16 Important Affiliate Marketing Mistakes And How To Avoid Them

By JoAnne D. | Affiliate Marketing

16 Important Affiliate Marketing Mistakes And How To Avoid Them

Affiliate marketing can be a difficult endeavor, especially if you’re only just starting. The best thing you can do is to learn from the affiliate marketers who’ve gone before you. Today’s blog post covers the 16 most common affiliate marketing mistakes and how you can stop making them.

Being able to monetize a basic website and earn a full-time income from it is a great accomplishment, and even more so if you do it through affiliate marketing.

Affiliate marketing can be a profitable endeavor; that is, if you do it right. And there’s no shortage of articles talking about what you should be doing to be a successful affiliate marketer.

But what about things that you shouldn’t do? The mistakes you make can be just as important to your success as the things that you should be doing.

In today’s blog post, I list down the 16 most common affiliate marketing mistakes you can make and how you can avoid making them.

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16 Important Affiliate Marketing Mistakes

1. Not Building A Targeted Email List From The Start

You may be tempted to wait a while to build your email list.

hand with drawn envelopes emanating

Maybe you’re thinking you want more traffic to your site first, or maybe you want to focus more on social media marketing.

The thing about traffic, especially organic, search engine traffic, is that it’s impossible to predict how long you’ll have that kind of traffic.

Consider how many times Google has changed their search algorithms. If you’re creating top-notch content, you might not be worried, but you still have to take this unpredictability in account when you’re planning the strategy for your site.

On the other hand, social media marketing isn’t that reliable either. Facebook and Instagram have been changing their algorithms so that they show less business-related content and more content from users’ actual family, friends, and acquaintances. Other social media networks are following suit, too, so unless you have the budget for paid ads, you’ll want to explore other marketing methods.

Email marketing is one of the most effective ways to get your marketing message across to your target audience, because this allows you to directly communicate with them without being at the mercy of other platforms.

And yes, the money’s in the list, as so many internet marketers are fond of saying (because it’s true). But if the list is low-quality, then you might as well not have a list.

Not all subscribers are equally inclined to buy what you’re offering them. If you’re tempted to buy your email list, let this be a reason NOT to do it; if your subscribers don’t really want to be in your list, then they’re not likely to buy what you’re promoting.

Building a targeted email list from the time you start your affiliate marketing endeavor.

2. Relying Solely On Search Engine Traffic

Getting plenty of search engine traffic is desirable because you want your audience to be searching for keywords that you’ve targeted with your high-quality content. But relying on only organic search traffic isn’t a feasible long-term strategy because of ever-changing search engine algorithms.

There are many more ways to increase the traffic to your affiliate marketing website, such as guest blogging, blogging outreach, email marketing, and social media.

long-exposure photograph of headlights on a highway

You may or may not prefer one or two of these marketing methods, but these aren’t meant to be used on their own; all of them need to be part of your overall marketing plan such that they complement and build on each other.

Utilize various methods to promote your content and drive traffic to your website.

3. Not Performing Keyword Research And SEO

Yes, I just said not to rely solely on organic search engine traffic.

But that doesn’t mean you should shun it altogether.

To be visible to search engines, you need to do thorough keyword research and optimize your content around the keywords you’ve collected.

You’re going to want to rank for keywords that your target audience will likely be using to search for solutions to their pain points so that they’re directed to your content about the products you’re promoting.

scrabble tiles

If you want a more detailed discussion, you can check out our article on keyword research for blog posts, which is essentially the same process.

Do careful keyword research and optimize your content for search engines.
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4. Believing That Affiliate Marketing Is A Get-Rich-Quick Scheme

For better or worse, there are people who still believe that affiliate marketing is a way to get rich quick.

$100 bills

Some people believe that affiliate marketing is an easy way to earn income and then get disappointed when it turns out to be far from a picnic. It’s so much more than signing up for an affiliate marketing program and then posting links on your blog and everywhere else.

Affiliate marketing takes plenty of work. You need to create content, promote your content, get traffic, and generate enough clicks for your affiliates. If what you want is a way to make money without doing anything, then affiliate marketing probably isn’t for you.

On the other extreme, there are some entrepreneurs who sneer at affiliate marketing because they think it’s a get-rich-quick scheme only good for scammers.

Granted, some affiliate marketers are indeed scammers, but the affiliate marketing industry as a whole isn’t a scam; it’s a legitimate way to do business and earn some income, whether full-time or part-time.

If you’re serious about putting the time and effort into doing it right, affiliate marketing is a lawful way to make money from an online business.

