5 Reasons Why Affiliate Marketers (Almost) Always Fail To Make Money

Over the years, I’ve witnessed many people exploring the exciting cornucopia of affiliate marketing.

Mark Kempton
5 min readJan 9, 2021
An affiliate marketer confused by an experiment

Some stick at it, eventually carving out a comfortable living for themselves. In most cases though, they fail miserably, by endlessly revisiting the same misguided mistakes.

It might seem like affiliate marketing is the fastest way of making money online, but for most affiliates, they will lose money.

Greedy Personality

Most affiliates first learn about affiliate marketing through YouTube. Perhaps a new video pops up in their recommended list, when they start looking for methods of making money on the web.

Often the presenter will talk about six-figure incomes in short timescales. While it is definitely possible for an expert affiliate marketer to turn over some impressive revenue quickly, they fail to mention that this usually requires years of experience. Affiliate marketing is a complex skill, much like painting or playing the guitar.

The problem with people discovering affiliate marketing this way, is that it tends to attract personality types that aren’t suited to the industry. If you’re the type of person whose mind becomes clouded, thinking about of piles of cash, then I’m sorry — this industry is not for you!

Affiliates always get excited when a new method goes public. All too often these are old methodologies, which used to work, but are now so outdated that people don’t mind sharing and bragging about them. Some top affiliates deliberately publicize outdated information to distract those with a herd-mentality.

On the other hand, if you have some of these personality traits, then you’re the right personality for the affiliate marketing industry:

  • Independent thinker, fostering their own ideas.
  • Disciplined, with commitment to your goals.
  • Organized, with the ability to see the big picture.
  • Wary, and not easily distracted by money.
  • Never give up, unless you have a logical justification.

Not Learning Fresh Skills

Most affiliates never take the time to improve their skills, or even read articles from their peers.

Again, this comes down to their failure to understand that affiliate marketing is a complex skill. It takes a lot of disciplined learning and introspection before one can become effective in this industry.

Man sitting at a desk learning

Not only that, but affiliate marketers can benefit from a panoply of basic supporting skills that improve their chances of success, including:

  • Copywriting
  • Graphic design
  • Videography
  • Website/App coding
  • Business management

Most affiliates focus on replicating proven methods; often copying the ideas of others, without fully understanding them. Usually this is a recipe for disaster, as top affiliates normally find ways of obscuring their methodologies.

Instead, take some time out every week for unadulterated learning. Forget about your short term goals and focus on improving your knowledge. It might seem like you’re wasting your time, but ultimately you’ll progress much faster.

No Digital Assets

The concept of affiliate marketing is objectively simple: you’re provided with some affiliate links and asked to distribute them widely. The more visitors that click on them, the more you get paid — right?

Unfortunately, it just doesn’t work out that way in reality. Spamming links in Facebook groups, or writing answers on Quora, isn’t a path to sustainable success as an affiliate marketer.

Experienced affiliates recognize the incredible value of digital properties. These take many forms including websites, blogs and social media pages. Ultimately, they all have one thing in common: the owner has the control.

Security guard defending a vault

It might be tempting to post on other people’s properties. However, at best you’ll be contributing to someone else’s growth, at worst your content might be deleted. Invariably you won’t benefit in the long term, especially if you’re including affiliate links.

The only scalable way to increase your revenue as an affiliate marketer, is to commit the time to creating your assets completely from scratch. The only exception to this is your social media properties, where to some extent, you have little choice but to play in someone else’s pool — just tread carefully!

Never Tracking And Testing

Affiliates lose millions of dollars every year, by failing to optimize their landing pages, ad copy and other easily refined areas of their traffic funnel.

It’s essential that you take time-out to study your analytics, and to spot areas for potential improvement. At the very least, you’ll learn which content your audience prefer and what works best in terms of conversion rates.

Affiliates tracking and testing

One of the most powerful tools you can use is split testing. Create a plethora of different landing pages and ad copy. Then run ads against all of them and see which ones work the best. There have been occasions where I’ve improved the performance of my campaigns by over 100%, using designs which I certainly wouldn’t have chosen instinctively.

Failing To Reinvest

Even success has its pitfalls, at least when it comes to affiliate marketing. Many affiliates become drunk on money, as soon as they discover how profitable the industry can be.

Ideally, you should be reinvesting a lot of your capital in growth as well as experimenting with new projects. Earning an extra $2000 a month sounds wonderful, but what exactly is stopping you from doubling or tripling that — without trying to grow, you’ll never know!

Sports car at some traffic lights

I know how painful it is. Choosing to forgo the benefits of your money until a later date is torture. However, if you’ve got this far then you’re probably an innovative person with plenty of ambition. Try to keep channelling those qualities — and your cash — into growth.

Ultimately affiliate marketing is a competitive industry, where success emerges from a rare confluence of determination and natural talent. But the rewards for those who achieve success are indeed considerable!



Mark Kempton

Mark is a prolific marketing expert and company founder. He teaches affiliate marketing at https://affiliateforest.com