Affiliate Marketing: Answers to Your FAQs

If you’re interested in affiliate marketing but don’t know where to begin, you probably have a lot of questions.

I know how overwhelming that can be, and I can answer the most frequently asked questions that beginners in the industry might have. Here is a list of some of the questions you’re most likely to have – and more importantly, following those questions are the answers you need to get started.

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1. What Is Affiliate Marketing/Is It the Same as Network Marketing?

Well, the first and most obvious question that most beginners ask is what exactly defines affiliate marketing.

Is it the same thing as network marketing? No.

When you participate in a network marketing program, you’re basically taking part in a franchise type of operation. As a network marketer, you would typically pay an upfront cost to market products/services via direct sales.

Affiliate marketing differs from network marketing specifically in this way: The company you sign up with rewards you for every customer you bring in as a result of your marketing efforts. You get paid every time you drive a customer or lead to the business you’re affiliated with – instead of waiting to get paid every time you sell a product.

2. Who Started the First Online Affiliate Program?

According to Small Biz Trends, the first online affiliate marketing program was done through a company called PC Flowers & Gifts, in the mid-1990s.

William J. Tobin founded the Prodigy Network as a means of starting a revenue-share program. Tobin was able to convince thousands of affiliates to promote his company’s products, and a new method of marketing online was born.

3. Who Are Affiliates?

In affiliate marketing, affiliates are the people who market products for a company.

An affiliate (often referred to as a publisher) can be one person or an entire business. As an affiliate of a particular company, you would market the company’s products/services in order to make sales for the company. You would most likely promote the products on your own website or blog.

4. Where Can I Sign Up With an Affiliate Program?

Affiliate opportunities are everywhere. One example is the Amazon affiliate program. Whether you sign up as an individual or a business, you would register, start advertising via your website and/or business, and start making money when others respond to your marketing efforts.

You can become an affiliate marketer in one of two ways.

  1. You can sign up with an existing company’s affiliate program (like Amazon and smaller merchants' in-house program). This would mean that you would promote the products Amazon needs advertised. Every time you promote the business and send leads that way, you would get paid.
  2. The other option is to join an affiliate network (like CJ and ShareASale) and connect with merchants who are already in the network. We will talk more about this in FAQ #6 and #7.

5. Is There a Cost in Signing Up for an Affiliate Program?

No. If you join a program as an affiliate, you generally won’t be required to pay a fee.

6. What Is an Affiliate Network?

An affiliate network, such as CJ (ex. Commission Junctions) or ShareASale, connects affiliates (publishers) with merchants.

An affiliate network is useful to an affiliate because it provides the affiliate with a central database of available merchants, making it easier to find affiliate opportunities. A merchant will have access to a large database of publishers, and the merchant will also have access to tools like payment processing, refund processing, tracking, reporting, and affiliate management. Other tools may also be available to publishers, such as payment processing and analytics.

7. What Are Some of the Popular Affiliate Networks?

You can choose from a wealth of affiliate networks. Some of the most popular affiliate networks and their top features include:

  • CJ Affiliate by Coversant – offers a variety of service levels and packages
  • ShareASale – strong reputation for being honest and fair, and known for speedy technology
  • Impact Radius – easy to use software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform
  • Amazon Associates – over a million products available
  • eBay Partner Network – top-notch tools for affiliates
  • Clickbank – more than six million products, with an emphasis on digital information products
  • Rakuten – one of the top eCommerce companies in the world
  • Avangate – backed by a solid cloud platform
  • Avantlink – continually upgrading and updating the platform to remain on the cutting edge of the industry

8. How Do Affiliates Get Paid?

As an affiliate, you can get paid in various ways; that will be determined by the company you’re affiliated with.

These are the basic options:

  • Cost Per Sale (CPS) – You receive a flat fee per sale or a percentage of the basket value.
  • Cost Per Lead (CPL) – You get paid for every validated, completed lead.
  • Cost Per Click (CPC) – You are paid for driving traffic via ad clicks.
  • Cost Per Action (CPA) – You get paid when people complete actions you advertise (such as quote forms or surveys).

9. What Is an Affiliate Cookie?

This is the same thing as an ordinary cookie (it tracks data).

Instead of tracking login information as a regular cookie would, it tracks your affiliate account data – so you get credit if someone on the site being tracked makes a purchase based on your advertising referral.

10. How Long Does an Affiliate Cookie Usually Last?

The cookie duration depends on the merchant. Some affiliate programs allow cookies to store and transmit information for up to 90 days, while others only track the data for 24 hours (which is awful from affiliate's point of view).

11. Do I Need a Website to Get Started as an Affiliate?

You don’t need to have a website as an affiliate – though having a website usually improves your chance of making more money. You can post ads/links on social media sites that allow that, for instance.

One way to market as an affiliate without a website is on YouTube. However, you will probably find it a lot easier to promote as a publisher if you do have a website. At the very least, you should have a blog where you can market as an affiliate. Remember that the more places you advertise, the more response you’ll get – it’s a numbers game. Also remember to post links to all of your social media pages, blogs, and other websites across the board; if you advertise via a YouTube channel, for example, be sure to post links to your websites, channels, and social media pages there.

12. What Is a Product Data Feed?

This is provided to a publisher by the merchant.

A product data feed is a list of products and their attributes, organized and displayed in such a way that shoppers can make buying decisions based on the information provided. This type of streamlined information makes it easier for an affiliate to market products to site users. A product data feed can be converted into descriptions, image links, and clickable links that visitors can use to make informed purchasing decisions.

13. What Does EPC Mean?

EPC stands for earnings per click. This is an important metric for affiliates. It typically indicates how much an affiliate might expect to earn after every 100 clicks through to a link.

14. What Does EPM Mean?

This refers to the earnings per 1,000 impressions provided by a publisher or website.

I hope this has cleared up some of the confusion you may have had as a beginning or prospective affiliate. You’ll almost certainly still have questions as you move forward with your affiliate marketing campaign. Some of your future questions may be answered according to the specific program you choose. Others may only be answered through trial and error. I wish you much success as you venture into the world of affiliate marketing. If you persevere, it can be a great way to make some extra income – and for many people, affiliate marketing is a lucrative career.

About Disha Sharma

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Disha Sharma is a digital marketer-turned-freelance writer. She writes about SEO, email and content marketing, and lead generation.

Connect with Disha Sharma: Twitter .

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