Affiliate Programs Guide How to Setup, Start & Make Money Online

Affiliate Marketing Programs Guide: Learn How to Make Money

Happy to have you here to read this affiliate marketing guide.

As you have landed on this page, I believe that you want to leverage the advantages of affiliate marketing to earn money online; just like Gawker Media.(1)

However, if you want to start your companies affiliate marketing program to grow your online business, please go to my Growth Hackers Guide to start an Affiliate Marketing Program.

The objective of this guide is to help you master the art of making money online with affiliate marketing programs.

However, before we talk about how to setup, start and make money with affiliate marketing programs, let us first go back a little bit in history to learn how it all started.

History of Affiliate Marketing

As popularly believed Affiliate marketing was not invented by Amazon. This performance-based marketing technique was created in 1989 by William J. Tobin, the founder of PC Flowers and Gifts.

Tobin’s business used Prodigy Online services to promote his company and affiliate marketig took its birth.

Amazon popularised the marketing technique with the launch of its associate program in 1996 and has shaped the industry.

The first affilite networks were launched in 1998. The first affiliate networks were Commission Junction and Clickbank. With introduction of these network, it has became easy for businesses/advertisers to connect with bloggers/publishers.

What is Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate Marketing Program is a digital / online method where you (as an affiliate) will get paid for referring customers to someone’s business.

What it means is that affiliate marketing program is a performance-based digital marketing technique in which an online business rewards an affiliate for bringing customers through their marketing efforts.

With increasing demand for relevant and helpful information in the form of online content from Consumers affiliate marketing is gaining popularity. Today it is easy for a blogger to monetise his passion for sharing quality information with affiliate marketing.

Several bloggers (called publishers in affiliate marketing lingo) engage consumers with compelling product or service information of advertisers (companies that run these programs.

As per a study by the Forrester Group for Rakuten(5)

81% advertisers and 84% of publishers have turned to affiliate marketing.

This is driven by demand of differentiated marketing content of advertisers or new opportunities for driving ad revenue to their sites by publishers.

Affiliate Marketing Meaning for a Blogger:

If you are a blogger or publisher, here is the action oriented meaning of affiliate marketing:

  1. You are a creator: You are creating awesome and consumer engaging content on your blog or website. Based on your content users are able to take an informed decision to but a product or service from other businesses.
  2. You are driving Business results for Advertiser: As a blogger or publisher, you are driving positive ROI for a businesses (which is running the affiliate marketing program).
  3. Affiliate Marketing is Transperant: Affiliate marketing, being an online marketing technique, brings a lot of transparency, measurability to the art of referring traffic to others businesses.
  4. Online Businesses reward members for each successful referral: Online businesses who run affiliate marketing programs share a part of their revenue with the affiliates. This is a win-win situation as the entire digital ecosystem supports each other.
  5. Your revenues are driven by actual business performance: Affiliates refer customers through their marketing efforts: Generally, affiliates are bloggers, authors, consultants and independent professionals who monetize their knowledge online.

Affiliate Marketing is a result oriented form of referral marketing. The affiliate gets a reward or share of sales from the online business running the program.


Affiliates bring customer through their digital marketing (SEO, SMO, Content marketing and at times paid search & social media promotions) efforts and drive it to a merchant site (running the affiliate marketing program).

The affiliate can earn anything between $1 to $1000 for sales depending on the kind of product is sold.

Affiliation Meaning for a Blogger

In the context of affiliate marketing, affiliation means that the affiliate is officially connected to an online business to bring customers. When we say officially connected with an online business, this is what we mean:

  • That Affiliate has a formal business relationship with the online business.
  • Affiliate follows the rules set by the Online business running the affiliate marketing program or the affiliate marketing network.
  • That the relationship is setup for mutual profit.
  • The affiliate should disclose the nature of the relationship to the user of its online content.

How Affiliate Marketing Programs Works

At its core, affiliate marketing program is a transactional relationship between 3 parties

The Affiliate Marketing Triangle

  • Affiliate Marketer or Advertiser: A professional or an Online business that wants new customers and willing to share a part of revenue earned with the referrer.
  • Affiliate or Publisher: Affiliate is a business partner, who is willing to bring customers to the affiliate marketer through email marketing or SEO or any other form of paid advertising.
  • Customer: Customer is the one who buys a product or service from the affiliate marketer and is introduced by the Affiliate.

