Affiliate Marketing 101: Beginner’s Guide (Step By Step)

You should never pay to learn affiliate marketing after all starting Affiliate Marketing isn’t as hard as you think.  If you have ever referred a friend or family member to a product or service and they ended up buying it; as a result, you may be an affiliate marketer without even knowing it!  For example, let’s say you refer your friend Jennifer to a pair of jeans from Kohls.  Jennifer ends up buying the pair of jeans through the Kohl’ interface.

In most cases, when that happens nothing is compensated for you, however, if you were an affiliate marketer you could bridge your Kohl’s partnership and earn the commission should Jennifer purchase another pair through your referral again!  Quite plainly, affiliate marketing is the technical way to do this.  Use this method as an alternative to selling products from home like AVON or Lularoe, or become the next great blog and rank on Google!

learn affiliate marketing

Affiliate Marketing 101 – For Beginners (Yes, This is FREE)

Step 1:  Build a site or platform to sell or refer products from

If you have a following through a social network and you haven’t utilized affiliate marketing, you can!  If not, look to build out your campaigns through a website.  The best way to do this is a blog.

Focus on a niche or market that you are genuinely passionate about.  Yes, that’s right, people will notice if you aren’t excited about it and the conversions will not follow.  Like shopping online?  Start an online deal site like the way KrazyCouponLady does.  Social media can also be leveraged should you have a following based on your personality and passion!

Step 2:  Find products through an Affiliate Network

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Once you are ready, join an Affiliate Network.  FlexOffers is one, provides products ranging from Groupon, Kohls, Newegg, Best Buy, Etsy and much much more.  Since you won’t have to join multiple networks, which can be recommended once you are a pro affiliate marketer, FlexOffers has everything you need right there in front of you.

FlexOffers Featured Programs

Existing Blogger/Influencer?  Try these as well!

Step 3:  Apply to programs through the network

Using FlexOffers as an example, you’ll be able to apply to programs.  Some may take a bit to review your application, and in many cases, these reviews consist of making sure you are a legit person, an also an excellent source of organic (natural and not bogus) referrals.

Before you apply be sure to review the terms and conditions of each program, sometimes an application will restrict a specific promotional method like buying AdWords campaigns.  You can also see the commission rate attached to the program.

The commission rate is what you’ll be making if someone ends up buying your product through a referral (affiliate) link.

FlexOffers Terms

Step 4:  Approved for a program?  Start using links!

Affiliate links are the guts of any affiliate marketing aspect.  It’s what bridges you from the referral to the commission.  When someone clicks on a referral or affiliate link, there is a cookie transferred.

No personal information is transferred through the cookie, only the click ID that identifies the user from the network.  To put it simply, the click acts as a connection between purchase and the network, again in this case FlexOffers.   To get a link, it will work the same amongst most major affiliate networks:

  • Find the approved program by search or use the Links menu option
  • Click the Approved checkbox
  • Hit the Orange Search button
  • See your authorized links
  • Sort by advertiser by typing them into the advertiser search box

Tip:  An advertiser is the host of products, for example, Groupon is an advertiser.  In affiliate marketing, there is the advertiser (merchant) and the publisher (blog or one who posts the affiliate links)

Links via FlexOffers

From this area you’ll see a few things, you’ll see the HTML code, which would include the text you would put in front of the link or even a graphic.  You can consider this option should you want paste a sale or promotion directly into your website’s code area.  For now, let’s focus on the link portion.  The link is in the HTML but hidden somewhat.  If you click on the Link tab on you’ll note the affiliate link shows up.  The affiliate link here is “https://track.flexoffer…..fos=1″ the other text right after, rel=”nofollow,” is not technically the affiliate link and can be disregarded.  (For that more savvy nofollow is a proper function of SEO).

FlexOffers Tracking Link

Step 5:  Build Your following

Most affiliate marketers start up and go away within the first few weeks.  It’s tough to convert sometimes when a user knows you are pushing another’s products.  Leverage your networks reporting options and find out who is clicking on your links!  Through passion, being technically savvy, and willing to be consistent there may be no better way to make money online than affiliate marketing.

Guess Who Makes at Least $100K a Month with Affiliate Marketing

  • Krazy Coupon Lady
  • Making Sense of Cents
  • The Penny Hoarder
  • Could you be next?

Other Tips and Strategies

1:  The 80/20 Rule – Pareto Principle

When it comes to referring your users to potential sales and leads, the old business strategy of focusing on top 20% of your traffic will result in 80% of your revenue isn’t so farfetched.

The Pareto principle is it’s called formally, is the theory that if you do invest your time and strategies in that 20% you’ll see better results.

Many of the web’s top affiliate producers know their niche and do not take a “shotgun” approach, whereas they’ll apply and promote all sorts of brands and affiliate programs, but rather a few select merchants that will react well to the content given.


For example, in one case we can look at is, a blog that does an outstanding job convincing you to Start a Blog.

By focusing content towards redirecting the idea that if start a blog you can earn a great living, is the clear focus of the site.  That’s the 20%.  The other 80% comes with personal finance ideas and tips.

