The Changing Tide Of Affiliate Marketing
Affiliate marketing is a type of performance-based marketing that rewards individuals (affiliates) who refer new customers to products and services.
The affiliate marketing industry as a whole, has experienced meandering and sometimes shifting waters (i.e., tax nexus, which we will address shortly) since it first became a way to earn income from a website back in the 1990s.
Challenges aside, affiliate marketing is alive and well especially for those who follow ever-evolving industry best practices. That goes for affiliates, and the companies they represent.
This type of marketing is an appealing form of monetizing websites for a variety of reasons…
- No need to store inventory
- Wide selection of products to choose from
- Ability to offer niche-specific resources (and earn income for doing so)
In the early years, affiliate marketing was kind of like building a sand castle on an ocean beach.
When you build a sand castle, you have a concept for what it will look like, you craft rivets, finials and surrounded it with moats. Fellow vacationers on the beach are drawn to your castle due to its uniqueness, stop to admire (like traffic) and ask questions (like preselling) but then…
The Tide Starts Rising
Similarly, when doing affiliate marketing, you start with a site concept, build great content that attracts visitors (traffic) and then you offer (presell) them affiliate products which provide solutions to their problems and needs (monetize). But, much like the sand castle by the ocean, the tide may start rising.
The “tide” in this case can look very different from affiliate to affiliate. For some affiliates, their product offerings become outdated. The “next best thing” has washed over them like a giant wave and additional work is required to research, try out new products, change content and either update or add new, more relevant, offerings to your visitors.
From an industry perspective, the “tide” has periodically washed up black hat affiliates (black hats try to trick the search engines into sending traffic using unethical methods) who temporarily put a dark mark on the industry. Thankfully, for every black hat affiliate, thousands of ethical and loyal white hat affiliates are out there actively promoting quality products and adhering to frequently changes in the industry. And, they’re earning significant affiliate income in the process.
Another “tide” that has rolled through the industry is the Affiliate Nexus Tax, where certain U.S state governments began requiring out of state retailers to collect sales tax if a significant amount of local sales were generated by affiliate marketers. While only a handful of states adopted the tax, many affiliates residing in them were hit hard when affiliate programs (like Amazon’s) suddenly cancelled affiliate accounts in states where the law had passed.
Thankfully, the Nexus Tax was repealed by most states and industry waves receded once again.
More on Nexus Tax laws here: http://andrewwoolbert.com/affiliate-marketing/affiliate-nexus-thresholds-state/
More recently, affiliate marketers and the companies whose products they represent, are dealing with reaching people on multiple devices and how to accurately track and credit the appropriate affiliate who introduced, encouraged or tipped the sale. Not an easy feat, when many buyers start their search on one device and later purchase on another.
Rakuten affiliate network announced this year the acquisition of Deep Forest allowing them to bring mobile marketing technology and advanced cross-device attribution to their customers and its affiliates.
“A critical part of this is integrating cross-device engagement and conversion data into our proprietary attribution solutions to reinforce and expand our commitment to performance and transparency.”
Other popular affiliate networks will likely follow with their own cross-device tracking solutions in upcoming months.
Still A Lucrative Opportunity
So why should you consider affiliate marketing as part of your monetization mix? In addition to the “why it’s appealing” reasons listed above, it continues to be a strong industry despite periodic swells along the way, and, it’s ideally suited for “everyday solopreneurs”. With a niche site and well matched product offerings, affiliates can earn income working only a few hours a week and build up those earnings over time into a full fledged business.
The important thing is to make sure to keep up with the industry. Seek out experts, attend an Affiliate Summit or a performance-focused marketing conference if possible. Look for local meetups of affiliate marketers. Follow the Affiliate Marketing section on this blog. Make it a practice to stay informed and you’ll keep yourself in a position to do well with this model of earning online.
Today’s Consumers Are Savvy
When thinking about your target audience, be mindful that today’s consumers are smart, fast (sometimes impatient) searchers and savvy discerners. They’re armed with education before making just about any purchase. Aim to educate them. Knowing your audience and where they spend time is more important than ever.
That said, your aim should not just be to convert affiliate sales but also to build loyalty (returning visitors). After all, recommending affiliate products should only be one part of your monetization plan. In this day and age diversification is key to income growth and stability in a fast moving online world.
Depending on your niche, some of the information you’ll want to know about your visitors might include…
- where they live
- income range
- lifestyle preferences
- and so on
Always be thinking about the kind of results YOU would want if you were the person searching for information and resources on a topic and then provide your audience with precisely that. To be successful as an independent affiliate marketer, you have to be able to change with your audience as well as with the industry.
Leverage Your Affiliate Style
Once you get your feet wet with this lucrative form of marketing, zero in on what your unique affiliate marketing style is, then capitalize on it. For example, do you like to research, try products and then write product reviews? According to PowerReviews, 95% of consumers consult product reviews before buying a product or service.
Although doing product reviews can be a time-intensive approach, it’s one that can be leveraged and earn for you for months, perhaps even years. Today’s readers want product review information that’s easy to read, compelling and include visuals like comparison charts, infographics and video clips.
Tip: Remember to calendar a time each quarter to review your promotions and keep them relevant.
Maybe you like to curate the latest information and news around a specific niche and learn about related, helpful affiliate products and services you can recommend before, during or after the content you share.
Or perhaps you have an uncanny knack for subtly weaving the perfect product recommendation with a mere text link into a well written piece of unique content. If that’s your preferred style and you find it to be effective (high converting), leverage it.
Although the tide has risen and settled over the affiliate marketing industry numerous times in its 20 years of existence, affiliate marketing is alive and well.
In fact, according to Forrester Research, affiliate marketing “spend” is expected to reach 4.5 billion dollars annually by the end of 2016. [Forrester]
With spend predictions like these, it seems the changing tide of affiliate marketing is only making the industry stronger. Ready to catch the wave?
Join the SiteSell affiliate program and recommend SBI! as the best option building an online business. It’s a great fit for nearly any audience you may be reaching.