A Quick Overview of Online Affiliate Programs

One of the most popular and simplest way to make money online is with an affiliate program. Affiliate programs are basically just like any other promotional arrangement; you use your website/blog/social media/influence to suggest that your followers buy particular products, and, if they do, you get a commission. A lot of people like making money as an online affiliate because, when it’s done properly, you can pursue your own interests in your own way, making money by sharing the things you care about with people who also care about it.

How Do Online Affiliate Programs Work?

While every program has its own specific details, here is how they work in general:

  1. You start a blog, or have a popular social media account, in which you discuss, review, or recommend specific products.
  2. You sign up for an affiliate marketing program.
  3. The program reviews your site or accounts and accepts you. Many of these programs will not accept you before you have a certain amount of traffic or followers, or will only accept blogs that deal with specific subject matter. Most will not accept you if your site has adult content or is offensive.
  4. Once you are accepted, you visit the affiliate program and retrieve customized links that are unique to you. You use those links when you write on your blog, and if people click your link and purchase that product, you get a percentage of the sale.

While it sounds extremely simple on the face of it, starting a blog and building a steady following, crafting a message and position with people who will follow your recommendations, and getting a lot of traffic is not easy. People spend years of their lives trying to accomplish those things, so don’t underestimate affiliate marketing as an “easy way” to make money online. It’s easy to make some money, but reliably paying our bills with affiliate marketing is a big challenge.

There are a few different types of affiliate programs, and here’s a quick overview:

Affiliate Programs through Online Retailers

The most common/widely used affiliate program is Amazon Associates. However, there are also affiliate programs for eBay, etsy, and similar sites. Amazon is the most widely used and simplest affiliate program, for several reasons:

  • Amazon has a huge diversity of products. If your blog is about pet food and pet care, you can be an Amazon affiliate. If your blog is about tech gadgets, or fashion, or home decor, or travel, or… anything you can think of that you want to write about every day, there’s an Amazon product in that category.
  • Amazon has excellent brand recognition. If you send your site visitors to an Amazon link, they won’t be suspicious that you are recommending some shady website. In fact, so many people are Amazon Associates already, that it’s not weird at all for you to have affiliate links on your website. Your visitors are not likely to think that you are scamming or deceiving them.
  • It’s easy to be an Amazon Affiliate. While Amazon does have some standards and expectations for Affiliates, they do not have a very high bar for entry, and you can join the program even if your website or blog is very young.
  • Great infrastructure and support. Because there are so many Amazon Affiliates, there is a robust assortment of training tools, apps, WordPress plugins, and support networks for affiliates. There are a lot of peer-to-peer ways that Associates share and support each other.

Affiliate Programs with Affiliate Networks

There are a number of long-standing, widely used affiliate network programs, like Rakuten, CJ Affiliate, Tradedoubler, and more. These networks have more stringent requirements for acceptance, and usually require (or strongly encourage) affiliates to make certain commission thresholds. They work with big brands like Microsoft, Barnes&Noble, Sephora, and so forth. While a person can have a casual blog and make some extra money off of being an Amazon or etsy affiliate, these affiliate networks have higher expectations, and higher earning potential. They are a great choice for someone who wants to make real money as an affiliate, and also are a good option for different global regions and markets.

Affiliate Programs with Shady Online Marketers

In the same way that the internet is full of get-rich-quick schemes, it’s also full of people selling get-rich-quick schemes. Sites like Clickbank and JVZoo have almost no standards for the products they sell, or for the affiliates who sell them. These sites focus on making a lot of money quickly, and mostly feature products that involve how to sell products.

Affiliate Programs that are Scams

At the bottom of the list, a lot of online scams claim to be affiliate marketing programs and are actually just MLM scams. You never have to pay your own money to join a real affiliate program, and you never have to pay someone for “digital marketing training” that consists of lessons on how to sell their product.

Side note: Influencer Networks

There are also a number of affiliate programs specifically for people with a large social media following, usually on Instagram, but sometimes on Twitter or Snapchat. As you doubtless have seen, a person with a large following shares a sponsored post, and gets paid for the post. There are a number of different marketing networks that seek influencers, and also sites where influencers can sign themselves up to be considered for paid brand posts. A few people earn quite a lot of money in this way, but it’s not for beginners; you need a very large following, and you need a personal image that appeals to the brand image you will be selling.

Affiliate marketing is a great way to make some money off of your blog or online activities. It can be a part-time, supplemental income or, with a lot of training and experience, can become a full-time job.



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