One reason that Making Sense of Cents converts so well is their personality, for example, they’ll even show how much they earn each month through an Income Report.  They’ll break down what they’ve earned.  It should be no surprise that their number 1 earner is BlueHost, a blog hosting company.

Focus on Analytics to find that 20%

You can easily see what 20% you should be focusing on by utilizing Google Analytics.  If you don’t know how the Google Analytics program works, what are you waiting for!?!  By going to the GA dashboard, you’ll uncover top landing page (favorite posts on a blog) and so on.  Find the top 20% of the traffic and produce content and related affiliate links based on these types of posts!

2:  Affiliate Acronyms –  What They Mean

In marketing, there are several acronyms you’ll run across.  Yes, they are indeed annoying and most companies you talk to, if you are in the field or at conferences, will speak through Acronyms suggesting you know all of the below off hand.  The truth is, there is always a new set of Acronyms that will be sure to confuse you as an Advertiser, Publisher, or even Network professional.  We’ve decided to place all of the acronyms in one spot for your convenience!

Acrnoym Teacher

Notice! Use of acronyms are objectionable some people use the terms differently.  For example CPS for one professional may mean COST PER SALE, and the other COMMISSION PER SALE.  Both are correct!


Cost Per Action –  This means that when you are on a website, and you perform a specific action like subscribing to email or even typing in a particular phrase.


Cost Per Sale – The most traditional affiliate transaction is when a user ends up buying a product


Cost Per Install – When it comes to mobile transactions this occurs when a user Installs the app.


Cost Per iMpression – See what I did there?  This means there is a cost in the number of user impressions, or when the ad is visible (not viewed or clicked on, just in the sight of a user).  Typically impressions are not commissioned out until you reach a certain level of impressions, in many cases…thousands of impressions.


Cost Per View – You’ve heard of Pay Per View, right?  Well, this is similar where the cost is paid out when a user views a video of some kind.


Cost Per Order – A rare marketing acronym in the Affiliate World, but this occurs when several potential customers come and go, but only one buys the product.  The cost of acquiring that final customer is the CPO.


Cost Per Click – This action occurs when a given user clicks on your affiliate or marketing link.

CPL (or PPL)

Cost Per Lead – One of the more common affiliate marketing acronyms occurs when a user completes a service email, inquiry, information regarding getting in touch, or signing up for a trial.  For example, if you referred someone to sign up for Facebook, that would be a Lead.  If you referred someone to sign up to bid on a house cleaner on Thumbtack, that is also a Lead.

3:  Are You an Affiliate, an Influencer, or other? – Affiliate Publisher Info

Affiliate based Publishers are not just as simple as web pages with a link on it.  There is typically a unique value proposition behind each Publisher that will end up referring thousands or even millions of dollars in affiliate marketing revenue.  Want to dive in and take a look at a few?

Cash Back Portals/Malls/Websites

Without Affiliate Marketing there would be no Cash Back sites like an EBates or Topcashback.  Reason being, each advertiser on the site is a part of an affiliate network, and they have a pre-existing deal to be placed on the website.  The model is quite simple:

  • Take Affiliate Commission
  • Give a Large Portion of the Affiliate Commission, the Customer
  • Take the Rest of Company Revenue

In other words, for each sale that a cash back portal refers, Ebates stands to make a small portion of it, based on their existing affiliate program partnership.  Interested in starting your Cash Back portal?  It’s still a bit technical but possible.  You’ll need to dive into another layer of Affiliate Marketing into a term called SubIDs.

Cashback Publisher

Blogs and Influencers

While this is a reasonably broad type of publisher, you can get the gist of what is offered Affiliate wise when it comes to blogs.  If you’ve read an article with a link inside of the post there’s a good chance there’s an affiliate link in there somewhere.  For most personal bloggers, affiliate revenue could be more of a side gig.  But for a select few who know what they are doing, they are making some serious commission!  Examples?

  • The Penny Hoarder – Referring people to unique ways to earn money
  • Making Sense of Cents – Referring people to BlueHost by letting them know it’s easy to Start A Blog
  • Thrifty Traveler – Refer people to unique travel deals
  • Tim Tracker – YouTube Influencer with Affiliate Links on Video Descriptions

If you are starting a personal influencer based blog, that deals with a niche, i.e., Parenting or Vaping you’ll need to research a few brands that you would like to refer people to for the long haul.  Personal blogs tend to be approved onto Affiliate Networks reasonably easy if they rank well or have a following of 200 and up (social).

News Sources

Yes, you’ll be pleased to know that even more significant news sources can link out to an affiliate program.  Remember the last time you’ve read something, clicked, and was brought somewhere else.  Good chance there’s an affiliate link involved!

  • CNN
  • Time
  • ESPN

Affiliate Sub Network or Tools

Several online software companies will take advantage of affiliate tracking.  Some of these include:

These companies often re-broker affiliate programs.  In essence, they operate a lot like a Cash Back portal, but instead of reward customers with cash back, they’ll reward publishers with a commission.  For those who use these types of tools, it’s best to find direct partnerships for higher commissions, but in some cases, it may be better to work with these types of devices.

