How would you like to earn some passive income? You can do that with affiliate marketing.
Well, probably. Affiliate marketing is competitive, spammy at times and is a whole crazy world. Let me explain.

What Is Affiliate Marketing?

Companies want you to go to work for them. No, they don’t necessarily want you as an employee. They want you to promote their products or services online. When you do that, you become an affiliate for that company. As a result, you generate a commission for each sale. For example, let’s say you have a blog that promotes fitness. On the left-hand sidebar of that blog, you post a link to an e-commerce site that sells workout clothes. When your visitors click that link and make a purchase, you get a commission for the purchase.

That’s essentially how most affiliate marketers earn their money. Affiliate marketing is a classic example of what the professionals call “push-through marketing.” That’s when companies offer incentives to sales reps to increase sales. In this case, the incentive is a commission. In case you’re wondering, “pull-through marketing” is when companies offer incentives to customers. That’s a whole different ballgame. The good news is that you can usually become an affiliate marketer without a whole lot of effort. You just provide your business name, tax ID, and other relevant info to a company or affiliate network. Most importantly, though, you’ll need to provide payment info so the company can pay you for your successful efforts. After a short review period, you’ll get the news about whether or not you’ve been approved.

Merchants: Who’s Selling Online?

Obviously, there are countless companies selling products and services online. The question that’s relevant here is: which ones offer commissions to affiliates? Fortunately, there’s no shortage of them. In fact, it’s almost certainly the case that you’ll find affiliate opportunities in a niche that you’re very familiar with.

That could give you a competitive advantage over other affiliates in the same space. You can usually find an affiliate opportunity by just Googling the name of a merchant whose products you think you can sell followed by the words “affiliate program.”

For example, if you Google “Giorgio Armani affiliate program,” you’ll see an opportunity to earn a commission by selling Giorgio Armani products online. That might be just what you’re looking for if you’re in the fashion space.

Affiliate Networks

As we’ve seen, some companies that want affiliates have decided to outsource the whole affiliate process to a third party, called an affiliate network. The great thing about affiliate networks is that you just fill out a single application with the network. Then, when you apply to become an affiliate with one of the network’s merchants you don’t have to fill out an application all over again.

The merchant has access to the application you filled out with the network. That means you can apply to become an affiliate with just a few clicks of your mouse. In fact, you can apply to several merchants within the space of just a few minutes. Also, keep in mind that when you earn a commission from a merchant you found on an affiliate network, it’s the network that will pay you the commission.

That’s also convenient from an accounting perspective because all your income comes from one source. It’s also worth noting that commission amounts vary from merchant to merchant within an affiliate network. For example, one company might pay you just 2% for a sale while another one will pay 15%.

The Big Players

So who are the major players in affiliate networks? There are several of them. One of the most popular affiliate networks is Commission Junction. It also happens to be one of the oldest. I generally use this network. Commission Junction offers a large portfolio of merchants for aspiring affiliate marketers.

If you want to get started with affiliate marketing, that’s a good place to begin. Keep in mind, though, that many merchants on Commission Junction are picky about who they allow to become affiliates. Don’t get discouraged if they all don’t accept you right away. In some cases, merchants offer contact info so that you can reach out to a company rep and ask why your application was declined. Sometimes, the rep will approve your application after a little back-and-forth by email. Bottom line: be persistent.

Some merchants will accept your application by default. That means you’ll gain immediate approval to start earning a commission right away! Commission Junction also gives you the opportunity to search for merchants that match your niche.

Amazon Associates

No article about affiliate marketing would be complete without a review Amazon Associates. It deserves its own section. Amazon boasts that its affiliate program is “the web’s most popular and successful” opportunity for digital marketers. According to mThink Blue Book, though, it actually ranks fifth.

So why is Amazon Associates so attractive to people who want to earn a passive income? Because it gives them the opportunity to earn a commission by selling anything within Amazon’s immeasurable portfolio of products and services. In fact, some marketers don’t even bother with other affiliate networks because everything they could possibly want to sell is on Amazon.

Amazon pays a commission (called an “advertising fee”) that varies per category. For example, you’ll earn a 3% commission when you sell a toy, but you’ll earn a 10% commission when you sell an item from the Fashion category. You might have heard about Amazon’s “sliding scale” commission structure. It gave affiliates the opportunity to increase their commission as they sold more items within a month. Unfortunately, Amazon ended that program last March.

So you’re stuck with a flat-fee schedule for now. One of the best things about Amazon Associates is that it gives you access to a powerful API. That means you (or a developer) can write code that searches for exactly the items you want to advertise on your website. You can search by product, category, keyword, or any number of other options. You can also sort your results by price so that you can be sure that you’re giving your visitors the best deal.

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