Hi Rae, I think the right niche is the most important step in affiliate marketing. If you choose the wrong niche, you can be doomed from the very beginning. Need a buying niche not just one where people are looking for information. Also you only mentioned it briefly at the end, I think promoting something you know about or is your passion makes the process a lot easier. Great post though, Tom.
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.
Plus, consumers are more likely to rely on a trusted source for brand information than they are an advertisement. In the current state of influencers and rampant review sites, we’re looking to real people’s opinions more than we are static advertisements or TV commercials. With your affiliates comes the trust of networks they’ve previously established.
In the BigCommerce affiliate program, you receive a 200% bounty per referral and $1,500 per Enterprise referral, with no cap on commissions. Plus, the more referrals you drive through the program, the higher your commission tier will go. BigCommerce uses an industry leading 90-day cookie, so you will receive credit for up to three months for the referrals you generate. Also, there are no obligations or minimum commitments to join the program.
Leadpages also offers an option for affiliates to send referrals to attend a Leadpages webinar with standard commissions paid for any sale generated from the webinar. However, Leadpages requires you to get at least 150 people to sign up (but not necessarily attend) each webinar. Leadpages also offers affiliates the ability to view blog posts and videos on Leadpages’s site, again with the standard commission paid for any sales.

I think one of the most important things bloggers need to do to get affiliate sales is to make sure they have great photos for what they are selling/promoting. Good writing is important but most people are attracted to the visual aspect of what they’re reading. My posts with more photos do so much better than the posts that don’t have as many. Your audience needs to see what the product actually looks like. Many people are lazy and may not always click on the text link.
The Wirecutter.com and TheSweetHome.com were sold a couple years back to the New York Times.  They were both Amazon Affiliate sites, and that's where most of their revenue came from then, and still comes from today.  When the sites were purchased, TheSweetHome.com was redirected to TheWireCutter.com as both sites had very similar content structures.  The WireCutter dominates organic search results for a lot of buyer-intent keywords, and is also a “verified expert reviewer” by Amazon.  The site gets huge amounts of organic traffic, and has gained massively in popularity and search positioning once it was purchase by the New York Times.  
Most affiliates have wizards of varying degrees of sophistication that will guide you through creating the links you want. Smashwords keeps things the simplest. Scroll down to the bottom of any of their book pages, and, if you’ve signed up for their affiliate program, you’ll see a link you can simply copy and paste (it’ll already have your affiliate ID embedded).

Hi Jamie! Thank you for the great information. I just learned about affiliate marketing last week. The source however, is an older couple who work for World Wide Dreams Builders (WWDB). So, basically Amway. After researching a bit. I have no interest in WWDB and. (It sounds like years of recruiting people with minimal payout) Though, I am highly intrigued by e-commerce and affiliate marketing. Before your post the company I recognized was Amazon. Can you please tell me if that will be the best 1st step. I am currently an unemployed student Veteran. So plan to fully emerge into this business regime and would greatly appreciate your advice on this!!!
The best way to think about affiliate marketing is quality over quantity. There are a lot of small websites that will promote your product, but the key is finding a small number of partners that will deliver conversions. For example, an equity management services firm has over 20,000 affiliates in its system, but only about 25 affiliates generate 85 percent of revenue.
I love this piece of content because it’s not content as we think of it in any traditional sense, although seasoned link builders will probably recognize the angle here: creating a hyper useful tool that’s going to do very well in the context of a content marketing campaign. What makes this one of their top pieces of content, however, is that it also targets a very good keyword.
The term niche, when used in the study of business, is used to define a business’s role in a market. Not only does its niche include the environment that a given business operates in, but it also includes the business’s “job” in that environment. A niche may also encompass how the business is monetized, how it interacts with consumers, and also how it interacts with other businesses and influencers within the environment, as well.
File-Sharing: Web sites that host directories of music, movies, games and other software. Users upload content to file-hosting sites and then post descriptions of the material and their download links on directory sites. Uploaders are paid by the file-hosting sites based on the number of times their files are downloaded. The file-hosting sites sell premium download access to the files to the general public. The websites that host the directory services sell advertising and do not host the files themselves.
