Affiliate marketing is the process of gaining business by rewarding companies who direct customers to you through their own marketing campaigns. On the other side of the system are affiliates - people or companies that earn their living by driving traffic toward businesses who pay them for their efforts.
Although that's a simple explanation, affiliate marketing is a complex system in which many different strategies are employed, some of which succeed, some of which do not. As there are a million strategies that don't work, there are just as many myths surrounding the industry that simply aren't true. Here are a few of the most common misconceptions about affiliate marketing.
Affiliate marketing is a challenging, but potentially profitable, industry.
It's Best to Choose the Niche That's Most Popular
Trolling through stats regarding what's hot and what's selling, and then choosing that as your "specialty," is always wrong. It's a gravy train being driven by people who made it successful through their understanding of and passion for the industry. Always follow the niche you love, you know, and you understand. If your motives are superficial and shallow, so will be your work - and profits.
Affiliate Marketing Is Easy to Get Into
Starting a successful affiliate marketing business is the same as starting any other successful business: It takes startup money, long hours, dedication, toleration of frustration, and vision.
There was a time - before Google was competing with affiliates and all two trillion bloggers had an SEO strategy - that affiliate marketing was relatively easy. Those days are long over. If you want to jump in this very competitive game, expect to work hard.
You Can Do it Through Social Media
You need a social media aspect to any comprehensive online marketing campaign. It can't, however, stand on its own. This myth is derived from wishful thinking. Unlike ad buys, SEO, web design, and other necessary components, Facebook and Twitter are free.
It would be nice if it were that easy. It's not.
Affiliate Marketing Is Self-Sustaining
If you're about to buy into a partnership that promises all you have to do is set up a website; put up some ads, banners, and links; sit back; and watch the money pour in - save your money. You're either being scammed or misled by someone who knows even less about it than you. Affiliate marketing websites require constant management. They aren't ATM machines.
Affiliate marketing can, of course, be profitable. But it's a business, not a scheme, and the people who are good at it took the time to understand the business and worked hard to innovate and improve it from within.
Andrew Lisa is a freelance writer living in Los Angeles. He writes about small business marketing and online reputation management.