Is Affiliate Advertising and marketing Useless in 2021? My Trustworthy Ideas


“Is online marketing useless?”
“Is online marketing nonetheless value it?

I’ve all the time hated these questions, and I’ve been listening to them since 2007.

I hate these questions as a result of they really feel like excuses.

It’s kinda like seeing somebody half-assing it on the gymnasium. Then seeing them blame their gymnasium tools for his or her lack of outcomes.

However now it’s 2021—issues have modified over time.

Guidelines and rules have gotten stronger.
Competitors grew to become fiercer.
Prices of acquisition hold going up.
And you’ve got extra methods of creating wealth on-line than ever earlier than.

Internet online affiliate marketing isn’t the identical anymore.

Individuals are nonetheless asking me if online marketing is useless or if it’s nonetheless value pursuing in 2021.

Right here’s my reply:

Internet online affiliate marketing isn’t useless but, but it surely’s previous its glory days. For the overwhelming majority of individuals, it’s not value getting into the online marketing business in 2021.

I’ve devoted a lot of my life to this business. I’ve written numerous articles selling this business.

So it hurts for me to say that the business has been declining.

Listed below are some alerts I’ve noticed:

  • Affiliate networks have been quietly going out of enterprise for the previous a number of years.
    The joke was that there’s a brand new affiliate community popping up each week. Now it’s the alternative.
  • There isn’t a lot dialog about online marketing. Take the STM discussion board for instance. STM’s all the time been a go-to place for speaking concerning the business. The extent of exercise there has dropped drastically over the previous few years.
    (You may argue that it’s as a result of there are extra alternate options comparable to Fb teams, Telegram, and Slack. However I consider the first trigger is the decline of the business itself.)
  • Not many individuals determine themselves as “tremendous associates” anymore. I simply appeared by means of my Fb pals record. Everybody’s in both eCommerce, cryptocurrency, investing, or working an company. So many community homeowners and affiliate managers have moved on. 
  • There hasn’t been any innovation in years. There have all the time been new tendencies to hop on for associates. The business went by means of phases with Nutra/pores and skin trials, Fb, cell pops, grownup relationship, native advertisements, and so forth.

    Innovation is an indicator of development.

    There was all the time a way of pleasure over making an attempt to determine what’s subsequent. Now it feels just like the business has been caught in time since 2017 making an attempt to make push advertisements scorching.

Meme: Stop trying to make push ads happen, it's not going to happen.

The online marketing business doesn’t have the identical degree of pleasure that it used to.

So why am I writing about this?

I’m not energetic in online marketing.

It’s as a result of I’m nonetheless getting messages from individuals. They’re pissed off.

They’ve tried their finest, and so they’re nonetheless unprofitable. They need to know what’s happening within the business in 2021 and so they can’t appear to get an sincere reply from anybody. 

This text is designed that can assist you perceive the adjustments on this business. By means of understanding, you can also make a extra knowledgeable determination whether or not you need to enter it or not. 

Let’s get into it.

Be aware: Let’s be certain we’re on the identical web page. Internet online affiliate marketing is a broad time period.

This text refers to online marketing the place you spend your individual cash to purchase site visitors, as a way to revenue from selling a suggestion. Folks normally confer with this as efficiency or CPA advertising (Value Per Motion). That is the kind of online marketing I’ve been writing about for years.

This text doesn’t confer with selling presents the place you personal the distribution channel. For instance, you personal a cooking weblog and promote cookware. Or creating an associates program for influencers to advertise your product.

What Made Affiliate Advertising and marketing So Nice?

I’m going to take you again to the “generate income on-line” panorama again in 2007.

What attracted me to this area within the first place?

First, individuals have been making financial institution. I keep in mind when somebody posted a $25k income a month screenshot on the WickedFire discussion board.

The opposite guys have been roasting him for making so little.

Subsequent, there weren’t a ton of viable choices for creating wealth on-line.

