4 Common Mistakes of Affiliate Marketers
We live in the age of multiple income streams.
My neighbor works for a bank 9 to 5 and instructs Zumba classes on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. My brother is a former carpenter turned electrician’s apprentice who regularly picks up contract work as he moves toward his master electrician license. Me? I dabble in freelance dev work and WordPress troubleshooting, manage a web hosting reviews site, and handle social media marketing for my aunts’ monogramming business on the side.
Affiliate marketing is an excellent way to get some extra cash flowing into your bank account, but there are about a dozen ways to mess it up. Whether you’re looking to make some extra dough while blogging or you want to become the next web leader in product reviews, you’ve come to the right place. Let’s go over some of the most commonly missed opportunities in affiliate marketing.
- If you haven’t yet, consider joining HostGator’s affiliate program and earn up to $125 per qualifying signup! Learn more here.
1. You’re Not Specializing in a Product Category or Niche
When it comes to deciding what you should promote on your site, casting a wide net doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll never go hungry. Affiliate marketing is one of those cases where broader isn’t always better. Carefully choose your product recommendation specialty and stick to it.
There are many reasons for this:
First, visitors want honest, credible recommendations from authoritative sources; a blog that shamelessly promotes retail promo codes, reviews multivitamins, and compares the top online dating apps in one breath is probably not an authority on any one of those niches. Web visitors will likely write you off as a sleazy affiliate site only out for their hard-earned money.
Secondly, Google knows what your site is about, and links (including affiliate links) are a key to seeing your site through Google’s eyes. If a site about health and fitness is ridden with links to Health Magazine, WebMD, and a bunch of nutrition blogs, Google will get the picture. That site’s rankings will likely climb for health-, fitness-, and nutrition-related search terms (barring the presence of any other search engine ranking faux pas). It’s worth noting that it’s equally important that other resources link to your site to back up your authoritativeness in your industry.
Finally, you should choose a specialty to hone in on because it’ll make you better able to do your job, which, in this case, is to recommend quality products and services to your website visitors. It’s really hard to be a source for quality information on a dozen different verticals.
2. You Look Spammy Rather Than Authoritative
This is possibly the kiss of death for any affiliate-based site: You come across as spammy. There are many dos and don’ts of affiliate marketing, and this is no-no #1.
A few telltale signs that you’ve become a spammy affiliate site:
- Your content is laden with typos, grammar errors, and inconsistent styling.
- Your pages load too slowly due to poor-performance hosting and too many ads.
- Your site is updated infrequently and looks or holds information that is outdated.
- You’ve overdone it with keywords and/or affiliate links.
- You’ve got internal 404 pages, overused H1 tags, or hidden links.
Not only do these red flags turn away users, but they could warrant a Google penalty, too.
3. You’re Not Optimizing Your Pages to Convert
Maybe it sounds like a no-brainer, but adding affiliate links or banners to your site is not a magic switch that makes money fall from the sky. You have to put in some work to encourage potential buyers to click on your affiliate link and follow the conversion funnel—i.e., convert!
What makes a click-worthy, conversion-friendly page?
- Consistent marketing language and branding
- A design that draws the eye to the page’s CTA (call-to-action)
- Easy access to the information readers want
Make sure you avoid conversion leaks, or missed opportunities to monetize. While you don’t want to stuff your blog copy with affiliate links, you also don’t want to write an entire article about saving money on business printing costs without mentioning your VistaPrint promo code, either.
And while you’re at it, it’s helpful to create custom pages or posts for whatever you’re hoping to drive conversions around (rather than haphazardly throwing in links or banners anywhere). For example, if you’re a HostGator affiliate, having a HostGator-specific landing page is more powerful than occasionally dropping in a link to HostGator at any mention of websites or hosting on your business blog.
Do your homework, conduct keyword research, and check out what others are writing about whatever product you’re hoping to promote. In addition to competitor research, you’re advised to test your landing page conversion rates often—and consider what you’re really getting out of each individual offer.
4. You’re Recommending Based on Payout, Not Product Quality
Having been on both the consumer side and the affiliate side of this very transactional business relationship, I can’t emphasize this affiliate marketing gaffe enough: DO NOT sacrifice your integrity for a CPA, CPC, CPL, or any other payout model! It’s not worth it.
Website visitors don’t appreciate lies; your affiliate partner won’t appreciate the inevitably unhappy (and short-lived) customers you send them; and any success you have won’t last. Plus, you could get black-balled by search engines—shudder.
In the industry, they often call it “pay to play” tactics. It’s when an affiliate sells premium placement to the highest bidder, even if the brand or product is garbage. Experts will warn you: Quality trumps quantity in the affiliate game. Your best bet is to leverage a combination of your own experience and other customer feedback:
- Test the product yourself and provide an honest assessment and review or rating.
- Let the customers do the rest. If users consistently pass over one affiliate offer in favor of another, they’re telling you they like product #2 better. Price may be a strong pull factor, but quality likely plays a role as well.
“The best marketing doesn’t feel like marketing,” or so they say. Affiliate marketing shouldn’t feel like a sketchy agenda with ulterior motives. It should feel like a friend recommending a cool tool they tried or a team they loved working with to another friend.
Aim to sound human—crazy, right? It’s simple, but effective.
Final Tip: Form More Than a Financial Relationship With Affiliates
Affiliate marketers often get a bad rap. They’re painted as sleazy, shady, dishonest, and greedy—and those are the nice words. The truth is, affiliate marketing is one of the world’s biggest networking games. Those who are good at relationship-building, and who understand numbers, thrive.
By forging actual relationships with your affiliate managers, you establish trust. They have confidence in the work you do for them, and you both know you have one another’s backs. When they come out with new deals, like discounted rates on HostGator servers, you’ll be the first to know and reap the rewards. When issues come up with your account, you won’t be stuck waiting for a chat bot because you’ll have the direct contact info for your personal account manager.
My favorite affiliates to work with feel like friends when we get together at conferences. We talk regularly throughout the week, and we want one another’s businesses to do well. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship, but, as with all relationships, it takes time and a little effort to make it work!