Why People Fail at Affiliate Marketing and How to Succeed Instead

Why People Fail at Affiliate Marketing and How to Succeed Instead

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With the growing popularity of affiliate marketing and the seeming ease with which super affiliates grow their wealth online, it's hard not to want to get involved as well. But it's not a sure-fire thing that you'll be successful if you don't put the right level of care and diligence into making your online business a success.

Here are some of the common reasons why people fail at affiliate marketing and what you can do to ensure that you succeed.

1. Unrealistic Expectations

With the sheer amount of affiliate marketers that claim success making 6 figures a month, it's all-too-easy to forget that these projected triumphs are not fully representative of the challenges faced and overcome to get to that point. It's important to realise that although it's easy to begin building your affiliate site, there is real effort involved to reach your goals and it's unrealistic to expect you'll reach success overnight.

As they say, "Rome wasn't built in a day".

That said, it's pretty common to see prospective marketers expecting to make 10 grand in their first month and quit their jobs as soon as they can. This can even be before they've got their site up and running!

Setting unrealistic goals like this will instead only lead to greater self doubt and pessimism when these expectations are inevitably unmet.

Part of this mentality is understandable, given the massive hype surrounding affiliate marketing and how it can seemingly solve all your monetary problems. But it's incredibly important to have realistic expectations about how your business will grow.

Make sure to set achievable goals and continue to take small, consistent steps to accomplishing them.

2. Impatience

When you're just starting out building your affiliate website, there's a euphoria around being excited to add new content, styling it just the way you like it and then finally releasing it for the world to see for the first time after a month or two.

And then the waiting happens...

It can be genuinely frustrating when you've released all this great content and no one appears to be reading it.

Self doubt starts to creep in and you question why your strategy isn't working and if you've done all the right things.

Maybe affiliate marketing just isn't for you or else it was all just a myth and was never going to work.

However, it can take 3-6 months before Google and other search engines pick up on this and start ranking your site in a way that's visible for the relevant search terms. Even longer before you start to see the increases in traffic you were hoping for.

This is because, even if you've been diligent about following SEO best practices and using the right keywords, Google won't instantly trust your site. There are various ways to increase this trust but the most obvious and easy to implement solutions to this are time and publishing content regularly.

Given enough time, your site has more of a chance to earn the necessary trust to rank well on Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). Posting regular content also helps Google realise that your site is active. This doesn't have to be every day or even every week - just try to focus on building great content consistently.

It's vital to not give up too quickly and persevere with your approach, especially early on. One of the main benefits of passive income is that when you've got a successful business running smoothly, you'll be earning money without lifting a finger, even when you're sound asleep.

But as with any business, it takes hard work in the initial stages to make your success a reality. So keep working to make your site as useful as possible to visitors and you'll reap the rewards when the time comes.

3. Not promoting their site properly

Even if you've got great content, it's a real shame with all the effort you've put in if no one gets to read it! You can have the most engaging and complete content in the world, but it's a mistake to neglect your content marketing strategy.

Ever heard of this thought experiment:

"If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?"

In this particular analogy, the answer is a flat no.

You absolutely need a system to follow to ensure there is incoming traffic to your blog if you want people to read it. This doesn't have to be paid traffic in the form of ads - you're free to choose whatever means suits you to ensure word gets out.

First and foremost, make sure that your site is following up-to-date SEO best practices. This will ensure Google ranks your site more highly, meaning your content is more visible to people searching for your target keywords.

I'd also suggest setting up quality backlinks for your site, as having other authority sites in your niche link back to you further proves to Google that your content is worth a look.

4. Choosing the wrong niche

When deciding which niche to base your content around, it's easy to get caught up in all the possible choices you could make. It's really important to pick a niche you'll be comfortable writing about for a fair amount of time going forward.

It's relatively easy to pick the wrong niche and one of the major reasons why affiliate marketers can fail in their venture.

This happens most commonly for the following reasons:

  • lack of research of the niche to prove it's financially viable
  • there's simply too much competition already for your site to be noticed

How do you know if you've chosen the wrong niche

Some questions to ask yourself to make sure you're in the correct niche?

  • Are you passionate about the subject you'll be creating content about?
  • Are you knowledgeable enough or comfortable taking time to learn the necessary knowledge?
  • Are there quality products in your niche that you'd be happy to promote?
  • How competitive is your niche and how good is their content?
  • Are you confident your site can become an authority for that niche?

If the answers to any of those questions was no, you might want to consider a niche which better suits your knowledge and interests.

Passion is one of the most overlooked and crucial necessities for building an affiliate site. If you're not passionate about your topic of choice, your content will likely be poor as a result.

If you don't know enough currently and you're not interested in learning more about your chosen topic, your content will be limited in depth. Remember that you don't have to be an expert in your chosen topic to succeed, as long as you're willing to put effort into learning what you need to and are good at condensing knowledge to share with others.

If there aren't quality products for you to promote, you'll find it hard to generate the levels of income you desire. Furthermore, a lack of products usually indicates that the niche might be too narrow and will likely harm your chances of receiving higher volumes of web traffic to your site.

