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How much longer will affiliate programs last?

     
3:01 am on Apr 27, 2018 (gmt 0)

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From my vantage point, I can generalize that Google shopping ads are prevalent more than ever. Shills might say search is so personalized that I'm special and one of the lucky ones seeing. To suggest that Google shopping ads are NOT proliferating seems like an irrational thought. I've seen shopping ads appear below YouTube videos on typical videos where people try to monetize in the description box with their own affiliate links. I think the reality of this is that we are now competing with Google for affiliate income. That's not a winnable battle obviously.

Affiliate programs rely on organic traffic, or at least did for me. Why pay for traffic when that expense likely won't cover affiliate income? The point is another challenge I have is just maintaining enough traffic that might convert.

I think though this circles back to us competing with Google for affiliate income. On the searches that are likely to convert? You bet they are ahead of the line. My site will be second, third or fourth option. That's not winnable. The shopping ads are coming to those searches that are convertible. The Google knows when people might be considering buying and YouTube wise, those are precisely when the shopping ads show.

I've noticed drops in affiliate payout which again is discouraging. I think this is about three negatives right now.

People are slow to react. CJ and Linkshare? At some point the average webmaster like myself is going to wake up to these challenges and simply move on. I think right now the affiliate programs are skating on thin ice. The isn't temporary, this is real.

Does anyone dispute that now, more than ever, we are trying to compete directly with Google on the traffic that is considering a product or service?
3:17 am on Apr 27, 2018 (gmt 0)

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How much longer will affiliate programs last?
It's true that affiliate programs have been declining significantly year by year:

The affiliates themselves keep larger shares of sales.

Smaller players are no longer around.

Adsense and other ad platforms are more visible thus getting many customers in advance.

My own affiliate engages in aggressive emails to my referral customers so I no longer get repeat commissions.

One thing is certain on the internet... things will never remain the same for very long.
9:46 pm on Apr 27, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Middlemen, agents, affiliates by whatever name will continue to exist. Whether third party af networks will or in what form is another question.

Just as some webdevs, publishers sell direct ad space so do some go direct with their affiliate relationships. And some even offer a combination.

The various abuses by third party networks, be they ad or af, increasingly offer opportunities to sites of reasonable size able to differentiate bot/human traffic.

However, it does take a certain level of technical, business, and marketing competence as well as significant investment of time and effort - much different than third party copy-n-paste ease.

On the other hand it typically pays significantly better.
2:46 pm on Apr 28, 2018 (gmt 0)

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I'll refer to Exhibit A. Organic traffic. That's the core of my type of business and likely many others as well. If that is flowing then of course you can always invest time and effort into direct ad space. But that's based on stability and being a wise investment of time and effort. I would look at the indicators of where things are and where they are headed. It certainly doesn't suggest to me that there is going to be an alternative funnel to Google and it's clear that organic traffic is becoming a narrower filter.

So if the issue of organic traffic doesn't change, then affiliate programs or efforting to get direct ad income is an exercise in futility. In a sense it would be like investing time and effort in launching a franchise of music store specializing in music cd sales. I'm sure at some point that would be considered an asinine investment of time and money. When it comes to affiliate programs, I'm starting to view it the same way. Google is pushing organics down, down and down. Affiliate programs just happen to depend completely on websites and their organic traffic. So to that end, good luck.

Is anyone disputing these trends and effects? You know, cause and effect of organic traffic shrinkage? I guess if we don't agree that organics on Google are currently an after thought of an after thought, then this discussion is pretty much meaningless. It's crazy to think that less organics leads to the demise of affiliate program which leads to the rise (again) of other ad options which just so happens to be ruled by Google. A pleasant side effect no doubt.
6:50 pm on Apr 28, 2018 (gmt 0)

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In all respect, Search Engine traffic has been declining for years and will continue to decline. That's a reality. We're all in the same boat with that. Get over it.

Now what are you planning to do about it? The traffic is out there, it's just not coming directly from the SEs any more. That means we need to get it before Google does.

A great deal of traffic goes directly to one of the dozen or so Social Media sites. The traffic that's using a desktop or mobile browser can be steered to our sites. The users on apps are more difficult, but still can be had.

I found it necessary to get really involved with SM and bring the traffic to my site. I now get several thousand more daily visitors that I wouldn't have if I had just waited for the SEs to send them.

Yes, SM visitors don't browse as many pages, but they do click on ads and they are actually more likely to share our pages back at SM and bring others if they like the content.
8:28 pm on Apr 28, 2018 (gmt 0)

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What keyplr said.

Yes, Google made it simple and easy; a one stop shop for both traffic and revenue. However, a very few of us have been commenting for over a decade that all one's eggs in one basket, especially when both eggs and basket are from the same source is convenient but bad business. We kept saying 'diversify' (especially as enterprise began to wake up take their place at the head of the web table) while many/most webdevs responded that winter would never come.

