Is Affiliate Marketing Legit in 2023? Or Just A Clever Scam?

Is affiliate marketing legit? Or is affiliate marketing a pyramid scheme that will just empty your pockets. You may have even heard it is a get-rich-quick scheme where people make empty promises to you about how you can make a lot of money when in reality, that just isn’t the case.

You’re probably here because you’ve been hearing about it quite a lot, mainly because people just simply don’t understand it. If you ask me how to perform surgery, I couldn’t tell you, because I know nothing about it.

I’ve been able to scale my affiliate marketing business to $15,000 per month in consistent revenue since I launched my business back in 2021. Since then, online businesses and affiliate marketing have become my specialty.

In order to properly answer this question, we need to understand what affiliate marketing is, how it works, ethical and unethical practices, and some real life examples of how exactly you can make money with this business model.

What is Affiliate Marketing and How Does It Work?

What is Affiliate Marketing and How Does It Work?

Affiliate marketing is a business model where you, as an affiliate marketer, promote someone else’s products or services and earn a commission when a sale is made or a specific action is completed via your affiliate link. This model involves businesses paying affiliates for promoting their products and bringing potential customers to their sites.

So, is affiliate marketing legit? Yes, it’s a legitimate business model that many online businesses like Amazon, Target, Home Depot, as well as many other large and small brands employ as part of their digital marketing strategy.

Now, how does it work? The affiliate marketing process involves three primary entities: the merchant (also known as the advertiser or seller), the affiliate (that’s you), and the consumer (the one buying the product).

You, as an affiliate marketer, sign up for an affiliate program of your choice. The most common affiliate programs are managed by various affiliate networks, but some businesses, especially larger ones, run their own.

Once you’ve signed up and been accepted to an affiliate program, you’ll receive a unique affiliate link. This link is essentially your ticket to earning money online. You’ll use this link in your affiliate marketing efforts, whether that’s on your affiliate website, your blog, your social media posts, or any other promotional method you choose.

When a potential customer clicks on your affiliate link and makes a purchase, you earn a commission. The sales generated are tracked via your affiliate link so the program knows when you should receive credit. As a result, each time someone purchases via your link, you make money. Essentially, you’re earning income for marketing someone else’s product.

That said, affiliate marketing is a real, legitimate way of making money online. But as with any business model, it requires effort, strategy, and patience to be successful.

What Are The Various Models Of Affiliate Marketing?

So, we’ve clarified that affiliate marketing is a legitimate way to earn income online, but what you might not know is that there isn’t just one way to do it. Different models exist within the world of affiliate marketing, each with its own set of dynamics and earning potential.

In this section, we’re going to delve into the most common models, shedding light on the various avenues you can venture into.

Pay Per Sale

Pay Per Sale

The “Pay Per Sale” model is one of the most popular and commonly used in the affiliate marketing industry. With this model, you earn a commission whenever a sale is made through your unique affiliate link.

Here’s how it works: After joining an affiliate program, you’ll promote their products or services on your affiliate website, blog, social media channels, or any other platform you use. You promote affiliate links provided by the affiliate program or network you’re partnered with. When a potential customer clicks on your link and completes a purchase, you earn a commission.

The commission rates can vary significantly from one affiliate program to another and can be a fixed amount or a percentage of the sale.

The “Pay Per Sale” model is especially attractive because it can potentially offer high commission rates. However, it’s worth noting that this model may also require a greater amount of effort and time as your commissions are entirely dependent on actual sales. Despite this, many affiliate marketers prefer this model due to its potential for earning substantial income.

Pay Per Lead

Pay Per Lead

Let’s talk about another common affiliate marketing business model: Pay Per Lead. This model revolves around leads, not sales, offering a different approach to earn money online.

In the Pay Per Lead model, you get paid whenever a visitor you refer to the merchant’s site completes a specific action such as signing up for a newsletter, filling out a contact form, or creating an account. Basically, these are actions that turn the visitor into a potential lead for the business.

Why would businesses reward affiliates for leads instead of sales? Well, obtaining leads is often a significant part of a company’s marketing strategy. A lead provides contact information, allowing the business to build a relationship with potential customers, which could lead to future sales.

Unlike the Pay Per Sale model, with Pay Per Lead, you don’t need to wait for a sale to earn a commission. However, it’s important to keep in mind that the value of a lead is generally lower than the value of a sale. So, while you might get paid more frequently with the Pay Per Lead model, the amount per lead is usually less than what you could earn per sale.

