Affiliate Marketing Tips for Beginners: In this post, we asked 35+ affiliates what is ‘the one thing’ that will make them to either promote a product or ignore it. You’re certainly going to learn a lot, in terms of the thought processes that go into choosing winning affiliate products to promote.
Before you sign up for that affiliate program, you may want to read this first.
Following our review of the SEMrush affiliate program, we received a couple of questions from our readers asking:
‘what are the must-have things we consider when signing up with any affiliate program?’
For us, while a lot of things go into our decision to promote a particular product, if we are to drill down to the most important, it would be product fit for our audience.
We only promote products we use or know someone first hand that uses the product.
And, of course, the service Must solve our audience’s problems.
However, to get a broader insight we asked 40 other affiliate marketers the one thing they consider before joining any affiliate program.
Their answers are as interesting and varied as one would expect.
Majority of our responders agreed their audience are a deciding factor when it comes to choosing affiliate programs to join.
Here’s a cliff hanger of the responses we received:
- Relevance to Audience
- Reputation of Company
- Reviews from others
- Does it Offer Recurring Commission?
- Conversion Rate
- Cookie Length
- Commission Rate
- Payout Period
- Payout methods
- A Natural Fit or Content
- What Exactly is Affiliate Marketing?
- Who is an Affiliate Marketer?
- Benefits of Affiliate Marketing
- How Affiliate Marketing Works
- 35+ Experts Share ‘The One Thing’ They Consider Before Joining Any Affiliate Program
Before we unpack this, let’s first cover the basics.
What Exactly is Affiliate Marketing?
Affiliate marketing is a business model where someone (an affiliate) promotes another company’s products (vendor) and earns a commission for each completed action.
A completed action could be a sale (most popular), sending traffic to vendor’s sites or any other action both parties (vendor and affiliate) agreed on.
Affiliate marketing in reality is nothing new. It’s the same as earning a commission when a sale is made.
The only difference here is that the model is now replicated online.
Affiliate marketers use a variety of digital tools and strategies to accomplish the same goal – to drive traffic, generate leads or sales for another organization.
Who is an Affiliate Marketer?
An affiliate marketer is anyone (whether an individual or entity) who promotes other company’s products and services with the goal to earn a commission from their efforts.
To illustrate who an affiliate marketer is, think of it this way. Mr A agrees to promote Mr. B’s products and services.
Mr B agrees to pay Mr. A certain amount anytime a sale is made as a result of Mr. A’s marketing efforts.
In the scenario above, Mr. A is an affiliate marketer while Mr. B is the vendor.
Benefits of Affiliate Marketing
Affiliate marketing offers several benefits which makes it an attractive business model for many people.
Some of the benefits of affiliate marketing include:
Opportunity for passive income
This is probably the most attractive aspect of affiliate marketing – the opportunity to earn passive income.
When done right, you may only need the initial effort at the beginning, once the system is up and running, it can generate a sizable income for you.
For example, as a blogger, we have a couple of blogposts we published in the past that are still generating income for us every month.
We only have to updated the posts maybe twice in a year and ensure the links are still working.
It’s pretty easy to start
Launching an affiliate marketing business does not require huge financial outlay. You don’t necessarily need a website to get started even.
As long as you have an audience that trusts you, whether that’s on social media or your email list, all you need is to sign up to relevant affiliate programs and start promoting their products.
Still want to learn more about how much, in real terms, it will cost to start an affiliate business?
Check out this our blogpost where we asked 51+ Entrepreneurs About Their Startup Cost.
It’s can offer recurring income
As a business owner, one thing you want to know, is how much, on average, your business can make in a month, especially when you are just starting.
Affiliate marketing can be a great way to earn recurring revenue as you build your online business.
However, you will want to be sure the programs you sign up for as an affiliate offer recurring commissions.
Example of a good affiliate program with recurring and high commission is SEMrush Affiliate program. You earn 40% on the first sale and anytime the buyer renews their subscription, you also earn additional income.
You may want to read our detailed, no holds barred review of the SEMrush (Berush) Affiliate Program.
You don’t have to be an ‘Expert’
You don’t have to be an expert before you can recommend products and services to your audience.
All you need is the desire to help make your readers’ lives easier or help them solve their problems.
