Yes, you read that correctly, affiliate marketing does not work most of the times, in fact, it kinda sucks… at least that’s the case for the majority of people who try it.
First of all, if you’re not familiar with how affiliate marketing works:
Let’s say you want to earn a living by working online but you don’t have a product of your own or a service that you can promote, what do you do? Well if you have no idea how to create your own products, you might try and sell the products or services of others. This way, you get to make money without having to do the work in creating a course, ebook, software or provide a service to a customer.
You promote someone’s else product or service, and you get a commission every time someone buys through your link. For example, if you want to promote a product that costs $49 for the user, the owner of the product will give you $29 for example if you get them a sale. It sounds so simple, and it’s a win-win for everybody, right?
Affiliate marketing is really not that simple, in fact, the affiliate marketing success rate is kinda slim, especially for beginners. It’s not that easy as it sounds and it certainly isn’t a “push button” system that so many so-called “gurus” are promoting online through their crappy products and courses.
Most newbies will fall into that trap and purchase some ebook that promises to teach them how to make $X,XXX a day, without doing anything that difficult. They quickly start to visualize the yachts and the champagne, without knowing that in reality they got ripped off and that it will all end in an epic affiliate marketing failure.
You might ask yourself:
Hmm, why does Stephen the so-called Net Hustler, talk so negatively about affiliate marketing, if he also makes a living promoting other’s people products?
Well, here’s the difference… I failed hard…many times in fact, but dozens of failed websites and money spent on advertising affiliate marketing campaigns, made me better understand how to do affiliate marketing better, how to do it the right way. And I will share a few notes on that in my next post, so make sure that you stay updated. But for now, let’s see why affiliate marketing sucks:
The Top Reasons Why Affiliate Marketing Might Not Work For You
1. Signing Up on the Affiliate Networks
Here’s the thing, most of the times you can’t just find someone who has a product and send them an email and make a deal to start promoting their product in exchange for a commission. No, that’s not the case, it only works if you know people in the same business you are in, then you can do a JV (joint-venture) with them, and split the profits.
For everybody else though, and especially for beginners, you will have to pretty much join an affiliate network. Now affiliate networks differ, depending on what kind of products and services you want to promote.
If you want to promote physical products (dog toys, baby strollers, water bottles, chairs, TVs etc), you need to sign up as an affiliate on Amazon, CJ.com (Commission Junction) or ShareAsale, there are more networks but these are the major 3 players.
Let’s say you want to promote an ebook that teaches people how to lose weight or a course on web design or how to play the piano. You go to ClickBank.com and sign up with them, and get access to thousands of products to promote.
What if you don’t want to sell any products and instead you want to send leads such for Insurance Offers or Personal Loans, or Dating Sites Signups? You will have to join a CPA network such as Maxbounty, Peerfly, Neverblue..etc.
Now almost all of these networks that I listed above, can also have products that you can find on other networks, for example, you could also promote an ebook from Amazon, or a weight loss supplement in a CPA network. So what’s the problem you might ask?
Joining a good affiliate network can be tough for beginners.
Most of them require you to have experience in promoting things online, an established website (preferably that also receives a decent amount of traffic), and depending on the networks you chose to sign-up, you might have to talk on the phone with them for an interview (mostly the CPA networks do this).
They do this because they want to make sure that their vendors (the product/service owners) will only get quality leads and sales from you, and they don’t want to have to deal with spam traffic that won’t convert or if they get too many refunds because you didn’t advertise the product right.
All of this can be daunting for a beginner affiliate marketing.
But Even if you successfully join an Affiliate Network…you’re still not off the hook
You will find that you won’t be able to join and promote all the products or services that an affiliate network has to offer, and if you want to promote a better offer you will have to apply again to that offer in order to get verified by the product owner and he or she might not allow you to promote it if you don’t have a good amount of sales/leads generated for other programs in the network.
Also, some of the offers will have special rules in place, that will kinda make it harder for you to promote the offer. For example, some CPA offers will not allow you to send traffic from email marketing or from search engines.
Here’s a quick image from a Payday Loan offer taken from inside Peerfly network:
So looking at the above image, you cannot promote this personal loan offer with Email Marketing, Search Engines (meaning Google, Bing Yahoo,etc..also includes PPC), No SMS, No Classified Ads (Craigslist), No PPV (Pay Per View or Pop-Ups). You will also only get credit for the lead if the person who signs up is over 18+ years of age, and lives in the United States.
