Affiliate Marketing Mistakes

Why Affiliate Marketers Fail and How to Avoid These Mistakes

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The internet is a hotbed of failed affiliate sites. Many novice affiliates are naively under the impression that affiliate marketing is a simple business model to get rich fast. It’s not hard to see why, enter “Affiliate Marketing” into Google or YouTube and you will be presented with numerous gurus who are claiming to be making 6 figure fortunes with very little work.

It’s no surprise then that so many affiliates get disillusioned when they see that they are not making any money early on. They also realise that they do need to put the effort in and spend time creating quality content for their sites. After a few months, many of them lose focus and give up on their affiliate sites or they may start another one only for that to also fail.

Don’t be one of those affiliates! In this article, we will uncover common mistakes that affiliate marketers are making and what you need to do to avoid such mistakes.

Without further ado, let’s begin…

Not Using an Affiliate Mangagement Tool

Not using an affiliate management tool/plugin can be a big mistake and one which no affiliate can afford to make!

If you’re relying on adding affiliate links directly to your blog posts, you’re asking for problems. What happens if for whatever reason one of your product affiliate links ever changes?

It is not uncommon for a company to switch to a new affiliate program. If this ever occurred, you would need to manually update each occurrence of that affiliate link in your posts. This can prove a time consuming process and a real pain especially if you have hundreds of posts which may need to be changed!

With an affiliate management plugin such as ThirstyAffiliates, you only need to add your affiliate link in one central place. This means if it ever changes, you will only need to change it once and it should therefore save you valuable time.

Affiliate Mangagement Tool

Using an affiliate management plugin such as ThirstyAffiliates also offers a number of other benefits to the affiliate marketer which include:

  • Being able to cloak your affiliate links and use nofollow links.
  • Being able to sort your affiliate links into categories. This is an extremely useful feature especially when you have hundreds of different affiliate products.
  • A link health checker which runs on a regular basis to find broken affiliate links on your site. If an affiliate link stops working, it means you’re losing out on affiliate commission, so this is a handy feature to spot ones that are broken.
  • Geolocation functionality this allows you to target visitors based on the country they are visiting from so you never lose out on commission.
  • Auto keyword linking which allows you to convert specific keywords/phrases within your posts to affiliate links automatically. This functionality is a real godsend as it means you don’t have to manually go through your posts adding affiliate links which is an enormous time saver.

The auto keyword linking functionality in action:

Using ThirstyAffiliates for Affiliate Marketing

Using an affiliate management plugin can also prove a real life saver if you ever decide to sell your affiliate site. Your buyer will need to update all your affiliate links, if you haven’t been using an affiliate management tool, they are unlikely to be too impressed about doing this manually and they may decide against purchasing your site.

Not Contacting Your Affiliate Manager

When you sign-up to an affiliate program or network, you will often be assigned an affiliate manager. If that’s the case, always try to build up a good relationship with them as they can prove key to your success. Many affiliate marketers seem to ignore the importance of an affiliate manager.

They will know the ins and outs of their affiliate program and they will have plenty of important affiliate data at their fingertips which they can supply you with. They will know what is working and what is not and they will know who their top performing affiliates are and what their conversion rates are.

This information is vital, with it, you can make better informed decisions. Don’t be afraid to contact them, they are there to help and ensure that you’re successful.

Once you’re bringing in a steady stream of affiliate commission for a particular program, contact your affiliate manager to see if they will increase your commission rates. Never be scared to ask, your earnings could double overnight if you manage to convince them that you’re a valuable asset to them.

Not Having Any Tracking in Place

It is all well and good creating great content but how do you know what is working and what is not if you’re not performing any tracking? If you want to be successful with affiliate marketing you need to regularly monitor your affiliate efforts.

Having analytics in place will allow you to know the answer to the following questions:

  • What are my conversion rates?
  • What’s my top earning posts?
  • What posts are not performing so well?
  • What are my top traffic sources?
  • How are my visitors interacting with my affiliate links? Are they mostly clicking on the affiliate links that are located in the above the fold section of my posts? Or are they mostly clicking on the affiliate links that appear at the bottom of my posts?
  • Have my affiliate earnings increased or decreased since last month?