It was both search engine marketing or online marketing. ECommerce DID exist again then, however there was a lot friction again then.

Shopify wasn’t as developed. Their app retailer was non-existent. Each change needed to be customized coded again then.

Making a product from scratch was such a thriller.  

Lastly, online marketing simplified enterprise.

I concern not the person who has practiced 10,000 kicks as soon as, however the grasp who has practiced one kick 10,000 instances.” – Bruce Lee

I didn’t need to cope with customer support. I didn’t have sufficient “credit score” to get service provider processing. Attempting to supply merchandise from China was just like the wild west!

I selected online marketing, and it was one of the best determination of my life.

How Affiliate Advertising and marketing Modified From 2010–2020

Each business goes by means of adjustments. However not each business adjustments on the identical charge.

I keep in mind joking with my affiliate supervisor as soon as: “Internet online affiliate marketing ages like a canine. One 12 months in online marketing is identical as seven in the true world.

Let’s take a look at the business’s adjustments by means of two classes:

/1 Ease of Profitability:  

How tough wouldn’t it be for a beginner to get their first worthwhile marketing campaign?
If you’re worthwhile, how arduous is it to maintain the earnings?

/2 The Viability of Choices:

Are individuals nonetheless worthwhile from campaigns? Sure. 
Is it attainable for a beginner to nonetheless earn a revenue from online marketing? Sure. 

Nonetheless, each determination has an alternative value. The choice needs to be evaluated compared to all the opposite alternatives out there.

Right here’s a visible I made. It demonstrates these two traits over time. Graph: viability of alternatives vs the ease of profitability over time. Alternatives rises from 2010 to 2020, and profitability falls from 2010 to 2020. The two lines crass around 2016-2017.You possibly can see that 2010–2017 was an incredible time for online marketing from my eyes.

Let’s dive deeper into the convenience of profitability and the viability of choices.

The Ease of Profitability

This refers to how straightforward it’s to make a marketing campaign worthwhile. It’s no secret that online marketing has change into more and more tough.

However what are the market forces that prompted this?

/1 There’s Extra Competitors Than Ever Earlier than

Within the early days, associates have been shopping for a majority of the site visitors on-line. Your competitors was different associates.

Now you’re competing towards everybody for site visitors.

a. Decreased Boundaries of Entry

A giant cause is that the site visitors platforms lowered the boundaries of entry. Media shopping for stopped trying so scary.

Some examples of this:

  • Media shopping for schooling improved with free assets such because the Fb Blueprint and Develop with Google.
  • Throw a rock at a Site visitors & Conversion Summit and also you’ll hit three totally different Fb Company homeowners. Extra businesses meant corporations may simply outsource media shopping for.
  • Site visitors platforms developed applied sciences comparable to look-alike audiences and good campaigns. Corporations may make the most of the platform’s machine studying to get outcomes WITHOUT mastering media shopping for.

Earlier than, associates have been preventing with one another over site visitors. Then the competitors grew to become the Samsungs, Disneys, and political campaigns of the world.

b. The Affiliate Ecosystem

Everybody had their very own function within the affiliate ecosystem.

Associates drive site visitors.
Affiliate networks are the middlemen. They float money.
Advertisers optimize the provide and give attention to the backend.
Site visitors sources ship the site visitors.

Then there was a shift the place everybody else began media shopping for on their very own.

Some affiliate networks began their very own inner media shopping for groups.
Some site visitors platforms began selling affiliate presents themselves.
Some advertisers began shopping for their very own media.

They didn’t should grasp media shopping for like associates did. For one, they have been working with manner higher margins. And second, it wasn’t a good struggle.

Affiliate networks may see the highest performing affiliate touchdown pages and use them.
Site visitors sources knew which publishers transformed one of the best based mostly off of associates taking the danger.

After all, they denied it.

We began preventing towards variations of ourselves within the Matrix, however they’d stronger weapons.

Meme gif: two spidermen pointing at each other.