Though, we often recommend either using the products yourself before promoting them or know someone with a first-hand experience using the product who can share their experience with you.
This way, you can provide authentic review of the product from your experiences instead of regurgitating what you read online.
You don’t have to stock or create a product
Remember, I mentioned starting an affiliate marketing business is pretty easy?
One reason for the low startup cost is because you don’t have to stock the product or create yours before you can become an affiliate.
You simply sign up to one or a couple of the affiliate networks around, search and find products that are relevant to your audience, get your affiliate links and start promoting.
Drive more traffic to your website
Even if you’re a product creator with your products, affiliate marketing can help you drive more qualified traffic to your site and ultimately increase sales.
To do this, you will need to become a vendor yourself. You can create an affiliate program where other marketers promote your products.
How Affiliate Marketing Works
Now, you may be wondering, how does affiliate marketing work in real life?
Affiliate marketing is straightforward no doubt. However, to understand how it works, you will need to know a couple of things:
As mentioned earlier, affiliate is simply promoting other people’s products and services with the goal to earn a commission on each successful sale.
When an affiliate signs up to promote a product, they usually receive an affiliate link.
What is an affiliate link?
An affiliate link is the URL with an affiliate’s unique number that allows vendors to track and attribute sales to the right marketer.
When a buyer clicks on the affiliate link, a special piece of code called a cookie is installed on their device.
What is affiliate tracking cookie?
The affiliate tracking cookie is a piece of code that is installed on a potential buyer device (computer or smartphone) when they click on an affiliate link.
The cookie helps both the vendor and marketer to attribute and track sales. Without the cookie, it is practically impossible to attribute correctly sales to the right marketer.
Depending on the vendor, cookies can stay valid for anything between 24 hours (as is the case with Amazon partner program) to 10 years (SEMrush affiliate program). However, 30-days cookie duration is more popular.
What happens is, if a buyer clicks on an affiliate link and visits the vendor site and for whatever reason couldn’t complete the transaction and leaves.
If they go back sometime in the future to complete the purchase, the sale will be attributed to the marketer whose link they used to initially visit the site provided, the cookie duration is still valid.
So for instance, you send a traffic to a vendor’s site but the buyer didn’t complete the transaction until say 7 days after they first landed on the page
Let’s also assume the vendor has a 30-day cookie lifetime, they sale will be attributed to you even if the buyer finally used another affiliate link to make the purchase.
35+ Experts Share ‘The One Thing’ They Consider Before Joining Any Affiliate Program
So, what are they things you must consider when deciding which affiliate program is worth your time and those to ignore?
We asked 40+ affiliate marketers and here are what they have to say:
Relevance to Audience
Over 17% of our responders say they only promote products that align with their niche and are relevant to their audience.
James Pollard of The Advisor Coach LLC, says they only promote products that fit their audience.
“I run TheAdvisorCoach.com, a marketing consultancy that works specifically with financial advisors. As a result, I am an affiliate for a lot of products and services, ranging from calendar tools to CRMs and more.”
“The most important thing I consider before joining an affiliate program is how well it fits with my audience. If a product isn’t a good fit, nothing else matters. I would rather earn a $10 commission on a product that converts at 10% than earn a $50 commission on a product that only converts at 1%.”
Pollard further explains the reason for their stance, “I am building a business for the long term. I want to make sure that all of my affiliate recommendations are top-notch. Because if they aren’t, my reputation gets hurt.”
Joseph Sanok of Mental Wellness Counseling, agrees too. “Too often affiliate marketers look at the payout or product features. But the smartest affiliate marketers start with how well a product helps their ideal reader or listener.
On my podcast, I focus only on products that will speed up someone’s progress, make their lives easier, or match other affiliate products.”
“There are a lot of things I consider, but if I had to narrow it down to the most important consideration, it’s this: How will this company treat my customers?” writes Cindy Bidar of Cindy Bidar.
Explaining their process when sieving through affiliate offers, Bidar wrote, “I almost always purchase the product before promoting it, and I’m looking for things such as ease of ordering, the responsiveness of the support staff, product quality, and what happens after the sale.
My subscribers, blog readers, and social followers count on me to recommend products that make their lives easier, and if the seller doesn’t provide great service, I’m not doing my job.”
