Affiliate marketing is all the rage for building additional sources of income. And in fact, if you’re interested in affiliate marketing, one of the first (and trickiest) questions you’ll probably ask is, “How much do affiliate marketers make?”
So, let’s find out!
In one of our previous posts, we touched on whether affiliate marketing is worth it to begin with. Long story short: it depends on the affiliate marketer! If all the foundational pieces of your affiliate empire are in place, affiliate marketing is well worth it.
But affiliate marketers sometimes overestimate or underestimate the returns they can expect from their campaigns. Even if you’ve done everything right, you won’t know how successful your unique combination of niche, offer, and traffic channel actually is until you put it into practice.
But ballpark affiliate income figures can help you decide which path you should take – today’s blog post will help you do just that!
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How Much Do Affiliate Marketers Earn?
To start off, how much do affiliate marketers make?
Well, you probably already know that this question doesn’t have one exact answer.
The truth is, there is a LOT of money in the affiliate marketing and direct response world. In fact, this space routinely sees many affiliates making 5-figure, 6-figure and even 7-figure incomes in their affiliate marketing business.
At ClickBank, we’re uniquely positioned to see how much money people make, because we’re the merchant processor for millions of affiliate transactions every year. ClickBank has hundreds of platinum affiliate marketers earn as much as $250k per year.
Beyond that, we have many diamond affiliates who earn more than $5 million per year through affiliate marketing, just through ClickBank!
So, the real money made could be much, much higher. To get there, however, you need to have a plan.
FAQs Regarding Affiliate Marketing Income
Affiliate marketers can earn nothing, or millions of dollars, or virtually anything in between. But let’s get more specific about the income levels that most affiliate marketers can expect!
Here are some FAQs that new beginners have:
Does Experience as an Affiliate Impact Income?
Like any other profession, the income of beginners vs. advanced affiliates varies drastically. Authority Hacker’s Niall Roche suggests these distinct income brackets based on experience:
- Beginner – $0 to $1000 per month
- Intermediate – $1000 to $10,000 per month
- Advanced – $10k to $100k per month
- Super affiliate – $100k+ per month
This tracks closely to what how we categorize our affiliate customers on ClickBank, with Silvers earning up to $25K, Golds earning up to $250K, and Platinums earning $250K and up!
If you’re interested in earning income through affiliate marketing, you should set your expectations according to these income brackets, as they correspond pretty well to levels of success based on your experience.
And note that you likely won’t earn anything for the first few months unless you’re already experienced – that’s totally normal.
Patience is a virtue if you want to earn higher affiliate income. The more experience you have, the more your skills and performance will reflect in the money you earn as an affiliate!
How to Select the Right Affiliate Marketing Program?
Affiliate marketing income heavily depends on which affiliate programs you join. For instance, the Amazon Associates Program isn’t as rewarding as other programs in the industry, with many commissions at just 1%.
The commission rates offered by Amazon are nowhere near what many programs have in store, but that’s because Amazon pays on a high-volume basis.
In fact, on ClickBank, we have offers that pay as much as 75% standard commissions, and you can be whitelisted to earn up to 90%. With the same resources and the same amount of work, you can earn so much more from the right affiliate programs.
If you’re unsure where to start, here are the 5 best affiliate programs for beginners on ClickBank!
How do Affiliate Marketers Get Paid?
After becoming an affiliate, people earn money via commissions. But many beginners are perplexed with how these commissions are calculated.
There are three primary commission models used in the affiliate business:
- PPL: The pay per lead (PPL) commission model pays affiliates for each lead they bring in, usually in a service business like insurance, real estate, or finance. Please note that a lead doesn’t always mean a successful sale. The meaning of a ‘lead’ can change and is defined by the affiliate programs you join or the seller whose product/service is up for sale.
- PPS: With pay per sale (PPS), affiliates get paid for each successful sale. This, however, also has some subjectivity. Some programs and/or sellers will pay the affiliate for returning customers, too, while others only pay affiliates for every new sale that comes in. On ClickBank, we offer this on a cost-per-action (CPA) basis. Learn more about CPA vs RevShare.
- PPC: In the pay per click (PPC) model, the affiliate marketer gets paid for each click recorded on ads run on media platforms, far upstream of any actual sale. The lead/sale isn’t measured with this commission model.