With all this data, you can then optimise your efforts to improve your conversion rates and thus increase your affiliate earnings.

If you’re using an affiliate management plugin such ThirstyAffiliates it is straightforward to set-up tracking (check out our guide on how to do this).

Tracking affiliate links with MonsterInsights

Not Performing Keyword and Competitor Research

Before writing an article, always ensure that you perform the relevant keyword and competitor research. It is vital that you conduct this research as you need to understand what users are searching for in relation to what you’re planning on writing about, and you also need to identify how competitive these keywords actually are.

Once you understand the relevant keywords to target, you can then incorporate these into your post. Failure to perform the necessary research, can mean that you will struggle to get your post to rank in the search engines as you’re targeting the wrong keywords which can mean you won’t get any traffic.

It is important to remember that you want to be targeting buyer intent keywords. Buyer intent keywords can include such things as:

  • Best + [Product Name]
  • Review/s + [Product Name]
  • [Product Name] VS [Product Name]
  • Top [Product Name]
  • Best Price on [Product Name]
  • Discount + [Product Name]
  • Where to buy [Product Name]

The reason why these keywords are so important is because when the user uses such keywords they are either looking or thinking about purchasing a product/service. This means these keywords are high converting and they can be highly profitable.

Good keywords should contain the following three important elements:

  • Buyer intent keyword – These are high converting and profitable keywords.
  • Low competition – More competitive keywords can mean that you will struggle to rank for them. Aim to go after long tail keywords as these are generally less competitive and they will be easier to rank for. Most keyword tools rank keyword competitiveness on a scale of 1-100 (1 being the easiest and 100 being the toughest). Aim to target keywords in the following range 0-45.
  • High search volume – You want to find keywords that are being regularly searched for. There is no point going after a keyword that is only being searched for a handful of times throughout the month. Try to target long-tail keywords that have monthly search volumes between 1000-5000. It is important to also check the search volume trend for the keyword, ideally you want it to be stable throughout the year.

In order to find relevant keywords with low competition and high search volume, you can use keyword tools such as SEMRush.

For example, if you’re planning on writing a comparison review on the best coffee machines, you could enter “Best Coffee Machines” into SEMRush.

SEMRush affiliate marketing mistakes

The tool will display the search volumes for the particular keyword entered. As you can see, “Best Coffee Machines” has a monthly search volume of 5400 which means it has a good search volume.

We would then need to verify how difficult it would be to rank for “Best Coffee Machine” in the organic search rankings. In order to do this, we would click on “Keyword Difficulty” from the tool’s sidebar.

The keyword has a difficulty of 69.8% out of 100% which means is going to be a competitive keyword to rank for.

Once you have performed the necessary keyword research, it’s time to move onto competitor research.

The first thing we need to do is to identify what articles are ranking in the first few pages of Google. In order to do this, enter a relevant keyword relating to the article that you’re planning on writing.

Load the search results for the first few pages and analyse the quality of the content. How good are the articles that are ranking, are they relatively short in length? A poorly written article that is appearing on the first page of Google will generally be easier to outrank providing you create a better article.

Make a note of the site’s URLs and then head over to SERPChecker. Enter the relevant URL’s into the tool and check the following metrics:

  • Page authority – The lower the page authority of the site, the better, as it will mean you will have higher chance of your article ranking over your competitors. A PA of less than 30 is a positive sign.
  • Domain authority – The lower the domain authority of your competitor the better. A DA of less than 30 is a good sign.

Not Using Geo-Retargeting

Many affiliate programs offer individual country specific affiliate programs.

Amazon Associates for example allows you to sign-up to 12 country specific programs. One of the benefits of this, is you can earn extra commission without doing any extra work providing you redirect your visitor to the relevant website depending on which country they are visiting from.

If you’re not using geo-retargeting on your affiliate site, you’re potentially losing out on valuable commission.

If you use an affiliate management plugin such as ThirstyAffiliates, it will allow you to target visitors based on their country they are visiting from. If you’re solely monetising your site through Amazon Associates you could also use Amazon’s OneLink.

