Building Passive Income with Affiliate Marketing: A Beginner’s Guide

Building Passive Income with Affiliate Marketing: A Beginner’s Guide


arnold on Sep 13, 2023

How I Got Into Affiliate Marketing:

I began my journey in affiliate marketing 15 years ago when I encountered a new workout supplement system priced at $250 for a one-month supply. As I used the product, I realized its complexity and the scarcity of useful online information for newcomers.

Seeing a need, I decided to create a straightforward website that addressed the most common questions I had when starting with this supplement. The website, consisting of about 7 pages, aimed to offer helpful and easily understandable details.

After setting up the site, I applied for an affiliate program with the supplement company and obtained unique referral links. I inserted these affiliate links throughout my site and then completely forgot about it.

Around 6 weeks later, I was stunned to receive my first sale notification that someone had purchased the workout supplement after clicking from my site! At first it was just a trickle, but the affiliate sales steadily grew over time. Soon I was receiving commission checks of $400 to $700 every few weeks just from this single mini site.

commissions paid WPX

I never touched the site again, yet 10 years later I was still collecting residual affiliate income from it. While the amounts are much smaller today, it’s amazing to think this simple 7-page site earned me passive checks for over a decade!

This experience taught me two invaluable lessons about affiliate marketing. First, passive income really is possible when you provide value to others through content. And second, writing informational content in a conversational Q&A format can be very effective for ranking in Google.

Ever since, I’ve incorporated these insights into my affiliate marketing strategy. I strive to create content that genuinely answers questions and provides value rather than just pushing products. This organic style continues benefiting me years later!

An Overview of What We’ll Cover in This Affiliate Marketing Guide

Affiliate marketing is one of the best ways for bloggers, content creators, and entrepreneurs to generate income online. In this guide, I’ll give you a complete overview of affiliate marketing – what it is, how it works, and how you can get started with it.

Whether you have a blog, YouTube channel, podcast, social media channel or any other platform, affiliate marketing provides an excellent opportunity to monetize your content. The best part is that you don’t need to create any products to get started. By promoting other companies’ products and services, you can earn commissions simply for referring sales.

I’ll break down the basics of how affiliate marketing works and the different affiliate network options. I’ll share examples of affiliate programs I’ve personally had success with in the past. You’ll learn the step-by-step process of getting set up with affiliate links and creating content to promote products.

By the end of this article, you’ll have a solid foundation to start implementing affiliate marketing to earn money from your online content and presence. Let’s dive in and explore the world of affiliate marketing!

What Is An Affiliate Link?

An affiliate link is a special type of link that allows you to earn commissions when someone clicks on it and buys a product or service. These links are unique to you and track that the sale originated from your website, blog, or social media account.

affiliate link

Here’s a quick overview of how affiliate links work:

When you join an affiliate program, you receive a unique affiliate ID. The affiliate link usually includes your ID plus information about the product being linked to. For example, a link might look like “”.

When someone clicks your affiliate link and completes the predefined action (like making a purchase), the affiliate network tracks that your link brought the sale. You then earn an affiliate commission on that sale for referring the customer.

The process is automatic once you have your links set up, so it’s a very hands-off way to monetize your content by essentially “outsourcing” your sales efforts to others. Affiliate links take care of attributing any resulting sales to you so you get paid for your referral traffic.

What Affiliate Links Or Programs Pay The Most?

When it comes to earnings, not all affiliate programs pay the same. Generally, digital information products like online courses, ebooks, and software tend to offer the highest commissions. This is because there are no production costs so affiliate payouts are pure profit.

Commissions for promoting high-ticket online courses can be upwards of 50-70% per sale. For example, affiliates for Neil Patel’s $2,000+ course can earn $1,000 per referral. Similarly, affiliates for Blogging University can earn $458 per sale on the $699 course.

Bank Affiliate links

Other lucrative affiliate opportunities are in the finance and insurance niches. Products like mortgages, investing platforms, life insurance and credit cards pay hundreds or thousands per referral due to their high lifetime value.

Niches where customers make recurring transactions month after month present big affiliate earning potential. SaaS products, subscription boxes, web hosting plans, and more tend to be the most profitable reoccurring affiliate programs.

How To Get An Affiliate Link

Getting your own affiliate links is a simple process. The first step is to find and apply for an affiliate program that offers products or services relevant to your website and audience. Most established brands have affiliate programs, and there are affiliate networks like Commission Junction and ShareASale that provide access to thousands of affiliate programs.

Once your affiliate application is approved, you will gain access to your unique affiliate links and tracking ID. Most affiliate platforms provide you with a variety of links, banners, buttons, and text links to choose from. You can often customize them with your affiliate ID embedded in the URL string.

