Affiliate Marketing vs Digital Marketing: What’s the Difference and Why Does It Matter?

Affiliate marketing is one of the most beginner-friendly online marketing business models out there.

With that said, affiliate marketing isn’t exactly the same thing as digital marketing – so if you want to get involved in this industry, understanding these two marketing definitions is important!

Ready to learn more?

Let’s look at affiliate marketing vs digital marketing to break down what they mean and how they compare to each other. By the end of this article, you’ll be able to decide whether you want to become an affiliate marketer, a digital marketer, or both!

What Is Digital Marketing?

Digital marketing is a form of marketing that leverages channels on the internet to promote products and services.

The key phrase in this definition is “on the internet.” Before the internet, digital marketing didn’t exist. The first use of the phrase emerged in the 1990s alongside the internet and Web 1.0 platform.

Digital marketing
Digital marketing

But the “digital era” of marketing didn’t officially start until 1994 when the first clickable banner went live and HotWired purchased a few banner ads (fun fact: HotWired is now the publication Wired). And as a side note, those first banners got a 44% clickthrough rate, which is a number that online marketers can only dream about today!

Yahoo was launched that very same year – and due to its success, more search engines came up around 1996, and companies started optimizing their websites to achieve higher search rankings. But digital marketing today is a direct result of Google entering the space in 1998, followed by the social networking platforms in the early 2000s.

From that single clickable banner in 1994, digital marketing is interwoven in virtually all aspects of the internet today. Some of the tools used to achieve business objectives through digital marketing include:

  • SEO – Optimizing your website and content to organically increase traffic and leads or sales.
  • Content Marketing – Providing high-quality content to your audience with different goals such as building better relationships, establishing brand authority, and providing value.
  • Social Media Marketing – Leveraging social media platforms like Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram to grow your business profile and build an audience.
  • PPC – Promoting content via platforms like Facebook or Google Ads, where you pay for clicks through the advertiser.
  • Email Marketing – Using email to engage your audience and promote products directly to customers.

Businesses need digital marketing to promote their brands, acquire customers, and grow revenue while containing their marketing costs.

What Is Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate marketing is a business model that allows a third party, known as an affiliate, to make money when promoting a product seller’s products or services. The payment is made when the customer purchases through the affiliate marketer. It involves three parties: the seller, the affiliate, and the customer.

Affiliate marketing
Affiliate marketing

The customer buys a product after clicking the affiliate’s tracking link. They don’t have to pay extra when they do this.

The affiliate promotes the sellers’ products to their audience to purchase through their affiliated link. If they do, the affiliate makes a commission on each sale.

The seller owns a product for sale and pays commissions to affiliates for each product they help sell. The seller could be as tiny as a one-person operation with a simple digital product, or a massive brand with several different e-commerce products for sale!

Ultimately, the goal of affiliate marketing is to generate revenue for both the seller and the affiliate. The seller gets sales revenue when the product is sold, while the affiliate makes a percentage or flat-rate commission.

The tools used in affiliate marketing are essentially the same tools used in digital marketing. This is because the goal of both types of marketing is basically to help get more customers and grow revenue for a business.

Using digital platforms is easy and can be quite affordable, so virtually anyone can use them to find success online.

You might sometimes hear people classify affiliate marketing as part of digital marketing, but this is only partly true. While much of affiliate marketing takes place via digital platforms and tools these days, it can technically be done offline.

Some of the offline affiliate marketing methods include:

  • Distributing flyers with an affiliate offer
  • Referring radio listeners to a product or service provider
  • Handing out business cards
  • Promoting the offer in local classifieds

Because of how popular digital marketing is today, the term “affiliate marketing” commonly refers to affiliate marketing online – but the concept of affiliate marketing only refers to someone helping generate sales for someone else in exchange for a commission, no matter the medium.

3 Types of Affiliate Marketing

You’ll sometimes see affiliate marketing described at a high level by how closely tied the affiliate is to the seller.

With that in mind, here are 3 types of affiliate marketing you should know:

1. Unattached Affiliate Marketing

In unattached affiliate marketing, the affiliate marketer has no connection to the product or service they are promoting. They don’t have any known expertise or related skills and don’t serve as experts on its use.

2. Related Affiliate Marketing

Under related affiliate marketing, the marketer has a relationship to the product or service they are promoting. Typically, the connection is between the niche of the marketer and the product or service. They have a following and the influence to command trust and generate traffic.

However, the affiliate doesn’t comment on the usage of the product – you’re really just raising awareness of it for your audience.

3. Involved Affiliate Marketing

As the name suggests, involved affiliate marketing has a deeper connection between the marketer and the product or service. The marketer has already used and experienced the product or service, so they can share this with their audience.

