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Affiliate Marketing: The Ultimate Guide

Wouldn’t we all love to finish everyday remedial tasks like brushing our teeth, walking the dog or driving home from work, only to check our bank balance and see £10s, £100s or even £1000s in there without you doing as much as lifting a finger.

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This kind of earning is what you call passive income and is one of the ways many digital marketers, influencers and bloggers make their fortunes online.

Put another way, passive income is “income that requires little to no effort to earn and maintain.” (Wikipedia)

Sounds great right?

Making money while eating breakfast, emailing a client or even going to the toilet… that’s got to be THE DREAM!

Want to know how to do it?

Well, one of the best ways to attain passive income is through affiliate marketing.

For some this may sound like a scary term, and for other more seasoned internet marketeers it’ll be familiar by now.

a man in red shirt covering his face

What’s guaranteed is by the time you’ve finished this post you’ll understand exactly what affiliate marketing is, why it’s so beneficial and attainable for all and how to become an affiliate marketing expert making all the passive income you can dream of.

Enough chat, let’s get into the meat of it.

Affiliate Marketing Definition

Affiliate Marketing is “a marketing arrangement by which an online retailer pays commission to an external website for traffic or sales generated from its referrals.” (Lexico)

To break it down:

Either you have a product/service and are willing to share a portion of your revenue with promoters to boost your sales/traffic.

Or, you don’t own a product/service but have a marketing channel and would like to earn some extra money online by promoting other’s products/services in exchange for commissions. 

So, it’s all about revenue sharing, where a company with a product/service offers an affiliate a portion of their revenue in exchange for promotion.

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Key Players

Before we go too far it’s important to first take a look at the key players engaging in affiliate campaigns and their roles within them.

Affiliate Network

(aka ad network)

We’ll define these first since they often house the interactions of players in the industry.

An affiliate network acts as an intermediary or middleman between brands and affiliates.

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They allow advertisers to free up time to spend on their products and services, and enable affiliates to hone in on creating content and promoting offers.

In other words, the network puts the company (with a product/service) in contact with people who are willing to generate sales/clicks/signups for them online.

Examples include: CJ Affiliate, Rakuten, WebGains, Shareasale, Awin


(aka advertiser, merchant or seller)

All affiliate campaigns begin with a brand looking to boost their earnings through more traffic, signups or sales.

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On an affiliate network, brands are able to easily create an offering, post it and the rest will be handled for them, from distribution to affiliates, to handling payments and tracking sales/clicks.

Examples include: a subscription box brand looking to gain new subscribers, a fashion brand looking to increase sales on a new product line or an online guru looking to gain new members to their Mastermind group.

Once the brand has posted their campaign offering it’ll be released to the affiliates on the ad network. 


(aka partner or publisher or promoter)

An affiliate usually owns a website, blog, or other marketing channel where they can promote other people’s products/services to their audience.

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They generate revenue for brands and earn a commission every time a pre-agreed measurable action occurs, for example, a sign up or sale.

Examples include: a blog, social media account, podcast, Vlog or major news site.


Finally, there’s the customer – the regular Joe who’s browsing the web for the next solution to their problem.

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The customer is sold the brand’s product by the affiliate, who is recommending it to them in exchange for a % of the sale or other action.

Why Choose Affiliate Campaigns

Now we’re all on the same page it’s time to delve into what the benefits are and why so many choose to employ these campaigns.

Brand benefits

There are a number of benefits for brands who choose affiliate campaigns:

Firstly, they are comparatively low-risk since you only pay once results are generated for you.

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Instead of paying someone £1000 upfront to promote your brand and potentially seeing poor results, you only pay once the results/sales are actually generated for you.

This makes them perfect for any brand wanting to test out something new before putting a budget behind it.

Secondly, they are typically low-cost as there are no upfront costs or extra fees, you simply make sales and provide compensation to affiliates out of the revenue they generated for you.

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Low-cost campaigns will always be ideal for early stage brands looking to try their luck with some paid marketing before going all in.

Even for testing the effectiveness of a particular influencer, blogger or other affiliate before moving to paid promotion options.

The third benefit is time-saving

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Affiliate marketing campaigns are basically a form of outsourcing. You are outsourcing the marketing of your products to affiliates in exchange for a cut of the profits.

Saving time is ideal for brands who don’t have a marketing team to lend to planning and executing campaigns; instead the brand can simply create a listing on an affiliate network and let the affiliates take form as their own marketing team.

Affiliate benefits

The key benefits for affiliates:

It can provide stable income even during uncertain times like 2020.

