Why Is Affiliate Marketing So Hard? [And 10 Things to Do About It!]


The concept behind affiliate marketing is simple, and many successful marketers in the make money online (MMO) niche talk about it like it’s simple too: “Just promote other people’s products with your website, email list, or paid ads and get a commission on every sale.”

However, affiliate marketing statistics prove that this is easier said than done!

Specifically, they show that total spending on affiliate marketing in the U.S. will increase to $8.2 billion by 2022, but that only 10% of affiliates are responsible for 90% of all clicks and conversions. Clearly, there’s a massive gap between successful affiliates and all of those affiliate wannabes waiting just to get their first affiliate sale. 

Here’s the question: Why is affiliate marketing so hard for some, while others earn large monthly commissions that keep growing over time?

Read on to discover what differentiates successful affiliates from struggling affiliates, why earning an income from affiliate marketing can be challenging, and what to do about it!

10 Reasons Why Affiliate Marketing Is Challenging

We all know that affiliate marketing is tough – not everyone who pursues success in this space will actually find it.

If you want to be one of the ones who makes it, then go through the following list of 10 challenges that trip up new affiliates and ask yourself if they apply to you. Then, for each one, focus on what you can do to overcome the problem!

1. There are too many options in affiliate marketing.

As we’ve covered in many of our past articles, there are a TON of different traffic sources, popular niches, and of course, skill sets involved in being a successful affiliate. 

Even if you understand the fundamental “formula” of affiliate marketing (traffic + conversion = commissions), how you choose to do that is up to you. And it can be overwhelming!

Many affiliates make the mistake of trying to run before they can walk. Affiliate marketing is a good way of earning a part-time or even a full-time income, but you have to take it one step at a time.

Following a shotgun approach – where you fire in all directions, hoping to hit something – will NOT give you good results. You may get lucky every once in a while, but your “hit rate” will be sporadic at best.

What To Do About It

Learn a high-level overview of how affiliate marketing works before choosing a niche and preferred traffic source. Focus on your chosen niche and master your traffic source until you get the desired results or come across a better combination. The key here, though, is actually doing the work.

2. Successful affiliate marketing strategies and tactics get outdated quickly.

There is a lot of outdated information on the internet that might have been useful in the past, but that no longer works today. Unfortunately, many old affiliate marketing strategies and tactics are regurgitated by clueless marketers in the make money online niche. Many of them make money by telling you how you can make money online, but they don’t practice what they preach!

In recent years, for example, the cost of advertising on Facebook has become dramatically more expensive – you can even see it in this screenshot from one of the top media buying affiliates on ClickBank.

At the same time, the popularity of new social media platforms like TikTok has increased exponentially. And Google is continuously tweaking its algorithm to give users better search results and improve their user experience.

The point is, what worked yesterday may not work today, and what’s working today may not work tomorrow. Following outdated strategies and tactics can cost you real money and prevent you from profiting from exciting new marketing opportunities.

What To Do About It

If your affiliate marketing strategy isn’t working despite your best efforts, it’s probably either outdated or flawed. Successful affiliates never stop learning and testing new marketing strategies.

Check out our 2022 traffic trends report for a ton of helpful information on how you can grow your affiliate marketing business like the pros are doing.

3. You don’t have the marketing education you need.

Knowing the “formula” of affiliate marketing (traffic + conversion = commissions) isn’t enough unless you can successfully implement it!

You need targeted users to click on your affiliate link and buy the product or sign up for the service you’re promoting. Unless you have an adequate marketing education, it will be hard to reach and engage your ideal prospect. And remember, you need to send sufficient traffic to a seller to ensure you can earn a decent income.

Many affiliates neglect to invest in their marketing education. Instead, they use bits and pieces of information they gather on the internet and try to succeed through trial and error. It’s a frustrating and time-consuming process that seldom delivers meaningful results.

What To Do About It

Spending money on your education is not an expense – it’s an investment in yourself. There are many affiliate marketing courses available on the market. Unfortunately, many are outdated, prohibitively expensive, or promoted by biased affiliates. The better bet is to pick a marketing education program you can trust and stick with it until you see results.

Note: Since ClickBank was established in 1998, we have paid out billions of dollars in commissions. And we have learned many things over the years on what it takes to become a successful affiliate. Our Spark platform educates new and existing affiliates with in-depth online marketing training – created by our own team of experts.

4. You’re treating affiliate marketing as a hobby. 

Successful affiliate marketing requires dedication. If you treat it as a hobby instead of a business, don’t expect to earn a substantial income from it. As with any other business, what you put in is what you get out. 

What To Do About It

Think like the owner of a startup. Have SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely) and a marketing strategy for achieving them. Review your progress regularly and make the necessary adjustments to your business strategy, if required.

As a business owner, you need to think strategically and make decisions based on data. Focus on your strengths and outsource tasks that can be done by others and that don’t deserve your time and attention.

5. You’re in the wrong niche.

Some niches are more popular, which means they might provide you with more income than others. However, they might be more difficult to enter unless you have an intimate understanding of your target audience.

