Is Affiliate Marketing Dead?

In my last post talking about Commission Junction & my problems with them, I left off by saying there is a question about affiliate marketing in general, and the title above is that question.

Frances Hui via Compfight

Let’s look at this thing from the big picture perspective. How many ways are there to make money online? A bunch of ways truthfully, as I shared in this post years ago talking about how Lynn Terry does it and then talking about how one can legitimately make money blogging, saying it wasn’t how you were thinking.

I’ve said that over the years the one thing that’s made me any real money has been Adsense, and not on this blog but most of it on one of my other websites. I’ve made very little money via affiliate marketing, no matter who it is, and I did a six part series in 2011 talking about all the affiliate programs I’m connected with and how much (little) money I made from them all over the years if you want to check that out.

Frankly, the effort isn’t really worth it anymore, but I’m wondering if it’s ever been worth it. True, there are some people who make a lot of money online via their blogs and affiliate programs, but let’s think about a couple of things here.

One, how many of those affiliate programs are the same types of things we have?

Two, how many of those folks are getting paid a much higher rate than most people will get, mainly because of their associations?

Three, for that matter, how many of these folks make a lot of money by promoting each other’s programs and products as opposed to going the route that the overwhelming majority of us go?

Before I go on, let me state this for the record. I never begrudge anyone for making money or for figuring out how to make money. Unless they do it in an unethical way, I figure people are entitled to whatever money they make or whatever money someone is willing to pay them, even if I may not like them (for who they are, not for making money). Can we learn lessons from these folks? Absolutely, as long as we look at the right thing.

In this instance I’m going to use one of my buddy Brian’s favorite people, a guy named Pat Flynn, who publishes his monthly income report each month. This guy’s raking it in; there’s no disputing that. He’s working it like a pro; great for him. But let’s look at only his affiliate programs for a moment.

He shows that he made more than $38,000 in November for his affiliate programs; that’s fantastic. He made around $23,000 of that via BlueHost, and he made it via his YouTube channel talking about how to create a blog using them. YouTube is the way a lot more people are making money these days, and he’s a charismatic guy, so talking about it in a video and getting lots of visitors to it would sell a lot of product.

drinks machine via Compfight

He made more than $3,600 via a program called Long Tail Pro, something I’ve never heard of, but it’s an independent program that he helps promote. Another $2,700 via LeadPages, $2,100 for the Thesis theme, $2,000 for Market Samurai and $1,400 for Aweber, and then lesser amounts for a lot of other things; I’m only talking affiliate programs here.

What isn’t he doing? He’s not using things like Commission Junction, Clickbank, LinkShare, Bidvertiser, on and on and on. As a matter of fact, most of the things he’s marketing other than BlueHost aren’t the types of things most of us probably think about when we’re thinking affiliate marketing.

I thought about pulling someone else’s monthly income report, decided I didn’t want to embarrass anyone, and instead decided to share one of my old income report from September 2010, before I stopped doing them, as a point of comparison. This was the most money I ever made in one month, $562, and that was because I sold one of my websites. Without that it would have been $262, and though I made more money than that later on, it was always Adsense, not because of affiliate marketing. I’m betting that many of you would love to make $200 a month, and that’s not all bad, but can any of us live off it?

I ask the question “is affiliate marketing dead” not because no one makes money off it, but after so many years and so many more people who have tried it and not made a livable income off it, which outnumbers those who do make a living off it 99.8% to .2% (and I think that’s generous), if it worth the effort to continue trying to make money off a model that, for most of us, is not only inefficient and cumbersome but we can’t even trust that they’re giving us the real stats, let alone will pay us? I add this as I just received my one and only payment from Amazon a couple of weeks ago for… 50 cents! Had them for 4 years and I made 50 cents; that’s a darn shame! lol

What’s your thought on this? I know some will think (even if you don’t say it here) that you’re going to be the one who breaks the mold & makes all the money. Oh really? By blogging? By lots of squeeze pages of products that everyone else is already marketing? I’m doubting it but I could be wrong; y’all let me know.

Hey, someone had to ask right? 🙂

33 thoughts on “Is Affiliate Marketing Dead?”

