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Affiliate Marketing vs Digital Marketing: Difference, Income, Reach, Etc!

You might have heard that these days, marketing is where the money is at. Among the most popular forms of marketing, affiliate marketing, and digital marketing often get mixed up.

While they may seem similar on the surface, there are clear differences between the two.

This article will show you what sets affiliate marketing apart from digital marketing. Whether you’re a budding entrepreneur or a curious individual looking to expand your knowledge, you will discover useful insights into key aspects of modern marketing.

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Affiliate Marketing vs Digital Marketing: What’s the Difference?

Digital marketing is a type of marketing companies use to promote and sell their products and services online. On the other hand, affiliate marketing is about promoting other companies’ products in exchange for a commission when someone buys that product.

Here is a table showing the difference between both concepts from different angles:

Key Differences
Digital Marketing
Affiliate Marketing

Business Model

Both Business to Business(B2B) or Business to Customer(B2C)

Only Business to Customer (B2C)

Ownership of Products/Services

Promoting own or client's products/services

Promoting other company's products/services


Wider reach potential

Limited reach potential

Responsibility and Risk

Entire marketing process

Promoting and driving traffic/sales

Cost Structure

Higher initial investment

Low to no cost


Full control over marketing strategies

Less control over product/service development

Potential Income

Unlimited potential income

Commission-based income


Building customer relationships

Building affiliate relationships

What is Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate Marketing vs Digital Marketing
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Affiliate marketing is a performance-based marketing strategy where individuals or businesses (Affiliates) promote products or services on behalf of another company. Affiliates earn a commission for every sale or lead generated through their marketing efforts.

Product review bloggers mainly use this method to monetize their blog.

3 Types of Affiliate Marketing

1. Unattached Affiliate Marketing

Unattached affiliate marketing is about affiliates promoting products or services without being associated with a specific brand or website.

For instance, suppose you are an affiliate marketer who operates a blog focusing on technology and gadgets.

You don’t have your own e-commerce store or brand affiliation. Instead, you can use affiliate links provided by various online retailers, like Amazon, to recommend and review a wide range of tech products such as smartphones, laptops, and accessories.

When your readers click on these affiliate links and make purchases, you earn a commission on those sales, even though you aren’t associated with any particular tech brand.

This unattached affiliate marketing approach allows marketers to reach a wider audience and generate income without establishing specific expertise. It’s a convenient and effective way to make money online.

2. Related Affiliate Marketing

Related affiliate marketing, also known as niche affiliate marketing, involves affiliates promoting products or services within a specific niche or industry that matches their interests, expertise, or the content of their website or platform.

The marketers recommend relevant products to their audience using affiliate links, even if they haven’t personally used them.

For example, someone with a gardening blog may engage in related affiliate marketing by promoting gardening tools, seeds, and equipment to their audience.

By tapping into their established online presence, marketers can effectively reach their target audience and generate income through commissions. It’s a smart way to expand your earning potential while staying connected to the interests of your audience.

3. Involved Affiliate Marketing

Involved affiliate marketing, also known as integrated affiliate marketing, is all about building strong connections with customers and offering them genuine value based on personal experience with a product.

The affiliate marketer not only uses the product or service but also wholeheartedly believes in it, making honest recommendations to their audience.

For example, a fitness influencer who actively promotes a fitness clothing brand will not only share affiliate links but also collaborate with the brand, make workout videos featuring their products, participate in brand events, and even help with product development.

This type of affiliate marketing thrives on trust, genuineness, and firsthand knowledge, ensuring that the recommendations are reliable and useful to the consumers. It builds long-term relationships and trust between the affiliate marketer and their audience.

What is Digital Marketing?

Digital Marketing vs Affiliate Marketing
Image by storyset on Freepik

Digital marketing is a way to promote products or services using the internet and electronic devices. It includes activities like advertising on social media, optimizing websites for search engines, sending emails, and creating online content to reach and engage with potential customers.

How to Become a Digital Marketer

If you’re interested in pursuing a career in digital marketing, here are four key points to help you get started:

1. Understand Marketing Principles

You must understand consumer behavior, market segmentation, branding, and marketing strategies. You can enroll in marketing courses or pursue a degree in marketing to understand this field better.

2. Develop Digital Skills

To become a successful digital marketer, it’s crucial to develop proficiency in search engine optimization (SEO), social media marketing, content marketing, email marketing, and pay-per-click advertising.

Take advantage of online resources, tutorials, and certification programs to enhance your digital skills.

