8 Reasons Why Affiliate Marketing Does Not Work (And How to Fix Them!)

If you’ve ever thought about affiliate marketing as a way to make money online – or you’ve already given it a try for yourself – then you may have gotten frustrated at some point and felt like it doesn’t really “work.”

I get that, because it’s NOT easy to build a successful affiliate marketing side hustle or business, especially if you’re new to the space. But in reality, affiliate marketing is still one of the best avenues for everyday people to start their own business online!

While affiliate marketing has helped many people become financially free, affiliate marketing is definitely not a get-rich-quick scheme! As an aspiring affiliate marketer, you need a full picture of what’s involved so you can set realistic expectations.

In this post, I’ll talk through 8 common reasons why affiliate marketing does not work for new affiliates, and then cover how to fix them! (And for even more on troubleshooting your affiliate efforts, be sure to check out my guide on why you’re not getting affiliate sales.)

Actually, Affiliate Marketing Does Work!

Before we dive into why affiliate marketing is not working for you, I want to touch on the fact that it DOES, in fact, work!

I’ve had the privilege of meeting with countless Platinum ClickBank affiliates (i.e. those who make $250K or more per year on our platform), and it’s absolutely possible to have incredible success, even if you’re new to the industry – and even if you have no prior experience.

Here’s just one story of an affiliate, Jen LeCompte, who’s found amazing success on ClickBank as a media buyer (first with Facebook Ads and then YouTube Ads).

It’s incredible what affiliates like Jen and others have achieved for themselves and their families. (You can see more inspirational affiliate success stories like Jen’s on ClickBank’s YouTube channel.)

I only wanted to point that out to you to show that affiliate marketing is possible, because now, you don’t have to wonder whether affiliate marketing works. Instead, we can get down to the nitty-gritty of what you need to do to see the same success!

Why Affiliate Marketing Isn’t Working For You

While the reasons may differ for everyone, there are some common affiliate marketing challenges you may face that cause you to feel like affiliate marketing does not work. I’ve listed out 8 of them below!

Pay close attention to the “How to fix it” section in each one, because it just might be the missing piece you’re looking for! 

1) Lack of traffic

As an affiliate, your income depends on promoting products and services to an online audience and earning commissions from the resulting sales. Without a significant amount of traffic or a loyal social following, it can be difficult to generate the number of clicks and conversions needed to earn great commissions.

After all, if we assume a good conversion rate is 2%, that means you only make 2 sales out of every 100 clicks on your affiliate link. If you only have 100 clicks from an organic post or paid campaign, then you’ll realistically make 2 sales total – but if you had 10,000 clicks, you could make 200 sales.

The only difference is how much traffic you can drive to your affiliate links. With a decent amount of traffic, you can make a decent amount in commissions!

Here’s how to fix it:

Focus on the strategies that generate traffic to your affiliate links. Make use of free or paid channels to promote your website and its contents, and be consistent with channel(s) you choose. Here are a few ideas to keep in mind!

  • Conduct keyword research and implement on-page SEO techniques to improve your website’s organic ranking in search engine results pages. The best part about this is that it’s free!
  • Leverage the right social media platforms to reach a wider audience with quality presence and engagement. Make sure you’re on the same platform where most of your target audience is.
  • Paid advertising on the web is another good way for affiliates to make money. Google Ads and other social media advertising focus on the specified demographic. But it’s only effective when you have a set budget and a close monitoring strategy.
  • Collaborating with experts in your niche is always a good move. Partnering with individuals who already have a dedicated following can help you tap into their audience and drive traffic to your affiliate links. You can offer them a percentage of the commissions or provide them with exclusive discounts to incentivize their promotion.
  • Never underestimate the power of content marketing. Creating valuable and informative content related to the products and services you’re promoting will attract organic traffic and establish you as an authority in your niche. So, log back into your WordPress or YouTube account and start writing a blog, creating video tutorials, and publishing reviews.

2) Low-quality affiliate products

Your affiliate marketing success relies on the quality of the products you endorse. If you promote affiliate offers that aren’t very good or fail to meet customer expectations, you’ll either experience low conversion rates or an influx of refund requests, which will hurt your income and the momentum in your business. You don’t want it to be a struggle to generate sales!

You need to make sure the products you promote are high quality and provide value to your audience. Remember, as an affiliate marketer, your reputation is at stake when you promote something. So, you need to be vigilant about what you put in front of your audience.

