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How To Start Affiliate Marketing (Complete 7-Step Guide)

August 2, 2023

So you're interested in becoming an affiliate marketer.

I can't even blame you.

Affiliate marketing offers some of the craziest earning potential out there. 


And these days when there's arguably more online traffic now than ever before, it's been said the "perfect storm" for making money online is upon us. 

But you're here because you want a piece of the pie, but you don't know where to start, right?

There are literally tons of affiliate marketing programs out there, but it can be pretty overwhelming trying to figure out how to start an affiliate marketing business on your own.

Some common problems aspiring affiliate marketers run into:

  • There's a lot of watered-down info online
  • Some coaches quit years ago
  • You'll have to cough up some serious coin to get all the good info

This starts making people feel like the whole online marketing thing might just be a load of BS, or that it's going the way of multilevel marketing.

But it doesn't have to be. (Read my affiliate marketing vs MLM article)

The best guide for beginners in 2021 is just a few scrolls away.

I'm offering you a step-by-step guide that you can feel free to bookmark and come back to again and again. The best part? It won't cost you a penny.

By the end of the it, you'll have some great examples of what successful affiliate marketers do, and you might even get the confidence boost you need to start making money advertising others' products. 

That's because you're about to learn exactly how to get your affiliate operation up and running and earn some quick cold, hard commissions cash.

And one last little bonus:

I'll even give you my Seven Steps For Beginners PDF at the end.

But before we dive into the deep end here, let me warn you ahead of time: there are some pretty huge downsides to the affiliate marketing business model.

You probably have a lot of questions, but the most valid one is affiliate marketing worth it? 

What Is Affiliate Marketing?

This widespread form of earning an income online is all about promoting products that are produced by other companies. Most of these are found in places such as Clickbank or Market Health.

If somebody buys by clicking on your link, you automatically earn a commission.

The concept is based around revenue sharing, and the possibility of mailbox money is very real.

Find something you like, tell people about it, and get paid when they buy.

But how does it work?

Affiliate Marketing is an 8-Step Process:

  • CONTENT: You create excellent content that encourages readers/viewers to ascribe value to a specific product that you have an affiliate link for.
  • CLICK: The viewer or reader clicks the link.
  • REDIRECT: Your reader has redirected to the product page, and the value you instilled via your post or video is put to the credit card test.
  • TRANSACT: Bingo! Your review or best post did the trick, and they slide their card.
  • RECORD: The affiliate organization you're a part of records your success. #fame
  • VERIFY: The merchant (Stripe, Paypal, Visa, etc.) sends the affiliate organization a note saying, "Yeah, that purchase was the real deal."
  • CONFIRM: The affiliate organization highlights your name and puts down your name in the successful purchase category.
  • COMMISSION: Grateful for your help, the affiliate organization sends you a percentage of the sale--a commission--and deposit it into your account.

If you need more info, Wikipedia really breaks it down, explaining that there are four separate parties in the mix:

The 4 Parties Involved in Affiliate Transactions

  • The Merchant Themselves (aka the Payment Processor)
  • The Affiliate Network
  • The Content Publisher (That's You)
  • The Viewer or Reader to Became the Customer

All you really need to know is that you find products on affiliate marketing websites such as Clickbank (mentioned above) CJ Affiliate mor  Amazon Associates, and then promote them to customers.

And don't forget that you can promote your own products!

With the gig economy becoming more and more real, more people do their jobs from home.

The ability for bloggers to make some dough by advertising the offers they find through affiliate marketing programs has been well known for many years, and it's possible that the glory days are largely over with.

Most sites these days are run by mega companies that create massive authority affiliate sites and completely dominate their niche.

That being said, there's still hope, and this guide will make it easier even for newbies to find the riches in the obscure niches.

Step One: Choose a niche

The first step is all about how to choose a niche for affiliate marketing. 

Niche selection is where a lot of people tend to get stuck.

And I get it, it can be a tough decision, because you don't want just any ol' niche.

Everyone wants to know how to find the best niches for affiliate marketing.

The best thing to do is just to get the juices flowing and then come to some logical conclusions.

But just to get you started...use Flippa!

Find the search bar, type in “amazon” and you'll find a million ideas.

Most of the sites here are going to be selling physical products - ClickBank sites don’t seem to get posted as much. (But if you need to start affiliate marketing for free, ClickBank is the place to start.)

Make sure you have only the "Website" button selected under the "Type" category, or you'll get a bunch of Amazon FBA stores.

They're also useful for brainstorming, but we're looking for niches, not brand-named products.

We’re not looking to buy a site, but find interesting niches.

And if you don’t like the things you find on Flippa?

