How I Almost Screwed Up and Quit Affiliate Marketing – Rookie Mistakes I Made.
While the concept of affiliate marketing is relatively simple to understand, there are quite a few roadblocks along the way and there are many mistakes a new affiliate marketer can make along the way.
I have collected 14 affiliate marketing mistakes that – I must admit – come from my own experience. These are mistakes I have made, and probably there are much more I have blissfully forgotten.
What Are These Affiliate Marketing Mistakes to Avoid?
Click For Table of Contents
- Not Applying What You Learn / Not Taking Action
- Not Knowing Your Audience
- Recommending For Commission Rather Than Merit
- Not Doing Proper Research Of Your Niche
- Too Early Monetisation
- Not Having a Website or a Blog
- Working on A Niche that Doesn’t Drive You
- Wrong Product Selection.
- Not Leveraging Free Tools and Resources
- Being Too Afraid to Experiment
- Ignoring SEO
- Expectations Are Too High
- Not Having A Routine for Publishing Content
- Working in Isolation
Fortunately, none of these rookie mistakes are ‘fatal’; you can work on them every day to rectify them, and you can learn how to avoid them.
If you smart enough to learn from your own mistakes (and even smarter to learn from others’ mistakes), you will notice that every time you start a new website, start to promote a new product the better you become. Better in research, better in building content, better in promoting products, better in SEO and in rankings.
If there is one secret to affiliate marketing is that you must do it to learn it. You will make mistakes of your own, but you must allow yourself to make those mistakes. To fail just to bounce back and go back into the ring with more experience.
1. Not Applying What You Learn / Not Taking Action
The biggest mistake that you can make is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. There are plenty of resources, you likely have subscribed for a training course or maybe looking to find the right one.
None of them worth a penny (or your time) if you do not apply what you learn.
You can study affiliate marketing, SEO, email marketing, Clickbank and other affiliate products for as long as you want. But the difference between a successful online entrepreneur and a wannapreneur is that the former TAKES action.
Building an affiliate marketing business (or any online business) takes time. Probably much more time than you anticipate. The earlier you start building it, the sooner you will see the results.
There are more than one way to build up your online business. Once you have started to take one road, there is a chance that you’ll find another one that you prefer. Everything is a bit hanging in the air until your start taking action, trying everything out to see what works for you and what does not.
But again, if you don’t take action, you will never find out those working methods and you won’t be able to improve.
The biggest difference in my career as an affiliate marketer was made by one decision: I stopped looking around for the ‘best’ course. I picked one that looked decent and started to do everything that course told me to do. I took action. After months and months ‘research’ and being ‘book-smart’ it was a massive revelation of ‘oh…I did not know that this is how you do it’.
And in no time, after a few months I cashed in my first commission through eBay partner network.
2. Not Knowing Your Audience
The next BIG mistake I made is that I did not know my audience. To be frank I still don’t know my audience. Not well enough. But I try to understand them through forums, the questions they ask, facebook groups, watching my competition closely etc.
Before that, I wrote about what I though would get me the most traffic. No surprise, those posts don’t perform well. I relied on the keyword tool I used, and omitted a lot of keywords that did not meet my criteria.
Then, after a couple of months in, I started to pay attention what’s going on on Youtube, Quora, Facebook, Pinterest and tried to reflect on those.
It was not a massive jump in clicks, but the type of clicks I got were more relevant. People, who were looking to find answer, found those answers in my posts. And started to click on my affiliate links.
But I did not stop there.
After a while I ran out of the questions that I had the knowledge and experience to answer.
My first (successful) website was (still is) in the outdoors / tents niche. Writing a plenty of product reviews with ‘personal experience’ was somewhat impossible, unless I spent every other night out on the field, testing a different tent every time.
So I walked into one of the biggest Outdoors/Camping retailer one morning, like I was a buyer. Just like my visitors who I wrote those product reviews for. There are quite a few things that I know about tents, but I tried to imagine what it’d be like if my circumstances / situation was different. Like if I had 4 kids. If I wanted to spend a week in the forest drinking with my buddies. All 8 of them. Etc. What would I look for if I wanted to plan, prepare for, buying for these different needs?
The salesguy probably wished I was in hell by the end of the 3rd hour into our conversation, but I learned a lot. I even had a chance to speak with other customers (by-standers etc.) which I would never do normally, but this time I had a purpose: to understand what they look for.
This short trip gave me enough thoughts to write plenty more posts for months.
Why? Because I knew what my visitors would be looking for. What questions they would have if they weren’t looking online.
It made a massive difference in user engagement, click-through rate and commissions. I have never imagined that someone would spend more than £1800 ($2250 USD) in one go, based on MY recommendation…
3. Recommending For Commission Rather Than Merit
The £1800 sale I just mentioned was on a tent that I did not even recommend wholeheartedly. It had its limitations, the layout was strange, and I even mentioned at the end of my post that there were better alternatives I could recommend.
