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Digital Marketing vs Affiliate Marketing: An in-depth Comparision

Both digital marketing vs affiliate marketing are well-known ways companies use to connect with their customer and make money. In this post, we will explain what each of these strategies means. We’ll also look at how they are different from each other and how they work together. 

Let’s get started! 


What is Digital Marketing?

Digital marketing is a way of promoting products or services using the internet and other technologies. It involves different methods and tools that businesses use to reach out to people online and promote products. 

For a better understanding, let’s talk about the customer journey. In short, a customer journey is all the steps a customer goes through before they decide to buy a product or service. 

Here is a simplified journey: 

  1. Awareness: The customer first learns/ hears about your product. 
  2. Consideration: The customer starts thinking about buying your product. 
  3. Decision: The customer decides to buy your product.
  4. Purchase: The act of buying the product.
  5. Retention: Keeping the customer happy after they buy so they come back in the future. 

Today, about 90% of people start shopping by looking things up on the internet. What digital marketing does is figure out the best places and times to show up on this journey.   

Digital marketing is a way of promoting products or services using the internet and other technologies. It involves different methods and tools that businesses use to reach out to people online and promote products. 

Take the awareness phase, for instance. In this phase, digital marketing isn’t simply just about running ads. It carefully designs and places these ads on platforms where potential customers are most likely to be:  

  • If the target audience frequently uses social media (e.g. teenagers), then eye-catching and informative ads are placed on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, or YouTube.
  • If the target audience is business, they may consider setting up ads on Google or LinkedIn.
  • If the targeted audience is customers of businesses, they may consider using a bulk email service to make their work easier.
  • These ads are tailored to not only grab attention but also to introduce the brand or product in a way that resonates with the audience’s needs and sparks initial interest. 

In digital marketing, this includes when customers see your ad on social media sites like Facebook or Instagram, get an email from you, find your website when they search on Google or read blog content you’ve posted on the web. Each channel serves a unique purpose in reaching and connecting with customers online. 

What is affiliate marketing?

Affiliate Marketing is a collaboration between a person who promotes products (known as an affiliate) and an online store. The store pays the affiliate a commission for bringing in sales.   

How does affiliate marketing work? 

There are three main players in affiliate marketing: the affiliate, the store, and the customer. Everyone benefits – the store gets more sales, the affiliate earns money, and customers get special deals.

  • Choose a Product to Promote: First, affiliates pick a product they want to promote. This could be anything from a book to a beauty product or a service like a software subscription. 
  • Get an Affiliate Link: The store that owns the product gives the affiliate a special link, known as an affiliate link. This link is unique to you and tracks any sales made through it.
  • Share the Link: Affiliates share this affiliate link with their audience. This can be done through various ways like posting it on your blog, in social media posts, in a YouTube video description, or through email newsletters.
  • Earn Commissions: When someone clicks on your affiliate link and buys the product, you earn a commission.    

In affiliate marketing, affiliates earn commissions usually range from 5% to 20% of the sales. Also, there is another type which is called recurring commission that allows the affiliate to earn regularly (for example, a $5 flat commission for each more month of the customer subscription). 

See more: Affiliate Marketing and Influencer Marketing: A Comparision

Affiliate marketing is a subset of digital marketing

Affiliate marketing does not include many elements like digital marketing. In essence, affiliates just need to focus on selling products to other companies. They share links to these products and get paid when someone buys them.

  • The affiliate marketing industry is worth several billion dollars and accounts for 15% of the digital media industry’s revenue.
  • According to Unicode, more than 16% of online orders stem from affiliate marketing.
  • 80% of businesses use affiliate marketing.

Main types of affiliate marketing

There are different types of affiliate marketing. Below are the most common three:

  • Unattached Affiliate Marketing: The affiliate uses ads on platforms like Google or Facebook or websites to get people to click on links and make purchases without a personal connection. 
  • Related Affiliate Marketing: Affiliates promote products related to their interests or expertise, using their influence to attract customers. For example: A fitness blogger who writes about health and fitness topics includes affiliate links to fitness equipment or supplements in their blog posts. They don’t necessarily use the products themselves, but the products are related to the content of their blog and their audience’s interests.
  • Involved Affiliate Marketing: Affiliates recommend products they have personal experience with, building a strong connection with their audience. For example: A beauty vlogger regularly uses a specific brand of makeup and shares their experiences with it in their videos. Because they use and endorse these products, their recommendations are seen as more trustworthy.

Affiliate Marketing vs. Digital Marketing: The Key Differences

Affiliate marketing vs. Digital marketing are not the same.

Digital marketing involves a lot of different methods to advertise products/ services online. It includes SEO, content on Google searches, writing articles, using social media, and sending emails to promote a brand. Meanwhile, affiliate marketers are more focused on just selling products to other companies. They share affiliate links to these products and get paid when someone buys them. So, a digital marketer can also do affiliate marketing because they know a lot of ways to promote things, but not the contrary. 

