Unlocking the Potential of Affiliate Links: Your Path to Profitable PartnershipsYour Ultimate Guide to Earning with Affiliate Links
Explore the essentials of affiliate marketing in this concise guide. Learn how to utilize affiliate links across platforms like Amazon and Instagram, understand different compensation models, and navigate the legalities of affiliate marketing. This article is your key to turning online recommendations into a revenue stream.

You'll learn what affiliate links are, how you can make money with them – and most importantly, what you need to pay attention to.

Affiliate marketing is a great way to get rewarded for your recommendations. Whether it's software programs or physical products you're recommending – with your own affiliate link, you can precisely track which sales were through your individual link.

Let's get started!

What are Affiliates?

Affiliates, also known as publishers, are people who earn money (online) through recommendations.

When someone clicks on one of their affiliate links, a commission is triggered. Thus, affiliates are independent advertising partners of companies, paid only on a performance basis – either proportionally or with a fixed amount. For most affiliate programs, you have to apply, although there are also some programs that are open to everyone.

Affiliate links are used to give recommendations and thereby monetize the trust and reach you have built up with your target audience.

That is, if people trust you and you're always recommending a certain program or service – why not get paid for it? Typically, affiliate links are used wherever you already have a platform: whether it's on YouTube, in your newsletter, or in Instagram stories. But be careful: depending on the program, some sources may not be desired or are even prohibited.

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There are links that already include a special discount code, or those that just identify you as the referring affiliate.

The most classic form of affiliate marketing is simply thedistribution of your individual coupon code. You're probably familiar with influencers telling you: "Get the latest product from XY with the code "myCashery10" and get 10% off!" When someone enters this code, the allocation with the affiliate (the so-called publisher) is automatically triggered; even if no link click occurred.

There are various compensation models in affiliate marketing:

  • Fixed amounts, such as "100 € commission" per sale
  • Percentage affiliate commissions, such as "8% of the net shopping cart value excluding shipping costs"
  • Performance-based increasing commissions, which increase your share, for example, as soon as you reach a minimum number of sales or an absolute sales value

Often a specific ending is assigned (such as company.com/?rel=12345), so it's visually clear that this is affiliate number 12345 – but it can also be a cryptic, composite link.

Many affiliates choose to work with so-called link redirections to make the links look nicer – but also to collect data more easily. So-called link cloaking (replacing an "ugly" and long affiliate link with another) ensures that your links look better. It's also called URL masking.

  • Example: Instead of leading to othercompany.com/?ref=24392342948fsdk38rwkdls, redirect to mycompany.com/productname.

Another side effect of link cloaking is that you don't show your ID as an affiliate so prominently, and thus other people can do less harmful things (or even replace links with malware).

If you have a WordPress website, there are various extensions that allow you to rewrite links. But even if you work with other tools, it's no problem. Just set up a manual URL redirect.

  • Example: The affiliate URL othercompany.com/?ref=23423452345345 doesn't look too nice, so you can redirect mycompany.de/toolname to it.

The advantage is: If something changes with your affiliate link, you don't have to go to all the subpages where the link is placed, but you change the redirection ONCE centrally.

Affiliate links usually work through cookies, small text files in the user's browser that are set as soon as you reach the target page of the affiliate link. This means: Sometimes it can happen that the assignment does not work 100% perfectly. Therefore, as an affiliate, it's also important for you to know how long the cookie duration of the individual affiliate program is. The durations are very different, from one day to 30, 90, or even more days.

This specifically means, for example, with a cookie duration of 30 days: If someone clicks on your affiliate link and makes a purchase within the next 30 days, you will receive the commission. (Unless they have deleted all cookies in the meantime, then you miss out). On the 31st day, however, you no longer receive a commission for the purchase, even if it was triggered by you and your link.

It's also important for you to know that there are different attribution models:

  • "Last Click" means that the affiliate whose link was clicked last always gets the commission. If someone is presented the same product by two different people, then the commission goes to the one whose link was clicked last.
  • "First Click" means that the affiliate whose link was clicked first always gets the commission.
  • Allocation by coupon codes. The one who provided the coupon code used for the purchase always gets the commission – regardless of whether another affiliate's link was clicked in the meantime.

First, you need to consider which products or companies you want to advertise for. Then you can check directly with the provider to see if they advertise an affiliate program.

The alternative is using affiliate networks, which present large collections of various providers, so you can "browse" if you don't yet know. The advantage: You don't have to sign up with dozens of different platforms and have multiple partners bundled.

  • Webgains
  • Awin
  • Ingenious Technologies
  • impact.com
  • Admitad
  • MyLead
  • Rakuten Affiliate Network
  • 100partnerprogramme.de

Many of the big providers like Amazon PartnerNet, however, use their own software or a separate login area for their affiliate program. In case of doubt, you can find out through a Google search like "Brandname + Affiliate" whether there is an affiliate program or not. Not all providers advertise this prominently in their footer.

If you have a good business and the right target group, most providers will welcome you with open arms. It's not so easy for affiliate managers to find good partners. On the other hand, if you don't have a big reach or ranking for your website, it might be that your affiliate application is rejected. In case of rejection, don't be discouraged and continue to increase the relevance of your channels!

Affiliate links can basically be used anywhere you can set links: in Instagram stories, on your website, in groups, or in chats.

Many affiliate programs, however, have very specific rules about what you CAN'T do: For example, some providers explicitly prohibit you from placing your affiliate links in emails (to prevent spam). Others require that when you join the program, you confirm that you will only send emails to people who have actively agreed to receive these emails. Most affiliate programs also prohibit you from running paid ads like Facebook Ads or Google Ads and using the provider's brand name in them. As a rule of thumb for almost everything: As soon as you try to "cheat," it's most likely not allowed. That's why all platforms reserve the right to remove you from the program if you share your link in the wrong places or with dubious methods.

As an affiliate, you are assigned the commission at the time of purchase. This means you then have the right to your commission – but usually, the money comes much later.

Typically, the operators of affiliate programs build in "safety buffers" – meaning your money arrives only after 15, 30, or often even 60 to 90 days. This is to prevent abuse, spam, and fraud. Also, customers may return the product; in that case, you are usually not paid.

The commissions you receive for a sale through an affiliate link vary greatly.

For example, at Amazon, you can view the percentage shares in a long table; this varies greatly depending on the product category. Traditionally very high in the ranking of high commissions are financial products and software providers, which can pay large parts of their revenues to their affiliates due to very high margins and CLVs (Customer Lifetime Values) through SaaS business models. Also, all kinds of online products have very high affiliate shares (often 30% to sometimes 70% or more), because the so-called COGs (Costs of Goods Sold) are so low. Usually, wherever there is manual labor involved or a physical product behind it, the affiliate commission is lower: In the e-commerce sector, for example, you can expect 8% to 12% commission.

The legal situation on how affiliate links must be marked changes regularly. Most providers require you to clearly mark directly at the link or at the beginning of a blog or Instagram post if you are setting an affiliate link. The user should be able to recognize that there is a commercial intent behind it. Be sure to inform yourself about the current rules on how you can implement mandatory notices in a legally compliant manner.

Affiliate links are a great way to monetize recommendations – if you have the trust of the users – and the reach for it. Moreover, it is very easy to get started with affiliate marketing.

What you should not do: Just randomly advertise everything – because the better the match between your target audience and what you advertise, the more people will make purchases. Many large affiliates therefore report that depending on the strategy, it makes more sense to adverte the same provider more often than advertising man different providers. Of course, that depends on your strategy and reach also.