How to make money on affiliate programs starting from zero

How to make money on affiliate programs

The internet offers countless possibilities for making money online. Most of them are just dust in the wind, pure advertising, but some do work. If you are interested in knowing how to make money on affiliate programs, you’re on the right path.

Affiliate marketing is, in general, a source of passive income. However, do not treat this term lightly. Passive income is not an easy feat to achieve. Let’s have a look.

How To Make Money on Affiliate Programs
Affiliate marketing is, in general, a source of passive income. 

How do you start to make money on affiliate programs?

We have explained in a previous article how affiliate programs work. In simple terms, you sell specific goods or services from another company by recommending them to your audience.

You need a website or blog with a solid SEO strategy and good traffic. From thence on, you can get affiliate links into your content. Each time a customer clicks on those links and makes a purchase, you get paid a specific commission from the sale.

Can you make enough money on affiliate programs to sustain yourself? It depends. One thing is sure, affiliate programs are not a surefire method of making money quickly online, as some people advertise it. You need to put in the work and go through trial and error before you start earning a significant amount.

The good news, though, is that affiliate marketing is here to stay. It is an ascending trend. As Statista reports, spending on affiliate marketing in the U.S. alone will reach 8.2 billion dollars by 2022. That is almost three billion more than in 2017.

According to other affiliate marketing studies, 9% of affiliate marketers made more than 50,000 dollars a year in 2016. Merchants made between 5% and 20% of their annual revenue from affiliate marketing.

So brands need it. Marketers need it. The ground foundation is set. Where do we get from here, and how do we make money on affiliate programs?

How affiliate programs work
How affiliate programs work 

Before joining affiliate programs

We’ll start with a few suggestions on how to search for affiliate programs that are right for you. There is no such thing as the best affiliate program to make money. You have to be patient, find your niche, understand your audience, and grow your traffic. You’ve got to know what type of products your readers would buy before you recommend them.

Then we’ll walk you through the whole process – joining affiliate programs and using them to your advantage. Let’s get started!

The first and most important thing is to find your niche. You cannot publish content about everything. This way, you will spread yourself too thin, won’t build a steady audience, and would always wonder what content to create next.

The first rule of creating content is to have a strategy, a few pillars, and subtopics that will help you build your blog or Youtube channel. Whatever niche you find, the most important thing is to bring value to the table.

Traffic is king

The second most important rule of creating content is doing it wisely and making sure Google loves it; Google and all the other social algorithms. There will be a learning curve before you start bringing in traffic.

Traffic comes before affiliate marketing, even before money. Without traffic, you won’t make money on affiliate programs. So, when you start a new content project, whether it is a reviews website, a blog, or a Youtube channel, you shouldn’t even dare to think about money at first. You should think about getting traffic.

More than that, you cannot join specific affiliate programs without some traffic. Let us not forget that affiliate programs meaning and the main objective is to get sales. No traffic means no sales.

There is also another gracious aspect here. In creating content, there is always a fine line between being too salesy and authentic. It’s a balancing act that you will come to master at some point, but it will take time.

So, keep money in the back of your mind when you start and focus on traffic first. Only after you get traffic, a good solid audience understand can look at affiliate programs. So, let’s take a look at them now.

How to use affiliate programs

But first, how to search for affiliate programs? According to Wikipedia, there are three fundamental ways to identify affiliate programs for your website:

  • Through affiliate program directories
  • Through large affiliate networks where you can meet hundreds of advertisers
  • The target website/vendor itself, if it offers its affiliate program (like Amazon, eBay, or Fiverr)

Amazon is actually the most popular affiliate program on the planet, and it is pretty much how it started. So, how do you make money on affiliate programs such as Amazon?

Amazon, for example, pays up to 10% commission on their categories. eBay pays between 5-7% for their categories, with only 24 hours cookie tracking. Etsy is at 4-8%, Target at 4% in most categories, Walmart the same, and Aliexpress pays 3% for electronics and 7-9% for everything else.

