How To Make Money With Affiliate Marketing In 2023: I’ve Been Hitting $150k/Year And Want To Show You How

How to make money with affiliate marketing

I never thought this would happen to me.

In 2 years I went from making $20k to $80k, and am now hitting about $150k/yr (see PayPal report). I did this by dropping all my clients and tried making money with affiliate marketing.

So what do I do? My about page has my whole story, but here’s the gist:

I write tutorials on WordPress speed optimization while referring people to things like hosting, cache plugins, CDNs, lightweight themes, and other services that offer affiliate programs. Most income comes from Rocket.net / Cloudways (hosting) + FlyingPress / Perfmatters (optimization plugins) which are significantly better than mainstream hosts and cache plugins like WP Rocket.

But there’s one big problem. Affiliate marketing has gotten more competitive. And the amount of bloggers/YouTubers creating affiliate content is insane (people have also become skeptical). So how do you stand out? How do you get people to trust you? I’ll explain all of this.

This guide includes a comprehensive list of 50+ affiliate programs.

$150,000/year did not happen overnight. I was broke for a couple years while creating content. But it literally changed my life… I moved out of my parent’s house into a nice apartment in downtown Denver, bought my first car (a Mercedes c300), adopted 2 kitties, and my credit raised 45 points. I also donated $6k to GoFundMe campaigns and 6k to my parents. I’m a humble dude but in affiliate marketing, the numbers do the talking. Now I have 0 clients and 100% freedom. There’s a lot of BS out there on affiliate marketing – which is why I wrote this.

About My Blog

  • I write about website speed (and some SEO/affiliate marketing).
  • I spend a lot of time in Facebook Groups learning about my industry.
  • I try to publish original content and not regurgitated crap like a lot of blogs.
  • I have about 3,000 visitors/day, 90% is from Google (I’ll show you some SEO tips).
  • It took blogging full-time for several months with minimal income to see results. I’ll bet you 90% of people don’t start because they’re scared their work won’t pay off. Just do it!
Tom with monkey
Affiliate marketing has given me the time/money to travel and be financially comfortable

How Does Affiliate Marketing Work?
You partner with a company selling products/services you would like to recommend to your audience. If they buy something using your affiliate link, you get a commission from the sale. There are other types of affiliate programs, but this is the most common and is also what I do.

 

1. Find Your Niche

My career journey went like this: online marketing > web design > WordPress web design > WordPress SEO > WordPress speed optimization. Now I’m focusing on WordPress hosting.

While I was doing WordPress speed optimization I noticed lots of people needed it, but very few people supplied it (there were a lack of services and tutorials when I researched Google). I also knew hosting was the #1 factor of website speed and hosting companies paid up to $200/sale. Hosting is a competitive space but the commissions and lack of supply enticed me.

I expanded my SEO blog and started writing about hosting, cache plugins, and other relevant topics… while recommending Rocket.net in many guides. I added proof like Facebook threads and performance benchmarks. Each tutorial was super detailed (like this one) and tons of people found them helpful – many get 100+ visitors/day since great content = higher rankings.

Once I found my niche (WordPress speed optimization), a solid hosting company with a high commission affiliate program (Rocket.net) and created tutorials around topics people in my niche would find helpful (and might want to change their host), that’s what got me to $150k.

Once you find a niche with high demand, little supply (do your Google research), and a reputable affiliate with high commissions… and you have patience to wait for financial results while creating your assets (I’m talking about content), you should take the leap!

Blog niche

 

2. Start A Blog Or YouTube Channel

A blog and YouTube channel are completely different, not just because one is writing and one is shooting videos. But each of them are different in terms of SEO, conversions, time, and the cost.

Blogging vs. YouTube Videos

  • Competition – the SEO competition in YouTube is often less than Google.
  • Ownership – you own your blog, you don’t own YouTube (or their policies).
  • SEO Traffic – it takes longer to get SEO traffic to a blog than YouTube.
  • Cost – YouTube is free, blogs require domain, hosting, development costs, etc.
  • Content Updates – it’s easier to update a blog post than to remake a video.
  • Coupon Codes – YouTube is great if your affiliates let you use coupon codes.
  • Time – it takes longer to set up a blog, but starter templates have made this easier.
  • Expectations – in your niche, do people prefer watching videos or reading articles?

Start A WordPress Blog

  • Domain – GoDaddy or Namecheap.
  • HostingRocket.net, Cloudways, or NameHero for the win.
  • WordPress – what I recommend building your website/blog on.
  • ThemesGeneratePress and Blocksy are solid choices. They use the Block Editor (Gutenberg) which is much more lightweight than Elementor, Divi, and other page builders, yet still easy when you use GenerateBlocks. I built my site in the GeneratePress “Search” theme and am very pleased. Kadence theme is good too but also very expensive.
  • Have A Developer On Hand – I’ve been working with the same overseas freelancer since 2011 who has saved me a lot of time when I can’t do things. Here’s his freelancer profile if you need help setting up your website. His name is Pronaya and he’s from Bangladesh.
Generatepress website library
I use GeneratePress for my WordPress theme

 

3. Sign Up For Affiliate Programs

Hosting, Amazon, and affiliate programs related to “making websites” are very popular.

Websites – if you’re in the “how to make a website/blog” industry, I’ve accumulated a list of affiliate programs for WordPress, hosting, themes, plugins, SEO, email, CDNs, and services. Remember that to get approved, some companies require you to be somewhat established.

