Affiliate Marketing for Complete Beginners – The Ultimate Guide

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Are you just getting started with affiliate marketing?

If you are an affiliate marketing beginner then you are in the right place! We’re going to be taking a deep dive into everything you need to know about affiliate marketing to get you earning more money!

If you already know the basics, you may consider taking my 5-day affiliate marketing challenge or reading one of these posts;

If you haven’t yet started a blog then start here;

But if you are a beginner at affiliate marketing or need a little reminder of the basics, read on to learn everything you need to know about affiliate marketing for newbies…

What is affiliate marketing?

Affiliate marketing is a form of low-risk marketing whereby a content creator promotes a product in return for a commission if they make a sale within a certain defined amount of time.

The affiliate marketer will use a link with a tracking code to refer their readers to the product.

Companies like using affiliate marketing to promote their products as they only have to pay you if you are successful. Therefore it is very low risk for them.

Essentially, it is a passive form of income where you put the work in early to reap the rewards later which is a win-win for everyone involved!

Why is affiliate marketing so great?

Affiliate marketing is my favourite way to make money. Not only is it very lucrative (read about how I made over $5000 in 1 month with a smallish blog,) but it allows you to have total autonomy over your website. You decide what to promote and how to promote it.

There are no deadlines or difficult demands by an external company like with sponsored posts. You can promote JUST the products that you love.

Also, once your articles are written, your email welcome sequence created and your affiliate pins circulated and scheduled, your affiliate strategy will work on autopilot helping you to make money whilst you sleep.

That is not to say affiliate marketing is easy. You’ll need to put the work in and occasionally update those posts or share them again on social media or in emails. BUT, the bulk of work is done in the beginning so you can sit back and relax and enjoy the ongoing income.

OR you can work on creating more affiliate posts and grow your business!

girl blogging sat on a bed

How does affiliate marketing work?

When you join a programme, you will be given a unique referral link that you can share with your readers every time you mention a product. The tracking code on the link lets the company know that you referred that customer.

The link has a cookie period which means it is tracked for a period of time. If that person comes back to buy within that time frame, then you still earn the commission.

The best programmes have longer cookie periods giving you more time to convince someone to make a sale. This is especially useful for higher-value products where the reader is not likely to make a spontaneous sale.

Top tips to be successful with affiliate marketing

  • Only promote products you love and are passionate about. Your enthusiasm will come across and help you make a sale.
  • Make sure your affiliate product solves your reader’s problems.
  • Make your affiliate links clear and add a few scattered through your posts. Mix text links, buttons, image links and widgets.
  • Always test what works and keep analysing your success.
  • Build your audience’s trust. Ask questions, reply to emails, start a Facebook group and email list to engage with your audience and don’t promote anything shady.
  • Make sure your articles contain all the details your reader needs – don’t give them a reason to go elsewhere.
  • Be patient – it can take a while for articles to gain traction.
picture of a girl on a laptop learnign about affiliate marketing for beginners

For more tips, join my 5 day affiliate marketing course designed for beginner-intermediate level affiliate marketers.

Where to put affiliate marketing links?

Whilst you need to check the rules for each programme you join, for many affiliate products, you can promote them in a variety of ways. I use affiliate links in the following places;

  • Within blog posts
  • In my Facebook group
  • On my Facebook page
  • On Instagram
  • On Twitter
  • In my emails (including in my welcome sequence which goes out to all new subscribers)
  • On Pinterest
  • On a resource page on the website
  • Within my digital product downloads and on Thank-you pages.

Read Next | How to start an email list for beginners

Articles which convert well

Whilst adding affiliate links to all of your best-performing articles is best practice, to be really successful with affiliate marketing you will need to write some posts which are dedicated to that affiliate product. The following types of post convert well;

  • Reviews
  • Comparisons
  • Tutorials
  • Interviews with the product owner
  • Top 10 style listicles
  • Itineraries
  • Gift guides

If you need a little help constructing affiliate articles which convert, you will find templates galore inside the Affiliate Superstar Toolkit which contains everything you need to totally ACE your affiliate strategy.

Check it out HERE.

Affiliate Marketing for Complete Beginners - The Ultimate Guide

Affiliate networks to join for beginners

Some companies will offer their own affiliate programmes but many will use popular affiliate networks to manage their programmes.

These networks will have many affiliate programs to choose from and you can search by your niche and also by the average earnings per click.

Here are a few of the affiliate programmes I recommend signing up to;


One of my favourite affiliate programmes and the one where I make the most money. It’s great for British based affiliate programmes though there are plenty of US programmes too. I find the user interface with Awin the easiest to use compared to the other main affiliate networks.


Shareasale is a part of Awin and has more US programmes on offer. It also has a lot of digital programmes which tend to have good commission rates. It’s great for promoting the tools that you use for blogging. The options with Shareasale are endless!

Commission Junction

Commission Junction or CJ affiliates has a huge variety of affiliate programmes. I don’t particularly enjoy the user interface but there are so many programmes with CJ that I use it anyway.

