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How to Do Affiliate Marketing Research:8 Ignored Truths

Don’t even think about getting into affiliate marketing until you read this. Millions are ignoring affiliate marketing research and risking more than they know.

Everyone is all hopped up on affiliate marketing, but there’s so much no one is telling you because if they DID, you wouldn’t buy what they’re selling.

If you’re considering affiliate marketing as a business model or a side hustle, you have to know how to do affiliate marketing research.

Doing affiliate marketing is a HUGE investment in time, money, and effort. And some of these gurus are asking you to spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars.

Believe me, it’s worth your time to do affiliate marketing research so that you know and understand exactly what you’re getting into.

Is Affiliate Marketing a Scam?

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NO! Affiliate marketing is not a scam, but how people promote it often is.

Well, not all people, we’ll get to that later.

In this article, I’m going to show you how to do affiliate marketing research so that you can make smart choices for what role affiliate marketing will play in your business.

My goal is to make you a smart consumer as you make your way through the affiliate marketing space.

Some Affiliate Marketers Prey On Your Desperation and Ignorance

Look, the internet is flooded with content and experts who claim to be successful affiliate marketers. But there is so much that isn’t being said in the name of making a fast buck from people who don’t have bucks to spare.

At the risk of pissing off a lot of people, I’m going to tell you that the world of making money online is rife with misinformation, and lies of omission, targeted at the people who are most financially vulnerable and who don’t understand the ins and outs of marketing.

In fact, while doing research for this article, I was SHOCKED at how few searches there were about affiliate marketing as a scam, affiliate marketing lies, or affiliate marketing trust.

This is scary!

Notice how little data there is for each of these searches. I can’t say for sure, but I’d say that the search volume for any of these is somewhere in the 3,000-6,000 range. This is telling me that people aren’t doing affiliate marketing research.

8 Ignored Truths About Affiliate Marketing

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In this section, I want to cover a few “truths” about affiliate marketing, how it works and what it takes to be successful. And yes, you can absolutely be successful with affiliate marketing. You just have to know what it takes.

Make sure you understand each of these, so that you can verify any claims that you hear.

1. Affiliate Marketing = Referral Marketing

Affiliate marketing and referral marketing are pretty much the same thing.

Imagine you went to a restaurant and recommended that restaurant to your friends and family. Then, when your friends and family went to that restaurant and paid their bill, you got paid.

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In the world of online businesses, we marketers call this type of referral marketing “affiliate marketing” and some brands call them “partner programs.”

As an affiliate marketer, you receive a special link that you share with your community and on social media. When people click on that link and make a purchase, you get paid a small commission on that sale.

2. An affiliate marketer is a salesperson who works 100% on commission.

Affiliate marketers are 100% commissioned sales people. They are a “distributor” for a product. There’s no base salary, and no safety net, no subsidies for your costs.

The average commission on a affiliate sale is about 20%. Some are more, many are less. But that’s the average.

You eat what you kill. If you’re not hunting, you’re not making money. That’s just sales.

3. Affiliate Marketing is NOT a Source of Passive Income!

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Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

A lot of affiliate marketers will tell you that it’s a great source of passive income. Let’s understand what passive income is.

Passive income means that you do something once, and it keeps feeding you money while you are doing something else.

If you’re creating content; videos, blog posts, social posts, infographics, anything like that — you are not being passive.

You are always trading time for money, because as soon as you stop creating content and promoting products, your income will go down.

Yes, if you sell a software with a monthly payout you will be making “passive” income on the sales you made, but these people will not be customers forever, and you always have to fill the pipeline with new customers if you want to maintain your earnings.

And this brings us to the next truth of affiliate marketing.

4. To make money with affiliate marketing you MUST have volume

Affiliate marketing is a volume game. You’re going to need a ton of traffic, a large audience, and a lot of content day in and day out.

Because you’re getting a fraction of the retail price that you’re selling. You are a “middleman” — you are the sales arm of that company, and they are paying you a commission as a percentage of each item you sell.

The name of the game is VOLUME!

“Ambition is the path to success. Persistence is the vehicle you arrive in.”

― Bill Bradley

5. Affiliate marketing requires you to do the math — always

Let me explain. In every business you’re going to set an earnings or sales goal. Then you’re going to work backwards from that goal to see what you have to sell to meet that goal. That’s a part of affiliate marketing research that a lot of people ignore and it bites them in the end.

Here’s a simplified example with a single goal and a single product:

Let’s say you set a goal to make $2,000 a month in affiliate revenue.

The product you’re selling is $100.

You make $20 for every sale. (That’s the average 20% commission)

If you want to make $2000 per month, you’ll need to sell 100 products (@$100).

A good conversion rate is 2.5%. But, if you’re just starting out, you can expect 1% (often less)

That means that 20,000 people will need to click on your content with the link, so that 1% (20) will buy.

So, when you see posts telling you that you’re going to make $10,000 in a month. Just do the math.

Just for fun, let’s look at some of the more popular ways to generate traffic for your affiliate marketing offer:

Traffic from Email Marketing

Since email gets the highest ROI of any marketing tactic, let’s use that as our example.

