Affiliate marketing does not work anymore?

9 replies
At some point in the history of internet marketing, not too long after the invention of affiliate marketing itself, I think something went fundamentally, terribly wrong...

Somehow, people got the very popular (and admittedly successful) idea that the affiliate marketer should take great pains to be perceived as ANYTHING ELSE but an affiliate marketer.

The affiliate should write "reviews" or "profiles" or "articles" all of which are nothing more than mislabeled sales material.

It's never actually been legal (or even OK, really) to do this. But still it caught on big time, so much so that a lot of folks even think that's what affiliate marketing is actually about.

Now, rather publicly, the FTC is cracking down on the most visible offenders. Everyones emails have honking big disclaimers. We can't get away with hiding affiliation or pretending we're something else anymore.

But yet newbies come in all the time and want to know where to get started being an affiliate who doesn't want to be seen as an affiliate. That's the default attitude.

No one ever shows up here that says "hey I've been running a hobby blog for 3 years and I have a bunch of pages, but I'd love to take the next step and see if I can go pro."

No, we get "I have all my dog training PLR on my blog and I am not getting no traffic yet today and it's been up since friday."

That seems like a recipe for failure to me. But contrary to my awesome thread title, affiliate marketing is obviously not dead. Nor should it be. But the way people go about it is probably going to keep changing.

I guess there's always going to be people trying to fake it, but hopefully the amount of material out there PREACHING this fake-it approach will disappear as more and more vendors will have to start policing their affiliates.

With that in mind, I'm thinking I should try to help counteract that now, by suggesting some ways to approach affiliate marketing WITHOUT having to pretend or write fake reviews, or anything of the sort.

What I predict is that affiliate marketing is going to return to its initial split-role once all the faker strategies are so heavily discouraged that no one uses them.

That split is:

* Pro freelance marketers that are about pure traffic straight to the offer - PPC guys and CPA guys are most likely going to sift to this arena. There's no conflict of interest there because there's no misrepresentation.

* Personality marketers that are premium content creators for their niche that want something beyond ad sales as a revenue stream. Affiliate offers pretty much act as an endorsement here.

* Content heavy niche sites that don't have a strong personality, but have a community brand wanting the same thing - to go beyond just ad revenue. On these kinds of sites, affiliate ads would be right beside normal ones.

Are there other kinds of site models that will support totally compliant and ethical affiliate marketing? I'd love to hear more ideas.

Do you agree that the landscape of affiliate marketing will change? If so, will it get better or worse? I think it will get better, because it will be harder to do things the right way. I think it will line up the system so that the rewards go back to doing better work vs. cutting a corner or riding a gimmick.

But of course, I could be wrong. I'd love to hear what anyone else thinks.
#affiliate #dead #marketing
  • Profile picture of the author PandoraHarper
    Colin, your post is so close to something I've been wanting to discuss, I'm going to jump in.

    If I read your post properly, you are talking about ethical and non ethical ways of being an Affiliate Marketer.

    I have been very concerned about taking on affiliate marketing because I totally refuse to represent a product that a) I would never use, EVER. b) is so outside my realm of understanding I have no business even pretending to understand it.

    I see any awful lot of that OTHER kind of tactic on the web, and it has never brought me to a sales page. I really don't think these tactics are going to go anywhere for a while. If we had more ethical affiliate marketing materials, this would go a long way in educating the new folks just entering the industry.
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  • Profile picture of the author tecHead
    Dude! Stop changin' the freakin' title!

    Seriously, though... as a product/service creator who has been known to rely on Affiliates, here and there... I'm coming from the other end of the spectrum.

    You're right in the fact that we, (product/service creators), have to pay much more attention to the practices of our Affiliates nowadays. Direct result of exactly what you're talking about; as that Affiliate is essentially representing my company brand.

    Between determining a Nexus and complying with 1099's, to name a few headaches... it becomes more and more tempting to move away from the Affiliate model straight into franchising and/or white-labeling. I'm not even going to discuss the International end of it all because it makes my liver itch.

    I've pretty much restructured my Affiliate model to be scaled back considerably with my core products; focusing my main efforts on those Affiliates that have proven to be legit and not a potential burden. From talking to some of my other associates, seems like this is fast becoming the trend of thought.

    While leaving the mass Affiliate marketing to the ClickBanks and Commission Junctions of the Internet by only releasing products/services that are entry level to those networks.

    I'm kinda sure... well, pretty much so... that unless the Affiliate mentality changes a bit, more and more product/service creators will take this approach.

    Just my 2ยข
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  • Profile picture of the author shakaama
    It's funny, as affiliate qua affiliate, I'm just starting. I have quite a few blogs / sites, that I've had for a year already that each have a little niche.

    When I write an article in a blog I approach it completely differently than some schlept who's trying to pass himself off as an authority with zero knowledge. I write up my article and slap a product in there that would be a convenient example of what I'm talking about.

