7 Biggest Mistakes You Can Make When Starting Affiliate Marketing

Magdalena Bober
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Making mistakes is a natural part of the learning process. In affiliate marketing, just like in any other business model, the learning process takes time and isn’t always smooth and straightforward. 

Even though mistakes and hiccups usually cost money and might be the cause of frustrations, everyone has to deal with them sometimes. Still, learning how to steer clear of most common mistakes could give you a head start against your competitors.

Read the article below to find out what are the 7 biggest affiliate marketing mistakes and how to avoid them.

1. Poor choice of offers

An affiliate marketing offer is something that stands at the heart of your business. As a beginner, choosing the right offer might seem to be the most difficult task. There are a lot of different reviews and recommendations that help advertisers make educated decisions when it comes to choosing ad trackers or traffic sources. But when it comes to offers, there aren’t any cut and dry guidelines or reviews. 

How to choose an offer that will have the highest chance of success?

The answer is don’t choose just one offer. There are plenty of affiliate networks and even more offers. The correct way to go about things is to choose your niche and open a bunch of campaigns with similar offers and see which one gives the best results before optimization. 

The first step, however, is to choose a suitable niche. As a beginner you should choose low payout offers and pair them with a Tier 2 or Tier 3 GEO. By following these recommendations you are choosing offers that are easy to convert and don’t require a lot of learning and preparations. Additionally, these GEOs are less competitive and cheaper than Tier 1 which makes them perfect for undemanding, simple offers. 

When it comes to choosing the vertical, the universal recommendation for beginners is to go with sweepstakes. Surveys and Sweeps, leadgen and any variation of simple flow, single opt-in or double opt-in offers are evergreen options, perfect for learning affiliate marketing. They look like spin wheels or quizzes and only ask the user to fill in some data in return for a chance to win something. 

Don’t let the simplicity of this vertical fool you, though. It’s perfectly scalable and it’s used by affiliates with all levels of experience. It’s also capable of bringing triple or even quadruple digit daily profits. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves too quickly. 

If you find your offers by browsing through the inventory of an affiliate network and looking at payouts, then you’re not doing it right. You should never choose offers thinking: ‘This is how much I’d like to earn, high payouts seem so nice….’

Contact affiliate network representatives and ask for a bunch of recommendations. Choose similar offers and test them all at once to see which performs best. If you don’t trust this strategy, then let me assure you we didn’t just make it up. It’s all described right here, in a case study in which one affiliate found the perfect strategy of finding profitable offers. 

Here are the general DOs and DONTs of choosing offers.

How to choose offers?

2. Lazy landers

Being lazy is obviously not an ideal approach if you want to grow a business of any kind. Just like making lazy choices will have a negative impact on your campaigns, being lazy with your landing pages can significantly hinder your progress. 

The digital market is saturated with thousands of ads and if you really want to be successful you need to make your landing pages stand out. 

A lazy affiliate will choose to go with direct linking just so that they don’t have to think about the hassle of creating a landing page. 

Why waste all that time to make an additional pre-lander while the offer page seems good enough?

Well, there’s a couple of main reasons:

  • In 90% of cases using a landing page is proved to bring more conversions.
  • That 10% should be discovered via split testing (two campaigns launched at the same time one with a pre-lander and one without).
  • There are many people running the same offer as you so you need to make it stand out!
  • The offer page itself might not be enough to convince users to convert.
  • Sometimes you need to ‘sell’ the product, its benefits, long term value, and why it’s an offer the potential client just can’t refuse.

Landing pages can be ripped from spy tools. Then, they require a little bit of ‘cleaning up’ and some adjustments to make them fit your offers seamlessly. The last step is to host them somewhere. But ripping landers is still not the best option.

If you want to do absolutely everything to ensure the best performance of your ads you can subscribe to one of the lander builders and create the landing pages from scratch. Obviously in that case it would be very useful to have a spy tool subscription as well. You need to research what works before you can create a winning lander.

If you are a complete beginner trying to score your very first conversion, then using a lander that comes with the offer is definitely alright. You just need to remember that in order to best all the other beginner advertisers you need to do more than them. And out of hundreds of beginners only a handful will invest their time and resources into creating their own landing pages. 

Decided to create your own landing page?
Check out our top 9 landing page

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3. Optimizing too quickly

Having your campaigns up and running is a very exciting step in growing your business. That’s also one of the first steps you take and one of the easiest steps to mess up.

