Is Affiliate Marketing Worth It? We’ll Help You Decide

The freedom to work when you want, travel on a whim and earn passive income without even having to look at your computer — isn’t affiliate marketing a dream come true?

Not so fast. Yes, you may get everything you want from your affiliate marketing content, but not without lots of work upfront.

Or, you could put in hours upon hours of effort and make nothing.

Is affiliate marketing worth it, even? It can be, especially if you have the right strategy and are willing to tweak it as you learn. Let’s talk about it.

Can You Make Money With Affiliate Marketing?

If you’re dedicated to affiliate marketing and you’ve chosen a niche with potential, then yes, in theory, you should be able to make money.

Affiliate marketing is very simple in these terms. You make money by selling affiliate products or services. More sales, more money. So, if your niche is one that can generate sales, then there’s money in it.

Think about it like this: Nike has an affiliate program. Do people buy Nike products? Of course.

If the people who buy Nike products find your content, are inspired to click your affiliate link, and then make a purchase, you’ll make money, too.

Essentially, the answer to, “Is there money in affiliate marketing?” is yes. But can you make money with affiliate marketing? Maybe. It depends on a lot of factors, mainly how much work you’re willing to put in.

And even if (a) you choose a great niche for affiliate marketing and (b) put enough work into your website to earn money from it, that still doesn’t answer the question we’re here for: Is affiliate marketing worth it?

Possibly! It may not be for you even if you’re a success story. Then again, it may be your work dream come true. Let’s explore both sides.

Is Affiliate Marketing Worth It? Pros and Cons

In this section, we’ll weigh the pros and cons of affiliate marketing to help you decide, “Is affiliate marketing worth it?”

Affiliate Marketing Pros

As far as online businesses go, affiliate marketing is a pretty convenient one. There’s a ton of advice out there to help you every step of the way, and with so many affiliate programs to choose from, you won’t be at a loss for what to review and promote.

Is affiliate marketing worth it? These benefits may convince you it is.

You Don’t Need to Launch Your Own Product or Service

For many people, the main appeal of affiliate marketing is that you can earn an income by promoting products and services that you don’t have to spend time creating.

Somebody else already put in the effort to create the item, and they’re going to handle payment processing, shipping, customer service, etc.

All you have to do is market it. If you understand your audience, content, SEO, etc., your job is to sell, no product development or storage space needed.

You Can Monetize an Existing Website

Is affiliate marketing worth it if you already have a website? It definitely can be.

If you already run a website and are looking for a way to monetize it, affiliate marketing is one of the simplest ways to do that.

Assuming your site covers the niche you choose for affiliate marketing, you can simply weave in affiliate content and launch that income stream.

Startup Costs Are Cheap

It would be pretty hard to start an affiliate marketing website for zero dollars, but the startup costs are still on the inexpensive side compared to other types of businesses. You’ll pay for:

  • Domain name
  • Website hosting
  • Affiliate products

That’s all you need to get started, and if you already own the products or services you’re going to promote, you won’t need to invest in more just yet.

If you have wiggle room in your budget, you can also pay for a great website theme or even a website designer, advertising, marketing software, etc.

It’s Easy To Scale an Affiliate Website

Is affiliate marketing worth it if you plan to grow your business?

It can be much easier to scale an affiliate marketing business than one where you sell your own products.

There are so many affiliate products to choose from that you can constantly find new products, review them and add links to your social media and website.

Plus, as you start to earn an income, you can invest some of that back into the business. You can opt to pay more for ads, hire a content team, build more websites and branch out into other niches. The possibilities are endless.

Affiliate Marketing Cons

Even at its best, affiliate marketing definitely has its drawbacks. Here’s what to expect and why you may say “no” to the question, “Is affiliate marketing worth it?”

Your Business Serves Someone Else

Even if you make a whopping 30% commission on a sale, the company that makes the item gets 70% of the sale. That means that while your effort is paying off for you, it’s paying off more for them.

This may be fine with you so long as you’re earning what you want to. But it can also get frustrating when you consider how much more the other side is gaining from your hard work.

You Have No Input About Product Development

Is affiliate marketing worth it when you don’t have a say in product development?

Not having to develop products or services can be a perk, but it can also feel like a disadvantage.

What if you find a product you love, and then the company stops selling it or makes an update that you don’t like? What if the price for the item goes up, and it’s too high for your audience to afford?