For example, Amazon provides affiliate links that look like ““. Tracking is automated, so any resulting sales from your customized affiliate links will automatically be attributed to you.

The affiliate platform sends you reports on your link activity, like clicks, impressions, and sales conversions. You can access your personalized affiliate links anytime to put them on your website, promote them on social media, or share them in videos. Getting set up with affiliate links takes just minutes so you can start monetizing your platform right away.

What Are Some Popular Affiliate Sites:

When getting started with affiliate marketing, one of the first steps is finding relevant and worthwhile affiliate programs to join. While there are many options out there, some of the most well-known and highest-paying affiliate sites include:

  • Amazon Associates – Amazon’s program lets you earn commissions by linking to any products on Amazon. It’s free to join and one of the most well-known affiliate programs.
  • ShareASale – This affiliate network connects you with thousands of merchant affiliate programs across many verticals. Great way to diversify your affiliate offers.
  • Rakuten – Formerly called Ebates, Rakuten offers generous commission rates for referring users to their cashback shopping portal.
  • CJ Affiliate – A leading global affiliate platform that provides access to affiliate programs in many niches. Known for their reputation and high payouts.
  • Walmart – Walmart’s affiliate program pays commissions for driving sales of Walmart products, with tracking cookies lasting 15 days.
  • Etsy – Etsy’s affiliate program lets you earn fees from referring traffic to Etsy sellers’ stores and products.
  • Clickbank – A major affiliate network with digital informational products and ebooks across niches like health, business, and lifestyle.
  • StudioPress – An affiliate program specific to WordPress that pays you for referring its WordPress themes and plugins.
  • eBay Partner Network – eBay’s program lets you earn from promoting products listed on eBay across a wide range of categories

Do You Have To Join An Affiliate Network To Get Affiliate Links?

In addition to the large affiliate networks, many brands and companies have created their own exclusive affiliate programs. This allows them to have more control over their partnerships and affiliate relationships.

For example, SaaS companies like ConvertKit and WPX Hosting operate their own affiliate programs to reward bloggers and influencers for promoting their products. Rather than going through a third-party network, you apply directly to the company to become an affiliate partner.

The brand provides you with a unique affiliate link or promo code to share across your website and social platforms. When your referral signs up for that brand’s product through your link, you earn a commission straight from the company.

Direct affiliate programs like this pay much higher commissions since they don’t have to share revenue with a network. Commissions typically range from 20-30% per sale, but can sometimes be upwards of 50-75% for higher priced products.

The downside is that you can only promote one specific brand instead of thousands on a network. However, for popular services related to your niche, applying for direct affiliate status can be very lucrative.

How Do You Get People To Click Your Affiliate Links And Actually Buy A Product?

Driving clicks and conversions from your affiliate links requires strategic promotion through high-quality content. Simply plastering links everywhere won’t lead to sales. Here are some tips to boost affiliate performance:

Focus on creating detailed, helpful content that adds value for your audience. Don’t force affiliate links – weave them naturally into content related to the product. Write reviews and recommendations based on actual use and experience with the product. The less salesy your approach is, the better.

Get specific with targeted keywords. Optimize your content for search queries that indicate buyer intent like “X product review” or “buy X.” This attracts visitors actively looking for the product you’re promoting.

Promote affiliate links near high-value content. Place links in blog sidebars, at the end of posts, in YouTube descriptions, and around resources people find useful. They associate your helpful content with the affiliate offer.

Create comparison articles and guides to products in a niche. Affiliate links within these perform well because you’re showcasing the product in context of alternatives.

Test different link placements and call-to-actions. Try “Start Your Free Trial” vs. “Learn More” and see which converts better. Experiment across channels to see what resonates.

The key is providing genuine value, recommendations, and helpful context around affiliate links. That earns trust and gets audiences more likely to click and purchase.

Strategies for Seamlessly Incorporating Affiliate Links into Valuable Content

The three most popular and effective platforms for creating high-value content with affiliate links are Blog Post, Social Media and YouTube.

How To Use A Blog Or Website To Create Content:

Blogs and websites offer a fantastic platform for affiliate marketing content. The long-form nature of blogs lends itself perfectly to in-depth product reviews, comparisons, and step-by-step tutorials that integrate affiliate links seamlessly.

Many successful affiliate marketers use review-style websites dedicated specifically to one product or niche. For example, a site may review the top 10 meal delivery services. The focus allows them to really demonstrate and recommend the top 2-3 through detailed reviews and usage tips, benefiting from affiliate commissions.

