When someone talks to you about “affiliate marketing,” it’s easy to assume you’re both thinking about the same thing!
For example, my own background was in affiliate websites and SEO, so when I started at ClickBank, that’s what I thought “affiliate marketing” meant to them. Then, I discovered the HUGE number of PPC and email list affiliates in ClickBank’s orbit.
The point is, there are more types of affiliates than you may realize – and you need to decide which one of the 5 main affiliate types YOU want to be!
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The 5 Types of Affiliates in Direct Response
Table of Contents
Types of Affiliates
1) Content Publisher
First up, we have the content publisher. I tend to think of the publisher primarily as an SEO blogger, which involves building an affiliate website that can point readers to a third-party company’s product or service in exchange for a commission.
If you are one of the millions of bloggers that enjoy publishing content on your own blog or website, affiliate marketing is a great way to monetize it.
Or, if you want to be an affiliate marketer but have limited funds, starting a blog is a low-cost but highly effective way to earn money.
Why? Well, according to statistics:
- Content marketing is worth over $400 billion per year.
- 46% of people take recommendations from bloggers/vloggers into account.
- 34% of buyers will make an unplanned purchase after reading quality content.
- Google AdSense is the most popular monetization method for bloggers, followed by affiliate marketing.
- The most popular type of content among bloggers are how-to articles (77%), followed by listicles (57%) and news and trends (47%).
Content Publisher Pros
- Low Barrier to Entry – Just about anyone can start a blog or website on a topic of their choice.
- Low-Cost Business – Depending on your needs, the cost of running a blog can be under $25 per month.
- Part-Time Hours – If you have a full-time job but want to make extra money, consider starting a blog.
- Free Organic Traffic – An SEO-optimized blog can get a lot of free organic traffic from search engines.
- High Income Potential – Successful bloggers can earn a full-time income from blogging.
- Passive Income – Blogging allows you to earn money 24/7, even while on vacation.
- Content Creation Can Be Outsourced – It you have limited time to invest in your blog, you can hire out most blogging tasks.
Content Publisher Cons
- Hard Work – Creating high-quality content takes significant time and effort. It’s not a get-rich-quick scheme.
- Takes Time to See Results – Depending on the amount of time and effort you invest in your blog, it can take six months or longer before you earn your first dollar.
- Outsourcing Can Be Expensive – Outsourcing content creation can be expensive, and it will likely take time before you see any return on your investment.
Content Publisher Tips
Educate – Don’t Sell – As an affiliate, your role is to inform or educate your visitors about the affiliate marketing products or services you sign up for. Don’t try to ‘sell’ products or services – that’s the job of the seller you’re promoting.
Choose the Right Niche – One of the biggest mistakes affiliates make is choosing the wrong niche. If you are not passionate (or at least interested) in a niche, it will be hard to sustain the momentum of regularly creating and publishing new posts. Don’t only focus on affiliate programs based on the commissions they pay.
Affiliate Disclosure – The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requires affiliates to disclose their relationship with the seller of a product or service.
According to the FTC:
“Suppose you meet someone who tells you about a great new product. She tells you it performs wonderfully and offers fantastic new features that nobody else has. Would that recommendation factor into your decision to buy the product? Probably.
Now suppose the person works for the company that sells the product – or has been paid by the company to tout the product. Would you want to know that when you’re evaluating the endorser’s glowing recommendation? You bet.”
Follow Google Recommendations – If you want to get free organic traffic from Google, you need to rank well in the search results. Your blog should contain original content that adds value to visitors and differentiates it from other blogs. Don’t just copy product descriptions and reviews directly from the original merchant.
Here are some marketing tips from Google:
- Affiliate program content should form only a minor part of the content of your site if the content adds no additional features.
- Ask yourself why a user would want to visit your site first rather than visiting the original merchant directly.
- When selecting an affiliate program, choose a product category appropriate for your intended audience.
- Keep your content updated and relevant.
- Pure affiliate sites consisting of content that appears in many other places on the web are highly unlikely to perform well in Google search results and may be negatively perceived by search engines.
Content Publisher Example
Let’s assume you’re passionate about dogs and create a blog about how to train dogs. You want to monetize your blog by finding a great affiliate program in ClickBank’s marketplace.
You find a solid option in “Brain Training for Dogs.”
This ClickBank offer has a professional, well-written sales page, and the seller offers affiliates various tools, such as banners, free giveaways, email swipes, promotional videos, and keyword ideas.
