Affiliate Marketing on a Low Budget

I’m sure this article is going to connect with a lot of people out there. I get tons of emails from people asking how they get started in affiliate marketing when they don’t have the largest budget. My mindset and strategy is do not be afraid to lose a lot of money, and be prepared to spend a lot of it when trying to find out what works. Unfortunately, not everybody has capital to initially invest. I say credit cards to those people, but people still don’t want to take the risk if they lose all the money they charge. Again I say you need guts to get big, but that’s not everybody’s goal. So I’m going to write about starting a campaign up with little funds. First I want to get a quick couple of don’ts out when it comes to low budget marketing.

Low Budget Don’ts

  • DO NOT make your bids ridiculously low because you don’t want to blow your budget.
  • DO NOT choose offers based on how high the payout is. Just because an offer has a $50 payout doesn’t mean it’s easy money to get into. Don’t think that you’ll get $0.10 clicks and convert at 10%+ on a $50 payout offer.
  • DO NOT start a sloppy campaign if you’re on a low budget. Since we don’t really have any money to lose here, we need to make sure everything is in-line before we start the campaign up. Make sure all your links are working, pixels are tracking, clicks are showing up in the affiliate network, etc. These things should all be done anyways, but it’s easy to get lazy or excited, start a campaign, and then forget you forgot to do this and that.

Now that we got a few of the bad things out of the way, it’s time to take a look at budget-saving methods of affiliate marketing. There’s ways to do affiliate marketing with PPC, and ways without paying for traffic. If your heart is set on becoming a PPC master though, there are ways to slowly and successfully build a great campaign on a low-budget.

PPC Marketing on a Low Budget

  • Slowly but surely. As with a lot of the ways to make money on a limited budget, slow is the only option. Set up your campaign like you have millions to spend, but set your daily budget at what you can afford. It may take a much longer time to accumulate data and optimize, but that’s the price you have to pay for not spending a lot.
  • Utilize vouchers. Yahoo is always offering free voucher options that you can use as many times as you want. Just the other day I saw a link for a $100 voucher. You have to deposit $30 into the account, but they credit you $100 in free clicks. I’m not sure of the exact rules, but just set up 10 accounts and get a free $1,000 in clicks to test out whatever you want. Use that $1,000 to find out what works, set up a real campaign with keywords/landing pages you KNOW are profitable, and then scale it out with a credit card. I know in the past when I first started and had no money I’d create a few accounts when a good voucher came along and nobody said anything to me about it.
  • Negotiate with networks. Sometimes having a good friend at an affiliate network can help you succeed on a low budget. Or perhaps someone you know is a trusted affiliate at a network – this is where networking is key. Networks can always give you higher than shelf price when it comes to payouts, so tell them you need more money on the offer so you don’t lose money and are able to keep running it. Or tell them you need to start with bi-weekly payments because you have very little money to start, but want to eventually become a very large affiliate. If you’re some random guy who doesn’t sound like he has a clue as to what he’s talking about, networks probably won’t be that flexible. But if you come off as smart and have connections, the network will likely be happy to work with you.
  • Start with sources of cheaper traffic. Google can be quite the beast sometimes and require a bit of money to get rolling well. It’s where traffic is at, but it’s not for the faint of heart or budget. This is where you can start by utilizing cheaper traffic. Yahoo is cheaper and even better converting than Google. MSN is even cheaper than that. Things like Ask, Looksmart, Bidvertiser, etc are all very cheap, but the traffic quality sometimes SUCKS. I spent $2,000 on a test for ringtones in LookSmart and made like $100 back. But other places like Ask, I’ve had pretty good success with. Volume is a lot lower so again it takes more time to see big returns, but you get what you pay for.
  • Don’t freaking give up!!! Low-budget affiliate marketing is still affiliate marketing. Some things simply won’t work, and some things will lose you money. Just because you set your daily budget lower doesn’t mean your ROI will be any higher: it won’t. Realize that you will fail, and you will lose money. You never really lose money though, you’re paying to learn. Learn from your mistakes and use it to make more money.