Below are the other key elements of an Affiliate Marketing System:

  • Online Business Website or Mobile App: It is the place where a customer completes the transaction.
  • Affiliate Publishing site: This is the place which attracts and convinces a customer to jump to the Online Business website or mobile app to buy a product or service.
  • Affiliate Marketing Network: At times to build reach quickly an affiliate marketer can enroll with an Affiliate Marketing Network with a large number of active affiliates or publishers. This helps a marketer quickly build its affiliate network.

Now let us see how affiliate marketing works?

Affiliate marketing is enabled by a technology called “cookie“. A cookie stores information like username, user preferences, passwords, shopping cart contents and several other things on the browser.

In affiliate marketing a cookie is stored into the system of the user of the affiliate content or publisher.

This cookie identifies the affiliate marketer (advertiser), affiliate (publisher), the creatives on the publisher site. If the website users click on a link on the publisher site to go to the affiliate marketer website and ends up buying a product or service, cookie enables the transfer of information.

Based on the information collected by a cookie, an affiliate gets rewarded for his effort.

How affiliate Marketing programs work
How affiliate Marketing programs work

Why you should start making money with affiliate marketing programs today

If you are a blogger or want to earn some extra income, affiliate marketing could be an easy way to make money for you. However, as an individual you do have several other ways to make money so why  should you start making money with affiliate marketing? Here’s why:

1. It is risk free and requires very little investment to start

Unlike other businesses affiliate marketing requires little or no investment to start making money online. To start off you basically need a laptop with a decent internet connection. You can set up a free account on Blogspot or create your own blog by choosing a domain and setting it up with WordPress.

2. It helps you be result oriented from day one

You might start to taste success with Affiliate marketing in the very beginning. This helps you stay result oriented while creating your content.

3. Learn what your audience wants

This success helps you think what your audience wants, as when you give them what they want you get paid rewards as an affiliate.

4. You start to monetize your efforts

Starting a blog is easier said then done. I know a lot of people, who give up mid way. With monetization happening through your membership of affiliate networks, you stay on course and do not give up.

5. Funds your upcoming business

With an affiliate income on hand, you can strive hard to get your business model right, instead of starting off with whatever is available. With a well thought out model your chances of success goes up.

6. Be your own Boss

Instead of working for someone else you start working for yourself from day one.

7. You don’t need any staff

To start earning some affiliate income, you do not need other people to run your business. You can very well do it on your own or if you want to you can easily outsource your requirement to others as well.

8. No expertise required

You do not need a Harvard degree to start earning from being an affiliate. You can start off in any niche and learn the tricks of the trade on the way.

9. Work at your own pace

You do not need to burn the midnight oil. Well, actually you will need to in the beginning but once you are all set, and the income starts rolling in then you can relax. You can work at your pace and as & when you get time. This frees you up to pursue other interests or education.

10. You will start to get noticed

The future belongs to the digital. While building an affiliate income you start to get consumer-centric and result oriented. This sets up the right frame of mind and you may come in the limelight of others something which will help you on the journey to building your career.

RELATED ARTICLES : How to Earn Money Online (Updated Aug 2017)

Ways to make money with Affiliate Marketing Programs

As a beginner you have multiple ways to make money with affiliate marketing. Below are all the methods popular well earning publishers are using today to drive traffic to affiliate marketer/advertiser:

1. Coupon sites offering Vouchers or Deals

You can start a voucher or deals coupon website for your visitors. A user will go through your affiliate link and redeem the voucher on a merchant site. And while he does that the merchant will deposit your commission in your kitty.

2. Email Marketing

You can distribute your affiliate link via email marketing campaigns.

3. Loyalty / Rewards

You can build your affiliate business with loyalty or rewards points, which a user can redeem for purchasing at select merchants.

4. Mobile Apps

You can create a mobile app for product search in a niche and provide comparison between options available with advertiser’s links and offers.

5. Building Sub-Affiliate Network

You can create a website supporting other affiliates build their affiliate income.

6. Search driven traffic

You can create a blog in a niche area to generate organic or paid traffic. Once a customer lands on a page he can be referred to the merchants site via your affiliate link.

7. Price Comparison

You can create a comparison site to help consumers take better and informed decisions.

8. Social Shopping

You can create social shopping site, which include recommendations, review, lists etc. to enable a user make a better choice.

Form the above it is quite clear that you have several ways to make money with affiliate marketing. However, to succeed you must be able to make a connection with the consumers that is your visitors.

Below are a few tips that will give you an edge over your competitors.

