I’ll talk about the affiliate marketing mistakes newbies always make and what to do about them.
1. Trying to Make Money Right Away
Affiliate marketing isn’t something you can get rich on right away. No matter what you do and no matter how you do it, you will never make a quick buck in affiliate marketing. It’s impossible.
Well, for a few reasons:
- you have no connections
- you have no or very little traffic
- you only have a little bit of content
- you don’t know much about making money in the affiliate marketing (yet)
- and nobody trusts or knows you (yet)
If you can get that through your head, you and your affiliate/niche website will have a real shot at success.
So…What you should do:
Don’t waste time flooding your website with your affiliate links OR joining every affiliate program you see OR promoting every high ticket product out there.
You’ll have to put your focus on the more important stuff first. I’m not saying that making money isn’t important. I’m saying that it isn’t that important in the beginning.
Work on these 3 things first:
- writing awesome content;
- getting traffic;
- and collecting emails (we’ll get into this in a sec).
Having all these 3 setup first will help you make money for a long time.
2. NOT Collecting Emails From The Start
Here’s one that 90% of newbies make. I was one of them. I didn’t start building my list until I was about 7-8 months in. If you ask any expert (or even intermediate) blogger, online marketer, or online business owner: what is the most important asset you could ever have (for your site)?
I guarantee you 90% of them, at least, will say a list of active email subscribers. So why is building a list of email subscribers important?
For a number of reasons:
- i. It’ll bring you the most traffic Say you have a loyal list of 1,500 subscribers and you’ve just published an epic 4,000-word beast. You can send them an email letting them know about it. And I guarantee you that you’d get at least 30% of them to read your post and at least half of them will share on social media. That’s way better than waiting (and praying) for a first page rank in Google.
- ii. If Google hits you with a penalty (or if they get nuked outta nowhere), you’ll still have your list Let’s play it out: Say you have about 2,500 monthly visits coming from Google search and about 3,000 subscribers. Google then rolls out one of its algorithm updates. You get hit because you did some shady link building. You lose all of your first page rankings, and 100% of your search traffic. It’d feel like the end of the world for you. The same thing would happen if somebody drops a nuke on Google. But… You’d still have the email addresses of 3,000 people who love your content. So every time you publish a new post you can send them an email and still get at least 1,000 sets of eyes on your content. And there’s still a big chance at them sharing it, which can mean a lot more social media traffic. And maybe some of those will subscribe to your list.
- iii. More Subscribers=More Traffic=More Sales Having a loyal list of 5,000, for example, email subscribers is the thing that can separate an online business or blog from a $500 per month blog to a $5,000+ per month blog. And affiliates who don’t start building their lists early on are making a mistake.
What you should do:
- Start building your list right now. I’ll help you get started.
- Here’s what to do: (I’m assuming you’re using the WordPress platform. If not, then I am sorry).
1. Sign up for an email marketing service: There are a few to choose from, all of them are awesome. Here are some of the most popular:
- MailChimp – This is the one I’m using right now. It’s free for up to 2000 subscribers (I’ll probably be changing services once I get past 2000).
- Aweber – starts at $19 per month for up to 500 subscribers (offers a 30-day free trial)
- Getresponse – Starts at $15 per month for up to 1500 subscribers
For this post, I’ll use Mailchimp (because it’s free). So go ahead and set up your account. They have all the instructions to help you out.
2. create a new email list:
I’ve put together a set of screenshots to make it easier for you to follow. Here’s what to do: You’ll be brought to this page where you’ll have to fill out the form details: Done. You now have a new list.
3. Install or upload an opt-in form plugin:
There are a lot of WordPress opt-in form plugins to choose from. Here are a few I think you would like:
- MailChimp For WP – The Lite version is free and easy. But there isn’t really any customizable features
- WP Subscribe – This is the free version of the one you see on this site.
- MailMunch – Grow your Email Subscribers – Another free opt-in form plugin.
- Optin Forms by Codeleon (Boris Beo) – This one’s awesome. And it’s 100% free!
I’ll use the Optin Forms by Codeleon for my example because it’s cool (I also recommend it!) So open up a new tab and login to your wp-admin area. Then go to – Plugins > Add New and search for “opt-in forms.” Now hit the install button and then activate the plugin. Now you’re on this page: Leave it there and go back to the MailChimp tab.
