How Does Affiliate Marketing Work?

Affiliate marketing is being “mis pronounced” these days by many marketers.  Companies that are not affiliate marketing are calling themselves affiliate marketing and companies that actually are affiliate marketing are you using very confusing language as to what they are and how they operate.

Because of this unneeded complexity and confusion, I am going to spend a few minutes explaining how affiliate marketing works.  Only what you need to know.

First, What is an Affiliate?

An affiliate can be anyone.  You are an affiliate.  I am an affiliate.   But you don’t become an affiliate of anything online until you join what are called affiliate programs.  There are 10,000’s of these programs out there that allow you to promote milllions of products.

Yes.  You read that right. YOU can promote millions of different products online as an affiliate.  No inventory, no dealing with support, no shipping, no disgruntled customers, no overhead.

How Does an Affilaite Earn a Commission?

There are a few steps that it takes for you to earn a commission ($$) as an affiliate.  The first step is you having a website.  Without a website, you are typically a dead duck in the affiliate marketing world.  Your website is your business and it is where you can communicate with people across many diffferent niches and industries.

Once you start getting traffic to your site (people), you can promote relevant products/services to them through affiliate programs.  Like I mentioned there are 10,000’s of such programs out there that allow you to promote millions of products.

As an example, if you join Amazon Associates (Amazon’s affiliate program), it opens your doors to 100’s of MILLIONS of products you can promote. Pretty much every product on Amazon you can promote and earn a 2-10% commission (depending on the actual product).

After you join the Affiliate Program, you are given special links that are unique to you and only you.    You then add these links to your website, and when someone clicks those links and buy something, you earn money.   Simple as that.

For example, if I were to sell Dyson’s latest “supersonic” hair dryer, which cost around $510, I would earn 6% commission on Dyson Hair Dryer Amazonthat.  That is around $30 per sale.

That is ONE sale.  Imagine making 10 sales like this per day, or even 100.  You get the idea here, affiliate marketing can lead to a significant income.

There are millions of Amazon affiliates alone, many of whom are full time online driving sales to their site simply referring their website visitors to their amazon affiliate links.   Whether your website is about weight loss, dieting, making money, hair dryers, skin care, or drones (could be anything), there is a vaiable opportunity as an affiliate marketer.

Why Do Companies Want You as an Affiliate?

The simple reason. They want to make more money.  By allowing you and I and MILLIONS of other people to become affiliates, they can earn a lot more money as a business.  Instead of hiring a marketing team and paying them a salary which can be very expensive and not always get a guaranteed ROI, they decide to recruit affiliates (Iike you and I) and pay them a “cut” on the revenue they generate.

You don’t earn money, unless you are driving sales to their business.  They don’t lose money by having to hire you as a full time employee.  So it is a win/win scenario.

Where Do You Find Affiliate Programs?

There are many different places you can go to find affiliate programs.  Oe of the most common places to find affiliate programs is through a Google Search.

Depending on the product or category in which you are looking for an affiliate program, you would simply type a search into Google like this.

product + affiliate program

For example, if I was looking to become an affiliate for “hair dryers”, I would type in:

hair dryer + affiliate program

This will almost certainly yield several results.  But there is also another way in which you can find affilaite programs and that is through Affiliate Networks.

Affiliate Networks are exactly how they sound, a network of several affiliate programs all under one roof.  For example, an affiliate network like has over 6,000 merchants that you can join from ONE affiliate program.

You only have to manage ONE login and you get paid from one company in a consolidated check, as an affiliate (and that would be Awin).

That is advantageous as an affiliate as you can join one affiliate network and have access to 1,000’s of companies to promote and it is advantageous to a company to join these as they will have a larger pool of affilaites to work with and they won’t have to worry about the technical aspects of operating their own in house affiliate program.

Here are some of the more popular affiliate networks:

Those are to name a few.  If you join any one of those you can quickly gain access to a large pool of products/services/companies that you can promote as an affiliate.

How Much Can I Earn as An Affiiliate?

Well, that is up to you, not me.  What I can tell you is that the potential really doesn’t have any limits as to what you can achieve as an affiliate.  If you want to earn $1,000 per year and you would be happy with that, that is what you can earn.

But the potential is much higher.  You can earn $100,000’s per year, or even 7 figures yearly solely as an affiliate marketer.

