An Explanation of What Affiliate Marketing Is

What is Affiliate Marketing

What is Affiliate Marketing?


You’ve probably seen advertisements for companies which promise to turn you into an affiliate marketing superstar before—you just may not have recognized that this was what they were on about. Things such as ‘work from home’, ‘get paid for writing about what you love’, etc., tend towards affiliate marketing plans. However, many people don’t really understand what the terms means, let alone how to pull it off successfully, and so they either ignore it or they dive in headfirst and drown. Affiliate marketers themselves can also be a misunderstood breed…

So yeah, it’s no wonder many people are pretty confused by the term! Let’s break down some misconceptions and go over some of the jargon so that you can better decide for yourself if this is the sort of thing you’d like to do.

Affiliate Marketing: A Definition

Here’s an easy to digest definition (broad strokes): An affiliate marketer is someone who advertises for a business (or businesses) by driving web traffic to that business with the idea that the traffic will buy something in return for a piece of the profit. Good affiliate marketers do this by building content rich and relevant sites which people are interested in reading and then directing those readers to the business so that they can learn more, buy the goods and/or hire the services.

You can be an affiliate marketer for just about anything, from credit cards and car loans to underwear and lawyers. The important thing is to affiliate yourself with something that you enjoy, or at least can tolerate, promoting and talking about.

All Right, so How Does It Work?

Affiliate Marketing Tracking Cookies

Not that kind of cookie!

Affiliate marketing has come a long way in the last fifteen years and it’s gotten a lot more streamlined. The internet is a vast place, full of information and full of places for people to wander around and get lost. However, technology has gotten very, very good at bringing interested customers to where they need to be, thanks to something called a cookie.

A cookie is a bit of HTML code which stores information about you while you cruise the web, storing things like where you went, what you shopped for and what sorts of things you’re looking for. This information is then used to create targeted advertisements which affiliate marketers use to reach customers who are already interested in what they’re hawking. Neat!

Now it’s time for the marketer to step up. In the olden days, sites were filled with things called keywords; keywords being words or phrases which were used in search engines. Spamming these keywords (aka, having them in your sites a lot) was considered to be the best way to get Google’s attention and thus make yourself more visible to the customers. Nowadays though, Google looks at content rich sites, meaning that the affiliate marketer has to create websites which are appealing and easy to navigate and chock full of relevant, interesting information which will reel customers in and make them excited to click on a link taking them back to a business’ site in order to buy something. Affiliate marketers can do these sites all themselves or outsource parts of it to someone else. The better the site and the more traffic they get, the better the odds are of getting to customers who will buy things and the more money the marketer makes.

As a side note, you still want to use some keywords in order to make your site search engine optimized (SEO); i.e., to make your site show up when people are searching for things that your site specializes in! But today, it is highly unwise to abuse your keywords. More on that another time.

Yeah… Speaking of Money… GIMME!

So how do you get paid once you’ve got your great sites up and running and you have traffic? Well, this will be partially dependent on the agreement you have entered into as an affiliate of another company; for example, some companies may give you 5% of the commission that you sent their way, others may give you 25% or more! But there are different payment models for your commissions:

  • Pay Per Sale. You get your money if the person you referred to the business actually buys something.
  • Pay per Lead. You get paid if a visitor completes a form on the web site of the business you’re affiliated with. This is more common with affiliates who work with businesses that provide a service.
  • Post per Click. You get paid if someone visits your site and then clicks on the merchant’s banner/link and visits their site. Often these are paid per bundle of clicks, such as pay per 100 clicks or pay per 1000 clicks.

Pay per click is still pretty common, but it’s the least lucrative. Pay per lead is more for businesses that provide a service. Pay per sale tends to be the most lucrative, but it’s a little harder to do since you have to really sell whatever it is your affiliate is selling.

Soooo, How Do I Get People to Buy Stuff and Let Me Get Paid Again?

There are two broad methods: White Hat and Black Hat. This is the sort of jargon you will run into, so it’s good to know the difference:

1. White Hat: White hat methods are methods which Google considers to be ‘legitimate’. They include things such as:

  • Writing blogs which are rich in content and are optimized for a search engine through careful placement of keywords and phrases
  • Building trust between yourself and traffic by establishing yourself as an expert in your field
  • Paid search engine marketing
  • E-mail marketing
  • Advertising your site somewhere else
  • Social media use

2. Black Hat: Black hat methods are methods which Google does not approve of and if you’re caught at it, your site will probably be delisted from the search engine or at best, cause you to just be ignored by customers:

  • Writing too many fraudulently positive reviews of a product or service
  • Keyword ‘spamming’-i.e., having content which is mostly full of keywords and nothing else and spamming forums and comment boards with keywords
  • Setting up profiles in related forums with no intention of doing anything helpful for the community
  • Making fraudulent claims about a product or service

Cheating the system does not pay in this business: it’s best to take the natural, organic route by providing high quality content to readers on sites which are regularly updated, advertising your site using accepted means such as ads on Google or other sites which allow them and by building up trust between yourself and the wider community by actually being helpful and friendly!

Affiliate marketing is the largest source of web based businesses out there. When it’s done by marketers who know what they’re doing-they take risks, they work at their sites, they provide good information and they work with legitimate businesses-affiliate marketing really pays off and when it’s done really well, you can enjoy a lot more free time to spend with your friends, family and hobbies. But it also takes some practice, some trial and error and at least to begin with, a lot of work.

If you take away nothing else from this, take this away: Affiliate marketing allows you to connect with customers and be their guide to a product(s) and/or services of others. You are there to give them information, reviews, opinions, updated information and news as well as the links back to the merchants so they can actually buy/hire whatever it is you’re hawking. The better you do this, the more money you will make and the easier the job will become.

Sound like fun? Well, check back here regularly for more ideas, tips, tricks and information about the world of Affiliate Marketing. Good luck in your venture!

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