Apart from experience, performance, and types of affiliate programs, one of the biggest factors that determine how much money people earn as an affiliate is the type of affiliate they choose to become!
The 5 Types of Affiliates
The income people make in affiliate marketing varies a lot. One of the most impactful decisions you can make is the type of affiliate marketing you choose to do.
As I’ve shared in previous articles, we typically see five primary types of affiliates. Let’s briefly explore them and calculate the income each affiliate business model has to offer!
1) Content Publishers
What They Do
Content publishers and website owners usually sell products through their site(s) – either their own or someone else’s! You should hone skills related to SEO and blogging to rank higher in search, so you can bring a larger audience to your site.
If you own a blog that has a lot of traffic – at least 10K organic visitors per month – then affiliate marketing is a great way to monetize it and bag some passive income!
If you’re interested in blogging but don’t know where to start, here’s how to build an affiliate site using WordPress!
How Much Do Publishers Earn From Affiliate Content?
Publishers usually belong to the content marketing or blog industry, which makes around $400 billion annually. So it is safe to say that you can make a lot of revenue through publishing.
But how much money do they make?
Studies show that some of the best publishers and bloggers can earn up to $70,000 as affiliate income per year. On the other hand, publishers can bag a commission of $35,000 per year at the start.
Variables that Influence Income
These numbers will differ on a case-to-case basis. Many variables influence the commission of affiliate website owners and content publishers. Let’s take a look at a few:
- SEO Strategy
- Quality of content
- Type of affiliate programs
- Commission model
- Website ranking
- Quality of hosting
- Targeted audience
- Monthly budget for ads
- Platforms for ad publishing (for e.g. Taboola, social pilot, outbrain, etc.)
Optimizing these variables can help you unlock higher ROI and help you create a massive passive income stream through affiliate marketing.
Pro Tip: Focus first and foremost on creating content that your users will find valuable. A close second is optimizing the user experience of your website with the help of plugins, tools, etc. Both of these will boost your professionalism and help you sell more affiliate products!
2) Performance Affiliates & Media Buyers
What They Do
Performance affiliates, also known as media buyers, buy ad space on websites, social media, or other digital avenues to sell products and services to their target audience. Unlike publishers, media buyers can generate leads almost instantly through running promotional campaigns.
How Much Do Media Buyers Earn From Paid Media?
The job of media affiliates is to earn through affiliate programs designed specifically to sell with paid ads on media platforms like YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and native. On ClickBank, media buyers often choose commissions on a cost-per-action (CPA) basis, which means they get a flat rate for every sale.
Many of our most successful clients are media buyers promoting products with an average commission of between $150 and $180 per sale.
The challenge is timing it so you can scale your ad spend on winning ad sets and pull the plug on unprofitable ones quickly.
Realistically, we have media buyer clients who literally gross millions of dollars per year with affiliate commissions – but note that they’re spending much of that on the ads to begin with, so their take-home pay is in the margin between those two numbers.
Variables That Influence Earning
The income from performance affiliate marketing varies based on the following factors:
- Ad spend budget
- Paid ad platforms/networks selected
- Commission model(s)
- Commission rate
- Relevance of the channel to the product/service and target audience
- Quality of campaigns
- Quality of content
It’s not necessary that if you spend more in promotions, you will sell more. Reviewing the strategy and constantly revising it to meet better goals can also help you earn more with lower investments.
Pro Tip: Explore each factor with the intention of maximizing conversions. As a media buyer, your sole job is to “sell the click” to cold traffic, so that often means creating curiosity-based ads to capture attention and interest first! The true measure of your success will be return on ad spend (ROAS), not clickthrough rate, conversion rate, or any other metric.
3) Social Influencers
What They Do
Social influencers are public figures on social media channels like YouTube, Instagram, Tik Tok, etc., who have amassed followers in the hundreds of thousands or even millions over the years.
Since they already have built a personal brand and have an active following, one of the easiest ways of capitalizing on it is through “affiliate marketing.” (See the differences between influencer marketing and affiliate marketing.)
As an influential person on social media, you can get sponsorships from companies directly to promote their product and guide your audience to buy that company’s products/services. With a traditional influencer model, they might get a special code from the company which their viewers can input during checkout to get exclusive deals or discounts. The same coupon code is used to track sales and calculate commissions.
