I’ve met thousands of affiliates over the years, and I always get asked for advice.
- “Charles, why is my campaign not profitable?“
- “Is XYZ traffic source profitable?”
- “Which tracker is the best?”
I experienced a ton of problems when I first started, and most likely, you’ll go through the same problems.
It’s called, “paying your dues.”
But, there are some mistakes you shouldn’t have to make yourself.
It’s a waste of your time and money making noob mistakes. So, I went ahead and listed out some of the most common mistakes newbies make and how you can avoid them.
Mistake #1 Fighting Uphill Battles in Competitive Arenas
You signed up to a boxing gym 3 months ago and you’ve been going 4 times per week.
You’ve sparred against a few guys at the gym and you’re thinking about going to Fight Night on Thursday.
It’s only a 3 round fight, and it’s against guys you’ve sparred with before...
...But they are still going to try and knock you out - it’s a fight.
Who do you choose as your opponent?
1. That ripped guy who holds 4x state Golden Gloves championships and looks like he’s on ‘roids?
2. The other guy who started a week after you did who’s kinda out of shape?
It’s tempting to say you want to fight a good boxer to learn. But if you’re out cold on the mat within 15 seconds, the only thing you learn is what blood and rubber tastes like.
Pick easy battles when you’re starting out - it builds your confidence and it’s easier to compete. Small wins lead on to big wins.
It’s hard to directly compete against someone who has months of data, the highest offer payouts already, and solid relationships in the industry.
Established affiliates have deeper pockets and more experience testing; they know the platform inside and out and they have a powerful network of contacts.
Adult sites make up a big proportion of the web. So, if you run dating campaigns on the in US, CA, UK, AU, you’re fighting against guys who have millions of dollars to run campaigns.
You can try to fight these guys as a newbie, but you’re wasting your time.
When you’re first getting started, you need to look for industries/traffic sources with less competition.
Instead of promoting CPS or other high payout offers, maybe you’ll want to promote app installs.
If you still want to run higher payout stuff in competitive niches, stick to 2nd or 3rd tier countries and lesser-known traffic sources. The profits are still good, but they are too small to attract the ultra-competitive affiliates.
It’s best to stick with low payout mobile offers when you’re getting started as they’re easier to convert and get you the data you need with a much smaller budget.
Let the experienced affiliates fight over the $50 payouts while you learn the actual skills of affiliate online marketing.
Mistake #2 Not Testing Enough Offers
CPA networks have hundreds of offers.
95% of them won’t be profitable for you.
Most affiliates do everything right, EXCEPT for this step.
If only 5% of offers will be profitable, what’s the logical thing to do?
If 1 in 20 offers is going to be a hit, you should test as many as you can.
So, how do you know which offers to focus on?
The first place to start is by asking your affiliate manager as they’ll be able to give you a list of the best converting offers on their network.
Let them know what type of traffic you’re running (email, search, Facebook, mobile, etc.), and they will be able to tell you which offers are working well with that type of traffic source.
More info on how to evaluate affiliate offers here.
But, just because something works well for others doesn’t mean it’ll convert for you.
Maybe someone else is getting a higher payout or they have a more optimized funnel than you.
The only way to know which offers work best is to test, test, test.
Even after 10 years in this industry, I still follow this basic principle of testing as many offers as I can.
The more offers you test, the faster you’ll build a profitable marketing campaign.
Once you find a solid offer, make sure that you test it across multiple affiliate networks to boost your ROI.
Mistake #3 Focusing on Too Many Traffic Sources
There are a lot of traffic sources you can use to make money with affiliate marketing.
This gives you the paradox of choice.
Having so many options actually, makes it harder for new affiliates to break into the game.
Newbies often think they'll stumble across a profitable campaign if they find the “best” traffic source.
Mobile traffic, native traffic sources, and Facebook are all solid platforms for affiliates, but you need to become a MASTER of one of these.
Since there are so many traffic sources out there, it can be hard to choose one to focus on.
I’ve seen newbies promoting lead gen on Facebook, app installs on mobile, and Clickbank products on search… all at the same time.
As a newbie, you can’t manage a load like that, and you don’t know what you’re doing.
It’s like trying to get into the Olympics for a high jump, shot put, and BMX all at the same time.
The whole point of affiliate marketing is to learn a traffic source. You get to know it inside out - what works well on there, what doesn’t, what sort of customers you can get, how to target, etc.
This means that you become a master on that platform and you know exactly what you can run there to make a ton of money.
There’s no “right” traffic source for people that haven’t even launched their first campaign.
There are veterans on every traffic source, and you won’t be able to compete with them unless you master a platform.
Here’s why you’re better off focusing on one traffic platform:
- You master their bidding system. Coming up with a sound bidding strategy is an important part of affiliate marketing program. Because bidding models are different on every traffic source, so you need to stick with one long enough to learn what works best.
- You fine-tune your targeting. Getting your targeting right is difficult, but it’ll make or break your campaign. Targeting is different on FB, native, and mobile, so just focus on ONE of these platforms.
- You get to know the boundaries of what you can do. Some sources, like Facebook, are super strict, but it still takes time to get to know what you can and can’t run. After a while, you get to know what will get accepted… and how long it takes.
If you’re going to get into affiliate marketing tips, follow this one rule:
Always master a single traffic source before you move on.
Mistake #4 Being Too Perfect with Landing Pages and Ads
About 95% of my campaigns use landing pages.
