How to Start Affiliate Marketing: 8 Steps to a Successful Affiliate Marketing Business

The affiliate marketing industry offers great potential to make money online. Apart from being flexible and low-risk, this online business model requires minimal initial costs.

When starting your affiliate marketing business, understanding the basics will help you set reasonable goals and avoid common mistakes

This article covers everything from choosing a niche to keeping track of how well you’re doing online.

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Affiliate marketing is a business model where websites promote products/services of a company for a commission. It’s a win for both sides as affiliates earn income without creating products, and businesses expand their reach through affiliate promotion.

How to Start Affiliate Marketing

In the following sections, we’ll walk you through the steps to start affiliate marketing.

1. Decide on a Niche

The first step in any successful affiliate marketing strategy is to select a segmented target market or audience, also known as a niche.

A market niche is typically characterized by a shared interest or demographics, influencing product quality and price point.

For instance, the skincare industry’s niches include skincare for kids, anti-aging, or acne-prone skin.

Targeting a small market segment is more effective than following trends or appealing to an entire industry. It makes establishing brand recognition, growing expertise, and building authority easier.

Consider the following when selecting an affiliate marketing niche:

  • Start with your passion or interest. Picking a subject that interests you will make content creation enjoyable. Alternatively, go for a topic you have mastered. Sufficient product knowledge helps establish yourself as a reliable source.
  • Analyze your competitors. Determine the niche’s difficulty level. If it’s highly competitive, highlight your unique selling point to stand out from competitors.
  • Assess market demand. Ensure that your chosen niche is profitable and sustainable. Choose evergreen markets that have a consistent demand all year round. Quick research on Google Trends or Ubersuggest can help you check keyword popularity.
Overview of the keyword "anti-aging skincare" on Ubersuggest includes search volume, SEO difficulty, and cost-per-click value.

2. Create a Website

Once you decide on a niche, it’s time to create a platform for your affiliate marketing campaigns. While there are many platforms to choose from, we recommend building your own website.

An affiliate site provides a central hub for all your affiliate marketing content, giving you more opportunities to highlight promotional materials.

Running your own affiliate website means having more control over the platform. This gives you more freedom when approaching affiliate marketing efforts.

Here are the three essential steps to build a good affiliate website:

Get Web Hosting

Web hosting is the service that lets you store your website files and make them available online.

To create the best website for your affiliate business, you must choose a hosting plan that fits your needs and preferences.

Those who want to create a website quickly without coding can choose the Premium Web Hosting and website builder combo.

This plan includes access to the Hostinger Website Builder, email hosting services, and unlimited free SSL certificates. It’s the perfect choice if you want to build a good affiliate website without the hassle of technical setup and web design processes.

Alternatively, choose the WordPress Hosting plan if you have enough technical experience and want more flexibility during the website-building process.

Fortunately, Hostinger’s plans are highly scalable. You can easily upgrade to higher-tier plans like VPS or Cloud Hosting when your website grows.

If you purchase the Premium or Business Web Hosting plan for at least 12 months, you will get a free domain for one year. Feel free to use our instant domain search to check your desired domain’s availability.

Since the process of purchasing a hosting plan and building a website with Hostinger is seamless, you can focus your efforts on growing your affiliate business.

Suggested Reading

Read stories from our customers and learn more about their experiences migrating their business websites to Hostinger.

Choose a Website Building Platform

There are two main platforms we recommend to create your affiliate website – a website builder and a content management system (CMS).

A website builder like Hostinger Website Builder is a great tool for those who want to quickly and easily build a website. It features an intuitive drag-and-drop editor that lets you create and customize your website’s layout.

Users can also speed up their branding and content-creation processes using the AI Writer and logo maker. Moreover, find the best CTA placements on your affiliate website using the AI Heatmap.

All Hostinger Website Builder users can access built-in eCommerce features at no additional cost. This makes Hostinger Website Builder an excellent choice to generate more revenue through your affiliate website.

On the other hand, those who want more flexibility for their affiliate sites can use a CMS like WordPress. Since most CMSs are open-source, users can access and modify all their website files and adjust them accordingly.

Keep in mind that using WordPress may require some technical expertise and more time compared to using a website builder.

Another advantage of WordPress is its wide range of plugins and themes. They let you quickly add functionality to your website and customize its looks.

