Exploring the 3 Main Types of Affiliate Marketing: A Beginner’s Guide

3 Main Types of Affiliate Marketing

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Affiliate Marketing in black magic marker, red magic marker under line. 

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Affiliate marketing is more than just earning commissions; it’s about choosing the right approach for you. We begin this post with the 3 main types of affiliate marketing; this section will cover key features, pros and cons, and tips for success. Next is a guide to help you choose the right type for you. Followed by universal tips for affiliate marketing, ending with a tools and resources section.

Affiliate Disclaimer: I’m an affiliate of Wealthy Affiliate, Jaaxy, and SiteRubix, meaning I may earn a commission if you use their service through my links.

Table of Contents

Let’s get started and dig into the 3 main types of affiliate marketing.

The 3 Main Types of Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate Marketing can be categorized into three main types: Unattached, Related, and Involved.

Unattached affiliate marketing is a hands-off approach where marketers promote products without a personal connection.

Related affiliate marketing involves sharing products on platforms like blogs without a deep personal endorsement.

Involved affiliate marketing is rooted in the marketer’s personal experience and genuine endorsement of the product.

Each type varies in its approach and level of engagement with the products being promoted.

Now that we’ve briefly touched on the three main types of affiliate marketing, let’s dig deeper.

Understanding each type’s details can clarify which might align best with your approach and goals. Let’s break down each type to give you a clearer picture.

Unattached Affiliate Marketing:
What is it?

Unattached Affiliate Marketing is often dubbed the “set it and forget it” style of affiliate marketing. In this model, you don’t have a personal connection to the products you’re promoting.

Your focus is primarily on numbers and visibility. Think of it as a billboard on a busy highway; you’re there to catch the eye but not deeply involved in the customer’s decision-making process.

Real – World Example:

Imagine scrolling through your social media feed and seeing an ad for a new smartphone. You’ve never heard of the person or page promoting it, but the deal looks good. That’s unattached affiliate marketing in action. The promoter doesn’t know you, and you don’t know them, but the ad has served its purpose—catching your attention.

Key Features:
  • Primarily Based on Paid Advertising: Platforms like Google Ads and Facebook Ads are your playground. You create campaigns to promote your affiliate products to a broad audience.
  • No Need for a Strong Online Presence: Unlike other types of affiliate marketing, you don’t need a blog, YouTube channel, or a large social media following. Your ads do the talking.
  • Quick to Start: You can start an ad campaign today and begin seeing results almost immediately.
  • Less Commitment in Personal Brand Building: No need to spend months or years building a personal brand. You’re in the background, letting the products shine.
  • Costly Due to Advertising Fees: Running ads isn’t free, and costs can spiral if you’re not careful. Budgeting and monitoring are key.
  • Less Trust from Consumers: Since there’s no personal connection or endorsement, some consumers may be skeptical and less likely to convert.
Tips for Success:
  • Start Small:
    • Don’t blow your entire budget on your first campaign. Start small, test different ads, and scale up from there.
  • Monitor and Tweak:
    • Regularly check the performance of your ads. Are they reaching the right audience? Are they converting? Use this data to tweak your campaigns.
  • Be Ethical:
    • Even though you’re not personally endorsing a product, make sure it’s a product that delivers on its promises. Your ads should also be transparent and not misleading.
Tools and Resources:
  • Google Ads: Ideal for targeting specific keywords and demographics. Google’s extensive network allows you to reach a vast audience.
  • Facebook Ads: Excellent for highly targeted campaigns based on user behavior and preferences.
  • AdEspresso: A tool for optimizing your Facebook and Google ad campaigns, making it easier to manage multiple campaigns and assess performance.
  • ClickMagick: A tracking tool that helps you understand which ads are performing well so you can optimize accordingly.
What is it?

Related Affiliate Marketing is like being a trusted advisor in your field. Imagine a fitness instructor recommending a specific brand of workout gear. They’re not in the business of selling workout gear, but the recommendation is perfectly aligned with their profession and content. It’s about leveraging your existing platform to promote products directly related to your expertise.

Real-World Example:

Let’s say you follow a travel blogger who specializes in budget travel. One day, they posted an article about the “Top 10 Budget-Friendly Travel Accessories,” including affiliate links to essentials like compact sleeping bags, portable chargers, and travel insurance. The blogger isn’t in the business of selling these products, but they are offering valuable advice that aligns with their niche.

