In 2004 I learned about affiliate marketing almost by accident as it became part of an experiment that combined by web development skills with my ability to optimize websites in search. The cost was low and the reward was high. For instance I would purchase a domain for $15, a hosting package for $5/month, build a quick website and promote products within a certain niche that were offered through various affiliate networks. My search engine optimization knowledge I had gained over the years came in handy as I would optimize product names I was trying to market and occasionally create microsites around my high performing products in order to outrank my competitors and monopolize search. It worked for a few years. Today most of the tactics I used would easily fall under what is called Black Hat SEO and would get sites penalized in search.
Within months from starting out as an affiliate marketer I was making hundreds per day and 1 summer I can remember the payouts reaching the thousands. I was on cloud nine. Things were going so well that I had quit my job that I had for years to focus on my newly created careers. I lie a simple and happy life out in the country. It felt as though I had won a lottery. My day consisted of working out daily, being in sweat pants all day with almost no stress. Unfortunately that gravy train crashed.
Like many affiliate marketers who relied heavily on organic traffic my sites were barely earning enough for me to survive. Google’s objective is to return the best results to end users and since Affiliate marketing is just a bridge between consumers and the sites that actually sell the products on their sites, I understand why their algorithms changed to affect affiliate marketing websites like mine.
Many affiliate marketers like myself had to get jobs as their sites dwindled or vanished in search due to Google’s algorithmic changes such as Panda and Penguin. Like others I started to earn less and less. This once easy way of making money I had discovered years earlier had almost perished, however the truth still remains – affiliate marketing is still alive and well.
2 BIG mistakes I made in my affiliate marketing career
1) I didn’t diversify my online marketing strategy
Instead I heavily relied on organic search traffic. Affiliate marketers who survived the online apocolypse were those who were savvy enough with their online strategy. This included those who were successful with social media, search engine marketing, email marketing or those offering unique & interesting content.
2) I offered little to no original content
My websites didn’t have the most appealing content nor was it original for the most part. It was poorly written or “Frankenstein” content. I created online catalogues that weren’t any different than the shopping comparison sites like shopping.com and shopzilla.com who were affiliate giants also affected. I believe websites or blogs that offer content that keep their visitors coming back will always be successful in affiliate marketing. Promoting products on your website that are related to your industry or niche is just one way to succeed.
Today my career is not focused solely on affiliate marketing. I do still get monthly cheques from multiple affiliate networks however smaller they may be from my once glorious heyday. This year I plan on making a comeback in the affiliate game with a new strategy and a new team. This affiliate marketer has not thrown in the towel just yet and is very much alive.