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Affiliate guide
Diana Vladova avatar
Written by Diana Vladova
Updated over a week ago

Well, I do happen to know that you’ve decided to be an affiliate. I’m kind of happy for you — you made a very wise choice. I’m also aware that there are a million things going through your head right now. Just keeping it real, we’ve all been there.

But you’re lucky to be here with me! Oh, if only somebody in my day grabbed me by the arm saying do this and don’t do that…

Okay, here’s my first piece of advice. Read this ultimate guide thoroughly, don’t jump to conclusions, and just take your time for the info to soak in.

Today we’re going to cover the industry basics, identify common terms associated with the affiliate world, give a clear understanding of the affiliate rules and answer the most FAQs like “What is affiliate marketing?” or “How to succeed as an affiliate?”.

We’ve obviously got a lot of work to do, so let’s get going!

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By the way, in all the hoopla, I almost forgot… if you’re scared by the number of pages, here’s your first lesson — research is everything. So, trust me, it’s far better to spend some time learning than spend the same amount of time in tears because of your failure.

1. What is affiliate marketing?

1.1 What are affiliate marketing benefits?

2. How to get into affiliate marketing

2.1 Step 1. Select a niche

2.2 Step 2. Choose an affiliate offer to promote

2.2.1 Affiliate marketing ads

2.3 Step 3. Find a traffic source

2.4 Step 4. Set up a landing page

2.5 Step 5. Launch a campaign

3 How to succeed as an affiliate

3.1 It’s all about the mindset

3.2 Testing is your best friend

3.3 There’s no such thing as too much data

3.4 Use an ad tracker.

3.5 How to choose an ad tracker?

4 Putting it all together – Campaign Optimization with PeerClick

5 My last piece of advice for you

So don’t rush to reach the end as soon as possible. Instead, make yourself a cup of tea, sit back and enjoy your very own introduction to this brave new world called affiliate marketing!

1.What is affiliate marketing?

How does affiliate marketing work?

This is one of the most common questions we receive, and it’s actually quite simple:

Affiliate marketing is a way for you (the affiliate) to earn a commission if users actually end up buying other people’s products you promote.

Complicated? Okay, if you want, I can explain it in layman’s terms.

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Meet Ann. She has 10 apples she doesn’t need. Ann simply hates apples.

Whereas Jess really loves. And she could murder an apple pie. She is even ready to bake it herself but the problem is she doesn’t have 5 apples needed to bake a cake.

In a perfect world, the two would meet, Ann would share her apples for a sincere “thank you”, and they all lived happily ever after.

Okay, okay, I know I’m a dreamer. Come down to the ground. So, in our realistic world (=cruel world) they would still meet, Ann would sell her apples for whatever price she finds reasonable and they all lived happily ever after.

And even now I idealized situation a bit. I mean, that’s more likely Ann and Jess don’t know each other. They can even live on opposite sides of the country or even world.

Enter — Helen.

Yep, Helen doesn’t have a single apple and, frankly, she couldn’t care less about the pie. But it doesn’t really matter. Helen knows Mary who has a quite popular cooking blog Jess happens to follow. So Helen’s plan is to ask Mary to promote Ann’s apples on her blog for Jess to see and buy. And then they’d share the profits.

Helen is an affiliate.

Do you get it?

Well, on a professional level Ann is a product owner, Jess — buyer, Mary — publisher. Affiliate Helen instead of just giving apples from the product owner to the buyer is responsible for finding another intermediary — the publisher. And they both profit from the commission, rather than the transaction itself.

So, I guess we sorted it out. Although, wait a sec.

Let’s imagine that the product owner has never been introduced to the affiliate. The entire deal goes south. It would be much easier for the two to find each other (or rather each other’s deals) through the affiliate network. In simple, it is a mediator or a third party which provides a link between a website publisher and a company. Simply put, it can be seen as a database of different products waiting to be promoted.

