Affiliate Marketing for Non-Experts: Breaking Down the Jargon

Affiliate marketing is a marketing strategy that involves promoting other people’s products and earning a commission for each sale made through your referral link. While it can be a lucrative venture, the jargon used in the industry can be overwhelming, especially for beginners. In this article, we will break down the most common affiliate marketing terms and concepts for non-experts, so you can start your journey toward success.


Affiliate marketing is a performance-based marketing model that allows individuals and businesses to promote products and services to their audience and earn a commission for every sale made through their referral link. It is a win-win situation for both the merchant and the affiliate, as the merchant gets exposure for their products, while the affiliate earns money without having to create their own products.

However, the affiliate marketing industry has its own set of jargon and concepts that can be confusing for beginners. In this article, we will explain the most common affiliate marketing terms and provide you with actionable tips to help you succeed as an affiliate marketer.

What is Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate marketing is a type of performance-based marketing in which a merchant (product owner) rewards affiliates (publishers) for each visitor or customer brought to the merchant’s website by the affiliate’s marketing efforts. This can be achieved through various marketing channels, such as a blog post, social media post, email, or banner ad.

The affiliate earns a commission for each sale made through their referral link, which is tracked through a unique affiliate link provided by the merchant. The commission rate can vary from one program to another, but it is usually a percentage of the sale price.

Affiliate Marketing Players

To understand affiliate marketing, it’s important to know the different players involved in the process. These are:


The merchant, also known as the advertiser or product owner, is the one who creates or owns the product or service being promoted by the affiliate. The merchant is responsible for providing marketing materials, tracking sales, and paying out commissions to the affiliates.


The affiliate, also known as the publisher, is the one who promotes the merchant’s products or services to their audience. The affiliate can be an individual or a company, and they earn a commission for each sale made through their referral link.

Affiliate Network

An affiliate network is a platform that connects merchants with affiliates. It acts as a middleman between the two parties, providing tracking and reporting tools, as well as handling commission payouts.

Types of Affiliate Marketing

There are several types of affiliate marketing models, each with its own commission structure and requirements. These are:

Pay Per Sale (PPS)

This is the most common type of affiliate marketing, where the affiliate earns a commission for each sale made through their referral link. The commission rate can vary from a few percent to as high as 50% or more, depending on the product and the merchant.

Pay Per Click (PPC)

In this model, the affiliate earns a commission for each click on their referral link, regardless of whether a sale is made or not. The commission rate is usually lower than PPS, but it can add up quickly if the affiliate has a large audience.

Pay Per Lead (PPL)

In this model, the affiliate earns a commission for each lead generated through their referral link. A lead can be a signup for a free trial, a newsletter subscription, or any other action that the merchant deems valuable. The commission rate can vary depending on the lead quality and the merchant.

Cost Per Mille (CPM)

CPM, also known as cost per thousand impressions, is a model where the affiliate earns a commission for every thousand impressions of their banner ad. This model is mainly used for brand awareness campaigns, and the commission rate is usually low.

Cost Per Action (CPA)

CPA is a model where the affiliate earns a commission for a specific action, such as a sale, a lead, or a download. This model is becoming more popular among merchants, as it allows them to pay only for the desired action and not for clicks or impressions.

Affiliate Marketing Tools and Techniques

To be successful in affiliate marketing, you need to use the right tools and techniques to promote your products effectively. Some of the most common tools and techniques used by affiliates are:

Affiliate Link

An affiliate link is a unique URL that identifies the affiliate and tracks their referrals. It is provided by the merchant and should be used in all promotional materials.

Landing Page

A landing page is a dedicated page on the affiliate’s website that promotes the merchant’s product and encourages visitors to take action, such as making a purchase or signing up for a free trial.

Banner Ads

Banner ads are graphical ads that are displayed on the affiliate’s website or social media accounts. They can be created by the merchant or by the affiliate and should be eye-catching and relevant to the product being promoted.

Email Marketing

Email marketing is a powerful tool for affiliate marketers, as it allows them to reach their audience directly and promote products through targeted campaigns.

Influencer Marketing

Influencer marketing involves partnering with influencers in your niche to promote products to their audience. This can be an effective way to reach a wider audience and build trust with potential customers.

Social Media Marketing

Social media marketing involves promoting products through social media platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. It can be an effective way to build a following and promote products to a targeted audience.

Finding the Right Affiliate Program

To be successful in affiliate marketing, you need to find the right affiliate program for your niche and audience. Here are some factors to consider when choosing an affiliate program:

Niche Selection

Choose a niche that you are passionate about and that has a high demand for products. This will make it easier to promote products and build a following.

Program Reputation

Choose a program that has a good reputation in the industry and is known for paying its affiliates on time and providing good support.

Commission Rate and Payment Frequency

Choose a program that offers a competitive commission rate and pays its affiliates on a regular basis, such as monthly or bi-weekly.

Affiliate Support

Choose a program that provides good support to its affiliates, such as a dedicated affiliate manager, training materials, and marketing tools.

Common Affiliate Marketing Mistakes to Avoid

While affiliate marketing can be a lucrative opportunity for non-experts, there are some common mistakes that should be avoided:

Promoting Too Many Products

One mistake that many new affiliate marketers make is trying to promote too many products at once. This can dilute your message and make it difficult to build a following. It’s better to focus on a few high-quality products that you are passionate about and can promote effectively.

Not Understanding Your Audience

To be successful in affiliate marketing, you need to understand your audience and what they are looking for. Take the time to research your audience and their needs, and tailor your promotional efforts accordingly.

Focusing Too Much on Commissions

While commissions are important, they shouldn’t be the only factor in choosing an affiliate program. Look for programs that offer good support, high-quality products, and a good reputation in the industry.

Ignoring SEO

Search engine optimization (SEO) is an important part of affiliate marketing, as it can help you rank higher in search engine results and drive more traffic to your website. Make sure to optimize your website and content for relevant keywords and phrases.

Not Disclosing Affiliate Relationships

It’s important to disclose your affiliate relationships to your audience to maintain transparency and trust. Make sure to include a disclosure statement on your website and in your promotional materials.


Affiliate marketing can be a great opportunity for non-experts to earn passive income by promoting products they are passionate about. By understanding the jargon and using the right tools and techniques, you can effectively promote products and earn commissions. Just remember to avoid common mistakes, choose the right affiliate program, and always be transparent with your audience.

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