Affiliate marketing: is it really a ticket to fabulous wealth?

“Anyone can do it” or “make money while you sleep” are commonly heard claims about affiliate marketing. But there is more to it than just posting links on a website. Building a large following takes a lot of time. Moreover, affiliate marketers also have to play by the rules. Follow these steps for safe, responsible and effective affiliate marketing. Jennifer Kok, an experienced affiliate marketing blogger, also weighs in with practical tips.

What is affiliate marketing? 

Affiliate marketing is another word for promoting products or services through another company's blog, podcast, social media channel, or website. There are always two parties involved in affiliate marketing: the advertiser, whose products are promoted, and the publisher, who posts the ad.  

Advertisers pay publishers to promote their products or services on their channel. You may hire a blogger, for instance, to write a blog and include a link to the product page on your website. Publishers promote another company’s products or services on their own channels. If you write a regular blog about holiday homes, for instance, a resort may ask you to put a link to their website in your blog. They will pay you for every click. Review and comparison websites also use affiliate marketing.   

Getting started with affiliate marketing

Below are two checklists you can use to get started: ‘Making money with affiliate marketing’ for publishers and ‘Promoting your product with affiliate marketing’ for advertisers. 

Checklist ‘Making money with affiliate marketing’

If you promote other companies' products or services on your own website, blog, podcast, or social media channel, you are a publisher. What to arrange if you want to make money as a publisher:  

  1. Register with KVK. Are you are already registered, but not as a publisher? Update your business activities (in Dutch). Are you unsure exactly when to register, for example, because you do not have enough visitors or followers yet to run effective promotional campaigns? Contact the KVK Advice Team or read the article When do you have a business?   
  2. Planning to work overseas? Check whether you need to update your KVK registration, taxes, and your insurance. You can use our digital nomad roadmap (in Dutch) for help.  

  3. Build reach with your website. In other words: get as many visitors or followers to flock to your channels as possible. The more visitors or followers you have, the more valuable you are to advertisers.  

  4. Find an affiliate network. An affiliate network is a party that links advertisers and publishers. Kok describes it as a marketplace for people who want to get started with affiliate marketing. 
    “It is easy to find affiliate networks on Google, but is difficult to choose one because there are so many. Many novice publishers sign up with a dozen or so different networks, a typical beginner’s mistake. Try your hand at one or two networks first, learn, and expand later.” 

  5. Decide what kind of products you want to promote. If you want to promote products for large companies, check whether they have their own affiliate programme. Large companies are usually not members of an affiliate network. 

  6. Get ready to sign up with an affiliate network. 
    “You need a domain name to sign up”, Kok explains. Your domain name is the name of your website. Before joining an affiliate network, your domain name is screened to check whether it meets the advertising rules.” 

  7. Sign up with one or two affiliate networks. Kok recommends taking this step as soon as you can. 
    “By the time you have posted 5 or 6 articles on your website, the network can clearly identify your expertise. If you wait until you have published over 100 articles before signing up, you will have to go back and paste affiliate links in all your articles. Besides, you will not be able to reach all the people who have already read your articles.”  

  8. Take a close look at the T&Cs of affiliate networks. When you sign up, you will come across two types of terms: standard T&Cs and programme T&Cs. The standard T&Cs are for the affiliate network, while the programme T&Cs were drawn up by the advertiser. 
    “There can be big differences between programme T&Cs. One programme may require you to post on social media, while others will not. Always read the terms and conditions carefully. If you do not comply with the T&Cs, advertisers may refuse to pay you.  

  9. Choose an advertiser. Publishers often receive a percentage of the sales price for promoting products. The more expensive the product, the more money you can make from a single sale. 
    “That is why many people prefer promoting a fridge than a new juice”, Kok explains, “but do remember that visitors are less likely to buy a new fridge. You may get a higher percentage per fridge sold, but your promotion will probably sell many more juices than it would fridges.”  

  10. When writing a blog about a product, make sure to put the link to the product as high up as possible. 
    “Many novice publishers will write a 2,000-word text and put the link right at the bottom. As a result, many readers will miss the link entirely.”  

  11. Check the advertising code before you promote a product. Visitors have to be able to tell that they are reading a promotional article. If you are being paid to share a link, let your readers know that it is an ad. One option is to put (aff) behind the link. Alternatively, you could highlight the promotion by putting it in a special box. Additional rules (Stichting Reclame Code, in Dutch) apply to advertising in videos, podcasts and streams. 

Checklist 'Promoting your product with affiliate marketing'

Want to promote your product or service through others and looking for suitable people or companies with a website, podcast, blog, or social media channel? By following these steps, you can make sure that you (the advertiser) and your partner (the publisher) achieve the results you had in mind:  

  1. Decide what you want to accomplish, such as selling a product or getting as many brochure requests as possible. Make sure that your partner’s promotion is aligned with this goal. 

  2. Compare several affiliate networks before committing to one. 
    “You can send networks a so-called request for information”, Kok explains. “Ask them whether they have prior experience with the products you want to promote. Send the same question to multiple networks so you can compare the answers."  

  3. Want to promote your product through a foreign network? Familiarise yourself with advertising laws and regulations in that country first. 
    “Failing to comply with advertising rules is a surefire way to get sued, especially in the US.”  

  4. Read up on different practices, methods, and agreements. In the United Kingdom and the United States, for example, it is very common for a separate contract to be drawn up for each media release.  

  5. Choose a partner and check if it is registered as a publisher with KVK. Monitor and evaluate your partner and the results of your cooperation, for example with cookies. 

  6. Calculate whether the promotion is profitable enough. Figure out how much you are left with after deducting publisher and affiliate network costs.  

Whether affiliate marketing truly is a ticket to fabulous wealth remains to be seen. But if you do your due diligence and read up on networks, terms and conditions, and advertising rules, it is a good way to earn some money on the side. 

Affiliate marketing explained