Good luck getting traffic to this kind of offer, paid or free, and make a profit anytime soon. So pretty much you are screwed, especially if you are a beginner. You will need to have a good blog or website (in the financial niche for this offer example) that gets decent and quality traffic, and where you can put the banners of this offer on, and then redirect your users to this offer.
Of course not all the offers are like this, and there are ways to cloak what you are doing, and of yes, a CPA offer is very different than promoting an item off Amazon or Clickbank, but even on those networks, there are conditions and rules in place for an affiliate that they cannot break.
2. Searching For a Good Offer
Continuing on the things that I wrote above, as you can see finding a good offer to promote can be difficult. You will have to do your due diligence and try to find something that it’s worth promoting, where you know that you can send good and quality traffic.
It all depends on the type of traffic you are able to send to that particular offer. If you have a blog on dogs, you can’t just put up a banner on it and promote a book on “How To Get Rid Of Belly Fat”. Well, you could, but you won’t get that many conversions (or if any at all), because the offer is not targeted to your blog’s audience. Now if you find for example an offer for “Pet Insurance” or a book on “How To Train Your Dog” you will, of course, get better results.
But what if you don’t have a well-established blog or website that receives a good amount of traffic?
You will have to risk it and buy advertising for a product/service that is not even yours and hope for the best that you at least break even.
Here’s the messed up part, as an affiliate marketer you won’t even be able to pay and promote your affiliate links on the big advertising platforms out there such as Google Adwords, Bing Ads, Facebook Ads..etc. First of all, they all pretty much dislike affiliate marketers (because many tried to game the system, using fake coupons to get free clicks, or promoting crap products such as: How to make $1,000,000 in 1 month, etc).
Even if you are able to promote affiliate products on these platforms (it is actually possible, I am doing it for a few years now), you have to create impeccable ads, and send people to a great landing page, that landing page should be part of an authority website (meaning a website that has a large amount of good content about the category you’re product is in) and to also promote a good offer that is allowed to be promoted on these traffic networks.
So yes, in theory, it is possible to promote an affiliate product on Google Adwords or Bing Ads, but it is very hard and you’ll have to know what you’re doing and read their terms very carefully. Yes, Bing Ads is more lenient and you can promote affiliate offers more easily than with Adwords, but even they are starting to act up more like Google, for example, last I heard they planned on not approving that many ads promoting payday loan offers.
I didn’t even talk about the cost of running ads on Adwords or Bing Ads, with average clicks going for around $0.3-$1 on most niches, and how little room for error you have, it’s best to stay away from these traffic sources, especially if you are a beginner. You can easily burn through $500 without seeing any sales or leads. Been there, done that.
So to cut down on advertising costs (again if you don’t already have an established website), especially if you’re trying to do affiliate marketing on a budget, you will have to find second tier traffic sources from where you can buy traffic at a cheaper rate and where they don’t really care that you do affiliate marketing.
There are many traffic sources like this out there, (RevContent, PopAds, Content.ad, etc…) with clicks as low as $0.01 (or even $0.0014, if you’re doing PPV), but the traffic quality is somewhat poor, and you will have to spend some money and optimize your campaigns before seeing a profit.
Check out my latest article: Cheap Website Traffic where I showcase 7 awesome sources to get affordable traffic to your website and affiliate campaigns
But Stephen, I don’t have an established website and I don’t have money for paid advertising…what do I do?
Well, let’s see the 3rd, reason why an affiliate marketer will most of the times fail:
3. Creating Your Own Website
The first big hurdle of many new affiliates is creating their own website, most of them are struggling to even register a domain name, let alone buy hosting, point the domain name to the right Nameservers, installing WordPress (or any other CMS), etc… They can spend days or even weeks on this, reading and watching tutorials on the internet on how to do this right.
But before you start making a website you should have in mind a niche first, now this is actually a bit more complicated, and I will write a new guide just for this, but for now, you can go to some product marketplaces like Clickbank or Amazon and see what’s hot and what is trending and get an idea of what other affiliates are promoting, after that you can go to SemRush and search for good keywords that receive decent amount of search engine traffic and are not that competitive in that niche, in order to find out what type of articles and content to put on your blog that you will create.