Key Features:
  • Aligned Recommendations: The products you promote should be a natural extension of your main content or profession. If you’re a tech blogger, think gadgets and software; if you’re a beauty influencer, think skincare and makeup.
  • Existing Online Presence Required: This approach leans heavily on your existing platform, whether it’s a blog, YouTube channel, or social media following.
  • Higher Trust: Because the products you’re promoting are related to your main content, your audience is more likely to trust your recommendations.
  • Better Conversions: The relevance between your main content and the products you promote often leads to higher conversion rates.
  • Personal Brand Required: You’ll need some personal brand or following to make this work. It’s not a “start from scratch” method.
  • Balance is Key: Juggling your primary content and promotions can be tricky. You don’t want to turn off your audience by over-promoting.
Tips for Success:
  • Content is King: Always prioritize valuable content over promotions. Your audience is following you for your expertise, not your ads.
  • Transparency: Always disclose that you’re using affiliate links. It builds trust and is often a legal requirement.
  • Engage and Listen: Pay attention to your audience’s feedback. If they love a product you recommended, consider diving deeper into it or similar ones in future content.
Tools and Resources:
  • ConvertKit: An email marketing tool that allows you to segment your audience and send targeted promotions.
  • SEMrush: A comprehensive SEO tool that can help you find the best keywords to use in your content, making it easier for people to find your recommendations.
  • Canva: For creating visually appealing social media posts or infographics that can accompany your product recommendations.
Involved Affiliate Marketing:
What is it?

Involved Affiliate Marketing is the epitome of personalized marketing. It’s not just about promoting a product; it’s about sharing a personal journey. You’ve tried the product, you love it, and now you’re putting your reputation on the line to recommend it. This approach is deeply personal and driven by genuine endorsement.

Real-World Example:

Picture a lifestyle blogger who swears by a specific brand of organic skincare products. They’ve used it for months, see remarkable results, and now they share their experience through detailed blog posts, video reviews, and social media updates. They’re not just promoting a product but sharing a transformational journey.

Key Features:
  • Personal Experience: You must have firsthand experience with the product. Your endorsement should come from personal use and satisfaction.
  • Authority and Trust: You’re not just selling a product; you’re selling trust. Your audience needs to see you as an authority on the product you endorse.
  • High Trust and Conversion: Your genuine endorsement often leads to higher trust, which in turn can result in better conversion rates.
  • Stronger Audience Relationship: Sharing your personal experience helps you connect on a deeper level with your audience.
  • Time and Effort: This approach requires significant time and effort to test the product and share your experience.
  • Reputational Risk: If the product doesn’t live up to your endorsement, it could harm your credibility.
Tips for Success:
  • Be Transparent: Always disclose your relationship with the brand. Transparency builds trust.
  • Quality Over Quantity: Don’t rush to promote multiple products. Take your time to test each one thoroughly.
  • Engage with Your Audience: Use social media and blog comments to answer questions and provide additional insights into the product.
Tools and Resources:
  • TrustPilot: Use this platform to showcase customer reviews and build trust.
  • YouTube: A great platform for sharing in-depth video reviews of the product.
  • Instagram Stories: Use this for real-time updates and behind-the-scenes looks at how you use the product.
  • Google Analytics: Track how well your affiliate marketing efforts are converting.

Understanding these types will help you navigate the vast ocean of affiliate marketing more efficiently. The goal is to find a method that aligns with your strengths, resources, and the level of commitment you’re willing to invest.

How to Choose the Right Type for You
The Crossroads Dilemma:

Stepping into the affiliate marketing world can feel like arriving at a crossroads.

Multiple paths stretch out before you, each promising different rewards and challenges. So, how do you decide which route best fits you?

The key lies in understanding yourself, your resources, and your preferences. Let’s break it down.

A Simple Guide to Navigate Your Choices:
1. Assess Your Current Position: The Starting Line:

Question to Ask: Do you already have an established online presence, or are you starting entirely from scratch?

Why It Matters:

  • Existing Platform: If you have an existing audience or platform, like a blog or a strong social media following, you’re well-positioned to dive into related affiliate marketing.
  • Starting Fresh: If you’re starting from zero, unattached affiliate marketing offers a quicker entry point, albeit less personal.
2. Evaluate Your Comfort Level: Hands-On vs. Hands-Off:

Question to Ask: Are you the hands-on type who loves deep dives, or do you prefer a more hands-off approach?

Why It Matters:

  • Passionate and Involved: If you love getting into the nitty-gritty details of products and sharing your experiences, involved affiliate marketing is your lane.
  • Casual and Detached: If you prefer to keep things impersonal, unattached affiliate marketing allows for a more hands-off experience.
3. Consider Your Budget: The Financial Aspect:

Question to Ask: Can you invest in paid advertising, or are you more inclined toward organic growth methods?

Why It Matters:

  • Paid Advertising can accelerate your reach and results, especially in unattached affiliate marketing. But remember, it requires a budget and some know-how in advertising.
  • Organic Growth: Building a personal brand for involved or related affiliate marketing is a solid choice if you’re not keen on spending much upfront.
The Final Verdict:

The best type of affiliate marketing for you aligns with your current resources, matches your comfort level, and fits within your budget. And the beauty of affiliate marketing? Its flexibility allows you to pivot or evolve your strategy as you gain more experience.