Utilize Free Traffic and Think Outside of the Box

There’s plenty of ways out there to get free traffic, not all affiliate marketing is PPC. Some ways are well-known, and other times there’s ways to get free traffic by thinking outside of the box. It’s not something I can do for you (as if I find a really great way, I’m not going to tell anybody), but do some thinking and research and you may have a eureka moment. Here’s some ways to get free traffic :

  • Organic SEO. Chances are if you know what affiliate marketing is, you know what SEO is – as you’re doing it. Aside from paid search, there is also organic search engine optimization. There’s methods, strategies, and secrets just like there are in PPC, but organic traffic is free traffic. Your site will naturally fall under Google’s search results without you having to pay to be there. I’m not an organic expert by any means so I can’t help you there, but there are affiliates making really nice money from organic sites. And it’s 100% profit.
  • Craigslist and Gumtree. Both are sites where you post local classified ads (Gumtree is in the UK). Not all networks allow this kind of traffic, but you can find places that won’t catch you, or don’t have restrictions against it. There was an eBook out a while ago that went over some shady tactics to make money from Craigslist. It went something like this (note that I do not condone or use these methods) :

    Post a classified ad saying that you’re Roxie, some hott college girl who just wants to have a good time and possible one-night stand. Say “send an email to roxie [at] gmail [dot] com to talk to me more”. Once they email you, have an autoresponder send a message like “Yadda yadda I’d like to know you, sign up [here] and search for my profile”. That sends them to any dating offer you want. Pretty shady as you’re straight up lying, but it’s free targeted traffic to that offer. Now I was curious about this, so I actually posted a short ad like that on craigslist, just to see if anybody actually responded. I got maybe 30 emails that hour from interested people. I didn’t set up an autoresponder or anything so I didn’t make any money off it, but it did get traffic. Now I don’t do anything that “blackhat” (even though there is MUCH worse), but I got thinking of another way to do it that’s not as raunchy lol and deals with a payout higher than $3 :

    Post a classified ad that says you’re an employer looking for eager individuals looking to work from home and make $500 a week part time on the computer. Then when they email you interested, hit them back with a work at home offer (there’s about 8 million of them out there) and tell them they need to ship those supplies to their house. I haven’t tried that and like I said I don’t do anything like that. But if you’re really desperate and don’t care about ethics, maybe it’s an idea for you. I’m sure it’s done before so find out what works best.

  • Message boards. There’s a message board out there for everything. If there’s not, make one and profit off it yourself. You don’t have to spam in order to make money from them. It would take more time as you’d have to make a few posts so you don’t just have 1, but get some posts and then make a thread in a car forum about “this cool site where you get a free car insurance quote and you actually saved $200/year”. Again I never tested this way, but it could be a way to get a few free leads to build up some initial capital for bigger projects.
  • True blackhat/shady traffic. I’m most certainly not going to post any of those methods here, as some of them can get you into pretty big trouble. I don’t do any of it myself, but I do know people who have told me some things that they do. There’s really shady ways of getting free traffic (or almost free) out there, maybe you’ll meet someone at a seminar and they’ll tell you after being friends with them for a while. If you have no concern for ethics whatsoever and want to run the risk of getting caught, help yourself.

I hope this article helped a lot of you out there who were looking to really get started into affiliate marketing but don’t have the resources to just dive right into it. It took me a while to write this up so you bastards better like it. Seriously though, not everybody wants to be King Tut, and not everybody wants to risk the savings that support their family. My goal with this article was to simply open up some different windows so you can actually get started and start making some money.

Good luck and God Speed.


  1. Jared
    January 3, 2008

    Nice write up.

    Couldn’t agree with you more regarding PPC networks. Stick to the big 3 or better yet just MSN and Y! if you are on a really tight budget. But whatever you do stay the hell away from LookSmart. Their traffic is absolute crap. I thought maybe it was just my niche but everyone else I talked to seemed to have similar experiences.

