Why Affiliate Marketing Sucks for Beginners (Rant)

Affiliate marketing sucks.

Well, let me rephrase that. Affiliate marketing sucks for newbies.

Especially since Google has started making it harder to rank for search terms (even targeted search terms).

Disclaimer: Some people might not agree with this little rant, in fact, I will actually be happy if you didn't. Maybe I am seeing this in tunnel vision, and I am talking absolute crap, or perhaps I am right on the money. That is up to you to decide.

In this little rant, I want to talk about why I think that most newbies end up quitting before the year mark.

I have been build affiliate sites for over 3 years now, and I have seen new affiliates come and go, and though there are many reasons why somebody might need to quit, it's usually for the same reason.

The SAME reason I quit for a period of time a couple years back.

Why Affiliate Marketing Sucks

Why Affiliate Marketing Sucks!

With search terms slowly starting to be dominated by authoritative sites, building a niche that that earns less than 3 - 4 figures is a no go.

(Notice how every result for this long-tail search term has a domain authority of at least 40).

Why Affiliate Marketing Sucks

To quickly give context, back in the day (even before I started), people could easily create 10 niche sites that all earned $10/day.

That ends up creating an income of $3,000/month (which is a lot of money for some people).

The best part is that you could do all of this within a few months.

Now around about the time I started (April 2015), you could see that the "quick & easy" business model was slowly going away.

You needed to build a brand online to see ANY success as an affiliate.

In the affiliate training that I went through, I learned that by targeting long-tail search terms (which are highly-targeted keywords such as "What is the best affiliate marketing training course?") you could gain a substantial amount of traffic within a year or two.

Which is fine, big sites didn't want to target search terms that only got a few hundred searches, so I did.

The issue now, however, is that affiliate marketing (when getting into the nitty/gritty stuff) almost seems like it's not worth the effort anymore. Especially for newbies.

The competition sucks.

The amount of content you need to make sucks.

The backlinks you need to build sucks.

(Notice that Backlinko who only ranks at number #7 has built an estimate of 1200 backlinks).

P.S. Yes, I understand that backlinks are only 1 of about 200 different ranking signals.

Why Affiliate Marketing Sucks

Now that I have vented a little about some of the changes that have been made, here is how the 6 months (yes, months. Affiliate marketing isn't a business model where you can earn money within a month or a week) would generally go.

Month 1 - 3

Within the first 3 months, you need to do your keyword research and build a list of terms you can create content around.

Then the meat of this time period will be creating content. 

Why Affiliate Marketing Sucks

For most newbies, they won't have enough money to outsource their content to freelancers, meaning that they will have to create the content themselves.

Without the proper training & motivation, you WILL fail at this point.

Creating any type of content won't do, and that's what most newbies think. As long as they target a keyword, they will eventually rank and earn money.

That doesn't happen. Seriously, ask any successful affiliate.

The final 3rd of this period will focus on the basics of backlinks.

You can build backlinks in many ways, but the most common way is by guest posting.

What's shit about link building is that you could spend months building up links and still not even see page 2.

(Notice how WPBeginner has built an estimate of 430 backlinks, yet they are at the bottom of page 2).

Why Affiliate Marketing Sucks

Remember that I am going through the first 6 months through the eyes of a newbie. I understand that any business is challenging to build, but the difference between me and other affiliates is just that.

I KNOW that building an affiliate business is hard. However, there is a lot of affiliates telling people how easy it is to make a niche site.

The process is simple but not easy.

Month 4 - 6

It's here that most people quit and I understand why. As a newbie who doesn't understand the patience it takes, this period of time is the hardest.

Why am I not getting traffic, I just spent 3 months creating content.

Sadly, at this point in time, Google is only just starting to rank your content for search terms. You should start seeing data pop up in your Google Search Console.

Why Affiliate Marketing Sucks

A site that I created 2 months ago

I want you to take a look at Mike's (from affiliatemarketertraining.com) article what roughly what the first 6 months of affiliate marketing look like.

