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February 2, 2021

5 Affiliate Marketing Myths

Adam Dahlen

With over 80% of brands using affiliate programs, performance-based marketing has proven itself to be a powerful tool for building brand awareness and driving sales. Worth an estimated $12 billion worldwide, the affiliate marketing sector has grown an impressive 52% since 2015–and it’s not slowing down any time soon.  

Despite its popularity, though, affiliate marketing is still sometimes misunderstood by brand executives at big and small companies alike. Read on for five of the most common affiliate marketing myths and why you shouldn’t fall for a single one of them. 

1. Affiliate marketing is the same as display advertising

Yes, affiliate marketing is a type of advertising model, but no, it is not the same thing as display advertising. Affiliate marketing uses third-party publishers–a.k.a affiliates–to generate leads or sales for a brand’s products or services. Those affiliates are then paid a commission for each sale that results from their referral. Display advertising involves creating messages targeted at a specific audience and then purchasing ad space on specific digital platforms to build brand awareness. Not to confuse the issue, but it’s important to note that display advertising is also a tool an affiliate may use on behalf of a brand to build awareness. Unlike display advertising, affiliate marketing is pay-for-performance and has few upfront costs. If you’ve got room in your budget, consider a marketing strategy that implements both of these tactics.

2. High traffic equals big profit

If only it were that easy, but no, affiliate marketing is much more than a numbers game. A lot of traffic does not automatically guarantee a lot of sales. The golden rule of affiliate marketing? Focus on quality over quantity. All the traffic in the world doesn’t mean anything without conversions from the right people. That’s why it’s crucial to strategically evaluate potential affiliates and build a foundation (and commission incentives!) only with those who have established credibility and are consistently getting your brand in front of your target audiences. You’ll end up with higher quality leads that actually convert instead of fishing for those valuable leads in a sea of unqualified traffic. 

3. Affiliate marketing is outdated

In a word, no. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Affiliate marketing is constantly evolving, which may explain why this myth persists, but that hardly means it’s going anywhere. Consider this: In just six months, COVID-19 has accelerated e-commerce growth by levels that industry experts predict would have taken six years to hit pre-pandemic. In fact, in May 2020 online spending totaled $82.5 billion, a 77% year-over-year increase. Not to mention, Google alone has over 3.8 million searches per minute, 228 million searches per hour, and 5.6 billion searches per day. With that amount of traffic up for grabs, brands are unlikely to abandon such a viable engine for growth any time soon. When in doubt, trust the numbers. By 2022, the United States alone will invest over $8 billion in affiliate marketing

4. All affiliate partners are created equal

Unfortunately, this is not true, which is why it’s extremely important to vet each and every affiliate in your program and have ironclad terms and conditions. Also, not every affiliate out there will align with your brand’s values, which should automatically disqualify them from your program. Really, unless an affiliate has a proven track record of credibility, don’t bother. Every year, an estimated 2% of all transactions are attributed to affiliate fraud, and trust us, you want to avoid that mess if you can.

5. Affiliate marketing is easy

First of all, there is a learning curve with anything, and affiliate marketing is no different. In reality, performance-based marketing is pretty complex. There are a lot of moving parts (vetting publishers, negotiating terms, and tracking data to name a few) and a lot of room for error and, unfortunately, fraud and bad actors, too. Don’t expect to become an expert overnight, and by all means, don’t think for a second that you can ever afford to stop learning. Affiliate marketing is in no way a set-it-and-forget-it solution. What works today may not necessarily work tomorrow. Really.

If you’re ready to maximize this effective marketing channel, check out our quick Horror Stories from an Affiliate Marketing Insidervideo. We’ve covered a lot of ground in this short 10-minute video about things like:

  • Why your affiliate program isn’t performing as well as you think it is
  • Compliance issues–and why you might be having them
  • Attracting qualified traffic–and avoiding the rest
  • High quality content–and the value of quality publishers
  • The best tools to measure the most meaningful metrics