Affiliate marketing is one of the most liberating and lucrative careers available to the solo entrepreneur. With affiliate marketing, you don’t need to own a product, handle customer support, worry about fulfillment or do anything except generate traffic. You just pocket a commission every time you make a sale.
Affiliates can span a wide spectrum. On one end, you have people making just a couple hundred dollars a month, doing a bit of work in their spare time. On the other end, you have affiliates making hundreds of thousands of dollars per month. Some of these affiliates are under 18.
Affiliate marketing is a career that can grow very quickly. You can go from making nothing today to making five figures a month in as little as six months. Unfortunately, the vast majority of the people who get into affiliate marketing never make it to the upper tiers. It’s not because they weren’t smart or because they weren’t willing to put in the effort. It was primarily because they made one of these ten mistakes.
These are the top 10 mistakes affiliates make. These can kill a campaign before it even gets started, or turn a budding affiliate marketing career into ash. Here are the 10 mistakes to avoid.
Mistake #1: Expecting Success Too Quickly
You’ve seen the headlines:
“How a 16 Year Old Kid Made $16,000 in Under 48 Hours”
“In Just 3 Days, I Made $48,000 – Most Of It In My Sleep!”
“A Push-Button System So Easy, Anyone Who Speaks
English Could Make $200 a Day, Immediately!”
The list goes on and on. This kind of marketing promotes the kind of short attention span, “make money now” mindset that sets so many affiliates up for failure.
The truth is that affiliate marketing takes time. You need to learn your traffic sources. You need to test offers. You need to find what works and what doesn’t. You usually need to fail 5 to 10 times before finding one profitable campaign.
Success in affiliate marketing doesn’t come in hours or days. It comes in weeks and months. If you’re expecting to succeed by the end of the week, chances are you’ll be disappointed. If you’re going to get into this industry, get in it for the long haul. It’s rewarding, but it’s not a quick fix.
Mistake #2: Not Tracking Traffic Sources
If you’re not tracking down to the keyword level, or an equivalent level of detail in whatever traffic source you’re using, you’re losing money.
In PPC, the difference between bidding broad match for the keyword “dating tips” and bidding exact match for the same phrase is use. The keyword that might actually convert might be “dating tips for men.” They just happen to get in there through the phrase match. If you’re not tracking exactly what converted for you, you’re going to lose money on all your exact match bids.
The same applies to Facebook PPC. You might be getting a lot of conversions, but you don’t know exactly where they’re coming from. With proper measurement, you might find that the majority of your conversions actually come from women between 30 and 33, even though you’re targeting between 25 and 35. You can greatly increase your ROI by narrowing your age range.
The list goes on and on. For each and every traffic source, you want to be tracking your conversion back to the source in as much detail as possible.
Mistake #3: Not Testing a Wide Range of Traffic Sources
If you’ve managed to make SEO work for you, that’s fantastic. But that’s not a reason not to test AdWords, media buying, Facebook PPC, mobile traffic or other kinds of traffic.
As a rule of thumb, what you want to do is test as many traffic sources as possible. Figure out which one(s) work for you, then focus on it and scale it out. Grow it as large as you can, then go back to testing traffic sources. Again, find something that works, then scale it out. Rinse and repeat.
If you get stuck using only one traffic source, you severely limit the amount of traffic and revenues you can bring in.
Mistake #4: Thinking There’s Truly Free Traffic
There’s no such thing as free traffic. There’s only trading time for traffic. In affiliate marketing, you can either invest your time or invest your money. You can’t build a successful affiliate marketing business if you’re unwilling to invest either.
Many beginning affiliates think that investing time into SEO affiliate marketing is the answer. This can be a good way to get started, but it’s important to realize just what you’re valuing your time at. If you’re building your own links, writing your own content, doing your own SEO, you’re often getting as little as $3 or less per hour for your time.
Conversely, if you’re willing to invest a bit of money, your business can grow a whole lot faster. Growing paid traffic is much faster than growing SEO or organic traffic. An SEO website might take 6 months to get up to 10,000 visitors a month. A paid traffic site could hit that in a week, profitably, if your sales and split testing skills are strong.
If you don’t have money, use free traffic to get you started. If you do however, don’t be afraid to invest. Start small, test things out and then expand your investment once it shows progress.
Mistake #5: Promoting the Wrong Offer
Many beginning affiliates simply pick an offer out of thin air and start promoting it. Unfortunately, when you do this there’s a very good chance that you’ll end up picking the wrong offer. In this context, “wrong” means not earning the most you can per visitor.
In every major market, there’s going to be a whole bunch of offers you can promote. For example, if you wanted to sell a weight loss eBook, you have Fat Loss 4 Idiots, Fat Burning Furnace, Truth About Abs, etc – All of them trending very highly on Clickbank.
