The short answer is: No.
Affiliate marketing is a long-standing marketing avenue for businesses and a perfectly legitimate way for publishers to make money online.
Why do some people think affiliate marketing is a scam?
Affiliate marketing has a relatively good reputation in general, but it sometimes gets a bad rap because there have been some actual scams.
Most of the scams in the affiliate marketing space happen with affiliate marketing courses. While there are plenty of great affiliate marketing training courses and resources out there, there are lots — and I mean lots — of people who don’t know what they’re talking about trying to make a quick buck by selling “training.”
People sign up for these courses, don’t learn anything and don’t make any money, and then come to the very understandable conclusion that affiliate marketing scam.
This sort of thing can make getting into affiliate marketing difficult, since there’s just a lot of crap information to wade through. It’s also why you generally want to try to learn the fundamental skills from a well-known, successful affiliate marketer.
Affiliate marketing has also received its fair share of negative press.
Take, for example, this Venture Beat article, which details how the author’s business was essentially scammed by affiliates who are tagging sales unethically (I won’t go into the details of how they were doing this, but the article is worth a read).
Based on that experience — and more importantly, because the author wasn’t at all familiar with what affiliate marketing actually is or how it should normally work — he figured all affiliate marketing was scam.
Unfortunately, however, he also writes for a major publication, and when these types of stories get out, some people inevitably buy into it.
It’s worth mentioning that the author of the Venture Beat article eventually published a second article correcting his position and outlining why affiliate marketing is in fact not bad. The thing about negative press, though, that tends to stick even after you correct it, and affiliate marketing often feels the effects of these pieces long after they are written.
Get Rich Quick Scams
Lastly, the reputation of affiliate marketing, to some extent, has been damaged by the prevalence of get-rich-quick scams.
If you’re a kid in the 90s like me, you grew up watching infomercials, you probably remember being sucked into some kind of get rich quick scan at some point.
Sell real estate. Trade stocks. Flip houses. Honestly, it seems like the scams were endless. I remember begging my mom to buy one of these things for me even at 16 years old.
Of course, nearly all of these programs their promised easy, quick wealth were essentially just some skeezebag profiting off of the ignorance of the layman.
The truly unfortunate thing, though, is that affiliate marketing can sometimes sound like a get-rich-quick scheme. Or, more accurately, it’s sold that way.
“Work from home.”
“Make money while you sleep.”
“Earn thousands of dollars with a few simple tactics.”
If you’ve been interested in affiliate marketing for any time at all, probably seen that type of language on the programs people are trying to get you to buy.
In short, affiliate marketing can look like a skeezy infomercial, especially to an outsider doesn’t know anything about it.
The truth about affiliate marketing…
Affiliate marketing is nothing more than an agreement between a business and a marketer that awards the marketer money for referring a customer or potential customer.
It’s a system that has been around for a very long time, and there are many, many people make an absolute killing with affiliate marketing.
That said, it is absolutely not something that will get you rich quick.
You’ll have to do work. You have to learn new skills. You will likely fail quite a bit. And, as is true with any business venture, there’s always a risk that you won’t make any money at all.
This is true for basically everybody who has ever tried affiliate marketing. Even me.
I created four different websites before I finally made my first dollar from an affiliate marketing program. Some of the most successful people I’ve met in this space fail the whole lot more than that.
So, yes, affiliate marketing is very real, perfectly legitimate, it will be a way for both businesses and marketers to make money for a very long time.