Affiliate marketing can be difficult if you’ve never done any marketing in your life, haven’t built a website before, and are following every guru you can get behind that tells you what you want to hear -- instead of what you need to actually be doing to succeed.
Building a successful affiliate marketing business doesn’t necessarily have to feel like you’re pushing a boulder up a hill.
Most successful marketers have gotten there by simply taking action.
Taking action alone, though, when you’re new to the industry can have you spinning your wheels.
Instead of telling you what you should be doing (because that’s already been published all over the internet), I’m going to tell you 20 different things you need to avoid doing.
As long as you follow these tips and not make the same mistakes yourself, you can dramatically reduce the time it takes you to start making a healthy income from your affiliate marketing business.
Warning! This post is STUFFED with memes :).
The biggest mistake you could make as an affiliate marketer is refusing to build your email list.
For one reason or another, numerous marketers have forgone building their email list, thinking that their business is always going to be able to sustain itself.
This usually happens when people are relying on search engine traffic, and living in the belief that the search engines are always going to favor their website.
Unfortunately, as proven multiple times in the past, search engine traffic is rarely reliable.
Major search engines, especially Google, constantly upgrade their algorithms, and people who thought they were building bulletproof businesses find themselves getting caught up in the updates, losing their traffic overnight.
If they had been focusing on building an email list, it wouldn’t matter that their search engine traffic had been nuked. Sure, it would hurt, but they would still have a list of people ready to send back to their website every time they send out an email.
Building an email list also allows you to profit more per visitor than you would be able to without it.
If you’ve never heard of sales funnels before, you owe it to yourself to finish reading this post and then dig through our site to find all of the other information we’ve created on building a proper sales funnel.
When you’re collecting emails, you can send your subscribers down a trail that helps them solve even more problems they’re having, allowing you to make even more money. This isn’t possible if you’re neglecting your business and refusing to build your email list.
Search engines may provide the Holy Grail of traffic, because the visitors are highly targeted to the content you’ve published, and tend to be ready to buy when they land on your site, but relying solely on search engines to build your business is a huge mistake, and one that many affiliate marketers have found themselves making.
I’ve already touched on why it’s so bad to rely on search engines alone, but so many marketers do it, so I felt like it needed to be brought up more than once.
If you want to build a long term affiliate marketing business (or any other business, really), the last thing you want to do is rely solely on search engine traffic.
There are multiple different ways you can generate targeted traffic to your website. Guest posting, for instance, is a great strategy for tapping into other people’s audiences and driving their visitors to your website.
Social media is another great avenue for tapping into massive hordes of traffic.
Though it may not be as targeted as search engine traffic, and getting people from social media networks to purchase the products and services you’re offering can be more difficult, it’s not impossible.
At the end of the day, your business lives and dies by the traffic that you’re sending to your website.
Your ultimate goal should be to tap into as many different sources of traffic as possible.
Relying solely on search engines make seem like a great idea, doing it means you’re being very short sighted in your business, and could be setting yourself up for disaster down the road.
This one is easy to understand, especially when you’re trying to build an affiliate marketing business and feel like you don’t have the necessary technical skills, are buying into gurus saying that you need to do this, and do that, and then bog yourself down with massive amounts of work, rather than building your business one step at a time.
Maintaining confidence and enthusiasm about your affiliate marketing business is critical to becoming successful.
No results happen overnight, so if you want to stick around for the long haul, you’re going to have to tie your confidence to something else.
I personally prefer to tie my confidence and enthusiasm to getting things done that I know are going to lead me to my final goal -- making money from my website. Rather than tie my confidence to the actual money I’ve generated, tying it to getting things done is a lot better for my sanity.
I’ve been around the industry long enough to know what needs to be done, and how to pivot when I’m not seeing the levels of success that I’m expecting, but most newbies aren’t going to have the same foresight.
