First and foremost, I do need to disclaim that finding a resource that is relatively impartial to affiliate marketing is a hell of a challenge.

Most online resources, posts, articles, and websites are incredibly positive about the concept, sometimes a bit too much. This does not mean they are wrong, I just hoped I’d find some more objectivity in the subject.

Fear not, Fab is coming to the rescue! I want to keep this article brief and effective, just in case it requires some updates as we go along – most evergreen topics will do anyways.

First, what is affiliate marketing in a nutshell?

Affiliate marketing essentially means you are promoting a product as provided by a third party website or source.

Depending on the way the relationship is set, a link will be given to you that you can use on your post. Affiliate cookies are then dropped on your visitor’s computer once they visit your site or the link provided to you, and once a sale has been made through you, you are then given a commission.

Pretty straight-forward, right?

Now, there are two main ways you can earn a commission:

Pay Per Click: A very basic way to do affiliate marketing is the pay per click solution. In this case, you get paid regardless of whether the visit ends in a sale (which usually means the commission itself can be insanely low).

Pay Per Performance: this, on the other end, is one of the most lucrative in terms of affiliate marketing, as you will be paid only when an action is completed or when a visitor has made a purchase. This can either be fulfilled as pay per sale (very common via the use of discount codes, and reflecting as a commission or percentage based on that sale) or Pay Per Lead.

Very common with software and online solutions, for example, this type of marketing happens when companies are looking to grow or expand their business through generating leads. You usually hear these sponsorships via podcasts, for example.

Pros and cons of different affiliate solutions

Affiliate Networks

I would consider them the most old-school solutions, as these are programs with massive networks that gives you access to hundreds of programs – they are objectively a marketplace – and their job is to provide you with everything you need to set up your links.
What I have noticed myself is that most of the affiliate networks are very crowded or overwhelming, and most bloggers tend to sign up and never use them. Some of the pros include the fact that the network will provide you with the links of the products you want to promote, metrics to track your performance as well as payouts the moment you join.

Merchant Affiliate Program

Merchant Affiliates are networks that are linked to a big marketplace, and therefore more specific on the type of products. This one is believed to give you higher commissions but you have to go after a program on your own. Think about Amazon affiliates, ASOS, or even LikeitKnowit or Reward Style.
These are personally my favourite solutions, as they are big enough, but inspire loyalty both on you and your audience, and they also provide the best products when done correctly. Easier to be introduced in recurring conversations and content, they are favourite among fashion bloggers.

Internal Affiliate Program

These are the smallest scale and usually set up by individual companies (again, the discount codes / ambassadors) so most times they won’t be called ‘affiliate programs’ at all. These work well for companies with either products you use every day or companies with different product ranges. Can be a lot of work for little return of investment.

So, should you join an affiliate program?

In our humble opinion, there are three ways to make the most of affiliate programs:

1. score a big deal with a big company selling well-priced products, allowing you to make big bucks on commission. Examples can be Vitamix or a big software, as they tend to be more generous on fees.
2. create your own ‘shop section’ on your website and link back to Merchant solutions like Amazon, RewardStyle and similar platforms. This almost turns into a “favourite picks” solution and it’s very beneficial for you and your audience. The shop will link out to the specific websites (eg. Amazon) and you’ll get your commissions handled for you. In this case, the new Instagram shop function may come handy. Remember to add disclaimers on the website or on the page about your affiliate status.
3. create a ‘type of post’ eg. outfit of the day or books of the month. This is the article version of the shop – in this case, remember to disclose at the bottom of the post your involvement.

Overall, affiliate marketing can be worth the work, but it’s important to remember that it does require a certain level of skills and overall expertise in order to make it fruitful.