Affiliate Program Category Commission Recurring 2 Tier
A2 Hosting Hosting $55 – $125 x
All In One SEO Pro SEO 20% x x
Astra Themes 30% x x
Asset CleanUp Pro Plugins 20% x x
AWeber Email 30% x
Beaver Builder Themes 25% x
Blocksy Themes 30% x x
Bluehost Hosting $65+ x x
BunnyCDN CDN $20 credit x x
Cloudways Hosting $50 – $150+
Convert Pro Plugins 50% x x
Constant Contact Email $105 x x
Divi Themes 50% x x
Elementor Themes 50% x x
FlyingPress Cache Plugin 20% x
GeneratePress Themes 30% x x
GoDaddy Hosting 15% x x
GreenGeeks Hosting $50 – $100+ x x
GridPane Hosting 1 free month x x
Kadence Theme 20% x x
Hello You Designs Themes 20% x x
Hostinger Hosting 60% x x
HostGator Hosting $65 – $125+ x x
JohnnyVPS Hosting 2x monthly price x x
KeyCDN CDN 100% of 1st payment x x
Kinsta Hosting $50 – $500 x
LearnDash Plugins 35% x x
Long Tail Pro SEO 30% x
MailChimp Email $30 credit x x
NameCheap Hosting 35% x x
NameHero Hosting $50 – $125+ x x
Ninja Tables Plugins 20% x x
NitroPack Plugins 20% x
OceanWP Theme 30% x x
OptiMonster Plugins 20% x x
Perfmatters Plugins 20% x
Pretty Links Affiliate 25% x x
Rank Math SEO 30% x x
Refer WordPress Other 20% x x
Restored 316 Designs Themes 20% x x
Rocket.net Hosting $150 x x
Scala Hosting Hosting $50 – $200 x x
Schema Pro SEO 30% x x
SEMrush Analytics $200 x x
ShortPixel Plugins 30% x
ServerPilot Control Panel $25 x x
SEOPress SEO 20% x x
SiteGround Hosting $50 – $100+ x x
SpinupWP Control Panel $25 credit x x
StackPath CDN $20+ x x
StudioPress Themes 35% x x
ThemeForest Themes 30% of 1st payment x x
Themeisle Themes 55% x x
Thirsty Affiliates Affiliate 30% x x
TubeBuddy Other 30% – 50% x
UpCloud Hosting $50 credit x x
Whitespark SEO 20% x x
WP Coupons Affiliate 40% x x
WP Engine Hosting $200 x
WP Johnny Other 25% x x
WPX Hosting $70 – $100+ x x
WP Rocket Plugins 20% x x

 
Affiliate Marketplaces – these have hundreds of merchants to choose from. It’s nice to login to 1 place and check the performance of multiple affiliates without going to each individual portal on their site. Many programs aren’t part of a marketplace though. I use ShareASale and Impact.

Affiliate Marketplace Number Of Brands Popular Brands
ShareASale 15,200+ Hewlett Packard, Sears, LovePop, Grammarly, Daily Harvest, NameCheap, WP Rocket, WP Engine, Envira Gallery
CJ Affiliate 3,800+ Overstock, GoDaddy, Zappos, Walgreens, TurboTax, QVC, Newegg, Hotels.com, HelloFresh, TeamViewer, Guitar Center
Impact 800+ Airbnb, AppSumo, Constant Contact, Envato Market, HostGator, InMotion, Lending Club, Levi’s, Squarespace
Rakuten Marketing 50,000+ Udemy, Walmart, Macy’s, StubHub, Hulu

 

Favorite affiliate network
Source: Anil from Bloggers Passion Facebook Group

Other Online Retailers

  • Ebay – 5 – 7% (roughly) based on categories, only 24 hour cookie tracking.
  • Etsy – 4 – 8%.
  • Target – 4% in most categories.
  • Walmart – 4% in most categories.
  • Aliexpress – 3% for electronics, 7-9% for everything else.
  • Newegg – 0.5 – 1%.
  • Overstock – up to 6%.

Do the math – to make $300 in a day, I would need to refer about 2 people to hosting, 10 people to themes, or 30 people to plugins. Before deciding on a program, ask yourself a few questions. I personally have roughly 3,000 readers/day and make about 2-3 sales per day at $150 per sale.

  • What commission will you get?
  • How many sales will you need per day?
  • How much traffic will you need to get those sales (roughly)?

 

4. Be Careful With Amazon

Amazon’s commissions are based on categories and you’re only making 0-5% unless you’re referring people to Amazon games, Luxury Beauty, or Amazon Explore. Otherwise you will need a lot of sales to actually make a living and will likely need to refer people to big ticket items (video equipment on YouTube is a big one especially if you’re into cameras, lenses, lights, etc).

Amazon affiliate commission rates

But be careful with Amazon’s affiliate program.

They have a long history of reducing commissions and writing content that competes with affiliates (and most people go directly to Amazon). I don’t recommend being an affiliate for any monopoly. You could very well end up getting trampled on, like most Amazon affiliates have. However, if you get lots of views, many affiliates are making “how to do something” YouTube videos and listing their equipment in the video description. A million views can make it worth it.

Amazon decreases affiliate commission rates

Examples of people making money with Amazon:

How he makes money – at 1m26s he focuses on his video equipment. The video description includes links to geniuslink.com. This is a website that showcases different stores (e.g. Amazon) where people can buy the equipment (using his affiliate links). Genuinely helpful video though.

How she makes money – at 40s you will see the video is sponsored by Skillshare and she also uses an affiliate link in the video description, as well as affiliate links to Amazon for the video equipment she uses. Another person recommending video equipment (that’s a hint for you).

How he makes money – he found a keyword on YouTube “best gadgets on Amazon” which has a lot of searches. People are searching this on YouTube (not Google or Amazon) which means they’re looking for a video review of the best gadgets, otherwise they would have gone directly to Amazon. His Amazon affiliate links to each of the gadgets are found in the video description.

Conclusion: a lot of people are making money by referring people to video equipment they use.

 

5. Learn How Affiliate Programs Work

One Tier – get a commission when a sale is generated from your affiliate link.