Narrow review sites work so well because they target audience members actively searching for that specific product, who have high intent to purchase. When the content provides a lot of value upfront, visitors are very likely to click the strategically-placed affiliate links.

Blogs can function this way as well simply through categories. For example, organizing all your fitness gear reviews onto a specific “Fitness Gear” category page with affiliate links provides a resource hub for readers interested in those products.

A key goal of dedicated affiliate review sites is to rank highly in search engines for relevant product keywords. By targeting strategic long-tail key phrases like “Cuisinart food processor reviews” and “best treadmills under $1000”, review sites can attract high-intent visitors from Google searches.

Optimizing pages and content for those exact types of search queries brings in visitors ready to purchase the products featured on the site. This is often the long-term strategy of single-product review sites – build up domain authority and rankings slowly over time by providing in-depth value. The search traffic and conversions will follow.

So in addition to offering genuine value to readers, dedicated affiliate review sites focus heavily on organic search engine optimization. Combined with quality content marketing, SEO helps them sustain steady streams of targeted traffic from Google who convert through affiliate links.

No matter what structure you choose, focusing your content around reviewing, demonstrating, and recommending outstanding products in your niche is a proven affiliate marketing tactic. Dedicated review sites continue to thrive, and niche blogs can incorporate elements of this approach too.

How To Use Social Media For Affiliate Marketing

Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok,   Pinterest, and Twitter enable you to showcase and recommend products more casually through affiliate links in captions, posts, Stories, and Pins. The short-form content on these platforms works incredibly well for affiliate marketing.

One of the most explosive social media formats currently is Instagram & TikTok Reels. Reels allow you to create fun, eye-catching 15-60 second video clips that can go viral quickly. The vertical video format is ideal for demonstrating and recommending products.

Growing your following and views on Reels is an amazing way to drive traffic to affiliate links. Once you have an engaged audience, you can easily incorporate affiliate links in your Reels by having products naturally appear in your videos or adding links in captions and comments.

The large and targeted reach possible through viral Reels makes them one of the hottest new traffic sources to monetize through affiliate marketing right now. As views translate to clicks and sales, Instagram Reels provide a fun and engaging way to earn from your following.

How To Use YouTube For Affiliate Marketing

Video content is hugely powerful for affiliate marketing. YouTube has become one of the most influential platforms for affiliate marketing thanks to its huge user base and video-first format. Product reviews, tutorials, and demo videos allow you to showcase items in an engaging way.

Dedicated product review channels are very popular on YouTube. The host will buy, test and review items from certain niches like tech gadgets, home appliances, fitness equipment, and more. They’ll share unboxing videos, product tours, and recommendations with affiliate links in the description.

Step-by-step tutorial and guide videos are also an effective YouTube affiliate strategy. Walk viewers through using a product, taking advantage of software features, or creating something related to the item. Affiliate links let viewers purchase what they just watched you demonstrate.

YouTube also gives you the ability to overlay clickable cards and end screens in your videos to link directly to featured products and affiliate links. This helps viewers quickly check out the items you referenced during the video.

No matter your niche, YouTube allows creators to earn affiliate income from unboxings, reviews, how-tos, and recommendations simply by providing value around products you genuinely enjoy and linking to them.

What Are Some Shortcuts To Help Create Content For Affiliate Marketing.

One shortcut for creating affiliate content is leveraging AI tools like chatbots. AI can help generate drafts for entire posts, product descriptions, tutorials, and more to jumpstart your creation process. I simply described my article topics and goals, and the chatbot wrote full drafts optimized for affiliate links.

In fact, this entire blog post was written by an AI chatbot based on the prompts and direction I provided!  I wrote this entire article in less than one hour. AI isn’t going to perfectly create finalized content, but it can give you a huge head start on drafts. From there, you can edit and add your own spin. For busy affiliate marketers, AI provides a major time-saving way to produce initial versions of product reviews, comparisons, and other content with embedded affiliate links.

I will list all my prompts in order that I used to write this article at the end.

Some of the most popular affiliate marketing plugins for WordPress:

The last thing I will mention are a few WordPress plugins that will help you with affiliate marketing.  These plugins will help you to organize your links, speed up your processes and other varying things.

  • AffiliateWP – An all-in-one affiliate management plugin that handles links, payouts, reporting, and more.
  • Pretty Links – Cleans up ugly affiliate links by creating branded, custom URLs for your site.
  • ThirstyAffiliates – Easily insert affiliate links within your WordPress content for smooth monetization.
  • Affiliate Royale – Gamifies your affiliate program by offering time-saving tools and rewards.
  • Post Affiliate Pro – Enables you to add affiliate links to your blog posts while keeping backend management organized.
  • AffiliateE – Simplifies affiliate link creation and cloaks links for a better user experience.
  • Rakuten LinkShare – Provides direct access to Rakuten’s affiliate network right within your WordPress dashboard.
  • Affiliates Manager – Allows you to manage affiliates you refer as well as your own affiliate links in one place.
  • ClickMeter – Tracks and analyzes the performance of your affiliate links with their WordPress plugin.
  • AffiliateWP – Leading all-in-one WordPress affiliate plugin with thousands of active installs.

