What is Affiliate Marketing?

You’ve likely heard the term affiliate at some point or another in your life.  Affiliate is a verb that is quite literally defined as “officially attaching or connecting.”  In a modern day sense, affiliate marketing means that a website, social account, or email is officially connected or attached to a brand.  This connection usually is compensated by a percentage commission or flat fee on an action.

How Does Affiliate Marketing Work?

Affiliate marketing requires three parties to work.  These groups are the Advertiser, the Publisher, and the Consumer.  Without all three of these parties affiliate marketing is a fruitless activity.  When affiliate marketing works correctly everyone wins. The advertiser receives a new customer.  The consumer gets a product that they were looking for and is reinforced by a review, post, or email.  The publisher gets paid for its marketing efforts. The cycle continues from there into infinity. It’s the prototypical “dream space” when it comes to the internet.  Everyone benefits.

What is an Advertiser?

You probably hear the word advertiser and think about television, banner or pop up ads.  In affiliate marketing the concept is the same. The advertiser possesses a product and is looking to market it en masse.  

Amazon is an excellent example of an advertiser.  They operate the largest affiliate program in the world.  One of the many challenges Amazon faces is product promotion.  They have millions of unique skews in their system. They don’t have the ability to market all of these products individually.  That’s where affiliate marketing and niche content come into play. Amazon relies on independent marketers to talk about the many products they have.  This creates buzz and attraction.  

What is a Publisher?

The publisher is the solution to all of Amazon’s problems.  In affiliate marketing there are no shortages of places to look for new traffic.  Publishers are simply people who run their own social media accounts, websites, or email lists.  We commonly know these as influencers now. The truth is that there are thousands of ways to influence online.  All of these fall under the label of Publisher.

When a publisher signs up for the Amazon affiliate program they are able to choose from thousands of products to promote.  When you choose one you like, you are given your own independent link. This link is unique only to your account. When a consumer clicks on the link and makes a transaction within a certain window of time, the advertiser automatically pays your account.  Passive income is real. It’s all because companies like Amazon need marketers and marketing efforts constantly. This is the opportunity that publishers can fill.  

What is a Consumer?

The consumer is supposed to benefit the most from an affiliate relationship.  It doesn’t always happen that way, but customers are supposed to win in affiliate marketing.  Consumers commonly are looking for reasons to be comfortable with a purchase.  

Sometimes it’s price that holds a customer back.  Perhaps they’re looking for a deal and they stumble upon a coupon affiliate that gives them a 20% off discount.  They decide to buy. Again, in this scenario everyone wins. The advertiser doesn’t always give away profit margin to everyone.  They only have a discount on a coupon site and that requires a user to seek out the deal to receive it. The publisher wins. By filling this space for the advertiser and managing a coupon discount for them they are offering a valuable service for users who don’t feel comfortable with an MSRP sticker price.  The consumer wins. They get the discount that they wanted and they feel good about the process. The feel of a deal.

Reviews are the same way.  This is where affiliate marketers aren’t always honest.  If you’re not honest you’ll be getting yourself into something called chargebacks.  We’ll get to this later. If you are leaving reviews honestly everyone will win again.

The advertiser needs people to validate a product.  This is especially the case if you’re an online only retailer.  When users can’t go into a store to feel a physical product or try it they may not feel comfortable enough to buy.  The only way for them to get comfortable is through reviews.  

One of the most engaging ways for a publisher to review is through YouTube or Instagram.  This has lead to a myriad of different reviewers who all work on those platforms. By walking people through a process as the publisher they make them more comfortable.   Websites too do long form reviews that appear on the first page of search. This is where the term SEO review affiliate comes from. By having good reviews on social and at the top of search, the advertiser gets people more comfortable with their product.  The consumer gets a product they expect after researching. The publisher gets paid.


These are the very basic elements involved in affiliate marketing.  It sounds easy, but it really isn’t. Don’t give up. By learning from sites like this one you can only get better at your craft.  Read on to learn more about affiliate marketing and how you can improve!

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