How to start making money with affiliate marketing?

Whether you are planning affiliate marketing to become your side hustle or a major source of income, it’s crucial to know your basics.

Using our long-standing expertise in the affiliate marketing (after all, we are in business for 10 years), we’ve compiled an ultimate list of tips and resources – articles, ebooks, webinars, etc. – everything to equip you with essential knowledge of how things really work.

So without further ado, buckle up and get ready to LEARN.

Workshop - how to start with affiliate marketing

How do I earn in affiliate marketing?

In simple terms, affiliate marketing is promoting 3rd party products/services and earning a commission for that. The more people you can refer, the more money you are able to make.

So, as an affiliate, you are finding the best ways to promote the product (we’ll refer to it as a “CPA offer.” CPA means “Cost per action”), and that includes: finding the right message, banners (aka “Creatives”), making converting landing pages, testing traffic sources, and setting up the most effective user flow. And for all that work, you’re rewarded with money.

In return, this 3rd party (“Advertiser”) is able to cut his costs for lead acquisition: basically, advertisers are just providing affiliates with a list of requirements and then check the lead quality. Convenient? Absolutely!

propellerads - CPA-Offers_How-it-works-

Read also: How affiliates get paid

Is an affiliate’s life easy?

Affiliate marketing is one of the oldest types of marketing, and despite its “respectable” age, to date, it remains extremely profitable…and challenging.

What I’m conveying here is: apart from the heavy competition in the market, there are other variables in the equation too, such as how “fresh” is the CPA offer, how suitable is the ad format and how converting is traffic. Is that it? Not even near, you have to test creatives, manage your budget, and keep an eye on trends.

All in all, you have to be prepared to survive in the market: know how the whole ecosystem works and, what’s even more important, be ready mentally.

Let’s begin with psychology; here are the 7 tips to achieve the right affiliate mindset and overcome common challenges.

Step by step: How do you become an affiliate? 

Obviously, to become an affiliate, you need to have something to promote, be it a product or a service – what we’ll call a CPA Offer (CPA means “Cost per action”). Where to find these offers?

Time to read our complete guide to finding high-converting CPA offers, where we explain in-depth what CPA offers are, which types of CPA offers exist, how do affiliate networks function, provide you with a list of the best CPA networks out there and, finally, clarify what the criteria of a great offer are. Also, we recommend reading about conversion types.

Now that you know where to find the offers and how to choose the ones with the best conditions, let’s talk about Verticals. Verticals (also known as “offer categories”) are a niche or an industry a certain offer belongs to.

Some of the most popular verticals are dating, betting, gaming, eCommerce, apps, sweepstakes, nutra, health & beauty, home improvement, movies & streaming, utilities, and finance.

This immense number of existing niches can easily overwhelm, that’s why we’ve compiled a guide on the easiest verticals for beginners.

Here are the top three verticals which are comparatively beginner-friendly. Also, we’ve included some brief tips on how to select offers that are perfect for testing and learning.

Moving forward, you decided on the vertical and the offer, but you still have to select a CPA network and get approved in this CPA Network. How can that be done if you have little to no experience?

Read how to choose the most suitable CPA Network with examples and pro-tips. Once you’ve selected “the one,” learn how you can get approved by a CPA Network with tips and comments of our affiliate marketing expert.

And the final part here is money. I bet it’s hard to surprise anyone with the fact that you should have certain sums for initial investments. But what kind of sums are we talking about?


How much money do you need to start with affiliate marketing? We’ll give you an idea of the budget you need to start your own affiliate business.

Your toolkit 

To succeed in affiliate marketing, you need to have the right tools. Over the years, we reviewed dozens of instruments and made an all-encompassing list of them, so you can skip the trial and error process.

Here are the basic instruments:

Within PropellerAds, we also have some handy tools, which we recommend using. You can check them out here: The Top 5 Sources for Affiliate Insights.

Launching your first campaign

If you’re looking for a quick dive into our platform, we suggest registering to our onboarding webinar, where we discuss what ad formats we have and what’s so special about them, how to start a campaign, what bidding model to choose, which targeting options you have, how to test offers and, finally, how to analyze campaign statistics.

What Ad Format to choose? 

First, let’s review the ad formats you can play around with in PropellerAds:

Ad FormatShort Info
Push NotificationsOne of our top formats, Push notification, is a short alert message with an icon that appears in your client’s browser or a mobile device.

You can find all the materials dedicated to this format here. Besides that, you can watch a webinar on Push notifications. Old but gold!
Also: How Not To Screw Up Launching Push Campaigns: Part I (Setup)
How Not To Screw Up Launching Push Campaigns: Part II (Optimization)
In-Page PushIn-Page Push is a traffic type, similar to traditional Push Notifications, albeit allowing you to target iOS and appearing on a webpage.

Here are some useful articles about this traffic type:
What is In-Page page
In-Page Push Tricks to Use in 2020
Onclick/PopunderOnclick ads (appear under the browser window) provide massive reach at the lowest cost. You can get guaranteed visits and generate fast conversions.