Let’s do a little breakdown based on the $30 Dyson hair dryer example I provided above to show how many hair dryers you would need to sell in order to meet certain income volumes.

1 Dyson hair dryer sale per day, $30 x 365 = $10,950 per year

2 Dyson hair dryers sale per day, $30 x 365 = $21,900 per year

5 Dyson hair dryers sale per day, $30 x 365 = $54,750 per year

10 Dyson hair dryers sale per day, $30 x 365 = $109,500 per year

100 Dyson hair dryers sale per day, $30 x 365 = $1,095,0000 per year

That should give you a pretty good idea of how much potential there is.  If you had a site dedicated to women’s hair, you could quite possibly hit 100 sales per day on many ocassions, as well as be promoting 100’s of other products/services on your website with time.

Affiliate marketing is a big deal, if done right. I hope this has given you a good deal of perspective as to how it works!

If you have any questions about affiliate marketing or how to build out successful affiliate marketing campaigns, drop them below in the comments area.  I have been at this for MANY years and I would be more than happy to point you in the right direction.


60 thoughts on “How Does Affiliate Marketing Work?”

  1. I have been skeptical about this, and this is by far the best explanation I’ve seen! thank you. Now to start, where would I begin?

    • To begin, you want to head through the training at Wealthy Affiliate. You can get started for free, and they will have you building your business right away (and choosing a direction for your business).

      The fun thing about building a business online is that you can choose a direction that you enjoy. That is key to success, if you love what you do you never have to work a day in your life (as they say). The same approach should be taken when building a business online. Wealthy Affiliate encourages and embraces this.

      If you have any further questions about getting started within the Affiliate Marketing world, let us know.

  2. Hi, Can you please give me a step by step on how to do this. I understand what I have to do i am just not sure in what order. should I create a website first? should I join Amazon Associates first? should I figure out which item to sell first? like what order should I do these things in.
    thank you.

    • The process looks like this.

      (1) Choose a direction for your business
      (2) Build a website, which is the foundation for your business and success.
      (3) Learn how to get traffic
      (4) Make money!

      This is the process that you can learn and implement directly through the platform and training at Wealthy Affiliate. If you don’t already have an account there, I highly suggest that you get one and it’s completely free to get rolling.

  3. So my question is how do you find 100 new people each day to buy the “dryers” do you have to join ticker talk and do stupid challenges and dances?

    • You build a website. You create helpful, relevant content. You then get ranked in search engines like Google (which lead to free traffic). You promote dryers through your affiliate links and you earn revenue.

      That is the process, and that is actually the process for building ANY income online. We hope this helps you understand this better Canday!

    • Wealthy Affiliate can help you with that. The training walks you through this process, and within lesson 4 of the training you will have your very own niche website up and running. I suggest you create your free account here:

      Immediately upon joining (even for free), you are going to have access to the tools you need to create, grow and manage your online business(es).

        • Yes, there is no length to the test drive. But the Starter membership is going to be more limited than if you go Premium or Premium Plus+. Our recommendation is to get rolling on the Starter membership and then when you are ready to really take your businesses seriously, you consider upgrading and getting access to the all the tools, training, classes and support you need to run a substantial business online.

    • I need to talk to Anthony but can’t get the right e-mail to send a message I already pa for the membership on July the 4th can any one help me
      This phil

  4. How to become an affiliate marketer how do I get started how much money do I need to get started and what would be the best product for me to go into I like Amazon but I try something else please help me out here I’m just trying to earn a living

    • Hi David,

      You can become an affiliate marketers and equip yourself with all the tools you need to create and grow a business online, through Wealthy Affiliate. This will teach you the proper process, and give you the foundational building blocks right at the outset.

      Basically you are going to be able to promote any major brand, and over 550 MILLION Products as an affiliate marketer. This includes Amazon, and they have one of the most popular affiliate programs out there (and it gives you direct access to promote all products on their network), but there are 10,000’s of other affiliate programs that you can join. This is all going to be taught to you through Wealthy Affiliate.

      • I have been thinking of creating a website on curly hair and recipes that I use and like. After reading this, I would love to start affiliate marketing along with it. Any help would be great!

