The Second Coming of Affiliate Marketing

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It seems that a huge segment of the online content industry that had been previously vilified by “respectable” online “journalists” (use of quotation marks intentional and appropriate) is also finally being seen as another savior of online content.

Some are even trying to call it “commerce journalism.”

It’s actually called affiliate marketing. And it’s been around online at least since Amazon launched its Associates Program in the 1990s, but never given proper credit as a “respectable” monetization avenue.

Until now.

In this 25-minute talk, Robert Bruce and I discuss …

  • What is affiliate marketing?
  • The ancient origins of affiliate marketing
  • The Great Internet Marketing Conversion of 2013
  • Why affiliate marketing can make a great baseline revenue model
  • The difference between native advertising and affiliate marketing
  • The basics of affiliate disclosure
  • The simple Copyblogger business model

Hit the player below to listen now:

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The Show Notes:

About the author

Brian Clark


Brian Clark is founder and CEO of Copyblogger, host of Rainmaker.FM, and evangelist for the Rainmaker Platform. Get more from Brian on Twitter.

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Comments

  1. Thanks for this podcast on affiliate marketing!

    I jumped on the affiliate marketing bandwagon in 2008 and earned and lost money. Why? I didn’t fully understand the art and science of affiliate marketing. I created Google ads and ‘bid’ on keywords left and right. I also got sucked into the hype from ‘expert’ affiliate marketers. I learned many lessons such as, “Know and understand what you’re getting into with affiliate marketing and/or any marketing tool.” Lesson learned.

  2. Awesome podcast. The ancient origins part was super interesting.

  3. Thanks for a very informative podcast. I just started blogging this year and wanted to focus on content for the first six months. Your podcast provided very useful information for moving into the area of affiliate marketing in the next couple of months.

  4. Nice show – Amazon deserves credit for popularizing affiliate marketing, but they didn’t start up until July 1996.

    CDNow was the first mainstream company (adult sites were doing it earlier) to have an affiliate program, that I am aware, with their buyweb program back in November 1994.

    • Cognigen (now Commission River) launched in 1992 selling long distance services on the web. They were affiliate, though touted themselves as MLM (aka with multiple “affiliate tiers” that they called a “downline”). But they were straight up what we know today as a multi-level affiliate program. I only know this because they were the first affiliate program I stumbled upon and became an affiliate for way, way, way back in the day (though funnily enough, I still to this day get small residual checks). They definitely claimed when I was active there to have been the first mainstream affiliate program. :)

  5. What are your thoughts on 100% Affiliate Commissions to acquire affiliates, then upsell other stuff?

    Say for example Copyblogger had StudioPress themes setup so affiliates earned 100% of each sale. Then you upsell Synthesis hosting, Premise, etc.

    Do you think your bottom line would increase? What downsides do you see with this model?

    • The big risk of that model is credit card fraud, particularly if the commissions are in the $100+ range on a per sale basis. You can end up getting 10’s of thousands of Dollars of fraudulent orders pushed through & if you don’t wait literally for months on the payout there is a good chance you end up paying someone those $10’s of thousands BEFORE getting the wave of chargebacks.

      The second big issue with the model is that it promotes bad (eg: ill informed & inaccurate) reviews from people who do not even know what they are selling … people doing faux reviews just for the affiliate commision. And the big deal with that is that it can create mixed messages about the quality of what you are selling & have people associate your products with some of the sketchier sales angles people try to use to sell it. I have even seen websites have their reputations drug through the mud because one of their affiliates was spamming up other sites with their affiliate links.

  6. It was just the same for me. I think that many of us had these experiences until the recognition of expertese for me I kept failing. There are some amazing commissions to be made in Affiliate Marketing whether it is marketing with funnels or by giving away free value in order to grow lists and build trust.

    Thank goodness I didn’t quit as it only made me more determined to master this and make it work for me. I now luckily make great commissions from many various tools and services as well as products from others mainly in the Warrior Forum and Clickbank. I hope that things have worked out for you guys aswell and wish you the best.

    Great post which shows that we must understand changes also in order to maximise and position ourselves well today.

    Cheers

    Greg

  7. Fantastic post and podcast, Brian.

    I’m a raving fan of the affiliate marketing business model. Since my discovery of it, I’ve always found it more attractive than any other online business model such as Adsense or an Ecommerce store.

    However, I will admit that actually being an affiliate of someone elses’ product/service isn’t exactly the best and most stable way to make money online; for me, anyway,

    While affiliate marketing is a great way to make money online initially, the competition is fierce and I wouldn’t suggest that anyone rely solely on affiliate marketing for their income.

    I have several horror stories I could share where I’d put all of my eggs in one affiliate marketing basket only to wake up one day and realize that the product, service, or program has disappeared.

    That’s why I’ve moved on to creating my own products. I’m more partial to the affiliate marketing model where you have OTHERS become affiliate of YOUR product.

