An introduction to ethical affiliate marketing for beginners

an introduction to ethical affiliate marketing for beginners - go big with affiliate marketing

This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and purchase, I’ll get a small commission at no additional cost to you. Read my full disclaimer.

Do you want to get started with affiliate marketing the right way as a beginner?

Are you looking for a place where you can learn the ropes of affiliate marketing effectively?

Then, without any doubt, this is the perfect introduction post to ethical affiliate marketing for you.

Affiliate marketing isn’t just a referral marketing or it also isn’t a get rich quick scheme either. It’s a long term strategy for audience building, trust building, and making money online.

I want to make this point clear before I proceed with this post.

When done correctly, it makes your audience love your site and soon you’ll become the go to expert for affiliate marketing related advice. This will invariably increase your trustworthiness, your site visibility, and more people start believing in your recommendations.

At the end of the day, we all want and love that. Right?

The benefits of doing ethical affiliate marketing are endless.

there are several benefits involved in doing ethical affiliate marketing. Before I explain the benefits, I should clarify what is ethical affiliate marketing.

No need to go too far to find out about it.

Smartblogger has a precise answer for this.

The author, Will Hoekenga clearly explains what is it and how you can do well as an ethical affiliate marketer. He even provides five rules for doing it successfully as well!

Now that’s out of the way, let’s look at the topmost benefits of doing affiliate marketing ethically.

  • Helps to gain the trust of your audience.
  • Increases your reputation drastically.
  • Improves your site’s visibility.
  • Gives you valuable information about your audience.
  • After a while, you can do affiliate marketing full time and earn a substantial income doing it.

Why should you have a website as a beginner affiliate marketer?

In my opinion, having a website is like a strong base for your affiliate marketing business. The host I use is siteground. They are fast, highly reliable, and the customer support is truly amazing.

So, check them out!

It doesn’t mean that you should completely ignore social media and other channels to promote your affiliate offers. In fact, they all need to be a part of your affiliate marketing journey.

But, as I’ve mentioned earlier, your website is the base in which you are going to build your business on. To my knowledge, I haven’t found a single successful affiliate marketer who doesn’t have a website.

Even YouTube affiliate marketers have their own website as part of their business. So, if you know anybody who doesn’t have their own blog/site and still killing it in affiliate marketing, please do let me know!

There is a lot to learn when it comes to affiliate marketing. No doubt about that. But, here’s the thing.

In the early stages, you’ll feel slow growth, demotivated to do the necessary work, and feel that there is so much competition out there.

Trust me, I felt the same way when I started this blog. I didn’t have a previous experience of setting up a blog and the next steps after completing it successfully.

Can I tell you a secret?

Taking one step in a day, noting the next steps for the subsequent days, and treating yourself for the completion of the task for the day will get you out of overwhelm. It doesn’t have to be a big treat, a simple coffee would do the job!

Why am I writing this intro post?

To inspire confidence towards affiliate marketing. That’s the reason to write this post. Apart from that, I want to show you the reality with affiliate marketing.

Like any other business, you have to work hard in the beginning and rewards will come later. Let’s do this!

What is affiliate marketing and how does it work?

In this section, I’ll tell you What is affiliate marketing and some aspects you need to consider when starting your affiliate marketing business.

As a beginner, you may be tempted to bypass it, but these are the foundations in which you build your everything.

  • Affiliate marketing is a real, solid business. Yes. You’ve read it right. Although people think that it is a side hustle, you need to treat it as your own business from the very beginning to be successful at it.
  • It will take time before you see your first dollar. If you start anything new in life, it’ll take some time to produce results. Affiliate marketing is no exception to this rule. So, as a beginner, you need to be patient and work on it. There’s no other way.
  • You need to have your website before starting with affiliate marketing. I believe that a website is a base for affiliate marketing. Through a website, you’ll be able to build your own brand and your own voice. This will increase the trust factor among your audience and overtime, people start believing in your recommendations.

