Affiliate Marketing in Plain English (a Simple Guide)

You know, I was sorely tempted to entitle this article “affiliate marketing for dummies”. But I didn’t.

Wanna know why?

Because I know you’re not a dummy, but a smart person who knows there’s success to be had with affiliate marketing

Read this simple guide to turn yourself from clueless to clued-in.

Let’s go!

What is affiliate marketing exactly? And is it real and legit?

That it is.

Affiliate ,marketing is both legit and ethical way to earn money on the internet. And quite elegant too.

As for what it is…

It’s an agreement.

The one between you and the affiliate merchants.

Meaning, you send them qualified traffic through your website and as people buy, you rake commission after commission.
In other words, your goal is to have a high trafficked website that sends people by the boatloads to your merchant.
If this sounds confusing to you, don’t worry, the rest of this article will shed more light on the exciting topic of partnership marketing.

The benefits of affiliate marketing

Benefits are numerous but here I want to touch upon those that are most significant

#1- Low investment and barrier to entry.

To embark on a affiliate marketing journey, you only really need a self-hosted blog, hosting and nothing else.

You can even use a free theme if you want to. It’s not a problem as people want helpful content that solves their problems, and not pretty themes with bells and whistles.

So you need to invest very little money upfront to get going with affiliate marketing..

Low barrier to entry is the biggest benefit of affiliate marketing, but it’s also its biggest weakness (I talk about this further in the article)

The only serious investment will be your time and work you put in. Expect to work yourself to the bone for quite some time before you earn your first $11 online; and then some more before your blog becomes profitable.

This is a fair warning, from me to youJ

#2- You get (almost) passive income

I say “almost” because there is no true passive income online, despite what some gurus would have you believe.

There’s always some work involved.

However, it is true that once you set up your site right and become master of your niche; you’ll be able to work 5h per week and still earn a boatload of money.

More than you imagine possible.

Honestly, the near-passive income you can have is the biggest allure of affiliate marketing.

#3-You can earn 24/7

That’s true. Your site will be online all the time which means that people can buy any time of the day, all year round.

Also, people will be able to peruse your site from any spot of the world. Yes, even from the international space stationJ

Space Walk

#4- You get to write about things you’re passionate about

Affiliate marketing is joyous work because you simply get to enjoy your hobby, while also earning a lot of money by helping people in your niche.

For example:

it’s like you’re a passionate fishermen and first you get to write about best techniques for catching fish; and when you get tired with typing, you go fishing to relax and unwind from “stressful” day of work.

#-5 no need for warehouse storage

As an affiliate marketer, you’re the middle man and not a manufacturer; so you don’t need to rent warehouse to store your goods.
Which means no “dirty” work.


The drawbacks of affiliate marketing

Affiliate marketing is not all roses and here are some of it’s facets that make it NOT perfect.

#1- it takes a while to get going

Because affiliate marketing has such a low barrier to entry, it means that everyone is doing it. Well, not everyone, but a lot of folks dabble in it.

That means you’ll have some stiff competition whatever niche you decide to enter.

You will need to:

  • learn a lot;
  • do a lot,
  • and be patient.

A tonne of patience is needed for success with affiliate marketing.

In fact, it might take you a year of non stop work before you see your first sale.

 That’s how it was for me.

However the good news is that the first sale is the hardest, and after that it starts flowing in on it’s own; and once you reach a certain point, you’ll be able to work very little for very significant returns.

That’s how pro bloggers are able to travel so much and enjoy the world. They ALREADY did the work.

#2- It can be lonely

Remember- you’ll be working from home all day long. So when things go slow there will be no one to rely on and no one to complaint to.

You must learn to figure things out on your own!

In my experience, if you’re an introvert who loves challenges- you’ll love affiliate marketing.

But hardcore extroverts will have it much harder.

#3- People will harass you

If you make a mistake and tell people that you want to start an online business, then you need to be ready for consequences.
People will harass and bully you verbally because of 2 reasons:

  1. a) Some will be jealous and afraid that you’ll succeed. Ignore them; they’re losers.
  2. b) Some will want to help you
    They will want to “help” you by finding you a “normal” job. Because they don’t understand that it is possible to make money online and don’t believe that YOU can do it.

So they have good intention which is for praise, but they’re still wrong.

Stay on the course.

Ultimately, the folks who’ve succeeded with affiliate marketing are those that never gave up on their dreams.

#4- Commissions are (usually) set in stone

Almost always, commission structure is non negotiable. This means that you could be the best affiliate for your merchant, and you’ll still earn the same commission percentages as those that aren’t making any sales.

Though there are exceptions of course. Some companies like to incentivize their affiliates by offering them commissions on a sliding scale. If you can prove you’re good, you can get higher commissions.