Using ThirstyAffiliates for Affiliate Marketing

Not Using Call-to-Actions

Call-to-actions (CTA) are vital in the world of affiliate marketing. The purpose of a CTA is to get users to purchase the product or service that you’re promoting or recommending on your site. Without a clear CTA, users are unlikely to click-through and you’re unlikely to make many sales and your conversion rates will suffer.

It is important to create eye-catching CTA’s so that you can grab your user’s attention and entice them to click on your affiliate links. Create several CTA that are located in different areas of your post.

Try to include a CTA above the fold section of your post. This works particularly well as users are immediately drawn to it as soon as they start reading your article. A CTA located in this section works well for time poor users. Many may not want to read a long post to find out what the best toaster is (or whatever you’re promoting). They would rather find out as early on as possible. For this reason, make it as easy as possible for them and include a “Click here to see the best <product you’re promoting>” link early on in your post. This way, they can click over to merchant if they want to purchase the product straightaway, otherwise they can read on to find out more.

Call to Action

Tables can be great ways to display CTA and to condense reviews. If you’re using Amazon Associates to monetize your site, think about using a plugin such as Amazon Affiliate WordPress Plugin (AAWP). AAWP will allow you to create great looking comparison tables, and you include suitable CTA within it. This will help you increase your click-through-rates (CTR) and will allow you to earn more commission.

AAWP Comparison Table

Remember to always perform split testing with your CTA’s and experiment to see what works best.

For example, you may want to experiment with different colour schemes and font sizes, you may also want to see if buttons work better than text links. Change the location of your CTA’s throughout your posts to see what converts better. Don’t forget to also check how your CTA looks on mobile devices. More and more users are using these devices to browse the web so ensure they are clearly visible.

Not Being Transparent and Using Affiliate Disclaimers

Users may often overlook the need to display an affiliate disclaimer notice on their site. Not only is this a big mistake as they’re not being fully transparent and honest with their visitors, but they could also be breaking the law. In many countries, displaying an affiliate disclaimer is compulsory. For example, in the US, the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) requires that all affiliates display a disclaimer notice.

It is therefore vital that you disclose any affiliate relationships that you may have. Include your disclaimer in a prominent area on your site such as the footer or the header. Visitors are more likely to trust your content if you’re totally upfront with them so never attempt to mislead them. Not displaying one can also mean that you may be kicked off any affiliate program/network that you have joined.

Apart from an affiliate disclaimer, you will also need to display a privacy and cookie policy. In these pages, you will need to provide information regarding the data that you collect on your visitors as well as how you use this data. In order to create a complaint privacy and cookie policy, you can use the service provided by iubenda Privacy law generator.

Iubenda Affiliate marketing mistakes

Not Promoting Your Content

Google can be great source of organic traffic. The problem however is your posts will likely take time to rank on Google, so you can’t expect them to rank overnight. For this reason, you need to be proactive in promoting your content.

You should ideally be spending as much time promoting your content or even more as you do writing them. Remember, more traffic usually means more earnings, so work on promoting it in order to get your site noticed.

There are numerous ways you can promote your content (check out our comprehensive post on blog content promotion techniques), these can include:

Don’t forget to give importance to your on-page SEO as well.

If you’re thinking of using black hat SEO techniques to boost your traffic, think again. While you may get a temporary increase in traffic, you’re only going to regret it when Google penalizes your site and you may need to start from scratch again.

Not Being Patient “Shiny Object Syndrome”

Too often than not, many novice affiliate marketers will lose focus and will get distracted by the shiny object syndrome. They will start a site but after a while they will lose motivation and they will start another one.

Building a niche site to an authority takes time and effort which many people often don’t realise. You can’t expect to do this overnight.

Don’t fall into the trap of having dozens of sites with only a few posts which aren’t generating any real revenue. Yes, you should diversify but it is important that you first build at least one site to an authority which is bringing in a steady monthly income. Once you’re generating decent earnings from your site, you can then think about creating another one. Remember, patience is key with affiliate marketing, focus on building valuable content and your fruits of your labour will be rewarded over time.