If your niche is too competitive and those competitors have well-researched content with little room for another challenger site, you're going to find it very hard to get a foothold.

Additionally, you'll have much better chances of ranking your site on Google if you've got a good chance of becoming the main authority for your topic.

While there may be other sites out there in the same niche, if you believe you can trump their content with your own or can bring something new and interesting to the table, it'll increase your chances of being successful by a huge amount!

How do I pivot from my current niche

If you do need to change your niche, which niche you change to depends heavily on the reason you're currently having problems.

If you're having problems staying focused and interested in writing content, you might want to look at a niche you're incredibly passionate about to fuel your quality content.

If you've got too many competitors, you can choose another niche but it might be even better to choose a sub-niche that you're still interested in.

Let's say your original niche was Fitness Equipment.

A sub-niche for this could be Fitness Equipment for the Elderly.

You're much less likely to find strong competition for something people tend to write less about.

5. Focusing on earning money instead of creating great content

Being lured to affiliate marketing on the suggestion on easy money and large monetary returns makes it easy to be led astray.

While you could focus solely on ensuring your site makes money, this usually leads to bad business decisions as a result.

To make the seemingly obvious gain, it might initially seem fine to promote only the expensive products with lucrative affiliate programs. These products might even be less relevant to your readers but if still you're making money, is there a problem?

It's a slippery slope to do this and will likely result in forgoing integrity and content quality. You'll end up promoting products too aggressively or even products that are low quality. This may possibly make you more money in the short term but it's highly unethical.

Furthermore, this will lead to thin content on your site and lower levels of trust with your readers, making it harder to market the truly valuable and useful affiliate links in the long term.

Don't fall for this trap.

Focus on building engaging site content and make building your userbase a more important goal. It'll make your readers happier and will lead to greater returns in the long run for your business.

6. Not being careful about how you promote products

It's fairly common for newbies to promote lots of different products in the hope that someone will click on at least one of their affiliate links.

But as with most things in the world of affiliate marketing, quality trumps quantity.

It's much better to use a small, curated list of products that you've researched and are confident that they are of high value to your readers.

This way your promotions will feel more genuine and you'll be less distracted trying to work a myriad of recommendations into your content.

There's nothing to say you can't widen your repertoire of recommendable products later on so don't worry about starting small!

7. Failing to take action

When you've started researching your chosen niche, it's natural to get excited and want to learn more and more about the subject.

But sometimes for new marketers, especially if they're less familiar with the subject initially, will get stuck in a reading cycle, only consuming content but not writing enough themselves.

This can stem from a lack of confidence or feelings of fraudulence if they're not an expert in that particular field.

While it's important to acquire the necessary knowledge to write good content, make sure to write content as you go along.

The Pareto Principle, also known as the 80:20 rule is a great way to help you check if you're getting this ratio right.

You should be aiming to learn new knowledge around 20% of the time and spend the other 80% writing content.

This way you'll maximise the time you've got creating quality content instead of endlessly learning without putting your newfound knowledge to good use.

8. No mentor to guide them

When you try anything out of your comfort zone, it's easy to become disillusioned and doubt that you're heading in the right direction.

This is no different with affiliate marketing if you're new to it.

While not strictly mandatory, it can be really beneficial to find some way of checking you're making the right decisions.

One way to do this is to join a community of like-minded individuals. Reddit is usually a good place to start with this but you can find forums all across the internet where you can communicate with people in similar situations and learn from them.

If you're the kind of person who fares better when they've got more hands-on support, it can be extremely beneficial to find a mentor.

Having someone who can give you feedback on your decisions and steer you in the right direction has immense value, especially when you're starting out.

9. Not looking for insight into user habits

It's all well and good regularly adding content and keeping the business running smoothly.

But protecting the status quo will only get you so far.

One of the key aspects of any form of online marketing is to track your users and learn from how they use your site.

Doing so will give you a wealth of actionable data to improve how you conduct business, as it will help you make informed business decisions.

The most prevalent way of doing this is to use a tool like Google Analytics, which will help you to reveal patterns in the traffic your site receives.

You could examine your site by:

  • finding articles with the most comments
  • finding articles that get the most traffic from Google
  • tracking the success of any ad campaigns

Imagine you know which page gets the most traffic for your entire site.

This might make a good candidate to convert visitors to a relevant service you offer, like an subscription email list for example.

What if you notice most of your readers visit pages related to a specific topic more than others?

You might want to cater more for the majority of your readers and focus more upcoming content around that topic.

Knowledge is power and the more insight you have into your readers' habits, the better armed you'll be in improving the services you offer.


So we've learned about some of the common pitfalls that people fall into with affiliate marketing.

If you take only one thing away from this post, make it this

Don't give up!

I genuinely feel that the biggest battle with starting an affiliate site is not a technical issue or a question of knowledge - it's a challenge of mental fortitude.

It's so easy to become disheartened when you're not getting the results you want and have been working hard to get to this point.

Have some faith in yourself, don't give up and you'll be rewarded when all the hard work you've put in has been given time to grow.