As you can see the two types of programs are different. Even so, there are some similarities. The biggest one, as you can guess, is that incentives drive people to promote. Whether it be promoting a link in a piece of content, like in affiliate marketing. Or sharing a referral link with a friend, as with referral marketing. The incentive isn’t the only thing on the line, however…
The other competition, the one we want low, is the competition of the top 10 sites ranking in Google for that keyword. When we say low SERP Competition, it menas we are addressing the strength of the top 10 and thats made up of a series of factors which Spencer mentioned will be addressed in detail in future posts. But to name a few: Title, backlinks to page, and number of links to the ranking page. Hope that helps 🙂

As you can see the two types of programs are different. Even so, there are some similarities. The biggest one, as you can guess, is that incentives drive people to promote. Whether it be promoting a link in a piece of content, like in affiliate marketing. Or sharing a referral link with a friend, as with referral marketing. The incentive isn’t the only thing on the line, however…
Awesome article! This is jam packed with great info. I am just starting a personal finance blog with my fiance and we were a little confused about how to start monetizing. We were initially thinking about using Google AdSense but between this post and another blog I read I am surely convinced that’s not the correct route. I’m really happy you have shared this information because it’s provided an excellent starting point for creating income.
If you've been following me for a while, you probably know that nowadays, everything is about quality – not just from the website, but also the quality of the actual page on the site as well.  You are unlikely to rank well for a competitive keyword with a 1500 word article and lots of links.  Most articles need to be in-depth, and answer every question the user might have about the topic.
For example, the content on Super Weddings is useful whether you're organizing a wedding today or next year. All the content on the site is created accordingly. To make things easier for the audience, it is separated into categories to make it very convenient for the reader to find what they're looking for. This, of course, is also very good for SEO. 
SimilarWeb tells us that visitors go to less 2 pages per visit. So, you can see the difference in TWC versus Outdoor Gear Lab. The products are less targeted so maybe visitors are more interested in buying something specific, not window shopping. The reviews are generally long and visitors are skimming a lot because the average time on the site is about 90 seconds.
For example, if I talk about how cool a product is, and then you find out that I’m an affiliate for them, wouldn’t you as a conscientious observer become skeptical as to whether my information is biased, if perhaps I’m only saying how cool something is because I can get paid for it? Wouldn’t that make you question my integrity with other things I say as well?

Affiliates discussed the issues in Internet forums and began to organize their efforts. They believed that the best way to address the problem was to discourage merchants from advertising via adware. Merchants that were either indifferent to or supportive of adware were exposed by affiliates, thus damaging those merchants' reputations and tarnishing their affiliate marketing efforts. Many affiliates either terminated the use of such merchants or switched to a competitor's affiliate program. Eventually, affiliate networks were also forced by merchants and affiliates to take a stand and ban certain adware publishers from their network. The result was Code of Conduct by Commission Junction/beFree and Performics,[31] LinkShare's Anti-Predatory Advertising Addendum,[32] and ShareASale's complete ban of software applications as a medium for affiliates to promote advertiser offers.[33] Regardless of the progress made, adware continues to be an issue, as demonstrated by the class action lawsuit against ValueClick and its daughter company Commission Junction filed on April 20, 2007.[34]
Giving away a free informational product such as an e-book, an email series or a mini-course is a popular tactic many affiliate marketers use. Usually, your readers will have to provide their email addresses to receive the product from you. You can then use this to sell to them via email marketing. Additionally, an informational product can generate interest in the actual product you're trying to sell. If your product is popular enough and brings enough traffic to your site, you could also monetize the traffic in other ways, such as AdSense.
A browser extension is a plug-in that extends the functionality of a web browser. Some extensions are authored using web technologies such as HTML, JavaScript, and CSS. Most modern web browsers have a whole slew of third-party extensions available for download. In recent years, there has been a constant rise in the number of malicious browser extensions flooding the web. Malicious browser extensions will often appear to be legitimate as they seem to originate from vendor websites and come with glowing customer reviews.[28] In the case of affiliate marketing, these malicious extensions are often used to redirect a user’s browser to send fake clicks to websites that are supposedly part of legitimate affiliate marketing programs. Typically, users are completely unaware this is happening other than their browser performance slowing down. Websites end up paying for fake traffic number, and users are unwitting participants in these ad schemes.

