Top 5 Reasons Affiliate Marketers Fail – Is There Any Hope For The Affiliate Marketing Industry? (2023 Update)

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By: Scam Risk - Expert Reviewer

is affiliate marketing a scam or legit

You heard all the promises.

The glitz, the glamor, the ease of it all…

…so why isn’t it working out for you when the gurus make it look so easy?

Well, let’s see if we can help you figure that out.

Table of Contents

Pros: What I Liked

  • Overhead costs are minimal when done correctly
  • Easy to get started
  • Possible to make a buck or two
The Good

Cons: What I Didn't Like

  • The competition is fierce
  • Choosing the right product can be frustrating
  • Your commissions are likely to be unpredictable and small
The Bad

Top 5 Reasons Most Affiliate Marketers Fail

So it odds are you’re interested in doing Affiliate Marketing – but you still have a few questions, right?

As a matter of fact, the reason you’re here is that you saw some guy  sporting his new ride or showing off the $1,000+ daily deposits he’s been getting delivered to his bank account from PayPal and you’re thinking to yourself, “Man, that’s the life I want to be living!”

On the one hand, the promise is great…

You don’t have to create products, worry about fulfillment, customer service, or bad reviews. 

Your only job is to get the right customers in front of the right offer, and take a commission when they buy.

And – theoretically – you can do it all in an hour a day from the beach.

Sounds simple, right?

Well, not really. Driving traffic (that’s internet speak for getting customers) is single-handedly the hardest part of the entire online marketing process.

Later in this review, we’ll talk about all the different skills you need to drive traffic successfully.

For now, let’s just say the promise doesn’t really match up with reality

At best, affiliate marketing is a job. You’re working for someone else, selling their products, and at any time, they can change your commission structure or block you from selling their stuff entirely.

In this business, you don’t really own or control anything. Since – for the most part – you’re driving traffic (again, the hardest job of all) and sending it to someone else, you don’t even get to keep the customers, who are the most valuable piece of the puzzle.

At worst, affiliate marketing is a pyramid scheme. There are certain – ahem – programs that charge you a monthly “membership fee”, under the guise that you will learn how to be a “wealthy affiliate marketer”. 

Once you join, however, you find out the only way to really make money is by being an affiliate for that program. 

That’s pretty much the textbook definition of a pyramid scheme.

Now, let’s say you really want that hour-a-day-work-from-the-beach lifestyle. 

beach laptop

What if there was a way you could build a passive income stream that’s actually passive?

An income stream that doesn’t require:

  • Thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours before seeing your first dollar
  • Doing all the hard work of driving traffic to only get a tiny commission
  • Running your business on someone else’s terms

An income stream that brings in consistent revenues every single month (from a couple thousand dollars to well over $10,000)?

An income stream you could actually build in your spare time, and grow as large or as small as you want to, without having to spend hours a day testing, tweaking, and risking your money in the hope you can finally start making sales?

If that sounds like something you’d be interested in, check out Digital Real Estate. 

passive residual incomeThis is like taking all the good parts from affiliate marketing (however few there are), and putting aside all the bad.

So, let’s get into those right now… 

1) Picking The Wrong Niche

affiliate marketing scam

Nothing will cause you more headaches or cost you more money in affiliate marketing than picking the wrong niche. 


Many affiliate marketers increase the affiliate marketing failure rate just by picking the wrong niche. The market isn’t what they thought it was, their expertise may be lacking, and the revenues often barely (if at all) break through their expenses.

Here’s what I mean…


You could pick the absolute wrong niche right out of the gate which means your chances of making money with affiliate marketing is dead in the water. 

Now, one or two things could happen…

You either throw in the towel and decide that the affiliate marketing business just isn’t for you, or that those guys in the YouTube videos are just plain lucky!

Either way, what could have resulted in thriving affiliate sales ends up getting sucked into a vortex of crushed dreams

Honestly, it really isn’t your fault. 

Some niches are just black holes, and not always easy to spot. 

In fact, if you listen to any expert on Affiliate Marketing strategies who’s made it to $10-20k per month, they’ll be the first to tell you that only 1 out of 10 niches they pick are home runs.

Now, the problem is that in order to find that 1 successful niche, they had to spend quite a bit of money testing one after the other. 

