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Digital Marketing vs Affiliate Marketing

An understanding of both digital and affiliate marketing is incredibly important for running any online business. Failing to understand the ways you can use them to boost your sales and monetise your efforts can mean the difference between sinking and swimming in the competitive online space.

In this article, we’re going to take a look at digital marketing vs affiliate marketing, to help you decide which is most important for your business. But first, let’s look at the definition of digital marketing.


What Is Digital Marketing?

Digital marketing is a way of promoting your business using online and digital media to reach your chosen audience. Any advertising that uses the internet is a form of digital marketing. Digital marketing channels include social media, search engine ads, websites, targeted campaigns, SEO, email marketing, and affiliate marketing (more on that later).

Given its reach, digital marketing is a hugely powerful tool in the arsenal of any business. Maximising the use of digital marketing should be an essential part of your overall marketing strategy. The wide range of mediums at your disposal means that you can tailor an impactful strategy for your growing company.


Advantages of Digital Marketing

Powerful Tool for Engagement

Digital marketing offers a wide range of potential channels you can use to target your chosen demographic. Many of the services are free to use and allow you to create long-term relationships with your audience. This helps you to quickly build your brand, boost your public profile, and attract customers.

Helpful Analytics

One of the best things about digital marketing is that it’s easy to measure its effects. By reviewing data, using services like Google Analytics, you can assess how well your digital marketing campaign is reaching your audience and converting them to customers. This gives you the metrics to adjust your campaign to be more effective as you move forward.

Low Cost

Digital marketing is a very low-cost option compared to more traditional marketing techniques like TV and radio advertising. This means it’s a perfect choice for small to medium-sized businesses and e-commerce websites and blogs.

Accurate Targeting

Digital marketing allows you to target your chosen demographic more accurately than if you were to rely on traditional print marketing methods, such as billboards or flyers. You can focus your campaigns on audiences that are already interested in your product or services niche and focus on converting them to customers.


Disadvantages of Digital Marketing


Digital marketing is, by its very nature, temporary. It’s easy for someone to scroll past your Instagram post or delete your email from their inbox. This means you have to maintain digital marketing campaigns over a period of time across multiple channels, to ensure that your message sticks in the minds of your target audience.

Fast-Changing Environment

The digital space is a fast-moving ecosystem that is constantly changing. This can make it hard to predict future trends and plan long-term marketing campaigns. But on the other hand, this also leaves lots of opportunities for innovation!

Requires Specialised Skills

Different digital marketing channels have their own unique quirks which you need to understand to maximise your use of them. You may need to take a short online course and do your own research when starting to use a particular channel to ensure the success of your digital marketing strategy.

Now that we understand digital marketing, let’s take a look at affiliate marketing.


What Is Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate marketing is a type of digital marketing based on a pay-by-performance model. As an affiliate marketer, you’re compensated for driving new traffic to your affiliate partner’s products, services, website, or promotional offers via affiliate links from your website. Affiliate marketing is a global industry that’s estimated to be worth around $12 billion annually. And if current trends continue, this looks set to grow significantly in the near future.

An affiliate agreement may involve the affiliate marketer receiving:

  • a fixed percentage of sales that they help generate
  • agreed payments for new traffic that they drive to the affiliate partner’s site
  • payments based on the number of sign-ups to offers the affiliate partner is seeking to promote

For example, if you run a photography blog, you could promote camera equipment to your audience via affiliate links. When a visitor clicks on your unique identifying link and then buys a camera from your affiliate partner, you receive a percentage of that sale.

What Type of Companies Can I Partner With?

Many larger, more established companies run affiliate marketing campaigns. So, if you’re just starting your digital marketing strategy, or running a small to medium-sized enterprise online, signing onto these affiliate programs is a great way to boost your income and help cover the costs of running your website.

There’s a wide range of companies running affiliate programs, so you can find products or services relevant to your audience. Some of the most popular affiliate marketing programs are:

Smaller companies also offer competitive affiliate programs. So, before you decide what to promote, do plenty of research on what affiliate marketing programs are out there.


Advantages of Affiliate Marketing

Low Set Up Costs

There are few costs (if any) involved with becoming an affiliate marketer, and participating in affiliate marketing programs can lead to large profits. The low barriers to entry mean that affiliate marketing is a great option for startups and small businesses wanting to create additional streams of income.

Easy to Do

Affiliate marketing itself does not require any special skills, as you simply add the relevant links to your content. Of course, there are things you can do to try and maximise your affiliate marketing success including understanding your audience’s needs and producing high-quality content.

So you may want to develop your skills in these areas. You can definitely be “bad” at affiliate marketing and see no success. However, the actual marketing part is really done on the part of the affiliate already by producing something people want to buy. The skill is picking the right products to promote for your audience to maximise conversions.

Source of Passive Income

Affiliate marketing can be a source of ongoing passive income. Once you add the links to your content, there’s nothing else for you to do on the affiliate marketing side of things. You can just focus on building your audience by creating valuable content.


Disadvantages of Affiliate Marketing

No Guarantees

There are no guarantees that you’ll make money when you start affiliate marketing. To succeed at affiliate marketing, you need to drive a decent level of traffic to your website. Without this, you’ll only be able to make a very small amount of income.

No Control Over the Affiliate Program

As an affiliate marketer, you’re not in charge of the program itself and so you must respect the merchant’s terms and conditions. This means you can’t adjust the program, even if you think it would improve your sales or reach.


You’re going to have a lot of competitors in the affiliate marketing space. You’ll have to work hard to beat the fierce competition, especially in the most profitable niches. Successful affiliate marketing is a long-term game and it requires persistence.

No Permanent Customer Base

Once you’ve referred a customer to a product via your link, you won’t receive any extra rewards for repeat sales, unlike if you were selling your own products or services. This can make building up a consistent income from affiliate marketing more difficult than other types of marketing. However, there are affiliate marketing programs out there for subscription services. Some of these may compensate you on a regular basis for as long as the referred customer remains subscribed. These can be very lucrative options depending on your niche.


Digital Marketing vs Affiliate Marketing — Which Should You Use?

Every business should have a digital marketing strategy. Particularly for small businesses, digital marketing is essential to building your brand, attracting an audience, and growing your business. It allows you to reach a wide audience using different channels, some of which cost little or nothing to use.

Affiliate marketing might form one aspect of your digital marketing strategy, depending on the type of business you’re running. If you’re selling your own physical products online, then becoming affiliated with a competitor and linking to their products doesn’t make a lot of sense. Affiliate marketing is more useful for anyone wanting to monetise an existing or potential audience, such as a website or blog.

So, when it comes to digital marketing vs affiliate marketing, you can easily use both. However, every business can benefit from digital marketing, while not every business needs affiliate marketing. Check out our other article to see if affiliate marketing is worth it for you.

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