The Future for Affiliates: Part 1 Overcoming Hard Times

Unfortunately for affiliates, the last few years have seen many, mostly detrimental, changes in the affiliate marketing channel.

Networks became affiliates themselves, failing to see the obvious conflict. The bad players (like cookie thieves) multiplied and got smarter. Merchants opened up other profit channels and partnerships, making what we affiliates refer to as “leaks” the norm. Then there’s state governments’ pursuit of nexus, which put many affiliates out of business as retailers pull out of states that pass the so-called “Amazon tax.”

Perhaps most frustrating is the loss of affiliate advocates as they move on to new ventures. It seems that affiliates are under attack from every direction. No one seems to grasp that without “affiliates,” there’s no “affiliate” marketing.

So what are an affiliate’s option nowadays?

1. Encourage advocates, like the Haikos, the Donuts, the Scooters, to come back and motivate the rest of the affiliates.

2. We can head over to the dark side. Raise your hand if you ever thought of buying an email list, spamming it, and not caring? After all, you know someone else who does it and cleans up!

3. We can educate the merchants, networks and affiliates. Haven’t we done that for twenty years now? These people are not stupid. They know what they’re doing. That’s why they run the network or the merchant program. They get paid to make the company money.

4. Our last option (and the only one that makes sense) is to adapt.

After 20 years in the business, here are a few suggestions you can take or leave as the mood strikes.

First and most importantly, avoid the coupon/rebate model. Unless you have a better idea than the established ones (who I won’t name), you’re wasting your time. That model was saturated years ago anyway. Plus, as a coupon/rebate site, you have to list every merchant on every network. So every time a network or merchant makes an unfriendly affiliate decision, you have to swallow your pride and accept it.

Second, pay attention and learn about the current issues. What’s your state’s position on a nexus tax? Could your favorite merchant be bought out by another merchant you dislike? Make it a point to read forums, blogs, and sites like ReveNews.

Once you’re familiar with the issues, decide where you stand on them, and how important each issue is to you. A simple example is website leaks. Ideally, if you do all the work to attract a visitor to your site and then send them off to “Merchant A,” that merchant should not have any links off their website.

Finally, think about the sites you visit “as a person,” not as an affiliate. How many sites do you visit that don’t have any external links? My guess is none. There’s a way to look at it that makes sense: If you get a visitor looking for “pink pajamas,, and you send that visitor to Walmart’s pink pajama section, and that visitor clicks out of Walmart through a 1-800-Flowers Mother’s Day ad on the Walmart site. Maybe that visitor wasn’t serious about the pink pajamas to begin with.

Think about your own habits again. How many searches do you do daily with absolutely no intention of being a buyer that day? At least a dozen? Your job is to bring them in – and set a cookie – which you did! Be proud of your accomplishment! There’s probably 500,000 search results for “Pink pajamas”, and they clicked YOU! Take a bow!

Tomorrow: In Part 2 I’ll review how to leverage your expertise!

About Billy Kay

You can find Billy Kay on Twitter @billykay.

9 Responses to The Future for Affiliates: Part 1 Overcoming Hard Times

  1. “Finally, think about the sites you visit “as a person,” not as an affiliate.”

    Great advice. Take one day and note all your internet activity. Note what links you clicked on, what items you bought (or didn’t buy) and what ads you paid attention to. Congratulations, you just figured out what works. A lot of fancy tools and services that would charge you money for “valuable” reports can be invalidated by the simple idea that you are, statistically, probably just like everyone else to one degree or another and if something can catch *your* attention online, it will catch lots of other people’s attention, too.

  2. Victor says:

    Great article! I have been studying the Affiliate Marketing industry for a couple years now and just now started to take action and made my first couple sales.

    Just a quick question though: What do that mean “Website leaks”?

    Also what forums would you recommend?

  3. Billy Kay says:


    Look to the right. See the ads for Yahoo, hootsuite, Vertical Response, etc? Those are leaks. If an affiliate sent you to this site to buy my article for a million dollars (LOL) and I promised the affiliate a 20% commission, you have too many distractions (external links on the right) that may preclude you from buying my article. I made no money. My affiliate made no commission. But Revenews got paid (even tho I wrote the article and the poor affiliate spent the whole day blogging about it) when you clicked the Yahoo small business link and signed up.

    Billy Kay

    • Victor says:

      Oh okay. I understand now. So when they click the links on the right, they are pretty much lost forever right? And chances are they won’t be back.

  4. There are several Affiliate Marketing forums, I personally prefer 🙂  There is an A4u forum that is mostly european but they have a section for US affiliates to have discussions also.

    • Victor says:

      I have signed up for that forum a few weeks ago, but I haven’t been active on it yet. I know that abestweb has not been as active as it was, and so everyone is going to the affiliate summit forum. I am going to have to start frequenting the ASF. There is just so much stuff out there. It is hard to go through it all.

  5. Cindy says:

    This was a good article but here is my question. Where can you find affiliates for the Nexus states? also what if your site is about 1 book subject for example Law of Attraction and growing hair  and everything is on Law of attracting hair growth. You’re located in Californa post Nexus? what affilates would you use? let’s say Barnes and Nobles have books on hairgrowth but they are now higher in cost than Amazon. Don’t you think a savvy person will just take a click and head to Amazon and buy the book? Dah. What do you do for that? perhaps write your own ebook. So Nexus state folks need to design their own products? Any thoughts on this?

  6. Anonymous says:

    In relation to the nexus tax, is it possible for someone who lives in a state that taxes Amazon, for example, to go to a state like Deleware and register as a corp or LLC to avoid the tax.?

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