Is Affiliate Marketing Dead? [What Affiliates Must Know in 2024!]

We’ve talked about affiliate marketing before on this blog – but if you’re new to the concept, affiliate marketing is an advertising model where a third party sells another company’s products in exchange for a commission.

The affiliate marketing model began in 1989, and throughout the 1990s and 2000s, it grew in popularity. 

But today, with so many different opportunities out there to make money online, some aspiring affiliates may be wondering, “Is affiliate marketing dead?”

Well, the short answer is no! Not only is affiliate marketing still alive, but it’s actually thriving!

As for the longer answer? Read on to find out the 4 reasons why!

1) Affiliate Marketing Spending is Steadily Increasing

Affiliate market spending has been steadily rising all around the world. In the US, it was $4.21 billion in 2015 and $5.4 billion in 2017.

According to Statista, affiliate marketing spending is expected to reach $8.2 billion by the end of 2022, as 91% of merchants plan to increase their affiliate marketing budget or maintain it. Clearly, people are willing to spend more on affiliate programs, so it is alive and kicking.

2) Affiliates’ Revenues are Increasing

While others are wondering whether the field is dead or not, active affiliate marketers are seeing a considerable increase in their income. According to a study by VigLink, 77% of affiliates have experienced an increase in revenue every year since 2016.

Affiliate marketing profits
Affiliate marketing profits

On top of that, 86% of affiliates expect their affiliate marketing revenue to increase or stay consistent in the future. If affiliate marketing businesses were dead or dying, those doing it wouldn’t be so optimistic about its future.

3) Everyday People Are Still Interested

Here at ClickBank, affiliate marketing is one of the top 5 channels our highest-earning clients are investing in for 2022, and 14% of respondents in our survey chose affiliate marketing as their top channel.

According to Google Trends, search interest in keywords related to affiliate marketing has been steadily rising over the past few years. Some have reached their all-time high this month.

If affiliate marketing were dead, we wouldn’t be seeing a sustained increase in interest over the past five years.

4) Affiliate Marketing Plays an Important Role in Many Businesses

Many organizations consider affiliate marketing to be an essential channel in their marketing campaigns. Here are some statistics that show how important it is for many e-commerce retailers and brands.

For something that might seem “dead,” lots of businesses and countries sure do depend on it to close more sales and grow!

Why Does Affiliate Marketing Appear Dead?

If someone from 1985 suddenly time-traveled to 2022, they would look around and believe that people no longer use phones.

Of course, in reality, phones have only got MORE popular over time – but they’ve also changed.

Similarly, if you had gotten into affiliate marketing as it was picking up steam in the 90s, then stayed away until the 2010s, you may not recognize it now right in front of you.

is affiliate marketing dead

So, yes, “affiliate marketing” is dead, but only as we used to know it.

Many newer affiliate marketing trends have completely changed how affiliate marketing business is done. Without knowing how the industry has evolved, you will have a hard time making money from your affiliate program.

So, let’s quickly take a look at a few ways affiliate marketing is different from how it used to be!

1. An Increase in Competition

The only competition that affiliate marketers had to deal with back in the day was other affiliate marketers. Now, affiliates are competing against each other and against big brands such as New York Times that have entered into the affiliate marketing space.

On top of that, we’ve seen a huge shift into work-from-home (WFH) brought about by the pandemic, lower barriers to entry in online business, and the rise of e-commerce.

All of these changes have led to more people getting into affiliate marketing than ever before. It is also lucrative for businesses who rely on affiliates to generate revenue, so they have been all for it!

With so many people doing the same things and using the same affiliate marketing tools, things that used to work are not that effective anymore.

It’s even worse due to the monkey see; monkey do mentality that has affiliates copy-pasting other affiliates’ digital assets. That makes it near impossible for affiliates to stand out and get ahead of the competition.

