Affiliate Marketing for Beginners – How to Get Started Today

A little less than ten years ago I left my unsatisfying corporate finance career to blog full-time. A big part of that success was my ability to understand and implement affiliate marketing across my blog. This is still the #1 revenue driver on my blog today.

Perhaps you are a new content creator or maybe you are only new to the business side of things. One of the most effective and helpful monetization tools to consider is affiliate marketing. As a beginner to affiliate marketing, you probably have questions about what affiliate marketing is.

This affiliate marketing for beginners crash course unlocks everything that content creators need to know to get started with affiliate marketing today. From a basic definition and some of the common language to possible platforms and time-tested tips, this post will boost your confidence and prepare you to grow this new income stream.

What is affiliate marketing?

Affiliate marketing is a process that rewards affiliates (that’s you!) for promoting brands to your audience. It is a content creator’s opportunity to make product and service recommendations that they think their audiences would benefit from. By making money in the process, they can keep creating content and serving those who benefit from it. Depending on the terms of the affiliate marketing program, affiliates earn a commission based on clicks, sign-ups, sales, or other parameters.

Is it spammy or scammy?

No! Affiliate marketing should be the exact opposite. Think of this as an opportunity to save your audience time. By recommending products and services that you know, love, and trust to add value to your audience, you are actually doing them a favor. Rather than stumbling upon a product by chance, audiences have someone making direct recommendations after vetting the products and services themselves.

If an affiliate opportunity feels spammy or scammy to you, trust your gut. Don’t promote that product or service to your audience. Instead, stick to options that you would only share with your closest friends and family.

Is affiliate marketing legal?

Affiliate marketing is legal. It’s also a common online practice that your audience is likely already familiar with. Just because your audience may expect affiliate marketing from you doesn’t mean you don’t still have work to do, though.

Even as an affiliate marketing beginner, you need to familiarize yourself with the FTC guidelines. In addition, using a standard disclaimer near the byline and in the sidebar or footer, you need to disclose the individual affiliate links. That means that when your audience sees a link, they should know it’s an affiliate link.

Here’s a recap of the FTC requirements regarding your disclosure. According to the FTC, the information must be:

  • Clear and conspicuous
  • Easy to notice
  • Easy to understand
  • Free of distraction

Is affiliate marketing the same as network marketing and MLMs?

At first glance, the network marketing–sometimes also known as multi-level marketing (MLM)–may seem similar to affiliate marketing. Marketing is in both titles after all. However, affiliate marketing is actually very different from network marketing.

Network marketing is a business model that invites individual representatives to build a network of salespeople, usually built based on referrals within people’s immediate circles. Together, they work on lead generation and landing sales. Businesses like Amway, Avon, and Tupperware are some of the most recognized examples of network marketing.

Unlike network marketing, affiliate marketing recommendations don’t require audiences to make future recommendations themselves.

What is the difference between affiliate marketing and referral programs?

Referral programs are generally available to everyone. When someone recommends a product or a service, a referral program may offer discounts or products. In a case like this, you might receive a free month of a subscription for recommending a friend.

However, affiliate marketing programs are special partnerships. Often times, in the case of affiliate marketing, affiliates receive cash or another form of compensation for their work. In this instance, you might receive a $50 payment for everyone who signs up through your affiliate link. Additionally, the program may have particular stipulations regarding who can be an affiliate and what criteria they need to meet.

What are some of the common affiliate marketing terms I need to know?

Affiliate marketing language might seem confusing at first. Don’t let the acronyms deter you. Understanding even just a handful of these affiliate marketing terms will go a long way.

CPC – Cost Per Click

This is about as self-explanatory as it gets when it comes to affiliate marketing lingo. In order to generate a commission, your audience has to actually click on the link. Sometimes, this is also known as Pay Per Click, or PPC.

CPM – Cost Per Mile

This has nothing to do with driving; instead, it’s based on mile, the Latin word for thousand. That means that there is an affiliate payout based on every 1000 impressions. Generally, CPC applies to things like native ads or banners on your site.

CPA – Cost Per Action

This payout model requires your audience to complete a specific action. Whether it’s exploring a particular part of a website or purchasing a product, the parameters should be clearly outlined as part of the affiliate marketing partnership.

CPL – Cost Per Lead

This functions similarly to CPA, and it focuses specifically on lead generation. These affiliate programs are looking to gather data from prospective customers.

When you consider different affiliate partnerships, don’t let lingo like this deter you. This glossary at a glance should be a helpful starting point. You can also do a Google search for any of the keywords. That will likely yield myriad results. Additionally, the FinCon Facebook group is another excellent resource. There, you can ask questions, troubleshoot, and share successes regarding affiliate marketing with other content creators.

The most important thing to remember is to not stand in your own way. The language surrounding affiliate marketing can seem intimidating at first glance. However, like anything else in content creation, working with it will allow you to make sense of it in no time.

When Beginners Should Start Affiliate Marketing

“I’m a new content creator. When is the right time for me to start affiliate marketing?”

