Becoming an affiliate marketer and living the American dream.
Who doesn’t dream about that?!
Imagine being able to travel and work everywhere, from any location, and making a passive income from just your laptop! That sounds like a dream, right?
You have all these courses online that easily teach you affiliate marketing in just a few weeks, so how can you not be tempted?
Well, in this article, I will tell you the truth about living the affiliate marketer life and the reality behind it!
Oh wait… maybe you’re new to all these things? Okay, sure… let me answer the most popular questions first.
What’s an Affiliate Marketer?
An affiliate marketer is someone that promotes products or services from companies (your affiliate partners) and gets paid for every sale made through its referrals.
For example, you could promote NordVPN, a popular VPN service, on your website and get a commission for every visitor you convert to a NordVPN customer.
There are a few ways to practice the job of affiliate marketer, but the most popular one is owning a website.
- You write content that is meant to convert your visitors to a specific product or service.
- It can be a product review or a guide based on the best software to buy.
To summarize, an affiliate marketer is someone that promotes a product or a service.
Why Become an Affiliate Marketer?
I think the main reason why people decide to take this career path is because they want to manage their own time and be free.
Another good reason is the money because being an affiliate marketer can be really profitable!
You also don’t need any prior experience in marketing!
Anyone and everyone can be an affiliate marketer as long as you have the right resources and eagerness to learn new things.
Why You Shouldn’t Become an Affiliate Marketer
This isn’t exactly me saying that this is not the right job for you. Who knows, it could be!
However, like with any profession, there are risks to consider diving in.
There are things out of your control, such as Google algorithm updates and your affiliate partners’ terms and conditions.
The important thing is to be able to adjust and adapt to them well. Otherwise, you will have a hard time managing everything!
The affiliate marketing industry is also very competitive.
Many people are competing to outrank each other. It will be difficult for a first-timer to keep up and stand out from the crowd.
How Much Money Can You Make as an Affiliate Marketer?
The simple answer is between $0 and $100 million. It’s like asking, “If you start a restaurant, how much can you make?”
Well, a restaurant owner could make 5K/m profits… but if he starts a franchise and grows his network to 100 restaurants, he could be successful and turn this 5K into 1 million.
That is the same thing for the affiliate marketer.
It depends on how good you are in SEO, how much capital you invest upfront and continue to invest in your projects, and how many websites you own. A lot of things!
“Okay… I now know what an affiliate marketer is. I just want to leave my day job and get started. What do I really need to know?”
Becoming an Affiliate Marketer: The Checklists
Before getting started with the list of things you will need to become a successful affiliate marketer, let me tell you one thing:
There is no way you can become a successful affiliate marketer in just 6 weeks.
So move all those bookmarked courses promoted by gurus to the trash. Those won’t help you.
You will need to learn a lot of things, and fortunately for you, everything can be found online for free. That’s the good news 🙂
Also, please take note: An affiliate marketer is not a simple profession; it’s a set of several professions.
So you will have to learn a lot of professions to be successful. Let’s start with the most important one.
1. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Learning SEO is essential if you want to make money with affiliate marketing.
Yeah, it’s true that some affiliate marketers make money through their influence on social media platforms. Still, it will never beat the revenue potential generated by free traffic that Google can generate.
Another great thing with SEO is that you can have total control over your audience.
If you rank for “Best VPN for Torrenting”, you will know that your audience wants to download torrents and that they need a VPN for this specific reason.
That makes it easy to optimize your content for this specific audience, boost your conversion rate with CRO, and make more sales.
An influencer will never be able to target his audience so precisely.
Another point to consider also is that a post on Twitter will generate a large number of visitors the day it will be posted,
And then, nada.
Organic traffic, on the other hand, will generate a constant amount of traffic on a daily basis.
That’s why all the pros that are successful use SEO as their main channel. This, however, makes the affiliate market really competitive!
SEO is divided into 2 sections: On-page and Off-page.
- On-page SEO is everything related to your website optimization (content, site structure, images, etc…).
- Off-page SEO is what excludes your own website. This term is mostly used to refer to link building (building backlinks).