Note: The Niche Research guide is coming along, and I will update this article with a link to it once I finish writing it, this was just a short example.
With the niche research now done, you can go ahead and create your own website now.
Creating your own website shouldn’t take you that much, especially with today’s tools and technology, in fact, you can start a blog in less than 15 minutes.
All you have to do in order to get your website up and ready is get a domain name and purchase a hosting service. You can do both of those things at the same time if you use a hosting company such as Bluehost that offers a free domain name registration for any web hosting plan you get with them. Their plans can start at $2.75 per month, so it’s very affordable to host a website these days.
Or if you want to keep your domain name separate from your hosting provider, you can register a domain name through a website like Namecheap and then just host your website with any web hosting service that you would like, such as SiteGround or Bluehost.
Ok, with niche research done, you can go ahead and create a website. You now have an awesome looking website, and it just so happens that you found the perfect product or service to promote as an affiliate. Congratulations, you’re rich now.
Hah, I wished it worked that way. Well, it kinda did, a few years back, you simply had to use a keyword as your domain name, for example, something like LoseBellyFat.com could easily rank in the first position of Google for that term.
Nah, what comes now is the hard part. See the next point.
4. Writing Good Content
With your brand new website now up, it’s time to start adding lots and lots of good quality content to it. Do you have a blog about gardening? Well go ahead and create at least 20-30 posts that are super useful to readers, that are at least 500-700 words (usually the more the better, 1500-2500 words is the sweet spot in my experience at least, other marketers will say more, others will say less) also create some interactive content such as videos, quizzes, polls etc to add to your blog.
Creating good content is no easy task, I mean unless you are truly passionate about the things you are talking about on your blog, then it becomes easier. Nevertheless, you should aim to post at least a quality article once a week.
This is another point where many affiliate marketers simply give up because they picked a niche they have no idea about and are now faced with the task of writing a bunch of articles on things they don’t understand or like. You can’t just start writing about human psychology without at least a degree. I mean you could, but what’s the point? You would either be wrong, and probably put other people at risk, or you would have to outsource it to someone who knows about this more than you do, and that will, of course, cost you.
So yeah, quality content is an affiliate marketer killer, it’s either too time-consuming or too complicated depending on the niche or the strengths of the affiliate, or it simply costs money to pay someone else to write it for them, and as a beginner, spending money in order to make money doesn’t make that much sense… I know, again I’ve been there 🙂
5. Finally, the big behemoth: GETTING QUALITY TRAFFIC
The site is up, the quality content is added, so where’s all that affiliate money, that someone on a forum promised I would have by now?
Oh right… you forgot about traffic, or well the “push-button traffic” method that was explained in that $27 ebook didn’t work 🙁
So let’s see what we have to deal with:
- Social media marketing
- Content marketing
- Viral marketing
- Video marketing
- Paid advertising (PPC, PPV, Native, Media Buying)
- Influencer marketing
- And some others that I probably forgot right now, after all, it’s 5:00 AM when I’m writing this post.
You probably heard about some of these things, or you have no idea what the hell I’m talking about. With so many ways to generate traffic, and with all of them so different from one another, there’s not really a surprise why a young affiliate marketer would fail.
Let’s take SEO (search engine optimization) for example, you see, many people say that Content Is King, meaning of course that if you have great content on your website, the traffic will come naturally. Yes, having great content certainly helps, but you will still have to promote the content in some way in order to kick-start the process and show Google that your awesome content is being read by people and because of that they should push you to the top of their rankings.
So you can’t just create a blog, write a few good articles and wait. That won’t work. Instead, you will have to “force” Google to love your site.
Ok, but how do you do that? In short:
Great Content + People Sharing Your Articles and Linking to Your Website = Google Will Love You.
There are many things to discuss on how to properly do SEO, and I won’t go into too much detail here, check out my articles about SEO for more info.
But you get the point, SEO is not something easy, and you can’t just rely on good content to get a boost up the rankings. You will have to get quality backlinks (other websites linking to your articles) in order to stand a chance in ranking high in Google.
So this is another reason why an affiliate marketer might fail to succeed.