On the upside, they will tell you that when they do find the home run, it makes up for all the money they lost in testing.  But, since they now have a niche that makes them money, it’s all a matter scaling. 

But let’s face it…

Who has $10-20k lying around for paid traffic, testing different product niches to see what takes off?

Paid traffic, if done correctly, can be a magic bullet for quality traffic.

But on the other hand, if done incorrectly, you could end up running up a tab higher than you would in a Boston Pub on St. Patty’s Day. 


What I mean is that if your dream is to become financially free, then it’s likely you’re a slave to your 9-5 J.O.B. (Just Over Broke)… which means that you really don’t have the kind of money to throw away on something that might or might not work out. 

The other reason that we see pretty often is that people actually do pick out a handful of potentially good niches, but they never act on it because they spend too much time trying to determine if they really are good niches or not.

This is called the “Paralysis of Analysis”… and it’s a dream killer for the affiliate marketing success rate.

2) Lack of Patience

Have you ever seen those YouTube videos with little kids in front of a cookie jar being told… 

“If you can wait until I get back, I’ll give you 3 cookies.  But if you eat it, you won’t get any.” 

What happens?

You guessed it…

Some decide to wait… but most decide to eat a cookie right away. 

You see, when it comes to affiliate business (or just business in general), you really need to have a sense of delayed gratification. 

Most of the time, Success isn’t hard to find… it’s just hard to wait for. 

Am I right, or am I right?

In the beginning, people can get really excited about the prospect of making big money, buying their dream car or house, or taking that Alaskan cruise…

But, more often than not… it’s just not that simple.

It can take a lot of time with all the due diligence it takes finding a niche, launching your campaigns, and testing to see what works and what doesn’t. 

On top of that.. it can take anywhere from 6-12 month before you see any profit from all your campaigns.  And I don’t mean months of working here and there… I mean working 8-12 hours grinding every day.

It’s certainly not for the faint of heart. 

Have you ever heard the saying… “New Year, New Me?”

Yeah, you know what I’m talking about. 

When people make their New Year’s resolution to lose weight, they’re all Gung-Ho in the beginning, right?

But when Valentine’s Day runs around and they’ve only lost 2 pounds, they get all depressed and start eyeing that box of chocolates like a pack of dogs on a 3-legged cat!

My point is that so many affiliate marketers quit way too soon without giving themselves a good solid chance to see the returns on their investment.

3) Lack of Capital

lack of capital affiliate marketers

So let’s say you’ve picked out the right niche and you have the patience to delay gratification… but unfortunately you just don’t have enough money to run the campaigns, or do the testing that you need to turn a profit. 

The reason why most people try their hand in Affiliate Marketing is that it’s easy to get involved with and it has very little overhead costs. 

As a matter of fact, it would probably only cost $200-300 at the most to get on your feet, although your training may cost more.

What people may not realize is that if you’re looking to pull in organic traffic to your website, well… it’s going to take a while to get listed high in the search engines. 

On the other hand, if you want fast traffic to your website… then it’s going to cost you in paid traffic.  Paid traffic can really put a damper on things. 

If you go through most affiliate marketing courses, they’ll tell you that you should run your campaigns at about $5 per day.  I don’t mean to bad mouth anyone, but that really won’t get you very far. 

If you go to YouTube and watch any videos on affiliate marketing campaigns using paid traffic, you’ll find that they are running campaigns that are costing them thousands of dollars every DAY! 

You see… you don’t create an empire on $5 per day.

Is it possible? Maybe

Does everyone do it?  NOPE!

The problem is that when most people realize that it’s gonna cost them $1,000s to begin affiliate business campaigns running in the 6-figure range… or that it’s gonna take months to organic traffic to their website, they call it quits.

4) Choosing The Wrong Platform

There are so many choices out there that it can be a little intimidating to decide on which platform to go with.  The best way around this problem is to choose multiple platforms. 

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. 

Sign up with multiple affiliate businesses and run your campaigns, if you find one that works out for you, then go with it.  If you find that the platform provides poor customer assistance, cut it loose.

Also, don’t be afraid to contact your affiliate account manager to see about increasing your commission percentage for bringing in more sales.

5) Not Knowing Your Profit Margins

 So, here’s the deal. 

