Anyone who has been in the affiliate marketing game will tell you that it keeps you on your toes.
Your entire portfolio could fall into a downward spiral with one Google algorithm update. If you have a monetized personal blog, your income stream could vanish by breaking one small rule.
If you’re looking to make some changes this year and you want to get a jump on the competition, then keep reading.
We’ve got the skinny on whether or not affiliate marketing can survive in its current state. Let’s get started!
The Current State of Affiliate Marketing
Lots of people involved with affiliate marketing wonder why is Google always changing things.
Google is the top search engine on the planet. They have no intention of falling behind any of the other search engines. That is the short and simple answer.
The longer answer is that Google absolutely MUST provide the best possible user experience for users. This is the search engine’s number one goal, and it is crucial to their ongoing success.
Affiliate marketers are forced to change on a regular basis, because user needs are also constantly evolving. You’ve probably seen this shift in your own shopping habits.
Twenty years ago, we bought books at big chain bookstores. Then the Kindle hit the shelves. Today, everyone reads their books digitally.
Ten years ago, we would buy all of our food for home at grocery stores. Now, we order from an app and have it delivered.
Why Should Affiliate Marketing Be Any Different?
If you want to succeed with affiliate marketing, you should adopt a two-pronged attack.
First, give readers true value while showing that you are trustworthy.
Second, figure out how to prove this to Google. We could write an entire post about this part, but our purpose is to focus on affiliate marketing. Just follow Google’s guidelines, and you should be fine in the end.
So while change is in the air, affiliate marketing isn’t going away. More than 80% of brands have their own affiliate programs.
Which Is Better: Ads or Affiliate Links
This is always a hot topic. Some people swear by one, some the other, and some think the best idea is to go with both. The right answer is “all of the above.”
The decision depends on you, what you want, your readership (and what they want), your niche, and many other factors.
Let’s look at some of the pros and cons of both.
Pros of Advertising
You can publish content and ads on any topic. If you try to jam irrelevant affiliate links into random blog posts, Google will shut it down quickly. And that’s presuming your readers don’t leave you first, which they probably will.
Testing is one of the best things you can do to avoid this situation.
Affiliate links can bring you a lot of money. However, some will turn out to be duds, and they won’t pay off.
It can take weeks (if not months) of testing to get the right links in the right piece of content, so you can drive sufficient clicks and conversions on an affiliate offer.
With ads, you don’t have this problem. You can write about anything you want. If you are paid for impressions, you’ll make money just by attracting visitors.
Because of this, you will probably find it easier to earn money using ads. Write good, educational, informative, and engaging content. Insert ads into the content, and wait for the money to roll in!
Cons of Advertising
Ads are less versatile than affiliate links. You can get revenue from them on your emails or your social media posts.
So in this way, they are limited to websites and content that you own. However, if you own a portfolio of sites, ad revenue can add up quickly and even surpass that of your affiliate links.
Many website owners take pause at the aesthetics of using ads on their domains.
Particularly on image heavy websites, you will need to carefully balance between other imagery and advertisements to avoid annoying, overwhelming, or distracting visitors.
On top of that, Google punishes websites with too many ads and interstitials blocking content.
Aside from user experience concerns, you will have to pay extra attention to performance and load times.
Ads and unoptimized pictures can slow your website significantly.
Pros of Affiliate Marketing
To make affiliate marketing work, you’ll need to take a versatile approach to promoting the links.
You can make a ton of money with email marketing alone, presuming you do a good job of growing and marketing to your list.
Just insert the links into the email itself or any content you link to, and off you go.
You can also promote these offers on your social channels. Pinterest is a great place to do this, because it is less social media and more of a search engine in its own right.
Next, you need to think about buyer intent. Informational posts are terrible for affiliate links. These people are looking to be educated, so they aren’t ready for a sales pitch.
This is the kind of gaff can wreck your conversions. Focus on adding links to buyer-related content that is designed to draw traffic from low-competition keywords.
Cons of Affiliate Marketing
What happens when you log into your affiliate account and nothing is there? What can you do when a program is dropped or a company goes out of business?
