In 2009, I originally published this post, the 3 Types of Affiliate Marketing Explained—and The One I Profit From. A lot has changed since then, and I’ve learned a ton along the way about affiliate marketing the right way. It’s now October 2018, and I wanted to share those new insights here, with a bunch of new takeaways for you to bring affiliate marketing into your own business!
(f) You will not (i) interfere, or attempt to interfere, in any manner with the functionality or proper working of PA API; (ii) compile or use Product Advertising Content for the purpose of direct marketing, spamming, unsolicited contacting of sellers or customers, or other advertising activities; or (iii) remove, obscure, alter, or make invisible, illegible, or indecipherable, any notice, including any notice of intellectual property or proprietary right, appearing on or contained within PA API, Data Feeds, Product Advertising Content, or Specifications.
You know you really didn’t have to setup an additional Amazon affiliate site to make money. All you pretty much had to do if you wanted to run PPC ads was forward mask your Amazon affiliate link into a sub-domain. But if you wanted to run a standalone Amazon affiliate site just for Amazon, that’s good for business too. Are you promoting it on Pinterest and social networks so you can get free advertising?
If you’re writing reviews, you should 100% be using rich snippets (they add review stars to your search engine snippets and increase click-through rates). There are many WordPress plugins for this but my favorite is WP Rich Snippets. It’s $69/year (or $399 one-time) and I use it for every single review I write. They have tons of add-ons, settings, styling options, and looks nice. Free plugins like All In One Schema.org do work but lack settings, styling, and flexibility.

Rumors of last click’s death have been greatly exaggerated. For most of the past decade, various industry commentators have said it’s a model that underestimates the complexity of multiple digital touchpoints an average consumer may have on their way to purchase. For affiliate marketers this can be confusing. Last click is what our business is based on; without it what are we left with? More often than not this confusion is from a misunderstanding of what ‘last click is dead’ really means.
I thought I would just bring something else to your attention; I did take a second to look at your site; you know why I left within just one second? EXACTLY! You have less then 3 seconds to make your first impression on visitors; if your visitors are bouncing off your site at the speed of light, they either found your site by mistake, or they were not impressed with your site, and left, which means? right, they did not trust your site!!! What happens if you have a high bounce rate? right, you can certainly lose rankings! Is google going to keep sending you traffic if you have nothing to offer? nope! I can not say this is your problem, or you could have multiple problems going on at the same time to cause you to lose rankings. I can tell you one thing for sure by just taking a 1 minute look at your link profile; You have quite a few links, and you have almost no authority, what does this mean? This most likely means you are spamming your link to poor quality sites. You also have a massive amount of do-follow links which does not look natural vs your no follow links, and with your site having low trust flow, do you think your site deserves that many do-follow links? I wonder what google thinks? at first glance, your anchor/link diversity does not look to bad, so your anchor/text does not look over-optimized, but whoever is building links for you, consider firing them immediately, as you are getting all the wrong links. I am going to assume at this point google has certainly given you a penalty; Your next move to to hire someone to audit your site, and start disavowing/removing bad links from your portfolio, over time, your rankings may come back, and that may depend on other factors also, but at this point, it certainly looks like you have link issues. Just a little bitty research goes a long way. good luck.

Hey Chris! I stumbled upon your site from a few people. I’m now interested in starting a niche business and grow from there. I’ve tried to target another niche, with keywords as a first timer, and still having difficulties targeting certain keywords. I would like to get a boost of motivation on starting a small and simple amazon style niche site. I don’t know if you covered this, but I’d like to know what sort of criteria that you go through when choosing a site. So far, I have found a keyword with the following criteria: 

Now that we know this model works for things like blogs and niche websites, we can dive deeper. How can we create a real multi-million dollar company with an actual team of employees? Well, look at companies like Expedia, Ebates, NerdWallet, and TripAdvisor. These are just a few companies using the affiliate marketing business model. Expedia is a great example. They own no product or service. All they do is connect people to different hotels and flights. When someone books a flight through Expedia with any airline, the airline company pays Expedia a commission for the ticket sale.
Referral fees aren’t just for the products you recommend. Perhaps the coolest thing about the Amazon Associates program is that you receive credit for any sale associated with your affiliate link for 24 hours. So, if a customer visits the page of the product you recommended, but then goes on to purchase five more eligible items during that same visit, you will receive a portion of that entire sale.