This affiliate will probably send out a lesson from the mini-course every day or every couple of days for a set period of time. The lessons will direct the reader back to the website so that he or she can be exposed to more promotions and affiliate ads in addition to their “free lessons”. Then, once the reader has received all the free lessons, they will likely be added to the affiliate’s “regular” newsletter list. Unless they unsubscribe they will receive occasional news or promotions from the affiliate but less frequently than with the lessons. If this affiliate is smart he will continue to provide good content to his list and not just use it as a vehicle for pushing affiliate products. You need to give your readers good reasons to open your emails and not just send them straight to the trash folder.
Thanks for the great info and many examples. If a picture is worth 1000 words, 17 excellent examples are worth gazillions!! BTW, your use of “persona” was 100% correct. While a persona can be fake or deceptive (eg, “she adopted a meek persona every time he was around, but in reality, she was anything but…”), but it in no way implies that person behind it is not real. The more general meaning of the term is any character or personality presented outwardly, as to an audience or the public, and that is precisely how you used the word here.

VigLink works a bit differently than other affiliate programs in that it is specifically designed for bloggers. Instead of affiliates picking and choosing which merchants to work with, VigLink uses dynamic links that automatically change to work with merchants that VigLink has determined are offering the highest conversation rates and/or commissions at any given moment.
The Wirecutter is the best example of an affiliate site that I’ve ever seen. I wouldn’t even put it in the same category as what you’d think of as an affiliate site, aside from how they make their money. Brian Lam’s a great example of someone who sticks to a principle and then grinds it out to the nth degree. Can’t say how many times I’ve used that site (and TheSweethome) for product reviews.
1. To become an affiliate marketer, you should strongly consider focusing on recurring revenue; this means that the flow of income can be routinely predictable from month to month instead of sporadic and in small and short bursts spread over several months. Recurring revenue, or residual income, is money that is continuously earned while no work is currently and presently being accomplished. All of the time has already been invested; this is good when trying to eliminate the guesswork when it comes to being able to maintain a steady income.

This book is badly organized. For starters much of it points to information in prior books of the author. The author also commits an entire chapter describing how the book is laid out. Also the author repeatedly states that he won't waste time trying to convince you that affiliate marketing is a good idea and then spends several pages arguing that it's a good idea. The examples given are also weak. The only reason I'm giving this 3 stars is because it did provide some useful information, though I had to wade through 3 chapters first before finding any. I finally gave up on this book and gave a cheaper one a try. It turned out to be much better. If you're in the market for a digital book on this topic try Affiliate Programs: How to Make Money Online with Other People's Products by Joel Comm instead. It gives you just enough info to get you going in the right direction and is a much better value.
Great stuff here Sean – thanks for all of these insights and sharing some best practices when it comes to affiliate marketing. I’ve never been comfortable giving it a shot, but after reading this post and your perspective on how and when to do it, I may just have to give it a try. Especially considering I’m already mentioning and recommending services and products on my site, I’m just not getting the potential rewards associated with doing so. Thanks again.

These figures demonstrate that Harsh has fully optimised his site for affiliate marketing. It also shows that when you’re first starting out with an affiliate marketing website, you can focus on just that. You don’t need to worry about monetising your website through any other means just yet. After you start generating a decent income from affiliate marketing then you can look at introducing other ways of making money.
Some commentators originally suggested that affiliate links work best in the context of the information contained within the website itself. For instance, if a website contains information pertaining to publishing a website, an affiliate link leading to a merchant's internet service provider (ISP) within that website's content would be appropriate. If a website contains information pertaining to sports, an affiliate link leading to a sporting goods website may work well within the context of the articles and information about sports. The goal, in this case, is to publish quality information on the website and provide context-oriented links to related merchant's websites. 

If this were 2002, I'd have laughed at that advice. I've always joked that I can learn to love anything that makes me money. The first niches I competed in were telecom, weight loss and satellite TV – and they certainly weren't “hobbies” I was passionate about, LOL. But that was before the “blog era” when an affiliate site could easily survive as an anonymous presence without a face behind it on the web – and in Google.
A niche is a segment of a market you can identify and target. As a rule of thumb, there will be less competition if you choose a narrow niche. Chances are the best domain names are already taken for the most popular niches, and generating traffic will be harder. For example, competition is intense in the diet and fitness niche, and you’ll have to work really hard to rank well in search engines and attract volumes of traffic. However, there are thousands of narrower niches in these fields where you’ll be able to make good money as an affiliate marketer. Examples would include paleo diets, fitness for the over 60s and losing weight after pregnancy.
Good to get motivation before starting my first ever affiliate site on Parenting niche on which I believe I will add value with the help of my team. All these websites have a good team behind may be at start the single person handle the project but when your project start growing try to build the team of right people who also have the same interest to go in a long run.
In this day and age, attacking a niche that has promotional possibilities OUTSIDE of the search engines is a smart move. The truth is, building traffic through these alternate methods initially, will help you rank better IN the search engines. Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, Google+ (haha, I had to)… are there any niche avenues? For instance, the larger recipe sites often let users submit recipes – can you utilize that to promote your blog? Are there blogs in the niche that accept guest posts to help you build your brand, user base, and link profile?