The best affiliate marketing plugin depends on your needs, but tools like AffiliateWP and ThirstyAffiliates provide a great foundation for managing links.

In Conclusion:

Affiliate marketing provides an immense opportunity to monetize your content and establish passive income streams online. As you learned in this post, you can leverage affiliate links across blogs, social platforms, videos, and websites to earn commissions from relevant products.

The key is focusing on providing genuine value and recommendations to your audience rather than a hard sales pitch. Helpful content earns trust so that affiliate links feel like a natural next step.

It takes some trial and error to find affiliate programs that align with your niche and content style. But once you identify effective programs, you can begin working affiliate links into product reviews, comparisons, tutorials, and recommendations.

Dedicated affiliate sites continue to thrive by concentrating on one specific product or niche. But you can take a similar focused approach on your own broader site as well.

Affiliate marketing does require consistency and an eye for high-converting opportunities. Yet the lifetime value of referred customers shows it is well worth the effort.

Hopefully this article gave you a solid introduction to get started down the affiliate marketing path. Be sure to leverage the various platforms and multimedia formats available to maximize your referral traffic and commissions over the long-term.

Appendix A: AI Prompts Used To Write This Article

  • I am writing a blog post about affiliate marketing. The purpose of the article is teach students the basics of affiliate marketing. I will discuss how it works. Give examples of affiliate marketing I have done in the past. Talk about the most common affiliate marketing sites. Talk about how to create content, both written and video. Please write an introduction for this article.
  • I want to write a section about how I got in to affiliate marketing. About 15 years ago I got really into a workout supplement system that cost $250. It was a one month program and was complicated. There wasn’t a lot of information about the product online so I made a website that answered all the main questions about this supplement. It was only about a 7 page website. I got affiliate links from the company that they gave me when I bought the company originally and I put it in the website and forgot about it. About 6 weeks later I got my first sale from the website. Then I slowly started getting more and more sales until I was getting a sale every couple of days. I eventually started getting commission affiliate checks for $400 to $700 every 2 to 3 weeks. I never touched the site again and I got checks for more than 10 years. I still get residual checks to this day but the amounts are really small. What I learned from this experience was that making passive income is awesome! Also I learned that google likes it when content is written in passive form. People ask questions in google and my site answered those questions. I now always try to write content that answers questions…. Based on what I just told you, write a blog post that tells this story in greater detail and write it so it sounds more editorial.
  • I want to write a title for section of the article about: What This Article Will Cover About Affiliate Marketing?. Can you rewrite into something better.
  • Write a couple paragraphs about what an affiliate link is and how an affiliate link works.
  • Write a couple paragraphs about how you get an affiliate link
  • What are some of the most popular affiliate sites
  • write an introduction paragraph for that list
  • write a couple paragraphs that talk about how some companies have their own affiliate programs and talk about how those work.
  • write a paragraph that talks about what affiliate links or programs or products pay the most.
  • What Are Some Popular Affiliate Marketing Plugins for WordPress
  • Write a section of the article about: How Do You Get People To Click Your Affiliate Links And Actually Buy A Product?
  • rewrite this title: What Are The Main Way To Create High Value Content Where You Can Include Affiliate Links?
  • write a paragraph about: What Are The Main Way To Create High Value Content Where You Can Include Affiliate Links?
  • Answer my last question by explaining that blog posts, social media and YouTube are three of the most popular ways to create content to include affiliate links.
    expand on the social media to talk about how popular reels are for growing a channel.
  • Write an expanded section to talk about how blog posts and websites are used to create content. Include how there are many “Review” sites that concentrate on one product. Talk about how those work.
  • Add to that section one part that talks about how these sites are trying to rank high in organic search results.
  • Write an expanded section for youtube that talks about how to use videos to teach about products and putting affiliate links in the description.
  • Write a paragraph about: What Are Some Shortcuts To Help Create Content For Affiliate Marketing. Include how you can use AI to help create blog post. Mention that my entire article was written using AI.
  • Write a conclusion for this article based on all the prompts above and the content you wrote.
  • Create a list of all the prompts I used. Put them in order with bullet points.

Appendix B: The Outline I Used To Start This Article.




The Ultimate