How To Get Started in Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate Marketing Glossary of Terms

Affiliate marketing can be a bewildering world for affiliates trying to get to grips with things. We love a bit of abbreviation or technical jargon. There are rumours we’ve taken it waaay too far but we just don’t know how to stop. So here’s my basic guide to those must know bits of affiliate terminology.

Anything missing? Drop me a comment.


An individual who drives traffic (clicks) to websites. When a sale, lead, or other agreed action takes place, the affiliate will earn a commission. Affiliates drive traffic in many different ways but the most common methods are via website or blog content, paid traffic from search engines, e-mail, and social media. (See also: associate, publisher)

Affiliate Fraud

Fraudulent activity by an affiliate designed to generate underserved revenue. This can include using automated scripts to falsely create leads or clicks, or humans to do the same.

Affiliate Link

See also: Tracking Link

Affiliate Network

An affiliate network provides a third party service to merchants and affiliates. The network will provide tracking, reporting and payment fulfilment services and allows merchants access to a large pool of affiliates. Networks generate performance based revenue by charging the merchant an override on top of affiliate commissions.

Affiliate Programme

An affiliate programme is a performance based form of marketing products or services offered by a website. The merchant pays a commission or lead rate on sales, enquiries or other actions to affiliate partners.


(See Affiliate)

Banner Ad

Graphic advertisement displayed on an affiliate site. (See Also Creatives)

Charge Back

(See Reversals)

Click Through

A web user clicks on an affiliates banner or link and is directed to the merchant’s site.

Click Fraud

(See also affiliate Fraud)


Click Through Rate / Ratio. Click through rate is calculated by dividing the number of clicks an ad receives by number of impressions. Thus if a banner ad was shown 100 times and received 20 clicks it would have a click through rate of 20%.

Click Reference

Most affiliate networks offer a facility to create user generated tracking links containing a “click reference”. This generally involves their being an allocated section within the tracking URL allowing affiliates to insert their own unique identifiers. These identifiers are then carried over into network reporting allowing affiliates to keep tabs on what’s generating sales for them.


Cost Per Action. Metric for payment of commission based on a recordable action,.


Cost Per Click. If you’re a PPC affiliate, you’d be subtracting your CPC from your EPC to see how much money you’re making. Hint: If your CPC is lower then that’s bad.


Cost per thousand impressions. There used to be some affiliate programmes paying on a CPM basis. *wipes tears from eyes* Sigh. The good ol’ days, eh?


Conversion Rate (or ratio). This is obtained by number of click throughs to merchant divided by number of sales generated.


Banner ads and content units provided to affiliates for promotional use on their sites.


This is the best word in the world. Refers to an affiliates payment for sales generated by their traffic based on percentage of sales or a fixed lead payment basis.


In the case of affiliate tracking cookies, this is a small file placed on a user’s pc as they travel through the affiliate link . A cookie allows sales generated by affiliate traffic to be recorded out of session (i.e. if the web user subsequently returns to the site and does not use the affiliate link). Cookies are usually valid for a set period of time. Most commonly around 30 days, during which time the affiliate will still earn commission on any purchases made by the customer they originally referred. Cookies can also be set by merchants to specify if commissions would be payable on a repeat basis within the cookie period (recurring commissions).

See also: Session Cookie.

Cookieless Tracking

This could be a blog post on it’s own. Briefly though, with increasing privacy concerns, and some technology providers actively bypassing advertising cookies – affiliate networds have many clever ways of tracking sales without being entirely reliant upon cookies.

Cross Device Tracking

Where a user might visit a site on one device and makes their purchase on another. Those clever networks do not like to let precious revenue escape them. I wholeheartedly approve of this. They’ve therefore used what is most easily described as witchcraft to be able to identify as many of these sales as possible without breaking any privacy laws.

Contextual Linking

Process of placing affiliate links to appropriate products within related text or articles on a website.

Conversion Rate (CR)

Percentage of clicks that convert to a sale. I.e. 4 sales for every 100 visitors would constitute a 4% conversion rate. Sales are referred to as conversions.

