Is Affiliate Marketing Worth It?

Here at Authority Hacker, we launched our first affiliate website back in 2013, so we’re used to people asking us: is affiliate marketing worth it?

To answer that question, we often say something along the lines of this…

Some people dream of becoming professional athletes or pop stars.

Some fantasize about space travel (I’m looking at you, Bezos).

And some of us long for a life of passive income and tons of free time to do whatever we please.

Travel. Work from anywhere with an internet connection. See family and friends. Lie on the couch in our boxer shorts all day watching Real Housewives of Salt Lake City. Whatever takes our fancy.

If that sounds like the life for you, the affiliate marketing industry can absolutely make it happen.

But for every affiliate marketer living the dream, there’s another — or more likely lots of others — who are barely scraping by.

Building a successful affiliate marketing business is tough.

And there are no guarantees.

Which brings us neatly back to the question:

So, Is Affiliate Marketing Worth it or Not?

Affiliate marketing is only worth if you can build an audience and promote products that align with their interests.

That means you need to choose an affiliate marketing niche in which you’re genuinely interested.

Of course, you also want to choose a niche that offers plenty of scope for affiliate sales.

Because more sales (usually) means more money.

Our founders, Gael and Mark, speak extensively about how to find a profitable niche on the Authority Hacker Podcast, so be sure to check out their advice.

They definitely know what they’re talking about.

Once you find a strong niche, you can start creating high-quality content to target keywords with high purchase intent.

That’s what we did with an authority site in the software niche that we sold for a mid-six-figure sum just 18 months after launching it.

Ah Case Study Site Traffic

It’s also what one of our Authority Hacker members, Shane Dutka, did when he sold his two-year-old home & garden niche blog for seven figures.

And we have a bunch of other affiliate marketing success stories, too (like this one and this one).

So yes, as a top-level answer, you can definitely make affiliate marketing work for you.

But there are lots of other factors affecting the question: is affiliate marketing worth it?

1. You’re An “Expert” In Your Chosen Niche

The word “expert” is banded around all too easily these days, but there’s no denying it’s easier to build an audience if you have some level of unique insight into your niche.

Maybe you’ve read extensively about it. Maybe it’s been a lifelong hobby. Maybe you did it for a living.

Whatever the case, if you know more about your niche than the average person in the street, people are more likely to read your content and trust your recommendations.

Which means you’re more likely to become a successful affiliate marketer. 

But don’t worry:

Industry expertise isn’t a prerequisite in affiliate marketing.

We’ve had plenty of success stories from niches we know very little about, so don’t worry if you’re little more than an enthusiastic amateur.

2. You Have Personal Experience Using Your Affiliate Products

This one is more important.

You can definitely get by without being an industry expert.

But it’s hard for new affiliates to make it if they don’t have hands-on experience of the products they’re promoting.

That sort of practical knowledge is a massive benefit because:

  • You know exactly how good the product is
  • You can give your own original review rather than “borrowing” other people’s opinions
  • You sound more trustworthy and ethical
  • You can record a video review of you using the product — that’s important, because 55% of US adults watch product review videos to inform their buying decisions
  • You can ask meaningful questions of the manufacturer or retailer to give your reviews greater detail and specificity

Sometimes, when you own products, you’ll even be granted access to a private Facebook Group or forum where you can connect with hundreds of thousands of other users. 

It’s all about making your content more unique and useful.

3. You Already Have An (Engaged) Audience

Search engines are volatile.

One single update to Google’s algorithm could halve your search traffic overnight.

The same goes for social media.

Organic reach has been falling for years, making it ever more difficult for affiliate marketers to reach their target audience.

That’s why it helps — a lot — if you already have access to an engaged audience of people who actively look out for your content.

That audience could come from:

  • Email marketing. If you have a big email list, you can get guaranteed eyes on your content.
  • Social media channels. Sure, organic reach isn’t what it was, but if you have a ton of followers on your Instagram or YouTube channel who engage with your content, it’ll almost certainly help you drive more affiliate sales.
  • Search traffic. If you already have your own website bringing in a ton of traffic, you’re perfectly poised to make money from affiliate marketing.

Again, none of these things is a prerequisite for becoming a successful affiliate marketer.

Everyone has to start somewhere, so don’t panic if you don’t have any of those things.

But they definitely help.

 4. You Own a Complementary Product

If you promote products that align with your own product, that’s definitely a good thing.

The people who use your product would potentially benefit from those other products, so there’s an obvious opportunity for cross-promotion here.

5. Your Niche Has a High EPC

Earnings per click (EPC) is a vital piece of data for any affiliate marketer.

It tells you how much you’ll earn, on average, when someone clicks your affiliate link.

It’s a pretty simple equation:

EPC = Commission from selling a product / Number of clicks on your referral link

Generally speaking, the higher the figure, the more budget you can afford to spend on promoting the product.

That brings into play digital marketing tactics like paid search and social media advertising.

But bear in mind: not every affiliate program allows you to use paid search, so be sure to check the Ts and Cs first.