It did not matter.
As much as I want to understand my audience, I cannot always figure out what exactly they look for.
I found that the best tactic was to try and give as much information as possible and from as much angle as possible. And every product has an angle that is not that perfect. Highlighting those felt like I was speaking against the product, but in hindsight it helped painting an honest picture about the pros and cons.
If my product review would have been about the good stuff only, might not have felt credible. By being honest about the good and the bad stuff, gave authenticity and increased trust in what I said.
I have applied the same approach in every product review I have written since. Obviously, every niche and every product is different, but I learned that in the long-term, honesty pays better than a clever sales copy.
4. Not Doing a Proper Research Of Your Niche
This is something that should overtake everything you do. Before you think about a domain name, before you look for products to promote. You must research your niche.
I have partly covered this when I talked about understanding the audience, but this exercise is even more labour-intensive.
While coming up with a great idea for a niche website, and creating that website should not take longer than a couple of hours, without a proper research of your niche the success of that website is pot-luck.
I learned this the hard way: not counting the money I spent on domain registration and hosting, but the time I spent writing content for websites that were destined to die is just painful to think about.
Doing this research is the only way to see if;
- You will have enough idea for 100s of posts
- You will be able to answer the questions your audience has
- You will be able promote products
- You will be able to beat the competition
- You will have enough traffic for years to come
Starting a website almost blindly: you may spend months going the wrong direction.
5. Too Early Monetisation
Although it is part of basic SEO (not to monetise too early) I can’t stress this enough. This is not about affiliate links here and there, but the banner ads and the annoying popups.
To put it simply, they ruin ‘user experience’. If your website comes across as salesy, people will most likely bounce off. If someone looks for information, but they get ads in their face instead, it is very annoying.
So, in terms of SEO and gaining traction with Google, it is best to find that balance of usefulness and salesy-ness, or just keep monetisation to the minimum until you have at least a 100 visitors a day.
Google also penalises websites that are too spammy, having too many ads on them. If you think your new website is in the Google Sandbox (not sure? click here to find out), try removing all ads first. It may significantly reduce the time till Google feels you deserve some traffic.
What you lose by not having Google AdSense on your website is probably cents. What you gain is probably hundreds of dollars later on, by having more traffic, much earlier.
You can add monetisation later, by all means, once you rank in Google. Adding a few ads here and there, inserting a few more affiliate links as long as they are in context, won’t hurt your ranking.
6. Not Having a Website or a Blog
Could have been the first. There are a lot of people who think that affiliate marketing is nothing else than signing up for a product on ClickBank, buying ads on Google and checking your bank account regularly.
Related Post: Is Clickbank For Beginners?
In 2019, you probably won’t go far with this method (although you probably can still earn with this kind of affiliate marketing).
What you need is engagement with potential buyers, you need trust, and you need time to build that trust up. And it is pretty difficult without having a website or a blog, anything that is permanent and is yours.
You can be very successful in affiliate marketing on social media, especially if you know how to build up a large following in a relatively short time. But even then, you’d be better off having your own website where you can capture email addresses, give further info about yourself and build up your own brand.
If you are old enough to know what myspace is, then you may remember how quickly it disappeared. Although it is unlikely that Instagram, Facebook, Youtube or Pinterest would disappear as quickly as myspace did, you don’t have to go far to see what happened to Tumblr in a matter of months.
Even less likely you remember that myspace allowed affiliate links, so it was very easy to promote products and earn a commission: you just had to keep posting your links. It was all very nice.
Until they did not allow affiliate links anymore.
Many affiliate marketers lost their years of hard work and livelihood overnight.
And they had no control over it.
That’s why it is important – especially if you want to build up a passive income and enjoy the benefits with a peace of mind – to create something that you have control of.
7. Working on A Niche That Is Indifferent For You
Even though you have done your thorough research, built an awesome website, generated traffic by creating content, mid- to long-term success (or rather sustainability) depends on your passion.
If you are in the niche that you are not interested about, don’t care about, it is not going to work.
I have started several niche websites, and I was confident that I could write a lot about every one of them. I had a huge list of post titles thoroughly researched, almost laid out to sub-headings. Yet, after a while I could not care less about writing those articles.
And it was not just a burnout.
I was more eager than ever to work on a niche website, but not that one.
Maybe I am just not professional enough. Some people say that this is a business (true) so you should treat it as a business: if it makes money you must do the grind-work.
I see their point, and I may return to those sites later. But in the early days there was just so much to take in (the ins and outs of WordPress, SEO etc.) that forcing myself to work on something that I was not passionate about felt like a huge burden on top everything else.
