If you’re looking to make money online, you’ve probably come across affiliate marketing and you may be asking, is affiliate marketing hard?
Affiliate marketing is not hard once you know what you’re doing. It is one of the best ways to make money online because of the low barrier to entry and the variety of different products and services you can promote to make money.
While it may not be hard once you get the hang of it, it can be difficult when you get started to figure out what you should promote and to actually get people to click on your links.
But I’m getting ahead of myself, let’s dive a little deeper and start with what actually is affiliate marketing?
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What is Affiliate Marketing?
Affiliate Marketing is a marketing technique in which an online retailer pays commission to individuals or companies who refer customers to their site. It’s also a form of “performance marketing”. The company offers its products and services through the affiliate’s website, with the affiliate getting paid for each customer referred.
People often confuse affiliate marketing with network marketing (or MLM’s) where you have to sell something that no one wants in order to generate a profit. That’s not affiliate marketing. When you use this type of advertising strategy, you are just promoting someone else’s product by linking back to them on your blog or social media account.
That means if I want to promote this awesome new camera I just bought, all I have to do is place a link on my website or on social media, and if someone purchases after clicking through on my link, I would earn a commission. At no extra cost to the buyer (sometimes you can even get it for cheaper!).
Does affiliate marketing actually work?
Affiliate marketing is becoming an increasingly popular way to generate traffic and sales for small businesses, bloggers, and online retailers. It’s growing in popularity every year due to the rise of social media sites like YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.
The Internet has made it possible for anyone to become an affiliate marketer with little technical knowledge or SEO knowledge.
It definitely does work as people head to sites like Google and YouTube in order to find out information about products before they purchase so that they can make an informed buying decision. People are also always looking for tools and services that can make their life and work easier, which is another useful way to generate income from affiliate marketing.
How to make money with affiliate marketing
So now that we know it works, how do you actually make money from affiliate marketing?
Affiliate marketing can be done in so many different ways, what you need to first decide upon is what niche you want to operate in. This can help you decide on the products or services you can promote.
For example, if you’re in the photography niche, products you can promote could be cameras, lenses, tripods, bags, etc. And services could be camera insurance, rental services, photography courses, etc.
Once you know your niche, it’s time to decide on how you’re going to deliver your offer to your audience. This could be via a website or blog you create, you can promote the offers on social media or on a YouTube channel, or you could an offer via paid advertising with Google or Facebook. If you go the paid advertising route, make sure to set your budgets, read the affiliate terms (as you generally can’t bid on branded keywords), and constantly test. If you don’t know what you’re doing, paid advertising can be a quick way to burn through a lot of cash.
I personally prefer using a website/blog or a YouTube channel.
The next step is to decide upon the products you’re looking to promote and then find content that you can create while linking to the products/services in a way that makes sense for the viewer/reader.
The most common way to do this is by making a review. These can be quite competitive, so try thinking outside of the box if there’s a lot of competition.
Once your affiliate offer has been made, it’s time to drive traffic so that people click through and purchase. The more traffic you get that converts, the more money you’re going to make.
Depending on how you’re promoting your offer, there are a number of ways to get traffic. If you’re using a website or blog, the best way to get traffic for free is through search engine optimization. This can take quite a while if you’re just starting out, but it generally also has the most lasting effect and you don’t have to pay anything to optimize your website and pages.
For YouTube, you can also optimize your pages, but you can also cater to the social aspect by creating interesting content that gets suggested by the algorithm.
Other ways of driving traffic can be through social promotions, linking on forums and groups, building an email list, paid ads, and even things like guest posting can generate traffic to your affiliate links.
The Pros of Affiliate Marketing
As with just about every other way to make money online, affiliate marketing has its pros and cons.
Let’s start off with the pros of affiliate marketing:
No technical knowledge required
All you need to do is add your affiliate link wherever you’re promoting it. You don’t need to know any complicated programming or complex business models in order to make money with affiliate marketing. If someone purchases from your link, you either earn a specific amount, or you receive a percentage of their purchase.
Completely free to
Affiliate marketing is 100% free to start. You don’t need to invest a penny in order to get started and make money from affiliate marketing. There are no up-front costs where you have to pay for products, tools, or services, and you can often start by talking and writing about things you already own or have used.
You don’t have to make a product
Affiliate marketing doesn’t require any product creation or development. You can simply promote affiliate products and services that are already available. You’ll find many companies that sell products or an online service have an affiliate or referral program that allows you to make money just by leading potential buyers to their products.
Creating, testing and marketing products can be very expensive for a small company. And if you don’t have an established audience, you may not have enough information to actually know what type of product they’re looking for and what type of problems you’re solving.
With affiliate marketing, you can see which offers are performing the best, and then you could even create an even better product in the future.