Here’s what Amazon commission structure looks like. It’s fixed so no way to increase the percentages you earn.

Amazon Commission Structure

#5- You need a lot of traffic

Now this isn’t a drawback per se, because you will always want more traffic hitting your site.
But to earn a good buck with affiliate marketing, you will need serious traffic flowing to your site daily.

It depends on the niche and what you’re promoting, but I’d say, for most niches, 1000 visitors daily is a safe bet.

How can I learn affiliate marketing (I’m a total newbie)?

There isn’t an university for affiliate marketing, so you can’t really get a degree and call yourself “a certified marketer”.

Also, such a title would be meaningless in an industry that changes so fast.

But there are places that can help you get started with affiliate and online marketing in general. Places like:

  • Income School Project 24
  • Affilorama
  • SEO Affiliate Domination (by Greg Jeffries)

As for me, I got my chops over at Wealthy Affiliate click to learn more

They’re sort of like a marketing school that teaches you the basics of affiliate marketing:

  • how to build a website
  • How to get traffic using white hat SEO
  • How to monetize that traffic with affiliate links.

Think of them as a large support group that can answer all your questions, problems and dilemmas related to affiliate marketing.I don’t recommend this as there’s too much to learn and there’s too much outdated stuff.

You could spend a lot of time learning things that don’t work anymore; and some of them might even harm your site and curb it’s organic growth for good.

However, if you can’t afford any premium course, it is better to learn on your own than not at all.

So, in my opinion you need to focus your learning on:

  • Creating content, on-page SEO and general SEO best practices
  • Link building
  • Affiliate Marketing

And the corresponding blogs to learn from would be:

  • – SEO
  • Link building
  • affiliate marketing

Start by reading some blog posts and remember to take it really slow. There’s a lot to learn but if you take it step by step and are methodical about it, you can see success too.

Affiliate marketing is not rocket science.

It’s just hard work with results piling up over time.

Is there any alternative to affiliate marketing?

Yes there is, sort off.
If you’re not ready to start with affiliate marketing, you can become a freelance SEO writer.

That’s also a job, online work that pays well and that can help you ease into affiliate marketing when the time feels right to you.

For example, my friend Hassaan Khan is a freelance writer, and he’s making a full time living doing what he loves- writing.

But at the same time, he has affiliate links on his blog and monetizes his traffic that way too.

My point is that affiliate marketing is the dream, something to strive for. Near passive income that can be scaled indefinitely.

But freelance writing might be the way to reach that dream and make it a tangible reality.

Bottom line

Don’t give up on working online and being your own boss. Write for clients first if you have to, while waiting for your affiliate campaigns to kick in.

That’s how I did it and it worked out great for me:)

SEO Writing

Conclusion- Affiliate marketing- is it right for you? Wanna give it a go?

Affiliate marketing is the best chance we normal people have at freedom. Financial independence, being your won boss and having no one above you.

Answering only to yourself.

Simply- feeling good about yourself and our life.
All of it more than possible with affiliate marketing.

I want to quickly thank Vishwajeet for publishing my article, and

if I’ve sparked your interest with this article – you know what to do- GET CRACKING! But don’t go before leaving me a comment,


by Nikola Roza
Nikola Roza likes to blog about SEO and Affiliate marketing. That's the second thing he likes best. The first? Oh, it's simple really. He likes to use SEO to win at the affiliate marketing game. Oh, how ingenious! How fun! If you want to have fun too- visit his blog, You'll thank me later for doing so:)  

4 thoughts on “Affiliate Marketing in Plain English (a Simple Guide)”

  1. Hey, Nikola!

    Financial independence is a tempting factor to start affiliate marketing. A high traffic site can bring you a boatload of money if have affiliate products on it. Of course, SEO plays a great role to become a successful affiliate marketer.

    I have started selling one or two affiliate products, from which I understood is, it is not just writing some simple product reviews without actually using it. It didn’t work for me.

    The true affiliate process is using the product and sharing its pros and cons honestly with the audience, which means first the blogger has to build trust with the audience.

    Then recommendations work great.

    Good job, bundling basics of affiliate marketing. I look forward to knowing more tips about it.

  2. Hi Mudassir,
    thanks for you genuine comment.
    You’re right. Experience with the product is crucial if you want to promote it. And the funny thing is that listing out both negatives and positives, and being honest about it actually gives better results than just flaunting the virtues, while hiding the flaws.
    People are not stupid and know nothing is perfect in this world.

  3. Hi Nikola,

    Affiliate marketing is a great way to earn online profits, and you’ve described why.

    The biggest problem I’ve always found is getting that traffic to your review articles.

    It’s the biggest job you have as an a affiliate marketer, I believe.

    Nice article!


    • So true Donna. That’s the biggest hurdle but great site architecture + internal linking helps a tonne.

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