You might have to look for months to find a replacement, if you’re able to do so at all.
Or maybe you find that an affiliate program / company lowers commission rates without advanced notice.
With your income slashed in half, you’d be frustrated at minimum, and maybe devastated if it causes true hardship for you.
Ads are a great way to hedge against the potential drop from a once profitable program. So definitely consider a hybrid approach as mentioned above.
The Biggest Fish: Amazon is a Double-Edged Sword
Once upon a time, Amazon was the go-to program for affiliate marketers. This is no longer the case.
Amazon’s commissions have shrunken immensely.
A lot of marketers find the program nonviable at these low rates, especially because ad revenue can more easily outperform this once mighty affiliate program.
You don’t have to deal with Amazon if you don’t want to. There are plenty of opportunities with companies that want your business.
Twitch streams have become a great source of revenue for Amazon, with both ads and affiliate links.
With Facebook and YouTube both closing in on Twitch by launching their own platforms, gamers realize that the platform offers ample opportunity to make money.
Gamers can add affiliate links to their YouTube descriptions.
Gaming affiliate programs take streamer revenue to another level. Many of these gamers have moved on and aren’t looking back.
On top of affiliate marketing income, YouTube streamers make a killing with ad revenue from AdSense, brand deals, sponsorships, and YouTube’s membership program.
YouTube’s program is similar to Twitch’s subscription scheme, but the creator gets to choose how much the member pays for each tier.
This is just one example of how you can (and possibly should, depending on your niche) put Amazon into your rearview mirror.
The Product Reviews Update
Back in April 2021, Google rolled out its product reviews update. The purpose of this update was to benefit Google’s users, as we mentioned is top priority for them.
Google now rewards bloggers and websites that generate the best review content.
The search engine’s researchers fielded multiple surveys to find out how their users viewed quality review content, and then put this data into action.
The second part of this update rolled out at the beginning of December 2021.
If you generate quality product reviews, you’ll quickly understand how important to your SEO this type of content can be.
Many affiliate marketers took a hit with the first update. But if they listened to Google and fixed issues, then the second update should have improved their rankings.
How to Profit from Product Reviews
How can you find yourself in this group of elite bloggers? Here are a few tips:
Actually do the reviews. For years, people have been posting bogus reviews based on product/service specs, reviews stolen from other websites, and fluffy content that has zero value.
Do the review. Make it quality by discussing every detail about the product and what you like or didn’t like, along with why you like it or didn’t like it.
Make a video of the review. Post it on YouTube. Link it to your website.
This approach will provide you with multiple review formats on two different platforms, each with its own monetization strategy.
Approach Product Review Content The Right Way
You may think that this process sounds easy, but rest assured, it is a TON of work.
That said, we recommend you start making it happen if you want to drive affiliate marketing revenue via review content.
Google also recognized another problem with these bogus reviews. Most of them pointed directly to Amazon, and only to Amazon.
This approach made sense a long time ago. Amazon had the best program. It was easy to get started, and everyone trusted them. At that time, it was a no-brainer.
Now, people who read your content want to see great reviews. They want to have multiple links to buy the product.
What does this mean? Instead of including only a button or link for Amazon, also include links to other affiliate offers such as Best Buy, Target, Musician’s Friend, etc.
Pick the top three if you can, so visitors have options other than Amazon. This matters, even if every one of the vendors does not have an affiliate program for you to join.
Final Thoughts: Will Affiliate Marketing Survive in Its Current State?
Honestly, the current state of Affiliate Marketing is not as bad as it may appear.
If you’ve been doing a good job, then make a few adjustments to get your content ranking well again. The profits will follow.
For those of us who are new to the game, then remember that content is king.
Start there and work your way out into the finer points of affiliate marketing. With enough initiative and effort, you will catch up quickly.
Stay on top of Google updates and keep an eye on your affiliate programs to make sure you’re getting the best commissions in your niche.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions stated in this post are that of the author, and Return On Now may or may not agree with any or all of the commentary.
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