4) Connect your email service (MailChimp) with the plugin:
For this part, you’ll have to go to your email service account and grab something called an API key or a list ID. For the Optin Forms plugin, you’ll need your list ID. The instructions are on the plugin’s page. You’ll need to click on the question mark bubble beside the Form action URL. The instructions on the plugin page might be a little hard to follow because MailChimp has since updated their design.
But don’t worry…Here’s what to do:
First, you’ll need to click on Signup forms. Then, Embedded forms > Select. And then once you’re on the embedded form’s page, click Naked. The next thing you’re going to do here is grabbing your list ID. From my experience, you can’t grab the list ID by itself because the whole thing will copy. So if this happens to you…
All you’ll need to do is open up a word doc, paste the whole thing there, and copy your list ID.
Ok, now you’re going to go back to the plugin page and paste your list ID into where it says Form action URL. Hit the save changes button and you’re done. Now you’re ready to…
5) customize your opt-in form:
Ok. So you’ve finished setting everything up, you’ll be able to customize your opt-in form. There are 5 pre-made skins/designs (opt-in forms) to choose from. So choose one that matches your website theme. There are also other customizable options.
This is where you’ll be able to:
- choose its colors
- choose what fields it needs (e.g, first name)
- choose if it’ll open in a new window or not
- choose where it’s placed (e.g, beginning or end of a post)
Make sure it matches with your whole sure, ok? And place the opt-in form at the end of your posts (under the form placement tab).
Now you’ll have a shot at getting some email addresses you never know when you’ll get a visitor who loves your content.
3. Choosing a Niche They Have ZERO Interest in
Well, because you won’t really enjoy talking or writing about its topics. I’ll give you an example…When I started this whole affiliate and niche marketing thing, the first niche I thought of going after was the video game niche. But since that was way too broad for a beginner, I went with customized/modded Xbox controllers. Was that a good (profitable) niche?
Yes. It actually still is. The controllers go for around $50 to $250 with a 10% to 30% commission rate. And… there are a lot of people interested in them. Hint, hint.
So what happened to me? Even though I was very interested in Xbox gaming, I barely had any in the controllers. Not enough to wanna learn and know more about them.
I only wrote 2 blog posts and 4 pages. All of them were 500 words or less. Not a lot of quality there, huh? After about a couple of months or so I stopped updating it. Now it’s just a blank white page, literally.
What you should do: Choose a niche you’re interested in. At least a little. Enough to enjoy reading and writing about its topics. I talk about the 5 questions you should ask yourself over at the Simple Online Cash Money blog. If you’re not sure how to go about choosing a niche, it’s worth checking out.
4. Publishing VERY LOW Quality and Unreadable Content
Publishing 150-word product reviews and 400-word how-to’s that don’t even show the reader how to do something is NOT going to do any good for your blog. Even a 1500 word list post might not help IF it’s not well-formatted. In other words – writing large blocks of text isn’t a good idea.
No bullet lists, no images, no subheads (h2, h3 tags), no bold or italics, and a long-ass paragraph……wow! No wonder why no one was reading my content. Look how I write my content now:
Short sentences + short paragraph + images + bullet lists + bold and italics = an easy-on-the-eyes piece of content.
What you should do:
Your headline would be something like:
- How to Change a Tire in Less Than 10 Minutes
- Change Your Tire in 5 Minutes With These 4 Steps
- The Lazy Man’s Guide to Changing Flat Tires
And then you’d write up your template like this:
- Step 1: Get Your Tools Ready
- Step 2: Setup The Jack
- Step 3: Take The Nuts/Bolts Out
- Step 4: Change The Tire
- Step 5: Tighten up The Nuts/Bolts
Now you’d be ready to write up your draft.
You would also need to make your post easy to read. You can do this by:
- using short and easy words
- using short paragraphs (1-4 sentences)
- using images and screenshots
- using bold and italics
- using heading tags
- using bullet lists
5. NOT Writing Product Reviews
Because people who search for product reviews most likely have their credit cards out. So affiliates who aren’t reviewing products in their niche are missing out on the internet users who are ready to buy. Reviews are also the main type of content you could ever create on your affiliate site. So…
What you should do: Start publishing reviews.
