Understanding affiliate marketing

Affiliate Marketing 2021: What Is It and How Can You Get Started?

1080 753 Alistair Bishop

If you’re just starting out in affiliate marketing or looking to get ahead of your competition, this article might be the thing you’ve been looking for. We share expert tips on how to be a successful affiliate marketer and reveal the next hot trends in 2021.

For a better understanding of affiliate marketing read on and learn all you need to know to get started with your campaigns!

What Is Affiliate Marketing?

When starting to learn about affiliate marketing in 2021 it is best to try and get your head around all the new words and definitions.
Let’s start with the big one first.

Digital marketing expert Neil Patel says affiliate marketing is:

The process of earning a commission by promoting other people’s (or company’s) products. You find a product you like, promote it to others and earn a piece of the profit for each sale that you make.

Sounds simple right? Well, there are a few more levels to it. For a start, Neil is talking about one specific type of affiliate marketing. In fact, it is not limited to only promoting products as the marketing of services is also included.

We recommend checking out our glossary article for any of the key terms in affiliate marketing that you might not know yet (we know it can be confusing at the start).

How Does Affiliate Marketing Work?

Affiliate marketing works by sharing the profits within the process of marketing a product with a third party. This third party (you, the affiliate) promotes this product to as many interested eyeballs as possible. With the lure of a commission for their efforts in successfully delivering said eyeballs and clicks to the brand’s landing page.

To make it clearer we have laid out the three parties involved in this revenue-sharing process:

1. The brand
2. The affiliate marketer
3. The customer

We’ll now cover what each of these players does and their interaction with one another to ensure successful affiliate marketing campaigns.

1. The Brand

The brand ultimately has a product or service they would like to sell to their target market. They can also be referred to as “the merchant” or “vendor” in other affiliate marketing articles you might read. Their product may be physical like consumer electronics (part of the e-commerce vertical) or a service like online education materials.

From this point on the merchant passes the marketing of their products or services to the affiliate marketer either in part or totally depending on their strategy and budget.

2. The Affiliate Marketer

This is where you, the affiliate, comes in. Your job is to make the brand’s product or service appeal to as many potential customers as your budget and skill will allow for. We say skill because you need to make the customer believe the product or service is what they need now. Your tools for doing that would be punchy copy and aesthetically pleasing visuals placed on the offer page, either of your own making or received with an offer. This can be harder than it sounds sometimes.

We recommend using spy tools like these can give you an insight into what other landing pages look like, and what works and what doesn’t. And when you find out what works, you will be able to increase profits from the converted leads you have found.

We have also found that affiliates who target a specific niche or two tend to be more successful to those trying to tap into many various verticals. This is because by focusing on a specific angle, affiliates gain more insight into what interests the consumers within this segment of the market, and which offers the target audience is likely to act on.

This helps build better-targeted ads, whether that is by GEO, demographics, or particular offer type that is run. The goal is to find what is converting traffic into sales and keep refining that equation to increase the revenue earned by the merchant, and as a result, the commissions earned by you — the affiliate.

3. The Customer

The most important part of the money-making machine that is affiliate marketing, the customer. The consumer, whether they are aware of it or not, is part of this process that allows the affiliate to make a living by advertising to them on blogs, websites, or social media platforms.

When the customer clicks on the offer which delivers them to the sale of the product or service the brand offers, their activity is tracked. If they complete the purchase (or a specific action like sign up with their email address) then a percentage of the sales total is sent back to the affiliate. And that is what drives the whole process, these commissions are where the money is made for the affiliate, and it is what they try to grow at all costs.

It is your choice as an affiliate whether you inform the end consumer that you are receiving affiliate commissions for their sale or not. Influencers might tell you that they are receiving a small kickback when you use their promo code at checkout for example.

It’s also good to know as a consumer that the commissions paid to affiliates are built into the retail price. But the consumer usually gets it at a discount in order for them to make the purchase in the first place. So, all in all, it is a win for the customer, the affiliate, and the brand.

Win-win-win!

Understanding affiliate marketing [INFOGRAPHIC]

It’s still a fast and efficient way to earn money without needing any inventory of stock or to pay for the other related costs of running a business like delivery to the consumer.

Okay, you have the definition but that doesn’t tell you enough, you are looking for a little more detail, so here is a picture that might help.

understanding affiliate marketing infographic

This may be a simple picture but it shows the basic structure of the affiliate industry. The main attraction to this industry are the benefits one can have from a life as an affiliate marketer.

