An Introduction to Affiliate Marketing – Four Cornerstones for Success

It would be absolutely impossible to cover the affiliate marketing industry with just one article, so consider this the first installation in a series of articles for those thinking about becoming affiliate entrepreneurs. (See, Introduction to Affiliate Marketing– Part Two).

Believe me, I know new affiliate sellers are excited and anxious to get started in their new profession, but having a solid business and implementation strategy grounded upon the following four cornerstones is crucial for success. 

Put aside your excitement momentarily and come to terms with the fact that affiliate businesses are just like traditional, brick-and-mortar businesses in the fact that most businesses actually fail

These four cornerstones are an attempt to make sure you don’t become part of that statistic. 

I) The age-old debate about whether you should build a “niche blog” or an “authority blog” is a false dichotomy; if you want to succeed at affiliate marketing, your website needs to be both.  One of the cornerstone resources you can use to find affiliate programs is High Paying Affiliate Programs

Pick a niche, any niche, and HPAP will show you just how massive this market truly is – cars, beauty products, fashion, lingerie, gambling, wealth management, insurance, private jets, boats, medical equipment, self help, musical instruments, as well as wrist watches are just a few of the niches that you can monetize, with some of them offering thousands in commission off of a single transaction.  You should also take into consideration that HPAP is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the number of affiliate programs out there.

Are you tempted to focus your affiliate business in one of those high paying niches?  Well there are a couple of other points you should take into consideration before doing that, because thousands have taken the path you’re considering, and the vast majority of them failed miserably because of it.

II) The old saying “follow your passion” isn’t simply some New Age hippie philosophy, more often than not it’s the key to financial success in affiliate marketing.  Many people are attracted to affiliate selling because there are zero barriers to entering into a market, and unlike traditional, brick-and-mortar businesses, starting an affiliate website requires zero startup capital.

Becoming an affiliate entrepreneur is ridiculously easy.  All you have to do is startup a WordPress blog (which is absolutely free), pick some products to advertise from companies such as Amazon and Clickbank, and boom, congratulations!  You’re officially an affiliate marketer!

At least for a little while, and if you’re just starting out in affiliate selling, what you should take into consideration (and what most people in the blogosphere don’t like talking about) is that most affiliate blogs are classified as derelict, i.e. the owners abandoned them a few days, weeks, or months after starting them because of the lack of business. 

The New York Times reported that as many as 95% of blogs on the internet have been abandoned by their owners and are classified as derelict.  So if you’re just getting into affiliate blogging, then you should have the proper mental image of what the industry actually looks like.  Imagine an ocean (i.e. the internet), and over 95% of the fishing vessels on that ocean (i.e. blogs) are dead, rotting, ghost ships just floating aimlessly over the water.

Now, does that statistic intimidate you?  Well you should take four things into consideration.

First, not everybody gets into blogging to make money, and there are also a lot of people who aren’t even aware of the fact that you can make money through blogging.

Second, a vast percentage of those ships belonged to the get-rich-quick crowd that almost always drop out (some of them don’t even last a week) because the Cinderella story of overnight rags-to-riches didn’t come true for them. 

Third, a lot of those ships belong to people who didn’t understand that at the end of the day, affiliate selling is a business, and just like with any other business, you need a long-term business and implementation plan as well as learning the tricks of the trade.

Finally, even if they did have a business plan, they made the mistake of choosing short-term profit over long-term passion, and if you don’t understand the difference between these two, you will shortly. 

So, even though there are zero barriers to entering into an industry and there’s no startup capital required, the fact is the failure rate for affiliate entrepreneurs is astronomically high.  There are many reasons for this failure, but one of the principle reasons is burnout and boredom. 

As affiliate marketers, they chose a niche that they weren’t that interested in, and three things happened.

A) Lack of genuine interest in their niche eventually caused them to hate having to blog about it.  How long are you going to stick to something that you eventually come to despise, especially in the first few months when (and I’m just being honest with you) commissions are incredibly few and far between?

B) Lack of knowledge of their niche quickly caused them to run out of content to publish, and whatever readership they had accumulated quickly packed up and went elsewhere as a consequence.

C) Their lack of basic knowledge about the products they were selling was immediately detected by their viewers (i.e. the entire site reeked of horse manure) which instilled an immediate distrust within their readership that completely destroyed their conversion rate.

