So, you have seen ads on TV late at night advertising that you can make millions of dollars simply by promoting other people products or services online via affiliate marketing (such as the Short Cut to Millions commercials you see from time to time about people striking it rich with their program). Or maybe you are looking for work at various job hunting sites like career builder and see a catchy work at home opportunity that seems to have your name on it (Herbalife is an example of that). Whatever the program there is out there, just about any work at home program will say that it is easy to make millions simply by promoting whatever the companies have to offer. Of course, if you are like a typical newbie at affiliate marketing (like I am) when you do take up that program and start working on earning commissions, you will probably find that successfully generating sales and income (let alone big commissions) can literally be easier said than done. Also, depending on your skill level, making good money online can literally take days, weeks, or even months before you can get good results. I have done affiliate marketing since last July with no prior sales and marketing experience, and I can tell you first hand that making money online certainly does take lots of work. In this article I will cover at least 7 obstacles you will face when it comes to generating income online. Note this article is completely in my own opinion, and you are free to agree or disagree with me.
Challenge # 1 Finding a profitable niche to build your website around
If you are looking to make relatively quick commissions online, you will find that many veteran affiliate marketers all say that you must find a highly profitable niche to build a website around. A "niche" is basically the general theme that your website is built around. For example, if you built a website about your favorite vacation spot (we will take Seattle, Washington as an example), and wanted to build a website about Seattle, then your niche would be "Seattle". Ideally, most expert affiliate marketers (ie, Ken Evoy, Rosalind Gardiner, Average Joe Marketer, and others) will tell you that you need to build a website around a narrow niche that is often searched for that gets low results on search engines. For example, if you have dogs, and want to build a website centered around dogs in general, you can do that, however if you do a search for "dogs" in most search engines (such as Google or Bing), you will find that you have millions of different websites you are competing with for the top spot on search engines (they say you should appear within the top 20 results of a key word search on search engines for best results via search engine marketing). Also, most search engines give all new websites a page rank of 0 initially (especially Google), and so your site would be near the far end of the search results unless if your site climbs in rank. Of course, finding the best possible niche to build a website around is not easy either as even many long tail key words are getting taken (especially popular niches). If you were looking for eBooks on dogs for example, you would realize that when you do a search for "ebooks on dogs" at Google, you would find that there are more than 4,000,000 different listings for websites on dogs. So, finding the perfect niche to build your site around will take time and energy. Of course, there are ways to simplify the task as there are tools out there to help you find the perfect niche. This brings us to obstacle number 2.
Challenge # 2- Competing in more competitive fields-
This type of challenge is certainly common when it comes to turn key websites (or those websites you can purchase from various providers, such as Yourbizwebsites, Amazon, and plug in profit sites that come loaded with prebuilt commercial content covering various subjects and all you really have to do is to plug your affiliate id on the links you have and just promote the site to make profits, instead of having to build the site from scratch) as well as most multilevel marketing firms where you have a sign up link that you have to promote to build your downline. So, let's say you decided to take a competitive field in affiliate marketing and build say a website on the Xbox 360. While the Xbox 360 is a hot topic to build a website around, you will find that there are many other websites that are on the Xbox 360, but you do it anyways. You can go that route, but search engine marketing alone is probably not going to be the best route to go at first (unless if you can build up your inbound links and thus your search engine rankings in a short amount of time). Of course, there are ways to market more competitive niches, such as building a website around multiple topics (if you build a generic website), doing paid advertising (where you can literally buy traffic to your site for a certain amount of money), as well as straight up guerrilla marketing (ie, blogging, social networking, posting classified ads, door to door sales, etc). Of course, it can take both time and money for you to build your client base or get any real results with this strategy. Also, if you opt to do paid advertising, some key words are more expensive to bid on than others (ideally you want to get as mainly clicks for your dollar as you can get for as low price as possible, but some key words are bidding at $ 1.00 per click or higher, which you will need to spend more money for optimal results, and can get expensive after a while). Even free traffic building techniques do have their obvious pros and cons (and can take a long time to generate good results depending on how you promote).