Tools and Resources for Decision Making:
  • Affiliate Marketing eBooks: These can provide a comprehensive landscape view, helping you make an informed decision.
  • Online Quizzes: Some websites offer “Which Type of Affiliate Marketing is Best for You?” quizzes that can offer additional insights.
  • Consult with Experts: Platforms like Reddit and various affiliate marketing forums are great places to seek advice from those who’ve been in the game longer.
Tips: Universal Principles for Any Path
The Universal Truths:

Whether you’re new to affiliate marketing or have some experience, there are basic principles that work for all types. These key tips can help guide you in this constantly changing field.

Foundational Principles for Success:
Trust is Your Currency: Prioritize Audience Trust:

Golden Rule: Always build and maintain trust with your audience. It’s your most valuable asset.

Why It Matters:

  • The cornerstone of Success: Trust is the foundation for successful affiliate marketing. A trusting audience is more likely to act on your recommendations.
  • Long-lasting Impact: Breaking trust, even once, can have a ripple effect. Remember, it’s easier to maintain trust than to rebuild it.
Be the Trendsetter: Stay Updated:

Golden Rule: Keep your finger on the pulse of your industry or niche. Be the first to know and the first to share.

Why It Matters:

  • Dynamic Landscape: The online world is ever-changing. Being updated ensures you’re always offering the best to your audience.
  • Authority and Credibility: Knowledge is power. Being seen as a trendsetter or an expert enhances your standing in your niche.
Transparency is Non-Negotiable: Disclose Affiliate Relationships:

Golden Rule: Always be open and transparent about your affiliate links and relationships.

Why It Matters:

  • Legal Compliance: In many jurisdictions, disclosing affiliate relationships is not just ethical—it’s the law.
  • Trust Factor: Transparency fosters trust. Your audience will respect your honesty and view your recommendations as genuine.
Tools and Resources
United States:
  • FTC Guidelines: In the U.S., the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requires you to disclose affiliate relationships. Read the FTC’s Endorsement Guidelines to understand how to disclose your affiliate links properly.
    • Tool: FTC Disclosure Plugin for WordPress helps you easily add a compliant disclosure statement to your posts.
  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): Ensure your website is accessible to people with disabilities. This is not only ethical but also a legal requirement.
    • Tool: WAVE is a web accessibility evaluation tool that helps you make your site ADA-compliant.
  • GDPR: If you have European visitors, you must comply with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which impacts how you collect and store data.
    • Tool: OneTrust offers a range of solutions to help you become GDPR compliant.
Affiliate Disclosure:

Disclosing your affiliate relationships is a universal best practice regardless of location.

  • Tool: Kinsta’s Guide on Affiliate Disclosures: Kinsta’s guide offers a comprehensive look at the importance of affiliate disclosures, especially for those new to affiliate marketing. It covers FTC guidelines, explains how to write an effective disclosure, and even delves into the technical aspects of adding a disclosure to a WordPress site.
Tools for Affiliate Marketing:
  • Google Ads: Essential for anyone relying on paid advertising to drive traffic.
  • ClickMagick: A tracking tool that helps you optimize your paid ad campaigns.
  • BuzzSumo: Helps you find trending topics in your niche so you can align your affiliate products accordingly.
  • Mailchimp: Email marketing is especially useful if you have an existing audience to whom you can recommend related products.
  • TrustPulse: Leverages social proof to increase trust, which is crucial for this type.
  • Grammarly: To ensure your in-depth reviews and recommendations are well-written and error-free.
  • SEMrush: To stay updated with the latest trends and products in your niche.
  • AffiliateWP: If you’re using WordPress, this plugin helps you manage your affiliate links and track performance.
Stay Informed: News, Insights, and Tips:
  • Affiverse: Provides specialized news, insights, and tips in affiliate marketing.
  • Mar Tech: Covers various digital marketing topics, including affiliate marketing.
  • Search Engine Journal: Provides updates on SEO, which is crucial for affiliate marketers, along with news on affiliate marketing itself.
  • AdExchanger: Focuses on news related to advertising and marketing technology, relevant for those using paid advertising in affiliate marketing.
  • PerformanceIN: Covers performance marketing, including in-depth articles on affiliate marketing.
Affiliate Marketing Courses: Keep Learning:

Staying current in affiliate marketing involves more than just using the right tools; it’s also about ongoing education. Courses in this field offer a way to learn the basics and keep your skills up to date. Whether you’re new or experienced, a good course can be a valuable resource.

