Sep 22, 2022

Affiliate marketing for beginners

This guide will walk you through the basics of affiliate marketing: what it means and how to get started

This guide will walk you through the basics of affiliate marketing: what it means and how to get started as small business.

What is Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate Marketing is a type of performance-based marketing where a business rewards its affiliates for each conversion brought by the affiliate’s marketing efforts.

What conversion means depends from case to case: sale (e-commerce), sign-up (SaaS) or even website visit (blog).

Let’s look at the following example:

The website X has 150.000 monthly website visits, with an average time spent on the page of one minute.

The business Y is interested in an affiliation deal with X. The deal will take a variation of this form:

Y will pay an amount of money for each conversion coming from the website X’s marketing efforts, either a fixed amount or a percentage.

In a lot of cases, there are two parties involved, just like in the previous example: the advertiser (brand, retailer, merchant) and the publisher (or the affiliate)

Of course, with the complexity of this channel comes the opportunity: there are agencies specialized in this type of marketing, but it can be done in-house at a small level.

Benefits for the parties involved

Let’s have a look at the advantages and the disadvantages from both perspectives:

The Advertiser (Brand or Retailer)


  • Performance-based: pay only per conversion; only if you get a conversion from one of your affiliates, you pay them for that specific one. No conversions, no payouts.
  • Cash-flow health: if implemented right, even one affiliate that brings constant conversions monthly will help with a better cash flow. A continuous cash flow means a healthy business because what's a better sign of a good product than ongoing customers?
  • Low maintenance: the difficult part is to find the performing affiliates and to manage to strike a deal with them; once its in place, there is low maintenance work involved, which is great
  • Room for negotiation: you can negotiate how much you're willing to pay with the affiliate, giving you some room to play with the CPA


  • Competition: due to its advantages, it can get quite challenging to compete against other brands for an affiliate, especially when they have more financial power and the affiliate has a lot of proven potential
  • Hard to find good affiliates: it sounds fantastic in theory, but in practice, it takes time to find the right affiliates with the right audience
  • Hard to engage: first things first, they are hard to find, but even then, it's hard to get their attention a lot of the time. Make sure to set up proper email campaigns and to get their attention.

The Publisher (The Affiliate)


  • An additional source of revenue: build a solid audience, and you can leverage that to your advantage: plenty of brands are looking for authentic, engaged audiences, so the market is there
  • Low maintenance: once it's in place, there is not much else to do except make sure your traffic is high-quality, a task that should be on your list anyway
  • Plenty of demand: build the right audience, engaged and authentic, and brands will come looking for you


  • The time factor: it will take time until you build a sizeable audience, one that will start to pique the interest of the brands

How to implement it, and what should I look at?

This section will go through the process and metrics you should look at when picking your affiliate partners.

Step 1 - Brainstorm potential affiliates

Before we start, check this example here.

Keep track of all the potential affiliates with a comparable Excel doc. or whatever similar software comes in handy for you. The idea here is to keep it organized.

It’s time to think about this:

What are some blogs, news outlets, or other businesses which might have the same or similar target audience as you do?


You sell the product X, which caters to this audience; where can you find this audience on the web, what blogs, news outlets or businesses are talking to them?


The business X sells leather wallets for men. The blog Y talks about accessories for men, including wallets, watches, even tech gadgets or cologne.

It seems that this might be a place where the audience is interested in what the business X sells.

Write down all the options you know here.

The whole idea of the brainstorming process is to find partners with an audience that might be interested in the product you offer.

Step 2 - Go the extra mile

Google Search

After you have written down all the options you know, it’s time to look for more with Google. First, write down all the words that describe your product, your niche and what it does.

We will call them keywords.

Product Example: leather wallet for men

Keywords: men style blog, men fashion blog, men magazine, etc.

You might end up with somewhere between 5-20 keywords which is more than enough. We can insert them into Google and see what results come up.

Around 85% of the results will not be relevant for various reasons. But you should be able to find some potential partners to start with. Add them to your list.

Similar Sites

After we exhausted the keywords, we can go the extra mile and use a tool like similarsites.com.

