Affiliate marketing 2024: Your guide

What is affiliate marketing? Learn what the definition is, how to get started and make money with it, the best platforms with which to do so, and more.

Affiliate marketing

Affiliate marketing is a great way to make passive income and diversify your revenue streams. But what exactly is it, how difficult is it, and how much money can you realistically make?

Today, we’ll cover:

What is affiliate marketing?

Affiliate marketing is a referral process in which an online merchant or advertiser shares a tracking link with an external partner, also known as an affiliate. The affiliate shares the link with potential customers, and once an action is completed — usually a purchase — via the link, the affiliate receives a commission. To sweeten the deal for the customer, affiliate links often provide some kind of discount. 

The affiliate can be a professional content creator, another business, or someone looking to earn a few extra dollars. The merchant or advertiser tends to be a larger corporation looking to increase sales without spending much money on a full marketing campaign.

Affiliate marketing

How does affiliate marketing work?

Affiliate marketing works on the assumption that an affiliate’s audience is interested in the product or service being marketed. Let’s break down how it works:

  1. The affiliate uses an affiliate network to find the right fit. These networks let affiliates browse the marketplace and find merchants and advertisers to work with, based on their own affiliate programs. Some of the more popular affiliate networks include Rakuten Advertising, Impact, and ClickBank. Affiliates can also access individual affiliate programs, like the Amazon Associates Program, without an affiliate network. Affiliate programs are usually free to join. 
  2. The affiliate shares the unique link online. This can be through short-form video platforms like TikTok or YouTube Shorts, long-form content on platforms like YouTube, or with text-based updates on Facebook, X/Twitter, owned websites, and other sites. 
  3. The customer clicks the link, jumping to the correct page.
  4. The customer completes the desired action. The action varies between affiliate programs — it could be a purchase, sign-up, download, free trial, or something like that. Even if the customer doesn’t complete the action during the initial session, tracking cookies will record it later down the line. 
  5. The merchant/advertiser records the purchase, and adds the agreed commission to the affiliate’s balance. Once a certain price or time threshold is reached, the affiliate can withdraw the money. 
Affiliate marketing

Can you really make money with affiliate marketing?

Is affiliate marketing legit? Yup. While it won’t make you an overnight millionaire, it can still result in a decent slice of cash. After all, most of these links are geared toward selling something — once the purchase goes through, there’s money to be shared. Low-level affiliate deals offer around 5% per action, but higher-end, luxury programs and agreements can balloon as big as 50%. 

Some affiliate marketing schemes pay a flat fee instead of a percentage, meaning the affiliate will snag a guaranteed amount of money per completed action. They’re relatively low-value, but still reel in passive income.

The different kinds of affiliate marketing 

Now that we know what it is and how it works, let’s look at the three main kinds of affiliate marketing: unattached, related, and involved.

Using affiliate marketing


Unattached affiliate marketing is the most accessible. Here, the affiliate shares a link with which they have no real connection — they could be a TikTok makeup influencer sharing an affiliate link for trampolines. Bread. Little model racing cars. 

This is low-cost, low-effort affiliate marketing. It’s not a business relationship that’ll go anywhere, but it can top up the ol’ passive income pot. 

Related affiliate marketing is probably the kind you’re most familiar with. An affiliate will promote a product related to their area of expertise — the beauty influencer could hype up a new concealer or mirror, for example. Beyond that, there’s no real connection between the affiliate and the item.

This is a popular style of affiliate marketing because the product in question is an ‘easy’ sell, in that it’s related to the affiliate’s chosen topic and will have a captive audience.

However, it can be risky. If an affiliate promotes a product that doesn’t live up to the description or hype, they could lose their audience’s trust. That said, if the merchant/advertiser’s done their job properly and the affiliate sticks to the script, there should be no problems here. 

Affiliate marketing


Involved affiliate marketing is the most in-depth, trustworthy kind. It involves an affiliate physically owning and using the product, meaning it’s reserved for established influencers and content creators rather than beginners. 

Due to its detailed set-up, involved affiliate marketing can reap larger rewards than the others we’ve just mentioned.

Did you know that you can make money through unattached, related, and involved affiliate marketing with Epidemic Sound? Once you become an ambassador, our Community Program offers you a 50/50 revenue split for every new paying user you bring on board, plus free access to the Epidemic Sound catalog and product.

