is affiliate marketing dead? (Or) Is it just the people who think it’s dead?

Over the years, affiliate marketing as an industry has been growing quite promisingly but with the rise of new technology and huge competition in the business world. People are finding it tough to thrive in the affiliate market amongst others, and this is where the question arrives….

Is affiliate marketing dead?

To be honest, the affiliate marketing business as a whole has changed drastically over this particular decade, and I won’t argue if people who used to do affiliate marketing back then in the late 2000s tell me that affiliate marketing is done and dusted in 2021.

Why would I agree?

Look, it’s a matter of perspective and understanding; back then, when affiliate marketing started, only a bunch of people knew about it, and there were only a handful of ways to do affiliate marketing. Thus people who have been doing affiliate marketing since then will find it tougher to do it today.

In fact, it’s not only the case with the affiliate marketing industry. I mean, every industry out there has changed drastically over this decade and is still constantly evolving.

For example, 7-10 years back, it would have been much easier to grow as a blogger (or) become a YouTuber once you knew how to start, and back then probably people would have seen results for their efforts within months.

But today, if you meant to start a blog (or) any YouTube channel. It would only help if you were willing to put in at least 1-2 years to see any real results. Thus just like with everything, even affiliate marketing has become tougher but definitely, it is not dead.

In this article, I will thoroughly share and explain the two sides of the spectrum regarding why affiliate marketing is dead?

Why is affiliate marketing not dead?

affiliate marketing not dead
Affiliate marketing is not dead

To explain why affiliate is not dead, I think there is no better way to backup my words other than stats. 

Remember these stats are valid till 2021 and should also be considered beyond so that you would never lose hope in affiliate marketing.

I know, the most important stat of all would be ‘what’s the affiliate marketing industry worth?’

According to Statista reports, in the USA alone, the affiliate marketing industry is worth 8.2 billion dollars.

Also, it is estimated that affiliate marketing as an industry grows roughly 10% each year, and thus you can rest assured that this industry is on the right trajectory to make money.

However, if you want to look into the nitty-gritty of affiliate marketing impact on today’s marketing then it would only help if you read these stats:-

If all those stats were not good enough to convince you that affiliate marketing is not dead then I would like you to stick through with me for the rest of this article.

Meanwhile, all the stats above should tell you one thing that is most likely situations affiliate marketing is still thriving today and is said that it is also fair to say that affiliate income is not for everyone and as I said before, I am going to talk about both sides of the spectrum.

Therefore I would also like to share my thoughts on why affiliate marketing is considered dead today by few people.

Why is affiliate marketing dead?

Why is affiliate marketing dead

Firstly the internet itself has reached an all-time high in terms of user base with over 4.5 billion internet users today and I don’t think there has ever been an online penetration of this size before.

Thus with the ever-growing online population, it is safe to assume that industries have grown and developed radically to sustain themselves among the people. 

Also in the midst of this online growth and evolution, marketing has changed and our affiliate marketing industry is no exception here. 

For that same reason, it has become 10x tougher to do affiliate marketing today compared to yesterday, and that’s the reason why I think people consider it dead.

Anyways the major nitpick reasons of why affiliate marketing is dead would be are:-

Rise in brands and concoction of choices:-

I know you might say that the rise in brands and businesses is a good sign for any marketer because along with the rise in numbers we get a pool of options and affiliate products to choose from.

Well, that’s one side of the story; the other side is that tons of eCommerce businesses are arriving at the party to spread fierce competition for both consumers and affiliate marketers to choose which product is the best.

Besides from the numerous affiliate networks and products to choose from, some biggest eCommerce players like Amazon only offers a margin of 1-10% for each sale. Thus with such low margins, there is no incentive for new affiliates to spend money on paid advertising.

The emergence of new rules and regulations to restrict affiliate marketing practices:-

Even though we can use as many platforms as we want to start affiliate marketing, it’s unfortunate that most of the platforms have some restrictions with affiliate marketing practices.

The best and biggest example will be Facebook and its ad policies. Gone are those days when people could upload an ad that claims to make viewers $10k in 30 days (or) leaner in 45 days (or) make you better at something in a short period of time.

Today Facebook’s ad policies are written in a way so that advertisers have to promote themselves without pointing out to certain consumers and hurting them in any other certain way. Therefore with such strict ad policies in place, affiliate marketers will have to find ways to run such peculiar ads (or) they need to choose other marketing channels to promote.

Also, such limitations with rules and regulations are not only seen with paid advertisements. In fact, Facebook and many other social media platforms don’t want their users to paste a naked affiliate URL. Also, they tend to remove/suspend affiliate links from their platforms.

Back in 2010, it was not the case. People were actually pasting affiliate links all over the internet, spamming it in a way, and were able to easily get away with it.

If you ask me, we should never complain that such rules are stopping us from prompting and marketing our affiliate programs. Instead of whining, we need to adapt to these rules and should promote them in a way that is acceptable to all platforms.