A great resource to learn Onpage SEO is MOZ. I’m not a fan of their software, but their content is top-notch. Probably beat 99% of the Udemy courses you may buy on on-page SEO!
You can find a lot of helpful articles on the Ahrefs blog as well.
I recommend you to stay away from websites like neilpatel.com or backlinko.com. Their articles do not provide any value and are just built for SEO purposes.
For off-page SEO, You can check my link building section.
NOTE: If you don’t know SEO, you must stop everything and go learn SEO. This is crucial to becoming a successful affiliate marketer.
2. Money Management
In my opinion, money management is the second most important skill to have. Why? Because there is nothing more unstable than the affiliate marketer life!
One year you can make 100K. The next year, you make 300K, and then suddenly, an algorithm happens, and all your sites get hit by Google.
Oh no… Your 30K/month becomes 5K. I’m talking from experience… This has happened to me!
But you know what saved me? The entire year I made that money.
I spent the minimum to keep my business flowing, and I cashed the rest of the money in my business bank account.
So when my sites tanked, I had 300K in my bank account. That saved me!
Always think about your financial security first. I know it’s great to make money… it’s nice bragging about your sports car to your friends, but it’s not safe; at least not when you start.
When I started, my goal was to have enough money in the bank to cover at least 1 year of salary. And then, over time, it becomes 5 years.
But you need to start somewhere, and you need to balance this with the amount you want to reinvest in your website to grow it.
This is where the importance of a good money management system for your business comes into play.
3. Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)
Having content that ranks is not enough to make money. You need to convert your visitors into customers if you want to receive your affiliate commissions.
Having a good understanding of the conversion rate optimization process is crucial if you want to increase your conversion rates and boost your affiliate earnings.
Placing your affiliate links a bit everywhere won’t make you rich, believe me!
The best way to learn CRO is with reverse engineering. Look at what other affiliate marketers are doing. Look at their sites, their CTA (Call To Action) widgets, if they use popups, which headlines they use, etc…
The Youtube Channel Convertica is also a great place to start learning the basics.
4. Email Marketing
Running an email list is a great way to boost your income online, but it requires some basic email marketing skills to work properly.
Adding a newsletter widget to your website is probably the easiest and most effective way to build your email list.
When writing blog posts, make sure that your audience will be notified by email when you hit the publish button.
You can use Zapier to sync your new blog post with your email marketing software. The free version of Zapier should be more than enough. It will allow you to sync up to 100 new articles monthly.
This Youtube playlist by H-Educate should be more than enough to get you started.
5. Basic Understanding of WordPress and Hosting
WordPress represents 43% of all the websites on the web, and this is also the most used platform for blogging.
For that reason, there is a big chance you will opt for WordPress for your site. WordPress isn’t really difficult to learn. It’s really a simple CMS.
Building a website is easy, but making it compliant with Core Web Vitals is another game. I struggled to find the perfect combo the last 2 years and finally found the perfect setup!
Here is the result I get for one of my websites with the combo above (No caching except Cloudflare default settings).
As you see, it’s blazing fast!
I do not encourage using shared web hosting since it is expensive, slow, and open to reverse engineering attacks.
On DigitalOcean, you can create a CyberPanel droplet for just $12/m and host 5-10 websites on that same droplet using CyberPanel for the control panel, which is super easy to use!
You can create a CyberPanel droplet here; it literally installs everything in just one click! It could not be easier 🙂
10 Mistakes an Affiliate Marketer Can Do (Based On My Own Life Experience)
I’ve made many important mistakes in my life as an affiliate marketer, and I think this could be helpful to share with you.
Even if you understand SEO and have ranked many sites in the past, that doesn’t mean you will be a successful affiliate marketer, or that you could survive in this very competitive market.
Here are the 10 mistakes I’ve made in my affiliate marketing business that could have moved me to possible bankruptcy.
1. Being Too Confident
At some point in your affiliate marketing career, you will become extremely confident. You will think you know everything and that you are the best in your niche.
Once this day happens, you will be in danger!
Google always evolves! This means you must always adapt your strategies too!