  1. Good topic Mitch to answer you question No.

    Affiliate marketing is alive and well.
    I would recommend going direct though through something like clickbank, shareasale, or ejunkie.

    I also think people make a big mistake on WHERE to sell from.

    Links on the surface of websites DON’T work you have to sell from your list in order to make it work preferably an ebook or training program.

    Remember the universal terms of the universe are something for something.

    give them a WHOLE lot if you want them to give you “some” thing.

    1. Hey Darnell,

      Before I make my point I’ll ask you one question; have you been able to make enough money off affiliate marketing to live off?

      As I told someone on the previous post about Commission Junction, I’ve never made a dime off Clickbank or Shareasale, both of which I’ve had for years and, as it pertains to Clickbank, I actually promoted hard a product that I actually purchased and liked, and wrote about on this blog and on another website for a while.

      As for that list thing… you must have missed my post two articles ago about my lamentations on whether an email list is worth the effort or not. lol

  2. Hi Mitch, I had been using LinkShare for a few years and noticed a decline in it the past few months. You make a good point and there are other ways of making money online. I’m looking into PostJoint now.
    Best way is having a retail site but it’s a lot of work and you need good suppliers too. Keeping track of inventory can by time consuming.

    1. Good stuff Lisa. True, Linkshare has had some of its advertisers leave, and I’ve had to remove their links from different places. It’s just so irritating; way too much work to keep up with most of the time.

  3. Hi Mitch,
    To give it straight, Affiliate marketing is not dead but rather it is evolving! Agreed some affiliate programs are not to be trusted, some top affiliates are still making reasonable cash from affiliate marketing.

    The situation with affiliate marketing today has to do with the level of competition and the changes experienced.

  4. Hey Mitch,

    I haven’t done much affiliate marketing (I have very little experience with it…frankly because I wasn’t really interested in making money, although I did try a few times). Blogging to me was just a hobby 😀

    Of course, things have changed. I am in college now, so a little bit of money can hurt – especially with all these textbooks!

    I am planning to pursue Affiliate marketing (not with Click bank..I have never liked Click bank, might be because I have purchased a lot of blogging/money making related products which wasn’t much of a help to me. Of course, I got a refund for most of them, so it wasn’t that bad).

    I am planning to just stick with resources I use (simple products and small recommendations). If people buy through the link, great! If not, okay (I am also planning to pursue other methods, so it’s okay).

    Anyways, thank you for sharing this with us, Mitch 🙂 Hope you are having a great weekend!

    1. Thanks for stopping by Jeevan. I think your beliefs on how you want to proceed are the best way, even though it’s going to be hard as well. Then again, if it weren’t hard what fun would it be? 🙂

      1. Yes, indeed.

        I have often wondered: what would happen if I were to achieve all my blogging goals?

        What then? Nothing..the only possible answer I can come up with is just give up blogging.

        I mean, blogging is fun because it is challenging! Same with life, at least that’s what I think 😀

      2. Haha, yes indeed 😉

        I should have thought of my own blogging career…I tried to give up blogging (and I did stay away from it for almost an year), but ultimately, I decided to get back (it’s too much fun :D).

  5. Hey Mitch,

    I’ll pipe in here and I’ll tell you that I make a full time living mostly from my affiliate sales. Yep, that’s how I started making money to begin with and it’s what still brings me the most today.

    Am I anywhere near Pat’s numbers? Well that answer is hell no, I’m a lot lower then that but as I’ve been honest with people over the years. I own my home and my car, I have no husband and no children so I live alone and can definitely cut back when needed. Of course since making a living at home I don’t have the money to travel and do the things I’d like so I’m just making it if I must be honest with you.

    My consulting business I started a little over a year ago is doing well and gaining more steam and this year I intend to put my own product in as well. I also put up blogs for those that need it so I do a few things but mostly affiliate marketing.

    When I started it was mostly through Clickbank products which I still promote but now it’s more like what Pat’s doing. When you’re able to promote products with monthly recurring fees then you’re making that each month my friend which is really nice.

    You definitely do it through the connections you’ve made and yes, your list.