This tool lets you discover similar sites, competitors, or websites with associated content. This is a great tool to find the last bits we could not see with keywords or brainstorming.

Plug in the potential affiliates you already have on your list, and this tool will generate similar results.

Facebook or Instagram

Have a look on Facebook and Instagram using the keywords you used earlier for Google or search by similar hashtags. Do a diligent search here too.

Once you find a potential affiliate, do this: go on their Profile → Following → Suggested

The Instagram algorithm will suggest similar accounts to the one you are checking right now. This is a pretty clever way you can discover potential affiliates.

Note: you can start in any particular order you want; don’t forget to add all the possible candidates to your list.

One more thing: in some cases, you will not be able to find the contact details of the person in charge of affiliates if they have one or they don’t show it on the website.

In this case, use hunter.io - you only need to know the website, and you can quickly discover some of the emails you need.

Step 3 - Contact them

We have our list, we have their emails, and now it’s time to get in touch. First, check the templates at No. 4 to get a hold of your person of interest.

Step 4 - The Metrics

Before you start contacting them, consider a few more things.

Below, check the metrics you need to look at when deciding to work with affiliates:

  • Monthly website traffic:

    Unique visitors

    Returning visitors

    New visitors

  • Average time spent on site

    This number will give you a rough idea of how much time each user spends on the website. Couple this with the number of returning visitors, and you can draw a rough idea of how good the content on this website is.

  • Audience

    Age Groups Split

    Gender Split


    This is important. As a business owner or marketer, you should have a rough idea of what your audience looks like. You want to advertise to a similar one.

Step 5 - The Incentive

An incentive will offer the audience an extra reason to come and sign-up or buy from you. Offer them a discount that makes sense financially for you.

It might be 10% or 15% or more; this amount depends on your cash-flow and margins. We saw great results in our A/B Testing when we offered incentives to the audiences we advertised compared with times we offered nothing. (wow)

Plus, you can track precisely how many sign-ups or sales you get from each affiliate with a discount code. Every time a discount code is used, it gets tracked in the dashboard. This is easy to set up; most e-commerce platforms and payments providers offer this option alongside tracking.

Our suggestion here is: push for a free trial.

Try to get your banner or advertisement up for seven days or longer and track your conversions from this campaign before committing to something full-time. Sometimes, potential candidates will push for one day as a free trial, which does not work from a data point of view.


The first rule - be concise: this is cold emailing, don’t beat it around the bush, or your email will end up straight in the Bin.

The second rule - make sure the title of the email commands attention - we get dozens of emails daily, and for most of our Inbox, we skim read it, so make sure your title gets the attention it deserves

💡 Using emojis in the title helps but make sure to only use one or two max.

Now let’s have a look at the actual email campaign.

Outreach Email

Header: Affiliate Partnership with Toro Wallets 🧳


Hi [Name],

This is Joe from Toro Wallets; nice to e-meet you.

I am in charge of affiliate marketing for Toro Wallets, and I came across some of your articles regarding the leather quality produced in Scotland. I never thought it would be such a high difference between Scottish leather and Irish leather.

Just a quick overview - Toro Wallets is a small family business, established in 1969, specializing in handmade and practical leather goods, designed and assembled in the UK.

We are currently looking for potential affiliate partners to expand our business. After reading your blog posts, I think it would be great to try and establish a partnership.

Do you have 15 minutes to chat this week?

Check our business here www.thesocialcat.com.



Follow-up [1]

Header: Partnership Opportunity with our business 💰


Hi [Name],

Joe from Toro Wallets again; I hope all is well.

I wondered if you got a chance to look over my previous email about an affiliate proposal between our businesses.

To recap - we’re a small handmade leather business based in the UK, currently looking to experiment with different ways of reaching out to new customers.

We think this would be highly beneficial for both our businesses so I would love to talk more.

What is the best time of the day we can schedule a short intro call, only 15 minutes?

Check our business here www.thesocialcat.com.



Follow-up [2]

Header: Affiliate partnership with Toro Wallets 🧳


Hi [Name],

This is Joe from Toro Wallets.

Just reaching out in case you missed my previous emails.

