Is Affiliate Marketing Dead? And Did The Coronavirus Kill It?

a white man looking nervously at his notebook

The number of articles stating that affiliate marketing is dead almost equals the number of those stating the exact opposite. The former ones have promising statistics on their side, the latter ones have Betteridge’s law.

Both sides have compelling arguments and use trends or industry experts to support their claims.

Both sides are right.

Both sides are wrong.

There is no contradiction between these two statements.

It all boils down to what affiliate marketing is for us and how we define its supposed departure.

I will walk you through the arguments made by supporters of each side, look at how the troubled times of the global pandemic will influence the industry, and, hopefully, the answer will become clear.

If you want to learn more, read the following article that answers the question about what is affiliate marketing.

Affiliate marketing is not dead

The figures are clear: money spent on affiliate marketing in the United States alone is steadily going up. And there are more numbers to back up the idea that affiliate marketing is very much alive:

More than 80% of brands use affiliate marketing as one of their sales channels.

15% of the whole digital advertising revenue can be attributed to affiliate marketing.

The industry itself is booming. People are making money out of it.

Some people make very good money with it.

The more our activities move online, the more important affiliate marketing should become.

The rising tide lifts all boats.

At least it should.

The worldwide popularity of the “affiliate marketing” search term goes up year by year. This may be the indicator of the growing importance of the industry. However, it may also mean that more and more people join the game.

This brings us to the second part…

Affiliate marketing is dead

At least, the affiliate marketing as we have used to know it. 

Hastily written product reviews with affiliate links in them are fading away.

Pervasive banners are no more.

Forced continuity offers are getting blocked by banks.

Affiliate marketing is no longer a secret and exclusive club for initiates.

When there are too many boats to lift, the tide may leave some of them behind.

Is affiliate marketing still worth it? What has changed?

Growing competition

More people want to become affiliate marketers than ever. The idea of working from home is getting more and more attention, especially in troubled times such as ongoing coronavirus epidemic. This drives people to search for job opportunities that can be done solely from the confinements of their homes.

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There will be more affiliates fighting for the same offers and bidding for the same (but growing) traffic.

Affiliate Marketing is now harder and with stricter regulations

Internet giants are tightening their ad policies. Pressured by governments or public opinions, they ask for better content regulations.

More and more verticals or angles are getting banned on Facebook and Google.

Advertising has to become less aggressive and more clever. Thought-through. Researched and targeted.

Inclusivity

While more people will be jumping on the affiliate train, big companies hosting affiliate programs may become more careful when accepting new program joiners. They may try to vet people more, put requirements such as having a successful site and so on.

The importance of lead quality will grow. Beginner affiliates are less likely to deliver it.

SEO changes

Search engine optimization is an ongoing game where affiliates try to decipher and keep up with the newest algorithm changes.

But the overall trend is clear: it is harder to rank on the first spot in Google. With the growing expansion of ads in SERP and featured snippets, the first spot may not even be visible. On top of that, what algorithm deems important may change overnight. 

Read this great article on the importance of SEO in the times of COVID-19.

The only way to stay visible will eventually be to pay. 

Already spending money on Google Ads? Visibility will cost you a lot. The average cost of traffic will rise. Affiliate marketing will become a game for those with bigger budgets.

The rise of brands

For all the “make a quick buck” affiliates: a change is coming. Google and Facebook always liked brands and they will grow to love them even more.

If you have run some generic offers, it is time to invest in building your own brand. Brands are the future. 

So, is affiliate marketing dead?

You may have noticed that the part of the article listing arguments supporting the death of the affiliate marketing is much longer than the part about how thriving it is as a business.

All the arguments in the world shouldn’t cloud the fact that it’s still a 12-billion-dollar pie to share.

What’s the final answer?

The “death of affiliate marketing” is just a figure of speech pointing out the fact that it is undergoing a significant change. It will still be profitable.

Maybe not for all.

Maybe not for the unprepared ones.

But the money is still there and it will stay that way till the end of the Internet.

Affiliate marketing vs COVID-19 

The times of the global coronavirus pandemic has turned the traditional knowledge about what works upside down. What used to work may not work anymore and things that you may have not even thought of are performing like crazy.

We have an extensive article describing what works during the coronavirus crisis.

We can safely say that affiliate marketing is a line of work that is very desirable right now for a few good reasons:

  • It allows people to work from home
  • It requires relatively low initial investments
  • It doesn’t require any specific skills or educations

The virus didn’t kill the affiliate marketing definitely. But it had an impact on it, in a good way as well:

  • There are a lot of offers to choose from
  • Average CPC has dropped, even by 70 – 80 % in some cases 
  • There are more potential eyeballs as everyone are on the Internet right now

The good summary of the current situation was given by Luke Kling, affLIFT Founder:

The affiliate industry as a whole seems to do better when there is uncertainty in the economy.

One way is certain: what we have used to know as ‘affiliate marketing’ is dying.

All hail the new affiliate marketing. Which will be very similar to the old one in some aspects but very different in others.

How to work in affiliate marketing in 2020 and beyond

The death and re-birth of affiliate marketing will put an even bigger emphasis on knowing your audience. 

On being clever with your targeting and optimizing options.

On affiliate tracking of all your costs and profits.

On more testing and smart traffic redistribution.

The new affiliate marketing will require a tracker even more. Grab the best one to get ahead of everyone else.

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5 comments
  1. Michal,

    Thanks for the in-depth article which contains invaluable insight. The truth remains that affiliate marketing is not dead. In fact, the coronavirus only helped to transform it for better performance. As long as people exist, people will always need products and services.

    And online will ultimately require in-depth product/service reviews to make an informed buying decision. This will always fuel affiliate marketing-oriented reviews.

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