Two Tier – get a commission when you refer other affiliates and they start making sales (think multilevel marketing). An example is WP Engine’s program where I tell my readers about their WordPress hosting, they start making sales, and I earn $50/sale from each sale they generate.

Climbing Tiers – increased commissions as you get more sales.

Siteground affiliate program tiers

Recurring Commissions – usually happens with subscription services… you continuously receive commissions as long as people are signed up. AWeber and SEMrush are examples.

Sitewide Commissions – get a commission no matter what people buy on the affiliate’s website. Amazon’s affiliate program does this.

Pay Per Lead – get a commission based on the number of leads (e.g. contact form fill-outs) you send to a business. Be sure to set up your analytics to track this and have a solid, written agreement with your affiliate. You don’t want to spend tons of time and get burned like I have.

Cookies – amount of time after people click your affiliate link you will receive a commission if a sale is generated. Usually 30-90 days but shouldn’t be a deal breaker when choosing affiliates.

Individual Affiliate Programs – affiliate programs that are located on their website.

Individual affiliate programs

 

Step 1: Sign up and get approved. You usually need a decent amount of traffic (or a history of sales) before getting approved. If you have a large following somewhere else (i.e. YouTube), you may be able to convince affiliates to approve you. Otherwise, you need to generate traffic first.

Step 2: Get your affiliate links. Login to your affiliate dashboard and grab your affiliate links. With most individual affiliate programs, they assign you an affiliate ID which you can add to any URL on their website to turn it into an affiliate link. In affiliate marketplaces like ShareASale, they preassign affiliate links but also have a custom link generator. Use these to add deep links.

Cloudways affiliate link
Add your affiliate ID (mine is ?id=262128) to any URL on their website to create an affiliate link
Impact affiliate link
Custom link generators are found in some affiliate programs/marketplaces like ShareASale

Step 3: For blogs, install an affiliate link management plugin (I use Thirsty Affiliates) and add your affiliate links here. This lets you organize, track, cloak, nofollow, and add affiliate links.

Affiliate links
Import your affiliate links into the Thirsty Affiliates plugin

Step 4: Configure the Thirsty Affiliate plugin settings.

Thirstyaffiliates settings
Configure the Thirsty Affiliate settings

Step 5: Add affiliate links to posts. If you’re using the classic editor like me, use the Thirsty Affiliates button to add affiliate links. When you do it this way, all the attributes you configured in the settings (cloaking, nofollow, sponsored, etc) are automatically added to the affiliate link.

Add affiliate link to content
Use the Thirsty Affiliates button to add affiliate links
Amazon video affiliate links
Or add them to YouTube video descriptions

Step 6: Use your affiliate dashboard to track sales, statistics, and get to know your affiliate dashboard because it can be very helpful (especially when trying to increase conversion rates).

Cloudways affiliate commissions
Take advantage of features/statistics in your affiliate dashboard

Banners – banners don’t work well. They’re easy to throw up, but distracting and probably won’t get great results. If you try them, be sure to show specific sidebar banners based on the type of content people are reading on your blog (for posts that fall under my SEO category I would show a banner related to SEO, and for posts under my website speed category I would show a different banner). You can control sidebar banners using a plugin like Widget Logic.

AdSense – It’s easy to throw up AdSense on your blog, but good luck making decent income. It is NOT personalized whereas affiliate links involve people taking YOUR recommendation on very specific things. AdSense makes your site slower than a turtle. Not good for monetization.

 

7. Be A “How To Start A Blog” YouTuber

Want to know why this topic is so popular?

  • Refer people to hosting = $$$
  • Refer people to WordPress theme = $
  • Refer people to Elementor products = $
  • Total income if one person signs up for all three: $200+

The bad news: the industry and keywords are super competitive.

The good news: the amount of people looking to start a blog is enormous. You just need a slice. Many hosting companies pay up to $150/sale once you start generating a good amount of sales.

People are also searching for how to start a food, fashion, travel, and lifestyle blog. You don’t have to limit yourself to 1 single keyword. Learn about hosting, self-hosted WordPress, and Starter Sites. I could literally start a WordPress blog in 10 minutes. Show people how to do that.

Youtube seo keywords

Let’s take a look at some examples:

How he makes money – at 66s, you can see they created their own domain search on their website. When people search, it’s followed by a “get hosting” button which leads to GoDaddy.

How he makes money – he begins his hosting pitch at 4m34s, but at 9m31s he presents his HostGator coupon code which not only saves viewers money, but it credits him for the sale (without people even having to click any affiliate link). That’s why coupon codes are so powerful for YouTubers. Don’t use HostGator though; they’re cheap but a slow/terrible hosting company.

How she makes money – she begins her hosting pitch at 4m48s for Bluehost, but only uses an affiliate link in the video description (no coupon code, no domain search on her website, and no timestamps to help people navigate the video). She could probably increase sales if she did one of these, but Bluehost doesn’t let affiliates create coupon codes so an affiliate link is necessary.

 

8. Use Coupon Codes

It’s a huge bonus if your affiliate lets you create coupon codes.

Since your coupon code is attached to your affiliate account, you will get credit for the sale if anyone uses it. So in YouTube videos, people don’t even need to click your affiliate link – just give them your coupon code to save them money, and you will get your affiliate commission.

Coupon-code

 

9. Get Traffic Before Sales

One of the biggest mistakes bloggers make is focusing on money first.

This is bad for a few of reasons:

  • No traffic = no sales
  • Most affiliates require you to have some traffic
  • Your authenticity is ruined if you’re too salesy from the start

But it definitely helps to have money in mind when you start. That way, once you get traffic and are approved by affiliates, you can easily add affiliate links to blog posts where you already mention your affiliate products/services. Don’t focus on money first, but have it in your plan.

