affiliate marketing

what is affiliate marketing?

Affiliate marketing is a performance-based digital marketing strategy where businesses or individuals, known as affiliates, leverage online channels to promote products or services of other companies. 

This collaborative model allows affiliates to earn commissions for each sale, click, or desired action achieved through their digital marketing efforts. The strategy involves partnering with affiliates who utilize various digital platforms and tactics to reach target audiences and drive conversions, benefiting both the product/service provider (merchant) and the affiliate.

Understanding Affiliate Marketing

The internet has increased the prominence of affiliate marketing. Amazon (AMZN) popularized the practice by creating an affiliate marketing program whereby websites and bloggers put links to the Amazon page for a reviewed or discussed product to receive advertising fees when a purchase is made.

In this sense, affiliate marketing is essentially a pay-for-performance marketing program where the act of selling is outsourced across a vast network.

Affiliate marketing predates the Internet, but in the world of digital marketing, analytics, and cookies made it a billion-dollar industry. A company running an affiliate marketing program can track the links that bring in leads and, through internal analytics, see how many convert to sales.

types of affiliate marketing

There are three main types of affiliate marketing: unattached affiliate marketing, related affiliate marketing, and involved affiliate marketing.

Unattached Affiliate Marketing: This is an advertising model in which the affiliate has no connection to the product or service they are promoting. They have no known related skills or expertise and do not serve as an authority on or make claims about its use.

Related Affiliate Marketing: As the name suggests, related affiliate marketing involves the promotion of products or services by an affiliate with some type of relationship to the offering.

Involved Affiliate Marketing: This type of marketing establishes a deeper connection between the affiliate and the product or service they’re promoting. 

Features of Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing is characterized by several key features that make it a distinctive and effective online marketing strategy. Here are some of the prominent features of affiliate marketing:

Performance-Based Compensation:

 One of the defining features of affiliate marketing is its performance-based nature. Affiliates are compensated only when they successfully drive a desired action, such as a sale, click, lead, or download. This ensures that marketing efforts are aligned with actual results and ROI.


Affiliate marketing minimizes upfront costs for merchants since they pay affiliates only after a conversion occurs. This makes it a cost-effective marketing strategy, especially for businesses with limited budgets.

Diverse Affiliate Base:

Affiliates come from various backgrounds and platforms, including bloggers, social media influencers, website owners, content creators, and even large media outlets. This diverse affiliate base allows merchants to tap into different niches and target audiences.

Broad Reach:

Affiliates operate across a wide range of online channels, from blogs and social media to email newsletters and YouTube. This enables merchants to extend their reach beyond their own marketing efforts and platforms.

Risk Sharing:

The risk in affiliate marketing is shared between the merchant and the affiliate. The merchant provides the product or service, while the affiliate invests time and effort into promoting it. If the campaign doesn’t generate results, the affiliate bears the non-monetary cost of their efforts.

Regulatory Considerations:

Affiliate marketing requires adherence to ethical practices and regulatory guidelines. Many countries have rules about disclosure, transparency, and fair marketing practices that affiliates and merchants must follow.

In essence, affiliate marketing combines the power of online collaboration, performance-based compensation, and a diverse array of digital channels to create a mutually beneficial marketing ecosystem for merchants, affiliates, and consumers. Its features make it a versatile and adaptable strategy that can be leveraged across various industries and markets.