Hostinger users can also benefit from the one-click WordPress installation, which includes essential pre-installed plugins. This will help you save time during the website setup process.

WordPress hosting banner

In addition to WordPress, other popular CMSs include Drupal and Joomla.

Take your time to find out which website platform suits you best before choosing one. We recommend reading our beginner-friendly guide on how to build a website using different platforms.

Customize Your Site

The design and customization process is important to add more personality and visual appeal to your affiliate website.

Here are four tips to follow when customizing your affiliate website:

  • Branding. Create a unique brand identity for your affiliate website. Use a consistent color scheme, logo, and typography that align with your niche and target audience.
  • Clear and compelling content. Craft engaging and informative content that provides value to your visitors. Clearly explain the products or services’ benefits and include persuasive calls to action.
  • High-quality visuals. Visual content engages users and helps convey information effectively. Add high-resolution images, infographics, and videos to enhance your website’s visual appeal.
  • Choose a user-friendly design. A clean and intuitive website design allows visitors to navigate easily. Use a responsive layout to ensure your website looks great on all devices.

When deciding on a website design, Hostinger Website Builder users can choose from various professionally-designed templates to start.

These templates are highly customizable. You can easily change the color scheme, typography, and layouts with the drag-and-drop editor. You don’t need any graphic design or coding experience to do it.

For WordPress users, various free themes are available to download in the official directory. Make sure to pick a theme that loads fast and is responsive.

Fortunately, Hostinger includes all the default WordPress themes in the auto-installer so you can jumpstart your building process.

Moreover, consider installing the best WordPress plugins to improve site performance and security.

3. Join an Affiliate Program

With a target audience in mind and a platform to start publishing content, the next step is signing up for an affiliate marketing program that fits your niche.

Simply research brands within your niche and see if they offer affiliate programs you can join. For example, those interested in the hosting industry can sign up for the Hostinger Affiliate Program and promote its services to their audiences.

Alternatively, apply for an affiliate network to access various affiliate programs at once.

When looking for the right affiliate program, consider the following aspects:

Cookie Period

All affiliate sales are attributed to you through a tracking cookie attached to your affiliate links, which could last from one to over 30 days.

While a shorter cookie period can still be effective, programs with a longer one provide more time to convince your audience to convert.

Commission Structure

Subscription-based businesses usually offer recurring commissions. This lets you receive income for as long as the customer pays for the service. Others require you to generate a certain amount of sales before sending the payout.

Moreover, pay attention to the commission rates. Depending on the type of products you’re promoting, there are three types of affiliate programs:

  • Low commission, high volume. These programs are low-paying but offer a wide range of mainstream affiliate products. Thus, generating a lot of content and traffic is necessary to reach your revenue goal. An example of this type of affiliate program is Amazon’s.
  • High commission, low volume. With high-paying affiliate programs, you can generate more revenue with fewer sales. They usually include luxury affiliate products like watches, jewelry, and antiques.
  • High commission, high volume. These programs are highly competitive due to their high earning potential. Examples include credit card and web hosting affiliate programs.

Brand Alignment and Reputation

Partnering with unreliable merchants can negatively impact your brand. Before deciding on an affiliate partner, check out online reviews, discussion forums, and social media conversations to evaluate their brand reputation.

Make sure to partner with brands that suit your content and audience group. Otherwise, you’ll risk losing the audience’s trust and interest.


See if the program provides additional resources to help you market their product, such as visuals or workshops. For instance, affiliates joining the Hostinger Affiliate Program get extra assistance from a dedicated affiliate manager.

Landing page of Hostinger Affiliate Program.

Once you’ve decided on an affiliate marketing program to join and the products to promote, it’s time to create content.

Pro Tip

Once you successfully promote an affiliate product and improve your online marketing skills, consider joining other programs to diversify your income streams.

4. Write Excellent Content

Poor content and careless affiliate link placements will not convert your audience into buying customers. A successful affiliate marketer prioritizes connecting and engaging with their existing audience to earn their trust.

Therefore, creating valuable content that resonates with your audience is a must.

It can convince your existing audiences and boost your site’s performance on search results. A higher ranking increases the chance of attracting more organic traffic and new visitors.

Whether it’s a YouTube video, blog post, or newsletter, you should aim to produce original, informative content that addresses the audience’s questions or helps them solve a particular issue.

Hostinger Website Builder users can speed up content writing by using the built-in AI Writer feature. Simply choose the industry and topic for your content, and the tool will generate it for you.

