Affiliate marketing UK

What is affiliate marketing?

Affiliate marketing is a type of marketing where you are paid a commission for promoting someone else’s product, service, or business. You act as a salesperson for them. If someone makes a purchase after visiting the site through your affiliate link, you get a commission. Check the terms and conditions of the affiliate marketing UK deal you are promoting for specific details.

Once you’ve set up your content, affiliate marketing can be a relatively passive income stream. You will need to monitor things though to ensure your efforts are optimised and sending as many leads through as possible.

How does affiliate marketing work?

Affiliate marketing is a combination of content, sales, and tracking. There’s a lot that goes into becoming a successful affiliate. We’ll look at what that means for you in more detail in a moment. However, here’s a quick rundown of how affiliate marketing works from a tech point of view:

  1. A business is offering an affiliate program. They use affiliate management software to keep track of things and set their terms, including commission on sales.
  2. An affiliate joins the program and the software generates a unique link or code for them to promote.
  3. The affiliate creates and shares content to encourage visitors to click on their affiliate link.
  4. If a visitor does click, cookies are generated. Cookies are small pieces of data which are created when a user visits a website. They are placed on the user’s device and then track movements which are related to that visit. That includes any future purchasing decisions…Cookies usually remain on a device for 30 days but can be cleared by the user.
  5. If the click does lead to a purchase, the visitor becomes a customer. This is tracked by the cookies and the information relayed back to the business.
  6. The conversion is recorded by the software and the business pays the commission to the affiliate.

Now that we’ve looked at how affiliate marketing works from a tech perspective, let’s look at what you need to do. And the work you’ll have to put in to be successful.

Choose your niche: 

Where do your interests lie? Some affiliate marketers find that they have more success if they stick to one area. For example, a photographer will only act as an affiliate for camera-related businesses. Within that, there could be a few different affiliate opportunities. Look for companies which provide printing services, cameras, and camera accessories for example. 

There are lots of niches to choose from. Depending on your interests, you could look at tech, Service as a Service, or book-selling businesses and find out more about their affiliate offerings.

Find affiliate programs to join.

Do your research when it comes to choosing an affiliate marketing UK program to join. Terms differ from program to program, so it’s important to find one(s) that work for you. Once you’re happy with details such as the commission amount, payout terms, and payment date, it’s time to join.

Set up a site

There are two main options here. For example, you can set up your own website or use an existing platform.

Website

Websites can take many forms. For example, a website can house written content, video, other media, or a shop. Or all of the above. With a website, you can be a blogger, vlogger, review site, or an ecommerce site. Or again, all of the above. 

Don’t worry if you don’t know anything about web development. Or how to build a website from scratch. You won’t need to. There are lots of web building services which offer templates, advice, or walk you through the whole process. Squarespace, for example, lets you create a site using pre-built templates and drag-and-drop elements. Interestingly, Squarespace has a very active affiliate marketing program. For instance, if you’re a regular listener of podcasts, you’re bound to have heard an advert for someone promoting the service. It’s widely recommended.

One of the main benefits of building your own website as an affiliate marketer is that you have control over everything on there. You can add affiliate links wherever you want. Although, do try to keep them with relevant content. That way, visitors are more likely to value your opinion, trust your motives, and ultimately be persuaded to click your link. If you post links 

Existing platform

Some people choose to avoid having their own website altogether. Instead, they use an existing platform. This could be as a vlogger, where you upload videos to YouTube or a similar video streaming platform. With this option, you can include your affiliate links in a caption or onscreen. However, if you choose to go down this route, you do run the risk of having your content taken down or being blocked. There are different reasons for why this could happen, such as copyright infringement if you use a certain song or affiliate links may not be allowed. You may also be required to highlight the fact that you are sharing an affiliate link. The point is, that you aren’t in complete control of your content. And this can be a major problem as an affiliate marketer.

