SEO Glossary: Affiliate Marketing

Short & sweet: What is affiliate marketing?

Affiliate marketing is a business model in which website operators advertise sellers' products. If users click on one of the affiliate links and buy a product from the seller, the website operators receive a commission for the successful referral of a customer.

How does affiliate marketing work in detail and which are the top affiliate programs?

In affiliate marketing, a distinction is made between affiliates and merchants. Affiliates are operators of a website and do not sell their own products. Merchants, on the other hand, are the sellers, who can either be manufacturers of the products, distributors of the products or a service provider.


The increasing sales figures, the high amount of companies with affiliate programs, the increasing search volumes and other positive developments of affiliate marketing reflect the great popularity of the affiliate business.


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How affiliates make money through affiliate marketing

An affiliate can be a blogger, entrepreneur, influencer or any other person. Getting into affiliate marketing is in principle open to any person. All that is important for success in affiliate marketing is knowledge of online marketing (especially content marketing and SEO) or enough capital to pay agencies or freelancers to set up an affiliate business. If a person wants to earn money by means of affiliate marketing, there are several ways to do so:


  • Blogger: In order to monetize their own blog, the affiliate links are inserted in the posts at appropriate places in the text. When the readers of the blog click on one of the links and make purchases on the seller's site, the bloggers receive a commission. Especially for bloggers who have not had any monetization efforts on the blog before, it is important to include the links to the sales pages in a natural way so that there is additional value for the readers of the blog.
  • Entrepreneurs: Those who do not have a website and blog have this set up by an agency or an SEO expert. For example, niche topics where there is little competition are analyzed. Then a comparison portal, an advice website or similar is set up for the niche topic. The better the websites created are SEO-optimized, the faster the first visitors come to the website, click on the embedded affiliate links and make purchases via the links, so that an affiliate generates cash flow with its website.
  • Influencers: They put the affiliate link in their posts or stories on social media. Followers are directed to the seller's page when they click on the link. YouTubers with a high reach can also put affiliate links in video descriptions or embed the links in videos, whereupon subscribers may click on one of the links and make purchases through it.


Overview of possible merchants and top partner programs

As diverse as the affiliates entering the affiliate business can be, so can the sellers. In affiliate marketing, these are called merchants. The first and still best known merchant is Amazon. According to stories, a lady approached then Amazon CEO and founder Jeff Bezos at a party in 1997 to introduce him to the business model of marketing books for commissions. After more and more affiliates partnered with Amazon, affiliate marketing became more popular. Meanwhile, eBay and OTTO offer their own affiliate program. There is almost no sales platform that would not work with affiliates.


In addition to sales platforms, there are manufacturers who sell their products via the website and have also launched an affiliate program; two examples are the bicycle rack manufacturer THULE and the supplement store MyProtein. Several brokers, loan brokers and other service providers also use affiliate marketing to make it easier and get more customers. In the end, both the affiliate and the merchant benefit.


The website regularly lists information about the most popular affiliate programs and the current highlights. According to this source, popular affiliate programs currently include:


  • Amazon
  • OTTO
  • IKEA
  • check24
  • LIDL

Details about tracking and commission in affiliate business

The increasing sales figures, the high amount of companies with affiliate programs, the increasing search volumes and other positive developments of affiliate marketing reflect the great popularity of affiliate business. One of the reasons why affiliate marketing is so popular and its popularity is increasing is the duration of cookie tracking: depending on the affiliate partner, an affiliate may benefit from a tracking duration of several months.


To put it more simply: If the tracking duration at the merchant is 90 days, then the affiliate receives a commission if the referred user buys from the merchant within these 90 days. This commission is not only paid on one product, but on all products that end up in the shopping cart of the referred user within 90 days.


A tracking duration like this is just one of numerous examples. At Amazon, tracking is usually only 24 hours, so affiliates have to hope for the referred customer to buy as quickly as possible. Even with a reduced tracking duration, the affiliate business is lucrative, because with increasing growth of the website, steadily increasing streams of visitors are generated, so that even with 24 hours tracking duration, plenty of users use the link, who buy within the 24 hours and bring the affiliate a commission.


Commissions are awarded in affiliate marketing according to different models, so that a user does not necessarily have to buy via the affiliate link for the affiliate to receive a commission. Overall, the following commission models are possible:


  • Pay per Sale
  • Pay per click
  • Pay per lead


Alternative to the in-house partner program: The affiliate network

The mentioned companies like Amazon, LIDL, THULE etc. have each introduced their own affiliate program and take care of its implementation; one also calls an affiliate program implemented by Merchant itself an "in-house affiliate program" So far, all affiliate programs of the well-known and popular Merchants have proven to be reputable. Nevertheless, there is an alternative to the in-house affiliate program: the affiliate network.


In an affiliate network, affiliates are brought together with merchants who do not have their own affiliate program. The advantage is that affiliates have access to a much larger number of merchants from various industries via the network. Now and then - depending on the product/service and merchant - higher commissions can be earned than with an in-house affiliate program.


At the beginning of affiliate marketing it is important for every affiliate for strategic and financial reasons to decide whether in the individual case an in-house affiliate program, a partnership via an affiliate network or both make sense.


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Conclusion: What is affiliate marketing?

Anyone who wants to earn money on the Internet can start an affiliate business. As an affiliate, all you need is a web presence (e.g. blog, social media profile) to link merchants' products or services. Ideally, these products and services should be interesting for the own readership, so that readers click on the affiliate link and perform an action (e.g. purchase; subscription) on the linked page of the merchant, which brings the affiliate a commission.

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