Why people fail at affiliate marketing & How to scale on a small budget?

Magdalena Bober
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Why people fail at affiliate marketing? Well, it has a rather shallow learning curve. You need to have a little bit of money to invest, a bit of curiosity to research ideas and a lot of perseverance to test and test until you find that one thing (offer, source, lander) that will make you a ton of money online… even if on a small budget.

Despite the easy process, many beginners join affiliate forums, open a follow along, post a few updates and then disappear into oblivion, never to be seen again. If you’re wondering why so many affiliates get discouraged and quit before earning any money, so were we. 

That’s why our in-house business analytics team decided to look at raw data of hundreds of new joiners to determine why people fail at affiliate marketing and what actions lead to affiliates quitting. 

We’ve been able to determine some key differences between those who stayed and started earning, and those who quit within a week without seeing any green.

Read on to find out the results and learn what you can do to make money with Zeropark on a small budget.

Is starting affiliate marketing difficult?

Starting an affiliate marketing business is something that anyone can do. It’s a rather simple process that doesn’t require you to have a website or any kind of business site. You are just an individual who needs to gather a couple of things.

First, you need to sign up to a couple of affiliate programs and pick a product (or products) to advertise. Then you should pick a traffic source (such as Zeropark, Facebook, Google, or whatever else comes your way). Although you don’t need an affiliate website, a landing page might come in handy anyway. Once you prepare the content part and some business strategies, you’re good to go.

Although the beginning might seem like a smooth ride, there are plenty of valid reasons why internet marketers fail at making site visitors convert.

Why do people fail at affiliate marketing and quit before turning a profit?

In our research, both groups of affiliate marketers, those who quit and those who didn’t, focused on launching RON campaigns in Zeropark. This is one of the common testing strategies that aim to target as big of an audience as possible. Additionally, they used the same kind of feeds and all came with a variety of previously acquired offers. 

However, affiliate marketers who quit within a week had the following distinct behavior that we observed based on Zeropark data:

1. Setting low bid values

People who quit within a week used low bid values regardless of the GEO they chose to target. While the correct way to approach bidding is by evaluating what kind of offer and where you plan to run, beginners with insufficient knowledge seem to choose low (or as low as possible) bids without considering the campaign’s parameters. 

People who stayed and continued running their affiliate campaigns were characterized by a greater variety in choosing their bids. Albeit still staying on the lower side, their bids were more diverse and seemed to take into account factors like the GEO targeting or the bid’s win-ratio (showing which bids exactly lose to the higher-paying competition). Overall, they set strong bids significantly more often than the quitters. 

The thing about affiliate marketing that makes people fail, is that finding a profitable combination isn’t always easy. Actually, up to 95% of tested campaigns will not reach a positive ROI no matter how hard you try. The only problem here is that you won’t be able to find your gem of an offer if you don’t test it with enough quality traffic.

Cheap traffic is often coming from further away pages of a multi-page website, sites with too many ads, or just sites that aren’t that popular. If a site visitor doesn’t see the ad they can’t convert. 

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2. Running campaigns in Tier 1 GEO

Those who chose to give up started by running their campaigns in Tier 1 GEOs, while those who persevered focused their efforts mostly on Tier 3. Additionally, the first group (the quitters) spent the most money on their Tier 1 countries as opposed to the second group (the winners) that spread their budget more evenly over different regions while still putting the most focus on Tier 3.

In general, the conversion rate in Tier 1 countries is low so only affiliate marketers with experience and sizable budgets can make money from it. The success rate of such an affiliate marketing campaign will also depend on the advertised things, products, offers, or websites.

Quite often affiliate marketers fail because they mistakenly think they can do what the gurus do, and promote expensive products using shady advertising practices with inadequate budgets. That’s a recipe for disaster.

3. Jumping from one campaign type to another

The group of new joiners who quit affiliate marketing shortly after starting came with a greater variety of offers and tested various combinations of vertical + ad format + targeting. Despite initially following the beginner advice of starting with a RON campaign, over the course of the first week on the platform, they ended up jumping between many different campaign types. 