Your income level is not simply limited by the 40 hour week as your affiliate campaigns can be running 24/7 allowing you to make money while you sleep. Your affiliate offers are not limited to your own country, so you can run offers globally, which helps to allow for the first principle of managing to earn money while you are not awake.

And the flexibility that can come from a career in affiliate marketing as you choose your working hours. Which companies you work for and promote offers for is up to you. Even where in the world you choose to work whether it be from your bedroom or a sandy beach with a steady internet connection.

You need to remember that this is a win-win situation for the brands, the affiliate marketers, and the customers of the product or service being advertised. The brand gets their customer, the customer gets their good or service, and you (the affiliate) get your sweet commission.

How To Become An Affiliate Marketer?

So, you think you are ready to take on affiliate marketing? Our advice before you get started with the affiliate world is to do as much research as possible before you commit to running your first campaign.

Once you are ready to start, you’ll need an offer that you want to promote to potential customers. We’d recommend checking with an affiliate network of your choice or, if you have access, getting your offer straight from an affiliate program. What’s the difference?

Affiliate networks help connect brands (offers owners) who are willing to outsource their marketing for a larger reach and better performance with affiliate advertisers (that’s you) who are happy to do this job for a certain profit, e.g.: fixed commission.

Affiliate programs work on the same premise too, that is affiliates advertise the brand’s products and services for profit. Only unlike affiliate networks, affiliate programs focus on the direct connection of a given company with more experienced advertisers. Some examples of affiliate programs that can be found on Zeropark’s Offer Wall include BigBang Ads, DirectAffiliate and OneHash. (Find them under the offers tab on your Zeropark account).


Affiliate Programs vs. Affiliate Networks

Read on the difference between ad networks and affiliate programs here!


It is also necessary to get the right tools to help you in the fight for a prosperous affiliate business. The top tools you need to get started are:

  • Self-serve ad network to buy your traffic from
  • Servers to host your offer landing pages
  • Spy tool to check out the competition
  • Ad tracker to see how your offers are performing

You will also need to estimate a budget to get your campaigns started after you have invested in your traffic source, affiliate network, servers, spy tool, and ad tracker. How much you want to spend is up to you, but the general principle in this business is that you get out what you put in.

Unless you own a website and want to go down the SEO route (and hope someone comes across your page and then to your affiliate link on your page) then a paid traffic source is your best option.

You’ll need to find a traffic source and determine your budget for either a single click or display of an ad. Although, some clicks are more expensive than others. The general rule is the higher the visibility of your ad to the target audience, the higher the chance of clicks and views and as a result the higher the price is likely to be. This traffic source then displays your offer on different partner websites, bids for visitors to see your offer, and totals up the number of times your offer has been clicked on or viewed.

Can You Really Make Money With Affiliate Marketing In 2021?

This is the burning question that all beginner affiliate marketers are skeptical of but hopeful to know the answer to.

Can you really make money with Affiliate Marketing? 

The short answer, absolutely. Affiliate marketing guru Charles Ngo states that you shouldn’t think of money lost in affiliate marketing as lost, but rather as an investment in your future campaigns and your future success.

He equates the investment cost of a college education or business startup costs to starting affiliate marketing. And ultimately it costs a lot less to get started in affiliate marketing than the other two options. This can be considered as a learning budget. And again, Charles Ngo highlights that as with many things you learn the most from your failures in affiliate marketing.

The benefit of this industry is the ability to be in charge of your career and your destiny. You choose how much you want to spend on this project and how much money you are willing to risk.

Your earnings are also not limited by the 40hr week. So, if you want to be rewarded for your time, and then rewarded again with passive income while you sleep as your offers are still running, then the affiliate industry is for you. If you have the skill in this industry, there is no revenue ceiling at all and the sky’s the limit.


How much money do you need to be successful in AM

Click here to find out how much money you need to really be successful in affiliate marketing.


But you have to remember, this is not a get rich quick scheme. You have to have the determination and be willing to risk your time and money for a campaign that might just have to be killed. Learn as much as you can from that campaign and apply it to your next one. You may cash in big.

So, the lesson here is that you can make money with affiliate marketing but it is dependent on how much time and money, and effort you are willing to commit to this new business venture.

The ball really is in your court now.

Are you ready to pick it up?

How Do Affiliate Marketers Get Paid?

