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What Is Affiliate Marketing And Is It A Scam?

Updated on September 25, 2012

What Is Affiliate Marketing?

First of all a quick introduction to affiliate marketing.

Affiliate marketing has been around for a while but it has really ballooned in the last few years with the combination of people looking for an alternative way to make extra money and the continuing expansion of the internet and the volume of sales on the internet. The fact that you do not really need any money to start up is also a big incentive for people to try their hand at affiliate marketing.

Affiliate marketing is basically where you are an intermediate who sells something that someone else provides and you take a commission for whatever you sell. You could also be on the other side of affiliate marketing where you are providing the product.

As the marketer is the middle man there is no need to have stocks or any products, or to ship anything as this is done by the supplier, so all the marketer needs to do is to market or advertise those products on the internet and point the buyers in the direction of the sellers.

There are two types of product generally that affiliate marketers sell, electronic products (eBooks etc that the buyer just downloads immediately) and actual physical products. Most affiliate marketers start off with selling digital products as these are considered slightly easer and are also more instant in terms of sales. They also often carry high commission rates (as much as 75%) and can be cheap to buy. A digital product can be downloaded immediately by the buyer and the whole sales process is completed quickly and commissions are paid very soon afterwards. The downside of eProducts is that there can be some very dodgy ones out there and you really need to make sure that you are selling something genuine before you go ahead and promote it.

Also, there are a lot of 'real' products that can be sold by the affiliate marketer and commissions vary on these. Most large retailers have affiliate marketing programs that you can sign up for. They work by passing through a cookie to the retailer who then knows that you have introduced the buyer and they will then pay you a commission on products sold. One of the biggest and easiest retailers to join as an affiliate is Amazon. They provide an interface where you can build stores and get product links that you can add to your own website.

If you are selling products as an affiliate then it is good to have your own website to do so where you can write detailed information about the product so that the buyer has a good idea of what they are buying. You can also use free sites like blogs, Hubpages and Squidoo for selling products so you don't actually need to have your own website set up to do so.

Can you actually make money from affiliate marketing?
Can you actually make money from affiliate marketing?

Is It A Scam?

Well, this is a tricky question to answer but essentially I would say the answer is 'no'. Although you can be scammed into buying individual products that claim to be able to help you to make instant sales and huge incomes (although there are some genuine products out there too!), the actual affiliate marketing model is not a scam in itself.

What does appear to be a scam is the way some people sell internet or affiliate marketing. When I first went to a seminar introducing me to this it was almost shown to be a simple thing that anyone can do. All you need to do is put a few ads out, wait for the buyers and rake in your commissions! I'm not saying that the people who ran that seminar were scammers but it seems that there are a lot of people in the affiliate marketing business who are basically selling the concept of affiliate marketing which in my mind is a kind of pyramid selling and this can only end one way! 

What they don't tell you at these seminars is that there is really a lot more to it than that. In the affiliate marketing forums you can read lots of posts from established marketers who say that it is very difficult indeed to just make money using only Google (and other) advertising. You will also need a website and along with that you will need to find ways of marketing it and driving traffic there which may include article marketing and other forms of SEO. So really you need to know a lot about internet marketing. You may also need other skills, a good grasp of English in particular if that is the market you are aiming for, be able to calculate if your marketing campaigns are cost effective etc etc.

So, a warning, if you want to seriously get into affiliate marketing, then make sure for one thing you are dedicated to making it work long term and for another thing that you have a significant amount of time to invest (and a little bit of money but not necessarily much). 

Get Help With Affiliate Marketing

Ways of Affiliate Marketing

There are a few routes that you can go down in terms of affiliate marketing. You can start with the digital products where the biggest place to sign up is ClickBank. They have a tried and tested commission system and thousands of products in hundreds of niches that you can choose to market.

If you want to sell actual products then one of the biggest sites to do this from is Commission Junction. They have a large database of big name retailers whose products you can apply to promote. Beware, you don't always get accepted though! But you don't just need to use them exclusively. All you need to do is google affiliate programs for the particular industry that you want to promote and you will find that there are a lot of retailers who run their own affiliate programs that you can join directly.

How Do You Get Paid?

Getting your commissions recognised for any sales you make online cannot be guaranteed but it seems to work in the majority of cases. Basically you are given a specific link to put in your advertising/website and when someone clicks on this link a cookie is enabled to show that you were the one that introduced them. These cookies have a certain lifespan (different for each scheme) but they are usually valid for at least 30 days. So if someone goes away when they first click on it then comes back a week later then you still get credited with the sale.

Once you have accrued a certain level of commissions, this money is paid to you either by cheque or directly to your bank account.


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    • Azure11 profile image

      Marian L 6 years ago from UK

      Thanks DJ, affiliate marketing is such a minefield that sometimes it needs to be told as it is!

    • DJArifrocks profile image

      DJArifrocks 6 years ago from Dhaka, Bangladesh

      An awesome and must read hub on affiliate marketing... Useful for newbies.

    • Azure11 profile image

      Marian L 6 years ago from UK

      Yes, Vishaa, you are right, there are a lot of tools out there for sale but I think what you need is just a lot of time and hard work and to look at the information you can get on a lot of the forums for free. It's only the minority of people who make a lot of money from it unfortunately.

    • Vishaaa profile image

      Vishaaa 6 years ago from Somewhere on this earth..

      I have tried lots of affiliate marketing tools. but it never worked. :(