Again, beware of common affiliate marketing scams in the form of ‘too good to be true’ lead commission rates. Make sure to research and choose legitimate affiliate programs, avoiding the pitfalls of scammy affiliate marketers.

Pay Per Click

Pay Per Click

Finally, let’s examine the “Pay Per Click” model, which is quite different from the Pay Per Sale and Pay Per Lead models. This affiliate marketing approach rewards you every time a visitor clicks on your affiliate link, whether they make a purchase or become a lead or not.

In a Pay Per Click setup, the merchant pays the affiliate marketer for every click generated through their affiliate link. This model is prevalent in advertising platforms such as PPC ads on Google, where affiliates generate affiliate traffic to the merchant’s site. The primary focus here is on the quantity of traffic rather than its quality.

The attractive aspect of Pay Per Click is its simplicity. All you need to worry about is getting users to click on the link. However, the challenge lies in generating a high volume of traffic, as the commission per click is typically much lower than the commission for a sale or lead.

Remember, transparency is key. Dishonest affiliates who use methods such as fake clicks or spoof traffic can face severe consequences, including being banned from affiliate networks and facing legal repercussions. Always follow ethical practices in your affiliate marketing efforts to build a sustainable and successful affiliate marketing business.

Common Myths and Misunderstandings About Affiliate Marketing

In an industry as dynamic and widespread as affiliate marketing, it’s inevitable that certain myths and misunderstandings would surface and persist. From misguided perceptions about its legitimacy, to overestimations about the ease of earning passive income, these myths can confuse newcomers and create unrealistic expectations.

Let’s debunk some of these common misconceptions and provide a clearer, more accurate picture of affiliate marketing.

Is Affiliate Marketing A Get Rich Quick Scheme?

Is Affiliate Marketing A Get Rich Quick Scheme?

One of the most common myths is that affiliate marketing is a get-rich-quick scheme. It’s easy to see why people may think this way. Stories of successful affiliate marketers making vast sums of money online can be very compelling. But the truth is, affiliate marketing is not a quick path to vast wealth.

Success in affiliate marketing requires time, effort, and a solid strategy. It’s a business model like any other, demanding careful planning, market research, and continuous learning. You need to understand your audience, choose the right affiliate program, promote products effectively, and build trust with your audience.

Yes, you can earn money, even passive income, but it doesn’t happen overnight. In fact, most new affiliate marketers may not see significant returns for several months or even a year. Like any legitimate business, it takes time to grow and become profitable.

Beware of any program that promises instant wealth or requires you to pay a substantial amount upfront. These are red flags indicating a potential affiliate marketing scam. Always do your due diligence when starting affiliate marketing to avoid falling into such traps.

Is Affiliate Marketing A Pyramid Scheme?

Is Affiliate Marketing A Pyramid Scheme?

Another prevalent myth is the idea that affiliate marketing is a form of pyramid scheme. This misunderstanding likely arises from the overlap in concepts, as both involve earning commissions based on sales. However, the two are fundamentally different.

A pyramid scheme is a business model where the primary source of income involves recruiting others into the scheme. This typically requires an initial investment, with the promise of high returns primarily dependent on new recruits rather than the sales of products or services.

On the other hand, affiliate marketing involves businesses rewarding affiliates based on the actual sales, leads, or traffic generated. It’s about promoting products or services of a company and getting paid for each successful transaction. There’s no pyramid structure, no recruitment necessary – only genuine marketing.

The best way to avoid any form of pyramid scheme is to focus on promoting legitimate affiliate programs. Affiliate marketing should involve a partnership with credible affiliate programs that sell real, valuable products or services to potential customers. Always research any affiliate program thoroughly to ensure its legitimacy.

So, affiliate marketing is not a pyramid scheme. It’s a form of online marketing that, when done right, can generate income and help you build a successful online business.

Do You Need To Be An Influencer Or Have A Large Following To Be A Successful Affiliate Marketer?

Do You Need To Be An Influencer Or Have A Large Following To Be A Successful Affiliate Marketer?

A common misconception about affiliate marketing is that you need to be an influencer or have a large following to succeed. While having a considerable audience can undoubtedly help, it’s not a strict requirement in the world of affiliate marketing.

Success in affiliate marketing is more about engagement and trust than the size of your audience. Even if you have a smaller follower base, as long as they are engaged, interested in the products or services you promote, and trust your recommendations, you can still make a significant impact and earn money.