If a change like this happens, you’ll have to figure out how to pivot immediately to continue serving your audience.

Competition Can Be Fierce

A successful affiliate marketing website requires high-quality, well-optimized content. You need to know how to do both. You have to understand things like:

Without this knowledge, it’ll be impossible to compete — and the competition is no joke.

Affiliate marketing is super popular, even in less-popular niches. Plus, big-name companies are turning to affiliate marketing, so you could be up against leading news outlets and publishers.

Building Trust With Your Audience Is Hard

Is affiliate marketing worth it if your audience doesn’t trust you? This is a tricky one.

As soon as people see that you’re promoting affiliate products, their immediate reaction may be to not trust it.

Affiliate marketing can get a bad rap thanks to the content creators out there who cut corners or, worse, purposely scam consumers.

Be prepared for it to take a while before your audience truly trusts you.

5 Reasons Why Affiliate Marketing May Be Worth It For You

Is affiliate marketing worth it for you? If you resonate with any of the following five benefits, it may be!

You’re an Expert In Your Niche

You should be interested in your niche, whether you like it or love it. And your niche has to be a good match for affiliate sales.

Now, to be an expert in your niche, you don’t need to be the world’s leading authority on the topic. But you should know more than your audience does, and you should also be willing to continue learning about it.

Maybe you:

  • Practiced the hobby for years
  • Researched the topic a ton
  • Worked in the field

You should also have a unique angle on your niche. Offering your own insight is important.

You could know more than the average audience member about your topic but still not have anything unique to share that sets you apart from all the other creators you’re competing with.

TL;DR: You need a higher level of expertise than the average person and you need a distinct angle on the topic that’s unique to you.

Why? A few reasons.

  • You’ll be able to compete with other creators in your niche.
  • People who want deeper information on your topic will read what you write.
  • Your recommendations will be trusted because you have advanced knowledge.

Before you completely scrap your affiliate marketing idea because you’re more of an amateur than an aficionado, wait: It’s possible to become an expert in a niche that you don’t know much about right now.

So while it’s nice to have experience with the topic, it’s not a deal-breaking prerequisite.

You’ve Used the Affiliate Products You’ll Promote

Never promote products or services that you don’t have firsthand experience with. For starters, this is the only ethical way to run an affiliate marketing business. Here are other reasons why this is a must:

  • You know whether or not the item is good enough to recommend.
  • You can offer an original review instead of repurposing what others have written.
  • It’s easier for your audience to trust you when you’ve actually used the product.

Bonus: Some companies will invite you to join a forum or social media group once you purchase their product. This puts you in touch with other users in your audience.

Also, if somebody in your audience has a bad experience with the product or service, you can reference your own firsthand, positive experience so that it’s clear why you promoted the item in the first place.

For example, let’s say you review a product, give it a good rating and offer it through an affiliate link. A bunch of people buy it, and then a handful of them comment on your post that they had a horrible experience with it.

You could respond with something like, “I’m so sorry that was your experience! I loved the product when I tested it and found XYZ. I’ll dig into this a little more to find out what’s going on. Stay tuned for an update.”

This way, you still maintain the trust you have with your audience because even though they didn’t end up liking your recommendation, they understand why you recommended it in the first place.

You Create a Complementary Product

Is affiliate marketing worth it if you already have your own product to promote?

If you sell your own product, adding affiliate marketing to your income stream can help you with sales.

For example, let’s say you make insulated to-go coffee cups. Through affiliate marketing, you could promote gourmet coffee, coffee makers, straws and straw toppers, and other to-go dishware — items that revolve around to-go coffee cups.

There are even more opportunities than those obvious ones, though.

If your coffee cups are meant for backpacking, you could promote outdoor and adventure gear through affiliate marketing. If your coffee cups are intended for travel, you could review other types of travel gear.

This helps you build an entire world of products and information around the items you sell, and all of it will be relevant to your audience.

You Have an Engaged Audience

Having an engaged audience isn’t a requirement for starting an affiliate marketing business, but it does help. Your audience may be in the following places:

  • Email List: Already have a mailing list? You’re ahead of the game. Update your lead magnet to align with your new affiliate marketing business.
  • Social Media: Having lots of followers on a social platform means a ready-made audience to engage with.
  • Website Traffic: If you’ve already captured a lot of organic traffic, you’re in an excellent position to earn from affiliate marketing.

