How Affiliate Marketing Works – A Simple Guide

Entering any new industry or embarking on any new endeavor can be simultaneously thrilling and overwhelming. You are faced with an endless barrage of new jargon and lingo, forcing you to search for the definition or meaning of every third term that you read. You can be surrounded by seasoned veterans who already know what they’re day, weaving their way in and out of complex conversations with the greatest of ease.

The world of affiliate marketing may feel this way on the surface, but while there is a definite learning curve if you want to achieve huge success, the fundamental principles of a typical affiliate marketing program are actually very simple and straightforward. They’re not difficult to understand at all, both from the perspective of the affiliate and the advertiser.


If you are wondering how does affiliate marketing work, the process can be broadly broken down into five simple steps:

1. The advertiser outlines and launches its affiliate marketing program, most commonly through a robust affiliate network like WOW Trk. The terms of the program are defined and any supplemental materials, like promotional banners, can be uploaded to the network too. The commission structure is described, so prospective affiliates know how much they can earn.

2. The affiliate (sometimes called the “publisher”) finds the advertiser’s affiliate marketing program (sometimes called an affiliate “offer”) and agrees to the terms of the program if needed. Here, the affiliate can grab his or her affiliate link, promotional banners, and other relevant assets. Affiliate networks maintain a list of offers from which the members (“affiliates”) can choose what they’d like to promote.

3. The affiliate promotes the advertiser’s product or service. This can be done on a website, with a landing page, via search engine marketing, via social media marketing, via a mailing list, or through any number of other means.

4. The visitor or prospective customer sees the promotional material and clicks through from the affiliate’s website (or other promotional channel) to the advertiser’s website, completing the desired action. Depending on the advertiser, this might entail completing a purchase, signing up for a free trial, joining a mailing list or some other action. This is called a conversion.

5. Upon successful conversion, the affiliate is credited with referring the new user or customer to advertiser. At that time, the affiliate earns the corresponding commission (sometimes called the “payout”), which could be a flat rate or a percentage of the sales amount.

And that’s it! The details will vary from campaign to campaign, advertiser to advertiser, publisher to publisher, but the basic steps remain largely unchanged. The key here is that the publisher gets paid when the payable action is completed. That’s the main difference between other forms of online advertising, where smaller payouts are issued for pageviews or clicks, for instance.

Affiliate marketing doesn’t have to be overwhelming; the core principles are indeed simple and easy to understand.

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