9 Common Affiliate Marketing Mistakes (and How to Avoid Them)

Affiliate marketing mistakes are common and happen to everyone. Read this post to make sure you're not making one of them.

Sean Brison by Sean Brison | Last Updated: August 17, 2021

Many think they’ll become successful affiliates making boatloads of money in a short time. While there are those doing it, it doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a long slog. Any pursuit carries its share of pitfalls, and earning money online is no different. This post identifies common affiliate marketing mistakes to avoid.

person with head on desk in front of laptop

1. Not Managing Affiliate Programs and Links In One Place

Managing affiliates is a colossal undertaking, especially when you have a large site with a significant amount of products and vendors. Coordinating between affiliate links and merchants becomes impossible to track.

Affiliate Link Management

An enormous endeavor is managing affiliate links.

Merchants switch affiliate networks, change marketing materials, and update their products continuously. Doing this manually whenever you get new links is a timesuck.

It’s impossible to account for everyone, and if you have nothing alerting you to broken links, you have no idea what to fix (that’s lost affiliate sales).

Using a tool like Lasso lets you manage all of your links at scale (and in a single place).

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Not Cloaking Your Links

Making your links “pretty” is known as link cloaking. If you’ve ever seen an affiliate link, you know how unattractive they are.

Here’s an example:


A real mess, right?

Link cloaking makes your links:

It’ll replace the jumbled assortment of letters, numbers, and characters with the merchant’s name.

For example, our cloaked link for WP Engine looks like this:

Screen Shot 2020 11 05 at 10.59.16 AM

If you’re a new affiliate marketer, this is an excellent habit to form with every link you get.

Affiliate Program Management

You can use tools to manage your data in several ways. For example, dividing your accounts by:

You can also use segmentation to monitor different websites or marketing channels.

Keeping eyes on metrics like these ensures you stay on track, optimize your campaign’s performance, and prevents you from leaving money on the table.

Experiment with a tool like Affluent to help aggregate your data into a single dashboard.

Tip: Use a password management tool like 1Pass that securely stores all of your passwords.

Beats having to memorize a million logins to a million affiliate platforms.

2. Promoting the Wrong Products

The only reason for choosing a product is because your audience will benefit. That’s the most important metric. Why?

Because there is an infinite number of products to choose from, so it’s crucial to apply constraints.

Don’t pick something only for the money.

For example, technology and gaming is a perfect niche, and bloggers make substantial money creating content for it.

But if it doesn’t interest you, you’ll likely find little success writing about it.

Another way this backfires is picking something unrelated to your audience.

It may be an excellent product attached to a great program with a high-paying, recurring commission, but no one will click your link if they’re visiting your site for dog supplies, and you’ve woven health & wellness products throughout your site.

Don’t do this.

That won’t resonate with your readers, and it’s likely they won’t return.

3. Not Optimizing for SEO 

SEO is an essential piece of your online efforts. When your posts and pages are properly optimized, it’s easier for search engines to find you.

A few things to focus on with every page you create:

Your headlines should include the keyword phrase (when it makes sense). Sometimes, specific terms might sound unnatural, so it’s best to modify it for your reader where relevant.

You write for humans, not robots.

Tip: Aim for 60 characters or less (spaces included) for your title tag.

Think of your meta description as a continuation of your headline. Include your keyword here too, and any related keywords if you can. Provide a brief description of what your post is about.

Our meta descriptions also appear beneath our blog post headline, so it’s a good reminder to approach it that way when writing yours.

Here’s one example from our blog:

affiliate marketing mistakes

Google won’t always pull the meta description you wrote, but it’s a standard industry practice and widely accepted as something to include with every post.

A good rule of thumb is 160 characters or less (spaces included) for your meta description. Use power words and modifiers to attract clicks.

Try to use your keyword phrase in the lead and first H2 of your post too.

Use Keyword-Rich Anchor Text

When you link to another page, use the keyword of that page as your anchor text. It gives Google a clear idea of what the pages you’re linking to are about.

For example, if you’re linking to a page about vanity URLs, try to use that exact keyword phrase (vanity URLs).

You can also use Lasso’s Keywording Tool to find and monetize particular keywords across your site.

Linking to high-authority pages is an added way to boost your site’s credibility with search engines. When you link to high-quality sites, it tells Google, “You can trust me to send people to the correct destination!”

And where possible, link to the primary source, not secondary sources.

Be selective about your outbound links (external links) as it’s your endorsement of that site.

Some tools to help you:

4. Joining an Affiliate Program without an Audience

It takes an audience to drive sales, and the amount of success you have relies on the number of people visiting your website.

If nobody is coming yet, perhaps think twice before signing up for an affiliate program. You’ll first need a modest amount of traffic before it’s worth it.

Many getting started think buying a domain and signing up for a program go hand-in-hand, which isn’t always so.

Like any online business, it takes time to build a name for yourself.

Your website won’t instantly flood with traffic in the beginning. It requires more than buying a domain, writing a blog post, and hitting publish.

For example, if you’re an Amazon Associate, if your affiliate link hasn’t referred qualified sales after 180 days, Amazon withdraws your access to Associates Central, and you’ll need to re-apply.

If you want to make a good impression with the affiliate manager, consider waiting until you’re confident your website will drive the vendor enough business.

Perhaps an even better idea is to create content about the merchant you’d like to join before signing up. Position yourself as someone who stands to send that company traffic.

For example, if you wanted to join Chewy’s affiliate program, it’d be a good idea to create content about pets before signing up.

You may even get a special rate with time, depending on how much business you send them.

As a Lasso affiliate, you gain access to a higher payout tier when you’re also a customer.

Joining Too Many Affiliate Programs

Concentrate on a few affiliate programs (and products) when first starting. Your efforts will be better spent, you’ll produce higher quality content, and you’ll have a sharper focus.

The more programs you sign up for doesn’t mean you’ll make more money. Start slowly, and expand over time.

You can increase the number of programs as your affiliate marketing business grows. It’s nice to diversify, so you’re not overly reliant on a single platform.

Our affiliate database has over one thousand programs to choose from.

5. Not Optimizing for Website Performance & Page Speed

In his book, Building a StoryBrand, Donald Miller mentions when someone visits your website, their brain’s burning calories processing your site’s information.

A question to ask is, “will it pass the grunt test?”

What this means is could a caveman look at your website and immediately grunt what you offer?

Provide the best user experience for your audience and avoid confusion.

Organize your website with straightforward navigation, so your visitors know exactly where to go and make your links clear with a clear call-to-action.

Please don’t make them have to guess where to click your affiliate link.

Make your website responsive because there are so many devices your visitors use when surfing the web; smartphones, tablets, desktops, and laptops.

A responsive website adjusts its screen size automatically, so your website displays correctly on any device.

Optimize your site for mobile. There are 3.5 billion smartphone users worldwide.

Consider the user experience and how they see your content.

Monitor your website’s performance and track all data to see what’s working and what’s not. A/B test your buttons, landing pages, colors, and copy to optimize your site further and boost conversion rates.

Use Google Analytics and Google Search Console to determine your traffic sources, which search queries attract the most visitors, how long customers stay on your landing pages, and more.

Page Speed

Page speed is essential for many reasons; SEO, your users, and your bottom line. Using specially-designed tools will help your page load quicker.

Slow loading pages result in your visitors leaving your site.

To test your site’s speed and look for improvements, you can use GTMetrix or Google Page Speed Insights.

Think page speed doesn’t matter?

Google says when your page load time increases from one second to three seconds, your bounce rate rises 32%; from one second to five seconds, bounce rates increase by 90%.

You can use a combination of WordPress plugins to enhance your site’s overall performance.

For example, Cloudflare, WP Rocket, and Imagify power Lasso.

We use Cloudflare’s CDN (Content Distribution Network) to speed up content deliverability to our site with the added benefits of reduced bandwidth and increased site security.

WP Rocket helps with browser caching, image lazy loading, and removing unnecessary WordPress Javascript (e.g., emojis).

Imagify uses image compression to automatically reformat your images with enhanced algorithms to reduce their weight.

6. Choosing Profits Over Your Audience’s Needs

Pat Flynn refers to this as having an income-first approach versus a serving-first one. Your audience’s needs are what matter most.

Understand why they’re on your page in the first place. Is your website too distracting because of popups, banner, and footer ads?

Are your users prompted to add an item to their cart every time they click a product link in your e-commerce store?

Trying to squeeze money from every inch of your piece of digital real estate will prove frustrating and tire your visitors.

Stop thinking about making a million dollars and start thinking about serving one million people.

Promote your content to match search intent, understand your audience, and spend time creating things to wow your visitors.

That’s what wins readers and establishes you as an authority. Making money becomes a minor formality at that point.

7. Focusing on a Single Traffic Source

Relying on Google organic traffic because you’ve optimized your site for search engine optimization is great, but there are other things you can do:

Leveraging another platform is a great way to boost your marketing efforts.

For example, as one form of outreach, I’ll repurpose content on Linkedin or promote new posts.

You can also check your site’s backlink profile to see who’s linked to you and reach out to them to build deeper relationships.

Or see your competitor site’s backlinks and message them in search of potential opportunities.

Building your email list is another way to gain new subscribers and increase conversion rates. It’s also an excellent way to boost website traffic and engage your audience.

You can keep your readers updated with what’s new on your site.

8. Sacrificing Quality for Quantity

It’s better to publish one piece of high-quality content than ten of something low-quality. I see many affiliate marketers make the mistake thinking that if they put out more content, it’ll make them more money.

This is untrue.

So, take your time, go slow, and get it right the first time. You want people visiting your site because they see you as a trusted source of high-caliber information.

Your content is the only reason visitors are there. And when it’s exceptional, they’re more likely to click on your affiliate products.

Writing product reviews is an excellent way to boost affiliate revenue. People reading reviews are further along in the buyer’s journey and more inclined to make a purchase.

Need help writing one? Read our product review template guide.

Performing keyword research (more on that below), checking SERPs to understand intent, and reading the top-ranking posts are all ways to understand better what you should create.

A good content marketing strategy researches with its potential customers in mind.

For example, if you’re targeting the keyword phrase “what is on-page SEO,” you’ll notice this piece from Search Engine Journal ranks at the top.

Screen Shot 2020 11 05 at 1.12.54 PM

You could take its URL and run it through Ahrefs Site Explorer to see how many backlinks and referring domains it has to determine if outranking it is possible.

Screen Shot 2020 11 05 at 1.23.32 PM

The strength of your website will determine whether you’ll outrank your competitors.

The above post has over one thousand backlinks and 573 referring domains – that’s a super-competitive keyword.

9. Relying Only On Affiliate Marketing Income

Remember what I said earlier about writing a post, hitting publish, and thinking everyone will come? It doesn’t work that way.

And if you haven’t built an audience, the only way to get eyeballs on your content is through ad placement and promotions.

This approach may let you earn some short-term money, but the superior, long-term payout is when you take the time to grow your audience, cultivate a community, and build trust.

You’re positioned better when you become the source for an audience you serve. You can generate multiple revenue streams when you build a unique, branded online business.

You can make money from:

Consider the above in addition to affiliate marketing income. Want to learn more about how to monetize your website?

Why Do Affiliate Marketers Fail?

Affiliate marketing mistakes are common, and they happen to us all, but there’s good news:

To be a successful affiliate marketer, pay close attention to the fundamentals covered in this post. Mind your website’s performance, use the right tools, build an audience, promote the right products, and consider multiple revenue streams.

If you want to make money online, it’ll take some hard work. It won’t happen all at once, but with time, you’ll get there.

Want more tips? Read this post about the best affiliate marketing tools to grow your business.

Sean Brison
Sean Brison is a dad, writer, business owner, and Chief Growth nerd at Lasso. He's spent the past several years in cahoots with Lasso's founder, Andrew, creating awesome things for people. He's also addicted to perfectly-balanced cocktails, the outdoors, and John Mulaney's stand-up comedy.

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