Blogging affiliate marketing mistakes
Source: Blogging Newbs Facebook Group

 

10. Master SEO

Most affiliate marketers get most of their traffic from SEO (or Pinterest which I’ll admit to knowing nothing about). But I do know SEO is a more popular way to get consistent traffic.

The key steps to SEO are:

  • Researching a keyword, its search volume, and competition.
  • Creating in-depth content that is better than whoever’s in the top results.
  • Making content user-friendly (YouTube chapters, table of contents on blog).
  • Using your keyword in the right places (title, description, content, video file name).
  • Increasing click-through rates (titles, custom thumbnails, Google’s featured snippets).

Researching A Keyword – find a keyword in YouTube’s autocomplete dropdown (or Google Autocomplete for blog posts). You can use the underline character _ to fill-in-the-blank. Broad keywords have more searches but are more competitive. The best keywords are broad (lots of volume) with weak content in the top results. vidIQ helps you learn a keyword’s competition in YouTube and MozBar helps you learn competition in Google. I find the competition in YouTube is much less than Google, so choose broad keywords for videos and specific keywords for blogs.

Review Keyword Examples

  • Apple MacBook Pro 16 review
  • What is the best WordPress hosting
  • SiteGround WordPress Hosting review

Solution Keyword Examples

  • How to do yoga at home (recommend a yoga mat)
  • Why is my website slow (recommended faster hosting)
  • How to connect laptop to TV (recommend an HDMI cable)

Youtube amazon seo keywords

Creating In-Depth Content Around Your Keyword – 10+ minutes for YouTube videos and 1,500+ words for blog posts depending on how extensive the topic is. Extensive yet concise! If your content is long, make sure to include timestamps in your video descriptions or create an HTML table of contents for blog posts so viewers can jump to specific sections of your content.

Long content word count

Making Content User-Friendly – the two easiest ways are to use timestamps in video descriptions and an HTML table of contents in blog posts (see below). Get a good camera, invest in good hosting to make your site faster (for blogs), and design nice, crisp graphics using Canva.

Use Your Keyword In The Right Places

For YouTube videos, use your keyword in the:

  • File name (before uploading)
  • Video title (find a balance between using the keyword and making it catchy)
  • Video description (about 2-3 times), the description should be decently long

For blog posts, use your keyword in the:

  • Post title
  • Permalink
  • SEO title (in your SEO plugin)
  • Meta description (in your SEO plugin)
  • Content body (about 2-3 times, once in the first couple sentences)

Increase Click-Through Rates – for YouTube videos, it’s all about catchy titles and thumbnails. For blog posts, it’s all about a catchy SEO title and meta description (in your SEO plugin), getting in Google’s featured snippets (photo below), and using rich snippets like review stars and FAQs.

Featured snippets can be achieved by answering a question keyword in a very concise way (usually with a paragraph or list from the content). Lists are usually pulled from your table of contents or h3 subheadings. To get a featured snippet for my keyword “how to make money with affiliate marketing” Google will likely use my TOC or maybe (let’s see), this paragraph:

To make money with affiliate marketing, set up a blog or YouTube channel and find relevant products/services to refer your readers to. Sign up for affiliate programs, create affiliate links to products, and add them to your content. Most affiliates rely on SEO or Pinterest to get traffic.

Designing a nice image with your exact keyword helps too!

Featured snippets

List featured snippets

How To Rank YouTube Videos:

  • YouTube SEO relies heavily on engagement signals.
  • Find a keyword in YouTube autocomplete with good search volume.
  • Research the keyword’s competition by looking at videos’ number of views, likes, comments, and other signals top videos have (vidIQ Chrome extension is great for this).
  • Cover the topic extensively – aim for 10 minutes and be concise (scripts/editing)!
  • Label the video file (on your computer) as your keyword, and upload it to YouTube.
  • Craft a nice title that entices people to click your video, with your keyword in front.
  • Write a long description with timestamps, links, and use keyword in first sentence.
  • Review the transcript automatically generated by YouTube, then make corrections.
  • Upload a custom thumbnail (1280px by 720px) that gets people clicking the video.
  • Always respond to comments, and embed the video on your blog if you have one.
  • Incorporate your video in your blog, email, social media, other marketing channels.

How To Rank WordPress Blogs:

  • Use Rank Math Pro and learn how to use it for schema.
  • Use SSL from the start, most hosts have free Let’s Encrypt SSL.
  • Choose a fast host + WordPress themes (I like Rocket.net + GeneratePress).
  • Use post name permalink structure in WordPress under Settings > Permalinks.
  • Create content around keywords from tools like Google Autocomplete.
  • Learn about image optimization, internal links, lightweight plugins, OG images.
  • Add publish dates to blog articles to make content look fresh and increase CTRs.
  • Use multimedia – whether it be videos, infographics, or audio clips – people love them.
  • Set up Google Search Console and use it to track rankings, CTR, impressions, etc.
  • Make your WordPress site load fast (FlyingPress + Perfmatters are both solid plugins).

 

11. Create The Perfect Pitch

Mine looks something like this:

In 2019, I moved from SiteGround to Cloudways Vultr HF and posted my results. In 2022, I moved to Rocket.net with Cloudflare Enterprise which landed me a <100ms global TTFB in KeyCDN. They’re the fastest host I’ve used in 12 years and are blowing up in Facebook groups.

If you have a poor TTFB, you need to rethink your host/CDN since those are the 2 main TTFB factors (which is also 40% of LCP). After writing bad reviews of SiteGround, Hostinger, Kinsta, and EIG, I think we can agree most hosting reviews are garbage. A good place to get unbiased feedback is the WP Speed Matters Group (run by Gijo from FlyingPress). Rocket.net doesn’t do aggressive marketing so not as many people know about them, but results are all I care about.