To create a successful affiliate marketing business, you need to focus on providing value to your audience. This could be through quality content on your affiliate website or blog, insightful reviews, tutorials, or helpful tips relevant to the products or services you’re promoting.

In conclusion, while having a large following can be beneficial, it’s not a prerequisite for success in affiliate marketing. Engaged followers and the trust you build with them are the real key components in a successful affiliate marketing business.

Pro’s & Con’s Of Affiliate Marketing For Vendors And Affiliates

Pro’s & Con’s Of Affiliate Marketing For Vendors And Affiliates

Like any business model, affiliate marketing comes with its own set of advantages and drawbacks. These can vary significantly depending on whether you’re viewing it from the perspective of a vendor or an affiliate marketer.

By understanding the pros and cons of affiliate marketing, both vendors and affiliates can make informed decisions about whether this business model aligns with their goals and strategies for growth.

In the following sections, we’ll explore the benefits and challenges that affiliate marketing presents to both parties involved.

Pro’s For Affiliates

Affiliate marketing offers numerous benefits for affiliates looking to earn income online. With the potential to generate revenue around the clock, flexibility, and lower startup costs, it’s no wonder why so many are drawn to this business model. Here’s a closer look at some of the main pros for affiliates:

1. Low Start-up Costs: Unlike other business ventures, getting started in affiliate marketing doesn’t require a significant financial investment. You just need a functioning website or sales funnel or a social media platform to promote affiliate links.

2. No Need for Product Creation or Inventory: As an affiliate, you promote other people’s products, eliminating the need for product creation, inventory, or storage space. This significantly reduces business complexity and risk.

3. Passive Income Potential: Once your promotional efforts are in place, they can generate income around the clock, regardless of whether you’re actively working. This provides a source of passive income that can supplement other revenue streams.

4. Flexibility and Independence: With affiliate marketing, you’re not tied to a specific location or work schedule. You can work wherever and whenever suits you best, offering a great deal of personal freedom.

5. Unlimited Earning Potential: There is no income ceiling. The more you promote and the more sales you generate, the higher your income.

6. Learning Opportunity: Affiliate marketing can also be a valuable learning experience, providing insights into digital marketing strategies like SEO, content marketing, and social media marketing.

Cons For Affiliates

Despite its many advantages, affiliate marketing also has its fair share of challenges. You must be ready to tackle these head-on to achieve success in the industry. Let’s discuss some of the main cons that affiliates might encounter:

1. High Competition: The low entry barriers for affiliate marketing mean that the field is highly competitive. Affiliates often compete against each other for the same target audience, which can make standing out a challenge.

2. Dependence on Merchant: As an affiliate, your income largely depends on the vendor’s business success and reliability. If they decide to close their affiliate program, modify commission rates, or go out of business, it can negatively impact your income.

3. No Customer Base: Affiliates do not have direct access to customer information since purchases are made on the vendor’s website. This makes it harder to establish a loyal customer base or benefit from repeat business. However, this is often offset by collecting email addresses and building an engaged list.

4. Delayed Payments: Some affiliate programs do not pay out commissions immediately. Delays in payment can occur, which might be inconvenient for those relying on a consistent income stream.

5. Traffic Generation: Driving a significant amount of traffic to your website or affiliate link can be challenging. It requires good knowledge of SEO, content marketing, social media marketing, and other traffic generation strategies.

6. Affiliate Fraud: While most affiliate programs are credible, there are still some scams out there. Affiliates must be vigilant to avoid affiliate marketing scams, and ensure they’re partnering with legitimate businesses.

Pro’s For Vendors

For businesses, affiliate marketing provides an opportunity to broaden reach, increase sales, and only pay for results. Here are some key advantages that vendors can enjoy from participating in affiliate marketing:

1. Pay for Performance and Sales: One of the key advantages of affiliate marketing for vendors is its performance-based nature. This means you only pay when a desired action, such as a sale, is completed. This minimizes risk and ensures that your marketing budget is well-spent.

2. Broaden Brand Reach: Affiliate marketers can help increase your brand’s visibility. With affiliates promoting your products or services across various channels and locations, you can reach a wider audience.

3. Lower Costs: Compared to other advertising methods, affiliate marketing can be a more cost-effective option. You avoid the hefty costs of creating and running advertising campaigns yourself, as affiliates are responsible for their own promotional efforts.