Data Feed

A data feed is a file (usually in CSV or XML format) containing product information for a merchant. This file will typically contain url’s, names, images & descriptions of products offered by the merchant. These files are manipulated by affiliates to create relevant commercial content for their own sites.


A link that is pointed to a specific page / product on a website. Most networks allow you to manipulate their base tracking link to let you send a tracked click to whichever part of the merchant site you deem necessary.


Earnings per click / hundred clicks. A commonly used metric for determing the financial return provided by an affiliate programme. It refers to the average earnings of affiliates for every click / hundred clicks they deliver to merchant. Many affiliate networks make this data available to affiliates, but it tends to be calculated in a slightly different way by each network.


A world of EU privacy related pain for which you must take responsibility when running a website. For the most part, this requires a well thought out cookie disclaimer covering what sort of personal information (if any) your site collects, alongside the availability of information about how your site users can opt out.

Google Adsense

Google programme offering web site owners the opportunity to include ads from its pay per click advertisers. Site owners are paid a percentage of the click cost to advertiser when one of these ads are clicked.

Google Adwords

Is the pay per click advertising solution offered by the Google search engine. Advertisers pay a cost per click which is relative to the type of site content, and how much other advertisers are willing to pay.


The number of times a banner ad or web site page is requested from the server. (see also CTR)

Independent Affiliate Programme / In House Affiliate Programme

Where a merchant runs their own affiliate programme outside a network. Generally use an in-house tracking solution, or an off the shelf solution that can be integrated into their website.

ITP / ITP 2.0

Intelligent Tracking Prevention – A brainchild of Apple, affecting traffic via Safari. Good for privacy, problematic for affiliate tracking. Most networks have workarounds. As an affiliate, awareness of whether your merchant has implemented the required technology for the workaround to be effective is important.

Lifetime Commissions

Paid out for the life of a customer on a subscription service or other renewable product such as insurance. This means you get a revenue share for the lifetime of a customer you have referred to a merchant.

Network Override

This is the charge applied by networks to merchants on top of your commission payments. Just as the merchant pays you commission for your sale, they pay the network a percentage on top for use of their platform.


Online retailer / business owner.


Pay Per Click. The practise of paying for traffic from search engine advertising services on a cost per click basis. Ads are served based on keywords or themes. (s

Product Feed

(See Datafeed)


(See Affiliate)


Is when a merchant removes sales commissions from an affiliate. This is usually due to returned goods, declined credit cards, or fraudulent activity. (see Also Chargeback)

Super Affiliate

What we all strive to be! These rare and dynamic affiliates generate huge amounts of revenue for the programmes they promote. Definitions differ, but if you’re in the top 5% of someone’s programme then you qualify. At least as far as they are concerned.


Search Engine Optimisation. The process of altering and refining a site to ensure better performance and positions in the search engines.

Session Cookie

This is a cookie that only lasts as long as the browser window remains open. If the user closes the browser, or even in some cases, pops off to a different page to compare a price… PFFFT! It’s gone! Mentioned in this glossary because some affiliate programmes use them for tracking.


A payment made to a site in lieu of commission for a merchant or brand to be featured.

Tiered Commission

Commission structure offered by merchants which increases on a sliding scale based on performance. This can be based on number of sales or sales value.

Tracking Link

A special link containing code which tracks web visitors sent to a site by an affiliate. Each affiliate link contains a unique id specific to an individual affiliate and will record sales, visitors, and impressions generated and allow the merchant to attribute commissions.

Two Tier Affiliate Programme

Programmes of this kind reward you for signing up sub affiliates. This means that you are paid a certain percentage of their earnings for the life of the affiliate.

Unique Visitor (UV)

This differs from the number of clicks in that it is a metric which refers to the number of unique individuals clicking on a link. For example, one person could click on a link 3 times in one day creating 3 visitor sessions and one unique visitor session.