If you’re promoting a dating CPA offer, you can promote for Match.com, eHarmony, SinglesNet or any other well branded offer.
The list goes on and on and on. For every offer, there are at least three comparable offers you could promote. The key is to test out all of the comparable ones to figure out which has the highest eCPM (earnings per thousand visitors.)
Don’t just pick one offer. Test every offer. You’d be shocked at how big a difference it could make. Two offers that seem completely identical on the surface can convert at dramatically different rates. Test your offers, don’t pick your offers.
Mistake #6: Not Day Parting
Conversion rates can vary a lot throughout the day. For example, for a dating offer, it might convert best later in the evening when people are at home feeling lonely. On the other hand, a “work from home” offer might convert best early in the day, when people get in the work and feel disgruntled again. Some offers might convert better on weekends than weekdays.
On many offers, you’ll find that certain times of days don’t convert at all. You’ll still get clicks, but the people clicking just won’t buy anything.
Day parting allows you to separate out all the non-buying times from the buying times. This allows you to stop spending money on times of days that don’t work and only focus on the times that do. Don’t ignore day parting – It can increase your ROI by as much as 30%, which could be the difference between profitability and loss.
Mistake #7: Not Split Testing Enough
First, deciding just to do landing pages or just to do direct linking is a mistake. You should absolutely test both direct linking and landing pages.
If you find that landing pages do well, then you should absolutely split test a variety of landing pages. Even if one is working well doesn’t mean you shouldn’t split test another one to see if it could do better.
Even if you’re running SEO traffic, you should still split test. Let’s say you run a successful website and place an affiliate product banner somewhere on your site. You should still test linking directly to the offer, as well as linking to a review page you wrote.
Test, test, test and test. It makes a big difference.
Mistake #8: Not Networking With Affiliates in Person
If you look at all of the world’s most successful affiliates – Say, anyone making $100,000 or more a month – You’ll find they all have one thing in common: They spend time in person with other affiliates.
Conversely, struggling affiliates or affiliates making very little money tend to be people who’re working alone in their bedroom with very little contact with other affiliates. This is not a coincidence.
The only place you can really learn cutting edge traffic tactics is through networking with other affiliate marketers. You can go to events like Affiliate Summit and many others. Successful affiliate marketers aren’t going to put what they know into a $40 eBook. To really get the inside scoop on how other affiliates make their money, you need to actually meet them in person and become friends with them.
Yes, it costs money to go to conferences. Flights, hotels and registration fees do add up. But the networking opportunities and the lessons you’ll learn will make it all worth it.
Mistake #9: Not Developing a Relationship With Your Affiliate Manager
Your affiliate manager can be one of your most powerful tools. Most affiliate networks will assign an affiliate manager to your account. Your affiliate manager’s job is to help you maximize your income. If you’re working with small private companies, the company’s marketing director or even the company founder might be the affiliate manager.
You want an ally on the inside. How can an affiliate manager help you out?
- They could tell you what’s working for other affiliates. For example, if other affiliates are killing it on Bing PPC while everyone’s struggling with AdWords, that’s something you want to know.
- They can put you on non-rotating landing pages. If you’re sending traffic to a page, you want to make sure it’s not a page they’re split testing.
- They can put conversion cookies on thank you pages. This allows you to use any kind of tracking software you want.
- They can give you access to creatives. You can use their banner ads, their videos and other marketing materials instead of using your own.
- They can give you free product samples. If they’re going to launch a new initiative, having samples can really help you promote.
The list goes on and on. Having an ally on the inside can make a big difference. Befriend your AM. Call them or message them on instant messenger and build a relationship.
Mistake #10: Not Trying an Email List
Affiliates are much more likely to treat their visitors with a “hit and run” mentality than product owners and vendors. Affiliates tend to want to just rank pages and put up links, or just buy traffic and send them to the vendor. Very few affiliates take the time to build a list.
However, when you do take the time to build a list, you greatly maximize your earnings per visitor. You not only sell one product to the visitor, but can sell many, many products over the long haul.
This allows you to spend a lot more money per click to acquire new customers. You’re not just getting a commission on one product, but many commissions on many products.
When you’re building a list like this, do it around one specific industry or niche. Don’t do it around a specific product. You can have a primary product that you promote, but the list should be broad enough that you can promote a range of products.
This tactic works just as well for SEO as it does for PPC and other forms of traffic.
These are ten of the most common and most deadly affiliate marketing mistakes. Affiliate marketing, when done right, can be an incredibly lucrative and rewarding career. Just make sure you avoid these mistakes as you build your business.