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When crisis hits and brands’ budgets go through the floor, paid promotions are the first things to be cut as they are the highest risk and cost the most… 

Whereas, affiliate campaigns will remain as a low-risk and budget friendly option.

In contrast to traditional campaigns where their life is relatively short, a good blog post with affiliate links could earn you money years afterwards.

Finally, off the back of having greater creative freedom, they enable influencers to appear more authentic in their recommendations.

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This makes a lot of sense as you are more likely to trust a recommendation from someone who’s made their own choice as to what they promote vs. someone who has been directly compensated to release a positive review. (implied endorsement)

How to get started as an affiliate

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In order to sell something, you first need a product or service (which you’re borrowing from someone else via an affiliate network – so no worries there!)

Next, you need a load of potential customers to sell it to.

Also known as traffic, this stream of customers can be pulled in from your personal audience/followers on a blog, vlog, etc.

Thereafter, you need an offer to make to them, which usually presents itself in the form of a piece of content, e.g. a blog post, an ad on Facebook or Instagram or any other promotional content.

However, you don’t just want any random customers coming to your offer, you want people who are going to be engaged by it!

If you’re trying to sell pond equipment to someone who doesn’t own a pond then you aren’t going to make a dime.

Top Tips for affiliates

Top Tip #1: Brand & Product Alignment

As an affiliate you need to be sure the brand/product you’ve selected to promote is aligned with your personal brand, as well as being in line with the values of your audience.

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For example, if you are a skateboarder with a large following of skater teens who all love rocking streetwear brands, you’d be very wrong to start promoting preppy Ralph Lauren products as that’s simply not in line with their values, or your own.

Actionable Takeaway #1

Take some time to write down your own favourite brands in your niche and compare them with the brands your audience are always on about.

Giving them what they want is a sure-fire way to success and trying to force something unwanted or unaligned will result in zero sales and an unhappy tribe.

Top Tip #2: Audience Research

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Closely linked to #1 this top tip should be the very first thing you do before engaging in any affiliate campaign.

Audience research will bring to light to sort of people following you, their likes, dislikes, the way they talk to each other, why they respect your opinion, when and how often is best to sell to them, where they like to be sold to and so on.

Actionable Takeaway #2.1

Many people like to create a customer avatar and give them a name so as to create a more distinct image of them.

If you have more than one kind or genre of person following you then create 2 or 3 to be sure you’ve captured the range of people following you.

Actionable Takeaway #2.2

Doing some audience evaluation of the brand you want to work with and then mapping out all the synergies between their audience and your own is a great thing to do if you are struggling to get started.

Top Tip #3: Authenticity is King

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Nowadays people have a plethora of options when it comes to who they follow online.

This means the competition is fierce and people are not going to stick around if you are ingenuine or offend them, simply because they got options.

Actionable Takeaway #3

Only promote products in line with your audience, do NOT be drawn in by a good deal or highly paid sponsorship opportunity that is not aligned with the essence of you / your blog.

It will do more damage than good and is very unlikely to contribute any meaningful sales.

The bottom line is be authentic!

Top Tip #4: Leverage Evergreen Content

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Since the goal with affiliate marketing is to provide yourself with passive income, you want to focus on content that isn’t seasonal or limited to a particular year.

An example of evergreen content is Canon vs. Nikon cameras, whereas an example of content that isn’t evergreen is the best Christmas presents for your kids in 2020.

Actionable Takeaway #4

Make a list of all the useful pieces of content you could create for your audience; mark down which ones are evergreen and roll with these first!

Top Tip #5: Harness the Power of Eco

(Applicable to both brands and influencers)

A recent study found that people were 62% more likely to purchase a product/service from a companies that are purpose-driven i.e. support a cause like environmentalism, animal cruelty, or other social or political issues.

This means purpose-led companies build deeper connections with their consumers and thus, are more competitive as a result.

At Kinsume we plant trees for every purchase, thus working with us extends the benefits of our eco-initiative to all brands and influencers using our platform.

To go further, another 62% of respondents were drawn to brands who were focused on reducing plastics and aiding the environment.

Top Tips for brands

The formula to a successful affiliate campaign = related affiliate content + engaged audience x attractive brand & offering

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Let’s examine each point here

Top Tip #1: Related Affiliate Content

What I mean by this is you need to work with affiliates who are in line with your brand so that the branded content they create resounds with their audience.

two women sitting on sofa

To locate these affiliates who’ll take your brand to the next level you can either spend time researching and sourcing affiliates who you think represent your brand well, and then reach out to them directly.

Or you can simply limit the niche of affiliates allowed to promote your offering on your affiliate network.

By taking control of this you reduce the chances of negative exposure.

