Learning from top affiliate marketers is a sure-fire technique of getting one’s foot in the gold mine we call affiliate marketing.
These marketers know the ins and outs of the money-making industry, contributing to its growth and paving the way for the future generation of affiliates.
Anyone serious enough in this business can learn several things from top-tier affiliates, allowing them to develop and hone the skills necessary to ensure affiliate marketing success.
So, which affiliate marketer should you learn from? Allow us to share 14 of the industry’s finest.
Top 14 Affiliate Marketers You Should Know About
Many beginner marketers miss the idea of affiliate marketing, where it’s FUN to make money without selling one’s soul to the devil.
That’s Matt Giovanisci’s philosophy in a nutshell, making the Rowan University accounting graduate one of the industry’s most revered marketers.
This jack-of-all-trades entrepreneur, blogger, author, and podcaster firmly believes in entertaining audiences, ensuring the content he produces and delivers is easy to consume, short, and casual but meaningful.
Giovanisci ventured into the online business in 2005, establishing a music-dedicated platform. This experience sparked Giovanisci’s fascination about digital monetization, prompting him to launch Swim University (for swimming pool and spa owners) a year later.
He also created Roasty Coffee (coffee resources) in 2015, Money Lab in 2016, and Brew Cabin (for home brewers) a few years later. Giovanisci’s Swim University now makes $250,000 annually.
Tap into audiences’ needs and interests to leverage opportunities.
Pat Flynn didn’t feel miserable after losing his architecture job during the gloomy days of 2008. Instead, he mustered enough courage to establish an internet presence, helping aspiring architects pass the licensure exam.
And Smart Passive Income (SPI) was born!
SPI became a go-to resource for aspiring online entrepreneurs, allowing them to monetize their creations using Flynn’s innovative marketing techniques. Flynn’s program focuses on affiliate marketing, podcasting, and email marketing across multiple niches (i.e., business, parenting, technology, family, gaming, and education).
Flynn’s affiliate marketing journey started with an e-book, earning about $8,000 in November 2008. Five years later, Flynn was making around $50,000 monthly.
Pat is also an avid Pokemon card collector, creating the DeepPocketMonster YouTube account in 2021, and gaining over 200 million views and gaining 700,000+ subscribers.
Like Giovanisci, Flynn believes in providing exceptional value to audiences.
And that’s the key!
Finch Sells (Martin Osborn in real life) proves you don’t need a degree to earn big bucks!
And you don’t have to be an adult before becoming an affiliate marketer.
Although Osborn didn’t monetize his online forums until he turned 16 (Finch Sells started posting at 12 years and owned one by 14), Martin’s first taste of affiliate commission prompted him to do more.
With ClickBank providing a taste of financial rewards, Osborn sought to learn different campaigns (including CPA marketing).
Osborn’s advice to aspiring marketers?
Try to appreciate the unmistakable connection between merchants, affiliates, and customers.
And if you’re lost, you can always turn to Osborn’s Finch Sells blog to give you insights on successful affiliate marketing.
Matt Diggity is a bulwark in the search engine optimization (SEO) marketing sphere, creating iconic SEO-centric platforms (i.e., Diggity Marketing, Authority Builders, and LeadSpring) and managing others (i.e., The Search Initiative, Chiang Mai SEO Conference, YEC, and ANSYS Strategic Initiatives).
Matt’s approach considers organizational idiosyncrasies, recognizing that no SEO solution works for all businesses.
Diggity has a YouTube channel committed to empowering digital entrepreneurs to monetize their platforms with advanced test-based SEO tricks, techniques, and tips.
The best part?
Mr. SEO earns about $16,000 annually on YouTube alone. And if we factor in Diggity’s other endeavors, this marketing expert is worth at least $3 million.
Diggity’s affiliate journey proves success comes from leveraging one’s passions. And if you put your audiences above everything, money follows.
We’ve heard of success stories of stay-at-home moms killing it, bringing more than enough food to the table.
Missy Ward is a classic case study of homemade success.
In 2003, Ward collaborated with Shawn Collins to establish the Affiliate Summit Corporation, shelling out only $400.
It’s a small business with big ambitions – empower entrepreneurs to boost their businesses. ASC also provides opportunities to aspiring individuals and entities to create and develop legitimate money-making endeavors (i.e., affiliate marketing).
Missy’s single-minded focus on affiliate marketing makes her the “godmother” of affiliates.
