Affiliate Marketing has a very high rate of failure. This is partially due to the low barrier to entry coupled with the get-rich-quick mentality of the people who throw their hat into the ring. Anyone can start a career in affiliate marketing. By the end of the day you can choose a niche, setup a domain/website, and join any number of the millions of available affiliate programs. This is what I did in the beginning. I created my first affiliate site for a hair loss product. The site had a single page with a crappy, under researched review for the product. I had affiliate links in the post and a massive ad in the sidebar. I let the site sit and waited for the money to roll in. When nothing happened I was honestly surprised. I mean HONESTLY surprised.
Wasn’t this how it worked? Put up a limp dick review online and just wait? Push the rope until it fits?
This moment in time destroys 80% of affiliate marketing careers. Most go back to a job or they waste time learning the next shiny MMO method like dropshipping or Amazon FBA. It’s not that these models can’t make money, but the same reason people fail in affiliate marketing is the same reason they’re going to fail at everything else.
I continued to pursue the craft. I went on to create 2 new sites. This time armed with knowledge of keyword research and content planning. Instead of just a single page, I would have many posts dedicated to the niche and build content around keywords. I dumped loads of time into the projects with limited results. I was making “niche sites.”
With site number one I made my first real commission. To this day I haven’t experienced the same rush. I sold a survival widget on Amazon and made about 0.76 cents. Never has a commission tasted so sweet. This validated the whole concept of the affiliate model and I continued to explore, learn, and try new strategies. Ultimately with site number one I realized I was in a niche with cheap products. I wouldn’t come close to making a livable wage unless I could pull in massive volume, something that wasn’t possible given the size of the market.
I learned my first big lesson:
1.) Don’t promote cheap shit to cheap people
Cheap stuff sells but you need high volume. For instance, say you sell a crappy plastic widget to a middle aged closet hoarder on social security for $12. Let’s also say Amazon graciously gives you 0.06%. Pat yourself on the back, you just made 0.72 cents. Be generous and assume they put other stuff in their cart. Because you chose a cheap market, they only buy other cheap things. On average you make $2.76 from a conversion. Given a $1000/m goal post and a 0.03% Amazon conversion rate, you’d need over 1.2 million monthly clicks to Amazon to break $1000/m. With a generous 0.20% CTR on your site, that’s a required 6,000,000 visitors a month.
Many affiliate sites rake in $1000/m on a fraction of the traffic because they’re promoting products (outside of Amazon) with higher payouts and they understand quality traffic.
2.) Don’t overlook in-house affiliate programs and other networks
New affiliate marketers jump straight on to Amazons dick like it’s the only action in town. Amazon offers laughable commissions and they’re only getting lower. I would not be surprised if they completely axe the program one day. When they do many affiliate marketers will realize they built their entire castle on a bed of sand. If a certain line of products catches your interest go straight to the manufacturers website and scroll to the footer. Often times they will have their own in house affiliate program and the payouts are higher. Affiliate networks like Shareasale and Commission Junction also offer opportunities to expand and diversify your business.
3.) You have no control
As an affiliate marketer you have zero control. You do not own the products. You do not control the products. Amazon can terminate your Associates account at any time for any reason. zero fucks given. They don’t care about you any more than Jeff Bezos cares about losing a million dollars in the seat cushions of his private jet. The CEO of the company you promote can get up on the wrong side of the bed one day and just say “fuck this” and torch the entire business. These companies are not loyal to you. It’s not uncommon for companies to use affiliates in the startup phase and then trash the program once they’ve acquired a healthy customer base (looking at you Ahrefs.) Too bad so sad.
3.) Google is your daddy and he must be killed
A famous psychologist once said for a boy to become a man he must psychologically kill his father. If you run an affiliate site, Google is your daddy. Google has the power to giveth traffic. Google has the power to taketh traffic.
Traffic is the LIFEBLOOD of any affiliate. Traffic is THE most important element of your affiliate business. Relying on Google for all your traffic is setting yourself up for inevitable misery. It’s a single point of failure. It’s not a matter of if Google will slap you, but when. Google is BiPolar and the algorithm is constantly changing. Google is not fair. There are countless high quality sites in the SERPs that lose out to inferior competition.
Sites making thousands of dollars today will be making next to nothing tomorrow.
Let that one sink in for a second. How can you leverage other traffic sources to make your business resistant to changing SERPs? Dr. Axe is a notable example of a site that lost millions overnight in the August 2018 Google Medic Update.
4.) Shoot Video
If you’re not leveraging video you are asleep at the wheel and drifting into the guard rails. YouTube is the second largest search engine. These days I won’t even consider starting up a new site unless I feel I can make videos in the niche. More people than ever are choosing to watch reviews and learn through video. You have no excuse. Either adapt or go the way of the dinosaurs. At the bare minimum do voice overs with stock footage content.
5.) Think “Community” NOT Anonymity
Personally I got into affiliate marketing because I liked the idea of anonymously making money online. The days of the anonymous affiliate site are over. If your goal is to build a long term affiliate business then it’s time to revisit old school face to face sales. If your affiliate sites consist of one-off visitors who never return it’s only a matter of time before your traffic plummets. Successful affiliates are building communities around hot niches and reaping the benefits of readers who frequently revisit for new content. Even in 2020 I’m finding success with old school forums. The more I can build communities on top of my own platforms the more control I have. Building communities means even if you get dropped by Google you’ll still have your customer base.
6.) Email List
The email list serves as a core pillar for any healthy affiliate site. Email lists take a long time to build but done right, they are a powerful way to generate instant cash flow and traffic. Once again, the email list protects you from sudden drops in organic search traffic. Nobody can take away your email list – at least not as easily as Google can take you out of the rankings. Email is a crucial component of your affiliate marketing business. Start learning basic elements of email marketing like building auto responder sequences and list segmentation.
7.) Become Relentless
Individuals who find success in this business are absolutely relentless. Failure is not an option. Affiliate marketing is not for dabblers. Business is not for dabblers. Go at this half hearted and the industry will spit you back to a 9 – 5 so fast you won’t know where to clock in. Keep chipping away. Affiliate marketing is an ice sculpture. It will be years before your business starts taking shape. Don’t forget about the classic tortoise and hare story. Slow and steady wins it all. Only in affiliate marketing do I see the truth and genius in that parable.