Perhaps because I was in the web business 'before Google' it is easier to have a 'there is traffic other than Google' and 'there is revenue other than Google' mindset. I do know that almost without exception I've been told that 'other than Google' is too hard and takes too long. So I have little sympathy when webdevs now say that Google is too hard and takes too long.

I started marketing via Second Life (and still do even though usage and traffic has decreased greatly) the same month I started with AdSense. I was trial marketing via FaceBook in 2007, Pinterest in 2012 (stopped in 2016), WeChat in 2013, Flickr in 2005 (stopped in 2010, may start again now that SmugMug has bought), etc.

Google and other SEs are primarily for new, not repeat, visitors. How do you convert new to repeat? If you can't answer you've already given away 5X value.
I know my audiences and go where they are. Do you know (1) where your audiences congregate and (2) how to leverage without antagonising them? If not you have already constrained your opportunities.
Do you serve the same 'stuff' regardless of visitor context? You are 5-years out of date competitively.
Etc.

Google is currently ~20% of my traffic while in absolute numbers higher than when Google was ~80% of traffic. AdSense is ~8% of revenue. I do very very well with affiliate marketing (it's ~40% of revenue) both through Amazon as my default (as AdSense is for ad revenue) and through direct agreements. It's trite but true: if I can do it, anyone can.

Of course it's not simple and it's not easy. My first direct ad sale took a full two years of cold calls and networking at niche and advertising conferences and even then it was a 6-month trial at a greatly reduced rate. And it does require a certain stature in your niche and being able to deliver a minimum level of identified/qualified human traffic...

In closing: with SMM as SEO you get what you put into it, however what is different with SMM is that if you blindly follow accepted practice you will get what everyone one else receives and it'll probably be bland. On the other hand my SL traffic converts at nearly 50%, FB at almost 20%, WeChat at 12%. Optimising is not just for search engines.
11:03 pm on Apr 28, 2018 (gmt 0)

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No doubt G is very strong, but my view of Affiliate is very broad, due to the diversity I see in it. Like a blogger who develops a following, they're not competing against Google Shopping, or even strictly speaking organic traffic. There are so many ways to be involved in driving actions, the diversity is very wide. I think of Affiliates as fish in the ocean, all sorts and sizes and depths and eating habits and predators and prey and...
5:42 pm on Apr 29, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Where does organic traffic come from? Google. What does affiliate programs depend on for being worthwhile? Organic traffic. What is in steep decline FOR THE AVERAGE WEBMASTER? Organic traffic. You can't develop a following without being found. When people rely on Google to be found and they are less and less about discovery, then you will create a following of 1% of web traffic on a search that is niche to begin with?

People are speaking from the perspective of a big investment website which is NOT what I'm speaking to. People might want to dispute this, but the vast majority of people buying domains, hosting and running affiliate programs are the small webmaster. The kind of people who lived and survived off organic traffic which at one time was more attainable. To anyone reading these stories of greatness outside of Google reliance, keep your eye on the details. Those examples are red herrings. Goodie. You built a website during the glory days and that goodwill and ranking allowed you to survive with less reliance on Google traffic in 2018. How is that relevant to a start-up in 2018 and what do you know about such things? Don't sell false hope.

The examples given here on the surface may be commendable, but as I've brought forward in the past, people claiming greatness on doing things without Google are speaking of long standing websites that flourished during a time when links and traffic were easily attainable. The authority was created at a time when Google was different. So in other words, citing some long standing website is completely irrelevant to today's landscape. Ok, so somebody built up an authoritative website years ago and now they don't require Google traffic to survive. Big deal. It proves nothing actually so get over that.
6:58 pm on Apr 29, 2018 (gmt 0)

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:)
Yes, it is seriously more difficult to build a site depending on Google organic search results traffic today than yesterday or last year or last lustrum or last decade or after Florida... But, guess what? Google is not the only SE and search is not the only source of unpaid traffic. And even within the Google ecosystem there are enormous differences in ease of viability. That many/most new webdevs in the past decade are expecting to succeed with the tools and behaviours and business model of back whenever says that the problem is not so much that the web has changed but rather that those webdevs have not.

Yes, I started back when it was simpler and quicker to the top of Google results. So? It has not been either simple or easy to stay there. I'm a one person operation that has leveraged software and part time uni student hires, latterly some professional media producers, and years of 100+ hour weeks to become surprisingly successful. I still put in 30-40 hour weeks in site maintenance. There have been significant critical changes incorporated every one to two years since I uploaded my first site.

I know people starting new sites - and succeeding. But they have their head out of Google's posterior and are leveraging all the possibilities that the web offers, which are far far greater than when I began. Guess what? They get Google eventually anyway. It's usually 12-14 months, occasionally only 6-8, but if a site succeeds they show up on G regardless, it being the greatest public content vacuum the world has ever seen. And, guess what? Amazon and other third party af networks don't care where you get the traffic so long as it's (for the more discerning among them) non-paid human who will buy.

