Beginner Guides / Monetization

Is Affiliate Marketing Dead? (Here’s What We Really Think)

It's only 27 years old, but is affiliate marketing dead? Or can you still use it to make money with your blog? Let's find out.

Candice Elliott November 4, 2022
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Is affiliate marketing dead?

Short answer: No.

It’s been around for a while and shows no signs of slowing down. Countless brands use it as a marketing channel, while the stats reveal it’s a multi-billion-dollar industry.

Has it changed? Sure. Mainstream e-commerce first used affiliate marketing to sell flowers and other gifts.

But with more and more bloggers and influencers earning a full-time income for recommending other people’s products and services to their audiences (like us), it’s safe to say it isn’t going out of business anytime soon.

What Is Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate marketing is a form of performance marketing in which a business pays affiliates for each visitor or customer the affiliate’s marketing efforts bring.

Buzzfeed is an excellent example of a successful affiliate marketer. You’ll see a lot of content on the site that looks like this:

When readers buy something through a link in one of those articles, Buzzfeed receives a cut, known as an affiliate commission.

You’ll notice the disclosure information too. That’s required for affiliate marketing content.

How Much Money Can You Make with Affiliate Marketing?

A lot.

So-called super-affiliates, affiliates who generate a large percentage of an affiliate program’s profits single-handed, make six figures a month, much of it passive income.

Those are the Pat Flynns and Rae Hoffmans of the world. Most of us are not going to make that kind of money.

When we look at the full scope of the affiliate marketer’s income scale, it looks something like this:

  • Total newbies: Losing money
  • Low-level: Up to $300 per day
  • Intermediate affiliates: $300 to $3,000
  • High-level affiliates: Over $3,000 per day
  • Super-affiliates: More than $10,000 per day

Even on the ladder’s second rung, you’re not doing too bad!

Sidenote: Making consistent money through affiliate networks doesn’t happen overnight. It can take a year of hard work to start breaking even.

But once you start making money, things can improve quickly.

What Are The Benefits of Affiliate Marketing?

When you’re wondering if affiliate marketing is dead, you might think there’s no point in delving further if you have to ask the question. But affiliate marketing has its perks:

  • Low start-up costs: You won’t need a small business or a personal loan to enter the affiliate marketing industry. You can start a blog for about $100 a year.
  • Work from home: You don’t need a brick-and-mortar space to run an affiliate marketing blog. You can do everything that needs to be done from home or anywhere else with a reliable internet connection. That makes affiliate marketing ideal for stay-at-home parents or those with limited mobility.
  • It’s part-time: Starting and maintaining a blog isn’t super labor-intensive. It’s hard work in its own way, and the more time you can put into it in the beginning, the faster it will grow. But you can start an affiliate marketing business and grow it around other responsibilities like your regular job, hobbies, friends, and family.
  • You don’t have to be an expert: There is a ton to learn about creating a successful marketing strategy for your blog; best SEO practices, best tools, best plugins, best affiliate offers, and a ton more. But you can learn it all as you go; most of it is free.
  • Passive income: Passive income is money that doesn’t require your time to earn; affiliate commissions are a great example. You write an evergreen article on “10 Classic Pieces Every Woman Should Own” on your lifestyle blog and add your affiliate link to each piece. Each time a reader buys an item on the list using your link, you earn an affiliate commission, but you only have to write the blog once.

Further Reading:

Is Affiliate Marketing Dead?

I’m happy to report that affiliate marketing is not dead. There are some statistics to back this up (more on that later).

According to Google Trends, the term “affiliate marketing” continues to be commonly searched.

Take a look at when I enter the term and set the filter to show the past five years.👇

affiliate marketing stat showing a rise in the search term "affiliate marketing" over the past five years

Affiliate marketing is alive and kicking, with 81% of brands using it as part of their digital marketing strategies.

Additionally, 20% of publishers use affiliate marketing to generate yearly revenue.

