Why Affiliate Marketing Instead of Building a Product? My Answer
The other day I started reading a long winded question on the Just Start subreddit which was titled: “are people here still trying to build affiliate review sites in 2019? Seriously, why not create a product to sell instead?“. It actually brought up a lot of good points and missed the mark on others. Since I have been on both sides of this equation, I wanted to give my opinion on the matter.
Let’s start at the top and work our way down.
Affiliate Marketing is JUST Marketing
People start off their journey in affiliate marketing for lots of different reasons. Some are dragged in by people promising easy returns on their time and money, others are dragged in for “passive” income (there is no such thing), and some just want something productive to do with their time. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter why people start in affiliate marketing. What they learn along the way is the important part.
Marketing is the most important skill someone can learn.
EVERYONE is a marketer whether they like it or not. Each day you have to learn to market a product, market a website, or market yourself. Applying for a new job? That resume you put together and the interview you will go to is your chance to market yourself to the company. Starting an affiliate website? That content you put up is your chance to market yourself to visitors and the outreach emails you send are marketing your VALUE to the receiving party. All of this is relatively easy once you learn what you are doing and how to conduct yourself, but for most of us, it is learned.
Affiliate marketing is just a stepping stone to an education.
For some of us, $1-2k a month after a year of work on a website may not seem like much, but for MOST, that is enough money to let them “breathe”. It is enough to cover their car payment, their mortgage, and maybe some bills. However, if you have managed to make $1-2k a month, then you have most likely learned enough skills along the way to pretty easily 10X that profit. Remember, the first dollar is always the most important, as it validates what you did works. Along the way, you probably learn a little bit of each of these skills IF you are constantly testing:
- Social Media Marketing
- Influencer Marketing
- Paid Traffic
- SEO Optimization
- Affiliate Relationships
Just because some of these may provide a higher ROI when you have your own product, does not mean you shouldn’t be using them while building out an affiliate website. I still have websites that drive 100k visitors a month to some of my affiliate websites from work I did 4 years ago.
It all works, but you need to learn how to market before you even consider creating your own product. Without this skill, you will end up creating a product and having no customers…then going on internet forums and asking “what do I do next?”.
For many, affiliate marketing is where they get their feet wet and learn these skills.
SEO Provides The Best ROI That I Know Of
Search Engine Optimization is the best ROI on the internet. If you think otherwise, I would love to hear from you in the comments.
Yes, it can take a long time to get right. It can take a while to rank your content/products. It can even be a huge pain to reach out for links. When it comes down to it though, once you get it working, it will provide returns for YEARS based on the hard work you did at the beginning.
Let’s compare this to influencer marketing (which is sort of what reaching out to websites for links is anyway). Let’s say you have your own product and you have the choice of reaching out to influencers on Instagram, or ranking content. Let’s also say that the Instagram influencer has 500k followers and the content you want to rank has 100k search volume for your main keyword.
If you are contacting real profiles on Instagram, anywhere between 30-50% engagement per post is decent. That means that if a 500k follower account posts something, you want at least 30-50% of their followers interacting with each post. This usually costs $1,000 per 100,000 followers give or take. In this case, it would cost you $5,000 and you would reach 150,000-250,000 people. Best case scenario, you are paying 2 cents per view.
Compare that to SEO and ranking content with infinite upside. Your goal is to rank for a 100k search volume keyword. You get a piece of content written (either by yourself, or pay someone). This piece of content has to be the BEST there is on the subject/product. This is what so many people throwing 100k words of content on their website a month miss. This content is 99.99% trash filler content. All people are trying to do is arbitrage Google into ranking them. If you actually take the time and effort or pay for that time and effort into content that will actually provide VALUE to your customer, then you will win. This will bring you the best ROI there is.
So let’s say you end up paying $500 for the best article possible on your subject. Then let’s assume you have the same budget so you spend $4,500 on reaching out to other websites (in a way these are also influencers) to get guest posts, article mentions, or just start a relationship. This is more than enough to rank your content #1 for your keyword.
Now, not only are you funneling traffic from multiple other sites to your own web property each month from those guest post sites, they are ALSO ranking in Google bringing even more awareness to your site. Don’t forget that you now rank #1 for your 100k search volume keyword. If the #1 keyword gets about 30% of the search traffic clicks for that keyword, you are bringing in about 30k visitors a month.
At the end of 12 months, your Instagram influencer campaign has brought in maybe 300k people (or views of your product/website). 250k of those from the initial post, and maybe 50k over the year. Your SEO campaign has brought in 360k visitors DIRECTLY to your website. These are people who are directly interested in what you are offering because THEY searched for it. Unlike Instagram where people are just scrolling through, SEO is targeted. On top of 360k direct visitors, you have a constant drip of visitors funneling from all the content and relationships you have built with other websites in your niche.
SEO provides almost unlimited upside.
Don’t get me wrong, every kind of continuous paid campaigns can provide huge ROI and allow you to test products/services quickly before coming to market, but once you find something that is working, nothing works as well as SEO does.
Your Website Provides Control
One of the comments in the original thread was that the “product” of affiliate marketing is really the site itself. I 100% agree with this, but the real power behind your website is the ability to control the traffic that you have.
If you have gone through some of the ups and downs of affiliate marketing and managed to build yourself a high traffic website, you now have the ability to move them around. You build a review website? You now control what products your customers see and where they go after they click. Built a resource website? Awesome, you are now in control with how you help your visitors with that specific resource.
What most affiliate marketers forget about, or dismiss, is KEEPING your customer (web traffic). With so many of these sites, the visitor lands on the page because of SEO/paid traffic, clicks your affiliate link, and you make $5.
Great! That is also probably the last $5 you will make from that visitor…ever.
Everyone overlooks push notifications and the email list you can build once you have a high traffic website! This provides you the ultimate control. You now have converted that visitor into someone who has found value in your product (website), and you can market to them over and over again no matter what type of website/service/product you are selling.
Which is why…
Affiliate Marketing Is A Stepping Stone
Once you have learned the lessons that affiliate marketing can teach you, then I do think you should create your own product. I know many failed product creators, but I know far fewer failed product creators that already have an audience they built with affiliate marketing.
Creating your own product is 100% easier when you have money to throw into it that came from the website itself. Not only that, but you already control the traffic you have, so it is the perfect transition.
Have an Amazon Review website where you are selling 50k a month of specific product? Read every single review of that product, figure out what is wrong with it, and fix it yourself. Launch your FBA private label product and direct all your traffic there. You are now earning commissions on everything else on your website and drastically increasing your earnings with your private label product because YOU control the traffic source.
Have a store where Merch would sell? Create some designs, toss them up on Merch by Amazon and direct your traffic there. You now control the traffic and will make extra royalty on the side without any extra work from your side.
Have a resource site that is mostly evergreen articles on a particular subject? Put them into a book, put it up on Kindle/ACX, and collect extra revenue without ANY more work. YOU control the traffic!
Have a website where your customers are spending too much time in their particular niche/hobby? Use your affiliate marketing profits to create a software that will speed everything up. You now have recurring software income and affiliate income because again, YOU control the traffic!
Wrapping It Up
Marketing is simply finding a pain point and solving it. If you can do that, it doesn’t matter what you are selling or how you are doing it, you will make money.
If you are actually helping people, you will probably also have a good time as well.
This is just my 2 cents, take it as you will!