Amazon Associates

Amazon has one of the most popular affiliate programmes as there is something almost every blogger can promote.

The downside is they only use a 24-hour cookie. But on the plus side, you earn commission for anything that a person buys that day, not just what you referred them to.

To have success with Amazon affiliates, you either need to refer a LOT of people OR refer them right at the end of the buying cycle when they are ready to purchase (e.g. when the person starts searching for reviews, they are close to being ready to purchase.)

Please note, Amazon has strict rules you need to follow. For example, all links must be uncloaked, you cannot link to Amazon via Pinterest or in emails. Also, you must 3 sales within the first few months with Amazon otherwise your account will be suspended. You can then reapply when your website has grown.

For this reason, I would recommend waiting until you have some decent traffic going to articles which you think might convert well like packing lists, reviews and gift guides.

Ultimate bundles

The commission rates with Ultimate Bundles are amazing – 40-70%! It’s a slightly different type of programme with open-close cart flash sales.

They sell bundles of online e-courses, e-books, templates etc on a wide range of topics from travel to finance to blogging to healthy living. These bundles are sold for a short time frame at hugely discounted prices. There’s a bundle for just about every blog niche.

To be successful with this type of flash-sale products, you will need to be organised and make a content plan for the lead-up and duration of the sale.

It’s best to write a review of the bundle then promote heavily via social media, Pinterest and your email list.

The Ultimate Bundles affiliate team provide loads of resources to help you make sales. It’s the most supportive affiliate programme I have been a part of. They even offer prizes like iPads for the best-performing affiliates with each sale!

If you want to know more, read my article about the Ultimate Bundles affiliate programme.


Skimlinks is the perfect affiliate programme for beginners as there is no need to apply to individual programmes and so you don’t need to worry if you are only getting a trickle of traffic. You know that trickle is going to become a raging torrent because you are learning about SEO and growing your blog. But the affiliate companies do not.

Skimlinks provides a solution for newbie bloggers.

With skimlinks, you download a plugin which will convert any outbound link to an affiliate link provided they are included in their very extensive network of affiliates. So if you link to a product on Amazon but Amazon Associates has rejected you, you can still get the commission!

The downside is that some of the commissions and cookie periods are less favourable than the original affiliate programme so where possible, you should try to join the original programme.

However, for products you may only mention once on your site, ones that don’t have a regular affiliate programme or those which are picky about who they’ll accept into their programme, Skimlinks provides the perfect solution.

A word of caution though. Occasionally Skimlinks scrapes some of your regular affiliate links. It’s unusual and if it happens, just reach out to support and they’ll make sure links from that site are ignored by Skimlinks. Most people do not have this issue but there are occasional cases. Luckily it is easily rectified.

Things to look for in an affiliate programme

When looking at affiliate programmes, there are a few important things to consider;

  • Commission. This is what percentage of the sale price you get rewarded with.
  • Cookie period. This is how long the tracking code remains tracking your referral. So if you refer someone to a product and they decide to buy it a month later, you may still be rewarded the sale.
  • 1st click vs the last click. If someone clicks on two different affiliate links, only one person will be rewarded the commission. You need to know if it is the first person who referred them or the last. (If it’s the last click you should aim to reach the person towards the end of the buying cycle.)
  • Fixed or recurring commission. Recurring commissions are brilliant as you can earn money every month meaning your income continues to rise the more people you refer (providing they stay with that company.)
Affiliate Marketing for Complete Beginners - The Ultimate Guide

The best tools for affiliate marketing

There are a few tools which will make your affiliate marketing plans a lot easier. Here are my 3 top tools for affiliate marketing;

Keysearch – to gain the right kind of traffic that converts

Firstly, Keysearch will help you find keywords which you can rank for and that people are actually looking for.

In order for you to sell affiliate products, you need to get the right eyes on your articles. Keysearch can help you do this. My traffic exploded and grew by 500% in a year after I signed up to Keysearch. It was the best investment I made in my blog.

Read more about SEO and keyword research here

You can get a 20% discount with the code KSDISC using this link.

Thirsty Affiliates – to organise your affiliate links and to track your progress

My favourite WordPress plugin of all time. Thirsty Affiliates creates a library of your affiliate links which you can access from within your dashboard whilst you write an article making adding links a breeze.

It means if a link changes for example a company changes its website structure, you can change the link just once in your library and it will change across your WHOLE website. Imagine how much time and stress that would save you?!

Here are a few of the other features I love;

  • Cloaking links makes them look neater on social media
  • Cloaking links makes them harder for commission thieves to steal your commissions
  • Add affiliate links via images
  • Assign keywords to affiliate links so if you forget, you don’t lose the commission (pro feature.)
  • Geotag links so if the product isn’t available in one country, you can link to a sensible alternative (Pro feature.)
  • Automatically add a disclosure notification to every page to stay legal (pro feature.)
  • Detailed affiliate link report to see what’s working and what’s not.
Our pick
Cloak Affiliate Links in WordPress – ThirstyAffiliates
Link cloaking, geolinking, keyword linking, reports

Thirsty affiliates is my go-to affiliate marketing plugin for helping me to create easy to remember branded affiliate links that I can edit across my site in a flash or recall on the go when someone asks me about a product on social media. This tool helps to save me both time AND money!