Until 2017, Amazon offered a stepped commission structure so that affiliates who sold a lot of products were paid a higher commission than those who sold little. However, Amazon eliminated this structure and began using flat commission rates for different types of products. While this is likely to continue evolving, examples of the commission structure in 2018 are as follow:
This License governs your use of Program Content in connection with your participation in the Associates Program. By accepting the Agreement, or by accessing or using the Program Content, including the proprietary application programming interfaces and other tools (collectively, the “PA API”) that permit you to access and use certain types of data, images, text, and other information and content relating to Products (“Product Advertising Content”) which we may make available to you, you agree to be bound by this License.

The Santa Claus Christmas Store, in Santa Claus, Ind., was typical of a lot of brick-and-mortar businesses when it sought to expand its online footprint earlier this year. In addition to sprucing up its website and increasing its pay-per-click advertising budget, it joined an affiliate marketing network. This connected the 7,000-square-foot holiday emporium with the vast community of bloggers, coupon sites and other “affiliates” around the web that promote products in return for a percentage of each sale they encourage.

I guess the only thing I’d say about this is if you are blogging in a competitive niche and working in what I’d call the “gray area” of link masking and not using “nofollow” as described here by google (https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/96569?hl=en) expect that competitors that are writing real reviews with real photos (not stuff grabbed from a manufacturers website) are going to report you to google as webspam. The thing I hate most is affiliate sites that have never held a product in their hand and then try to pass off something as a first person review for the sole sake of pushing you to Amazon.com.
Theme – you don’t need a special theme for affiliate marketing, you probably just need a blog. I recommend StudioPress themes since that’s what Yoast, Matt Cutts (from Google), and I use. Matt Mullenweg, founder of WordPress also recommends them. One of the biggest mistakes I made was using a theme from Themeforest… since they’re built by independent developers who may stop making updates to their theme. This happened to me and I hear horror stories all the time about people having to switch themes and redesign their entire site. I’ve been using the same StudioPress theme (Outreach Pro) for 3 years. Their themes are lightweight (load fast), SEO-friendly via optimized code, secure, and they have a huge selection of plugins for the Genesis Framework and an awesome community in the Genesis WordPress Facebook Group. They include documentation for setting it up and will serve you for many, many years.
The value proposition is a bit less direct in this case, but can still be very effective. Carolla provides a service to his audience in the form of free entertainment (the podcast) and then asks for support in order to pay the bills. In this case, the “ask” can be very effective since he’s just requesting his listeners to take a few seconds to get to Amazon through his affiliate link.
Although he had tried countless times in the past, he had failed to quit. But this time was different. His frame-of-mind had changed. And something inside of him clicked when he realized he could use electronic cigarettes to actually ween himself off the "real thing." He implemented a system where he used a low-quality gas station brand, and went from strong to medium then mild over a multi-week period.
In order to track the source of traffic, the merchant provides the affiliate with a coded link to the merchant's website. The merchant may also place a cookie -- a small text file -- on the customer's computer when he clicks the affiliate's link. The length of time this cookie is valid may vary from 24 hours to the lifetime of the cookie. The longer the cookie length, the more chance the affiliate has of being paid for future sales to the same customer. However some users regularly delete all cookies from their computer.

We will provide all of the information necessary for you to make Links from your Affiliate Site to our site. FatCow will be solely responsible for order processing (including payment processing, cancellations, and refunds) for orders for FatCow Products and Services placed by a Referred Customer following a Link from your Affiliate Site, for tracking the volume and amount of Qualified Purchases generated by your Affiliate Site, and for providing information to Affiliates regarding Qualified Purchase statistics. FatCow will be solely responsible for all order processing, including but not limited to payment processing, cancellations, refunds and related FatCow service.
The CJ Affiliate by Conversant network has 120 niches in the business category, including web hosting, business loans, and domain registrations. ShareASale, a similar affiliate-marketing network, has 129 programs listed in the category. The right affiliate can deliver strong recommendations to these products and services. Affiliates can significantly influence consumer decisions. 

