Business Growth

What is affiliate marketing

Catalin Jian

Catalin Jian

· 11 min read
What is affiliate marketing

We define an affiliate program as a win-win-win marketing strategy. Why three "wins"?

Because of the three parts involved in the process: seller, marketer (affiliate), and customer. And, of course, because everyone is winning from the process.

But the true definition describes an affiliate program as an arrangement where the marketer receives a commission from the seller for each product sold through its channel.

To avoid confusion, the marketer (affiliate) doesn't necessarily have to be an influencer. There is a wide choice of affiliates from blogs, influencers, vlogs, websites, etc.


According to Investopedia, there are three types of affiliate programs:

Unattached - no connection between the product and the affiliate. The affiliate doesn't have any background related to the product. It is a sort of blind recommendation.

Related - In this category, the affiliates have the expertise to evaluate the product. It might be because the affiliates promote a product from their niche or they promote a product they are already familiar with.

Involved - As the name suggests, the affiliate has already interacted with the product in this case. He/She might have been using it for a while. Without question, this is the best choice.

These were the general categories of affiliate programs. But what do you think about giving up the theory for a second?

Here you have a few examples of successful affiliate programs:

  • Amazon affiliate is probably the largest or at least one of the most extensive affiliate programs. Even though they have a set of strict criteria regarding the marketing campaign, thousands of creators, bloggers, and publishers took advantage of it successfully.
  • Etsy - this store for unique items has a place at the top as one of the most successful affiliate programs.
  • eBay - has an affiliate program called eBay's Partner Network, and you can earn up to $550 per qualified sale.


There is nothing to talk about being a customer, as it is self-explanatory so that we will approach the article from two perspectives: seller and affiliate.


This is the creator of the product or service promoted. It can be anyone from a small boutique to a large corporation. The only thing they need is something to sell.

A specific case from


♦️ Expanding the reach

The acquisition channels are tricky, and you might not get what you want. Correctly set affiliate programs can help you reach customers that you might not reach with classic ads.

Think about websites, bloggers, and influencers that could promote your company. Not only can you reach a broad audience, but you can also reach it fast and, most likely, with half of the effort.

♦️ Easy to track

Thanks to the referral codes, the entire campaign is easy to track. The company gives a dedicated code to the affiliate, and the affiliate spreads awareness of the benefits you can get by using the referral code. When there is a sale, you can track whose code was used.

♦️ Low-cost advertising

Depending on the affiliate, you might pay or not an upfront fee besides the commission, which is a no-missing part.

The company sets the terms of the agreement at the beginning of the collaboration. The only thing that can bring up the advertising costs is the conditions of the contract.

Speaking of contract conditions, this brings us to the first disadvantage of the affiliate program:

♠️ Possibility of fraud

If you agree to work with someone based on driving traffic to your website, there is a chance of fraud. This is an old-school method, but it is still valid today. Make sure you correctly set the terms and conditions of the agreement.

♠️ No control

This is mainly about the creativity of the promoting campaign. You can suggest how you would like the campaign to look to the people you are collaborating with, but there is no guarantee that it will be up to your standards.


✔️ Set Goals - KPIs like orders, click traffic, commissions, performance, how many affiliates, etc.

✔️ Set up the terms and conditions for the agreement - especially commissions and deliverables

✔️ Find the right affiliates - look for blogs, publishers, and influencers within your niche, set up a strategy for acquiring affiliates, and ensure the affiliates meet your needs.

✔️ Sign an agreement - after you agree on the terms, make sure you sign it or at least have proof that you agreed to specific terms.

✔️ Track the affiliate sales and make sure you stay in touch with them. Communication is key to a successful affiliate campaign.


This is also known as a publisher. It is an intermediary between the seller and the customer. In the affiliate marketing process, the seller agrees with the affiliate to promote his products. As soon as a sale is made through the affiliate's channel, the affiliate receives a commission according to the prior agreement.


