There’s no question that a good portion of the internet’s attention ends up squarely at YouTube.

There are over 2 billion users according to Google. At least half of those users are consistently active. That means billions of hours of videos watched every single month. If you consider YouTube a search engine, it’s the second largest search engine in the world.

That means it is only right behind Google itself. That’s impressive! That much traffic means plenty of opportunity. YouTube affiliate marketing is one way to harness traffic not only to build brand awareness but to make money through the traffic to your videos.

There are a few options you have when it comes to making money through YouTube via affiliate marketing. You need to learn the right way to go about it to see the most success.

What Is YouTube Affiliate Marketing?

One of the first things to understand is that making affiliate money on YouTube is not the same as YouTube ads. Those are two completely different methods for making money via online videos.

Using affiliate marketing involves the use of special links in the description or even in the video itself to drive sales you make a commission off of. There are many different strategies to make your videos more effective.

Generally, there will be two major strategies that most affiliate marketers use when working to make money from YouTube:

  • Push visitors to click on an affiliate link in the description of the video
  • Drive traffic to a website where a better affiliate funnel can be created

These are the two major methods for marketing with video content. There are many marketers who will use both methods quite effectively. We’re going to look at both strategies here so you have options on how to get started as a YouTube affiliate marketer.

Using YouTube can be a great way to leverage the power of their platform. They are a potentially massive traffic source that will bring many more opportunities for your affiliate links to actually earn for you.

There’s a lot more here to cover, so let’s dive into the world of working YouTube as an affiliate. By the end of this post you’ll have the tips, tools, and tactics to make money Vlogging and smart marketing with your YouTube videos.

Monetizing YouTube with Affiliate Marketing

Actually monetizing your videos is pretty easy. The moment you have a YouTube account set up you can upload a video and drop a link in the description. It’s that easy. This doesn’t mean you should spam videos.

Those videos still need to get attention and they need to be good enough to convince a viewer that you are a trustworthy source to buy from. After all, if you don’t convert any of the visits into sales then all the traffic in the world isn’t going to do you much good.

Affiliate marketing on YouTube requires the promotion of a product or service using great video content. If people like what they see, they might just buy. It is easy to get started, but that doesn’t mean it is simple!

Links in Description

You will want the ability to shorten longer affiliate links into one that is less intimidating. Label them clearly (after all if your video sold it well they should be interested or at least open to buying), and that also takes care of character limitations.

The highest conversion comes if you can fit the affiliate link in the small part of a YouTube video description that is above the fold. This keeps it in view of anyone watching the video, scanning the information, or even heading down into the comment section. Like so:

YouTube Description Screenshot

Having a clean link at the top gives it the best chance of being seen by the most eyes. This is the most popular method of adding affiliate links because it’s available to everyone and it generally works.

For those using YouTube who are mainly YouTubers or vloggers in nature, they may have the links further down in the description. These almost certainly won’t convert as well but for large channels with a big subscriber base, YouTube ads may make more sense so asking to subscribe is more valuable.

In those cases, they have the pull to ask for viewers to look further down in the description to click on any affiliate links.

The one potential advantage to this strategy is that by pushing the link further down you do have the ability to write some really killer copy at the top. If you’re an excellent copywriter, or want to work on being a great copywriter, that space might be best used piquing a reader’s interest.

A great hook that will pull more readers in could result in more clicks.

If you have trouble writing snappy descriptions, do yourself a favor and make sure to check out the Earn More Writing course. While the focus on YouTube is rightfully video, the written description could be the difference between pulling someone in for the click and not getting that sale at all.

Here’s an example of a channel that has one link appear above the fold, then a list of them that they point viewers to from the video itself.

drop down affiliate links screenshot

Affiliate Links in the Video Itself

This is another method of making YouTube affiliate marketing profitable. Everyone has watched a YouTube video and seen a link pop up. This often comes at the end in the form of a picture or “card” that then links to a website, another YouTube video, or points somewhere else that the video creator wants to drive traffic.

However, a link can be added at any point in the video. In fact, for very long videos there can be several places where a link can be placed in the video itself. This allows a great video creator to get multiple chances to put his or her affiliate link in front of viewers.

This picture, word, or other feature that is linked is an “external annotation.” YouTube doesn’t set this up automatically for most video creators. Look for the highlight:

YouTube creator screenshot

The step by step process to make sure these are on and then add them goes:

  • YouTube Settings
  • Click on View Additional Features
  • Click to Enable External Annotations (towards the bottom left of page)
  • Go to video manager
  • Click on the video to edit
  • Click on “Linking Annotations” and put in your affiliate link with whatever insert you want to pop up in your video

This can be used alone to put relevant affiliate links in your actual videos. This can be done as your sole strategy or it can be done in conjunction with putting links in the description.

Best YouTube Video Formats for Affiliate Sales

There are certain types of videos that can be very effective when pushing affiliate marketing via videos on YouTube. While it can definitely be worth experimenting with different ideas or formats, many videos follow these formats for a reason. They are among the most popular because they have been proven to work!

Product Review Videos

Product review videos not only often rank well in many niches, but they are a great video format for pushing a sale. Whether reviewing a product that you can then link to as an Amazon Affiliate, or an online class from Udemy, or a specialized paid training program like Income School’s Project 24, you do an honest review and put in a link.

A good video can review a single item, program, or course. There are also comparison videos. These can be another great way to do a deep dive on one or more products and give your take on them. Make a connection, give a first-hand account of what the viewer is interested in, and possibly make that affiliate sale!