If you break down your business into different chunks, like your blog posts, your email list, your autoresponder, your search engine optimization, and your social media strategies, for instance, you’ll be able to tackle one at a time, knowing that you’re doing what needs to be done, without getting bogged down in the big picture or the small details that can seem overwhelming.
There are no get rich quick schemes.
If anyone tries to tell you that affiliate marketing is a way for you to get rich overnight, run for the hills. They’re feeding you a line, and probably trying to get you to buy a course from them that teaches you how to do it.
Affiliate marketing is no different than any other business.
Building something successful requires a lot of time, energy and, more importantly, patience. Sure, you may have small wins here, and there, that you didn’t see coming, but that is a part of the process.
All of those small, unexpected wins can add up to make you a lot of money, but they’re not going to happen overnight. When you see these small wins happening, you can usually attribute them to something you had done weeks, or even months before.
Affiliate marketing is an amazing business model, especially for beginners, because it’s easy to test and figure out what’s going on without having to devote massive amounts of your money to the business, or getting hammered and destroying your business by making a small mistake somewhere down the line.
While you can make a lot of money with affiliate marketing -- and many people do -- in no way, shape, or form is it a way for you to get rich quick.
I firmly believe that if you go into building your business, expecting not to earn a dime from it for the first year, you’ll be pleasantly surprised, instead of always setting yourself up to get discouraged.
The only way you’re going to make money in your business is to actually sell something and promote products and services on your website.
If it’s all you’re doing, though, you’re not going to make nearly as much money as you could be making.
If you really want to make a lot of money, and actually keep your business running for years, you’re going to have to adjust how you’re publishing content, and change your mindset from making money to actually helping people.
Helping people does two different things for your business.
When people recognize that they have problems that can be solved, and you’re helping them solve those problems, you’re able to promote products and services that are the solutions, rather than having to use persuasion and manipulation to get your visitors to buy something.
In the end, people are going to be more loyal to you if you’re helping them solve problems.
If they get a whiff of you using manipulation and persuasion tactics to get them to buy something that they may not actually need, they probably aren’t going to trust you very much.
When you lose your visitor’s trust, you can safely assume that any money you made from them was luck, and that they aren’t going to be coming back to your website any time soon. From there, your business will end up dying a slow, painful death.
Instead of trying to sell every chance you get, spend more time trying to figure out problems that your visitors are having, and provide them with solutions to those problems, whether free or paid.
They’ll thank you for it, and your business will make more money because of your generosity.
Affiliate programs are a dime a dozen, and it seems like beginner marketers want to join as many as possible.
This doesn’t really present any problems, because having more options is a good thing -- until it comes time to finally getting paid.
That’s where the problems start.
Since opening an affiliate marketing program is so easy, many business owners are doing it. Not all of them are organized, though, and accurately tracking the sales you’re making isn’t necessarily their top priority. In fact, they’re happy to let sales “slip through the cracks”. They make more money that way.
While not all of the affiliate marketing partners you’ll join up with necessarily have malicious thoughts in mind, and allowing sales to slip through the cracks really is a problem with their technology, and not necessarily their morals, it doesn’t change the fact that you could be making more money than you’re actually earning.
There are quite a few programs you can join that do have malicious intent, though, and actually make it a part of their business model to “scrub” the sales that you’re making. If you don’t know what you’re doing, this problem can persist, and you could be losing out on thousands of dollars.
When you’re just getting started, only join affiliate programs that are known for delivering on the sales that you’re making, and then implement the proper tracking so you can accurately verify when sales have been made, and then claim the commissions that you’re owed at the end of every month.
“Keep it simple silly” is an adage that works with nearly every business model, especially online business models like affiliate marketing.
To keep it simple, in this example, means to promote fewer products and services so you can actually make more money.
While it may seem counterintuitive, promoting less means that you’re able to promote more often and dig deeper into the problems that the specific product or service you’re promoting solves for your visitors.
When you’re promoting too many products or services, it’s going to show that you’re focused more on making money than you are on solving people’s problems. It’s also going to force you to promote more often, and leave your visitors confused about which products or services are actually worth their money.
