What is Affiliate Marketing? And How Can It Help Me Make Money Online?

what is affiliate marketing

Let’s introduce you to the world of affiliate marketing.

If you’ve landed on this page, chances are you’ve heard about affiliate marketing but you’re not quite sure how it works. With this article, I’ll give you a good idea of what is affiliate marketing about, the myths surrounding it, and how you can get involved in the lucrative world of affiliate marketing yourself.

Most of you, and perhaps some of the 90s kids can recall the rise of pop stars like Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. But most people will tell you that the 90s was also an important era where the World Wide Web (aka The Internet) becomes a reality.

With this new technology, many companies realized that they now have access to not only the local customers, but customers from all around the world. And what better way to expand your business than to have other people promote your business for you?

At the same time, many website owners were creating contents that were extremely helpful and valuable to the internet users. Soon, companies partnered up with these website owners to market their products and services, and promised to give a commission when the website owners generate sales for them.

Thus, affiliate marketing was born.

So, How Does Affiliate Marketing Work?



In short, affiliate marketing at its core is all about partnerships and relationships. There are 4 main components when it comes to affiliate marketing:


In affiliate marketing, an advertiser can be a company selling their products, such as electronics, clothing, weight loss pills, car parts, basketball shoes, you name it.

Or, an advertiser can also be some insurance companies trying to market their insurance policies and bring in new customers/policy holders.

In short, an advertiser is someone who is ready to pay other people to help them promote their business. It can either be huge multinational companies such as Nike and Coca Cola, or new startups that are trying to get some exposure through the publishers.


A publisher is an individual or a company that promotes an advertiser’s products and services. In exchange for their advertising efforts, publishers get a commission from the advertisers when a new sale or desired action has been performed by a consumer.

Traditionally, the publishers are often website owners that contractually agree to work with an advertiser to promote their products. In turn, the advertisers provide the publishers with creatives – links, banner ads or text ads that the publishers can display on their websites.

When we talk about starting an online business, many aspiring entrepreneurs choose to become a publisher due to the low entry barrier. All they need to do is to have a website and put up valuable contents for their readers (who are also consumers).

They can then choose to work with their trusted advertisers and earn commissions when the readers/consumers purchase an item or sign up for a service that they advertise.

Affiliate Networks

Advertisers often submit their offers to affiliate marketing networks that aggregate a huge amount of offers from different advertisers.

You can think of affiliate networks as the middle-man between Advertisers and Publishers, where Advertisers display their offers and Publishers choose which offers to promote.

Affiliate Networks also tracks affiliate sales generated by Publishers and handle payments from Advertisers to Publishers for valid leads and sales.


The last component that completes the affiliate marketing cycle is the consumers. The consumers are the readers and internet users that see the advertisements.

If they are interested in an offer, they perform a desired action (either by clicking on an affiliate link, submitting their information using sign-up forms, or purchase a product/service).

This action takes them from the publisher’s website to the advertiser’s website to complete the action, which is what we call a conversion.

Once a conversion has been completed, the advertiser awards the publisher with a commission.

Myths Surrounding Affiliate Marketing


There seems to be some myths that won’t go away when it comes to affiliate marketing. Now’s a good time to take a look at a few popular ones and bust the myths.

1. It’s Difficult to Get Involved in Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing is actually something that anyone can do, as long as they are willing to put in some effort and learn on the go.

In fact, most successful affiliate marketers got involved in affiliate marketing without having any prior technical and marketing experience.

Nowadays, the entry barrier is getting even lower with free training modules aiming to build an online business with affiliate marketing from scratch.

2. Affiliate Websites Don’t Need Much Maintenance

It’s a fact that many affiliate marketers make more than $100,000 per year from affiliate marketing, and they seem to work from the beach perpetually.

While this is the impression many people may have about affiliate marketing, starting a business with affiliate marketing is actually not very different from starting any other forms of online and offline businesses.

An affiliate marketer needs to keep learning and improving, and treat his/her website as a real business in order to thrive.

3. You Should Always Choose the Most Profitable Niche

When starting an affiliate marketing business, most people will go for the “hot niche” because they believe that’s what will make them the most money.

While you may have a chance to earn big with a hot niche, what works for other people doesn’t necessarily work for you.

Your best bet when starting an affiliate marketing online business is to choose a niche you are interested in, and one that you can work with for months and years to come.

For more details, read How to start an online business for free.

The Bottom Line


Now you should have a better idea on what affiliate marketing is all about, and also the resources to start your online business if you wish to establish an extra source of income.

While it is not easy to get an online business up and running, most people can definitely make it a successful one while holding a full-time day job. Time and time again, we see employees from all walks of life build a successful affiliate marketing business by being a part-time entrepreneur.

For many people, affiliate marketing was, and will continue to be a way to escape from traditional employment, and eventually escape the rat race altogether.



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  1. Hi, re Clickbank – do you have ideas about improving conversions on a varied webpage? I have a image uploading website and as such it’s near impossible to match offers to the visitor. regards

    • Hi Tamela,
      It’s better to use responsive ads like google ads for websites like yours. It will automatically present a relevant ads based on the search pattern and browser history of the user.

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