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Is Affiliate Marketing Legitimate?

Is affiliate marketing legitimate?

You heard about affiliate marketing on the internet, and you wonder if it is safe to start or just another internet myth.

Some digital gurus talk about it as a panacea whenever you look for an MMO channel. They use lofty, charming language to describe its benefits.

And it makes affiliate marketing suspicious at the same time.

So, Is it just another internet scam? This blog post will shed some light on those myths.

What is Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate marketing is one of the most effective ways to make money online, and this term is all over the internet.

Imagine a triangle: brand – affiliate – customer. 

The affiliate (you) is the one who promotes the brand’s products and services to the customers. For each successful referral, you earn a commission. 

You don’t have to create or deliver the product, handle the payment, or provide customer support. All you have to do is promote the products using your affiliate link. Therefore, many affiliates believe their job is simply about telling a compelling story about products, but it does not. Affiliate marketing is demanding technically and requires for understanding of the industry.

See more: Top 11 Myths in Affiliate Marketing

An Affiliate Marketing Circle could be simply explained in 03 steps:

  • Join an affiliate program
  • Promote products
  • Earn

Step 01: Firstly, join an affiliate program

Join any brand’s program that offers products or services that you want to promote. You can find them with a direct search or go to an affiliate network where many brands showcase their program/products, offering competitive commissions.


After the brand accepts you as its affiliate, you will get a unique link. This link is called an affiliate link and it is unique. Whenever a customer buys through this link, the brand knows it is yours. The link looks like this: 


Step 02: Promote products

You share your affiliate link with your audience through your website, blog, social media, email list, or any platform you are active on. There are different strategies to entice them to click on your link, such as writing reviews, creating tutorials, offering bonuses, or giving discounts. 

Here is an example, you can see the affiliate link inserted in the promotion post.  


Step 03: Earn 

When someone clicks on your affiliate link and makes a purchase or a desired action (such as signing up for a free trial or filling out a form), you earn a commission.

The commission rate varies depending on the product, the program, and the action. 


How much money can you make with affiliate marketing?

The amount of money that you can make with affiliate marketing depends on several factors, such as products, audience size, content quality, conversion rate, program commission rate,…

There is no limit to how much money you can make with affiliate marketing. A company-based affiliate marketer on average, according to Glassdoor, is salaried ~$60,000 annually. Meanwhile, 57% of freelance marketers earn less than $10,000. Please note that many freelancers do not work full-time and come from different regions.  

So if you want to start affiliate marketing today, by yourself, your earning potential is estimated to be around ~50,000. Some exceptional freelancers make six or seven figures per year – just like Michelle Schroeder-Gardner earns over $100k/month from her blog Making Sense of Cents

Is affiliate marketing legit?

Affiliate marketing is legitimate and not a scam. It is a highly effective strategy for brands to increase sales and for affiliate marketers to earn commissions. In fact, 81% of brands and 94% of publishers actively engage in affiliate marketing,

Currently, affiliate marketing is accepted by all countries all over the world.

Though affiliate marketing is neither a pyramid scheme nor a get-rich-quick scheme, such scams are often disguised under the name of affiliate marketing.

Therefore, it is safe to participate in a transparent affiliate program. You won’t face any risks. 

Why is Affiliate Marketing Sometimes Considered a Scam?

Affiliate marketing itself is not a scam. Most digital hustlers choose affiliate marketing as their career.

Some other variants of Affiliate Marketing, such as high-ticket affiliate marketing are legit, too.

However, just like many other industries, affiliate marketing has scams and bad practices. Some organizations or companies may make money illegally under the guise of affiliate marketing. Individuals interested in affiliate marketing need to do thorough research, choose reputable affiliate programs, and be cautious of any offers that seem too good to be true.

To make money with affiliate marketing, it require time and effort. There are a bunch of things that you need to learn to understand the game. For example, market research, content creation, or solidifying your understanding of the products. More than that, you have to commit to the program’s ethical standards as well as follow regulations and industrial practices. 

It’s challenging and it is truly profitable. However, affiliate marketing does not work as a magic bullet. If you looking for a shortcut, your eagerness may make you a target of scammers. 

So, just don’t expect a one-night money. 

In the next part, you will learn how to spot a scam that masquerades as affiliate marketing. And how to avoid them. 

03 common scam scheme in the name of Affiliate Marketing 

1. Get-rich-quick schemes 

It is the most common scheme, which often approaches you with instant rich promises. And, it is a common narrative that the company you are invited to join is a unicorn of the business world, which is anticipated to reach $10bn dollars in revenue in the next 5 years. Isn’t it dreamy? 

