The War Against Affiliate Marketing?

On Friday last week, Susan Payton has published an interesting (and important) article at Small Business Trends, entitling it The War Against Affiliate Marketing Continues. She started it with: “it seems to keep getting harder to run your business, thanks to companies that don’t want to support affiliate marketers”, and then went through 3 things:

  1. Google said they didn’t like “thin” affiliate marketing sites [more here]
  2. Amazon (and others) terminated affiliates over the affiliate nexus tax
  3. MailChimp announced affiliates are now “personas non gratas” [more here]

All of these are real problems, and I appreciate Susan drawing people’s attention to them. However, the more I think of these, the more I wonder — is this really a “war” or more of a “business as usual”? Are these obstacles (conditions that “impede progress or achievement“) or challenges (“threatening, provocative, stimulating, or inciting” circumstances)?

Some will say “both”. To me too, but more than anything else, I believe them to be challenges, or surmountable obstacles, and conditions that, when dealt with, can really make us stronger: both as an industry, and as individual businesses.

Not that this doesn’t make it all akin to a “war” though…

As always, the “Comments” are all yours.

18 thoughts on “The War Against Affiliate Marketing?”

  1. Geno, I have to look more at the links you provided here for further comment..and I cannot do that now. But re: no. 1 above I see nothing wrong with Google’s stance on thin Affiliate sites that bring no value to the table. If an Affiliate exactly replicates a merchant’s product database on their site with nothing more, or builds “banner farms” they should be filtered from Google results. Thin Affiliates sites do nothing to preserve or advance the integrity of our industry IMO. GM

    1. Gary, neither do I see anything “wrong with Google’s stance on thin Affiliate sites that bring no value to the table”. In fact, out of the two problems mentioned, this one bothers me (as, I’m sure, most other quality affiliate marketers) the least (the second less significant one being the MailChimp’s situation). But I had to include it, because it was mentioned.

  2. Considering that 97% of offers on CPA networks are SCAMMY THE SHIT OUT OF PEOPLE, it’s no wonder affiliates get love.

  3. Once upon a time not so long ago the big pillars of the net such as Google, Amazon and eBay were clamouring for affiliates.

    Now they have the market sewn up – what value can affiliates possibly add? The answer? Not a lot.

    Year after year the T&C’s for affiliates get tightened to the point (Amazons commission cut-off point on Electronic Goods for example) where one should really ask – is it worthwhile any more?

    Incidentally the same is happening in the Travel space where commissions are slowly degrading as the major players sew up the market.

    I am a firm believer in adding value to empower consumers and believe it or not – not many affiliates understand this philosophy – most are out for a short term quick buck.

    The first question one must ask is – how does my differentiated offering add value to the consumer?

    It’s not exactly rocket science. But it might as well be.

  4. Wow thanks for this post. At the end of the day EVERYTHING that happens online is done for one reason and one reason only. MONEY

    It amuses me when companies disguise their monetary driven decisions with words like “added value” and “user experience.”

    Let me explain to you what affiliates bring to the table. We are innovators that push the enveloper and can make money out of what others think is complete garbage. The typical life cycle goes like this.

    Step1. New traffic source. Branders get sucked in with things like SOV and Rich Media and waste their money. As traffic source grows there is now abundance of unfilled inventory.

    Step2. Insert affiliates. We innovate with technology, creatives, bidding strategies, atomization, you name it, to make money on said “worthless traffic.” The traffic sources love affiliates because we keep their chairs filled with employees and make them money.

    Step3. Traffic source reaches apex and now everyone and their grandmother want a piece. At this point who needs performance driven affiliates when you can charge a small business out the ass since they don’t know any better.

    This has happened with Search (Google) Social (Facebook) and even PPV (Traffic Vance).

    What’s next… mobile?

    Its just the lifecycle of affiliate marketing, there is no war, there is only MONEY driven decisions.

