Why Turnkey Affiliate Websites are a Waste of Money

When I did the Sugarrae reader survey, one of the questions I asked was:

“Have you ever paid for a “turnkey” affiliate marketing product? (Such as a domain and a store setup to sell affiliate products with promises that it was ready, set, make money?)”

.8% of you said you had an found it useful. 6.3% of you told me you had and found it to be a complete waste of money. What surprised me most is that 20.5% of you hadn't yet done it, but were thinking about it. So this post is aimed at that 20.5 %.

Let me be unequivocally clear. Investing in a turnkey affiliate site is a complete waste of time, money and energy for various reasons.

What is a “turnkey” affiliate website?

There's a sect of opportunists in the affiliate industry (who I'm not going to promote by listing) that like to tell you “there's gold in them there hills.” Then they conveniently offer to sell you the picks and shovels to find it.

It usually goes like this:

You pay a fee and for that fee, they give you a website that is set up as an e-commerce store based on affiliate datafeed(s). Many times they tout that the website also auto produces content for you in the form of articles, news, and video. There's nothing to do on your end! Simply pay the fee, and you get an affiliate site that's ready to go, and you will make loads of cash!

It's bullshit

I think of turnkey affiliate websites like I do sensational weight loss products. They prey on people desperate to lose weight (make money) and their laziness to workout (spend time and effort) and non-desire to eat right (work hard). And like sensational weight loss products, if these things worked then everyone would do it. Everyone in the world would be skinny (making money online) with no effort required. Like sensational weight loss products – it's all BULLSHIT.

There is no silver bullet that gives you instant, amazing results without any effort. Not in weight loss, not in affiliate marketing, not in life. The only person who is making a profit with turnkey affiliate websites, most of the time, is the person selling you the bullshit dream.

“But they said Google will send me traffic?”

I don't think that Google hates affiliate sites (that does not mean that I don't believe they favor brandsimmensely). But what I believe they do hate is non-unique crap that is usually only promoted by getting low-quality links (because what quality site wants to link to something that has no value add?).

In fact, they created two updates/filters aimed specifically at these types of sites – Panda and Penguin – and a turnkey affiliate site is exactly the type of site both of them are aiming for.

Most of these turnkey website programs tout how your site can be ready in ten minutes or less. Do you think Google wants to index (and promote) thousands of pages of automatically generated content that took less than 10 minutes to create?

“But they had several success stories.”

First, testimonials can easily be faked. You have no way to verify who they're from, especially when they're merely from “April A.” in Adams, Alabama. That said, every rule has its exception. But those exceptions are typically people who would have busted their ass with whatever opportunity that presented itself – meaning they're people who succeeded that happened to buy a turnkey affiliate website once. They didn't succeed because of that – they succeeded because of their drive and initiative.

Sorry, affiliate marketing – the right way – takes work

If it were as simple as paying $100 to buy a website that will make “instant profit” and “give you financial freedom” don't you think everyone would shell out the $100 bucks? Hell – shell out $10,000 bucks to buy 100 of them? When you look at it logically, you know it's a product that preys on desires of finding financial freedom – and not a real solution to that desire.

So save your cash. Affiliate marketing is a real opportunity. You can make real money with it. But as I've said time and time again, it all comes down to what you put into it. Read my affiliate archives for free. Follow other successful people in the affiliate marketing industry who give back to the affiliate community.

Don't give up the desire to get into affiliate marketing – but do accept that the fact that affiliate marketing – like any other legitimate business opportunity – takes real effort to make it work for you.


Rae Hoffman aka "Sugarrae" is a veteran digital marketer and SEO consultant. She is also a serial entrepreneur. You can find out more about her entrepreneurial efforts here. Rae is most active on Twitter.


  1. Kelly McCausey on March 3, 2013 at 1:22 pm

    I guess I was hoping that this sort of crap wasn’t being pushed these days but who am I kidding? There are always boneheads selling false promises to newcomers who don’t know any better.

    Thanks for emphasizing what a waste of money it is!

  2. Josh Nadeau on March 4, 2013 at 4:42 pm

    Nice article Rae!

    I think “turnkey” in general lives up to the name, and that’s where its appeal is. Simple, easy, and you don’t have to have any web skills to get started. Obviously the marketing strategies for these types of businesses are geared towards selling these cheap sites to naive buyers without an ounce of web knowledge, and probably not much business sense either. I have found that regardless of what you do online, if you don’t have the patience to learn your niche, and that means a lot of research and trial and error, you’re not going to have much success with these types of sites either.