Take MOBE, for example, promising a magic 21-step system for instant riches. 

It sounds so easy. Why don’t they do it themself – to become millionaires – it is only 21 steps. 

Spoiler alert: it got shut down by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). 

Lesson learned: success is more of a marathon than a sprint 

2. Pyramid schemes/ Ponzi schemes 

Some scammers set up fake affiliate programs that operate like pyramid schemes or Ponzi schemes, where they use the money from new affiliates to pay the existing ones, without offering any real product or service. 

These schemes are illegal and unsustainable, and they will collapse inevitably. Around 30% to 90% of participant can’t get their money back. 

3. Low-quality courses and fake marketing gurus 

Are you tired of online courses and online experts who promise to teach you how to make money online? 

You’re not alone. Many people fall victim to affiliate marketing scams that lure them in with unrealistic expectations. 

There are not that many experts. And to meet and learn from a real expert, you probably have to spend much more than what is in this title: “Secret for revenue thrive with affiliate marketing in 30 days – only $19”

Some people pretend to be experts, but they simply copy courses from others or use outdated or unethical methods. 

These so-called experts? Well, turns out they’re more like wizards of deception. They probably haven’t practiced any of what they teach since the days of dial-up internet. They have never been a real successful affiliate.

And good luck getting a refund – it’s like trying to catch a unicorn in your backyard. Yeah, unicorn is not real. 

Signs of a fake affiliate program?

As affiliate marketing is legitimate and is one of the most popular business models, there are scams under its guise. A fake affiliate program pretends to be like the above, but it has no real business model behind it. Instead, it tricks people into giving money or personal information without offering any real compensation or service.

If you are invited unstoppably to a “lucrative program”, or are simply about to join an affiliate program, consider the following red flags:  

1. Fairy Tale Promises

Beware of affiliate programs promising thousands of dollars a day, unicorn companies, and pots of gold with little or no work, run! No legitimate business can guarantee such results without requiring any effort or investment from you.

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. 

It’s just like someone handing out free Ferraris just for tweeting a link. 

2. Pressure to act immediately

If an affiliate program is breathing down your neck like a used car salesman on energy drinks, be wary. Pushy tactics and the urgency to sign up yesterday might mean trouble. Take your time; this isn’t a race to the affiliate marketing Olympics.

They would promise thousands of dollars, but your hard-earned commissions are just funding someone else’s beach vacation – no product or service in sight. 

3. Unexpected costs 

Some affiliate programs may not disclose all the fees or expenses that you need to pay to join or participate in their program. For example: you need to pay for a “team-building trip” with promisely helpful for the sales team’s success, or you need to reach a $1000 threshold to get your payout that the manager never tells you about. 

They put you in a dilemma – you already spent a lot of effort on your work – and now you just can give up easily. 

Sometimes programs are like surprise parties. But they surprise you with anxiety. 

Such situations will end up you losing money instead of earning any value.

4. Unfair or unclear terms and conditions

Picture this: you’re trying to decipher your analytics, but it’s like reading a map written in an alien language. Dishonest programs might serve up analytics that are as accurate as a broken compass, leaving you bombarded with information.

In this manner, some affiliate programs may terminate your account without giving you a valid reason or a chance to appeal. They may also withhold your earned commissions or charge you fees for terminating your account. 

This can leave you with no income and no recourse.

5. Lack of transparency in analytics

Some affiliate programs may not provide you with accurate or complete data on how your referrals are performing, how much commission you are earning, or how often you are getting paid. They may also manipulate the data to make it look more favorable than it is. 

They may do this by using various excuses, such as technical errors, policy changes, or quality issues. This can affect your earnings and motivation.

6. Commission Shaving

Some programs shave a part of your commission. they reduce commissions or fail to credit affiliates for valid referrals, impacting your earnings.

It’s like getting paid in Monopoly money – fun until you realize it’s worthless.

7. Pseudo-Science 

Beware of programs that throw around scientific-based claims but cannot show the scientific credentials to back them up.

For example, some claims could be too miraculous, such as “lose 10kg in 02 weeks with this secret method” and the method even gets backed up by research. You can simply double-check the info by Googling it.

The key is never to put your guard down.

8. Focus on Recruitment over Sales 

If the emphasis is on recruiting new affiliates rather than selling actual products or services, it’s a red flag. 

You’re here to make money, not to build an army. 