Their audience uses these experiences as trusted sources of information. However, their reputation depends on whether the product delivers or not. If a product bought through their link doesn’t live up to their recommendation, they risk losing the trust of their audience.

Which Type of Affiliate Marketing Should You Choose?

As an affiliate, you have the ability to choose how deep you want to get into your chosen niche.

Just know that most of the value you offer is in helping your audience make informed decisions about purchases of products and services – so you’ll provide a better experience if you ascend to a related or involved affiliate marketing level.

Can You Make Money as an Affiliate?

At this point, affiliate marketing might seem hard.

Finding sellers with offers to promote, marketing those products, growing traffic… and you don’t make a dime until you’ve closed a sale? That’s a lot to take in!

However, once you learn the ropes through our affiliate marketing education platform, Spark by ClickBank, you’ll get the hang of affiliate marketing faster than you think.

Spark by ClickBank
Spark by ClickBank

It may also seem too good to be true, considering it’s a form of self-employment where you don’t need proven experience or a lot of capital to get going. You can work from home, no inventory needed, and focus on any product or service in the industries that you like.

With so many compelling reasons to pursue affiliate marketing, a lot of people looking to get into affiliate marketing will wonder: Can you really make money as an affiliate marketer?

Yes, you can. Read on to see how much!

How Much Money Can You Make as an Affiliate?

The amount of money you make as an affiliate marketer depends on several factors, such as how long you have been doing it, which platforms you’re using, and how much time and effort you’ve put into it.

With that said, here are some stats that can give you an idea of how much you could make.

The average passive income for an affiliate, according to PayScale, is $52,590. The bottom 10% make $39,000 and the top 10% make $73,000. That means even if you are just starting, you can expect to make thousand of dollars after you find your footing.

According to Glassdoor, affiliate marketers make even more. Their average income is $66,029, ranging between $35,000 for the low end and $124,000 for the top end.

ZipRecruiter’s statistics place the average passive income of affiliate marketers at a whopping $74 per hour for a total of $154,700 per year. The lowest-paid makes $11,000, and the highest-paid makes $401,500.

From the above statistics, it is clear that many affiliate marketers do quite well!

Of course, to make money like the top affiliates do, you need to be patient. Unless you already have a following, it will take time and effort to create a consistent income stream.

If you give up after a few weeks of not seeing any progress, you’ll miss out on the possibility of making thousands of dollars in passive income!

8 Differences Between Digital Marketing and Affiliate Marketing

Before we wrap up, here’s a quick look at the biggest differences between digital marketing and affiliate marketing. Think about these terms this way:

Digital marketing involves the seller or product owner promoting products and services directly to customers via digital channels.

Affiliate marketing involves an affiliate promoting a seller’s products in exchange for a commission, usually through digital channels (but not always).

Here are 8 more differences to remember:

  1. Digital marketing can be done by the seller or product owner themselves, while affiliate marketing can only be done by a third party.
  2. The elements involved in digital marketing are a product, a digital channel, and a customer. The elements involved in digital marketing include a product, a channel, an affiliate marketer, and a customer.
  3. The primary reason for engaging in digital marketing is to increase traffic and brand awareness. The primary reason for engaging in affiliate marketing is to generate quick commissions for products promoted and sold.
  4. Digital marketing is a broader concept encompassing various digital marketing strategies and tools used by businesses to communicate and sell to their target audience. Affiliate marketing often encompasses digital marketing techniques by the affiliate to earn commissions based on product sales.
  5. Digital marketing involves several activities, such as identifying the needs and interests of the customer, promotion, marketing, measuring the effectiveness of the marketing campaigns, and improving them. Affiliate marketing mainly involves the promotion of products or services for a commission.
  6. To become a digital marketer, you need skills such as SEO, content marketing, data analysis, and video marketing. To become an affiliate marketer, you need to learn many of the same skills of the digital marketer, but with a focus on persuasion and direct response copywriting.
  7. Affiliate marketing is more dependent on the principle of audience reach than digital marketing.
  8. Digital marketing is broadly used to market businesses online, which means you have to create a product or service to sell – or work directly for a product owner or company. To engage in affiliate marketing, you don’t need to own a product or service – you just do it on behalf of those who do.

Hopefully, this detailed breakdown has helped clarify the difference between digital marketing vs affiliate marketing. We want you to be able to make an informed decision if you decide to become an affiliate marketer!

Affiliate Marketing vs Digital Marketing Wrap-up

Whether you want to focus on affiliate marketing as an affiliate or become a seller, you’ll want to know digital marketing. That’s where ClickBank can help.

We have been a trusted global partner for businesses looking to grow online for more than two decades, so we know what works and what doesn’t in this competitive space!

If you’d like to pursue affiliate marketing and digital marketing skills, you can do it in one place: Spark By ClickBank, our official affiliate marketing education platform. It’s time to ignite your online marketing career.