The easy answer? No. (I’m going to give you a more qualified answer below…)
There are lots of ways to do affiliate marketing, and you certainly do not need a website for all of them. Hell, you don’t even need to be on the internet for all of them.
Most of the time, it only matters that you’re sending targeted, qualified traffic to your vendor’s; it doesn’t particularly matter how you do it.
You could send people to an offer via Facebook or Pinterest or any other social platform. You could send them to the offer directly from an ad. If you were a spammy, inefficient businessperson, you could also schlep around the web dropping links on forums and in blog comments (obviously not what we recommend).
Can you really make it work without a website?
Of course you can.
In general, it just requires a lot more testing and a lot more money before you see a positive ROI.
But there are plenty of examples of people making it work. Perhaps the most successful is Charles Ngo from charlesngo.com.
Charles makes a lot of money. Like, a lot. He’s been banking hard for several years now, and he’s one of the most respected and well-known names in affiliate marketing.
How’d he do it? Primarily by sending paid traffic (via ads) to affiliate offers. I’m sure he’s created a website or two in the many years he’s been doing affiliate marketing, but as far as I know, most of his business model is sending ads directly to affiliate offers.
You don’t need a website for that.
You do need a fairly big budget. Charles typically says newbies should expect to spend a few thousand dollars trying to find their first profitable ad campaign.
Why so much?
Because this kind of marketing requires lots and lots of testing. You might test ad copy, images, audiences, and any number of other factors you before you find an ad that “clicks” with the target audience.
In my view, this kind of affiliate marketing is a lot more like jumping in the deep end; there’s just a very steep learning curve, and it takes a lot more money to even give it a try.
…which brings me to my more qualified answer…
The longer, qualified answer.
Building a website has so many benefits, there’s no real reason not to do it.
First, I think it’s safe to assume with this audience that most of us are coming from an SEO background. If that’s the case, building a website is the only way to leverage your existing skills.
Second, websites are one of the few assets you can create that will generate truly passive income. You can’t do that with non-website forms of affiliate marketing. Ad campaigns require near-constant testing and optimization. Websites take lots of work to set up but can then generate money on their own.
Third, websites can open up into other business opportunities. If you have a profitable website that is already generating sales for someone else, you’re really only a couple steps away from creating your own product and simply selling that instead.
So, can you do affiliate marketing without a website? Sure.
But there’s no real reason not to–unless, perhaps, if you’re running through a massive amount of affiliate marketing campaigns in a bunch of different niches.
But when you find that industry you really like–or that offer that’s just knocking it out of the park for you–building a long-term asset is almost always a smart business move.