I don’t often direct link, but if I do, it’s normally only because I’m on a tight deadline (always test offers as fast as you can) or it’s a branded app that doesn’t need pre-selling (like the Uber app).
Using landing pages means wireframing, designing, coding, revising, and uploading to the server.
Newbies think this means they need to spend hours crafting the “perfect" lander. They spend days making sure everything is perfect, the color scheme matches up with rules of color theory, and everything is seamless.
I’m not saying that you want to send traffic to broken landing pages.
I am saying that it’s better to get something up, than to be worrying about the right shade of colors for your first test.
You want to make data-driven decisions. You will only know if a landing page works well or not AFTER you test it.
My ugly landing pages often convert better than professional, “clean” ones, so let the data speak.
Just get a landing page up and running.
Worry about fine-tuning it after you get some data.
You’ll be surprised which landing pages convert the best.
Mistake #5 Spending Too Much Time "Researching"
If you Google “affiliate marketing,” there are tens of millions of results.
Then, there are hundreds of private forums and Facebook groups that have thousands of posts.
This is not the best way to learn.
Here’s an example:
Imagine you want to learn Japanese. How do you do it?
You download an app, maybe you buy a textbook, or you hit up a Meetup.com group in your city to meet some locals doing the same thing.
You wouldn’t spend days Googling “how to learn Japanese” and weeks going through forums and blog posts reading about it.
You just find a program to follow… and start practicing each day.
Same with affiliate marketing.
Find a blueprint to follow, then, just start launching campaigns and learn by doing.
You can only learn so much by reading from other affiliates, even if they actually know what they're talking about.
Almost everything you learn will come from your own testing, your one-on-one masterminds, and meeting people at affiliate marketing events.
One major tip I have for you is: “Learn skills as you need them.”
Here’s an example of what I mean:
- If your first step is to build a landing page, then study up on copywriting / headlines, then go and write them.
- Next, you want to get your tracking sorted. So, read a tutorial on how to use Voluum, then set up your campaigns.
- After you get the data back, you want to learn about statistical significance. So, read an article on that to learn how to make good decisions with data.
Learn skills as you need them; otherwise, you’ll never get started doing the actual work.
There’s a quote that says, “If you’re waiting for the right thing to happen, it’s like waiting for all of the lights to turn green in a row before you start your journey.”
Just start, and figure things out as you go.
Mistake #6 Making Changes Too Quickly
You have to launch campaigns fast.
BUT, you can't be as fast when it comes to changing or killing them.
Newbies often see that something isn’t working, and start optimizing or changing things too early.
This is a big mistake.
Let's say you're running 2 ads to promote an offer with a $3 payout.
After your first test you’ve spent $3 on each ad.
Ad 1 has 1 conversions and Ad 2 has zero conversions.
Probably 80% of newbies would kill the second ad and continue running the first. They think they've stumbled upon a winner.
You can't make conclusions this early on.
Because luck plays a role in affiliate marketing. What if, 3 hours later, Ad 2 gave you 5 conversions?
You need to learn how to make good decisions with your data.
Luck plays a much smaller role when you have a statistically-significant sample size.
Use a good statistical significance calculator to determine when to make any changes to your ads or landing pages.
Don’t jump to conclusions too early - trust the data.
Remember, we’re scientists running experiments - it’s your money you are playing with, so make good decisions with it.
Mistake #7 Always Copying Other Affiliates
You can learn a lot from other affiliates - the problem is that too many newbies flat out steal other affiliates campaigns.
Why is this a problem?
If a campaign is working great for someone else, wouldn’t it work for you?
Not necessarily, and here’s why:
All traffic sources have one thing in common - their traffic is finite. Some sources have a lot more than others, but the campaigns that people end up copying are often mobile/native ones.
That’s due to spy tools like Adplexity being so good for ripping campaigns.
If 20 newbies are copying someone else’s campaign, they are fighting for the traffic. They also force everybody to up their bids to try to get a decent share of the pie.
The result is that everyone gets less traffic. With higher bid prices, nobody can make a positive ROI anymore.
The only person making money now is the traffic source, and because you pushed up the bids so high, they are making a LOT of money.
Successful affiliates don't just rip someone else's exact campaign.
They might steal a landing page from a competitor, make 5 variations of it, then test it against 3 new offers.
From there, they’ll do more tests to keep increasing their ROI.
But they aren’t reinventing the wheel… they are making it roll faster.
Only the people that put in the effort succeed in the long-term. Ripping campaigns from other affiliate marketers can get you started, but it won’t make you rich.
You're Being Reactionary
If you want to cut it in this business, you’ve got to be proactive.
Change is inevitable. Offers get taken down. Campaigns burn out.
You have to learn to think for yourself and get better at problem-solving.
Affiliate marketing is unforgiving to people that want to sit around, waiting to see what works for someone else. Successful affiliates know that they have to hustle every day.
They create long-term success by building creative angles of their own, instead of ripping them off from other affiliates.
Always Think of The Bigger Picture and Be a Problem Solver
If you’re not profitable yet in your affiliate marketing business, you don’t know what you’re doing wrong.
There are two possible scenarios:
1. You’re doing things wrong and you should change your strategy
2. You aren’t doing anything wrong, you just need to keep doing more of the same to create a winning campaign
It’s hard to know which path you’re on, but this list of common mistakes should help you decide. Now you can either change course or keep doing what you’re doing.
Identifying and correcting your mistakes needs to be one of your top priorities.
What matters most is what you do with this info as you move forward with your campaigns.