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Why Relying on Affiliate Income is Dangerous (and What to Do About it)

Affiliate marketing is a brilliant strategy to generate income by selling someone else’s products online. You don’t have to manage sales, shipping, returns, or customer service calls. With the right strategy, you can earn a good living from affiliate income. However, relying alone on your affiliate income is risky.

As an affiliate marketer, you have no control whatsoever over the backbone of your business. If the company goes down, your income will disappear. With that said, affiliate marketing is less risky when you implement safeguards and strategies to cover the potential pitfalls.

Whether you’ve been selling affiliate products for a while, or you’re just getting started monetizing your website as an affiliate, here’s why relying on affiliate income puts your livelihood at risk.

1. Your products can disappear at any time

Affiliate Marketing Spending Forecast in the US

What would you do if you built a $250,000 yearly income around five affiliate products and two of them disappeared from the market? How long would it take to find replacements? What if there aren’t any replacements?

Nothing will put a damper on your affiliate marketing income like watching your top selling items disappear.

There are so many reasons products with affiliate programs disappear. Sometimes they get recalled or the manufacturer goes out of business. Other times a government regulation renders them illegal or subject to extensive documentation requirements and the business just folds.

Disappearing affiliate products will force you to start over

It’s not easy to replace a popular product you’ve been selling for a while. Sure, you can copy and paste new links into your webpages (or change your custom redirects). However, you’ll have to start over with content creation and SEO.

When you rely on income from a highly niche product, your website content tends to form around that product. That’s okay while the product is available, but it can make it hard to find a replacement.

Think about it. If a majority of your webpage content is specifically tailored to discuss a niche product, you can’t easily change that content when you find a replacement. You’ll have to do more than just replace your affiliate link – you’ll need to reword the content, retire those webpages, or let people know that product is no longer available and offer the replacement.

This task gets even harder when you’ve accumulated a large quantity of content. How many web pages have you ranked in the search engines over the years for your product’s keywords? Without a replacement product, you’ll have to start over with content creation and SEO.

How to mitigate the effects of disappearing affiliate products

Here’s how to mitigate the damage should any of your affiliate products disappear.

  • Launch multiple affiliate websites. Niche websites need to stay niche. You can’t start selling kids’ toys on a website built to sell fitness equipment for adults. However, you can start several different niche websites.
  • Sell products from different companies. Diversification will help mitigate the damage from losing an affiliate product.
  • Approach companies with good products about creating an affiliate program. If you can’t find other companies with affiliate programs, start contacting companies to inquire about having them create a program.

If you’re really good at affiliate marketing, ask companies if they’d like to partner with you. You’ll likely have to prove your marketing abilities to earn a decent commission, but if you have the skills and you believe in the product, it’s worth the effort.

  • Start a review website. When you run a product review website, it’s much easier to switch up your products because you’ll be reviewing different products on a regular basis. Your site will earn a reputation in the search engines as a review website and people will expect your content to be diverse.

When a product disappears, you can remove your affiliate links and update the content to let people know the product is no longer available. You’ll already have plenty of other product links throughout your site, so losing a few won’t hit you hard.

2. The terms of your affiliate account can change

When you sign up for an affiliate account, the terms of your agreement are subject to change at any time without warning. Sometimes companies will send out an email to their affiliates to let them know things are changing, but you can’t count on that always happening.

You can’t predict what terms will change. For example, sometimes when a company fears being investigated, even if they’ve done nothing wrong, they’ll stop allowing links on websites and only allow links to be sent via email. This is a precaution to fly under the radar until the “scare” is over.

If you don’t catch on to this change in terms, and you don’t remove your affiliate links from your website, your account can get terminated when the company finds out. When a company changes this type of rule, you can bet they’re searching for published affiliate links through Google.

3. Your commissions might be reduced

Some affiliate programs offer multiple commission levels based on a variety of factors, including your website traffic, your monthly sales, and more. No matter what tier you’re on, be prepared to have your commissions reduced. It can happen at any time, even if you’re generating the most sales out of all affiliates.

For example, if a company experiences an increase in the price of raw materials, they’re going to need to raise their prices to cover the cost. They might also decide to hand out a smaller affiliate commission per sale.

A commission reduction might not be significant, but it will add up. For instance, say you sell an average of 100 units for $50 every month. That’s $500 in monthly profits. Now, say your commission is reduced to $30 per unit. You’ll immediately go from earning $500 to $300 in profits each month. In one year, that’s a $2,400 loss.