        • Sure, you can absolutely head in that direction with your niche. A niche can be anything, where there is an audience interested in something there is going to be all sorts of opportunity. I recommend that you get yourself a free account over at Wealthy Affiliate, by lesson 3 of the training you will have your niche narrowed down and be ready to start your website which is covered in the lesson after that.

          The first focus of your website is going to be getting traffic, ideally through natural methods like SEO. Once you have actual people coming to your website, then you will be able to take full advantage of the affiliate marketing model and the millions upon millions of products/services that you can promote. It’s an exciting space to be in, and it only continues to grow.

          Hope this helps you out here Bethane!

  5. Hi There I am serious about learning how to be successful at being an affiliate.
    Any pointers from you would be amazing. I know connecting with someone who has had success is what I need to get started.

    Thanks in advance

    • Proper training. Proper research tools. Proper mentorship. And building things correctly, right from the outset. Those are the keys to success within online world, and something that you will gain immediate access to through Wealthy Affiliate. I encourage you to create a free account over there, and you will be up and running with your own niche website (that is affiliate marketing ready) by lesson 4 of the training.

      If you can help people, you can build a business online…and do so with any niche. Of course there is a bit more to it than this, but that will be all taught in detail as you move through the core training in WA.

    • Well I know you are going to love your experience at WA, and the best part is that there is zero risk to get rolling as they have their free Test Drive available to all newcomers. Report back about your experiences Paul!

      • Well you can build websites using WordPress within Wealthy Affiliate. That is idea, most websites online are based on WordPress, which is a framework that will allow you to build and manage your website.

        In terms of what you can build your website on (the topic), that is up to you and something that you are in control of. You can create a website in absolutely any niche, it is typically recommended that you choose a direction for your business that you are passionate/interested in.

        Hope this helps you out here Bobby!

  6. As an author, I would like to create an affiliate program for my book. Does Wealthy Affiliate have within its knowledge and experience base the resources to help me do that?

    • Yes, Wealthy Affiliate can certainly help you with that. The first thing you need to understand about running an affiliate program and managing affiliates, it that you should first learn how to get exposure and SELL your book, before you can teach or work with others to do the same. This is the first thing that WA will help you with, to get that off the ground.

      After you can do that, then you can either publish your book on an existing exchange (like Amazon) where affiliates of Amazon can promote it, or you can sell your service within any affiliate network, perhaps looking into some of the more common “digital product” networks like Clickbank. This would be my recommendation, but Wealthy Affiliate will help you with all of this indeed Kenneth.

    • You can definitely build your business from a tablet. If you are going to use a tablet though, I recommend considering a bluetooth keyboard. This will lead to a lot more proficiency when it comes to typing.

      • If you want a domain of your own (like your own .com) they typically run around $15 per year or less. You own them just like real estate, but the virtual kind. You can purchase these directly through the SiteDomains platform at Wealthy Affiliate which is completely seamless and you can have a website up and running on your domain in less than 5 minutes, or you can purchase your domain through another registrar like GoDaddy or NameCheap.

        And joining affiliates is completely free. As an affiliate marketer you are going to be able to choose from 10,000’s of affiliate programs and promote over 550 MILLION different products or services. These programs are completely free to join.

        We hope this helps you out here.

  7. I did not see the 1, 2, 3 steps defined to do this business?

    I still have no idea why people would want any Amazon product from me and not directly from Amazon?

    I did not see any samples of costs, only saw income numbers.

    If I’m in this business what are my daily tasks?

    Sorry for so many questions.

    • The would do the research through your website. People look for information, reviews, and help with pretty much everything you can imagine online and it is more common to visit and independent website/blog before you make a purchase, than not. Affiliates earn revenue for every person they refer to a website like Amazon, including the entire cart.

      This could be anything. Socks to a Stove. You get 6% commission with Amazon, which is on the lower end as many digital products/services will pay you up to 50-75% commissions.

  8. Can I still get the recommended comments on my website, as instructed in the Certification Courses, if I use non Wealthy Affiliate hosting and not use SiteRubix?

    • SiteComments is limited to those on the state of the art hosting platform at WA. So if you want to use this platform, you will want to host your websites at WA. You can use the SiteFeedback platform though for sites not hosted at WA.

      Hope this helps you out here.

