Affiliate marketing isn't dead. But the rules of the game have changed. This $17 billion industry offers a chance to make money online. But old methods don't work. But the average conversion rate is only about 1%, so is affiliate marketing worth it? And is it still profitable in 2023?
In this article, we take a closer look at the pros and cons of the business model. We'll also cover how much money and time you need to invest before seeing profitability. Plus, three things the gurus aren't telling you. And why local lead generation is a better option if you want to make money from home.
What Is Affiliate Marketing?
Affiliate marketing is performance-based marketing. You're like a commission-only salesperson. And get paid for affiliate sales made through your referrals. So unlike ecommerce or Amazon FBA, where you're selling physical products. As an affiliate, your only job is to promote product offers.
So you don't need to invest in products or worry about finding suppliers. And you don't need to deal with customer service issues. Instead, you get people interested in your offers. Then earn an affiliate commission on your sales. The business model consists of four steps that include:
Use tools like Google Trends or Ubersuggest to find high-volume search queries and keywords. You want to pick a niche that isn't too competitive but still has an active online community. And choose something you’re passionate about or interested in to stay motivated.
Join An Affiliate Network:
Choose Your Offers:
Look for products that mesh with your audience. Items that you are willing to stand behind. But as an affiliate, you can connect with as many offers as you want. (This means you can scale fast once you have a customer base).
Promote Your Links:
The goal is for people to act on your affiliate link. So you need to create a great offer and a reason why they should buy.
Use an ad tracker like RedTrack or BeMob to monitor campaigns. (Get insights into what's working and what's not). And take advantage of tools like Google Analytics that track link progression. (To stay on top of real-time data). And consider using software like Thirsty Affiliates to replace or redirect your links.
What Are The Advantages & Disadvantages Of Affiliate Marketing?
Affiliate marketing is an attractive business model if you want to work from home or make money online. But there are a few pros and cons to consider like:
Low barrier to entry and minimal capital required
No cap on earning potential and a way to diversify your income
You don't need to be an expert and it’s easy to execute
Your chances of success with the business model are marginal
You have no control over affiliate programs or commissions
There’s no recurring income opportunity because the consumer belongs to the affiliate parent
Why Do People Fail With Affiliate Marketing?
In theory, affiliate marketing is an easy business model. Yet 95% of people fail. Why? Because the affiliate marketing industry has a low barrier to entry. But because anyone can do it, the industry is congested. So if you want to rise above the masses, you have to invest the time to build a brand. You need to create a reason people should buy your recommended affiliate product. So consider things like:
"The most recent info shows that 95% of new affiliates fail." (Entrepreneurs Unstuck)
You need to become the authority in your niche. But you need to pick a niche that isn't saturated or overly competitive. Use tools like Google Trends or SEMRush to access real-time data. See what people are searching for, and pick one with an active online community. But that also has numerous products to promote.
Use spy software like AdPeriscope to access where the competition’s traffic source is coming from. Or what keywords they're ranking for well and find a gap in the market. If you don't want to be one of the 95% failure rate, you need to find a way to stand out.
You also need an affiliate marketing content strategy. Consider that a lot of people fail because of poor planning, a bad affiliate marketing campaign, or unrealistic expectations. It takes a long time to build an online presence.
(A new blog website takes 3-6 months to gain traction in the SERPs). And if you're going for organic traffic, you need to be ready to commit at least 12-18 months. (To gain the trust of your target audience) by publishing regular content that:
- Entertains or educates
- Solves a problem
- Answers their questions
But if you want to make a few quick wins. Then you can focus on items that are trending and selling well right now and leverage paid ads on social media platforms (like a Facebook ad campaign).
"Recent affiliate marketing trends show that 24.46% of marketers find information about programs on the merchant’s website.
But ad costs are rising. And you need to be able to create video marketing campaigns with a scroll-stopping hook. Or virality potential and an irresistible offer. And only promote products that you stand behind. (A fast reason to lose the trust of your viewers is to be smarmy. Or try to sell them sub-par products).
So pick affiliate offers that mesh with your target audience. (Not just the ones with the highest payouts). You can do a Google search and connect with companies offering an affiliate program or connect with a reputable affiliate network like:
Affiliate Network Options:
If you want to be successful with this online business model, you need to have a steady stream of leads in your pipe. So you either have to pay for them with time or money. And that's the crux of why people fail with affiliate marketing.