Although the affiliate marketing industry has many nooks and crannies, and you can learn about its unique benefits in blog posts, affiliate websites, videos, or even e-books, your success depends on mastering one thing rather than trying many.

On the other hand, non-quitters came with a lesser variety of offers and ran less varied campaigns. Additionally, they often came with gambling, crypto, or e-commerce offers signifying greater affiliate marketing knowledge and experience. 

4. Not engaging in affiliate marketing optimization tasks

Out of the assessed group, non-quitters did more optimization such as adjusting the budgets, dayparting or changing the frequency filter. Those who left shortly after starting did less basic optimization and focused on rule-based optimization instead.

While RBO is a great tool for keeping an eye on your campaigns at all times, such aspects of a campaign as budget, targeting and dayparting are where the most crucial difference can be made. The Internet is just so full of ads, there are plenty of strategies to make your ads stand out. And if you don’t optimize your campaigns for your audience, making money with affiliate marketing might become very difficult. 

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5. Incorrect use of Rule-Based Optimization

Lastly, quitters made use of Zeropark’s rule-based optimization. While both groups seemed to engage with auto-optimization equally to some degree, the group who left the platform shortly after, often used the feature in unusual ways. The rules they’ve set, albeit enforceable, were often impractical or illogical which resulted in overall incorrect optimization of their campaigns.

It makes sense to try to cut your losses as much as possible in any business. But the reason so many affiliate marketers fail is because they have unrealistic expectations and expect to make a lot of money without investing much. Hence, sometimes they set rules that pause ads and creatives way too soon to assess their potential.

Research conclusions  

Affiliates who quit before turning a profit were largely making the basic mistakes that are common for beginners with no experience. Things like setting the lowest bid possible at all cost, shiny object syndrome which caused them to jump from one campaign to another without properly optimizing, and playing with the platform’s advanced features without preparation and learning. These are all mistakes frequently talked about in basic tutorials, blog articles, and documentation.

The final conclusion is that starting affiliate marketing without learning and researching prior to campaign launch on any platform is simply not a good idea. All of the mistakes made here could be avoided by making the smallest effort of learning the basics by e.g. searching for a ‘beginner guide’ in a forum or reading the 7 Biggest Affiliate Marketing Mistakes article.   

How do you run successful campaigns in Zeropark as an affiliate marketer with a low budget?

Although all traffic sources have the same function, each platform is different and requires a different approach. That’s why we decided to make a shortlist of essential tips on how to start with Zeropark, even if you do have a small budget and limited resources. 

1. Choose beginner-friendly GEOs and offers 

Even though that tip seems entirely obvious, it’s important to delve into details here. Yes, Tier 1 is NOT a beginner-friendly GEO. It’s highly competitive, and if you do have a small budget, you have a very small chance of scoring conversions there. That’s why you should never pick high-payout affiliate programs to test as a beginner.

Still, that doesn’t mean all of Tier 2 and Tier 3 countries are beginner-friendly, especially if you’re not an experienced advertiser just yet, or don’t have a budget to burn while testing. High volume GEOs can be perfect for making money with affiliate marketing but the competition makes it very difficult for beginners to deal with the lack of high-converting but cheap traffic. 

Here are some competitive GEOs to avoid:










Again, remember these may work well given your offer and the budget allows for taking up the challenge. If your strategies involve testing offers with affiliate products that might appeal to customers from a particular area, and you have plenty of financial resources to take care of aspects such as possible lander; or web page development, possible search engine optimization techniques, and creatives/copy for advertising products, these GEOs can still bring you profit. 

Additionally, while sweepstakes, vouchers, lead gen, and downloads are all beginner-friendly, it doesn’t make them effortless. It hardly ever happens that unoptimized traffic with low bids is going to bring you conversions. Sure, one or two might happen but it’s not quite possible to instantly make money just because you have beginner-friendly offers and GEOs.

💡 Beginner tip: Learn more about tiers of traffic and why GEO-targeting matters; Learn more about how to pick CPA offers that convert

Not sure what affiliate program to join?
Read a case study on how to pick affiliate offers. 