    What does that mean?

    It means, I'll say something like "don't you hate people who wear white after labor day. It pisses me off. blah blah blah, and here's 20 good reasons why." and then put a pick of black shoes with a caption "don't be a schmuck buy some black shoes". The black shoes are nearly immaterial to the entire post.

    Of course, I never talk about things as trivial as white after labor day, but I hope you get the point.

    I think it's far better to write good copywright first. That way, they'll come back. There's an agenda behind all my writing though. Affiliate marketers have no agenda, besides sales.

    You always hear gurus say, write about something you're passionate about. It goes right over nearly everyone's head.
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    • Profile picture of the author Steven Wagenheim
      Ironically, I'm not known as an affiliate marketer and yet I have more
      success with affiliate marketing than most.

      The reasons?

      Well, they are different for the two basic niches:

      Make Money Online
      Non Make Money Online

      Yep, that's my breakdown. If it doesn't have anything to do with making
      money online, I use the same tactics regardless if it's debt relief, dating,
      health or whatever.

      So let me start with MMO first.

      1. I review the product...a real review.

      2. I offer a bonus that is directly related to the product itself. That way,
      it's not just something that I'm tossing in just for the hell of it. If I have
      nothing of substance to offer, I offer my time such as free coaching for
      3 days, 7 days or whatever, depending on how much the product costs.

      Aside from that, I do all the normal things that affiliate marketers do to
      get traffic (articles, social networking, etc.)

      Now, for the NMMO niches, I have to go a little beyond MMO because
      I don't have expertise in those niches in order to be able to offer any
      kind of bonus that will be meaningful, and I'm not going to insult my
      prospect's intelligence by offering them some off the shelf PLR product
      that they can find anywhere.

      So, what I do, in addition to the articles and product review is I offer
      them a free report that gives some information that they might find
      helpful. It's not in depth enough to be good enough to be sold, unless it
      is a niche (like music) that I am very familiar with, but it is quality enough
      to be helpful. I'll also follow up with an autoresponder series with more
      info.

      The reason I don't go through a special list building and/or free report
      campaign with the MMO niche is because I'm already building my own list
      in that niche. So any affiliate product I promote will already be loosely
      related at minimum to that niche. Remember, MMO is a very general niche
      and can appeal to people interested in PPC to article marketing to SEO.
      It's kind of a shotgun approach, but for me, it works.

      Right now, I'm working on an affiliate promotion in a sub niche of health
      that is starting off slow, which I expected because it is very competitive.
      But as I add content to my site and syndicate more articles, the traffic
      will eventually increase as I build up more authority.

      And therein lies the difference between MMO and NMMO niches for me.

      In MMO, I already have the authority, so I don't have to build it. I just
      have to find good products. And as picky as I am (ask my list) I don't
      find many. I may promote 2 or 3 products a year that aren't mine to my
      list...if that.

      With NMMO, I have to build that authority with content sites, blogs,
      articles, etc., because I don't have it. So it makes it a little more
      difficult.

      The reward?

      Fewer refunds (if any) and fewer complaints and requests for support.

      If you're in those niches, you know exactly what I mean.

      The reason I don't do more affiliate marketing is simple.

      1. Why compete with so many people selling the same thing?
      2. Why accept even 75% of the product price when I can have 100% of my own?

      The only reason I promoted Nitro Marketing Blueprint (about a year or
      so ago) was because I believed in the product and it had a high enough
      price tag to make it worth my time. And I didn't feel like putting together
      so massive myself.

      But in all my promotions, I am up front about what I'm doing. I have all
      the proper disclaimers on my product reviews saying that if the person
      buys from me, I get paid for it. I qualify this by saying that this payment
      makes it so that I can bring quality reviews and products to people looking
      for solutions to problems.

      You can be up front with people (especially in the NMMO niches) and still
      make sales.

      And in MMO, if you include a killer bonus, you can scream from the rafters,
      "Hey buy this thing from me so I can win this freakin contest!" and still
      make the sale.

      The buyer doesn't care that you're getting a commission if you're giving
      them something that makes them salivate all over their pet dinosaur.

      Affiliate marketing doesn't have to be hard.

      Affiliate marketers just make it that way.
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      • Profile picture of the author Colin Theriot
        Originally Posted by Steven Wagenheim View Post

        Ironically, I'm not known as an affiliate marketer and yet I have more success with affiliate marketing than most. *SNIP*
        So you essentially follow the personality marketing route then, establishing a persona of authority first, and then adding yourself (or a product of your own) as an enticement - essentially an endorsement, right?

        For the people who do reviews for affiliated products - I often struggle with finding a commercialized review to be in any way unbiased if you get paid for it via purchase.

        If you were a writer for a magazine instead of self-published, that would be a clear conflict of interest, right?

        I think part of what makes it hard to see it as unbiased is that there's no incentive to waste time reviewing products that will be bad, even though those are just as useful to the audience. They just are not profitable for the affiliate or his advertiser.