Content publishers will typically either include their affiliate link in relevant posts about dog training or publish a review of the course.
Here is an example of a product review of “Brain Training For Dogs” done by CanineJournal.com:
2) PPC/Media Buyer
The PPC affiliate is a media buyer on platforms like Facebook Ads, YouTube Ads, native ads, and more. (See our full list of paid traffic sources.)
Unlike content publishers, PPC affiliates don’t want to spend hours writing blog posts that might take a long time to rank on Google. They want immediate results, and there is no faster way to get them than through paid advertising.
PPC affiliates send users who click on their ads directly to a seller’s sales page (using their affiliate link) or through an intermediate landing page (a.k.a. affiliate bridge page).
Landing pages are typically used to capture the email addresses of visitors (more about that later).
PPC Affiliate Pros
- Fast Results – Once your ad is live, you can immediately start earning affiliate commissions.
- Quick & Easy – It might take time to learn how to place ads. But once you understand the process, it’s fast and straightforward.
- Promote Multiple Products and Services – As a PPC affiliate or media buyer, you can run many affiliate campaigns across various niches simultaneously with relatively little effort.
- Zone In On Your Target Audience – Most ad platforms have features that allow advertisers to target an audience based on specific criteria such as age, income, and interests.
PPC Affiliate Cons
- Ads Can Be Expensive – As an affiliate, you may be competing against many other affiliates in an auction-type bidding system for prime placement. It can be prohibitively expensive to have your ad appear where it will get the most views.
- No Guarantee You’ll Make Money – Not every ad campaign will give you a positive ROI. You will have winners and losers, and the losers might cost a lot of money.
PPC Affiliate Tips
Choose a Product or Service That Has a High Converting Sales Page – PPC conversion rates vary between industries and from sales page to sales page. Always read through the sales pages of the products you’re promoting. Ask yourself if you would become a customer based on the quality of the sales copy. Thankfully, ClickBank has a lot of high-converting products on our marketplace, so you can skip right to results.
Choose Buyer keywords – Not everyone searching for products or services online is a potential buyer. Many people searching for information or reviews online have no buyer intent.
An example of a buyer intent keyword is “Buy Nike Shoes Online” – they’re not just checking prices or reviews before buying at a brick-and-mortar store.
Test & Track Your Results – Pay per Click (PPC) and Pay per Impressions (PPM) ads are not set and forget. Track your results daily, test new ads, and delete poor-performing ones.
Start With a Small Budget – As the saying goes, before you jump in the water, test the temperature. Start with a small budget. If you have a winner, gradually increase your ad budget.
Verify You May Place Ads – Not all sellers allow their affiliates to place PPC ads or use their brand name in ads.
Do the Math! – As an affiliate using paid ads to promote an offer, you need to ensure the math makes sense. Expensive PPC ads, a poorly converting landing page, and a low commission per sale can be a recipe for disaster.
PPC Affiliate Example
The first listing under the keyword brain training for dogs is an affiliate promoting the course listed on ClickBank.
According to Surfer, the cost per click is about $2.03, and the keyword has approximately 1,000 searches per month. The average affiliate commission for the course is $31.62 per conversion.
To break even, at least one out of every 15.58 (100 / 6.42% conversion rate) visitors must buy the course.
Minimum Conversion Rate Calculation:
(CPC x 100) / $ commission = Minimum required conversion rate
($2.03 x 100) / $31.62 = 6.42% conversion rate
3) Email Marketer
Email marketers can grow massive email lists centered around a specific audience or topic (for example, a list of women over 50 or a list of woodworking enthusiasts). This makes them well-suited to affiliate email marketing, as they can direct people to products in that space.
Many affiliates believe the money is in the list. And they have a point! Being able to email thousands of people in your niche who want to receive your emails is priceless.
Email marketing is also the fastest and cheapest way to promote affiliate marketing programs because you OWN the traffic. Think about it: Most people who visit your blog or click on one of your ads will never do so again. But if you capture their email addresses, you can email them at will and maintain relationships with your prospects and customers.
One of the biggest regrets most affiliate marketers have is that they didn’t start building a list earlier!
Email Marketing Pros
- Your List Is an Asset – Many marketing gurus believe you can, on average, earn $1 per month per subscriber. This figure is not cast in stone and depends on many variables. But if you nurture your list, it can be a profitable asset to own.