When you watch all these YouTube gurus flashing their $100,000/mo screenshots, take it with a grain of salt.  There’s a big difference between how much you make in sales and how much you actually put in your pocket. 

Let’s say that you sell a weight-loss course for $97 and your commission is 50%.  That means you put $48.50 in your pocket from your affiliate program, right?


Don’t forget, you still have advertising costs.

If it takes you $10-20 in ad spend to make a sale, then your profit margins are nearly cut in half. 

Just imagine what your profit margins are if you’re spending $1000/day!

Is Affiliate Marketing A Scam?

scam or legit scamrisk

So, is Affiliate Marketing a scam? 

I guess for legalities’ sake…not technically

You can make money within this industry, but it isn’t as easy as the company makes it sound.

Driving traffic is extremely difficult. In order to do it successfully, you need to at least understand all these things, if not be a ninja at them:

  • Copywriting

  • Google Ads

  • Facebook Ads

  • Content Writing

  • Website Building

  • Conversion Optimization

  • Automation

  • Email Marketing

  • Click Tracking

  • Retargeting/Remarketing

  • SEO

  • Backlinking

And a lot more.

There’s a ton of work to be done upfront, no real guarantee of success, and – most importantly – the actual commissions are pretty small.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with front-loading the work and making the money later.

But if you’re grinding it out for 3 months and then your reward is a $50 commission, it’s not really worth it.

What if, instead, you could do that same 3 months of work (in your spare time), and your reward was a $500 to $2,000 payment that came in every single month?

And what if you only needed 1 or 2 of the above skills to get started, instead of mastering all 12 before seeing your first dollar?

And what if you actually didn’t need to wait 3 months? What if you could get started today and have your first payment in a week?

And what if you could double it next week?

Well, that’s the power of Digital Real Estate

Your laptop and an internet connection is all you need.

Some of the most successful students in this program run their entire 6-figure businesses from:

  • A camper in the middle of the woods

  • A beach chair on the water in Mexico

  • A small villa in Greece


They’re able to travel around, living their lives first, and focusing on their income second.

Because even if they stop working for an extended period of time, the money keeps coming in.

So adventure, memories, and experience are the top priority.

And they never have to worry about how to pay for the next trip, or consider asking for time off.

If this sounds more like the type of life you want to lead, just click here to find out more about Digital Real Estate.

Final Thoughts – Affiliate Marketing

So, these are the Top 5 reasons why affiliate marketers fail

Now, I don’t want to be a “Debbie Downer”, but then again, I don’t want you get yourself in over your head either. 

This doesn’t even touch on the amount of competition that you’ll be running up against primarily because it’s so easy to get involved, but that’s a totally different conversation. 

So what is the best business model when it comes to creating an online empire?

Do We Recommend Any Affiliate Marketing Programs?

alternatives scam legit scamrisk

Yes, there are plenty of Affiliate Marketing programs and resources to choose from if you want to pursue this business model.  Here are just a few: 

What is our #1 recommendation for making money online in 2023?

Digital Real Estate
Our review team has spent months researching, reviewing, and vetting dozens of business models and thousands of programs.

While there may be no “perfect business”, the research IS conclusive:

Digital Real Estate is the #1 online business model for those just starting out.

Whether you’ve never made a dollar online, or you’ve been in this space for a while but never really “made it,” Digital Real Estate is for you.


1) It’s Flexible: got an hour a day? You can do this. Ready to drop everything else and dive in full time? You can do this. Yes, the more time you put in, the faster you see results. But even with a little time each day, you can move the needle in a Digital Real Estate business.

And because this system is so flexible, you don’t have to constantly be working to make more money. It’s called PASSIVE INCOME because if you stop working, the money doesn’t. 

Imagine taking 3 months off to just tour around Europe, rent a cabin in the woods to write a book, hike the Appalachian Trail, or live on the beach and surf all day. 

This is only possible if you have an income stream that’s not tied to your time.


2) You Own & Control EVERYTHING: With Affiliate Marketing, you don’t really own anything. You have no control over the quality of products. You don’t even own customers.

Look at the fine print for most affiliate agreements. At any point, the company can change your commission structure, reduce your profit margins, or kick you out entirely.

With Digital Real Estate, you own the assets, which means you have all the power and all the control.