Here’s how to fix it:

  • Go through the ClickBank marketplace and get to know which products in your niche are converting and seeing momentum. 
  • Vet the affiliate offers by checking their sales page, affiliate tools page, and any other resources they provide. You can also reach out to the seller (or their affiliate manager) directly to ask them questions.
  • Consider testing the products or services yourself before recommending them to your audience. This way, you can also add a personal touch to your content and give a clearer idea about what your buyers should expect!
  • Leverage trusted affiliate marketplaces like ClickBank. Our platform features a wide range of quality, high-converting offers in various niches. By partnering with trusted affiliate programs, you can have higher confidence in the products or services you promote!
  • Affiliate marketing relies on trust to make money, so ensure that you follow ethical business practices and support your customers.

3) Affiliate marketing competition

Affiliate marketing has emerged as a thriving online business model, and it’s only gaining in popularity every year. This growing trend tells us that there are immense opportunities for aspiring affiliates, but it also means that you’re likely to face a lot of competition. As a result, breaking through the clutter and standing out to your target audience can be daunting.

The following three factors will turn out to be crucial for your affiliate business: your chosen niche, your traffic channel, and the products you promote! Online marketing can be extremely competitive for newbies, but you can persevere through it with the right mindset and helpful tips.

Here’s how to fix it:

  • Exploring and experimenting are great ways to succeed in the business of affiliate marketing. By doing this, you’re going to do a ton of experiential learning, which can’t be taught or learned from others. This learning gives you the added advantage when you’re competing against other peers in the affiliate industry.
  • Research thoroughly to identify untapped niches that align with your expertise and your target audience’s needs. Doing so will increase your chances of making yourself a reliable source in a crowded marketplace.
  • Optimize your chosen traffic channel(s) by understanding their  strengths and weaknesses and use them to your advantage. One of the easiest ways you can start with is through web hosting or write a blog for WordPress. The more you experiment with various channels, the easier it’ll be to identify the most relevant platform for your target audience. Hint: It’s easier to be present on a platform that your target customers already use than to try and bring them on a different platform!
  • The products you choose to promote play a big role in highlighting yourself among the crowd. So, a high-quality and innovative product that provides genuine value to your buyers will always be way more rewarding for your business than a ton of below-average products. In fact, your credibility as an affiliate marketer is tied directly to the credibility of the product/service you choose to endorse. So, be meticulous in your research before you zero in on your final product/services list.

4) Lack of expertise

To be a successful affiliate marketer, you need expertise in multiple areas, including digital marketing, SEO, page building, media buying, copy writing, and content creation, to name a few. If you’re new to one or more of them, it’ll take time to develop the necessary affiliate marketing skills to get where you want to go!

That being said, not all affiliate marketers need all of these skills. In fact, many marketers choose to specialize in a select few skills that are the most relevant for their chosen affiliate marketing type/niche.

For instance, if you’re running an affiliate marketing blog, you’ll only need to learn about SEO, content strategy, keyword research, content writing, and Google AdSense. On the other hand, if you are running an affiliate marketing YouTube channel, you might have to invest in learning about script writing, videography, video editing, verbal and visual communication, and even invest in the products you endorse to create visual product reviews.

As you can see, the skills differ vastly for different niches and content formats as an affiliate. So, take your time with exploration before deciding which path fits your strengths and weaknesses best. Based on that decision, you can begin your upskilling journey.

It’s worthwhile to take some time learning how the industry works and upgrade your skills is a great way to kick-start your affiliate marketing business on a high note. But where can an affiliate find the right place that offers a quality program and helps people access insightful tips at a reasonable rate?

Here’s how to fix it:

  • Spark by ClickBank is the go-to program for beginner affiliates. Spark is a comprehensive platform that provides valuable tools, educational content, and a thriving community specifically tailored to support affiliate marketers.
  • Spark serves as a one-stop hub for learning and mastering the right skills necessary for success in the affiliate marketing industry.
  • With Spark, affiliates can gain access to expert guidance, industry insights, and step-by-step tutorials that open the windows to a wide range of topics, from digital marketing strategies to content creation techniques.
  • Furthermore, Spark offers a supportive community of like-minded people where users can connect, share experiences, and learn from one another. This network provides an invaluable opportunity for collaboration, feedback, and mentorship, enabling every affiliate to accelerate their learning and progress in their affiliate marketing journey. 
  • If you’re learning more about the industry from the Internet, ensure that your resources are well-identified as dependable and trustworthy. Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation and misrepresentation of the industry out there.
  • In fact, this problem causes people to develop unrealistic expectations, which results in an even bigger disappointment when things don’t work out exactly as they expected. Sometimes, beginner affiliate marketers also tend to lose patience and give up even if they’re on the right track, simply because they expected affiliate marketing to be a “get-rich-quick” scheme.

5) Limited commission rates or payouts

Some affiliate programs and products offer low commission rates, which means you may need to generate a high volume of sales to earn a desirable income. This can be true even if the product itself is high quality – just because the product is well done, this doesn’t mean it makes financial sense for you to promote it over something more lucrative.

