Why 95% of Affiliate Marketers Fail & How to Be Part of the 5% Who Don’t

Affiliate marketing is touted as a low-cost/now-cost, easy-to-start online business where you can earn thousands of dollars. And it’s true. This is possible. But when you ask, “How many people actually succeed at it?”, you’ll find that it’s actually very few.

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Making Money in Affiliate Marketing: 8 Reasons Many Find It Difficult

I ran across a stat on the internet/affiliate marketing site WarriorForum that said that 95% of affiliate marketers fail. Here, we’ll take a look at the top eight reasons – in my opinion – the overwhelming majority fail at it, and how you can turn it around.

Before we get to that, I thought this quote from one of the respondents on that WarriorForum post summed it up quite well. He wrote:

I’m always amazed that people are willing to put YEARS into a ‘regular’ job but only weeks or months into internet marketing before quitting. If they applied themselves online as they do in the real world I think most would be pleasantly surprised with their success.

Just keep this in mind as you read through the list below.

1. “What the Hell, It’s Free!”

Because affiliate marketing is so easy to enter, many do. It’s like getting a free pass to go to a movie. Yeah, you’ll go if someone gives you a free ticket – even if you don’t know what the movie is about or if you’ll like it.

What the hell, it’s free!” is the mentality at work here.

I argue that because affiliate marketing is so easy to enter, many will give it a shot. Then, when they realize that there’s actual work involved, it’s like, “Damn, if I’da known that, I never would have done it.

So, they quit.

The Lesson

Selling “hard work” is not sexy, or easy, or … profitable. And face it, affiliate marketing is about selling.

So when someone is touting this program or that course that they want you to invest in, they’re not about to tell you that it might take a month to get your first sale, or that you have to write umpteen blog posts to start getting traffic to your blog.

You won’t buy. You’ll be off to the next “easy” way to make money online.

Accept going in that no matter how easy someone tells you a program/course is to make money with, there’s always going to be some level of effort that you have to put in.

Factor that into the equation in your mind and you’ll be much better prepared to do what it takes to hang in there to make money as an affiliate marketer.

2. Not Risk Averse (Afraid to Lose)

I read the following quote by a successful affiliate marketer that explains this concept:

The common trait among most successful affiliate marketers is the ability to sustain losses in the beginning and turn it around. If you’re risk adverse you should stick with a 9-5 and a steady paycheck.

There are a lot of programs that can teach you how to do x, and you can get predictable results. And if you happen upon one of them, there’s a good chance you might stick with affiliate marketing. For example, my backpage classified ad posting program.

I’ve been placing ads on backpage promoting affiliate products since 2008. And even though it’s time-consuming and perhaps not the best use of my time, I continue to do it because it works.

FYI, I’ve promoted a ton of products via this method that didn’t sell a thing. I could have given up, but I dug in and kept trying until I found a few to promote that do work.

And now that I’m trying to increase my affiliate marketing income, I’m trying new things – eg, buying solo ads to grow my subscriber list. I’ve bought from a few sellers where the traffic was terrible and I lost money. I’ve bought from a couple where the traffic was great and my subscriber list grew.

The Lesson

You have to risk something to gain something – especially if you want to earn enough to quit a job and do affiliate marketing full-time. Sure, you could luck up and earn a few hundred dollars without spending anything.

But, eventually, you’re going to have to put your money where your mouth is to start earning a decent living in affiliate marketing – whether it’s paying for your own hosted website, as opposed to using a free site like Wix or WordPress, or investing in tools like AWeber to start/grow/manage an email subscriber list.

This is when you turn your “hobby” into a bona fide business – and that’s what affiliate marketing is, a full-fledged business.

3. Don’t Put in Upfront, Unpaid Work

In order to make real money in affiliate marketing – I’m talking beyond the cursory few hundred dollars per month almost anyone can luck up and earn – you have to invest time in learning. Learning what?” you may be thinking. Well, there’s all sorts of stuff, eg:

  • Search engine optimization (SEO);
  • How to write link-worthy content;
  • How to find a profitable niche;
  • How to blog in WordPress; and
  • How to find profitable affiliate programs in your niche … to name just a few.

Unlike a 9-to-5 job, no one is going to pay you to do all of this “learning before earning.” You have to be ambitious enough to want to put in the upfront, unpaid work in order to (hopefully) make money down the line.

The Lesson

Ever heard of the 10,000 hour rule?

Popularized by author Malcolm Gladwell in his book “Outliers: The Story of Success,” its premise is that those who perform at a world-class level, eg, professional sportspeople, musicians, etc. — have practiced for approximately 10,000 hours.

The correlation is that if you want to become “the best” at something, then you need to put in your 10,000 hours. However, this theory has largely been debunked. A new study found that ..

In pretty much any area of human endeavor, people have a tremendous capacity to improve their performance, as long as they train in the right way. If you practice something for a few hundred hours, you will almost certainly see great improvement … How much you improve is up to you.

The following is perhaps the most important conclusion of the new study, “Any amount of time you spend doing [something] in a deliberate way will bring even better results.”

In short, the passion, focus, dedication and zeal you bring to a project can dramatically lessen the amount of time you have to put in to be a success. However, make no mistake, you have to put in the unpaid time to reap quantifiable results.

4. Don’t Invest in Ongoing Education

Piggybacking on the last point, one of the most frustrating parts of doing business online is that the rules and technology around it changes so much and so fast, eg, how search engines find and rank sites; new plug-ins for a website; website security; commission program payouts and guidelines; etc.

I belong to a couple of affiliate marketing groups on Facebook, and the types of questions that pop up on the daily underscore just how much there is to constantly stay abreast of in order to be successful.