Sound good? Read more about our Community Program here and get started below. 

→ Join the community

The different kinds of affiliate marketing measurements 

We mentioned that affiliate marketing is measured beyond just purchases. Usually, you’ll find one of five measurements by which your affiliate marketing payouts will be based. Let’s run through them now. 


This is the measurement we’ve discussed most today. Pay-per-sale gives affiliates a commission every time a purchase happens.


Pay-per-click affiliate marketing is typically used by larger companies who want to raise brand awareness and cast their net further. The only requirement is that customers click the link — given the action can be completed in one step, payouts for pay-per-click links tend to be lower. 


Pay-per-lead gives affiliates a commission every time a lead is generated, usually from a signup or contact form. Businesses mainly use pay-per-lead affiliate marketing for lead generation, and affiliates use them because there’s less pressure on the customer than with pay-per-sale. Pay-per-lead links’ low commitment makes them ideal for beginners who’re dipping their toes into affiliate marketing. 

Affiliate marketing


Pay-per-install affiliate marketing drives customers to download apps or software. If the promoted app is free, affiliates stand a stronger chance of earning a commission, as customers will download more willingly. 


Pay-per-action is a little odd, because it can mean any, all, or none of the above. Pay-per-action affiliate marketing can be measured by sales, clicks, leads, installs, form submissions, poll completions, and more. If you’re unsure of what the exact action is, it’s worth contacting the brand or affiliate program and asking them to clarify. 

Are there any downsides to affiliate marketing?

Creators enjoy affiliate marketing because it gives them an extra revenue stream, often with little effort. However, some people believe that there are a few downsides. 

The main complaint is the lack of creative control. Depending on which affiliate program you use, there may be specific ways in which you present the link — for example, the agreement may state that you have to include the link right at the beginning of your video content, no ifs or buts. Read the terms and conditions carefully, and if you feel that it’s not right for you…it’s probably not right for you. And that’s fine! 

Affiliate marketing

The other notable downside is that, somewhat counterintuitively, there’s no guaranteed income. Sure, you should make some money with affiliate marketing, but how much and how frequently isn’t set in stone. That’s why most creators use affiliate marketing as a passive income stream or a top-up, rather than their main money-spinner. 

Affiliate marketing tips and tricks for 2024

Before we wrap up, let’s blast through a few best-practice tips and tricks for affiliate marketing in 2024. 

Do what makes sense for your brand or channel

Your brand identity matters, whether you’re a solo creator or established business. Even if you’re trying unattached affiliate marketing, a gaming influencer dishing out…links for mortgage advice doesn’t really make sense. Think of what your audience wants and needs, even if it’s not related to your content. 

If you move into involved affiliate marketing, why not bust out a reaction video? An unboxing video? A step-by-step tutorial? Showing off the affiliated products in-situ builds trust and shows that you know what you’re talking about — and people just love a good how-to.

Reach your audience directly 

It can be easy to miss affiliate links. So, why not take them directly to your audience? Your mailing list, Instagram broadcast channel, subscriber-only hubs — if potential customers feel like they’re part of a club, they’re more likely to engage with the link. 

Affiliate marketing


Search engine optimization (SEO) helps search engines like Google sift through content, ranking the most relevant pieces higher in the search results. Use something like Keyword Tool or Ahrefs to plan your keywords — this is super useful if you create involved affiliate videos, as the content directly links to the product. Successful SEO work drives organic traffic to your content when people search for those specific keywords.

Don’t let your content quality slide

The affiliate link is a nice extra. A dessert. Even if you’re creating involved affiliate content based on the product, the content itself must be valuable. Make sure that what you’re filming or writing is top-tier, then worry about the link. 

If you’re creating videos alongside your affiliate links, you’ll need some music. Don’t settle for second-best — Epidemic Sound’s got you covered.

Our catalog is high-quality, affordable, and safe. An Epidemic Sound subscription goes beyond royalty-free music, removing the headache of licensing and freeing you up to do what you do best. You can enjoy the safety of our license hand-in-hand with our massive catalog of 40,000 tracks, covering just about every genre you can think of. You’ll also gain unlimited access to our advanced search functions — finding the right sound’s never been easier. 

It’s better than royalty-free. It’s worry-free. Get started with Epidemic Sound below.

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