This happened to me in the past; I was so confident because all my websites were ranking so well that I refused to change my strategy.
(Yes, it makes sense not to change what’s working, and this was also my point of view at that time.)
Because I was so sure of my SEO methods, I was doing the same exact strategy on all my websites.
So what do you think happened when Google released a new core algorithm and decided he didn’t like my methods?
One day I woke up and saw my entire network of affiliate sites tanking… And then it happened! My affiliate marketing monthly income dropped from 30K to 5K — a sad drop of 85% in my revenue.
All that because all my websites were using the same strategy… So if one was wrong, they all were wrong!
Remember this when you will build multiple websites. Do not replicate the same exact strategy on all your sites.
Try using a different approach for each site, use different site structures, different anchor text combinations, etc…
2. Having Just One Income Stream
Having only one income revenue stream is something I learned the hard way! Always diversify your revenue and do not expose yourself to just one source of revenue.
Here is a list of things you can do to help spread the risk of your investments.
- Have more sites (Never go all-in on one single website)
- Invest in real estates
- Launch an SEO service (Offer what you are better at)
- Start an Amazon FBA store
- Start a dropshipping business
- Launch a SAAS
3. Scaling Too Fast
When the money is flowing, it makes sense to want to scale your affiliate business.
But do it intelligently!
When I flipped my first big site, I moved from 3 sites to 15 sites almost overnight! I had money in the bank, and making 1 million was now my next target.
Despite having the money to do it, the problem was that I wasn’t ready to scale that fast! Instead of giving a lot of love to 2-3 sites, I was giving the minimum to all my sites, causing a small growth.
I wanted to make more money, but it did the exact opposite. If you feel ready to scale, do it slowly. Do not rush the process!
4. Not Planning Your Exit
When you start a new project, it is extremely important to have a goal, a target (and respect it)!
When do you plan to sell your site? What would be a good ROI?
Do not be greedy!
On two occasions, I had websites worth ~400K each and refused to sell because I was targeting the 20K/m revenue. On both occasions, I’ve been greedy and passed a great opportunity to cash a nice amount of money!
The first site was worth 300K, and I refused to sell because I wanted to hit 400K. An algorithm happened, and my site got hit badly. I ended up selling it for only 45K. I missed an opportunity to make 250K.
The second site was worth 450K. It was making 18-20K/m but had just an average of ~14K/m, so my partner and I decided to keep it another 3 months before selling it. Again, our friend Google came and killed our site. We ended up selling it for just 115K.
This was a costly mistake for me. Try to learn from my experience and do not repeat the same mistake.
When you feel your site is at its top and you make a good profit based on your total site costs, it’s time to sell.
The “It can still make more” mentality will kill you in the long term.
5. Not Having an SOP (Standard Operating Procedure)
An SOP is a series of videos that you make and keep for formation purposes. Record every task, and this will help you later to scale and delegate your tasks to your employees.
Last year, I created ~100 video tutorials that are now serving every time I hire a new employee.
Probably the best time investment I’ve ever made 🙂
6. Not Treating Your Sites Like a Real Business
Your success as an affiliate marketer will highly depend on your sites, so taking care of them is really important.
Treat them like a real business!
Hire a designer and create a unique logo, provide an email, and respond to your contact form submissions. Have a great and professional-looking website!
Give them an equal amount of love. Do not neglect them. Add new content often, do periodic SEO audits, and fix any issues you find.
7. Not Delegating Your Tasks
You can’t do everything.
Delegating my tasks has been a game-changer for me! When I started to delegate, it’s when I really started to enjoy life.
Delegating my SEO tasks has given me the freedom to spend more time with my family and focus on the business side of my company.
8. Not Having a Corporate Company
A lot of affiliate marketer beginners will start with just a registered company… and that’s totally fine!
However, move the corporate company as soon as you can.
Why? Because of the taxes advantage the corporation has over the registered company. I don’t know about your country, but here in Canada, I save almost 60% on my taxes being a corporate company.
I can then reinvest that money in my affiliate company instead of sending it to the government.