Ward’s words of wisdom?
Affiliate marketing isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme.
Posting blog articles, writing product reviews, sending periodic newsletters, and other activities are excellent starting points for many successful affiliate marketers.
Miles Beckler started working behind the scenes of her wife’s WordPress blog, Melanie’s Site” in 2009, not minding his partner take all the glory (Melanie’s has over 8 million annual visitors).
A year later, Beckler created his blog site, although he still works behind Melanie’s project.
So, what prompted Beckler to create a blog?
Miles was fed up with “fake gurus” professing to know everything about online marketing, selling these e-courses at absurd prices.
Beckler produced several how-to videos on YouTube (@MilesB), gaining a substantial following with about 210 thousand subscribers and a remarkable $50,000+ monthly revenue.
Later, Miles produced a podcast, allowing him and his wife to connect and engage more audiences willing to learn proven ways to make money online.
Today, Beckler enjoys sharing his affiliate marketing knowledge en route to earning over $1 million.
Missy Ward’s partner at ASC, Shawn Collins, is one of the top affiliate marketers you should know.
Collins isn’t new to affiliate marketing, having been in the industry since 1997.
Like many affiliates, Shawn’s foray into affiliate marketing started with an honest assessment of his financial standing with the publishing industry. The pay just wasn’t enough!
When Amazon launched its affiliate program in 1996, Collins recognized the monetization opportunity. He became an Amazon affiliate the following year, focusing on “things-to-do” articles for travelers and tourists to the Big Apple.
A staunch supporter of direct mail marketing and Google AdWords, Shawn’s rise in the industry saw him partnering with Ward on a cruise ship to establish ASC in 2003.
Today, Collins is a driving force in the industry, encouraging aspiring affiliates to make their passions their compass.
Shawn’s food for thought?
Most top-performing marketers on our list say blogging is the easiest online activity to monetize. And if you need more proof, Spencer Haw’s Niche Pursuits should be a classic example.
Although Haws’ online journey wasn’t an instant hit (started in 2006), his perseverance paid dividends.
Sure, dozens of miscues and failures are enough to dampen anybody’s desire to make a name in the affiliate marketing industry. But Spencer doesn’t quit.
In 2011, Haws focused on niche websites, earning Spencer $10,000 monthly by building, buying and selling websites in niche markets.
Niche Pursuits was born around this time, including Long Tail Pro – a content creator’s best friend researching popular keywords.
Haws also manufactured and sold pillows on Amazon before selling the business in 2018. Table Labs, Link Whisper, and Motion Invest were also Spencer creations, helping affiliates maximize their marketing and commission-earning potentials.
Like Spencer Haws, Doug Cunnington specializes in niche markets, establishing the Niche Site Project to empower affiliates in their pursuit of financial freedom.
More importantly, Cunnington infuses his affiliate marketing tricks with proven SEO techniques to boost traffic and lead generation.
Doug’s Niche Site Project is perfect for Amazon Associates, although you can also employ his tactics on other affiliate programs.
Besides NSP, Cunnington’s Golden Keyword Ratio is also commendable.
It’s like Haws’ Long Tail Keyword tool, allowing affiliates to find in-demand yet undersupplied keywords or key phrases to optimize their SEO marketing strategies.
Don’t think Doug is content with these two projects, however.
The family man also has the Mile High FI and Doug.Show podcasts, engaging audiences and enabling them to realize their financial aspirations as affiliates.
An entrepreneur, digital nomad, media buyer, Amazon seller, online strategist, product creator, and funnel hacker – that’s how Ian Fernando describes himself.
With 15+ years of affiliate marketing under Ian’s belt, this entrepreneur is ready to help others find success in affiliate marketing business.
You won’t believe how Ian ended in this industry.
Although Ian worked as an Alibaba buyer and eBay seller, Fernando wanted to avoid customer service.
Ian’s avoidance prompted him to focus on affiliate marketing. And it worked!
Fernando started with a modest $100 daily commission to a $30,000 monthly paycheck.
An affiliate conference organizer noticed Fernando’s affiliate marketing savviness, inviting Ian to become a speaker.
Long story short, Fernando is at the forefront of affiliate marketing confabs worldwide.
Here’s another top affiliate marketer worth knowing.
Zac Johnson was one of the earliest Amazon Associates, leveraging his online presence to market and monetize Amazon products in 2007.