When Is Affiliate Marketing Not Worth It?

We obviously like affiliate marketing.

We’re affiliate marketers ourselves, and we also earn money by helping newcomers learn the ropes of the affiliate game.

But even we have to accept there are reasons why affiliate marketing might not be a smart choice, such as:

1. You’re Expecting Overnight Success

Despite what some nefarious online courses might claim, affiliate marketing isn’t a business model that lends itself to overnight success.

It can take months, or even years, of effort to build a stable income.

Just look at the data.

According to Ahrefs, just 0.3% of pages rank in the top 10 for a high-volume keyword in under a year.

Ranking Performance Of Pages Within 1 Year

Even with mid-volume keywords — those with 5,000 – 20,000 searches a month — only one in five pages hit the front page of SERPs within a year.

Obviously search isn’t the only source of traffic.

But clearly, if it takes that long to build strong rankings, you’re not going to become a millionaire the moment you launch your first affiliate campaigns. 

2. You Promote Poor-Quality Affiliate Products

It can be extremely attempting to recommend an affiliate product just because it pays a fat commission.

But I can promise you: it pays to take a long-term view.

If you promote products with awful reviews, it’ll hurt your reputation.

You might win a few quick sales, but you risk alienating your audience in the process.

That’s why it always helps to have first-hand experience of an affiliate product before you start recommending it.

If you wouldn’t pay for it yourself, don’t try to convince other people to buy it, however attractive the commissions.

Also, bear in mind that if a product (or website) looks terrible but claims to offer incredible commissions, there’s always a chance it could be an affiliate marketing scam.

Fortunately, there are lots of very good, totally legit affiliate programs out there, so there’s no reason to resort to shilling low-quality products.

3. You Only See the Affiliate Product As a Revenue Stream

This all comes back to my point about choosing a niche you’re actually interested in.

The reality is that affiliate offers change all the time.

Just look at the Amazon affiliate program, which slashed its commissions on affiliate sales in April 2020.

If you only choose to promote products because they offer big commissions, what are you going to do if those commission rates change?

Ditch your whole affiliate marketing business and start again?

Change is a fact of life for affiliates.

If you’re constantly jumping between affiliate offers looking for a quick buck, you’ll never achieve a stable income stream.

And the best way to guarantee you won’t feel the need to keep chopping and changing is to hone in on a niche that you feel passionate about.

That way, even if your commissions take a short-term hit, you’ve still got a revenue stream from doing something you love.

4. Your Chosen Vendor Doesn’t Follow FTC Guidelines

Since 2009, Federal Trade Commission (FTC) guidelines have made it a legal requirement for all affiliate partners to use specific affiliate marketing disclosures and disclaimers.

Essentially, this requires us to clearly state that we make money when people buy the products we’re promoting.

Ftc Guidelines

The same thing applies to vendors.

If they’re not displaying the necessary disclosures, that’s a big worry.

It means the affiliate platforms, or the FTC itself, might shut them down.

And if that happens, you can kiss goodbye to your commission payments.

Pros and Cons of Affiliate Marketing

Okay, so we’ve talked through a bunch of use cases (and non-use cases) for affiliate marketing.

Now let’s dive deeper into the question: is affiliate marketing worth it? by looking at the pros and cons.

In no particular order, here they are:

Pro: You Can Build an Affiliate Marketing Business Without Launching a Product or Service

Some people are brilliant inventors.

They can spot a gap in the market and immediately figure out a way to monetize it.

Others are natural-born marketers.

They understand audiences, they create content, and they sell, sell, sell.

If you fall into that latter camp, you have the tools to thrive as an affiliate.

That means you can build a business without taking months or years to develop a product from the ground up.

Con: You’re Effectively Building a Business for Someone Else

Unfortunately, it’s a reality of life that even the most successful affiliate marketer will always be making more money for someone else than they’ll be taking home themselves.

After all, the vendors you come across in affiliate marketplaces (probably) aren’t stupid.

They’re not going to pay you more commission than they can afford.

Even if they’re giving you a 50% cut of the sale, you can bet it’s because they’re confident of generating a ton of extra revenue from the customers you refer.

Pro: No Need to Worry About Logistics

Deliveries.

Complaints.

Returns.

Selling products can be a real headache.

The logistical side of things can quickly become a full-time job in its own right.

But when you’re an affiliate, you don’t need to sweat any of that stuff.

It’s simply not your responsibility.

Con: No Say In Product Development

When we speak to other affiliates, one of the most common frustrations we hear is a lack of control over what happens to the product.

You might come up with a genius strategy to promote a product or service on your YouTube channel or blog.

Then wham!

The vendor changes the price, discontinues a product, or removes a useful feature.

Just like that, you have to figure out your whole marketing strategy and business model again.

Pro: You Can Easily Monetize Your Existing Website

This one’s pretty simple:

If you already have a website and want to start earning passive income, affiliate marketing can help you do that.

Sure, you’ll have to create content and choose the right affiliate offers, but the barrier to entry is pretty low.

