How do Affiliate Links Work? : All in 5 Steps

Affiliate marketing is an amazing way to generate income online, even if you don’t have a product to sell. In this marketing strategy, you get to sell other people’s products and get commission accordingly.

Here, we will discuss how you can generate affiliate commissions by using affiliate links. If you are thinking about starting an affiliate marketing business or are fairly new in this business, this article will help you to boost your game and help you make better commissions.

How do Affiliate Links Work?

Affiliate marketing starts by recruiting affiliates on an affiliate program. The whole program follows a standard process to start driving sales for your affiliate products.

Here are the steps how affiliate links work, drive sales, and keep top-performing affiliates engaged:

  1. Affiliates add affiliate links on their respective platforms
  2. Consumers click on the links to visit affiliate products
  3. Customers are redirected to merchant sites to conduct desirable action
  4. The affiliate tracking system registers the desired action and is confirmed
  5. Affiliates are credited for the transaction and receive a commission

Let’s discuss these steps in detail for better understanding:

Adding Affiliate Links on Platforms

Once you join an affiliate program, you will receive unique affiliate links for you to use. Then you start to create appealing content for your audience and promote these links on your content.

In general, social media, blogs, Quora, YouTube, TikTok, etc., are some of the prominent platforms that affiliates utilize to promote their affiliate programs. However, the content and link promotion strategy can vary depending on the platform.

If you are writing a blog, you will need to incorporate these affiliate links in the post, so it sits naturally. For social media, you can generate sponsored content where you promote these links. On video content, you can generate an overlay to include the link and also include them in your video description.

Click Generation

If your content can appeal to the target audience, they will be able to click on the affiliate links you have shared with your content. If you want to generate better conversions, make sure your affiliate links are not pushing a sale rather than about helping people with the challenges they face.

When your audience clicks the affiliate link, a cookie will appear on their browsers. Therefore, the merchant can tell which affiliate brought how many consumers. Also, the cookies may be stored on the browser for a certain amount of time. The cookie will expire if the customer does not complete a desirable action within that time.

Generally, businesses offer cookies with a 24-hour to 60 days length. 

Consumers will find themselves on the merchant’s website after clicking the affiliate link. The webpage will vary depending on the affiliate product and the desired action the business wants to achieve.

In some instances, affiliates can also choose where they want to redirect their consumers. Some businesses offer multiple affiliate links to their affiliates to boost their affiliate marketing efforts.

Once the consumers are on the merchant’s website, they will be able to learn more about the products or services they are interested in.

Consumers Conduct the Desirable Action

Once consumers have learned about the product, they can now make up their minds and conduct a desirable action. Different affiliate programs consider a wide variety of actions to be desirable. It may also vary the commission affiliates earn from the program.

Here are some actions that are considered desirable by different businesses:

  • Acquire Sales: In this action, when consumers buy a product, it is considered the desired action. It is one of the most common affiliate commission models. Affiliates can either earn a percentage of the sales they make or get a certain amount of money for the purchase.
  • Acquire Leads: Some businesses offer affiliate commissions depending on how many leads they bring for the business. When someone subscribes to an email newsletter or enrolls for a free trial using the affiliate link, it will be considered a lead, and the affiliate will gain commission.
  • Clicks Generation: Several affiliate programs offer affiliates commissions based on how many clicks they generate on the affiliate link. However, clicks being too common than acquiring sales and leads offers less commission than the former options.
  • Recurring Commissions: In this commission model, affiliates earn commissions when the lead or sales they generate is renewed over time. With this program, affiliates try to keep their customers for a longer time to keep receiving commissions.

Registering Desired Actions and Confirmation

The affiliate tracking system will record appropriate details when consumers are redirected to the merchant’s website and conduct the desired action. This may be easier when the audience reaches the desired page by clicking on only one affiliate link.

However, if the consumer conducts the desired action by clicking on multiple affiliate links, it can get tricky. Oftentimes, affiliate programs adopt a last-click attribution model to determine which affiliate is getting the credit for the action in case of multiple clicks on the link.

Additionally, the tracking system will review the action to verify if it is legitimate of one. Once it is determined that there is no fraudulent activity done, the affiliate will be confirmed to get their commission from the merchant.

Transaction Credits and Commissions

After verifying a legitimate desired action, the affiliate will be credited the transaction to their affiliate account. The amount will be determined by the affiliate agreement terms.

Some programs offer a percentage of the sale as affiliate commissions. There are also affiliate programs that offer straight-out pay of a certain amount for each desired action. One may need to wait 30 – 60 days to receive their commission, depending on the program.

The waiting period is often mentioned in the affiliate program agreement that both parties agreed on. Once the merchant officially credits the affiliate for sale, they can withdraw their commission payout.

Some affiliate programs may set a certain commission threshold. In those cases, affiliates need to have a balance in their affiliate account equal to or greater than the threshold. In most cases, the thresholds are not too high, though.

Bottom Line

So, here is the complete guide to how affiliate links work. Each of these steps is crucial and needs to be executed seamlessly to gain the most benefit from an affiliate program.

As an affiliate, learn as much as possible about the product you are promoting to create the best content. Also, read the affiliate agreement carefully to learn the commission structure, waiting period, and commission thresholds.

When you are aware of all those factors, you can easily boost your affiliate game to generate the best possible commission from your affiliate program.

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5 thoughts on “How do Affiliate Links Work? : All in 5 Steps”

  1. Hey Arnold.

    Useful information. Perfect for beginners.

    I just want to add that never sell what you don’t use yourself. I have made it a habit on my blog to sell only those products that I personally use or have used in the past.

    And more importantly, one shouldn’t sell products that they don’t believe in. I would never go around selling a product that I had used but didn’t find it up to the mark, just because it provides a high rate of commission.

    And beginners need to make sure that direct selling isn’t the way around affiliate marketing. You need to educate people, solve thier pain points, show them how certain products can solve their problems and while doing all this, you will find that you don’t even need to sell. It just sells automatically.

    Thanks for the post!

    Ali from Infoverses.

  2. Learning about products big-time makes perfect sense Arnold but few affiliates discuss this helpful tip. Many want profits, not wanting to learn products inside-out. If I sell it, I need to know it for me and our readers.


    • This is very important, Ryan. It’s so important to understand the value the products you represent add. You should also understanding what they do and the quality of the product, because you’re putting your reputation on the line when selling someone else’s stuff.

  3. Hi Arnold, thanks for the reminder about the videos. I oftentimes link to the blog post about the product but not the affiliate link itself from a YouTube video. I rarely promote them on social for fear of being against any “rules.” Thanks for your tips!


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