Popular affiliate programs like Amazon Associates or Share A Sale may offer extremely low commission rates, which can affect the earning potential for affiliates. This limitation can be discouraging, especially for marketers who invest significant time and effort into promoting products.

Here’s how to fix it:

  • ClickBank provides a platform with products that offer more lucrative commissions and average payouts for every affiliate. It’s a great way to sidestep the problem of low payouts and maximize your earnings.
  • Instead of settling for low percentages, ClickBank allows affiliate marketers to access revenue share commissions that can range from 50% to as high as 70% or even 90%.
  • At ClickBank, we provide a user-friendly marketplace that simplifies the process of finding affiliate offers to promote.
  • ClickBank features a wide range of products and services across more than 23 different product categories. This diversity allows you to explore different industries and find products that align with your target audience and your own marketing approach. 
  • ClickBank’s comprehensive tracking and reporting tools, enable affiliate marketers to monitor their sales, commissions, and performance accurately.
  • In fact, with this setup, affiliate marketers soon find that there is a big difference in their effort vs. income calculations when they work with affiliate networks like ClickBank, as opposed to direct affiliate partnerships or affiliate networks with commissions under 10-20%.

6) Affiliate program limitations

Some affiliate programs may have restrictions on how you can promote their products or services, which can limit your ability to earn commissions. Affiliate programs may impose rules on promotional methods for several reasons.

For instance, an affiliate program may want to maintain a certain brand image or ensure compliance with industry regulations. As a result, you may be forced to abandon your usual marketing strategies and be unable to fully leverage your creativity and expertise.

This may even cause you to work with a traffic channel you’re not accustomed to. But knowing what you can and can’t do in promoting an offer is essential to avoid getting into trouble with a seller or affiliate network.

Here’s how to fix it:

  • Understand that affiliate program limitations are not insurmountable obstacles, and with the proper approach, you can navigate around them and continue earning commissions for your business.
  • It’s a good idea to thoroughly review the terms and conditions of any affiliate product before becoming an affiliate for it. See if you can explore alternative marketing channels and tactics that are permitted for that seller and their offer. This way, you know exactly what the rulebook looks like and can strategize how to promote the product with the “rules” in mind.
  • By joining multiple affiliate programs that complement each other, affiliate marketers can expand their options for promoting products and services. With that said, make sure that they’re complementary to each other so you’re not spreading yourself too thin. If you find that you’ll have to invest a ton of resources to see negligible rise in income by adding more affiliate offers to the mix, you’re better off focusing on just one affiliate offer and promoting it well!
  • Building a strong personal brand and establishing a loyal audience can help overcome program limitations. Affiliate marketers will have an upper hand on these restrictions because they have a dedicated following that trusts their recommendations, which generates organic interest and engagement. In such cases, sellers may allow you to bypass certain promotional requirements or guidelines in order to meet their end objective of sales. Of course, never break any rules without getting permission from the product owner!
  • Diversify your affiliate portfolio and focus on delivering high-quality content to navigate through the affiliate program easily. This way, you’ll be able to lower risks of loss or even eliminate them completely. For example, if you’re endorsing 10 products and one of them doesn’t sell well, it won’t impact you as much as it would if you were only endorsing that one product. Remember that small wins contribute heavily to your drive to keep going. Similarly, small losses can demotivate marketers, especially beginners, just as easily. So, take the wins as they come and use them to fuel your patience and persistence!

7) Changes in the industry

The affiliate marketing industry is constantly evolving, and new affiliate marketing trends and technologies can impact your ability to generate sales. If you’re not keeping up with the latest industry developments, you may find it challenging to stay ahead of your competition and earn good commissions consistently.

You need to research and understand these potential challenges before diving into affiliate marketing. When running an affiliate marketing business, you must have realistic expectations and develop a strategy to overcome the inevitable challenges that you’ll face.

How to fix it:

  • Dedicate time to staying updated on industry news, attending relevant conferences or affiliate webinars, and engaging with communities or forums where experienced affiliate marketers share insights and experiences. It’s far easier and less painful to learn from other people’s failures and experiences than to go through them yourself. 
  • Ongoing education will help you stay ahead of the curve and identify new opportunities to improve your affiliate marketing campaigns. You’ll be prepared to cash in on your dream opportunities because you’ll be seasoned across different domains and will be able to handle them well.
  • Surround yourself with other affiliate marketers, industry experts, and mentors who can provide guidance and support. An affiliate collaboration ensures you are ahead of the game and able to adapt your marketing approach accordingly. Plus, when you work in collaboration with others, you’re able to delegate tasks to people who are better suited to them, while focusing on your own strengths, and reap the benefits of your expertise together!
  • Embrace change as an opportunity rather than a setback. Be open to experimenting with new marketing techniques, platforms, or technologies that can improve your effectiveness as an affiliate marketing business owner. Technologies like artificial intelligence are creating insane opportunities and productivity for marketers. This also means that you might not even have to go as deep in learning new skills, as AI can streamline a lot of different tasks for you!
  • Track and analyze key metrics related to your marketing efforts, such as click-through rates, conversion rates, and customer behavior. This data-driven approach helps you identify what’s working and what needs improvement for your marketing strategy. Once decision-making is easier, you can move forward by leaps and bounds ahead of your competitors.