3. Stay Updated with Industry Trends

The digital marketing landscape is constantly evolving, with new tools, platforms, and strategies emerging day in and day out. To stay competitive in this field, it’s important to stay updated with the latest industry trends and changes.

Follow influential digital marketing blogs, attend industry conferences, and join relevant professional communities to stay informed and connected.

4. Gain Practical Experience

Theory alone is not enough to become a skilled digital marketer. Practical experience is important to understanding how digital marketing strategies work in real-world scenarios.

Look for internships, freelance opportunities, or even volunteer to work on digital marketing projects to gain hands-on experience.

Additionally, try creating your own digital marketing projects, such as managing social media accounts or running online advertising campaigns for small businesses, to showcase your skills to potential employers.

Digital Marketing vs Affiliate Marketing: 9 Key Differences

Differences between affiliate and digital marketing
Image by storyset on Freepik

1. Business Model

In affiliate marketing, individuals or businesses promote other companies’ products or services and earn a commission for each successful referral. Digital marketing, however, involves promoting and selling products or services through various online channels.

2. Ownership of Products/Services

The most obvious difference between affiliate and digital marketing is the ownership of products. In affiliate marketing, you promote other companies’ products or services, while in digital marketing, you promote your own products or services or those of the company you work for.

3. Reach

Affiliates use their own platforms, such as websites, blogs, or social media, to reach their audience. Digital marketers can reach a large audience through various channels like SEO, PPC, social media, email marketing, etc.

4. Responsibility and Risk

An affiliate is responsible for promoting products or services, but they don’t have to handle customer support, product development, or inventory management. The risk is relatively lower.

In contrast, a digital marketer has more responsibilities, like managing campaigns, customer support, and overall marketing strategy. The risk can be higher as they have more control over the outcome.

5. Cost Structure

Affiliate marketing typically has little to no upfront costs as you earn a commission for each sale you refer. Digital marketing campaigns often involve costs like advertising expenses, software/tools, and manpower.

6. Control

Affiliates have very limited control over the products or services they promote. They rely on the product owners for quality, inventory, and pricing. Moreover, an affiliate is often obliged to promote as indicated by the product owner.

For instance, a product owner might prohibit adding the affiliate link in the emails you send to your email list. Thus, you must add a link to your own article or video that has the affiliate link.

Digital marketers, however, have more control over their own products or the products they promote. They can decide on pricing, positioning, and other marketing aspects.

7. Potential Income

Affiliate marketers can earn commissions based on the number of successful referrals they make. The potential income depends on the commission structure and the effectiveness of their marketing efforts. 

The more products they promote, the higher the potential income.

Digital marketers can earn income through sales of their own products or services or through salaries/compensation from the companies they work for.

8. Relationships

Another difference between these two concepts is in how they build relationships. 

In affiliate marketing, you build relationships with the companies whose products or services you promote. In digital marketing, the marketer builds relationships with customers.

9. Skills Required

An affiliate needs relationship-building skills, persuasion skills, and, most importantly, the ability to drive traffic to their affiliate links. He especially needs skills in SEO.

On the other hand, a digital marketer requires skills in SEO, social media marketing, analytics, and other digital marketing techniques.

How much do affiliate marketers make?

The income potential for affiliate marketers varies greatly depending on the niche, the products or services being promoted, the commission structure, and the affiliate’s marketing skills.

Some affiliate marketers earn a few hundred dollars per month, while others generate six or seven-figure incomes.

The key to success is identifying profitable niches, choosing high-converting affiliate programs, and applying effective marketing strategies.

Can I do affiliate marketing without a website?

While having a website can greatly aid your affiliate marketing efforts, it is not a requirement. Many affiliate marketers use social media platforms, email marketing, and other online channels to promote affiliate products or services.

However, having a website does provide you with a central hub for your marketing activities, allowing you to build an audience, create valuable content, and optimize your promotions. You can use your website as the headquarters of your marketing activities.

Affiliate Marketing and Digital Marketing: Which is Better?

In terms of income, it is undeniable that digital marketing has the better potential. However, affiliate marketing is not as capital-intensive as digital marketing.

This simply means you need little investment to start affiliate marketing compared to digital marketing, which generally needs a bigger investment.

Keep in mind that both approaches have their advantages and disadvantages. You will have to assess your capacities and goals and start from somewhere. If you are selling your own product you may need to invest in both digital marketing and affiliate marketing.

But if you only want to run a blog, a vlog, or an influencer page you may want to start with affiliate marketing.

Piaff Dibota

Piaff brings a unique blend of creativity and expertise to the blogging world. Having worked as a content writer for multiple companies in different niches, he shares his blogging expertise through professional and engaging blog posts. 

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