Is Affiliate Marketing Dead in 2021

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The question "is affiliate marketing dead" is being posited lately on almost every affiliate marketing forum, and many affiliate marketing websites.  All the changes in the affiliate marketing industry lately make it more challenging to make money in performance marketing, and especially if you are new to performance marketing.  You may be asking the question is affiliate marketing dead, and I did I get in  too late?

Since it's inception in 1989, affiliate marketing has gone through changes.  In the infancy of affiliate marketing, you could throw up a simple website, write thin 300 word articles, add some affiliate links and you could make money online. created the first affiliate program in 1996 called the Amazon Associates Program.  This program allowed websites, blogs and emailers to market Amazom products.

It was the wild wild west of cyberspace.  Spammy content, black hat SEO techniques, unethical marketing practices, just to name a few.

Google tried to apply some standards to the web.  300 word articles were replaced with 500 word articles.  Then 600 and now 800 word articles are seen as standard.  Any website content below 800 words is considered spammy this content.  Long form articles are now preferred to properly write an article or product review.  Long form articles are recommended to substantially answers the reader's question and solves their problem.

In 2003, Google began releasing a large number of algorithm updates.  They were created to:

  • improve search engine search results.
  • create a superior user experience.
  • punish webmasters using illegal or unethical search engine optimization (SEO) practices.
  • These unethical SEO practices were meant to direct users to websites other than those the user wanted.
  • allow websites to rank above the competition, steal information and make ill-gotten profits.

History of Google Algorithm Updates

  • 2003 - Florida Update
  • 2005 - Nofollow Update
  • Search Personalization
  • 2007 - Universal Search
  • 2008 - Google Suggest
  • 2009 - Vince Update
  • 2010 - Instant Update
  • 2011 - Panda Update/Farmer Update
  • 2012 - Penguin Update
  • 2013 - Hummingbird
  • 2015 - Phantom Update
  • 2016 - Possum Update
  • 2018 - Mobile Speed Update
  • 2018 - Medic Update
  • 2019 - BERT Update
  • 2021 - Page Experience Update
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In the early days of the algorithm updates, Google would announce when an update would roll out and what the update would address.  The algorithm update was generally rolled out in 24-48 hours, so you could quickly begin to fix the issues, to regain lost traffic and sales.

As Google releases new algorithm updates, which causes webmasters to loose ranking and money, they invariably ask if affiliate marketing dead.

The key to succeeding in affiliate marketing is to adapt and change as affiliate marketing evolves and changes.


When Did Things Change

how to make money with affiliate marketingGoogle had not started rolling out algorithm updates that significantly impacted those trying to make money online.  Everything changed for online marketers on February 23, 2011.  Even back then, the changes spooked people, and they asked is affiliate marketing dead.

Google released the Panda Update, also known as the farmer update.

This prolific algorithm update was named after Navneet Panda, the software engineer who created the algorithm update.  Panda penalizes websites and blogs that do the following:

  • created low-quality content duplicate content.
  • publish the same article was published on multiple websites word for word.
  • publish spammy content that had a lot of ads on the pages.

Google felt this thin content was meant only to make money, and not to provide a benefit to the reader.  This thin content was lacking meaningful information.  It failed to significantly addressing the reader's question or issue in a meaningful way.

The Panda update was also nicknamed the farmer update, since it penalized content farms, which published millions of pages of low quality content.

Since the Panda Update, Google has released several other significant algorithm updates and keyword ranking updates.  Content creators found the keywords they were ranking well for, which allowed their content to be found at the top of the search engine results, suddenly were no longer on the top pages.  This meant the content was no longer ranking well, and lost in the most desirable positions in the search engines.  This negatively affected placement, clicks and earnings for the webmaster.

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How This Affected Affiliate marketing

The algorithm updates changed the landscape of affiliate marketing forever.  Google is focusing on user experience for people using their search engine.  Since Google is the preeminent search engine, they define how you play in their sandbox.

If you don't play nice, ie not creating compelling content, using a keyword tool to find the best keywords, using black hat unethical SEO practices, not making changes after an algorithm update,etc Google will kick you out of the sandbox.

Today, Google takes nearly two weeks to completely roll out the algorithm update, which means it could take up to a month before you can recover from a Google algorithm update.  Even more frustrating, Google rarely announces they are rolling out a core update.  SEOs use metrics, heat tests, and chatter to determine if Google is rolling out a minor or major algorithm update.

This is potentially devastating to bloggers and webmasters, especially if they lose 50, 60, or even 70 percent of their traffic overnight.   If the website is used as your primary income source, this can wipe out your income and devastate ability to use your website to earn an income.


Can You Still Make Money with Affiliate Marketing in 2021

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In 1998, there were were roughly 2 million websites in existence.  The number of affiliate marketers at that time numbered in the thousands.   The competition for viewers was significantly lower, so it was exponentially easier to make money.

Today there are nearly a billion blogs in existence, and millions of affiliate marketers vying for the attention and ultimately dollars of people searching the internet for a product, service or answer to their question or remedy for their problem.                                     Image source

See also  7 Reasons You Should Sell Digital Products as an Affiliate was the first major company to create an affiliate business, that allowed people to market the millions of products they sell on their own websites and blogs, or via email.  Over the years, businesses in every market and industry have created affiliate programs.  Yet, at the same time numerous businesses have closed their affiliate programs.

This is usually due to the company not fully understanding affiliate marketing, dealing with too many returns or chargebacks, or the business was not suited for affiliate marketing.  Seeing your affiliate partners suddenly closing their affiliate marketing business can be unsettling.

What Now

Let's start by saying affiliate marketing is very much alive, and is predicted to become a multi-billion dollar business.  This is now a real industry and requires some skill, knowledge of the following skills to make money in affiliate marketing:

  • Content creation
  • keyword analysis
  • SEO

What you need to know, is the days of putting up thin content to make money online are long gone.  Content creators must create meaningful content that addresses the readers needs.  Making money online is still possible, but it takes more time and skill.

In addition to creating meaningful content, you must be skilled in keyword research to find the keywords readers are searching for, and you must be versed in SEO techniques.

Making money with affiliate marketing is still possible, it just takes a bit more time, knowledge of content creatinh



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