With affiliate marketing, it works similarly, except the affiliate tracking link isn’t tied to a coupon code or discount and you usually need to set up a pre-lander before you send people over to a sales page.
How Much Do Influencers Make Through Social Posting?
Though there isn’t a set income range for this category, influencers earn anywhere from $50 per month up to $30,000 simply through affiliate links and sponsorships. There are a higher number of variables that determine the income of an influencer affiliate. Let’s look at some below:
Variables That Influence Commissions
- Number of followers vs. reach vs. engagement
- Relevance of followers with product/service/ company that is being promoted
- Trustworthiness of the Influencer
- Commission type
- Commission percentage
- Quality of content
- Negotiation skills of the influencer
- Selected affiliate programs
Influencers usually get what they negotiate. It can also be a deal where they get a set amount for including the product/service in their videos and additional commissions for sales through a special code. That means good sales skills can get you a better deal than your peers from similar brands, in similar leagues, and with a similar number of followers.
Pro Tip: As influencers, your foundation is the trust of your audience. So, aligning every affiliate decision with trust can help you make value-driven content, reach relevant audiences, sell products with purpose, and ultimately make more money without sacrificing that foundation.
4) Email Marketers
What They Do
Email marketers are people who build newsletters surrounding topics of their interest and expertise. People with similar interests can sign up for these newsletters by submitting their email ids. Email marketers can capitalize on their audience through affiliate marketing like social media influencers.
For instance, starting a newsletter on technology allows you to build a niche audience that is also heavily interested in technology. Once you have a significant nos. of signups, you can add affiliate links to tech gadgets or workshops, etc. to these newsletters and earn commissions for each sale/acquisition.
How Much Money Do Email Affiliates Make?
Many marketing experts suggest that every signup in an email marketer’s list can be worth $1 per month. These numbers can definitely change based on some variables. However, it shows how well email marketing lists can be capitalized upon.
Variables That Influence Money Made Via Affiliate Email Marketing
- Quality of targeted audience
- Type of affiliate marketing program
- Relevance of products being promoted
- Quality of content
- Frequency of newsletter
- Click through rate
- Commission percentage
- Commission type
- Length of the mailing list
- Budget spent on management
Understanding consumer journeys and psychology can help email marketers optimize their content and elevate your revenue significantly.
Pro Tip: Unlike a media buyer, your email list can help you make money again and again. But it’s important to keep sharing valuable content – aim for 80% informational and 20% sales content. And that’s not just across emails, but inside EACH email as well! Who wants a pure sales pitch with no entertainment or educational value?
5) Community Managers
What They Do
Community managers usually work on creating tribes of people with similar interests and love to interact with other community members. Today we have seen a steep rise in how businesses across verticals leverage communities to sell their products and services. And the same strategy is working wonders for affiliates as well!
Some common channels used by community managers include Discord, Facebook Groups, Slack Groups, WhatsApp Groups, Subreddit, etc.
How Much Do Community Managers Earn Through Affiliate Marketing?
Community affiliate marketers can earn well through community marketing. The money made by a community manager can be calculated based on the % and type of commission model, and nos. of sales. Social media affiliates can often opt for building affiliate communities to sell the product more effectively in the longer run. So, the money made by community managers can be synonymous to revenue recorded by social media affiliates.
However, there are a few things that may influence community managers’ income drastically.
Variables That Influence Money Made From Affiliate Communities
Community managers are making better commissions based on:
- Trustworthiness of content
- Ratio of value-adding content vs. affiliate links shared
- Audience relevance
- Selected products and services for sale
- Type(s) of affiliate programs
- Commission model
- Selected niche
- Frequency of content shared
- Nos. of active audience in the community
Pro Tip: The best way to stand out from other communities in your space is through personalized attention. Be willing to record video responses to each question you get, hop on livestreams often, and go above and beyond with your audience to add insane value! With a vibrant community, it’s easier to monetize it in any number of ways, including through affiliate products.
4 Quick Tips to Boost Your Affiliate Marketing Earnings
When you enter affiliate marketing as a professional, chances are you will fit one of the 5 categories mentioned above. For each type of affiliate, we have some of the best affiliate marketing tips and tricks to boost their revenue!