White Label Solution / Site

Many merchants offer a facility where affiliates are provided with an unbranded version of their site via which to channel traffic.

How To Get Started in Affiliate Marketing

Kirsty’s Affiliate Analysis Pack – Measure Your Success

This post will probably be of most use to affiliates just starting out who haven’t yet given much thought to measuring their success!

Even if you have a very small affiliate business it’s really important to make sure you know exactly how it’s progressing.  I’ve found a few simple Excel spreadsheets to be invaluable in charting the progress of my business and planning how to move forward.

I decided to make available for anyone who wants to use them 3 spreadsheets (with graphs) that are altered versions of the ones I use to keep an eye on things. Here’s a list of what they keep tabs on, I’ve populated them all with mock figures so you can see how they chart things.

1. Monthly Sales

This spreadsheet tots up: –

  • Income from each network.
  • Expenses.
  • Expenses as a percentage of turnover so you can keep an eye on your margins.
  • Breaks results down into average daily profit ( I like to know how much I earn a day!)

The spreadsheet outputs the turnover, profit, and spend into a nice graph so you can see business progress at a glance.

I’ve found it useful for seeing the seasonal trends in my business and planning to iron them out with other revenue streams, charting the ebb and flow of income with different networks, to plan / forecast annual growth, and just downright reassuring when I’m unsure exactly how things are going.

2.Profit Targets

Just a simple spreadsheet featuring: –

  • Target V’s actual profit (with graph).
  • Percentage above / below target.
  • Tot up of progress, average monthly profit, projected profit & target v’s projected increase for the year.

Good to keep an eye on progress, and also good to stop yourself moving the goalposts mid year. I like to sit down and work out what I’m happy with over the next 12 months. Once its in the spreadsheet it’s set in stone!

Individual Site Profits

For monitoring the progress of individual sites.  This looks at: –

  • Turnover broken down into individual merchants.
  • Expenses.
  • Monthly profit (and that average per day metric again!)
  • Percentage of marketing spend of turnover (again to keep an eye on those margins)
  • Monthly traffic.
  • EPC per visitor to site.
  • Visits through to merchant / CTR.

This one is probably the most useful of all. It’s really incredibly important to monitor which sites are contributing good profits and keep an eye on the ones that aren’t.  I find that working out my CTR is really important – it lets me see any issues and address them quickly. Also, the site EPC is a fantastic metric. I use it to motivate myself and also to forecast how much I can increase my earnings by going out and finding similar traffic. I usually know how much work it is to put out X pages that bring in £xxx, so this is a great way to plan and effectively move forward to increase that cashflow.

I hope these help and if you have any questions on them please post below. No doubt I’ll have left some silly bit of Kirsty-esque maths in them that make sense to nobody but me. What can I say? I’m unique!

File Is Here>>

Contains all 3 spreadsheets. Right Click & Save Target As should get you a copy.

Ask Kirsty

Ask Kirsty – Niche Selection Isn’t As Easy As It Sounds, Is It?

Been a while since I’ve had a good “Ask Kirsty” through, this one is an oldie… but a goodie. It’s the old and still painful niche selection problem!

Hi Kirsty,

I need some advice. Im new to affiliate marketing and have been reading as much as i can for the past few months. While reading, there have been 2 things that seem to be repeated quite often, 1) pick a subject you enjoy and have a passion for and 2) just do it.


So, keeping inline with the ‘just do it’ statement, i started searching for a niche/product to promote early on but i didnt really think about picking a topic that i enjoyed. I thought that once i saw the money coming in then that would motivate me anyway.


So i found a kitchen appliance product that didn’t have a lot of competition and got about 27k local exact search (according to Google keyword tool) ad went about creating the site. Im a web developer/designer career wise so enjoyed the site creation, but now im stuck. I need to write content for it, but i have no interest in this product and find it so mind numbingly boring that i can’t bring myself to do it everyday. When i do write content for the site (reviews for each product) i find myself writing the same thing over and over again for each product. its basically the same thing from different manufacturers! i cant afford to hire content writers so the sites come to a halt.