  9. Is there a monthly or yearly cost to join wealthy affiliate?

    I like to know and learn more about this and start and grow my own business. I have researched many of these online business and none seem to connect with me. I have found that many tend to speak very little of the product and cost and further cost after signing up, this then puts me off joining.

    • The Starter membership at Wealthy Affiliate is completely free, no credit card required, no obligation, just a lot of value. There is a Premium membership that is $49 per month, or $359 per year (you choose) and this includes absolutely everything within WA. It is your key to the community and the most advanced platform in the industry.

      Our recommendation would be to get a start as a Starter member, then decide whether or not it is for you. That is what is so great about platforms like, you truly get to try before you buy.

  10. Greetings. Getting close to retirement I have been searching other opportunities for income, and have been researching Affiliate Marketing for a while now. My question is, How possible is it to break into Affiliate Marketing while still having my current day job.

  11. The has been an excellent review. I am happy to see some honesty in this space of online business opportunities. I myself am a member of Wealthy Affiliate, and quite frankly, I have have searched the net for an honest learning platform and Wealth Affiliate has met my expectation. Thank you guys for all you are doing to keep us in the know. Cheers

  12. How much do affiliate programs pay in the weight loss niche? I have been running a weight loss website for several years now and I’ve been earning all my income through AdSense. Do you recommend that I would switch over to more affiliate marketing stuff. I currently earn around $200 dollars per month and get around 15,000 clicks per month. Thanks.

    • With 500 unique visitors per day, you should be earning much more than $200 per month. That is less than $7 per day. The formula I typically use as minimum numbers I try to achieve is $0.20 per click, per month. This is realistic with affiliate marketing and with 15,000 uniques per month, at minimum you should be earning $3,000 per month with affiliate marketing and proper insertion of affiliate products/services into your content.

      So yes, I recommend you educate yourself on the proper techniques and strategies of affiliate marketing and to do this I recommend that you consider joining Wealthy Affiliate (as it is the most cost efficient, yet elite training/platform in the space for affiliate marketers).

    • If you are TRULY getting 15K clicks monthly (by “truly” I am NOT doubting you….I am merely alluding to the reliability of the analytics) which is translating to $200/month, you should absolutely look into joining the Wealthy Affiliate community. Just the training alone makes it worth it.

      In terms of the weight loss niche you mentioned, it’s over saturated & HIGHLY competitive so your Ad costs are much higher than if you chose a more specific niche within the weight loss space.

      For example, your niche might be women who are getting married, fighters (UFC, Boxing, etc.), or new/junior/extras type actors & actresses who need to lose weight quickly.

  13. Is affiliate marketing the same as MLM? What’s the difference? I keep getting people saying they’re in affiliate marketing and they’re asking me to join underneath them. This particular product that I’m referring to has 6 levels and apparently has unlimited income potential.

    • Affiliate marketing and MLM are definitely different business models. Unlike multilevel marketing (MLM), Affiliate marketing doesn’t rely on the recruitment of others into a particular program and it does not have sub levels. All ethical affiliate programs are actually one level deep.

      An example of an affiliate program and the biggest one in the world is Amazon. By joining their affiliate program which is completely free, You can promote their hundreds of millions of products on their network. In exchange for promoting their products or services, you get a kickback or an affiliate commission.

      Affiliate programs are free to join. Multilevel marketing schemes are not. That is a another telltale sign that something is not an affiliate program if you have to pay to join it.

      In your particular case this program that is trying to recruit you, And we imagine someone within the program is trying to recruit you into the scheme, is definitely MLM. If there six levels and they’re trying to indicate to you that they are an affiliate program or affiliate marketing, that is a good sign that you should avoid such a program. They either don’t know what they are or they are trying to fool you into doing something that is not the truth.

      • So, what do you get for referring me? What do I get if I refer my friends and family and they all join. Who gets the $49/month? I’m sure you must get a piece, and whoever recruited you gets a piece, and so on up the line. Isn’t that the definition of MLM?

        • There is an affiliate program at Wealthy Affiliate. It is something that anyone can promote, like the 10,000’s of other affiliate programs online it is completely free to join. If you want to join Wealthy Affiliate for the sake of promoting it, you can. The training within WA does push you to choose a niche that you are passionate about or interested in. Whether this is knitting, cooking, electronics, something sports related, etc…that is completely up to you.

