Paid Vs Free Traffic For Affiliate Marketing – Which Is Better?

Paid Vs Free Traffic For Affiliate Marketing – Which Is Better?

One of the oldest debates in affiliate marketing is whether paid or free traffic is better.

There are generally very strong feelings on both sides of the fence.

As someone who’s done both (and had success with both) I thought I would give a quick rundown on the pros and cons I see of each type of traffic.

I’m not going to go too in depth into theory or strategies/methods here. That’s a topic for another time. However, I will cover the key points (pros and cons) I think you need to consider for each approach.

Free Traffic – Pros

  • It’s free – Need I say more? I mean who actually likes spending money? When I started out in affiliate marketing over 12 years ago, I made my first dollar online without spending a single cent. All it took was time. And the crazy thing is that it’s still possible to do that (and probably always will be). No wonder the allure of free traffic is so strong for so many aspiring affiliate marketers!
  • You only risk your time – At the absolute worst, you won’t be out of pocket if you pursue free traffic (beyond a few basic costs like domain and hosting, which amount to the price of a couple of pizzas). If you have time but don’t have money, then this an enormous advantage to free traffic methods.
  • Traffic often converts better – It has been my experience time and time again that free traffic from long-tail keyword Google searches converts better than any other form of traffic. Part of the reason for this is that organic traffic often has higher buyer intent or problem intent. For example, if you’re sat at home searching for ‘best guitar amp for bedroom use’ then you are actively researching/looking to buy something. However, if you get hit by a Facebook ad – even  if it’s relevant – it’s more like interruption marketing so you aren’t in the “buyer zone”.
  • A bit like compounding interest – You’ve probably heard of the power of compounding interest, right? Your returns start off small but get bigger and bigger over time. Free traffic from organic Google searches is often a bit like that in my experience. You start off slow, and then things build up much more quickly over time as your affiliate site grows in authority and quality.

Free Traffic – Cons

  • Slow
  • Risk of Google penalties and algorithm changes

Paid Traffic – Pros

  • Speed 
  • Scalability
  • Targeting

Paid Traffic – Cons

  • Can get expensive
  • No guarantee of positive ROI
  • Changing terms/rules
  • Less beginner friendly


As you can see, there are pros and cons to both free and paid traffic. There is no perfect option. And – for many types of affiliate marketing – your best option might be to look at doing both.

My gut feeling (and experience) tells me that if you’re new to affiliate marketing, then you’ll probably want to look more on the free traffic side of the equation. This is especially the case if you have a bit of spare time, but not much spare money.

On the other hand, if you’d rather spend money (and don’t mind almost certainly losing some of it) for faster results, then you might prefer paid traffic generation strategies like Facebook ads or Google Advertising.

Whatever you choose, the most important thing is to stick at it. You are unlikely to see immediate results, and there will ALWAYS be a process of trying to work things out in a way that is successful for you.

If you’d like to learn more, then check out my latest video below. This is actually aimed at digital marketing in general (rather than specifically looking at affiliate marketing) but the principles still apply:

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