With two decades-plus of affiliate marketing to Zac’s name, Johnson’s passion and dedication for blogging remains as robust as ever.
Zac’s personal blog features inspirational stories to motivate others, allowing them to find the necessary resources to become successful affiliates. The site offers tools, guides, and case studies for learning the ropes and tricks of the trade.
Zac leverages multiple channels to promote his brand. He’s on Facebook, MySpace, Instagram, and TikTok. Johnson also has a podcast complementing his blog.
And here’s Zac’s best advice to aspiring affiliates – start with blogs to build a credible reputation and harness other channels to connect with industry experts.
Who knows? You could also earn at least $100,000 annually promoting only affiliate products.
Blogging as an affiliate marketing channel wouldn’t be as popular today if not for the Dot Com mogul, John Chow.
While the best affiliate marketers on this list only began their affiliate marketing journeys in the mid to late 2000s, John has been at it since 1999.
Pioneering The Techzone, Chow became a distinguished Maximum PC Network member, receiving $2,500 monthly paychecks and gaining substantial traffic.
A year before Amazon launched Associates, Chow proved that marketers can earn $40,000+ monthly after only two years of blogging two hours daily.
Find your niche and develop high-quality content as frequently as possible, while looking for multiple income sources to drive into the blog.
And if you find this tip cliché, don’t.
After all, you’re looking at a blog with over 200 thousand followers and active daily audiences. AdAge Power 150 lists Chow’s blog Top 16, while the Top 50 Canadian Internet Marketing Blogs ranked it Top 1.
Being the owner of Affiliate Stuff, you’ll know Kirsty McCubbin knows everything about affiliate marketing. After all, this mother of two has been in the industry for nearly two decades.
McCubbin might have started as a search engine optimization specialist, but Kirsty took her learnings to create a blog dedicated to empowering aspiring affiliates.
Surprisingly, McCubbin’s bread and butter is pay-per-click marketing, allowing her to generate 85% of her income. Kirsty only works a few hours daily, working with merchants and brands to drive traffic into their businesses (and make money for her family).
Kirsty advises aspiring affiliates to harness their traffic generation capabilities – an affiliate marketing skill many newbies forget. She says monetization isn’t a problem, provided you have robust traffic to promote products (or services).
Additionally, McCubbin encourages affiliates to focus on their skills, not the rewards.
With over a decade of affiliate marketing experience, Andrew Payne rounds up our list of top performing affiliate marketers.
Although Payne initially specialized in AdWords, Andrew found joy in affiliate marketing. Payne and his team at the STM Forum created Mobile Pop Traffic, focusing on gaming, antivirus, and glamor offerings.
By 2019, Payne’s annual earnings breached the seven-digit mark.
Payne says affiliates should focus on generating potential customer data reviewing the information to make accurate and more meaningful decisions.
Andrew adds that beginner affiliates should start with low payout campaigns, harnessing their skills before moving to more lucrative commissions.
How Did the Top Affiliate Marketers Gain Their Success?
Although our top 14 affiliate marketers have diverse backgrounds, they are unanimous in their ingredient to success.
Whether building credibility, engaging audiences, or creating meaningful content, top-performing affiliates recognize the immeasurable value that audiences (or potential customers) bring to the table.
These affiliates prioritized audience relationships, nurturing them to create a trustworthy image. Such a strategy allowed affiliates to recommend products and services to audiences, knowing they (followers) will act on these recommendations.
Another ingredient to these affiliates’ success is their dedication. None enjoyed success overnight, requiring years of dogged work doing the same thing – delivering high-quality content that audiences consume and find meaningful in their daily lives.
Successful affiliates are also not afraid to fail. If one strategy doesn’t work, they learn from their missteps and move on to the next. Hence, if blogging isn’t your thing and you’re more comfortable with social media platforms, you can focus on this strategy.
Top-performing marketers also recognize the value of partnerships, especially with industry leaders and like-minded individuals. They forge alliances to create more innovative products or leverage connections to advance their credibility and audience base.
Lastly, top affiliates always give back to the community or, in this case, to the future generation of affiliate marketers. Whether an online tutorial, podcast, or e-book, successful affiliates share experiences and wisdom to aspiring affiliates. This behavior does two things.
First, aspiring affiliates will find it easier to navigate the intricate world of affiliate marketing, allowing them to be successful faster.
Second, top-performing affiliates will boost their credibility further, making aspiring affiliates their acolytes and expanding their audience base.
