info This page may contain affiliate links. Please see the affiliate disclosure page for more details.

Many people look at those running a successful online business and find themselves asking, “what is the secret to affiliate marketing?”

The truth is, other than learning about how to write content, understand keywords, and finding a good product to promote, there is one big secret to affiliate marketing.

If you’re too busy to read the rest of the article, the secret is this: be genuinely helpful and your readers will trust you.

I touched on this subject in my previous post about being an ethical affiliate marketer but, in a nutshell, people like people that help them. If they like you, they’re more likely to help you.

Sure, you need to write an effective affiliate marketing blog, you need to be able to find things write about, and you need to offer something that people are interested in, if you’re trying to make sales or refer people to membership programs but you need to make sure you’re writing to help people, not to get them to click on your affiliate links.

Three benefits of being helpful

Some of you reading this will be thinking that you don’t really care about being helpful as long as you’re making money. That’s okay, that’s your right but there are some tangible benefits to helping others that are way better than cash.

  1. Helping others can make you live longer

    A study in 2013 looked at the link between altruism and how likely stress is to kill you. The researchers discovered clear evidence that those that helped others were able to cope with stress much better than those that lived more selfish lives. I’m guessing feeling good from helping others helped to mitigate the negative impacts of stress.
  2. Helping others reduces your stress levels

    Linked to the previous point, it’s been shown that altruistic acts can reduce your stress levels. Perhaps it’s that feeling you get when you help someone else – kind of like a warm fuzzy glow but I know I could do with less stress in my life!
  3. Helping others makes you happy

    A study in 2017 determined that those that promised to spend a gifted amount of money on others rather than themselves were actually happier because of it. There’s plenty of anecdotal evidence to support this too. The act of focusing on others rather than yourself takes your mind off your own problems because you’re helping other people with theirs.

There are probably lots more ways in which being helpful can be beneficial to you but I think that’s a subject for another time!

Be an altruistic affiliate marketer

Being altruistic comes more naturally to some than to others.

Some people are more inclined to selfishness than altruism but that’s okay – it just takes a bit more effort to be an altruistic marketer. By the way, I used to be really, really selfish but I’ve found that the more I help people, the more I want to help people.

Being altruistic means that you are willing to do things for others, even if it’s at your own expense.

Helping others at your own expense seems somewhat contradictory to the aim of being an affiliate marketer. The point of an affiliate marketing blog is to get people to buy something, resulting in a commission paid to you.

It’s how you go about doing this that makes the difference between being helpful or self-serving.

Have you ever read a blog post that from the very first paragraph is obviously trying to sell something? That’s a self-serving blogger at work.

On the other hand, have you ever come across a blog post that shows, in detail, how to solve a problem you had and in so doing, introduces you to a tool you didn’t know about that could really make your life easier? That’s an example of an altruistic blogger.

You could argue that the second example blogger is still trying to make money so he’s just as selfish but you need to consider how their blog post is different from the first.

The second blog post is probably twice as long as the first, is full of examples or helpful instructions and the link to the affiliate product they were recommending is probably mentioned at the end instead of spammed throughout the post.

The blog post they wrote might even be a guide to using the product, not with the intention of selling it directly but to show, with carefully prepared screenshots, how it could improve the reader’s life.

There’s a difference between helping someone to make more time in their life by showing them a new tool than selling them a new tool and telling them it will improve their life.

Ways you can help a potential buyer

When people search Google for something, it’s usually because they’re trying to solve a problem.

Some common problems might be:

  • Seeking reviews for an item they want to buy so they don’t regret their purchase
  • Trying to find an easier way to do something they need to do (especially things they often do)
  • Trying to find a way to make money online (this is a very common search)
  • Trying to find information to help them understand or learn something


Writing reviews is a fine art. Many people write reviews that just look fake from the first sentence. Constantly talking about a product as if it the answer to the reader’s prayers without talking about any weak points or disadvantages is the clearest indicator of a selfish blogger that exists. Be balanced in your reviews. Show the reader how the product might help them but explain (in detail if necessary) why they might want to reconsider (but not for your own advantage).

Trying to get someone to reconsider and then recommending another product directly (i.e. with an affiliate link to buy the alternative) is an obviously mercenary attempt to get them to buy something else. At the very least write a detailed review of the alternative and link to that instead.