Amazon Delivers a Blow

The scramble to answer the question Is affiliate marketing dead? It may have at least in part been kicked off in April of 2020 when Amazon decided to cut its affiliate rates for several product categories.

For example, the rates for furniture and home improvement products tumbled from 8% to 3% and grocery products from 5% to 1%.

The groceries were an especially tough blow. It went into effect very early into the COVID-19 pandemic when many people were afraid to go out for essentials like groceries.

Sidenote: Plenty of part-time bloggers with affiliate sites lost their jobs or saw a reduction in their hours, so Amazon’s decision was especially problematic and dramatically reduced their affiliate income at the worst possible time.

Add to that the number of bloggers, particularly newer bloggers, who were only part of the Amazon Associates program.

No matter what business you’re in, putting all of your eggs in one basket is a bad idea.

Affiliate Marketing Alternatives

All industries change over time, and doing what you’ve always done as those changes happen around you is a good plan for failure.

And things like algorithm changes from search engines can add insult to injury in an already highly competitive field.

So is affiliate marketing dead? Fortunately, No. But let’s explore additional options that might make sense for you, depending on where you’re at in your blogging journey.

Keep this in mind: Diversify.

There is more than one way to skin a cat and more than one way to make money with a blog.

For example, you could monetize with:

  • Display advertising
  • Brand partnerships
  • Sponsored blog posts

Many publishers use platforms such as AdSense to make extra income. AdSense allows publishers to use text links to route readers and subscribers to merchant sites.

There’s much debate over which is better, with the majority favoring affiliate marketing (with good reason).

Harsh Agrawal of Shout Me Loud sums it up nicely:

Affiliate marketing pays more than AdSense.

Display Advertising

Display advertising (or banner ads) are a box or banner on a site that is distinct from the rest of the page and is an ad.

A display ad can be a static image, a video, an animation, or an interactive application.

display ad example

When a reader clicks on the ad, it takes them to a company’s dedicated landing page or website.

Brand Partnerships

Brand partnerships or sponsorships are when an influencer is paid directly to promote a product.

You’ll see this kind of relationship in Facebook groups or on Instagram frequently, like a “health influencer” promoting a dietary supplement.

The influencer must be very upfront about this, just as with affiliate marketing, or there can be severe consequences.

The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) can bring a case against you if you fail to disclose sponsored content or fail to disclose it accurately.

Paid Product Reviews

Paid product reviews are pretty self-explanatory.

A company provides you with a product or service for free in return for a review, and you may get a commission when your readers or subscribers buy that product or service through your site.

Paid product reviews can be a bit of a dangerous game.

Sidenote: To make as much money as possible, some people may be tempted to review any old thing whose company will pay them. That can mean they’re willing to review things that aren’t relevant to their audience.

Or worse, that they’ll give positive reviews to bad things.

The audience buys them based on the word of a content creator, finds them lacking, and no longer trusts that creator and stops reading, watching, or listening to their content.

Further Reading:

Native Advertising

Native advertising is paid content like reviews, articles, infographics, and videos. How is it different than display advertising?

Native advertising is “cloaked” in a way that makes it hard to discern from a site’s regular content. The ad’s look, style, and subject are very similar to the rest of the site.

native ad example looks like it's part of the actual website's content

 

Typically, the native ad platform the website uses appears next to the sponsored content. In the above example, it’s Dianomi.

The FTC also has regulations regarding native advertising:

  • Therefore, the disclosure should appear close to the native ads they relate to.
  • Communicate in clear, unambiguous language like “Paid Advertisement,” “Ad,” or “Sponsored Advertising Content” rather than “Promoted” or “Presented By,” which can be misleading.
  • Utilize conspicuous visual cues to distinguish sponsored content, such as easy-to-read fonts, colors, and shading.
  • For shared or linked ads, the disclosures must travel with ad content.

