Affiliate marketing is not new. People have been actively promoting products for other brands and websites for nearly 20 years. However, it is only in recent years that the industry has really boomed – that online commerce has become the norm and that an affiliate marketer could truly make a living online.
Today, estimates have the industry reaching $4.5 billion by 2016. That’s only three years from now and represents growth of nearly 40%. At the same time, whenever a market grows like this, the nature of the business starts to change. It refines, matures and becomes more respectable as a whole.
It’s the same thing that happened to eCommerce in general 15 years ago, when Amazon and eBay took the world by storm – people started to trust the Internet as a safe place to shop. Today, we are on the precipice of a similar shift for affiliates and it’s all because of transparency.
Law Changes Force a Degree of Transparency
Let’s be honest here. Most of the new found transparency from affiliate marketers is due to FTC regulations that practically force you to announce on page one of your site that you are an affiliate, that you are paid for your recommendations and that your results may not be typical.
Despite the doom saying of some top marketers, these changes did not hurt marketers as a whole. Sure, some affiliates with shifty business practices were hurt, but the people who were always above board anyways? They saw boosts in sales as confidence from the consumer soared. As it turns out, the less someone has to look for scams and hidden agendas, the more likely they are to trust you.
Blogging Becomes MORE Mainstream
I won’t say that blogging is about to become mainstream. It’s pretty solidly mainstream already. Bloggers appear on top rated news shows. Blogs are purchased by media conglomerates for millions of dollars. Blogs are used as blurbs on the back of major new releases.
People trust blogs and read them as much if not more than newspapers in the post-print world. But as they grow and as more people start blogging (and looking for ways to make money while blogging), affiliate marketing becomes a more viable tool. Part of this is the trust issue – the stigma of selling stuff is starting to fade away – but another part is the presence of top-notch affiliate programs.
Major sites and SaaS providers are offering powerful tools, professional grade ads and marketing components that make it possible to sell something without it looking cheap and schlocky. Even AdSense has much more inclusive options these days. It’s a veritable boom of sensible, tasteful marketing out there.
Affiliate marketing will continue to grow as an industry. That won’t change. What will change is the way people see it. Internet users are well aware of the industry now, thanks to the FTC, and the rules will only get stricter as it grows. But so too will trust grow and opportunities multiply. For savvy marketers who follow the rules, this is an exciting time in the industry.