You don’t have to deal with customer support or returns
If you’re promoting someone else’s product, you don’t have to deal with customer support or returns. That is something that needs to be handled by the seller. You just need to create fantastic content that gets attention and drives conversions.
Easily swap out links if you find better products
If you find a product that converts better (or is better in general) than your original affiliate offer, you can easily change the links in order to start promoting that offer instead.
If you started with Amazon, for example, and then found a better offer with a much higher commission rate, all you need to do is swap out your links.
Can be done from anywhere in the world
You can use affiliate marketing to make money from any location in the world. You could even run it 100% remotely if you wanted to.
As long as there’s internet access, you can create content or promote offers online.
The Cons of Affiliate Marketing
Now that you know the pros of affiliate marketing, it’s time to take a look at some of the cons.
It takes time to build up your website and traffic
While there are many companies that will allow you to promote their products immediately (like Amazon), others require that you build up an audience first before they’ll accept you into their programs.
You need to drive traffic to make money
If you don’t already have an audience, you won’t be making any money. Just like with any other business, or any online business model for that matter, there’s no way around the fact that you’ll need something (like a website) that gets traffic before you can start making money.
Inability to scale
Since affiliate marketing requires you to drive traffic, there’s an obvious limit to the number of people that can visit your website and be targeted.
If you already have a large audience and lots of visitors, then this may not be an issue for you. But if you have a small site and have hit a wall, then it can be difficult to take your income to the next level.
Affiliate marketing can be very competitive
As affiliate marketing has little to no barriers to entry, you may have a lot of competition within your niche. You can find thousands of new affiliate marketers starting out, but also tons of established brands that have massive bank accounts to bankroll their affiliate efforts, which can make it hard to compete if you’re not very good at doing research.
You have no say in the actual product
Since you’re just promoting someone else’s product or service, you have no say in what is being sold. You don’t get to decide on what new features should be developed, how the product looks, new markets to enter, marketing copy on the companies website, and what type of offers they may use to entice your leads into buying.
Is Affiliate Marketing Hard or Easy?
All of the above information should help you answer that question yourself. Affiliate marketing can be challenging, but it’s also a lot of fun. If you’re willing to put in the work to drive traffic, there are plenty of opportunities out there for you to make money online!
I would say affiliate marketing is easy once you know what you’re doing, but it can be a hard learning curve and a frustrating one if you come into it thinking you’re going to get rich overnight.
Final thoughts on how difficult affiliate marketing is
Affiliate marketing can be hard, but it’s also a lot of fun. If you’re willing to put in the work to drive traffic and build up your website or blog, there are plenty of opportunities out there for you!
There are thousands of affiliate marketers out there, but only a few make huge sums of money. You can definitely start affiliate marketing just looking for some side income as a side hustle, but it can also serve as one source of income if you’re looking to make a full-time income online.
Make sure you have a plan in place, stay patient, and only promote quality products and services.
Thanks for reading and good luck with your affiliate marketing efforts.
Frequently Asked Questions About Affiliate Marketing
Can affiliate marketing make you rich?
It depends on how much effort you put into it. The vast majority of online marketers fail to earn a single penny in profit and, in many cases, lose money instead.
Affiliate marketing is not hard when you know what you’re doing. But it can be challenging when you get started. Affiliate marketing can earn you a lot of money, but if you want to build up a good online source of income, make sure to diversify your income streams.
Can affiliate marketing be done without a website?
Yes, affiliate marketing can be done anywhere that you can place a link to a product or service you recommend. This means that you can do affiliate marketing with a YouTube channel, an email list, your social media profiles (like Instagram), etc.
A website is one of the best ways to make money with affiliate marketing, but it is not a requirement and many influencers make a lot of money without ever creating their own websites.
How long will affiliate marketing last?
There’s no way of predicting that, but companies paying individuals for referring customers to them has been around long before the internet ever started. So while social networks and websites may gain and lose popularity, affiliate marketing is something that will move along with it and stay around for a long time to come.
Google updates may affect certain sites that provide no real value to their readers, but that doesn’t mean you cannot make money with affiliate marketing if you do it the right way.
Which affiliate marketing programs are best?
This depends entirely on your niche and the products/services you want to promote. The best affiliate marketing program is the one that best suits your audience and your content.
If I’m forced to throw a name out, I would say Amazon is still the best affiliate program because it has a high conversion rate, even though the commission rates may be quite low, and you can earn commissions on products even if they don’t actually buy the product you were linking to.
How can you see if a company has an affiliate program?
You can usually find in the footer of their website an “affiliates” page, or something similar. Otherwise, you can type in the name of the company into Google, followed by “affiliate” or “partner”. I.e. Amazon “affiliate”.
If they have an affiliate program, one of these searches will usually show the affiliate page at the top of Google.
Alternatively, you can also use affiliate marketplaces to look for companies (or niches) to find affiliate offers. My preferred marketplaces are Impact, ShareASale, and ClickBank.