    So that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. I hope to improve upon it this year but it is possible.


    1. Great share Adrienne, and you’re one of the rare ones making a living off it, even if it is tight. Truthfully, I’d take that any day of the week when compared to working for a company. Maybe it’s that the way affiliate marketing used to be is dead and not the sales in any way. For instance, every day I get new offers in my email to share with people, but who has the kind of time to try to put those things out every day, and then remove them when the offers expire? And putting those things on a blog and leaving them there forever… that doesn’t seem very prudent either.

      Good thing you’re doing well, and it’ll be interesting to see your product later this year.

  6. I know it works because Ileane Smith just said that she earned $1.88 on Amazon so far this month. lol

    I don’t know, it’s tough to figure out because there are so many factors. I should mention I use Long Tail Pro and they use Clickbank for their affiliate program and Thesis uses ShareASale.

    Call me a romantic but to answer your question, no affiliate marketing is not dead. It’s not for everyone but what in business is?

    I already know the question is coming so, no, I have not made enough from affiliate marketing to make a living. At least not the living we are accustomed to. I did make over two grand last year (2013) in Clickbank sales but that came down as fast as it went up. I’m sure I’ll find my swing soon enough, it’s just a matter of taking the right action.

    1. Brian, I think affiliate marketing the way we used to do it is dying, but overall it seems to be morphing into something a little bit different. I made money online as well, but mainly through Adsense and Infolinks. Not enough to live off, but every little bit helps some.

  7. I will add my two cents.

    1. I feel that you need to make sure you research the affiliates that you are working with.

    2. You have to more importantly built up a community of blog readers that are stopping by your blog itching for the content that you produce. These readers are more likely to click a link you have in a post because you have become a trusted source.

    1. Good stuff Joanne, and I couldn’t agree more. Thing is, back in the day I did research those affiliates I then decided to test. However, this blog really isn’t the best type for affiliate marketing in general. The one thing I actually made a little money off was Mailwasher Pro, and it was a connection directly with them as opposed to a catalog service, so to speak.

  8. Hi Mitch,

    I can surely say the affiliate marketing is not dead. I’m in online marketing for around 3 years and met some people around the forums who’re earning, watch this out: around $5k a DAY with affiliate marketing! This sounds really unrealistic I know. But these guys are not cheaters I know because I followed their way and progress.
    I also tried it by myself and was earning like $3k a month last year. It dropped now a lot because my websites got taken down by google Penguin update. I’m fighting currently to take them back but it takes really really slow.

    The key of success here is to know how to promote products and have a huge number of traffic to your sites, links, videos etc.
    However nowadays it’s so saturated because every day more and more people are learning how to make money on the internet and industry is big. But the main key is to have some unique idea to promote and think outside of the box.

    Like you, I also hope I will one day catch something big, like get some amazing idea and earn some big money.
    It only needs to be aggressive and stay motivated I think..

    Thanks for this topic and regards,

    1. Adam, that all sounds good, but it’s more advanced than traditional affiliate marketing. Those guys aren’t the norm, and many of them are, well, affiliated with each other, promote each other, have lists of 100’s of thousands… I don’t fault them for any of that, and I never hate on anyone who makes money honestly. But in a way they’re like a pyramid scheme; they’re at the top and then tell others how to do things, but they get the biggest profits from it along with the guaranteed money. You can bet that none of those guys sit around griping after a Google update hit.

      With that said maybe it’s not dying but it’s been drastically diminished. You actually called a part of it; so many people are trying to do the same thing that it’s hard to find an audience.

  9. Hey Mitch,

    So per our discussion I’m now going to test this to see if my comment will go through from a different browser, FireFox, instead of my main one, Chrome. Darn that spam folder.

    Here she goes.


  10. I’m back again… Okay, sorry for all this testing but after uninstalling Chrome and all the other stuff that went with it let’s see if this comment goes through. If it does that’s fabulous and of course please do delete all these tests I’ve been bombarding with your poor post.