Keycdn global ttfb
My KeyCDN report (you can also check my GTmetrix / PSI report or click through my site)

Good hosting plans:

FastComet FastCloud Extra NameHero Turbo Cloud Cloudways Vultr HF (2GB) Servebolt Pro Rocket.net Starter
Type Shared Shared Cloud Cloud Cloud
Server LiteSpeed LiteSpeed Apache + Nginx Apache + Nginx Apache + Nginx
Cores/RAM 6 cores/3GB 3 cores/3GB 1 core/2GB Unmetered 32 cores/128GB
Storage 35GB / SATA Unlimited NVMe 64GB / NVMe 4GB / NVMe 10GB / NVMe
CDN QUIC.cloud QUIC.cloud Cloudflare Enterprise ($5/mo) Cloudflare Enterprise ($299/mo) Cloudflare Enterprise (free)
CDN PoPs 80 80 285 285 285
Full page caching
CDN image optimization via QUIC via QUIC Mirage/Polish Mirage/Polish Mirage/Polish
DNS Use QUIC Use QUIC DNS Made Easy ($5/mo) x Cloudflare
Cache plugin LiteSpeed Cache LiteSpeed Cache x Servebolt plugin x
Object cache Memcached Redis Redis Pro x Redis
PHP processor LiteSpeed LiteSpeed FPM Apache 2 ITK MPM LiteSpeed
Database MySQL MariaDB MariaDB MariaDB MariaDB
Bandwidth or monthly visits 92GB + 100k (est.) 50k (est.) 2TB 1M dynamic requests 50GB + 250k visits/mo
Control panel cPanel cPanel Custom Custom Custom
Email hosting x x x
Major incidents 2022 DDoS attack 2011 2-day node outage None None None
Migrations 3 free 1 free 1 free + $25/site Unlimited free Unlimited free
TrustPilot rating 4.9/5 4.6/5 4.5/5 4.5/5 4.9/5
Monthly price $5.49 (1-3 years) $9.98 (3 years) $30 $99 $25 (1 year)

  • Shared LiteSpeed HostingFastCloud Extra, Turbo Cloud, and ChemiCloud’s WordPress Turbo plan are all shared LiteSpeed hosting with cPanel and good alternatives to SiteGround & Hostinger. NameHero and ChemiCloud have less cores/RAM but use NVMe (faster than SATA), Redis (faster than Memcached), and MariaDB (faster than MySQL). NameHero’s data centers are only in US & EU, and NameHero/ChemiCloud make you sign up for 3 years to get their cheapest intro price (FastComet is 1-3 years). With either of these, you’ll use the free LiteSpeed Cache plugin and QUIC.cloud’s CDN (great setup). For cloud VPS, Scala is a solid host and doesn’t charge for the LiteSpeed license separately like other VPS hosts. Imunify360 is used as a security suite on FastComet, NameHero, and Rocket.net.
  • Cloudways Vultr HF – good starting point for cloud hosting with more storage + bandwidth than Rocket.net, but their Cloudflare Enterprise needs APO and serves too many challenge pages. They were acquired by DigitalOcean who raised prices, and support could be better. Still very fast between Vultr HF, NVMe, Redis Object Cache Pro, and MariaDB. Even without APO, Cloudflare Enterprise is a powerhouse for reducing TTFB with Argo Smart Routing and prioritizing routing. Mirage/Polish optimize images better than most plugins and doesn’t tax your server. Cloudflare Enterprise can also mean 3 less plugins between image, CDN, and security plugins.
  • Servebolt – incredibly fast servers, but Cloudflare Enterprise costs $299/mo via accelerated domains, so you’ll probably just add APO using the Cloudflare plugin. However, this is a disadvantage (specifically for WooCommerce sites) because you don’t get Argo Smart Routing, and Redis is only available on the Business plan and up (Rocket.net includes both). This and low storage are the main cons but they’re much faster than Kinsta + WP Engine. They also have a Servebolt Optimizer plugin.
  • Rocket.net – only host I know that averages a <100ms global TTFB. Both their hosting and Cloudflare Enterprise have better specs. For hosting, you get more CPU cores/RAM, LiteSpeed’s PHP, NVMe, Redis, and MariaDB. For their Cloudflare Enterprise, it’s free with APO, Argo, prioritized routing, Mirage/Polish, Brotli, early hints, and Enterprise WAF. Support is also A+ (talk to Ben Gabler and his team) or watch the interview I did with him. Unlike Kinsta and WP Engine, they don’t limit PHP workers, have a 1GB memory limit, and use Redis Object Cache Pro on their business plan and up with 10x more monthly visits and unlimited free migrations. The main con is only 50GB bandwidth on the Starter plan with 10GB NVMe storage. Search their TrustPilot reviews for “TTFB” or search Facebook Groups for feedback about them. You can get $1 your first month when you checkout using code OMM1

Siteground to rocket. Net
452% LCP improvement

Rocket. Net trustpilot review

Kinsta to rocket. Net migration

Moved to rocket. Net vs siteground

Rocket. Net positive review

Litespeed cache litespeed server

Rocket. Net woocommerce elementor
Cloudflare Enterprise significantly reduces TTFB

Rocket. Net vs cloudways vultr hf trustpilot review

Rocket. Net facebook review 1

Rocket. Net vs kinsta

Kinsta to rocket. Net ttfb redis

Namehero vs siteground feedback

Bad hosting plans (and bad hosts in general):