Affiliate marketing channels have grown rapidly, and it has become tougher:-

You should know that only 9% of the affiliate marketers make more than $50,000 per year, and the rest are just slaughtering at the bottom.

It’s not due to the affiliate marketing industry being dead, it is because marketing, in general has become tough. However, if you decide to promote a product in the market and especially today in the online market, then you should be willing to validate, track, adapt, and implement your footprints strategically.

Today there is no one right way to promote any product or service. So as an affiliate marketer, you could choose to promote via dozens of different marketing channels and platforms and yet you may see no results.

Whereas back in the late 2000s, affiliate marketers had the luxury to go after easy-to-promote channels like forums, directories, and yahoo mails and since not many people were implementing those strategies, marketers saw results, and for them affiliate marketing looked as simple as cake.

I have seen professional marketers promoting affiliate products using all paid strategies like PPC ads, native ads, social media ads, and many more marketing strategies.

And as they do so, they have to manage multiple campaigns across multiple platforms to track their progress. Also if something doesn’t work for them, they have to change their marketing tactics vigorously according to that need.

Thus such an extensive workload makes people believe that affiliate marketing is tougher (or) in fact dead, and most people exit from this before even doing anything.

Will the old affiliate marketing ever come back?

Will the old affiliate marketing ever come back

So far, I think I’ve made my point clear that affiliate marketing of old times is dead, and there is probably never a scope for that old affiliate marketing era to come back.

In fact, with the frequent rise of trends and technology. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the strategies that we use today may not work in the upcoming 5-7 years.

To make you realize better I wanna list out the major online changes which happened within couple of years and are certainly shifting today’s affiliate marketing landscape:-

Mobile users are everywhere, and they account for the majority of the sales:-

The percentage of mobile users keeps rising each year, and there is no doubt that brands and marketers have noticed it. Almost everything that goes up online today is made to feel mobile friendly so that mobile users can easily access it.

Let it be apps, websites, landing pages, emails, market reports, etc… everything is built to make it mobile-friendly.

Therefore in such circumstances if an affiliate marketer is opting to do marketing with a web page from the 2010s (or) doesn’t choose mobile-friendly marketing tactics then he/she might see losses in their marketing campaigns.

Search engines are changing rapidly:-

Well, if you had any plans to create a blog and monetize it with affiliate marketing. Then you better be doing it right now because, after 4-5 years, you would never know what search engine changes you have to encounter, and at the same time, you may also have to deal with the 2x-5x competition in upcoming years for affiliate marketing.

Search engine changes, aka algorithm updates, are meant to make search engines more user-friendly and valuable for every search. A decade ago, search engine giants like Google were still figuring out the search engine market and how it should cater to each search

Therefore back then it was damn easier to rank a blog with less optimizing techniques and you could have easily ranked a blog using all spammy tactics.

But today, with endless search data and recurring visitors on the platform. Google has become more prone to releasing new algorithm updates more frequently, which indicates that search engines are changing quite briskly and will soon change after too.

So if you can’t keep up with the recent search engines updates and changes, then you most probably don’t stand a chance to start a blog and make money through affiliate marketing.

Users are also adapting to new search habits:-

Apart from search engine algorithm changes, users on the other end have adapted to their preferred different types of searches like voice search and image search.

It is estimated that almost one-third of searches in the USA are voice searches, and SERPs for a voice search will be different from the regular text search on Google. 

As with the time, both search engines and people on the internet are getting smarter and matured enough to realize how the internet works and how brands are marketing them. Thus making it even more challenging for affiliate marketers to sell to people.

Hence if you’re someone who can’t withstand such consumer changes and can’t think ahead to stay ahead, then you have to leave the thought of making money with affiliate marketing through ads or even with a blog.

People’s attention span is declining online:-

I don’t think that I need to show anything to prove to you that the attention span of users on the internet is decreasing day by day

Introduction of Tiktok, Instagram Reels, and YouTube shorts are some of the finest examples to tell you that people online are not willing to spend more time on one thing for long periods, thus resulting in the emergence of shorter video formats.

People’s attention span has declined drastically nowadays and people don’t fall for the same old marketing gimmicks and strategies anymore which used to work a decade ago, and therefore selling affiliate products to such an audience is harder.

Therefore no innovation in ads and strategies will lead to no earning in your marketing campaigns.

How To Keep Up With The New Affiliate Marketing Scenario, Then?

How To Keep Up With The New Affiliate Marketing Scenario

The reasons and points that I addressed in the above two sections are meant to enlighten you with the fact that affiliate marketing is dead to those who thought it was easy, simple, and less time-consuming to make money with affiliate marketing.

Globally, there are affiliate marketers who’ve built proper careers out of just selling someone else’s products, and certainly, there are people who made millions of dollars in affiliate marketing, and many still continue to make much money.