When that happens, they’re going to end up leaving your website confused, instead of confident about what you’re recommending to them.
A lack of confidence in your visitors means your income is going to suffer as a result.
Instead of hammering your visitors with every promotion you can find, focus on one or two that truly solve their problems, and are actually worth the money you’re asking them to spend.
This is going to do a lot more for you and be easier to track than trying to join every program that will accept you.
This ties back in with your reputation and credibility, and promoting low quality products is going to cost you more money in the long run than you’ll make by promoting the products in the first place.
Think about it like this.
Let’s assume you have a problem and make your way into an affiliate’s website, take their recommendation, and buy the product that they’re promoting. Then, it arrives to your front door and you crack it open, trying to solve the problem you’re having.
Except, when you get it open, you start using the product and it breaks after a few short minutes.
What do you think is going to happen?
Chances are, you’re going to be upset with the affiliate that recommended it to you, promising that it was the greatest invention since sliced bread.
You’re also probably not going to be going back to their website to take any more of their recommendations. You’re going to assume they only recommended the product to take money, and you’re liable to run to the internet to leave negative reviews.
Sounds like a pretty bad experience, right?
One thing is certain, the affiliate that promoted the product to you, promising that it was high quality, is never going to make another sale from you.
They’ve officially lost your business.
If you’re like so many other customers, you’re going to go out of your way to make sure other people understand how shady the affiliate was, and keep them from making any purchases, too. So not only did they lose your business, they lost business from other people, too.
This happens all the time, unfortunately. It’s also one of the biggest problems with affiliate marketing -- affiliates prefer to make a quick buck, rather than put in the work required to promote high-quality products and services.
Don’t make this mistake.
Just because you shouldn’t rely solely on search engine traffic to build your business doesn’t mean that you should ignore it, either.
When you’re ready to publish a new piece of content, not spending the extra little bit of time required to do proper keyword research means that you’re making an active decision to cost yourself money.
Finding a few keywords that your new blog post could rank for doesn’t really take a lot of time, and sets you up to pull in search engine traffic that is highly targeted to what you’ve written -- and the products that you’re promoting inside of the post.
If you don’t do it, you’re pretty much guaranteeing that you’re not going to rank for the keywords you want to rank for, and are going to be required to generate traffic to the post using other traffic channels that may not be nearly as profitable as search engine traffic.
Try this the next time you’ve written a blog post and go to publish it on your website: head over to Google’s Keyword Planner, enter in a few keywords you think your visitors would type into the search engines to find your content, and then work those keywords into the post before you publish it.
The process takes 20-30 minutes, tops, and is highly profitable in the long run.
Chances are high that you’ll end up ranking for keywords you never intended to, and uncover new ways to bring even more traffic into your website.
If you really want to make money, especially big money, you’re going to have to put in the time to set yourself apart from your competition.
Writing low quality reviews, or even outsourcing them for pennies a word, isn’t the way to get high quality content that your visitors are going to love and trust.
Outsourcing your content for as cheaply as you can get it may seem enticing at first, but when you realize that you’re going to have to spend twice as much to fix the mistake when the content isn’t actually generating sales, you’re going to get pretty discouraged.
Turning out dozens of articles every single day is part of the “hustle”, but doesn’t pay off in the long run.
Even if you’re able to write all of the content yourself, you’re going to be able to make more money from a single, high quality piece of content than you can from dozens of pieces of content that only lightly skim the topic.
Covering the problems that your visitors are having using in-depth content is a great way to earn their trust, and show them that you truly understand what is happening in their lives.
When they connect with you on that level, getting them to take your recommendations requires almost zero effort.
So, sure, it may take 12 hours to create one piece of high quality content, where during those same 12 hours you could turn out 12 different pieces of low quality content, but the one single blog post that covers the topic in-depth is always going to produce more income for you, and won’t require you to do the work twice when you realize the lower quality pieces of content aren’t producing the income you expected.
