How is Affiliate Marketing Online?

March 1, 2018 Jordan Meola 15 Comments

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read My Disclosure for more info.

That’s the big question. The question everyone eventually asks when they first start thinking – “hmm… can I really make money online?”.

That’s the exact boat I was in not too long ago. I was right out of college, job-searching like a maniac with little success, and wondering if I would be doomed to living paycheck-to-paycheck at a job I only tolerated out of necessity.

It hit me early on that there might be opportunities online to boost my income, and this naturally led to the subject of affiliate marketing. I was kind of dangling over this world, that sounded full of potential, but so abstract….

So how is affiliate marketing online?


My Experience: The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly

This is from my personal experience with affiliate marketing, as well as what I’ve learned through others.

There are 3.75 billion people using the internet, astronomical numbers of us are spending money online (think around $2.1 trillion, if that helps), and as you may have heard affiliate marketing gives you an opportunity to gain a lot of profit from it. 

From some Christmas money, to paying off student loans and mortgages, to replacing a full-time income (or 2), to living fully free, semi-retired, and traveling the world… the opportunity is there.

BUT, it’s not that simple!

There is a lot of time, effort, learning, and persistence that you’ll need first.

You’ll need to understand HOW it works. You’ll need to understand WHY it works. You’ll need the right tools. The right mentality. A heap of self-motivation. And a vision for long-term goals. Read this post –> about retiring young, to get the picture of how that works.

You DON’T, however, need a ton of technical skills or computer savvy. I’ll explain below:

  • How it works
  • Why it works
  • What it takes to Succeed
  • The Key Mental Strategies


How Does Affiliate Marketing Work? (Skip This Part If You Already Know)


How Does Affiliate Marketing Work
Ok, this is basically the process of affiliate marketing:

  1. You think of something that you’re passionate about, and can write things about. Something you can teach people. Something you can help people with. Something you could talk about for hours. (this is pretty broad! Anything from replacing brake pads to caring for an infant!)
  2. You need a website where you can “blog”, or write about what you love. A typical “.com” will cost you about $15. Building it is not as hard as it sounds! I’ll explain that later on.
  3. You’ll need your blog to be popular with Google (and other search engines), ideally on page 1. There’s a method to this, which I’ll also explain. 
  4. Find “affiliate programs” from webstores just by searching for them (Amazon is an obvious one). Simply sign up with them, and they’ll give you a link to put on your site. If a reader clicks through the link, and buys something, they give you a commission check.

That’s how affiliate marketing works!

So for example, if I wrote a review for a particular LED flashlight, I could include a link like this: Best Price at Amazon or Get It Here. If you were to click on this link, it takes you to the product on Amazon, and if you bought it Amazon would give me a commission.

A commission can be as small as 1% (like it is with Best Buy), or as high as 80%. There are commissions that are tiny, like a movie ticket for Fandango which only pays $0.10. Other commissions that are thousands of dollars.

That’s how affiliate marketing works!


Why Does Affiliate Marketing Work? Is It Really Worth The Effort?

So the first thing I worried about when I thought about trying affiliate marketing was this; if these HUGE companies like Amazon and Ebay are so well known already why do they need me? How can I compete with big companies and webstores in the search engines?

Well here’s the thing, over 40% of people shopping online will look to an unbiased review before making a final purchase. People don’t automatically trust advertisements from a company itself, because a company will always try to make their product sound perfect!

People look to more honest and objective opinions, from fellow consumers, on how a product is!

This is where you come in.

There are many products, even for the most obscure interests, that have tons of searches every month! For example, there are about 11,000 searches per month for skis. The words “fender guitars” are searched over 7,000 times a month. If you write about slightly more specific aspects of these things, with enough persistence and writing you could be in the first page of results that HUNDREDS of people are seeing!

There’s a lot of demand for thorough, honest reviews. And a lot of money in it for the reviewer. This is why affiliate marketing can work so well.



Possibly most important is the way you can use Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to succeed. If you don’t recognize most of the terms in the picture above, don’t worry about it, all of them can be learned over time.

But this is absolutely essential to your success. You can learn how to create content, use keywords and links, and organize a site in a way that will optimize your blog for search engines, and rank high! 

This is why an affiliate marketing blog can become such a powerful force, if you have the right knowledge and tools.

Which brings me to my next point. 


What Are The Tools You Need?

The old Chinese proverb “to know what’s on the road ahead, ask those coming back” holds true here.

If you want to be successful in any business venture, you usually need to find mentors that are at least a few years ahead, successful in the business, and willing to teach or advise you on how to achieve the same success.

When it comes to building an affiliate marketing business, you absolutely NEED to have good tools and teachers to create a lucrative affiliate marketing website.

Be careful when you’re researching this!

There are many “gurus” and experienced affiliate marketers out there selling programs on how to win at affiliate marketing. They’re not necessarily scams, and many of them are good teachers, but you need to be careful about purchasing help for a high price, that you could get much more affordably elsewhere.