3) Little To No Startup Costs: It’s possible to get into Digital Real Estate with zero dollars upfront. Because, using the strategies outlined in this program, you can get a client to pay you BEFORE spending a penny out of your own pocket…even before you do any work. 

Even without getting paid in advance, you can have your first Digital Rental Property up, running, and generating profits for less than $100.


4) Easy To Duplicate: Ok, here’s the best part: once you have your first Digital Rental Property up and running, you can literally DOUBLE your income with a few clicks, a couple keystrokes, and a single phone call (and you don’t actually need the phone call).

Remember: each Digital Rental Property is worth $500 to $2,000 a month in semi-passive income (over 95% profit). Every time you decide to create another one and increase your income, it gets easier.

Because you have more knowledge, more experience, more results, and more momentum. 

If you wanted to double your income with affiliate marketing, you’d have to double your traffic, double the average order size of each customer, OR double your commission rate. And, guaranteed that’s a lot harder than a few clicks and a few minutes of your life.


5) Make Money Helping Real People: This part is what makes it all worth it. With affiliate marketing, you’re selling the product with the best commission rate, NOT the one that’s going to improve the most people’s lives.

And that makes it pretty hard to sleep at night.

But with Digital Real Estate, you’re actually helping people by solving your clients’ biggest problem:

Small, local businesses need more customers, and with Digital Real Estate, you are unleashing a flood of happy, paying customers for these businesses. 

You make money by helping them make money. 

Not a big, faceless corporation either…a small business owner who’s using that money to put food on the table for their family, start a college fund for their kids, or take care of a sick parent. 

Once you see how Digital Real Estate makes a real impact in the lives of real people, you’ll sleep like a baby with a big smile on your face.


Now, the choice is yours. You could continue browsing, looking at opportunities like Affiliate Marketing which could one day make you money.

You could continue researching, never making a decision. 

OR, you could take a look inside, consider what you really want, and join a program that makes your dreams a reality. At the same time, joining a community of over 2,000 successful students that are living life on their own terms thanks to Digital Real Estate.

A consistent, reliable, semi-passive stream of income that doesn’t depend on you or your time to keep producing profits. 

All while genuinely helping real people who are grateful and happy to pay for it. 

If this sounds more like what you want out of life (or if you just want some nice side income), click here to learn more about Digital Real Estate.

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  1. Reply
    Christian phillips May 15, 2021 at 8:51 pm

    Great advise i willlike more infomation as tohow i can get started

  2. Love your lengthy article about Why People Fail To Do Affiliate Marketing With Success . I am currently in my h month of affiliate marketing and there is so much to learn. I can relate to many of the points. When I first installed Google Analytics, I would check it constantly and felt so depressed with the dismal figures. Now I try to focus more on building my content and only peek into GA once in every few days.

    • I’m just getting started and wanted to do it the right way I’ve come across your most thorough information. I would like more information as to how I would get started but I do not have a website yet

      • Get started with affiliate marketing or digital Real estate?

        • Oh my , I just fell for one of these affiliate marketing “scams” today…became a member and all. Now I’m feeling pretty dumb rn but this digital real estate sounds like what I was hoping affiliate marketing would be! However, I’m concerned I’m gonna be fooled again! See the video I watched before joining made affiliate marketing sound like I just had to post links and wait to get paid! So, my question is…is the difficulty of digital real estate being severely downplayed like the affiliate marketing was for me earlier today? I’m just tired of the bull and would appreciate to hear the real deal upfront!

        • Hi Nicole! Digital Real Estate is a much better option than affiliate marketing. The difficulty of affiliate marketing is often downplayed, making people think all they have to do to become rich is post links. It’s unfortunate. The difficulty of digital real estate isn’t downplayed however. It’s a real business and you should treat it as such. Every business has it’s pro’s and con’s. When comparing the two business models and realistic ease of profitability and sustainability…digital real estate is a much better alternative compared to affiliate marketing.

  3. Interesting , im actually interested to research mote..thanks

  4. ha…I’m actually pretty big into affiliate marketing but you raise some good points with both what I’m doing – and what’s wrong with the industry at large.

    I try not to blame the industry, don’t wanna be a victim you know?

    But it does sound like I might have to open my mind to other ideas.

    I appreciate you.

  5. Hmm cool didn’t think about some of that – I AM going to try AM a little logner but some interesting thoughts




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