When I touched on the fact that there are unscrupulous affiliate marketing networks in the industry, I also touched on how important tracking your clicks and conversions are. Not only will it keep you safe from shady companies scrubbing your sales, but it will also make it easier for you to figure out what’s going on in your own business.
A lot of affiliate marketers (too many, actually) do not track what is happening on their website, and make changes based on their emotions and feelings rather than what the data is actually telling them to do.
Implementing basic tracking isn’t difficult, especially if your website is built on WordPress.
Installing the “Pretty Links” plugin is one of the easiest ways to see what links people are clicking on, and allows you to verify that the clicks you’re sending to the affiliate network are being properly tracked.
Then, when you’re ready to make changes to increase your conversion rates, you can split test and have data to back up the decisions you make. This is critical, since most people make changes and have very little in the way of data to tell them if those changes were effective, and how effective they actually were.
As your business begins to grow, you can use more expensive methods to track what you’re doing, what your visitors are clicking on, and which links (or website copy) is generating the most sales for you. Then, devoting more effort to the winning changes you’ve made will increase your income even further.
Without tracking what’s happening on your site, you’re hoping and praying that you’ll become successful, instead of actually knowing that you’re doing the right things.
If you’ve been around the industry for any length of time, you’ve already heard the term “shiny object syndrome”.
However, if you’re unfamiliar with it, it means to end up chasing different strategies instead of focusing on the one in front of you.
Shiny objects refer to things like switching up your traffic strategy every week, constantly tweaking your website’s design, bouncing from guru to guru consuming as much content as you can without really putting in the effort to grow your business -- all of these are terrible mistakes, and are holding you back from making the type of money you should be making.
There is an acronym for the word “focus” -- Follow. One. Course. Until. Successful.
Whether that is an actual training course that you’re using to help you grow your business, or if it’s a single strategy that you’re trying to implement, you want to make sure that you’re doing it -- and only it -- until it is successful.
This single minded focus is what most successful marketers can attribute the growth of their business to. Definitely not chasing one “shiny” object after the next.
If you find yourself bouncing from website to website, trying to learn as much as you can, or purchasing multiple different courses, thinking that the next one you buy is going to be the cause of your success, I want you to do something -- just stop.
Stop bouncing from course to course, and strategy to strategy.
Find one plan for your business, and execute it to the best of your abilities.
At some point in time, you’re going to have to let go of the gurus and cut your own path through life.
While you don’t necessarily have to reinvent the wheel, and learning more about what you’re doing is generally considered a good thing, spending years learning how to build your business isn’t nearly as important as spending a single year actually building your business.
Sometimes, you’re going to make mistakes, and other times you’re going to have small wins that add up to a big income for you. Those things aren’t going to happen if you’re constantly reading, trying to figure out what the big name gurus are doing and teaching, or trying to learn from other people all of the time.
Most times, people that are following the latest gurus are taking what they say word for word, which means they may be fighting a losing battle. There’s no telling that what the guru is giving them is actually relevant to their business.
However, if you’re cutting your own path and building your business on your terms, you’re going to instantly stand out from the pack.
Getting yourself noticed will be easy, because you’re not going to be doing the same thing that a thousand other marketers are doing.
In the end, you’ll feel a lot better about your successes because you actually earned them, instead of doing what you were told by somebody that doesn’t actually have a clue about the business you’re trying to build.
Spend time learning the basics, like how to build your website, how to use different social networks to get traffic, how to optimize your content for the search engines, and how to pay for traffic.
Everything else will come when you start implementing and following your own path.
If you have a large budget, a lot of confidence, some technical skills, and believe you can take on the big competitors in the industry you’ve chosen, there’s nothing wrong with casting a large net and attempting to make money in a broad topic.
However, for most people reading this, competing on a general topic is going to be fairly hard to do, and is actually going to hinder your progress, making it a lot harder for you to build a successful business.