SiteGround GrowBig Hostinger Business WP Bluehost Choice Plus WP Engine Startup Kinsta Starter
Type Shared Shared Shared Cloud Cloud
Server Apache + Nginx LiteSpeed Apache + Nginx Apache + Nginx Apache + Nginx
Cores/RAM Not listed 2 cores/1.5GB Not listed Not listed 12 cores/8GB
Storage 20GB / SATA 200GB / SATA 40GB / SATA 10GB / SATA 10GB / SATA
CDN Google Cloud QUIC.cloud Cloudflare free Cloudflare free + Polish Cloudflare APO + firewall rules
CDN PoPs 176 80 285 285 285
Full page caching via CDN via QUIC x x
CDN image optimization Very limited via QUIC x Polish only x
DNS Blocked by Google for 4 days Use QUIC Internal Internal Amazon Route 53
Cache plugin SG Optimizer LSC x x x
Object cache Memcached Memcached x Memcached Redis ($100/mo)
PHP processor FastCGI LiteSpeed FastCGI Not listed FastCGI
Database MySQL MySQL MySQL Not listed MySQL
Resource limits CPU limits are common Low resources Low resources Low PHP workers + 25k visits/mo 2 PHP workers + 25k visits/mo
Inodes 400k 600k 50k Unlimited Unlimited
Control panel Site Tools hPanel cPanel User Portal MyKinsta
Email storage 10GB 1GB Adjustable x x
Major incidents Denies issues with TTFB, DNS, CPU, others Scam reports, fake reviews, 2019 breach Claims of hosting terrorist sites 2015 breach None
Migrations $30/site Unlimited (but screws it up) Free on qualified accounts only Paid (quoted) Free on select hosts + 1 free
TrustPilot rating 4.6/5 4.6/5 (fake) 3.7/5 4.5/5 4.2/5
Monthly price $3.99 (1 year) $3.99 (2 years) $5.45 (1 year) $20 (1 year) $29 (1 year)
Renewals $24.99/mo $14.99/mo $19.99/mo $25/mo $29/mo

  • SiteGround – $25/mo for a shared GrowBig plan is a ripoff. Top it off with a poor cache plugin, inferior CDN than Cloudflare APO, CPU limits, and a support team that constantly lies about their issues… means you’re getting ripped off. If your LCP is high, I bet you use SiteGround Optimizer which does a poor job with web vitals, plus they’ve have TTFB issues. Their CDN requires you to use SiteGround’s DNS which was blocked by Google for 4 days. To cover up their mess, they deny everything and use Facebook group admins (who run several groups) to promote SiteGround on their behalf and act like support agents. They have “good reviews” only because of affiliates and legal threats. Check this thread about Hristo’s AMA.
  • Hostinger – only cheap because they lack resources like cores, RAM, and email storage. Everyone gets drawn to their cheap prices and LiteSpeed, but have you read their scam reports and fake reviews? I would never trust them with my site. Support is horrendous and will screw up migrations, suspend your account, and pretty sure they outsource it to an ice cream truck in Lithuania. The CEO admitted to fake reviews, they’re banned from Facebook groups for voting for themselves in polls, and hired brand ambassadors who pretend to be customers. Check this poll.
  • Bluehost – another host that grew from “how to start a blog” affiliates and pays WordPress to be “officially” recommended. Use a shared LiteSpeed host instead.
  • WPX – no redundancy system which already lead to a global outage they blamed on a dead CEO. Ticking time bomb, overpriced shared hosting, and not the fastest WordPress host like Matthew said (but now he lists Kinsta #1)? Marketing gimmick.
  • WP Engine – I reached out to them about their specs, but they don’t give them out. When a host doesn’t list basic things like cores/RAM, I assume it’s not good. From my experience, they’re similar to Kinsta but even worse with pricey overages.
  • Kinsta – great option if you want to go bankrupt with paid add-ons that should be free. Compared to Rocket.net, you get 16x less RAM, 10x less monthly visits, brutal PHP worker limits, and a very low memory limit of 256MB. What are you paying so much for? Slower SATA SSDs, a premium DNS that’s slower than Cloudflare’s, and staging sites that get 1 CPU core? Madness! No wonder their TrustPilot rating sunk.

Avoid siteground

Siteground to cloudways dns issue

Hostinger is the worst

Godaddy mention

Siteground slow ttfb leave

Siteground renewal prices

Hostinger banned from facebook groups

Bluehost hostgator godaddy worst choices

I agree:

Namehero cloudways rocket. Net
NameHero for shared LiteSpeed, Cloudways Vultr HF for cloud, Rocket.net outperforms both

…something like that!

And by the way, Rocket.net pays $150/sale through their affiliate program without having to climb tiers. Ben is also great to work with.

 

12. Get Involved In Facebook Groups

My conversion rate went from 2.5% to 8% just by including Facebook polls where Cloudways was rated #1, along with a few Twitter screenshots of migration results and conversations from Facebook Groups. Whether it’s Amazon reviews or Facebook polls, you NEED to include unbiased reviews. That’s why I don’t like collecting reviews on my website – they look biased.

People want evidence, not opinions.

There’s a Facebook Group for everything. For me, I mainly use the WordPress Hosting, WP Speed Matters, and WP Speed Up Facebook Groups to keep track of the web hosting industry.

Search facebook groups

 

13. Bookmark Affiliate Statistics In Your Browser

Go to your affiliate dashboard(s) and bookmark the “statistic” page so it saves to your browser. This saves time especially if you’re someone who likes to constantly check sales/performance.

Bookmark affiliate pages

 

14. Set Up Email Alerts When A Sale Is Made

This only works if the affiliate sends you an email when a sale is generated. Any time I make a hosting sale, I get a custom notification on my phone. It is very ENCOURAGING to get these.

Create custom alerts on your phone for affiliate sales – if you use Gmail, go to your settings and create a filter so all emails with “SiteGround Affiliate Sale Generated” in the subject line go into their own folder (tweak the subject line to match whatever email notification your affiliate sends you). Then set up a custom alert on your phone using the Gmail app so whenever you generate a sale, you get a custom alert (here’s a tutorial for Android and here’s one for Apple). I have different notifications for Rocket.net, Cloudways, others. It makes your day a little better :)

Custom gmail filter

 

15. Build Your Community

Respond To Comments – some of my articles have 400+ comments. It’s hard to keep up sometimes but this is a key part of building a community and allowing readers to ask you questions and leave their feedback. You should especially respond to YouTube comments because they are a ranking factor and encourage even more people to leave more comments.