As previously mentioned, the process of earning commission is the affiliate marketer’s goal.

If the affiliate offer is in the category of lead generation, then advertisers are paid when someone clicks on the offer and completes an action like signing up with their email address or filling in a survey. However, this is only one type of offer campaign.

The e-commerce niche is driven by the sales of goods and services online, and affiliates make their money when brands make a sale via commissions.

Often the size of the commission depends on these factors:

  • The affiliate offer itself
  • The amount of Advertiser’s experience
  • The relationship with the affiliate network
  • Previous campaign success and the ability to prove it (ad trackers will help with this)

If your offers are performing well consistently you may be able to reach out to account managers to renegotiate your terms and get a better deal, because that’s a win-win.

This all really depends on the offers affiliate partners are running because this will determine how much and when they will be paid. That can vary a lot. Some e-commerce offers provide payout after one month, and others pay advertisers faster. We recommend checking this before signing up to promote a particular offer to reduce the risk of running into cash flow problems.

There are different ways an offer will payout to the affiliate marketer promoting it, and each differs in its definition of what counts as a conversion. The examples are:

  • Fixed payout: The fixed or agreed-upon price that is paid to the affiliate for each time users engage with the promoted ads in the desired way, providing either a sale, lead or click, etc.
  • Revenue Share: A common payout model where affiliates receive a percentage of the revenue recognized by the offer owner (most often your affiliate network or program) that is tracked back to the promoted ads.

What are Common Types of Affiliate Marketing Channels?

At Zeropark we call these affiliate marketing channels traffic sources and that’s how you should think about them too. This is where people come from to look at the offers you are promoting.

Here are a few of the most common traffic sources:

  • Organic: This is people coming from the search engine results page (SERP). This includes any blogs and websites that customers may come across before seeing your offer. Be warned this process takes a lot of time and effort to rank for the right keywords and can be very competitive.
  • Social Media: As the name suggests users come from various social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, etc. This includes influencers – love them or hate them, there is no getting away from internet stars and the products and services that they subtly mention on their blogs or social media platforms.
  • Email: For this type of traffic you will need to have access to a database of email addresses you can use to show your offers to. With GDPR this is getting harder as people need to voluntarily opt in to your emails. You can embed a link into a newsletter with your offer rather than simply attaching your landing page.
  • Referral: Referrals come from a few different places. It can be a website, a newsletter, or social media post. A third party needs to make reference to your offer, or your products or services and in doing so it increases the reader’s trust in your brand.
  • Direct: This traffic comes only from people who have visited your website previously or typed the website address into the address bar perfectly the first time.
  • Paid: This term covers various types of traffic including some of the most popular types of paid ads, that is Google and Facebook paid advertising. But also pop, domain redirect, and push ads that can be run by affiliate marketers. The bonus with the latter form of traffic is that it is perfectly designed for affiliates who can promote other people’s brands and product or service.

traffic sources header

Learn more about the traffic sources here!


What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Affiliate Marketing?

We know what you’re thinking… “If it sounds too good to be true it probably is…”

Fear not, though. Below we’ve laid out some of the pros of affiliate marketing so you can read, analyze and decide for yourself.

  • Relatively low start-up costs.
  • No stock, no overheads, low-cost business.
  • Passive income – Making money while you sleep.
  • Work whenever you want, wherever you are in the world.
  • No customer service.

Affiliate community is there to help e.g. Forums like affLIFT

There must be some cons too, right?

  • There is a bit of a learning curve, but remember to think of this as a learning budget.
  • Affiliate offers  terms may change so the commissions can fluctuate (e-commerce).
  • Pay-outs from the network are delayed or a profitable offer expires.
  • The Google algorithm changes, (this has led to limiting push subscriptions or data tracking in the past).
  • You need to be adaptable to react to the changes to the affiliate markets.

After a couple of months of being in the affiliate industry, you will get used to these minor changes and how to keep on top of them.

You’ll also be able to leverage the benefits of affiliate marketing to your advantage and make the life you want.

advantages and disadvantages image

How To Become A Successful Affiliate Marketer?
5 Expert Tips.

We have asked that question to some experts in the industry, we’ve asked it to the community, and we asked it to ourselves.
What we got from that experience are top tips for getting started with affiliate marketing, so you can learn from their (and our) mistakes and get a head start on success!

✔︎  Learn learn learn —  no seriously, learn as much as you can about affiliate marketing before you get started and keep going once you’ve started as there is always more to learn in this industry.

