I promised you a series all about earning passive income with affiliate links.

You’ve waited patiently as I’ve guided you through building a website from bottom to top. You were on the edge of your seat as I showed you the secrets of search engine optimization. You’ve worked hard to hone your copy and content writing craft.

But are you ready to get into the nitty gritty of becoming an affiliate marketer?

Of course you are! So let’s get started with this post on the rules of affiliate marketing and how to compare affiliate marketing programs.

What is Affiliate Marketing?

In the digital world, advertising is expensive.

That’s why many companies offer affiliate marketing programs to people who love their products. In fact, 81% of brands use some sort of affiliate program as part of their marketing strategy.

There are big opportunities here for savvy content writers. But before you become an affiliate marketer superstar, you need to understand what affiliate marketing is and what it definitely isn’t.

What it Is

Affiliate marketing is a way for fans of products and services to advertise those products or services in exchange for a commission.

The affiliate brand gets free advertising to your blog audience. You get to monetize your site and make money off your hard work. It’s a win-win.

What it Isn’t

Affiliate marketing is not a way to make passive income on products and services you’ve never used or don’t like.

If you haven’t used and at least liked the affiliate brand you’re marketing, your audience is going to know it. Worse, what if your audience hates the product or service you recommend?

I’ll tell you– they’ll stop purchasing the products and services you advertise and maybe even stop reading your blog altogether. Yikes.

How Does Affiliate Marketing Work?

When you sign up for a brand’s affiliate program, you get special links to post in your content.

These special links are programmed to let the brand know where the sale is coming from. That way, they know when someone buys their product or service through your blog.

And you’re compensated for the referral.

Many people prefer to market higher ticket items like computers, drones, and other pricey tech. But you can still make money off low ticket items if you create the right niche blog.

Affiliate Marketer Code of Conduct

There are rules to affiliate marketing to avoid turning people away before you make the sale.

Here are my top 3 rules for affiliate marketing with class.

Rule #1. Tell People You Use Affiliate Links

When you’re transparent about your use of affiliate links, you’ll be rewarded.

Experts suspect transparency is one of the top affiliate marketing trends of 2019. That’s because affiliate marketers who are transparent about their use of affiliate links build long-term relationships with their audience.

Review products you love, review them honestly, and let people know you’re reviewing them to make a commission.

That way, you’ll avoid being like Warner Bros.

Rule #2. Tell People Why and How You Use Affiliate Links

In 2016, Warner Bros. got in trouble for failing to disclose to the public a massive affiliate marketing campaign.

This, after the brand paid influencers to promote a new product and give it only positive reviews. Warner Bros. started it. But the affiliate marketers who agreed to participate broke Rule #2 of affiliate marketing basics.

Tell people you use affiliate links in your content. But also tell them why and how you use these links.

For example, you might want to tell people that you only review products you love. Tell them you use affiliate links so you can offer them 20% off. Or just be honest and say you’re trying to make money so you can keep posting quality blog content.

Whatever your reasoning is, be transparent with people and they’ll reward you for it.

Rule #3. Tell People How You Won’t Use Affiliate Links

The last rule for being a classy affiliate marketer is to make a promise about what you won’t do with your affiliate links.

I recently signed up for a fellow bloggers’ newsletter. In the very first email, the blogger stated that he would never use his newsletter for marketing purposes.

Since I signed up for the newsletter for information, I found this statement extremely valuable. I understood that I would never get information that was just trying to sell me on something.

Tell your readers the kinds of things you won’t use your affiliate links for (i.e. you won’t sell them products you don’t support) and watch your commissions climb.

How to Find and Compare Affiliate Programs in Your Niche

If you’ve been following this series then you already know your niche audience and the kind of products and services they’ll like.

Finding an affiliate brand to promote, then, should be easy.

To find affiliate programs, simply Google “[product or service] affiliate programs.” eCommerce sites like eBay are excellent places to find a wide variety of products to promote.

Some of the top affiliate programs include:

  • Amazon
  • CJ
  • Rakuten
  • Shareasale

You can also find smaller affiliate programs in your niche. These usually offer high commissions, long cookie time periods, and discounts for your audience.

Don’t know what any of those words mean? Let me explain. BONUS: These 3 factors are also the things you should consider when choosing an affiliate program.


A commission is the percentage you earn off each sale you make through an affiliate link.

Avoid programs that offer 10% or less commission. These programs aren’t worth the effort. Instead, choose programs with commissions between 10-50% commission.


Cookies are pieces of data stored on your readers’ computer when they click your affiliate link.

That way, you make commission off anything they buy within the window of time designated by the affiliate brand. That’s right– I said anything because readers don’t have to purchase the exact thing you’re promoting.

They can make any purchase from the affiliate brand and you get paid.

Most programs offer 24 hour cookies, which means the person must make a purchase from your link within 24 hours for you to make a commission.

When comparing affiliate programs, always consider cookies. The longer the cookie window, the higher the chance of making a commission.


Some affiliate programs offer people a discount on the product or service you’re promoting for buying through your affiliate link.

You did all that work search engine optimizing your blog to generate organic search traffic. That means you’ll have a ton of new people reading your affiliate content every day.

Discounts are vital for converting people who don’t know anything about your blog and have no reason to trust your oppinion on a product or service.

You can write the most high-quality, informative content online and still have people who feel wary about purchasing through your affiliate link. For people who are nervous to trust you, a discount helps change their minds.

Why would a random stranger who stumbled on your blog buy from your affiliate link?

Many affiliate programs offer reader discounts for this very reason.

Next Week: Monetize Your Content With Affiliate Links

Affiliate marketing can be an extremely simple way to make passive income off your blog.

As long as you understand how to do affiliate marketing the right way and choose a great program or brand to work with, you’ll start making passive income in no time.

Stay tuned next week because I’m showing you what kind of content you can use affiliate links in and how to do it.

Have an amazing idea for an affiliate blog but don’t want to write the content yourself? Contact me and find out how I can help share your brand story with the digital world.

Want More?

Earn Passive Income with Affiliate Links

DIY SEO for Your Content

How to Earn Passive Income with No Money Upfront

5 Comments on “Series Post #16: What is Affiliate Marketing? + How to Choose an Affiliate Program

  1. Pingback: Series Post #17: How to Monetize Your Blog with Affiliate Links to Make Passive Income in 2019 – Haley Clark | Freelance Writer

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