As an affiliate marketer, your goal is to influence people to purchase products, and in return, you earn a commission. YouTube is a superb platform with which to do that.
YouTube is currently the second-most popular social media platform in the world, and by 2025, the channel is projected to have nearly one billion users globally. The social media platform isn’t just for entertainment either—viewers are visiting their favorite YouTube channels to learn skills, research information, and make purchasing decisions.
Ready to get in on the action and earn extra income through video content? This guide shares how to earn commissions from YouTube affiliate marketing, complete with video ideas to get you started.
What is YouTube affiliate marketing?
YouTube affiliate marketing is a type of marketing where you use YouTube videos to engage with your target audience, sell products or services, and earn commission. Like other affiliate marketing programs, the goal is to make sales so you can earn money from those sales. In this case, the leveraged platform is YouTube.
As an affiliate marketing partner, you’ll create videos on your YouTube channel that feature products, which you’ll then tag. The tagged items can include affiliate links, with commission rates varying by brand and retailer. YouTube affiliate links for featured products are usually found in the video description.
Note: YouTube also offers its own affiliate marketing program. To be eligible to join the YouTube Shopping affiliate program, you must meet specific criteria including participation in the YouTube Partner Program, be US based, and have more than 20,000 channel subscribers.
Benefits of using YouTube for affiliate marketing
There are several benefits to affiliates when engaging in YouTube affiliate marketing:
- As the most frequently shared form of content, videos can build highly engaged audiences.
- Using videos to monetize your channel with affiliate marketing is a way to earn passive income.
- SEO-optimizing your videos can increase your visibility on search engine results pages (SERPs) and increase your traffic.
- Compelling YouTube product videos offers the potential for higher conversion rates for an affiliate link compared to traditional content.
- It can help tap a profitable market. Some 68% of users have watched a YouTube video when making a purchasing decision. Affiliate links help YouTube users connect with products featured in content like how-to videos.
How do I start an affiliate marketing business on YouTube?
To get started as an affiliate marketer on YouTube, you simply need to join affiliate programs through your favorite brands and include affiliate links in your YouTube video descriptions. You get paid when your audience is motivated to purchase from your video.
As you grow your business, you can unlock additional monetization features with the YouTube Shopping affiliate program. To be invited to participate in this YouTube affiliate marketing program, you must take a few key steps, including the following:
1. Reaching a subscriber community of at least 20,000.
2. Joining the YouTube Partner Program (YPP), which includes lower subscriber thresholds than its affiliate program.
3. Confirming you are based in the US.
4. Reviewing and complying with YouTube’s Community Guidelines, which sets the content rules for the platform.
5. Undergoing a channel review to assess compliance with YouTube’s monetization policies.
📕 Read more: What Is Passive Income? 5 Ways To Earn It
Affiliate video ideas to try on YouTube
- Trending videos
- Unboxing videos
- Round-up videos
- Product review videos
For many creators, the hardest part about beginning to create affiliate content is packaging sponsored recommendations in a way that engages their audience. After all, nearly 29% of consumers say they’ll unfollow an influencer if bored with their shared content. Another 14% will do so if the creator posts too much sponsored content.
“On YouTube, never explicitly promote the affiliate products,” says Marc Bromhall, founder of Beginner Surf Gear, a site for newcomers to surfing. “This will come across as disingenuous and inauthentic. You’ll end up eroding trust with your audience, and your conversion rate will suffer.”
Here are five popular types of content to try when promoting affiliate products on YouTube:
1. Trending videos
The YouTube community creates their own trends, like the “What’s in my bag?” craze that dominated in the early 2010s, and resurges periodically among content creators. Keep an eye on what’s trending on the platform and produce your own spinoff—affiliate-recommended products included.
2. Unboxing videos
This type of video is popular on YouTube, since viewers can become part of the unboxing experience. Estella of Study to Success, for example, unboxes tech products on her YouTube channel. The video description contains affiliate links for viewers to purchase those products and others featured in the content. More than 90,000 people search for unboxing videos on YouTube each month—and this is a great way to start with YouTube affiliate marketing.
People watching a tutorial are further along in the sales process than someone passively watching a trending video. Capture them—and commission on their purchase—by walking through how to use the product. If you’re an affiliate for an ergonomic desk chair, for example, record yourself changing the chair height, incline, and matching foot rest.
4. Round-up videos
The more variety you have in your YouTube content, the more chances you have at influencing a sale—especially if the viewer isn’t actively looking for something to buy. In fact, 89% of people report being convinced to make purchases after watching videos. Encourage impulse buys with round-up videos like “monthly favorites” that contain links to affiliate products.