Like me, he got started using Wealthy Affiliate (the training course I mentioned earlier), and that was his results.

The sad part is that his results aren't even typical.

It's because he put in a tremendous amount of work (which people with barely any time cannot do).

Getting back into what you should be doing at this point, you should basically be doubling down on your content & outreaching efforts and generally building relationships with people in your niche.

The more people (mainly other bloggers) who know who you are, the better.

At this point, your site should have about 20 - 40 articles on your site (AT LEAST).

Moving on...

Alright, so you see what I mean now when I say that affiliate marketing isn't as "newbie friendly" as people may say.

However, if you can push past those horrible first months where you are working nonstop (without any return on investment), what awaits you?

How do people benefit from affiliate marketing over other methods of business?

‚ÄčHow You Can Benefit From Affiliate Marketing

For those who see the light at the end of the tunnel and can build a successful affiliate brand, a lot of benefits await you.

First off, affiliate marketing is an active & passive income.

Why Affiliate Marketing Sucks

Most affiliates have their own website and owning your own blog has the potential to be the most passive business ever.

Sure at first you need to consistently be making content, building backlinks, & promoting your content but after your site reaches a certain point (that point honestly depends on you) you can pretty much leave it to run itself.

You'll still need to consistently work on it, however, that "consistently" will go from every day to a few hours a week.

Seriously, it's possible to take weeks off working and still earn the same income.

Next, You can work anywhere (even the ISS).

Why Affiliate Marketing Sucks

The primary reason why I (and many others, for example Pat Flynn) love the affiliate marketing model is that you can work from ANYWHERE with an internet connection.

Okay, my headline for this section is a small white lie.

You can't really work from the ISS due to how terrible their internet access is, however, you can work from anywhere in the world with a stable connection.

You don't even need an office (I work from my bedroom. Though now that I think about it, that's quite unhealthy).

Everything is automated once you pass a certain level.

You'll taste true financial freedom.

Why Affiliate Marketing Sucks

I promise this is the only cheesy image in this article.

For anybody looking to get rich, I want you to rephrase that goal in your head. Change it to "I want financial freedom!"

No matter how much money you may think you want, in reality, you only want enough money to fuel your dream lifestyle.

That lifestyle might not cost you as much money as you may think it does and when you reach that lifestyle, you'll feel a lot happier in life (especially if you continue to reach new heights instead of plateauing).

Which leads me to the final part of this article.

5 Actionable Tips to Be a Successful Affiliate

To finish up the main points in this (mini rant I guess you can call it), I wanted to leave you with some actionable tips that you can do right now.

Tip #0 would be to join the affiliate training course that I used to get started because it has everything you need to start an affiliate brand.

You can join for free.

However, some things are limited (for example not having the ability to purchase a domain name. Which is essential), so I would recommend just going premium as soon as possible.

However, you may want to tackle this by yourself or use another training platform and in that case, here are the five tips.

1. Don't spend too much at the beginning.

The most significant financial advantage to affiliate marketing is the low cost it takes to start & maintain a site, but there are a lot of helpful "premium" tools out there.

The first tip is not to buy into any of it.

Why Affiliate Marketing Sucks

A CDN is the perfect example of a tool you don't need when starting out.

A lot of those products are designed for newbies to think that this tool will give me a 7-month shortcut.

All you need to start out is:

  • A domain & hosting.
  • An affiliate account (from places like Amazon, eBay or ClickBank).
  • Dot Circle
    The necessary WordPress plugins (which are free).

You will also need some of the necessary 3rd-party tools (which again are free) like Google Search Console & Google Analytics.

Those two tools are vital for understanding where your content ranks within Google, and how that traffic interact on your site.

2. Don't promote products that you don't believe in.

It's idiotic to promote products/services just because they give you the most money per sale.

By doing that, you not only hurt your affiliate brand, but you also lose money by getting fewer sales.