  3. Roger Weavers on March 5, 2013 at 9:39 am

    Its surprising how naive people are when it comes to buying this sort of cr*p. It’s all very well having an instant website selling all kinds of products but you need traffic, and thinking Google is going to automatically send traffic to your new site and a hundreds of identical sites is just ridiculous.

    Would be affiliate marketeers are not the only ones who still have the “build it and they will come” mentality.

    I quite often have ‘bricks and mortar’ businesses asking me to build them eCommerce websites and when I ask them how they intend to drive traffic to their new website they don’t have a clue and just give me a blank look. When I explain that I can help with SEO and give them a price, which is normally more than the website costs they decide they “want to think about it”.

    I have probably lost a few sales this way but I like my clients to have a good understanding of what is involved in running a web business.

    Many people still think that simply having a website will bring them instant riches but a web business is like any other business, it takes a lot of time and effort to build up.
    While there are suckers out there there will always be people willing to sell them cr*p. Simple supply and demand.

    All the best,

  4. Lauryn Doll on March 9, 2013 at 8:38 pm

    Thanks for this amazing and kick-ass post.

    Affiliate marketing has been an up and down journey for me. It’s been 3.5 years and I’m still learning. It amazes me how much I “believed” at first, and how far I’ve come.

    There are many paths to being successful as an affiliate but besides never backing down and never giving in, the truth is there’s only so much you can purchase from others – coaching, books, programs, articles – before you have to do the damn work. You can either hire someone to do the work for you – and pay a crap load of money to have it done right – or you can roll up your sleeves and do it yourself.

    I’m ready for the challenge. It’s so much more than blogs and links to succeed in this game.

    • Rae Hoffman on March 9, 2013 at 8:49 pm

      Thank you Lauryn. Glad you liked it. Also, had to comment to tell you I love your tagline. :)

  5. Jim on May 19, 2013 at 1:17 am

    It doesn’t matter if you buy a $25 turnkey website with plr articles or have a unique website and content designed for $2500 you are still not going to make any money in affiliate marketing without a email list or by getting 1000’s of visitors to your website and you better have a lot of money to invest if your depending on google search for traffic.

    It’s all about having a email list or getting traffic whether you have a $25 or $2500 website, a 1 page website or a 1000 page website your visitors could care less what kind of website you have. If they are looking to buy the product you are promoting they will buy it.

  6. Bill Roberts on June 19, 2013 at 2:11 pm

    Awww heck! You mean i have to work to make money in affiliate marketing? Actually i understand,and enjoyed the article. I am still learning affiliate marketing,as i tried the easy way first. I never did pay 100 dollars for a website though. I really enjoy read articles of some one who knows what affiliate marketing is all about.

    • Rae Hoffman on June 20, 2013 at 9:15 am

      Glad you’ve found my posts useful Bill. :)

  7. Bryan Haines on June 19, 2013 at 3:33 pm

    I absolutely agree. Sometimes these “marketers” try to hijack my Facebook page or blog comment section trying to promote their opportunities.

    If it was that easy to create profitable niche sites, these companies wouldn’t be selling their system – they would focus on making hundreds and thousands more. (At least that’s what I would do…)

    Great post!

    • Rae Hoffman on June 20, 2013 at 9:16 am

      EXACTLY. :)

  8. J Shreidan on October 21, 2013 at 10:59 am

    Not going to jump on the bandwagon here like everyone else.

    When I found this page I was looking for turnkey websites in a specific niche.

    I have had successful ventures in affiliate marketing and adsense blogs and I am capable of generating good traffic. All I wanted was a website to try out some different traffic sources on.

    Pretty obvious that Google isnt going to like the site but social media don’t care… If successful I would replace the duplicate content with fresh and revamp the whole site.

    Surely you can see a good use for turnkey websites to test out traffic sources?

  9. nick ray on February 12, 2014 at 7:58 am

    Well that slapped me around the face and woke me up….

