SEO vs. paid ads for affiliate marketing.
The biggest question ever to pop up in the affiliate marketing world.
Or one of the biggest, at least.
As a new affiliate marketer who wants fast success and high ROI, this is a question you cant escape.
Your answer to it will define how you approach your affiliate marketing strategy, how soon you can expect success, and exactly what that success will look like.
In this blog, Ill crack SEO and paid ads wide open and show you the advantages and disadvantages of each, plus how to decide which one is right for you.
Lets dive in!
SEO vs. Paid Ads: A Quick Introduction for Affiliate Marketers
If youre a total newbie and arent sure how either SEO or paid ads will work for your affiliate marketing campaign, Ill run you through a quick summary of the processes before we start.
- Paid Ads for Affiliate Marketing
For a lot of beginners, this gets a tad confusing.
What kind of ads do I run? Where do I run them? Is it legal to run ads for a product I dont own?
Quick answer: it depends.
The truth is, running paid ads for affiliate marketing is tricky. (More on this later.)
But in general, heres how it works:
- You run ads for the product youre promoting through Google AdWords or social media.
- These ads show up when your audience searches using certain keywords.
- They click on your ad and buy through your affiliate link.
I know, it sounds simple.
Later on, Ill show you added factors that make things complex
…but in summary, thats how you could make money running PPC ads for your affiliate marketing campaign.
- SEO for Affiliate Marketing
SEO for affiliate marketing is more common than PPC.
Hop online and type in a keyword, and youll probably land on the site of some random guy promoting Star Wars toys or office chairs.
Thats because a ton of affiliate marketers rely heavily on SEO for visibility and success.
You probably know this.
Even if youre just starting out, youve likely heard about how affiliate marketers craft valuable content to attract an audience wholl one day buy the products theyre promoting.
But in case you havent, heres a quick overview of how its done:
- You build a website and craft high-quality content.
- You optimize your site and content so it shows up on Googles SERPs (search engine results pages).
- People click to read your content.
- When you naturally introduce your affiliate links, they buy the products youre promoting.
Lets get into the pros and cons of both strategies.
The Pros and Cons of Using PPC Ads for Affiliate Marketing
In the section above, I made PPC for affiliate marketing sound like a fun walk in the park.
Warning: its not.
The truth is, this strategy is a balancing act, and your success will depend on how well you can walk a tightrope.
Long story short: its not for everyone.
Here are its main pros and cons to help you decide whether or not its for you.
- The Pros of Using PPC Ads for Affiliate Marketing
Ever listen to a seasoned affiliate marketer telling you patience is a must for affiliate marketing?
Affiliate marketing is like a marathon, not a sprint. You need to be in it for the long haul, with a ton of patience, hard work, and the stamina to survive losses.
But what they dont tell you is that theres a quicker way to succeed, and thats through using PPC ads.
Why is it quicker?
Well, simply because you can eliminate the ton of time youd spend building a quality site, crafting content your audience will adore, and optimizing everything for SEO.
You can skip the long, tedious months waiting for your content to finally rank. And the time and effort youd need to write piece after piece of content.
With PPC ads, you pay for the ad, whip it up, and post it.
When youre done, itll immediately show up on Google or social media, ready for those clicks and sales.
- The Cons of Using PPC Ads for Affiliate Marketing
Before you run off and start your PPC ads campaign
…you need to remember that quicker isnt always better.
Theres a reason PPC ads are left alone by a ton of seasoned affiliate marketers.
Or reasons, rather.
The first one is that ads are ads. They get on peoples nerves. Theyre the reason ad blockers were invented. (46.2% of internet users worldwide admit to using ad blockers.)
Here are some more scary ad blocker stats:
What all this means: when people find out what theyve clicked on is an ad, their trust immediately drops.
Theyll feel harassed, doubtful, and cynical.
Most likely, theyll click the back button as though it would save their lives.
But peoples general hatred towards ads isnt the only reason running PPC ads for affiliate marketing is so difficult.
Theres also the expense.
If youre just starting out, you probably dont have six figures in your bank account, ready to splurge on ads.
Plus, even if a few reluctant members of your audience buy through your ads
…youll only make a tiny percentage of the profit (since youre the affiliate marketer, not the owner).
Finally, theres the trouble involved with running ads as an affiliate marketer:
- Social media platforms are insane about their rules surrounding ads. (Facebook even explicitly states that you arent allowed to directly advertise your affiliate links.)
- Bigger companies with their own affiliate programs already run ads, meaning youll be competing with them if you run your own (when you think of it, its kind of weird).
- A ton of companies with affiliate programs state in their Terms and Conditions that you cant run ads using their trademark and other terms.
Like I said, running PPC ads for your affiliate marketing campaign is a balancing act.
Its not impossible to succeed.
In fact, people like Peter Czepiga have succeeded in making decent profits with nothing but ads.
But its going to be hard.
Sure, itll be quicker to get traffic and views.
