Everything You Need to Know About YouTube Affiliate Marketing in 2024 (+ Expert Tips & Examples)

If I were a creator, one of the first channels I’d explore is YouTube affiliate marketing.

Think about it: Whether you’re sharing a tutorial or a product review, you can add affiliate links to every YouTube video description you create.

Not only that, but you can also stack multiple links to products you recommend without having to put them all in one “link in bio.”

Plus, you don’t have to worry about viewers leaving your page to go search for your product recommendations. Instead, all they need to do is scroll down while watching your video.

While affiliate marketing is often seen on other channels like Instagram, TikTok, or blogs, creators sometimes overlook YouTube as a worthwhile affiliate channel.

So, I want to explore whether or not YouTube affiliate marketing works and how to do it well, according to experts.

Table of Contents:

What is YouTube Affiliate Marketing?
YouTube Affiliate Pros and Cons
YouTube Affiliate Marketing Done Well
YouTube Affiliate Marketing Blunders
Does YouTube Affiliate Marketing Actually Work?

Like other affiliate channels, YouTube affiliate marketing relies on custom links to track the sales you generate from promoting to your audience.

On average, creators earn anywhere from $100 to $5,000 per month in affiliate revenue, according to data from Statista.

And while other channels like Instagram or blogs can be used for affiliate marketing, the industry’s investment in video is one reason creators and marketers should consider YouTube for their affiliate marketing platform of choice.

In fact, 52% of marketers leverage YouTube as part of their social strategy as video becomes a higher priority. You can learn more about YouTube marketing in this HubSpot Academy course.

YouTube Affiliate Marketing Pros and Cons

While I’ve watched many YouTube videos and purchased products using creators’ affiliate links, I’ve never experimented with YouTube affiliate marketing myself.

I was curious to learn what makes YouTube a good channel for affiliate marketing, who it’s best for, and why other channels may work better, so I talked to a few marketing experts.

Pro: Building Trust (with Users and Google)

The first advantage is that it allows creators to reflect their personalities and demonstrate their expertise and qualifications more easily.

“In the age of AI, consumers no longer follow text recommendations at face value,” suggests Austin Tuwiner, head of growth at Geniuslink and a long-time affiliate marketer and YouTuber.

“It’s more about who is behind those words. By establishing a history of videos and expertise in a niche, you will become an industry leader and a go-to source for information.”

Jesse Lakes, CEO and co-founder of Geniuslink, reiterates that trust is a factor not only with your audience but also with Google.

“YouTube’s search API isn’t experiencing the havoc caused by Google’s recent updates for website search, where many affiliate-based websites are getting penalized, unlisted, or just seeing their traffic radically drop,” he says.

Pro: Clickable Links

I don’t know about you, but one of my pet peeves about Instagram is not being able to click on links unless they’re in the bio.

When I get product recommendations from an influencer’s video or post, I’m sometimes deterred from visiting someone’s “link in bio” if it means having to click away from what I’m doing.

One of the greatest benefits of using YouTube for affiliate marketing is that it allows you to add many links to the video’s description.

Instead of having to click away from the video or open a new tab to search for the product mentioned, you can simply scroll down a bit to click on the affiliate links.

Plus, Lakes suggests that regular YouTube users are already familiar with the act of finding a product link, so there’s no need to “train” your audience to perform a specific behavior.

Pro: Long-form Content

Another advantage of using YouTube for affiliate marketing is the ability to thoroughly discuss and consistently feature the product in videos.

This is due to the long-form nature, suggests Samantha Zink, founder of Zink Talent, an influencer talent agency.

“Unlike static images or quick videos on platforms like Instagram or TikTok, YouTube allows for a vlog-style approach, providing ample time to showcase and sell the product effectively,” says Zink.

She adds, “Longer-form videos offer more opportunity to engage the audience and highlight the product‘s benefits. YouTube’s audience tends to appreciate vlog-style content, fostering a deeper connection and potentially increasing purchase likelihood.”

Con: Platform Risk

Like all other social media channels, you don’t own your audience. YouTube isn’t immune from algorithm changes, and most creators rely on the algorithm to drive traffic to their videos.

Tuwiner highlights this risk, saying that, “Even if you master the algorithm, it can change at any time, sending your traffic and affiliate commissions downhill.”

If you’re like me, this might make you a little uncomfortable and will be a risk that you have to weigh as you move forward with your affiliate marketing.

Con: Production Time

Another consideration while pursuing YouTube affiliate channels is that it usually takes much more time and resources to create content for YouTube than other channels.

Creating a long-form, high-quality video requires recording (which usually entails multiple takes), editing, and then optimizing for YouTube search.

Depending on the type of content you create, you may not want to spend a lot of time making this kind of video.

However, Tuwiner suggests that if the ROI is good enough, the time investment is worth it.

Con: Limited Tools

Lakes also suggests another potential disadvantage of using YouTube affiliate channels is the lack of platform-specific tools.

“YouTube has been trying to roll out tools for improved product recommendations but the general consensus so far has been that they aren’t great or very rewarding,” he says.