Making things easier

Identifying a problem that the reader has and breaking the solution down into easy-to-follow steps is one of the ideal ways to write an altruistic blog post. The time it takes to create a step-by-step guide to doing something shows that you are investing your time in order to help them. In turn, the reader will be more receptive to the solution you recommend but only if your guide genuinely shows how it will improve their lives.

Making money online

Most people are struggling to make ends meet and they will often turn to the Internet to try to find a magic answer to solve their money problems. Unfortunately their searches for a keyword such as “how can I make money online” are solid gold for online scammers looking to suck people into schemes that will ultimately leave the victims poorer rather than richer.

There are many programs that offer to make them rich almost overnight and of course, people in desperate circumstances easily fall prey to such false promises.

Perhaps you could help people by writing honest reviews about such scams or by recommending programs that work for you. Although there are many fraudulent products out there that only make their creators rich, there are a few honest systems that actually help their members to find financial freedom.

I recommend Wealthy Affiliate because it’s taught me so much about affiliate marketing that it inspired me to create this website. Unfortunately the training at Wealthy Affiliate requires months of effort because it’s not a get-rich-quick scam and many people aren’t willing to put in the required work to find success that way.

Guides and Tutorials

Many people look to the Internet for help to learn how to do something.

Teaching someone how to do a task one step at a time is a great way of helping someone. Sometimes you’ll need to do a bit of research to fill in any gaps in your own knowledge, improving your own skills at the same time.

If there’s a book or tool you can recommend that helps them to complete the task more efficiently then the reader will probably appreciate it (as long as it is a genuine suggestion and not a hard sell). People don’t generally mind affiliate links if you’re open about them and you’re not pushy about them. Suggest, don’t sell.


I’m hoping that this article will have shown you that being genuinely helpful will make you a better affiliate marketer.

Nobody likes a pushy salesman and nobody likes a pushy affiliate marketer.

People want buying advice from people that they trust.

If you show that you really want to help the reader to learn, understand, get better, or make a decision about something, they’re more likely to come to trust you – especially if your other posts are equally helpful.

The secret to affiliate marketing is trust.

If you show your readers that you regularly write content that helps them without bombarding them with messages to buy something, they will come to trust you.

As you establish a relationship of trust with your readers, they will understand that you will never recommend something that is not worth their time and they’ll be more receptive to clicking on the affiliate links that you openly offer them.

The secret to any relationship, commercial or otherwise, is trust.

Affiliate marketing is all about forming relationships with your readers and trust is essential if you ever want to achieve long term success.

What do you Think?

I’d love to hear what you think about this article.
Do you have any suggestions or questions?
Click the button below to leave a comment.

4 Replies to “What is the secret to affiliate marketing?

  1. Thank you for this post. I’ve just started affiliate marketing and have been thinking about this subject because to be honest I myslef sometimes think I look like I’m trying to sell something instead of help others take a decision. Which I’m not. I just don’t know how my posts look to others. I found your suggestions pretty well structured and they kind of made me believe I’m on the right track with my website and advices. There are some things I should work on, though so thanks again and keep up the good work 🙂 

    1. You’re welcome!

      One decision I made when I created this website was that I wanted to help people, no matter what.

      I think it’s really important that our readers know that we’re trying to help them rather than take advantage of them and that needs to come across in our writing. 

      It sounds like you’re already happy that you’re going down the right track. Before we can get others to trust us, we need to trust ourselves!

  2. hi a well formulated article expressing the do’s and dont’s in affiliate marketing practices

    the nature of helping and putting time in to guide respectfully and honestly readers to make educated choices is then way to go.

    the simple strategy and ideals to creating friendship and trust between the reader and the author is crucial

    this delivery is crystal clear and give rise to many considerations in a persons intent to read on or intent to buy from your site

    nicely laid out and not overpowering

    good show


    1. Thanks for your comment Chris

      I’m glad you enjoyed the article!

      If we write in a clear and honest fashion, our readership will grow because people will recognize that we write helpful articles, not pages designed to drive sales. 

      Granted, it might result in fewer sales but I think I’d rather write content that really helps people than sell my soul just to increase commissions. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.