We’re a small handmade leather wallet business based in the UK, and we’re looking for an affiliate deal with your business.

For this partnership, we’re ready to offer up to 50% for each customer that comes from your website. Would love to talk more about this partnership!

Book a call in my calendar below at whatever time works for you this week!

[Calendar Link]

Check our business here www.thesocialcat.com.



Follow-up [3]

Header: Up to 50% affiliate partnership opportunity! 💰


Hi [Name],

This is Joe from Toro Wallets.

Your business seems to have the right traffic for us, and for this, we’re ready to pay up to 50% for each customer.

We partnered up with [Competitor] three months ago; they have similar traffic to yours. On average they get £2000 for us every single month.

Would you be interested in a partnership with us? Book a short call with me below:

Book a call in my calendar below at whatever time works for you this week!

[Calendar Link]

Check our business here www.thesocialcat.com.



Important to keep in mind:

  • Keep it short
  • Make a connection with the person or the business you are contacting
  • Briefly tell them who you are and what you do
  • Let them know what you are looking for
  • Avoid blocks of text
  • Introduce urgency
  • Offer them something to make it more appealing
  • Make it easy for them

Use software like PersistIQ or HubSpot to set up these email marketing campaigns; you don’t want to do this manually. Cold emailing is tough, so you must be patient and keep the campaigns running.

We suggest sending a maximum of four emails per week, no more than that. From our experience, most of the time, the persons contacted are either way too busy, or they think the emails are spam.

Most of the email software on the market will show you the Open Rate and the Reply Rate.

A reasonable open rate is a sign of not ending up in spam first and then good Headers for the emails. On the other hand, if the reply rate is low, you either need to work on the text, they are too busy to reply (that’s why you are persistent), or they are not interested.

Here is a short recap of the email marketing campaign.

  • Get creative with the Header (Title) of the email, and try different variations. Think of some of the best emails you clicked on: they had good titles, right? Sure they did on my end. Otherwise, I bin them all.
  • Avoid spammy email headers - “Click here for a marvellous offer” or “The best affiliate deal you can make”. They will end up in the Bin
  • Insert an emoji in the header: it will get the attention.
  • Be concise in your emails - don’t beat it around the bush
  • Always address the person “Mark” or “Matt” and try to make a connection with them “We met last year at” or “I read your article about”
  • Avoid being generic and automated - a big, big one - try to be as human as possible; you never want to give the feeling of an automated email campaign
  • Avoid hiding links and spammy sentences
  • Make it as easy as possible for them to get in touch with you
  • Insert examples or numbers of what you can offer

If you don’t have their email addresses or if, for various reasons, you get no replies, try to get ahold of whoever you are interested in via: forms on their website or Linkedin, Facebook or Instagram. use a short intro template for that, don’t make it too long (similar to the follow-ups above).

Persistence is vital, but you need to give proper timing to your reach out the initiative. You want to be persistent but not annoying.


In this case, we have two options, which are known to us:

  • Discount Codes - easy-to-setup with most of the e-commerce platforms or payment providers
  • Google Analytics

We suggest opting for discount codes, as this is very easy to set up and efficient in tracking. Even if it’s a minimum discount of 10%, it will offer an extra incentive to convert and better monitoring for you.


We mentioned this a couple of times throughout the guide: Affiliate Marketing can become very lucrative if done right. And by done right, we mean negotiating a good deal with the right business partner, a partner with the right and engaged audience. A good deal also means it’s profitable for him; business only makes sense when both parties involved gain.

One thing to mention is that sometimes, Affiliate Marketing depends on the industry. So there might not be that many potential business partners out there or the ones out there; they don’t have the right metrics.

In this case, don’t stress it out and focus resources on exploring other growth channels.

Last thing on our list: it takes time to find the right affiliates; it might be actual months until you manage to build the lists, the campaigns, end up on a call and finally get a deal in place; this is a full-time job most of the time.

Make sure to be patient in setting this up.

Would you like to get started with influencer marketing? Start a free trial with Social Cat and collaborate with micro-influencers to get sales, brand awareness and user-generated content.

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