Affiliate marketing is a powerful way to make money online. But with so many scams out there, it’s hard to know what’s legit and what’s not.
So, is affiliate marketing legit? In short, yes! Affiliate marketing is a legitimate business model that allows you to earn commissions by promoting other people’s products.
If you’re looking to break into the world of affiliate marketing, you’ll need to research the available affiliate marketing programs and networks and see which ones are a good fit for you.
VH-info’s list of the top affiliate networks is a great starting point. And remember, when it comes to affiliate marketing, you need knowledge and grit. From there, the only way is up!
In this blog, we’ll cover everything you need to know about affiliate marketing from how it works to common scams and how to avoid them.
We’ll also answer frequently asked questions such as “Can you really make money with affiliate marketing?” and “What is the best way to promote affiliate links?”
So, whether you’re new to affiliate marketing or an experienced marketer looking for tips on avoiding scams, keep reading!
What is Affiliate Marketing?
Affiliate marketing is where a person promotes products or services of a business on their website, social media, or other platforms, and earns a commission when their marketing efforts drive a sale or other desired action.
The affiliate sends traffic to the business’s website through links and content, and the business rewards them by giving them a percentage of the revenue from each sale or lead generated. It’s a performance-based arrangement where the business only pays when the affiliate’s marketing produces actual results. The affiliate gets to monetize their content while the business benefits from expanded marketing reach.
How Does Affiliate Marketing Work?
Here is a brief overview of how affiliate marketing works:
- Businesses sign up with affiliate networks and create an affiliate program, offering commissions to affiliates who drive actions like sales or leads.
- Affiliates join the affiliate network, browse offers, and apply to promote products/services they are interested in.
- When accepted into an affiliate program, the affiliate receives a unique tracking link to use when promoting the merchant’s offers.
- Affiliates drive traffic to the merchant’s site using various marketing tactics like blogging, social media, email newsletters, SEO, paid ads, etc.
- When a visitor clicks the affiliate’s tracking link and completes a desired action (e.g. makes a purchase), the affiliate earns a commission.
- The affiliate network handles tracking affiliate sales and distributing commissions to affiliates. Affiliates can access performance reports in their network dashboard.
- Merchants only pay commissions on results driven by affiliates. It’s performance-based marketing for them.
- Affiliates are motivated to drive more conversions as it increases their earnings. Top affiliates can make a sizable income.
By now you must be getting the picture – businesses recruit affiliates, affiliates choose offers and drive traffic using their own platforms, and sales conversions result in commissions for the affiliate from the merchant. The affiliate network facilitates tracking and payment.
Now let’s move on to the million dollar question, we’ve all been waiting for!
Is Affiliate Marketing Legit? or is it a Scam?
Affiliate marketing is a legitimate way to make money on the internet by promoting products from companies. Big, trustworthy companies like Amazon reward people (affiliates) with money when they help sell stuff or get new customers. It’s not a scam. It works like this: Affiliates only get paid when they actually help a business make sales. So, it’s fair for everyone. Some sneaky schemes promise quick money, but real affiliate marketing is a proper online job that allows you to have much time for yourself. If you put in the effort, you can make good money by recommending products and building an audience.
Can You Really Make Money From Affiliate Marketing?
Absolutely, you can make money through affiliate marketing, but it’s not a quick and easy thing. It’s like a real business where you earn money by promoting products from partner companies on your affiliate website or social media. Some skilled affiliates can make thousands of dollars a month if they get lots of people to buy the stuff they recommend. It’s not a get-rich-quick scheme, though.
You need to put in effort, create good content, and keep at it. Companies like Amazon and eBay partner with people to help them make money from their websites and social accounts. If you work hard and stick with it, affiliate marketing is a genuine way to earn money online.
Examples of Legit & Successful Affiliate Marketers
Here are some examples of legitimate and successful affiliate marketers:
- Michelle Schroeder-Gardner – Creator of Making Sense of Cents, a personal finance blog. She earns over $100,000 per month primarily from affiliate partnerships.
- Pat Flynn – Creator of Smart Passive Income, an education business and blog. He reportedly earns over $100,000 per month in affiliate income.
- Sean Cannell – Runs Think Media, a YouTube channel teaching video and influencer marketing. He earns six figures a month via affiliates.