Here’s how I do it:
1) choose a product
A product to feature on your blog should fall into one of the following categories:
- 100% scammy – so you can send readers to your recommendation
- an ok product – again, so you can send readers to your recommendation
- 100% legitimate – so you can send readers to its checkout page via your affiliate link
So…To find products in your niche you can Google:
- best (your niche) – ex: best weight loss supplements
- best (your niche) products – ex: best weight loss products
- (your niche) – ex: lose weight fast for men
- (your niche) products – ex: weight loss products
- (your niche) stores – ex: weight loss stores
- buy (your niche product) – ex: buy weight loss supplement
Or you can browse around affiliate programs like:
You can also check out stores that have a wide range of products. For example Walmart.
2) find a keyword
Many SEOs have said that keyword research is the first step to getting ranked in Google. Is it true?
Damn, right it is.
For this step, you’ll need to go to a keyword tool.
You can use one of the following:
- Google Keyword Planner – all you need is a Google account.
- KeywordTool.io – free
- KW Finder – 5 free searches per day
- Jaaxy -create a free account and get 30 searches
Now: When you get to the keyword tool’s page you’ll see a search bar. This is where you’ll type in the product’s name. So go ahead and do that and you’ll see keyword terms like review and does work show up in the results. You can also use a keyword phrase that answers the internet user. For example: You’re in the weight loss niche, say. And you’re reviewing a product that is said to be the real deal.
You might be able to use terms like:
- best weight loss pill;
- lose weight fast;
- or how to burn fat without exercise.
You’ll only be able to do this if:
- it makes sense;
- it has a good number of monthly searches;
- and if it’s a legitimate product.
3) research the hell out of the product
Now it’s time to find out as much as you possibly can about the product you’ve chosen.
You can find information at:
- the product’s sales page(s)
- other reviews are done by other marketers/bloggers
You can do this with a few Google searches:
- (Product name) review
- (Product name) reviews
- What is (product name)
- Buy (product name)
4) write up your template
Here’s the typical product review template:
- What is ? / Product Overview
- Pros and Cons
- The Pricing
5) go all out on your draft
This is where your writing begins. Since you’ve written out a template, writing the actual review will be 10x easier.
Tip: Aim for at least 1,000 words.
6) optimize for the search engines (Google)
Search engine traffic will most likely be your reviews’ main source of traffic. In fact, it’ll probably be its only source of traffic. So optimizing for search is very important.
Here’s what to do:
First, you’ll need to make sure that your target keyword is in the right places:
- In your title/headline
- In your first 100 words or so
- In your review’s body (1-10 times)
- In your image’s alt tag
Next, you’ll need to add some links. Internal and external. But make sure it’ll make sense.
I usually go for at least 2 of each:
- 2 links pointing to your older posts/reviews.
- 2 links pointing to authority websites’ posts/pages.
Here are a few other things you can do:
- Use LSI/related keywords
- Use images
- Write long copy
For more help on optimizing your posts for SEO, see this guise at Backlinko.
7) Proofread. Edit. Publish.
Now that you’re done writing your review and optimizing for the search engines, it’s time to read through your work. I usually read through it slowly and if I see something that needs changing, I read it again until I think it’s perfect.
- Read the post.
- See mistake, fix the mistake, then continue reading on.
- Read the post again (from the top).
I go into way more detail in my post on writing reviews here, so if you need more help go check it out.
6. Relying Heavily on Google Search Traffic
Here’s the thing about Google: They don’t index or rank websites/web pages that are a few days old. They don’t even rank pages in their top 10 if they’re only a few weeks old.
How do I know?..…from personal experience.
I started this site last January. My first post was more than 3,000 words long. My second, third, fourth, and fifth posts were between 1,200 to 2,500 words long.
And guess what…
None of them ranked in the top 100 results of Google.
This happened for 2 reasons:
- I had no authority in my niche (meaning my site was too new and I was a nobody)
- The keywords I was targeting were a little too competitive
What you should do:
The first thing you’ll need is patience. Ok?
Second, you’ll need to set your site up for SEO (search engine optimization).
Third, you’ll need to write real quality blog posts that are targeting long-tail keywords.