The general idea of affiliate marketing is simple, but it does require a certain level of learning and experience to master it. You can literally start signing up for various affiliate accounts and start promoting them in blog posts, in email and on social media (be sure to read the fine print though because some programs don’t allow all methods of promotion). But if you really want to start affiliate marketing the right way, I suggest you listen to a professional.
Can you make money with affiliate marketing? The short answer is yes, affiliate programs can earn a extra money and even a full-time income from home. The long answer is a little more complicated. Like any home income venture, success comes not so much from what you choose to do to make money, but whether or not you do what needs to be done correctly and consistently.
I’d stick with Amazon if I were you. All of my Amazon sites only have Amazon affiliate links. If you use Google Adsense display ads on your site, you’re literally taking people away from your site for the sake of just a few cents with these type of ads. If you direct them just to Amazon, then you have a greater chance of earning more money from that click.
The seller, whether a solo entrepreneur or large enterprise, is a vendor, merchant, product creator, or retailer with a product to market. The product can be a physical object, like household goods, or a service, like makeup tutorials. Also known as the brand, the seller does not need to be actively involved in the marketing, but they may also be the advertiser and profit from the revenue sharing associated with affiliate marketing.

Thank you so much! You've been an inspiration throughout. The way you wrote about TIWIB, and how they drive insane traffic from social media is mind blowing. I am amazed that even going viral on a social site like pinterest for one day can build our brand identity huge. Am I correct? Now I need to get going with my first affiliate site, come up with a unique idea and learn how to drive traffic from each source. I feel Adsense is not so rewarding.
While the traffic estimates are lower than some of the other sites on this list, people in the baby gear niche are an important customer base because they definitely purchase products.  This is a big industry and I would guess that the conversion rate for this site is slightly higher than OutDoorGearLab.com.  Typically when someone researches a baby product, they are typically looking to buy that baby product.  If someone is researching a tent, they may just be looking around at different options that they can compare for their next camping trip – not necessarily to buy that tent.  Most of their traffic is organic, and continuing the trend of well ranked long form content, their top post is 8,800 words long (which is a beast of an article).  If I had to take a guess at revenue, it would probably be north of 30k per month for this site based on traffic.
When it comes to ranking well in Google, generally Google will give your site preferential treatment on certain topics, once it's figured out what your website is about. Sites that cover such a broad variety of topics don't tend to rank as well as sites that are niched down, unless you have an amazing backlink profile and a really big budget.  Since TheWireCutter is owned by New York Times, they have the budget to test new products, and have the authority to get linked to by any other web properties owned by the New York Times.  If you niche down to a specific audience, it's far more likely that Google will favor your content over a larger site when it comes to that audience.  OutdoorGearLab.com has done exactly that by only focusing on outdoor gear reviews.  I am guessing that they also have a large budget, and have built a very successful affiliate business as a result.  Plus it's a great looking site with lots of excellent information.  
In short, stick to the basics (proven evergreen markets) because demand is forever in those niches.  Stick to hobbies and extracurricular activities that give immeasurable pleasure to people – upper-income people in particular. Finally as a last resort, and if you are willing to learn and think “outside the box”, look for the biggest payouts available and become the niche expert that draws in sales like a magnet!
Thats a great point, and I’ve definitely seen my fair share of those “how to start a blog” posts. That’s always been a good fit for people at Location 180, and if they do a good job on the post (truly make it useful) that’s one that doesnt bother me as much – solely because I know how valuable starting a blog can be for your life and goals. So if it’s some personal finance blogger that creates one and you start a blog from that by following their tutorial – all the better!
Just like I've been able to create several profitable websites, this site is a really good example of what's working right now in SEO.  The site is full of useful content, and most of the newer content is pretty long-form (meaning over 2,000 words per article).  They publish quite a bit, and this team is known to have their processes down really well between their writers, editors, VAs, and other parts of their team.  This is a tough niche to crack, but these guys have done a great job showcasing how to build a profitable authority site from A-Z.
The easiest thing to do is to sign up for an affiliate marketing network like Commission Junction. They provide a marketplace where your affiliate program will be advertised to other affiliate marketers. They also provide the tracking software for your affiliates so you don’t have to build your own tracking system. In some ways this is better because it takes care of the trust issues. Affiliates are always suspicious of whether or not they’re getting credited for the sales they generate. By having an intermediary take care of transaction tracking and payments, the fear of being cheated is alleviated. 
Designing and developing your blog / niche site – When it comes to themes and designing your blog/website, if you want to go big, and get real pro right out of the gate, I suggest you look into the Rainmaker Platform, which is what THIS website is built with. To keep things a little more simple, once you’ve got started with Bluehost, you can visit StudioPress to get your site looking pretty.
A quick and inexpensive method of making money without the hassle of actually selling a product, affiliate marketing has an undeniable draw for those looking to increase their income online. But how does an affiliate get paid after linking the seller to the consumer? The answer is complicated. The consumer doesn’t always need to buy the product for the affiliate to get a kickback. Depending on the program, the affiliate’s contribution to the seller’s sales will be measured differently. The affiliate may get paid in various ways:

I’m a college student looking to understand how niche websites work. I have tuition due and would love to figure out how they work. I’ve already went to your website to read the information and I just have one question depending on my learning curve how long typically does it take for an individual to make a successful niche site and make start earning income?


MaxBounty works exclusively with digital products, usually about giving one’s email or signing up for a newsletter. MaxBounty has CPA, Pay-per-call, and CPL campaigns that you can choose from. MaxBounty is involved in a large number of verticals, including market research, real estate, social games, finance, dating, and diet, but is primarily designed for marketers seeking to acquire new leads.
For example, we have Trip Advisor at the 140th spot. What you’d want to do is say, “What about travel? Is that a niche I might explore?” and then follow the next steps I’m going to show you. The next thing you want to do, once you have an idea, is head over to Quora.com, which is a crowdsource question/answer site. You want to put ‘travel’ into the search field. Then look at some of the top questions that come up in Quora search results. The reason you’re doing this is you’re taking the broad niche of travel and finding smaller niches that you can create sites around, and then monetize with affiliate offers. For example, we have this question here by Sameer: What are the best travel hacks? That’s a niche right there, travel hacks. Instead of covering all of travel, you can cover things like frequent flier miles, how to travel on the cheap, things like that. We also look at this question here: What are the most surreal places one can ever visit? You could focus on surreal destinations. Is India a good travel destination? You could have a blog or a site that covers traveling in India. These are just ways that you can brainstorm different niches under this greater niche.
Education occurs most often in "real life" by becoming involved and learning the details as time progresses. Although there are several books on the topic, some so-called "how-to" or "silver bullet" books instruct readers to manipulate holes in the Google algorithm, which can quickly become out of date,[37] or suggest strategies no longer endorsed or permitted by advertisers.[38]

Let no one tell you that email marketing is dead. An email list is crucial for every affiliate marketer. You can start building up your email list with a lead magnet (like the information products mentioned previously) or even just by encouraging your audience to sign up for your updates. You can then push your content to this audience via email and also direct them to your affiliate offers. Don't be sleazy about the sales, but if you build up enough trust with your email audience; when the time comes, they will not mind purchasing a product from you. 
If you are completely new to affiliate marketing, you will appreciate the overview, advice, and pointers. For me the book was way too basic and was not polished (lacking solid editing) like I expected from a book available on Amazon. It promoted a few affiliate management software products which felt salesy and out of place. I agree with the comments that the content switched back and forth between being an affiliate and running an affiliate program for your site. The book was OK and serves a purpose, so 3 stars is my review.