    What I love about product creation is that YOU own the asset. And no one can take it away from you overnight. Plus, you get to keep 100% of the profits and the backend money – if you incorporate up-sells into your sales funnel.

    This isn’t my first time visiting Copyblogger, Brian; however, this is my first time leaving a comment. I just want to say that all of the content Copyblogger creates is insanely valuable and I truly appreciate all the work that goes into it.

    It’s really helped and enlightened me over the years and I look forward to reading even more valuable content in the future.

    I’ll be sure to share this post with my social circle.

    Thanks, again! :)

    Ti

  8. Archan Mehta :

    Thanks for your contribution. I appreciate your ideas, because I think we need more information about “affiliate marketing.”

    I heard about affiliate marketing rather late in the game. Everybody was talking about it, but nobody seemed to know what it stood for.

    Affiliate marketing is the ghost in your bungalow that nobody knows about until it comes knocking on your door, disturbing your sleep in the middle of the night.

    There are myths about affiliate marketing that need to be de-mystified and discussed: no doubts should linger in our minds; a clarification is the day’s call. We deserve it, so we need more posts like this one. Cheers.

  9. Affiliate marketing can be a great way to make a steady stream of income. But it’s easy to lose your shirt if you invest in paid media and don’t know what you’re doing. My goal is to keep building my list, and even though most of my online knowledge is in SEO, paid media is much more scalable once you have a high converting sales funnel in place.

    It’s all about the back-end email follow up sequence-that’s where the real money is made. If I can make back 75% of my investment in a traffic source right off the bat, I’m happy, as I know the list of subscribers that money built will pay dividends for years to come :-). And having a few high quality affiliate offers that provide real value to your list is a MUST!

  10. For some reason its not showing up on itunes :(

  11. Affiliate marketing is a great way to make money online. But it does not compare to product creation. If you promote nothing but affiliate products to your list guess what? They are going on their “buyers” list not yours. It’s good to promote other marketer’s offers but even better to create your own and have other affiliates promote yours.

  12. As the owner of an affiliate network myself, I know that affiliate marketing is definitely still a great advertising tool. But in order to become mainstream, it has to become less technical and more social. And that’s exactly what we’ll be doing to our affiliate network soon!

  13. Great interview. I have had an interview podcast on/off over the last 18 mos. where I interview mom entrepreneurs about their product/service business.

    I’m re-launching this Fall and just signed up w/ Amazon affiliates and will def disclose this to my audience. I don’t want to have to sign up for a lot of different affiliate programs. Is there 1-2 others that you all can recommend? Probably more focused on entrepreneurial tools? Thanks.
    Rachel, Best Mom Products

  14. Anil Agarwal :

    Recently I have moved from Google Adsense and banners ads to affiliate marketing. These days most of bloggers are moving towards affiliate marketing and they are finding it hard to earn any decent money through traditional money making methods like Google Adsense, Selling Banners or text links on their blogs.

  15. Affiliate marketing can be a great situation for someone wanting to start up their own business and work from home. The level of success defined is a personal thing and certainly affiliate marketing offers all levels of success.

    From a pure business standpoint, affiliate marketing offers low startup costs and very little overhead. That’s the easy part. Once you have your website up and you have found some good affiliate programs to offer your visitors, the true challenge is getting those visitors to your website.

    Each and every day more and more people come across and become more interested in affiliate marketing and how they can make money from participating. And just like any new startup business the failure rate in affiliate marketing is quite high. Most people new to affiliate marketing don’t understand the intricacies of affiliate marketing and what it takes to be successful with an affiliate website

  16. Gone are the days you can just put a link to an affiliate offer. Hence “Commerce Journalism”… Big emphasis on quality content with strong online presence.

  17. No question about it, affiliate marketing is the best way to run and online business. However, I want to share something that happened to me today. I tried to promote an affiliate link. When I went to the sales page, and clicked on the order button, a PayPal payment form came up. Obviously, this guy is trying to bypass paying out the commissions. I know this is unethical. Is it illegal? If not, it should be.
    I wanted to share this.

    • That’s something you need to discuss with your affiliate partner. There are many different ways that affiliate clicks are tracked.

      I’m not sure why you think that a PayPal button means your click wasn’t tracked or that, if that had been a customer, you wouldn’t have earned a commission on it.

  18. Affiliate marketing continues to evolve and Alan (above) is right. You can’t just post links and banners anymore. People want engagement and actionable content before they’re willing to part with their money thru your affiliate link.

    Thanks – Bill

  19. Yes, the haters have no leg to stand on. This type of business model has been going on since the beginning of time. There have always been honest sellers and swindlers. You cannot bash a whole industry because of a few scammers. The fact that true informational content is what is causing sites to rise to the top of the serps and spammy sites are going to the bottom is not a bad thing.