What Is An “Affiliate Program”?

You have probably heard the term ‘affiliate program‘ many times. People talk about them, advertise them, and promote them.

Every marketer and their pet hamster (including me) have recommended you start your online career by being an “affiliate”.

But has anyone actually defined an affiliate program for you?

Do you understand what being an affiliate is all about?

Whether you’re a newbie or just a little overwhelmed by all the information floating around online, I’d like to help you understand what affiliate programs are and what they can do for you.

An affiliate program (sometimes called an associate program) is basically defined as an arrangement in which an online merchant (such as Amazon.com) pays you a commission to send them traffic.

The term “traffic” simply means visitors.

So, you sign up to be an affiliate of a website and you send visitors to that site. When those visitors take a specific action (most commonly – when they buy something) you get paid.


Every affiliate program out there will provide you with what is called an “affiliate link”. This is a special link that identifies you (the affiliate) as the source of traffic.

More about affiliate links in an upcoming article.

Each time someone uses your link or website to click onto the merchant’s website and buys something, you are paid a certain percentage of that purchase.

But how does the site know that YOU sent that visitor? Most sites use a technology called “cookies.” This simply means that a small file is placed on the visitor’s computer identifying you as the source of the referral.

That way the company can know for sure that you should be paid the commission when the visitor buys something.

Most major affiliate programs, including Clickbank, use cookies to identify which affiliate sent which visitor.

There are at least three parties involved in any affiliate transaction:

    1. The company who sells the product (or vendor as Clickbank calls them)
    2. The affiliate who sends the traffic (that’s you!)
    3. The person who visits the site by clicking your affiliate link (the visitor)

Affiliate programs do not bring good profits without some form of effort and organization on your part.

To make money with affiliate programs you will need to learn how to “drive” traffic. Driving traffic simply means sending visitors to a website you are promoting using paid advertising or free marketing methods such as article marketing or social media like Twitter.

Affiliate marketing can be very profitable if you learn the system and promote it the right way. To maximize their profits, most affiliates choose more than one to promote.

There is usually nothing complicated about signing up for an affiliate program. Most programs are free to join.

But there is a downside here that you must avoid.

Since most affiliate programs are free to join, there is a temptation to join many at one time thinking you will be able to promote them all. This can lead to confusion.

My advice is to find a product you believe in and promote it with all your heart.

Become an expert at promoting product X and you will learn how to promote any product. Then you can move on to promoting other products easily.

You see, the success is in the process and in the products you choose to promote.

Once you sign up for a program, you are usually free to place links on your website and in other places.

Affiliates are paid according to a legal arrangement agreed to upon sign-up. Affiliate commissions are based on the number of people the affiliate sends to the merchant’s site, or the number of their referrals who make a purchase or take some other type of action.

There are three basic structures for how affiliates are paid:

    1. Pay Per Sale: The most common arrangement. When someone you send to the business’ website buys something, you earn a certain percentage or designated dollar amount.
    2. Pay Per Visit: Some companies pay you based on the number of people your link sends to their website, whether they make a purchase or not.
    3. Per Lead: You are paid when someone uses your affiliate link to visit the company’s website and opts in, entering some required information (like an email address) the business can use as a sales lead.

Generally speaking, if your affiliate link on your website or other location brings their business traffic or money, the merchant will pay you accordingly.

As an affiliate, you help bring in the customer and the company does everything else: order processing, collecting payment, shipping, etc.

For you, promoting an affiliate program or programs almost adds up to free money. Just look at the benefits you get when promoting as an affiliate.

As an affiliate you never have to …

    • Create a product
    • Provide customer service
    • Have a website of your own
    • Provide a download page

As an affiliate you simply promote and get paid. It is simply the easiest way to earn money online.

The company wins too! For businesses, offering an affiliate program is not only an excellent way to sell products online, but also serves as a powerful and cost- effective marketing strategy.

Why? Because you (the affiliate) solve their number one problem – getting enough traffic to their website!

You get paid, and the company gets you to promote for them. A classic win-win!

Now that you know what an affiliate program it’s time to find the right program(s) for you. And that is the subject of my next article!

Charlie Page signature

Charlie Page

Happily married for 43 years, Charlie is the dad to two wonderful daughters. He is the author of 12 books on Internet marketing and creator of over 15 membership sites. You can see all Charlie offers using this link Click Here

  • Mark Mansfield says:

    Thanks Charlie, I think I’ve read this before but it is good to reread your posts often.
    Thanks again

  • Rebecca B Hadley says:

    Great article Charlie! You are always so helpful!