Find something you like, and dig deep.

Perhaps try something from this list of the best affiliate niches

The more obscure the niche, the easier it'll rank.

Grab the highest volume keywords and see if it’s realistic to rank for them.

AHREFS is great for this, but you can use something cheaper like Keysearch.

You can even snag keywords from competitor's sites!

Things to look for here: How many keywords are they ranking for?

Point to Remember
Some of those keywords can be bull crap that doesn’t have anything to do with your niche.

Take that keyword and type it into your keyword tool and see what other keywords pop up.

Be sure and click "search volume" so that the highest volume keywords pop up at the top.

I personally like keywords like "gifts for (X type of person)," so I typed "gifts for skateboarders" into my keywords tool.

Now set aside some time, reverse engineer some competitor sites, and see if you can rank.

I grabbed the term "best skateboard" because it's a buyer term.

How do I know that?

That's because somebody searching for this already knows they want it, they just need direction.

As in, they're ready for a skateboard and just need a little guidance.

So what do we do next?

Grocery list.

Make a note of the top 5 sites for each keyword that are currently ranking on Google.

First off, just look at this gem of a ranking spot on Google!

Ah, yes. The coveted Featured Snippet spot.

and what comes next after this?

Well, you start digging, looking at the metrics, to learn why they have such a position.

This site is not too powerful on this particular page, but note that the root domain or main body of the site is quite powerful.

However, the rest of the site is about sports in general, and you just might be able to outrank them if you can give incredibly high-quality content.

Also, make a note about what kinds of sites you’re seeing on the first page of Google.

Is it a YouTube video?

You can easily outrank that.

Is it a BIG news site?

This can mean that it’s difficult to rank for, but it’s also possible that few affiliates have tried it before…

Go through your main keywords that you’re looking for, open a spreadsheet, and make a note of who's ranking in each position, as well as their site metrics.

But what's next?

Backlinks, baby!

Start looking at the backlinks that make up each site.

So the main site is pretty powerful, but that doesn't mean you can't be better than them by providing better content and getting traffic via YouTube videos and things like that. 

(More on that later...)


Earlier I mentioned the process of listing out your big keywords and finding out who currently ranks for them.

In step two, we're gonna see what that looks like.

There are two keyword research tools that I recommend:

  • Free Option: Neil Patel
  • Paid Option: Keysearch for $17/mo

Between the two, I favor Keysearch because it includes a rank tracker that will come in handy a bit later.

(I know lots of people are trying to learn how to start affiliate marketing for free, but little tools like this really do add some value that makes your life a bit easier sometimes.)

So let's go though it with a keyword, in this case "skateboard lights"

As you can see, there's a decent monthly search volume (look under the word "search") as well as a pretty low Keyword Difficulty (Look at "KD")

So I typed the term into Google to see who was ranking.

This guy here was ranked below two Amazon spots (which is usually pretty easy to beat.)

Keep in mind that this site is also a manufacturer, and not an affiliate site.

But under the ShredLights site, I found this little guy.

Booya! We have an affiliate site.

So I took the site URL and threw it into Key Search.

This may mean much to you right now, but the point is to show you that this site has very little authority and is ranking quite nicely on almost ZERO backlinks.

But what comes next?

Grab more keywords and continue.

Here's another good keyword that has about the same Keyword Difficulty!

"Baker Skateboards," and it's only got a KD of 25!

So throw this keyword into Google, look at the top five to ten websites, and see how powerful they are.

Keep doing this until you have about ten to twenty keywords all in your niche that you can rank for and move on to the next step.


After getting the niche all dialed in, learning how to find the right products is key if you want to learn how to make money with affiliate marketing.

Let’s head on over to Amazon to find some products for our keyword "skateboard lights."

In general, you want mid-priced items. The most profitable affiliate programs are typically in the software niche, but since we're talking about products, let's look at some examples.

I picked a variety of prices for different budgets.

They ranged from $18.99 to $49.99, which wasn't too bad.

Ideally, though, you'll want most of your products to be a little more expensive than that.

But what can you do to jump onto new products before any other affiliates do?

It's called launch jacking, and it's definitely a good way to go.

So what is it about launch jacking that's useful?

For some reason, there's a phenomenon that happens with new products that makes people buy them at a much higher rate.

So how do we find these new products, and how can we quickly get traffic?

First off, there are two platforms that I personally like to use when looking for new launches.

One is called MunchEye and the other is called JV Notify Pro.

There's quite a few others, and you can simply go to Google and type in "jv launch."

Now, most of the stuff you'll find on these sites are software and courses, so keep that in mind.

