Find out what's working in affiliate marketing in 2020.

Affiliate marketing has made some people rich, and some people richer. And for others, it's an extra income stream to help finance goals and dreams. But what is affiliate marketing? Most of us have at least a vague idea. The concept is fairly basic, but it can get complicated and confusing as you dig into it. So, we're here to break it down. Plus, we'll give you the scoop on what it looks like today in the age of COVID-19 and all the changes the pandemic has created in the global marketplace. 

Let's start with the basics. What is affiliate marketing? It's a way to partner with a company, brand, product, or sales channel by promoting them on your site, driving sales on their own, and making a commission in the process. Simplified, this type of marketing is the business of using links to products or services. As an affiliate, you entice click-throughs on those links to drive traffic to the partner website. From there, it's the partner's responsibility to make an enticing offer. When you send prospects who become customers, you get a reward. Everyone wins. Customers get what they want. The company makes money. You make money. 

We've all seen affiliate links as we spend time online, and they're not always where you might expect them. If you Google an item today, a similar item might show up on your Facebook page tomorrow. Are you looking at a product tutorial? You can count on finding an affiliate link. Business owners love affiliate marketing because it's like having a commission-only sales force. Affiliates love it because of its potential for residual income. 

Credit: Entrepreneur 

Is Affiliate Marketing Easy? 

Yes. All you really need is a computer and the internet to get started. But to grow, you need more than that. You need to have the right mindset. Per Mike Peters of Yomali in his article "One Way to Start a Lucrative Career From Home That Could Pay You $50,000 in a Day" – to succeed, you need a growth mindset. You have to enjoy learning, because "you have to put in the work and teach yourself, but it's relatively simple. If you're committed to investing a few hours a day, that's more than enough." 

Also, check out the back story for these two affiliate marketers who make it look easy.

Graham Stephan

The Points Guy

You probably won't get rich right off the bat. But if you follow a smart plan and do the work, you can grow a nice income. How much money you make is up to you, your dedication, time commitment, and willingness to put in the work. To get started, what you need is a guide for affiliate marketing for beginners. Here you go!


Choose Your Platform

Choose the right platform for your skills and comfort level. Go with your strengths, whether it's social media, video, or writing. 

Here are a few of the most common and successful: 

  • Your own website
  • Search engine affiliate programs
  • Blogging and vlogging
  • Coupon website
  • Review website
  • Loyalty site 
  • Incentive program
  • Email marketing
  • Social media 

Pick a Niche

Don't try to cover all topics and industries in the hopes that more categories equal more money. Drill down to find an angle that excites you. This is a good time to follow your passions. You want to be a credible, knowledgeable voice for your audience to follow. 

Register with an Affiliate Program

Narrow down the affiliate programs you want to focus on. You'll find the requirements for different programs vary. There are three types of programs:

  • High-paying, low-volume – geared most typically to corporate or business audiences
  • Low-paying, high-volume – most typical of programs geared toward consumers, such as Amazon, Etsy, or eBay
  • High-paying, high-volume – these programs pay handsomely for affiliate links to products with mass appeal and high sales numbers

Create Great Content

Content is king. Publishing engaging content builds your audience and increases your money-making potential. You can't paste an affiliate link into a low-quality article and expect to get great results. People will only get to the links if they consume your content. 

Drive Some Traffic

To make money on your partnership links, you have to drive traffic to your content as well as your partner's website. SEO and marketing strategies are a great start. You should also consider link placement within your content. Don't just slap it onto the bottom of a blog post without any type of call to action). 

Does Affiliate Marketing Still Work in 2020?

Has affiliate marketing reached its peak? We don't think so. Sure, there are new challenges. The COVID-19 crisis put a strain on the economy and businesses. But there are also great opportunities for affiliate marketers. 

The good news is, now is as good a time as any to jump in. Though it seems counterintuitive, there are many benefits of going for it during this crazy time with a new affiliate marketing business. 


Because the risks are low, the startup is fast and easy, you can work from home, and there are tons of resources out there to help you learn how to start affiliate marketing. And you don't have to give up your day job, assuming you still have one, to launch this project. You can do it in as much or as little time per day as fits your lifestyle. It can be a whole new career or a lucrative side hustle. 

The question remains – will it still work in 2020 and beyond? Because all e-commerce needs traffic, affiliate marketers are still going to find profits now and in the future. It's a gig that's relatively new but growing by leaps and bounds every day. There's plenty of room for everyone. The most important variable to consider is consumer behavior. 

affiliate marketers

How Do People Shop in 2020?

Because of the pandemic, there have been considerable shifts in how people shop, both offline and online. Even as people start to venture back out into the world, there is a new attitude toward shopping in stores versus shopping online. 

Many consumers shifted to buying online. They bought everything online - from groceries and essentials to home improvement materials, sporting goods, and entertainment. Consider the jigsaw puzzle industry. As people sought ways to keep themselves and their families entertained and sane while staying home and staying safe, puzzle sales went up 1,000%. Manufacturers could hardly keep up. Imagine the potential for the affiliate links for the most popular puzzles sold through companies like Amazon and Etsy. 