As an affiliate marketer, you should ideally be a part of your target audience. But even if you’re not, the better you understand what they want and where to reach them with the affiliate product you’re promoting, the faster you can earn your first commission payment.

What To Do About It

Understand that becoming a successful affiliate takes time and hard work. It will be difficult for you to keep the momentum going if you don’t enjoy working in the niche you’ve chosen. And it can also be very hard if it takes too long to get the income you’re counting on.

Choose a niche that you’re passionate about or at least interested in getting to know it better.

Note: Sometimes, you might not necessarily be in the wrong niche, but you’ve chosen one that’s too broad. You want your target audience to feel as if you’re speaking directly to them – this means you might have to niche down. For example, instead of focusing on everyone who wants to lose weight, focus on a narrower demographic like 9-to-5 office workers or women over 50.

6. You’re promoting the wrong affiliate programs.

The affiliate programs you promote should be 100% relevant to your target audience. In addition, promoting any affiliate marketing program with poorly written sales copy will not convert well. You need offers with both relevance and quality to see success as an affiliate.

What To Do About It

Read through (or watch) the sales copy of all the programs you want to promote to your target audience. Ensure they are relevant and well written. If a sales page doesn’t make YOU feel like buying or signing up, why would you turn around and promote it to your audience?

At ClickBank, we work hard to provide you with an up-to-date look at the most successful affiliate programs on our platform. Be sure to check out our top ClickBank products post for an overview.

7. You’re running afoul of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) protects America’s consumers, including from dishonest affiliate marketers.

Two key points affiliates have to comply with are:

What To Do About It

Ensure your business is compliant with Federal Trade Commission rules and regulations. If you need to get up to speed, check out our article discussing affiliate link disclosure.

8. You don’t understand your job versus that of the seller you’re promoting.

Many affiliate marketers believe they need to sell the offer they are promoting to their target audience. Nothing could be further from the truth!

As an affiliate, your job is to sell the click – period. You may not even talk about the offer you’re promoting to your audience, but instead focus on the problem they want to solve, or tease them with a curiosity-based question.

As an affiliate, your job is to sell the click.

Ultimately, it’s the job of the seller/product owner to actually sell their product or service to visitors you send to their site. You are only pointing your audience in the right direction.

What To Do About It

Focus on delivering value and not selling to your audience. Present a possible solution to a problem your target market is experiencing in a way that encourages them to click on your link. When necessary, create an affiliate bridge page that helps bridge the gap between an initial touch and the sales page you’re sending them to.

9. You have too many irons in the fire.

As an affiliate, one of the worst things you can do is try to do too much all at once. Promoting multiple programs across different niches using several traffic sources can be a huge mistake. Affiliate marketing is not about how much you do, but how well you do it!

The income you generate from your business depends on the amount of traffic you send to a seller’s site, and how well that traffic converts.

It’s better to get one conversion every day in one niche from promoting one affiliate program using a single traffic source than it is to get zero conversions from multiple niches, programs, and traffic sources. It’s also better to double-down on a profitable strategy than get too familiar with other strategies.

What To Do About It

Become an authority figure in your business niche. Focus on understanding your target audience and mastering one traffic source before attempting to master others.

10. You don’t provide enough added value to differentiate yourself.

According to statistics, almost 65% of affiliates generate traffic by blogging! If you’re one of them, pay attention.

Google believes that pure or “thin” affiliate websites do not provide additional value for web users, which may hurt your site in the search results and prevent it from getting free organic traffic. You can succeed with your own affiliate website as long as you provide informational and affiliate content that educates, informs, entertains, and ultimately, gets your users to make a purchase.

What To Do About It

Here are some questions to ask yourself to determine how well you know your target audience, what value you’re adding, and if you have sufficiently differentiated your business:

Why should someone visit my site before going to my seller’s landing page?What information do I share that’s not available elsewhere?How is my business model different from my competitors?What are the demographics of my target audience?What is the best way to reach my target audience?What problem does my niche have that I can help solve?What features and benefits does my target audience want?

You can see that answering these questions will put your approach in a totally different level from the majority of affiliate marketers.

Why Is Affiliate Marketing So Hard Wrap-up

ClickBank has had decades to see what works and what doesn’t in affiliate marketing.

We know firsthand that earning an income from an affiliate marketing business can be difficult. Like we shared in this article, the reasons include everything from having too many options and being in the wrong niche to not providing added value in the buyer’s journey for your end customer.

With so many challenges to successful affiliate marketing, it can be hard to know where to start to address all of them. In particular, if you don’t have the necessary knowledge, skills, and experience, it can be an uphill battle. The best way to shorten the learning curve is to find a mentor (very expensive) or a good training course.

With over 20 years of experience and $5 billion paid out in commissions, ClickBank is the world’s leading affiliate marketplace. If you’re serious about furthering your affiliate marketing business and education, Spark by ClickBank provides new and existing affiliates with in-depth online marketing training – created by our own team of experts.

With the help of Spark’s experts and community, hopefully it won’t be long before affiliate marketing isn’t hard for you anymore!



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