The 6 Most Common Mistakes When Starting an Affiliate Marketing Program (And How to Avoid Them)

man who just made a mistake

Affiliate marketing can be very profitable when done right. According to a Business Insider report, it accounts for about 15 percent of overall revenue in the digital media industry. However, there are some common mistakes business owners are prone to making when starting new programs, which can hamper long-term success.

By avoiding these stumbling blocks, you can maximize your income and build profitable relationships with your marketing partners or affiliates. Fortunately that isn't hard to do – in this case, a little foreknowledge goes a long way.

In this article, we’ll look at the top six mistakes commonly made when starting an affiliate marketing program, and talk about how to avoid them. Let’s get started!

1. Neglecting to Promote Your Affiliate Program

First on our list is neglecting to promote your affiliate marketing program. It’s nearly impossible to make your program a success if you haven’t generated any awareness about it.

Ideally, you'll want to begin advertising your program even before it’s launched. You can start by letting your existing audience know about it (for example, through an email blast), and by clarifying its benefits and how much they can earn.

In addition, it's a good idea to set up banners on your home page (or any other page with high visibility):

An affiliate program promotional banner.

Social media posts can also be an effective means for notifying both existing and new followers about your program. All of this content can lead interested parties to a dedicated page that explains all of the key details.

2. Forgetting to Vet Your Affiliate Partners

It’s tempting to indiscriminately accept anyone who applies to your affiliate program. This comes from a desire to grow it as quickly as possible. However, it’s smart to perform some due diligence and acquire basic background information for each applicant, since they'll be functioning as an advocate for your products or services.

Going into partnerships with people whose only goal is to make a quick buck can give your brand a bad reputation. Additionally, since these individuals may also be prone to spamming links and engaging in other less-than-stellar practices, your page rankings could be negatively affected.

Therefore, it's best to ensure that everyone you accept satisfies the following (at a minimum):

  • Has a quality content channel (blog, podcast, social profiles, etc.) that's regularly updated
  • Is a genuine business or has previous affiliate experience
  • Does not engage in spammy practices in their existing content
  • Is established within their niche and has the trust of their audience (as indicated by a highly-engaged following, a strong social media presence, etc.)

Overall, you'll want to focus on gathering a small but solid band of affiliates, rather than a sizable number who might do more harm than good.

3. Failing to Pay Enough Commission

The appeal of an affiliate marketing program is that anyone can earn money by promoting a brand’s products or services. While there’s certainly some work to be done, affiliates can bring in what's essentially passive income once the right structures are in place.

With that being said, the rewards will still need to be worthwhile in order to attract quality marketers. Since many businesses now have affiliate programs for promoting their offerings, it’s important to stand out or you risk losing to the competition. If your commission rates aren’t appealing enough, you may see few applicants.

An example of affiliate commission rates.

Admittedly, it may not be feasible to pay high rates for all of your products. However, it’s generally smart to have a list of high-commission items. Additionally, you’ll want to ensure that payments are sent out as early as possible, and according to your affiliate agreement. Otherwise, your partners may lose their motivation for promoting your brand.

In the same vein, it’s important that you do not reduce commissions after sign-ups. This can cause your affiliates to stop promoting your products, or even leave your program entirely.

4. Not Tracking Affiliate Activities

Even your best efforts at vetting potential affiliates might be inadequate. You might find that you still have some marketing partners who overstep their bounds and engage in questionable or even unethical practices.

Therefore, you’ll want to set up a consistent schedule for reviewing affiliate traffic and sales for inconsistencies. Proactively monitoring your affiliates this way can ensure that they do not damage your reputation. It might even help you contain mishaps early on.

It's also very important to define the terms and conditions for your program before launching it:

An affiliate program's terms and conditions.

Then you'll just have to enforce them as needed, which can serve to deter further mischief.

5. Neglecting to Spell Out Acceptable and Unacceptable Marketing Strategies

We’ve established that some affiliates may engage in questionable marketing practices, regardless of your best efforts to vet them at the application stage. However, it’s also possible that you simply haven’t made your rules clear enough.

When starting your program, you'll want to create unambiguous standards about acceptable and unacceptable practices. For example, some companies forbid their affiliates from bidding on certain brand keywords in Google AdWords.

Consider including a list of allowed promotional activities in your affiliate terms, and forbidding everything else. This way, you can avoid the risk of your partners using techniques you’re unfamiliar with, and keep your reputation sparkling.

6. Failing to Treat Your Affiliates Like Business Partners

Affiliate partnerships are business relationships. Therefore, you’ll want to treat them as such. Although it’s your responsibility to lay down rules to ensure that affiliates do not damage your brand’s reputation, you'll also want to allow some flexibility and avoid treating them like employees.

To begin with, you should consider allowing flexible marketing techniques (within your established constraints, as discussed above). You'll also want to avoid creating too many rules, and generally being heavy-handed. The goal is to build and maintain solid working relationships with your affiliates.

Communication is a key factor in building such strong partnerships. Therefore, you’ll want to keep the lines of communication open, listening to affiliates' concerns and suggestions. This might require scheduling regular meetings, as well as sending newsletters and educational content.

Another advantage of communicating with your affiliates is that since they’re often in direct contact with your end users, you can gain more awareness about what products or services your audiences want and are willing to pay for. Therefore, it's best to be proactive about soliciting such feedback, as your affiliates may unintentionally gloss over it. 

Conclusion

Starting an affiliate marketing program can be an excellent way to increase your revenue. When done the right way, you can build long-term relationships with partners who will help create more awareness for your brand. You can also gain deeper insights into the needs of your target audiences.

