A Quick Guide to Affiliate Marketing

A Quick Guide to Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing is becoming increasingly popular online today. It’s important for small business owners of all kinds to learn about what it is, and whether and how it might be able to work for you.

First up is clearly defining the key industry terms:

  • An advertiser is the company whose goods and services are being sold.
  • A publisher or affiliate is the person who is actually performing the marketing.

Fundamentally, affiliate marketing is an arrangement where an advertiser pays affiliates to market their products and services, usually via an online platform. This arrangement can be set up in a variety of ways.

Monetizing Your Website

The most common setup is a commission-per-sale agreement. In this scenario, the affiliate and the advertiser agree upon a set commission for each sale. For example, if an advertiser agrees to pay $30 per sale to its affiliates, then every time an affiliate refers a customer who ends up purchasing, the affiliate receives $30. As the process repeats over time with more and more customers, the affiliate has a strong revenue stream and the advertiser has a larger customer base.

This strategy is a different way to monetize a publisher’s website than something like Google AdSense, which pays you for every click visitors make on banner advertisements displayed on your site. The affiliate agreement is instead based on actual sales. Compared to AdSense, affiliate marketing will have fewer transactions but much, much higher payouts.

Joining an Affiliate Program

There are two ways to join an affiliate program. One way is to join an in-house program run by a single company, such as Amazon. In this case there is a direct relationship between the advertiser and the affiliate.

The other path is to join an affiliate network. Prominent affiliate networks include ShareASale, Rakuten Linkshare, and LinkConnector. Many affiliates prefer to join networks for several reasons:

  • Publishers can be certain that the advertiser will pay the commission because it is guaranteed by the affiliate network.
  • When an affiliate joins a network, they have access to many different advertisers, and can target just the advertisers they are comfortable placing on their site.

Marketing as an Affiliate

Once an affiliate and an advertiser enter into an agreement, the affiliate can market for the advertiser in many different ways. The first—and easiest—way is for the affiliate to personally refer friends and contacts whom they know would be interested in the product or service they are advertising. This route relies on the trust factor of interpersonal relationships. People are more likely to buy when they are referred by someone they know.

Another marketing strategy is for publishers is to write reviews of the product or service on either their website or social media accounts. This can be an effective approach, because people love to have more information about a product before they buy, and the review establishes the publisher as someone with credible knowledge. The more they know, the more likely consumers are to buy.

A third route for publishers is to put an advertisement on their website. This could be a banner advertisement, or a text advertisement. Either way, the ad would link to the advertiser’s website, from which consumers could in turn purchase products or services. This more passive marketing strategy will have the lowest conversion rate, however.


Affiliate marketing can be an effective tool to monetize a website or bring in additional revenue for a business. If you are interested in becoming an affiliate, you can always become GoSmallBiz affiliate for free, with details at http://www.shareasale.com/shareasale.cfm?merchantID=59951. I am always happy to help people with additional questions about our affiliate program and how it can help them!

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Ed Fox

Ed Fox

Ed Fox works closely with partnership stakeholders and product leaders on business strategic planning, as Director of Technology. Ed leads the product and technology teams, directing operations while working with clients to ensure a successful development process and, when appropriate, integration with existing platforms. Ed’s specialty is aligning technology vision and strategy with product and business direction, and converting strategic plans into platforms that can grow in the market.