If you are new to earning money through a website, it’s important to know the basics of affiliate marketing, which can provide a steady income stream for your business.

There’s no need to jump in without knowing the facts. What follows is a basic primer to affiliate marketing that can be your first step on the path to leveraging this strategy and making more money through your website.

Affiliate marketing became popular starting back in the 1990s, as search engines such as Google, Yahoo and, later, Bing, began to make it easier for website owners to reach consumers with quality, helpful content.

Like the best marketing, affiliate marketing is about relationships, in this case between advertisers, publishers and consumers.

Affiliate Marketing: How It Works

These are the three components of affiliate marketing.

Advertisers. These are typically large sites, such as Amazon, that sell products that can range from electronics to books and clothing. Travel deals and automotive parts are also popular. These large sites are willing to share profits with smaller sites that drive consumers to them.

Publishers. This is where your site comes in. By providing quality content on certain topics, you can convince advertisers to include you in their affiliate programs. Through links on your site, you drive potential buyers to the larger site.

Consumers. Those who intend to make a purchase are the big winners here. Through your site, they can learn what they need to know about sometimes complicated products. They can then, just by clicking a link, make a purchase from the large advertiser.

Publishers get paid through the use of cookies. An Internet cookie is often used to track where a user goes. For example, if you fill out a form on a travel site, you might see that you start getting ads for travel. If you go to an automotive site, you might find ads for the latest Ford or Chevrolet popping up on your screen wherever you go.

In affiliate advertising, a cookie allows a site to get credit for a purchase made on the larger site. For example, let’s say you are an Amazon affiliate. If you run a website on recipes, and someone clicks through your affiliate link to Amazon and makes a cookbook purchase, you get a percentage of the sale.

There are many other popular affiliate programs such as eBay Partner Network and Google Adsense.

The Work Involved

Despite the relative ease in setting it up, making an affiliate program successful takes plenty of work.

According to Forbes, less than 1% of affiliate sites have been around since 2013. That means it takes time – measured in years – before you can build up the traffic needed to make it lucrative. But the payoff is worthwhile if you have a quality site and are in a good program.

In general, there are three things to keep in mind.

  • Get into an affiliate program that is the right match for your website
  • Always stay on top of new programs that might be a better fit for you if your first choice is not working
  • This can’t be said enough: you need quality content, and it needs to be updated regularly or it will have little to no value to consumers.

Don’t Chase Success

Picking the right affiliate program is very important. Even if you think the niche you are working in is too small, give it a try. The pathway to failure is paved by those who tried to get into a bigger niche even though they have no knowledge or passion for it.

This doesn’t mean you can’t be successful. As noted by Forbes, many argue that affiliate marketing is an old strategy, but it still has potential for success for the company that approaches it in a smart way.

Just keep these simple tips in mind as you begin your journey into becoming an affiliate marketer, and you may find with hard work and dedication that it will pay off for you. Just remember to avoid common mistakes and do thorough research to find the program that works best for you.