If you have up to 3,000 readers/day, you can make up to 2-4 sales a day.

There are even bigger fish in the sea. Apart from the websites/vendors, you can sign up for affiliate marketplaces, such as ShareASale, Rakuten Marketing, CJ Affiliate, ClickBank, and so on. These marketplaces collaborate with their own big brand affiliates, such as Nike, Airbnb, Udemy, GoDaddy, Under Armour, Houzz, etc.

It is usually free to join such affiliate marketplaces, and once in there, you can choose whatever brand or product fits your blog niche. However, as we said, be wary that these programs also ask for a particular traffic amount. Without proof of traffic, you cannot join them.

What about commissions?

Let’s get back to making money on affiliate programs and take a look at other examples of commissions. For hosting services, Bluehost will get you between $65 and $150/sale. Cloudways could get you between $50 – $150/sale. For WordPress Themes, you could make about 35% from StudioPress, about 30% from ThemeForest, and even 50% on Elegant Themes, with a purchase limit.

However, Amazon is probably the biggest name here and the most resounding. Nevertheless, you need to beware of Amazon. They are known for reducing their commissions and competing with affiliates. Amazon is a monopoly, and while it offers a wide variety of products and services to sell on your website, it can also do whatever it wants, for its’ Amazon, right?

If a company you’re collaborating with changes its affiliate program terms so often, your earnings will be affected.

Anyways, if you want to start with Amazon, it would be a better idea to do “how-to” tutorials with some of their products rather than reviewing them. Amazon has a pretty extensive range of reviews themselves.

One good thing about the Amazon Affiliate Program is that it also offers sitewide commissions, meaning if your readers buy anything using your link, you still get a commission.

Establish a proper affiliate marketing strategy

You can go on joining every affiliate program you can get your eyes on. However, this will only create chaos, and chaos means inefficiency. It is not “How many affiliate programs should I join”. It is about “how do I choose the affiliate program to join?”

If you become an affiliate for a business that your audience does not like, you will not earn much revenue.

You can join dozens of affiliate programs, but you will not make many sales if you cannot keep people coming to your website.

The 6 steps to a proper affiliate marketing strategy

  1. Start with your content strategy. What are the main topics and subtopics you are going to tackle in the next few months?
  2. Align your content with the prospective products/ brands you could promote
  3. Research different kinds of affiliate programs and compare their payment structure and conditions. Look at how much commission they pay, how often they pay their affiliates, and how often they change their terms and conditions. Check all their requirements and rules that could directly affect your revenue.
  4. Ensure the affiliate marketing content is similar to your own and that you do not lose authenticity in the process.
  5. Make sure that the affiliate links are part of your content and not simply inserted in the text.
  6. Do not disregard SEO. It would be best if you kept traffic coming to your website constantly.

This is actually the problem with affiliate marketing. It is a source of passive income with medium to high maintenance needs. You can make money on affiliate programs, but not while you sleep like many advertise.

Affiliate links need to be constantly created, tracked, categorized, and analyzed based on their performance. This takes time, especially if you start linking to more pages on your affiliate’s website, and you should do that.

How to use affiiate programs
Affiliate links need to be constantly created 

Types of affiliate links and how to leverage them

Before looking for the affiliate programs that pay the most, you must know that there are three main types of affiliate links that you can use.

Affiliate links

You can add affiliate links to your content in the text, images, or different types of buttons. This is the most popular affiliate marketing tactic most content creators use. If you have a genuinely devoted audience that reads your content, if your content brings a specific value to the reader, they will most likely click and buy via your affiliate links.


You can also add affiliate links to your banner ads. However, they are disrupting and quite distracting. If you have an audience that spends at least 3-4 minutes reading at least 80% of your text, banner ads will not help.

Moreover, they look too salesy, too pushy, like you’re trying too hard, and they might be damaging to your authenticity and reputation.