4. Increased Traffic and Sales: Affiliates drive traffic to your website, increasing the number of potential customers. This, in turn, can boost your sales and revenue.

5. Scalability: As your affiliate network grows, so does your marketing power. More affiliates mean more sales, more traffic, and more brand recognition.

6. Benefit from Affiliate’s Marketing Efforts: Affiliates use their own time, resources, and expertise to promote your products. You benefit from their skills and efforts without the need to become an expert yourself.

Cons For Vendors

While there are many benefits to affiliate marketing for vendors, there are also some potential pitfalls to be aware of. These include:

1. Risk of Affiliate Fraud: There is a risk of affiliates resorting to unethical methods to generate sales or traffic, such as creating fake leads or using ‘spoof traffic’. As a vendor, it’s important to have systems in place to detect and prevent such practices.

2. Brand Reputation: If your affiliates use aggressive or misleading advertising methods, it could damage your brand’s reputation. It’s crucial to choose your affiliates wisely and set clear guidelines for advertising your products or services.

3. Dependence on Affiliates: Over-reliance on affiliates for sales can be risky. If a high performing affiliate decides to stop promoting your products, it can largely affect your revenue.

4. Management Time and Costs: Operating an affiliate program requires time and resources. You will need to manage your affiliates, process payments, handle disputes, and more.

5. Loss of Advertising Control: While affiliates can bring in substantial revenue, you have less control over how your products are promoted compared to traditional advertising methods. Some affiliates might not align with your brand image or values.

Is Affiliate Marketing Legit? The Verdict.

Is Affiliate Marketing Legit? The Verdict

So, is affiliate marketing legit? Yes, affiliate marketing is a legitimate way to earn money online. It involves businesses rewarding affiliates for directing traffic and generating sales. This business model has been widely adopted by various industries, from retail to digital services.

However, like any industry, there are potential pitfalls and negative aspects to be aware of. The affiliate marketing world has its share of scams, and it’s crucial to differentiate between legitimate affiliate programs and those that are scams. Understanding the ins and outs of this industry, such as the models of affiliate marketing and the expectations that come with it, is essential to avoid affiliate marketing scams.

In the end, the most successful affiliate marketers are those who take the time to understand the nuances of the affiliate marketing industry and approach their affiliate marketing efforts strategically. While it’s not a get-rich-quick scheme, with hard work and persistence, it can become a significant source of income.

Moreover, affiliate marketing is not only legit for affiliates but also for vendors. It allows businesses to tap into new markets, expand their reach, and increase sales with relatively low costs. The key for vendors is to choose their affiliate partners wisely, maintain a clear communication, and monitor their performance.

Affiliate marketing is a real, legitimate business. It is not a pyramid scheme, it is not fraud. It’s a business model that requires effort, investment, and patience, just like any other. While there are scams out there, by being diligent, educating yourself, and staying informed, you can avoid these pitfalls and build a successful affiliate marketing business.

Tips To Become A Successful Affiliate Marketer

Tips To Become A Successful Affiliate Marketer

To achieve success in the affiliate marketing industry, you’ll need more than just an affiliate link and a basic understanding of how the process works.

It requires strategy, knowledge, patience, and continual learning. In this section, we will delve into some key tips and strategies that successful affiliate marketers follow to earn income and run a legitimate, successful affiliate marketing business.

Whether you’re just starting out or seeking to elevate your affiliate marketing efforts, these insights will provide valuable guidance.

Choosing The Right Niche

Picking the right niche can be the difference between making money online or struggling to generate sales. It’s not just about choosing a popular or profitable niche, but one that aligns with your interests and expertise. Successful affiliate marketers typically choose niches they are passionate about and knowledgeable in, which makes their work more enjoyable and authentic.

Before you choose a niche, ask yourself if you can see yourself consistently creating content around the topic, and if you can bring value to potential customers in this field. Do some market research to understand the audience’s needs and interests in your chosen niche. Use keyword research tools to gauge demand, competition, and potential profitability.

A tightly focused niche can also be beneficial. For example, instead of targeting a broad niche like “fitness”, you could target a more specific segment like “yoga for beginners” or “healthy meals for weightlifters.” In a narrower niche, there’s often less competition, making it easier for your affiliate marketing efforts to stand out and reach your target audience.

Choosing the right niche is a crucial step in building a legitimate, successful affiliate marketing business, so take your time with it.

