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

The chances are, you have heard of both digital marketing and affiliate marketing. Whilst closely related, they aren’t the same thing. In this article, we are going to take a look at digital marketing vs affiliate marketing.

We will break down what each means and highlight the key differences through a comprehensive comparison.

digital marketing vs affiliate marketing banner image

Undoubtedly, both are great for generating revenue online. By the end of this article, you will have the required information to determine which is the best method for you.

Let’s dive in.

Digital Marketing Vs Affiliate Marketing

Digital marketing refers to the use of digital channels to promote a brand, product or service. Affiliate marketing, on the other hand, involves promoting another business’s products or services in exchange for a commission on sales or leads.

Comparison Table


Digital Marketing

Affiliate Marketing


Utilising online platforms to reach an audience and increase brand awareness. 

Promoting someone else's products to earn commission on sales generated.


Wide range of skills to learn such as SEO, social media marketing, PPC, email marketing. 

Content creation and audience research skills are important. Basic digital marketing skills help.


Requires budget for advertisements and PPC campaigns. 

No upfront investment required. Affiliate programs are free to use if requirements are met.

Product Ownership

Digital marketing can be used to market your own products. 

You don't own the products you promote with affiliate marketing. 


Can be more difficult for beginners to grasp. There are a lot more components to learn.

Can be started by beginners with good content writing skills. No need to be an expert in marketing. 

What is Digital Marketing?

The term “digital marketing” refers to using online platforms to promote a brand, product or service. Platforms include search engines, social media, email, websites, and mobile apps.

The goal of digital marketing is to:

  • Generate leads
  • Increase brand awareness and engagement
  • Drive conversions and sales

Digital Marketing Types

  • Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) – Boosting the visibility of a website in search engines to obtain better quality traffic. Techniques include creating quality content whilst implementing relevant keywords and phrases. Further best practices include optimising on-page headers, meta descriptions and titles.
  • Content Marketing – Creating relevant, valuable, high-quality content for your target audience. This is used to establish trust and build brand awareness. Content formats can vary from blog articles, infographics, videos, and newsletters, among others.
  • Social Media Marketing – Using platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram to build an audience and grow your business. Social media marketing can be used to highlight your brand, products or services.
  • Pay-Per-Click (PPC) – Promoting content through paid advertisements on platforms such as Facebook and Google Ads. In simple terms, you pay a fee for each user that clicks on your advertisement. PPC is a good strategy for immediate results. SEO can take weeks or even months to kick in, but you can get clicks from PPC almost instantly.
  • Influencer Marketing – Collaborating with influencers to promote your products or services to their audience in return for endorsements. Influencers usually have established audiences already, so this can be a great way to dive into acquiring new customers or users.
  • Email Marketing – Sending promotional emails to keep audiences up to date with the latest offers or brand activities. Having an opt-in option on your website lets users know what they are subscribing to. Furthermore, this makes prospects see campaigns as valuable services rather than purely promotional.
  • Mobile Marketing – Targeting mobile users through various channels like text messages, social media, websites, emails, and apps. In 2022, US users spent an average of 4.5 hours a day on their mobile devices, which is expected to increase in 2023 and 2024, not including phone calls.

What is Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate marketing is a performance-based strategy where the advertiser pays a commission to an affiliate for driving traffic or sales to their website or products. To put it another way, the advertiser is the retailer and the affiliate is the content publisher.

A cycle diagram showing the four step affiliate marketing process

Undoubtedly, affiliate marketing is an excellent way to generate income. In fact, affiliate marketing is responsible for 16% of e-commerce sales (SerpWatch). That’s a substantial amount. Moreover, over 80% of brands offer affiliate programs (Influencer Marketing Hub). This implies endless opportunities to find potential products or services for promotion.

Additionally, it takes little to no investment. All you require is your own blog, website and some decent writing skills to get started.

Who is Involved In Affiliate Marketing?

  1. The Customer – The person who discovers the product or service through a promoting website. Products purchased through affiliate links come at no extra cost to the customer.
  2. The Affiliate – Publishes content to promote a product or service. Products are usually related to the niche that this person or organisation has chosen to create a website about. They usually have expertise in the niche. The affiliate earns a commission from the product merchant.
  3. The Product Merchant – Creator or distributor of the product or service. They provide commission to the affiliates when the customer makes a purchase. They are not directly involved in promoting their products through affiliate sites, instead, they provide advertisements or unique links to their own website.

Affiliate Marketing Types

  1. Unattached Affiliate Marketing – The affiliate has no connection to the product or service they are promoting. Unattached affiliate marketing is a good option for affiliates who want to invest little time and effort into creating their own products or services. However, it is important to still have a good understanding of the target audience to succeed with this.
  2. Related Affiliate Marketing – Promoting a product or service within a niche the affiliate has expertise in. For example, a fitness blogger may promote workout equipment or health supplements, while a travel influencer may promote travel gear or booking services. Moreover, related affiliate marketing is usually more effective than unattached affiliate marketing. This is because the audience is likely to trust the affiliate’s suggestions more.
  3. Involved Affiliate Marketing – The affiliate promotes a product or service they have experience using. There is more to involved affiliate marketing than just sharing a link. Content, reviews, tutorials or testimonials may need to be created to promote the product or service. Involved affiliate marketing is by far the best way to add a personal touch to a promotion and build long-term relationships with audiences. However, on the contrary, this can bring an element of risk to your brand. For example, say issues arise with the product or service you are promoting your own brand reputation can become ruined through a recommendation you have made.

10 Differences Between Digital Marketing vs Affiliate Marketing

Before we wrap up this article, here are 10 differences you need to remember when comparing digital marketing vs affiliate marketing.

  1. Product creators/ merchants can carry out digital marketing. They can promote their own products or services across online platforms to grow their sales. However, they cannot perform affiliate marketing.
  2. Digital marketing requires learning about lots of different skills such as SEO, social media marketing and email marketing. Affiliate marketing will require knowledge of some of these skills, but a focus on copywriting is most important.
  3. Digital marketing is broad, whereas affiliate marketing is a branch of digital marketing.
  4. Affiliate marketing doesn’t require you to have your own products or services to sell. You can simply promote and sell someone else’s products or services.
  5. Digital marketing is primarily used to increase brand awareness and bring more eyes to your business. Affiliate marketing on the other hand is more about making commission and money.
  6. Affiliate marketers are known as affiliates. Digital marketing professionals are named after an area of expertise. For example, social media marketer, SEO executive etc.
  7. Digital marketing requires a heavy understanding of user intent and audience needs. Furthermore, trends and analytics need to be measured frequently. Affiliate marketing is more commission focussed.
  8. Digital marketing can cost money, especially if performing paid advertising campaigns. Affiliate marketing comes at little to no cost to the creator.
  9. Digital marketing provides complete control over the sales process, where the creation of landing pages and sales funnels are managed by the marketer. In contrast, affiliate marketing is beyond the marketer’s control as they redirect users to the company’s product page.
  10. Affiliate marketing does not require a large number of staff. In fact, the entire process can be done on your own. Digital marketing on the other hand may require specialists in each area.

Conclusion: Digital Marketing vs Affiliate Marketing

Digital marketing and affiliate marketing may appear similar straight off the surface. However, after reading this article you should now notice the difference between the two and understand which one is right for you.

Whichever venture you choose to take, both can be profitable if you put in the work. Both can be used for business advantage and sell products faster by reaching a wider audience, whether you are selling your own products or someone else’s.

Josh Halse
Josh Halse

Josh Halse is the owner of Comprehension Digital.

Articles: 14

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *