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  1. #1
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    What happened?
    I started in 1998 and was one of the first Amazon and CJ affiliates. I left my job full time in 2001 and have been able to support my family with affiliate marketing ever since.

    Buy my income is declining every year. I am concerned about the future and am considering a return to the workforce.
    2005 $120,000
    2006 $70,000
    2007 ~$55,000

    My question is, what happened? I can definately pinpoint a few key events:
    1. Google's approach towards affiliates turned negative.
    2. Deprecation of reciprocal links and other SEO.
    3. Landing page scoring.

    I have devoted my time over the past year to developing new content and better, natural linking including social networking. But that type of traffic does not seem to convert like good PPC traffic does. Unfortunately, Google won't even sell me good traffic anymore. All I get is Adwords for Errors traffic or a trickle.

    Frustrated

  2. #2
    Moderator MichaelColey's Avatar
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    Have you diversified over the years? Diversification is key. What was a novel idea 10 years ago is often now a crowded, competitive field. Those who continue to come up with new ideas and improve will succeed.
    Michael Coley
    Amazing-Bargains.com
     Affiliate Tips | Merchant Best Practices | Affiliate Friendly? | Couponing | CPA Networks? | ABW Tips | Activating Affiliates
    "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." Nelson Mandela

  3. #3
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    I'm highly diversified. Traffic has followed a similar down pattern.

    In the early days, we were courted by merchants...now we are sometimes treated as a necessary pain. I don't understand this shift.

  4. #4
    Moderator MichaelColey's Avatar
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    Are you diversified only in the product selection, or in other areas as well?

    Diversify the affiliate models that you use. If one site is a coupon site, for instance, building seven other coupon sites isn't diversification.

    Diversify your traffic streams. If your current sites rely primarily on SEO, look into PPC (perhaps with a new site if your current site wouldn't work well with PPC). Concentrate on sites that get organic (word of mouth) traffic. Consider social and viral ideas for sites. It's harder to monetize but you can get tremendous traffic.

    Diversify the categories of merchants you work with. Diversify the networks that you work with.

    Diversify outside of affiliate marketing. Try AdSense on some sites. Try some sites that are oriented towards traditional ads or sponsorships.

    If you've tried big, broad sites, consider small niche sites (and vice versa).

    Most people have a pretty narrow view of diversification. There's far more to it than most people think.
    Michael Coley
    Amazing-Bargains.com
     Affiliate Tips | Merchant Best Practices | Affiliate Friendly? | Couponing | CPA Networks? | ABW Tips | Activating Affiliates
    "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." Nelson Mandela

  5. #5
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    Yes, everything has become more competitive. (I've been around in this business a little bit longer than you.)

    To respond to some specific issues:

    1. I don't think Google views "affiliates" negatively; they view "thin affiliate" and "affiliate bridge" sites negatively.

    2. I haven't seen "deprecation" of legitimate links, and would love to hear some examples. I have seen "deprecation" of sites that engage in link "manipulation" through exchange links with irrelevant sites.

    3. Quality Score is a good concept, which Google is still refining. It's a change in how AdWords works, that we need to deal with honestly and directly, not through manipulation.

    Quite frankly, I don't blame Google -- instead, I blame "clever tricksters" who have continuously found new ways to deceive Google's algorithms into thinking that their sites are relevant. At times, these tricksters have ruined Google search results for millions of consumers; Google should certainly do whatever it takes to identify the sources of these tricks and try to block them. If that means a "triage" solution that excludes some legitimate affiliate sites, then that's just how life works.

    Yes, there was a time when Google actually indexed my affiliate links (treating my affiliate link as the main link to a merchant's URL), and money poured into my account as a result. Yes, there was a time when Google indexed my "thin affiliate" pages quite favorably, and money trickled into my account as a result. Google has learned, and grown, and changed.

    Enough whining. What do you want from us? Nobody's going to hand you their best "affiliate secrets," because we've all spent a lot of time and money to learn the most effective affiliate marketing strategies.

  6. #6
    Speechless OTProf's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by markwelch
    Enough whining.
    Mark -- what's your deal? The guy is hitting some walls and looking for some advice and, yes, maybe encouragement as well. I don't have a fraction of the experience that you and Michael have so my advice possibility is limited if not nil.

    speda1 - have you been to the major conferences such as CJU or Affiliate Summit? That might be a good place to brainstorm new ideas and approaches. As for ppc, are you keeping advertising in tight groups & pointing to specific pages on the merchant site -or- helpful landing pages that will presell or provide something useful (like a free shipping or % off coupon)? Also, you could move beyond G and try MSN & Y. While the results of most of my MSN & Y ppc leave much to be desired, there are a couple of pleasant exceptions in both. In any event, best of luck!!!