Respond to comments

Build That Newsletter – I use Mailchimp and can’t stress how important it is to build your email list from the start (it’s free until you reach 2,000 subscribers). Once you create an account, add an email sidebar on your blog or create a dedicated newsletter page where people can sign up.

Be Open, Not Salesy – I hold back zero information on my blog, don’t recommend anything I don’t truly believe will help my readers, and try my best not to recommend hosting on every single post I write (only where it makes sense). Valuable information first, affiliate sales after.

 

16. Avoid Google Penalties

  • Follow Google’s guidelines for affiliate marketing.
  • Avoid short, thin pages that offer little value to readers.
  • Don’t always list affiliate products first – Google knows!
  • Don’t overuse affiliate links in your posts, drop them where it counts.
  • Avoid too many “list posts” where you just list a bunch of affiliate products.
  • Write an affiliate disclaimer (you’ll see mine at the very bottom of my blog).
  • Consider writing a review of your affiliate’s product/service and linking to that post (instead of using an affiliate link) to reduce the amount of affiliate links on your site.

Google affiliate guidelines

 

17. Monitor Conversion Rates

The way you endorse a product or service and the social proof behind it (Facebook polls or maybe reviews from other customers) are the main reason I was able to go from 2% to 8%+. If you don’t see these in your affiliate dashboard, use Thirsty Affiliate’s pro version to see them.

This is from 2017 when I started hitting it hard. Look at that CR (conversation rate) increase!

Siteground conversion report

 

18. Use An Affiliate Disclaimer

Here’s mine:

Affiliate disclaimer

 

19. Mistakes I Made

In my Google Analytics graph you’ll see a sudden drop in traffic followed by a long flatline in 2015/2016. These were pretty tough years for me and I hope I can save you from making a few bad mistakes I made, which resulted in years of financial hardship. Here are a few simple tips.

Google-analytics-organic-traffic

  • Don’t hire a sketchy link builder to boost rankings.
  • Get links from great content or hire someone who knows what they’re doing.
  • Don’t skimp on a free WordPress theme, cheap hosting, or use bloated plugins.

Don’t set a goal to write 3 blog posts a day… set a goal to write 1 blog post a week and make that post super helpful, long, and filled with information that is so valuable you will say “yeah, people will link to that.” 90% of my traffic/affiliate income comes from just 20 tutorials, many of which are 5 years old, but I constantly update content to make it better.

Do this and you should see consistent “small spikes” in your Google Analytics.

 

20. Donate To Charity

Once you’re financially stable, I hope you start giving back. It feels good and people like the idea of supporting a good cause (they will be more likely to click your affiliate link). This also means you don’t have to use as many links in your content. In total, I have given $6,000 to GoFundMe campaigns and $6,000 to my parents who let me live in their house while I worked on my blog.

Feels good to give back :)

Feeding denvers hungry gofundme

Mom-and-i-scaled-e1586227774941

Arizona-road-with-dad

 

21. Share Your Story

This is now the #1 visited post on my blog! I knew I could outrank all the fakes.

How to make money with affiliate marketing top page

 

22. Promote Black Friday Deals

Many companies have Black Friday + Cyber Monday deals (usually for about 2 weeks) and you can easily make 3x your normal sales during this time if you promote it right. I’ve made $2,000 in a single day during Black Friday season. You can make a “Deals” page but what I like to do is use the Better Search Replace plugin to bulk update all pricing screenshots to a screenshot of each company’s new Black Friday prices. Then when Black Friday is done, I just run another search/replace to change the screenshots back. Doesn’t take much time, but it’s very effective.

Black friday cyber monday wordpress deals

 

23. 2021 PayPal Report

Most affiliates pay through PayPal but some of them pay directly through your bank (ShareASale, Impact, many affiliate networks). Nonetheless, I added these for the skeptics.

Paypal report

A few months from 2021:

Cloudways affiliate commissions

I  made almost $400,000 with SiteGround before I stopped promoting them.

Siteground sales

Got affiliate of the month back in July, 2017 :)

Siteground-affiliate-of-the-month

What is affiliate marketing?

Affiliate marketing is when you refer people to products or services from a merchant who agrees to give you a commission when a sale is made through your unique affiliate link.

How do I make money with affiliate marketing?

The most common ways are to set up a blog or YouTube channel, grow your audience, then sign up for affiliate programs that make sense to refer your viewers to.

How fast can you make money with affiliate marketing?

It can take anywhere from a couple months to several years to make consistent money with affiliate marketing. It depends on your ability to drive traffic, build trust, and successfully promote your affiliates.

What are the highest paying affiliate programs?

Web hosting programs like Rocket.net, Cloudways, WP Engine, and Bluehost typically pay $150/sale once you start making a lot of sales. That's why the space is so competitive.

Is affiliate marketing passive income?

Affiliate marketing income is not 100% passive income. You still need to create content, keep content current, and adapt to your industry while monitoring sales and conversions.

How much money can you make with affiliate marketing?

Some affiliates make a couple hundred dollars per month while other super affiliates make $10,000+ per month. You will get there quicker if you make it your full-time job and create awesome content on a consistent basis.

How do you get paid in affiliate marketing?

Most affiliates get paid through PayPal or directly to their bank account. Typical affiliate programs make payouts each month or once you reach a specific amount in commissions.

How can beginners make money with affiliate marketing?

