The First Three Affiliate Marketing Mistakes You’ll Make (And How to Avoid Them)

The First Three Affiliate Marketing Mistakes You’ll Make (And How to Avoid Them)

Affiliate marketing is just like any other skill.  You’re not going to start out perfectly – you’ve got to experiment, fail and learn from your failures if you ever want to gain traction with your business.

Think about it – you probably didn’t hop up on a bicycle for the first time and ride off without a single wobble.  You tipped over, again and again, until you got the hang of staying upright.

But at the same time, you probably didn’t hop up on to the bike without a little protection.  If your childhood was anything like mine, you didn’t even approach the bike without first donning a helmet, knee pads, wrist guards and training wheels.  Like so many others, my parents had learned that I was probably going to fail miserably my first few times on a bicycle, but that they could protect me from most serious injuries with a few simple precautions.

Similarly, with affiliate marketing, there are certain mistakes that you’re probably going to make.  It’s okay – we all go through these growing pains.  My goal for this article is simply to bring some of these common errors to your attention.  Hopefully, with a little extra attention and preparation, you can avoid – or at least minimize the impact of – these usual missteps.


1. Choosing the wrong niche

This is, perhaps, the biggest mistake I see beginning affiliate marketers make every day – and one wrong niche stands out in particular.  Let me get this out of the way right now – if you’re just starting out as an affiliate marketer, please don’t try to build a website teaching others how to make money online!

But even if you avoid the “make money online” niche, you’ve still got to resist the impulse to jump into the biggest market you can think of (like weight loss, dating or electronics sales).  Now, admittedly, those of us who teach affiliate marketing share some of the blame for the number of people who make this mistake.  We say, “Choose an evergreen” niche over and over again, without clarifying that although evergreen niches (those that are profitable in both good and bad economies) are great, you’ve got to dig down and find your own unique sub-niches to dominate.

I talk a lot about choosing the right niche in my “Affiliate Strategy Secrets course”, but let me summarize here.  A good niche is one that is buyer-oriented and that combines high search volume with low competition.  Ideally, it’s a topic you’re interested in (although this isn’t entirely necessary) – at the very least, it’s one you can tolerate working on day in and day out.

2. Failing to pre-sell your visitors

Converting your visitors into buyers isn’t as simple as tossing a product image onto your website with a button proclaiming, “Click Here!”  You’ve got to woo your visitors and show them why they need the products you’re promoting – you can’t expect them to make this mental leap on their own.

This hand-holding is referred to as “pre-selling” in the affiliate marketing world.  Basically, it’s the art of moving your visitors from first setting digital foot on your website to pulling out their wallets to make a purchase.  The amount and type of pre-selling needed is going to be different for each niche, which is why it’s so important to get to know your target visitors and figure out what kinds of objections you’re going to need to overcome to make the sale.

A few common examples of pre-selling include testimonials that depict happy former customers, money-back guarantees that eliminate the risk of the purchase and emotional appeals that help your visitor understand just exactly how much better they’ll feel when they buy from you.  Figuring out what types of pre-selling are most effective for your website is a process, which brings us to…

3. Ignoring the importance of regular testing

Yes, I know that you think the website you just put together is the absolute best on the internet.  The design you chose is perfect, and the wording of your headlines and content are without flaw.  But here’s a newsflash – it doesn’t matter how much you like it.  What matters is how your visitors interact with and respond to your website.

The way that we figure out what’s most effective from your visitors’ standpoint is with split testing.  There are two types of split testing – A/B and multivariable – but when you’re just getting started, it’s easiest to focus on A/B testing.  In this scenario, a website script working behind the scenes randomly serves up to different versions of your website and tracks which variation results in the most conversions.

The following are just a few of the website variables that you can test:

* Headline wording, position, font, font color or font size
* Page layout (columns, header position, etc)
* Page colors
* Location of advertisements
* Types of advertisements (banners, Adsense, affiliate programs, etc)
* Testimonial inclusion, position or wording
* “Buy now” button color, size, font and position

When doing A/B split testing, be sure you’re changing only one variable at a time (for example, change only the color of your headline in your two page variations – not the color, size and position all at once).  Otherwise, you won’t be able to determine exactly which change was responsible for higher conversions.

While there are plenty of paid split testing tools online, when you’re first getting started, you should be fine using Google’s Website Optimizer A/B split testing tool.  It’s easy to set up and Google automatically tracks which page is converting better, according to the criteria you set.  I definitely recommend checking it out!


Obviously, reading an article that says “it’s a mistake not to pre-sell your visitors” isn’t the same as learning how to pre-sell effectively on your own websites.  All of the items above are things that you’ll need to practice in order to get good at – but believe me when I say that they’re all skills that are well worth developing.

How are you practicing these skills on your websites?  Do you have any questions about how to incorporate any of these skills into your web business?  Share your experiences in the comments below!

Photo: elycefeliz

10 Responses to The First Three Affiliate Marketing Mistakes You’ll Make (And How to Avoid Them)

  1. Jon says:

    Good call with testing. Most of us probably don’t do enough of that (guilty party here). But goodness is it ever important.

    If you’re trying to collect more opt-ins or get more sales the answer isn’t always to increase traffic. It can be something as minor as changing a headline or using a different color for your call to action button.

    But if you never test or swap a few things out you’ll never know what visitors will react to best.

    • Sarah says:

      It took me a long time to start testing, but it’s one of the things that’s made the biggest difference in my business.

      If I could go back and start over paying more attention to testing in the first place, I’m sure I could get to where I am now in about one third of the time 🙂

  2. Hi Sarah, Love the comment about new affiliates teaching others how to make money! I see this far to often on IM blogs these days. Will

    • Sarah says:

      Will – Cracks me up every time 🙂 Or, at least, it does until I remember how many of those crap websites I got suckered into by people who probably didn’t have any more experience than I did when I was first getting started!

  3. Jk Allen says:

    Great info Sarah! I’ve been researching affiliate marketing a lot lately and finding a mix of information anyone where. One thing I like about this article is the drive for pre-selling. Thanks for sharing!

    • Sarah says:

      JK – Thanks for stopping by! You’re right – there’s tons of info out there, but honestly, there’s a lot of different paths to making affiliate marketing work for you as well. Find the one that resonates most with you and see where it takes you 🙂

  4. […] the interesting thing is that, for me, it isn’t the ability to pre-sell, the keyword research skills I’ve learned or some sophisticated time management system that keeps […]

  5. […] of the mistakes that I see over and over again with new affiliate marketers is overspending when it isn’t necessary to do so. And it’s a particularly sensitive subject for […]

  6. […] of the mistakes that I see over and over again with new affiliate marketers is overspending when it isn’t necessary to do so. And it’s a particularly sensitive subject for […]

  7. […] already told you how important I think testing is for improving your website’s conversion percentage, but the other topics aren’t ones […]

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