Here’s the brutal truth: only a fraction of affiliate marketers earn more than $1,000 per month. Many try for years and don’t make much money due to a handful of rookie affiliate marketing mistakes they could easily avoid.
If you want to be among that minority of successful affiliate marketers, then you must know about those affiliate marketing mistakes. More importantly, you must avoid them at all costs. This could mean the difference between making a healthy affiliate income or struggling to make a few dollars like the majority. Let’s talk about the biggest affiliate marketing mistakes to avoid.
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links as explained in my disclosure policy.
1. Thinking you can just figure it out
There are various moving parts to affiliate marketing, including product selection, promotional strategies, legal disclosures, and affiliate tracking, that you need to learn. When I say learn, I don’t mean jumping on Youtube and watching every video that comes up. I mean learning from an experienced affiliate marketer who has a track record of success. After all, the best way to achieve something is to find someone who has already done it and replicate their actions.
A do-it-yourself approach to affiliate marketing may not get you far. You’ll end up watching a bunch of videos, reading a million posts, and trying to piece everything together. That’s why I think it can be helpful to simply invest in a course. You want to set yourself up for success from the beginning by learning from someone who’s already successful..
When I started getting serious about affiliate marketing, I invested in a few courses to develop a deeper understanding of how affiliate marketing works. Of all the courses I took, I think Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing is the best for beginners.
2. Promoting the wrong products
Making affiliate sales comes down to three important questions:
- What problem does my audience have?
- What affiliate product(s) can help my audience solve that problem?
- How can I show my audience that the product(s) will make their lives better?
New affiliate marketers often make the mistake of choosing the wrong products. That’s because they skip questions one and two above. For instance, they simply choose a product that has high commissions, slap links on their website, and hope for sales. They don’t know who they’re serving or what problems their audience has. Or even if they know who they’re serving, they ignore the needs of their audience in favor of making big commissions.
I made this mistake on my travel blog when I started affiliate marketing. This was before I invested in any courses. After finding out DJI, a company that makes drones, paid $400-$2000 per sale, I immediately signed up for their affiliate program. I added a huge affiliate banner on my sidebar and sprinkled links throughout my posts. Guess how many sales I made? $0. My audience of solo female travelers couldn’t care less about drones. I had also never used a drone in my life and couldn’t tell you the first thing about how they work. Unsurprisingly, promoting drones was a huge failure.
Affiliate marketing is about connecting an audience that has a specific need with products that can fill that need. Before you begin inserting affiliate links and banner on your blog, you need to take some time to research your audience. What are they interested in? What are their likes and dislikes? What are their deepest desires? By understanding your audience, you choose the right products to help them. That way, you actually have a chance of making sales.
3. Promoting too many products
This is another trap beginner affiliate marketers fall into. They think that the more products they promote, the higher their chances of earning sales. This is simply not true. Some of the top affiliate marketers make the bulk of their income from 1-3 affiliate products. For instance, Michelle Schroeder Gardener, the creator of Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing, makes a majority of her income by promoting Bluehost.
I think it’s best as a beginner affiliate marketer to start with 1-3 products you are intimately familiar with and wholeheartedly recommend. That way you can make your first affiliate sale quickly and build the momentum you need to keep going.
4. Using dull promotional strategies
Promoting your affiliate products requires some creativity. With so many affiliate marketers often promoting the same products, standing out is a must. Just writing a review and adding some links won’t cut it these days, unless you have die-hard fans. Consider hosting a challenge, filming a Youtube tutorial, or creating a mini-course. Think outside the box when it comes to affiliate promotion. Even if your strategy doesn’t work, at least you’ll know what not to do in the future.
For every product you promote, you need multiple ways to let people know about it. In Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing, I learned about over a dozen ways to promote my affiliate offers. After implementing new strategies, my income quadrupled in five months. That’s how impactful having multiple promotional strategies can be.
5. Not serving your audience
Pat Flynn, who has made $4.2 million in affiliate sales over the last 10 years, said something that summarizes affiliate marketing success:
Your affiliate income is a direct reflection of how well you serve your audience.
This means that you must continuously provide value to your audience. Make yourself as helpful as possible to them. This could be in the form of providing unique insights and perspectives through an email newsletter or sharing tutorials on Youtube. For me, I focus on writing helpful blog posts to help my audience take their first steps into the world of online business and avoid costly mistakes. If you solve people’s problems, they would be more than happy to buy from you.