If you're a beginner, you can make money with affiliate marketing by setting up a YouTube channel and teaching people how to start a blog while referring your audience to hosting. This is the most popular way beginners start making money.

What are the best affiliate programs to make money?

Amazon and hosting companies are two of the best affiliate programs to make money. Amazon is the most popular online retailer, and hosting affiliate programs offer some of the highest commissions. Bluehost, SiteGround, and HostGator are a few examples.

How do I make money with affiliate marketing without a website?

Setting up a YouTube channel is the easiest way to make money with affiliate marketing without a website. It's free, easy, and you can start creating videos instantly. Once you grow your audience, sign up for affiliate programs and promote products on your channel.

Is affiliate marketing worth it?

Yes, affiliate marketing can be well worth your time. But you need to have a plan on where you will promote products, which companies and products you will promote, and a strategy for getting traffic. Traffic is where most affiliate marketers fail.

How do YouTubers make money with affiliate marketing?

Most YouTubers add affiliate links in the video description or mention promo codes in their video which credit them the sale.

 

Final Thought: It’s A Long-Term Investment

This is the 1st car I have EVER purchased myself at age 29 (I was broke until then and leased from my parents). But the time committed to affiliate marketing and creating great tutorials and YouTube videos was worth it… I work for myself, there is virtually no limit on how much I can make, my schedule is flexible, and I collect enough passive income to live the life I want.

My mercedes
It’s no lambo, but I did buy a c300 Mercedes with my affiliate income
Tom dupuis and cats
Me and the cats (Valencio on the left, Sonic on the right)
Thailand elephant
Spending 4 weeks in Thailand without worrying about money was awesome

If you have any questions or need help getting started, I am more than happy to help with whatever I can. Just leave a comment below and I promise to respond as soon as I can! Best of luck in your affiliate marketing journey and I genuinely hope this tutorial was super helpful :)

Cheers,
Tom

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377 Comments...

  1. You said you quit your job in 2013 and started doing affiliate marketing full-time, but you also said you started blogging in the past two years, so what happened between 2013 and 2020? very curious.

    Reply
    • Took a vacation!

      Joking… I quit my job in 2013, started blogging full time, took about 2 years to see results, been doing it ever since (been blogging for 11 years now).

      Reply
  2. Hello Tom,

    I’m wondering which extension you are using for youtube suggested keywords you showed in the screenshot here: “7. Be A “How To Start A Blog” YouTuber”

    Thanks

    Reply
  3. Hello,

    Great article very detailed…I am comfused about the time when did you started blogging… I want to go for it but I will need to see results making some money so base on your expirience how long may take to see some income ? Please advise and thank you Ps: Also I may write in Spanish instead of English

    Reply
    • Hi Sikiu,

      That really depends on whether you’re blogging full-time, your current knowledge of SEO or traffic generating skills (usually the hardest part), and how well you’re able to convince your audience to use a product/service (conversion rates). It took me about 2 years but then again, it was much less competitive back then. I did see very good results after 2 years though and started making more money than any of my other jobs. My industry changes fast too, so I find myself working more these days.

      YouTube may be less competitive and you may be able to see results quicker. There are just so many factors that’s it’s really hard to give an answer. It truly is different for everyone.

      Reply
  4. Hi Tom! Just a quick question if you don’t mind. Do you think making a blog on Elementor Pro and hosting it with Cloudways Vultr will be a good decision? Will this combo hurt my Google ranking in your opinion?

    Awesome post, btw :)

    Reply
    • Thanks John.

      Elementor Pro does slow down your site and speed is a ranking factor, but how much it “hurts” your site depends. Some people are able to get good results, others not (more often than not, because they keep adding other Elementor plugins, use shared hosting, bad cache plugin configuration of the settings, etc). And even if they manage to get good results, I feel like people have to do a lot more work to optimize their site on Elementor. So it’s really just weighing how much you like Elementor Pro vs. the speed it costs. They have been making speed improvements, but it’s still not faster than GeneratePress, Kadence, Blocksy, other themes that use Gutenberg.

      Vultr on Cloudways is a lot faster than what most people start with which is usually cheap cPanel hosting that locks you into a 3-year price trap. Cloudways isn’t your only option of course, but I think it’s definitely one of the better/faster ones.

      Reply
  5. Hello Tom, I am currently writing an article about how to start on Affiliate Marketing, can I have the permission to use some of your information in my article? Also can I use your pictures for my article?

    Reply
  6. Hi Tom.
    I was about abandoning my blog until i read this epic article and this article gave me a ray of hope.

    If you won’t mind, is there a way i can reach out to you. I’d like you to take a look at my blog and tell me exactly what I’m doing wrong. Please.

    Reply
  7. This is such a helpful , easy to navigate and humble post. I’ve read it a couple times and it really inspired me that if I’m persistent I can also help people through my writing and expertise while making a living at it. I’ve been trying to churn out 2 blogs a day and kind of wiped out so it’s great to know I can shift focus to writing less better and sharing more.

    I was wondering if you could expand on your strategy with Facebook groups?

    And do you use Instagram at all?

    Thanks !

    Reply
    • Thanks Manisha!

      For Facebook Groups, I use it a few ways: staying on top of news in my industry (i.e. many companies post updates here). I also look at things like Facebook polls, people’s hosting migration results, and other “tends and social proof.” For example, I saw a lot of people were moving to Cloudways, so I gave them a try and really liked them and started promoting them (same thing with FlyingPress/Rocket.net). It also seems people here are more careful with the accuracy of what they say compared to a random blog you find in Google. Obviously it depends on the group, but I just find the information more helpful/trustworthy especially if you find a solid group with knowledgeable people. Some groups do Facebook live events, Q&A’s, and other stuff like that too.

      I don’t use Instagram or really any social media. Never seem to find the time since I’m writing all day so I’m not one to give advice on that :/

      Reply

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