Let's use a recurring affiliate program as an example.

Note: Affiliate programs that offer recurring payments mean that you'll receive money every month as long as that referral stays a member.

I could promote a high-ticket program that lands me an extra $1,000 per referral.

What good does that do if the program sucks and I only get a single referral each month and they only stay for that month because they realized how bad the program was.

Even worse, what if they all request refunds.

That's my $1,000 gone.

On the other hand, what if I promote a business that is amazing.

Though I may only get $50 per referral, if I can get a consistent referral group (the number of referrals I currently have) of 50 members then that's a steady $2,500 each month.

Also, because you're promoting a business you believe in, your audience will learn to trust you and even recommend more people to your affiliate brand.

As any local business owners will tell you, word of mouth can go a long way.

3. Always choose a profitable affiliate program to join.

I put these two tips together because they contradict each other a little bit. Didn't I say not to promote a product based on the money?

Though that is true, it doesn't really apply to the affiliate program itself.

Affiliates earn money from commissions (a cut of the price of the product), and the owner of that business can decide how much money they're willing to give you.

For example, if a product is $50 and your affiliate program gives you a 10% commission per sale, then you will receive $5 per purchase.

Which in the grand scheme of things isn't a lot of money.

It would take you 1,000 sales each month just to make $5,000. Also, don't always choose programs just because it's a big brand.

Though they already have a ton of customers and have built that trust, they are big brands; Meaning that they will most likely give you less money per sale with more competiting affiliates.

Take Amazon as an example. I love Amazon (in fact, they are my number #1 recommended affiliate program) but their commissions aren't the best out there.

Why Affiliate Marketing Sucks

You can take a look at their commission rate above.

4. SEO will be your best friend. Learn how to rank your sites correctly.

As I mentioned earlier, most affiliates use websites for their business, meaning that they use SEO as their primary source of traffic.

If you want to compete, you'll need to learn how to rank sites efficiently.

You may be tempted to use specific tactics to gain the advantage. However, I would recommend creating evergreen content (content that will get better over time instead of dropping off the face of the planet).

For affiliates, technical terms such as:

  • Bounce rate.
  • Time on site.
  • Anchor text.
  • Canonical tag.
  • Do-follows & no-follows.
  • Duplicate content.
  • Latent semantic indexing (LSI).

Will all need to become second nature to you.

Another tip is to build an email list. If you're following the correct methods to SEO, you'll most likely have nothing to worry about.

However, SEO can be unpredictable.

By building other streams of traffic, you can secure your monthly numbers even if one method were to be lost somehow.

5. Content, content, content.

You will NEVER succeed in affiliate marketing without content, period.

By consistently helping people (through your content), you will gain users trust which will build your brand, your traffic & most importantly your income.

As I said earlier, newbies might not have enough money to outsource content at the beginning so I would recommend learning how to write articles yourself.

Sadly, the only way to learn how to write articles is by writing them.

I love this article that Shane Melaugh made on this subject, so check it out here or watch the video below.

You can also start reading my article on time management to give you some extra tips on creating more content, faster.

I am sure that hearing that you need to write the content yourself sounds scary and that would drive away most would-be affiliates.

However, if you took action and tried to create content, you would find that it's a lot simpler and more profitable than you initially thought.

What to Take From This Article

I am glad that you took the time to hear my thoughts and tips.

I am passionate about affiliate marketing and really wanted to get my feelings out about this topic.

You can let me know your thoughts below.

Did you think that I was on the money with everything I said, or do you think that I have no idea what I am talking about and should just shut the fuck up?

For those who didn't read any of the content, here is what you missed:

  • Why affiliate marketing sucks!
  • What the first 6 months of affiliate marketing look like.
  • The benefits of becoming a successful affiliate.
  • 5 affiliate marketing tips that you can take action on now.

If you enjoyed this article (or if you hated it), feel free to share it on social media. If you enjoyed it and learned from it, why not let others learn from it as well, right?