I can go on and on and on. But you get the point. When you dip your toes in the affiliate marketing waters for the first time, there’s no doubt that you need to learn a lot before starting out.

But don’t worry, I’ve been there. I know what it feels to figure it out all on your own.

You are not alone, and let’s learn together!

What is affiliate marketing?

Instead of rehashing the same old information about affiliate marketing, I’ll give you two definitions from the giants of affiliate marketing. After that, you’ll have my own opinion on what is affiliate marketing. Ok?

I’ve learned much of my  affiliate marketing from pat Flynn of Smart passive income.

He has helped me get started in my affiliate marketing journey through his guides, podcasts, and videos.

So, here’s his definition of affiliate marketing.

Affiliate marketing is the process of earning a commission by promoting another company’s product (or service). You find a product, promote it to others, and earn a piece of the profit for each sale that you make. In other words, when you help another company generate sales, you get a cut!

Wow! That’s cool! We all want that. Isn’t it?

Now, let’s move on to the next definition.

This is from Charles Ngo.

Charles Ngo provides real, practical tips to navigate affiliate marketing for both beginner and advanced affiliate marketers in his blog. He has been in the space for more than a decade.

Affiliate marketing is when you get paid a commission for promoting products / services for other companies.

A simple, yet a powerful description.

My definition of affiliate marketing.

Well, my definition of affiliate marketing goes like this.

Affiliate marketing is the process of promoting other people’s/company’s products and services in your blog and if someone purchases from your affiliate link, you’ll earn a commission from the total profit. You can promote both physical and digital products. You can join their affiliate program to do that.

How does affiliate marketing work?

Here’s how affiliate marketing works. The merchant of the affiliate marketing program gives each one of its affiliates an unique link. This will help the merchant to track the incoming sales and who is responsible for a particular sale.

The unique link includes the domain name of the affiliate and a unique id that identifies that domain. When someone clicks through the link, a small file called a cookie gets stored automatically in the device of the user.

Usually, this file is used for tracking purposes and it helps the merchant to attribute the commission to the right person. The cookie has an expiration date and you will get paid even if for any reason the user delays their purchase.

Let’s take a real life example to understand how it works.

Imagine a visitor reads your post and clicks through one of your affiliate link. This will lead to the product for which you are linking to.

But for some reason, they leave the page and come back to it a little later. Since a cookie is already stored in the device of the user, the sale will be rightly attributed to you.

How much you can make as an affiliate marketer?

There is no limit to it. This depends on how much work you put in. No matter what niche you are in, you will make money when you put the right amount of effort into it.

Most successful affiliate marketers make six figure income consistently. These people worked hard in building their brand. It took them years of consistent effort to reach this level.

If you are in the early stages, you’ll only earn a little amount of money in the beginning. Don’t let it discourage you. Step by step growth is far better than a sudden rise and sudden fall!

10 reasons for starting an affiliate marketing business:

As you already know, starting anything new in life isn’t easy. After all, as a beginner affiliate marketer, it is a new field to you.

You might’ve heard about its potential, but you don’t know why you want to start with affiliate marketing.

If that’s the case, then here are ten reasons to get started with it.

  • You don’t have to create your own product/service.
  • The entry barrier is really low than all the other business types.
  • You don’t have to pay any money to join an affiliate program.
  • There are a lot of options to choose whether you want to promote a product, a service, or an affiliate program.
  • The revenue potential isn’t limited to anything.
  • You can be your own boss, and you don’t have to report to anybody else.
  • You can travel anywhere and continue to work without any interruption.
  • You are the deciding authority on when and when not to work.
  • After some time, you’ll have a passive income source that you can believe in.
  • It is easy to develop into a full time business.

When to use affiliate marketing:

There are certain times affiliate marketing looks like a really good idea. And there are other times, affiliate marketing can take more time to reap rewards.

Just because you joined in an affiliate program and you got an affiliate link for a product doesn’t guaranty you of instant success. It takes a lot to grow your brand, your reputation, and of course, your audience to see real results.