Which brings up Corollary 1: once the average cheap host, WordPress, and Google business model webdev receives the Google traffic can they differentiate bot from human?
Note: Yes, Virginia, Google refers bots.
Which leads to Corollary 1b: if they can differentiate do they clean the traffic of bots before forwarding to af merchant?

And Corollary 2: are they capable of filtering received traffic and forwarding to the appropriate af merchant?
Which leads to Corollary 2b: if they are capable do they also optimise for conversion before sending on?

Too many affiliate sites are simply MiM pita panhandlers (the af equivalent of MFA) between the searcher and the merchant. They offer no additional value to the process. And such sites have to rely on Google organic because no one on SM would recommend them and no one would deliberately return to use them again. And they don't make sufficient to use ppc and probably aren't competent to do so.
Note: the foregoing is a general statement not directed at any specific site of person.

There is a modern parable that seems rather applicable given this thread so far:
A great storm was forecast so the local authorities broadcast an emergency evacuation warning of severe flooding.

A man of faith heard the warning but decided to stay rationalising that he trusted in God and that God would see him safe.

His neighbours came to say that they had room in their car and that he should come away with them. But he declined saying that he trusted in God to see him safe.

A man paddling by in a canoe offered to make space and that he should come away with him. But he declined saying that he trusted in God to see him safe.

As he had to move upstairs to keep out of the rising waters a police motor boat came to rescue him. But he declined saying that he trusted in God to see him safe.

As he climbed onto his roof to escape the torrential flood a helicopter swung low to take him away. But he declined saying that he trusted in God to see him safe.

Shortly after the house was completely inundated, the man swept away, and drowned. He subsequently asked his God why, all his faith that God would see him safe had been for naught... To which his God replied "My son, I sent you a warning. I sent you a car. I sent you a canoe. I sent you a motorboat. I sent you a helicopter. What more were you looking for?"


There are none so blind as those who will not see.
8:28 pm on Apr 29, 2018 (gmt 0)

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"You built a website during the glory days and that goodwill and ranking allowed you to survive with less reliance on Google traffic in 2018. How is that relevant to a start-up in 2018 and what do you know about such things? Don't sell false hope."

Get your false hope here, false hope only $5, discount false hope while it lasts! Peanuts, cold beer, false hope! Get your false hope here!
3:59 pm on May 1, 2018 (gmt 0)

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I know people that won the lottery. This can, and does happen. I also see people open (and close down) many restaurants in the city I live in. People loaned money to those businesses thinking what a great idea that restaurant was. There is smart, and there is stupid. Maybe you're one of those guys investing in music cd store franchises or movie rental franchise opportunities?

I don't read bold font lectures dad. You're a one person operation who hires PT people? Isn't that contradictory? If you hire people then you call yourself a one person operation? Credibility alert. Credibility alert.

I personally would preface my beliefs about organic traffic that can sustain an affiliate/ad based website without Google by saying I built my site, reputation, links, authority at a time when organic traffic flowed from Google and during times when this business model was easy. People can then judge whether my views and beliefs have any bearing on a website launching in 2018. An old website that is successful today is called INSULATED FROM REALITY. You can take everything you gained years ago and leverage that in other social media and organic traffic drivers. In 2018? You can't leverage anything from nothing.

The bottom line is that the foundation of the affiliate programs was organic traffic which today, more than ever is Google dependent. It's clear that the flow is diminishing. Amazon themselves, with the most generous of all affiliate programs have been slashing commission rates which of course says where things are headed. Amazon continues to clutter page one SERPs, then naturally their dependence on the small sites evaporates and thus the need goes away along with the commission rates.

I didn't even mention the issue these days with privacy, tracking and cookies which of course is the foundation of most every affiliate program out there. We are circumventing those issues how?
11:19 am on May 4, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Very Interesting conversation. In my niche I have found it very difficult to drive traffic from SM. Part of the issue is the type of niche I am in the other part is affiliate agreements don't allow posting on SM about the company's product/service.
7:55 pm on May 4, 2018 (gmt 0)

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@JesterMagic: imo SMM involves three parallel efforts (1) connecting with your audience quietly helpfully in the best practice manner of a given SM platform either via influencers or answering questions without bias and selling; (2) giving people reason to leave the platform and visit your site; (3) giving people reason to recommend you and your site.

IMO ones site is the affiliate presell space, the interaction on SM platforms is site traffic generation space. Of course for this method to work well there have to be reasons aka content other than specific affiliate products/links for visit interest.

Search is like net fishing, social media marketing is like spear fishing. Too many webdevs go net fishing on SM, which leads to complaints about its ineffectiveness compared to search. Search is volume traffic, SMM is targeted WOM traffic.
 

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