However, you need to decide if the balancing act required will be worth it, how much money youre willing to lose if things fall flat, and how much you can expect to earn minus the ads and the percentage the company gets from your sales.
What it all boils down to?
Yep, its really up to you to decide.
The Pros and Cons of Using SEO for Affiliate Marketing
The alternative to running PPC ads to promote your affiliate products is SEO.
Now, maybe Im biased, but I strongly believe SEO is the better choice.
Ive built my nine affiliate sites and skyrocketed my monthly income to $40,000 mainly through SEO optimization.
But there are cons as well, of course.
Lets take a look at both sides of the coin.
- The Pros of SEO for Affiliate Marketing
There are a ton of reasons why Im a firm believer in SEO (besides the fact that this has been my main strategy throughout my 12 years as an affiliate marketer).
First of all, organic traffic is hot traffic.
Lets put it this way.
Imagine youre a dog owner whos having trouble keeping your beloved poochs coat shiny.
If youre like most human beings, youll jump on Google and type how to keep my dogs coat shiny.
Heres what youll get:
Now, lets say you click on one of these articles and read it through.
You love it and appreciate the advice given.
The author seems like a true dog lover and expert.
Now, what if in one of his blogs points, he mentions a great vitamin proven to bring out the glow in your pets coat?
Youll buy it of course.
Thats how simple, natural, and trust-based affiliate marketing through SEO is.
But theres another pro to using SEO:
When you do, youre building an asset thatll continue growing with time.
PPC ads are like a faucet fed by money. Stop the money, and the faucet stops pouring water out.
But with SEO, the opposite is true.
You dont need a large initial investment to begin with – nothing but time and hard work. And as the months and years roll by, your asset will snowball.
Your site will age and gain higher domain authority. Your posts will start ranking on the SERPs. You can continue earning from blog posts you wrote a decade ago.
This is exactly why SEO is the preferred strategy most affiliate marketers use.
- The Cons of SEO for Affiliate Marketing
If SEO is so amazing, youll ask, Why do some people even consider PPC ads?
There are cons to SEO as well.
The main one is basically time-related.
Affiliate marketers are in a rush. They want to see immediate results. They want to start earning enough to support their travels to the Caribbean. They want to quit the nine to five rat race and watch TV all day while money flows unchecked into their bank accounts.
And theres nothing wrong with that.
But thats not how SEO works.
SEO requires time, patience, and hard work.
Youll need to build an attractive, optimized website. Youll need to post consistent, high-quality content your audience will love. Youll need to wait it out.
Depending on your niche, you wont start earning a decent profit for 6-12 months.
And to earn enough to quit your job and support your travels overseas…it could take even longer.
So if youre in a big rush and you want to start earning tomorrow, SEO simply isnt for you.
Which Is Better – SEO or Paid Ads?
Ok, now for the big question.
Which is a better strategy for affiliate marketing, really?
Is it PPC ads or SEO?
Honestly, no one can answer that question for you.
For me, based on my experience, Id have to say its SEO.
Through SEO, Ive grown my affiliate marketing sites and now earn a full-time living as I travel the country and do whatever I want.
But its not the same for everyone.
If youd like, you can try both and see which works best for you.
You can start a website and begin posting high-quality, valuable content.
As you wait for it to grow and start earning, you can run PPC ads on the side (as many as you want, depending on your budget).
An alternative strategy is to use PPC ads to drive traffic to your site (this will help you avoid getting flagged, especially by social media platforms).
The truth is, theres no sliced and diced answer to whether PPC ads or SEO is better.
Youll have to figure that out yourself, or use the two hand-in-hand for optimum results.
SEO vs. Paid Ads for Affiliate Marketing: What It All Boils Down To
As an affiliate marketer, youll run into a ton of questions even at the very beginning of your journey.
If Im guessing correctly, one of these questions will be:
SEO vs. paid ads – which one is better for affiliate marketing?
(Yup, Ive heard this too many times.)
Unfortunately, theres no one answer to this question.
There are seasoned experts in the SEO camp…and other seasoned experts in the PPC ads camp.
So, what does it really depend on?
Short answer: YOU.
It depends on your plans, your skills, your assets, your needs, and your specific affiliate marketing journey.
So before you write PPC ads and SEO down on little scraps of paper, throw them into a hat, close your eyes, and randomly pick one to decide your fate
…sit down and give each a thought first.
- How much money am I willing to invest?
- How long am I willing to wait before I start to earn a decent profit?
- Do I have a plan for balancing the cost of PPC ads with how much Ill be earning from my affiliate programs?
- Do I have what it takes to craft high-quality content my audience will adore?
- Do I want to go for small, quick wins, or am I ready to go into it for the long haul with riper, more lasting success?
Once youve answered these questions, youll be closer to the answer on whether you should use SEO or PPC ads (or both) for affiliate marketing.
All screenshots taken by the author, September 2021.