I had to sift through a lot of expensive options myself. I eventually found a great resource, that provided a ton of value, without upsells or huge expenses, called Wealthy Affiliate.

Wealthy Affiliate sign up
You can read my detailed review of my experience with Wealthy Affiliate HERE.

There are many programs out there, and I was still skeptical when I joined Wealthy Affiliate, but it let me start for free, it didn’t take my credit card information, and it didn’t force me to pay for the basic service no matter how long I used it… so I took the plunge.

Essentially, it gave me this completely for free:

  • 7 days of Live Help
  • Builds 2 websites FOR you
  • Website backup
  • The first course of training
  • Access to 30 searches of a keyword tool (the key to getting ranked in Google)

If you decide, after trying it out and building your website, that it’s a business you’re willing to invest in and work at, the yearly cost of Premium WA is $359 (or $49/month, but this is less economical). Which enables you to:

  • Build up to 50 websites (that’s a lot of work, but each one of them could be a 6-figure business. Especially useful if you want to make a business building websites for OTHER people/businesses)
  • A website security package
  • All in-depth training available
  • Access to an entire community of people that will help support and market your business

Think about it. The cost of starting up a regular, brick-and-mortar small business is often thousands and thousands of dollars. The monthly costs to run a business making over $100,000/year in profit could easily surpass $5,000. Often even breaking even is a challenge.

Affiliate marketing is possibly the cheapest way to start a business! Just remember, if you currently have a job, do not quit that job to start affiliate marketing.

It may eventually completely eclipse your regular income, and become your full-time job. You may make $50,000, $100,000 or even 7-figure incomes from this. I have friends in all of those income brackets from affiliate marketing.

But you will not make money from day 1, and it will take time and consistent effort to nurture it to success.

==> You Can Get Started at Wealthy Affiliate for FREE! <==


The Pillars of Marketing Success

The greatest asset that you have in making money, creating a business, and reaching the freedom of time and finances that you want, is yourself.

The pillars you see above depict the mentality that you need for success in affiliate marketing. You are the decision maker. It’s up to you. It breaks down like this:

  • You need to have a vision. What are your goals? What do you need to do to get there? What are you willing to invest?
  • You need to set objectives. Staying on task is not easy when it’s all up to you. Set a list (I use a combination of sticky notes on my desk, and online index cards) and stick to each task to keep moving forward.
  • Constantly be learning. Those who succeed in affiliate marketing, no matter how experienced they are, will always be seeking new knowledge, creative ideas, and skills.
  • Develop trust. If you are in this only for yourself that will show, and it will reflect badly on your business. Treat others well. Provide good service. Be honest, kind, and value your good reputation.

The angel and devil you see on the shoulders will always be there. Laziness, lethargy, doubt, SELF-doubt, greed, haste, and distraction will always be threats. Persistence, consistency, determination, confidence, and belief need to be nurtured and maintained.

Success in affiliate marketing is not a matter of IF it works, or IF it can be done. In my experience, it completely boils down to yourself, how much you’re willing to suspend cynicism, and work hard.


So How Is Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate marketing is neutral. It’s presents one of the greatest income opportunities we currently have available. But it’s completely what YOU make of it.

It’s not a couple clicks of a button to quick riches. It’s not a get-rich-quick plan.

Frankly, it’s not even especially easy.

If you’re being told affiliate marketing is a quick and easy way to explode your income, you’re probably being sold something. Or rather, OVER sold something.

But if you’re determined to break out of a 9-5 grind, and build a lucrative business, it definitely can work.

And if you happen to join Wealthy Affiliate (or anywhere else to pursue an affiliate marketing business), shoot me a message! I’ll be glad to help you, and cheer you on along the way.





15 People reacted on this

  1. This is one of the few reviews of affiliate marketing that has told the truth about how difficult it really is. As you said, it is not even close to being a get-rich-quick scheme. It takes a lot of time to get your website running and optimized. You have to create quality content. That is not easy, not matter how much you may know about your particular niche. It requires a lot of research for each post or article, if you are going to do it right.
    Thanks again!

    1. Thanks for commenting Curtis!

      I absolutely agree, affiliate marketing is a potentially lucrative business, but like any business you start from scratch it takes both time and a lot of concentrated effort to reach success. I’ve had to learn this along the way. Patience and persistence DO pay off. I believe over 90% of people that go into affiliate marketing (or really any commission-based income opportunity) burn out within the first year, before it really takes off, because it just feels like work isn’t paying off.

      Eventually you will start to see success. Most likely. But it’s important to know ahead of time that, like you said, this ISN’T a quick and easy path to wealth.

      Thanks Curtis!

  2. This is one of the few reviews of affiliate marketing that has told the truth about how difficult it really is. As you said, it is not even close to being a get-rich-quick scheme. It takes a lot of time to get your website running and optimized. You have to create quality content. That is not easy, not matter how much you may know about your particular niche. It requires a lot of research for each post or article, if you are going to do it right.
    Thanks again!