  7. #7
    Influencer Marketing GravityFed's Avatar
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    Google has nothing against Affiliate sites *that have value* to the end user. If your site is just a re-purposed merchant database or generalized in nature you'll struggle.

    A few years ago, it was easier to earn more with less effort. The landscape has certainly changed in that regard, though.

    Good advice around here lately is to pick a topic you're passionate about and build content. A wordpress blog fully installed and hosted on a domain is a good option. Once you build content *over time*, you can then monetize more easily. 100 datafeed only sites aren't worth as much as one very compelling and focused authority site that's built with elbow grease and perseverance.

    Just commit to the long haul on one (or a few) sites rather than many and it'll be better worth your valuable time.

  8. #8
    http and a telephoto
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    Quote Originally Posted by speda1
    I'm highly diversified. Traffic has followed a similar down pattern.

    In the early days, we were courted by merchants...now we are sometimes treated as a necessary pain. I don't understand this shift.
    Sounds like you need to work with new merchants.

    And highly diversified can be worse than not diversified at all.
    Deborah Carney
    TeamLoxly.com BookGoodies.com ABCsPlus.com

  9. #9
    Domain Addict / Formerly known as elbowcreek Thomas A. Rice's Avatar
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    Perhaps consider a drop ship site, where your company appears to be the merchant? Just a little different angle. Biggest part of my income comes from my merchant site, I actually stock items now, and though it may appear to look like 'work', I can manipulate the margins to make my income soar.

    Check out your local chamber of commerce for manufacturers, and consider reselling for them.

    oh, and, in the purely speculative category, I wonder if your site is being targetted by any parasites? Maybe check out if someone is popping on your site? That might help explain a falling conversion rate.....
    Following everyone else is a GREAT way to become average.

  10. #10
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    Competition happened.

  11. #11
    Domain Addict / Formerly known as elbowcreek Thomas A. Rice's Avatar
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    Yeah, that's true. Thousands more affiliate marketers, producing zillions of sites.
    Following everyone else is a GREAT way to become average.

  12. #12
    Merchant & ABW Ambassador
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    Quote Originally Posted by Trust
    Competition happened.
    $hit happens???

    Seriously, if you provide some information, I am sure that most people are more than likely to help you out.

    Also, take Mike Coley's free suggestion. It's FREE but it carries a lot of weight!

  13. #13
    Moderator MichaelColey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by loxly
    And highly diversified can be worse than not diversified at all.
    Excellent point. I didn't mean to imply that people should diversify into every combination of every area that I mentioned. Just that there were other areas of diversification that need to be considered other than the obvious ones that come to mind.
    Michael Coley
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     Affiliate Tips | Merchant Best Practices | Affiliate Friendly? | Couponing | CPA Networks? | ABW Tips | Activating Affiliates
    "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." Nelson Mandela

  14. #14
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    Diversify yourself out of Clickbank and garbage ink merchants.

    And you're still doing pretty good with $55,000 so who knows. Could be very simply what I said, competition. Just many more affiliates out there nowadays and still only 10 spots available on page 1, if you're getting SEO traffic. Then it seems you're having trouble with PPC.

    "Unfortunately, Google won't even sell me good traffic anymore. All I get is Adwords for Errors traffic or a trickle."

    Put all that together (and other factors), I would expect some sort of downturn. Actually in your first point, you pretty much point out what happened:

    "1. Google's approach towards affiliates turned negative.
    2. Deprecation of reciprocal links and other SEO.
    3. Landing page scoring."

    So that reads, you're getting less free traffic and then having problems getting PPC traffic. Your traffic is down and when that happens, the income usually goes down with it. And anytime over the years with people who quit or are having problems, I just have to ask about their traffic and it's the same answer every time. Traffic down.
    Last edited by Trust; October 15th, 2007 at 05:52 PM.

  15. #15
    ABW Ambassador Snib's Avatar
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    You might want to consider building a press-worthy shopping platform. If your implementation is nice enough you can get some good write-ups. If you can get stories in popular publications like the NY Times, Cosmopolitan, Forbes, etc. you'll be able to pull some nice consumer traffic. The real challenge here is building a site that's good enough to get people's attention. Maybe follow the press and see what sites are being written up. The bar is getting higher and higher, so what worked a year ago may not work today.

    - Scott
    Hatred stirs up strife, But love covers all transgressions.

  16. #16
    More Cheesier Than Ever Cheesehead's Avatar
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    In December 04, Google greatly changed the way they index. This had a big impact! No more quickly created pages with keywords phrases in titles getting traffic. But they had to do it since so many spammers were filling the index with junk. At present time, their old indexing method would return nothing but junk, so I guess they were a little ahead of the game.

    There were more updates since. And tons more new sites.

    If I had my present sites up in 04, I would have been in 6 figures as well. But I didn't - just a bunch of poorly constructed sites, "thin" in nature.

    Good solid original and valuable content is a great way to get stability. It has allowed me to maintain (but not gain). The draw back is that it is time consuming. Look into all the other suggestions. Diversify.

    I think for every 10 ideas I have had, 1 has been successful. I am hoping that at some point the number of new sites levels off so I can get ahead of the game.
    This World is Not My Home
    We're gonna go inside, we're gonna go outside, inside and outside. . . And then we're gonna go go go and we're not gonna stop til we get across that goalline! Quotes from the movie Rudy, 1993

  17. #17
    Resident Genius and Staunch Capitalist Leader's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by elbowcreek
    Perhaps consider a drop ship site, where your company appears to be the merchant? Just a little different angle. Biggest part of my income comes from my merchant site, I actually stock items now, and though it may appear to look like 'work', I can manipulate the margins to make my income soar.
    I hear ya! The fact that the merchantside costumed itself as w*rk and fooled me with that horrific disguise for so long, has got to be one of the most costly things I've run into. I just wish I'd opened merchant sites years ago! And the margins are sooo much better.

    Of course, now that I know that, I look at products differently. 10% commission doesn't seem too special when I look at something and realize that there's got to be a 100% (or more) markup on it!


    Quote Originally Posted by Gary
    Google has nothing against Affiliate sites *that have value* to the end user. If your site is just a re-purposed merchant database or generalized in nature you'll struggle.
    I don't think a generalized site is of less value--quite the contrary. It's easier to shop at a store that has a wide variety than it is to go to countless boutiques!

    That said, algos are still as dumb as rocks, and it can be hard for them to figure out which terms all the pages on a generalized site ought to rank on. If they really looked at each page separately, as they claim, there shouldn't be any problem.

    And a "repurposed merchant database" can be quite useful, especially if the merchant itself isn't ranking. When I'm shopping for something, the site that has that something (the merchant) or the site that can point me to it the fastest (usually a datafeed affiliate) is the useful one. Anything that gets in the way more than it needs to is dreck. This includes any aff sites that think I want to compare prices, see their opinions, read their forumites' blather about the item, or even drill down through lots of categories!

  18. #18
    ABW Ambassador Snib's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Leader
    I don't think a generalized site is of less value--quite the contrary. It's easier to shop at a store that has a wide variety than it is to go to countless boutiques!
    While I agree that a generalized site can earn a lot, I don't think it's possible for a single affiliate to do it well enough for consumer adoption. It takes quite a bit of manpower to maintain and organize products into a site like Shopping.com or Pricegrabber. One affiliate could *try* to mimic these sites, but it just won't have the relevance, organization and focus that these huge shopping sites have. In the end consumers just won't find it good enough. Sure you can say it's nice to have a generalized site but very few affiliates are capable of maintaining and organizing that amount of data. It'll likely end up 100% reliant on SEO or PPC with very few loyal customers.

    - Scott
    Hatred stirs up strife, But love covers all transgressions.

  19. #19
    More Cheesier Than Ever Cheesehead's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Snib
    While I agree that a generalized site can earn a lot, I don't think it's possible for a single affiliate to do it well enough for consumer adoption. It takes quite a bit of manpower to maintain and organize products into a site like Shopping.com or Pricegrabber. One affiliate could *try* to mimic these sites, but it just won't have the relevance, organization and focus that these huge shopping sites have. In the end consumers just won't find it good enough. Sure you can say it's nice to have a generalized site but very few affiliates are capable of maintaining and organizing that amount of data. It'll likely end up 100% reliant on SEO or PPC with very few loyal customers.

    - Scott
    Ever think to yourself "What am I doing here trying to compete with some huge companies in PPC, shopping portals, content, etc...?". Like David vs. Goliath. Good advice Scott.
    This World is Not My Home
    We're gonna go inside, we're gonna go outside, inside and outside. . . And then we're gonna go go go and we're not gonna stop til we get across that goalline! Quotes from the movie Rudy, 1993

  20. #20
    Resident Genius and Staunch Capitalist Leader's Avatar
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    It takes quite a bit of manpower to maintain and organize products into a site like Shopping.com or Pricegrabber. One affiliate could *try* to mimic these sites,
    I wasn't really thinking of running a site with (nearly) EVERYTHING like those try to do.

    I suppose what I envision would be more like a strip-mall or shopping center, instead of what you'd find at an all-encompassing megamall: The site has a good variety of product lines, but it's not trying to cover all that exists.

    A mall site like I'm thinking of avoids the logistical difficulties of an exhaustive site, as well as the overly-concentrated risks faced by many niche sites.

  21. #21
    Kung Fu Master Eathan's Avatar
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    Obviously old methods may not produce the same and things change, but I wonder if there's also good money being pulled out of the affiliate space.

    Honestly, and take offense or don't as you all see fit, the overall quality of affiliates and affiliate traffic has dropped over the last ten years. Software parasites, trademark poachers, MFA sites popping aff links, parked and redirected domains, incentive sites, pay to read, pay to click, pay to surf, Myspace friend train spammers, old fashioned email spammers, etc, etc have done their part to undermine the good bits of the affiliate channel.

    Recruiting good affiliates is more difficult, policing bad affiliates is more expensive and IMO the industry is starting to suffer because of it. Merchants pay more for less, and always with the expectation of some additional headache from the aff channel.

    As an example: wearing my affiliate hat, I joined a merchant tonight that I had never heard of, but that I was very excited to find. Their EPC was pretty bad and their trend showed spotty activity, but I figured I could sell what they had to offer, so I went deeper. I like to test new programs with PPC before I build anything, so like a good affiliate I checked for a PPC policy - none.

    I ran a G search for their domain and found pretty much what I expected...

    Result 1: PPC by an affiliate - probably the few sales on the merchant's spotty trendline

    Result 2: Merchant's own #1 spot in the natural search results

    Results 3 - 10: Aff sites with titles like "Merchant name discounts, merchantname.com shop buy sale merchantname+com".

    To me that looks like 10 affiliates doing jackshit for the merchant, and worse; competing with the merchant for "merchantname.com" traffic.

    Why should this merchant even bother to continue their program? If it's not adding to their bottom line, why shouldn't they pull it? I think a lot of merchants are being forced to ask the same questions.

    An experienced OPM can help, as can parasite auditing firms, etc, but bottom line is, bad traffic is shrinking merchants' bottom lines and those 3rd party services cost money. I think some of this is starting to rear its head with merchants pulling out...

    Please note: I still dig the industry, make money as an aff, am and merchant and hope it all keeps rolling. I just think there are more bad apples than just the BHOs hurting the industry, and wish more of us would say as much.
    Eathan Mertz

    Black Cat Mining - Gold Prospecting & Rockhounding Equipment

  22. #22
    ABW Ambassador Snib's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Leader
    I wasn't really thinking of running a site with (nearly) EVERYTHING like those try to do.

    I suppose what I envision would be more like a strip-mall or shopping center, instead of what you'd find at an all-encompassing megamall: The site has a good variety of product lines, but it's not trying to cover all that exists.

    A mall site like I'm thinking of avoids the logistical difficulties of an exhaustive site, as well as the overly-concentrated risks faced by many niche sites.
    I agree a "mall" site is less general than a multi-million dollar comparison engine. But even then you've got to pick a bit of a focus. Can't include every computer or auto parts store, but you might want to put a lot of emphasis on certain areas like clothing. I think as a single individual I can exhaustively cover only a handful of niches. Be it with coupons, content or products you've still got to maintain the data and keep it infinitely fresh.

    - Scott
    Hatred stirs up strife, But love covers all transgressions.

  23. #23
    Believe knight01's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Leader
    I wasn't really thinking of running a site with (nearly) EVERYTHING like those try to do.