  • […] how to succeed as an affiliate for someone else’s product is very important to your online […]

  • […] you are interested in driving traffic to your website, or are into list building or affiliate marketing, then you probably know the importance of a great […]

  • katherine smith says:

    Thank you always so helpful

  • Arlene Day says:

    I’ve had my “Alternative Medicine site for over 7 years & each yr. I read your “Ezine Traffic Formula” Charlie & some of it I understood & some I didn’t. There is a lot of great sites to get our info. out. Will you Please contact me, so I can be an Affiliate for your book? I have people coming in to my site & they buy some times & some times they don’t. There are so many Natural Health Products out there, I’m put on the back burner. My products are the best, as I have cured my-self from Thyroid Problems, Yeast Infections to Night Blindness & etc. Thanks, Arlene

  • Howard Mahere says:

    Hi Charlie

    There is no doubt that you are a master in the internet marketing industry. I have to like your articles because of what I am learning from reading them. You always provide great content. Now my desire is to bring a lot of visitors to my site, and I am not getting as many visitors as I would want to take my biz to another level.

    I am a member of Carbon Copy PRO, how and what do I need to do to bring a good number of visitors to my website. I like the way you explain how to go about getting a task done, and I hope you will help me with regard to my challenge.


    Howard Mahere

  • What Is An “Affiliate Program”? says:

    […] View the original article here […]

  • writer642 says:

    Excellent tips,charlie.I want to open click bank account.Please give me advice,whether blog is suitable or website is useful for click bank account.

  • ken meakin says:

    This is great advice but out of many affiliates I have tryed the only one that makes money is a membership site linking from my free video course but this is good because I get repeat commisions each month.


  • Fiona says:

    Hi Charlie, your articles are very informative and I am learning a lot from them. I am a newbie in affiliate marketing and I have picked products to promote. Its been mentioned that a review should be written everywhere. Is this on other websites or on social networking sites?

    • Charlie says:


      If you are going to use a review approach it’s likely best to do that on your own site or blog.

      Thank you for your comment!


  • Patrick D. says:

    Thank you Charlie for this wonderful post. My trouble with my blog https://myfavouritepassiveincomestreams.wordpress.com is the same as the vendor. How to get traffic to my blog so that I can forward the the visitor to the vendor. Listbuilding is oh so diffcult and in traffic exchanges everyone promotes the same programs to everyone.

  • Charles Hodgson says:

    I’m new to DOE and am having a tough time hooking up with you for a chat. I’d like to start my online career by building up an MLM downline that I’ve been involved in for short while. It’s a binary pay system and my sponsor has filled one leg up completely so that there’s money there every week, but in order to get paid I have to balance out that leg. Could you shoot me an email directing me on how to do this or an article of yours that does the same?
    Chuck Hodgson

    • Charlie says:


      Would love to connect with you. I have a “first come first served” call in time twice a week for those without an appointment. That’s the fastest way. Full details in the DOE member area under the Free Consulting link.


  • Windy Davis says:

    Hi Charlie!

    I know everybody has said it and you are probably tired of hearing it but… you are awesome!

    There is so much trash on the internet that it is so very refreshing to have someone who is obviously born to be a teacher. You share valuable information for both the newbies and the experienced, you are a gem.

    To those of you that haven’t purchased any of Charlies courses yet….. Invest in them and in yourself as soon as possible!

    Many Thanks!

    Windy Davis

  • Roy Bedford says:

    How can I be sure my links on Bit.ly are working properly. Sometimes I can get on my browser at other times it says unknown or I have no interenet connections. Hope to be joining you when I have mad a few sales. I got your links through Mavericks Money Club. I have about 5 products probalbly too many and there is a lot more to it than I was led to believe. I started off with Butterfly Marketing but did not ge much help about promoting it. I am going to do USreeads and use the monthly gold premium so I can generate some income made 2 sales on ppc with affiliate X then no clicks. Thanks for eveerything you do .
    Regards Roy M Bedford

  • scott says:

    hi charlie, im unempolyed at the min and have roughly £220 in the bank! if i was to become a member that would leave me with about £85 i could prob get a couple of solo ads with that but not sure if i wanna take the risk incase nothing happens with the ads then i will be left with nothing! wot would ur advice be on this matter please? im a newbie affiliate.

    • Charlie says:


      I would not recommend you buy the DOE or any other product online for that matter. Take care of the things that must be taken care of first. Pay rent. Buy food. Work if you can for money that you know you will get in exchange for your effort.

      I want your business but only if it’s right for you. At this time I would suggest you work offline and save up enough to risk in an online business. There is no sure thing online and any money you spend on any product online will be at risk. From what I read you can’t afford to take that risk at this time.


  • Good advive as always Charlie.

