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What is affiliate marketing and how much can you earn from it?

Affiliate marketing is a popular promotion model. Under it, partners (usually bloggers, influencers, podcasters, but also experts in a given industry) can increase their income by engaging in affiliate programs. Participating in such a program involves promoting the products or services of other companies in exchange for a commission. The key to the popularity of affiliate marketing is the fact that people interested in this way of earning do not have to commit their own funds. Instead, they use an already created brand and promote its products.
Read our guide to find out:

What is affiliate marketing and how does it work?

An affiliation is an arrangement between a seller and its affiliates. The seller provides products, branding and promotional materials. The creator promotes the vendor’s products and in return receives compensation in the form of commissions.

The brand partner’s job is to advertise products to its community and encourage its members to visit the site, store, make purchases or contact brand representatives. The main tool for evaluating the effectiveness of an affiliate is affiliate links, i.e. links assigned to a specific influencer. In this way, a brand working with a person to promote their products checks their effectiveness and pays commissions based on that.

Affiliates receive commissions most often for sales finalized after going to a store’s website through an affiliate link. However, closing a sale is not always a prerequisite for getting paid – in some industries, acquiring a lead (contact information about a potential customer), signing up for a free trial or newsletter, or even downloading a free app is enough.

What do affiliate programs consist of?

As a rule, participation in referral programs (affiliate programs) is free. All you need to do is find a program (e.g., by searching the Internet for the phrase “affiliate program” and adding the industry you are interested in), and then register on the appropriate site. After creating an account, it will be possible to generate an affiliate link, permanently assigned to the affiliate’s account. It is this link that is crucial in promoting products and services and making money in the process.

Ms. Karolina has established a partnership with ABC Publishing under the affiliate program. She registered on the program’s website and received her link. From now on, he can recommend the publisher’s publications, for example, on his social media, and add an affiliate link to the posts. Each time one of Ms. Karolina’s content recipients purchases a book using the link, Ms. Karolina will receive a commission or the commission will be credited to her affiliate account – so that she can withdraw the money once the threshold specified in the terms of cooperation is reached.

What about after registration? Affiliate program step by step

Here is an example of a single transaction handled with the participation of an affiliate program:

  1. The brand promoter places its affiliate link in various places – emails to customers, social media posts, on its website.
  2. The recipient of the promoter’s content clicks on the affiliate link and goes to the linked page.
  3. The recipient makes the purchase and finalizes the payment.
  4. The system operating the brand’s affiliate program registers the transaction and assigns it to the promoter’s account.
  5. The affiliate participant’s account is credited with the transaction commission.
  6. The brand partner withdraws funds from the account once the threshold is exceeded.

How do you get started with affiliate marketing? First campaign

You hear stories from all over about how affiliate marketing is a model to make good money and even achieve a mythical passive income. What’s more, affiliate marketing is said to be able to increase revenue by up to tens of percent, all with minimal involvement. Conveniently overlooked, however, is the fact that there are several necessary steps that must first be taken to make any money from an affiliate. Here they are!

Step one: choose the niche in which you want to operate

Although, in theory, you can deal with promoting products from different industries and market segments at the same time, it makes little sense to grab multiple pigtails at first. Instead, find a slice of the market that you know and are comfortable with.

When looking for the right niche, focus on what you have experience in, what you are interested in. And don’t forget about the audience – they are the key piece of this puzzle. You need to be able to establish contact and relationships with your target group, which is part of your chosen niche.

Mr. Tomasz worked for years in the tourism industry – he has insights and contacts in it. With this in mind, it chooses to engage in affiliate programs specifically related to tourism. However, this is a very broad industry, so Mr. Tomasz decides to narrow his search to tourist attractions for families with children at the Polish seaside. It’s a clarified, promising niche in which it finds itself and has the potential to make a lot of money from referrals.

Step two: find the right affiliate program

Now that you’ve chosen a niche you want to pursue, it’s time to find a program that will give you the best prospects for growth and earnings to begin with. For this, a thorough search of the Internet is necessary.

If you can’t find an affiliate program that matches your chosen niche, try to broaden your search a bit – a precise and very narrow niche is often a good starting point, but it’s not always possible to commit to an affiliate program with such set conditions.