That’s my touchdown web page and angle!!!

c. The Rise of eCommerce

ECommerce has been round because the Nineteen Nineties.

However there was a shift round 2015. Each affiliate marketer began taking discover of Shopify.

Dropshipping grew to become the trend.

It solved among the frustrations individuals had with online marketing. It was thought-about “white hat.” Fb cherished it on the time. And folks felt that they owned a enterprise for the primary time.

Dropshipping is a shitty enterprise mannequin. No clients are pleased ready a month for his or her gadgets to reach from China.

Dropshipping declined. However many individuals pivoted into creating their very own manufacturers, and leaving the affiliate area endlessly.

Round this time was when DTC (Direct to Shopper manufacturers) skyrocketed. Manufacturers like Native, Allbirds, and Warby Parker ramped up their media spending. And these guys knew how you can purchase site visitors simply pretty much as good as associates.

The distinction? Sturdy eCommerce manufacturers have extra revenue levers to drag in comparison with an affiliate marketer. (Additionally, a few of them have been flush with tens of millions from enterprise capital.)


  • Should revenue on first contact
  • There’s no “lifetime buyer worth”
  • Don’t personal any knowledge
  • Coping with a world that began hating associates.


  • Can afford to lose cash on the primary sale. (they will make up for it on the backend)
  • They personal knowledge. This knowledge can permit them to revenue extra by means of e-mail and SMS advertising.
  • They will enhance the common order worth by means of ways comparable to bundling, cost plans, dwell chat, cross-sells, subscriptions, and so forth.

Increasingly competitors began shopping for site visitors. This drove site visitors costs up.

The online marketing mannequin of being a intermediary means we’re restricted on our revenue margins.

Whoever can afford to pay probably the most, wins.

/2 Guidelines, Rules, and Bans Have Turn out to be Extra Prevalent

Associates have been all the time at an obstacle since we had smaller revenue margins to work with. So how have been associates aggressive for thus a few years?

Relentless motion.
1000’s and 1000’s of cut up checks.
A never-give-up perspective.

Oh, and we have been shady. We have been keen to get extra aggressive to get the conversion. Associates stored pushing the strains.

Listed below are some examples of ways associates used:

  • Deceptive claims on what a product may do, or which movie star was utilizing it. Asking individuals to “spin a wheel” to win an iPhone that we weren’t was legit.
  • Aggressive scripts comparable to again button redirect.
  • Account banned? Simply come again with one other one.
  • Saying individuals’s telephones/computer systems had viruses after they didn’t.

There have been ranges to how aggressive some individuals have been. A number of the worst ones I noticed have been felony.

Nobody wakes up wanting to make use of deceptive claims of their advertising. However when everybody else is doing it, you’re at an obstacle if you happen to don’t.

If that’s the distinction between being unprofitable or not, ethics can simply fly out the window.

I’m not making an attempt to make excuses—the actions have been flawed. However I’m giving insights into how greyhat advertising could be such a slippery slope.

This aggressiveness benefited the affiliate pocketbooks, however damage the remainder of the ecosystem:

  • Affiliate networks change into a magnet for lawsuits.
  • Platforms comparable to Fb developed a nasty fame for person expertise.
  • Service provider processors caught warmth for extra aggressive billing practices comparable to 1-click cell flows or trial presents.

Actions have penalties.

Use a deceptive declare? Now you’re working the danger of not getting paid if you happen to’re caught by the advertiser / community.

Obtained banned on Fb? Their expertise and processes have improved in the direction of banning individuals.  

Aggressive presents comparable to 1-click cell flows disappeared. Nutra trials are uncommon.

Affiliate entrepreneurs don’t have plenty of profitability levers, particularly when artistic property could be so simply stolen. One profitability lever was being deceptive. The remainder of the ecosystem has labored arduous towards this.

The markets grew to become extra environment friendly.
If there’s an “exploit” in a online game, then the builders are going to patch it.