You can then either move on to the next step and build a powerful site to send people to, or you can skip that part and move straight to Youtube launch jacking under Step Five to just bang out a couple of quick offers and bring in some money even quicker.

Either way, I do recommend building at least a quick landing page or short article.

But what about the affiliate links? How do we get the rights to sell these products?

Well, let’s go through it for Amazon first since we’re talking about it (everyone always wants to know how to start affiliate marketing with Amazon.)

So just go to Google and type in “Amazon Associates”

Or, you can click here to go straight to the right page. It's super easy to set up and you can get started right away.

You have to sign up for the tax information, but that's pretty simple overall and there are plenty of government sites in every country that tell you how to do all of that.

After that, you need to get the ASIN from the product information you find at the bottom of the listing.

(Interestingly enough, this is the same information you'll be using to build your super-easy specifications table.)

After you copy the ASIN, you just paste it into the search bar on the Amazon affiliate program signup sheet.

Click "Go." 

And just like that, you've got your affiliate link.

Just make sure and click "shorten" so it looks a little better.

Now whenever people click your link, they'll be taken to the Amazon product page, activating your 24-hour cookie.

If they return and purchase more products within 24 hours, you get a commission for that as well.

The best part is that potential customers can put something in their cart, come back up to 90 days later to make a purchase, and you still get a commission!

That's right. So if they click your link to buy diapers, then go buy a $2,000 refrigerator, you'll get to receive an affiliate commission for that as well. That's what makes Amazon such a powerful affiliate platform, and quite possibly the best in the world.


If you were wondering how to start affiliate marketing without a website, all I can tell you is...that's not the way to go.

Trust me, if you want the best chances of making serious bank with affiliate marketing, you need a website.

But don't worry, it's much easier than you think it might be.

Let's get into it.

First off, you have to pick your domain name.

I recommend going with a ".com" if at all possible, though ".net" or ".org" also tends to rank just as easily.

Try and make something that makes sense for your niche, such as "skateboarding command center" or "sporting goods review central" if you want to do something more general.

Ideally, you'd choose something with keywords that have something to do with your niche, but don't worry too much about that.

Just choose something that makes sense.

I recommend using Namesilo, since they're super cheap and give you free WHOIS protection.

After that, you need hosting for your website.

Think of this as the light bill that you pay to keep your sign lit up.

I personally like to use Hostnine because, well... They're also super cheap!

After that, you have to change the nameservers over, which is a little bit confusing if you've never done it before.

Basically, you just go to your registrar (aka the place where you bought the domain.)

If you're unsure how to do this, you can read the Namesilo nameserver guide here.

So after you've got that taken care of and you install WordPress on your domain...

You're on to the next step!

And now comes the fun part, actually making your site.

This is where my #1 favorite website building tool comes into play, it's called Thrive Architect and it's amazing.

On top of that, it’s incredibly easy to use once you get the hang of it, and as long as you build out “pages” instead of “posts,” you’ll have a wealth of options for building everything.

Heck, you can even build sales funnels (and it’s way easier to use than ClickFunnels.)

(Hint: I’m using it to build this exact website you’re looking at now!)

Something that the competitor didn’t do very well is that each affiliate link they placed to Amazon is just a tiny little word of text that says something like “here.”

This can definitely work, but you aren’t going to the the engagement and conversions that you want without a nice, big BUTTON in a bright color to call attention.

It also just looks more professional and will make your site look WAY better.

This is a screenshot of a button from a (more professionally done) Amazon affiliate site.

You also want to give lots of technical information about the product, so make sure and do your research.

Another great thing about Thrive Architect is that you can easily build good-looking comparison tables that show the pros and cons of each product.

So let’s do that now.

Simply click the “+” on the right side of the screen and scroll down until you see “tables.”

Pick one that seems to suit what you’re looking to do, which in this case is probably a pretty simple “specifications” table or one that compares two or more products (this is the best route to go by far because it helps your readers come to a buying conclusion almost immediately.)

Alternatively, you can make a separate table for each product and just talk about its pros and cons individually.

You can see a great example of this below.

Notice how simple and effective this looks.

No crazy colors or whacky images, just an image straight from their website and the same product information you can get anywhere on the internet.

Like I mentioned before, make sure and make a nice, clean-looking button for your link instead of just posting a link for your customers to click.

So what's next?

Well, you need to write supporting articles for your article you want to rank.

Why's this? Well, for one, you'll increase the user experience because subtopics will be neatly tucked away in other pages and your site will become more of an authority.

Think about Wikipedia, for example.

All up and down the article, you see links to subtopics.

What's a good example of this?