For Steffa Mantila of Money Tamer, if the affiliate is not relevant to their readers, even if it offers high commission rate, they are not going to promote it. “If the product isn’t 100% relevant, you’re going to alienate your viewership.”
“The most important thing to consider is always the audience,” writes Domantas Gudeliauskas of Zyro.
“Having the right customer-first mentality is what makes or breaks an affiliate marketing plan. Before signing on to promote a product, consider if it has a direct line of interest to your audience.”
Spencer Yeomans of Untamed Space added, “As an affiliate marketer, there are quite a few things that go into my decision making process while looking for products to promote. However, the one thing that will make or break it for me at the end of the day is: Will this product give value to my audience?
I believe there are many affiliate marketers out there who only see dollar signs when choosing to promote a product. It’s easy to find products with the highest commission and conversion rates and promote those, even if it isn’t relevant or useful to that particular audience.
While this might create some initial kickback, it will end up weakening the trust you have with your audience and hurt you long term.”
Jane Susaeta of This Mama Blogs agrees, “For me, it is super important before joining an affiliate program to know whether it will truly benefit your readers. Don’t promote a program just because it pays well and sacrifice your credibility as an affiliate marketer.
Before joining any program, I always want to make sure that it will benefit my audience, it is not a scam, and I truly believe in it or have used it. It is so easy to promote a service or product on your website, but it is so difficult to build loyal followers. So, put your readers as your top priority and they’ll keep coming back to your site.”
“For me, it’s whether the product can be useful to my readers, writes Alex Savy of Sleeping Ocean.
“I try to recommend only something I would buy myself. I think that promoting products I believe in is the safest path as it can help me remain transparent and build trust with my readers.”
Reputation of Company
“The reputation of an affiliate program is very important. A quick search on Google will reveal tons of programs and you can promote all kinds of products. But not all of them are legit,” says David De Haan of Stand Up Paddle Boards Review
“Some of these programs are perfect on the surface—they have a great commission rate, low minimum payout and they have many payment method options. However, when you dig deeper you’ll realize that all their claims are empty words. Thankfully, most people are often honest about their experiences.”
Haan explains further, “Before you join any program, seek to know what other affiliate marketers’ experience have been like. Do they actually pay? Are they completely transparent about everything? If you keep seeing a lot of negative feedback, you need to take a step back.”
Nikola Roza of SEO for the Poor and Determined agrees. They wrote, “Before joining any affiliate program, affiliate marketer needs to see if the program is worth joining.”
“So they need to check the program’s reputations and also the general opinion around the quality of their products. If a potential affiliate marketer sees tat a lot of current or ex affiliates dissing the program saying it’s a scam, then that’s a clear sign that maybe they’re better off not joining and wasting their time.”
Roza included a couple of ways one can check the reputation of any affiliate program.
“It’s important to check online forums, Quora and other niche communities for what regular people who bought the product think about it. If you notice a lot of genuine negative reviews then it’s better not to promote that product.”
Zackary DeAngelis of Pest Pointers LLC says, “That ‘one thing’ that can sway or motivate me to ignore or promote a product is the positive customer reviews behind the product. Having real, value-tested positive product reviews behind a product can dramatically increase your affiliate sales and conversions.”
For Stavros Angelidis of Ebiz Tools the credibility of the company is what matters.
“I would never recommend to my audience a company that is in any way taking advantage of its clients, has a bad product or bad support, is overpromising and under-delivering or uses unethical practices to attract clients.”
Dylan Houlihan of Swift Salary agrees, “The number one most important thing I look at before joining an affiliate program is the reputation of the company. If it looks all sketchy, I won’t even bother with it. Last thing I want to do is hurt my reputation by promoting a bad product or service.”
For Shivam Agrawal of Elegance Tips, it all comes down to promoting trustworthy company.
“As an affiliate marketer you need to thoroughly research the product you are about to recommend. It’s not just the product but also the post-purchase support, refund and warranty which matters. If the company you are promoting is not trustworthy, people will stop trusting your recommendations.”
Remember, it’s always your reputation that is at stake and word of mouth spreads faster than you can imagine.
Does it Offer Recurring Commission?
“My favorite affiliate programs are ones that pay me recurring commissions on each sale,” says Trishan Mehta of WPBizBlog
“Suppose, a buyer makes a purchase using my affiliate link, then do I get paid just once, or do I get paid every time the buyer renews his/her subscription?”