How Long Does It Take To Be A Successful Affiliate Marketer?
The golden days of throwing up a couple of blog posts on a website and hitting pay dirt in under a month are long gone. Not only has Google gotten wiser to the ways of black hat tactics or a spammy affiliate site. But the market is now flooded with people all hoping to make it big with the business model.
So you need to be realistic. Plan on investing a minimum of 12-18 months before you start to see any real revenue. And to generate substantial profit margins can take as long as 3-5 years. So you need to become an expert and have a clear content marketing strategy. Then, look at platforms like TikTok or Amazon Best Sellers list. And research topics like:
Questions To Ask When Doing Market Research:
You can create a successful affiliate marketing business. But you need to be prepared to hustle and do the hard work at the beginning if you want to achieve a steady cash flow or passive income.
Is Affiliate Marketing Dead? 3 Things The Gurus Aren’t Telling You
1. A Lack Of Control Over The Customer Experience
Your only job is to drive online traffic to offers. But once a potential customer clicks your link. That's it. You don't have brand loyalty because the customer belongs to the affiliate marketing program.
So you need to get more clicks to make money. And you don't get many chances to generate a recurring income. But that means you're always looking for a new offer. Or a new audience and a different angle to drive people to your links. And it's this lack of control that has a direct impact on your affiliate income.
You're relying on the whims of the consumer. Plus, even if they click your link, they might not buy the affiliate product you're promoting. So you won't make a dime. But with local lead gen, you have complete control over every aspect of your business, from the website to the leads. It all belongs to you.
So you don't need to worry about potential customers clicking links. Plus, your lead gen site provides a service people actively seek. Get to the top top of the SERPs, and you're bringing in high-quality leads. And local business owners are more than happy to pay for a piece of the action.
2. Driving Online Traffic To Your Offers Is Hard
Consider that your only job is to drive traffic to your offers. But because the market is competitive, everybody is vying for the same consumer base. In addition, it's getting harder to harness organic traffic, and old SEO tactics don't work anymore.
In fact, according to a poll by Matt Diggity, 63% of 945 affiliate marketers were affected by Google algorithm changes. And that's just since the beginning of 2022. So you need to learn how to leverage Google to drive online traffic to your offers. Or you have to rely on paid ads if you want to make sales.
But this level of competition causes affiliates to engage in unsavory sales tactics, including creating unrealistic offers and outlandish claims to sell their products. And some even create fake accounts on social media platforms.
But because the social media platform controls the content, you'll get shut down if your ads are too aggressive. So you need to create new accounts. Or find an alternate angle to promote your offer. Add in that paid ad costs are rising. And your ad spend has a direct impact on your profit margins.
Moreover, when you run paid ads, you need to focus on offers that are converting now. So you need to find best-selling offers on sites like ClickBank. Then, check out social media sites like TikTok or Instagram and look at the following:
Trending Product Checklist:
Fads and trending products are a way to make a fast win. But they have a short shelf life. So you need to have a new offer in the wings when there's no longer a demand. Plus, you have to know how to optimize your ad campaigns from your hook to ad copy. You need to have an offer a potential customer can't refuse. And the skills to get in front of as many eyeballs as possible if you want to make money.
3. Global Competition Is Fierce
Affiliate marketing is super competitive. It's a global market where you are going head to head against sites from all over the world. And old methods like throwing up banner ads or running a low CPC ad campaign don't cut it anymore.
Now you're competing against national brands with an entire staff writing articles and ranking for the top competitive keywords. And these businesses have a ton of money. Plus, they've spent years cultivating their brand. (Some of these affiliates have followed affiliate marketing best practices since the 1990s).
So now they're at the top of the SERPs. And they dominate prime real estate. So if you want to compete, you need to consider your niche.
- What keywords can you target?
- Where are there untapped opportunities for you to create value?
- How can you break through the noise with your offers?
Your goal is to create value. So you need to publish high-quality content. But you can use tools like Google Trends or Keywords Everywhere and look for high-volume search queries that aren't saturated. Then decide on your marketing strategy. But with over 600 million blogs on Google, you need to be willing to invest the time (8-12+ months) to develop your affiliate website and create an online presence.