What Common Platforms or Programs Do These Top Affiliate Marketers Use?
Most top-performing affiliates have at least a decade experience in the industry. For instance, John Chow began his affiliate marketing exploits before the new millennia. Hence, our affiliate platform or program choices aren’t as numerous as post-2010 affiliates.
For example, Jeff Bezos introduced Amazon Associates in 1996, making the first of its kind leveraging a technology many remain unfamiliar with at the time. Still, it didn’t deter the e-commerce giant from blazing the trail, making Amazon Associates the affiliate industry’s leader.
Commission Junction and ClickBank came into the picture in 1998, making these affiliate networks the most likely platforms for seasoned affiliates like Chow (although Amazon would be a more likely option because it foreruns these two platforms).
These three platforms are giants in affiliate marketing, aggregating merchants and providing affiliates with a unified platform to promote products across multiple merchants and niches and earn extra money.
Two years after CJ and Clickbank, AWIN offered affiliates a more attractive platform for affiliates. Not only did this network “courted” world leading brands into its portfolio. It also introduced cutting-edge affiliate marketing and management technologies, complimenting AWIN’s impeccable customer service.
And then eBay launched its Partner Network program in 2008, taking a piece of the trio’s pie although not dislodging Amazon Associates at the top. Impact also entered the picture around the same time.
Of course, top-performing affiliates also affiliated directly with brands, promoting their products and services through in-house affiliate programs.
And that’s a key learning point for aspiring affiliates.
You don’t have to focus only on affiliate networks or platforms. Brand programs are equally rewarding.
Challenges That Top Affiliate Marketers Face and the Way They Overcome Them
Thinking top-performing affiliates had effortless money-making adventures would be doing these marketers injustice. They had their share of challenges and obstacles undermining success. But how they addressed the three pervasive concerns facing any affiliate, even today, separates these winners from mediocre affiliates.
Although we don’t have the exact number of affiliates during the time of these seasoned marketers, we can assume they range in the tens of thousands. After all, the appeal of earning extra for doing nearly nothing (no capital, too) is simply too great to pass.
So how did top marketers survive the growing sea of sharks?
First, niche focusing. Successful affiliates find a niche they’re passionate about and good at. They know that simultaneously targeting too many niches can increase the risk of losing focus.
Second, top affiliates put audiences above all else, including commissions. They produce high-quality content followers can consume or apply in daily lives. Affiliates also update these contents periodically, always thinking about adding value to their audiences.
Third, high-performance affiliates build lasting relationships and networks with industry leaders. They rub elbows with industry movers, learning from them and integrating new ideas into their craft.
Mediocre affiliates couldn’t care less about these strategies. For them, commissions rule, and audiences take a backseat.
And that’s why they can never beat top affiliates.
Rapidly-changing affiliate marketing trends
PC Flowers & Gifts was the first company to offer a program for affiliates. That was 1989, about seven years before Amazon launched the Associates network.
Although marketers started email marketing in 1978, search engine optimization didn’t begin to flourish until 1997 (coinciding with Amazon Associates’ birth a year before).
Today, we have content marketing, social media marketing, video marketing, podcasting, webinars, and other strategies to get ahead in the affiliate marketing game.
Top affiliates never balk facing these rapidly-changing marketing trends. Instead, they learn on their feet, absorbing as much information as possible and integrating newly learned concepts into their campaigns.
Seasoned affiliates evaluate each trend, analyzing the implications for their future business. Hence, adaptability is a crucial attribute of any successful affiliate.
Machine learning, natural language processing, and artificial intelligence are the new norm. And although these technologies are relatively new, top affiliates in the last two decades faced similar challenges.
Like facing rapidly-changing marketing trends, seasoned affiliates also embraced new technologies into their campaigns. Of course, they assess such innovations’ strong points and drawbacks, incorporating only those that benefit them.
The ability to foresee the impact of new and emerging technologies on affiliate marketing practice is a trait only top-tier affiliates have.
We could extend our list of top-tier affiliates, and they will still share a common theme: audiences first!
We might sound overbearing for emphasizing the value of putting customers above money-making notions. However, from Matt Giovanisci to Andrew Payne, audiences take center stage of top marketers’ affiliate campaigns.
And that should be a sufficient cue for you to step up your audience relationship-building and nurturing game. Let audiences and followers be your inspiration in creating meaningful content. Do this, and rewards will follow.