Nine Biggest Mistakes Affiliate Marketers Make

1. Not Building A List

This is number one mistake in affiliate marketing for a good reason: listbuilding is the single most important job you have as an affiliate marketer. Period.

You hear it all the time but it’s true that the money is in the list. Building your own list in your niche puts you in the driver’s seat and allows you make multiple offers to your prospects and customers and the initial contact. And in between your offers you can provide value by helping the people on your list solve their problems while demonstrating your expertise and building rapport.

You should be building a list when you enter a niche almost from day one. I can’t tell you how many marketers have told me that this was the biggest mistake they made. You need to be making your own list… today.

2. Impatience 

I know we live in a time of instant gratification but for god sakes don’t expect to become a super affiliate millionaire guru in the first six months. It’s not happening. It takes time to learn the business and discover your individual path to success. Oh yah, did I say business? You better treat your affiliate marketing efforts as a REAL business because it IS. You don’t need to write a thesis sized business plan but you better figure out and write down your plan of action and follow, track, and adjust your plan as you proceed. 

If you’re into affiliate marketing to get rich quick you’ve entered the wrong business. The people who become super affiliates and millionaires in this business are the ones who show the most patience, become experts at the basics, diversify their income streams, and who are in the game for the long haul.o

3. Not Tracking

Affiliate marketing all boils down to numbers. You don’t have to be a numbers nerd but if you don’t know your numbers you don’t know your business. These are some of the key metrics you need to know for internet marketing success:

  • Conversion Rate
  • Click-Through Rate (CTR)
  • Average Order Value (AOV)
  • Earnings Per Click (EPC)
  • Campaign Return On Investment
  • Lifetime Value Of A Customer
  • Commissions Received

If you become good at recognizing patterns of profitability and winning formulas you can dial in your strategy to maximize your success. Once you dial in a winning marketing model you can then scale it out to make the big bucks

4. Following The Herd 

Just because everyone else is pimping the weight loss niche doesn’t mean you need to. Only enter a niche or market if you know a lot about it, have a passion for it, or have a unique approach to solving problems in it. You’ll have the most success if you stick with a topic you’re good at and become the go-to-person in that niche. 

Some of the best affiliate programs are in fringe niches that are way off the beaten path. I know a guy who made a fortune selling ebooks on how to raise pot bellied pigs. For real. That doesn’t mean you need to rush into this niche but to find one of your own that isn’t already busting at the seams.

Same goes for copying other people’s marketing strategies and campaigns. Look, we all use swipe files to get ideas but then turn those ideas and strategies into your own by adding your own angle or twist to them. I see way too much plagiarism out there and all it does is get your offers lost in the mix with everyone else who’s essentially doing the same friggin thing. 

5. Using A Shotgun Approach

I know affiliate marketers who are trying to sell everything to everyone all at once. I don’t know how the hell you’re supposed to build lists or track three hundred offers in ninety-five niches. Please don’t do that. Scale it back and try a niche or a few niches at a time. If you find success in one then focus on it and scale it out before jumping into another.

Your goal should be to either succeed or fail as fast as humanly possible. If you fail in any niche make sure you fail fast and move on to the next one without looking back. Try to pick niches that have a progression of products so you can continue to market to your customers on the backend.

6. Selling Instead Of Helping

Once you find your niche focus your efforts on helping people solve their problems. Once you help people in a genuine way they will follow your advice and buy the products you recommend. Do not start the relationship by only selling advice that benefits you.  People can see right through that.

A proven strategy is to provide as much value (for free) up front as you can. Make yourself available to answer questions and answer them the same day if you can. Focus your efforts on making yourself as likeable and as valuable to your flock as you can and the sales will come. 

7. Ducking Down Every Side Road  

Also known as ‘shiny object syndrome’.  I’ve been guilty of this myself.  I read about a new affiliate marketing product, course, software, or program and tend to drop what I’m doing to try this new approach.  Bad idea. 

It’s OK to buy affiliate marketing courses and programs to help you succeed. In fact I encourage that. But make sure you buy a course that is nicely paired with what you’re trying to do and get through the entire course before you invest in another one. 

Stick with your plan and continue toward your set goals until you either succeed or fail and then, and only then, should you alter your course of action and try something else.  I know its hard to not get sucked into the hype and excitement around a promising new product but force yourself to look the other way.