And that lack of enthusiasm shone through my articles. They were good, but nothing special. I did the homework but there was no X-factor in them.
8. Picking the Wrong Products To Promote
Happened when I thought that the cheaper the product I promote, the more people will buy it. But, people don’t always look for the cheapest. They look for what is best for them. If the product they want isn’t the cheapest, but it’s justified (by me as the reviewer) they are fine with it.
That’s when I started to promote higher-end products. Same volume of traffic, same amount of clicks, more commission.
Even on Amazon, people bought £400+ (more than $500) products, despite the rule of thumb for the price range ($50-$150).
Having said that, if you are in it for the money you may be inclined to pick a high-ticket item just for the sake of higher commissions. That can be fine as long as you do it smartly and fairly. There is nothing wrong promoting high-ticket items, if their value is justified – for example expensive watches or jewellery. Kyle, founder of Wealthy Affiliate wrote a great article about the ethics of promoting high-ticket items. It’s a great article, worth reading it (you may need to register a username to access it).
(A negative example could be an online training that is overpriced, but more than 50% of the selling price is the commission built in. You don’t have to go far for a high-ticket product like this, have a look at Six Figure Mentors)
9. Not Leveraging Free Tools and Resources
Spending a lot of money on training courses and marketing tools have never made anyone rich, other than those who sell these tools and training courses.
In the last couple of years, the number or free courses and free tools has skyrocketed. You may have to try out a few before you find the right one, but hey, at least they did not cost any money.
But there’s a caviat, why many people don’t value free stuff.
Most of the people are ‘Obligers’. For Obligers, having to pay is a form of external accountability. ‘ I have paid for it, so I’d better make use of it ‘.
In other words, for many people, paying for something makes them more likely to do it.
There is also a bit of psychology behind this: we tend to value things more when we pay for them.
Research also suggests people use prices as a signal for value, and therefore will value things more highly if they are more expensive or costly to procure, or more scarce. (More info here, or read the paper here: Shampanier, K., et al. (2007). “Zero as a special price: The true value of free products.”)
So, ask yourself the question: would you more likely take action if you have paid for the tools? Would using the same tool or resource for free affect how you value its usefulness or its importance?
This little mind-trick may prevent you from using something that is great and free.
I must admit that most of the time, especially on the online training scene, free stuff is crap. But oftentimes, paid-for stuff is crap too, but because of this mind-trick, you may feel differently about something that’s subpar quality, but you have paid for it.
There are always exceptions, people who think they provide value first, and reap the rewards later. If you find them, don’t hesitate to get everything from them they have on offer. (A few that I have come across can be found here)
10. Being Too Afraid to Experiment
At first, I wanted results quickly. I wanted to get it right the first time. I wanted to succeed in affiliate marketing without wasting any time and money going the wrong direction.
I ended up doing NOTHING. I was paralysed by the fear of failure, I was too afraid to accept that trying things out doesn’t equal to making mistakes or failing. Failing is too finite anyways. (This is how you can avoid it: 12+1 Reasons Why Most People Fail in Affiliate Marketing)
I was the typical book-smart who thought they knew everything about anything (especially affiliate marketing) but had no real-life experience. I could not get across that mental barrier.
Then – as a new year resolution – I decided to take action, I just wanted to start somewhere. Anywhere.
So I spent a few months trying out different things, and soon I realised what worked for me, and what did not.
There are so many ways one can be successful in affiliate marketing, and I needed to know how I will be successful.
This experimenting was essential in realising that what I needed was the space to expand and express my creativity in writing, in creating images, in solving problems no-one really had solved before (bold, huh…?).
Without experimenting with different methods of affiliate marketing, I could not have figured that out.
Goes without saying: there is a huge difference between doing something and reading about something.
That’s how I realised that the best way to learn affiliate marketing is to simply start doing it. If it does not work out, I adjust, and try a different method. And that I must keep doing it, ‘cause one method WILL work. So the only way I can fail (in that finite sense) is if I don’t try, test and experiment anymore.
11. Ignoring SEO
It is like content marketing 101: make it as easy for Google to find you as possible. Many people say that as long as you create high quality, useful content people will find you. You don’t even have to have the keyword in the title.
Even though this may be true, in terms of making a business successful, a new affiliate marketer cannot ignore SEO.
You don’t have to become an SEO expert (I am not one either), but you must understand what SEO is.
This is strictly my opinion as someone who sees both sides of a search query (as many of us do), but the so-called ‘traditional SEO techniques’ (both on-site and external) do one thing:
Help Google understand your content. But it is rarely thought of why Google wants to understand content.