Articles to read about Popunder:
Webinar: How to Convert Popunder Traffic Like a Pro        
The Beginner’s Guide to Running Popunder Campaigns in 2021

Probably More than You Want to Know About Popunder: Questions Answered
InterstitialsInterstitials are full-screen ads that offer great CTR and extremely customizable look. We recommend reading about interstitial animated templates.

Do I need to use tracking?    

Glad you asked! Measuring your results is an absolute must – it allows you to spend your money effectively.

As with everything in affiliate marketing, you have to approach this issue in a systematic manner. If you’re a complete newbie, the internal PropellerAds tracker will be more than enough – it has full functionality, including viewability pixel.

We suggest reading our “Complete Introduction to Conversion Tracking” that covers the most general terms like conversion rate and conversion, as well as the comparison of conversion tracking types and tips on how to optimize your campaigns based on your conversion rate.

What if the number of clicks, impressions, and conversions that you see on different platforms varies?

This phenomenon is called Discrepancy, and here’s thorough research on what it is, what discrepancy is considered to be normal, and some recommendations from our tech team. Discrepancy: Where Does It Come From And What to Do About It? [+EXPERIMENT]

Money: How to set the bid and not overspend?

The crucial thing to bear in mind is that your affiliate business must be profitable; therefore, managing your finance comes to center stage.

propellerads - budgeting

How to target the right audience?

Targeting is not as straightforward process as most of us would like it to be; in fact, it’s somewhere near being an art. We spent a great deal of our time preparing guides on how to become a guru of targeting and reach the right audience each time.

Here’s an exhaustive list of topics we’ve researched over the years:

Timing: When should you launch campaigns?

Clearly, you can run campaigns at any time you like, but taking timing into consideration is a much more reasonable approach.

Let’s start with our big and super-profound article on ad frequency and scheduling:

How to Manage Your Ad Frequency and Ad Schedule? Learn why you should manage ad frequency, how to monitor the effectiveness of your ad formats, and gauge the traffic quality. Besides that, we discuss what days of the week you can target and how to analyze the stats.

Okay, we also spoke about seasonality. Why should you care? Aside from helping you identify the best creatives, paying attention to the time of year will also tell you whether the offers you’re promoting will actually convert, among other things.

Planning for Success: It’s All About Seasonality for Affiliates – how does seasonality affect various verticals, GEOs, and finally, many-many examples.

But what about special events? The Subtle Art of Event Targeting [+Real Case] – we’ll take a look at the subtle art of event targeting, give you tips on how to take advantage of it, and provide a real success story from one of our affiliates.

Another aspect we should discuss is running campaigns on weekends. Rumour has it that weekends can be profitable too. Is it so?

Propellerads - Weekend_Advertising

3 Solid Reasons to Run Campaigns on Weekend. Our experts give 3 reasons why weekend campaigns can be a real win for affiliates. We also list the verticals that totally rock on the weekends.

What are the best ways to test my affiliate marketing campaigns?

Before you move further with optimization, you should have reliable data on how your campaigns perform. That’s when testing comes in handy. It may sound that campaign testing is a super sophisticated process, not so much beginner-friendly.

So what to test and how to test?

Begin with testing your CPA offer, because if the offer is a no go, you have no chance to succeed in the first place.

We’ve interviewed professional affiliates (who actually make a living with affiliate marketing) on how do they test CPA offers. Seriously, how to understand faster that it won’t work?

PropellerAds_how to test a cpa offer

Here’s a simple and yet detailed article: How to Test a CPA Offer? Our expert explains where to begin, in what order to test the crucial elements and how to read the results.

Certainly, there are pitfalls. Ha-ha, you didn’t think every test goes smooth as butter, right? Here you go, the biggest mistakes you should avoid while testing CPA offers:

Everything you should avoid and/or keep an eye on. The good part, these mistakes are not that many. Check out the BIGGEST mistakes.

Okay, we are done with testing the offer. Finally, right? Time to A/B test the angles, approaches = ads. Check out the basic principles of A/B testing:

Propellerads - AB testing

Intro to How to Conduct Effective A/B Ad Testing we’ll take a look at the basics of A/B ads testing, what elements you should try out, and give you tips on setting up split tests for your adverts.

For all those Push fans out there, we’ve also compiled a guide on testing Push creatives:

Our affiliate expert is back to share his expertise, in what order HE tests the creatives. Read about his signature three-step approach: starting from icon and moving all the way to ad copy. How to Test Ad Creatives for Push Notifications         

How do you analyze and optimize campaigns?

Studying to analyze and optimize takes time, but you can speed up the process by learning from the leading affiliate experts.

Prior to optimizing, you should review your campaigns based on the data. Okay, but what data is important? If you open any tracker, you will see dashboards full of numbers. Frustrating!