9. Limiting Yourself to Just One Niche
Google algorithms treat some niches differently. Remember the June 2019 broad core update that impacted heavily the health niche!
Limiting your affiliate marketing business to just one niche exposes you to a niche-based algorithm update.
Diversify your websites across multiple affiliate niches and minimize the risk of being exposed to a single niche.
The same rule applies to affiliate vs content websites. Do not just build affiliate websites; build content websites as well (making money through advertising).
The 2020 Google broad core algorithm update impacted a lot of affiliate sites… A lot of affiliate marketers’ careers ended, and they lost everything because of the algorithm update.
A good way to learn from this algorithm is to never fill your website with just affiliate content. You should have a higher ratio of informative content. I suggest 70/30.
10. Not Optimizing Your Content for CRO
Never underestimate the power of CRO! A very well-optimized website can literally double your revenue.
Look at which pages your site gets the most traffic on, and focus on those first. You could be surprised; you could earn a few hundred dollars extra with just a few simple changes.
2 Misconceptions of What Affiliate Marketing Is
There are many misconceptions about what we (affiliate marketers) are.
This article isn’t meant to be negative against our job but just share the reality that we are facing.
1. Affiliate Marketing is a Passive Income
No, that’s not true! Affiliate marketing isn’t passive income… A good example of truly passive income is investing in a stock with dividends.
If you believe the affiliate guru who says that you can be an affiliate marketer and earn passive income by doing nothing, that is FAR from reality!
Some brokers will tell you that you can buy a website and just let it generate money on autopilot.
Unfortunately, that is not true.
If you stop taking care of your car, your car will end up breaking. The same applies to a site.
If you don’t care about your site, you will lose your ranking over time, and your income will suffer. You always need to add new content, build more links, fix SEO issues, etc…
It’s not a “do-it-once-and-forget thing.” It’s a daily routine which will ask you a lot of time.
2. Affiliate Marketing Doesn’t Require a Big Investment
Again, that is not true at all!
Starting an affiliate business is super costly. With the inflation rising, the site costs are increasing like crazy.
Content is getting more expensive, the backlinks cost doubled since the COVID-19 pandemic… and it’s not getting better!
Yes, it’s true that you can reduce your costs if you handle your content yourself, but you will still need a big budget for links.
The affiliate market is extremely competitive, and you will need a lot of links to outrank the competition.
Just to give you an idea of the budget required to start, if you pay 0.05$/word for a writer and need 100K words, it’s an upfront investment of 5K, just for the content. Plan another ~15K in backlinks if you want to rank and start generating revenue.
You are at ~20K now, and that means you don’t have to pay for someone to handle your SEO.
NOTE: I do not recommend using cheap content. They are fine for content websites, but not for affiliates. Affiliate content needs top-quality content written by native English speakers.
Should I Become an Affiliate Marketer?
Let’s be honest, my article has a lot of negativity… Yeah, I know! You may think I will end up saying, “RUN!!! Affiliate marketing is a fake dream.”
Not at all!
Being an affiliate marketer has been the best thing that happened in my life! No job is perfect, every job has its downsides, and affiliate marketing is no exception.
BUT, the pros of affiliate marketing easily outweigh its cons.
I wrote this article because I wanted you to understand the downsides before you jump blindly.
If you check all the requirements and have money ready to invest, and if you can handle the stress, go ahead!
Once you become successful, you will never go back! It’s possible to make a 6-figure revenue in a short amount of time, but for this, you will need dedication.
Everyone can do it! The only challenge is the startup capital.
NOTE: I do not recommend using cheap content. They are fine for content websites, but not for affiliates. Affiliate content needs top-quality content written by native English speakers.
Being an affiliate marketer is probably one of the best jobs on the planet, but you need to remember that no job is perfect.
This article was meant to let you know the bad side of the medal and show you the reality of being an affiliate marketer, which isn’t really like the perfect American dream.
The challenge is that the affiliate market is really competitive, and all profitable niches are saturated (or almost).
But you know… It’s with money that we make money! So if you have the money, go ahead! I’m sure you won’t regret your experience 😉