(d) You will not, without our express prior written approval, use any Product Advertising Content on or in connection with any site or application designed or intended for use with a mobile phone or other handheld device (which prohibition apply neither to any site that is not designed or intended for use with such devices but that may be accessible by such devices, such as a non-mobile-optimized site accessed via an internet browser on a tablet device, nor an Approved Mobile Application as defined in the Participation Requirements or any television set-top box (e.g., digital video recorders, cable or satellite boxes, streaming video players, blu-ray players, or dvd players) or Internet-enabled television (e.g., GoogleTV, Sony Bravia, Panasonic Viera Cast, or Vizio Internet Apps).
In addition to all of this, you don’t really have a store to look after. You have zero products to ship or be held responsible for. You are literally just the marketing arm, unlike the ecommerce business model where you are sourcing the products that you are selling and dealing with the customer service portions of the business, along with logistics.
If you provide us with suggestions, reviews, modifications, data, images, text, or other information relating to any Program Content or in connection with your participation in the Associates Program, or if you modify any Program Content in any way (collectively, “Your Submission”), you hereby irrevocably assign to us all right, title, and interest in and to Your Submission and grant us (even if you have designated Your Submission as confidential) a perpetual, paid-up royalty-free, nonexclusive, worldwide, irrevocable, freely transferable right and license for the maximum duration of protection available under applicable law to: (a) use, reproduce, perform, display, and distribute Your Submission in any manner; (b) adapt, modify, re-format, and create derivative works of Your Submission for any purpose; (c) use and publish your name in the form of a credit in conjunction with Your Submission (however, we will not have any obligation to do so); and (d) sublicense the foregoing rights to any other person or entity. Additionally, you hereby warrant that: (y) Your Submission is your original work, or you obtained Your Submission in a lawful manner and (z) our and our sublicensees’ exercise of rights under the license above will not violate any person’s or entity’s rights, including any copyright rights. You agree to provide us such assistance as we may require to document, perfect, or maintain our rights in and to Your Submission.
It is solely your responsibility to provide FatCow with accurate tax and payment information that is necessary to issue a Commission Fee to you. If FatCow does not receive the necessary tax or payment information within ninety (90) days of a Qualified Purchase which would otherwise trigger Commission Fees, the applicable commissions shall not accrue and no Commission Fees will be owed with respect to such Qualified Purchase.

