Book Review: How to Make Money With Affiliate Marketing Even Without a Website

By , June 27, 2012

How to Make Money With Affiliate Marketing Even Without a Website (an ebook by Joan Mullally with Evelyn Trimborn)┬áis mostly sincere — but quite misleading. The authors know and share a lot of information about affiliate marketing, but much of their advice is incorrect or incomplete. And ultimately, their advice won’t work for at least 95% of their target audience.

The authors begin their introduction with a grossly inaccurate analogy, asserting that affiliate marketing is “the equivalent of becoming a commission-only sales person for the company.” That’s absurd: affiliate marketing is an advertising relationship, nothing like an employment or agent relationship.

The authors then direct us to just four “affiliate technology intermediary” companies: two affiliate networks (Commission Junction and LinkShare) and two “marketplaces” (ClickBank, and PayDotCom), giving roughly equal praise to all four, but more emphasis on ClickBank and PayDotCom.

That’s unfortunate, because ClickBank and PayDotCom are dreadful companies, and the products sold through their marketplaces are mostly scammy ebooks and dubious software. On discussion forums frequented by legitimate web publishers (affiliates), ClickBank and PayDotCom are ridiculed and reviled. The authors also misrepresent the “payment threshholds” and other terms for these marketplaces.

It’s unclear why the authors don’t even mention the Google Affiliate Network, ShareASale, AvantLink, or LinkConnector, each of which is much more popular with web publishers (affiliates) than ClickBank or PayDotCom.

The authors fail to recognize the functional differences and relative advantages and disadvantages of these two different types of intermediaries (affiliate network vs. marketplace), nor do they clearly identify many advantages or disadvantages of “independent” affiliate programs like Amazon’s compared to intermediaries.

The title promises that you can make money with the authors’ advice “even without a website,” but most of the advice focuses on the use of web sites. And the suggestions for making money without a web site encourage unethical activity (posting affiliate links in comments and posts on other web sites [including blogs and discussion forums], even though it’s usually prohibited by those sites and often by the merchants being promoted). The authors also suggest using Twitter, but don’t indicate how we might attract an audience of Twitter followers, especially if we’re just posting a bunch of third-party product links. (The authors also don’t warn affiliates that the non-web-site strategies they recommend are prohibited by most merchants.)

The authors offer conflicting advice about choosing products to promote. First, they say there’s “little point in [promoting] a low-priced product,” and “it is better to promote a higher-priced product.” But in the very next paragraph, they write, “you often make more money selling lower priced items because there is less price resistance.” The authors never clearly explain the interaction of product price, commission rate, conversion rate, and affiliate-program earnings, nor do they warn us not to promote products which most consumers won’t buy online, nor against promoting products for merchants with thousands of local stores.

Eventually, the authors do identify some of the problems in affiliate marketing, including poor-quality merchant sites, AdSense “leaks” on merchant sites, and landing pages that include multiple “Pay” links, some of which aren’t eligible for advertising fees (commissions). They also warn prospective affiliates away from merchants who charge a “join fee” to participate in an affiliate program, but then inexplicably say that it’s okay for merchants to require a product purchase before participating in the merchant’s affiliate program. The authors also include a chapter about “other things to beware of” but they list just one: out-of-date (stale, expired and defunct) programs and merchants.

The authors also suggest that we can earn money from our own purchases, ignoring the fact that Amazon (used as the only example in this section) prohibits this, and automatically excludes self-orders from any affiliate-program earnings.

Some of the good advice demonstrates a lack of full understanding of the nuances of affiliate marketing, especially when working with the four networks and marketplaces they recommend. The authors suggest that you should focus on the “conversion rate” published on those sites or disclosed by the merchants, but the authors apparently don’t know how easily unethical merchants can manipulate and distort those figures, nor that there are incredibly different conversion rates for different “types” of web publishers (affiliates).

The book also suffers from a lack of illustrations, and the HTML examples are garbled.

I had trouble assigning a “star rating” for this ebook, because it includes so much detail and information, compared to most other ebooks on this topic. But ultimately, the misleading nature of the title, and the mistakes and misdirection, force me to give this book only two out of five stars.

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