You’ve got a brand new retail website, a passionate and capable development company and a thirst for growth.

Sound familiar?


You’re just starting out and achieving 50 visitors to your website a month feels like a tall order, nevermind the hundreds or thousands that your web development company tells you is possible.

SEO seems like a dark art and PPC is out of the question with your budget, so you think ‘Why not try affiliate marketing’?

What is affiliate marketing?

According to Wikipedia:

Affiliate marketing is a type of performance-based marketing in which a business rewards one or more affiliates for each visitor or customer brought by the affiliate’s own marketing efforts

Here’s why affiliate marketing might not be right for you

Don’t listen to affiliate networks or web design companies who tell you:

An affiliate program will get you sales AND quality inbound links

  • You can actually create a lot of new competitors for the products that you stock. In the race to advertise your products and get you orders, affiliates will undertake their own SEO efforts and basically try to cannibalise your traffic.
  • Affiliates will specifically add a ‘no follow’ link from their site to yours, which means that search engines won’t give the credit for the backlink in the same way they would if it was a normal ‘follow’ link. Read more about google’s recommendation to affiliates on shoutmeloud.com and further detail on the difference between follow and nofollow links on the wordstream site
  • You’ll have to start paying for orders you’re likely to have received for free – You’ll be constantly wondering what percentage of the sales from affiliates were incremental (in addition to your sales volume due to the affiliate) and cannibalised (you’d have got the sale anyway via a free channel, but the affiliate got in there first).
  • Running an affiliate marketing programme is a lot of work.  From tracking & processing commission payments, to spotting click fraud, to engaging with affiliates and providing the communications they need to know what to promote, running an affiliate programme is a full time job in it’s own right.

So what are you saying?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against affiliate marketing per se.  I’ve run 3 affiliate marketing programmes and have seen the growth that you can achieve if the programme is executed well.

It’s more a question of best use of effort.

I would always recommend working on your website’s usability, conversion, SEO and social media presence first.  

Take another look at affiliate marketing once you feel you’ve tried the other online marketing channels and you’ve done as much as you can to make the visitors to your site buy something once they arrive.