“An affiliate program with recurring commissions can provide more income security to the marketer as compared with programs that pay a one-time commission. I also check out the minimum payout threshold before promoting an affiliate program. If it’s a $20 product on which I get $5 per sale and the minimum payout threshold is $200, then I will need to make 40 sales to reach my payout, which is just too much work.”
For Mckayla Spencer of The Comma Mama Co it’s important the affiliate program they intend to promote offer recurring income.
“Whether or not the product has a recurring commission or pays for leads can change whether or not I will market their product. If the product is a subscription, I will not market it unless it is a recurring payout. When the product has a free version, I try not to market it unless the company pays per lead – even if it only $0.01.”
“Most people will look at the commission amount and cookie length right away. And these, of course, are crucial to evaluating a potential partner. But another critical figure you need to consider is the partner’s average conversion rate,” writes Daniel Caughill of The Dog Tale
“You could build the best piece of content on the web, capture the most traffic, and successfully convince your audience to click through to your partner’s website. But once that’s done, it’s out of your hands. Your partner needs to offer a viable product and a trust-building website in order to convert sales—otherwise, nobody gets paid.
If a potential partner has a very low conversion rate, but a premium product with a high payout, this can make sense and work out well for everybody involved.
But if a partner has an average product and their conversion rate is still relatively low compared to others in the industry, or if they compensate for a downright bad product with a high commission, that’s a clear sign that something’s wrong, and your time would probably be better spent elsewhere.”
Nick Drewe of We Thrift agrees that how well a merchant’s site converts can sway or convince them to promote a product.
“This is by far the most important factor to consider before joining an affiliate program. If a merchant’s website doesn’t convert, or converts poorly, every visitor that you deliver to them is wasted.”
Drewe furthered explained, “Even after Amazon Associates slashed affiliate commissions back in April, a majority of affiliates still kept sending traffic to Amazon.
Why? Because Amazon converts so well that a lower commission at a high conversion rate is still often worth more to an affiliate than a higher commission at a lower conversion rate.”
“For me joining an affiliate program is worthwhile, when other marketers promote it successfully. There are tons of affiliate programs out there for nearly every niche. Some offer high commissions and other long cookie lifetimes. But that says nothing about whether you make money with it or not,” says Christian Steinmeier of Koalapets.com
“Even with half the commission, a program can be more profitable when it converts well. That is the reason, why most people stayed with amazon associates after they cut the commissions, most people make still more money with them, then they would with higher-paying alternatives.”
Leigh ouey-Gung of Life Operating System believes the most important thing to consider before joining an affiliate program is Earnings Per Click (EPC).
“EPC is a measure of how much money you make per person who clicks on your affiliate link and is the best overall way to measure the profitability of the offer.
It takes into account the commissions paid per sale as well as the conversion rate of the offer, allowing you to work out which offer is going to provide the best value for money for your operation,” Leigh explains.
“There are, of course, things you can do on your end to influence the EPC of a particular offer (stronger recommendations, more targeted traffic, etc…), but the overall EPC of the offer should give you a good
understanding of how profitable it will be.
I’ve seen EPCs that range from $0.001 per click all the way up $3 and $4 per click, even within the same niche, so it’s CRITICAL you pay attention to.”
Elle Meager of Outdoor Happens says, “The one thing that can sway or motivate me to promote a business or product is their cookie length. This cookie length is the amount of time in which you receive a commission on a sale after a visitor clicks on your affiliate link.”
Meager further explains, “Amazon, for example, has a cookie length of only 24 hours. That means your visitor must make a purchase within 24 hours after clicking on your link for you to receive the commission. You will find many businesses on, for example, Share a Sale, with a cookie length of 30 days.
The longer the cookie length, the better. When an affiliate program has a short cookie length, I will generally try to find a different program with a longer cookie length. The longer the cookie, the more chance of you getting a sale.”
Michael Haas of Angry BBQ agrees, “The first, most obvious thing to consider when considering an affiliate program is of course; the commission rate and cookie timeframe (which vary greatly with affiliate programs).
A close second would be the timeframe they expect a sale to occur. As a new affiliate marketer; I didn’t realize that with some affiliate programs if a sale has not occurred within a certain time frame; you may be kicked out of the program leaving your links dead.”