On the other hand, the more appealing your niche is, the harder it is to break into. If you go too competitive, you’ll never carve out your space. This is why I abandoned my shoe niche! To continue our cooking example, a quick Google search tells me there are thousands of cooking blogs out there. I would need to identify a more specific cooking niche to stand out. It’s also easier to find your audience if you write for a niche that’s not so well-known. That way, you can rise through the ranks faster with less effort.
You have identified and listed your top 10 topical interests and passions. You are now ready to start narrowing down your potential choices. To create your profitable online business, you first need to determine the challenges and problems your target customers are experiencing. More importantly you will then need to determine whether or not you can actually solve them. Here are several ways you can identify the challenges and/or problems in specific niches:
You want to pay specific attention to gravity. Gravity is basically how many sales this product gets. You want to see whether or not these are products that you could potentially promote to the people that visit your site. You just want to scroll down and see what’s doing well and see what’s interesting. For example, ‘Escape Plan: Ditch the Rat Race, Discover the World’. This might be nice for that travel hacks niche site if you decided to make that. If you don’t find anything on Clickbank, no worries; there are plenty of other ways to monetize your site with affiliate offers. You’re just looking here to see whether or not your niche can be monetized.
Now you should have a pretty good idea of what niche you are going to get involved with. It is possible that you haven’t narrowed the list down to a single topic area, but you probably have found a few ideas that you feel real good about. Now at this point, it’s important to get an idea of how much money you can potentially make in your chosen niche. ClickBank is a great place to go to that search. First you browse top products in your category. If you don’t find any offers, that is not a good sign. It could mean that no one has been able to monetize that niche.
Broadly speaking there are two schools of thought when it comes to choosing a niche for affiliate marketing. Some people argue that you should simply follow the money. By carrying out some research you can identify products with high commissions and good profit potential. At the end of the day we’re out to make money, so there is some logic to this. The other way to pick your affiliate marketing niche is to think about your own interests and passions, and this is the route I’ve followed to build my affiliate marketing business.
The following affiliate marketing examples come from five different bloggers who are in different stages of their blogging experiences. The dollar amounts shared do not represent their total incomes, but rather a portion of their affiliate marketing income only. All of these bloggers make significantly more than the amounts shown. Yes, it’s possible to make money blogging!
Find a program — As we discussed earlier, many affiliate marketers find their merchants, vendors, or brands through affiliate programs. It’s important you determine your niche prior to finding a program, as some programs are geared toward certain types of products. If you’re interested in a particular affiliate program, look into what kinds of products it offers and whether it has any data on the success of its affiliates.
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.  
Find your circles. Let’s say that you’re interested in crafts. It’s not a huge niche globally speaking, but those who are crafty likely love to connect with other crafters and see the latest and greatest products. Connect with circles in social media groups, forums, and so on. Build up your identity there and you’ll be able to see what is getting attention.
Cost per mille requires only that the publisher make the advertising available on his or her website and display it to the page visitors in order to receive a commission. Pay per click requires one additional step in the conversion process to generate revenue for the publisher: A visitor must not only be made aware of the advertisement but must also click on the advertisement to visit the advertiser's website.
Greatist.com is a health publication that was started in 2011.  The traffic growth over the last couple years is incredible, and the site has become a full fledged media resource.  Greatist.com has a larger staff, and has purchased a number of other online businesses.  The top keyword “healthy breakfasts” gets an estimated 62,000 searches per month, but the long tail traffic that Greatist.com gets is truly incredible.
Jump up ^ Shashank SHEKHAR (2009-06-29). "Online Marketing System: Affiliate marketing". Feed Money.com. Archived from the original on 2011-05-15. Retrieved 2011-04-20. During November 1994, CDNOW released its BuyWeb program. With this program CDNOW was the first non-adult website to launch the concept of an affiliate or associate program with its idea of click-through purchasing.
When promoting affiliate offers, just make sure you are fully aware of all the terms and conditions attached to your affiliate program. Some programs can be strict about how they allow you to promote their products. For example, some may limit you to banner ads and links only, while others will allow you to use paid advertising, but won't allow email marketing. 
Many thanks for your open words. Maybe online marketing / business really is not for all of us out there - at least not for exactly those hard working people mentioned by you, as these usually don´t have so much time beside their full time job and the family. So much about the countless promises from certain online marketers suggesting otherwise, saying everyone can do it - of course with some "help" - i.e. their very own products.
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