Getting Started with Affiliate Marketing

Are you new to this blog, and/or new to affiliate marketing? Then this page is exactly the place you want to begin!

Before we get started, I need to clarify something so we're on the same page:

There are probably close to a million different ways to make money with affiliate marketing, from SEO to paid traffic and everything in between.

I mostly make money from affiliate marketing with the latter - paid traffic. As such, that's exactly what this getting started with affiliate marketing guide focuses on.

What is Affiliate or Performance Marketing?

A performance or affiliate marketer is someone who only gets paid for results. Those results can vary depending on the affiliate program you're working with, but generally, you get paid for customer acquisition or sales of a product.

The glory of affiliate marketing is that you don't have to own the product or service that you're promoting. And you don't have to deal with customers or fulfilling orders and all the headaches that go along with it.

Affiliates operate as middlemen between the consumer and the business. We find qualified customers that meet the businesses requirements and get paid for our efforts.

These days there are quite a few commission models and here are the most common ones you'll see:

  • Pay Per Lead (PPL) - You refer potential customers to a business and get paid whether or not they purchase the product or service. Example: someone fills out a lead form.
  • Pay Per Sale (PPS) - You refer paying customers to a business. Example: someone purchases a product or service.
  • Cost Per Action (CPA) - You get paid when a user completes the desired action. Examples: install an app, receive a loan, enter their email address, deposit a certain amount of money, etc.
  • Pay Per Call (PPC) - You refer users to a business by having them place a phone call. Example: someone calls a plumber.

As a paid traffic affiliate, there are mainly two commission models - CPA or pay per call. CPA can usually include both PPS and PPL commission models, depending on the affiliate offer.

Essentially, affiliate marketing means you refer users to somebody else's product or services and get paid only for the results you deliver.

It's fantastic because you get paid exactly what you're worth. If you can't deliver results to a business, you won't get paid.

Most affiliate marketers are focused on free sources of traffic, such as SEO, Facebook fan pages, social media posting, or other methods.

While you can make decent money with free traffic, you are for the most part capping out your income at a certain point. Plus, free traffic isn't really free, as you have to spend time (which is worth money) to earn this traffic.

I choose to focus on paid traffic because you can almost endlessly scale your income to ridiculous numbers. If you want to earn $20k this month, you can by delivering $20k of value to a business that needs it.

The potential of CPA affiliate marketing is huge
The potential of CPA affiliate marketing is huge

What You Need Right Now to Get Started

To get started promoting affiliate offers with paid traffic you need a few things, such as various tools and resources. Let's go over each and explain why they are all important for your success.

1. Money

If you don't have money there is no way you can do affiliate marketing with paid traffic. There's simply no way around it.

The more money you can dedicate to affiliate marketing, the better your chances are at success. I'm not saying that you should blow your entire $50k life savings and not earn anything back.

If you do that you've probably got more than one problem.

But, you do need a decent amount of money to get started. $500 - $1,000 of disposable money would be a good start, but if you really want to succeed in this industry it's advised that you have $3,000 - $5,000 of disposable money.

Disposable money is important here. You can't have $5,000 that you're going to pay rent, buy food, entertainment, and launch your affiliate business off of.

This money needs to be 100% dedicated to your affiliate marketing venture.

Count on losing money as you learn how everything works (this is why more money is usually better), but as you get the hang of it you'll start turning a profit each month.

2. Website Hosting

To run paid traffic effectively, you need to use landing pages. To do that you need website hosting.

You need a VPS (virtual private server) at the minimum here. There is no way that you can get away using a shared host like HostGator or GoDaddy.

Your website will crash and you will lose more money than proper website hosting costs.

I personally don't use a VPS, but instead, use Amazon S3 and Cloudfront for lightning-fast landing pages at a very affordable cost. You can actually use this for free for 1 year.

Check out my step-by-step guide to setting up Amazon S3 and Cloudfront here.

While it's true, some campaigns can be profitable if you don't use landing pages and link the user directly to the affiliate offer page, but it's extremely rare.

If using paid traffic to make money with affiliate marketing was as easy as copying a link from your affiliate network, uploading it to your tracking and generating a campaign link for you traffic source, everyone would be extremely rich.

Using a landing page allows to you 'pre-sell' the user on whatever product or service your advertising. Most offers do a terrible job at converting users right away, which is why a landing page is a crucial part of your success.

Plus, if you use landing pages correctly you can monetize your traffic much more effectively so you can better compete with the other advertisers in the ad network auctions.

3. Decide on an Industry or Vertical

The affiliate marketing industry is divided into many different industries or verticals.

Super affiliates have a vital understanding of the market they work in, such as:

  • What types of offers are hot
  • The user personas of their target customer
  • The behavior of their target demographics
  • Trends they can take advantage of

It is very rare that you will find a super affiliate that is a true master of more than one market. To really be successful, you need to select a single market and know everything about it - inside and out.

Here are some of the most popular verticals in affiliate marketing today (in no particular order):

  • Dating and Adult products and services
  • Financial products
  • Fitness and weight loss products
  • Skincare products
  • Bizopps
  • Gaming offers
  • App installs
  • Sweepstakes
  • Gambling
  • E-commerce
  • Crypto

It's absolutely vital that you choose one single vertical and master it. Do research, pull up a spy tool, and analyze what other affiliates are doing to make it work.