When it comes to serving your audience, you can’t do it sporadically. Create a posting schedule to stay consistent with posting on your preferred platform. Affiliate marketing pays off when you apply consistent effort. If you work whenever you feel like it, you won’t see results, at least not for a while.
6. Not cloaking your affiliate links
Affiliate links are normally long and ugly. Take a look at one of my raw links from ShareASale:
Imagine copying and pasting that every single time you want to promote the product. That’s so only inefficient! Also, when you share your raw affiliate links, you can’t manage and track your links as easily. It means you have to log into your affiliate dashboards to see how your links are performing. When you’ve joined 10+ affiliate programs or networks, it gets more difficult to keep up.
The solution to this problem is to use a link-cloaking plugin. I use the Pretty Links plugin to cloak my links and also keep track of their performance. Pretty Links allows you to turn your affiliate links into a nicer link using your domain name. For instance, the link I typed above now becomes:
It’s much tidier, easier to remember, and easier to share. For instance, if I wanted to recommend someone on Facebook messenger, I could easily type out my shortened link instead of copying and pasting the raw link.
Another benefit of Pretty Links also is that it allows you to manage all your affiliate links in one place. With the basic plan, you can see how many clicks your links have received, With the premium plan, you get access to more advanced analytics.
7. Publishing low-quality content
If you want to use a blog to promote your affiliate products, you can’t treat it like a digital billboard. That’s how some affiliate marketers approach blogging; they see it as a tool to promote their links and couldn’t care less about their readers.
The purpose of a blog is to create informative content that answers questions and provides value to a specific group of people. In today’s competitive blogosphere, short, poorly-researched posts just don’t cut it. A 2020 study by Ahrefs and Backlinko found that the average top 10 post on Google has 1,447 words.
That’s why I cringe when I come across blogs that publish 300-word posts spammed with links. Even worse is when a site is entirely dedicated to promoting one affiliate product. Every post is a promo for that product instead of an informative piece of content that provides value.
When you write content for your blog, you always have to put yourself in the reader and ask: what’s in it for me? How does your post help your audience? What information is missing from other websites that I can provide to my readers? Put your readers first and think about what would be most beneficial to them. When you serve your readers well, they will be more than willing to click on your links and purchase your affiliate products.
8. Spamming your posts with affiliate links
There’s no need to insert your affiliate link in every paragraph. It makes you seem desperate for a sale and turns readers off. Let’s say you write a 1,500 word product review. You only need to mention your affiliate product three times:
- In the beginning when you introduce the product.
- Somewhere in the middle (perhaps a banner because people respond to visuals)
- At the end when you write a call to action to encourage readers to learn more about the product.
That’s it. If someone is interested in the product, they will click on your link. Bombarding your posts with links will not increase your conversions.
9. Sharing your affiliate links on every Facebook group
Don’t be that person who shares their links for weight loss smoothies on Facebook groups. First of all, it’s just tacky. Secondly, no one is going to buy from a stranger on a Facebook group. They have no idea if you’re trustworthy. Remember that people buy from those that they like and trust.
Affiliate marketing on Facebook groups can work if you’re the owner of the group and have built trust with your audience. If someone asks about what web hosting service they should use, you can recommend your favorite host. In this case, it would be appropriate to share your link and mention it’s your affiliate link.
10. Copying text straight from the product sales page
When it comes to affiliate marketing, you always want to use your own words to talk about a product. That way, you can relay information to your audience in a way that is natural and conversational. If you have to copy and paste the product description from the sales page, you don’t understand the product enough.
Take the time to research every product you promote. You should familiarize yourself with it to the point that you can explain it to your grandma. This is what Pat Flynn calls the grandma test, one of his core affiliate marketing guidelines. Describe the product in such a way that your grandma, who knows nothing about it, can understand exactly what it is and what it does.
11. Not being honest
Again, being successful with affiliate marketing is all about trust. That means it’s your duty to be truthful with your audience about the products you recommend. Imagine if you recommend a scammy product and one of your readers has a negative experience with it. Would that reader buy from you again? Probably not. Recommending crap Clickbank products to clinch a few sales is not a good long-term strategy.
People become wary when they read a product review that reads like an infomercial. When there’s no mention of the downsides of a product, it creates suspicion. Every product has some flaws so be sure to address all aspects of it. Whenever I write a review for any product, I take the time to dig up all the things I didn’t like about it. I want my audience to know the pros and cons. If readers decide not to buy a product because of the cons, I can still sleep at night knowing I gave a truthful review and helped my readers make an informed decision.
Have you made any of these affiliate marketing mistakes? Comment below.
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