After being accepted into an affiliate program, marketers receive a unique URL that includes their affiliate ID. They share that unique URL with their subscribers, site visitors, and social networks via text links or ads. When someone clicks on that link, affiliate software records that click and any resulting product sales in the affiliate’s account. When commissions reach a pre-determined threshold, the affiliate is paid.
Win-win-win. The advertiser wins because they only pay when a purchase is made (as opposed to the shotgun approach of paying to advertise to the masses and waiting for a small percentage to actually buy). The affiliate wins because they make money while providing helpful advice. The customer wins because they get a trusted recommendation for something they might not otherwise have known about.
Websites consisting mostly of affiliate links have previously held a negative reputation for underdelivering quality content. In 2005 there were active changes made by Google, where certain websites were labeled as "thin affiliates". Such websites were either removed from Google's index or were relocated within the results page (i.e., moved from the top-most results to a lower position). To avoid this categorization, affiliate marketer webmasters must create quality content on their websites that distinguishes their work from the work of spammers or banner farms, which only contain links leading to merchant sites.