These three insights might not be what the get rich quick marketers want to here, but if you really want to turn an affiliate blog into a profitable revenue stream, then take the third cornerstone seriously.

III) Focus on your passion, and while that passion might not be as profitable as other niches, you will earn more money in the long-term than the majority of the guys focusing in those niches (most of whom won’t even see a dime in profit).  Success will come to you for three reasons.

A) Focusing on a niche that your passionate about eliminates the “work” factor associated with blogging and will help stave off burnout, boredom, and fatigue.  Being able to monetize your passion is actually just the icing, gaining a greater knowledge about your niche through research and writing is the cake.  Why should you embrace this perception as an affiliate marketer?

B) Your passion, insights, and research collectively create a steady stream of quality content for your blog, which is truly how you increase your site traffic and conversion rates.  Focus on producing quality content first, and then the commissions will come as a reward for that content.

C) Focusing your affiliate business on your passion creates a positive feedback loop between research, writing, and commissions.  The more you research and know about your niche, the more that knowledge can be funneled into quality content, which in turn boosts conversions rates.  Conversely, the higher your readership and conversion rates are, the higher you’ll climb in the search ranks, and the more you’ll be driven to continue to research and write as you become one of the leading authorities and experts in your niche.

This brings us to our forth and final cornerstone.

IV) Embrace the “passive income” mentality towards affiliate marketing, especially at the outset.  Of course I could deceive and bamboozle you with the stereotypical…AND YOU CAN GET RICH TOO!!!  YOU”LL BE MAKING A MILLION DOLLARS WITHIN THE FIRST MONTH OF AFFILATE MARKETING!  SIGN UP NOW!

But as stated, the get-rich-quick crowd are always the first to drop out and become part of the statistic. You need to embrace a long-term business strategy if you decide to enter into this profession. 

Accept it as a given fact that in the first half-year of operation, your commissions are going to be incredibly few and far between, and as a side note, it’s never a good idea to quit your full-time job and naturally assume that affiliate marketing will provide you a full-time income, because it rarely ever does (at least at initially).

Come at affiliate marketing with the mindset of passive income, especially in the beginning when all that research and writing only nets you a few readers and commissions.  I know it can be frustrating, but what is it that you’re actually doing? 

Each article you write has value both individually as well as collectively.  Individually, you should imagine the internet as a river, and each quality post is a trout line being strung across that river, which can net you fish days, weeks, months, even years after it’s been created.

Collectively, in the first half-year of operation, what you should imagine is that you’re building a ship out of quality lumber, with each post being a plank in the construction.  Once the tide finally comes in and your blog starts gaining traction, the quality of your posts will ensure that your craft is seaworthy and has the ability to haul in a massive catch from the ocean.

Shoddy content, endorsing and selling dubious products and services, and plagiarism are practices that should be avoided like the bubonic plague, because once the tide comes in, using rotten lumber can catch up with you big time.

Conclusion – Pick long-term passion over short-term profit.  Focus your affiliate business on a niche that you’re genuinely interested in.  This will help stave off boredom and fatigue as well as provide a reservoir of quality content that is the true basis of a successful blog. 

Get rid of the rags-to-riches Cinderella mentality and embrace a long-term business strategy that accepts the fact that within the first half-year of operation, fish are going to be incredibly few and far between.  Which is fine, you should be using that time to construct quality trout lines as well as a seaworthy ship that will be able to prosper once the tide comes in.       

Cited New York Times article:


  • Affiliate Marketing; a type of performance-based marketing in which publishers reward advertisers (affiliates) a commission for each paying customer brought by the advertisers own marketing efforts.
  • Niche Blog; a blog created for the purpose marketing a specific niche market. While every blog is, in some form, a niche blog, the phrase as it applies to marketing refers to a specific type of blog.
  • Authority Blog; a high quality site that’s respected and recognized for their knowledge about one core topic. Authority sites publish trustworthy information that is useful to people.
  • Affiliate Program; an automated marketing program that involves Web advertisers (or a webmaster) who work in conjunction with merchants to provide a financial benefit for each other. Merchants recruit webmasters to place affiliate widgets and banner ads on their Web site. The merchant website provides commissions or other incentives to participating sites for diverting traffic to their site.

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