  11. The question exist since affiliate marketing exist.Certainly it works quite well, especially with the right items and trust worthy affiliate program. I am sorry, but I have to mention two forbidden niche that can build stable income for me – pharmacy and gambling. Especially gambling niche was very profitable for me, until changes in law in USA. There have been times when I wake up and some high roller have lost 15k and I receive 70% commission. Pharmacy affiliate programs haven’t been so profitable for me, but have always bring betweek 1-2k a month for 2-3 years.
    I have to mention that I’ve never really market those in particular online marketing ways. Used to have my own developed systems that were generating quite good results. Additionally these niche are always profitable. From my major current web project, I have generate close to 0 income from affiliate programs, but I am quite happy with income from AdSense.

    1. Carl, you point out my example in a way. At one point you found a big way to make money via affiliate marketing but now it’s not working as well. I’ve never really made any money at it but it’s worse now, and so many people, the overwhelming majority, are never going to be able to live off it. I think it’s declining, even if it’s not officially totally gone just yet. Heck, it may merge into marketing via Facebook or other social media sites.

      1. I don’t think that it is declining, just every niche is getting more saturated and more affiliates spread the income between each other.
        There is one other thing – in the past payment thresholds were extremely high $300-$500, I have even seen a $1000. Nowadays many affiliate programs offer immediate Paypal transfer on every successful sale.
        Certainly a better option is to sell own products/services, but at the end it is all about marketing and advertising.

      2. Carl, I think it’s declining, and some of these companies offering affiliate products are, well, seemingly less trustworthy than originally believed. As even you said, you’re not making close to the money you used to make. Maybe I should have said dead for the majority to have the opportunity to make a living because I’d say there are more programs popping up. It’s just not as profitable to get into as it might have previously been.

  12. I’ve never heard of Pat Flynn but I’m assuming he’s making so much money because he’s of the same ilk as Darren Rowse. He probably has a huge following and if he recommends a product people are more likely to buy it. Not to mention he probably has a lot of traffic, and need is say it, a huge list 😉

    I promote some of the same products you mention in the post and my sales are nowhere near his.

    I’m thinking of selling off all my blogs except maybe three or four, just to offload some of the workload and concentrate on those actually bringing an income.

    1. You do have a ton of blogs Sire, and at some point I was subscribed to all of them, until you stopped writing them. lol I think your scientific blog should be easy to sell but I’m not so sure about Blogsire, and it’s too bad you couldn’t keep up with your photography blog.

      As far as affiliate programs go you’re the only person who ever bought anything from me, that being Mailwasher, and I still can’t believe such a valuable program, one I still use and trust so much, couldn’t convince anyone else to even look at it.

  13. I agree most affiliate networks are crap however with thousands, and literally thousands of advertisers how are any affiliates supposed to sort the good from the bad? The ones that pay vs the ones that dont? Networks consolidate the best offers into one universal place. Also as an advertiser you are basically on your own when it comes to fraud protection so unless you REALLY know affiliate marketing yourself, creating your own offer and finding a ton of profitable ways to promote it can be a lot more work and money and time than most are willing to put in. I think a lot of networks will die that are BS low quality networks but the ones that really quality control their affiliates and only let really good ones in (the boutique networks) will do great. Making your own offers and promoting them yourself is great and I have a few of my own offers as well but affiliate marketing is far from dead. Even as your own advertiser you have to know everything a “super affiliate” knows and these are just things you can read in an ebook. It takes experience and a lot of time and money spent to learn. I see a ton of valid points in this article although quite a few I would disagree with personally. Either way the “down with any traffic” and crap will definitely come to an end. I personally would never give an offer to a network like that.

    1. Wow Mathew, that was a lot to get through! lol

      I think it’s interesting that a few weeks after I write my post about Commission Junction they’re taken over by another company. I don’t know them but they’ll have to go a long way for me to trust them since I just don’t see them making the service any better. And Clickbank is a mess as well, even if a few people have found ways to make money through there.

      My opinion is that if you’re lucky enough to make a product that’s geared towards your specific audience that’s the way to go.

  14. Most of the time Pat Flynn will be listed in all my affiliate topics.

    But I really don’t know he is earn 100,000 $ plus every month just through the affiliate.

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