We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

Amalinks Pro – to ace Amazon affiliate marketing.

Amalinks Pro is a plugin specifically for affiliate marketing with the Amazon Associates programme.

This plugin hooks up with Amazon to allow you to input tables comparing products, call-to-action-buttons and product info boxes into your posts which help convert more Amazon sales.

Here’s an example of what a table looks like that I created for my travel website comparing laptops for travel bloggers.

Example of amalinks table comparing laptops

Keeping your affiliate links legal

Affiliate marketing is regulated by the FTC in the USA and as such, you will have to follow some important rules to avoid getting in hot water.

All affiliate links must be disclosed. This is the case for all affiliate links, not just those on your blog. If you use affiliate links within your emails, on Pinterest or social media, you will also need to disclose the fact that it’s an affiliate link.

The disclosure needs to be easily visible and should be above the affiliate link.

You can include a little blurb saying your articles contain affiliate links and link to a more detailed explanation on your legal page at the top of the page.

Alternatively, you can place this lower down in your article but each link must then be identified as an affiliate link. I have my Thirsty affiliates plugin set up to add my disclosure automatically.

You see the little ‘i’ above my link there? If you hover over it, it clearly indicates it is an affiliate link.

flatlay of laptop on a desk - affiliate marketing for beginners

Some people worry that if it’s obviously an affiliate link, people are less likely to buy as they won’t trust your recommendation, knowing you will be financially rewarded.

However, I have not found this to be the case.

If you make sure you only promote products you use and are passionate about, your enthusiasm will come across as genuine. Your audience may even search out your affiliate links in order to reward you for all the free information you have given them.

On social media, it is acceptable to identify your affiliate link with #aflink.

You also need to make your affiliate links ‘no-follow.’ If you’re not sure what that means, I recommend reading this article.

What Next?

Now that you understand the basics of affiliate marketing, would you like to join my free 5-day affiliate marketing challenge to supercharge your affiliate plan? It’s a mini-course drip-fed over 5 days via email that I think you might love.

For people looking for a truly advanced affiliate marketing course, Affiliate Marketing Superstars is my signature online course and is a really deep dive into all things affiliate strategy. From the basics right up to advanced modules about email marketing, open-close cart sales and using bridge pages.

Best for in-depth affiliate marketing strategy
Affiliate Marketing Superstars Course

If you are ready for a deep dive into affiliate marketing strategy, this course could be right up your alley.

With a focus on ethical strategies which work even for small blogs, this course is packed with tips and ideas that will work for all niches.

It starts with the basics for newbies but works gradually up to some advanced strategies including Pinterest marketing, automated affiliate email funnels, bridge pages, using paid ads and promoting flash sales and open-close cart sales...

Possibly the most comprehensive affiliate marketing course available for bloggers...

You may also want to consider joining my Facebook group which is dedicated to affiliate marketing and other forms of passive income for bloggers. You’ll get access to all of my best tips there!

Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of how affiliate marketing works and how you can be successful with it!

If you have any questions, please let me know in the comments.

Can you do a fellow blogger a favour and pin this to your Pinterest boards? Thanks, you’re a star!

24 thoughts on “Affiliate Marketing for Complete Beginners – The Ultimate Guide

  1. Lessons and Inspirations says:

    Thank you for this!! I was looking for something to learn this and couldn’t seem to find something for true beginners. I love that you’ve included links and actual information. Keep up the good work!

  2. Beth Elkassih says:

    This is by far the BEST blog article I have read concerning Affiliate Marketing. I shall bookmark this and re-read to join those you suggested. Thank you thank you thank you!

    • Leanne says:

      I’m glad you found it helpful Jen! And I’m so glad you’re so excited to get started – it really can be life-changing!

  3. Richard Barton says:

    Affiliate marketing is such an smart and interesting profession now a days. There are many affiliate programs available out there in the online market.

    Expert marketers can earn big amount of money by blogging and affiliate marketing, but it needs to be more clear when starting affiliate marketing for the very first time.

    Thank you for your tips, this is so helpful.

  4. Ekta says:

    Really great! I am glad that I found out this article as I didn’t knew I have to convert all my Affiliate links to no follow.

  5. Kelsey says:

    You have a really great list of an affiliate program. I’m excited to include Affiliate marketing. Thanks for your tips, Leanne!

  6. Andrea says:

    Thank you for this article,
    Leanne! This was extremely helpful for me because I have a degree in Business Marketing, however, I am looking forward to making my career in affiliate marketing. This is perfect!

  7. Alex K P says:

    Great Article, Thank you so much for sharing. This is very helpful for newbie affiliate marketers who are just getting started in 2021.

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