It takes a lot of willpower to gather data because, at first, gathering data is just watching your money burn. It’s highly unlikely that your campaigns will have a positive ROI right from the start. But instead of protecting yourself from losing money, you need to sit back and watch that data flow. 

Gathering data is necessary for making the correct optimization decisions. It’s normally recommended to set a daily budget and then wait 3-5 days before optimizing the traffic. The optimal daily budget is $100 but you can definitely gather data with less. 

The higher your budget is the quicker you are able to gather data. The numbers given above are only meant to give you an idea of how the testing period works. In fact, you can test traffic within a day or two by upping your budget, but you can also spread it out over a period of one week. 

It is actually recommended to take time with testing as traffic tends to fluctuate during different hours of the day and days of the week. 

Optimization is mostly about cutting out chunks of traffic that don’t match your particular offer. It’s obvious that when something doesn’t work for you, you wouldn’t want to waste money on it. But like we’ve mentioned before… traffic fluctuates and it’s quite impossible to tell if what is working for you today will keep up the performance tomorrow. 

Only when you’ve used that exact targeting for a couple of days, and only when you’ve received a significant amount of data, are you able to properly assess whether something works well or doesn’t. 

What if I rush with optimizations and just cut out the underperformers right away?

Most likely, you will remove sources that might have brought you profits if you had tested them for longer. Also, without giving sources a proper chance to perform with higher bid prices, you might not give them a chance to show their best side. And if you cut all kinds of targeting options too soon, you might find yourself left with too little traffic to make reasonable profits, let alone to scale your campaigns. 

Optimization DOs and DONT's

4. Not enough testing

Testing is the key to success. Affiliates who made a living out of media-buying didn’t just immediately start earning money. They all found their perfect money-making niches by testing different options. 

The mistake often made by beginner affiliate marketers is focusing on one campaign, channeling all of their budget into it, and then quitting affiliate marketing when the profits are not what they expected. 

Achieving success in this business more often than not will require a lot of testing and at least a little investment. 

Whether it’s additional tools and services or just testing traffic, at first, you’ll spend more money that you make. But keep at it for long enough and your profits are bound to beat your costs. 

So, how much should you test?

The answer is… a lot. Almost every aspect of your affiliate marketing business should be tested to some extent. Of course, in some cases, it might be enough to choose based on reviews and recommendations but that only regards:

  • Affiliate Networks
  • Traffic Sources
  • Affiliate Ad Trackers
  • Spy Tools
  • Translation Services
  • Forums and Community Groups
  • Landing Page Builders
  • Hosting Providers
  • Other additional tools

The list might seem long but you shouldn’t feel overwhelmed. At the very beginning you only need an affiliate network and a traffic source. There are plenty of reviews available on the Internet and as long as you go with the popular and reputable networks your chances of success stay high. 

Some tests you need to do on your own. To make a lot of money in affiliate marketing you need to find the perfect funnel. And in order to find the perfect funnel you need to test all kinds of combinations. Here is the list of variables to test on your own:

  • Offers 
  • Landers
  • Creatives
  • GEOs
  • Targeting (Device, OS, OS Versions) 
  • Ad Formats
  • Sources
  • Targets

So, if you only test one offer, from one affiliate network, with one ad format and one lander, in only one GEO… your chances of success are really small. This is the correct way to go:

testing offers in-text graphic

5. Careless campaign set-up

Campaign set up is easy but when you’re a complete beginner it’s not that difficult to overlook something. This is not the kind of mistake that will ruin all your efforts but it’s the kind of mistake that costs money and can be really discouraging.

Traffic sources usually have extensive documentation that will guide you through the process of campaign creation. Additionally, you can often find video tutorials on YouTube or step-by-step written tutorials on community forums. 

Some of the common campaign set-up mistakes include incorrect targeting (not in agreement with offer requirements), not setting a conversion cap to match your offer’s conversion cap, mismatched style of lander and offer page or incorrect destination or postback URLs.

In order to avoid losing money because of a careless campaign set-up you need to always remember to pay special attention to a couple of things. 

