A lot of websites talk about affiliate marketing as if it is a get-rich-quick scheme: Just post a few links, and money will start rolling in. Affiliate marketing can be an effective way to expand your market reach and bring in extra money. You can do this by creating an affiliate program and having others promote your products or by advertising other business’s products that make sense for your audience.

If you’re promoting products as an affiliate marketer, you want to keep your overhead low to maximize your profits. With some creativity and diligence, you can find free affiliate advertising options. These won’t get you rich quickly, but with effort and consistency, affiliate marketing can diversify your income.

Affiliate Marketing and Affiliate Programs

In affiliate marketing, marketers promote products and include a link for consumers to buy the product. If consumers click the link and purchase a product, the marketer gets a referral fee. The referral fee may be a percentage of the sale or a flat fee depending on the affiliate program.

Affiliate marketing typically involves a few parties. First, there is the person or company who makes the product or service being marketed. Next, there is often a third-party site or service, such as Amazon, that offers the affiliate program and offers payments. Finally, there is the marketer or influencer who promotes the product.

Businesses can generate revenue with affiliate marketing through any of these roles. You can:

  • Create products or services that are promoted through affiliate marketing.

  • Develop an affiliate program that connects marketers with products or services.

  • Market products being offered through affiliate programs. 

Choosing the Right Product

If you are planning to advertise affiliate links, the first step should be to determine what products you’re going to advertise. If you have a preexisting business, your affiliate links should make sense for your current customer base. For example, if your business specializes in high-end women’s clothing, it would make sense to send out affiliate links for luxury shoes and accessories that complement your items.

If you don’t have an established business or customer base, then you will want to develop a niche. A niche is a category of products or services. Although you can choose any niche, many marketers look for products or services they have used themselves, which allows them to market more effectively.

For example, if you are an avid golfer, you might make golf your niche. You could develop a blog about golfing, make videos highlighting your affiliate products and send relevant links to your email list. Regardless of your niche, it is critical to follow the Federal Trade Commission’s guidelines for promoting products.

Follow FTC Regulations

The FTC requires you to disclose if you are being compensated for sponsoring or promoting a product. An affiliate link would fall into this category. Some affiliate programs have specific language they want you to use in your disclosures. For example, Amazon requires you to state, “As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.”

If your affiliate program doesn’t have specific language for you to use, you could say, “I receive a commission if you click the link and purchase this product.” Influencers also use "#ad" in their feeds to disclose that they are doing a sponsored post with an affiliate link.

Once you have found a product, and you are familiar with the requirements of the FTC and your affiliate program, you are ready to begin advertising affiliate links. You can purchase online ads, of course, but you also have several options for getting started for free.

Build a Free Website

One of the best ways to advertise a link for free is to build a free website. You can build your website around a certain product, but a better approach would be to focus on a niche. For example, if you chose golf as your niche, your website would focus on golf. You could focus on the best golf products, ways to improve your golf game or the best golf courses.

Websites like Weebly allow you to build a site for free. A website might include:

  • A home page
  • An about page
  • A contact page
  • A blog
  • Pages with downloads, such as an e-book

Consider researching search engine optimization to bring visitors to your website. SEO involves using targeted keywords and phrases to draw visitors to your website. As you add blog posts, you can include keywords there as well. Focus on offering information that would interest your target audience and include links to products and services when they make sense.

Build an Email List 

A targeted email list can be a great method for free affiliate advertising. The challenge, of course, is building an email list. Your website can be a good funnel for building an email list. MailChimp and other websites allow you to start building an email list for free. One method marketers often use for building their emails lists is to offer an item, such as an e-book, as a reward for signing up for the list.

For example, if your website focuses on home cooking, you might create an e-book with 10 recipes that can be made in 30 minutes or less. Once you have contacts on your email list, keep in touch with them at least once per week. Include affiliate links when they make sense, but focus on sending valuable information that enriches the lives of the people on your list.

You could send an email with a great YouTube video or a link to your most recent blog post, or you could share a funny story to which your audience would relate.

The first step to promoting affiliate links on Facebook or any other social media platform is to review the site’s rules for promoting and including links. It is best to disclose any affiliate links you include on your personal or business Facebook posts.

Affiliate programs may have limitations as to where you can post links. For example, Amazon Associates (members of Amazon’s affiliate program) can’t use paid ads to send people directly to Amazon. You can use paid ads to send people to your website, which may have affiliate links.

If you want to keep costs down, though, you can include affiliate links on your business or personal Facebook posts. You can also use Facebook to promote content on your website or YouTube videos that you make, which would be an indirect way of sharing affiliate links. Regardless of what you choose to post, it must meet Facebook’s community standards.

Twitter is another free way to promote affiliate links. With Twitter as with other social media platforms, it is essential to not be too focused on sales. People want to interact with a person or brand in an engaging way, but they don’t want to feel like they are being sold to.

Twitter has a 280-character limit, so you don’t have a lot of space to make an impact. To reach people, you need to build up followers. You can gain followers by engaging with others on Twitter, responding to their posts and following them. Over time, you can build an audience and include affiliate links from time to time.

Hashtags are also an important part of Twitter. Choose them carefully to expand the reach of your posts, especially ones that have an affiliate link.

Instagram is a bit trickier than other platforms because you can’t place links in the text of photos you add to the platform. Many marketers work around this by putting links in their bio. The best way to take advantage of Instagram is to include a link to your website in your bio, which will have your affiliate links.

Like other social media platforms, you will need to build up your audience to make the most of the platform. You can build a following by engaging on other posts in a genuine way.

Pinterest is a visual platform that allows you to include affiliate links. You create “pins” that are appealing and “boards” on which to put your pins. Other users find pins by searching Pinterest and by seeing pins in their feed.

If you create a great pin, other users can share the pins and put them on their boards. Like other platforms, you should include affiliate links when it makes sense. Don’t overdo it.

One important note for Pinterest is that Amazon does not allow affiliate links on Pinterest. If you are an Amazon Associate, it is best to steer clear of Pinterest for advertising.

YouTube is a sometimes-overlooked way to advertise affiliate links for free. You can make videos that appeal to your audience. If your niche is golf, for example, you could show some of your favorite products in action.

Although some YouTubers invest in expensive equipment, you can get started with a smartphone camera and free editing software. Upload your video and include your affiliate link in your description. Be sure to disclose in the video that there is an affiliate link in the description.

You can also use hashtags and keywords to help drive traffic to your video.

Build Partnerships With Other Marketers

Coming up with new content for your blog can be time consuming. One way to generate content is to invite other marketers to write content and include affiliate links that are relevant to your audience. In return, you can create a guest post for their blog and do the same thing. Both of you can increase traffic and make new sales at no additional cost.

You can also promote your site and its links by working with marketers and influencers in other ways. You could be a guest on podcasts or on YouTube videos. If you promote yourself on other platforms, be sure your niche is in an area in which you have expertise. You want to provide value to the audiences of other marketers and influencers.

Ultimately, your website, email list and social media platforms should all work together to drive traffic and clicks to your links. Rather than focusing on sales, though, focus on ways to engage and improve the lives of your audience. Provide them with enriching content, and the clicks will come naturally. You don’t need to spend a lot of money to make it all work.