The Pros and Cons of Making Money with Affiliate Marketing

The Truth About How to Make Money in Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate Marketing
•••  Credit: CarmenMurillo |Getty Images

Affiliate marketing is an excellent from of self employment because it has low overhead to get started, and doesn't require a person to produce, stock, or ship product inventory. Affiliate marketers are paid for referring new clients and customers to other businesses, products, or services.

The Reality of Affiliate Marketing

The prevailing problem with affiliate marketing is the culture of so-called experts and 'get-rich-quick' schemes that have developed around this otherwise logical sales model. The suggestion that affiliate marketing can be scaled quickly and with little effort is a misnomer.

Financial gain through affiliate marketing is predicated on research, hard work, and consistent engagement with the products and brand networks that you choose to endorse.

The question isn't really whether or not affiliate marketing is a viable income option (it is), but whether or not you can make affiliate marketing work for you.

These tips are meant to help you decide if the commitment to building an affiliate marketing program is a good fit for your financial goals.

 Melissa Ling. © The Balance 2018

Pros of Affiliate Marketing

Below are several aspects of affiliate marketing that make it a good home business option:

  • Most affiliate programs are free to join, so your costs are usually related to your referral and marketing methods.
  • There is no need to create a product or service because you are choosing one that already exists.
  • You don't have to stock or ship products.
  • You can work anytime and from anywhere as long as you have internet access.
  • There is passive income potential which depends on how you market your affiliates programs.
  • It can be added to your current home business to create an additional income stream.
  • Affiliate marketing is ideal for bloggers, coaches, information entrepreneurs, and those who build and maintain their own digital properties.

Cons of Affiliate Marketing

Here are some challenges of making money through affiliate marketing:

  • It takes a large commitment of time to generate the amount of traffic needed to result in income.
  • Affiliate hijacking can occur in which you're not given credit for your referral.
  • A bad affiliate referral can ruin your credibility; it's crucial that you research and select quality businesses, and this takes time.
  • You have no control over the businesses' fulfillment of a given product or service.
  • Some companies fail to pay their affiliate marketers.
  • It is a highly competitive market. When you find a great affiliate program, you can bet that many others are promoting it as well.
  • The customers belongs to the merchant. Your stats will let you know how many sales were made of what product, but in most cases, you'll have no information about who made the purchase. This can make it difficult to tap into recurring sales.

How to Become a Successful Affiliate Marketer

  • Researching the history of affiliate marketing and the successful brands and personalities within the market.
  • Buy the products you intend to market so you can personally attest to the quality. You'll be judged by the product or service you promote, so focus on the quality of your own brand and recommendations, not just the earning potential.
  • Research each affiliate program you consider joining so that you will understand how and when you'll be paid.
  • Start a blog and social media channels for promoting your affiliate links.
  • Choose affiliate items that match your niche and the content of your blog.
  • Mix and match affiliate ads so you don't overwhelm your visitors (content-embedded affiliate links usually have the best click-through rates over image links.)
  • Always disclose your affiliate relationship. Most visitors will probably understand that advertisements lead to your personal compensation, but if you write a review or use an in-text link as a recommendation, you want your readers to know that each click equates with your paycheck. This ensures you build transparency and trust with your readers (and it's required by the Federal Trade Commission endorsement rules.)
  • Don't rely on SEO or social media alone to drive people to your website and affiliate referrals. Understand who your target market is, where you can find your audience, and how to entice users on your site There are many cost-effective ways to market your affiliate business.
  • Start an email list. The most successful affiliate marketers use email as a part of their strategy.
  • Consider using a lead page and funnel system to market your affiliate business. Lure prospects to your email list with a free offer and include links to your affiliate product pages.
  • Monitor the success of your affiliate programs, particularly if you have several programs or you're also using other ad types, such as Google AdSense for making money. Having too many advertisements will dilute your website and result in lower performance.

If you decide to pursue an affiliate marketing business, or want to add affiliate marketing to an existing business, understand that it's not fast, automatic, nor without effort.

Your probability for making money with affiliate marketing is no better or no worse than any other type of home business. Your personal success depends on building a schedule for daily involvement with your online business, and having the discipline to execute (and iterate) on your plan as the business grows.