Not Researching Your Niche Before Starting

Never, ever start an affiliate site without researching your niche thoroughly beforehand!

Choosing the right niche is paramount. You should spend a considerable amount of time researching it to confirm whether it’s viable or not.

You should be asking yourself the following questions:

Are you passionate about your niche?

You’re going to write better content if the niche interests you. Your visitors will be able to tell if you’re not passionate about what you’re writing about. If you know nothing about the niche and you’re not prepared to learn about it, you better be sure that you can hire relevant writers that understand your particular niche and that can write about it.

How broad is your niche?

Too broad a niche will usually mean it will be too competitive. For example, if you plan on creating an affiliate electronics review site, you’re going to face stiff competition from big sites that dominate this niche. If however you specialise in a narrower niche, let’s say remote control reviews, you’re probably going to have lower competition and therefore you’re more likely to have a higher success rate.

How competitive is the niche?

Thinking of setting up an insurance comparison site for example, think again, there are huge sites out there doing this already with huge million dollar marketing budgets so it will be impossible to compete against them. Too competitive a niche and you will struggle to make any impact and you’re unlikely to earn much commission.

Are there enough products to promote and what are their price points?

Are there enough products which you can promote and what are the average commission rates? If there’s only a handful of products which are priced under $10 and the average commission rate is only 4%, you’re not going to be earning much. Make sure that there are wide range of products that are available to promote that have different price points.

What are the typical conversion rates for the product you’re planning on promoting?

It is important to check the conversion rates for each of the products that you’re planning on promoting.

An affiliate program could be offering high commission rates. The problem however is, if the conversion rates are particularly low, you’re not going to be earning much. If this is the case, it could make more sense promoting a similar product that has lower commission but higher conversion rates.

Always check with your affiliate manager, if they are a reputable affiliate program, they will be more than happy to supply you with such information.

Failing to Invest in Your Business

Many seem to think that if you’re starting an affiliate site you don’t need to invest any money in it.

If you were starting a bricks and mortar business, you would no doubt spend money on making the premises looks nice, marketing, purchasing stock etc. Running an affiliate site is just like running any type of business, you need to invest in the right tools and that will mean you will need to spend some money.

You can’t expect to purchase cheap hosting and expect your site to load lightning fast. A slow site can mean that your visitors won’t stay on it for long so your bounce rate will suffer. The same goes with themes, install a free theme and it could mean that it is poorly coded and bloated and it will be slow to load. It can also mean the theme is unsupported and vulnerable to attack by hackers which is not something you want to be worrying about.

Below are some of the bare minimums that you really shouldn’t skimp on if you want to start an affiliate site:

  • Hosting – opt for web hosting that is fast and which offer great support. Check out the following web hosting companies which offer a great service: SiteGround, WPEngine, HostGator and BlueHost.
  • Theme – choose one that is responsive and mobile friendly. It also needs to be fast loading, SEO friendly and easy to customise. Premium themes usually cost in the region of $20 – $99. Remember to check out reviews left by users of the theme before deciding to purchase it. You don’t want to regret purchasing a theme when it’s too late. Check out the following sites for some great themes: ThemeForest, Thrive Themes, StudioPress and Elegant Themes.
  • Lead generation tool – this is essential to use on your site to capture your visitor’s email addresses. Check out OptinMonster which is a powerful lead generation plugin which will allow you to grow your email list quickly thus allowing you to monetize your subscriber list.

Remember that any profit that you make from your affiliate site, you should be reinvesting it into your business. This could mean investing in better hosting, or could mean employing a content writer to help you write more articles.

Thinking You’re Going to Get Rich Overnight

If you expect to get rich quick overnight with affiliate marketing think again! Contrary to what you may have read, you can’t expect to make 6 figures in a day or week when first starting out.

Yes, affiliate marketing can be great business and a lucrative one but you’re not going to get rich in just a couple of months.

Believe me when I say, you’re probably not going to be earning any money from your site for at least 6 months. If you’re not prepared to work for nothing for at least a year than affiliate marketing is not the business for you!