If you don’t, you run the risk of, for example, violating the rules of an affiliate program you didn’t even know about; having your site get hacked; or disappearing from search results because you just didn’t keep up with what Google was doing.

The Lesson

There is no “set it and forget it” affiliate marketing formula. You have to stay up to date on all the rules and technology in order to stay competitive and grow your earnings.

Tip: Affiliate marketing forums and groups on social media (eg, Facebook) and are a great way to do this. I belong to the private one set up by this blogger who earns over $100,000 per month.

I bought her course, and this is a great bonus you get with it that has paid for itself many times over for me. Anytime I have a question or need some additional insight about affiliate marketing, I know I can log on and get some help with whatever problem I may be having.

I was so impressed with Michelle’s program that when I got serious about the affiliate marketing arm of my business, I took a page from her book and set up my own private group for newbies.

5. Invest in the Wrong Programs

There are tons of programs you can select to promote in affiliate marketing that will make you money. However, as we’ve discussed here, you have to put in the work. And, it’s highly unlikely that you’re going to put in the work if the program is not a fit for you. And what I mean by fit is, “Do you have a passion for it?

As there is so much upfront, unpaid work in affiliate marketing, it’s imperative that you choose a niche that you love, or at least like a lot.

Many opt for easy, get-rich-quick schemes, instead of investing time in learning and researching, “What is it that I like? What are my interests? Can I turn this into a profitable biz? How would I go about doing that in this niche? What affiliate programs would be profitable for me to promote?”

You have many more likes, passions and skills than you probably give yourself credit for. And, dollars to doughnuts, at least one of them can be turned into a successful niche where you can make good money in affiliate marketing.

But, if you never take the time to do some self-inventory to find out which of your passions can be turned into profits, you’ll never know.

FYI, this is one of the things discussed in my “How to Create an Online Course” e-class in Lesson II, which is free.

The Lesson

Use the formula I outline in Lesson II in the e-course mentioned above to find out where your passion and your profit can intersect. This increases your chance for success in affiliate marketing, because it will lessen the chance of the following happening.

6. Don’t Follow Through

If there is one piece of advice I’d give new affiliate marketers, it would be to stop investing in programs, and start working A PROGRAM.

The Lesson

If you take the advice listed in #5, you’ll be less likely to be on the hunt for program after program after program. And that’s because, you’ll like what you’re doing enough to stick with it, even when the going gets tough.

7. Don’t Stick with It

According to the July 2014 Forbes article, 4 Myths About Affiliate Marketing You Need To Know:

… only 0.6% of affiliate marketers surveyed have been in the game since 2013. That means that affiliate marketing takes time and effort to build and make money.

It takes time to build traction, which leads to traffic and sales. Most affiliate marketers don’t stay in the game long enough to reap these rewards.

The Lesson

If you decide to start a career as an affiliate marketer, be in it for the long haul.

I’d been in the game for 8 years before I decided to make a serious go of it. At that point, I’d had plenty of $100, $200 and $300 days (mostly due to promote products on the free classified ad site, backpage). But again, it wasn’t consistent.

Once I decided to get serious about this part of my freelance business, I realized why – it takes a lot of consistent effort, eg, blogging, digging into my site’s analytics, trying new things (eg, buying solo ads), etc. to grow a consistent income.

Were there times I wanted to give up? Sure. But I always thought, “Think about where you’ll be next year this time if you keep at it.” This gave me the push I needed many times to bang out that blog post, place those ads, get that Pinterest strategy up and going, etc.

8. Don’t Know the Metrics of Their Biz

**A/B testing (split testing)
**Traffic sources
**Conversion tools
**Tracking measures
**Target marketing
**Google analytics

If all of this sounds like Chinese math to you, you’re not alone. These have to do with metrics of your affiliate marketing business: eg, finding out who your target market is; where your site traffic is coming from; how it’s converting; etc.

If you don’t dig into the analytics of your business, you don’t know your business – and you’re really just flying by the seat of your pants.

The Lesson

I once had a business mentor and he used to say to me, “If you don’t know your numbers, you don’t know your business.

And in an online business, where it’s so easy to track everything, there’s no excuse for making this mistake.

Tip: At a very minimum, you should have Google Analytics installed on your site, and learn how to read the reports the search giant gives you. This gives you all kind of insights, eg:

**Where your traffic is coming from;
**Where they’re going on your site, hence;
**What they want to know more about.

Just by doing this, you can increase sales. How? Consider the following.

Are You Missing Out on $3,000/Mo Because You’re Not Doing This?

For example, let’s say you had a post on your site that was getting 100 unique hits per day, but you had no affiliate links on that post. That’s 100 people a day you’re missing out on selling to.

Let’s say you were promoting a product that earned you $49 in commissions, and you converted 2% of those who landed on that page. That’s $98 PER DAY – almost $3,000 per month – you’re missing out on in affiliate commissions.

THIS is the value of knowing where your traffic is coming from – a basic analytic of any affiliate marketing biz.

So get jiggy with your numbers, and watch your income skyrocket.


Did you happen to notice that most factors on this list have nothing to do with analytics (like in #7), and everything to do with what I call “humanness” – eg, being afraid to lose, not following through, etc.?

This is powerful because what it highlights is that success in affiliate marketing – like anything in life – is completely within your control. If you’re willing to put in the upfront work and stick with it, your success can be almost guaranteed. This is the takeaway I want you to leave with.

Millions are earning a handsome living online promoting products and services they believe in as affiliate marketers. There’s no reason you can’t either.

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