/3 The “Monkey See, Monkey Do” Mentality

Associates have all the time copied one another’s artistic property (touchdown pages, angles, and advertisements).  

It was a ache within the ass for my crew to handle so many spreadsheets of our opponents. Then, spy instruments got here out.

These instruments automated all the pieces and made it simpler for associates to repeat one another.

The draw back? These instruments automated all the pieces and made it simpler for associates to repeat one another.

Everybody was continuously ripping off and stealing from one another. It felt just like the advertising model of The Human Centipede.

This killed the drive to innovate. What’s the purpose of popping out with a singular touchdown web page if it’s going to be stolen inside hours?

If everybody’s working the identical sort of creatives, then it turns into a race to the underside. The one winner is the site visitors supply.

The Viability of Options

Each determination has a possibility value.

Being an affiliate marketer means you suppose that that is one of the best enterprise mannequin so that you can pursue.

I discussed that I felt search engine marketing and online marketing have been my solely choices after I began.

Over the previous decade, the floodgates have opened. Now there’s limitless companies so that you can pursue, and so they’re simpler than ever to function.

/1 The Boundaries of Proudly owning an Provide Have Lowered

I can confidently say that it’s at the least 10x simpler to create your individual provide in comparison with earlier than 2010.  

Severely, I can have a model up and working inside days.

  • Customer support could be simply outsourced to Upwork + Zendesk.
  • You now have a wide range of achievement choices comparable to Amazon FBA and ShipBob.
  • Product sourcing is a lot simpler as a result of AliExpress.
  • Shopify itself has grown and made issues a lot simpler.
  • Shopify Apps make all the pieces simpler. You don’t want to rent a customized coder.
  • You possibly can rent all of the allow you to need by means of Fiverr and Upwork. Want information? There’s

That’s simply merchandise. What about all the opposite choices?

You possibly can go down the influencer path. Begin a podcast or YouTube Channel.
It’s by no means been simpler to change into a creator. Create a course utilizing Teachable. Begin a e-newsletter utilizing SubStack.

Bitcoin wasn’t even invented after I began online marketing! Now there’s a complete financial system round cryptocurrency and NFTs.

Create an App or a SAAS. I’m not a coder. However now, I’d really feel snug beginning a SAAS firm though I’m not a coder. There’s loads of “no code” options. I can rent competent expertise from a spot like TopTal. You’d be shocked at what number of SAAS corporations are began lately by non-technical founders.

Timing is probably the most underrated part of enterprise.

Suppose at the least 5 years out. Should you’re determining a market, take into consideration the place it’s going to be just a few years from now.

Some industries with tailwind (rising): Cryptocurrency, the creator financial system, cloud kitchens, eSports, eCommerce, larger schooling alternate options, work-from-home clothes,

Some industries with headwind (dying): eating places, newspapers, industrial actual property.

Internet online affiliate marketing doesn’t have the tailwind that it used to.

One in every of my favourite legal guidelines from the 22 Immutable Legal guidelines of Advertising and marketing is:

“It’s higher to be first, than it’s to be higher.”

It’s a lot simpler to generate income while you’re in a trending business. If the business you’re in is declining, then it is smart to pivot to a distinct one.

/2 There Are No Moats as an Affiliate

A moat is a definite aggressive benefit that makes it arduous for a competitor to repeat.

Coca Cola’s moat is its model. You possibly can create a copycat formulation, however individuals nonetheless need the pink can.

One in every of Shopify’s moats is its app retailer. There are many Shopify alternate options, however none of them can match the utility of its app retailer.

What’s stopping another person from ripping off your marketing campaign? Adverts, angles, and touchdown pages can simply be stolen with none repercussions.  

Unique presents? Kinda. It’s uncommon for an affiliate marketer to have a really unique provide. Advertisers need scale. And it’s dangerous for them to have all their eggs on a single affiliate.

It turns into more and more irritating over time to function a enterprise with no moat. It feels such as you’re on a hamster wheel 12 months after 12 months.