And last, you’ll need to look into other sources of traffic (e.g, social media)
7. Flooding Their Posts With Affiliate Links
This one’s bad for 3 reasons:
- It’s not helpful for the reader
- Google does NOT like ten thousand affiliate links in a single post/page
- And they don’t look professional (youraffiliatelink.com?aaid193729product)
What you should do:
Strategically place your affiliate links. Here’s what to do:
- place it once or twice somewhere in the body
- place it once after every other sub head section
- place it once at the end of the post/review (your call to action)
And use an affiliate link cloaker (we’ll get into that in just a second).
8. NOT Cloaking Their Affiliate Links
You know how an affiliate link looks like, right?
Ugly. Just ugly.
Having a few of these in a single post would look horrible and unprofessional.
What you should do:
Disguise your affiliate links.
Turn this: product-owner.com?a_aid123 into this: yourdomain.com/productname.
You can do this with a (WordPress) plugin.
I recommend Pretty Link. It’s free and easy.
Here’s how to use it:
1) install the plugin:
First, you’ll need to login to your wp-admin.
Then go Plugin > Add New, search for Pretty link, then install and activate it.
2) create a “pretty link”:
There’s an ” add new” link in the plugin’s page and on the left menu.
3) create your new Pretty Link:
Paste your affiliate link into where it says Target URL. Then the slug and the title…
The slug should be something like:
Just make sure that it has the product’s name in it. For the title, use the product’s name. And then…
Under the “options” tab, check the “Nofollow this link” box. Then click the create button and you’re done. You don’t have to worry about the “Advanced” tab. Nor the Group thing.
4) add your “pretty link” to your posts:
Now all your affiliate links will look professional and pretty. A great alternative is the ThirstyAffiliates plugin. It’s a little more advanced than the Pretty Link plugin though.
9. Joining Any and Every Affiliate Program They See
You know why this is a mistake? Because new affiliate sites don’t have any traffic. So there really is no point. Right? Plus, promoting several products (and programs) can be tough.
For an affiliate site to work, there should only be 1 or 2 products that are highly recommended by the affiliate. That way you can send traffic from your posts to the product’s review.
What you should do:
If you’re in this for the long haul you should only focus on 1, maybe 2, affiliate programs.
10. Bullshitting About Scammy Products
I’ll admit – I always did this when I started my first affiliate niche site. Big mistake. Maybe that’s why the site isn’t live anymore. You wanna know what happened? I was promoting this product that had:
- a $150 price tag,
- and a 40% commission rate.
Those are some pretty good numbers, right?
Yeah. But there was something wrong – it had hundreds of negative customer reviews. A 1 star out of 5 types of things.
But I couldn’t resist. And because I made it look like a quality product, I was able to generate some sales – around 15 (I only had like 100 page views at the time). After a week or so (when the customers received their orders), I got a bunch of mad people emailing me and commenting on my blog.
What you should do:
It’s simple. Never do what I did. You’ll lose trust and a bunch of potential returning visitors. Always give them the truth. If you’re reviewing a bad product, then tell your readers that it’s a bad product. You can then send them to a review of a quality product.
Need help writing product reviews?
11. NOT Testing Their Recommended Product(s)
I’m not saying that you’ll have to buy and test every product you review. No. I’m saying that you should test the product(s) that you’re promoting. By doing so, you’ll be able to give your readers a review that is 100% full of facts. You’ll also be able to answer any of their questions with the right answers.
It’s a win-win. they win because they get quality stuff from you and you win because they’ll trust you.
What you should do: Test the product you’re promoting. Period.
12. Sell! Sell! Sell!
Here’s what I mean: Say you’re promoting the Hydroxycut weight loss supplement. You write your main review where you send readers to its sales/checkout page. And then you write a blog post that’s promoting your review. And then another one, and another one. Then you write a blog post promoting the product……and then a couple more.
And then…Another review.
That’s 8 posts all together that all have the exact same content. Since every post you write is about how great Hydroxycut is, there’s nothing else to read. So why would anybody want to come back and read the same thing over and over again? I know I wouldn’t.
What you should do: Don’t create posts that are basically the same – promotional.
13. NOT Doing Their Work
I know it’s hard to stay motivated and keep working on your site. It happens. I’ve been there. Well, actually, I still am.
There are times where I go days without logging in to my site. And do you know what happens when you don’t work on your site?
Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
What you should do:
You have to work every day. I know it’s harder than it sounds, but if you want to be a successful affiliate marketer you’ll have to be disciplined. You’ll have to be self-motivated.