“The one thing an affiliate marketer should consider before joining a program is the amount they’ll get per sale and how that is tracked,” says Stacy Caprio of Stacy Caprio Inc.
“Often companies either don’t give a high enough percentage of the sale, or they do a poor job tracking so sales fall through the cracks, making it important to fully understand and be on board with the percent given and how the tracking is done.”
Marian McFadden of The Atlas Heart agrees too, “The one thing I look for when joining an affiliate program is how high the commission rate is per sale. If it’s under 5%, I rarely sign up for it unless it’s a product that I especially love and want to share with my readers. Ideally, I look for 8%-20% commission rates for affiliate programs, so I can focus on quality instead of quantity.”
For Angelica Maklienovic of She Can Blog a good commission rate is an important incentive to promote an affiliate product.
“The one thing that motivates or sways me to promote a product is the commission rate. If you have a good amount of traffic, a low commission rate isn’t necessarily a problem, and it can then be still worth it to promote this particular product,” writes Maklienovic.
“However, as a beginning marketer who is still growing her blogging business, a 4% commission rate on a $10 product isn’t worth my time and energy to write about.”
Rick Wallace of Tackle Village says, “As the operators of a website that partners with multiple affiliate programs, the main two things we look for is commission rate and duration of cookie. If you had to boil it down to one thing, I’d say commission rate as we are all in this to make money and that’s the key determinant.”
“We also want to maximise conversion of traffic, so cookie duration (the time period during which a visitor’s sales will be credited to you) plays a role in this, as does the quality of the affiliate program’s content and products.”
“The most important thing I consider is how long it takes for confirmation of the referral being complete after the purchase is made. This isn’t necessarily anything to be concerned about with the big affiliate networks such as Amazon, Etsy etc. but it can be an easy way for smaller companies to get out of paying you,” says Thomas Kelly of Zero Effort Cash.
“I’ve found that the more technicalities in the terms and conditions, the easier it is for companies to lie that they don’t owe you anything, the most common of which is the waiting period.
My general rule is to only join programs that will credit your account as soon as the purchase is confirmed, if a program wants you to wait 30 days until you’re credited, take a close look at the terms and other peoples
experiences (if you can) and any longer than 30 days is not worth your time.”
Aijmal Dar of Moccasin Guru says, “Before joining any affiliate program always check the payout methods. Not all methods are accepted in every country and the last thing any affiliate marketer wants is to not get paid after their efforts in promoting a product. If no payment method that is accepted in your country is listed it is a good idea to discuss alternatives with the affiliate manager.”
Daniel Douglas of Bpm Skills echoes same sentiments. For Douglas the payout method and payout threshold are some of the things they check out before joining any affiliate program.
“Make sure the payout method works in your country. The popular ways to get paid are through PayPal, direct bank deposit or wire transfer, and check. Before joining an affiliate program, make sure you check their minimum threshold and will be able to reach it to get paid. There are a lot of affiliate programs out there, and to play it safe, check their reputations online. As for my niche, you can join Airbit or Beatstars,” says Douglas.
“After checking those important things and still you can’t decide which specific affiliate program you will join, then consider what they are offering. Like price and affordability, commission on sales, customization, ease of payment, marketing, miscellaneous, and notable features.”
A Natural Fit or Content
Ashley Mann of RV Inspiration LLC says “At this point, I don’t bother joining affiliate programs for products unless they are a natural fit for content I’m already planning to create and am confident I can rank in Google.”
“No matter how good of a fit I think a product would be for my audience, I can’t make them aware of it on a wide scale unless it’s something they’re finding in Google. For me, one-off promotions (on Instagram or in an email, for example) don’t convert at a rate high enough to be worth my time.”
LaraVanessa Garcia of The Mood Guide agrees too, “First I look into the products I will need according to my content creation schedule. Afterward, I look for brands that offer the best rated and most original products that will fit my post, then I apply!”
“High commissions are definitely the biggest motivator, but if the product is good and the commission is low, I promote it anyway because I want my content to be authentic and complete, regardless of how much I will earn from it.”
Affiliate Marketing Tips For Beginners: Wrap up
Our responders have spoken. Now you know some of the essential things to look out for when joining any affiliate program.
Hopefully, these will help you make the right choice and set you up to succeed with your affiliate marketing business.