          Then you are equipped with all the tools, training and support that you need to create your business, grow your business, and maintain your business in this particular niche. Through time, like most seasoned affiliate marketers that are at WA, you will likely have many different businesses across a breadth of different niches.

          And MLM is multi-level marketing. It has no relationship to affiliate marketing, although there are companies out there that are trying to fool you into thinking their MLM scheme is actually affiliate marketing…when it is not. Affiliate programs and affiliate marketing doesn’t have multiple levels, and the affiliate programs are free to join. They also allow you to promote legitimate products, there are over 550 million products & services that you can promote as an affiliate marketer.

          I hope this has offered some clarity for you here Sue.

        • Since people are getting compensation. I still don’t quite get the difference between MLM and affiliate marketing. Is the difference only the cost of joining?

          • MLM has multiple levels. Affiliate marketing does not. It requires you to recruit people into a particular program (your downline) and to make money, you have to build your downline. Affiliate marketing is nothing like this. You join affiliate programs, which allow you to promote products/services. Let’s say for example you want to promote a vacuum cleaner from Amazon. You can get your affiliate link, share this on your website, and if someone buys a result of this, you get a commission share. That can range from 1% – 75% depending on the product.

            So you are not confined to recruiting people into an MLM scheme, or limited to promoting the products available within the MLM scheme. You have full flexibility and you are actually building a real and tangible business with affiliate marketing.

    • You actually don’t need sales experience to build a business online. That may sound counterintuitive, but those that are actually succeeding online and doing so at the greatest rate are those that are actually helping people not selling to people.

      This is the methodology taught at Wealthy Affiliate and I do recommend if you are looking to build a business online, that you do get the proper training. The days of the hard-sell are long gone. People have way too much control now with the Internet landscape and the choice that they have.

  14. I really like what i have read here, and honestly I don’t even know how I came across this site!
    I like the candor, the factual explanations with out all the hype of”get it now while you can” and pressure to make the purchase. Very refreshing!

    With all the Millions of affiliates out there, how would I get the specific Links and have it be able to track so that the companies will know to pay me?

    • Unfortunately that is what most people see and hear within the affiliate marketing industry these days. Most companies that claim they are teaching affiliate marketing are not, often times they are schemes and worse yet, completely scams. So just be careful and of course if you have any questions about the affiliate marketing space, you can feel free to ask them here.

      We are also happy to help you out with your question. Affiliate programs, when you join them, will provide you with a unique link or many links to promote their products or services. These are the links that will track all traffic and conversion that you deliver to the respective companies. There are 10,000’s of affiliate programs out there and 100’s of millions of products you can promote as an affiliate.

      Each affiliate program will pay differently but most offer check payment and many will also offer bank wires (on higher amounts), paypal payment and other forms of payment (payoneer, etc).

  15. I keep hearing marketers that I follow say that affiliate marketing is dead and that I need to be doing things like shopify and amazon FBA and dropping shipping. Just want to know what your opinion is on this as you sound as though you are experienced in the affiliate business. Is it actually a dead opportunity? Thanks.

    • They are trying to sell you something. Plain and simple. Any logical and ethical marketer would tell you that affiliate marketing is continuing to grow, anyone that is unethical and are trying to sell you their Amazon FBA program or Shopify program, will tell you otherwise.

      Each are viable business models, but the problem with Amazon FBA and Shopify dropping shipping is that you never really have a solid brand or website presence outside of the paid traffic that you drive to your business (usually through Facebook ads). The fundamental core of any successful business starts with a website, sure, there are many ways you can make money and lots of things that you can promote…and ways in which you promote it.

      Just don’t get sidetracked by folks saying affiliate marketing is dead. That is a bold faced lie. There has never been more opportunity in the affiliate marketing space.

  16. Great breakdown I was wondering how affiliate marketing really worked. I keep hearing about programs that claim that you need to a lot of money to promote affiliate stuff on Facebook through funnels. It never really made sense to me how it worked until I read this.

    I do have a question now though and I hope you can help me out? What sort of programs are the best ones to promote as an affiliate and how do you know that these affiliate companies will actually pay you. Seems like the honor system.

