Is Affiliate Marketing Dead?

affiliate marketing

Is Affiliate Marketing Dead?

The big question, ‘is affiliate marketing dead?’ has been brandished for a while now by those who don’t like to see a good thing succeed.

Affiliate marketing has managed to stay ahead of the marketing game by evolving along with the changing times, and enabling what was the original model, to take on a new shape and innovative strategies to cope with the different tech, sales and advertising advancements. Being organic has allowed affiliate marketing to survive considerable changes in these peculiar times and continue to grow from strength to strength.

So, affiliate marketing, which is a type of performance-based internet marketing, saw swift growth years ago, throughout the 2010s, and still is to the present day. And now as 2023 rolls steadily along, affiliate marketing is still expected to continue to grow and is thought to continue generating revenue for those capable of capitalising on it – regardless of the cynics.

And it wasn’t so long ago, that affiliate marketing was the buzz term of the past two decades, mainly if you wanted to ‘get rich quick’. So, why is there doubt of its continuation when the forecast for affiliate marketing is so good?

Because there’s no denying that affiliate marketing is here to stay. By 2023, the affiliate marketing industry is forecasted to surpass the $8.2 billion mark, up from $5.4 billion, making it nearly double what it was worth in 2015.

Affiliate spending is projected to exceed $6.8 in the USA alone. And a whopping 80% of brands use affiliate marketing as their primary sales channels.

If that’s not enough – 15% of the whole digital advertising revenue can thank affiliate marketing for its success. This global industry is worth over 12 billion and continues to grow.

That’s a heck of a lot of money, time and effort for something that could die out pretty much anytime soon… Because today, affiliate marketing is still considered one of the most efficient ways to earn an attractive income online, drive sales and increase brand awareness – the figures speak for themselves.

Trends are always coming and going, but there are some to watch when it comes to affiliate marketing which will prove it’s far from a dead marketing tool…

So, is affiliate marketing dead? Not on our watch. You might need more than the most basic affiliate marketing programs to make money, and those who want to earn a good income through affiliate marketing, need to be creative and willing to adapt to new trends and ideas. But affiliate marketing is not a thing of the past.

There will also be a very high percentage of people who enter the affiliate marketing world who will never succeed with it or will make much money, but for those who are good at making money, it can still be a great thing as this is a form of marketing that requires a lot of technical knowledge and hard work, as well as a lot of time to reap the rewards in this competitive industry.

Expertise and patience are key elements when competing in this multi-billion dollar industry.

Many still see affiliate marketing as a booming opportunity, especially considering the rise of freelancers and solopreneurs with online businesses. If we start looking ahead to the millennials and post-millennials, who are actively cashing in on the sharing economy, as they understand the power of passive income, and as businesses are formed, they are actively integrating affiliate marketing into their business models.

Why? Putting it bluntly because the numbers make sense. Come on, ten voices versus one voice actively sharing and promoting a product inevitably leads to accelerated awareness and profit.

So, is affiliate marketing dead – nah!

Affiliate Marketing – how does it work?

Affiliate marketers who are also known as publishers can be social media influencers, bloggers or other brands with an audience similar to the company’s target customer – this gives the brand immediate access to a possibly new and different audience.

Affiliate marketing is a popular tactic to drive sales and generate significant online revenue because affiliate marketing is an agreement between someone – the seller, brand, retailer or vendor – also known as the merchant, who wants to sell a product, and a marketeer who is also known as the affiliate or publisher who helps to get people to buy that product. Therefore the key players in affiliate marketing are the advertiser, the publisher, and the customer.

Customers are made aware of products they may not have otherwise purchased. Publishers earn revenue by promoting or influencing the sale of those products by organically including them in relevant content. And the company that sells the product does more business.

So, when a customer purchases a product or service through the publisher’s affiliate link, the publisher earns a commission for that particular sale. It increases sales for the brand and acts as a source of revenue for the publisher, making it win, and wins for all parties.

Years ago, anyone could be an affiliate, but the FDA recently made it compulsory for anyone who promotes a product to disclose it. And affiliate marketers must ensure they work with reputable merchants who can provide quality products and services. A staggering 90% of merchants assume that affiliate marketing is essential to their success as it can open merchants up to a new type of consumer.

Affiliate marketing is unique in relation to other internet marketing techniques partly because it works as a distributed system when it shares the responsibility of making impressions and promoting products or services to these third parties – the affiliate. 

Nowadays, affiliate marketing is implemented across a diverse range of social media, including YouTubers with their affiliate links in video descriptions of the clothes they’re wearing or the products they mention. Likewise, bloggers often place affiliate links on their posts.