This is one of the most frequent questions of people who are new to affiliate marketing ask. The truth is that content creators can start affiliate marketing as soon as they’ve created some content. Of course, your partnerships will grow and evolve over time. Just because you’re new to affiliate marketing doesn’t mean now isn’t the perfect time to start.

Get the scoop here from Joseph Hogue about how he got started with affiliate marketing on YouTube.

How to Get Started with Affiliate Marketing

You are ready to get started with affiliate marketing. Of course, you want affiliate marketing to be successful. It will help you grow your content, generate income for your business, and bring value to the lives of your audience. These considerations can help you develop a more effective affiliate marketing strategy.

1. Understand Your Avatar

New content creators are often told to create an avatar. This avatar is the person who represents your typical reader, listener, or viewer. Basically, they are a slice of your audience.

To get started with affiliate marketing, understand your avatar. Ask yourself what products or services would be of interest to your audience. That is one way to determine which affiliate marketing partnerships would be a natural fit for your audience.

Dig into this interview with Rosemarie Groner to find out more about avatars and ROI.

2. Look at Peak Performance

Another way to get to know what would meet the needs of your audience is to look at what is already performing well on your site. Assess your top articles in terms of traffic and social shares. What’s the most popular? There’s a good chance that this reflects your audience’s interests. Find a partnership that mirrors these interests.

3. Do Your Research

No audience is exclusive to a single site. Just like people read numerous newspapers, flip through multiple magazines, and watch different channels on TV, there is a good chance your audience follows other content creators. Look at other similar sites serving the same audiences. What affiliate partnerships do you notice?

After you’ve identified these partnerships, think back on your avatar and the other information you have about your audience. If it seems like a good fit, consider setting up a partnership on your site.

4. Explore What You Know, Love, and Trust

Building your audience’s trust is a long process. Preserving that trust is practically sacred in the content creation world. That’s why it is vital that you sign up for products and services that you truly believe in. If the product or service doesn’t meet the Know-Love-Trust criteria, take a pass. By following this rule, you’ll keep your audience loyal.

Click to find out more about how Mr. Money Mustache builds loyal fans within his audience.

Where do I find affiliate programs?

After you’ve identified the possible products or services your audience will value, you’re ready to find an affiliate program. One of the most straightforward ways to get started with affiliate marketing is to explore existing networks. Some networks that may be beneficial to FinConners include FlexOffers, Aragon Premium, Awin, CJ Affiliate, Tune, Impact Radius, Rakuten, and PartnerStack.

Affiliate Marketing Tips

Now that you are exploring affiliate marketing programs, such as FinCon Marketplace, there are other things to consider. Keeping these affiliate marketing tips in mind can be helpful whether you are an affiliate marketing beginner or not.

Track Your Efforts

What gets measured gets managed. It’s a catchphrase for a reason. Keeping an eye on metrics is one way to find help them grow. That means you should be tracking your affiliate programs in a spreadsheet from day one.

You don’t need to do anything overly complicated. Use Excel, Google Sheets, or another software that you are already familiar with. Once you set up your spreadsheet, include the following items:

  • Programs
  • Payouts
  • Login credentials
  • Placements in articles
  • Expected payments

Update your spreadsheets monthly. This serves many purposes. If you’re not seeing growth, you can reevaluate. If a program is starting to take off, you can research similar opportunities or invest even more time into this one. Most importantly, careful tracking can also help you get paid fairly and on time.

Revisit Compliance

As you grow your partnerships, remember the FTC guidelines and double-check your disclosures. You want to stay transparent with your audience. Not only does this ensure that you are abiding by all federal regulations, it preserves your audience’s trust.

In addition to making sure that you disclose your links, you will also want to have a Privacy Policy in place. As a content creator, you collect data through comments, contact forms, and even Google Analytics. A privacy policy is another way to build your audience’s trust and stay compliant with various laws.

You may also consider creating a Terms & Conditions section of your blog. Think of this as a way to share the “house rules” with your audience.

Should you have any questions about any aspect of compliance, you can also seek out an attorney for guidance.

Featured Affiliate Marketing Resources

Bookmark these resources, take time to explore them, and revisit them often. All of these resources should be your first stop when exploring affiliate marketing for beginners:

Final Thoughts on Affiliate Marketing for Beginners

Affiliate marketing is one of the most effective monetization strategies for content creators and influencers. There is no magic threshold to hit before exploring affiliate marketing. In fact, incorporating affiliate marketing from the start can help your blog, podcast, or YouTube channel grow. You’re delivering value to your audience and generating income to grow your own brand. Even as a beginner, following these tips can make affiliate marketing work for you.

Spend time exploring affiliate marketing over the coming weeks. Then, make sure to stay tuned here for intermediate affiliate tips and advanced affiliate marketing content as well. If you find yourself needing an additional challenge in the meantime, check out this link to see how the NerdWallet Model can work for you.


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Philip Taylor



  • Great overview of affiliate marketing, Philip. It is the #1 revenue driver for my site as well. Also, it is something you can start implementing right away. When I was first trying to learn the ways of the internet I sign-up to Linkshare and put a couple of random affiliate links on an HTML page I was teaching myself how to create. A month or two later I received an unexpected check in the mail for $20. I was hooked!