A lot of new online marketers start with affiliate marketing.

It is a great idea!

Unlike e-commerce, FBA,  or creating your own products there are few startup costs. You can learn about marketing products on the internet with much less risk. You learn how to build websites, how to rank content, content marketing strategies and more. Much better to do this with someone else’s products that you represent than to have an engineer on your payroll or a container full of products in your warehouse or at Amazon.  Some marketers will stick with affiliate marketing and grow their sites and revenues. Others will move on to creating their own products or e-commerce sites. But whatever your next step is the lessons learned as an affiliate are transferrable.

But new marketers are bombarded with enough new terms, acronyms, and concepts to make one’s head spin. Let’s break t all down and explain what affiliate marketing beginners and intermediate marketers need to know to succeed.

What is  Affiliate Marketing

n the simplest of terms, affiliate marketing is the sale of another companies product or service for a commission. You are part of their sales team and they pay you when you bring them a customer who purchases from them.

There are many styles and types of affiliate marketing sites and some marketers don’t have a website at all – they use YouTube or social media as there audience/customer outreach. You can check out our 101 Affiliate Marketing Site Examples to get an idea of what affiliate sites can look like. We also have income reports in that document.

Affiliate Marketing Basics

If there is one underlying concept it is that you must create an audience. If you have no audience you are simply shouting in an empty forest. You are making noise but no one can hear you. This is not a build-it-they-will-come type of effort. It is a way to monetize an audience not a way to create an audience.

So where do affiliates find products? There are two major places for finding products to represent. Vendor Affiliate Programs and Affiliate Marketplaces

Independent Vendor Affiliate Programs

Many vendors large and small have direct or Indie Affiliate Programs. The best known of these is Amazon’s Associate program. The real benefit of Amazon is the trust that they have in the marketplace. The commissions are low, the rules can feel rigid, and the cookie is short-lived, but the trust factor and product breadth more than makes up for these shortcomings. Other large companies like Walmart, Bestbuy, and eBay all have affiliate programs. Hosting companies and many SAAS and software companies offer large percentage commissions and are worth considering. Others you will need to search for. It is always good to represent the products you use to build your website or have industry experience. Typically you will find a link for affiliates in the webpage footer or in the About section of their website. Some vendors keep the programs under wraps so you must do a quick search for them. Simply search for:

“Product or Vendor name” affiliate program

This will typically find the program or some other affiliate asking about the program.


Affiliate Networks

Affiliate networks work by bringing together the merchants and affiliates. The affiliate network takes care of all of the affiliate link setups, link tracking and commission crediting. Some actually do the payouts, others require the merchant to authorize and/or make the commission payments. They merchants benefit by not having to manage an independent affiliate program and having access to a large group of potential affiliates. The affiliates benefit by having many merchants to choose from in a single program and some security in the link tracking and commission crediting.

Here are some of the better known and reputable programs:

Independent Programs

My 10 favorite independent programs. There are many more of these to choose from.

Affiliate Networks and Marketplaces

The top six Affiliate networks. These networks in total represent thousands of products for you to represent. Be extra careful with ClickBank and JVZoo – you want to be sure to only recommend products you trust. It is hard to undo a damaged reputation.

Affiliate Terminology

There is an entirely new set of acronyms and terms associated with Internet and Affiliate marketing. We put together a list of terms every affiliate should be aware of. Many of these apply to Internet Marketing in general.

Important Affiliate Terms and Acronyms



An eternal redirect from a URL to another. These redirects will send website visitors and also search engines to a whole different URL than the one that was originally typed on their browser or picked from one of the results from the SERP.


The response when a page can not be found


The section of a website or blog that appears in a browser when someone lands on a page on your site without them having to scroll. Never put ads or affiliate links above the fold as Google may feel this is spammy.


The company that makes the products or services that you promote. Usually referred to as the Merchant.


This is the link provided by the merchant. It contains your affiliate id for tracking and commission credit.


A company that provides affiliate program management to a merchant. The affiliate network brings merchants and affiliates together and manages the program for the merchant. Affiliate networks provide the technology for tracking affiliate activities and tracks the affiliate sales. They may or may not make the payments to the affiliates. Examples include Share a Sale, Clickbank and JV Zoo.