Digital marketing and affiliate marketing are two ways to do business online, but they are different in a few ways:

Digital MarketingAffiliate marketing
Who Does the Marketing Done by the person or company that owns the product.Done by affiliates who help brand to sell the product.
What’s Included Done by affiliates who help sell the product. Involves the product, the person who promotes it (affiliate), the customer, and the online place where it’s promoted.
Main GoalsTries to get more people to visit a website and know about the brand.Tries to earn money by getting people to buy products.
How They WorkUses many methods to find and attract customers online. Focuses on earning money from each product sold.
Skills NeededNeeds skills in creating online content, understanding customer needs, and using different online tools.More about convincing people to buy products and doesn’t require as many technical skills.
Reaching PeopleReaches a lot of people using different online methods and technologies.Usually focuses on smaller groups of people or one online platform at a time.
How Hard It Is Needs more technical know-how.Easier for beginners to start.
Working StyleYou might work full-time or as a freelancer and follow company policies.You work independently and can promote products from different companies.
Who’s in ChargeYou’re in charge of how you promote your product.You promote someone else’s product and don’t control the whole process.
Having a ProductYou need your product or work with a company that has one. You don’t need your product; you promote others’ products.

In short, digital marketing is about using online ways to promote and sell your product. Affiliate marketing is helping to sell someone else’s product and making money from each sale. Digital marketing covers more areas and needs more skills, while affiliate marketing is simpler and focuses on sales.

See more: Affiliate Marketing vs Referral Marketing – The differences

Affiliate Marketing and Digital Marketing: Which one earns you the most? 

When it comes to earning potential, affiliate marketing can be quite lucrative, especially if you have a strong online presence or a significant influence in your niche. However, this income can be unpredictable and fluctuate, as many affiliate marketers take it as a side hustle rather than a full-time job. 

  • The average salary of an affiliate marketing position in the company in the United States as of 2023 is $82,015 per year. 
  • According to a 2021 survey of affiliates worldwide, the majority of respondents stated that they earned less than ten thousand dollars (57.55%) from affiliate marketing. 
  • Roughly one out of six affiliates earned up to 50 thousand dollars
  • Four percent reached a revenue of more than 150 thousand dollars.  

The possibility of a steady revenue stream exists, but it is not guaranteed and can vary widely over time.

The income potential in digital marketing is generally higher in the long term, as it involves building your brand and assets, giving you more control over your profit margins. For digital marketers, the median annual wage of advertising, promotions, and marketing managers in the United States was $127,150 as of 2021

Digital marketing vs affiliate marketing: Which one is better?  

Digital marketing and affiliate marketing are the two most effective ways to market and make money from products.

However, which one is better for you depends on what you want to achieve and how much money you have to spend.

Affiliate marketing is often seen as a more accessible entry for beginners and suitable for freelancing. The key appeal here is the simplicity of promoting someone else’s products, rather than creating your own, which reduces your initial investment significantly. You can do it from anywhere, besides your full-time job.

If you are a beginner and want to start, you can start by joining an affiliate network that connects affiliates with brands. Plus, we suggest starting with an affiliate joining affiliate events, and trying courses on YouTube (to make sure you want it) before entering a higher course (such as Reliablesoft Academy or Neil Patel course). 


Digital marketing, in contrast, often demands more investment both in terms of time and money and a vast skillset, particularly if you are developing and marketing your products or services. 

You can still freelance in digital marketing, but it means working more closely with a company’s products or campaigns. It’s a bit like having a regular job, but you can still work from home or wherever you like. Digital marketing requires a more controlled and stable business environment. 

Digital Marketer vs Affiliate: Job Comparision

Here’s a table comparing the key points of this post:

AspectDigital Marketing Affiliate Marketing
DefinitionA broad range of marketing techniques are used online to promote and sell products or services. Promoting the products of others through affiliate links and earning a commission for sales or leads
Earning Paid incomeCommission
Skillset SEO, content marketing, social media, email marketing, and more Focused on promoting products through affiliate links
Income PotentialsYearly salary of $127,000 Range from $10,000 to $150,000. Typically stay around $50,000 and $60,000.
FlexibilityCan be location-independent, but often involves collaboration with teams. Typically full-time job.Highly flexible, can be done from anywhere. Can be done as a part-time side hustle.

Wrapping it up

If you’re aiming to reach lots of people and you know how to run good digital marketing campaigns, then digital marketing could be the right choice for you. 

But if you’re just starting and are okay with making money from sales commissions instead of handling the whole marketing process yourself, then you might find affiliate marketing easier and more suitable.

I have been working in marketing for four years, passionate about creative writing and copy writing. Love to be alone at watersides, sip coffee, play games or read anything that is thought provoking.


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