Is Affiliate Marketing Worth It? Should You Start in 2024?

Is affiliate marketing worth it in 2024?

The short answer is: yes, but there obviously are a lot of nuances and caveats at play here.

Affiliate marketing is still worth it in the sense that as a marketing channel more and more companies are jumping on and are spending more than ever. And I can’t see this trend reversing any time soon.

At the same time… do you as fledgling online publisher still stand a chance? Especially in the light of AI and the mushrooming of affiliate marketing gurus (which hints at the gold rush being over)?

This article answers those questions and more.

The elephant in the room: AI, ChatGPT and Bard

Odds are that you stumbled upon this article thinking: affiliate marketing seems like a pretty neat business model, but what’s the point now that the AI arms race is in full swing. Won’t content websites be a thing of the past in a couple of years?

First and foremost, I don’t have a crystal ball and like everyone else it’s impossible for me to completely predict in what ways AI will transform search and the internet. My guess is that it will be pretty immense.

Basically, I think the outlook for sites shooting for simple informational queries looks pretty grim. Featured snippets and other SERP features already ate up a fair bit of this kind of traffic, and with generative AI this trend is probably only going to accelerate.

New AI generated Google search engine

Affiliate marketing – though it also might take a bit of a hit – will be more insulated, however. For serious purchasing decisions, people will still want to learn about other people’s first-hand experience.

AI won’t be able to actually feel and test products – it can at most rehash what blogs and user generated reviews say. This is why I believe there will remain a need for human-generated product advise for some time to come.

And what about all of those gurus then? Surely the affiliate gold rush has to be over by now?

The internet is rife with affiliate marketing gurus.

Given the omnipresence of all these gurus, you might have a nagging suspicion that the ship on affiliate marketing has sailed. After all, during the end of the gold rush it were the people selling shovels who made the most money – not folks doing the digging.

There’s an interesting paradox here though. Yes – almost all the valuable information on affiliate marketing is up for grabs. Hence, there’s no barrier to entry and thus there is no money to be made any more. Right?

Well, what you might underestimate is how much of a barrier to entry effort and consistency is.

Doing affiliate marketing is hard. You can watch YouTube videos and blog posts about affiliate marketing all you like and get all amped up. But at the end of the day, you have to put your head down and put in the work.

All the great information on affiliate marketing out there doesn’t mean anything because most people will fail to act on it. That’s why there are still plenty of opportunities in affiliate marketing left.

But in order to seize upon these opportunities, some approaches are more effective than others. More on that below.

When is affiliate marketing worth it?

If you’re willing to do the following, then affiliate marketing in 2024 might still be worth it for you.

You’re willing to invest in becoming a brand

Gone are the days of rinky-dink affiliate sites with fake personas that look like this:

Example of a low-quality affiliate site

Sure, it’s possible to grow and even make some good money with such sites for a while. But the outcome is always the same:

Traffic trajectory of a low-quality affiliate site

Your traffic gets slashed and with it goes your income.

And with the advent of AI, it’s really just a race to the bottom with these kind of sites. After all, anyone can spin them up with very little effort now that content production isn’t a bottleneck anymore.

If you’re going to start with affiliate marketing in 2024, I recommend you work on developing a brand. A site which garners respect in the industry through expert-level content, a well-crafted and unique design and content that comes at you from multiple channels. For instance, you can blend written content with a YouTube channel.

Does this sound like a lot of work to you? Well, it is. But so is growing that rinky-dink affiliate site. That will require you to do a lot of “SEO stuff.” While when you’re creating and building a brand, you naturally tend to “do SEO by NOT doing SEO.” Funny enough, this approach tends to be a lot more effective over the long haul.  

Doing this allows you to future-proof your site – especially in a post-AI world.

You love learning and are looking to consistently level up your skills

Are you into videogames or were you when you were younger? Then affiliate marketing might be the perfect fit. Just like in videogames where you level up your character and have to study the game mechanics to get better (and keep experimenting with new approaches to stay on top), affiliate marketing requires you in a similar manner to keep honing your craft.

Yes, the central pillars of ranking on Google don’t change that much – create good and relevant content underpinned by authoritativeness – but what this exactly means subtly changes and shifts over time. Being aware of this and enjoying the process of becoming more knowledgeable and better in all aspects of affiliate marketing, is crucial to your continued success.

You’re okay with testing the products you’re promoting

Sure, if you’re Forbes you get to rank affiliate pages without having ever laid a finger on the product you’re promoting. But you’re not Forbes, nor are you any of the affiliate marketers who jumped in several years ago and have their websites by now comfortably lodged in the SERPs.

Testing the products you’re promoting not only gives you unique insights and imagery (whether through photos, videos or screencaps). It also allows you to become a true expert in your field which cannot be done by merely consuming other people’s opinions and findings.

It’s the only way to be able to write products reviews which are actually worth reading and have a shot at ranking.

Do you have to buy every product you’re talking about on your site? Luckily not. In many cases this would not be financially feasible, nor would it make sense timewise. But buying at least a few key products in your niche can already give you a massive leg up against more established affiliate sites the owners of which can’t be bothered.

With software this is easy as there are often free trials or money-back guarantees. With physical products it’s a bit trickier. But in some cases, you might be able to use the return policy. Plus you can also sell them after testing them on a marketplace like eBay. On top of that, once you have some clout, manufacturers might start sending you free products to test.  

When is affiliate marketing NOT worth it?  

There are definitely a few good reasons to not get started with affiliate marketing.

You’re looking for quick results

Delayed gratification is the name of the game when it comes to affiliate marketing success. Don’t put any stock in the claims of YouTubers and TikTokers that tell you otherwise. They’re grifters who earn more money from telling you how to make money with affiliate marketing than they do from affiliate marketing itself.

Affiliate marketing isn’t an easy path to riches, nor is it a fast one.

For many people it takes at least a year before they make a monthly profit of $1000 – and that is assuming they executed extremely well.  

You have a hard time with being consistent

You don’t need to spend a ton of time on a weekly basis to get an affiliate program going (10-15 hours per week is often sufficient). But you’ve got to be consistent.

I guess it’s in that sense no different from any other worthwhile endeavor, whether it’s a business venture or getting in shape.

The important thing is that you’re able to consistently show up and do the work – every week for at the very least a year. Nobody is going to be telling you to do it, so you’ve got to be a self-starting individual.

If you’re reading this, your excitement level when it comes to affiliate marketing is most likely sky-high. Keep in mind it won’t stay like this. There will be moments when you’ll get bored out of your mind with it or aren’t seeing any results for weeks or even months on end.

In especially those moments it’s important to still show up and put in the work.

You don’t enjoy the process of building a website and everything that comes with it

For me I’ve always loved websites and what they enable people to do: consume any kind of information quickly and for free.

The idea of starting and maintaining a website has to excite you in order to make affiliate marketing work for you. Not all of the components below might capture your interest or match with your talents (you can definitely outsource some), but I’d say you should have strong an affinity with at least half or more of them:

  • Doing keyword research
  • Making a content plan
  • Writing/editing content
  • Designing and building a website
  • Work on branding/strategy
  • Gaining backlinks

Ready to get started with affiliate marketing?

If after reading this article you’re convinced that affiliate marketing is worth it for you, then the good news is that you can get started right away.

Check out my affiliate guide for beginners on how to get going.

Also make sure to take a look at my (fully customizable) affiliate templates which can save you MONTHS of tinkering on things like design and page speed. They’re what I use for my own battle-tested affiliate sites.   

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