Application Programming Interface. This is a set of tools that a software developer can use to integrate with. Examples include Amazon’s Advertiser api that tools like Prosociate use to import products to your website.


Another word for an affiliate. Also the name of Amazon’s affiliate program — Amazon Associates


Merchants approve or deny affiliates an affiliates access to their program via automatic approval or manual approval.


The average order value is the sum total of all orders divided by the number of orders. It’s a handy metric to know for forecasting your sales.


A graphical ad that an affiliate puts on their website to advertise a merchant.


SEO techniques that if discovered would be violations of Google’s or other companies rules. Examples would include PBN and cookie stuffing. If discovered you will be reindexed by Google or reauthorized by the merchant.


The reversal of a commission when a customer returns a product to the merchant.


For affiliates, this is usually used in the PPC programs. Click fraud is when you (rather than a customer) programmatically or in some other way click on links to get credit.


When someone clicks on your affiliate link and are taken to the merchant’s website.


The number of times your affiliate link has been clicked on as compared to the number of times the link has been viewed. Your CTR is calculated by dividing the number of impressions (times the link was shown)  by the number of clicks to the merchant. The result is then multiplied by 100 to get your CTR percentage.


Hiding affiliate tracking codes in a link to shorten the link and make it more user-friendly and easily tracked by the affiliate. Pretty Links is a common WordPress plugin to shorten or cloak links.


A text link placed in your website content such as in a review article. As opposed to a sidebar or banner link.


Getting a user to take the merchants desired action or commission paying goal. Such as buying a product or service, signing up for an email list or filling out a form,


The rate that shows the number of times your affiliate link has generated a conversion vs the number of times the link has been viewed. Calculated by taking the number of sales a link has and dividing it by the number of impressions the link received. Then multiply the result by 100 to get your conversion rate percentage.


A text file that is sent from a website to a file within a user’s web browser. Cookies are used to track your affiliate activity by the merchant, to install a Facebook pixel and other goals.


The amount of time an affiliate Cookie lives for the purpose of sales credit. If a user visits your site and buys from the merchant during the cookies lifetime you get credit. Typically an affiliate cookie expires in 30-90 days. Some are as short-lived as 24 hours.


A practice that somehow adds a cookie to a user when the user did not go to the merchant’s site. An example would be adding an affiliate cookie to all of your site visitors. Then if the user visits the merchant site at any time in the lifetime of the cookie the affiliate would get credit. This is a violation of all affiliate programs and a blackout technique.


Cost Per Action or Acquisition. It is the amount of money paid to the affiliate when the user performs the action desired by the merchant such as visiting the site or filling out a form.


Cost Per Click usually is used to measure ad campaigns effectiveness. It is the amount of money paid to generate a click or the number of clicks generated divided by the cost of the ad campaign.


Cost Per Thousand or the amount of money it costs to show an ad per 1000 impressions.

CSV File

Comma Separated Value file. A list of items like products with their values separated by commas. Tools like spreadsheets can create these files and many software programs like Prosociate can import files in this format.


A file or electronically supplied information resource. Often a list of affiliate offers or products.


When you are removed from all Google search results. Typically Google does this for unnatural backlinks, PBN usage or other blackout techniques.


A page or notice on your website to disclose to your visitors that you are an affiliate marketer and may receive compensation when they visit a merchant. Many affiliate programs like Amazon’s have rigid rules about disclosure notices for transparency reasons.


A number from 1-100 that attempts to define the authority of a site. It helps to understand where you will rank for a specific search term in Google and best used as a comparison to other sites. MOZ is the best-known DA ranker.


Content that is either not original or already exists on your site.


An affiliate link in an email sent to a prospect. Some programs like Amazon do not allow affiliate links in your emails and require that the links go to your site.


Earnings Per Click. EPC is the amount you earn when someone clicks on your affiliate link and go to the merchant. It is the amount you have earned in commissions from an affiliate link divided it by the total number of clicks.


A tracking code in the form of a cookie that allows you to create custom audiences in your FaceBook ad campaigns.


A first click affiliate programs pay the affiliate who’s visitor first clicked on the affiliate link. As long as your cookie has not expired the user visiting another affiliate and then the merchant will not override your cookie.


