Affiliate Marketing 101: What it is?

Reading time: 4 min

Affiliate marketing is an intricate web of relationships that creates a mutually beneficial ecosystem for sellers, affiliates, and consumers. Understanding how it works and the different types of affiliate marketing can help you leverage this strategy effectively.

Affiliate Marketing

How Does Affiliate Marketing Work?

At its core, affiliate marketing involves three primary parties: the seller, the affiliate, and the consumer.

  1. Seller and Product Creators: These are the businesses or individuals that have a product or service to sell. They create affiliate programs to incentivize publishers to promote their products. The seller is responsible for providing marketing materials, managing affiliate payouts, and maintaining product quality.
  2. The Affiliate or Publisher: Affiliates can be individuals or companies that promote the seller’s products to their audience. They select products they believe in and earn a commission for each sale or action completed through their unique affiliate link. Affiliates are creative in how they share these products – through blogs, social media, webinars, or even YouTube videos.
  3. The Consumer: Consumers are the end-users who buy the product through the affiliate link. Their purchase is tracked via cookies, allowing affiliates to be credited for the sale, which in turn, earns them a commission from the seller.

Types of Affiliate Marketing

The beauty of affiliate marketing is its versatility. Here are the primary types of compensation models:

  1. Pay Per Sale: This is the most common model in affiliate marketing. The affiliate earns a percentage of the sale price of the product after the consumer purchases it due to the affiliate’s marketing strategies. This model incentivizes affiliates to drive committed buyers to the seller’s products.
  2. Pay Per Lead: In this model, affiliates are paid based on the conversion of leads. The affiliate must persuade the consumer to visit the seller’s website and complete the desired action — whether signing up for a trial, filling out a contact form, or subscribing to a newsletter.
  3. Pay Per Click: This program encourages affiliates to redirect consumers from their marketing platform to the seller’s website. The affiliate is paid based on the increase in web traffic. This model is beneficial for affiliates who have a large reach and can drive significant traffic.
  4. Pay Per Install: This model is specifically for software and apps where the affiliate earns a commission for each installation that was referred. It’s a growing model due to the surge in mobile app usage.

Advantages and Challenges of Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing offers several advantages, including low entry barriers, the potential for passive income, and the ability to earn based on performance. However, it also poses challenges such as heavy competition, dependency on third-party platforms, and the need for ongoing content creation to stay relevant.

Maximizing Your Affiliate Marketing Strategy

To maximize your affiliate marketing efforts, it’s vital to:

  • Choose the Right Partners: Align with brands whose products you trust and which resonate with your audience.
  • Understand Your Audience: Tailor your content to the needs and preferences of your audience to promote products they are likely to purchase.
  • Diversify Your Approach: Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Promote various products from different sellers to spread risk and increase earning potential.
  • Track and Optimize: Constantly analyze your affiliate strategies and optimize them based on performance data.

Common Types of Affiliate Marketing Channels

Affiliates have various channels at their disposal to promote products and services. Here are some of the most effective:

  1. Blogging: Bloggers excel in ranking organically in search engine queries, thereby increasing the likelihood of their product reviews being seen. When visitors click on the affiliate links in their posts, bloggers receive a commission.
  2. Influencers: Influencers can leverage their large following on social media platforms to promote affiliate products. They often use authentic storytelling to create a natural connection between their audience and the products they endorse.
  3. Email Lists: Affiliates with extensive email lists can use email marketing to send targeted messages about affiliate products. This direct form of marketing often yields high engagement and conversion rates.
  4. Large Media Websites: These sites create massive amounts of traffic through SEO and by providing extensive content on a wide range of topics. They have the advantage of high visibility for their affiliate links.
  5. PPC (Pay Per Click): Affiliates can also use PPC campaigns to generate revenue. They direct their paid traffic to affiliate links and earn a commission for any sales made.
  6. Coupon Sites: These websites attract consumers looking for deals and discounts. They use affiliate links to offer special deals on products, earning a commission for sales made through those links.
  7. Review Sites: By providing detailed reviews and comparisons, these sites guide consumers in their purchasing decisions. These platforms often see higher conversion rates due to the trust they build with their audience.

Benefits To Joining the BigCommerce Affiliate Program

Joining a high-caliber affiliate program like BigCommerce’s presents numerous advantages:

  1. Competitive Commission Rates: BigCommerce offers generous commissions for customer referrals. Since they offer a high-quality, high-ticket service, the potential earnings per conversion can be substantial.
  2. Quality Products: The platform is known for its robust e-commerce solutions, which makes promoting it to potential users much easier due to the product’s inherent value and market demand.
  3. Long Cookie Duration: BigCommerce provides a lengthy cookie duration, ensuring that affiliates are credited for sales made by customers within this extended period after clicking the affiliate link.
  4. Marketing Support: Affiliates receive access to a variety of marketing materials, from banners to promotional content, which can be used to enhance their marketing efforts.
  5. Affiliate Manager Support: They provide personal affiliate managers who can assist with strategies, insights, and general support, helping affiliates optimize their campaigns.
  6. Reporting Tools: BigCommerce offers sophisticated tracking and reporting tools that allow affiliates to monitor their performance, track earnings, and gain insights into sales trends.
  7. Reliability: As a reputable company, affiliates can count on consistent payments and professional support, ensuring a stable and reliable partnership.

Developing a Robust Affiliate Marketing Strategy

The key to a successful affiliate marketing strategy lies in the wise selection of channels, understanding the nuances of each, and tailoring your approach to match the consumer behavior associated with each channel. By aligning with reputable affiliate programs like BigCommerce, affiliates can not only boost their earning potential but also ensure they are recommending reliable and valuable services to their audience.


Affiliate marketing continues to evolve, and with the right approach, it can be an extremely lucrative venture. By leveraging diverse channels and partnering with esteemed programs, affiliates can maximize their reach and revenue. Understanding the structure of affiliate marketing, the various types of engagements, and the distinct benefits of programs like BigCommerce’s, can serve as a solid foundation for anyone looking to enter this field or optimize their existing efforts. Success in affiliate marketing is predicated upon a strategic, informed, and consumer-centric approach.