9. Bad Review on the Internet

If you feel like there is something suspicious – trust your gut. Your instinct is like an internal Yelp rating system. Just follow it!

You can start with a Google search: “Is X affiliate program legit?”. 

Just as you wouldn’t buy a sandwich from a place with a one-star review, don’t rush into an affiliate program with a sketchy reputation.

05 Tips to Avoid a Scam Affiliate Program

1. Be realistic

If you want to avoid scams, you need to be realistic and not expect to get rich overnight. 

The faster you want to make money, the more scammers will target you.

But, no free lunch, you know. 

If you want to make money online, you need to be prepared to work and learn a lot. Don’t believe in promises of instant wealth or guaranteed results. If they sound too good to be true, they probably are not true. 

2. Finding a clear Affiliate Program

You should also follow a clear plan and look for these features in the programs you join:

  • They are reputable and well-known brands.
  • They do not ask for any upfront fees or hidden charges.
  • They have clear and transparent terms and conditions.
  • They offer guarantees and support for their affiliates.

3. Do your research

You should also do your own research on the internet before joining any program. You can use these sources to find reliable information:

  • Social media platforms, where you can see the feedback and testimonials of other affiliates.
  • Google, where you can check the rankings and reviews of the programs.
  • Online communities, where you can interact with other affiliates and ask questions.

4. Join an Affiliate Program on an Affiliate Network 

You can find a legitimate program through third-party websites. In such platforms, you can compare different programs, their commission, their features, and anything other benefits they offer for affiliates.   

Such marketplaces offer you a well-designed tracking system. Such tools make sure that your order is recorded exactly on a real-time basis and make sure your affiliate link is in good practice with zero cheatings available for merchants. They are simply the intermediary to ensure that both affiliates and merchants do not break the deals. 

5. Trust your gut 

Finally, you should trust your gut and avoid any program that sounds too good to be true or makes unrealistic promises. Remember, if it sounds like a scam, it probably is.

How do you get started with affiliate marketing?

Getting started with affiliate marketing is not difficult, but it does require some planning and preparation. Here are some steps that you can follow to launch your affiliate marketing business:

1. Choose a niche that you are passionate about and that has a large and engaged audience. You can use tools to research popular topics and keywords in your niche.

  • Google Trends
  • Keyword Planner
  • BuzzSumo

2. Build a website or blog where you can share valuable content related to your niche and promote your affiliate products or services. The following platforms provide solutions at reasonable cost: 

  • WordPress
  • Wix
  • Squarespace 

3. Join an affiliate program or network that offers products or services that match your niche and audience. You can find thousands of programs with the following networks

  • Market Place
  • Commission Junction
  • ShareASale

Don’t forget to vet all programs thoroughly before applying.

4. Choose a product or service that you want to promote and get your unique affiliate link. Ensure that the product or service is relevant, high-quality, and solves a problem or fulfills a need for your audience.

5. Create content that showcases the benefits and features of the product or service and encourages your audience to click on your affiliate link. You can use different types of content, such as

  • Blog posts
  • Videos
  • Podcasts
  • Ebooks
  • Infographics

6. Drive traffic to your website or blog using various methods, such as: 

  • SEO (search engine optimization)
  • Social media marketing
  • Email marketing 
  • Paid advertising
  • Guest posting

7. Track and measure metrics like traffic sources, page views, bounce rate,… using tools like: 

  • Google Analytics
  • Google Search Console
  • Facebook Pixel. 


Is affiliate marketing legal globally?

In general, affiliate marketing itself is a legitimate business model. However, there are specific regulations governing affiliate marketing practices which vary depending on the location. Notably, affiliate marketing activities are regulated by GDPR in the E.U. and by FTC in the U.S.

Is affiliate marketing legal in the UK?

Yes, affiliate marketing is legal in the United Kingdom, but it is subject to regulations and guidelines that ensure transparency, fair competition, and consumer protection. Affiliates and businesses involved in affiliate marketing must comply with various laws, including the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), Consumer Protection Laws or GDPR, etc.


So, is affiliate marketing legit?  A short, valid answer is “Yes”. But be cautious, though it is legal, there are scams and fraudulent activities associated with affiliate marketing that wannabe affiliates need to be aware of. 

Both advertisers and affiliates need to be wary to identify warning signs of affiliate fraud. Before engaging in any affiliate marketing program, make sure to check out the company’s reputation and participants’ testimonials. 

I have been working in marketing for four years, passionate about creative writing and copy writing. Love to be alone at watersides, sip coffee, play games or read anything that is thought provoking.


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