    Newbies, you have two choices:
    1. Get your own product
    2. Become an affiliate and promote someone else’s product.

    Option 2 is the easier, which is why so many newbies pick it.

    How to succeed as an affiliate/

    Pick a product from Clickbank – don’t pick a top seller, as all the gurus with big lists will be promoting it, and they have a bigger bonus offer to sign up than you do.

    Write a review

    Post your review everywhere you can, using great keywords (your Clickbank product should give you ideas). Why not run an ad campaign on an ezine in the DOE? It’ll cost you money, but it will get you noticed.

    Remember the vast majority of affiliates never make any money. This is because they just put up a few links on their site and expect things to happen. You don’t have to do much to be a lot better than 95% of affiliates – you just have to do it!

    Sounds easy? That’s ‘cos it is!


  • Jimmy Maddox says:


    WOW! Great clarification in simple easy to understand terms. I am just getting started with affiliate marketing and truly the information overload can be a deal breaker.

    I am having to start from funds zero but cannot recommend your DOE and EAL programs enough. My single product is a FREE video series on how to do everything yourself step by step at htttp://www.cashsow.com. Your DOE is recommended as the best way to super size one’s results with the 48 Hour Cash Machine FREE system.

    Thanks for your caring to help all us little folks become successful like yourself.

    Forever Thankful,
    Jimmy Maddox
    Boss Hawg, Oink, Oink

  • Paul Hooper says:

    Hi Charlie,

    Excellent post on affiliate marketing. I think affiliate marketing has it’s place in anyone’s online business, no matter what levels they are at. When done correctly it can bring in a significant income and you don’t have to spend the time with things like you said, product creation, customer service etc.

    Also great advice you give about finding a product that you believe in and promote it with all your heart. By doing this you will undoubtedly see some success from your efforts, plus learn a lot along the way.

    Thanks Charlie, a lot to be learned from this post.


  • BoioBess Daro says:

    Hi Charlie,

    What a lovely article as usual with great value , simplicity and clarity! I always enjoy reading your articles because they are so comprehensible and easy to understand. Many thanks,

    BoioBess Daro

  • Mark Demers says:

    I love reading your articles because they are explained so clearly , it really does help ,when you do this . Ive been promoting dozens of products and having trouble with too much to do.
    I going to cut back and focus on just a few - you say start with one but i have a lot of time and one would leave me too much time leftover in my day
    Keep these great articles coming - i love

    Mark Demers

  • Andrew Gallop says:

    Hello Charlie, you explain in a way that anyone could understand. It can be tough getting started in network marketing, but affiliate marketing can fill in until you get something else going. Thanks, Andrew Gallop

  • Tom Dewell says:

    Plenty of really useful intro material here.

    One thing you will undoubtedly address are the various ways of promoting products, like PPC, which is simple, but definitely not easy! Not to mention expensive if done poorly.

    That being said, using micro-sites optimized to an offer is a reasonable alternative. It takes a bit more time, is much cheaper.

    Keep up the great work Charlie!


  • Bill & Anne says:

    Hello Charlie


    We are newbies who have been looking for honest information.

    We have found it.

    The DOE is the best money can buy,period!

    Many Thanks

  • mark dempsey says:

    Hi Charlie
    i was recommended to you by Ann Sieg. (what more can i say) I feel you honesty and integrity through your words and i believe you are passionate about helping people to succeed.
    I am 100% focused on the ebook of Ann’s the 7 great lies. I have put together my first blog i have signrd up with twitter and i am on face book. What i dont have is any leads or customers and i am not clear what to do with the content on my blog. How do i get people to view it.
    I am only doing social marketing at present, but maybe i should look at PPC.
    I can’t afford to waste money or time.
    what’s your thoughts Charlie

    • Charlie says:


      Social media is a good way to start. Share your thoughts, challenges, victories and observations on your blog. invite people to visit with the signature file in your email. Invite people to comment on your blog and reply when they do.

      Stick with it and be consistent and I know you will do well.


  • Jim Howard says:

    Hi Charlie

    Thankyou – Fantastic advice and information as usual.

    I am into building my list and branding myself.

    And marketing recommends from my main money site Skadoogle all branded on me.

    Any affiliate marketing that I do now is through ClickBank and PayDotCom.

    I do not have pay monthly fees for the privilege of selling someones product.

    My list is building

    Thanks again

  • Tony says:

    Hi Charlie

    I dabble at internet marketing for years. with no success

    I was brought to your site through someone advertising 48 hour cash machine

    in the end trying to sell your prduct for ezine marketing

    My question is if I was to send an email to ezine members for an affiliate offer what is the average conversion rate
    ie if the list was 30000 members how many would you expect to buy


    • Charlie says:


      It is impossible to give an average conversion rate. The reason is that there are simply too many variables. The quality of the ad – the quality of the ezine – the type of ad (solo vs. classified for example) the quality of the landing page being promoted … the list goes on and on.