- Lauren McManus – Creator of Wanderlust Worker, a travel blog earning up to $25,000 per month largely through travel affiliate programs.
- Darren Rowse – Founder of ProBlogger, an authority site on blogging. He earns a full-time income with affiliate partnerships.
- Spencer Haws – Founder of Niche Pursuits and contributor to Authority Hacker. He builds affiliate sites focused on specific niches.
- Anna Copus – Blogger behind She Takes on the World. She left her job to blog full-time, earning $10,000+ per month with affiliates.
The common thread is providing high-quality, niche-focused content that engages readers and converts visitors into buyers for affiliate partners. These examples show that with hard work, affiliate marketing can become a lucrative business.
What are affiliate marketing scams?
Affiliate marketing scams involve dishonest practices that exploit affiliates and potential customers. Scammers deceive affiliates into promoting fake or low-quality products/services, or promise unrealistic income through pyramid schemes.
They may also engage in cookie stuffing to fraudulently hijack affiliate traffic, or commit transaction fraud by generating illegitimate commissions through fake clicks or spoofed traffic.
Some shady vendors promote “get rich quick” schemes promising you’ll make lots of money as an affiliate without much effort. They may charge upfront fees, make unrealistic income claims, or push you to promote sketchy products.
These are scams and it is important to be aware of the warning signs. Legitimate affiliate programs are free to join and do not guarantee instant riches. As with any business, it takes real work to grow an audience and generate commissions.
Signs of a scam include requirements to pay fees, pushy sales tactics, claims you can earn lots fast, and pressure to promote questionable products. Real affiliate marketing allows you to partner with reputable brands to earn commissions on sales you generate through marketing. But beware of “too good to be true” offers.
What are the reasons behind affiliate marketing scams?
There are a few main reasons why affiliate marketing scams happen:
- Easy money temptation – The idea of earning passive income or getting rich quickly is tempting for people. Scammers take advantage of this desire.
- Lack of regulation – There is little regulation or oversight of the affiliate industry, making it easy for scammers to set up schemes.
- Newness of the industry – Affiliate marketing is still relatively new, so some people are uninformed and fall for scams.
- People’s vulnerabilities – Scammers target people who are desperate, inexperienced online, or optimistic about making money on the internet.
- Greed – Dishonest affiliate marketers want to make money themselves, so they create scams instead of real businesses.
- Lure of recurring fees – Some scams charge recurring monthly or annual fees, creating ongoing revenue for the scammers.
- False promises – Scammers know what people want to hear, like promises of easy passive income, so they make false claims.
Is affiliate marketing a pyramid scheme?
No, affiliate marketing is not like a pyramid scheme. In affiliate marketing, people earn money by promoting products and only get paid when those products are sold through their efforts. It’s a genuine way to make money based on performance.
On the other hand, pyramid schemes involve making money by recruiting new members, and the money flows up through recruitment, not from product sales. Pyramid schemes are not sustainable and eventually collapse, but affiliate marketing is about real work, promoting products, and earning commissions. While there are scams out there, affiliate marketing is a legitimate way to earn money through marketing actual products or services.
8 Common affiliate marketing scams
We’ve done all the hard work for you. Here are 8 common affiliate marketing scams explained below:
- Fake products or services – Scammers create affiliate programs for non-existent or low-quality products just to generate affiliate commissions from sales. Customers end up receiving fake or worthless products.
- Get-rich-quick schemes – These scams promise you can make lots of fast, easy money through affiliate marketing. But they’re false promises aimed at taking advantage of people hoping to get rich quickly online.
- Elaborate cookie-stuffing – Shady affiliates automate clicking their own affiliate links to store cookies on users’ browsers to earn commissions. But no real sales were generated. This “cookie stuffing” is a form of fraud.
- Transaction fraud – Dishonest affiliates falsify sales or leads to generate commissions. Things like using bots, fake accounts, and stolen payment info to pretend purchases happened when they didn’t.
- Bot traffic – Some affiliates use bots or low-quality traffic sources to artificially inflate visits, clicks, and actions. The bot traffic isn’t real, but the affiliate profits from the phony activity.
- Fake leads – Bad affiliates submit fake lead info like email addresses to try to generate an unearned commission as if a real lead was acquired. This falsified data earns them payouts.