This has all the time been the online marketing mannequin. So why am I bringing this up now? As a result of it wasn’t an enormous deal so long as straightforward earnings have been coming in.

As campaigns grew to become tougher, working with out moats grew to become extra irritating.

/3 Exit Worth

Internet online affiliate marketing is nice for producing money.

Let’s say you make $1 million in revenue from online marketing. What’s the enterprise value? No matter’s within the financial institution. That’s just about it.

Different companies can have a multiplier relying on the kind of enterprise.

You create a model that does $1 million revenue. However let’s say it has a 5x a number of relying on the enterprise. That enterprise could be bought for $5 million.

You make 5x extra simply because it’s a distinct sort of enterprise mannequin.

Most affiliate entrepreneurs received their first style of enterprise by means of this business. As associates grew to become extra enterprise savvy, they realized they wished “extra” than simply money.

/4 Associates Obtained Bored

Me and most of my affiliate pals entered the business in our 20s.
Now most of us are in our 30s.

Your priorities change as you become old.

Most individuals entered the business seeking to make some money and journey. However after you made some money and lived The 4 Hour Work Week life-style, you’re left questioning “What’s subsequent?”

I needed to ask myself, “Do I need to be working campaigns in my 40s?

You need extra stability while you’re beginning a household.

Internet online affiliate marketing is difficult. However the challenges of account bans or unstable presents get tiring.

There are challenges in each enterprise, however some complications are extra enjoyable to cope with than others.

I felt pissed off that I didn’t construct something greater than a marketing campaign. I’ve this intrinsic motivation to construct one thing greater than me.

It’s not about cash. It’s about minimizing remorse. I need to know that I stored swinging for greater homeruns, fairly than staying with what’s snug.

After round two years of being a full-timer, the tempo of studying slows down. You launch, run just a few cut up checks, and repeat. Some individuals left as a result of they need an even bigger problem. There’s one thing to be mentioned about constructing one thing tangible.

Companies are likely to change into higher additional time as a result of a flywheel impact. Extra gross sales means extra critiques. Extra gross sales means decrease value of products as a result of economies of scale.

Campaigns really feel such as you’re all the time ranging from scratch yearly.

Who Ought to Pursue Affiliate Advertising and marketing in 2021?

I need to discuss why somebody would WANT to be an affiliate marketer lately.

I don’t need anybody to depart considering that is the worst business on the earth. (That may be whoever’s concerned with Netflix’s Cuties movie.)

Listed below are some good causes for becoming a member of the online marketing area:

You Love Media Shopping for and HATE all the pieces else. Internet online affiliate marketing is an easy enterprise. You don’t ever should cope with clients. You don’t have to fret about service provider processing points or your stock getting caught in customs.

You need to market sure verticals. It’s straightforward to personal label a complement line lately. What about going vertical and proudly owning a automobile insurance coverage firm? Not really easy. Or perhaps you’re into selling EDU presents.

You don’t like dedication. Beginning an company is dedication. Beginning an eCommerce model is dedication. You would possibly really feel that these commitments imply you’re placing all of your eggs in a single basket. Working online marketing campaigns can hold you diversified.

Why online marketing remains to be superior:  

  • It’s a easy enterprise mannequin. You solely give attention to advertising.
  • It’s doable with a single particular person. You don’t want to rent a crew such as you would in an company or eCommerce operation.  
  • It’s straightforward to scale. Generally scaling a marketing campaign is so simple as growing the price range.  
  • It’s straightforward to diversify. You possibly can run campaigns on totally different site visitors sources and totally different verticals.
  • You get fast suggestions. Since you’re so centered on paid advertising, you develop this ability sooner than different individuals.

I need to level out that there’s a distinction between being an affiliate marketer on paper and the fact of it.

Affiliate Advertising and marketing’s Truly Doing Nicely?

I need to level out some attainable counterarguments together with my ideas on them. With the ability to perceive the opposite aspect makes for a stronger case.

