How To Monetize YouTube Videos Without AdSense (Try Using Affiliate Links Instead)

Monetize youtube videos without adsense

For those of us who don’t want to spam our Youtube viewers with advertisements, there are better alternatives out there.

The easiest way is to recommend products (mentioned in your video) using affiliate links. When someone purchases a product through your affiliate link, you get a commission from the sale. You’re basically promoting someone else’s product for a commission. I make $1,000/month doing this and it’s my second largest source of income next to SEO consulting.

Through these affiliate links you can start monetizing Youtube videos without AdSense or Partnerships. It’s more personalized, less intrusive, and you probably won’t get any “thumbs down” votes since you are hopefully recommending product(s) that help solve a problem.

Here is a video I made with affiliate links:

Youtube affiliate marketing

When people click my MaxCDN affiliate link (either in the Youtube annotation or video description), I get a commission from the sale. Below you will find instructions to do this…


Add Affiliate Links To YouTube Videos

Step 1 – Add Associated Website To Your Youtube Channel
Sign into YouTube and go to “Creator Studio.” Now go to Channel –> Status And Features –> External Annotations. Add your website and go through the verification process. You may need to add your website to Google Search Console. Now go to the “Advanced” tab under Channel and add your website as an Associated Website. Full instructions are found here.

Youtube associated website


Step 2 – Get Your Affiliate Links
You will first need to learn which products/merchants are best to refer your audience too. Most websites have an “Affiliates” tab at the top or bottom of their website where you can sign up. You can also Google “_____ affiliate program” to see it it shows up here. There are many affiliate hubs which have thousands of products/merchants. Try out Amazon, ShareASale, or CJ. Once signed up and approved, you can start creating your affiliate links:

Affiliate link


Step 3 – Cloak Your Affiliate Links
Cloaking affiliate links means you’re pointing people to a URL on your website, but it redirects somewhere else. For example, this cloaked affiliate link points to /go/maxcdn but it redirects to the MaxCDN website. You must do this because YouTube video annotations only allow you to use URLs for YOUR associated website – cloaking them is what allows you to redirect them to the affiliate link!

If you’re running WordPress, I use a plugin called Thirsty Affiliates to cloak, manage, and track my affiliate links (you have to pay Thirsty Affiliates for their add-ons if you want extra features). The free version is still good… just install the plugin and find the “Affiliate Links” tab on the left of your dashboard. Add the link name and destination URL, save it, then copy the cloaked version of the URL so you can add it to your YouTube video annotations.

Cloaked affiliate link


Step 4 – Add Affiliate Links To YouTube Videos
Edit the YouTube video you want to add affiliate link(s) to. Click the Annotations tab and “Add Annotation.” Fill out the required info including the time you want that annotation to appear (obviously it should be when you recommend the affiliate product). Near the bottom, add your cloaked affiliate link. Apply changes, then watch the video and test your link.

You can also add affiliate links to your YouTube video description. These don’t need to be cloaked, but I like to use a URL shortern like Bitly to make the link look prettier/shorter.

Add affiliate links to youtube videos


You’re Done, Now Go Create More YouTube Videos

Planning videos can help you use affiliate links and annotations more effectively, but go ahead and add them (where appropriate) to your existing videos. Tutorial videos are great for affiliate marketing because people are looking for a solution – which can often be solved with a product. Take a look at some examples to get ideas for your next YouTube video…

Q: How do you connect a Macbook to multiple monitors?
A: Buy an HDMI adapter (link to an Amazon product)

Q: How do you make your website load faster?
A: Buy faster hosting (most hosting companies having an affiliate program)

Q: What is the best tv for a conference room?
A: I don’t know, but I bet you can find it on Amazon!

Review videos are also common. Now that you know how to monetize YouTube videos without AdSense or other spammy methods, go ahead and start doing some video affiliate marketing. It can be more lucrative and people won’t hate you for spamming them with ads! Just be sure you are following Youtube’s video guidelines

If you have a question about YouTube video monetization or affiliate marketing, drop me a line. I’m glad to help. And if you found this tutorial helpful, please consider giving it a share.

Tom signature


  1. Hi
    How are you?

    How many affiliate links should you add in the description of a YouTube video? When would the YouTube overlords consider it ‘spam’?

    • I don’t think there’s a magic number. I would more say if it looks spammy to you, it probably looks even more spammy to users. But, I’ve seen videos with a ton of aff links in the description and still rank very well. More about how it looks to the user I’d say.

  2. Oh my god…this is so overwhelming. I have been trying to work with affiliate links for about a month or so and I simply just am not getting it. a) it’s taken for granted that new publishers know all the affiliate language. At the moment I am using CJ and every time i have a question they provide a link into a black hole of more information that sends me in circles. All I want to do is make some extra money through affiliate links because I lost my job due to Covid exactly a year ago and it’s been a slow process. I am trying to be optimistic but I really just don’t think I am any good at this. Any affiliate companies I thought would be good for me have not even accepted me and I am literally trying to determine how many I can have, where do I put all of them, do you use one affiliate link per video, what if you are using several, how can you ensure to drive the traffic and seriously I just need a whole course on this.. any ideas where I could literally follow an exact step by step introduction and learning for affiliate marketing because i am such a visual person and all this is so out there for me. So disheartened. :(

    • Hey Ani,

      You should email me: tom(at) I’m sorry to hear you lost your job from covid. Anything I can do to help, let me know. Here’s my main affiliate marketing guide too, but hopefully this clarifies some things:

      1. Affiliates are more likely to accept you (and offer you higher commissions) if you have a decent amount of traffic and prove you can get sales either with them or other affiliates.
      2. You should be able to have unlimited affiliates but I wouldn’t spread yourself out thin. Best to figure out what make sense for your audience, what the affiliate’s commission is, then focus on a couple where the sales can make you a decant amount of money.
      3. I haven’t used CJ much but you should have a place where you manage affiliate links. I run a WordPress blog and use the Thirsty Affiliates Plugin. Maybe CS has an area to tracking affiliate links? I would think they do.
      4. You can add as many affiliate links as you want to YouTube video descriptions. Annotations got demoted awhile back and I need to update this article.
      5. Affiliate links stats should be able to be tracked in CJ. I wouldn’t overthink this though… as long as you can see each link’s clicks and conversion rate, those are the main things to pay attention to. You shouldn’t need any special software.

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