Strategies for marketing affiliates have changed to keep up with the demands of consumers who have demonstrated a preference for online shopping – this merely means that innovative marketing ploys are required for the different demands.

The Marketing Affiliate Times Are A’Changing

So, affiliate marketing isn’t dead. Not at the very least. It’s evolved. It’s fluid and forever changing, so much so that affiliates and merchants must be prepared to adjust to these changes and be ready to adapt to anything, as an estimated 1.8 billion people purchase goods because of affiliated marketing strategies. Amazon shipped over 5 billion items worldwide in 2018, thanks to affiliated marketing. Speaking of Amazon…


For years Amazon operated a powerful affiliate program, which allowed members to advertise and link to their products in exchange for a percentage of the sales. The program drove significant revenue for online websites linked to Amazon products in their content, making it especially important for online publishers that drove potential consumers to buy products from Amazon for a cut of sales. Amazon’s affiliate marketers’ commission from purchases of furniture and home improvement products fell from 8% to 3%, and the commission rate for grocery products slid from 5% to 1%.

Let’s put this into perspective – affiliate programs, similar to affiliate networks, provide you with offers you can promote online. Affiliate programs serve as additional sales channels for big companies, whereas affiliate networks don’t. People can sign up for these programs, get a link, and persuade others to click it on their own blogs/videos/review sites with search engine optimisation.

This parameter tells the product owner to who they owe this sale. And like any good businessperson, the product owner then has to track the sales to manage their business efficiently. Because many of these products are actual physical objects, they have to be manufactured, stored and then shipped, which makes them relatively expensive to operate – so, the affiliate commission is usually around 4%. Whereas digital products – such as apps, with very little storage, shipping or reproduction costs create higher payout rates, usually in the 60% commission rate.

There are various types of affiliate programs which include:

  • Social – These programs work best when advertised on social media by paid traffic or influencers. 
  • Search – Affiliate offers are found via search engines, organically or by paid advertising.
  • Content – This affiliate program is advertised on articles, review sites or blogs and often hides within a text.
  • Coupons – Many sites gather coupons and discounts which an affiliate program may offer.
  • Email – Most of us have probably received hundreds because email affiliate programs are still a big contender.

Amazon is still one of our most effective affiliate programs, with around 12 million offers. That’s a heck of a lot… The only problem is their short cookie lifetime as it only has only 1 day. And because Amazon recently cut its commission rates by half, it has scared others into thinking affiliate marketing was heading for a downfall…. That is not the case.

What Works and What Doesn’t

It would be best if you knew what works in the affiliate marketing industry and what doesn’t. Successful marketing affiliates need to stay on their toes to ensure their strategies are ahead of the curve – you might have to look for other means, such as offline, mobile or new technologies to enable you to stay one step ahead of the competition.

And in 2020, Google Trends found that the interest in affiliate marketing peaked at the highest search for 11 years. That’s certainly not to be sniffed at in this multi-billion dollar industry with unlimited potential…

Social media also continues to grow in importance and usage, allowing affiliates more and more ways to promote products. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are popular affiliate promotion channels.

Mobile affiliate marketing has become increasingly important over the past few years. In 2019, research showed that over 63.4% of people access the internet via their phones. That number only continues to grow, so it’s inevitable that brands and publishers focus specifically more attention on mobile content and mobile ads.

In recent years, there’s been great improvement in analytics and tracking technology which has made it far easier for companies to analyse the details of their affiliate marketing strategies.

So now, companies study the metrics to determine if their affiliate strategies are actually working.

Growing competition

More people than ever want to become affiliate marketers because the idea of working from home, especially in difficult times such as the Covid-19 pandemic, is highly appealing. This inevitably pushes people to search for job opportunities whereby they can make money primarily from their own homes – not necessarily to get rich but literally to make money online.

More affiliates will inevitably fight for the same product or service offers and bid for the same, but growing, traffic. With this marketing sector worth approximately $12 billion, it’s no wonder it’s still popular.

While over 15% of digital media revenue comes from affiliate marketing and 80% of brands use it as a channel, nearly 80% of CMOs surprisingly admit that it is their least understood marketing area. This is partly due to a severe lack of technology and a heavily splintered industry, which is split across thousands of affiliate networks and software.

As affiliate marketing continues to grow, there will surely be significant consolidation of affiliate networks, and much more widespread adoption of affiliation among publishers ranging from the largest of content sites to the smallest of bloggers, so that it will grow to become one of the top areas of expertise for CMOs.

Affiliate Marketing is now harder and with stricter regulations…

Internet giants like Facebook are beginning to tighten their advertising policies due to pressure from governments and public opinion, so they have started to demand better content regulations. Because verticals or angles are being banned on Facebook and Google, advertising has become less aggressive and more clever. But it’s starting to be well thought-out and more thoroughly researched and targeted with bigger budgets – surely this is a good thing?