Affiliate marketing takes plenty of time and hard work; it is not a get-rich-quick scheme or a scam.

5. Constantly Selling, Instead Of Helping

Let’s not fool ourselves; you went into affiliate marketing to earn money.

And it’s easy to think that you have to prioritize getting sales and conversions so you can be a successful affiliate marketing.

But if your mindset is in making sales and nothing else, you’ll produce low-quality content, you’ll make bad marketing decisions, and you’ll end up not selling anything.

Audiences generally don’t like being manipulated into buying products they don’t really need. If you really want to be successful, then your mindset should be creating content for your audience that helps them address problems they’re having.

When your target audience realizes that you’re truly helping them find solutions to their problems, they’ll be more inclined to buy the products and services you’re promoting because they’re not just things that you want them to buy; they answer their questions and settle their problems.

Another thing to avoid is antagonizing users with too many ads and pop-up windows. You might think loading your website with too many ads will give you plenty of opportunities to make money, but you’ll probably end up overwhelming your readers that they just go away.

Focusing on endorsing products and services that will help your target audience and solve a pain point in their lives will help you earn more money than being a pushy salesman.
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6. Picking The Wrong Affiliate Program

Because affiliate marketing is a profitable industry, plenty of affiliate programs seem to pop up out of nowhere.

Amanita mushrooms
Like mushrooms.

When you’re only just beginning as an affiliate marketer, you might be tempted to enroll in all the affiliate programs in your niche that you’re qualified for so you can get plenty of chances to make sales.

The problem is, some affiliate marketing programs are scams. They either don’t pay you the right amount for the sales you’ve generated, or sell bogus products and training courses, or ask money for you to enroll in their programs (reputable affiliate programs never ask for money).

While not all affiliate programs are scams, you need to be careful of the ones that are. You can’t exactly tell which ones are scammers and which ones aren’t just by looking at their websites once.

No one wants to be cheated out of income that’s rightfully theirs, or sell products that are bogus or fake. Do your due diligence and research the affiliate programs you’re planning to enroll in. See if the affiliate managers are real people and if they’re working with real affiliate marketers.

You can also get in touch with these clients as well and see if they’re happy with the affiliate programs and their affiliate managers.

Be careful when choosing affiliate programs to work with.

7. Promoting Too Many Products Or Services

Having multiple sources of income is desirable, but there’s still such a thing as promoting too many products.

Remember that you have to study each product that you promote so you can help your audience make the right purchase decision. As you take on more products and services, the less knowledgeable you will be on all of them.

At some point, it will all be too much for you to manage, and it will be obvious in your content that you don’t know too much about the products you’re promoting. Your audience is likely to pick up on this and will be less likely to be convinced that the products you’re promoting are worth buying.

Concentrate on the few affiliate products that you know you can research extensively so that you’re able to dig deeper into the problems these products are supposed to solve. Knowing plenty about a few products lends more credibility to your content.

As you become an expert on the products you’re currently promoting, that’s when it’s practical for you to gradually add more products to promote.

Limit the number of products and services you promote.

8. Promoting Low-Quality Products

More than the quantity of the products you’re promoting, the quality of the products can make or break your success as an affiliate marketer.

comparing apples

Of the many products you can promote on your affiliate marketing site, you can be tempted to promote low-quality products for various reasons. You may be enticed by high commission rates, or you simply don’t have the time to test them out and determine their actual quality.

But when you promote low-quality products, whether intentionally or unintentionally, will cost you your reputation, and with it, conversions and sales.

When customers buy substandard and unreliable products, they’ll never buy that again. And when they buy these defective products from you, then you can bet your bum that they’ll never believe any of your recommendations again. Not only will they not buy anything you recommend but they’ll also talk about how you’re a shady marketer.

Using the products and services you’re promoting will give you first-hand knowledge of their quality and effectivity. Content that you write about a product will seem more sincere and be more compelling if you have first-hand knowledge of that product and whether it works or not.

In addition, obtaining the products anonymously gives you a chance to assess the product without bias and without the chance for the company or seller to switch out the product. You can order it under a different name and have it shipped to a different address, for example.

Choosing high-quality products will significantly improve your conversion rates, your profit, and most importantly, your reputation as a credible affiliate marketer.
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9. Not Knowing About The Products And Services You’re Promoting

How can you honestly sell something you don’t understand?

This ties in with promoting low-quality products or services.

One of the reasons you may be promoting low-quality products is because you have no idea how the products work and you have no idea whether it will be beneficial to your target audience.

