I see a lot of newbies to the affiliate arena ask the question of whether or not affiliate marketing (associate marketing, whatever you want to call it) is a scam, especially when they see a two (or more) tiered program (meaning affiliates can earn off the affiliates they bring into the program “under them”) which is often confused with a “pyramid scheme.”
Real affiliate programs don't have “fees”
Affiliate marketing programs cost nothing to join and the only way you ever get paid is if you make a sale.
Even in two tiered programs, the only way you make money off an affiliate underneath you is if they make a sale and earn a commission.
There's no “membership fee” in legitimate affiliate programs. You might come across programs claiming to be affiliate programs that charge a “set up fee” or offer to sell you a “website to market with.” I'd walk the other direction and never look back in either case. Becoming an affiliate is (and should be) absolutely free.
Considering becoming an affiliate is free, you'd think it would be almost impossible to be scammed.
Unfortunately you'd be wrong.
I kind of compare affiliate marketing to weight loss. The actual ability to be a successful with either is there, but most of the money made within both industries is made by selling you products touting to help you DO both. Some are legit. But some play on your deepest desires (making money or losing weight) and sell you crap. There's no magic silver bullet in affiliate marketing (or weight loss). Both simply require hard work and a commitment to doing what it takes to achieve the results you're looking for.
Don't get me wrong – there are some good tools, guides and people out there. But in my experience, they're the exception and not the rule.
“Information” products, tools and “systems” promising you big income with little work in no time
The biggest way I see folks with dreams of affiliate marketing get scammed is via purchasing “information products,” tools, “systems” and e-Books that promise to show them how to “make [insert nutty figure here] a day with no work.” Now if I told you that you could lose 100 pounds in 30 days with a new miracle diet – it would likely set off warning bells in your head, but for some reason, telling people they can make thousands in 30 days with zero work seems legitimate to some folks (you *wanting* to believe something can be a more powerful sales tool for these bullshit artists than any sales page.)
Then they show you tons of pictures of their “sales commissions” that very well might be photo-shopped or even more typically, be the commissions they make selling people like YOU the picks and shovels you're hoping to use to strike gold – and not actual REAL products or services through traditional affiliate programs. Remember that not everyone feels bad selling people a dream, even if they know the odds of that dream coming true suck.
Avoiding the hype
The easiest way to avoid falling for these scams is to educate yourself and look for warning signs. Learn the basics of affiliate marketing before you make the decision to get involved with affiliate marketing. Shawn Collins did a video discussing affiliate marketing basics you can check out here:
Then start with FREE reading (and test the theories or methods you read for yourself) from reputable sources that make the bulk of their money selling actual products for merchants and not by selling you dreams of doing it.
A few (in my opinion) legit blogs to get you started (scour the archives in addition to the newest posts):
- Sugarrae Affiliate Marketing Category | Sugarrae RSS Feed
- ClickNewz Affiliate Marketing Category | Clicknewz RSS Feed
- Shawn Collin's Affiliate Marketing Blog | Shawn Collins RSS Feed
- Art of Blog – Resources for Affiliates and Bloggers | Art of Blog RSS Feed
If you decide that you want to invest in some paid information products or books you should absolutely look for warning signs of someone selling a dream vs. actual information.
Some potential red flags might be:
- Promises of money without hard work
- Pictures of lavish cars and other “proof” of an insanely lavish lifestyle
- Pictures of earnings with no explanation of where those earnings came from aside from “affiliate commissions”
- Anything touting itself as a “fool proof system”
If you seek out reviews of the e-Books or information products or tools before purchasing them, be sure to look closely at the review. Does it sound like the reviewer actually read or used the product? Or does it sound like they're using generic statements that sounds more like marketing material simply to get you to BUY the product?
The truth about affiliate income potential
The biggest way to avoid scams is not to let yourself be overexcited by the hype people like to use when describing potential income as an affiliate marketer.
Anyone can make a very successful and lucrative career out of affiliate marketing.
Most people who attempt it will not make a very successful and lucrative career out of affiliate marketing.
That's been the truth from what I've seen in my decade+ of being involved in affiliate marketing. Tons of unlikely people, including myself, have found amazing success with it. But not everyone does. Having *realistic* expectations will help you from allowing yourself to be distracted – and fooled – by the hype.
An honest and realistic guide
I don't claim to have read or have personal experience with even 10% of what is available in the “learn affiliate marketing” product offering realm. But what I can tell you is that I did read and review Traffic and Trust upon request, which was written by Nick Reese – someone whose affiliate marketing skills (at selling real products and services for quite some time prior to writing this guide) I personally can attest to.
Far from a get rich quick guide, Traffic and Trust is more like a blueprint to building a successful blog or affiliate site by being willing to put in some honest work. If you're the type to absolutely want a guide with everything neatly collected and displayed, this is one I can recommend with good information, realistic expectations and a lack of hype.
That said, I'd still exhaust the *FREE* resources I mentioned above before deciding whether or not affiliate marketing is for you.