        So I wondered about that - any affiliates review stuff that they specifically do NOT recommend?

        In cases like that, would you still include an affiliate link just for consistency and "fairness" ? I've also thought of including 2 links in such "reviews", one straight and one affiliated and marked as such.

        (I might have got that idea from those sandwich shops that are charging whatever people feel like paying.) I think if you were to do that, it may seem weird, because no one else does it, but for me - I see it as a possible way around the conflict of interest.

        So you could have:

        "Here's a "fair" review. I loved it, if you buy it here, I get paid. If you don't want me to get a commission, you can buy it here."

        OR

        "Here's a "fair" review. I hated it, here's my affiliate link to be fair. Here's a direct link also. Purchase at your own risk (but if you do, I appreciate the support)."

        Maybe even take it farther, and have a bonus designed to overcome the perceived flaws in said course.

        It will make less money, I'm sure - but it will be visibly non-pressure and transparent. I'd almost think that simply by doing that, you might get more referral traffic and trust, even from people who "hate marketing".

        Another thing I've been thinking about is how the increase of launch-centric products in this IM niche (which is the one I'm personally in), the ability to review ANYTHING is highly limited.

        Which sort of leaves participatory reviews to lend ground to future product reviews from that same vendor. I talked in another thread about "Bellwethering" in a market where you lead by example and participating alongside the people in the niche.

        That's something I think we'll see more of, because I think reality entertainment and info-marketing/commercialized edutainment are meeting. Some of the most popular shows on TV are "reality" shows.

        This is content created by non-actors, performing non-scripts arranged by non-writers - it's essentially an "amateur production of nothing".

        I think guys like Kern and his posse are already entering into that territory, where the persona and the entertainment and the education are all mixed together. They don't review jack, but they endorse all manner of stuff.

        I don't have any further questions or anything, just sort of brainstorming and thinking about what things may come.

        Anyways, thanks for the response Steven.
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        • Profile picture of the author Steven Wagenheim
          Originally Posted by Colin Theriot View Post

          Anyways, thanks for the response Steven.
          You're welcome.

          For the record, I do have a review site that does reviews both positive and
          negative for the MMO niche. There are more bad reviews than good ones
          and the bad ones do NOT have affiliate links. In fact, I fiercely warn people
          to stay away from the crappy products.

          Those who know me know I am very vocal and outspoken. If I say something
          sucks, it sucks, which is why I promote about 3 MMO products a year, if
          that.

          So when I DO promote something that I believe in, I have no problem
          providing an affiliate link only, being blatantly transparent that I am
          getting a commission, and thus bribing the prospect with a killer bonus
          because they can see all the stuff that I've essentially saved them from
          buying.

          Yeah, if all I did was review "good" stuff, I'd agree with including an
          affiliate link and a non affiliate link. But with my business model for this
          niche, it makes no sense and I wouldn't feel right about putting up an
          affiliate link for a crappy product. To me, it's hypocritical, so I don't do it.

          But everybody has to do what they think is right for them. I'm certainly
          no moral policeman on affiliate marketing.

          What i do know is that they way I run my ship, there is very little chance
          of the FTC coming after me any time soon.
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  • Profile picture of the author rondo
    You can be successful as an affiliate yet not recommend any products to your visitors. You simply report what's available and where to get it. That's mainly what I do.

    Also, some of the most successful affiliates I'm aware of (making 7 figures) simply list products on their site and get their community to rate and review them. This model isn't new, but it has seen a lot of growth lately with social media and web 2.0.


    Andrew
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    • Profile picture of the author Agent007
      Originally Posted by rondo View Post

      You can be successful as an affiliate yet not recommend any products to your visitors. You simply report what's available and where to get it. That's mainly what I do.

      Also, some of the most successful affiliates I'm aware of (making 7 figures) simply list products on their site and get their community to rate and review them. This model isn't new, but it has seen a lot of growth lately with social media and web 2.0.
      Hi Andrew. That's what I'm working on too. Product review sites with site visitor reviews with the option to buy the product. It's somewhat similar to the Info Product Killer approach. In many markets with several product supply (affiliate) options I could also add a shopping comparison feature. More likely for the visitor to get the best deal that way and buy via my site.

      Why? Because when I shop online I love those review and shopping comparison sites ranked highly in Google. I look for manufacturer or editorial reviews first with all the specs, pics etc. Then I shift my focus to editorial comparisons between products, and teh user reviews. Then the truth usually comes out.

      Keep us posted on your progress Andrew. By the way, a collegue has a few editorial review sites linked to Amazon. Very slick WordPress sites. Less than 10 and makes over half a grand a day profit. Hope that's some incebtive.
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      Dave

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  • Profile picture of the author Ronak Shah
    The fact is affiliate marketing works and will keep working no matter what!

    So, let me be clear on the face and say it WORKS all the time!
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