Success Tips for the Beginner of an Affiliate Marketing Program

It is necessary to connect with your users or customers. If they do not trust you, they will NOT stay for long on your website. Here are a few tips that you can use to make money with affiliate income:

  • User first Policy: Don’t be driven just by the money mindset. Make honest recommendations you can stand by. It is critical to build trust.
  • Contextual Link Seeding: Create blogs appropriate to your target audience and add your affiliate links to all the appropriate places. Your link seeding should be natural.
  • Use multiple media options for Link: Put links on text, banners etc. Variety of links types will add to increase in CTR’s.
  • Share Reviews: Help a user take an informed decision with your reviews and roundups. Such posts do very well for affiliate marketing monetization

How to Start Affiliate Marketing  to Make Money  online

If you are a blogger or want to earn some extra income, affiliate marketing could be an easy way to make money.

As as affiliate you have opportunity to get a part of the sales initiated by you in the form of a commission from the affiliate marketer.

Want to know the best part?

It is quite easy to become an affiliate of well known brands and companies.

Below are the steps you should take to become an affiliate:

1. Choose a known Product or service category: Pick your niche

Start with a known product or service category. Affiliate marketing will anyway be a new thing for you, so at least you would not have to worry about the niche you are choosing to operate in.

For example, if you’re a naturopath, you will be quite comfortable talking about how one can get better with nutritious foods and natural healing methods.

2. Start a website in your niche

Once you have chosen your niche, now is the time to start your website to represent your opinion. Choose a short URL to represent your niche (if possible) and start a website.

If you need help to setup a website take help from a good website developer or do it yourself with my guide on how to create a website.

This is a key step and a lot depends on it. Any Affiliate marketer or advertiser would like to understand who you are before you become their affiliate. Hope you can recall that affiliate marketing is a formal relationship. No brand would like to associate with someone who can hurt their reputation.

3. Choose what you want promote: Product or Service or both

Choose what you are comfortable promoting. You might want to promote a product, however, may not know enough about it. Services are generally easier to recommend.

In the above example of a Naturopath. A naturopath might be uncomfortable promoting a medicine as enough information might not be available from the manufacturer. However, you might take comfort in promoting a Naturopathy Center offering enema as a service.

4. Generate Leads with Lead Magnets

However, small may be your traffic it is the time to start enrolling your audiences to your email subscription list. This is an strategy you DO NOT want to miss. Affiliate Marketing coupled with email marketing is a fantastic combination. With this you deploy two of the best ROI driving techniques.

5. Do a thorough research on affiliate marketing programs

Once you have chosen your niche and the product/service you want to promote, it is the time to look for an affiliate program or network.

An Affiliate marketing Program might be from a standalone brand or manufacturer. If you want to promote their products or service you might have to apply with them to become their affiliate. Therefore in this case you will have to research companies in your niche who are running affiliate marketing programs.

Some examples of large standalone affiliate marketing programs are:

  • Amazon Affiliate Program
  • Flipkart Affiliate Program
  • eBay Affiliate Program
  • Snapdeal Affiliate Program
  • PayTM Affiliate Marketing Program: There is no PayTM Affiliate program. However, they work with several Affiliate marketing networks such as Payoom.
  • Alibaba Affiliate Program

In case of an Affiliate marketing network, you will get access to several such brands or marketers in one single place. It is easier to apply for multiple programs at the click of a button. So if you decide to go ahead with affiliate marketing network, choose the one which operates in your niche and enroll with them.

Some examples of notable affiliate marketing networks are below:

  • ShareaSale Affiliate Marketing Network
  • Clickbank Affiliate Marketing network
  • CJ Affiliate marketing Network
  • Optimise Affiliate Marketing Network
  • Payoom Affiliate Marketing Network
  • Adrecord Affiliate Marketing Network
  • Adtraction Affiliate Marketing Network
  • Awin Affiliate marketing network
  • Affilinet Affiliate Marketing network
  • Avantlink Affiliate marketing network

Want to know the best part?

Joining an affiliate marketing program is mostly free of charge. So if somebody asks for your credit card detail you are in the wrong place.

6. Choose one or multiple affiliate program as required

Join one or multiple affiliate programs. You will have to provide your bank account or PayPal information so that you can receive your affiliate commission on the sales you have influenced.

7. Seed affiliate links in your content

Seed affiliate links on contextual pages of your website, emails or newsletter you send to your audience. Contextual seeding of links looks natural without appearing to be pushy.

8. Leverage resources shared by the Affiliate Marketer

All the affiliate marketers make it easy for affiliates to promote them by creating creative resources such as banner ads, eBooks etc. You can use those resources to build your visibility on your website or emails you send.

9. Improve visibility of Affiliate links without cluttering the site

Ensure that you think audience first while you are seeding the affiliate links. It does not make sense to have too many links that spoil the content consumption experience of a user. Choose the resources in such a way that your audience is able to find what they are looking for and also click on your links.