    Thanks for the post

    I am new to Affiliate Marketing and i really want to succeed at and i know i will in time…

    I actually searched in Google turnkey to get a better understanding of it as i was very close to joining a network which is if it makes sense is very turnkey, but all that has changed after reading your post they can naff off, i am getting down to the nitty gritty, studying and reading. If you have any advice for me i would appreciate it…

    Once again great post


    • Rae Hoffman on February 12, 2014 at 9:19 am

      Hey Nick – I offer tons of information for beginning affiliates for free in my affiliate marketing category here on Sugarrae. It might be a good place to start. :)

  10. Joshua Hardwick on April 11, 2014 at 7:22 am

    Hi Rae,

    I know I’m a little late to the party here (as this post was written quite a while ago) but I wanted to add my comments nonetheless.

    While I do agree with you that some of these turnkey sites are in fact ‘bullshit’ (i.e. the design is horrible and there is nothing that comes close to a brand there), I think that the problem lies more in the way these are marketed and sold than the actual products themselves.

    I think it’s the promise of an easy, hassle-free, money-making business that is the misleading part. With some effort and work (e.g. consistent high quality content creation etc), these sites can sometimes be great. You’re right though, the magic (and hardest) ingredient is always traffic, no matter what site you’re working on.

    I think if people selling these sites were just honest about what they’re selling (i.e. something that is effectively the groundwork for an affiliate-based business), there wouldn’t be a problem. I just think they shouldn’t mislead people into believing they’re buying a $500/month business for $30.

    I’d love to hear your thoughts :)

    • Rae Hoffman on May 17, 2014 at 5:56 am

      “I think it’s the promise of an easy, hassle-free, money-making business that is the misleading part”

      I tend to agree with you there. People promote these things as “pay our fee and start raking in the cash”. In reality, all they’ve done is given you a cheap, outdated looking free template with the ability to show an affiliate datafeed. But, when you read the sites, they tell you how you spend $ and there’s no work involved. They scrape other sites for content, pull in useless videos and show an affiliate datafeed with no unique content. All of these are against Google’s guidelines, so, you’ll have almost no chance of ranking using their site “out of the box”. I get there might be other avenues to push these sites through, but why would one want to build and market a website that has an entire online traffic channel cut off?

      But, what you’re talking about above, isn’t a “turnkey” website – turnkey (in the manner in which it’s been applied to websites) implies no work is involved. Pay and you’re ready to go. Which is what I take issue with. A datafeed ready affiliate theme with tons of options to customize every piece of data on the site? To me, that’s not “turnkey” – but that would be a valuable service.

  11. Jeff on June 10, 2014 at 1:35 pm

    “It only takes 5 minutes and your site is ready”. BS is right. Trying many times through the years and years to make some IM affiliate and real product $$ . I finally bought from one ready made turnkey tshirt store last week June 2014 because all my other efforts doing things the hard way wasn’t making anything. An old saying says A fool and his money are soon parted. Even the senior citizens like me that should know better bought some hype and lost. But those that have been pumping that affiliate turnkey covert junk are now marked by me and being unsubbed from. The winners in this are you smarties that were too smart to buy the junk. I can’t go out in public now.

  12. Thabang on July 28, 2014 at 7:25 pm

    I tried to sell a domain name so i got it appraised first by a group of buyers and sellers on the site and most of them told me that it had potential, it just needed to be developed into a turnkey site. Then i thought to myself “if i invest time and money into building a site that will produce a passive income do they think i will sell it?” Why the heck would I?

  13. John Forward on April 30, 2015 at 1:46 pm

    I happen to be looking for a turnkey solution but there’s a qualifier… I have a potentially great brand for entertainment another for health & fitness technology, and and I will provide all the content. I don’t want ANYTHING generated automatically, except the (text/word) advertising.

    I am hoping to give registered users the ability to post comments and stories to the main page (and become part of the “content” based on their experience with our brand) and I do want an engine for these items to sort of “run themselves” and behave.

    I am simply trying to find a “template” that I can put this content into, but include things like AdWords or others in the sidebars and banners, and have those items populate themselves, in an automated fashion.

    Am I dreaming?

  14. Jay McNeil on May 23, 2015 at 3:23 pm

    I have actually purchased an affiliate ecommerce site after looking through several. I found that all those that don’t have real people behind them were not worth the time to look at. However I did find one company in London, who offered me an affiliate ecommerce site that I bought.

    I have worked this site now for about a year and can truthfully say it was worth every penny I spent. It was not cheap, but it has made money to my satisfaction.

    I know there are real scammers out there, but buy from a Ltd company that can be traced and you should be ok.