Earning an online income is an exciting idea, and affiliate marketing is one of the most popular and recommended ways to do it. But how long does it take to see results—not just to replace your income but also to make your first dollar?
The average time it takes for a new affiliate marketer to make their first sale is three months. Varying factors such as niche, size of audience or traffic, and which social media platforms are being utilized all play a role.
In the remainder of this article, we’ll cover what affiliate marketing is, how long it takes to start earning from it, and tips for ensuring you make your first dollar as soon as possible.
What Is Affiliate Marketing?
Affiliate marketing is essentially a partnership between you and a company, brand, or service provider. As the affiliate marketer, you will promote specific goods or services provided by your affiliated partner, and if a purchase is made, you will receive a commission.
When someone clicks on a link you’ve created through an affiliate program or network, that person will be assigned a “cookie.” A cookie is a small ID file that is stored on your browser.
The amount of time a cookie stays in the customer’s browser is called the cookie length or duration and will last for a predetermined amount of time. This amount is set by either the affiliate network or the merchant.
If a customer clicks your link and then buys the item within the cookie duration, you will be awarded a commission.
How Long Does Affiliate Marketing Take?
One of the first things you’ll hear when researching affiliate marketing is that it is a long-term strategy to earn income online. There are many reasons for this, chief among them: Google, the largest search engine globally, determines when and where your website is listed in search results.
While the most profitable traffic is organic traffic, or traffic sent directly from the search engine to your website, the goal of most affiliate marketers is to rise the ranks of Google’s search pages. The ultimate goal is to be placed as the number one search result for a given keyword.
This need for traffic is the biggest reason affiliate marketing is seen as a long-term income strategy. A new site takes about six months for Google to index it, which allows it to pop up as a search result. This length of time is generally used as a means of quality control for Google users.
Note: With the right strategy, some people can get their site indexed sooner.
Can You Start Earning Before Being Indexed?
But, even with the six-month period it takes for Google to index your site, it doesn’t necessarily mean it will take six months for you to start seeing money come in from affiliate links. Depending on your strategy, you may start seeing income coming in much sooner than that. In fact, the average time it takes for affiliate marketers to get their first sale is three months.
Why? Well, many affiliate marketers agree that building traffic to your website is the first thing you should do before trying to monetize. Writing quality content that provides value to your ideal reader is the tried and true way to do this. Not only that, but that is exactly what the Google search engine is looking for.
If you’re able to write quality content of value, you could start seeing a sort of snowball effect start happening in terms of traffic as Google begins sending more and more visitors to your site.
It’s at this point that most marketers will decide to get into the affiliate marketing game. Obviously, six months is a far cry from the three months we said was the average timeframe it takes affiliate marketers to start making commissions. But, a big part of that is how much traffic you were already working with when you started.
Someone who is building a website and an audience from scratch will generally have a longer wait time than someone who already has a following. Remember, these companies are partnering with you because they need you to send them customers. Therefore, the more traffic you have translates into more customers for them.
Should I Wait to Be Indexed by Google?
Absolutely not! It’s highly encouraged that you try to drive traffic to your platform in other ways until you reach that point. Using social media platforms is a great way to drive organic traffic to your website or another online platform. The bigger your audience is before your site is indexed, the faster that traffic will grow once your site is indexed.
Here’s a list of popular social media platforms and how they’re being used to generate affiliate income:
- Facebook – Facebook allows anyone with an account to create pages. Through these pages, marketers can create ads, share content, and even host an online store. However, one popular method is to use this function as an affiliate store, sending traffic to your partner’s website.
- Twitter – Because Twitter allows you to engage with followers in real-time, it’s a great way to connect with an audience on a personal level and build an affiliate income stream at the same time.
- Instagram – Great for photography-oriented content creators and marketers as they can post pictures from all over the world directly from their phone to their feed.
- Tumblr – An online “scrapbook” that is seen as a cross between a blog and a twitter feed. Essentially you combine the strengths of multiple media formats into one, therefore, appealing to a variety of audiences and making it ideal for affiliate marketing.
- Pinterest – A very powerful, image-based search engine. By creating picture-perfect “Pins,” marketers can drive traffic to their sites.
- YouTube – Great for how-to and entertainment videos. Affiliate links are generally placed in the video description and highlighted within the content itself.
Now it’s not recommended that an affiliate marketer utilize all these platforms. Instead, when just starting, you should pick and master one platform. Later, many successful affiliate marketers may hire a virtual assistant to manage the rest of their social media platforms, allowing their business to scale faster.
Getting Started with Affiliate Marketing
Most individual companies have seen the benefits of having an affiliate program. Generally, if you go to a company’s website and scroll down to the bottom, there will be a link directing you to a company’s affiliate program.
Signing up with a particular brand or service provider is a common way to do it, especially if you use and approve of their offerings. But another way to go is to sign up with an affiliate network. An affiliate network is generally a conglomeration of companies that create their affiliate programs through a third-party. Some popular affiliate networks include:
- Rakuten Marketing (formerly Linkshare)
- Amazon Associates
If you already have a following, it could take as little as a few hours to earn your first dollar in affiliate income. But without the following, the process can take several months. The good news is that in both scenarios, the earning potential for affiliate marketers is nearly unlimited.
There are countless examples of people that have been able to replace their incomes entirely through affiliate marketing. However, the important thing to remember here is that this stream of online income is not an overnight strategy. Even those marketers that begin making money in the first few hours of setting up their links spent a lot of time building up their traffic and creating quality content before that.