Challenge # 3- Low skill level
Ideally if you plan to take up affiliate marketing, it helps to have some successful marketing experience, preferably in a commission sales setting. This is because being an affiliate marketer is essentially a commission sales job, which means you get paid for what you sell (though some companies pay on a per click or lead basis). Naturally, some products and services will be easier to sell than others and it certainly does pay to know what you are doing when you take up marketing. If you are good with commission sales programs, then affiliate marketing can be very profitable for you, whereas on the flip side, if you are a total newbie, earning commissions can definitely be easier said than done, and it can take months, weeks, or even years before you get good results if you don't know what you are doing. On the plus side, there are mentors out there (even with some of the companies that specialize in affiliate marketing), but many of them do charge their clients for their services (which can be expensive depending on who is mentoring you). There are also videos, eBooks, and regular books out there, but not all of them are free, and some may be more helpful than others. It might be easier to not go at it alone, and recruit people into your business that can help you get started. For example, if you don't know how to make a website, then you could hire someone to build your site for you and you can focus more on promotion, list building, and budgeting. Of course, I do not recommend affiliate marketing to anyone who does not know what they are doing and have little or no prior commission sales experience (unless if you are willing to hire people to help you promote your business).
Challenge 4 – not putting a hole in your budget
With affiliate marketing, you are essentially running your own business. You set up your own website, you run marketing campaigns yourself, and so fourth. Like just about any kind of business, you can expect to spend money with affiliate marketing, with common costs including web hosting for the website you build, advertising, maintaining a mailing list for your subscribers, training material, and the like. Of course, if you are not careful about how you spend your money, costs can add up after a while. I made that mistake myself by pouring more than $ 2000 into my affiliate marketing efforts by buying eBooks, spending lots of money with paid advertising, a $ 500 eBook on list building, as well as upgraded memberships at traffic exchanges, and so now my money is extremely tight. There are plenty of resources out there, and you will likely attract spammers with your efforts (especially if you advertise on Craigslist as people will solicit you trying to get you to join their classified ads service), along with the occasional scam artist that wants to rip you off on something, but then if you give your money to every service out there, you will likely find yourself in a pit sooner or later (such as huge credit card debts). Of course, there are ways to keep costs down, such as choosing your hosting service carefully (some services are more affordable than others you know), getting the most cost effective resources for your business, try to get as many clicks for each dollar you spend on pay per click ads, as well as not taking up every offer you see out there.
Challenge 5 – becoming a "spammer magnet"
Alan Gardyne from the Associate Programs website (see resource box below for link) rightly says in his tutorial article, "18 Step Affiliate Program Tutorial" that after you have built your website and are waiting for people to buy from the companies you represent, you will become a prime target from spammers, as well as occasional scam artists alike (Gardyne). Since you have to expose your presence online, post your email address on sites, as well as joining various networking sites online, you will likely get get other web marketers who try to solicit you on stuff. For example, if you have invested in the multilevel marketing business, sometimes you might get people from other MLMs that try to recruit you into their MLM firm, usually saying that theirs is better than yours. I get that myself, as I have been a Global Domains International Member since September of 2008, and now I get people from other MLMs trying to get me to join theirs (some noteworthy ones includes: carbon copy pro, vemma builder, xango juice, alive max, and push button extreme). Of course, I am not about to invest my money into multiple MLMs out there since not only would that get expensive after a while and plus it helps to get a decent conversion rate with one program before moving onto another (which is common sense). One other thing worth mentioning is that if you put your phone number up online, some people WILL call you offering services for money. I remember a while back when I first joined Legit Online Jobs, for example, I got a guy representing the company wanting to offer me 1 on 1 coaching service for at least $ 2000 up front. Of course, $ 2000 is a lot of money to invest in training for affiliate marketing business (especially if you can go to friends, your former employer, or even college professor for advise, or even getting a good eBook for less than $ 100 that explains the opportunity in detail). Bottom line, new marketers beware: other marketers are coming after you for your money. Of course, there are a few ways to curb spam, such as not signing up for every newsletter you find online, being mindful where you post your information, having people "work" for your sign up, or even referring them to other advertising services .
