Your Affiliate Marketing Anatomy Guide – How It Really Works

Affiliate marketing may seem complicated at first. But it is a pretty simple concept.

The purpose of this affiliate marketing anatomy guide is to explain how the entire process works. And give you full understanding of the components so you can be the best affiliate marketer you can be.

From affiliate marketing to affiliate websites, we will dive into thorough explanations and visual diagrams to show how these components all connect together.

The more you understand the components of affiliate marketing, the better chance you will connect these components together in successful ways.

So, let’s get started, shall we?!

Affiliate Marketing Anatomy


is a study of the structure or internal workings of something.

Af·fil·i·ate Mar·ket·ing

is a way to make money by marketing someone else’s product from an organization or company.

Affiliate marketing is a business relationship between three different groups of people:

  1. Merchant = Advertiser
  2. Affiliate = Publisher
  3. Customer = Consumer

Affiliate Marketing Anatomy

The merchant is the company that has products they want to sell. The merchant agrees to an affiliate program where they pay out commissions to people who sell the merchant’s products.

The affiliate is a person who helps to sell the products available from these merchants. The affiliate spends their own time and money to promote these products. When the affiliate makes a sale, they receive a commission from the merchant.

The customer is a person who buys the product from the affiliate. Customers usually buy solutions to problems they are trying to solve.


a person or company that advertises or promotes something.

Af·fil·i·ate Mar·ket·er

a person who makes money by marketing or advertising someone else’s products.

Af·fil·i·ate Pro·gram

a program from a company with products that offers commissions to people who sell those products and who do not directly work for the company.


a person who purchases goods and services for personal use.

The primary goal of an affiliate marketer is to help connect buyers with solutions. With products and services.

Everything Starts With The Consumer!

The consumer is the reason that:

  • Marketing exists in the first place
  • Solutions are needed
  • Businesses are formed to create these solutions

If we did not have consumers, we would not need solutions. Solutions are created to solve problems for these consumers. Businesses and companies are the ones that create these solutions. Consumers are the ones that buy these solutions.

In today’s digital connected world, consumers turn to the internet to find solutions to their problems. People are searching Google 3.5 billion times a day. This equates to 1.2 trillion searches a year. People, these consumers, are using Google, to solve their everyday problems.

Affiliate Marketing Consumer

Official statement from Google:

“We’re officially in the era of the research-obsessed consumer. With a smartphone in hand, people can get the answers they need to make the right purchase decision anytime, anywhere. You can see this behavior clearly in search data—mobile searches for “best” and “reviews” have grown in the past two years.” – Think with Google

Google Best of Search

So, before you learn about what products to promote or what affiliate network to join, you must learn about your consumers and the problems they want to solve. Researching people and the audiences of the people you will target, is the most important step of affiliate marketing.

If you promote solutions that no one needs, then you will not sell many products. If you promote the wrong products to the wrong groups of people, you will not sell many products.

Success is when you offer the right solution to the right group of people. In order to do that, you need to do a lot of research. Don’t take this task lightly. This is the foundation of your business being successful vs. not.

The Affiliate Marketing Buying Process

The way the actual buying process works is:

  1. Customer needs a solution
    A customer starts looking for a solution to their problem. They do an online search for more information or ask people on social media for options.
  2. Customer finds a website with recommended solutions
    The customer finds a website with information on their problem and recommended products and solutions.
  3. The product solutions are provided by an affiliate
    The customer leverages the information provided by the affiliate. The affiliate has strategically placed affiliate links to the suggested products.
  4. The customer is connected with the merchant
    The customer clicks on the affiliate’s link and is taken to the merchant’s website to purchase the product. The customer buys the product. The merchant tracks the sale from the affiliate. The affiliate gets paid a commission.

Affiliate Marketing Buying Process

For affiliates, purchased referrals are tracked through affiliate marketing links with unique affiliate IDs. Each affiliate ID is specific to each affiliate. No two affiliates will have the same IDs.

An affiliate marketing link looks like this:


The information behind the ? is an affiliate ID. ?a_aid=d8a91845. This ID number maps to a specific affiliate (i.e. person) who is promoting the product.