♦️ Low cost of start-up and low ongoing costs

This is a business you can start with almost no budget. Getting people to buy the products you promote won't be very easy. But with work and time, you can manage to grow this as a business. On top of that, the maintenance costs will be very low.

In the beginning, the only costs you’ll have are Internet connectivity and electricity, domain cost, hosting, subscription, theme, design, layout, and others to launch your affiliate website.

♦️ Low risk

Because the investment is relatively low, there is almost no risk involved in the process of running a business like this.

♦️ Flexibility

This is probably one of the most important advantages of being an affiliate. This is because you can choose who to work with and target specific niches and audiences.

It also gives you flexibility because of the passive income. This happens because of the low amount of work and time that you have to put in.

♦️ High ROI

Because of the low amount of money you put in and also the low maintenance costs, the ROI is high. You can invest more money in promoting the affiliate channel, which can increase the investments and, hopefully, increase the conversions.

♠️ No Control

Especially in the beginning, you don’t have too much control. You have to follow the seller's policy most of the time. As you grow, you will have more impact on the agreement between you and the seller, and you will be able to negotiate better deals.

♠️ Uncontrolled Competition

Competition is everywhere. Everyone can be an affiliate. This doesn’t resume on a website. An influencer can run more affiliate campaigns than a large company.

This is why the affiliate space is very competitive.

♠️ No Customer Base

It is hard to grow a customer base. The affiliate programs have a really high bounce rate. That happens because most people who visit your affiliate channel will jump to the product seller.

♠️ Unguaranteed Income

The revenue will be all over the place. This is because you won’t be able to control the sales too much.


✔️ Decide on a platform - you can choose any platform you want, but we think the most important is youtube and personal blogs.

✔️ Choose your niche - No matter what business you start today, you will face much competition. Choose a niche where you know you can make a difference. The real difference comes from different ideas. Being different is not a bad thing, and this is because, these days, creativity is appreciated.

✔️ Find affiliate programs to join - Best ways to find affiliate programs are by checking the main affiliate network, the company’s website, known affiliate websites, and Facebook groups.

✔️ High-paying, high-volume affiliate programs - here are over 20 high-paying, high volume affiliate programs

✔️ Create great content - here there is one of the best articles regarding the creation of a great content

✔️ Drive traffic to your affiliate site - you can find 10s of ways how to drive traffic to your website, but we prefer ads, influencer marketing, and email marketing

✔️ Get clicks on your affiliate links - again, there are several ways to do this, but the most efficient are: hyperlinks, high-converting banners, getting exclusive deals for your readers, etc.

✔️ Convert clicks to sales - a business can use various techniques, such as effective marketing and persuasive product descriptions, to convince potential customers to make a purchase.


The affiliate programs are done by using a referral code. The company can track how many sales come from a specific affiliate with this code.

The affiliates are commission-based, but sometimes they might ask for up-front fees.

Returning to the "three wins" phrase, customers usually get a discount after using the referral code. The company gets a new sale, and thanks to that sale, the affiliate also receives a commission.


BigCommerce has given the perfect examples regarding Affiliate Management Software:

  • LeadDyno - easy to set-up
  • Refersion - an Amazon and Shopify affiliate marketing platform


When brands sign up on Social Cat, they can choose the campaign type: gifted, paid, or affiliate.

By choosing the affiliate campaign, we give a chance to small companies to get in touch with influencers from different platforms willing to promote the company's products in exchange for a commission.

As a start-up, we also have a referral program that allows the brands on the platform to refer us if they enjoy working with us. As a brand, you get $20 per referred paying customer. Make sure to share your promo code with your friends 😀


Without a doubt, you should have a marketing strategy regarding affiliate programs.

Do your research about the affiliate you would like to collaborate with, and ensure your terms and conditions are appropriately set.

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.

Want to learn more before starting a trial? Book a demo.

Catalin Jian

About Catalin Jian

Jan is a Growth Marketeer specialising in Content & SEO at Social Cat. He's writing our weekly newsletter and leading the Social Cat blog and academy.