8) Not learning from your mistakes

All of the issues I already mentioned can be overcome, but ONLY if you figure out the lessons you can take away from each one!

Whether it’s searching for suitable affiliate offers that align with your target audience and your content, or leveling up your skills to tackle new opportuntiies in your business, you have to work hard to find success – not just one time, but repeatedly and consistently for months or even years!

Here’s how to fix it: 

  • To maximize your success, start by looking for niche-specific affiliate programs or consider broader marketing programs that offer a wide range of products. Reaching out to companies directly or networking with other affiliates in the same niche can provide insights into hidden opportunities and exclusive affiliate programs.
  • Prioritize working with trusted brands or affiliate programs that have a proven track record in the market. By selecting reputable affiliate links, you can maintain the trust of your audience and enhance your credibility as an affiliate marketing business.
  • Ensure that the products or services are aligned with your audience’s needs, preferences, and interests. Optimize your content and promotional strategies to effectively highlight the value of the products.
  • Before you look for the right products, make sure you know your audience. You can achieve this by creating in-depth consumer personas with details on their lifestyle, their problems, day-to-day challenges, and goals, among other aspects of their lives. Gaining this clarity itself can give you an influx of marketing campaign ideas. Then, you simply have to marry the right products with what your audience wants!
  • Experiment with different call-to-action techniques, such as urgency or scarcity, to encourage immediate action from your audience. Learning more about user behavior and user experience can create big wins with tiny tweaks in copy, design, and color palettes alone!
  • Leverage the tools that allow you to track clicks, conversions, and revenue generated by each affiliate link. By analyzing this data, you can identify the most effective links, optimize your campaigns, and make informed decisions regarding future affiliate marketing strategies.

Why Affiliate Marketing Does Not Work Wrap-up

Thank you for reading this guide on why affiliate marketing “does not work.” Hopefully by now, you can see that it DOES work – it just requires consistency and a willingness to evolve and correct any mistakes you’ve made along the way.

Throughout this post, I’ve touched on several key issues and identified common hurdles that can impact your success as an affiliate marketer. The good news is, by understanding these challenges and implementing effective strategies, you can greatly improve your chances of success.

Briefly, let’s recap some of the biggest takeaways to remember!

Seek Expertise

One of the biggest challenges that aspiring affiliates face is lack of expertise. Affiliate marketing requires a diverse skill set, including knowledge of digital marketing, SEO, page building, media buying, blog writing, and content creation.

Overcoming this challenge involves investing time and effort into the skills you need. Platforms like Spark by ClickBank offer valuable resources and training materials for affiliates who are still getting started, providing a comprehensive solution to bridge the knowledge gap.

Find Higher Commission Rates

Another issue is the limited commission rates given by certain affiliate programs. Low commission rates can reduce the earning potential of each sale, necessitating a high volume of sales to generate significant income.

By partnering with the right platforms – like ClickBank – affiliate marketers can access higher commission rates, maximize their earning potential, and capitalize on a wide range of products across various niches.

If you want to start working with ClickBank, it’s free to sign up here!

Generate Consistent Traffic

One of the biggest challenges you’ll face is a lack of consistent and targeted traffic. Driving traffic to affiliate links on your website or bridge page requires a well thought out marketing strategy and consistent execution. If you’re new to the world of marketing, we usually recommend focusing on a single traffic source until you master one, before you branch out to other ones!

Keep Up-to-Date on Industry Trends

Just as with any industry, an effective affiliate must stay informed about the latest trends and technologies in our space to make sure their strategies continue to work.

Focus on continuous learning, networking, adaptability, goal-setting, and data-driven decision-making. You must stay informed and agile, embrace industry changes as opportunities, and remain competitive in the evolving landscape.

Perhaps most important of all, an affiliate marketing business is like any other expertise that requires time, effort, and practice every day to build quality deliverables and a profitable venture.

Just like they say about Rome, the affiliate marketing business cannot be built in a day! The best time to get started on your affiliate business is right now. Good luck!