What is Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliates and Affiliate Marketing are terms that get thrown around online a lot and recently as I dive more and more into the internet marketing industry, several people have asked me: What is Affiliate Marketing?

Let me explain it the best way I understand it. Affiliate Marketing is the process of marketing a product for someone and getting a commission when the target audience or intended consumer purchases the product or service. I also asked the Twitter world what they thought Affiliate marketing is (answers at the bottom of the post).

In other words, being an affiliate is pretty much like being a salesman. You promote a product and when it sells you get a commission. There are a few differences between an affiliate (the person that does affiliate marketing) and a sales person.

An affiliate tends to be a jack of all traits. While a salesperson can have many skills, generally their job doesn't require all of them and instead they just need to know their one product inside out. Salespeople tend to know one product or product line and they know it well and they work for that one company that produces that item or series of items. An affiliate marketer is a high-tech sales person. They need to know how a website works, how email systems work and they must be in tune with more than one product.

Often times, affiliate marketers build their own websites, run their own email systems and run their own ppc, or cpm campaigns. They have to go out and hustle and make connections and partnerships  often these are calle JV's (joint ventures). The difference as I see it between a salesperson and affiliate is that a salesperson tends to sell one thing and usually for one company. An affiliate may sell a dozen or more products from as many companies.

In order to get started with affiliate marketing, all you need to do is come up with something you're good at and find related products in that space or niche so you can promote them. For example, I'm an affiliate for various hosting companies, software companies and service providers related to internet technologies. You'll find them throughout my site either on the sidebar as sponsors, or sometimes in my blogposts.

You can find tons and tons of affiliate programs on the internet. They can be related to virtually any industry and they offer various commissions structures. Some of the most common affiliate marketing niches are fitness, health, and making money or starting your own business. Obviously, the more popular a niche is, the more competition you'll encounter.

Sometimes, you can make a flat fee commission, sometimes the payments are percentage based. Sometimes, your favorite products have affiliate programs you can join. And since you're (presumably) happy with the products, you may tell your friends about it. Why not get paid when you do that? That's the core of affiliate marketing. Promoting products and getting paid to do so.

The best example I have is my Free WordPress offer. If you buy the hosting which I recommend, the company in turn will pay me a commission. This is how I can build you a free WordPress site with all the bells and whistles.

There are many other topics I'll cover surrounding affiliate marketing, like ethics, affiliate networks, promotion techniques and methods, and who's who of internet marketing (the parent industry of affiliate marketing). Stay tuned.
I also went out to Twitter and asked the question. I got a number of responses. Mostly they seem to be negative and appear to come from jaded perspectives. Many people believe affiliate marketing to be a waste of time or right down unethical. But having been in the trenches with some of the biggest affiliates in the world, I can tell you that those notions couldn't be further from the truth. But I'll share the answers I got anyway:

This is a great answer, succinct and to the point but it also speaks a little bit about how to approach the affiliate marketing space. "Using your digital reach" is key because you should promote products or services which you believe in and you'll most likely be able reach those people that are within your network already.

This is a typical answer for almost anything that you do to make money. You gotta keep in mind, most people give up way too early and way to easily. Affiliate marketing is not a quick rich scheme, and if you ever enter the space, stay away from anyone that promises you'll make tons of money overnight. It just doesn't happen that way.

In perspective, some of the biggest names in the world have affiliate programs. For example, Amazon, Home Depot, Verizon, T-Mobile, AT&T, and new names too, like Hootsuite.

Speaking of the biggest names in the industry. My buddy John Chow weighed in, as usual with some humor:

By the way, it is worth mentioning that before I ever met John Chow in person, he had inspired me to make money online. He is a huge influence and has taught me a lot of amazing things about internet marketing.

Another one of my friends also gave a good answer:


Here are a few more answers I received:


To learn more about Affiliate Marketing, you can read my posts tagged with Affiliate Marketing section and make sure you attend the next Affiliate Summit.

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