to be made from affiliate marketing. And, as more and more physical brick and mortar shops are closing down, the shift to the online marketplace is big business for retailers. And all of this means, as an affiliate marketer, it can be big business for you, too.

Scroll to Top