- Efficient Way of Marketing – You can enroll new subscribers in an automated email sequence, saving you time and energy.
- Warm Traffic – Your list consists of people who know you and are already interested in your niche.
Email Marketing Cons
- Email Marketing Is Not Free – Some autoresponder companies offer free plans but they have limited features. And the bigger your list grows, the more you pay for the service.
Email Marketing Tips
Don’t Email Too Often – Most people don’t like receiving daily marketing emails. One email per week, but no more than two or three, is typically more than sufficient.
Stay in Touch – If people don’t hear from you regularly, they might forget why they signed up for your list and report your email as spam.
Provide Value – If every email you send your list is about an item you’re promoting as an affiliate, you will soon have a dead list! Send them regular emails with helpful, high-quality content and only occasional emails about sellers you’re promoting.
Email Marketing Example
Affiliates wanting to build their email list typically send traffic to a landing page with an opt-in form. Here visitors can leave their email address, often in exchange for a gift, such as a free ebook.
Examples of opt-in forms include:
- Entry Popup – A popup appears as you land on a page.
- Exit Popup – A popup appears as you’re about to leave a page.
- Dynamic Slider – The opt-in form moves along with the visitor as they scroll through a page.
- Slide-in Form – The form slides onto the page to attract the attention of visitors.
- Static Form – An opt-in form that’s embedded on the page.
Here is an example of an exit popup used by ClickFunnels:
4) Social Influencer
Social influencers overlap with more traditional affiliate marketers in a lot of ways, but the main difference is that they have to build an audience before they can make money. They’ll usually do this on a popular platform like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, Twitter, or Pinterest. They may also do it on a site like Medium or Quora.
You’ll probably see fewer social influencers in direct response, because they’ve built up a reputation with their audience and don’t want to send them to sales pitches that might seem aggressive. With that said, there are lots of quality offers that can appeal to social audiences in every niche under the sun!
(See influencer marketing vs affiliate marketing to learn more about how the two models compare.)
Social influencers typically receive a one-off payment (in advance) for their services. However, as per the below example, influencers with a relatively large audience can make successful affiliates.
Social Influencer Pros
- Monetize Your Existing Audience – If you have a large following on social media, promoting products as an affiliate can be a valuable, additional income stream.
- Fast & Free Traffic – In contrast to some other types of affiliates, you don’t have to pay for traffic or wait months for people to discover your content.
- Quick & Easy – You can sign up for an affiliate program and potentially earn your first commission sale within minutes after telling your fans about it.
Social Influencer Cons
- Need a Large Fanbase – Posting about a product on social media won’t generate significant interest unless you have a large fanbase who cares about what you do and like.
- Risk Alienating Your Fans – Promoting a mediocre product with a dubious reputation can damage your credibility.
Social Influencer Tips
Know your Audience – Do not promote anything that might offend or irritate your audience. For example, think twice before promoting a cookbook for meat lovers – you might inadvertently offend your vegetarian or vegan followers.
Maintain a Balance – Becoming an affiliate does not mean all your posts should be about promoting something. Continue to post about the same topics you did in the past – the ones that made you famous on social media. But subtly incorporate affiliate marketing and monitor how your audience responds to it.
Disclose Your Commercial Relationship(s) – As a social media influencer, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requires you to disclose if you receive compensation for promoting a product. For more information, refer to the FTC guidelines – Disclosure 101 for Social Media Influencers.
Social Influencer Example
Here is an example of an influencer with a decent size audience: 39,300 YouTube subscribers and 5,915,594 channel views. She promotes the Brain Training for Dogs course and leaves her affiliate link in the video description.
5) Community Manager
A lot of the best affiliate marketers are turning to communities to grow their business now, because they’re meeting potential customers where they already are. This could be through a Slack group, Facebook Group, Discord server, subreddit, website forum, etc.
It could also include group threads in messaging apps like WhatsApp, a membership site with Zoom calls, and more.
If you want to leverage a community to promote products as an affiliate, then here are some resources for you.
Social media has transformed the relationship between individuals and organizations. People are naturally drawn to communities that resonate with them. As a community manager, your goal is to create a tribe of people who share the same interests and enjoy interacting with other members.
For the tribe to function well, the community manager should encourage members to play an active role in the community. But they should also enforce the rules of the community, which include ensuring all interactions are civil and polite.