  2. January 3, 2008

    100% agree with Jared, keep well away from LookSmart; poor traffic that didn’t convert well and in the end the cost per conversion worked out more than adwords which converts a lot better.

  3. January 3, 2008

    Great post Paul. In 2008 I said to myself that I would focus a lot on PPC Marketing. However, I realised that another great way to get targeted traffic for free is through your blog – something which I had been forgetting for the past year.

    When compared to PPC, marketing affiliate offers to your RSS readers is much less risky and cheaper – and it’s something which I’m definitely going to grab hold of this year. Thanks for the encouragement.

  4. January 3, 2008

    Paul, great post, as usual. Thanks for actually posting useful tips & advice.

    Looksmart & Ask were giving me crazy ROIs, but very few clicks. I’d have to look at the actual numbers, but it was like > 2,000% ROI. However, because of the limited clicks, my profit from them was lower than the big 3, which had a much lower ROI.

    I hope to better understand the power of free traffic this year. I’ve been active on a couple of message boards & blogging with limited results so far. But since I’ve seen results, I’m going to stick with it.


  5. January 3, 2008

    Good looking. It is getting closer to the Affiliate Marketing for dummies guide ;) For some reason I still don’t “get it”. Will have to go through some old articles again. Let me know if the below is close to the dummy dummies walk through.

    Maybe I should just go through cj, look for something I see that might sale, apply for it, create a landing page for it, and throw some adwords up on google (or yahoo). Is that the jist of it?

    It just does not seem conventional, like real estate or other things I have done in the past.

  6. Farinha
    January 3, 2008

    Great post!
    I’m one of those who wants to get started on affiliate marketing with a really tight budget. I’ve been reading a lot of stuff around the web about the subject (including your blog), but I still haven’t done anything else…

    I found that Craigslist method for work-at-home offers quite interesting (I also liked the dating scam… so sneaky :D) because it’s completely free, which I think is a great way to start. I’m just wondering if it’s considered legit in the eyes of the affiliate networks. Do you know anyone who has done it?

    Greetings from Portugal


  7. January 3, 2008

    Great stuff. I’m on a small budget but that’s just because I’ve just started. I’m not going out there trying to kill big fish my first time out. Start small and build up. Learn along the way.

  8. January 3, 2008

    I’ve had some decent success with MSN, and its a great stepping stool to learn the ropes before you scale your campaigns up to Y! and Google.

  9. January 3, 2008

    Great post Paul!

    I pretty much did what you listed in your article a couple months back. I focused on Msn and Yahoo PPC Engines, but also used Facebook Flyers Pro (Now shut down, and replaced with Ads). Flyers gave me dirt cheap clicks, but the CTR was horrible because I wasn’t targeting anyone. But believe it or not, Facebook gave me the biggest return on my investment.

    Also, I strongly suggest newcomers to network with other affiliates! I probably talk to my affiliate friends on AIM more so than my RL friends lol! There’s a plethora of information out there. Go find it.

    Looking forward to the next article Paul!

  10. January 3, 2008

    I just started trying out affiliate marketing about 2 months ago, I’ve made some sales, lost some money but I think I have been successful for such a short time in the ‘game’.

    I have started off on a very small budget so this was a great post to read, I wonder if adult friendfinder would allow the method you talked about on the ‘dating scheme’…

  11. January 3, 2008

    I’d also suggest sticking with AdWords, YSM and AdCenter as well at the beginning, you can try other networks on for size at a later point, once you’ve gained some experience and are ready for it.

    Alan Johnson

  12. January 3, 2008

    AdCenter has also converted extremely well for me but yes, it doesn’t come anywhere near to delivering the traffic AdWords does.

    Alan Johnson

  13. January 3, 2008

    This was the perfect article for me as I am always looking at how properly perform low budget affiliate marketing. Looking forward to the next article.

  14. REC
    January 3, 2008

    “DO NOT make your bids ridiculously low because you don’t want to blow your budget.”

    Is that statement right?

  15. January 3, 2008

    I really need to look into using MSN and Y! I have a few offers I’m promoting with Google and just not quite getting it to be profitable.