✔︎  Auto optimization rules are your friends — but don’t forget it is possible to over optimize your campaign and lose valuable leads, so tread carefully.

✔︎  Check out the competition — a spy tool will help you find out which landing pages are successful, how you can improve quickly, and if someone has copied your ads too and it’s time to change it again.

✔︎  Track your campaigns — Google Analytics just isn’t going to cut it. You need a real ad tracker (like the Voluum tool) to follow your leads through the entire marketing funnel and through to the conversion, so you can see which offers are working and when it’s time to pull the plug on a campaign.

✔︎  Don’t be afraid to kill a failing campaign — it’s one of the hardest lessons to get over, and you will probably have to learn from your own mistakes before you will listen. But it will still save you from burning your entire budget if you learn it quickly.

These five tips are lifesavers. And are by no means all of the advice you will need to succeed in affiliate marketing. That comes from work, determination, and good old trial and error. But they will help in creating an effective affiliate marketing strategy.

If you have all the tools ready to get started with affiliate marketing, then we recommend you check out this article on 25 beginner affiliate marketing tips to get you the head start you need.

What are the Top Affiliate Marketing Trends of 2021?

Our inside scoop is that the top-performing verticals across pop, domain and push traffic on Zeropark for January 2021 have been:

Sports Betting —  no surprise with the Super Bowl season upon us.

Lead Gen offers are still hot this year and CPA is the name of the game.

Gambling has performed well in the past, is still performing well, and always will be.

E-commerce with the closure of brick and mortar stores during Covid times, online offers are picking up. It’s also been noticed that travel offers have begun picking up which is a large part of this vertical, and the opportunity to cash in on post-covid travel is not to be missed.

Surveys & Sweeps remain a profitable standard in affiliate marketing for beginners and those who have been in the game for years.

Downloads are still hot in 2021, with some of the highest commission rates out there, competition is high for this niche.

Financial offers are enticing more and more customers looking to get the best value out of the trading markets.

Dating/Adult – every year January through to February is a hot time for these offers with Valentine’s day creating high demand online.

It is also important to stay adaptable to seasonal trends. For example, the nutra offers tend to convert well in January every year according to the affiliate marketing calendar. Although these may not seem as hot this year due to the closure of gyms around the world, people who’d like to transform their bodies should actually look for solutions online.

That’s why it is necessary to plan ahead with your campaigns to make the most out of key holidays which can bring bonus profit to your offers portfolio. Dating offers tend to peak around Valentine’s day which is only days away so get your offers ready in time to make the most out of this opportunity.


Affiliate Marketing Trends 2021

Are you hungry for more of 2021’s top trends?
READ HERE! 


What’s the influence of coronavirus on Affiliate Marketing?

What have we learned about the affiliate marketplace during this last year? That it is more resilient than it was originally thought. With headlines pronouncing “Affiliate marketing is dead!” more than once in the past… this has never actually happened. We are still here and so are you.

It is clear that affiliate marketing has survived the coronavirus pandemic, and in fact, increased due to the new normal allowing for people to have more time at home. This allows for the side-hustle of your affiliate marketing efforts to be done in the time that would have been spent commuting.

What makes this easier is that the affiliate community has a trench mentality whereby each affiliate is willing to share their wisdom on forums like affLIFT or even Facebook groups (like Do You Even Affiliate).

You’ve got to remember that these forums have FB groups which can be viewed as a limited free trial of their forums which often have a subscription cost.

However, it is good to know that these forums (like affiliatefix, Dijs Forum, or i Am Affiliate, affLIFT, STM) are worth their weight in gold when you find tips on optimizing your campaigns.

Additionally, in this time when many companies are having to tighten their financial belts, affiliate marketing can be seen as an option to get the best value out of their marketing budgets.


Affiliate Marketing Work-From-Home Kind of Job Blog Header

Read how COVID-19 has impacted the affiliate marketing industry here.


Conclusions

Hopefully, you understand a little bit more about affiliate marketing now. What it is and how you can get started today.

You should be an expert in no time at all following expert and community tips. Remember to try and learn from our mistakes and share yours with the affiliate community so we can learn from your pearls of wisdom too.

And now that you know Covid-19 may have slowed some business to a grinding halt, but affiliate marketers have been grinding to keep the industry turning, what are you waiting for?

 

Are you ready to start affiliate marketing?
Run your ads with Zeropark now!