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  • Ty says:

    Coming across your site was interesting. I started my website in June of this year, so I would say I’m also a noob. But I’m one of the few that understand the dedication it takes to build a brand. Luckily I grew up with social media and know what my target audience is. So far I’m doing great, and I don’t plan to quit anytime soon, I’m in this for the long run.
    I hope to see more tips for success from you in your future posts.

    • Editorial Team says:

      Thanks for the feedback, Ty. Social media is the 2nd best source of traffic in my opinion behind SEO so keep at it.

  • Evette says:

    I agree with what you’ve said a little. Affiliate marketing sucks for newbies.

    I think it has gotten more complicated now and this is what we are entering into, I have been in affiliate marketing for four months now. I haven’t seen any organic traffic yet, and it is a little disheartening.

    However, I stick with it because it is fun I believe that if I stick with it, then I will eventually see the fruits of my labor.

    I don’t have a lot of time to invest in my site right now. I work and take care of my family. Thanks for the list of terms that will need to be second nature to us newbies. Some of these I am not familiar with yet. You have some good tips

    • Editorial Team says:

      Hey, Evette.

      Just keep working on your content for now and keep applying what you’re learning at Wealthy Affiliate (I noticed you’re a member already). I understand that juggling work and your family can be challenging with affiliate marketing but don’t worry. As long as you can work on your affiliate site on a consistent basis, then you will start to see the change that affiliate marketing brings to your life.

  • Eddy with a y says:

    I think given the option of starting an offline business which requires a lot of upfront capital and a higher risk of failure, I think affiliate marketing is more newbie friendly.

    What I do agree with is that it’s hard. But any business owner will tell you that. I think there is this misconception that because it’s internet based it should be fast and easy. But that’s not the case. You need a lot of delayed gratification to see the results of this business, and as you mentioned many people give up when they are on the brink of seeing results.

    So I would probably rephrase this title as “why affiliate marketing sucks if you lack patience.” lol But your title is great click bait and something I would do. So I appreciate it. lol

    • Editorial Team says:

      Thanks for the comment, Eddy. Yeah, I have been watching YouTube videos since the beginning, so clickbait is kind of in my blood now :).

  • titoze says:

    Hi Anthony!

    Thanks for your thought on your article titled Why Affiliate Marketing Sucks for Beginners? Let me declare that I am a beginner affiliate marketer as well and I agree with you that it is not easy making money as affiliate marketers for beginners; it needs determination, focus, and persistence. It is not a get money quick scheme, and anyone wishing to join affiliate marketing should know this truth.
    Thanks for a very informative post.

    Good luck.

  • David says:

    This is a must read article for all new online affiliates. 

    This is packed with honest upfront Information. It’s so spot-on, most do end up quitting cause the money doesn’t come as fast as they thought or they don’t want to keep writing content. 

    Google has made it harder to rank, and you have to put time into your website to achieve good rankings. As an affiliate myself I spend a lot of time working on content and keywords. 

    Learn SEO and analytics is a big plus.

    Thank you,
    David

    • Editorial Team says:

      Glad that you agree, David. No matter how you look at things, affiliate marketing is a business and businesses take time to grow.

  • Nathaniell says:

    The reason affiliate marketing is great for beginners is:

    1) cheap to start. You need a WordPress website
    2) simple formula. write content, get ranked, get clicks and sales

    You don’t have to understand a lot of technical stuff to “make it.” You need to know your topic or stick around long enough to research and figure out your topic.

    My advice is to avoid backlink building altogether, or at least in the beginning. It’s too confusing, and time-consuming for beginners.

    • Editorial Team says:

      I agree with pretty much everything here. As I mentioned, it’s a simple formula (but it’s not an easy way to make money).

      I am glad that you said backlinks because that was my overall point. If you could spend months building 100s of backlinks and still get outranked by other blogs, then it’s not worth your time (which sucks).

  • Katrina says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this article. It had great content and was well-presented from an experienced point of view.