    But then I notice I’m making several mistakes (not taking quite enough time to set up my campaigns, etc.).

    – Tevin

  16. January 3, 2008

    It is extremely important that you invest the necessary time into setting up your campaigns, it’s all trial&error: see what works for you and drop the campaigns which don’t.

    While the concept does sound easy enough, it will take some time until you get the hang of things.

    Alan Johnson

  17. January 3, 2008

    this is a great post. typically it is hard to get a affiliate site noticed inthe searhc engines but blog posting and forums can get a site ranked. it is also best to build your own site with great information regarding your affiliate product

  18. January 3, 2008

    Yes. Don’t bid $0.10 when you should be bidding $1.00 because you want to save money.

  19. January 3, 2008

    Another great post. Thanks for the tips!

    ~Jonathan Volk

  20. January 3, 2008

    There are some good points here. I’ve heard of someone else making some extra money off Craigslist that way as well.

  21. January 3, 2008

    Yeah I agree Alan, it really is trial and error. Also another unethical thing to do; sometimes you can find glitches in different systems. Take advantage of them for as long as you can. Unethical, but an easy way to make some buck.

  22. January 3, 2008

    As a beginner, this is very helpful. I am guilty of the first two do nots, which ultimately only cost me more money.

  23. January 3, 2008

    Cheap is not necessarily better, conversion is the name of the game. What would you prefer: 1000 clicks at $0.1 each which generate 3 sales or 100 clicks at $1 each which generate 6 sales?

    Alan Johnson

  24. January 3, 2008

    Nice post you definitely gave alot of great information here with some nice tips.

    Don’t be afraid to try several different things. Some of things that I’ve tried I figured would definitely be failures but they turned out to workout really well. You’ll never know unless you try.

  25. January 3, 2008

    Sure, take Paul’s experience with Facebook as an example. He has found a glitch and has maximized his earnings while things have lasted.

    Alan Johson

  26. January 3, 2008

    this is an awesome post! One of the biggest things I would add for newbies is this: Don’t ever pick up a campaign that you yourself wouldn’t buy/signup for online. I made the mistake of doing PPC to a jewelry campaign when I first started – and lost tons of cash. I wouldn’t ever buy a diamond watch online – but I would research them – and thats exactly what the end users did.

  27. January 3, 2008

    Good looking. My question above was valid. This answers part of it. I have seen mad things on CJ and would not do half of them. I am not sure exactly what people are selling as most of it, I wouldn’t buy.

  28. January 3, 2008

    not sure if it was “unethical” though. a glitch kinda. facebook was new to a promotion… he took advantage of that while they were doing a pilot. i would not really say he stole (as if it were a brick and mortar).

  29. January 3, 2008

    It wasn’t unethical at all, he has simply found a glitch and has used it to his advantage for as long as he could. It’s something any common-sense marketer would have done in his potision as well.

    Alan Johnson

  30. January 3, 2008

    Promoting a product you believe in is definitely a must. If you have found that product or service useful, other people will as well. A win-win situation: you help people find a quality product/service and are rewarded by that company.

    Alan Johnson

  31. ben
    January 3, 2008

    I find it interesting that you mentioned because I have used it to promote an offer in the past. I basically paid $25 to post an ad for a “job” which paid around $2.75/lead. I ended up making around $50 ($25 profit) but the affiliate network DID NOT pay me since they claimed that this is against’s TOS. Regardless, it was a good learning experience. It showed me what is possible.

    Imagine what the possibilities would be if I were to post this add in 10 different cities. Assuming I would make about $25 for each city, I would make $250 a day.

    Oh and the affiliate network, if anyone is concerned was

  32. Michel Zieleman
    January 4, 2008

    The problem with vouchers is that only US citizens are accepted!

    Besides that I have the same experience with Looksmart. It was just a waste of money!

    Your other free ways, I am not so convinced to be honest with you… Some of them are also a little bit outdated!

    I suggest for the guys who have a small or NO budget and want to start with ppc, to sign up with “blogging for money” places!