1.1 What are affiliate marketing benefits?

Affiliate marketing is one of the most profitable remote jobs these days. And for many people, affiliate marketing appears as a dream job. They believe being an affiliate is waking up whenever they want, sipping mojitos somewhere in the Maldives, and get their income from literally anywhere in the world. And they’re pretty right but…

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Caution! The truth is coming out!

Starting an online business is one of the most romanticized ideas of our times. It’s really hard but if you’re ready for lots of learning, hard work, and a ridiculous amount of testing — you’ll definitely succeed.

Yet, even that may not suffice. Yep, you have to understand that being an entrepreneur means being a leader, an employee, and the only one to blame. As uncle Ben in Spiderman said:

“With great power comes great responsibility”.

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Did I intimidate you? I didn’t intend to, I just want you to make an informed decision in order you not blaming me because of saying affiliate marketing is the best way to make money. Not only is it possible, but it is quite true.

“With affiliate marketing, all it takes is one winning funnel… and everything changes”.

Colin Dijs, founder of Dijs University

You do need a few bucks to get traffic for testing and an ad tracker to control and improve your campaign performance because this industry has one not-so-secretive secret: tracking, analyzing and optimizing all your actions is the name of the game!

2 How to get into affiliate marketing?

Keep reading? Nice! Well, it’s easy to see you’re a persistent person and you want to get your income. A pretty impressive income, by the way, if you play your cards right and act smart…

All right, so affiliate marketing generally comes down to four key elements:

1. Offers (the products you can promote),

2. Traffic (the websites you can publish your ads at),

3. Landing pages (web pages that redirect your users to actual offers),

4. Campaigns (term to combine all three elements mentioned above).

That’s a very uncomplicated view of things. Actually there’s a bit more to it all than meets the eye.

Okay, first things first.

2.1 Step 1. Select a niche

First of all you have to decide on niche you would like to work with. Here’s a short list of the most profitable niches for affiliate marketers that you may find helpful:



Wellness & Beauty (called “Nutra”);

Online Gaming;





If any speaks to your heart that’s awesome! It’s a fantastic opportunity you spotted. If not — that’s okay. Just try yourself in different fields you find appealing and see whichever works out the best.

But remember, on the first stage you’re the squirrel Scrat and your vertical is the acorn — don’t bounce from one vertical to another. To succeed you need to keep your eyes on the prize.

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2.2 Step 2. Choose an affiliate offer to promote

There are lots of offers out there. But if you followed the first step, this one will be much easier for you because at least your offer list will be narrowed by chosen niche.

And again you don’t have to jump on every opportunity to promote any product you found. Your job is to select your offers mindfully.

And, just know, it all comes with experience. However, in general, action scheme looks something like that:

1. You choose a vertical,

2. You sign up for several affiliate networks,

3. You calculate the best price-quality ratio for your performance,

4. You wait and see where it takes you from there.

And don’t worry — you don’t need to do the math again — most traffic sources provide you with bid suggestions. All you need to do is to decide on the bid, check the win ratio provided by the traffic source, and adjust your bid’s value accordingly.

To make this step as smooth as possible, I’ll recommend you to focus on offer you personally feel comfortable with and the most profitable one. That will be that combo that will result in your success.

It’s more of a “show” than “tell”, really. I see you can be freaking out. Okay, just breathe and relax. Remember, it’s all about experience and right now your job is to learn.

2.2.1 Affiliate marketing ads

At this point it is important to mention different types of ads you will be working with as an affiliate. It all comes down to 6 major types:

1. Pop;

2. Push;

3. Native;

4. Search;

5. Display;

6. Mobile.

Obviously, each has its own pros and cons. And the best way to find it out — is to try. But for you to make your beginner’s life easier, we’ve prepared this small cheat sheet.

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Here you’ve to be aware that users are growing smarter and more ad-immune with every year. That is why the best way to succeed is to run personalized ads. That is that type of ads that comes in the right place, at the right time, at the right shape, speaks to users deepest desires and targets the person’s needs before they realize they even have those.

