I am constantly asked the question “What is affiliate marketing?” So, don't feel silly if you have the same question. When I started learning about internet business in 2007 I had no idea about affiliate marketing. I hate that feeling that you have when you are first trying to learn about something and you simply don't know what all the words mean — so I created this post.
As I describe in the Affiliate Marketing Overview, affiliate marketing is a business model where you work to match offers (products, services, etc) with buyers (leads, visitors, traffic) and get a commission (usually after a sale). According to Wikipedia, affiliate marketing on the internet was invented and patented in 1989.
Since then, thousands of on-line businesses have set up affiliate programs. This means that these businesses are willing to pay you a commission if you will send buyers to their websites. The best example out there is Amazon.com. You send a visitor from your site to Amazon. If they buy something, you get a commission. It's really that simple. (By simple, I mean easy to understand, not easy money).
In the kind of affiliate marketing that we discuss on this site, the goal is to find ways to get organic search traffic to your web site. Organic search traffic is a fancy way of saying “people searching for things in Google or Bing”. Searchers go to Google or Bing looking for information about something. They find your site. While on your site, visitors find special links to products and offers that you mention, advertise or recommend called “affiliate links”.
Affiliate links are clickable hyperlinks (those blue words that you click like this hyperlink here) that include a special code that identifies the visitor as someone that has come from your site. So, when the visitor leaves your site and goes to a merchant site (like amazon) to make a purchase, you get credit for the sale. The merchant pays a commission for sales made to visitors that came from your site. Its just like when you are in a fancy clothing store and the person at the register asks who helped you with your purchase. If it was Sally that helped you, then Sally gets a commission. Same idea for affiliate marketing on the internet. If you help you visitor find the merchant, then you get a commission when they buy.
Got more questions about affiliate marketing? Ask them in the comments below and I will be happy to answer them. You can also check out my short podcast that answers this question through the magic of audio.