The more people you are able to help, the more money you will make in return. It really is that simple. Sure, many other “guru’s” out there will tell you about ways to make money on auto-pilot using super-secret systems or software programs that do all the work for you. But unless you are truly providing value to other people, you will never make a good living long-term in affiliate marketing.
In 2006, the most active sectors for affiliate marketing were the adult gambling, retail industries and file-sharing services.[17]:149–150 The three sectors expected to experience the greatest growth are the mobile phone, finance, and travel sectors.[17] Soon after these sectors came the entertainment (particularly gaming) and Internet-related services (particularly broadband) sectors. Also several of the affiliate solution providers expect to see increased interest from business-to-business marketers and advertisers in using affiliate marketing as part of their mix.[17]:149–150
Although it differs from spyware, adware often uses the same methods and technologies. Merchants initially were uninformed about adware, what impact it had, and how it could damage their brands. Affiliate marketers became aware of the issue much more quickly, especially because they noticed that adware often overwrites tracking cookies, thus resulting in a decline of commissions. Affiliates not employing adware felt that it was stealing commission from them. Adware often has no valuable purpose and rarely provides any useful content to the user, who is typically unaware that such software is installed on his/her computer.
Affiliate Contracts. Section 4.18 of the Seller Disclosure Letter sets forth a true and complete list of all contracts (all contracts required to be listed in Section 4.18 of the Seller Disclosure Letter, collectively Affiliate Contracts) between or among (a)(i) any Company or (ii) any Seller Party (on behalf of the Business) or the Business itself (in each case to the extent binding on a Company after giving effect to the Reorganization), on the one hand, and (b)(i) any Affiliate of a Seller Party or (ii) any officer, director or employee of a Seller Party in an executive position or above (or, to the Knowledge of Seller, any family member of any of the foregoing), on the other. Other than the Transaction Agreements and except as listed in Section 4.18 of the Seller Disclosure Letter, no Seller Party nor any Affiliate of any Seller Party (A) has any claim or cause of action against any Company or the Business or (B) owes money to, or is owed money by, any Company or the Business.
Wonderful post. Thanks for sharing the insights. Would you mind throwing some light on not your product itself but the competition your product had prior to you entering. For example – I sell essential oil in the geated beauty category and since the competition is so fierce, I’m struggling to make organic sales. Indeed, sales and reviews seem to be the mantra for AMZ algo. I’m currently trending at 31 reviews and should hit the 50 review mark in 2 weeks hopefully. I’m truly hoping things start to change then.
However, to be genuinely successful today you need a twist of creativity. Ebates is a great example of this. They are a cashback website. This means they offer cash back on purchases you make online. You make an account on their website and whenever you shop anywhere such as Amazon, you click on the link in your account first. Ebates says they will give you 3% back on any purchase you make. Let’s say you go to Amazon and buy whatever for $100. You would then receive $3 in your Ebates account. However, the cool part is how Ebates is making money with this model. Amazon’s affiliate program gives you 6% commissions per sale. Ebates decided to give half of their commission back to their users as an incentive for them to shop through Ebates. This way the whole idea is consumer driven. Consumers buy things and make money using Ebates. The more consumers receive in cash back, the more revenue Ebates generates.
Amazon runs one of the largest affiliate programs around, called Amazon Associates. You can become part of the program as long as your website already has some content (about five or ten posts). Bear in mind that once you’ve applied, it can take a few days to be approved. Once your account is ready, you can start to focus on building an effective website.
This could leave many once competitive niches with a lot more gaps for you to build and leverage into with your niche sites. While we don’t believe we’ll see a mass exodus from Amazon Associates (Even with the currently grumbling about the changes online), some niches may be more affected by this than others so it may pay to look for gaps in the market.
Affiliate marketing is commonly confused with referral marketing, as both forms of marketing use third parties to drive sales to the retailer. The two forms of marketing are differentiated, however, in how they drive sales, where affiliate marketing relies purely on financial motivations, while referral marketing relies more on trust and personal relationships.[citation needed]
Scan your email inbox right now. No doubt there are at least a few emails you get from merchants or other businesses with products you’re interested in. This is email marketing. And it’s a great tool for affiliate marketers. Essentially, on your website, a landing page, blog, or social media, you ask visitors to your site to provide their email address. Then you send them valuable content along with promotional offerings through email.

(c) Recommendations Page. We reserve all right, title and interest (including all intellectual property and proprietary rights) in and to, and you do not, by virtue of this Local Associates Policy or otherwise, acquire any ownership interest or rights in or to, the Recommendation Page, the Recommendation Page URL, or information and materials on the Recommendation Page. You will not take any action that conflicts with our rights in, or ownership of, the Recommendation Page. Amazon reserves all rights to determine the content, appearance, functionality, URL, and all other aspects of the Recommendation Page, including through the display of (i) advertising materials on the Recommendation Page, without compensation to any Local Associate, and (ii) disclosure (by text, link, icon, or otherwise) regarding your participation in this Local Associates Program.
Each party hereby agrees to indemnify, defend and hold harmless the other party and its affiliates, directors, officers, employees and agents, from and against any and all liability, claims, losses, damages, injuries or expenses (including reasonable attorneys' fees) brought by a third party, arising out of a breach, or alleged breach, of any of its representations or obligations herein.

You further represent and warrant that: (i) you will ensure that you are compliant with any trade or regulatory requirements that may apply to your participation in the Affiliate Program (for example, by clearly stating you are a HubSpot Affiliate on any website(s) you own where you make an Affiliate Link available); (ii) you will accurately provide in the Affiliate Tool all websites and domains you own where you intend to use Affiliate Links to generate Affiliate Leads; (iii) you will not purchase ads that direct to your site(s) or through an Affiliate Link that could be considered as competing with HubSpot’s own advertising, including, but not limited to, our branded keywords; (iv) you will not participate in cookie stuffing or pop-ups, false or misleading links are strictly prohibited; (v) you will not attempt to mask the referring URL information; (vi) you will not use your own Affiliate Link to purchase HubSpot products for yourself.

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