Is Affiliate Marketing Legit? Here’s Why It Is

If you live in the digital marketing world in any capacity, you’re probably familiar with affiliate marketing. This is only one way of making money online and monetizing websites that generate traffic through SEO, PPC, or other methods. 

Affiliate marketing is when you promote someone else’s products or services and earn a commission when someone purchases through your link. As an affiliate marketer, you don’t have to create your own products or services. 

You simply drive traffic and sales to the merchant’s products and get paid for your efforts.

So, is affiliate marketing legit? This digital marketing guy says, “it absolutely is” and you’d be silly to think it isn’t. It’s not so much about whether or not it works, it’s about whether or not you have the right approach. Let’s talk about it. 

5 Reasons Why Affiliate Marketing Works

Here’s five main reasons why I think affiliate marketing is legit: 

1. Leverage Other Peoples Products and Services

One of the main reasons why affiliate marketing has so much potential is because you don’t have to create your own products or services. 

All the products already exist and are created by someone else. All you have to do is find what you want to promote based on your interests, experience, and audience. 

For example, when I first started in affiliate marketing, I was promoting a lot of self-help products and services to my social media. I didn’t have to create the services myself but it still fit into my niche and interested my audience. 

2. Low Startup Cost

Starting an affiliate marketing business has a much lower barrier to entry compared to other business models. You don’t need a lot of startup capital or inventory. With most affiliate programs, you can get started for free or very cheap (less than $100 in most cases).

All you really need to start is a website or blog. Many affiliate marketers build their businesses while working full-time jobs. I started my affiliate marketing journey as a side hustle until I was earning enough to do it full-time. The low startup costs make affiliate marketing easily accessible for just about anyone.

Here’s a table that gives you an idea of the startup costs for an affiliate marketing business:

Expense CategoryDescriptionEstimated CostNotes
Domain Name & HostingPurchase a domain name and web hosting$10 – $20 per yearMany hosting providers offer low-cost plans for beginners.
Website DevelopmentBuilding a simple website or blog$0 – $1000Cost varies based on DIY or hiring a developer. Basic websites can be created at little to no cost.
Content CreationCreating high-quality content (articles, videos)$0 – $1000+Content can be created for free or outsourced. Start small and scale as needed.
Affiliate Program FeesJoining affiliate programs (optional)$0 – $100+ per yearMany affiliate programs are free to join. Some may have small fees or minimum sales requirements.
Marketing & PromotionAdvertising, SEO tools, social media promotion$0 – $500+ per monthCosts can vary greatly; start with free or low-cost marketing methods.
Analytics & TrackingTools to measure performance and conversions$0 – $100+ per monthFree tools like Google Analytics are available, and paid options offer advanced features.
Miscellaneous ExpensesBusiness licenses, legal fees, plugins, etc.VariesCosts depend on your specific needs and legal requirements.
Total Estimated Cost$10 – $2500+Costs can be kept low by starting small and scaling as your business grows.

So, as you can see, you can start for as little or as much as you like depending on your budget. It’s a great opportunity for anyone to start making money online. 

3. Long Term Passive Income Potential

One of the things that attracted me to affiliate marketing was the potential to build up passive income streams. Unlike other online business models where you sell your own products or services, affiliate income can keep rolling in month after month with little effort.

The goal of a lot of people who get into digital marketing is the hope that they can earn money while they sit on a beach or do whatever it is they like. 

While that’s not always realistic, the potential for passive income is there with affiliate marketing. 

Take a look at this post for example:

traffic from affiliate marketing

This article was created one year prior to writing this guide. That upfront effort has continued to pay in the form of hundreds of site visitors for over a year. Best of all, the page is still growing and generating more traffic. 

That one bit of effort to write the article is going to continue to pay the bills for years to come. Multiply this by 50 pages and you have thousands of monthly visitors and revenue to go along with it. 

4. Work From Anywhere

Another huge plus to affiliate marketing is that you can do it from anywhere with an internet connection. You don’t need a physical store or office space. As long as you have your laptop and a stable internet connection, you can manage your business on the go.

I’ve been able to work while traveling to some amazing places around the world because affiliate marketing is location independent. All you need is your laptop and the ability to access your affiliate links and tracking. The flexibility is amazing.

5. Plenty of People With Amazing Results

If you’re still not sure, maybe real-life examples will help. 

Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income and Michelle Schroeder-Gardner of Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing built highly profitable affiliate sites and have made over $100k per month. In fact, Pat Flynn provided his income statements for years to prove the potential of affiliate marketing. 

income breakdown from affiliate marketing

There are numerous case studies of people being able to earn six-figure incomes through affiliate marketing. 

Even through Google updates, penalties, and more – affiliate marketing still has potential and in fact, I look at a lot of the recent changes as a good thing because it weeds out the websites and affiliate marketers that don’t follow the rules. 

Mistakes to Watch Out For with Affiliate Marketing

While affiliate marketing certainly works, it doesn’t come without its pitfalls. Here are a few mistakes to watch out for if you want to find success:

Choosing the Wrong Niche

It’s crucial to spend enough time on choosing a niche. The niche needs to be narrow enough to attract a dedicated audience but wide enough to have enough search volume. 

I also recommend choosing a niche you’re genuinely interested in and passionate about. Don’t just chase fads or overly competitive niches. Find one aligned with your interests that has a large audience and potential for affiliates.

Promoting Too Many Products

It’s better to promte a few great products versus promoting anything and everything. Curate a small list of products or services that truly deliver value to build trust.