Or you need to cough up the coin for paid ads to drive traffic to your affiliate links. And unlike starting a lead generation business where your focus is on the local market (so it's easier to rank in Google search engines). And lead generation is a skill set, so the industry isn't saturated. Plus, natural barriers like location and customer interactions minimize the level of competition.
So you build and rank websites that get to the top of the SERPs. Then you sell your leads to small business owners. But you own the sites, the tracking number, and the leads. So you don't need to worry about an affiliate program changing the terms of your contract or slashing your commission payouts. Plus, if you get a business owner that doesn't see the value or doesn't want to pay. Then you can take your leads to the competition. And keep bringing in mailbox money on autopilot.
Is Affiliate Marketing Too Saturated?
Affiliate marketing might not be too saturated. But it's pretty crowded. For example, Amazon Associates has over 900,000 affiliates. And ShareASale has more than 700,000. That's 1.6 million affiliate marketers from only two affiliate networks. So if you want to make it in this highly competitive arena, you need to know how to market and become an authority in your niche. You need to add value to the content you publish. (Learn skills and not just markets). Then, pick a style and become an expert in things like:
- Video Marketing
- Video Editing
- Content Creation
- Email Marketing
Decide what platform you want to focus on. Where are your people hanging out online? Then you can concentrate on your style. For example:
What Affiliate Marketing Style Is Best For You?
You can crush the competition. But only if you have the skills to get in front of your target audience. So you need to know how to drive traffic to your offers. Plus, you only make money as an affiliate if people click your links. So you need to build trust and invest the time to cultivate a valuable digital real estate asset. But as long as there is continued market growth, and new trends emerge, there will always be untapped opportunities to monetize.
What Is The Future Of Affiliate Marketing?
The affiliate marketing industry grew 47% from 2018-2021: bigger budgets and the emergence of new technology. In addition, new platforms and brands are creating the perfect recipe for affiliates. Consider that the eCommerce market is growing. And Forbes reports that global big data will hit USD 229.4 billion by 2025. So there is an opportunity to monetize in sectors like:
- Influencer Marketing & The GenZr Generation
- Crypto & AI Advancements
Affiliates questioned the business model's future in 2020 when Amazon Associates cut their affiliate rates in a few top categories. (Some by as much as 5%). Amazon is a big player in the industry. In fact, they hold 46.14% of the market share. So this decision had a lot of people asking if this was the end.
But Amazon is only one affiliate network. Sure they're the top dog. But new markets bring new opportunities and new strategies. However, it also brings more competition. So if you want to be successful, you need to increase your online reach and connect with your audience in a way that builds trust.
Today's consumers have grown wise to clickbait tactics and spammy offers. So you need to lead with value and give them a reason to buy from you. But there will continue to be new offers and brands looking for affiliates to promote their products. And that means even more ways to make money with the business model.
Why Lead Generation Is A Better Way To Make Money Online In 2023
Affiliate marketing is attractive to a lot of people because you don't need to own physical products. Plus, you don't need to invest a ton of upfront capital. But it's far from passive. Consider that you always need to publish new content or chase the next hot link. Plus, you're going up against national brands and global business owners.
But with lead gen, the focus is on a local market, so it's less competitive. And, like affiliate marketing, you don't need a physical product. Instead, you build and rank generic websites at the top of Google. Then, when your sites start bringing in leads, you sell them for a cut of the profits. Plus, you don't need a ton of cash to get started with lead generation.
Take this site above. I built this site in 2015 for a total cost of $500. But this site has been making me $2000/month for the last seven years. Now it's at the top of the SERPs. So it doesn't need much maintenance. I don't need to rely on paid ads or create an irresistible offer because I have the skills to leverage Google.
Plus, this website offers a service. One that people are actively searching for online. So I'm filling a market need and getting paid for my service. And now, I have a proven concept, so I rinse and repeat to achieve a passive income.
Affiliate marketing is a way to make money online. The business model isn't dead. But it's not easy either. So you need to be prepared to invest the time and energy to build an audience. Because, unlike the local lead gen model, you need to create a reason why people should click your offers. But if you learn industry hacks to generate sales. Or you're willing to test new platforms and take advantage of emerging trends. And you can add value to a person's life with an atypical offer. You might even make some money.