Instead of trying to compete with major players that have built their websites, it’s a lot better for you -- as a beginner with a smaller budget and less experience -- to focus on a tighter niche inside of the larger industry.
As time goes on, your website grows in age, your traffic numbers increase, and you start making more money to support a larger content and marketing budget, you’ll be able to branch out from your niche and start taking on the larger industry.
Until you get to that point, though, you’re likely to increase your level of frustration and the chances that you bow out and quit trying to build your business because focusing on such a large industry can get overwhelming, very quickly.
When you spend time focusing on a tighter niche, you’re also giving yourself more chances to figure out the intimate problems that your visitors are having, and deliver the best solutions to those problems.
Solving your visitors problems means more money in your pocket.
Very rarely are you going to be able to sell to someone on their first visit to your website.
The sales process simply doesn’t work like that.
If it did, there would be more millionaires in the world, and less people getting hung up on the process of building a successful business.
Copywriting, if you’re unfamiliar with the term, is the content you’re creating that is designed to sell something. Whether you’re selling your products and services, an affiliate product, or selling people on the reason they need to sign up to your email list, your content does all of the heavy lifting for you.
Learning how to write proper copy can take years, though.
The first step in increasing your sales is improving your copy, so it’s best to start learning how to write persuasive content early on in your business.
The best way to write compelling copy is to get inside of your visitor’s head, figure out the problems that they’re having, and then get the same conversation into your content, while showcasing that the product or service you’re promoting is the solution to those problems.
When you’re able to get your visitor excited about solving a problem they’re having, making sales is going to be substantially easier than simply writing content in an effort to sell a product.
While they may sound similar, selling a product and solving a problem are two completely different scenarios.
Most people will write their reviews based around the features of the product they’re promoting. A good copywriter will create content based around the benefits that the visitor will receive by making the purchase -- and those benefits usually entail solving a very specific problem that’s been identified with proper research.
While a full copywriting education is far too much to put together in a single blog post, the general rule is that you should spend more time researching the problems that your prospects are having before than you spend actually writing the content.
The better you’re able to understand your visitors, the more sales and money you’re going to make. Then, as you get more advanced, you can build an entire sales funnel and consistently tweak the copy to increase the amount of conversions you’re making.
If there’s one thing that is going to determine your level of success when it comes to affiliate marketing, it would be the amount of content that you’re putting out on a regular basis.
In general, more content means more opportunities to make money.
Creating content on a regular basis has a couple different benefits.
First, and most obviously, you’ll have more content to drive traffic to. Second, and arguably equally as important, you’re going to get better at writing, figuring out what works, and learn what doesn’t work.
Content is the foundation of every affiliate marketing business. If you intend to drive traffic to your website, and compete with the big players in your niche or industry, you’re going to need to be creating it on a regular basis. A lot of marketers make the mistake of not creating enough content, then wondering why they’re not able to drive enough traffic to their website.
You have to find the balance, though.
Spending all of your time creating content may seem like something good to do, but you need to spend equal amounts of time actually promoting it around the internet, so your target market can see what you’re doing, visit your site, and give you the chance to make sales.
Then, as time goes on, you’ll figure out which types of content perform better than others, which pieces on your website are taking off and generating their own traffic, and which types of content could easily be improved to work better in both areas.
Unfortunately, a lot of marketers don’t understand the power of creating a ton of content, and writing on a regular basis, so they fail to see the levels of success that they should be seeing, if they would only adopt a regular writing schedule.
Paid traffic and advertising is expensive.
There’s no getting around that fact. However, if you approach paying for traffic in the right ways, you may never actually have to spend a dime on it, and you’ll still be turning huge profit margins each month. Here’s what I mean.
If you learn the art of copywriting, have products that you’re promoting that actually solve people’s problems, are able to get people to identify those problems and actually purchase what you’re promoting, you’ll have a working budget that allows you to pay for traffic.
Then, when you’re collecting email addresses, you can build a “sales funnel” that will allow you to follow up the initial sale with even more sales from the same people, making you even more money.