Your audience doesn’t necessarily have to be on the same platform where you’ll post your affiliate marketing content. You could always direct them to it from wherever you normally reach them.

At first, you might notice a significant fall-off if you’re affiliate marketing niche is different from what you used to share. But after that initial drop in followers or engagement, it should normalize and you can then build off the audience you retained.

The Niche Has High Earning Potential

The golden rule of affiliate marketing is that whatever you promote has to be relevant and valuable.

You can find relevant items that don’t carry much value and valuable items that aren’t relevant right now. But to be successful, you need both at the same time.

As a fan of your niche, you probably already know what’s relevant and valuable. Still, put effort into discovering more about what your audience wants.

Understanding the EPC Metric

The earnings per click (EPC) metric gives you an idea of how much you may earn (on average) whenever someone clicks your affiliate link.

The higher the EPC, the more you can earn, and the more you can justify spending on promoting the item. This means you may want to run paid search or social media ads, if the affiliate program allows it.

Knowing the average EPC for an item isn’t as useful as knowing your EPC for that item.

This is a slightly advanced topic to dive into, so it might not be relevant for brand-new affiliate marketers who are still working on an audience and traffic. But if you want to learn more, check out this article about it.

4 Times When Affiliate Marketing May Not Be Worth It

Affiliate marketing has a lot of perks, but it’s still not for everyone. Sometimes, it’s not even a good fit for those who could make a living from it.

Here are the times when the answer to, “Is affiliate marketing worth it?” is a resounding “nah.”

You Don’t Care About the Niche

The world of affiliate marketing changes all the time. Programs cut their commissions, trends become less popular, new brands and products come out…

If you’ve only chosen your niche because you think it’s a money-maker, it’ll be hard to keep up with the ever-shifting affiliate industry.

Is affiliate marketing worth it if you don’t actually care about the niche?

Without a genuine interest in the topic, it’s more difficult to stay up to date. You may not have the patience to try a few products before finding one to promote. You’ll get frustrated when earnings dip and wonder if you should scrap the website completely.

However, if you’re personally invested in the niche, you’ll be more apt to stick with it, adapt as needed and work to improve your revenue stream after a temporary decline.

You Need Results Fast

Affiliate marketing can eventually lead to passive income and success-while-you-sleep, but it takes a ton of work and dedication to get there.

If you’re lucky, you’ll generate income within a few months. It can take years, though.

Look at these search results from Ahrefs, a major player in the SEO niche:

A graph of Ahrefs search traffic results to help decide is affiliate marketing worth it.

Almost 75% of keywords didn’t rank in the top 100 after a whole year.

Now, search isn’t the only source of traffic to consider for affiliate marketing. But it still pays to understand what it takes to rank highly.

The Affiliate Products Are Low-Quality

If the only way you choose affiliate products is by picking the ones that pay a high commission, you’re going to have a difficult time making income long-term. (You also put yourself at risk of falling for an affiliate marketing scam.)

Even the most generous commissions can’t make a terrible product great. If you promote something that has bad reviews and won’t deliver a good experience, not only will you limit your earning potential, but you’ll lose the trust of your audience.

Trust is everything in affiliate marketing, and the last thing you want to do is drive a wedge between you and consumers.

Here’s a quick way to vet the items you promote: Would you spend your own money on it and use it if you weren’t promoting it? If the answer’s “no,” don’t try to convince others to buy it.

You’re Not Going To Follow FTC Guidelines

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), it’s a legal requirement that affiliate marketers use specific, clear disclosures in their content. Basically, you need to state that a link is an affiliate link and that you may earn a commission if someone makes a purchase.

If you’re not going to follow this guideline — or if you’re going to work with vendors that don’t provide their legal disclosures — you shouldn’t bother with this type of business. You could face consequences like getting shut down by a platform you’re advertising on or being fined by the FTC.

Verdict: Is Affiliate Marketing Worth It?

Ultimately, deciding, “Is affiliate marketing worth it?” depends on you. Can you make money from affiliate marketing? Yes, assuming you’ve chosen a profitable niche and have the know-how to create and market content.

Maybe you feel that the effort required isn’t how you want to spend your time, though. In that case, you may decide that even a successful affiliate marketing business isn’t worth being miserable every workday.

If you decide to move forward, check out our beginner’s guide to affiliate marketing .

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