What Is Affiliate Marketing? (A Comprehensive Guide)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 22 September 2022

Published 28 April 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Effective marketing strategies can help businesses engage more customers and increase the sales of their products. Affiliate marketing is a marketing strategy that many businesses adapt to promote their products and services through popular promotion channels. Knowing what affiliate marketing is can help you develop and implement effective promotional strategies for business growth. In this article, we answer 'What is affiliate marketing?', explain why businesses use it, discuss various types and channels of affiliate marketing and learn how to start an affiliate marketing campaign.

What Is Affiliate Marketing?

If you are interested in the field of marketing, you may benefit from knowing the answer to 'What is affiliate marketing?' Affiliate marketing is an advertising strategy that involves marketing a product or service through popular marketing channels, platforms and individuals, called affiliates. Affiliates promote the products or services of a business for a commission. They usually receive a small percentage of the sale value whenever someone buys a product or service they advertise. Affiliates may use various digital channels like social media, blogs or emails to promote products to their own audiences.

Related: Types Of Online Marketing Jobs (With Salaries And Duties)

Why Do Businesses Use Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate marketing can help businesses in several aspects. Some of them include:

Building a brand

Building a brand requires a successful and engaging marketing strategy, and using affiliate marketing can help businesses engage audiences more effectively. Companies can use the influence of affiliates to create brand awareness and appeal to a wide audience. The larger the following of an affiliate, the higher the chances of increasing the product's sales, and they can help the business get more customers. A large customer base can position the business as a reputable brand. This can be particularly helpful for new businesses trying to acquire a higher market share.

Creating excitement around a new product

Companies can use affiliate marketing to create excitement and anticipation around the products they launch. Along with other methods like traditional marketing, affiliate marketing can help companies promote new products to their target audiences. Affiliates generally inform their audiences about the latest product, its uses and benefits to create anticipation among them. This can also help create a word-of-mouth campaign where an affiliate's audience shares the product information within their circle.

Optimising marketing budgets

Affiliate marketing allows businesses more control over the marketing budget and provides a certain assurance on the return on investment. Companies can control the expenditure with a fixed commission percentage and work more with affiliate marketers who successfully onboard more customers. The access, size and relevance of an audience can also determine the budget for the campaign. For example, companies may pay a lower commission rate to an affiliate marketer with a smaller audience than someone with a wider reach. This way, companies can ensure that they are investing optimally in the right affiliate channels.

Increasing sales and growth

A marketing campaign with the right affiliates can help a company increase its sales significantly. For example, a fashion company can partner with an affiliate who is a part of the industry and has an audience comprising young people. The company can promote its products through the affiliate to give special offers, introduce new products or even gather product feedback. This can help increase sales, engage audiences and help the company meet its business growth goals.

Types Of Affiliate Marketing

Affiliates usually have the option of engaging in multiple types of marketing models. Here are the main types of affiliate marketing:

Related affiliate marketing

Related affiliate marketing involves the promotion of products or services regarding which the affiliate possess some knowledge. They may know the basic features and uses of the product and can pitch its benefits to their audiences, encouraging them to buy it. This usually means that the affiliate may promote the products in a niche market or community.

An affiliate can only promote such products based on knowledge and trust. They may not use the product or service they promote. For example, an affiliate marketer who talks about gadgets may promote a new mobile phone only on the basis of its specifications and not after using it personally.

Involved affiliate marketing

This type of affiliate marketing involves affiliates who have a genuine connection with the products or services they promote. They may use the product or service personally for a defined period before recommending it to their audiences. For example, affiliate marketers promoting cosmetics may use a cosmetic product for a certain time before promoting it. They can then talk about its benefits and review it based on personal experience, which can help garner the trust of their audiences.

Unattached affiliate marketing

Unattached affiliate marketing generally means that the affiliate may not have any connection to or knowledge of the products or services they promote. Affiliate marketers participating in this model of marketing usually advertise a product or service purely with a business mindset. This type of marketing may benefit those who have a large audience. For example, an affiliate operating in the gaming industry may promote a new trading app to their audience. They may not use the product but have access to a very large audience. This can benefit both the affiliate and the app developer.

Affiliate Marketing Channels

Companies and affiliates use multiple marketing channels to develop a successful affiliate marketing campaign. Some prominent channels include:


Using influencers as affiliates can help businesses engage niche audiences in a more personalised manner. Influencers typically have a follower base on popular social media platforms. Companies usually approach influencers with a large following to reach more customers. Depending on the product, they may partner with influencers with a smaller but more niche or active audience. There are various mediums through which an influencer may promote a product, including blogs, videos and images.

Related: What Is A Brand Ambassador? Definition And Job Description


Bloggers mainly engage in affiliate marketing by adding promotional affiliate links to their blogs. They may use a product and write a descriptive, promotional blog on it. Bloggers can also write guest posts on blogs of other bloggers or companies. This helps them promote a product or service to a larger audience. Besides, they may also use search engine optimisation (SEO) techniques to increase the reach of their blog, which may ultimately increase the reach of the campaign.

Related: How To Become A Freelance Digital Marketer: A Complete Guide

Email marketing

Many affiliates use specific marketing campaigns to collect a list of email addresses, and then send emails to those addresses concerning what it is that they are promoting. Another emailing strategy is for the affiliate to send out email newsletters or information regarding certain products. Every email includes affiliate links readers can click on to purchase the products.

How To Start Affiliate Marketing

If you are interested in starting your own affiliate marketing business, consider the following steps:

1. Find your niche

You can start by identifying your niche and choosing topics that interest you. Research various niches, industries and styles to identify what interests you. This can also help you select the right products to promote.

2. Select a platform

The next step is to select a content creation platform. Your options include blogs, video sharing platforms and other social media sites. Consider choosing channels and platforms where your ideal audience spends most of its time. If you want you can use a combination of different platforms to reach a larger audience.

3. Select a suitable affiliate program

Once your platform is active and has a sizeable audience, you can consider different affiliate programmes. Many large consumer companies and e-commerce websites offer affiliate programmes on a selection basis. You can compare the requirements and benefits of different programmes and apply for those that fit your requirements.

4. Create and share content

Once you successfully enrol yourself in an affiliate programme, you can develop relevant content and share it to engage your audience. You can change your content and strategy based on the platform and the target audience. Content on your website and other platforms could be in the form of product reviews, blog posts, informational webinars and e-books, demonstration and review videos, social media posts, among others.

5. Build strategies to increase traffic

Affiliate marketing requires continuous effort and time to increase your reach and engagement. Focus on developing strategies that can help you generate traffic and increase your viewership, as more traffic can increase the chances of generating more sales. For media posts, you can use engaging captions and tags, whereas, for blogs, you can develop a strong SEO strategy.

6. Expand your partnerships

Once you establish yourself as an affiliate marketer and grow your audience, you can expand your partnerships and enrol in various affiliate programmes. You can become an affiliate marketer for multiple businesses in your niche. As an affiliate marketer, you may choose to conduct unattached, related or involved marketing, depending on your follower base and niche market.


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