Just wanted to share my journey of affiliate marketing and how it has changed.
I started my affiliate marketing venture 13 years ago in 2004. It was not planned, I started my hobby website about graphic designing and quickly learned that money could be made through advertising.
First I tried Google adsense, but the revenue was low. Later joined a few programs under CJ and was impressed by the high percentage of commission. After trying few promotional pages on my existing website and getting impressive rewards. I quickly started developing dedicated niche websites. The income started to grow as my websites were gaining positions on search engines. After 4 years of starting this business, I reached the peak income, I was making over $30,000 per month in profit with over 100 websites.
After 2008, it all went downhill. Merchants I was working with started to reduce commission and cookie duration. Some highly converting merchants even closed their programs. I now get 30% of what I used to get because of reduced commissions and cookie duration. There is not a single store that hasn't reduced commission and cookie duration. This is just merchant side, the other end "search engines" is another story. 2008 is the year search engines started targeting affiliates. Your website could be penalized just for having an affiliate link. A lot of my websites were targeted.
I started to adapt and kept myself in business until now. Every year, the profit margin is narrowing, and I expect to go out of business soon as hosting and domain cost will exceed commissions. I made just $700 profit last month which was shopping season.
All the people I know who were doing affiliate marketing full time have moved on to other businesses or day jobs. Even my beloved affiliate community Abestweb which I joined in 2005 and where I was a moderator has closed down last year.
Overall I have made about $2 million from affiliate marketing, and since I started this business when I was just 18 and never did anything else, Finding a new line of work will be challenging.
Thankfully, I didn't blow it all and invested some money which turned good rewards. I can stay unemployed for the rest of my life if I choose to.
I don't think affiliate marketing is completely dead, but its extremely difficult now and not worth the effort as the rewards will be minimal because of low commissions industry wide and organic rankings are now dominated by big players. You can make more money flipping burgers at McDonalds than wasting your time at affiliate marketing.