The best part here is that, as an affiliate marketer, you don’t need to make millions to prove any point. In fact, for many of you, earning 1k-5k per month might make you financially more viable, and in that way soon you would realize that affiliate marketing is not dead.

Today, making decent income with affiliate marketing is tough, but you’ve got to look at it as a business. Because there are dozens of perks with affiliate marketing like earning passive income, working with multiple merchants, shifting to different verticals, and much more.

Also, the affiliate marketing industry is always in need of marketers who can sustain, understand, and capture the ongoing trends. Thus it would be only helpful if you can stick to these strategies to make money in the new affiliate marketing era:

Create content that differentiates you:-

It’s funny when I see videos on YouTube where growing channels recommend people to create content based on the existing content from the platform while adding no additional value to it.

Today, the internet has seen more content than ever before, may it be blogs, videos, podcasts, or anything else. Online is filled with content and it is easy to get your content lost in the pool of other content.

Even though every marketer and new creator out there choose to create content based on the existing topics and trends, however, it should be kept in mind that, as an affiliate marketer, you need to add additional perspectives or angles or some value within your content to differentiate yourself from others.

For example, if you’re grinding day-in and day-out to create content similar to what is already out there. Then there is no real incentive for both platforms and people to engage or even interact with your content.

Quantity in content marketing does matter as an organic marketer, but the quality is the only thing that separates your content from the rest. If your content is an exact mimic of other content pieces in marketing, then you will find it harder to see good results.

Be it paid (or) free affiliate marketing strategies, the content you share should relate to your audience and differentiate you from other content so that you have a good chance of building yourself a brand with such down-to-you content.

Diversify your content and use multiple marketing channels:-

Content is available in multiple forms, and nowadays people like to consume content in their desired formats. Thus, as affiliate marketers, we can’t sit on one platform and create the same sort of content type for months and expect to see any growth.

As an affiliate marketer, you should be more focused on spreading your links to as many places as you want and in as many ways as you want.

In the beginning, it’s a lot more time-consuming activity to create multiple content pieces and spread them across multiple channels. But for starters, you can always focus on sticking to one platform over publishing multiple content types.

By content types, I meant to say that you should diversify your content by creating videos, pics, and audios; therefore mixing it in your content plan.

Today audiences online have a varied range of choices in terms of content consumption. 

On one side, you will find people who would most likely prefer short videos to consume content, and on the other side, there will be people who won’t mind attending a 2-3hr long webinar where you can sell your products.

In this day and age, content is varied, and for affiliate marketing, it is important to reach as many people as you want, and also engage with as qualified leads as you want, and at the end generate as many sales as possible.

Collect data to sustain long-term in your affiliate marketing business:-

Even though I recommended you diversify your content across multiple platforms, what if you focus only on one platform? And suddenly, the platform’s algorithm has changed (or) you, unfortunately, get suspended from the platform.

At that point, all the work which you did to get there is gone in vain, and thus, the importance of knowing your customers and collecting their data becomes crucial here.

By any means, I don’t emphasize saying that you should hack something (or) buy leads from somewhere to collect data. Whether you opt to do paid or free marketing for your affiliate campaigns, the best possible way to collect data for long-term success is email subscriptions or signups.

Emails are still valid to date, almost all the corporate sectors around the globe communicate through emails, and emails are probably the very first thing working people check in the mornings.

So since emails are going nowhere soon and there is no guarantee for affiliate marketers to sustain on any social media platforms for a lifetime, therefore collecting emails is the best way to sustain yourself and create a whole affiliate marketing business based on data collection.

Well….why can’t you sustain for a lifetime on social media?

Cause you would never know when Facebook would suspend/block your affiliate ads. Also, on the other hand, Google, with the recent product review algorithm update, wants to make sure that newbie affiliates don’t spoil any online content by writing fake product reviews. Therefore making this game of collecting emails seem even more valuable and important for affiliate marketers.

However, if you choose to build an email list from scratch and are able to build your subscribers to tens of thousands in numbers. You can rest assured that you can potentially earn a decent income with affiliate marketing just by sending emails to your list.

Conclusion

I hope you’ve found the answer to ‘is affiliate marketing dead?’

Well, we all know it’s not, but if someone says affiliate marketing is dead. Then they are most likely either criticizing the current online marketing scenario (or) maybe they are failing at affiliate marketing by themselves.

Anyways I assume that now since you have a clear understanding of how affiliate marketing has changed over the years and there’s definitely potential for newbies to make money in affiliate marketing.

It’s just that people need to have the right mindset and proper understanding of how things work now in terms of affiliate marketing to make a good income with it.


Vignesh Wadarajan

I am Vignesh Wadarajan, a tech buff, sports enthusiast and adreneline junkie. I started my own company when I was 18 years of age, Jankosoft, a web and mobile application development firm in 2001.