Previously known as Affiliate Window but now officially referred to as “AWIN” after acquiring Zanox a few years ago, this network claims to work with over 13,000 active advertisers and 100,000 publishers (affiliates). Founded in Germany, AWIN’s merchants primarily hail from Europe (especially Great Britain) although the U.S. network is growing rapidly. AWIN is currently active in 11 countries.
Internet Marketing: A beginners guide how to make online business and to master simple sales techniques (marketing tools, social marketing, social media, … money management, make money Book 5), making money online isn’t all beaches and a new big house. Simple marketing techniques to ensure you capture a sale are in play every transaction. Creating a system that works is completely reliant on making conversions. Use a beginners guide to get started for $3.99. Get the Book!
A browser extension is a plug-in that extends the functionality of a web browser. Some extensions are authored using web technologies such as HTML, JavaScript, and CSS. Most modern web browsers have a whole slew of third-party extensions available for download. In recent years, there has been a constant rise in the number of malicious browser extensions flooding the web. Malicious browser extensions will often appear to be legitimate as they seem to originate from vendor websites and come with glowing customer reviews.[28] In the case of affiliate marketing, these malicious extensions are often used to redirect a user’s browser to send fake clicks to websites that are supposedly part of legitimate affiliate marketing programs. Typically, users are completely unaware this is happening other than their browser performance slowing down. Websites end up paying for fake traffic number, and users are unwitting participants in these ad schemes.
In this example, a blogger might put this link on their blog to try to get their readers to click through to your “blue widget” page and hopefully buy something. If the visitor who clicks on this link actually buys something, affiliate tracking software will automatically (usually – depends on what system you are using) pay your affiliate a percentage of the sale.
The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which took effect on May 25, 2018, is a set of regulations governing the use of personal data across the EU. This is forcing some affiliates to obtain user data through opt-in consent (updated privacy policies and cookie notices), even if they are not located in the European Union. This new regulation should also remind you to follow FTC guidelines and clearly disclose that you receive affiliate commissions from your recommendations. 
In the case of cost per mille/click, the publisher is not concerned about whether a visitor is a member of the audience that the advertiser tries to attract and is able to convert, because at this point the publisher has already earned his commission. This leaves the greater, and, in case of cost per mille, the full risk and loss (if the visitor cannot be converted) to the advertiser.
Because the site is ranking #1 in Google for this (and probably ranks very well for other related terms), they are probably making great money.  This is probably easily a $100 to $200 a day website.  That's right, I would not be surprised if this site was pulling in $3k to $6k or more each month.  In fact it could be more, but its hard to guess without knowing all the traffic they are receiving.
I know someone who created an Amazon affiliate site back in 2008. The site was making around $5,000/month when the owner decided to sell the site through Flippa. It was sold for $109,000 on June 2013. For some reason, the site has been down for several months now and I have no idea what the new owners are thinking. The domain was about iPhone reviews.

Keeping tabs on what worked and what didn’t will help you decide not only how to strategize in the future, but which brands or vendors to continue doing business with. In the same way freelancers keep books and records of which publishers or editors they enjoyed working with, affiliates have the independence to reroute later on if they don’t end up enjoying certain brands or products.

The phrase, "Affiliates are an extended sales force for your business", which is often used to explain affiliate marketing, is not completely accurate. The primary difference between the two is that affiliate marketers provide little if any influence on a possible prospect in the conversion process once that prospect is directed to the advertiser's website. The sales team of the advertiser, however, does have the control and influence up to the point where the prospect either a) signs the contract, or b) completes the purchase.
I have highlighted with red boxes how they are monetizing the site.  First I will point out how professional the site looks – it has a custom logo and a very clean look and feel to the site.  This helps build trust right away.  Secondly, I like how they have the salary data that searchers are looking for right away on top.  Then they have the adsense ads immediately following (still above the fold).

The website has lots of affiliate links to Amazon. So, when people look at their reviews and go to buy something from Amazon, they earn commissions. In addition, they have for sure the highest commission rates from Amazon and from other partner sites because they have so huge volume. Top Ten Reviews also uses ads and I think they make a nice income with them as well.


Among those sites, I still found 50em.com to be one of the most superficial ones. As some would say, working as an affiliate is similar to that of an employee, in that if the company discontinues the products, or stop the affiliate programs, the money would stop coming in as well. The hypertarget focus of 50em.com is well appreciated and a great lesson though.
The concept of affiliate marketing on the Internet was conceived of, put into practice and patented by William J. Tobin, the founder of PC Flowers & Gifts. Launched on the Prodigy Network in 1989, PC Flowers & Gifts remained on the service until 1996. By 1993, PC Flowers & Gifts generated sales in excess of $6 million per year on the Prodigy service. In 1998, PC Flowers and Gifts developed the business model of paying a commission on sales to the Prodigy Network.[4][5]
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