  • The average open rate for email is about 20%
  • You would need to have an email list of 100,000 qualified emails (people who want to get stuff from you) to get 20,000 people to click on your email, so that 1% will ultimately purchase to hit your goal of $2,000 per month.

Traffic from SEO

Blogging is another popular way affiliate marketers get sales. But, again, getting traffic from SEO takes a lot of work, and given Google’s constantly changing algorithm, it’s a crap shoot that your post is going to rank on the front page.

Again, you’re going to need to get 20,000 people on that page with the affiliate offer so that 1% will click.

Traffic from Social

A lot of affiliate marketers will tell you that you can just slap posts up on social media, especially Pinterest, to make a ton of sales.

But again, your pin will have to generate 20,000 views to get that 1% of clicks.

See what I mean.

6. You must be credible to attract traffic and get clicks

The only way you’re going to GET the volume is if you are congruent with what you are selling — if the AUDIENCE has a reason to trust you.

If you look like you’re selling, people see it and run the other way. Everything has shifted. The stories that have emotional content are going to make people know, like, and trust you.

Dennis Yu

7. Affiliate marketing is a LONG game

Affiliate marketing is NOT a get rich quick scheme. It just isn’t. It’s a sales job that requires insane online marketing skills that include community building, email list building, social media skills, and an expertise in at least one online channel (email, webinar, blogging, YouTube, TikTok, etc).

When you consider these seven points, you begin to understand that you can GET these results from affiliate marketing, but only when you have a few things in place.

With all of this in mind, let’s point our affiliate market research in the direction of what experts you can trust.

8. It’s not all shits and giggles

So, when someone tells you that you can make $1000/day with little to no effort, they’re not being truthful because affiliate marketing is just like any other business — it takes hard work, consistency, and dedication.

  • The key to making money in affiliate marketing is to find a product or service that solves a problem for people and to create content that educates people on the benefits of the product or service.
  • The only way to make money with affiliate marketing is to be consistent in providing value, even when it doesn’t result in immediate sales.
  • If you can focus on consistently creating content that adds value to people’s lives, then you stand a good chance of making a decent living.

Affiliate Marketing Research: How to Find the Best Affiliate Marketing Experts

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Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

Sure, you can search on “best affiliate marketing experts” but don’t stop there. You should look up each of these experts, track down their websites, youtube channels, and any social channels. Look at their stats, their traffic, their content and how frequently they post content. If it’s a LOT — referencing the math I shared above, you can believe them. But if it’s NOT, then look for other ways that they are making money.

I’m going to show you a few examples of how I research well-known experts and some not-so-well-known experts.

  1. Check their website, website traffic, and authority.
  2. How long have they been doing this?
  3. What other channels do they have?
  4. What are the reviews for their products?
  5. Do they have content that “tells it like it is”?
  6. Do they have a LOT of free, helpful content?
  7. Are they making money from affiliates or are they making more of their money from selling training on how to become an affiliate?

Pat Flynn

Pat Flynn is one of the veteran (and most trusted) affiliate marketers out there is always saying that the best way to be successful is to be CREDIBLE; only promote what you use, aim to help your audience, and BUILD an audience first.

And he’s done that.

Looking at Similar web (a tool that will give you some basic info about any website for free) his site has been up since 2008. Last month he had 226,000 people visit his website. On average those people spent nearly 2 minutes there!

These are crazy stats. AND, when he’s telling you that he made $10,000 dollars or even $600,000 dollars on anything, THIS is why. When YOUR website gets these kinds of numbers — so will you. But not until then.

Now let’s look at Pat Flynn’s “creditability” or Moz authority score. It’s 62% — that’s crazy high! It takes a lot of time and content to reach this level.

Both Similar Web and Moz are free sources that will give you a general estimate of a sites size and influence. It’s not 100% accurate, but it’s close enough and will give you enough information to know whether it’s credible or not.

Miles Beckler

Miles Beckler is a successful digital marketer, entrepreneur, and keynote speaker who has been in the industry for over a decade. He is known for his expertise in digital marketing, affiliate marketing, and content creation. Beckler has built a successful online business through his websites, email lists, and other marketing channels like YouTube. 

Beckler is getting more than 80,000 visits to his website every month. You can be that he’s converting at least 2% of the people to land there to something.

Also look at the screenshot – there is a field for “Employees” and it says that he has from 8-50. I don’t know how accurate that is, but let’s just assume that he’s got a team that he is paying to do everything from manage sites, create videos, annotate the videos, insert links, manage affiliates and about a thousand other details that a solopreneur simply doesn’t have the resources to do — YES.

His authority score is lower than Flynn’s but that doesn’t concern me because I’ve looked at his YouTube channel. And this is where the magic happens.

As you can see he’s getting the traffic. And each of those videos contains numerous links to affiliate products.

Not only that, but he’s making money from a variety of places. And, he has a team. So yeah. He’s built a business. And, while I’m sure that he has a ton of affiliates that continue to pay him monthly, I guarantee you this man is not passive — he is hustling and working hard.