  5. There are still lots of good traffic sources out there apart from google and there are also good email service providers apart from mail chimp that will get the job done.

      1. Geno, that was my first thought when I started to read this article. Google and Amazon have the strongest PageRank and Alexa Ranks. Even the strongest of reputations can be broken with one wrong decision. I’m guess that they just don’t want to take the chance of forming a relationship with a sketchy affiliate.

        Louis Slade

  6. Hi Geno, I think your message is important and powerful. These are challenges — but certainly not any reason to give up or call affiliate marketing dead.

    I was just very surprised when I saw that MailChimp didn’t want affiliate marketers. I had never seen that before in terms and conditions for a service provider.

    What we were trying to do with the article is raise awareness, more than anything else.

    Thanks for all you do for the industry, Geno!

    – Anita

    1. …and you all did a good job there.

      I appreciate you taking the time to chime in here too, Anita. I wasn’t too surprised, but certainly saddened by the fact that (unlike AWeber that Wilson has mentioned, for example), MailChimp has basically equated “affiliate marketers” to those selling “illegal goods or services”, marketing “pornography”, promoting MLM schemes, etc. Sad generalization about the industry.

  7. Thanks for posting about my article, Geno! Glad the article was useful. I guess I just don’t want more companies turning away affiliates when there are so many useful and hardworking affiliates out there!


  8. This is a really interesting debate about affiliate marketing. However, it could be about many internet business types.

    Just finished reading an article linked to from the same a4u email that linked to this one Beware the Digital Disruptors: They’re Coming for Your Industry

    It seems to me, the two are totally linked. Everything is moving so fast, what you thought were the ground rules, no longer apply. Those were 2005 ground rules. It’s a different ballgame, and it will be a different ballgame in 5 years time too, so make sure you don’t get cheesed off. (see… Who moved my cheese?)

    The Angry Russian gives a good timeline re:affiliate industry.

  9. From time to time you hear someone say “You can get good, convertible traffic even without Google.” Since that seems extraordinarily difficult, and since Google is obviously doing their best to marginalize affiliates whether thick or thin, anyone want to hint at how you do that?

    1. Elin, there is a whole range of scenarios — from good (e.g.: kosher, opt-in email lists) to bad (e.g. BHOs) — when affiliates can “get traffic even without Google”. If you could point to the place(s) where you’ve heard/read this, I’ll be able to be more specific.

  10. ” I see anything “wrong with Google’s stance on thin Affiliate sites that bring no value to the table” I can sort of agree with that statement, BUT… I have an affiliate marketing site. It is a specific niche site, I worked my butt off putting it together, wrote my own content, and didn’t copy and paste any of it. There are a couple of pages that may be think (like my “Links” page) but for the most part it is all original content with links to the things I describe. I don’t use any deceptive marketing (and many in my niche do, and have still rank high after years and years). I respect my niche and feel I provide valuable guidance to surfers looking for it when there are a sea of horrible content in that niche.

    My issue is that Google will totally leave your site if you don’t rank well, but as soon as you garner hits, they take notice. Also, they are arbitrary. A person that works for google will review your site, possibly have ZERO knowledge of that niche, and then decide to flag you! Google has a way to resubmit your site for consideration, but when they flag you they provide ZERO specifics as to why you were flagged and just provide a link to “generalized” guidelines. Furthermore google has become a company that feels they are above reproach and provides no e-mail addresses in which to ask for specifics so that you can fix any issues. All this leads to a biased operation on their part.

    I have no problem if they feel I violate some guideline, but atleast give some specific feedback so that issues can be fixed and avoided and a lot of hardwork, and for some, MONEY, is not thrown away because someone with no experience in that niche, or someone is having a bad day, or someone that may just be biased against that niche isn’t deciding to arbitrarily kick you back, or off, search results due to their own agenda. I have spent countless hours trying to make my content unique and relevant and to have Google tell me “You’re off,” without giving me anymore depth of reason is absolutely a joke!

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