Coupon and Voucher Websites

One of the bigger revenue producers when it comes to affiliate revenue, coupon publishers produce information about a discounted product on a given Affiliate Program.  Sometimes being an affiliate of some advertisers will give you early access to coupon codes.  And through networks, you’ll be able sometimes to make your own coupon codes!  Popular coupon sites that use affiliate marketing as a main source of revenue:

  • RetailMeNot
  • Krazy Coupon Lady
  • Deals 2 Buy
  • Groupon Coupons

At one point all these businesses were small, but through affiliate marketing, they are now heavy revenue producers!  It’s not impossible for you to start a business today and make affiliate revenue that produces big numbers.

4:  Like All Things Affiliate:  Keep The Wheel Turning

One of the questions I typically get is why a merchant (like a Macy’s) would decide to cease all affiliate related actions or cancel their affiliate program.  Just a few examples occur when an advertiser (merchant) stops their affiliate program:

  • Cash Back sites remove their merchant related profiles, i.e., Macy’s on their front page
  • Coupon sites may keep the exposures but know they won’t get a commission on the actions, so they promote other programs more
  • Blogs switch links with a competitor and change content up, i.e., swap GoDaddy Hosting links with BlueHost Affiliate Links

Advertisers that cancel or pause their affiliate program comes down to a few reasons, mostly being that their budgets are maxed or that they don’t have affiliate marketing as one of their main marketing aspects and like to use Email or other campaigns more.  Whenever I see a program cancel their affiliate program, it may have been something else entirely:  Mismanagement

Affiliate marketing is a very niche-like marketing aspect that only a select few truly understand how to optimize.  Typically when companies are looking to add affiliate marketing to their business strategy, they often use an existing employee to do so.  This usually comes back to haunt the program because Affiliate Management in itself requires a few specific things like deep connections in the industry and knowledge.  A traditional office employee will not have these two things, and thus a canceled program often becomes a target for an OPM (or Outsourced Program Manager).

Be Agile Young Padawan

OPMs will often look to gain several clients to survive, not because they don’t want to work with a singular client, but clients still underfund affiliate marketing regardless of performance.  It’s essential for all three areas of affiliate marketing to do what I call “keep the wheel turning.”  Here’s what I mean:

  • Publishers/Bloggers must look at competitors for better commission rates and stability
  • Advertisers must not depend on the top 10% of their revenue active publisher base
  • Networks can’t rely on the top 5% of their Advertisers and Publishers

If you’ve been in the affiliate marketing field for over ten years, it’s possible that even a Network could be mismanaged and cease operations.  One very famous example is the Google Affiliate Network or GAN for short.  Yes, even Google had an affiliate network several years back.  It was quite a good one also, but because Google did not figure affiliate marketing to be one of their top business strategies, they decided to cease operations.

Many Affiliate Managers like myself like to check out the old Google Affiliate Network verbiage for nostalgia

Need More Help? Ask! We offer Affiliate Marketing Coaching and Consulting at a low cost to you.  If you are a beginner, no worries all you need is the drive to start.  Website’s like MoneyHax, Retail Me Not and more have all started producing revenue by utilizing Affiliate Marketing.  For more info, hop over to the About Us page to find out why we do what we do.  Also, if you’d like a PDF of this post, you can always hit (Control + P) and then make sure to print as “Save as PDF” this way you get your own Affiliate Marekting 101 PDF

What is Affiliate Marketing you ask?  Take a look to your left!  At MoneyHax we tell you all about it, but essentially it's a way to refer friends and potential readers to products.  If they buy any of these products and services you earn commission (money).

5 thoughts on “Affiliate Marketing 101: Beginner’s Guide (Step By Step)

  1. Flexoffers, Amazon Associates, etc are all right programs, but I think a lot of people miss on Ebay’s affiliate program. One thing that is often missed for many getting in to affiliate marketing is that they get a % of the sale— when promotions happen throughout the year (eg Black Friday, etc), that oftentimes actually works against the affiliate marketer. This is because of the promotion price, you get the same percentage, just of a lower-priced item.
    Going back to Ebay”s affiliate program, the sale price almost always increases (due to bids) which can provide a fairly generous commission in some cases. Many times product prices on ebay are competitively priced w/ items on Amazon, etc. So why would someone ever choose to build a niche site (and affiliate marketing plan) promoting products which could produce you a lower commission than you had planned (due to the advertiser’s promotion schedule) if you could, instead, promote the product on ebay where payouts would start at a planned price with the potential increase payment? That’s what I wanna know.

    1. Well in this instance we aren’t recommended just a niche site, but building a social profile, or any blog. In doing so, you don’t have just to refer products as you mentioned. (eBay only hosts products, Amazon mostly products) FlexOffers, on the other hand, offers services as well as Handy, for example, a cleaning service.

  2. Informative article! Excellent explanation about affiliate marketing! Thanks for sharing such an valuable and helpful article!

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