Con: You Could Be Competing Against Big Names

Affiliate marketing used to be a relatively niche pursuit.

But with lots of huge publishers struggling to find new revenue streams, it’s now extremely popular.

Just check out this affiliate disclosure from Forbes:

Forbes Affiliate Disclaimer

That’s a massive website with a DR of 94.

And they’re far from the only ones.

Everyone from BuzzFeed to TechRadar to the New York Times is making money from affiliate marketing.

If you suddenly see one or more of those sites chasing the same keywords as you, it’s going to be tough to compete.

Pro: Startup Costs Are Low

Starting out in affiliate marketing is only as expensive as building a website.

You need to buy a domain name and pay for hosting.

You might want to pay for some email marketing software or put some ad budget behind a social media post or two.

And that’s pretty much it!

Actually, you can even do affiliate marketing without a website (we just wouldn’t recommend it).

Con: Building Trust Is Hard

As soon as people find out you’re making passive income by promoting the products on your website, it’s hard to convince them you have their best interests at heart.

That’s pretty unfair.

After all, you’ve taken the time to create all this high-quality content.

Why shouldn’t you earn some money from it?

Fact is, every industry has its share of bad apples, and affiliate marketing is no different.

Those scammers mean all the rest of us have to work that bit harder to win trust from our audiences.

Pro: Affiliate Marketing Is Extremely Convenient

I’ve already noted how you don’t have to physically develop a product yourself.

That’s obviously very convenient.

But that’s not the only good thing about the affiliate marketing business model.

It’s also quick and easy to raid affiliate platforms and marketplaces to find a new affiliate partner or product that matches the interests of your audience. 

Want to build a new revenue stream or branch out into a new market?

Simply search for a relevant affiliate product and create some content to promote it.

And One More Pro for Luck: It’s Super Scalable

It’s arguably easier to scale an affiliate marketing business than a “regular” business that sells its own product.

With Google processing about 100,000 searches a second, there’s a practically infinite number of keywords to chase after.

And once you start making money, you can recruit a content team to target more and more keywords.

You can start investing in paid channels.

You can build new campaigns to promote new products.

You can launch a bunch of new websites.

There’s really no limit to how much you can scale up.

The Affiliate Marketing Industry in Numbers

By this point, I’ve covered pretty much everything you need to make your mind up about affiliate marketing.

But before I leave you to make a decision, check out these interesting affiliate marketing statistics:

  • Affiliate marketing spend in the US is predicted to reach $8.2 billion in 2022, up from $5.4 billion in 2017 (source)
  • 81% of advertisers and 84% of publishers currently “do” affiliate marketing (source)
Affiliate Marketing Opportunities
  • Search interest in the topic “affiliate marketing” has grown by 24% since January 2017 (source)
  • Computing and electronics is the most popular product category for affiliate marketers to promote, cited by 41% of affiliates (source)
  • Content and blogger sites account for almost 40% of all publisher commissions in the US (source)
Content In The US

Conclusion: Is Affiliate Marketing Worth It For You?

Ultimately, that’s the only question I can’t help you with.

Because only you can answer it.

If you have a niche interest or passion, an ability to create amazing content and build an audience, and you’re prepared to work hard, you could find affiliate marketing extremely rewarding.

On the other hand, if you’ve heard that becoming an affiliate is a license to print money, with minimal effort on your part, I can pretty much guarantee you’ll be disappointed.

All I can say is that it definitely works for us — and we’ve got the screenshots to prove it!

Affiliate Earnings

So what’s the verdict?

Is affiliate marketing worth it for you?

If so, you’re in the right place, because we can help you build a high-performing affiliate website!

Just sign up for our free training and we’ll show you how.

FAQs

Can you really make money with affiliate marketing?

It’s absolutely possible to make real money through affiliate marketing, provided you’re prepared to put the work in.

While most affiliates aren’t making millions of dollars, we know plenty who are earning a job replacement income, and lots more who use affiliate marketing as a side hustle to bring in some extra cash.

If you’re prepared to put the work in to find a great niche, build a website, and create great content, it’s absolutely feasible to build a stable income stream.

Is affiliate marketing still profitable in 2022

By the end of 2022, affiliate marketing spend in the US alone is expected to surpass $8 billion — up from $5.4 billion in 2017. That sounds pretty profitable to us.

While affiliate marketing is definitely more competitive than it used to be, it’s still profitable, largely because the costs are comparatively low.

Affiliate marketers don’t have to worry about creating a product, handling the logistics, or dealing with customer complaints. So once you’ve created a revenue stream, it’s not too expensive to sustain it (or even grow it).

How long does it take to make money with affiliate marketing?

How long it takes to make money with affiliate marketing usually depends on the traffic source you are using. If you are using paid ads, it can take just a few days to start making money.

If however, you are trying to rank on Google to promote affiliate offers, it usually takes several months because the process of ranking on Google does take more time.

However, it’s much easier to be profitable when going for Google traffic because you don’t pay for it so we recommend beginners go for the SEO route even if it takes more time because they are more likely to make a profit and be considered successful.