When first starting out, concentrate on creating valuable content and building an audience and promoting your articles. Your affiliate earnings will grow over time as you generate more content, so work hard from the beginning and you will be rewarded later on.

Writing Poor Quality Content

Are you writing short and poor quality content or are you outsourcing your content to a writer on Fiverr who has agreed to write your 5000 word article for only $5? If you fail to generate high-quality content that is genuinely helpful to your visitors, you’re unlikely to succeed with affiliate marketing.

Gone are the days where you could create a mediocre article for less than 1000 words and expect it to rank well on Google. Invest your time in creating quality unique posts that your visitors will find helpful. If you are just generating generic content, your visitors are unlikely to trust your site.

When you create your content, think first about the questions that users are asking about your particular niche. Once you know what they are, you can then start writing your content.

In order to find out what questions users are asking about your niche, you can use a keyword research tool such as SEMRush.

In order to do this with SEMRush, simply enter a related keyword term into SEMRush and then select the “Keyword Magic Tool” from the sidebar.

SEMRush Keyword Magic Tool

The tool will then display related keywords. Filter by “questions” and it will sort the keywords related to questions.

SEMRush Keyword Magic Tool Questions

You can also use AnswerThePublic which is a free keyword visualization tool that uses combination of Google and Bing Suggested searches to come up with related keywords.

Enter a search term and choose a specific country. The tool will then generate visual maps of keyword suggestions, including questions, comparisons, alphabetical, prepositions and related terms.


When you write your articles, aim to follow the AIDA model.

AIDA stands for:

  • Attention
  • Interest
  • Desire
  • Action

The reason why the AIDA model is so important is because you’re trying to gain a conversion from your visitor. This could be in the form of a sale, a lead, or simply a click-through to another site.

In order to accomplish this, you first need to catch their attention, you then need to arouse their interest. Once you have their interest, you will need to make them desire the particular product/service. Finally, you then need them to complete the action, which can be to make a purchase or sign-up to your email list or whatever it may be. This is where the all important call-to-action comes into play.

Not Building an Email List

I cannot tell you how important it is to capture user’s email addresses. A user may visit your site once but they may never return back. If however you collect user’s email addresses, you can send out regular newsletters to promote new content. This will allow you to attract them back to your site.

You can also use your email subscriber list to also promote affiliate products. Subscribers are often highly profitable, especially as you can promote products over the long term to them.

Adding an email opt-in form to your site is straightforward. You can use OptinMonster to create a range of different sign-up forms. It will also allow you to personalise your campaigns depending on your visitor’s behaviour. This should help with conversion rates.

Optinmonster affiliate marketing mistakes

Not Creating Evergreen Content

When creating posts for your site always make sure that you’re writing evergreen content. There is no point spending time writing a post that will be out of date relatively quickly.

You usually won’t be able to monetize content which is out-of-date or which is not relevant anymore. For example, if you write an article titled “Best Laptops for Video Editing in 2019”, your content is going to be out of date within a few months as newer laptops will be coming onto the market.

Always ask yourself before writing a post, will this contents that I’m about to write still be relevant in 2 years’ time? If the answer is no, then it is probably not advisable to write the article and you should think about writing something else.

Promoting Dodgy Products

Are you promoting some dodgy diet pills on your site because they are offering 40% commission rates? If you’re promoting products just because they are offering high commission rates, think again.

As an affiliate, your job is to build trust with your visitors. The way to do this is to only promote products that are really helpful, and solve a problem, and most importantly ones that you have tried yourself.

Users are not stupid, they will know when you’re just peddling products for the sake of making a quick buck. If users don’t trust the products you’re recommending, you’re going to lose all credibility and they are unlikely ever to return back to your site.

Final Words

There you have it, common mistakes that many affiliates make. One of the keys to success with affiliate marketing is being patient and concentrating on creating valuable content that your visitors will find useful. Avoid the mistakes detailed in this post and you should be on the path to affiliate marketing success.

Comment below and let me know what mistakes you’re making or have made in the past?

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