What if there are too many programs and it’s not easy to choose a specific one? Note the key terms of the programs:

  • the commission rate offered – usually varies between 5% and 20%, although there are situations in which brands offer higher commissions, up to 30%. However, such conditions occur only in highly specialized industries and are offered to valued partners.
  • withdrawal terms – rarely do affiliate program developers allow arbitrary withdrawals. The rule is to establish a threshold from which withdrawals are possible. In this way, the brand secures increased commitment from partners, who need to earn more in commissions to pay out.
  • cookie expiration date – every transaction initiated using an affiliate link has an “expiration date”. This means that if a potential customer clicks on the link and goes to the store’s website, he or she has a certain amount of time to complete the transaction – it can be 7, 14, 30 days, or even longer. The more expensive the recommended products, the usually longer the buying process. The expiration date of cookies is therefore of considerable importance if you are recommending products to your audience, for which you have to pay a lot.
  • the extent of brand support – some affiliate programs count on greater involvement and self-reliance of partners, while others offer a range of support materials. If you’re new to affiliate marketing, pay special attention to whether the brand you want to work with provides affiliates with support materials, such as graphics, banners, promotional videos or access to the company’s knowledge base.

Step three: build (and develop) your personal brand

Don’t count on high sales of recommended products and earnings from commissions if… no one knows you. In affiliate marketing, it’s absolutely crucial to have an audience that will happily click on the ads you show them. Take care of the website, blog, active social media profiles. You can also promote affiliate links in YouTube videos, shorts on TikTok or even offline – just a QR code on a poster or wrapped company car.

If you want to create a strong personal brand, you can’t build it based on affiliate activities alone, because it is then very likely to be perceived as insincere. That is why – although we give this step as the third on the list – it should actually be step “zero”. Assuming, however, that you already have a brand, focus on developing it properly – expanding your audience and generating traffic.

To do this, it is necessary to engage in other marketing techniques: SEO (if you have a blog or website), social media (if you are active on social media), video marketing (if you create video content), and content marketing. The latter will come in handy in any case, because it is the creation of engaging, sincere and helpful content that will most powerfully help you build a community that will trust your judgment – and the fact that you recommend valuable products to them.

How to be effective in affiliate marketing?

It’s not enough to “drop” links to your partner’s store under your own posts to start making money from it. The exception is when you already have an army of fans for whom you are an authority. Otherwise, you still have a lot of work ahead of you.

Content strategy

An essential element of successful affiliate marketing is a content marketing strategy. As we mentioned in the previous section, content marketing is an integral part of affiliate marketing. If you want to make serious money from commissions, you need to put together a plan where you create content for your audience that will be interesting to them, as well as arouse a buying need in them. The more engaging your content (e.g., Facebook posts or videos on TikTok), the more traffic you will generate, which will translate into more potential customers.

Affiliation based on trust

Valuable content for your watchers is of colossal importance. Especially if you want to build a strong, trustworthy personal brand that will naturally drive your audience to buy, rather than an ad post. Transparency is also important – including proper, legitimate labeling of advertising collaborations and recommending products that you are able to say more about than “I recommend because I get paid for it.”

Tracking progress

Marketing is largely based on trying different activities and then analyzing their results in detail. You may not always be able to tailor your content to your audience perfectly, but you can always evaluate after publication what worked and what failed. Check how your content and ads are performing, analyze observer reactions to links, look at data on emails sent, read and clicked, study website traffic. Each of these elements is important to further develop your brand and increase referral revenue.

Relationships with companies whose products you recommend

Maintaining good relationships with partners can result in better terms of cooperation, access to higher quality promotional materials, and access to previously proprietary knowledge – for example, about the brand’s product audience. Some affiliate programs reach for gamification – they add achievements, tasks to be completed and points, the collection of which translates into achieving higher and higher levels of cooperation. This in turn translates – for example – into higher commissions or lower withdrawal thresholds. Before you choose an affiliate program, check to see if it offers this kind of solution.


Affiliate marketing carries great potential, but its use is not a matter of course. Building a partnership with a brand takes a lot of commitment, but it pays off with the promise of high earnings on commissions and the possibility of a long-term, entirely performance-based partnership.

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