14. Spamming Their Affiliate Links on Social and Advertising Networks
Posting the link in Facebook groups, ad networks, etc is a huge waste of time. Nobody will ever click on your affiliate link, especially on social media, because to them you’re a stranger.
And it’ll look spammy. Have you been to Facebook groups? A lot of them are flooded with people’s offers and affiliate links. Oh, and do you know why they’re posting in FB groups?
Because they’re being told to…by the “gurus” that are “teaching” them how to use the internet to make money. How do I know? That’s exactly what I was doing a year ago. I paid nearly $100 a month for 5 months to an online biz opp for “make money online” training and access to their affiliate program.
And all I did was post my affiliate link in a bunch of FB groups. And do you know how many referrals I made? One.
And he was a buddy (we barely talk anymore, probably because he thinks I scammed him). So, social media groups are a bad idea when you’re a newbie.
What you should do:
Stick to your blog/website. Doing waste time posting your affiliate links in social media groups and ad networks. The only thing I’d recommend you do on Facebook/social media is creating your own group that targets your niche. For example: If you’re in the gaming niche, you’d create a Facebook group that’s all about gaming.
This is where you’d share your content, announce deals or sales, and even share your affiliate links from time to time.
15. TRYING to be a Super Affiliate
Here’s what I mean by this: One day a guy named Mr. John finds out that he can make money on the internet. So he builds a website targeting the weight loss niche (which is very competitive).
He sets up his site, writes a few posts, and thinks he’ll make a quick buck because he thinks he’s finished his website. So he builds another website. This time in the gaming niche. Same thing here – a few posts, done.
Then he builds a couple more. Now he thinks he’s a hotshot expert affiliate marketer – a super affiliate. Do you think Mr. John made any money? Nope. Mr. John got real angry a few weeks after he “finished” his blogs. And ended up saying “fuck it!” Ok. I was actually “Mr. John.” Yeah. Stupid me.
What you should do: Don’t be like Mr. John (or…me).
Stick to one project. And when you become good at writing content, site building, etc, you can start working on new projects.
16. Promoting Every $1000 Product They See
If you are doing this right now, chances are that you’re barely generating any affiliate sales. In fact, you’re probably not even making any money. Right? Why? Maybe your target audience doesn’t have deep pockets. Another reason can be because you haven’t set your posts/reviews up the way they should be. And how I set up my reviews on my other site…Yeah.
The product that I’m promoting is only $47 with 50% going to me. And it’s a membership product where members pay monthly. That means that I get a commission every month the customers keep paying. Plus, it’s a real quality product. So if you’re only promoting products big price tags, I suggest you stop.
What you should do:
You don’t need to promote high ticket products to make good money. If you can make around $5 to $25 per sale (commission) that is more than enough to make $500 a month. So focus on the quality of the product. Not how much it costs.
17. Flooding Their Sidebars, Headers, and Footers With Banner Ads
This is one of the biggest mistakes a blogger or affiliate can ever do. Why? For one, it can be hard to navigate or browse around. And two, it looks really unprofessional. Do you know what’s going to happen if you do this? Internet users, who are real human beings, will click the back button before you could even say hey.
What you should do: You shouldn’t worry about ads in the first few weeks of your blog. Wait until you have at least 10 or even 20 quality posts published. And then you can place an ad once or twice in your main sidebar.
18. Promoting Products That Have NOTHING to do With Their Niche
Here’s a mistake I see a lot of beginners make. Let me give you an example of this: Mr. Joe J. Joseph starts a blog targeting people who search for premium WordPress themes.
So he goes and publishes around 20 posts and reviews. Then, he starts getting bored. So he writes a post promoting an online marketing training course. “WTF? I thought this was a WP themes site! ” Then he does it again. This time he tries to sell a keyword research tool. And then another one – “Ok, that’s not so bad,” you might be thinking. Well yeah, it kinda is.
Here’s the deal:
Joe’s target audience is website owners who are interested in premium WordPress themes, right? These guys are most likely successful bloggers, marketers, and small businesses So why would a successful blogger be interested in an online marketing course?
What you should do: Only promote products that your readers are or would be interested in. If you’re in the weight loss niche you’d promote weight loss products. If you’re in the video gaming niche you’d promote video games and accessories. If you’re in a specific clothing niche you’d promote clothes your audience would wear.