Along the way, it's also vital to avoid these six common mistakes:

  1. Neglecting to promote your affiliate program.
  2. Forgetting to vet your affiliate partners.
  3. Failing to pay enough commissions.
  4. Not tracking affiliate activities.
  5. Neglecting to spell out acceptable and unacceptable marketing strategies.
  6. Failing to treat your affiliates like business partners.

Have you made any of these mistakes, and how have you fixed (or how do you plan to fix) them? Let us know in the comments below!

The 6 Most Common Mistakes New Affiliate Marketers Need to Avoid

The ins-and-outs of affiliate marketing can be overwhelming, especially for ‘newbies’. It can be easy to get lost with aspects such as deciding on a profitable niche or choosing a suitable affiliate program, and at the beginning, you’re guaranteed to put a foot wrong somewhere.

However, some of these mistakes can prove to be more detrimental than others. The ones that can impact you the most are the ones to avoid from the get-go – although you may have already found yourself falling victim to some of the more common ones.

Today, we’ll reveal the six most common mistakes new affiliate marketers need to avoid if they want to grow a successful business. You’ll learn why each mistake can be harmful, and how you can be sure to avoid and overcome each one. By the end, you’ll have a stronger framework on which to build your affiliate marketing business.

Let’s get started!

1. Signing Up for Too Many Affiliate Programs

There’s nothing necessarily wrong with multiple streams of income, but signing up for too many affiliate programs can be counterproductive to success.

In a nutshell, potential customers will be able to tell how well you know your product from reading your content. It stands to reason that the more products you promote, the less you know about each one. If customers begin to doubt your authority, this could potentially impact click-throughs and sales.

Fortunately, this mistake is easy to avoid. In the beginning, choose one product to promote. Spend all of your time learning about the product, testing it out yourself, and creating awesome content that promotes its use. Once you’ve begun to see the benefits of this, only then should you add an additional program or two to your plate.

2. Failing to Test and Compare Products and Tools

Following on from our last point, promoting a product you’ve never tested yourself can also impact your credibility and sales, despite your best intentions.

Promoting a product you’ve personally tested and compared enables you to create more authoritative content, and causes you to come off as more knowledgeable to your customers. As a product user yourself, you’ll be able to answer all questions truthfully and present all the facts. This is essential to building trust with your customers.

That being said, there are times when you’ll need to act quickly in order to beat your competition to the punch. Only experience can help you in these situations. However, for the beginner affiliate marketer, purchasing and testing your chosen product out will be more beneficial in the long run.

3. Working Within an Uninteresting Niche (To You)

In the beginning, picking a profitable niche may seem the most appealing option – and it often is. However, espousing the qualities of a niche you find bland or boring will make the work seem a slog.

It almost goes without saying that choosing a niche you’re interested in will benefit both you and your customers. Your passion will shine through your content and communications, and overall, you’ll be happy to spend more time working on your business.

Unfortunately, guides for choosing a profitable niche are more prevalent than how to choose an interesting niche. For example:

However, this means you’ll need to rely on your own taste to choose an interesting niche to you. Of course, profitability should always be a consideration, but ultimately you’ll benefit more from a niche that’s fun to work with, than simply plumping for a high-earning one.

4. Not Collecting Customer Emails From the Start

A strong email marketing strategy is a must for affiliate marketers. It enables you to build a genuine relationship with your readers, and it also provides you with a ready-made list of potential leads. Putting this aspect off until you’re already up and running is a definite mistake.

While collecting customer emails can seem difficult at first, leading many to simply sidestep that aspect and focus on other areas, it doesn’t have to be!

A tried and trusted technique is to implement email opt-ins on your site, along with the promise of something valuable – such as a weekly newsletter, a free e-book, or report to the reader:

Of course, opt-ins aren’t the only way to collect email addresses, and in regard to this at least, the only roadblock is your creativity!

5. Choosing Quantity of Content Over Quality

Many new marketers begin to churn out content from the start, with their only concern being the quantity of posts in their archive. However, the focus should really be on quality. One or two in-depth and valuable posts per month that provide readers with all of the information they need to make a purchasing decision will ultimately trump a short article every day that doesn’t do the product you’re covering justice.

Fortunately, there is much you can do to ensure quality content. For example, always begin brainstorming post ideas by focusing on value with questions such as, What value will this post provide to my readers?

In terms of article creation, begin with an outline to give yourself focus. It will help you to find and eradicate the weak points in your work. Finally, make sure you’re also comparing yourself to your competitors – ensuring your content is bigger and better than theirs practically guarantees high-quality content.

6. Not Tracking and Managing Your Links

Link tracking is essential for building a successful affiliate business, and failing to do so can lead to less revenue. It can also make it difficult to know whether your marketing strategies are working or not.

While Pretty Link Pro can help you with link redirection and shortening, Affiliate Royale is an affiliate management plugin that can help you to take control of your affiliate marketing program:

The user-friendly dashboard enables you to see how many clicks your affiliates are driving, the sales they’re making, and how much to pay them at the end of each month.

Combined with the functionality of Pretty Link Pro, you’ll have everything you need at your fingertips to ensure you can keep on top of your affiliate marketing.

Conclusion

The development of an affiliate marketing business will take considerable work, patience, and perseverance. From time to time, you may also find yourself questioning your strategies and choices.

However, with the knowledge we’ve provided, you can now avoid the most detrimental mistakes and build a strong, successful business. To recap, the six most common mistakes made by new affiliate marketers are:

  1. Signing up for too many affiliate programs.
  2. Failing to test and compare products and tools.
  3. Working within an uninteresting niche.
  4. Not collecting customer emails from the start.
  5. Choosing quantity of content over quality.
  6. Not tracking and managing links.

Do you have any mistakes new affiliate marketers need to avoid? Let us know in the comments below!