Digital marketing expert Pat Flynn defines affiliate marketing as “the process of earning a commission by promoting another company's product (or service).” Essentially, it's good old-fashioned revenue sharing made better by modern technology. It offers the potential of limitless profit while you sleep.
Affiliate marketing first went online in November, 1994. One of its earliest adopters was amazon.com through their Amazon Associates program. Since those early days, different forms have come and gone. Right now, some of the main shapes affiliate marketing takes are:
- Embedded advertising in videos
- Product review and product curation e-commerce sites
Affiliate marketing is about more than just slapping a website together and covering it in links, however.
Today’s internet users are savvy enough to tell honest content from rip-offs. Audience trust is only gained through the disciplined investment of time and resources. Finding an under-served niche doesn’t hurt either.
Below, we’ve collected 14 quality affiliate marketing examples. These are different types of affiliate marketing websites, but they all utilize the best practices you’ll want to employ to make affiliate marketing work for you.
1. This Is Why I’m Broke
This is Why I'm Broke (TIWIB) succeeds by simply focusing on well-presented, entertaining content. They take the approach of promoting items based on how quirky or humorous they are, regardless of sales appeal. This strategy works because it doesn’t matter what you buy, as long as you buy something once you've clicked the link.
2. Who Is Hosting This?
This website's success comes from providing free value. Their no-cost, easy-to-use host search tool is presented without ads. This allows Who Is Hosting This to position itself as an impartial authority and gain trust. They come across as having no horse in the race, so when links to hosting options are presented, the audience feels comfortably free to make their own choice.
3. What Moms Love
What Moms Love is a hybrid blog and product review site. Like a lot of these types of sites, it presents helpful information designed to appeal to its niche. One way it stands out is through the robust e-mail newsletter audience it has cultivated. That audience reliably re-visits the site. An audience that returns again and again is much more likely to click through to an affiliate.
4. Lucie’s List
Lucie's List, which also features a high-quality newsletter, is aimed at new parents. An engaging newsletter is one of the best ways to keep your audience interested, growing, and generating revenue. A strategy that Lucie's list nails is custom-contact. They ask visitors to put in their baby's due date, which they then use to send e-mails tailored to important milestones surrounding that specific date. The whole point of niche targeting is to be compelling to a small but dedicated audience. Individually customized contact is a niche whittled down to its finest point.
With an estimated monthly traffic of more than 11 million, NerdWallet is a giant in the affiliate marketing world. Its success comes down to quality and authority. Its audience has come to deeply trust NerdWallet’s impartial reviews of financial services. Now, when they are seeking anything in the world of finance, they don't use Google. Instead, they go straight to NerdWallet.
Homegrounds nails its niche, supplying its audience of aspiring home baristas with a top-of-the-line education in their chosen craft. The content is narrative and light-hearted, while managing to unobtrusively integrate product reviews and links. It makes clicking through to an affiliate feel like a helpful opportunity, as opposed to a hardened sales pitch.
7. PC Part Picker
PC Part Picker is more than just a review website; it’s a tool that facilitates its audience’s end goals. It cross references parts by the desired specs and gives users direct links to listings. This level of helpfulness and convenience leaves its audience feeling well-informed and ready to buy.
8. Gear Patrol
Gear Patrol's audience doesn’t just come for the reviews. The text content of this website is complemented with exceptional photography for every product it features. It nails the visual aspect of affiliate marketing, gaining trust through maximum resolution.
Travel websites like Skyscanner were early adopters of affiliate marketing. While they function differently from other websites on this list, they still earn their money by connecting buyers to services. They ease access to a complicated process, giving people a sense of empowerment in decision making.
10. Digital Photography School
Something that stands out about Digital Photography School is its tutorial focus. Tutorials draw in an audience searching for instruction, and provide a prime opportunity to link to equipment and services. Digital Photography School appeals to its audience by proving useful information without being heavy-handed in its advertisements. Many of its tutorials are nearly link-free, allowing visitors to feel catered to as opposed to simply sold to.
Snapsort's homepage is charming, with a retro 2005 feel. But that retro vibe is backed up by a deep data set. They succeed by being the best and most authoritative source for comparisons in photography equipment. No matter what your budget or experience level, their comparison tool will send you exactly where you need to be. They seamlessly carry their audience through the whole process, from the initial search all the way to the product purchasing links.
12. Shut Up & Sit Down
Shut Up & Sit Down has a heavy emphasis on videos and podcasts, which function as entertaining test-drives of the products they affiliate with (primarily board games). When you visit a game's page on this site, you get more than a link to the Amazon product page. There's a detailed breakdown of the rules and links to related content like video reviews or previous posts. It's thorough, nerdy, and succeeds by understanding its audience's desires inside and out.
13. Outdoor Gear Lab
The Outdoor Gear Lab stands out from other outdoor gear affiliate websites with its thorough, side-by-side comparisons. It also features a very low level of affiliate visibility. They rely on their audience's confidence in their impartiality, and lean on transparency to gain that confidence.
Finally, Wirecutter is ubiquitous in the discussion of affiliate marketing websites. Wirecutter presents exceptional content in the form of some of the best product reviews on the internet. Since 2011, they’ve worked tirelessly to gain audience confidence, and it’s that confidence that makes them wildly successful.
The Bare Essentials
So, what are some of the things these sites have in common? The core elements are simple:
- A well-understood target audience
- High-quality content
- A commitment to transparency
- Strong visual presentation
These are a lot of the same principles that stable, successful businesses have always relied on. To win in the affiliate marketing game, you must provide value to your audience that goes beyond sales, and work hard to develop their trust. If you can do that, ideally for a niche that's currently underserved, then you too may find yourself living the dream, able to make money with website affiliate marketing.
This article was written by Compose.ly writer Laura Holt.