Affiliate Marketing Done Well

So, how does affiliate marketing on YouTube look in practice? I found some videos that demonstrate how to execute YouTube affiliate marketing successfully.

Life With Mar

Product reviews are some of the best types of videos for affiliate marketing, and I wanted to include an example of a product review video demonstrating how to successfully use YouTube as an affiliate channel.

Below is a clothing review and try-on video created by blogger and YouTuber Life With Mar.

In this video, Marlene Srdic, the creator behind the channel, reviews multiple items from the lifestyle brand Quince. I personally am a fan of that brand, so I was curious to hear someone else’s unfiltered opinion.

In the video, Srdic shares multiple outfits that she put together using pieces from her Quince haul. However, she also pairs the Quince pieces with clothing and accessories from other brands and adds those affiliate links to her description.

As you can see in the screenshot of her video description below, Srdic adds affiliate links and codes for everything she is seen wearing in the video, even if she doesn’t specifically mention it.

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In fact, Srdic shared with me that link organization is key for YouTube affiliate marketing.

“I usually number them on the screen and in the description box so people can find them easily,” she says. “I also try to describe the product if the product name itself isn’t super clear.”

Why I think it works: Finding organic ways to include as many affiliate links as possible is a smart move on Srdic’s part. But it’s also helpful for viewers like me who may be looking for more shopping recommendations.

And when it comes to making recommendations that your audience trusts, authenticity is key, says Zink.

“The key is to authentically incorporate affiliate products into your content, ensuring that each mention feels natural and genuine,” suggests Zink. “By consistently featuring the product across multiple videos, viewers will develop trust in your endorsement and believe that you genuinely use and love it.”

Linus Tech Tips

How-to videos and tutorials are another type of video that works well for affiliate marketing. One channel that successfully shares these types of videos is Linus Tech Tips, an industry leader in consumer tech.

Here’s an example of one of their successful tutorial videos, which has 12 million views and counting:

I like this video because it’s a helpful tutorial for anyone interested in building a PC. But from a marketing perspective, it also offers an organic opportunity to link to specific products and parts mentioned throughout the video.

Why I think it works: Building a gaming computer is not an easy task. It involves many steps and many parts. This video solves both problems by breaking down the process step by step, mentioning every part involved, and letting viewers know where they can buy those parts.

This video also integrates both active and passive recommendations, which Lakes suggests are the main categories of affiliate links you can use on YouTube.

Active recommendations are the recommendations for the products and services used or highlighted directly in the video.

Passive recommendations are typically seen in the second half of the description.

These are typically the same for each video and can help answer more general questions and recommendations, such as what gear was used to create the video or what products or services the creator regularly recommends.

Affiliate Marketing Blunders

It can also be helpful to see how *not* to do affiliate marketing on YouTube.

Out of curiosity, I searched YouTube for “freelancing tools” to find a video that recommended freelancing products and services and included affiliate links.

I clicked on the first one I saw. (Since this is for research purposes and not to shame anyone, I have blocked out the channel name).

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The entire video lacks personalization. In addition to featuring stock video clips and quick product demos, I’m fairly certain it uses an AI voiceover to read its list of recommendations.

When it comes to the affiliate links, it’s clear that they were just dumped into the description in the order they were listed with no additional personalization.

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All of this to say, if I were in the market for new freelancing tools to add to my tech stack, would I trust the recommendations that came from this video? The answer is no.

There’s nothing compelling about this video from a viewer’s perspective.

While the thumbnail that says “13 Best Tools for Freelancers for 2024” may have encouraged me to click the video, hearing a robotic voiceover made me want to exit immediately.

What I’d Change: This video comes from a company channel and not a creator, but I think it would be worthwhile to designate someone from the company to be the face of the YouTube channel.

I am way more likely to trust a human who’s suggesting their favorite tools over a faceless, voiceless computer making recommendations.

As Zink says, “Affiliate marketing thrives with creators who possess the skill for selling, regardless of the size of their following. It’s crucial for them to cultivate a loyal audience deeply invested in their recommendations.”

Does YouTube Affiliate Marketing Actually Work?

If you’re comfortable creating long-form videos and investing time into the channel, affiliate marketing on YouTube is worth it.

However, there’s one caveat: you have to build an audience *before* you try monetizing your videos. For affiliate marketing to work, you must first get traffic and views on your videos. This takes time and dedication.

You’ll have to figure out what types of videos drive the most traffic, try out various thumbnail designs to see what attracts viewers, and experiment with different content structures to understand your retention rate.

Lakes suggests, “Until you are actually getting some views on your videos, some engagement in your comments, and your subscriber count is beginning to grow regularly, it’s not worth focusing on affiliate marketing.

Once you prioritize subscriber growth, views, and retention rate, you can gradually start adding affiliate links for products or services that make the most sense for your videos and audience.

Growing and understanding your metrics is also important if you want to get into YouTube ads, too. You’ll need to know what your CPM, or cost per 1,000 impressions, is to see how much advertisers will pay to reach your audience.

To sum it up, YouTube affiliate marketing works.

From what I’ve seen, you must put in the work to create valuable video content and build an audience. But once you do, YouTube affiliate channels can be a great way to increase your revenue and exercise your influence.

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