- Typosquatting – Shady affiliates register domains that are misspellings of popular websites to redirect that traffic to their own affiliate links instead of the intended destination.
- Website cloning – Affiliates copy a website, sometimes even stealing content, and add their own affiliate links to earn commissions from traffic who think it’s the original site.
Examples of Affiliate marketing scams
Affiliate marketing scams try to trick people in different ways.
Here are some examples:
- Cookie stuffing is when a website secretly puts cookies on your browser. Then if you buy something, the scammer gets credit for referring you even though they didn’t.
- Transaction fraud is when scammers use stolen credit cards or accounts to make fake purchases through an affiliate link. This gets them a commission for sales that aren’t real.
- Click fraud is when scammers use bots or fake sites to generate fake clicks on affiliate links. The merchant thinks those clicks came from real customers.
- Fake products are when scammers create ads or sites for products that don’t really exist. If you try to buy it, you won’t get anything but the scammer gets a commission.
- URL hijacking is when scammers make fake sites with mistyped URLs that look like real sites. People land on the fakes and buy things thinking it’s the real site.
- Fake leads happen when scammers use bots to generate leads and referrals that look real but aren’t.
- Get-rich-quick schemes promise you’ll make big money fast through their program but it’s a lie.
- Ad hijacking is when scammers make fake ads on Google that look real. People click them thinking it’s a legit search result.
How to avoid affiliate marketing scams?
Here are some tips to avoid affiliate marketing scams:
- Research companies before joining programs – Make sure the merchant has a legitimate business with real products or services. Check reviews online.
- Beware “get rich quick” claims – Any program promising easy money without work is suspect. Achieving income takes effort.
- Watch for high commissions – Scams often tout commissions over 50% to entice affiliates. Typical commissions are 1-20%.
- Don’t pay upfront fees – Avoid programs requiring you to pay for access. Most legit programs are free to join.
- Check for fake traffic sources – Programs allowing bot traffic, pop-unders, and blatant spam likely indicate dishonest practices.
- Review promotional guidelines – Scam programs may encourage questionable tactics like cookie stuffing or trademark infringement.
- Check who you’re paid by – Commissions should come from the merchant, not the affiliate network or other entity.
- Watch for clones, typosquatters, etc – Scammers mimic popular brands and sites but redirect to their own links.
- Verify IT infrastructure – Shady programs often have amateur sites and poor tracking compared to professional platforms.
- Trust your gut – If a program seems too good to be true or pushes unethical methods, it’s better to avoid it.
Exercising caution, using common sense practices, and verifying legitimacy are key ways to avoid falling victim to affiliate scams.
What Is Affiliate Fraud?
Affiliate fraud refers to dishonest or deceptive tactics affiliates use to try to illegitimately earn commissions. This includes things like faking sales or leads, cookie stuffing, bot traffic, trademark infringement, and other shady practices.
Affiliate marketing fraud is when affiliates break the terms of an affiliate program in order to generate commissions in ways that are unethical, misleading, or illegal. It harms merchants, customers, and legitimate affiliates.
Is High Ticket Affiliate Marketing Legit?
Yes, high-ticket affiliate marketing is a legitimate business model. It refers to promoting high-priced products or services that pay commissions of several hundred or thousand dollars per sale. Industries like finance, real estate, and B2B services commonly offer these high-ticket affiliate programs. Reputable merchants like financial advisors or SaaS companies provide real value and pay substantial commissions to affiliates who generate verified sales or leads. High-ticket programs can be very lucrative for skilled affiliates.
How Serious Are Affiliate Marketing Scams?
Affiliate scams can be quite serious, causing substantial financial and reputational damage. Scammers steal commissions and traffic from legitimate businesses and affiliates. Customers get defrauded by fake products, services, and deceptive marketing. Major scams have cost companies millions in lost revenue and legal damages.
They’ve also eroded consumer trust. While scams don’t define the entire industry, dishonest actors have taken advantage of the low barriers to entry in affiliate marketing. Maintaining ethics, detecting fraud, and prioritizing compliance helps the industry thrive.
How Do Affiliate Marketing Scams Hurt Merchants?