Under human hormones, for example, you'll find a short description about estrogen and testosterone, as well as a link to separate pages that dig deeper into each topic.

Something important to know about Google in 2021 is that it's all about the page not only having amazing metrics and power...

The content must also be highly relevant to the theme of that keyword.

So what's a good example of a silo?

Well, let's look at the exact silo I used to brainstorm the parts of this article!

Can you see how the subpages work now?

My main article has all of the 7 main steps you need to get started, but you can also dig deeper by clicking the button at the end of each step!

But let's think about this from the perspective of the links themselves...

Do you see the red arrows? That's where the links are pointing.

As you can see, the main topic points out to each sub topic.

Then each sub topic points to the next sub topic, as the end of which the last one points back to the main article.

This not only creates a loop for the Google bots to crawl and distribute topical relevancy throughout the entire sequence, but it also improves the quality of the user experience.

And do you know what that means?

That's more time they're likely to spend on your site!

What's this little guy?

Well, this is no other than the frequently asked questions area on Google.

Why is this relevant?

As you can imagine, this is another very good place to end up.

What are we gonna do about it?

First, expand each question to find follow-up questions.

For instance, here, when I click the first question, the answer shows up as well as the URL of the source.

When I click it again, the area closes and exposes follow-up questions.

So expand and contract a few of these places until you have about 5-10 questions.

And what's next?

Well, write a paragraph or so answering each question, and type the question itself as the header.

Make sure and give the best answer to that question that you can possibly give.

If this is done properly, and the rest of your article is also of very high quality, you will receive a blessing from the Google gods!

Now, look at the last question.

Let's think about this, shall we?

If this article is about different types of skateboards and the things you need to consider when buying one, then this question doesn't really seem to apply.

Don't you agree?

While this type of question would form the basis of another (supporting) article for your website, it still doesn't really seem relevant to this specific article.

So? Make a note and use this as inspiration for another website.

Start dreaming up the types of products or ClickBank training platforms your readers might want to buy that could help them to tackle the problem they're facing.


Once you've gotten your niche and offers and a website that's up and running, the next step is to start generating some traffic and growing your business.

When it comes to how much money you need to start affiliate marketing, it's technically not a whole lot. You can start an affiliate marketing business with way less than about 90% of the other businesses out there.

In 2021, people have varying levels of disposable income to use to start a new business.

So what's the best way to market your products if you're balling on a budget?

Well, one thing I've been hearing about a lot on the internet these days is a web traffic generator.

What's that?

1) Generator Method

Well, to start with, you have to write a really awesome article, making sure to give it a really provocative title such as "X things about <niche> that Y doesn't want you to know about."

A good example in our skateboard niche above would be something like "32 skateboard repair tricks the shops don't want you to know about." 

And what's next?

Now you have to find where your ideal audience is hanging out...

So how do we do that?

Go to Google and search for some broad keywords that pertain to your niche.

Make sure this isn't commercial, "buyer term" kinda stuff, keep it purely informational.

Let's try..."skateboarding tips for beginners."

But what do you do with this info?

Grab the top five or so sites, and do the following:

1- Write down the URLs, as well as the name of the article in the link.

2- Take note of any authors you find, and try to locate some of their social profiles such as Facebook and Twitter.

In the photo above, We'd write down the first article name as "Learning To Skateboard."

Then, take these URLs and use a backlink tool such as Open Link Profiler to see who's sending them traffic. 

Go through and get around ten or so websites for different keywords...

and then repeat this step of finding who's linking to them.

And if you're out of keywords ideas?

Scroll down to the bottom of Google and look at the related searches.

This is what it looks like, and this data comes straight from Google.

Okay, so what's next?

Use a tool called Buzzsumo to find influencers in your niche.

At first, it was hard finding influencers with general keywords like "skateboarding"...

So I started using more specific keywords relevant to the specific article I was writing.

2) YouTube

Start a YouTube Channel and Make Money

So how do you get free traffic from YouTube?

The first thing you need to do is go in with a plan for your channel.

And more importantly, what if you're afraid to get on camera?

Well, you better get over it!!!

Just kidding. 

You can totally do a screenshare and showcase the products you're talking about, or just pay somebody on Fiverr to do the videos for you for a cheap price.

Okay cool, so what things should we consider when creating our channel?

This handy dandy little infographic I've created should do the trick!

So once you've got your plan, how do you pick the right videos to make?

The first thing you want to do is look at the longtail keywords.

A quick search on YouTube will do wonders in this regard.

So instead of trying to rank for "how to ride a skateboard," we would want to go for something like "how to ride a skateboard on a bumpy road" because it's going to be much easier to rank.

You see all those keywords?