Yep, that is not as easy as pie. But you will learn. And to make this process faster, I’ll recommend you to try starting with push ads or Facebook ads at first. This will help you to navigate the industry or literary test the waters. Afterwards you’ll find it easier to get carried away with other forms of advertising.

2.3 Step 3. Find a traffic source

Traffic source is a place where you buy traffic. It’s simple. And there’re 6 types of traffic sources, which you should find surprisingly familiar:

1. Push/Pop (lower-quality web pages, subjected to banner blindness);

2. Native (high-quality web pages);

3. Search (matching ads to the most common searches);

4. Display (lower-quality);

5. Social (all your favorite social media platforms and more);

6. Mobile (mobile browsers & apps).

It should be clearly understood that your conversion rates — just like your profit — heavily depend on the quality of the traffic you buy. So make sure you’ve selected the right traffic source. And remember, in most cases high price really does mean quality.

And a price model is another thing to keep in mind. Traffic sources often have different types of payouts like CPA, CPM, CPC or Revshare. This has to be taken into account while making your calculations.

2.4 Step 4. Set up a landing page

Landing page or simply lander is literary your chance to persuade a website user to convert on an offer. Often, your landing page can be the difference between loss and profit. Landing pages contribute to conversion rate optimization and literally run your business when you’re not there.

What do you need to create a high-converting landing page? Just balance between these two things — optimization and consistency.

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Lander optimization is pretty simple. You have to be sure that your landing page is displayed properly on all types of devices and browsers; it is fast and lead straight to the point. As for consistency, it is even easier. Logic — this is what it’s all about. You don’t need to be a super affiliate to understand that pink background may not be the best choice for an online casino or that how much you love apple pies if what you’re trying to sell is fish.

2.5 Step 5. Launch a campaign

Theoretically, you are ready to tie together all the elements from the above — yes, you are ready to bring your first-ever ad campaign to life.

Hold up, though, dude. I want to be sure you get this — your success is all about creating an effective ad that will bring a customer to an effective landing page.

3 How to succeed as an affiliate?

Okay, I hope it’s all clear now, isn’t it? But let me guess… you’re wondering whether you can make a living out of it?

Short answer: yes.

Detailed response: yes, but it’s not going to be easy. You should have a plan. You should devote time to studying. If you’re a risk taker by nature, of course you can jump in with both feet and learn from your mistakes. You suit yourself, mate, but do not say then that I didn’t warn you!

3.1 It’s all about the mind-set

Most people decide to try themselves and start in affiliate marketing because they believe it to be an easy way to make money. They have no idea of the amount of hard work and persistence being hidden behind the scenes.

Persistence — it is what helps people to earn pretty good money in affiliate marketing.

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Thomas Edison

Here’s a bit of advice on what you could try to do as soon as possible to make sure you stay on top of your game and reach that affiliate dream of yours.

3.2 Testing is your best friend

Learning how to market to people online is not easy and is best learned through trial and error. Well, let’s face it… no one likes to be wrong. So, to bring the number of inevitable mistakes to the minimum you should test which combination of offer + traffic source + lander works best. Test, test, and re-test. Fine tune what works and ditch what doesn’t work.

And that brings us to advice number 2:

3.3 There’s no such thing as too much data

The key to making money with winning campaigns is to be able to analyse and understand the data you have. All the testing in the world wouldn’t help if you didn’t learn from it. If you want to succeed you have to collect as many details on every tiniest metrics you have. Who owes the information owes the world. It is a golden affiliate rule.

You have to know your target audience even better than they know themselves: what they like, what they dislike, their fears and motivations, their hopes and expectations. And that ain’t all. You need to know the product you promote and of course the competition.

So, how do you keep track of all the data out there? How are you going to make money if you’re not sure EXACTLY which ads are converting?

3.4 Use an ad tracker

I can speak for hours about importance of using tracker. Many marketers believe that if someone already has an affiliate program, there is basically no need for them to consider an affiliate tracking platform alongside. I’ve seen guys try to use free methods like Google Analytics for CPA marketing, and it always ends in tears.