19. Copy n Pasting Content From The Product’s Sales Page
Pretty common amongst newbies. Do you know why? Because they are lazy. Lazy to write their own stuff and lazy to do research. Copying content from other sites and pasting it onto yours is a big no-no. Google, the largest search engine in the world, calls this duplicate content. Do you know what happens when Google finds duplicate content?
The site gets penalized. In other words –it’ll lose its rankings (and a big chunk of their traffic). And you can’t hide anything online from Google. They have eyes on every website.
What you should do:
- It’s simple: Always write your own content. When you research a product for your review post take notes of all the information you need. For example:
- Let’s say you’re doing a review on the Hydroxycut weight loss product. Instead of copying their content word for word……you’d takes notes.
20. Not Giving a Crap About Their Visitors
What most bloggers and marketers don’t get, especially beginners, is – internet users (your readers) are 100% real human beings. So if you have an ugly website design or large blocks of text in your posts, your readers won’t like it. And if they don’t like it, they’ll leave your site and (probably) never come back.
What you should do:
Start with a nice, clean design. But don’t make it too plain. Meaning don’t only use black, white, and gray. Put some color it your theme/design (2-3 colors tends to look best). Your site should have a blogroll as your homepage. This is so your readers will see all your new posts.
Your sidebar should be solid. It should have
- links to some of your top pages (custom menu widget)
- 1 or 2 banner ads (max.)
- a popular posts widget
- latest reviews or posts
And your content…
Your content needs to be readable. Engaging. Well-written and formatted. It needs to be full of facts, detail, and actionable tips tricks or techniques.
21. Writing Content That is Irrelevant
This one’s almost like #18 on this list. Except for this time it has to do with the content (blog posts and pages). For example: Let’s say Bobby has a blog targeting men who are trying to lose their man-boobs (moobs). And he has about 100 visitors per month. His blog topics would be exercises, diets, etc. Right?
Ok. So, one day he publishes a 2,500-word blog post on the 5 ways to make money online. He’s proud of himself for writing the best post he’s ever written. After a couple of days, he checks out his analytics to see if anyone has read his new post. He sees that the post got 10 pageviews (most of them are probably his). So he writes another one. This time on how to start a blog and make money. Same thing – 10 pageviews and most of them are him.
Now: He’s got 2 post that has nothing to do with moobs. What do you think his readers will think?
What you should do:
Stick to your niche topics. If you’re running a food blog you’d write only about food, right? There would be no point in writing a blog post on how to start a blog, would it? The same goes for a weight loss supplement niche site. And a winter jacket niche site. Or any niche/affiliate site.
So stick to your niche.
22. NOT Setting Their Reviews up the “Right Way”
You’re probably not sure what I mean, huh? Remember what I said in #5 about choosing products to review? About how the product should either be scammy or ok, so you can link to a legitimate product? This works great for affiliate sites because no matter what review a reader comes from, there’s a good chance at him going to your main review. Do you get it?
I’ll give you an example…Let’s say you’ve got 3 reviews right now:
- Your “legit product” review – this is your #1 recommended product and the way you’ll make money
- Your “ok product” review
- Your “scammy product” review
Now: A man named Jay finds out about the “ok product”. Now he needs to know if it’s worth the money. He searches for reviews and finds yours. He reads, finds out that there’s something better, and clicks on your main review’s link. BAM. And then…
A lady named Joy finds out about “scammy product”. Now she needs to find out if it’s good or not. She searches for reviews and finds yours sitting comfortably on the top 3 of Google because you’re doing good SEO. She reads, finds out that it’s a shitty deal, and clicks on your main review’s link. BAM. See how great this can be?
What you should do:
This is simple. Very easy. It’s not rocket science. All you’ve gotta do is add your main review’s link to all of your other reviews.
Let me break it down for you:
- you’d create a review for your recommended product. This would be your main post. Your main source of [potential] income.
- you’d look for products that are either total scams (low quality) OR not as good as the main product.
- you’d create reviews for each of those products. This is where you’d talk about how bad or “ok” the product is.
And then you’d put the main review’s link at the end (and even a couple times in the middle) of every review.
Making mistakes is like bad horror movies……people always make them. Even when starting out in affiliate marketing. It’s like no matter what you do you’ll always do something wrong.