1) The Right Niche
No matter which type of affiliate marketing you choose, you will have to select a niche of products or services to sell. As an affiliate, you must select the correct niche(s) by asking the following question:
- Which type of products or services or software do I want to sell?
OR if you already have a good following online, you can ask:
- Which type of products or services would my followers want to buy?
For instance, if you have have an older male following, you should try to sell something that might appeal to them in a niche like golf, fishing, conservative, business, or health.
Always think about the relevance between the products and buyers and then choose the right affiliate product or offer for the job.
2) Targeted Audience
If you are not an influential person with a giant following already, then you need to figure out which type of audience you want to attract towards your page.
To simplify, you can answer:
- Who will buy this product?
- What do they look like?
- Is it age specific? If so, how old are my ideal buyers?
- Is the product gender specific? If so, which gender will buy it more often?
- Is my audience the decision-maker? If not, who is?
These questions will help you crystallize your target persona and create content that is specifically designed for them. (It will also help you decide which platform and type of affiliate marketing would make the most sense – some people are on TikTok more than email, for example.)
3) Conversion Rate Optimization
As we saw above, there are different types of commission models used by different affiliate companies. However, each model is designed to pay upon conversion. So, we can safely assume that your revenue is highly dependent on the number of conversions.
When you optimize this conversion rate, you can record higher revenue as well as ROI. But what does optimization mean? Optimizing conversion rate simply means to try and revise the strategy in such a way that you can get more sales without spending more in ads or promotions.
To optimize conversion you can answer the following questions:
- At which step in the customer journey is the customer deciding against buying it?
- What is causing the customer to not buy the product?
- Is it the user experience?
- Is the navigation difficult?
- Are there too many steps between ‘add to cart’ and ‘pay’?
- Is the site taking too long to load?
- Does the customer have a better offer somewhere else?
- What does this offer look like?
- Is it the same product?
- How was the competitor able to give them a better offer?
- What can I revise in my strategy to lower this drop rate without investing more money in ads or promotions?
Answering these questions will help you determine the exact cause of a low conversion rate and eventually turn the tables.
4) Up-skilling in the Right Direction
Being an affiliate marketer is not an easy feat. As an affiliate, you must have an arsenal full of skills that can you sell more, better, and faster than your peers.
So, doing a strength-weakness (SWOT) analysis of yourself will help you figure out which gaps to bridge to accelerate to your affiliate success.
Here are a few sets of skills that the average affiliate marketer has:
- Content strategy
- Building webpages
- Email marketing
- Sales knowledge
- Affiliate marketing
- Tracking and data analytics
One of the best ways to begin your career as an affiliate is by upskilling in key areas that can speed up your progress as an affiliate marketer.
Rather than fumble around trying to develop these skills through trial and error, take a shortcut with skill-building courses. Spark by ClickBank is like a Netflix for affiliate marketing, where we bring in expert affiliate marketers to share their know-how in crucial areas that will help you improve in your affiliate marketing efforts.
With Spark, you can get access to an entire community of affiliate marketers from different backgrounds, experience levels, and even some mentors in the industry!
You can explore Spark by ClickBank here!
How Much Do Affiliate Marketers Make Wrap-up
In the end, according to statistics, affiliate marketers can make a revenue of anywhere between $50 (to begin with) to hundreds of thousands of dollars monthly, depending upon key variables that we explored in this post.
Some statistics suggest that around 48% of affiliate marketers generate $20k in revenue and the top 19% can cross $1 million in earnings.
The reason for this stark difference in earnings is simple: difference in level of skills and patience.
It would be misleading of me to say that affiliate marketing is an easy journey. Since the time taken to see good returns is longer, many people quit midway!
But what about the top 10-20% of affiliates who stick with it?
They are potentially building passive income sources that can generate hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars per year!
At ClickBank, I have personally witnessed hundreds of affiliate marketers reach Platinum status, which means they reach $250k or more in revenue just on ClickBank alone!
As affiliate marketers get savvy with their skills, they may sign up with multiple affiliate platforms and monetize through other methods besides affiliate marketing – including sales of their own products, advertisements, sponsorships, and more – so these ClickBank clients likely make even more money in total.
Clearly, affiliate marketing has the potential to change your life completely. However, you need to figure out if you have what it takes, and if it’s really worth it for you.
If you are, we hope ClickBank can be a key partner on your journey!