  • Coursera: A platform that partners with universities and organizations worldwide, offering various courses, including those in affiliate marketing.
  • Udemy: Known for its vast selection of courses on almost any subject, including various affiliate marketing courses for all skill levels.
  • Wealthy Affiliate: A comprehensive platform focused on affiliate marketing training, offering a range of tools and community support to help beginners and experienced marketers succeed.
    • (Affiliate Disclaimer: I am an affiliate of Wealthy Affiliate and base my recommendation on my positive experience as a member since 2013).
  • LinkedIn Learning: Offers courses on business, creative, and technology skills, including affiliate marketing. Industry experts often teach courses.
  • Skillshare: Focuses on short, practical courses, including those on affiliate marketing, that are more project-oriented.

Note: When choosing any of these tools, it’s important to consider your specific needs and budget.

There’s no quick fix for success in affiliate marketing.

It comes down to sticking with basic principles like trust, staying updated, and being honest. These are the building blocks for a long-term affiliate marketing strategy.


Affiliate marketing has different types, each with its own set of characteristics. Whether you’re interested in a hands-off approach or want to engage with the products you’re promoting deeply, there’s a type that fits your needs.

Choosing the right type involves understanding your current situation and what you’re comfortable with. Continuous learning is also important, and platforms like Coursera, Udemy, and Wealthy Affiliate can help you stay updated.

The tools you use can significantly impact your success in affiliate marketing. From tracking performance to staying compliant with laws, choosing the right tools is crucial.

As you get into affiliate marketing, remember it’s a flexible field. You can always change your approach as you gain more experience.

Further Reading
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q1: What is Affiliate Marketing?
A1: Affiliate marketing is a performance-based marketing strategy where businesses reward individuals for driving traffic or sales to their website through the individual’s marketing efforts.

Q2: What are the Different Types of Affiliate Marketing?
A2: There are three main types: Unattached, Related, and Involved Affiliate Marketing. Each has its own set of features, pros, and cons.

Q3: Do I Need a Website to Start Affiliate Marketing?
A3: A website can be beneficial, especially for Related and Involved Affiliate Marketing, but it’s not strictly necessary. Unattached Affiliate Marketing often relies on paid advertising instead.

Q4: How Do I Choose the Right Type of Affiliate Marketing for Me?
A4: Consider factors like your current online presence, your comfort level with the products you’ll promote, and your budget for advertising.

Q5: Are Affiliate Marketing Courses Worth It?
A5: Courses can provide structured learning and community support, which can be invaluable for beginners and experienced marketers.

Q6: What Tools Do I Need for Affiliate Marketing?
A6: The tools you’ll need depend on the type of affiliate marketing you choose. Common tools include ad-tracking software, email marketing platforms, and SEO tools.

Q7: Is Affiliate Marketing Still Profitable in 2023?
A7: Yes, affiliate marketing continues to be a profitable venture, but success depends on choosing the right products to promote, the right strategies, and staying updated on industry trends.

Q8: How Long Does It Take to Make Money with Affiliate Marketing?
A8: The time frame can vary widely depending on your strategy, your chosen products, and how much effort you put in. Some people see results within a few months, while others may take a year or more.

Q9: Do I Need to Disclose My Affiliate Links?
A9: Yes, disclosure is not only ethical but also required by law in many jurisdictions. Transparency builds trust with your audience.

Q10: Can I Do Affiliate Marketing Without Social Media?
A10: While social media can be a powerful tool for affiliate marketing, it’s not a requirement. Many successful affiliate marketers focus on SEO, email marketing, or paid advertising.

Q11: What Are the Risks Involved in Affiliate Marketing?
A11: Risks can include financial loss from paid advertising, damage to your reputation if you promote low-quality products, and potential non-compliance with legal requirements if you don’t disclose your affiliate relationships.

Q12: How Do I Track My Affiliate Marketing Success?
A12: Most affiliate programs offer dashboards with metrics like click-through rates, conversion rates, and commissions earned. You can also use analytics tools to track performance.

Q13: Can I Promote Multiple Products at Once?
A13: Yes, you can promote multiple products, but ensuring they are relevant to your audience and content is important. Spreading yourself too thin can dilute your efforts.

Q14: What Should I Look for in an Affiliate Marketing Course?
A14: Look for courses that offer up-to-date content, practical examples, and some form of community or expert support.

Q15: Is Affiliate Marketing Passive Income?
A15: While it can generate passive income, successful affiliate marketing often requires ongoing effort in content creation, promotion, and relationship building.

Thank You for Reading!

Have any thoughts or questions? I’d love to hear from you.

Drop a comment or reach out directly:

Website: Marketing with Kerri 

Email:  kerri.o@marketingwithkerri.com

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Until Next Time,


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