As consumers change their shopping strategies, marketers must adapt their sales strategies. For an affiliate, that could mean refining or broadening your niche market. It could mean adjusting to online trends, such as the surprising and significant drop in Google search traffic, or the boom in online gambling, online gaming, and online health and fitness offerings. "COVID-19: Affiliate Marketing" by Kreete Pruul says it's time to "focus on promoting necessity products until the chaos settles." 2020 has been more challenging than many years in recent memory for many reasons. But it's still a great time to break into the affiliate marketing game. 

How Do I Become an Affiliate Marketer?

Even though it seems like affiliate marketing is the art of placing links, there's more to it than that. Even though you don't have any overhead or inventory, you'll still be starting a business. You'll want to set yourself up for success right out of the gate. You can do that by taking careful steps to get it right. 

Focus: What Audience Will You Serve?

Don't just decide to focus on something because it seems like something popular or trendy or a no-brainer. One of the cornerstones of successful affiliate marketing is to promote brands you use yourself. You need to have enough knowledge to make solid recommendations for your audience. Assess your passions and move forward. Focus on something you're passionate about. You can't promote something you aren't interested in or knowledgeable about effectively. Stick to your wheelhouse. Your audience is smart enough to recognize someone who's faking it and just in it for the money. Help your audience. Lead them to things they want or need. Don't alienate them by giving a sneaky sales pitch to sell a bunch of crap.

Focus: What Does Your Audience Want and Need?

Do your research once you've chosen your niche. What problems do people in that audience face? What do they search for? If no one is looking for what you want to promote, tweak your idea. Think about it like fishing. You need to have the right bait for the fish you want to catch - and you need to fish where they're biting.

Find out what types of affiliate programs are available for your chosen niche or niches. Let's say your passion is vintage lamps from the 1940s. You'll want to search for companies that sell those lamps - and that have an affiliate program. Refine or broaden your focus to find programs that will give you a payout that works for you. 

Focus: Speak to Your Audience 

Create a website or social media account to use so you can speak to your people. You will have to have some sort of presence before most companies accept you as an affiliate. Once you've started publishing content, you can use Facebook groups and ads to build a bigger audience. 

Focus: Sign Up for Affiliate Programs

Next, it's time to find companies with products you want to promote and apply as an affiliate. Each has different requirements. Some can be hard to break into as a beginner. For example, to become an Amazon affiliate associate, you'll need to prove you're a value-add for their customers. If you have a website, you'll have to show current and relevant content. If you have a social media account, affiliate partners want to see that you have a substantive following, usually at least 500. 

What Is the Highest Paying Affiliate Program? 

There are countless affiliate programs out there. Everything from Amazon to HubSpot and there is potential for income from each of them. But who pays the most? The goal of any affiliate program is to boost sales, and the goal of any affiliate marketer is to make money. So, knowing where to put your energy can help you boost your bottom line early. Here's a list of some of the top commission payers so far in 2020: 


This is a digital services marketplace. Fiverr offers 300 categories and over 3 million digital services, including logo design, business services, writing programs, and learning courses. They pay affiliate partners a percent of course sales and a fee for every first-time purchase. 


This is a company that sells inbound marketing software products. They've got one of the best software affiliate programs out there. Because it serves businesses, the products have higher dollar amounts per sale, and commission is a flat rate based on product tier. 

Constant Contact

Here's an email marketing tool for building and managing email marketing. They pay $5 for each free trial you refer and $105 for each new account from your referral. 


This one's an e-commerce platform. Shopify makes it possible for anyone to set up an online store to sell products. When customers subscribe, affiliates earn a 200% commission on the cost of the subscription. That's in addition to bonuses for upgrades and a 30-day cookie life. 


Everyone knows Target. Though the selection is more limited than Amazon, there is a trend away from the Jeff Bezos empire for some shoppers. They offer a volume-based commission structure of 1-8%. 


As people start to travel again, travel sites are a great place to make money as an affiliate. TripAdvisor offers a 50% commission on revenue generated from click-through sale - plus, per-click payments of $0.15 to $0.75. 

Is Affiliate Marketing Still Profitable in 2020? 

There is no free ride when it comes to income. But residual income is about as close as it gets, and that's the goal when it comes to affiliate marketing. You do the work once, and it generates revenue on an ongoing basis. So even if the economy is unpredictable and some businesses are failing to thrive in pandemic-era 2020, affiliate marketing is still a profitable venture. By recommending products, you can make money, even in 2020. 

The key is to focus on relevant products and services. Don't promote luxury vacations to Europe when half of Europe is still on stay-at-home orders, and airlines are still at half their usual schedule. You're not going to find your audience. But if you focus on face masks for kids and adults to keep them safe as they go back to work, school, daycare, and safely socializing, you're hitting on a relevant product. 

Keep in mind the categories that have the most significant market and audience currently. This includes:

  • Health and wellness, such as vitamins and supplements, home gym equipment, and instructional videos. 
  • Recreational equipment for kids and families, like trampolines, playsets, sandboxes, and above-ground swimming pools. 
  • Pet supplies are hot because of the surge in dog and cat rescues during the pandemic. 