I see it everywhere that people blindly believe that if they do everything ‘by the book’, keyword in title, keyword density, keyword in H2 tag, meta-description, backlinks etc. they will rank. That’s fair enough, but they forget one thing: SEO starts with relevant content.
That’s why Google wants to understand your content: to be able to show the most relevant finding to a search query.
If your content is not relevant, you can have as many backlinks as you want, your content will never rank.
So the SEO techniques are the consequence, rather then then the reason in some aspect. If you put the keyword in the title because you will talk about it, that’s fine. But to put the keyword in the title because it had better numbers in the Keyword Tool, and then talk about something else, well, that won’t help.
I made this mistake: I focussed too much on the technicalities, keyword research based on the numbers etc. while my posts lost focus after about 6-10 paragraphs.
Nowadays I use these ‘SEO techniques’ to help me stay on track. I lay out the Headings, using the keyword (or a version of it) to ensure that I remain relevant, that I stay on topic throughout the post.
In other words: the #1 ranking factor is not Domain Authority, or Backlinks, or Keyword density or etc.. It is RELEVANCY.
12. Your Expectations Are Too High
So difficult to avoid this trap. When I finally saw how could I earn money with affiliate marketing, I though…it’s easy.
Well, it is, but that does not mean it’s quick.
I though that in a couple of months I will be earning thousands of dollars a month.
It just does not happen…not very often anyways.
Having your expectations too high (and not adjusting them as you progress) is a paved road to quitting. It too easy to say that aah it does not work, or affiliate marketing is a scam.
Actually, the majority of new affiliate marketers quit before they could even see the results of their hard work.
Even if you do everything by the book, it is around 6 months on average before you can see ANY results that’s worth mentioning. It can be sooner, it can take much longer.
And those are only the first photons of light at the end of a long tunnel. Turning the first commission into a full income is more like a 2-year project.
13. Not Having A Routine for Publishing Content
Especially when you are starting out, be prepared that you will be overwhelmed. You will lack practice. You will lack experience. Everything will take much longer: writing content, finding pictures, optimizing the keywords, carrying on with the training, and there’s your normal life on top of these.
Your motivation level will fluctuate, and there will be days when you won’t ‘feel like’ you can create good content.
That’s absolutely fine, but don’t let those periods last too long.
The best tip to avoid procrastination, your biggest enemy, is to have a routine for publishing. Publishing frequently is probably the most important task you must undertake in the early days (months) of your new website.
Just make a commitment that you will post at least one or two posts a week.
Do your keyword research (ideally you have a ‘hit-list’ of posts before you create your website), and give yourself 2-3 hours two write your article.
Sit down, when there is no distraction.
Look at the title and remind yourself what you want to write about
Write those thoughts down, those will be the Headings in your article.
Try to write 4-5 paragraphs for each heading, stay relevant.
Look for a few pictures to make your post look more engaging visually.
Check for grammar for the last time.
Do it again in 3-4 days.
By the end of the 6th month, it won’t take longer to write a new post than a couple of hours. That’s only 4 hours a week creating content (I know you can do more…), and halfway through the first year of your website you’ll have around 50 articles published.
That’s when you will see some momentum in terms of search engine impressions and clicks.
If you have less articles, the momentum will be somewhat slower, less energetic.
But if you have not a routine, it will be very difficult to get those 50ish articles published and see any momentum going.
14. Working in Isolation
Lastly, you need support. You go into a battle: you’ll have to battle your own preconception, the opinion of others, your self-doubt, peaks and dips.
Doing it alone is a huge mistake, and I can virtually guarantee that you’ll end up quitting because you will lose focus of your goals, why you started building an affiliate website in the first place.
If you can, join a community of affiliate marketers. Buy a training course that has an online community, so you can share your thoughts and doubts with people who can understand you. Folks, who can answer the questions you have, based on their own experience.
It does not matter if it’s a Facebook group, a reddit sub-topic, a Quora thread, or a bespoke social platform inside a training course. Just the fact that there are people behind your back, makes a huge difference.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions, ask for help from your mentor (if you have one). Make sure you buy the course from (through) someone who you trust and whom you can rely on, who is willing to truly help.
I learned my lesson: when I joined a training course that I though would be the best for me (it is), my mentor was somewhat distant, and rarely replied to my emails.
So I de-registered, and then re-registered through someone else. It was early days, I only abandoned a few websites with a couple of articles published on each.
But the difference is massive.
And there a lot more mistakes that I made. I am making mistakes every day, but the good things is that I am trying to learn from them and not making those mistakes again.
When you feel you are ready to make mistakes, to embrace them, to learn from them and to improve, I recommend the very same training course at Wealthy Affiliate that helped me start my affiliate marketing business.
I am still part of the community (albeit I don’t post too often), so feel free to drop by and say hi, have a look around.