Am I trying to scare you? Absolutely not! In fact, I am revealing the real truth behind affiliate marketing. As a beginner, you need to understand the reality with this business model.

Having said that, ask these following questions to yourself in order to measure your affiliate success probability with a program, product, or a service.

  1. Do you have a strong connection with the product? Nobody, and I mean no body. Likes. a Sleazy. Salesman. Your audience are genius. They’ll tell you instantly whether you believe and trust a product or not. So, if you don’t believe and trust a product that’ll provide good value for their money, don’t promote it.
  2. Can you give extra value to your audience? You don’t have to create a new product to give additional value to your audience. You can include an extra bonus to a product that you already use, or you can provide a discount on the price of the product. You don’t have to setup an e-commerce store to do this. You can simply signup for their affiliate program and provide a discounted price through your affiliate link.
  3. Are you ok with delayed gratification? We live in a world where instant gratification is the norm. But, that doesn’t work in this business. Affiliate marketing isn’t a get rich quick scheme. You need to promote your product consistently for some time before you see things happening. If you are ok with it, then you are good to go.
  4. Do you have a good reputation with your audience? Affiliate marketing works like a magic when there is trust between you and your audience. It’s true. When your audience believe that you are a trustworthy person in your niche, you’ll invariably do well as an affiliate marketer. So, what’s the lesson? Your audience needs to trust you first, and then they’ll believe in your recommendations.
  5. Do you have a good relationship with the company? There are a lot of companies that really value their affiliates and there are others, who start their affiliate program simply for the sake of having it and doesn’t provide the necessary support for their affiliates. So, you have to be careful here. You need to trust the company that you are working with. Because, your reputation is on the line.

When not to use affiliate marketing:

I want to reiterate this point once again. Affiliate marketing is a long term game. You’ll have the potential to make money from day one, but you’ll see your first dollar probably after some time.

If you are brand new to affiliate marketing and you don’t have a large follower base, you’ll not make much income in the early stages of your business.

But, that doesn’t mean that you won’t make any money. It’ll take time. That’s it.

There are certain times when affiliate marketing shouldn’t be the main focus point. Ask these questions to identify such situations.

  1. Are you in need of an immediate reliable source of income? Affiliate marketing is an excellent way to earn money online by promoting the products you believe in. But, it isn’t a reliable source of income when you are in this situation. It’ll take some time and hard work before you see consistent income month after month.
  2. Are you worried about your website’s security? If you don’t protect your website, you are already in the danger zone. Make sure to use a powerful hosting and setup regular backups using UpdraftPlus.

Also, use Sucuri to protect your site from hackers.

3. Do you really want to do the work? Yep, this is a fact. Maintaining an affiliate marketing business is a real work. There are a lot of parts such as content creation, audience building, trust building, cultivating a good relationship with your existing audience, and making sure that you are working with the right partners and promoting the right products that your audience wants are all part of the business. If you don’t have the time or resources to manage all of these, then may be, affiliate marketing isn’t for you.

Remember this. When done correctly, affiliate marketing is a great source for passive income generation.

When done incorrectly, things will quickly backfire.

Did you know?

Link hijacking is a real thing. Let me explain.

Ok. I assume that you’ve successfully placed a few affiliate links in your post. Let’s say someone visits your page, clicks through one of your affiliate link and purchases the product you’ve recommended.

Congratulations! You should get the affiliate commission. Right? But that isn’t the case. How is it possible?

Neil Patel has a good explanation for this.

Link hijacking does happen. Basically, someone can steal your commission by replacing the ID of the affiliate links with their own ID. For example, if your affiliate link was “,” the hijacker would simply replace your link with something like “newID.” You would see something like “” instead. This can happen if someone hacks into your website or gains access to your social channels where you feature your affiliate links.

How to avoid this?

Get the topnotch security for your website. If you are on wordpress, you have several plugins that provide high quality security for your website.