Especially for beginners, we’ve designed a checklist with all the steps, essential to optimize your campaign.

PropellerAds - How to analyze affiliate campaigns

How to Analyze Campaigns: A Beginner’s Checklist– Review the key metrics, ROI, and discover the ways to identify problems in your user flow.

Let’s carry on with optimization. We suggest two possible strategies: one is suitable for beginners, the other one will work for more seasoned affiliates.

2 Campaign Optimization Strategies: What Route is Best for You? We’ll go over two different campaign optimization techniques that can help you improve the performance of your ad and create a better experience for your audience.        

Additionally, you can go through these topics:

Which creatives convert?

You don’t have to be a world-famous artist or a connoisseur of the human mind to design high-converting ads. What if I tell you that you don’t even have to know Photoshop?

At the core of every great affiliate campaign, is an understanding of the problems which people face. If you got it right, you have an actual chance to make good money.

PropellerAds - Customer pain points

Here’s where you can get some inspiration – How to Understand Your Customer’s Pain Points.    

Now, we need to find images, and it would be awesome if these images are free, right? We’ve carefully selected the free stocks that have “real-life” looking pictures. Remember that although your visuals have to be high quality, they still need to look realistic. Take a look at these stocks: Where to find FREE images?

You’ve selected the images that you consider would do the job, let’s double check that: 5 Tips on How to Make Your Ad Banners More Clickable.

Time to work on your ad copy. Here are some articles that could help:

Also, keep in mind to optimize your creatives for various devices, so they look great on both mobile and desktop: How to Optimize Landing Pages for Mobile.    

What’s the psychology behind creatives?

Finally, we can talk about psychology and tricks that experienced marketers use to boost their conversion rate.

The anchoring effect
Image source

Guides to affiliate marketing verticals

Now let’s switch to more specific materials. We’ve prepared guides for the majority of the popular affiliate verticals: from choosing a CPA offer to crafting creatives. Enjoy!

VerticalUseful links
iGamingSports Campaigns Full Digest: Affiliates Wealth of Knowledge
World Cup Jackpot: A Guide to Betting Offers for Affiliates
The Complete eSports Betting Guide for Affiliates: Basics, Tips, and GEOs
[Stats] Super Bowl Campaigns: What works & What doesn’t
[FREE PDF] An Advertiser’s Guide to iGaming Offers
[FREE Webinar] Event Targeting Master Plan for Sports Betting
DatingSummer Rush: Choosing a Perfect Dating Offer
[FREE PDF] An Advertiser’s Guide to Dating Campaigns
[WEBINAR] Creative Strategies for Dating Offers: Perfect Match Found!
– [Podcast] Propeller On Air #6: Dating Campaigns for Alpha Affiliates
Dating Webinar: Get Your Answers
Dating case studies
Finance & Crypto[FREE PDF] An Advertiser’s Guide to Financial Offers
4 Don’ts When Promoting Trading Offers with Push Notifications
Financial case studies
What Is an ICO and How to Promote it with Paid Traffic?
GamingAffiliate Insider: 3 Steps to Finding a Superb Gaming Offer   
The Power of Psychology: How to Craft Gaming Creatives that Work 
NutraNutra Success: How to Choose a Health & Beauty Offer
Nutra Pre-Landers: Sure-Fire Ways to Convert 
[FREE PDF]An Advertiser’s Guide to Nutra Offers
[Webinar] How to Run Nutra Campaigns with Native Ads?
Nutra case studies
SweepstakesHow to Choose a Sweepstake Offer: The Complete Checklist
Sweepstakes: How To Profit From People’s Love For Free Stuff
[FREE Webinar] Sweepstakes: How to win with this vertical
[FREE PDF] An Advertiser’s Guide to Sweepstake Offers
Online Sweepstakes: Keeping Your Promotions Legal
Sweepstake case studies
Video and Streaming
How to Tame the Streaming & Video-on-Demand Verticals? 
eCommerceWhat’s Wrong with Your eCommerce Landing Page?
[FREE Webinar] eCommerce: How to Earn BIG with Holiday Season
Seasonal Advertising 101: Optimizing Your Campaign for Easter eCommerce Success

+ Good reads 

What should you read and watch in order to stay up to date with all the affiliate marketing trends? It’s great if you wish to develop your skills even further.

One of the best ways to expand your knowledge is to absorb the wisdom of your fellow affiliates. For example, here are the Top 4 Affiliate Marketing Podcasts. Propeller Blog also runs podcasts (actually, cool one), where we invite super-affiliates and make them uncover their secrets – PropellerOnAir – affiliate marketing podcast.

Next, it’s always good to read about what’s happening with the world of affiliate marketing – we have a dedicated section for that, called Ad Trends.

We also recommend reading a great many posts by guest experts we invite from time to time.

The Final Challenge

Read everything? Well done, now you can test your knowledge with our affiliate marketing quiz. Not the easiest one, but you can do it!

Can You Crush This Affiliate Marketing Quiz?

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