Affiliate scams divert profits away from merchants to dishonest affiliates through fake conversions, bot traffic, and other fraud. Merchants have to pay inflated commissions on bogus sales that never happened. Scammy affiliates also damage the merchant’s brand reputation by promoting questionable products or using unethical marketing tactics in the merchant’s name. This destroys trust with customers. Affiliate scams ultimately cost merchants money and credibility. Merchants face revenue losses, legal liability, higher compliance costs, and public backlash when scammers exploit affiliate programs.
How to Spot an Affiliate Marketing Scam?
Here are signs of an affiliate marketing scam to watch for:
- Claims of getting rich fast with little effort – Legit programs require work.
- Pressure to buy “necessary” products or training – You shouldn’t have to pay to join.
- Pushy sales tactics using scarcity or urgency – Tactics to manipulate you to join or buy.
- Too good to be true commissions – 50-100% commissions likely indicate dishonest practices.
- Cookie stuffing, bot traffic use encouraged – Unethical means of generating conversions.
- Sketchy products and imitation brands – Scams often use fake or copied products.
Trust your gut. Legitimate programs don’t need to resort to manipulative or questionable tactics.
What is the best affiliate marketing program?
There is no single “best” affiliate program – the ideal one depends on your niche, audience, and goals.
However, here are some top affiliate programs to consider:
- Amazon Associates – The largest affiliate program. Huge product selection and name recognition. Commissions up to 10%.
- ShareASale – Popular affiliate network with over 4000 merchants across categories. Average 8% commissions.
- Rakuten – Large affiliate network with strong rewards site integration. Average commission of 4%.
- CJ Affiliate – Long-running network focused on established brands. Many big-name retailers.
- Impact – Leading CPA affiliate network focused on conversions for specific actions.
- ClickBank – Focuses on digital products like ebooks. Higher commissions around 50-75%.
- RewardStyle – Popular for fashion/lifestyle influencers. Commission on apparel, accessories, and beauty.
- Ebay Partner Network – Earn commissions promoting eBay listings. Established name in marketplaces.
- Airbnb – For travel affiliates. Generous commissions on booking value.
- FlexOffers – Broad advertiser base across verticals like finance, home services, and more.
What Is The Best Way To Promote Affiliate Links?
The best way is to provide value content that engages your audience and sparks interest in the affiliate product naturally. Share useful information, tips, and reviews focused on the product itself, not just the affiliate link. Build trust and rapport with your audience. Promote affiliate offers relevant to their needs.
Provide links in context, like at the bottom of a helpful blog post, leading to the product’s landing page. Quality content and genuine recommendations convert visitors better than aggressive link pushing.
Can I really make money with affiliate marketing?
You can make money with affiliate marketing, but it’s not a quick way to get rich. It’s more like building a real business, such as an affiliate marketing website. If you work hard to attract people to your site and convince them to buy things you recommend, you can earn money through commissions.
But, it’s not a fast process, and you need patience. The methodology is simple – regularly creating valuable content, promoting the right affiliate products, and improving your methods: All these can gradually make it a reliable way to earn money online. Stay dedicated, and you can establish a steady income through affiliate marketing.
Can affiliate marketing be a legitimate source of income?
Affiliate marketing is a legitimate way to generate income online. Numerous successful affiliates have built profitable businesses through this model. Legitimate programs offer commission rates for successful referrals or sales, enabling individuals to create a passive income stream. It is recognized as a legitimate business model in the online marketing industry.
Is there a downside to affiliate marketing?
One potential downside is that you don’t have direct control over the products or services you are promoting as an affiliate. The merchant determines the quality, pricing, delivery, customer support, etc. If they make decisions that reflect poorly on their brand, it can indirectly impact the perception of you and your website as well.
However, this risk is mitigated by only partnering with reputable companies that align with your values and building trust with your audience through high-quality content.
In conclusion, affiliate marketing is a legitimate and effective way to earn money online. While there are scams and fraudulent practices associated with it, they can be avoided by being cautious and doing thorough research. Many successful affiliate marketers have built profitable businesses through ethical and transparent practices.
It’s important to choose reputable affiliate programs, promote genuine products or services, and build trust with your audience. With dedication, hard work, and the right strategies, you can make a significant income from affiliate marketing. So, if you’re willing to put in the effort and learn the necessary skills, affiliate marketing can be a legitimate source of income for you.