Case Study Header - How to find profitable offers

That being said, if you have a low budget and want to launch campaigns with Zeropark here are tried and tested combinations (in Tier 3 GEOs) that are the easiest to reach profit.


  1. Pakistan 🇵🇰 + Pin Submit/Gaming offers
  2. Angola 🇦🇴 + Gaming offers
  3. Azerbaijan 🇦🇿 + Hobbies and education
  4. Haiti 🇭🇹 • Angola 🇦🇴 • Ethiopia 🇪🇹 • Sri Lanka 🇱🇰 • Mongolia 🇲🇳 • Kenya 🇰🇪 + Sweepstakes offers


  1. Pakistan 🇵🇰 + Smartlink offers

Note that these are the combinations that currently work with Zeropark traffic. They are ideal for clients with small budgets, as the volume of traffic in these GEOs might not be sufficient if you’re hoping for a 4 digit revenue.

Additionally, many of these options perform well without a pre-lander which eliminates the danger of having your click-through rate plummet because of a poor lander. Still, in order to exceed your competition, you should always put in more effort than strictly necessary.

2. Stick to your affiliate marketing plan

As our research has shown, jumping between different offers and different campaign types is not the best way to go about learning affiliate marketing. Unless you do have a big budget, of course, then your success doesn’t depend on the immediate success of your ads. Instead, you can lay out multiple plans and compare them to each other to finally settle on those promising the highest passive income. 

So, always remember to assess what you’re willing to lose and how much you can actually test with your budget. If it’s really small, it’s best to choose a few offers and one ad format and launch a RON campaign and optimize it. Eventually, you can run a source or target campaign from the best performing placements in the original campaign. 

However, it’s not advisable to try many GEOs, offers, and ad formats at once when starting with a limited budget.

3. Perform optimization tasks

Optimization is an extremely important step to take soon after launching your campaign. While letting it run for a couple of days (with set budget limits) is useful to properly scan and assess the traffic, it is only at the optimization stage that you can bring out the potential of your setup. 

The optimization tasks will help you evaluate where’s the best traffic for your offer. While optimization should be based on the data you gather for the first couple of days, here are the actions you should take:

✔︎ Set budgets (campaign, daily, source, and target)

✔︎ Adjust frequency filter

✔︎ Set traffic filters for devices and OSes

✔︎ Choose granular options such as browsers or OS versions

✔︎ Set dayparting

Check out 25 Affiliate Marketing Tips for Beginners and learn more about how and when to optimize your campaigns.

25 tips for beginner affiliates

4. Learn about Rule-Based Optimization

Rule-based optimization, while extremely helpful for beginners and experts alike, can be tricky to use when you have no idea what you’re doing. The best way to get started is to set the default options suggested by the platform. They are safe to try and universal for any affiliate marketing campaign with an offer payout of $2.50 or higher. 

If you choose to come up with your own rules, it’s highly advisable to message our support team ([email protected]) and ask for a check/advice when setting your rules for the first time. They are always happy to help and ensure that everything is in order and that your ads have a chance of succeeding. If there’s an aspect of your campaign that might be a deal-breaker, it’s the support team that will tell you. 

In a nutshell, every beginner affiliate marketer should make use of the traffic source/affiliate program support team. It’s really not every man for himself kind of situation. When you’re taking your first steps in the world of affiliate marketing, everyone involved wants you to achieve success. 

Alternatively, if you do prefer to learn on your own, there are various resources where you can learn the basics of Rule-Based optimization and how to use it for the benefit of your campaigns. 

  1. Blog article
  2. Zeropark documentation
  3. Video explainer

Rule based optimization, affiliate Marketing tools

That concludes our study and the resulting list of tips for beginners. Every affiliate marketer wants their story to be of rags to riches kind but unfortunately, very few persevere. Still, affiliate marketing will give many a sustainable side income and for some, it might become a full-time career. 

We hope this post can help many beginner affiliates with limited budgets see their first green numbers. One of the best ways to stay motivated is by experiencing those little triumphs, seeing your business grow and your affiliate efforts bring results. While so many quit too soon, you have a chance to become the affiliate marketer who achieves success.

Are you ready to start earning?
Join Zeropark Now!

Magdalena Bober

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