To do that include visual banners on the side bar and text links in the body of the blog.

10. Build your visibility in your niche with content marketing

For sustained affiliate income you need to ensure that you are constantly generating and curating quality content. You would like to retain your existing users while attracting new users. Reach out and share what you are producing on various social media platforms and gun for page 1 rank on google for important keywords.

11. Measure your progress with Analytics, Webmaster accounts & Affiliate Marketing Analytics

Make data your bible and identify what is working and what not. You need to produce content that people are looking for and trust your opinion. Once you identify areas where your audience are, you can multiply your efforts in that area instead of spreading yourself thin. That’s the power of data.

12. Do not forget Compliances

Do not take your affiliate income for granted. All of us live in economies where we have to share our earnings with the government in the form of taxes. So do file your Income tax and returns. Pay taxes due on you. Figure out from your tax consultants what all will apply and pay it on time.

13. Expand your business.

Once you have established yourself in your niche, it is the time to expand your horizon. Identify other interest areas of your client and start entering there without sacrificing your goodwill in your niche.

Identify new products or services and offer them to your audience. Reach out with other digital marketing techniques.

14. Promote your Business Online

At this juncture you would have gained a significant scale and now is the time to start promoting yourself online. You should use paid advertising on search and social media to attract new users.

15. Delegate routine tasks

Well, once you start growing, there will be a time when you have more things to do that what you can manage.

This is the time when you need to hire people who can take care of routine tasks.

This will require change in mindset as now you are no longer a one man army and you have to share your earnings with others. However, it will reduce your workload and allow you to focus on bigger things to build your business.

16.Automate. Automate. Automate

Automation is the next disruption the world of marketing is going to witness. You can’t be left behind. You need to start automating whatever you can. Look for digital marketing agencies who have the capability to help you build your online business. Take advantage of digital marketing tools to automate your marketing activities.

17. Be seen a Thought Leader

Start connecting with other influencers in your niche, connect with media with the help of a PR agency. This is the time to be seen as an influencer / thought leader. This is what will help you solidify your position in the industry.

18. Launch your own product or service

Now is the time to look beyond what you were doing. You can now launch your product or service under your brand name to build long term business and value for yourself and your growing team.

19. Launch your own affiliate marketing program

Now take advantage of what you have learned to launch your own affiliate marketing program. Build your brand and business on your goodwill and knowledge. Utilize your relation in the industry to get better media attention.

20. Share your learning with other budding affiliates

I believe if you take something from other, you got to give it back. Do share your learning and experiences with other budding affiliates so that they can grow their business and add to society.

Here are some hand-picked articles to read next:


Reach of Internet is increasing at a rapid pace and today most of the active internet users are buying goods or services online.

Almost everything can be sold under affiliate marketing and more and more products are on offer today by retailers.

At the same time consumer is getting more and more discerning and looking for quality information. If as a publisher you help her take a better decision you have a good chance to earn affiliate income.

With advanced tracking, you have a betterknowledge of what is workig on your site.

This demonstrates the emerging potential of affiliate marketing. As a blogger or publisher you will find more and more people looking for quality information. Now the entire world is your consumer, unlike in the past.

This is why affiliate marketing is going to stay and will only get stronger as we go along.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1 What is Affiliation meaning in Hindi?

सहबद्ध विपणन (Affiliate Marketing) के संदर्भ में, संबद्धता का मतलब है कि सहबद्ध (affiliate) आधिकारिक तौर पर एक ऑनलाइन व्यापार से जुड़ा है ग्राहकों को लाने के लिए । जब हम कहते है आधिकारिक तौर पर एक ऑनलाइन व्यापार के साथ जुड़ा है, इसका मतलब है:

  • कि सहबद्ध ऑनलाइन व्यापार के साथ एक औपचारिक व्यापार संबंध है ।
  • सहबद्ध ऑनलाइन सहबद्ध विपणन कार्यक्रम या सहबद्ध विपणन नेटवर्क चलाने के कारोबार द्वारा निर्धारित नियमों का पालन करेंगे ।
  • कि आपसी लाभ के लिए संबंध सेटअप है ।
  • सहबद्ध को अपने ऑनलाइन सामग्री के उपयोगकर्ता के लिए रिश्ते की प्रकृति का खुलासा करना चाहिए ।

Q2 Status of affiliate Marketing in India?

With the evolution of eCommerce, Affiliate marketing has been growing rapidly in india.

Many online players have introduced their affiliate marketing programs. However, even today it accounts for less than 10% of digital marketing spends against 15% in matured markets.