Tracker is the red cardinal of digital marketing; it runs in the background of most online processes scanning, studying, collecting, and analysing data. And most importantly — it makes you understand your audience.

How does it all work? It’s simple. Tracking requires creating a short detour for your traffic. After a quick setup, traffic will go from your ad through a tracker to an offer resulting in deriving additional layers of information from the visitor’s IP address or user agent. Accordingly by using tracker you will get all the necessary information to find underlying patterns or direct visitors to the most appropriate offers for them.

I’ve already mentioned Google Analytics… It bears repeating that although tracker kind of looks like GA, they are two different things. They have two different purposes. However, Google Analytics is not all bad. For measuring traffic, its sources and users’ behaviour on your website it is a great solution. But is it enough for affiliates, taking into account affiliate marketing is based on promoting products and services via external channels? The answer is obvious.

So figure it out, using GA for affiliate marketing is like using a horse and cart to compete in Formula 1. Yes, that’s not what you need.

3.5How to choose an ad tracker?

You will have a lot of data. Really A LOT. That’s why you should have a nice and organized way for storing it. Yes, ad tracker is definitely what you need. But should you go with the self-hosted tracker or trust the professional cloud-based software?

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When choosing a campaign tracker, there are some things you may want to look out for:

1. Ad tracking software updates and infrastructure management. A self-hosted ad tracker means a lot of work for you. Complex setup, everyday infrastructure management, backups, server crash, the lost data and wasted money are all on you.

On the other hand, the cloud-based solution spares you the headache of a server-setup. A team of qualified engineers will do everything for you.

2. Speed. You don’t want the tracker to slow down the process of loading pages, and thus, worsening the user experience, while revealing the fact that the user is being tracked. If you do, cloud-based solution is your choice. Cloud-hosted trackers will always be faster, especially if you are running ads in various GEOs. Such solutions have multiple data centres strategically located around the world which improves the redirection speed. And no matter how big the volume of your traffic is, you can access your data right away and react instantly.

Self-hosted trackers are just different. You will face the delays in pulling out reports from the system. Scaling is difficult and requires a lot of work on your side. And if you want to run campaigns in multiple GEOs, get ready for high-click latency.

3. Pricing. On the one hand, initially self-hosted trackers are cheaper because you don’t have to pay for clicks. And you lease only the software without the infrastructure. Cloud-based trackers usually have an event-limit quota included in a subscription plan and after this quota is exhausted, you will be extra charged.

On the other hand, with self-hosted tracker you will have more initially “hidden” additional costs of running a server — cost of the hardware, electricity, and, of course, the server itself. And most importantly, you will spend the most precious value — your time.

4 Putting it all together — Campaign Optimization

I hope you are already got that tracking is so darn important… But what to do with all this information after you collected it?

Use the insights you get to optimize your campaigns — you do already know exactly what is working and what isn’t!

There are four aspects that you can optimize in your affiliate marketing campaigns:

1. Traffic,

2. Ads or creatives,

3. Landers,

4. Offers.

All those elements are gear wheels in your money printing machine.

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Actually, even the above-mentioned order is meaningful: the right traffic sees the right ad, which sends them to the right lander and ends with conversions from the right offer.

It is evident that if one part is wrong, your machine will suspend its work.

5 My last piece of advice for you

The way get started is to quit talking and being doing. Doing smart, with a lot of learning and researching behind.

They say it’s good to learn from your mistakes. But does it make sense in affiliate marketing? Well I would say yes and no. Why do you have to spend money on things actually don’t work? If you can instantly get the best?

And the best time to start is now. Get cloud-based tracker PeerClick to get the most out of your campaigns. Behind PeerClick there is a dedicated team of technicians and marketing geeks who exactly know how effectively optimize ad campaigns and get higher revenues. It allows analyzing and optimizing your digital ad campaigns, creating detailed reports, organizing your work, and automatically optimizing traffic distribution with built-in AI mechanisms. And that is not all.

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