Using affiliate links to promote products or services to your tribe can be tricky. Members generally don’t appreciate other members who post self-serving links. However, if you provide value to your tribe and tell them you’re an affiliate, they typically won’t have any problem supporting you.
Community Manager Pros
- Community Managers Are Influential – Members often look up to community managers for advice and recommendations.
- Helps Establish You as an Expert – People are more likely to buy a product or service based on the recommendation from someone they consider to be an expert.
Community Manager Cons
- Self-serving Links Are Frowned Upon – Self-serving links in communities are often associated with spammers.
- It Takes Time to Build a Community – Getting people to join your tribe doesn’t happen overnight. It can take years to build a large community.
- Requires Time to Maintain Community – As a community manager, you need to be actively involved in the community. You need to be there to moderate comments, welcome new members, and respond to questions.
Community Manager Tips
Build a Community Around a Topic – It’s hard to maintain momentum when you build a community around a product or service as a brand ambassador. And you’ll quickly suffer from burnout if you want to build many communities around various products and services.
Focus on building a community about a topic you’re passionate about or interested in. Deliver value to the members and suggest helpful products and services.
Community Manager Example
Here is an example of a Facebook group created for Brain Training for Dogs. It has 411 members, but they are no longer actively participating in the community. It’s an example of why it’s better to build a community around a topic instead of a product.
Without an active community manager, a group quickly falls apart.
5 Other Common Types of Affiliate Marketing Programs
I didn’t want to close out this post without touching on some other affiliate models out there. These often get confused for the “performance affiliate marketing” model that we’re talking about at ClickBank.
These methods are perfectly valid ways for e-commerce retailers and merchants looking to sell their products and services, but they don’t really qualify as “direct response.”
1) Coupon Sites
Some industries, such as domain registration and hosting, may provide affiliates with traceable coupon codes they can share with their audience. Many affiliates post these discount codes on coupon sites, such as RetailMeNot.com.
2) Cashback Sites
Cashback sites, such as Rakuten (formerly known as Ebates) and Swagbucks.com are popular with many consumers. They typically focus on brands and merchants.
3) Niche Review Sites
Many consumers read reviews on niche review sites, such as Edmunds.com, before deciding on buying a product or subscribing to a service. These sites should not be confused with the affiliate marketing sites we talk about on ClickBank.
However, as an affiliate for a ClickBank seller, it’s still a good idea to post a review of the product you’re promoting on your blog, YouTube channel, etc.
4) Shopping Comparison Sites
A shopping comparison site can be a great tool for consumers. It helps them compare factors like shipping and pricing from various retailers to identify the one that offers the best value.
5) Referral Programs
Many brands encourage visitors to refer friends or family to them in exchange for a reward. This business model should not be confused with affiliate marketing programs, such as the ones on ClickBank.
Picking Your Affiliate Path
So, the question is, which affiliate path (or paths) should you choose?
This depends on your strengths and skill sets. Are you good with video, writing, communicating, or design?
Are you more of a salesperson or an educator?
To make the right decision, you need to understand the affiliate marketing customer journey.
Aim to promote products or services in your niche that you are familiar with or, even better, are using or have personally tested. As an affiliate, your job is not to sell a product or service. Your job is to guide or show people the way toward a solution that can solve their problem.
The best way to understand your target audience is to be part of your target audience. Don’t be scared to learn new skills that can help you serve your target audience better.
When to Become a New Type of Affiliate
The important thing to understand is that affiliate types aren’t mutually exclusive – and in fact, they can really enhance each other! Don’t be afraid to become an affiliate in two or more traffic channels, or move onto a new type when it makes sense.
When possible, repurpose content to give you the most reach in the shortest period of time.
For example, create a blog post and use the content in a video or podcast. Post the video on your blog, YouTube, and Facebook. By repurposing the original blog post in different formats you can reach a wider audience.
The 5 Affiliate Types Wrap-up
There are many ways you can promote products as an affiliate. And you do not have to limit yourself to only one of the five affiliate marketing types mentioned in this article. Trying something new may take you out of your comfort zone and require a learning curve, but it’s usually worth it!
And if you do not have any or only little online marketing experience, don’t worry – ClickBank can help you!
With 20+ years in business and more than $5 billion paid out in commissions, ClickBank is the world’s leading affiliate marketplace! If you’re serious about making money online with affiliate marketing and furthering your education, our affiliate education program Spark by ClickBank provides you with the in-depth online marketing training you need for success online.