Further Reading:

How to Improve Your Affiliate Marketing Results

If you’re looking to get the most from your affiliate marketing efforts, here are a few suggestions to help you stay organized and boost your income.

Explore Alternative Affiliate Programs

Amazon Associates is a must for affiliate marketers, but as we saw above, you could get burned if you’re solely an Amazon affiliate.

There are plenty of other affiliate networks and affiliate product programs that you can and should join based on what is suitable for your site and target audience.

  • ShareASale: an extensive affiliate network with more than 4,000 merchant partners. And many of those partners have exclusive relationships with ShareASale. As a result, this network is very beginner affiliate-friendly.
  • FlexOffers: a massive platform that connects advertisers and brands with big budgets with content creators.
  • CJ Affiliate: founded circa 1998 and works with more than 3,000 leading advertisers and brands.

Further Reading:

Use the Best Tools

Affiliate marketing isn’t dead, but it is much more competitive than it has been in the past. To succeed in a crowded field, you need the right tools.

Lasso

Using Lasso makes your job as an affiliate easier.

It’s an all-in-one WordPress affiliate plugin that lets you create custom affiliate link displays, find unmonetized link opportunities, and manage all of your affiliate links in one place.

Best for Monetization
Lasso: The All-In-One WordPress Plugin for Affiliate Marketing

A WordPress plugin that lets you add, manage, and display your affiliate links from any program, including Amazon. Increase conversions. Find new affiliate link opportunities. Earn more revenue! Less than 5 minutes to set up.

Learn More Create Displays Like This

Our tool integrates with Google Analytics so you can track clicks and measure performance. It also provides alerts when your links break.

Affiliates created Lasso for affiliates. Have a look at our plugin here.

SEMRush

SEMRush is an all-in-one suite of tools that will help you improve your online visibility and glean important marketing insights.

For example, you can use SEMRush to analyze your competitor’s sites, keyword research, and Google Ad campaigns.

SEMRush Affiliate

SEMRush is an all-in-one toolkit for digital marketing professionals. Perform keyword research, check your competitor's backlink profiles, and more. They offer a 40% recurring commission and a 10-year cookie duration.

We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

The tool will also allow you to run site audits, track the competition’s keyword strategies, and find new backlink opportunities.

Clearscope

Clearscope uses SEO content optimization, so search engines drive more organic traffic to your site.

The tool will show you what phrases to target based on keywords people are searching for and suggest related keywords.

clearscope interface for writing seo optimized content

Existing posts are further broken down into readability scores, word count, and content type. Clearscope offers a Google Doc add-on and WordPress plugin for real-time optimization as you write.

Further Reading:

Is Affiliate Marketing Worth It?

We say yes. That’s because we’ve been wildly successful in pursuing it. Did it allow us to walk away from our day jobs? Yes. Have our sites made millions? Yes.

You can read this thread about our founder Andrew Fiebert’s approach to building profitable affiliate sites.

Then there’s this:

Statista revealed a $3 billion boost in affiliate marketing spending since 2017 and projects it’ll hit $8.2 billion by 2022.

That’s a lot of money.

And here’s the kicker.

Did you know 8 out of 10 brands run an affiliate marketing program (us included), while 15% of total digital advertising comes from affiliates?

So, maybe you’re a new blogger, or you already have a site with good traffic, and you’re looking for ways to monetize it.

Affiliate marketing is one way to profitably diversify your income by recommending products to your target audience via blogging, product reviews, social media, YouTube channels, podcasts, and newsletters.

Further Reading:

Long Live Affiliate Marketing

Is affiliate marketing dead? No!

If you’re thinking of starting a site, affiliate marketing can be a great way to make money online and from home. But affiliate marketing is no longer new, a secret, or even a poorly-kept secret.

The guy in the cube next to you probably has an affiliate marketing site!

So if you want to make a living or even make it a profitable side hustle, you will have to work harder, diversify, branch out, use the best tools, and above all, always create compelling content that provides value to your readers. 

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