Choosing a platform is important. For example, if you choose Instagram, be aware that links in captions aren’t clickable. So if you create a post and include your affiliate link in the caption, people who want to use it will have to copy and paste it. Except…you can’t do that on the Instagram app. So they’ll have to flick between Insta and a web page. Think about how many friction points there are! Someone would have to really want the product to go to the trouble. And if they’re going to a browser anyway, why would they bother to enter an entire link instead of just googling. This could cause you to lose out on potential commission.

It’s really important to choose the right platform for your affiliate marketing venture.

Create great content.

This is where your creativity comes in handy. However, don’t worry if you don’t think you’ve got prior experience because there are so many tutorials and templates out there. Content comes in many forms:

  • written copy in long or short form (eg: captions or reviews)
  • photos
  • video (eg: unboxing or reviews)
  • audio (eg: podcasts)
  • social media posts.

It’s up to you to find the best content form to fit both you and your target audience. For example, people who prefer to watch videos before making a purchasing decision aren’t necessarily going to want to read a 5000 word review. They might well sit through an 8 minute video though. But also, they might not. A maximum of 2 minutes might be enough to persuade them. You need to try a few things, do your research, and keep an eye on your analytics to see what works best.

Drive traffic to your affiliate site.

And this step is where any previous marketing experience and knowledge comes in. But again, don’t worry if you don’t think that’s where your skills lie.There are lots of websites out there that can help. An ‘easy’ way in would be to find interested parties on social media and build a following that way. However, this adds a step to the conversion process which could be a problem.

Another way is to drive traffic to your site is through top SEO. Search engine optimisation takes into consideration both content quality and technical aspects of your site such as loading speed. By improving the quality of your site and content, you can attract a higher number and ‘better’ quality of visitor. ‘Better’ in this instance would refer to someone who is more likely to click on your affiliate link and become a customer. Check out Moz for more info on SEO. 

Paid advertising on search engines and social media platforms can also help you target the right kind of traffic. Use Google Ads to bid on relevant keywords and show adverts for your website to your target audience. Whereas people focusing on organic search aim to sit in the first position of Google results, those doing paid sit above this. Again, decide what works for you by setting up tracking and then analysing the results. As an affiliate marketer, this should be an ongoing part of your process.

Get clicks on your affiliate links.

Once you’ve attracted traffic to your site, it’s time to get as many clicks on your affiliate links as possible. The more clicks you get, the more potential there is for people to make a purchase once they get to the business’ site. According to a blog on Supermetrics, average conversion rate in the affiliate marketing industry ranges from 0.5% to 1%. So if you take that as a benchmark, you can get a quick idea of how well your affiliate site is performing. 

To calculate your conversion rate: conversions ÷ visits x 100%. You are hoping for 2 conversions to take place: affiliate clicks and then the purchase (which triggers your commission payment). Only one of those takes place on your site. However, you can track page visits v. link clicks and find your conversion rate. Depending on the software used by the affiliate programme you’re part of, you may see the metrics around people who come via your link v. sales. 

So how do you do that? Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO) is where you perform tests on aspects of your site and the user experience. For example, what works best in terms of CTA (call to action) buttons on your site? Think and test things like shape, colour, size, copy, etc. However, that’s just one example and CRO is so much more than just split, or A/B, testing so take a look at that in more detail.

Convert clicks to sales.

This is a tricky part of the process but an important one too. In a way, your job is already done by the time the visitor clicks your affiliate link. Think about it in terms of the AIDA model:

  • grab Attention,
  • pique Interest,
  • fuel Desire for the product or service,
  • encourage the Action of clicking.


What happens once people leave your site is out of your hands, right? In a way, yes. For example, if the site of the business you’re affiliating for is clunky or confusing, chances are that the lead you worked so hard to send their way will leave without making a purchase. Worst case scenario. However, if your sales pitch was immense, you might have encouraged them to make the purchase despite any problems they encounter. The best case scenario would be for you to do a great job sending leads through and for those leads to have a seamless journey through to ‘customer’.