For inspiration, start by researching keywords and identifying your target audience’s problems and pain points.

A good rule of thumb is to target a specific, long-tail keyword since they are easier to rank than generic keywords. Using keyword research tools like Semrush or Google Keyword Planner can help with this process.

Google Keyword Planner homepage

Additionally, combine non-time-sensitive and trend-driven topics to ensure brand relevancy all year round.

Here are some common types of content to create for your affiliate site:

  • Product reviews. A highly popular content type amongst affiliate marketers. In fact, 90% of online buyers seek product reviews before visiting a business.
  • Product comparisons. Compare two similar products and explore their advantages and disadvantages to help the audience make a buying decision.
  • Product roundups. Similar to product comparisons, a product roundup evaluates several products within the same category.
  • Tutorials. Explain step-by-step how a product or service works. When customers clearly understand how it will benefit them, they are more inclined to purchase it.
  • Resource pages. Consists of tools and resources to help solve the audience’s problems. This content can further establish your authority as an expert.
  • eBooks. Go in-depth on topics that don’t fit in a blog post. Plus, eBooks can be used as a lead magnet to expand your email list.

Important! Make sure to include an affiliate disclosure explaining that you earn a commission whenever people purchase from your affiliate link.

5. Drive Traffic to Your Affiliate Website

Once you have a good amount of published content, it’s time to drive traffic to your affiliate site. Doing so is necessary to generate leads, boost conversions, and attract potential customers.

Creating an SEO strategy is a must. The higher your site appears on search engines, the more traffic you’ll get. SEO includes keyword optimization, link building, and ensuring the site is mobile-friendly.

Here are a few other methods to generate traffic to your affiliate site:

  • Start an email campaign. Email marketing helps gently nudge readers toward a purchase. You can directly communicate product recommendations, limited offers, and regular updates by creating and sending email newsletters. Use a custom email address that contains your website name to increase the chances of success.
  • Be active on social media. Having a solid social media presence increases brand awareness. You can build up followers’ engagement and optimize content with hashtags to boost discoverability. When deciding on a social media platform, consider your audience demographics. For instance, users between the ages of 10-19 make up TikTok’s largest age group. Therefore, beauty bloggers targeting teenage girls should consider TikTok as their main channel.
  • Participate in online forum discussions. Online forums like Reddit and Quora are great for connecting with your target audience. Since most forums don’t allow affiliate links, redirect people to your blog posts or affiliate landing pages.
  • Write guest posts. Reach out to sites in your niche and offer to write high-quality posts for them. It’ll help redirect audiences who are already interested in the topic to your site.

6. Cloak Your Affiliate Links

The next important step to optimize your affiliate marketing efforts is link cloaking. This is the practice of hiding the affiliate ID from a URL by redirecting it to another page.

Cloaking affiliate links helps prevent link hijacking, one of the biggest security risks in affiliate marketing. It occurs when malicious parties try to steal valuable commissions by replacing your unique ID with theirs.

For instance, instead of a long, complicated URL containing numbers and characters like the example below:*

You can make the affiliate link more visually pleasing and user-friendly:


A cloaked link is perceived as more secure as it tells users exactly what to expect when clicking on it. Moreover, it is also easier to remember and share, which helps increase brand recognition and expand audience reach.

To cloak affiliate links, use WordPress plugins like Pretty Links or ThirstyAffiliates.

7. Track Your Affiliate Campaigns

Properly monitoring affiliate links is essential for creating an effective revenue-generating strategy. This includes tracking which pages, links, and visual elements get the most traffic and conversions.

While most affiliate programs provide sales data through an affiliate dashboard, you can use additional affiliate marketing tools to optimize your campaigns.

These tools will help keep track of your affiliate campaigns across different marketing channels and enhance your affiliate strategies. Examples include Post Affiliate Pro, LinkTrack, and Voluum.

Voluum homepage

Alternatively, free tools like Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager can also help track affiliate links.

Google Analytics' welcome page.

If you’re a WordPress user, there are several affiliate plugins to simplify the process.

MonsterInsights, for example, lets users review traffic volume for individual product pages from the WordPress dashboard.

It also integrates with your Google Analytics account to track affiliate links and Pretty Links to set up redirections for them.

