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I myself have tried it off an on for a few years, but have never had significant success with it--mostly due to spending time on other projects that demanded my attention and yielded more ROI.
My question to you is: if you were starting from scratch today with some knowledge of affiliate marketing, but little-to-no content or existing affiliate relationships, would you still choose this route?
If no, why would you pass on it?
And if yes, would you care to show a card or two and explain what you think would work?
Of course, the playing field is changing and getting quite a bit tougher. The barriers to entry are steeper. I see your point that past momentum aides future success, but you have to start sometime.
I think most affiliates will agree that the changes in our space are having a beneficial impact on the Internet as a whole. Read: much more quality and fewer crap pages littered about. Those easy money days are gone (though not yet long gone).
At the end of the day, this kind of work is creative and satisfying. In fact, I resist the label of affiliate because I dont define myself by my relation to others. Im a web publisher, and feel web publishing is a good place to be.
Although it’s not as easy, I also think there’s still profit to be made by affiliate marketing purely through PPC. This would best be accomplished by testing various ideas and affiliate programs until you found a combination that works well for you (i.e. program pays a decent commission and doesn’t bleed your advertising budget dry before converting). Can take quite a bit of patience and a lot of money, though before finding something that works using this method. But when you do, the rewards can be worth it (especially if you prefer not to live a 9-5 cubicle existence)….. So still a big "Yes" on both counts!
If networks where to give affiliates a channel of merchants instead of making them select specific products themselves then tracked profits and optimized the ads for the affiliate it could improve performance for ads on content pages that are not presales pages for the product ...
Well placed merchant ads work and normally get a high click though percent and higher conversion rates.
Think about it this way - if we were back 4years it would seem at that time it would have been easier if you got it right at the beginning too.
One of the advantages to getting in now is that there is so much more information and more options too, with blogging and social marketing which wasn't around way back when...
So IF you are prepared to work hard and know there is no such thing as get rich quick in your underwear, then it's as good a time as any to jump in.
Hope this helps and best of luck!