5. Product review videos
Almost nine in 10 customers read a review before making a purchase. Leverage that knowledge to create product review videos and cater to visual learners. Explain the good (and bad) points about a product you’re incentivized to promote. Make it convincing and earn commission when viewers are ready to buy.
The popular product review category includes recommendations, “with me” videos (such as clean, shop, and cook with me), and unboxings. Whichever video format you choose, remember that YouTube affiliate marketing shouldn’t feel like marketing. Offer value and the products within your content will feel like they belong there.
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7 pro YouTube affiliate marketing tips
- Use eye-catching thumbnails
- Add chapter markers
- Optimize for YouTube search
- Create related playlists
- Produce YouTube Shorts
- Embed YouTube videos in blog content
- Be transparent with affiliate links
Ready to capitalize on the millions of dollars consumers spend through YouTube each year? Here are seven pro YouTube tips to help you drive more affiliate sales.
1. Use eye-catching thumbnails
You might have a tough time earning money from affiliate commissions for your YouTube videos if nobody is watching them. A thumbnail—the image shown before a video is played—is crucial to attracting viewers.
Think of YouTube thumbnails as the cover of a book: Fail to make the cover worthy of picking up and nobody reads the story inside, no matter how good it is. But design a cover that gets noticed on a crowded bookshelf, and you’re one step closer to a bestseller.
Do some research and see which thumbnails (for both longform videos and Shorts) you’re competing with for your audience’s attention. If you’re recording a coffee art tutorial (featuring a coffee machine you’ll earn commission on), here’s what you need to beat:
Some industries are more creative than others. If you’re doing a roundup of technology products, for example, you might need colorful thumbnails that tease the products to stand out.
Tools like Canva and Fotor have high-quality YouTube thumbnail templates to create your own images, though some affiliate marketers find the investment in a graphic designer pays off.
“I have always taken a search-driven and quality-first approach to my content,” says digital marketer Alex Tucker. “But for the first few months that I focused on YouTube, my click-through rates were terrible (under 2%) because I was making my own thumbnails and I’m a poor designer.
“When I started working with a professional designer, my click-through rate jumped to over 5%, which means more than twice as many people were giving my videos a chance.”
💡Pro tip: Update your YouTube thumbnails regularly, especially if your content is evergreen. Add the current year to your thumbnail to prove your content is still relevant—and therefore, worth clicking.
2. Add chapter markers
Ever clicked on a YouTube video to figure out how to solve a problem, only to swipe through 15 minutes of the creator talking about something you are uninterested in? People arrive on your YouTube video looking for short answers. Help them find them with chapter markers, which are timestamps that mark sections of your video content.
Wandering Aimfully, for example, created a YouTube video sharing the items the hosts packed for their year of travel. Each section of the video uses chapter markers. Viewers can pinpoint the section where the creators talk about roller suitcases and travel backpacks without sitting through the entire 49-minute video.
3. Optimize for YouTube search
YouTube is among the largest search engines. People use the website to learn something new, be entertained, or research products they’re thinking about buying.
That can be great news for affiliate marketers. Figure out what keywords your target audience is searching for and produce YouTube videos that meet their needs.
To start, find competing YouTube channels that promote similar products you’re an affiliate for. Use SEO tools like Keywords Everywhere to find other related terms, monitoring the search volume (how many people search for that phrase each month) and trend.
Once you’ve done keyword research to uncover which terms your target customer is searching, optimize the video with relevant descriptions and the best hashtags to increase the chances of it appearing in search results. A few additional tips to optimize your YouTube search:
- Put the keyword in the video title. Try to make it as catchy as possible. Click-through rate is a factor in how well your video will rank.
- Include keywords in the video description. If you’re reviewing a Canon camera, for example, naturally weave related phrases like “Canon camera review” and “reviewing the Canon camera” into the description.
- Increase watch time. The YouTube algorithm prefers videos with high watch time, since the content is proven to keep viewers on the platform.
4. Create related playlists
As an affiliate marketer, the more views your video has, the higher the chances of earning an affiliate commission. YouTube’s playlist feature helps you achieve that by compiling similar videos into a neverending video reel.
To create your own YouTube playlist:
- Group together related videos
- Open each video in your browser
- Hit “Save” beneath each video
- Create a new playlist (or add it to an existing one)
- Change the privacy settings to public
Creator Mr. Kate, for example, groups content into playlists to help viewers find more content similar to what they’re watching. Within each playlist, like Room Makeovers, Mr. Kate can increase views and watch time when the playlist autoplays the next transformation.
