A woman seated near a window shops online. She is sitting cross-legged, balancing a laptop on her lap. In her right hand she holds a credit card.
Affiliate marketing — promoting another company's products or services for a commission — can add a steady revenue stream, but it requires research and ongoing work. — Getty Images/Fiordaliso

If you’re looking for a new source of income or want to add an additional revenue stream to your business, you might consider affiliate marketing. Affiliate marketers earn commissions by promoting other companies’ products and services. It’s a low-cost, low-risk business strategy, but it takes a lot of effort to be successful, so you want to do your research first.

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How does it work?

Affiliate marketing involves promoting and selling another company’s products or services for a commission. When you sign up as an affiliate, you’ll receive a unique URL so that any sales you generate can be tracked.

Once you’ve shared your affiliate link and someone clicks on it and makes a purchase, you’ll receive a commission. The commission amount and terms are determined by the merchant and should be outlined in your affiliate agreement.

How to become an affiliate marketer

Getting started in affiliate marketing is pretty simple, and you’ll begin by signing up. There are two ways to get started with affiliate marketing — through a network or an individual seller.

An affiliate network, like Shareasale, MoreNiche, or Clickbank, is a platform connecting affiliates and merchants. The network manages the relationships and handles third-party checks. You also have the option of working directly with the seller.

Once you’ve found a network or seller to work with, you’ll choose the products you want to promote. From there, you’ll receive your affiliate link and possibly additional materials like graphics and marketing materials to help you promote the product.

You can market the products or services through blogging, email marketing, or social media. The vendor will track any purchases you generate and send you commission checks.

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If you have an established blog, YouTube channel, or podcast, this is probably the best strategy for marketing your affiliate products.

How to be successful with affiliate marketing

It’s easy to get started with affiliate marketing, but most people don’t earn much money doing it. You can increase your odds of success by taking the following steps:

  • Select the right product: Finding products or services you believe in will make them easier to promote. You should also look for products that are relevant to your current audience. If you’re just getting started, look for niches that align with your interests and audience.
  • Compare programs: As you compare your options, read the terms and compare the benefits and drawbacks of each program. You should compare the support offered, minimum payout terms, and tax documents required. You should also know the average sale amount and the commission structure.
  • Start small: While promoting many products may increase your chances of making revenue, take the time to understand the niche and try the products out first. It’s a good idea to start with just two or three potential products and add to them over time.
  • Choose a marketing channel: If you have an established blog, YouTube channel, or podcast, this is probably the best strategy for marketing your affiliate products. Email marketing has a high return on investment, so you may also want to consider that. Think about which marketing channels your audience uses and what will resonate with them the most.
  • Know your customers: If you’re already an established business owner, consider what products your customers need that you don’t currently offer. Once you’ve identified the need, look for affiliate marketing programs offering products that can help.

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Learn and grow

Like any business venture, you must routinely track and evaluate your affiliate marketing program’s success. The merchants you work with should provide reports to help you identify which products generate the most income.

It’s also important to review your data and see which marketing channels drive the most sales. This information will help you focus on what’s working and improve areas where sales are lagging.

This article was originally written by Kaylee Kolditz.

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