    I suppose what I envision would be more like a strip-mall or shopping center, instead of what you'd find at an all-encompassing megamall: The site has a good variety of product lines, but it's not trying to cover all that exists.

    A mall site like I'm thinking of avoids the logistical difficulties of an exhaustive site, as well as the overly-concentrated risks faced by many niche sites.
    I've been kicking around an idea for several years. Just not sure how to properly implement it. A local online shopping 'mall'. There are dozens of stores in my area that have websites, some even with ecommerce, but they really don't market the site well.

    Perhaps you offer these businesses a place on your local mall site in exchange for a % of sales.

    The obstacle, of course, is why would anyone buy something from joes hardware online when they could drive down to the store and buy it.

    It seems like there are still opportunities out there that are untapped. Finding a way to make them work by adding value to the merchant and the customer is the tricky part.
    Someday starts today
    Military Discounts

  24. #24
    Resident Genius and Staunch Capitalist Leader's Avatar
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    [snip]
    A local online shopping 'mall'. There are dozens of stores in my area that have websites, some even with ecommerce, but they really don't market the site well.

    [snips]

    Perhaps you offer these businesses a place on your local mall site in exchange for a % of sales.The obstacle, of course, is why would anyone buy something from joes hardware online when they could drive down to the store and buy it.
    One reason comes right to mind:
    Because Joe's is actually way in the city (compared to the prospect's location) rather than just down the street, and it'd be a 40-minute drive in GOOD traffic, but the only way to hit them when they're open is to endure one of the "rush(to nowhere) hour" periods since the customer is busy all day. (If you're already in a city, imagine the customer being 40 minutes outside of it!)

    That describes the scenario that got me to buy online from a business in Detroit last year. Nobody conveniently nearby had The Item, and I wasn't going to spend the time, aggravation with traffic and finding the place, and gas (not to mention trying to be up when the place was open!) going down there just to buy it. I was happy to find a place that'd ship it over.

    So if you targeted the site at those just a bit further than convenience range, I could see it going over under the right circumstances.

    For something like that, though, I'd charge for ad placement rather than commission. Then you get paid whether the people drive to the place or not! Plus, then you don't have to get a bunch of clueless local merchants to understand affiliate marketing and properly implement tracking.

    Other reasons I can think of for avoiding going to a store, even if it's right around the corner, include:

    Can't be bothered going!
    Wintertime. Delivery is a wonderful thing, especially when it's 20 degrees out there.
    Car's broken.
    Not enough time/place is closed/stuck doing empl*yment when the place is open.
    Any/all of the above + wants to cut the delivery time by ordering from somewhere fairly close.

    And I'm sure there are more.

  25. #25
    Lite On The Do, Heavy On The Nuts Donuts's Avatar
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    Some great advice already posted here, I can't add too much to that really, there's plenty of it here for you. So I'm going to do something different, make you an offer. Something about your posts leads me to believe you found early success but stopped innovating and improving, which leads me to believe you need to start your education process again, so you can do all the things the folks above have recommended.

    So here's my offer. James Martell trains affiliates, I've met him, but to be very frank with you, I have no idea whether his teaching techniques and materials are any good. He's been around a long time, so I assume he's got some value. Anyhow, he runs a hands-on personalized affiliate boot camp type thing and it costs $997. And that's my offer - I'll pay that fee for you.

    Search G for his name and boot camp or whatever, I'm not dropping links here - this post already looks like the worst bait job in history. I'd guess the moderators would nuke this post if I weren't an ABW long-timer. But I'm curious as to Martell's worth and I see you have experience and am wondering if a one-on-one boost can get you back in the game before you punch out down the road. I googled his name and boot camp and found his sales letter pitch for the next boot camp and it appears to start on Nov 12.

    I haven't cleared this with Martell and I haven't talked to him in roughly a year (or communicated any other way about this or anything like this, but i do get too many of his emails cuz i am an affiliate in his program, though i've never made a sale).

    Anyhow, there it is, I'll pay your fee for his bootcamp, up to $997. I'll pay him and remain anonymous to you. You'll owe me nothing and won't be required to report of the training's effectiveness or anything else. I'm just extending a helping hand, period. If his boot camp ain't for you, also cool with me.

    Go review whatever you can find out about his stuff if you'd like, and then PM me if you want to accept. I'll extend this offer to you until the morning hours of this coming Nov 12th, that's it.

    No matter what you do to get back up again, I wish you luck.

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