4. You risk getting terminated from the affiliate program

Affiliate programs often have strict participation terms. Sometimes those terms are so strict it’s hard to participate. For example, some companies don’t allow affiliates to use a custom domain name. To participate, you must use one of their pre-made affiliate pages.

These pages are next to impossible to rank in the search engines, which means you have to rely on paid search and a solid email list. If you violate this rule, you can lose your account.

Although rules vary between companies, many affiliate programs have the following rules:

  • You can’t bid on branded keywords for PPC ads
  • You can’t use the brand or product name in your domain name
  • You can’t advertise or discuss the product in a way that doesn’t accurately represent the product or align with the manufacturer’s values
  • You can’t promote the product or service on a website containing questionable content
  • You must comply with all state, local, and federal laws
  • You can’t copyright, patent, or trademark the company’s product or images in any way
  • You can’t use your own graphics to promote the product or service

If a company with an affiliate program suspects that you’ve violated any of their terms, they won’t usually talk to you first – they’ll just terminate your account and send you an automated email. While you can appeal in some cases, your affiliate links won’t work until and unless you are cleared and reinstated.

5. You’ll lose income if your products earn a bad reputation

If your product or service earns a bad reputation, you can definitely expect to lose income. Once a company earns a bad reputation, people begin boycotting their products and services. At that point, there’s not much you can do to save your income.

If any of your affiliate products are targeted for boycotts, you’ll probably still sell some, but your profits will diminish.

You can try to rebrand or clone another website, but rebranding online takes years.

4 Tips to maintain stable affiliate income

4 Tips to maintain stable affiliate income

Follow these 4 tips to make your affiliate income as secure as possible.

1. Diversify your affiliate companies

Are you selling ten affiliate products from the same company? If that company goes down, your income from those ten products will also disappear. Whenever possible, diversify your affiliate products by selling items from different companies.

There’s nothing wrong about selling a bunch of products from the same company, but try to incorporate several companies’ products into your portfolio of products.

The earlier you do this, the better. It takes time to rank your web pages in the search engines, and the more pages you produce early on, the higher they’ll rank when you end up having to rely on your alternative companies.

2. Prepare backup options ahead of time

Always have backup options for affiliate products. Sign up for accounts as early as possible and have a plan in place for making the switch if necessary.

3. Avoid building a website around one product

The biggest mistake you can make is having a website that exists for the sole purpose of selling one affiliate product. While there are some products that will be around for decades, you can’t know that ahead of time. Any product you sell can potentially disappear.

If you’re going to build an entire website around one product, you should be contacting the company for a partnership rather than selling as an affiliate. If you can truly generate legitimate traffic and get exclusive conversions, they’ll give you a bigger cut.

4. Use redirects for your affiliate links

If you ever need to change your affiliate links, you’ll have an easier time when you set them up with redirects. For example, say you publish 300 blog articles with affiliate links. Later, you have to change those links because the products are no longer available.

If you’re running your website on a CMS like WordPress, you can use a database search and replace plugin to find and replace all instances of your affiliate links. However, that still takes time. Do you even have a master list of all the affiliate links you’ve ever generated? How will you know you’ve changed them all?

On the other hand, using a redirect makes everything easy. For each affiliate link you want to publish, you simply create an empty directory and redirect that directory to the appropriate affiliate link. For example:

First, create a directory like /CoolProduct on your web server. Choose a simple name that represents the product. Next, set a redirect for YourSite.com/CoolProduct to go to your affiliate link.

If you need to change your affiliate link in the future, all you need to do is change the redirect destination for /CoolProduct in your file manager. This is one change at the server level as opposed to making hundreds of changes in your database.

Do you need a website for your affiliate marketing?

Are you getting started with affiliate marketing and thinking about how you’ll build your website? Maybe you’ve heard about all the easy web building platforms out there, like WordPress, Weebly, Wix, and Webflow. If you don’t have a website yet because you don’t know where to start, website.design can help.

We’ll build your affiliate marketing website

Affiliate Marketing Statistics Infographic

At website.design, we build professional websites for individuals and businesses that are fully customized and tailored to their needs. When you work with us, we’ll build your affiliate website on a platform that puts you in charge of your content. Contact us today for a free quote or to learn more about our services.

Ryan Nead
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