Read more: ultimate guide to understanding all about affiliate link hijacking


I’ve covered a lot of ground when it comes to the intro and what is affiliate marketing. It is a great source for creating a passive income stream.

Also, it is critical for you to know which situations are appropriate to get started with affiliate marketing.

Have you decided to begin your journey as an affiliate marketer? What are your thoughts? Write to me in the comments section below!

Related posts

10 things you can achieve when you become a successful affiliate marketer

8 important metrics you need to track as a beginner affiliate marketer

About Hari:

Hari loves writing about affiliate marketing, email marketing, and blogging for beginners. When he is not writing, you can find him actively watching tennis, or searching for the next recipe that’ll fulfill his heart.


106 thoughts on “An introduction to ethical affiliate marketing for beginners”

  1. Sheesh! I didnt realise there was so much to it all. I’m not ready yet but you’ve given me some good things to be thinking about when I do make a move. Thanks!

    1. hey Emma,
      thank you so much for your comment.
      glad you’ve learned something through this post!
      all the very best in your blogging journey!

    1. hey Tammy Harris,
      thanks for your comment.
      glad you’ve found this post helpful!
      all the very best in your affiliate marketing journey!

  2. I love how informative this is – I’ll definitely be able to put your suggestions into practice. Thanks so much!

    1. hey Lindsay,
      thanks for your comment.
      glad you’ve found this post informative!
      all the very best in your blogging journey!

  3. I liked what you said about treating affiliate marketing as a business rather than a side hustle. I think that is so important. I need to do more affiliate marketing saying that.

    1. hey Ana De Jesus,
      thank you so much for your comment.
      yes, affiliate marketing is a business.
      all the very best in your journey!

  4. Helpful info for those just learning the ins and outs of affiliate marketing. I like that your focus was on using affiliate marketing in an ethical way. I see so many people using affiliate links in inappropriate ways and also failing to disclose their links. Great post!

    1. hey Karen,
      thanks for your comment.
      glad you’ve found this post informative!
      yes, so many people do use affiliate links unethically and what they doesn’t realize is that once your audience find out the truth, you’ve lost their trust forever.
      it gets even harder to build any kind of following after that.
      I am so happy that I’ve got wonderful readers like you!

  5. I have, recently, been trying to venture out into the world of affiliate marketing. Thank you for taking the time to explain key elements to protect my blog and my ethics as well.

    1. hey Kimberlie,
      thanks for your comment.
      glad you’ve found this post helpful!
      all the very best in your affiliate marketing journey!

  6. Great post! I did not know about link hijacking. This is completely new to me. I always place some kind of affiliate links on each blog post. I don’t treat it as a business like I should. I need to get busy.

    1. hey Gina Abernathy,
      thank you so much for your appreciative comment.
      yes, affiliate link hijacking is a real thing.
      treating affiliate marketing as a business will increase your chances of achieving success much quickly.
      glad you’ve found this post helpful!

    1. hey Megan,
      thanks for your comment.
      glad you’ve found this post helpful!
      all the very best in your monetisation journey!

  7. Thanks for the post, I’ve looked into this alot, as a vegan blogger there are so many products i already recommend to people. I am struggling with learning the legal side of being Canada based and having a U.S hosted site. Lots to learn!

    1. hey holly,
      thanks for your comment.
      glad you’ve found this post helpful!
      yes, you have to learn a lot in the beginning.
      all the very best in your blogging journey!

  8. Affiliate marketing has been on my mind for sometime but I was not sure how to get started. This is a great article for beginners like me. Thanks for sharing

    1. hey Bjha,
      thanks for your comment.
      glad you’ve found this post helpful!
      all the very best in your affiliate marketing journey!

  9. This is a fantastic post. It covers so much that I didn’t know like someone hijacking your links. Didn’t know that was possible. Thanks for sharing.

    1. hey Caitlin,
      thanks for stopping by!
      glad you’ve found this post helpful and I am happy that you’ve learned something out of it!