One way to foster that outcome would be to thoroughly vet the business’ site before you become an affiliate. Are you happy with the content on there? Or the user experience? If not, why not? As much as they can question your value as an affiliate, you should be doing the same.

Once someone has used your affiliate link, you won’t know if they convert. Unless you get a commission payment on the next payment date. And you most likely won’t know which particular click led to the conversion. However, if you have hotmaps and button tracking, you should have some insight into what is working in your affiliate content. Depending on the software the company you affiliate for is using, you may have access to a data dashboard. See what is generating the greatest amount of traffic, clicks, and ultimately sales. 

How do I become an affiliate marketer?

To become an affiliate marketer, you need to join a programme, create relevant content, and promote the brand.  When choosing an affiliate programme, there are a few things to look out for. Not all of the points below are available in every affiliate programme and the terms can differ greatly. 

Commission rate

The commission rate is the amount paid out to affiliates on sales they are responsible for. It is usually based on a percentage of the sale price and differs between programmes.

Cookie duration

We talked about cookies earlier on in this piece but here’s a little more info. Cookies help track visitors that have gone from your site to the brand’s site via your affiliate link. They are stored on the visitor’s computer. So if someone clicks on your link and then makes a purchase, you receive the commission for the sale. However, cookies have an expiry date. The length of time they remain on someone’s computer after they’ve clicked an affiliate link can be different depending on the individual programme. For example, with a 30-day cookie duration, you will receive payment if a sale is made within 30 days of someone using your affiliate link. Cookie durations can be a few days on 90+ so it’s definitely worth making sure you look for programmes with a longer duration of cookie.

Is affiliate marketing easy?

It’s not something that’s going to earn money straight away. There’s a lot of work involved. At least if you want to do things ‘properly’. And especially if you’re not a social media influencer with millions of followers. You need to be prepared to lay a decent foundation in terms of building a site, an audience, and a level of trust. And you’ll need to produce and update content in order to stay relevant and at the forefront of people’s searches. This all takes time and effort. However, depending on your interests and skills, the elements that go into being a successful affiliate marketer may come easy to you. Once you’re set up and seeing a return, it can become somewhat of a passive income stream.

Can affiliate marketing make you rich?

As with most side hustles, there’s always someone claiming to make thousands of pounds a second. Whereas some people are happy to have a steady trickle coming in alongside their main source of income. According to Glass Door, the national average salary for affiliate marketing UK is £34,471. However, some affiliate marketers do this as their main career, whereas others do it as a side hustle.

However you decide to approach affiliate marketing, other factors come into play when looking at if it can make you rich. Such as the value of commission offered as part of the affiliate programme, or the amount of sales you facilitate.

Do you have to pay taxes?

Affiliate marketing UK tax information states that you will need to complete a self-assessment form if you are earning over a certain amount. The UK tax year runs from April to April and if you miss the deadline for self-assessment declaration, you could receive a fine. Check the HMRC site for more information.

Is affiliate marketing legit?

Affiliate marketing UK is a legitimate and real way to make money online. However, beware of scams. The main way to do this is to research companies properly and only affiliate with brands you know and trust.

Affiliate marketing v other marketing types

Let’s take a quick look at how affiliate marketing compares to referral marketing and influencer marketing.

What are they?

  • Affiliate marketing:

This is where you act as a brand advocate and send customers to a business in return for a flat fee or commission.

  • Referral marketing:

Current customers are rewarded for encouraging friends and family to try a product/service.

  • Influencer marketing:
    An online influencer collaborates with a brand to talk about one of its products or services.

Similarities

All of these types of marketing reward people for promoting a business’ service and/or products to other people. The idea is that if someone trusts a business or brand enough to advertise with them, they must be worth a look. Affiliate, referral, and influencer marketing advertise brands in return for a reward.