By the way in which, I would like you to query all the pieces that I’m saying. Suppose for your self. Draw your individual conclusions.  

/1 “Clean says Affiliate Advertising and marketing is doing nicely!”

Does this particular person revenue from you being an affiliate marketer?

Don’t ask an actual property agent if it’s a very good time to purchase a home. 

Should you’re speaking to your affiliate supervisor, then in fact they’re going to say online marketing is killing it. What’s in it for them? 

/2 “However I heard that there are nonetheless associates creating wealth”

After all there are – I’m not saying that the business’s 100% useless. 

Nonetheless, the vast majority of them constructed their expertise from a distinct period. Utilizing them as examples is  survivorship bias.

(From Wiki: Survivorship bias is the logical error of concentrating on the individuals or issues that made it previous some choice course of and overlooking people who didn’t, usually due to their lack of visibility.)

Take into consideration beginning a YouTube channel in 2021. I don’t know if it’s nonetheless a good suggestion or not. However you may’t say it’s a terrific concept as a result of Mr. Beast and PewDiePie are making a ton of cash. 

  1. They’re outliers.
  2. They began in a distinct time interval.

It’s important to ask, “Who has began YouTube channels up to now two years. How are they doing? What’s the common charge of success. Is YouTube one of the best platform for me to begin with?

You would possibly conclude that almost all new YouTubers are struggling. However you discover that there have been so many in a single day successes who began on TikTok as a substitute. 

Let’s deliver this again to online marketing. I can’t say I’ve seen too many new online marketing success tales up to now few years.

/3 “However the Knowledge exhibits that Affiliate Advertising and marketing is Rising”

Google tendencies knowledge exhibits that curiosity in online marketing hasn’t lowered in any respect. In reality, it has elevated since 2016.

This can be a false constructive as a result of online marketing is a broad time period.

  • Curiosity in affiliate coupon websites is rising.
  • Curiosity in becoming a member of affiliate applications comparable to Amazon’s is rising. 
  • Curiosity in influencer advertising is rising (a few of which use affiliate codes)

However none of those are the kind of online marketing that I’m describing.

What Ought to I Do to Make Cash On-line As a substitute of Affiliate Advertising and marketing?

I’m glad you requested!

Internet online affiliate marketing is declining. However there’s one business that’s BOOMING! I’ll let you know for one low cost of $1,497!

(That was sarcasm in case it doesn’t translate nicely)

Right here’s the factor: I don’t know what leverage you could have.

Alternatives must be pursued based mostly in your assets, expertise, and passions. So it’s arduous for me to say what you have to be doing. 

However I’ll attempt to reply it in any case since individuals hate “idea” solutions. Listed below are some alternatives I see if you happen to’re new and on a price range:

  • eCommerce – it’s the place most affiliate entrepreneurs ended up transitioning to. 
  • Crypto / NFT – schooling and marketplaces. 
  • Paid communities – it blows my thoughts how engaged some Fb teams are. However FB teams themselves are fairly shit. I’d attempt to BUY a Fb group and provide a paid neighborhood improve to a platform like Circle.  
  • Boutique businesses –  Go area of interest. Focus on advertising for Crypto. Focus on Snapchat / TikTok advertising. Don’t simply be one other Fb or Funnel specialist. There’s an excessive amount of competitors. 

There’s a lot alternative on the market. 

What IS Affiliate Advertising and marketing?

I view online marketing as a mindset.

It’s a relentless give attention to testing.
It’s getting outcomes by means of creativity fairly than brute power spending.
It’s a willingness to push the boundaries to get that conversion (hopefully ethically).
It’s being on the slicing fringe of media shopping for.

The strategies have modified. However many associates have moved on to construct greater corporations. I can see so many online marketing strategies and influences in all the pieces they contact.

Internet online affiliate marketing will nonetheless dwell on in that sense.

However the online marketing that I knew and cherished is gone.

Picture by Ahmed Adly from Pexels



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