Facebook has a constant team of 35,000 people reviewing content and security on the platform. Social media giants such as Facebook are under increasing pressure to stop the spread of false information. Facebook has urged governments to develop a new regulatory system for social media, suggesting it should be a mix of existing rules for telecoms and media companies.


While more people will jump on the affiliate train because of the pandemic, big companies hosting affiliate programmes may become more careful when accepting new program joiners. They may vet people more and put in requirements such as having a successful site before new affiliate marketers are accepted.

The importance of lead quality will grow. And beginner affiliates are less likely to deliver it.

The very future of affiliate marketing is definitely in micro-influencers hands as people love to share their favourite products or their most recent purchase on social media.

This isn’t going to change anytime soon. But what will change is that large companies will try to cash in on every reference of their product, which will push the flow of traffic through affiliates back to their digital properties, which in turn, will make affiliate links inherent to social media, thereby giving everyone a chance to become an affiliate.

With the advancement in mobile technology, people will be working affiliate angles from every moment they share online. It will become more hyper-localised with people integrating geo-localisation. And purchases won’t need to be made just online either, because if someone buys at a local shop and promotes it online, others will go to the store after interacting with that social media share, which will be the future of evolving affiliate marketing.

So, What are the New Trends with Affiliate Marketing?

Okay, let’s talk about influencers over bloggers… Affiliate marketers have, in the past, been influential bloggers who write and manage blogs with a specific dedicated, niche type of readership. Although likely, bloggers will always benefit from affiliate marketing partnerships, social media influencers will likely comprise the lion’s share of the affiliate market going forward.

Affiliate marketing tracking and reporting tools are becoming significantly more advanced, with new affiliate programs beginning to abandon the winner-takes-all approach to sales attributions. Instead, moving to an approach that divides sales commissions between various affiliates at different levels is the best marketing way forward.

It’s thought by many, that social media influencers will gain a foothold in hyper-targeted niches, such as long-distance triathlon camping, wedding planning tutorials, and cheaper travel suggestions – to mention but a few. As these niches become increasingly targeted, consumer bases are becoming more loyal and willing to convert on leads and impressions. Although their traffic isn’t as impressive as the major niche categories, the hyper-targeted ones are more likely to enjoy much higher conversion rates.

Affiliate Market – Dead?

Bloggers have so much success in affiliate marketing. And there are incredibly successful bloggers out there making an insane amount of money through performance marketing because they have found their voice, their niche and a loyal following of people who are learning and buying through their recommendations because they are considered experts on their topic. That, and they have earned the trust of their readers. You can blog about anything and everything under the sun nowadays, and the cool thing is you can be as creative as you like.

Bloggers use different channels outside of, but not excluding SEO, to drive new traffic and business to their websites and to build solid relationships with their readers through shared opinions that are either original, written with conviction or as a proven expert in their particular field. These bloggers depend on building a following through social channels, newsletters or RSS feeds, searches, conferences, online and offline PR and even word of mouth.

There are lots of tools out there to help bloggers better monopolise their websites, produce their content more easily, market their sites more effectively and to grow their fan base faster.

Marketing Dead?

So, the affiliate marketing industry has, in recent years, undergone multiple changes that have invariably affected the key players, including Google and Facebook. Regardless of these changes, affiliate marketing has been seen as an integral part of online business through the effectiveness of blog-based and PPC content marketing. However, the future of affiliate marketing has stirred up some key market players in predicting different trends, including Amazon.

Affiliate Marketing is Dead – Not

Affiliate marketing came into existence back in 1989 and started to gain serious momentum throughout the 1990s. Companies like Amazon were early users of the revenue-sharing trend, and associate programs continued to become more prevalent in the following years. And by the time Web 2.0 came around, affiliate marketing was a widespread trend and many more channels had opened up through things like blogs, web forums, and various social media sites.

While affiliate marketing has been a success for many people over the years, the question of whether the affiliate marketing technique is dying or even wholly dead has recently been asked a lot. The affiliate marketing outlook focuses on bettering the user experience, the withdrawal of OTT regulatory scrutiny and the world of automation, and intelligent machines capable of learning complex algorithms. All of these, suggest a very encouraging future for affiliate marketers.

Well then, it appears that affiliate marketing is far from dead.

It’s positively booming. It’s just evolving and changing. And we need to change it. Voice search, multi-channel strategies, Google updates, more selective programs, and blocking third-party cookies are just some of the new affiliated marketing trends.

Long Live Affiliate Marketing!

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