The point of this is very much similar to Top Tip #1 for affiliates:

For example, if you have a sustainable clothing brand, then the wrong campaign to run is with a fast fashion affiliate whose audience isn’t interested in eco-sustainability.

By working with the right affiliates, you get a step closer this related affiliate content that’ll sell your products like never before.

Top Tip #2: Leverage the power of Social Influencers

One of the best ways to generate related affiliate content is by utilizing social influencers (check out our ultimate guide to influencer marketing to learn more)

a photography of a man standing on a tree

Social influencers have certainly overtaken the marketing scene in the last 5-10 years as they’ve continued to produce incredibly effective content for brands.

They allow brands to be surgically targeted with their campaigns as they are typically highly specialized in their area of expertise or niche.

The result is that people have gravitated towards them as sources of authenticity when it comes to product and service recommendations.

Previously, people looking for a product would have walked into the store and asked the salespeople for recommendations…

Nowadays people come into the stores already knowing what they want as they’ve researched the problem online via topical social influencers.

Thus, by employing some of these social influencers to promote your affiliate offerings you’ll be able to enjoy hyper-targeted campaigns and drastically increase your conversion rates as a result.

Top Tip #3: Boosting Offer Attractiveness

With millions of opportunities for affiliates across the 10s of affiliate networks out there it makes sense that you need to make your offer unique if you want to attract attention.

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Here are a few ways to draw in more affiliates:

Offering high commissions will increase the perceived earning potential of promoting your brand in the affiliate’s mind since they have more to make from each sale.

Using unique discounts gives your affiliates a stronger selling point as they can give their audience a unique offer not found anywhere else, thereby increasing the fear of loss in the consumer mind.

Making your offer scarce by limiting the number of affiliates you’ll work with will provide an incentive to act fast so they don’t miss out on the offer.

Adopting a long-term approach and showing affiliates that you are looking to develop deeply rooted connections with them is more likely to draw people in.

Affiliates are always more interested in long-term relationships with brands as it drives higher conversions with their audiences

Top Tip #4: Mixed Channels = Higher Engagement 

It’s no secret that everyone responds differently to different types of content or mediums.

woman holding a yellow string light

In NLP you learn about perceptual modes and how everyone has a dominant way of perceiving/experiencing the world.

To explain, some people are more visual and respond better to visual content, some prefer auditory communication and finally there are those who are kinesthetic, who prefer to feel and experience things. 

As everyone in the world is different it makes sense that you work with a diverse range of affiliate, using different mediums.

Therefore, with any one campaign it is likely to be more efficient if you cover all bases and have one affiliate promoting written content, one creating video content for those visual people and finally one recording a podcast for those auditory people.

By doing this you’ll be able to diversify your content and thus get your message to resonate with a wider range of people, thereby raising your engagement.

Top Tip #5: A/B Test Everything

A/B testing is one way to continually sharpening your affiliate blade.

crop laboratory technician examining interaction of chemicals in practical test modern lab

By monitoring and recording all your campaigns you’ll be able to pinpoint what made one campaign successful and what made another fail.

You can A/B test your medium, affiliates, niches, promo, discounts, commissions, all the tactics we’ve discussed so far.

By doing this you are likely to make constant minor improvements in your conversions and hopefully after a long-time make a great improvement…

Wrap Up

Thanks for reading our ultimate guide to affiliate marketing!

Join us next time where we’ll begin our Affiliate Secrets Series with 10 tips to boost your affiliate campaigns.

Catch you next time!

Green Lantern Out.

P.S. For more reading on this topic check out these posts:

10 Tips For Instagram Affiliate Marketing

5 Things to Consider Before Kicking Off an Affiliate Campaign to Skyrocket your Earnings

7 Perks of Affiliate Campaigns for Bloggers and Influencers

10 Reasons Why Affiliate Campaigns Fail: The Common Mistakes

Affiliate and Influencer Marketing Industry


Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.

7 Perks of Affiliate Campaigns for Bloggers and Influencers – Exploratreereply
January 11, 2021 at 1:50 pm

[…] media influencer, blogger or content creator then you’ll almost certainly have tried out an affiliate campaign or two in your time. These can be an incredibly lucrative option for those looking to monetise […]

10 Tips For Instagram Affiliate Marketing – Exploratreereply
January 31, 2021 at 7:05 pm

[…] For an in depth look at at the affiliate marketing world, check out our post Affiliate Marketing: The Ultimate Guide. […]

The Kinsume User Guide – Exploratreereply
May 17, 2021 at 1:55 pm

[…] Affiliate Marketing: The Ultimate Guide […]

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