I say you should make a video for each one.

What do you have to lose?

This really is the situation where you have to "go big or go home!"

So how do you make good titles that are well-optimized and searchable?

Make sure and use "how to" type keywords, or things like "(X) for beginners."

Other ideas are titles like "learn to (X)."

But how to you make sure your video is going to rank, or even get into the Suggested Videos slots?

But how do you make sure your video ranks?

Now we know some solid strategies to rank a YouTube video... 

But what's even more important than this?

Most of the traffic actually comes from the Suggested Videos area of the platform!

So what are the statistics of traffic?

Look at this infographic to learn more.

But what about those nice little video thumbnails you always see?

Well, don't think about it too hard.

Just make sure that yours are different from the other videos that rank for each term!

2) SEO

First, go grab the keyword list you made in Step 2.

Pick the top keywords with the least competition and write an article around each one, using supporting keywords that relate to the topic at hand.

Note: DON'T spam (overuse) your main keyword for the article!

Putting it once in the H1 (Heading) and once or twice in the content itself should be plenty!

After that, you need backlinks, which are basically votes from other relevant websites on the web.

So let's go back to our competitor for the keyword "skateboard lights" and take a look at where he got one of his backlinks.

This one actually came from a Skateboarding blog, in the comments section.

See the red dotted line? 

That's another tool I use called Nofollow. The tool surrounds "nofollow" links with a red dotted line, which means that those links technically don't carry as much power to your site.

Don't worry, they're still good for you, either way.

Not only does a link like this give your site authority, but it also can win you some free traffic if you word the comment a little bit better.

Something like, “Hey guys I’ve used a lot of these same products and ended up writing a whole blog article about it. Give it a read (here) and let me know if you have any ideas of how to make it a little better!

Another thing you're gonna want to do is make sure that the images on your article are relevant and also contain alt text pertaining to your keyword.

Assuming you're using Thrive Architect like I showed you in Step Four, all you have to do to find the Alt Text editor is click on the image and look for the menu that pops up on the left hand side.

It looks like this:

You can also save the file name itself as something somewhat keyword-relevant.

But again... DON'T spam out your main keyword!

Keep digging for more places you can go get a backlink, or search Google for "Guest posts" plus your niche to find places you can go submit an article in exchange for a highly relevant and often free backlink.


Well there you have it, folks!--my step-by-step guide for how to start affiliate marketing.

There's no question about it: Affiliate marketing absolutely works.

Unfortunately, it just doesn't work for everyone.

As you can see, there's a lot that goes into it. It requires a ton of effort. But at the end of the day, one of the things I absolutely hate about it is that you're at the mercy of the product owner.

Let's say you're promoting a product, you've nailed this entire process and you've struck gold with you're offer. You're making sales and raking in the commissions left and right.

But then suddenly and without ANY warning...the business goes under or decides to discontinue their affiliate program.

*POOF*...there go your commissions, and maybe your entire business.

Affiliate marketing is a common choice for those looking to generate passive income.

However, in my experience, there is a business model that beats affiliate marketing to a pulp.

That, my friends, is Local Lead Generation.

Let me give you a little pros and cons breakdown real quick:

Affiliate Marketing

Earn commission promoting various offers usually in the big 3 niches of health, wealth & dating.

  • No need to deal with client
  • Automated payments
  • Many types of offers
  • Paid ads will help you scale
  • NO control. You are at the mercy of the offer provider and their business decisions. If they go out of business, so do you.
  • Income is more passive than working a 9-5, but affiliate marketing does require more babysitting than other business models
  • Organic rankings for many niches is saturated
  • Paid traffic is a hassle because of
    constant monitoring of ads
Lead Generation

Earn commission generating leads for small businesses & other phone driven local services.

  • Passive Income
  • Less Saturated than affiliate marketing (easier to get organic rankings)
  • Plenty of niches & cities you can go into
  • Higher pay per sale than affiliate marketing
  • Hire VA's & outsource the work

I've tried a lot of different online business model.

This method of ranking sites in Google and generating free traffic for local business owners has by far been best way to make long-lasting passive income. 

And once you get the process down, the sky's the limit. I've been able to scale my business to over $50K per month.

Plus since you're doing all this locally, you don't have to worry about competing for keywords nationally, which is much more difficult and takes way longer.


Click the link below. I've got lots more to show you.

Lead Generation is my #1 Online Business Choice 
(IMO Less Hassle Than Selling Physical Products)
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Ippei Kanehara

$52K per month providing lead generation services to small businesses is for digital hustlers, industry leaders and online business owners.

His #1 online business recommendation in 2023, is to build your own lead generation business.