What is an affiliate program?

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An affiliate program is an arrangement by which a company (online merchant) selling a product, tool or service—agrees to pay their affiliates (you) a commission for any sales your blog generates of their products or services.

For the company who manages the affiliate program, they’re incentivizing you (with commission payouts) to send them referral traffic. It’s one of the easiest ways for brands to attract new customers, because they’re tapping into blogs (like yours) where their target audience already exists online. The process works by placing an affiliate link on your blog, which leads anyone who clicks on it straight to the merchant’s website.

The agreements of affiliate programs often vary greatly—some offer a commission to the affiliate only after a customer completes a sale, while other affiliate programs offer a commission for just getting a visitor to sign up for a free trial of their product—whether or not they end up becoming a fully paid customer.

There’s also a vast difference when it comes to commission rates too, which is why you need to do your homework and consider many factors before you make the choice to go with a particular affiliate program. That’s a major reason why I compiled this list of the best affiliate programs for bloggers to get started with today.

You can learn even more about how affiliate marketing works in my two deep-dive explainers about affiliate marketing in general and on Amazon more specifically.

In short though, there are three main types of rewards in affiliate marketing:

  • Free Product: With product-based affiliate marketing, when you promote a brand’s products, you’ll get free samples, credits or plan upgrades in exchange for referring new customers to the company. While this can sometimes be a win, it’s not the best way to make money blogging, so we don’t have any of those programs included on this list.
  • Commission: Most affiliate programs will compensate you for each time a new customer signs up for a company’s product, tool or service via your affiliate link, granting you a one-time fixed commission payout (sometimes based on the value of which plan or product the customer purchased), which incentivizes you to really promote your blog content and bring in more readers.
  • Percentage of Sale: This is by far, the most common type of affiliate marketing, mainly because it’s considered to be more worthwhile. Under this agreement, you will receive a percentage of the sales whenever someone clicks on the affiliate link on your blog/website and purchases the product or service being offered on the other side.
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