Affiliate marketing isn’t one of those industries where you can “fake it till you make it.” When you don’t know what you’re writing about, it’ll be obvious.

puzzled man using laptop

Plus, don’t underestimate your audience; with the wealth of information that they can easily search for and access, they can tell whether you’ve actually used the product or not. Worst-case scenario? They call you out on your lack of knowledge on your comments section and on their social media for everyone to see.

You have to be able to use the products and services you’re promoting so that you have actual, hands-on knowledge of how they work and whether they’re indeed as useful as they claim to be. Plus, you might find features, benefits, or even alternative uses that no one else has seen. Some of your readers will surely appreciate this knowledge told from a unique perspective.

Invest time, work, and even your own money to obtain and use the products and services you’re pitching to your readers.

10. Writing Low-Quality Content

Affiliate marketing highly depends on your ability to create compelling content that converts readers into customers.

Whatever type of article you write—product reviews, comparisons, case studies—every one of them contributes to your conversions. In-depth content is how you show your readers that you truly understand what they’re going through and get them to trust you and your recommendations.

No-value content, like rehashed or irrelevant content published just for the sake of publishing will turn off readers, and they won’t be back to your site.

As your business grows and you take on more products, outsourcing your writing seems to be an attractive option, but it takes twice the effort to correct sloppy content as opposed to just writing the content yourself.

Besides, your loyal readers are fans of your content, and they’ll look for that kind of personality and style that only you can provide. Take that away and you’ll lose your fans and customers.

Focus on creating high-quality content for your affiliate marketing site.

11. Not Creating Enough Content

Aside from the quality of your content, the quantity of your content and how frequently you publish is also very important.

By quantity, I mean both the number of words per article as well as the number of articles you put out.

The length of your blog posts, reviews, or any other article should be a minimum of 500, with an ideal length of 1,000 to 1,500. It’s advisable to be concise, yes, but rarely will you see a quality post shorter than 500 words. Chances are it’s going to feel half-assed.

Plus, having longer articles puts your content in a better position to be indexed by search engine bots, especially if you accompany your text with plenty of images complete with alt text and other metadata.

Creating a content calendar can help you establish a schedule for updating your website content. An ideal frequency would be around 2 to 3 times a week.

Update your website regularly with fresh content.
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12. Following The Herd

If you want to be a successful affiliate marketer, you’ll have to stand out from all the other marketers in your niche.

red umbrella in a sea of gray umbrellas

You may not be the best marketer or the best content writer, but your unique personality makes you different from everyone else, and you can always use that to your advantage.

Your uniqueness also extends to your perspective. No two affiliate marketers have exact same views on a product or service. When your opinions on the benefits of a product resonate with your target audience and they agree, that increases your credibility with them.

Always be on the lookout for opportunities to present something one of a kind, something no one has ever done before.

Don’t be afraid to do what no one else is doing.

13. Not Focusing On A Specific Niche

Just like promoting too many products, dipping your toes in too many niches can harm your chances of success.

Some niches are more profitable than others, and at some point you might be experiencing some remorse on the niche you’ve chosen, or envy over more lucrative niches.

As early as now, you need to stop having this mindset on niches. Just because a niche is profitable now doesn’t mean it’s always going to be profitable, and just because a niche is not profitable now doesn’t mean it’s never going to be.

The market, especially the online market, is ever-changing. There are only a few “evergreen” niches that have always made money and are likely to continue making money. Otherwise, it’s up to you to do the best you can to find a buying audience, create excellent content, and formulate a marketing strategy to earn an income.

You might also be thinking that going broad can help your sales. But as I said about selling too many products, working with a too-broad niche means you’re promoting products that vary widely, and that means you don’t get to focus on each individual product as you should.

This is why it’s also important that you choose a niche that you’re passionate about or at least highly interested in. If you’re genuinely interested in the products and services in your niche, it becomes easier to zero in on the needs of your target audience and thus pick products to promote that they’ll find useful.

If you feel like you’ve mastered your niche, and you’ve got enough budget to start up a new, separate website for another niche, then you can try to spread your wings and explore another niche. Until then, you’d be better off mastering your current niche.

Pick a niche and stick with it.
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14. Not Tracking And Testing

The way to know if your marketing strategies are working is to track your affiliate links and regularly monitor them.

graphs and charts on paper beside a smartphone being held by hands

As I’ve mentioned, it’s possible to be scammed by unscrupulous affiliate programs and managers, and you’ll need to track your links to avoid being scammed.

More importantly, tracking your links helps you figure out what’s going on in your business.

