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Why Publishers Fail at Affiliate Marketing
Image Credit Clive Power Creative Commons license

Why Publishers Fail at Affiliate Marketing


The affiliate model is thriving. There were nearly 14,000 new applicants to Affiliate Window last year, but only some of these go on to actually be successful so what differentiates those that make it and those that do not?

In my experience, success (or lack thereof) comes down to three core concepts.

The business idea

Perhaps the most fundamental of the three, a solid business idea is of supreme importance. Without added value to an end consumer, there’s rarely a reason for someone to visit your website. I have often had this type of conversation with website owners who put a banner on their site and expect the money to start rolling in (if only it were that easy). I encourage new publishers to think about the way people shop at the moment and ask themselves the following.

  • Are you making it easier for people to shop?
  • Do you provide information that cannot be received elsewhere?
  • Are there other sites who do what you do and how do you compare?
  • How will you be getting traffic?

The publishers who struggle to answer these questions are typically the ones that do not have a solid business idea and in most cases do not end up being successful.

The site itself

It is a hugely underrated skill having the know-how to build a website that not just serves its purpose, but also has the required foundations to attract website visitors in the first place. A website will not survive without traffic and I have seen in the past some truly great business ideas fail because the owners did not know how to get enough eyeballs on their website. 

Traffic aside, it is also technically challenging to add and maintain affiliate links. Most of the bloggers I speak to complain about the complexity involved in monetising their site through these means and it does put some people off. With fierce competition from ad serving platforms and Google AdSense (both of which are plug-and-play solutions), affiliate marketing will have to raise its game to continue attracting new businesses.

Nitty gritty

Commitment, perseverance and patience are three characteristics any long serving successful affiliate will demonstrate. Newer publishers can often underestimate the hard slog that comes with being a startup. The understanding that exclusives and favourable terms are earned through performance rather than for good business ideas can sometimes be a surprise too.

Ultimately, building a successful business will not happen overnight, it requires extensive relationship building, targeted marketing and hard work, but those that put in the hard graft and have considered all angles really do benefit in the long run.

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Edwyn McFarlane

Edwyn McFarlane

An expert in publisher strategy and a keen product stakeholder for many of AWIN.

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