How Does Affiliate Marketing Work?

If you’ve been selling affiliate products for a while now, then you probably think you have a fairly good handle on how the process works. It’s all quite simple: you get given a link, you promote a product using said link, and you then get commission on all the sales that come from that URL. But do you know how this all works? How does affiliate marketing work is a fundamental question that every affiliate must know like the palm of their hands. Questions such as how the product creators know the link came from you? And do you know how to protect your links?

The foregoing questions are key in affiliate marketing and the determining factors on how to make money affiliate marketing.

Cookies and Referrers

What’s actually happening when someone clicks on an affiliate link, is that a cookie is being left on their computer. This then means that when they go to buy the product, they can be identified as having been sent by you.
This is why some affiliate schemes can still pay out even if someone clicks on your link, goes away, and then comes back later to buy the product.

Whether or not that will happen for you though will all depend on how long the cookie lasts – most have an ‘expiry date’. Likewise, it’s worth bearing in mind that someone could click on a second affiliate and then get a new cookie from another marketer. Whether or not this replaces your cookie will depend on the system being used: whether it’s ‘first click’, ‘last click’ or ‘lifetime referrer’.

Meanwhile, some potential buyers might try and sidestep your affiliate link all together and go directly to the website to buy the product. This is called ‘link bypassing’ and it’s the reason that smart affiliates will use another strategy called ‘link cloaking’ in order to protect their earnings. This essentially means using a referral to disguise the link, though there are numerous ways you can achieve this. Something to think about!

Many people never question how things like affiliate links work, but by understanding the basics, it’s possible to make sure that you do everything right and maximize your earnings. Likewise, you should also think about the legal aspects of affiliate marketing. For example, the fact that you are using cookies means that you need to show a disclaimer in order to comply with EU laws. Likewise, it is law in the US that you must announce that you are earning a commission. You can do this easily with a plugin showing a small message at the bottom of the page, and likewise there are plugins to help you become automatically compliant with EU GDPR laws.

Affiliate Products

Equally important to mention in how affiliate marketing works is that without this, there is no business – affiliate products. Many people will make money from affiliate products by finding a product they want to sell (often an ebook) and then placing the affiliate link for that product on a sales page. This is a straightforward business model, which is a big part of the appeal for many people.

But of course, just building the page isn’t enough though, because no one would be able to find it. The next question is how you are going to go about making sure people find your sales page and start to click the link and buy the products. This is the hardest part if you’re new to digital marketing but there are some strategies that will simplify the process considerably.

First of all, I want you to consider your routes to market. This is a technique missed by most digital marketers but it is one of the most important.

“route to market”

A ‘route to market’ is essentially a direct access you have to your target demographic. So let’s say you have an ebook on martial arts you want to sell. In this case, your target audience is martial artists and people who want to learn self-defence. A ‘route to market’ is any way you have of reaching that audience. What I want you to do that is a little different, is to think about what routes to market that you already have. In fact, you should ideally do this before you choose your product as that way you can pick something that you already have options for in terms of selling.

For example then, if you are an active member of a martial arts forum and you are the webmaster for your club’s highly popular martial arts website… then you have two routes to market already available to you that cater to martial artists. So, it would be a smart move to pick an affiliate product in this niche and then simply paste the link in the forum and on the site.
Or perhaps you’re best friends with the owner of a website about gardening? Or a magazine editor?

Don’t choose a product and then struggle with how you’re going to promote it. Think about the promotional opportunities already at your disposal and then choose the appropriate product.

Ultimately, business normally comes down to solving a problem and then presenting that solution to the right audience.

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