    Everyone can set up quick a blog, submit some articles and next sign up with those places. All the money you make from blogging this way on a monthly basis, you can invest in ppc. That way you are able to grow your ppc budget and become a serieus ppc player after a while!

    Here is good source for finding “blogging for money” sites:

    Ofcourse their are many more ways to make money online when you don’t have budget, just gave you an idea…

  33. January 4, 2008

    Sure, you can make some money from such websites, but it will definitely not be enough to fund some decent PPC campaigns, al least until you start receiving more traffic to your blog and it becomes attractive to potential advertisers.

    Alan Johnson

  34. January 4, 2008

    You know, fundamentally I know this. But sometimes I just get super excited to see if there is life in something. I don’t break down my ad groups well enough. Or I don’t think through my individual keyword bids.

    Because after a 9 hour day at work, and wind down time. I want to get to the affiliate action as quick as possible, but don’t have all day to put into it.

    I’m going to concentrate on my next campaign this weekend by putting in the necesarry hours to get a good test.

    Thanks for the kind words Alan.

    – Tevin

    P.S. How I used Entrecard and Adsense to bump my CTR to 1%

  35. January 4, 2008

    This is a great point.

  36. January 4, 2008

    Indeed, getting the hang of things always requires time, there is a lot of testing to be done and you just have to mess up a couple of times until you find something which works for you.

    Best wishes,

    Alan Johnson

  37. January 5, 2008

    It is really hard to find what works when you are on low budget. I had success marketing on small 2nd tier search engines time go. Now I am trying with Adwords but I am losing money so far. Could you please sugges how to chose offers that have high conversion rates. What should a newbie start with CPA offers or Selling Products? Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us! Keep up the good work! :)

  38. January 5, 2008

    Lets talk in private about blackhat and shady traffic… :)

  39. January 6, 2008

    Is there an easy way to figure out what you “should” be bidding? Is it based on the competition and what position your ad would fall in? Or do you base it off the offer payout? Or something completely else lol?

  40. January 6, 2008

    PS Also, do you, in general, find a basic balance and apply that bid to all your keywords when you start or do you go through and try to decide the value of each keyword/group and give each their own bid?

  41. Michel Zieleman
    January 6, 2008


    We talking here about guys who don’t have a budget, so if you can make from paid blogging every month a small amount like $ 200 and reinvest the whole amount in ppc, then each invested $ 200 can make you after 6 months ppc $ 6000 per month in case you are able to double your revenue on a monthly basis ofcourse.

    This is also how Paul started with a very small budget and he doubled his revenue all the time.

    From own experience, it’s not so easy to have an average ROI 100% month after month, but it shows that small guys can become big after a while.. Just keep patient and improving yourself!

  42. January 6, 2008

    Sure, but if you only set up a blog, submit some articles and sign up, there will be no advertisers interested in purchasing a paid review from you (since you are not providing value to that advertiser), resulting in $0 as far as earnings are concerned.

    Alan Johnson

  43. January 6, 2008

    Basically, it’s always a good start to only promote products you would use yourself. Let’s face it, if you are promoting a product which is not actually useful just because they offer a 70% commission, people simply won’t buy and you will end up wasting time and resources.

    Alan Johnson

  44. Terry
    January 9, 2008

    What networks tend to be flexible about ‘Gumtree’ or ‘facebook’ traffic? COPEAC? NeverBlue? Can you give me a hint.thx

  45. January 11, 2008

    This post of yours seems pretty familiar… oh yeah, that’s because I wrote it (you wrote the regurgitated version of my original) a long time ago! Good job Paul.

  46. January 13, 2008

    Paul, you’ve written another excellent article but as somebody who is a homeowner with two beachfront homes, five cars and a boat, I hae to strongly disagre with you about using credit cards to get involved with affiliate marketing. Sorry man, that’s just bad advice. It’s not about guts, it’s about sensibility and advising people to use money they don’t have to take a gamble is just plain irresponsible. Otherwise, great article.

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