5. Produce YouTube Shorts
YouTube Shorts is a feature that allows creators to upload short TikTok-style videos to their channel. Videos must be vertical, recorded on a mobile device, and less than 60 seconds long.
“YouTube Shorts don’t appear to be disappearing any time soon,” says James Crabtree, director of digital marketing agency Complete White Label. “So, I’d urge any affiliates to utilize them to showcase certain aspects of a product or piece of software that you’re an affiliate for. Highlight the immediate benefits and aspects of the product, then internally link to your full review video from within.”
YouTube Shorts are designed to be quick-fire videos that users can flip through quickly—and can be an effective way to grow organic traffic.
6. Embed YouTube videos in blog content
Starting a YouTube channel and blog are powerful ways to market your brand and spread the word about your affiliate links—even more so when used together. Among the benefits of these tools:
- Appeal to different audiences. Your target market likely has a variety of different learning styles. Some prefer reading blog posts; others are more interested in videos. Combine the two to avoid alienating people who’d purchase your recommended products.
- Increase video views. Show your affiliate videos to people looking for recommendations outside of the YouTube sphere. For some keywords, Google’s algorithm pulls YouTube videos to display in Google search results.
- Improve SEO. Dwell time, time on page, and ecommerce analytics such as bounce rates are all metrics taken into account when search engine algorithms determine where a page should rank. Boost your results by embedding relevant videos on your website.
Marketer Ryan Robinson embraces this approach with his blogging tutorial videos. In an instructional article on starting a blog, Ryan embeds related YouTube videos:
“This not only helps the video drive more views from my own blog—and thus sends a positive signal to YouTube that it’s still getting attention online—but having the video embedded in my written guide to starting a blog also gives those readers the opportunity to watch a video version of the article they’re on,” Ryan says.
“I’ve gotten emails and comments from many readers who’ve said the video tutorial is what helped them really get their blogs set up right, so the two work well together to help drive more conversions,” he continues. Ryan’s emphasis on actionable videos for his YouTube channel has garnered to date more than 6,700 views and 70 comments.
7. Be transparent with affiliate links
It doesn’t matter which type of content you’re creating to share affiliate links—every product you’re incentivized to share needs to be clearly labeled. Failing to do so could result in your audience not trusting the items you promote.
Put yourself in your audience’s shoes: Let’s say you’re looking for a new meal prep service. So, you head to YouTube to find comparison videos. The top contenders are HelloFresh and Gusto, which is praised by the influencer starring in the video.
You might question the recommendation if it’s not disclosed that they may be paid a commission if affiliate links are clicked to make purchases. Being transparent upfront helps build trust and loyalty from your audience. “If you disclose your relationship to the retailer clearly and conspicuously on your site, readers can decide how much weight to give your endorsement,” states the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
The FTC also has strict guidelines on stating whether you earn affiliate income from a product recommendation. Content creators can face significant fines for misleading their audience and failing to highlight products they’re incentivized to sell.
YouTuber Abbey Yung includes the following disclaimer beneath affiliate links in the video description:
In the example featured earlier in this guide, creator Linh Truong adds a list of products featured in her backpack video. For each link, she prominently indicates when it is an affiliate link.
Use YouTube in your affiliate marketing strategy
For many affiliate marketers, YouTube is the secret weapon that powers successful affiliate marketing campaigns. A YouTube video presents plenty of opportunities for affiliate marketers to surface products organically and promote them using YouTube affiliate links.
Remember, for the best chance of success with YouTube affiliate marketing, produce content your target audience is searching for, optimize them for YouTube search, and avoid misleading headlines and clickbait for the sake of monetizing videos.
By following the tips outlined in this guide, you’re now on your way to generating extra income with affiliate marketing on YouTube!
📕 Read more: How To Make Money on YouTube: 7 Simple Strategies (+ Video)
YouTube affiliate marketing FAQ
Does YouTube have an affiliate program?
Yes, YouTube has a YouTube Shopping affiliate marketing program. However, marketers can still earn money through the platform by promoting products from which they earn commission. Simply sign up for an affiliate program and promote an affiliate link within content on your YouTube channel.
Can you make money with YouTube affiliate marketing?
Yes, many YouTubers monetize their channels with affiliate links. An affiliate marketer can earn commission when a viewer purchases a product they’ve recommended—typically through an affiliate link in a YouTube video description.
Do YouTubers make money from affiliate links?
YouTubers earn money if they send viewers to buy products through affiliate links. The exact amount varies depending on the brand or affiliate network they partner with.
Does YouTube allow Amazon affiliate links?
Yes, YouTube allows content creators to share affiliate links on the platform, including those generated through Amazon’s affiliate program, Amazon Associates.