  1. Always read the offer description thoroughly before launching the campaign. Pay attention to allowed GEOs and devices. If you miss some information the affiliate network might refuse to pay you for conversions that came from unwanted GEOs/devices.
  2. Check whether the offer has a conversion cap. If yes, then you will need to choose a traffic source/tracker/optimization tool that allows you to set a conversion cap as well. Otherwise, you would have to watch your offers closely so as not to lose money on conversions that won’t be counted. 
  3. Always make sure that your lander matches the offer page. Besides eliminating typos and leftovers (if ripping a page from a spytool), you should do your best to make your funnel seem as professional as possible. It’s best to use matching pictures and color schemes but most importantly matching products. 
  4. Destination URL is the field where you input the URL of the site you’re promoting, regardless of whether you’re using a landing page or linking directly to the offer. Postback URL is what links your tracker with the traffic source. Both are equally important and you should make sure they work correctly before leaving your campaigns to gather data. 

Once you double and triple-check your campaign set up, it could still be useful to stick around once it’s approved and see for yourself if everything works exactly as you planned. 

6. Lack of affiliate marketing tools

You only need an offer and a traffic source to start affiliate marketing, that’s true. But nobody ever said you will make good profits with such a minimalistic set up.

Sooner or later you will need more tools and resources to beat the competition. 

In point number 4, we listed resources that you can choose based on freely and widely available recommendations. This list is composed of exactly the set of tools that you might eventually need in order to raise your campaigns to the next level. 

Why are additional tools so essential?

Without a tracker you won’t be able to gather data necessary for accurate optimization. And when you don’t have that data, you won’t be able to optimize your traffic efficiently enough to keep your campaigns profitable. Tracking does cost money in most cases but not tracking is actually more expensive.

Without a spy tool you won’t know what are the trends in creatives and what works best and where. Spy tools are the perfect source of inspiration and insights into the efforts of your competition. The best way to create a winning lander is to research exactly what kind of landers work in your chosen GEO for that offer and ad format.

Click here for Zeropark recommendation of top 5 affiliate marketing spy tools.

Without a lander builder you are forced to re-use the landers that have already been seen thousands of times. Sometimes these tried and tested ideas might work best but creative fatigue is a real problem. There are only so many times you can show the same ad to people before they will get bored or oblivious.

Click here for Zeropark recommendation of top 9 landing page builders.

Without translation services you are either limiting yourself to running ads only in the languages you know or you’re taking the risk of using Google Translate which might not be that accurate and lower the credibility of your ads. 

Community forums are entirely optional but extremely useful. They offer advice, case studies, directories, bonuses and tons of free resources for you to take advantage of. Overall, joining an affiliate marketing forum can provide you with enough support to overcome any obstacle you might face. 

Affiliate marketing is an investment so in order to make money you need to invest first. Have a look below at the price ranges of the most necessary additional tools:

How much money does affiliate marketing cost

7. Getting discouraged too quickly

The last biggest mistake is a direct result of the six mistakes we’ve just mentioned. Obviously, making a series of mistakes and having a couple of failures along the way might discourage you from pursuing affiliate marketing. But it shouldn’t!

If you are expecting a get rich quick scheme then we have some bad news for you… most of those are a scam. And affiliate marketing is not one of them.

Affiliate marketing requires investment, just like any other legitimate business that grows and expands slowly and in a natural manner. The only difference is that the initial investment is very minimal and you are not bound by any time contracts.

We could even say that affiliate marketing offers an almost free trial. You can sign up to a network and a traffic source and then sign up for a free version of tracking software. You will then have to make a first deposit and that’s the only investment you’ll make. Once you spend that money and earn some of it back you can see whether it’s something for you and if you’re willing to invest more. You could also look into contract management software free trials to easily monitor, sign, and renew existing contracts.

Huge profits are definitely possible in affiliate marketing, but you won’t get to them in a month and probably not even a year. In order to become successful, you need to test a lot and learn something about every aspect of affiliate marketing. Successful media buyers quite often have a niche that they specialize in, so you should also strive to master one vertical, GEO, or ad format. 

The media-buying market is very saturated because of how many people want to make money from home. Whether it’s just a side hustle for you or you are actually planning to make a living from it, you need to realize that the results will not be immediate. 

Thousands of people who try affiliate marketing will quit too soon. Don’t be one of those people. If you persevere long enough, you will become one of the few that make a very comfortable monthly income. Be like these guys, be wise.

Are you ready to start affiliate marketing?
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Magdalena Bober

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