Side-hustle stories 💰 The ups & downs of affiliate marketing 🔗

When first dabbling with affiliate marketing I struck gold making a whopping £2,200 in just three days. Pretty good, and I’ve continue to capitalise since, but it’s not all fun and games. Rest assured this isn’t the life changing opportunity many want you to believe.

What is affiliate marketing? 🔗

If you’re unaware of what affiliate marketing is – it’s when you promote a companies’ products and services, earning a percentage or set amount per sale. You usually promote their business using a link, which may go to a landing page for them to record your sales or simply by tracking the referred users via cookies.

Every business has its own rules regarding affiliate programmes. Some allow you to do anything you want when promoting, others are much more restrictive.

How I discovered this industry 🕵️‍♂️

Like many people in the advertising industry, I see plenty of bullshit online courses for things like Forex, Drop Shipping and – yes, you guessed it – affiliate marketing. So, technically speaking, this was my first encounter with affiliate marketing. However, I never took a course or researched beyond seeing these silly adverts.

A few years ago I bought my first home and my brother shared a link for an energy company. After I signed up, we both made £50. They then provided me with my own affiliate link – so I could refer new customers in their direction.

One year later and I got an enticing email offering me £100 per person I signed up. Because of this offer I decided to look into marketing my link to fully capitalise on the opportunity.

After initially considering social media advertising, I decided this probably wouldn’t prove successful, as I would have to either use the energy company’s branding (which would potentially get me in trouble) or create a new brand from scratch (which would be very time consuming).

Because of this, I turned to Google Ads and conducted keyword research. I saw there was a lot of opportunity, and decided to proceed.

Launching the adverts & their results 🚀💸

My advertising strategy was to fill any gaps that the energy company weren’t already. More specifically, I was targeting people searching for their brand. Sure, I was eating crumbs from underneath the table, but crumbs were plenty for me (after all, this is just a side-hustle).

My ads were not initially approved, which resulted in scepticism. I tried again, and increased my keyword bids. Within the next few hours I started receiving hundreds of clicks with little luck. I then began compiling a negative keyword list to narrow my targeting.

3 days passed and I closely monitored the ads. Sure enough, I had £2,200 in pending referrals. In the following months I made another £1,300 for my own account (based on £50 per referral) and then marketed other people’s affiliate links for around another £1,500 (in which I took around £15 per referral).

So, by the time I stopped in September, I had made around £5,000 through this side-hustle. I totalled around £600 in ad spend, meaning £4,400 in profit.

After initially pausing (which I will explain why in a few scrolls), I revisited this year and made an additional £2,500 but at a much higher cost (around £750). So, all-in-all, the energy company blessed me with around £6,150.

Why I stopped affiliate marketing 🛑

The biggest issue with affiliate marketing is that once other advertisers discover the opportunity it’s as good as gone.

That is what happened last year, the once golden opportunity of advertising the energy company had become non-existent overnight as other marketers noticed an opportunity to outbid me. However, as this was just a way to make additional income, I simply exited.

I returned to the opportunity this year knowing that others would be scaling down their advertising budgets (due to economic uncertainty), and the cost would lower again. Ultimately the cost had gone up in comparison to early 2019, but any positive return on investment that can outperform a bank is worth exploring.

However history repeated itself, and in September my impressions and clicks dropped 90% as others began scaling their advertising yet again.

The less sexy reality of affiliate marketing 🤮

I recently saw a claim that you could make over six figures a year by blogging and including affiliate links (within the first year). The idea you can simply start a WordPress website and easily generate more revenue than a successful small business is a ludicrous concept. I’m sure people have done it, but I imagine more people have won the lottery in the last 10 years than launched a blog (with no prior experience or brand) that has made over £100k profit in its first year.

The allure of affiliate marketing is its simplicity. What people fail to mention is how hard it is to generate traffic to a website, and for that traffic to be the correct demographic for them to consider using an affiliate link and also be in a position to actually go ahead to make a purchase immediately.

To illustrate that point let’s take a look at my Reviewing Popular Side-Hustles article, which currently has 707 views. In that article, there’s several affiliate links throughout including one for $25 off of a WordPress website and for Airbnb hosting. Of the 707 views how many have used the links? 1 or 2? Nope, 0.

Additionally, I have another website which I currently am using to dabble with new affiliate opportunities. One opportunity was with The White Company, and with the run up to Christmas I was hoping to see some sales through the affiliate link, but I didn’t see any despite traffic going on the page.

I say this not to illustrate that affiliate marketing is bad or doesn’t work, but more to say it’s not a case of; website, traffic, money 🤑

I think it’s fair to say that the only people wanting you to believe affiliate marketing is easy are those selling courses on how to do affiliate marketing, which I wouldn’t recommend paying for. Additionally, the dream they’re selling is dangerous. It’s the typical “leave your job for the laptop lifestyle”, but this ignores the high risks associated with the industry.

I’d never come close to making £2,200 in three days prior to January 2019. Based on this, you’d think I’d come across a life-changing opportunity. Good enough to make a living from? Well if the earnings halved (becoming £1,600 for 3 days), I would make £166,000 per year.

If I dropped all other forms of income to focus on advertising my affiliate link I would have had a very good couple of months, and then would have had my affiliation with the energy company terminated by the third.

How do I know this? In the summer I helped advertise someone else’s affiliate link and we took it as far as possible. We didn’t make it to £10,000 before the energy company silently pulled our affiliation.

So, if I took the advice of gurus online, I would now be broke.

Companies who provide big rewards per sale are usually very strict with who they allow to advertise the link. Because of this, they won’t usually allow people to make over 5 figures per year advertising their business.

Companies who pay a very small amount (such as Amazon) generally won’t generate the affiliate enough revenue to cover costs such as Google or Facebook Ads. The most effective way to advertise products with small rewards is to have a website with decent SEO, but this requires months of work with little to no results.

I cannot stress how tricky creating a website with decent SEO is. Additionally it can be pretty expensive if you need to buy the website tools to increase your website’s SEO effectively. Random gurus online want you to think there’s some secret recipe, and there simply isn’t.

I hope people find this useful, and please subscribe for more content!

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