    • Definitely not the honor system when it comes to affiliate payments. You get paid based on the tracking of each individual affiliate program which is 100% automated and accurate. We have been involved and earned money from many affiliate programs over the years and we have never dealt with a case where a merchant wasn’t “paying up”. This is something that you shouldn’t concern yourself with Julia.

      In terms of what affiliate programs pay the best, the ones that are the most relevant to your audience. If you have an article about the best organic dog treats on your website and then promote some organic dog treats within your content, you will convert well. If you promote cat leashes, you won’t. That is what I mean by relevance and if you have access to proper training like Wealthy Affiliate, you are going to learn how to properly integrate affiliate promotions into you website.

    • Great question Julia…the best affiliate programs to promote are the ones involved in an industry you know AND are passionate about; It’s NOT, or shouldn’t be about which pays more (typically, although not always the case, the higher the payout, the harder it is to sell). With that being said, ? payment is NOT via the “honor system” and if you come across something that is, run ? don’t walk away!!

      Clickbank is a good place to find products/services to promote & is easy to tell how much you will get paid . WA has it’s payout calculator (I am seeing it more & more with other affiliate programs as well) which not only gives you an exact payout per sale, it also gives you a way to set an income goal and work backwards to determine how many sales per day, week, month or year are needed to meet that goal. Hope that helps.

  17. I have been affiliate marketing for about 6 months and I have purchased a few programs in this space, including some training recently from Udemy. This explanation of how affiliate marketing works has given me the big picture of what I am doing.

    I do have a question. What affiliate training would you recommend if I truly wanted to be a successful affiliate. I do have money to spend, I just don’t want to waste it on more useless stuff.

    • I highly recommend Wealthy Affiliate. You can learn more about it here Orion.

      ==> My Wealthy Affiliate Review.

      The problem is that there is so much information and unfortunately “misinformation” out there these days about affiliate marketing. Additionally, it is tough to teach affiliate marketer without having the support tools, websites, hosting, and mentors in place.

      This is something that you will get with Wealthy Affiliate. They not only offer you industry leading training on the subject, you will get access to all of the tools and resources you need to build your business. For example, you are doomed these days if you try to step into the affiliate marketing world without a website and high quality hosting.

      If you don’t have expert help when you need it, chances are you will be endlessly spinning your “affiliate wheels”.

      If you don’t have access to keyword research tools and training on how to properly structure your content based on keywords, then you are going to have a tough time breaking into search engines like Google, Bing & Yahoo.

      These are all things that WA can provide you and I encourage you to try them out for completely free (they have a Starter membership that doesn’t cost you a dime). It is a true try and build, before you even have to consider buying.

  18. Aren’t your affiliate sales rather dependent on website traffic though? It seems that, starting from scratch, it would be near impossible to gain enough traffic to make a decent profit without large expenses from ad payments, which still offers no guarantee..

    • All success in any business is based on traffic. Whether it is foot/phone traffic for an offline business or it is web traffic for an online business. That is something that you can learn and there are BILLIONS of clicks every day up for grabs online Clay.

      Within Wealthy Affiliate, you can learn how to properly build a really significant base of traffic to your website within any niche. No, you don’t need to pay for traffic unless you have a budget to do so. You can accomplish free traffic through rankings in Google and other search engines through your search engine optimization efforts.

      Understanding that, should be the first focus of any business. There are unlimited pools of traffic available out there and it isn’t all that difficult to tap into these when you understand what you are doing.

  19. I think I am understanding this. I come from network marketing so it does seem a bit different. Let’s say I want to be a distributor of a product like iPhones, could I do that? Do I get to basically choose any product I want and then just get to sell it online.

    If this is the case this stuff is really going to excite me. The one thing that has always frustrated me with my network marketing businesses it the fact that I have to a limited selection of products I can sell to others.

    • Affiliate Marketing has a wide range of products and services you can promote. Apple does have an affiliate program, but you can also promote iPhones and all Apple products through other affiliate programs like Amazon,, and even They all have affiliate programs that you can join and when you do it gives you instant access to sometimes millions of products.

      You can also get a lot of reach for your network marketing businesses online as well, in combination with affiliate products. Like your example says, say you have a business in the iPhone space you could promote anything relating to iPhones on your site. Cases. Cell phone plans. And there are likely even some network marketing products/services that would fit nice into this.


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