Challenge 6 – Promoting your website or program without spamming
In the last section, I talked about trying to promote a website without spamming, and now I will talk about a similar issue that you will likely encounter online: how to promote without spamming. Of course, I am not talking about spam as a good thing, but now days where people are extra weary about web marketers and spammer, some people have a very broad definition of what "spam" is. For example, let's say you don't have the money to advertise your website on pay per click advertising (AdWords can get very expensive if you are not able to generate sales with it after all), and so you decide to write a classified ad on Craigslist. You can do that, but there are two things to watch for:
1) Craigslist does prohibit direct affiliate marketing, and 2) there are flaggers lurking around on Craigslist often looking to enforce the rules to the letter, and so if your ad looks too catchy, or you make your affiliate marketing efforts obvious (I am sure that we have all made that mistake at some point), someone will flag your ad and it will get deleted. Consequently, one has to mask their promotional efforts a bit to avoid "spamming" Craigslist. Also, for companies that have invite systems (such as Global Domains International), naturally you will probably try to invite people you know to join your downline, but then if you are not careful about who you invite, some people may get upset and treat your invite as "spam".
Even on forums and social networking sites, you will find that some are more lenient than others about what you post, as well as sites where there are "stalinist" moderators who consider even linking to your own site as "spam". Some forums even have restrictions on what goes on your signature file. In fact, the other day, I had an interesting thing happen to me, I used to be a member at a popular business forum called business forums, and I don't know what I said or did (or maybe it had something to do With me showcasing my website in the advertising section on the site), but one day when I tried to log in, I found out that my ip address was banned. Obviously, I am not normally the spammer type, but I must have pissed someone off there unintentionally, and the admin decided to ban me (he never even gave me a warning or gave me a chance to explain myself). Luckily that was just one several forums I was a part of, but that example is to illustrate how easy it can be to cross the line and be considered a "spammer".
Perhaps the best things you can do to avoid "spamming" is to mask your marketing efforts when doing free methods, not posting referral links on social networking sites (unless if they don't restrict them), and taking things slowly. Another thing you could do is go the path of least resistance, as there are sites that are more lenient about how you promote than others. For example, one type of site I tend to favor are traffic exchanges since one can simply post almost any link they wish to promote (though some restrictions apply), surf other webmasters' ads and get easy page views that way. The only downside to traffic exchanges is that you will find that the conversion rate is not very good with those as most fellow surfers will likely visit your website mainly to get credits, and so you would have to surf lots of sites (ideally at least 1000 credits' worth of sites per day minimum) if you want best results with them, which can take time and work (like spending up to 6 hours or more per day surfing countless sites for credits). You could also focus more on offline promotion where you can show of your links to friend, family, and other people you come across.
Challenge 7 – Going "impressions" and "clicks" to actually getting "leads" and "sales"
This is a challenge I am facing now and can't really provide and answer to this: if you market your website properly, you will find that most of the time you will only get hits and occasional hits for the links you have. Of course, the real challenge is to be able to go get some of the hits to turn into sales or payable leads. You might get 1000 impressions, and 100 clicks on average, but if none of them convert to leads or sales, it can be extra tricky to earn money with affiliate marketing. It would be nice if companies paid on a per click or 1000 impressions basis, but that is not so with most companies. Even with Google AdSense, which pays on a per click basis, it can be tricky to generate extra clicks each day. Perhaps the best way to improve your conversion rate (or sales, payable leads / clicks, etc) is to get feedback from people and try to build up traffic and tweak your site to give people reasons to do more than just clicking on your links.
Well, that are all of the challenges worth pointing out for now, and I will plan on posting more as I come across more challenges over time.