      If you are promoting a well-converting site using a high quality ad in a well-matched ezine you will do well. I ran an ad yesterday for a top Clickbank product and got 1400 clicks for $300. These things are possible but it’s not possible to give an overall average like you ask.



  • peter says:

    I’m tempted to do affiliate marketing but the concern is that people will get sidetracked from the main reason for the site and that is to sell your own products and if the affiliate ad is not obvious, it probably won’t be seen anyway. Please correct me if I’m not thinking straight. Thanks Charlie. Peter (also http://www.classic-ugg-boots.com.au/)

    • Charlie says:


      I’m not advocating selling affiliate products from your site but rather promoting them through methods like banners and solo ads.


  • gill manning says:

    Hello Charlie
    I have been studying Internet Mkting for a while now and I know what Louise (above) is talking about – running in circles, wondering what to try first, going off with the next big thing and backtracking countless times.
    I’m now getting back to where my interest started – affiliate mkting,
    What i had to do a few weeks ago was to unsubscribe from most of the lists i was on, and resign from everything i was paying for…and start again, being more selective- just so’s i could develop the Focus i needed.
    It’s going better now, and actually- the point is that you’re one of the people i have chosen to follow, now that i am being more selective

  • Shash Bhave says:

    Hi Charlie:

    I’m in network marketing for all most 14 years. No matter
    what subject is I read all your articles carefully.

    I rarely fail to pick up one or two nuggets of information
    every time.

    Continue to educate and guide us to be successful in
    this business. I try my best to steer every newbie I met
    to your articles. It makes my job that easy. I don’t have
    to speak any word of explanation.

    Keep up the good work!


  • Frank from Louisiana says:

    Hi Charlie,
    I’ve been studying the different ways to make money on the net for about a month now(newbie). I felt like a duck flying over blinds getting shot at. I finally found a safe place to land on your sites. Thank You Charlie and God Bless.

  • Louise says:

    Hi Charlie

    I have been reading a lot of your articles for awhile now. I am new to internet marketing and suffering from sensory overload from all the information I have been getting. It has gotten to the point that I feel like I’m running in circles and banging into walls trying to figure out what in the world I’m doing or supposed to be doing, and I must say your articles have been a great help in figuring out which direction I should be going. Keep up the good work and I”ll continue to read your articles and make my way up that earning hill yet
    Louise C

  • Tamar Agmon says:

    great explanation, thanks!

  • Akin says:

    Dear Charlie,
    Thank you for the useful article on affiliate market.
    You really hit the nail on the head its about the process
    thank you

  • Hi Charlie,

    Excellent article and website! We want to publish this article in next week’s “Interactive Marketing Ezine” http://www.vectorcentral.com/ezine.html
    and also on our Vector Central Blog http://vectorcentral.wordpress.com/

    As always, your amazing work shines true Charlie!
    Susan at Vector Central

  • Jesus Moreno says:

    Hi Charlie:
    In the first instance I think to know something about affiliate programs. But when I read your post I see that there are fine points that are not always taken into account. Thanks for your enlightening lesson then.
    Jesus Moreno

  • Annet says:


    Thanks for this article, it was very helpfull
    Looking forward to your next.


  • Thanks. I enjoy learning about the affiliate process!!!

  • Marilyn says:

    Thanks, if I haven’t said it before I will say it today thanks for all the great education you give us.

    I am trying to get going with Affiliate programs, and it is nice to have this e-mail to fully understand how to be a good Affiliate. Thanks again.

  • Big Fritz says:

    Great info Mr. Charlie Page

    Especially for newbies, keep it up

  • Sally Cevasco says:


    You always have such a great way of explaining things so it’s really clear.

    I enjoy your articles even when it’s a subject I already know about.


  • Thomas Nishiyama says:

    Hi Charlie.
    Can you recommend a affiliate program that you feel can help a newbie like me make the most money.
    Thank you,

    • Charlie says:

      I like to promote Clickbank products personally. There are many factors in choosing the right product. My next article will go into more detail on this but I think a good place to start is with products you have bought and with which you are happy.


  • Vincent says:

    Hey Charlie:

    Only thing missing from my online success is having a website like this. Hey Charlie, if someone hasn’t said it yet, you are the best!


    • Charlie says:

      Thanks Vincent. That means a lot. If you need a site like this then get some hosting and start blogging about your online experiences. I know you can do it!


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