Here are a few more experts I’ve found who are worth checking out. Many of these folks are digital marketers and have YouTube content on a variety of subjects. Many offer free training and paid training.

Each of these experts actually has a video that goes into the gritty details of what it really takes to be successful with affiliate marketing.

Do the same thing that I did, check out their websites, their YouTube channel numbers, and watch the videos I recommended.

Also note how much of THEIR content also features the insane amount of money you can make. Just remember — they are talking about their experience given the SHEER VOLUME of traffic, audience, and content. REMEMBER THAT.

Lies and Red Flags You’ll See and Hear About Affiliate Marketing

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Photo by أخٌ‌في‌الله on Unsplash

99% of the content that you see will pitch affiliate marketing as either a full-time business or a side hustle as an easy way to make money “for the broke and lazy” (a favorite TikTok phrase).

Now that you’re a lot smarter about how to do affiliate market research, you’re ready to take on checking up on these claims.

1. Lies of omission “This is how I made $10,000 this week! (this month or in 90 days)”

The most common lies you’re going to see is not a lie as much as it’s simply not telling you the whole story.

They tell you and show you proof of how they made a certain amount of money in a week or month, but they neglect to tell you:

  • How much traffic you need to get to the offer
  • How big your email list needs to be
  • How much money they spent to make this happen
  • How many pieces of content they had to publish and how long it took to publish this content.
  • How much they’ve spent or invested in tools

2. You don’t need a website

Seriously? Stop and think about this for a minute. Can you simply post links on social to an affiliate page? Yes. But this is not efficient. It’s a tactic, and it’s not how you’re going to be able to scale this thing.

Do what the experts are doing and the experts all have SOME form of a website.

Remember “credibility” and being an authority on what you’re promoting. You will absolutely have some form of a website.

3. Only sell high ticket stuff

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Photo by Joshua Rondeau on Unsplash

This one is trying to AVOID the volume issue. And it’s true, if you sell a high ticket offer, like an expensive computer or coaching program, you can make $500 or more. 

But here’s the problem, these are “high-involvement” purchases and it takes a LOT longer to purchase a high-ticket item. The solution is to be balanced. If you are an avid user of a high ticket item that you love, use, and know everything about — that’s fine, promote it. If you are promoting a program or coach or course that you, yourself have taken and would recommend to your friends and family, promote it. But do NOT think that you can make that kind of income 

High ticket payouts are one time only. So you make the sale, you get paid and that’s it. If your goal is passive income, then you might do better with programs that pay you a MONTHLY affiliate commission – like software that you like. 

4. Just choose a niche and find the right products

My favorite quote is “Some people sell things so they can have customers. I have customers so I can sell them things.” It’s much easier to choose an area where you are an expert that actually uses these products or services and recommends them to others;

  • You’re a fitness trainer and you promote supplements
  • You’re an interior designer and you’re an affiliate for Wayfair
  • You’re a marketing automation expert and you’re an affiliate for Keap.

This goes back to credibility and congruence. It’s the whole “know-like-and-trust” factor. ESPECIALLY if you are dealing with a high-ticket purchase.

Build trust with the audience FIRST — then you can insert your affiliate offer. 

How Much do Affiliate Marketers Make — Real statistics

how to get sales

And finally, let’s get into the reality of earning numbers:

  • A survey conducted in 2021 revealed that 57.55% of affiliate marketers earn less than $10,000 from affiliate marketing
  • 30% of affiliates earn $40,000 or less per year, and most affiliate marketers make up to $20,000 per year, but at the same time, many go beyond this mark
  • 20% of affiliates earn between $21,000-$80,000 annually, while approximately 19% of marketers earn less than $20,000, and a considerable 19.5% earn at least $1 million
  • 35% of affiliates make at least $20K in annual revenue from their affiliate marketing efforts
  • According to a survey of STM forum users, 81.2% of affiliate marketers are making over $20,000 per year

Affiliate Marketing COSTS Money — Here are the most common expenses

  1. Affiliate network fees: Some affiliate networks charge a monthly fee ranging from $500 to $3,500.
  2. Affiliate management software: You may need to pay a monthly fee for affiliate management software, which can range from $50 to $500 per month.
  3. Monthly minimum transaction fees: All affiliate networks charge a transaction fee, which is just a small percentage of the commission paid out to each affiliate for each sale. You will need to look out for the monthly minimum, which is the amount in transaction fees an affiliate network requires each month.
  4. Paid tools: You may need to pay for some tools, such as keyword research tools, website hosting, and email marketing software.
  5. Outsourcing: You may need to outsource some tasks such as content creation, graphic design, and website development.
  6. Advertising costs: You may need to pay for advertising to promote your affiliate products

If It Sounds Too Good To Be True — It Is

I’m going to end this guide for doing affiliate marketing research by stating the obvious. If it sounds too good to be true — it probably is.

Don’t throw away your hard earned money on something that you haven’t checked out. Use your logic, do the math, check these people out before you invest anything.

  • Visit their website
  • Watch their YouTube channels
  • Try out their strategy for yourself and see what’s really involved.

Affiliate marketing is a legit business model, but like every business model, you’ve got to learn it, put in the work, and keep at it.

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