Be Patient And Persistent

If there’s one thing every successful affiliate marketer can agree on, it’s that patience and persistence are key. The affiliate marketing world is not a get-rich-quick scheme. It takes time, dedication, and perseverance to earn a substantial amount of money online.

You may not see immediate results when you start affiliate marketing, but that doesn’t mean your efforts aren’t working. It takes time to build trust with your audience, to optimize your content and affiliate marketing strategies, and to understand what works best for your niche. Even the most successful affiliate marketers had to start somewhere and faced periods of slow growth and setbacks.

Persistence comes into play as well. Affiliate marketing involves a lot of trial and error, and it’s vital to learn from your mistakes and not get discouraged. Whether it’s tweaking your SEO strategy, refining your content, or trying out different affiliate programs, being willing to experiment and persist through challenges is essential. Remember, every failure is an opportunity to learn and grow.

Always keep your long-term goals in mind and don’t be discouraged by slow progress. The path to a successful affiliate marketing business is not always smooth, but with patience and persistence, it’s entirely achievable.

Use High Quality Marketing Tools and Platforms

Another pivotal aspect to becoming a successful affiliate marketer involves equipping yourself with high-quality marketing tools and platforms. These tools can greatly enhance your affiliate marketing efforts and increase your chances of success.

First, consider using advanced SEO tools to optimize your content for search engines. Tools like SEMrush, Ahrefs, and Moz can help you identify the right keywords, analyze your competition, and track your website’s performance.

Email marketing platforms like Aweber or GetResponse can help you build and manage your mailing list, send out newsletters, and keep your audience engaged. Email marketing remains one of the most effective ways to nurture your audience and promote affiliate links.

Funnel building platforms like Clickfunnels or Systeme will help you to provide a straight path for your traffic in your email list, and then to your offer. In most cases, sending your traffic directly to a website can hurt your conversions, thus, lowering revenue.

Lastly, utilizing social media management tools like Hootsuite or Buffer can streamline your social media marketing. These platforms allow you to schedule posts, engage with your audience, and monitor the success of your campaigns across multiple social channels.

Moreover, it’s worth considering platforms specifically designed for affiliate marketers. Tools like Thirsty Affiliates or Pretty Links provide robust tracking solutions, ensuring you accurately track the performance of your affiliate links and campaigns.

Remember, the key is to leverage these tools to enhance your marketing strategies, not to replace the need for high-quality, engaging content. Combined with your hard work and creativity, these tools can serve as powerful allies in your affiliate marketing journey.

Recap And Final Thoughts


As we draw to a close on our comprehensive look into the world of affiliate marketing, it’s important to recall the key takeaways. We have seen that affiliate marketing is a legitimate business model that operates on the principle of commission-based sales. It encompasses various models such as pay-per-sale, pay-per-click, and pay-per-lead, each with its own set of advantages and challenges.

We’ve debunked some common myths that falsely label affiliate marketing as a get-rich-quick or pyramid scheme. In fact, it requires consistent effort, patience, and the ability to provide value to your audience. Remember, being an influencer or having a large following is not a prerequisite for success in this field.

For both affiliates and vendors, affiliate marketing presents an array of pros and cons. While it offers the potential for passive income and a wider reach for vendors, it also involves aspects like competition, potential affiliate scams, and dependency on vendors or affiliate networks.

But, is affiliate marketing legit? The answer is a resounding yes. However, its legitimacy is often tarnished by factors such as affiliate fraud, dishonest practices, and the presence of scammy marketers. As such, regulations have been put into place to ensure vendors and marketers have the proper affiliate marketing compliance measures in place.

To maximize your chances of success as an affiliate marketer, remember our tips: choose the right niche, be patient and persistent, and utilize high-quality marketing tools and platforms. With these strategies in place, you’re well on your way to building a profitable and sustainable affiliate marketing business.

Learning affiliate marketing can also be a great low risk gateway into other business models and side hustles to generate revenue online, like the Amazon Influencer Program or starting a coaching business, as the skills and strategies used are applicable to many different online business models.

Finally, remember that knowledge is power. Understanding the nuances of affiliate marketing can not only help you avoid common pitfalls but also capitalize on opportunities that others might miss. I recommend getting an in depth education on how to build a successful affiliate marketing business. The best place to start is with Legendary Marketer, you can read our complete in depth review on the company here, which was created by affiliate marketing mastermind Dave Sharpe.

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