The automatic redirection of the user to a specific page based on their location.


A file in your website home directory that sets 301 redirects and other rules.


How many times an ad is shown to a visitor on a page.


A merchant who runs their affiliate program by themselves rather than  an Affiliate Network.


An independent affiliate program the same as an in-house program.


A business relationship for one event such as when a developer teams up with an affiliate and share the commissions or profits.


The terms, word or phrase that describes the contents of a Web page. In SEO you target keywords that people often search for.


The percentage of times a keyword appears on a web page as compared to the total number of words on the page


Researching the number of times and other metrics related to a keywords use in documents for search engine optimization.


The page that a user is sent to that is usually specific to a particular product or affiliate offer. Typically a landing page has no additional sidebars, headers or navigation to distract the visitor from the offer.


As opposed to first click. It sets the affiliate to be paid as the last one that a user visits. Previous affiliate cookies will be overridden by the last affiliate visited. This is the most typical setup.


A phrase as opposed to a single or short head keyword. For the keyword dog training, a long tail variation would be dog training for pitbulls.


These are related keywords such as synonyms. Google is now focused on inferring a pages meaning vs. a simple match of literal keywords.


When a merchant reviews potential affiliates on a case by case basis prior to approval.


The company that makes the product that is offered to the affiliate.


The page description that you want Google to use in their search results page.


These are the tags or metadata that Google uses to learn about the meaning and context of your page. Examples are meta description and title. Not to be confused with HTML meta tags which are no longer relevant to search results.


The meta tag that represents the title you want Google to use in their search result page for your document.


A company that does SEO research and data analysis. They provide DA ranking of sites.


A specific topic or vertical that your website is about.


The part of SEO that relates to links back to your document from other sites and social media.


All of the technical SEO items that relate to your content. Including meta descriptions, image alt attributes etc. See our Prosociate on-page SEO.


The percentage of people who subscribe to your mailing list  compared to the number of people who were presented the signup form.


The strength of a particular page as measured by MOZ.


Private Blog Network. These are websites whose sole purpose is to provide backlinks to your site and improve your ranking and authority with Google. If discovered you will be reindexed by Google.


Pay Per Sale. In a PPS affiliate program, the affiliate is paid a commission when a sale is made such as Amazon’s program.


A PPC based affiliate program pays a commission whenever someone clicks on their affiliate link also refers to advertising program payouts like Google AdWords.


The dollar amount of commissions an affiliate must earn before being paid.


Private Label Rights. This is content that you can purchase and market under your own brand.


With recurring commissions, you are paid on the initial sale and you also receive commissions on future payments by the purchaser to the merchant. This is common with SAAS products and Hosting


 The percentage of sales that get reversed by the merchant. This can help you understand the quality of the offering.


A file in your website home directory with instructions for google and other crawling agents. Tells the crawler if they have permission and any files to ignore


Software as a service. Cloud-hosted applications that often pay commissions for on a monthly basis. Dropbox is a SAAS application


Search Engine Optimization. The practice of optimizing your website to get it to show up higher in the search engines for specific topics and keywords.


Search Engine Results Page. This is the page a user receives from a search. You want to always be on page one of the SERP as most user never go to page 2 and beyond.


Also called  A/B testing. This is the testing of two versions of content with different copy, design etc. to search which converts better.


These are like landing pages with only the information about the product or offering. Typically shorter and mostly text. These pages are more specific in goal than a landing page which may have multiple objectives.


A domain below your main domain. Such as demo.yourdomain.com


The top affiliates in an affiliate program, typically the top 5% who combined often generate more than 75% of the total sales for the affiliate program.


Is an affiliate link that is text-based vs an image or banner ad.


Terms of Service. These are the rules of your affiliate program. Breaking these can get you reauthorized and you may forfeit payments due you. See our post, Amazon rules don’t get banned.


Search Engine Optimization. The practice of optimizing your website to get it to show up higher in the search engines for specific topics and keywords.


This is the affiliate code assigned to you by the merchant.


Backlinks that are manipulated. PBN networks and paid guest posts are examples of natural backlinks.


SEO that does not violate any Google or other terms of service.


Whitelabeling is when a  merchant allows an affiliate or reseller to sell products under their own brand with no mention of the original merchant.