The truth is I still have a shelf full of products that I bought blindly and never got around to even starting them before I bought another. Sadly, some still have shrink wrap on them. Don’t do this.

8. Not Testing Campaigns

Which email, banner, or message converts the highest?  Which traffic source is producing the most sales?  Which headline converts the most opt-ins to your list building efforts.  You get the idea.  If you’re not testing you are not improving and if you’re not improving you will never become a big player online.

The best affiliate marketers test and track every single little thing that they do. And if they find a high converting offer they’ll continue to tweak and test to make it even better.

9. Marketing Low Commission Offers

It takes the same amount of effort to market big ticket products and services as it does to market low end products and services. There are plenty of high end programs out there to choose from in any niche and you’ll likely find fewer competitors in these markets because they’re too busy with the low hanging fruit on the shallow end.

Go to my homepage and browse the categories for your niche and get started. 

BONUS Affiliate Marketing Mistake #10:  Using Free Website Builders

Free is good. Sometimes free is absolutely necessary if we don’t have the money to spend on something we need and have no other choice. When it comes to affiliate marketing websites there are free website builders available.  

If you have no other choice, other than to not get started in affiliate marketing, than by all means go the free route. But just realize that all free website platforms have limitations that make them well… free. Of course!

The problem comes when it’s time to relocate your free site to a more appropriate platform that has no limitations. Moving a website is usually a nightmare. I know because I’ve done it before. 

The misconception is that getting your own hosting account and building your site on it is both expensive and complicated. It’s neither and I’ll show you how to get started with only a few bucks right here: how to build your own affiliate website.

BONUS Affiliate Marketing Mistake #11:  The Number One

I learned from marketing legend Dan Kennedy long ago that the worst number in marketing (including affiliate marketing) is the number one. Why?

If you rely on only one of anything related to your internet marketing business you’re exposing yourself to overnight failure. For example…

Do you rely on only one:

  • traffic source
  • product
  • group of customers
  • social media platform
  • niche
  • service
  • analytics data source
  • search engine (for SEO)

With the internet things change at lightning speed. Put all of your eggs in only one basket at your own peril. And you will perish! Just like a guy I know who relied only on Google adword traffic only to get banned by Google and lose all of his traffic overnight. Or another marketer I know who received all of his traffic for free from organic Google search only to have his site disappear from page one of Google overnight because of an algorithm update.

The worst? I knew a guy (band actually) that got all of their exposure from only one source: MySpace.  Oops. I think you get the idea. 


Photo Credit: AZRainman Flickr via Compfight cc

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  1. Ellen Chedid

    Awesome post. This really resonates with the mistakes i made when i first started. i think this is really insightful. thank you for sharing.

  2. Aries sacramento

    Hi, bill thankz to your list.
    It’s very nice advice for new affiliate marketers like me.

    Would you mind to help me?
    I don’t have any website and I really don’t know where can I start..
    I read many advice and suggestions
    of affiliate marketer(I think) but until now i don’t know what to do.
    and I think the another reason is low budget to get started.

    • bill

      Hi Aries. You can get a free website through Weebly. Check out this post:

  3. Jhoveleen

    This list is very helpful to me. As just started my affiliate money making path, I need to learn a lot of tricks and tips in order to earn money online. Thank you for this share.

    • bill

      Thank you jhoveleen. I appreciate it! Bill

  4. Neil Milliner

    Why not market low paying commissions? Seems to me that a lot of these running in the background are your bread and butter sales and will be plodding away even in the dry times.

    • bill

      That model works fine Neil. However, that’s not what we focus on here on this site. The lower end of the market is more cluttered and the target audience has less disposable income to spend. But there’s nothing wrong with the low end. And as you mentioned a good strategy is to market both ends and see what works best for you. Thanks Neil – great comment. Sincerely – Bill

  5. Sherp

    How do you find a fringe type niche, I have 2 websites at the moment and the niches are both saturated, what kind of key word niche search would you do?

  6. Charles Sarver

    I’ve dabbled in internet
    /affiliate marketing for about six years now but didn’t get serious about it until about a month ago. One of the biggest things that I see that to me is a huge mistake is getting caught in one advertising strategy. What I mean is I see some that stick solely with the social network market, others relying solely on safe lists and exchanges. I’m trying to think outside of the box. I look at the feeding frenzy on facebook and just shake my head. It has huge potential but not the way I see it being done. I do both and more and looking fore more ways to do it.