MonsterInsights homepage

8. Boost Your Income

While the previous steps will help start your affiliate marketing career, there’s no guarantee it will generate affiliate revenue. In addition to tracking the links, constantly optimizing your marketing efforts is necessary to increase affiliate income.

Running tests on your content is a great start. For example, identify which posts get high traffic but low RPM (revenue per thousand impressions).

Then, tweak some elements to see what triggers more conversions and increases your affiliate income:

  • Test your headlines. To evaluate their effectiveness, create two headlines for the same content. To do this, split traffic into two groups and serve different headlines for each.
  • Experiment with images. You can conduct the same test with two separate, high-quality images of the same product. Assess the results and feature the image that converts more.
  • Insert comparison tables. For product comparisons or reviews, consider adding a comparison table displaying the product features and prices. Comparison tables are easier to digest than long blocks of text.
  • Optimize the CTAs. Keep the calls to action brief and personalized. Use time-related words like “Shop Now”, “Limited”, or “Last Chance”, and pair them with a countdown timer to create a sense of urgency.
  • Add exit intent pop-ups. These pop-ups act as the last resort to convince visitors who are about to abandon the site. Install a WordPress pop-up plugin like OptinMonster to help with the task.

How Does Affiliate Marketing Work

An affiliate marketer’s main responsibility is to direct their audience to complete an action – whether it’s a purchase, a form submission, or visiting a merchant’s site. To do so, marketers include affiliate links on their websites, blogs, or social media posts.

A tracking cookie within the link helps affiliate programs determine where the sales come from. Therefore, whenever a customer makes a purchase, the sale will be attributed to the corresponding affiliate.

Types of Affiliate Marketing

Based on the level of association with the product promoted, there are three main types of affiliate marketing:

  • Unattached Affiliate Marketing. This form of affiliate marketing requires no direct connection between affiliates and the advertised product. Affiliates get commissions solely by displaying the merchants’ ads, whether or not they fit their niche. For example, a fashion blog that features gym ads.
  • Involved Affiliate Marketing. This type refers to affiliates who are closely associated with the product. Seen as experts within the niche, they educate readers about the product and give recommendations based on personal experiences.
  • Related Affiliate Marketing. A mix of the other two types, related affiliate marketing involves promoting relevant products without making direct claims. Often, the affiliates have some degree of authority within the niche, making them a trusted source of information. For instance, a fitness blogger promotes fitness gear despite never using it before.

Types of Payment in Affiliate Marketing

Here are the primary methods of payment in affiliate marketing:

  • Pay-per-sale. The most common payment structure in affiliate marketing. Affiliates get a percentage of the product price from each purchase made through a unique affiliate link.
  • Pay-per-lead. This method pays the affiliate based on lead conversion. For instance, when they successfully convert potential customers into creating a trial account or subscribing to a newsletter.
  • Pay-per-click. This method calculates commissions based on the amount of traffic brought to the merchant’s site. The more users click on the affiliate link, the higher the payment.

Why Should You Start Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing is a rapidly growing industry. By 2022, the spending reached around $8.2 billion in the United States alone, up from $5.4 billion in 2017.

Plus, the online business model is a win-win solution for businesses and affiliates.

It helps businesses attract new customers and help your audience find the best products and services. And as an affiliate marketer, it’ll help you create content and generate revenue.

Here are additional reasons why affiliate marketing is worth starting:

Affiliate Marketing Is Low-Risk and Low-Cost

Affiliate marketing doesn’t require a large initial budget. Unlike starting a conventional business like an online store, you won’t have to worry about the logistics and costs of product development, maintenance, and shipping.

While there might be a few upfront costs, mainly for creating a website, no further investment is expected once it’s set up.

It is also low-risk since there’s no penalty fee for unsuccessful sales.

Affiliate Marketing Scales Easily

There is no limit to scaling your affiliate marketing business. You can introduce new products while the existing affiliate content continues to generate profit.

You can also sign up for different affiliate programs to increase your income.

It’s a Source of Passive Income

Affiliate marketing lets you earn a steady passive income stream.

However, success is not always guaranteed. Investing time to establish promotional platforms, build an audience, and create traffic sources is necessary.

Nevertheless, once set up, your affiliate links have the potential to make money continuously.

How Much Money Can You Make as an Affiliate Marketer

As an affiliate marketer, your earning potential depends on the niche, products, affiliate programs, traffic volume, and audience size. Of course, a larger following increases your chance of generating more traffic and conversions.