Spreading the word

When it comes to sharing an affiliate link or referral code, all three are relatively simple. Affiliate marketers generally sit links within long form copy. Referral marketing is possibly the easiest to share as it’s usually just a word that you tell to friends and family. You don’t have to faff around with complicated URLs. Depending on the influencer’s arrangement, they will similarly have a code or link to share with people.

Rewards

Rewards can vary from commission or cashback to discounts or free products. As an affiliate marketer, you’ll most likely be looking to earn money, so make sure you choose something with the ‘right’ reward for you. 

Relationship with the audience

The main aim of everyone in marketing should be to build some sort of relationship with their audience. Through the content you create, you’re trying to teach them something they didn’t know before. Or you want to share something with them. Out of the three, referral marketers possibly have the closest relationship with their audience because they usually recommend things to friends and family. Therefore the trust level is already quite high and it can be easier for them to build a strong customer base more quickly.

Customer loyalty

Again, referral marketers possibly ‘win’ in this area too. However, it’s because they’re generally marketing to people they already know. Because of this, there’s more chance of customers sticking around. And perhaps even becoming repeat customers. In affiliate and influencer marketing, the trust level isn’t as high, so there’s a higher possibility of sales not taking place or customers drifting away over time. Also, people are perhaps more likely to use a code given to them by a close contact as opposed to remembering to use a specific URL.

‘Best’ affiliate programs

It’s up to you to do your own research in order to find the best affiliate program. You need to find programs that fit you and your niche. What would you feel comfortable promoting? That’s something only you know. But let’s take a look at some examples of affiliate marketing programs from some well-known brands.

Amazon Associates

This is one of the largest affiliate marketing programs in the world and content creators can submit their website or mobile app for review. If accepted, you can earn up to 10% for promoting over one million qualifying products. One interesting thing about this program is that when you use your Amazon affiliate link, you get credit for any product the user purchases in that session. It doesn’t have to be the product you shared. 

Amazon also has the Amazon Influencer Program for people who have an established social media following.

Commission: 10% of qualifying purchases.

NordVPN

NordVPN is a virtual private network service developed by NordSecurity. Once you’ve signed up and been approved for the affiliate program, you’ll get promo material and a dedicated account manager to help you convert visitors.

Commission: The commission you earn depends on the type of subscription plan that the person you refer chooses. For example on a 1 month offer, you would get 100% on a new sign up and 30% on a renewal. On a 1 year offer, you’d receive 40% commission on a new sign up and 30% on a renewal.

Shopify

This is an ecommerce website builder and the affiliate program is open to everyone from entrepreneurs to content creators. Shopify affiliates earn a commission on each new merchant that signs up to a paid Shopify plan through their affiliate link.

Commission: 200% for each successful merchant you refer that signs up to a paid plan.

TopCashback

TopCashback offers cashback on purchases made to any of the 4400+ retailers featured on their site. If you are accepted to TopCashback’s affiliate program, you will earn commission on a ‘Cost Per Activation’ basis. This means that you will receive payment when someone signs up to TopCashback and makes their first eligible cashback transaction after using your affiliate link.

TripAdvisor

TripAdvisor is a travel review, price comparison, and booking site. As a member of their affiliate program, you can earn at least 50% commission. Send visitors to TripAdvisor via your affiliate link and if they click out to one of TA’s hotel booking partners within 14 days, you will receive payment.

Commission: A minimum of 50%.

OddsMonkey

OddsMonkey is a matched betting site, and Premium members can join the affiliate program. You’ll receive a 50% share of net revenue every time a member that you refer pays for monthly or annual Premium access.

Commission: 50% of ongoing Premium customer fees.

Find out more about how matched betting works. It’s an online money-making technique that allows you to make a profit from the free promotional bets offered by bookmakers. Because you bet on and cover all potential outcomes, the only way you can lose money is if you make a mistake. Check out our ‘What is matched betting?’ guide to find out what you need to do to get started.

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