  3. Hi Admin, I like the way you explain the affiliate marketing. Your image on Pillars of affiliate marketing success gives me the clear picture on how to do things effectively. I have a blog created for affiliate marketing but it is not converting well since it is a new site. How long I have to wait to see any results?

    1. Hey Jesse, thanks for dropping by! And I’m you found this helpfu

      Hey Jesse, thanks for dropping by! And I’m glad you found it helpful.

      Don’t sweat those low conversions for right now, I would just suggest keep posting as consistently as possible. Try to do 1-3 a week if you can, and make at least 1 in every 3 a big, thorough post with at least 2,000 words. Make sure your links are very clear and visible, those are the money makers. 

      As soon as you post always try to get as many comments as possible, however you can. It will help you index faster. I’ve had posts index in just 24 hours with enough comments. 

      The money will start coming in the more attention you get, which is usually more about effort than time, but 6 months should start to see returns

  4. I’m glad you mentioned that affiliate marketing is “neutral” in the sense that it provides massive opportunity. It is not a hand-out by any means. Like Curtis said, it takes a lot of work!

    I am pretty new myself to blog writing and affiliate marketing, and there is so much out there to learn. I’ve managed to duck my head and crank out quality content as best as I can while keeping up with my other responsibilities.

    About how long did it take you personally to begin seeing some results? What would be your advice for a new blog writer such as myself?

    1. Hey Bill, thanks for commenting!

      I’m glad you’ve jumped into affiliate marketing, it’s challenging but investing in your freedom is a good choice. It’s definitely hard to continuously crank out quality posts, especially when you’re balancing it with a regular job and daily living. 

      I started to find some success online somewhere between my 4th and 5th month, though I’m still striving for success every day. A lot of it is a matter of effort,, but a good bit of it is just giving your website time for Google to start trusting it. 

      You can do it! 

  5. Wow, Great Post! I really appreciated your honesty. I myself am someone who is just getting started with affiliate marketing and I will admit, it most definitely can get tough. The first thing that can get you down is your mentality. If you think negatively, you’ll get negative results. But If you think positively, and have a good head on your shoulders. You will find success.

    Thanks for this, it was very motivational and informational.

    1. Emonne, I’m glad you found it helpful! 

      Positivity is huge! It’s not always easy to maintain, especially early on when you’re not making money yet. The idea of blogging and making income is difficult to understand. 

      Stick with it, and I’m sure with persistence you’ll find success!

  6. Loved your article! You actually answered a lot of questions I had about affiliate marketing. If I build a website within Wealthy Affiliate, is there any other resource I would need to find or do they offer everything I would need to start my business?

    What research I’ve done about building a website seems pretty complex. As far as hosting, securing a domain, etc.

    1. Hi Blake, I’m glad you found it helpful! 

      Wealthy Affiliate is very comprehensive, in my experience. Eventually you may move above and beyond Wealthy Affiliate, if you’re getting a lot of visitors and sales on your site, but for starting out it gives you most of the tools necessary. 

      Researching the theory of affiliate marketing is REALLY draining at first, I feel you there! The more you learn it will all start coming together, and then you can start taking action, which feels awesome. Securing a domain should be reasonably straight forward, but hosting can be quite a research process. I wrote a post on my findings when researching hosting:

      I hope this helps!

  7. Hey Jmeola,

    Affiliate Marketing is at all time high now, and a great opportunity.
    Increasing online shopping and growing popularity of net even in the remotest area, definitely further going to boost affiliate marketing.
    You make a valid point, that most of the people read online reviews before making any purchasing decision, and here lies a great benefit factor for affiliates.
    though it’s very competitive and demands real hard work in affiliate marketing.


    1. Hey, Shubhaangi thank you for commenting!

      Affiliate marketing is exploding, more than ever! It is also becoming more competitive though, that’s for sure. There are a lot of sites in existence, and my niche is very crowded unfortunately. Not everyone will succeed, but persistence will almost always pay off. 

      Thanks for dropping by!

  8. Hey there! I’m a student and I’m looking for a way to earn money. I heard great things about affiliate marketing and also I read your article about. I’m so into it and now I’m just searching for a way on how to start it. I read on your article the tools that I needed. I will surely try wealthy affiliate to help me with affiliate marketing. I really appreciate your time and effort sharing this. I hope that I could start earning money through it.

    1. Best Ways to Make Money as a College Student – Hey John Rico good to meet you! It’s inspiring to hear of a student taking action so early in life!

      Affiliate marketing is a great way to start boosting your income now, and by the time you graduate or finish your studies you’ll have both an established income flow already AND an awesome resume booster, especially if you’re in the communications or marketing field. 

      Check out that post on ways to make money in college! 

Leave a Reply:

Your email address will not be published.

CommentLuv badge