In the end, as an affiliate media buyer you're buying data from advertising networks or traffic sources. Over time this becomes an asset for yourself if handled correctly.

If you're frequently switching your focus between multiple verticals the data you've bought won't be as useful, especially if your initial affiliate marketing budget isn't five figures or more. You'll end up having little bits of data for many verticals and it won't be enough to do anything with.

4. Affiliate Network Account

Some affiliate networks will choose to focus on a particular vertical. So depending on what industry or vertical you select from above will help you find the affiliate network you're going to want to work with.

Not all affiliate networks are created equal. The more reputable (good reviews and history) the affiliate network is the better.

A reputable affiliate network is important. The last thing you want is to generate several thousand dollars in commissions and have them refuse to pay you because the advertiser (the owner of the offer) didn't pay them.

A reputable affiliate network will pay you even if they don't get paid by the advertiser. This is why you work through affiliate networks and allow them to take 20% margins on the conversions you generate.

A good affiliate network is worth its weight in gold.

When you're just starting out on a lower budget it's worth it to find networks that have low payout limits and short timeframes before you get paid.

It won't be good for your cash flow to spend your $1,000 budget in 2 weeks and have to wait a month before you get paid from the affiliate network to continue running ads.

Some networks will pay weekly from the start, while others will want you to meet certain requirements (i.e. generate $1,000 in commissions) before they pay weekly.

It's also a good idea to only work with 1 or 2 networks to start. It sucks when you have small amounts of money spread over a bunch of networks and you don't meet the minimum amount to get paid at any of them!

Here are a few good quality affiliate networks with low payout thresholds you could get started with:

Once you get accepted into an affiliate network you will want to add your affiliate manager on Skype. Ask them for a report of their top offers by revenue/volume for the vertical you selected above.

This is the best way to find quality offers when you're starting out. If an offer is doing high volume/revenue on an affiliate network, there is a very good chance the offer not only works, but someone's making money with it.

5. Ad Network Account

An ad network is where you are going to place your ads and buy traffic for your affiliate campaigns.

Like how I mentioned above that you only want to select a single vertical and master it, the same concept is true for traffic sources, or ad networks.

Traffic sources all behave differently, even if the type of traffic is the same. If you focus on 1 or 2 traffic sources to start out, you may eventually discover the ins and outs of how it works and have an advantage over other advertisers.

When deciding on an ad network you should already know what type of traffic you want to buy. For new affiliates I'd highly suggest starting with pop or push traffic. They're the easiest to work with for lower payout offers and are affiliate friendly (no need to fear your account gets banned).

One of the most popular affiliate traffic types for quite a few verticals these days is push notifications. There are quite a few ad networks that sell this ad format, so it may be worth it to do some research before making a deposit.

Don't forget to search around for coupons/bonuses on first-time deposits. Not all traffic sources offer these, but many do, which can give you additional free money to test different offers.

6. Click Tracker

This is 100% required if you're going to promote affiliate offers with paid traffic. A tracker will give data about each click your campaign receives (browser, OS, OS version, ISP, zoneID, etc.), which you will then use to optimize your campaigns into profits.

These days there are a lot of different options for click trackers, but there's one important thing to consider. They'll either be self-hosted or cloud-hosted.

What type you select should partially be based on what type of traffic you're going to start your affiliate marketing journey with.

Self-hosted trackers let you control all your data (a media buyer's #1 asset), but you need to host the tracking software on your own server. This might sound difficult and expensive, but really it's not.

The best self-hosted tracker is Binom, and they will install everything for you and if you ever have any issues at all—their support is excellent. If you're going to run popup traffic (PPV) then a self-hosted tracker like Binom is the way to go.

It only has a monthly license fee, and doesn't charge extra no matter how much traffic you buy. If you go this route you will need to purchase a compatible server (based on traffic volumes) to host the tracker installation.

Most cloud-hosted trackers have plans that include an event (clicks, conversions, etc.) limit each month. If you go over that limit, they will charge you extra for the events that weren't included in your plan. With ad formats that send you high volumes of clicks in a short period of time, like pop/PPV, this can make your tracking bill literally several thousand dollars per month.

The market leader of cloud-hosted trackers is Voluum and is a great choice if you go with a cloud-hosted option.

Both types of trackers are priced similarly, so the choice is up to you. There are also a ton of other trackers on the market, such as BeMob which is cloud-hosted and has a completely free plan. Since you can use it for free, BeMob is the tracker of choice for many new affiliates.

Let the Games Begin!

If you've read the entire page you should have a decent understanding of how to make money with affiliate marketing and paid traffic.

The industry changes quickly, so be sure to join an affiliate marketing forum as soon as possible to keep up with the trends and improve your knowledge and skills. There's still much more to learn than I could possibly outline here.

Now it's time for you to take action and get your affiliate business going.

You can literally read about affiliate marketing online for months, but you won't really learn anything until you actually start taking action.

An affiliate learns by failing.

Have you ever heard of the 80/20 rule? Well, in affiliate marketing there is probably a 95/5 rule, where 95% of what you do is an epic failure, but that other 5% will be extremely profitable and make up for those losses... and then some.

Good luck!

Nick Lenihan the Affiliate Marketing Wizard

Nick Lenihan

Performance marketer, consultant, and affiliate marketing wizard. Hire me or subscribe to my YouTube channel.