India is a large country with its market complexities. However, with its growing online acceptability there is a huge potential for innovative concepts like affiliate marketing.

As per estimates by TSMG and IAMAI, the Affiliate marketing industry would grow at a CAGR of 27% to reach USD 835 million by 2025 from the current USD 96 million (in 2016), a staggering 8 times growth.

Status of Affiliate Marketing in India
Status of Affiliate Marketing in India

Currently, affiliate marketing is leveraged by ecommerce players from diverse industries such as marketplaces, BFSI, Automobiles & Real Estate.

Several global affiliate marketing networks are setting up their shop in India and enabling Indian influencers with global flair to promote products and services worldwide.

Growth of affiliate marketing spend would be driven by the following three key factors:

  • Increasing digital marketing spends
  • Adoption of affiliate marketing by new industries beyond e-commerce
  • Improved ecosystem for affiliate marketing on mobile platforms
  • Improved algorithms leading to transperancy
  • Integration of offline and online channels

Q3 What is an Affiliation Code?

When you join an affiliate marketing program or an affiliate marketing network, you will be given an affiliate link along with an affiliation code. This affiliation code is your affiliate id to distinguish you from other affiliates promoting the program.

When a website user click on the link on your website, the cookie set on your website informs the affiliate network or the advertiser that it has originated from your site. Based on this information you get your affiliate income.

Q4 Which are the Top Affiliate Marketing websites?

Affiliate networks provide a central database of available affiliate programs to affiliates (publihers or bloggers). These affiliate programs are organized by category and popularity.

With a signup affiliates get access to these affiliate programs, reporting tools, analytics, and payment processing services.

Below are Top affiliate marketing websites globally:

Q5 Which are best affiliate programs in India?

Joining an affiliate program is easy, however earning on one could be quite difficult. Choice of your affiliate network can make or break your earning possibilities.

Therefore it is not possible to give a generic list of best affiliate programs in india without knowing your niche. You need to follow the steps given above to identify what suita best for your site.

At a generic level here are a few best affiliate programs in India for you to consider:

  • Amazon affiliate program
  • Flipkart Affiliate Program
  • Yatra Affiliate Program
  • GoDaddy Affiliate Program

Q6 Which are the best affiliate networks in India?

Best Affiliate Networks in India are:

Q7 What is affiliation?

Affiliation is the act of being officially connected to someone or something.

In the context of affiliate marketing, affiliation means that the affiliate is officially connected to an online business to bring customers.

Q8 Please define affiliate?

Affiliate is the person or an organisation that is officially connected to a larger body or organisation that has power to control the relationship.

Affiliates are formally connected with each others.

In case of eCommerce affiliates are the website or entities that sell other merchants products on their websites.

Q9 How to do affiliate marketing?

If you want to do affiliate marketing as a freelancer to make money, you can start a blog. Once you have your blog up and running you can use affiliate marketing as an easy way to make money.

As as affiliate you have opportunity to get a part of the sales initiated by you in the form of a commission from the affiliate marketer.

Below are the steps you should take to do affiliate marketing.

Q 10 Which are the best Affiliate Marketing examples?

Q11 Which is the best wordpress affiliate plugin?

Q12 Which is the Best Affiliate marketing software?

Q 13 What make an affiliate site profitable?

While everyone will say that you do not need any investment to start affiliate marketing. However, Affiliate marketing is actually a small business.

It needs investment of time (significant amount of time is required) and money (mostly for development of a quality website and hosting).

Only a quality website can turn profitable. To be successful you need to build a strong brand and digital ecosystem.
Below are ways by which your site can become profitable:

  1. Build top quality, search engine optimised engaging content.
  2. Ensure Good technical, On and Off page SEO. Ensure your site is not the best kept secret in the world.
  3. Differentiate and provide top quality consumer experience.
  4. Choose your niche carefully. Do not try to be everything under the sun.
  5. Look for ways to monetise your site. Do not just depend on one way.

Sources and References

  1. How Gawker Brings In Millions Selling Headphones, Chargers and Flashlights, The Wall Street Journal.
  2. 5 Signs That Affiliate Marketing Is Not Dead, Forbes
  3. How Affiliate Networks Have Taken Affiliate Marketing Mainstream. Forbes
  4. Affiliate Marketing. Entrepreneur
  5. Learn How Affiliate Marketing is Evolving. Rakuten Affiliate Network with Forrester Consulting
  6. What Makes An Affiliate Site Profitable? Entrepreneur
  7. How mainstream publishers are turning performance-based marketing into a ‘fine art’. Business Insider
  8. History of Affiliate Marketing, Clickz












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