  10. I’ve recently learned about people changing your affiliate links. I couldn’t believe it! So now I have decided to cloak them so I don’t have to worry about it.

    1. hey Alexis,
      thanks for your comment.
      yes, affiliate link hijacking is a real thing.
      glad you’ve decided to cloke your affiliate links!
      all the best for your affiliate marketing journey!

    1. hey Kris,
      thanks for your comment.
      glad you’ve found value in this post!
      all the very best to getting started in affiliate marketing!

      1. Wonderful tips on affiliate marketing for beginners. Have never heard of link hijacking . Need to focus more on affiliate marketing in upcoming months.

        1. hey Karthika,
          thank you so much for your comment.
          glad you’ve found this post helpful!
          so many people don’t know about affiliate link hijacking.
          all the very best for your affiliate marketing journey!

  11. Highly informative post. Was unaware of terms like link hijacking. Thanks for the post. Pinning it for future reference.

    1. hey Uma,
      thanks for your comment.
      glad you’ve found valuable information in this post!
      thank you very much for pinning! appreciate your kindness!

  12. I have been getting emails asking me to be part of their affiliate marketing. I need to learn more and this is the right post to add knowledge to it. Thanks!

    1. hey Agnes,
      thanks for your comment.
      glad that you are selective in your affiliate marketing partnershipps.
      one tip I will always give to beginner affiliate marketers is that don’t get swayed by the commission rate, when choosing your affiliate partnership.
      always ask is this related to your audience and your niche.
      if so, go ahead.
      if not, don’t promote!
      glad you’ve found valuable knowledge from this post!

  13. Affiliate marketing is such a critical component of successful blogging, but it can feel really difficult to get started. Thank you for sharing practical tips. This is very appreciated advice!

      thank you so much for your kind words
      with the rise of instant millioners and earn 10000 dollars in one month in affiliate marketing kind of products, this critical component of blogging success is starting to slide into a big void.
      my only hope in creating this guide is to educate beginner affiliate marketers and beginner bloggers to understand the practicality behind ethical affiliate marketing.
      glad you’ve found value in this post.

  14. Your article is really so detailed and addresses some of my concern about affiliate marketing! Thanks for all the great tips!

  15. I agree that affiliate marketing is definitely a long term game but it is something that all bloggers should take into consideration. It can be a good way of getting passive income.

  16. Wow, I’ve never learned this much about affiliate marketing for free, thanks💯💯 I’m sure we are all looking forward to another post

  17. Hey, this article is very informative and educative, you were able to dissect what affiliate marketing is all about and I must say I have really learnt new ways to go about it all. I could go on and on. Thanks for this.

    1. hey MARY,
      thank you so much for your comment.
      glad you’ve found value and the steps involved in affiliate marketing!
      all the best for your affiliate marketing journey!

    1. hey Isabella Gallatin,
      thanks for your comment.
      yes, you need to wait for some time, but eventually you’ll make it.
      all the very best!

  18. Hi Hari! Great information here, really comprehensive and thought-provoking post. It certainly helps to get my ideas flowing to read a great post like this – I am just a beginner so your content was timely and I love the inclusion of the term “ethical.” I do not want to make a penny unethically.

    1. hey Krysia,
      thank you so much for your kind comment.
      glad you’ve found value in this post!
      yes, being ethical is crucial in achieving success as a blogger/affiliate marketer.
      so happy that you’ve decided to take this route!

  19. Wow you really went in depth! We’ve been experimenting with affiliate marketing, and it’s not easy. But this post does bring clarity.

  20. Hey Hari, these are fantastic tips! I have been exploring affiliate marketing and playing around with it a little. Thanks for sharing!

    1. hey MING QIAN,
      thank you so much for your comment.
      glad you’ve found value in this post!
      all the very best in your affiliate marketing journey!

  21. This was so helpful! I am a new blogger and interested in getting started with affiliate marketing. Thank you for sharing!