You may see some other variations of affiliate IDs like this:


The Process of an Affiliate Marketer

The role of an online affiliate marketer today looks something like this:

  1. Choose a Market
  2. Build a Website
  3. Attract Visitors
  4. Earn Commissions

4 Steps to Affiliate Marketing

So, essentially you will:

  1. Decide who you are going to recommend solutions to
  2. Build a website that lists these recommended solutions
  3. Find ways to drive visitors to your website
  4. Earn commissions for people who buy your recommended solutions

The role of an affiliate marketer is no different than a business owner. Just think of the last company you purchased a solution from.

Whether it was a drive thru restaurant to serve you fast food so you did not have to cook or the mechanic who serviced your car because it needed an oil change, these are all companies that offer a solution to a specific problem, need or want that you have.

Affiliate marketers do that exact same thing. They just do not make their own products. They promote other companies products.

Well, some affiliate marketers do promote their own products too. This is another source of income you can always add down the road. Right now, just keep it simple and get good at executing affiliate marketing. And ideas of products you can promote will always be unlimited.

The Anatomy of Affiliate Networks

Af·fil·i·ate net·work

a group or system of interconnected companies and products.

Affiliate networks connect companies with products to sell with independent marketers who can sell those products.

How Affiliate Networks Work

These affiliate networks help manage all of the processes around having an affiliate program, tracking the sells from affiliates and paying the commissions to those affiliates.

For an affiliate marketer, the advantage of using an affiliate network is you can access multiple products who serve multiple niches, multiple groups of people. You choose multiple products that fit your specific target groups of people from one place.

An example is: if you can promote 10 products from one affiliate network, this prevents you from having to manage 10 separate affiliate programs individually that would all require individual sign ups, separate affiliate links, and different payment solutions.

If you think about it, managing an affiliate program as a merchant, can be a lot of work. This would be in addition to creating and managing the products they sell.

The Anatomy of a Website

Online is where the world is connected. 4 billion people are connected to the internet today. A website easily connects you to this world. And easily connects this world to you.


a location connected to the Internet that maintains one or more pages on the World Wide Web.

So, it is imperative to have a website for affiliate marketing. The reach potential is far to great to not have a website.

There are required components to make a website work.

Web·site host·ing

a website or other data on a server or other computer so that it can be accessed over the Internet.


a distinct subset of the Internet with addresses sharing a common suffix or under the control of a particular organization or individual

The main components to a working website are:

  • Hosting – A service that connects your website to the world wide web (www). This service makes the website live for the world to access from the internet.
  • Domain Name – The name of your website. This provides individual branding opportunities for each site. Each domain name is unique to each website.
  • Builder – A website builder that allows you to create and build the website. The website contains pages and blog posts and other content for people to consume.

How Websites Work

Then you have website elements. These elements make up your actual website that people view.

The main website elements are:

  • Uniform Resource Locator (URL) – a web address that specifies the location of a resource on the internet. Your website domain name will be included within the URL.
  • Website Page – the page of a website that includes contents and materials for site visitors.
  • Header – standard top element of a website page that usually includes the website or company logo and website navigation menu.
  • Site Navigation – provides links to various pages and content throughout the website. A Standard navigation menu includes page links to: Home, About Us and Contact Us.
  • Body – the main content area of your website pages. This is where content lives such as written information, images and visuals, links to other websites, etc.
  • Sidebar – an optional block of content that can be different than the main content area. Sidebars usually contain links to recently published content and email sign up forms.
  • Footer – standard bottom element of a website page that usually includes another website navigation menu with additional page links within the site.

Affiliate Website Anatomy

The overall goal is to help your website visitors access the information on your site. You want to make it easy for visitors to find what they are looking for and your helpful product recommendations.

Check out our affiliate marketing website design guide to learn how to create a good user experience for your website visitors.

2 thoughts on “Your Affiliate Marketing Anatomy Guide – How It Really Works”

  1. I recently started my affiliate marketing business. I am very pleased with the clarity of the information presented in your website. I am looking forward to learning from you. I am gaining the knowledge and skills needed for this incredible business opportunity.

    Thank you.


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