If you’re using Amazon Associates or other product-based networks, make sure the products you’re promoting align with your niche so both users and Google can begin to learn that you’re an authority on that subject. 

Writing Thin Content

Man oh man is this important in today’s affiliate marketing landscape. Thin content is content written entirely for keywords and products. It provides no actual value to the reader and as a result, Google has cracked down tremendously on this. 

You can’t just take the product description from Amazon and use it to describe 50 products and call it a review. 

Reviews need to come from a place of personal experience, tell the reader what’s so great about it, connect features with benefits, and provide the reader with something they can’t get anywhere else. 

Neglecting SEO

You need people to find your content, so focus on optimizing your posts for keywords and ranking in search. SEO takes time but pays off.

Do great keyword research using premium tools like Ahrefs or SEMrush. Make sure to properly internal link between your articles using relevant anchor text. Link Whisper can help with that. 

Expecting Fast Results

Building an affiliate site takes significant time and effort. It may take 6 months to a year to see real momentum. Have realistic expectations.

While it might not cost a whole lot to get things going, don’t expect to make any money for quite a while. That said, it’s worth the effort in the long run because you’ll be able to make money for years after you stop pouring your time into the site. 

The Keys to Affiliate Marketing Success

If you want to get great results and consistent income from affiliate marketing, here are a few keys to success:

1. Keywords, Keywords, Keywords

Keyword research should be step one in your affiliate marketing strategy. You need to find keywords that get search traffic and target those head on. 

Like I said, if you’re serious about growing your site I recommend a premium tool like Ahrefs. If you’re absolutely on a shoestring budget, there are other SEO tools out there like Ubersuggest

ubersuggest for kw research

Targeting the right keywords will get your content found by people ready to make purchases through your affiliate links. Take the time to really understand keyword research and SEO if you want your affiliate content to take off.

2. Write Amazing Content

Google cares most about great content written for humans, not search engine bots. You need to publish in-depth, useful content that provides real value for readers. Don’t just pepper your posts with affiliate links. Give actionable advice and detailed information related to your niche.

I aim to match my competitors in terms of article length but I try to provide more value by combining elements of each of the top ranking articles on Google. If I can cover everything in one place, the reader won’t have any reason to go anywhere else. 

3. Choose the Best Affiliate Niche

As mentioned earlier, your niche is critical. Choose an affiliate niche you’re genuinely interested in that has potential to earn commissions. Broad niches like “fashion” or “tech” are too broad. Go deeper into sub-niches focused on one type of product or specialty.

Ideally you want a niche with passionate buyers who purchase frequently. Promoting big ticket items through affiliate links can be lucrative too since commissions are higher.

4. Find the Right Affiliate Program

Once you’ve chosen your niche, dig into the best affiliate programs related to that niche. Look for programs with generous commission rates of at least 40%. Make sure they offer real-time reporting and reliable payment methods.

Many programs are free to join which makes it easy to apply and start earning. Amazon Associates is one of the largest programs that works across many niches. 

ShareASale, ClickBank and Rakuten Linkshare are other popular affiliate networks that have a lot of different products and services within them that you can promote. 

5. Understand How You Make Your Money

As an affiliate marketer, your income relies on other businesses but you’re in control of how much you earn. The key factors are:

Traffic – Getting more site visitors to your content

Conversion rate – Getting traffic to click your affiliate links

Commissions – The payout you get from each program per sale

Work on ramping up traffic through SEO, social marketing and paid ads. Test different affiliate links and placements to increase conversions.

A lot of affiliate networks you join will even have training programs and courses that you can take for free. I recommend learning from them because even if you have traffic going to your site, there’s no guarantee that the page is optimized properly to convert. The affiliate networks can help you with that. 

Final Thoughts

I hoped this helped explain my experiences with affiliate marketing and why I firmly believe it’s a legitimate business model. Like any online business, it takes significant effort to see results. But the long-term passive income potential makes it worth it.

Affiliate marketing isn’t some “get rich quick” scheme, but a real business. You’re providing value by connecting shoppers to relevant products and services and getting paid for that. As long as you approach it ethically and focus on serving your audience, you can find success with affiliate marketing.

From day one, you need to think of it like a real brick and mortar business. Just because you don’t have an office or 15 people working beneath you, doesn’t mean it’s not a legitimate business. 

Treat it like one and it will pay you like one. 

Build A Powerful Internal Link Strategy Today

Enter your email & we'll send you 8 tips to build an internal link strategy.

And 3 things you should avoid doing with internal links.

    We won't send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time.

    What Is a SERP Feature?

    Contents1 What Is a SERP Feature?2 The 3 Most Common SERP Features2.1 Knowledge Graph2.2 Paid Results2.3 Rich Snippets3 Even More Google SERP Features3.1 Ads3.2 Featured Snippet3.3 Image Pack3.4 Local Pack3.5 News Box3.6 Related Questions3.7 Reviews3.8 Shopping Results3.9 Site Links3.10 Video4…

    Read More

    11 Essential SEO Principles for High-Traffic Success

    Contents1 1. Keywords Are Key2 2. High-Quality Content Matters More Than Ever3 3. Search Intent is a Must4 4. The Meta Title and Description Matter5 5. Backlinks Are Still a Big Deal6 6. Internal Links Are Underrated7 7. User Engagement…

    Read More

    Get Started with LinkWhisper

    Speed Up the Process of Internal Linking and Help You Rank Better in Google

    Get LinkWhisper Now