Nevertheless, you could try sidebar banners that are dedicated to the type of content you write.


Adding AdSense to your blog will make it slow. It won’t pay as much as affiliate programs. In general, you could get about $0.15 from 25 page views. However, it is an excellent start to monetize your website.

Be aware of that site-loading speed, though. It is essential to keeping your audience and capturing their attention.

How to join affiliate programs? RESEARCH is key

As you can see, there are many things to consider before you begin to make money on affiliate programs. If you’re new on this path, the wisest course of action is to look at what other experienced affiliate marketers and bloggers are already doing and which affiliate programs they use the most. Research, research, and research again!

Gather the information in a spreadsheet. See where there is potential for growth and what are the best affiliate programs for beginners.

Step 1:

See what affiliate programs other experienced bloggers and affiliate markets are using. Filter through their advertising and only write down the essential information.

Look for the most profitable affiliate programs and how to reach them.

Step 2

Take each affiliate program one by one. See what it offers, what niches it covers, and what is the quality of its products. Ask yourself, are these products worth your time and effort to promote on your website and social media? What is their reputation?

Step 3

Is the affiliate program easy to use? If you’re a beginner, you don’t want to get frustrated with overcomplicated dashboards and software.

Read technical reviews about the affiliate programs. See how other affiliates would rate those platforms in terms of user-friendliness and usability. Steer away from programs with bad reviews on the lack of real-time support or difficulty in joining, and managing the dashboard, and plugins.

Step 4

Read the payout structure very carefully. Affiliate commissions should always be paid on time; the payouts should be processed without errors. If you see reviews regarding issues with PayPal payments or anything related, then walk away.

Step 5

Check how many merchants the affiliate network or program has. If there are very few affiliates generating revenue, you should look elsewhere.

Do not spend your time and energy on something that does not have the potential for substantial revenue.

How to join affiliate programs
Research, research, and research again

Now that we have covered the basic steps on how to make money on affiliate programs, we should look at how to market affiliate programs and the main differences between the affiliate business models.

In-house merchant programs vs affiliate networks

When it comes to affiliate business models, there are two ways to go: take the road of in-house merchant affiliate programs, such as Amazon’s, or go to broad affiliate networks.

There are pros and cons on each side.

In-house merchant affiliate programs

Merchants such as Amazon or eBay manage everything within their own partner programs. The colossus company runs everything, from the software to payments. They are safer, and the payment is on point.

However, big merchants like Amazon could change their terms and conditions as they like, and with them, the commissions. We have mentioned above that Amazon has the tendency of doing so and has diminished its commissions in recent times.

In joining in-house merchant affiliate programs, you have a direct relation to your advertiser/ publisher. There are no middlemen involved, and the commissions could be higher. Big merchants like Amazon also have a wide variety of products, so you have flexible deals.

Affiliate networks

These types of platforms bring affiliate publishers and merchants together. It is a digital marketplace where you can find affiliate offers. The companies showcase their offers here, and publishers choose the ones that best fit their niche, country, and audience.

Affiliate networks are quick and easy to join, and offer a large variety of niches and merchants, automated tracking, and dedicated support. However, the competition is tight, and there will always be a third party involved – the affiliate network.

As you can see, there is no surefire formula to make money on affiliate programs. First, you need a perfect understanding of how affiliate marketing works. Second, you need a solid content strategy that will help you keep traffic coming to your website.

Once you kickstart affiliate marketing, you should always be on the lookout for diversifying your affiliate income through many more networks and programs. So, affiliate marketing doesn’t bring passive income to the publishers. You cannot make money while you sleep, as some people advertise, but you can put a solid system in place that will help you increase your revenues to a substantial sum every week.

There is no magic formula to make money on affiliate programs. Like everything, you need to be smart about it, keep informed, and put in some work. If there is one thing you can be sure of is that affiliate marketing is here to stay for a long time from now on.


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