When you make a sale, you want to know which page that click came from, so you can study that page or article and have an idea of what works for your target audience.

On the other hand, when you aren’t making sales, you want to know which pages don’t have any clicks so you’ll recognize what doesn’t work for your audience.

When you do implement changes from the information you get from your tracking efforts, you need to do A/B testing before you make permanent changes to your website, content, or marketing strategies. You can always follow your intuition, but I wouldn’t recommend it because anything that isn’t based on data isn’t likely to work.

Have solid tracking tools and software in place and test changes you want to implement on your website before making them permanent.

15. Being Impatient

As I mentioned, affiliate marketing is far from a get-rich-quick scheme.

You’ve got to have the patience to try numerous strategies and see which ones work for you, your customers, and your business.

So many would-be entrepreneurs quit affiliate marketing after just six months into it because they expect to be earning five figures monthly at that point because some guru did it or told them they could do it.

wristwatch on man's wrist

“Do I have a million bucks now? How about now?”

Does this happen? It’s possible. Is it the norm? Definitely not. This level of income is far from realistic, even for the hardest working affiliate marketer out there. To aim for this kind of income is setting yourself up to fail.

Instead of starting your business with wildly unrealistic expectations, start by having a modest goal and a drive to find out how far you can go and how much you can achieve with affiliate marketing.

Go into affiliate marketing with a mindset of perseverance and persistence, instead of thinking you’ll get rich tomorrow.

16. Not Evolving

Once you think that you know everything, that’s when you stop growing.

This is especially true of internet-based businesses.

Bear this in mind whenever you do research on a marketing technique or tools to improve your SEO or keyword research. What was trending a few years back may not work today.

Always be on top of the latest trends in your niche, affiliate marketing, and the products you’re promoting. The most successful affiliate marketers are open to learning new things and are never satisfied with the way things are; they know they can be better and they can help people better.

Look for highly active forums and even Facebook groups in your niche or in affiliate marketing and engage with like-minded folks so you can all discuss the latest buzz. You can also try to find reputable, regularly updated websites and blogs touching on affiliate marketing.

However, being updated means nothing if you’re too scared to test them out. The whole point of knowing is to apply them to your affiliate marketing business to make it grow and be more profitable.

Don’t forget to test only one thing or technique at a time and track everything.

Keep an eye out on the latest trends and techniques in your niche and in affiliate marketing, and don’t be afraid to try new things.
Picking a niche can be a complicated exercise. Because of this, we've developed an entire lesson to teach this complex process. Interested? Enroll now and start your lesson today! >>


Building a successful affiliate marketing business might be one of the most complicated things you’ll ever have to do, but it’s also potentially one of the most rewarding. Learn from those who’ve come before you and avoid these mistakes so you can get ahead as an affiliate marketer.

Here again are the mistakes you’ll want to avoid.

The 16 Common Affiliate Marketing Mistakes

  • 1. Not Building A Targeted Email List From The Start
  • 2. Relying Solely On Search Engine Traffic
  • 3. Not Performing Keyword Research And SEO
  • 4. Believing That Affiliate Marketing Is A Get-Rich-Quick Scheme
  • 5. Constantly Selling, Instead Of Helping
  • 6. Picking The Wrong Affiliate Program
  • 7. Promoting Too Many Products Or Services
  • 8. Promoting Low-Quality Products
  • 9. Not Knowing About The Products And Services You’re Promoting
  • 10. Writing Low-Quality Content
  • 11. Not Creating Enough Content
  • 12. Following The Herd
  • 13. Not Focusing On A Specific Niche
  • 14. Not Tracking And Testing
  • 15. Being Impatient
  • 16. Not Evolving

I just have a final reminder for you aspiring affiliate marketers.

Learn from your mistakes.
Even after all these mistakes that I’ve enumerated, and even if you take them to heart, mistakes will be inevitable. We aren’t perfect; we’re just humans trying our best to make it through.

If you’re determined to be a successful affiliate marketer, you need to not let these mistakes stop you from continuing to work on your business. It’s going to be rough going for a while, but you’ll find that if you take the lessons from the mistakes you’ve made and apply it to your business, then you have the ability to grow as an affiliate marketer.

Over To You

Have you started affiliate marketing? Which of these mistakes have you made? How did you get past them? Share your wisdom in the comments!

About the Author

JoAnne is your average, everyday, sane stay-at-home mom who believes in the power of the internet to make dreams come true. She has an insatiable appetite for chocolate, as well as all things internet marketing. She keeps up with the latest trends in blogging, affiliate marketing, e-commerce, and more.

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