You should spy on your competition and see what keywords they’re ranking for, and also see where they get their backlinks from. Again, I will have to recommend a tool like SemRush they have a free trial and you can unlock even more data if you plan to upgrade your account. (yes this is an affiliate link, if you don’t want to click on it, I’m fine with that, but this is a good example of how real affiliate marketing is done, you write good quality content that people can use, and then recommend some good services that you personally use or think they are good.)
Social Media Marketing is kinda the same but a bit easier, you need to post good content on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest etc.. content that is catchy, attract a huge following, and then promote your website. This of course while easier than doing SEO, is also time-consuming and can prove to be worthless (especially with Facebook’s example of cutting down on the number of people that can see your posts, unless you pay of course)
No time for SEO or Social Media Marketing?
Why not try and lose some of your hard-earned money by paying for traffic? Sure, that’s a great idea, so many self-proclaimed gurus will tell you that you just need to invest $100 and you will make $200 back easily.
In reality, tho, paying for traffic is not something easier than actually doing the work required for SEO for example. Yes you will have almost instant traffic to your website, yes it will be somewhat targeted (or not, depending on what ad network you’re using), yes it will be costly, and yes it will be painful when you burn through $100 without seeing anything in return.
What most of the affiliates don’t understand is that paying for traffic also requires you to constantly optimize your campaigns, you will have to properly track your ad campaigns and kill off keywords or ads that are not converting. You will also have to play with the Ad Titles, Ad Description, Different banners, A/B testing the Landing Page design and copywriting, etc…
Not to mention that you’re in a war with other marketers all battling for the same traffic, where the only goal is to get the clicks as cheap as possible and have a constant positive ROI all the time.
After getting burned a few times with paid traffic, losing $50 here, $100 there, etc.. it’s no wonder why some of the people will simply give up trying to be an affiliate marketer.
I remember that many, many years back, I had a period of 14 months, where all I did was waste thousands of dollars on like 10 different advertising networks, only to fail miserably.
Affiliate marketing can sometimes (most of the times) suck. You need to have the right kind of website to promote the right kind of offers or have good knowledge of paid advertising to promote a good offer (you will also have to test a lot of campaigns before you find a few winners, and that just means to waste more money).
Not all hope is lost. Affiliate marketing can still work for you and is, in fact, one of the best ways to make money online.
I know, you might be surprised by this, but contrary to everything I wrote above, if done right, affiliate marketing can provide you with long-term passive profits if you put in the work. What type of work?
How to make affiliate marketing work:
To keep it simple, as this post is getting a bit long now, here are the most important parts:
1. If you have no money to waste on paid advertising, but you have plenty of free time you need to:
- Do your niche research, and find a good affiliate product/service to promote
- Create a website
- Write quality content
- Do SEO, Social Media Marketing, Video Marketing, and pretty much any free marketing you can do (but remember quality is the keyword here… don’t just spam your links across thousands of websites, you will get penalized by Google and removed from their search results) use SemRush if you want better insight and more data on your competitors.
2. If you don’t really care about losing money on paid ads (at least $500 if you are serious about this):
- Research and find the best offers that you want to promote (try offervault, oDigger, cbengine to see popular offers)
- Sign up with some good quality traffic sources, for example depending on how legit your offer is you can even try Bing Ads, they have super high quality traffic, but it can be costly, they’re still cheaper than Google Adwords, and for now they are somewhat more lenient with affiliates, you still need a good website/landing page if you want to have no issues with them.
- Tracking is the name of the game. Without properly tracking your campaigns, all your money will be lost on nothing. Data is the key to achieving a positive ROI from paid advertising. You need to know exactly what are the ads, keywords, landing pages, etc that convert, and what are the ones that don’t. When you have that information you can then further optimize your campaign in order to make it profitable. Use a tracking software like ClickMagic and see what you’re spending your money on.
- Most of the times you won’t just pick 1 offer and hit the jackpot, you will have to test different offers and see which ones perform better. Also, keep in mind that some offers perform better on some advertising platforms while others don’t.
- Talk with your affiliate manager about the top converting offers to give you an idea what to promote, also ask them about their recommended traffic sources for those offers and what other affiliates are doing, most of them will help you out and give you some very good advice, after all, if you make money, they make money… so it’s only natural that they want to give you a helping hand.
I hope this article helps you out in your affiliate marketing quest. Please leave me a comment with your thoughts and feedback about this post.