7 of the Biggest Affiliate Marketing Myths

Affiliate marketing is not as mysterious as you may think. Read on to learn about seven affiliate marketing myths and how they’re false.

Affiliate Marketing: Mysterious? Or Misunderstood?

How did affiliate marketing start? Back in 1989, William J. Tobin started the affiliate marketing industry with his company the Prodigy Network. It would be until 1996 that Amazon Associates would appear. By 1998, ClickBank entered the market and the rest is history.

Since then, affiliate marketing myths have perpetuated.

How and why these myths continue making the rounds is a mystery, but that doesn’t mean that affiliate marketing is. Below we debunk the top seven myths to help newcomers understand what they’re really getting into.

Myth #1: Affiliate Marketing is an MLM Scheme

It’s easy to see why outsiders think affiliate marketing as something like an MLM. The fact marketers don’t carry inventory is an odd concept to them. And, getting paid via commission and bonuses do have parallels to MLM schemes.

Here’s where it truly differs:

  • Affiliate — You chose products and brands to work with and get paid commissions by creating sales.
  • MLM — You work under someone, stuck with products, and must recruit, recruit, recruit!

Ultimately, you have control of your business in affiliate marketing. You also aren’t resorting to fiendish tactics like recruiting family and friends. Or, pressured to sell low-quality products.

Myth #2: Affiliate Marketing is Impossible

Is affiliate marketing easy? Is it hard? Or, is it somewhere in the middle? It all depends on your ability to grasp tech, marketing, and sales topics.

You can wrap your head around the basics of affiliate marketing real quick:

  1. Join ClickBank
  2. Find a product
  3. Promote the product

That’s the general idea just as you’d do in any sales position. The difficulty comes from the setup and on-going promotion. And this is where the myths come in, making it seem super easy and “done for you” or way too hard.

The truth: It takes time, dedication and resources to reach profitability.

Myth #3: The Money is in the Big Markets

You’ll find tutorials touting two paths:

  • Pick a big, popular niche since it has tons of offers, customers, and profits
  • Pick a small niche so there’s less competition and it’s your passion

There’s no wrong choice between these two.

Yes, popular industries have tough competition but there are more buyers to reach. You’ll also find more product offers you could promote. And, brands tend to have more money and resources for their affiliate program.

Smaller niches enjoy fewer competitors. You’ll have fewer options but the community tends to house hyper-passionate people. The dedicated community can create a viable affiliate market despite its smaller size.

The answer to this:

  1. Pick a topic you could create content about indefinitely
  2. Align products and goals with targeted, passionate people
  3. Promote a bit of everything, from cheap to expensive

Fill gaps by including related products from the bigger industry. And, do the opposite if you’re in the larger market. This prevents you from getting cornered by niching too much or not enough.

Myth #4: Affiliate Marketing is Expensive

No. No. NO. No. No.

Affiliate marketing is only expensive if you’re getting swindled. You can easily spend thousands having someone else do it for you.

Here’s what it really costs at most:

  1. Domain name: $10 – $15 a year
  2. Web hosting: $10 – $20 a month
  3. Website theme: Free – $100

Fun fact, many successful affiliate marketers have started without even these expenses.

Everything else from content to promotion is sweat equity when starting. Unless, of course, you’re outsourcing parts of it but then you’ll get upfront pricing. 


You can spend money on training, mentorship, and the like. These provide connections and industry insights. But, they’re not a necessity when starting.

Heck, you can launch for free if you push it hard enough. Join a program, set up a landing page on a free platform, and promote it on social media. Viola! You just made an affiliate marketing campaign without spending a dime.

Myth #5: The Money is in the Email List

Possibly, but not for everyone.

Having an email marketing list creates a lucrative revenue stream. You get to promote content and offers directly to subscribers. And, you own this list versus being at the will of search engines and social platforms.

But… The money is wherever customers are.

Think of it like this:

  • You might have difficulty reaching young folks via email in some niches
  • You might find communities sticking to a certain platform vs emails

It’s 2019 and you need to think beyond just email.

You should place as much effort building following on:

  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Snapchat
  • LinkedIn
  • YouTube

Any place where your targeted customers frequent and participate. Go to them versus trying to control their online habits. That’s where the real money is at.

If finding affiliates is a challenge you’re facing, check out this blog post for tips and tricks.

Myth #6: Affiliate Marketing is Passive Income

Wouldn’t that be nice!

Affiliate marketing does make you money once you’ve built an asset:

  1. Create a great piece of content and include the affiliate product
  2. Get it to rank using SEO tactics and promotion
  3. Sit back and watch sales drip in from the flow of organic traffic

Where this derails is thinking it’s truly “set it and forget it”. If you did this then you’ll see traffic, sales, and rankings drop with each passing year.

You need to stay on top of your affiliate efforts:

  • Updating and expanding the content as the topic grows
  • Building new links and funnels to affiliate pages
  • Swapping in/out newer and better products as they come

You’re always doing something at your affiliate business. In fact, you’ll turn it into a full-time job between creating new campaigns and its management. So, unless you’ve got tons of money to throw at people to build things for you then no, it’s not passive.

Myth #7: Affiliate Marketing is Unethical or Sleazy

There are always sleazeballs in any business and industry. That doesn’t mean you need to become one! 

Stay the course:

  • Promote products you use or wholly recommend from experience
  • Create real value in the information and reviews you provide
  • Answer and interact with the community, building something special

Treat affiliate marketing as a passion project and selling won’t feel sleazy.

Give people what they want without shoving it down their throats. Or, making them feel inadequate for not having spent money on said product.


Don’t associate with affiliates that skirt unethical lines. Don’t ruin your reputation by running with the wrong crowd. 

Bringing Affiliate Marketing Myths to an End

There are a lot of affiliate marketing myths floating out there. Believing the wrong ones can waste serious resources. That’s why it’s important you follow reputable brands and marketers in this industry.

Clickbank has been in the affiliate industry since ’98. We know our stuff.

You’re in good hands learning affiliate marketing from this blog. And, from our extensive knowledge base built over the last 20+ years. 

Want a fast track? Sign up at ClickBank.com.