So, i guess i realised the hard way why its important to pick a topic that you enjoy, at least until you get enough experience and maybe make some money.


But here’s my problem. Everything that i have any interest in is so heavily saturated and overly competitive that i don’t think i can compete and it wont be worth the time and effort to get so little reward. For example, i enjoy playing video games, but thats to broad a market and very competitive anyway. i could dig deeper and go for sub sections of the games market to target a niche, but these niches don’t really get any searches so again, its not really worth the time or the effort.


Do you have a tips or ideas of where i can go from here?

Well, Abbid I can immediately pick up on more than one common mistake that you have made in all of this. Clearly you’ve already learned the hard way about needing to be interested in what you are promoting, so we’ll skip that one!

So the areas you need to look at again are: –

Basing your niche selection purely upon what the Google Keyword tool tells you.

It’s great to give you a rough idea, but it often over and under estimates actual traffic you might get from your search terms.  Bear in mind that the data you are seeing has been collated on an automatic basis. Whilst it is a good way to investigate possible traffic bearing areas, I think it is important to also realise that it is often innaccurate.

Basing your niche selection around a single keyword

It sounds to me like you are subscribing to the “exact match domain” school of affiliate marketing. Whilst this particular bit of advice has been floating around for a while and has been very useful I think it is a mistake to accept it as gospel, and the thinking of it as a formula to succeed is a woeful over simplification. Remember that on any domain, you will not only get traffic relating to your main search term but on many related search terms if you take the time to put up decent content.  I have a single product domain which Google reckons has 880 monthly searches. I get 2,000 visits per month to it because I’m not only ranking for that term but many other related terms thanks to my decent content.

Thinking you need an exact match domain

You don’t. Yes, try to get something attractive looking with at least one important keyword in it – but don’t let it be a rod for your back. This mistake wasn’t obvious from your question, I’m just guessing. However a lot of people reading this probably let exact match domain availability rule their progress too much, so I’ve included it 😉

Letting your pre-conceptions build a wall against progress

You’ve only been involved in affiliate marketing for a short time, but already you have a very rigid notion of what you “have” to do to find your niche. Whilst any bit of useful advice you get in this game should be heeded, do not treat it like gospel.

First of all, are you absolutely SURE there’s no search volume around the small and targeted niches you have been thinking of?  If they are interconnected I’d consider doing a site to house say 5 or 6 of these, approach one at a time and add others when ready.

Secondly, how can you know that areas are over saturated without actually trying?  On each and every over saturated niche I’ve ever entered I’ve quickly realised I’m one of the only people knocking about who is prepared to spend time producing quality, unique content.  Choose a small area and don’t take on the big boys, but don’t be put off by a little competition either.

Tips and Ideas

I want to be a little more helpful than picking holes in your reasoning, so here’s where I’d go from your current situation.

  • Game controller site?  Any other accessories people might buy that you’re an expert on? Most gaming consoles seem to have a plethora of add ons. If I was doing a site like that I’d create a comprehensive section covering each console brand and review main products. Then I’d also create a section for each major use or type of controller i.e. “flight simulator game controllers”  At first glance, there are an awful lot of authority sites in that area… but as I said before, put out some quality content and you will get traffic. Large authority sites are often unable to break out of a set “mould” in their content and structure. If you personalise your approach to how you would shop for these things yourself, I’m betting you’d get traffic.
  • Sit down and list absolutely everything that you’d enjoy shopping for online, and use one of them. Over simplified advice? Yeah, definately but it does sort of come back to the “just do it” phrase you alluded to at the start of this question. You will have to start somewhere, and even if it turns out not to have been the right place, you will learn something you can feed into your next attempt.
  • Do not get disheartened if what you try first does not work. You absolutely must try again. Affiliate marketing is not an easy thing to master, there will be false starts and you have to get over them to succeed. Acknowledge that at the start and you have a good chance of winning!!

I think I’ll leave it there… plenty to digest as the post approaches 1200 words!

Good luck 😉