The average affiliate marketer makes around $55,000/year, with the lowest tier earning about $41,000/year and the highest around $75,000/year.

Successful affiliate marketers like Pat Flynn may earn even higher. The Smart Passive Income founder’s net worth is estimated at over $3 million.

What Are the Best Opportunities to Help Affiliate Marketers Get Started?

Finding merchants and affiliate products might be confusing, yet necessary for new affiliates.

An effective way to get started is by joining an affiliate network, which acts as an intermediary between affiliates and brands.

Here are some of the best affiliate networks for beginners:

  • Amazon Associates. A globally recognized brand with over 365 million products to promote, the Amazon Affiliate Program is ideal for any affiliate marketers starting their journey.
  • ClickBank. It is one of the oldest affiliate networks. It is ideal for marketers looking to advertise digital affiliate products.
  • CJ. Since it provides access to affiliate programs’ metrics, CJ helps affiliates map out which programs to join and estimate their earning potential accordingly.
  • Impact. It is suitable for any affiliates looking to kickstart their career. It lists brands that offer instant approval.

Mistakes to Avoid as an Affiliate Marketer

While it’s a fairly simple and lucrative business model, affiliate marketing is also highly competitive. To thrive in the industry, you should have an affiliate strategy that converts. Knowing what not to do as an affiliate marketer is the right step in that direction.

Here are some affiliate marketing mistakes to avoid:

  • Lacking product knowledge.
  • Neglecting site performance.
  • Overlooking the importance of SEO.
  • Producing low-quality content.
  • Counting on only one affiliate program.
  • Underestimating the audience’s trust.
  • Not including an affiliate disclosure.

Make sure to follow our step-by-step instructions to avoid these mistakes closely.

WordPress hosting banner


Affiliate marketing is a low-risk, easy-to-scale business model that enables you to make money online by creating promotional content. Fortunately, affiliate marketing doesn’t require advanced technical knowledge or a large budget.

Once you have a niche and a platform, research affiliate programs to join. Then, create high-quality content to promote the affiliate products and diversify the traffic sources to generate more leads. Lastly, track your affiliate campaigns and run tests to optimize them.

Keep in mind that affiliate marketing success doesn’t happen overnight. If you’re just starting, it might take a while before your content generates conversions. It’s important to devote time to learning and implementing affiliate marketing tips.

Like any other successful business, the most important step is to start. With sufficient knowledge of how to start affiliate marketing, you are now well-equipped to begin the journey. Good luck.

How to Start Affiliate Marketing FAQ

In this section, we will explain some frequently asked questions about how to start affiliate marketing.

What is an Affiliate Marketing Program?

An affiliate marketing program is a partnership between affiliates and companies, where companies offer an agreed percentage of commissions or a set sum in exchange for successful referrals or sales.

Can I Start Affiliate Marketing With No Money?

Yes. You don’t need a lot of capital to start affiliate marketing. There are no costs to join most affiliate networks, and various free platforms are available to boost your efforts. You can even find affiliate marketing courses online for free. You only need a working computer, a decent internet connection, and dedicated time to grow your business.

Is Affiliate Marketing Good for Beginners?

Yes. Affiliate marketing is low-risk, inexpensive, and easy to scale for beginners. 
There’s no limit to how much you can earn as an affiliate marketer. With sufficient time, effort, and an effective strategy, you may generate a huge passive income from affiliate marketing.

How Much Can Beginner Affiliate Marketers Make?

Beginner affiliate marketers could make as little as $0 to as much as $1,000/month. Total beginners need some time to set everything up before making affiliate sales. Having a pre-existing audience will speed up your business’s growth.

Can I Start Affiliate Marketing Without a Website?

Yes. Affiliate marketing doesn’t require a website. You can share affiliate links on social media platforms like Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube. However, having a website is beneficial as it improves credibility and broadens your audience reach.

The author

Nadya Anjani

Nadya has a passion for WordPress and web hosting. She wants to help people build a successful online presence, so they can make an impact in the world. When not writing, she can be found learning new languages or orchestrating a photoshoot for her cat. Nadya is always looking to learn and grow, and she hopes to help others do the same.

The Co-author

Prasasti P.

Pras has a background in IT education and experience as a website administrator, he hopes to share his knowledge with other tech enthusiasts. In his free time, Pras likes to play video games.