Affiliate marketing can be a highly rewarding and lucrative activity if implemented successfully. It can work one of two ways – you can market someone else’s product or you can get other people to market yours. Whoever is doing the marketing gets a fee, typically in the form of a commission, each time they sell an affiliate product through their site using an affiliate link.
Too many site owners become publishers believing affiliate marketing to be a great way to make their millions in passive income. The reality is that affiliate marketing, as an advertiser or publisher, takes skills and knowledge to get the most out of the experience. There really is no quick fix to making money online anymore. The virtual marketplace is too crowded and changes so fast that if you take on affiliate marketing without adequate know-how, the fruits of your labor will not be realized.
As you learn more about affiliate marketing, keep the following common pitfalls in mind. Take advantage of the “fixes” provided to develop an affiliate marketing strategy that truly supports your business and is a revenue generator.
Pitfall #1: Being an Indiscriminate Affiliate Marketer
Don’t care which programs you associate with as long as they pay well? Well, that could be problematic for several reasons. A fast way to lose PageRank is to have content on your website that is not relevant to your site’s purpose. You also need to think about your customers. Having affiliate ads on your site that counter your mission can cause current customers to flee. The purpose of affiliate marketing is to increase traffic not offend your customer base. Include ads that your customers are most likely to be interested in and avoid the others unless you can figure out a creative way to make them relevant.
Fix: Use a credible affiliate program such as Google Affiliate Network to find appropriate products to market or publishers to advertise your own products. You should get affiliate links from sites that are related to your own. This requires research on your end. You want to find compatible but not competitive affiliates. If you are not careful you can end up marketing a competitor.
Pitfall #2: Signing Up for Too Many Programs
You don’t need to sign up for every affiliate program that is related to your site’s purpose. There are several reasons not to go overboard with affiliate programs. Depending on the size of your website, it may appear you are placing too much emphasis on your affiliates rather than your own content. This is a good way to trigger a Google penalty and lose rankings with other search engines as well. It also takes time to manage these programs and if you over commit, you are just diluting your outcomes.
Fix: Pick and choose a few that are “best fit.” You can always select several backup programs and test each one to see which have higher conversion rates with your customers.
Pitfall #3: Placing All Affiliate Ads on Landing Page
Not only does this confuse customers by weakening your call-to-action, it can trigger a search engine penalty. Too many ads can appear spammy to search engines which may result in a drop in rankings. Ad placement can also impact conversions. If the ads are more prominent than your content, customers may view the page as misleading and decide not to use your site any further.
Fix: If you have multiple landing pages, use different affiliate ads on the pages. Try to use the ones that are most relevant to each landing page’s content.
Pitfall #4: Not Knowing When a Good Product Goes Bad
Selecting the right product to sell is the hard part. There are many factors that go into your decision. But once you begin marketing for that affiliate, you need to make sure the affiliate remains credible. Linking to an affiliate that has been hit by Google Panda or otherwise been penalized can have major ramifications for you. You don’t want to be sending your customers to bad sites or sites that have been shut down for some reason.
Fix: Monitor your affiliates daily. This includes reading news articles about major brands that you may be marketing. Even a hint of a scandal can make customers leery if you associate with an affiliate that is having problems. You may need to temporarily suspend the relationship and use another affiliate program until the issues are resolved and you know your reputation will not be harmed by advertising for them.
Pitfall #5: Forgetting the Rules of Advertising
Affiliate marketing involves direct advertising activities. And there are limits on what you can say in an ad. You cannot make unsubstantiated claims. Even if you use banner ads from the affiliate, you need to be aware of what the ads are promoting. If your customers end up dissatisfied with their affiliate purchase, this will reflect just as badly on you as the affiliate. The customer trusted you to promote a product that would stand up to its hype. Fully understanding advertising rules can help you with your affiliate marketing efforts.
Fix: Verify that the advertising language is ethical and will not cause you legal problems down the road. Avoid overselling an affiliate product. If you need to, hire a professional copywriter to help you with your content so you do not inadvertently create obstacles for yourself. If you decide to write a product review to help promote it, be honest in your assessment and avoid duplicating content from the original product site. And use graphics creatively to grab your reader’s attention.
Pitfall #6: Selecting Low Converting Products
One of the factors you need to consider when selecting affiliate products is conversion rates. Affiliate programs should include information on typical conversions so you know what to expect. Use this information to determine which products offer the greatest return on your investment. Even if they are free, you still have time and resources to consider when implementing your affiliate marketing strategy. Products with low conversions may not be worth the effort.
Fix: Do your homework. Check multiple resources to make sure the stated conversion rate is the same for all. If you are only given extraordinary examples of affiliate marketers’ successes, then you should skip that particular opportunity. Look for those affiliates that have high conversion rates and relatively low maintenance requirements.
Pitfall #7: Committing Insufficient Resources to Affiliate Campaigns
Managing successful affiliate campaigns takes resources. And the more campaigns you are running, the more resources you need. You will not be successful if you plan to simply display affiliate ads on your site or create your own affiliate program and hope people find you in order to sign-up as an affiliate marketer. You must actively market ads and programs to get the results you want. You need to monitor each campaign’s performance and make adjustments where needed.
Fix: Depending on the number of affiliates you are managing, you either need to dedicate a certain number of hours each day to your affiliate marketing efforts or assign the same to a member of your workforce. It is possible to outsource this aspect of your affiliate activities. Companies dedicated to affiliate marketing as well as certain SEO firms provide affiliate support.
Pitfall #8: Failing to Develop a Budget
Not developing an affiliate marketing budget is one of the biggest mistakes made, especially if you plan to optimize your ads. Because most affiliate programs are free to publishers, site owner assume there are no associated costs. But as stated above, you will need resources to manage your campaigns. And resources cost money. You will not truly know if your affiliate activities are profitable without including all of your costs associated with the program.
Fix: Create a budget that allows you to easily separate your affiliate programs from other online marketing activities. You need individual budgets for each affiliate program to effectively monitor profits and losses. This will help you decide which to keep as well as the ones that need to be traded in for fresh affiliate opportunities.
Pitfall #9: Leaving Money on the Table
There are several revenue models that affiliate programs take and knowing the difference can stop you from getting shortchanged. In addition to the straightforward fee/commission model, you can also get paid per click or impression of the affiliate ad on your site. Obviously these commissions will be much smaller but over time they can add up. You do not have to be solely dependent on actual sales to make money.
Fix: Understand the different fee structures that are available with each affiliate opportunity. Consider each before selecting the one you believe will produce the highest financial rewards. Make sure the affiliate programs has a good tracking system that allows you to see when sales, clicks or impressions occur so you can manage your revenue.
Pitfall #10: Having Unrealistically High ROI Expectations
Many site owners go into affiliate marketing only to turn around and abandon it within a short period of time. They are disappointed the money did not immediately begin to roll in. They expected too much too soon. You need to take the time to build your affiliate programs and test ads within your own content. All of this takes time. And remember you are not the only one marketing those affiliate products – they come with built-in competition.
Fix: Use average conversion rates to establish a realistic monthly revenue goal. Assume you can reach that within six months and work backwards with lower monthly goals until you reach your first full month of advertising. You should build up to your anticipated goal with smaller goals rather than assume you will reach it right out of the gate.
Affiliate marketing is not for every site owner. It does take time and effort to manage affiliate relationships. But is can be exciting to see the payoff when ads begin to convert and your profit margins increase. As long as you follow basic program development and management guidelines, your affiliate programs will be successful.