For example, Chewy is an online pet supply company. They ship everything from collars to 40-pound bags of dog food right to your door. They've seen sales go through the roof as people opt for delivery over heading to the pet supply store. 

Online business is booming. As long as you pick your niche carefully and fine-tune your strategy for driving traffic, you'll find this business profitable in 2020 and beyond. 

Here are two common questions when it comes to the profitability of affiliate marketing:

Can affiliate marketing make you rich? 

The answer is yes. You can make five to six figures per month if you do it right. But most people don't make that kind of money at the start. It takes time and work to build your audience and create a thriving passive-income business that can make you rich. But stick to it, and you can meet whatever goal you set. That might mean an extra income stream to fund a vacation, early retirement, or even to fund an even bigger venture.

Can you start affiliate marketing with no money? 

With the economy on a slippery slope and the unemployment rate going up and up, you might be looking for a gig that can help you make and save money. You can start affiliate marketing with no money, your only investment being your time. Also, you can start on social media and work to gain enough organic followers to qualify you for any number of affiliate programs. You can also create a blog on one of many free blogging platforms. Get started and build your audience. You can build quickly and qualify for the best affiliate programs. You really only need a laptop, internet access, and a growth mindset to get started. 

What is the Best Affiliate Marketing Program for Beginners?

There are so many ways to get your feet wet when it comes to affiliate marketing, it's almost overwhelming. You could spend hours and hours watching tutorials, reading blogs, and doing research. There's enough information out there to make your head spin. Often, when presented with so much material, advice, and knowledge from so many different sources, the tendency is to shut down and step away. But don't let the amount of information scare you away from a potential source of income. 

Take a look at some of the best affiliate programs for beginners to get you going. 


Amazon is not the best nor the highest paying affiliate program out there. But it is a great place to get started when you're a beginner. It's easy to use and not very hard to qualify. Though it started as an online bookseller, Amazon is unquestionably the largest e-commerce company in the world.

Don't let that intimidate you. There are benefits to its size. You can link to practically any type of product you can dream of, no matter how obscure. One drawback to the Amazon program is that they recently cut commission rates effective April 21, 2020. You can find more information on the commission rate changes on CNBC in this article "Amazon Slashes Commission Rates for Program that Gives Publishers a Cut of the Sales" by Annie Palmer. Whatever your feelings for Amazon and their current Associate rates, it's still a great place to get started while you're building an audience. 


The eBay Partner Network is one of the oldest ecommerce affiliate programs. But it's still going strong. They have great user-friendly tools that make it easy for you to get set up, find the products you want to promote, and generate links. Like Amazon, eBay has a vast array of products. But they have higher commission rates and pay directly through PayPal. One drawback is that their auctions often last longer than your cookies. However, if you promote "Buy Now" items, this shouldn't be a concern. 

CJ Affiliate 

CJ Affiliate, formerly known as Commission Junction, is one of the older affiliate programs. If you're just starting out, you might not be familiar with them. As a network versus an e-commerce site, it's a marketplace for brands including GoPro, Barnes and Noble, Lowes, Overstock, Office Depot, J. Crew, 24 Hour Fitness, and nearly 1,500 more. It probably has the niche you've chosen. You'll create an account and a bio on the CJ Affiliate site. Then you apply to affiliate programs for their merchants. It's a great place to get started. But it also has the capacity to allow growth for your business as you gain a wider audience and wider reach. 


ClickBank is an affiliate marketplace that calls itself a "leading global retailer." With a proven conversion rate and a wide selection of merchants, industries, and products to fit your niche, you can expect success as a beginner using this program. They offer a link generation tool, high commission rates, and lots of resources to help you along the way. One drawback, because of their size and reputation, is the abundance of competition for high-value products. But check it out anyway to see if it's a good fit for you starting out. 

The Bottom Line

In early 2020, you might have spent a lot of time stressing about your commute, complaining about your job, worrying about your income, and wishing you could make a change. Now that we are knee-deep in a global pandemic and the entire economy has shifted, you might be singing a different tune. Instead of the commute, you might worry about the stability of your job. Instead of your job, you might fret about the company you work for. And instead of your income, you might be wondering, is there a better way? Affiliate marketing might be just what the doctor ordered. 

Consumer behavior has changed dramatically since the beginning of the year. But there is still money to make promoting goods and services online through this type of partnership. Find your niche. Create amazing content. Partner with the right affiliate programs. Learn the ins and outs of this business. This is a simple plan you can follow to change your life. 

Inside The One Percent community, we’ve been talking about affiliate marketing a lot lately. Fun little factoid for you… when founder Ryan Daniel Moran was in college, he earned six-figures a year doing affiliate marketing from his dorm. Oh, and he did that using dial-up internet! Gathering an audience you want to serve and creating content that helps them, while also recommending products they’ll love - that’s the timeless money-making formula behind affiliate marketing. 

If your mind’s already buzzing with ideas for how you could build another stream of income as an affiliate marketer, you should check out this free resource we made for you.