“Best of” Videos

Pushing beyond a single product review, best of videos work just like product list articles on a blog. In these videos you’re looking at the very best few options in a specific niche. Five best pellet smokers might be an example of a good best of video.

Usually the list will be small. Three to five items allow you to cover several products and add affiliate links to all of them while still keeping that personal experience touch. Any more than that and it generally goes very listicle which is great for a blog but generally does not work as well for video.

How-to Videos

How-to videos aren’t what most people think about when they think of affiliate marketing videos, but there are some outstanding opportunities here. When people are looking for step-by-step or how-to instructions, video is usually the way to go.

Would you rather read text trying to describe what to do, or would you rather see it?

Most of us would rather see it. A great how to video showing clearly how to do something many people want to learn about is not only a potential traffic magnet, but it can give you a chance to offer products that are needed to do it.

Let’s take some inspiration from Spencer’s Niche Site 4 Project: Suppose you have a first time home owner or even someone renting their first house. What do they know about yard work? How to cut grass by the fence? How to trim the grass by the landscaping around the house?

You can recommend weed whackers, gardening gloves, sheers, or whatever other tools you need based on the specific task and include affiliate links for each of these things. If your how-to video gives clear and precise directions you’re going to leave a very good impression. That trust and authority makes the chances of people buying that much more likely because of the quality of your content.

There is plenty of room for more good how-to videos in almost every niche. If you have a wide array of skills and an ability to explain things clearly, this could be the best video format for you to see some success with your affiliate links on YouTube.

Getting Eyes on YouTube

YouTube doesn’t pick which videos get views at complete random. Building a strong channel is a crucial part of this process.

This means having a fully filled out “About” section that gives plenty of information on where to find you, an original banner at the top of the page, channels that organize your videos into categories, playlists, and essential contact information. You want your channel to give a good impression.

This gives a good impression, and then it’s up to you to provide really high quality content on a consistent basis. Bad videos aren’t going to get positive reactions. Even if they somehow rank temporarily, they won’t in the long run.

Good videos that provide value, are well-shot, and answer the questions that searchers have are going to do well. If you have a channel that is absolutely chock full of these types of quality videos, then you are setting yourself up for success.

Increase your chance of affiliate sales by creating every single video with care. Great camera work from the best equipment and careful attention to every detail make for engaging videos that will help you build a very impressive vault of videos on your YouTube channel.

Learn the importance of on-site YouTube SEO. This means understanding tags, using keywords in the descriptions, and how to chain videos to encourage long view times and the watching of multiple views on the channel.

All of this is part of creating a channel that will get YouTube’s attention in a positive way and make them more likely to share you with their billions of monthly visitors.

Driving Traffic to Your Website

This is actually the top way that the most successful YouTube affiliates make money. While putting links in the videos can lead to sales, there’s a reason websites jump to mind when someone mentions affiliate marketing.

A website gives more opportunity to sell. Not only that, but you have flexibility in how to present topics, articles, or otherwise deliver the information you’re trying to get across. This naturally means less restraint on how to set up your content as well as more opportunities to sell.

The combination of a solid YouTube channel and a great website are impossible to ignore. A blog builds your authority and your brand. In addition to this while YouTube might be the second biggest search engine in the world, that means Google is still first.

Having a blog that you can build into an authority site allows for more organic traffic from Google.

Optimize your content not only rank for main keywords, but secondary topics and keywords, too. This also allows you to set up many quality posts that can be optimized for affiliate marketing. It’s not unheard of to get 10-15% conversion rates on some niches on affiliate websites.

You will almost certainly never see anything close to that from affiliate links in YouTube videos.

How Much Can You Make as an Affiliate on YouTube?

Money Magnet to Laptop

This is going to depend a lot on traffic, click thru rate on the affiliate links, and then conversion once you get to the site to buy. These numbers are going to vary greatly from niche to niche as well as even from video channel to channel. Getting more traffic to your videos is the best way to make more sales as there’s definite truth to the “numbers game” mentality.

The truth is that there’s no way to accurately predict a range. Some niches are going to make more money than others. If you’re in a niche that allows you to sell $500 or $1000 items at 10% you’re going to make way more per sale than a niche that only sells $15 items at 4%.

So there’s a lot of variance.

The affiliate programs you are promoting will also make a difference. Look for trusted programs and the best possible payouts. This will help increase your earnings and also generally steer you to better products and programs. These are all good things.

Beyond that earnings are going to depend on traffic and that only comes from producing outstanding videos consistently. You can’t give up before your efforts pay off.

YouTube tends to be a long-term game for most people. While the strategies are different, the place to start is the same. Finding good products you want to promote, creating great video content, and then making as many great videos as possible.

Does This Work for Small Channels?

Do you need to have a giant channel to make money as an affiliate on YouTube? Can small channels really make money, or at least any decent amount? The short answer is yes.

There are plenty of niches where a small but dedicated following can still make you a lot of money. Especially if you’ve built yourself as a brand that your audience can trust.

When you get started you’re going to be a small channel. Unless you’re already a widely recognized name or brand. For some people there will be some early victories that make it easy to keep going. The rest of us will need to keep refining our techniques, our pitch, and our videos while seeing a more gradual revenue build.

While there are very successful small channels, there’s no question more traffic is going to mean more clicks on your affiliate links and that means more sales.


No one should be surprised at this point by the idea that YouTube can be a major money maker. When you’re talking about the second largest search engine online, that’s one heck of an audience. There are multiple ways to make sure every single video is touting affiliate links that get you paid.

YouTube affiliate marketing takes time. It takes a lot of work and a lot of effort.

However this is a great way to get money from the video content that you are producing – or should be.

By Shane Dayton

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