At that point, you can begin measuring the amount of money that it costs you to purchase 1 email address -- or how much you have to spend in advertising to get 1 person to sign up to be a subscriber to your email list.
When you figure out that number, you can compare it to the amount of money you’re making from each subscriber that you have on your list, on a monthly basis. As long as the amount you’re making exceeds the amount you’re paying for x# of subscribers, your paid advertising campaigns are essentially free.
Something else to think about is the fact that when you’re making money from your email subscribers during the first month, you’re like to make even more from them in the second, third, fourth months, and so on.
Because they’re already a subscriber on your list, you’ve already paid for the advertising it took to get them to subscribe. As you make increased sales from the same list of people, you aren’t going to be spending more on advertising, since they’re already on your list.
So, while paid traffic may be expensive, there are ways to make sure you’re turning a profit, and are able to spend more and more on advertising each month, while still turning a profit and putting money in your pocket each month.
I’ve touched on building “sales funnels”, which, if you’re unfamiliar, means to funnel people from the front of your website, to specific posts that promote a product or service, or sending them onto your email list so you can follow up with them later.
Building a sales funnel means that each page or piece of content on your website has one goal and one purpose.
The worst thing you can do for your business is to load each page down with multiple different ads, or not have a clearly defined goal.
Most people that are guilty of loading their website down with ads, and links to affiliate products, believe that they are giving themselves more opportunities to make money. While this may be true, the end result usually isn’t going to be what they had hoped for.
Instead of actually making sales on a regular basis, having a website loaded down with ads and links to multiple different products or services is going to confuse the reader instead of grabbing their attention and telling them what to do next.
Rather than building your website in a way that confuses your readers, you should be focusing on what each page’s goal is, and how it’s going to lead to the end result. In most cases, that end result is going to be getting the reader to subscribe to your email list, or make a sale on a product that you’re promoting.
This is a hard habit to break, but the sooner you realize how easy it is to “funnel” people through your website, the sooner you’re going to make more money and have an easier time building your business.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and a successful affiliate marketing business won’t be, either.
Many of the most successful people, gurus, and coaches you see teaching you the latest and greatest techniques have been at it for years.
If there is someone you’re following that seems to have come out of nowhere, you can safely bet that they have actually been at it for a couple years, and it took them that long to reach the mass population.
Being impatient and expecting results to instantly come to you is a recipe for disaster. I’ve personally seen more people quit building their business because they were told that something was going to happen in their first month, or even their first 6 months.
I’ve already said it, but I’ll say it again because it’s simply that important -- if you go into building your affiliate marketing business not expecting something to happen for at least the first 12 months, you’re going to be pleasantly surprised.
Then, instead of getting frustrated at the lack of results, you’re going to become elated when results -- and income -- happens while you weren’t expecting it to.
These are two completely different mindsets, but I can say that the people that have been around for years all started their business with a curiosity about what was actually possible, instead of tying their enthusiasm to how quickly they could start making money.
We’ve all made mistakes.
In fact, people who make more money than others are making more because they’ve actually made more of these same mistakes than other people.
When you’re building a business, you have to actually embrace failure as a part of the process, and just keep pushing forward until you hit your goals.
Hopefully, after reading these 19 mistakes that I personally have made at times, and that I know other successful marketers have made, your path to success will be a lot shorter than what most of us have had to go through.
Building a successful affiliate marketing business can be one of the most challenging things you’ll ever do in your life, but it’s also one of the most rewarding. Being able to turn a basic website into a full time income is a great skill to have, and one that you’ll have for the rest of your life.
Be patient with yourself, be patient with your results, and just keep pushing forward, and you’ll end up more successful than you could have ever imagined possible when you first got started.
Andrew is an entrepreneur, digital marketer, wine enthusiast, hustler (in a good way) & the guy behind BrandBuilders.io. His business helps both FBA sellers and Amazon Affiliate marketers build out their brands and manage their portfolio of sites.