2. Exclusivity

With more people getting into affiliate marketing, businesses are spoiled for choice and can become as picky as possible to find the best fit for their program. They put strict requirements such as having a successful blog, website, email list, etc.

While many of our sellers on ClickBank open up their products to all affiliates, we also see quite a few who will only allow handpicked, whitelisted affiliates to promote their products.

3. Stricter Rules and Regulations

Back in the day, some affiliates only became successful because they were shady.

A common tactic used by these questionable affiliate marketers was false advertising and other deceptive marketing practices. They might mislead people by lying about what a product can do, doctoring images to show results, or pretending a celebrity uses their product.

Worst of all, even if their accounts were banned, these affiliates would just create a new one and keep going.

Nowadays, if you use a misleading claim and are caught by the advertiser or network, you could end up missing payment, being banned, or even getting sued! Once you are banned, improvements in technology have made it difficult to just create a new account and move on like before.

4. Changes to Amazon’s Affiliate Program

Amazon has the largest affiliate program (Amazon Associates) with a 46.14% market share. Any changes to such a huge program will be felt across the affiliate marketing industry.

Part of the reason why people ask “is affiliate marketing dead” is the blow delivered by Amazon in April 2020.

The problem? Amazon cut their affiliate rates across several product categories, leaving people wondering overnight whether affiliate marketing is worth it.

For example, they reduced the rates of home improvement products from 8% to 3% and grocery products from 5% to 1%. For some affiliates, this change was upsetting, while for others, such as those who were ONLY part of the Amazon Associates program, it was catastrophic!

However, Amazon is only one option for marketers. Find out more about how ClickBank compares in our ClickBank vs Amazon guide.

How Do You Excel in This “New” Affiliate Marketing Field?

Here are some quick tips to help you successfully set up an affiliate marketing business in these modern times.

1. Find a Niche and Stick With It

Believe it or not, promoting too many products can hurt your chance of success. To convince your audience to click a tracking link, you need to be knowledgeable and passionate about the products you promote.

By picking a niche, you can narrow in on a smaller range of products, instead of trying to become familiar with everything under the sun.

2. Vet Your Product Owners

The only way to keep customers coming back is to direct them to reputable product owners and sellers. Their products and services need to be of high quality. That is why you need to research and have conversations with a potential seller before you work with them.

Similarly, look through their marketing resources, sales pages, and other affiliate resources to see if the quality is up to your standards.

Here’s a simple rule to guide you:

Never to point your audience to something you wouldn’t use. Or as Perry Belcher says, “Would I recommend this product to my own mother?”

3. Don’t Be Discouraged

Contrary to what some “gurus” out there might imply, affiliate marketing is NOT a get-rich-quick scheme! Believe it or not, affiliate marketing is hard.

If you haven’t found sellers or products you want to work with yet, or you haven’t made money in your first few months, don’t give up.

If you approach the process like a scientist conducting experiments, you’ll have the right mindset to learn from each failure or setback. Then, when you finally make that first sale on ClickBank, you’ll realize that the rewards are well worth the work!

4. Track Everything

To know what is working and what isn’t, you should track all the data you can, whether that’s in your affiliate network’s dashboard, your social media platform, or any number of third-party tools.

You can use a range of applications to track metrics like total impressions, conversions, conversion rates, sales, and earnings per click for each product you are promoting. Here’s what this dashboard looks like in ClickBank.

ClickBank reporting dashboard
ClickBank reporting dashboard

With this data, you will be able to improve what is working and do away with what is not, increasing your chances of success.

5. Diversify Your Sources

You should promote the products and services on multiple channels to reach more people. Your website and social media are great avenues.

You can also go the extra mile and buy PPC ads such as Facebook or YouTube Ads. By presenting the product to your audience through many different avenues, you increase the number of conversions you can make.

Common Arguments For and Against Affiliate Marketing

Here are two common arguments for the death of affiliate programs and how you can counter them if someone tries to talk you out of it:

Argument: Affiliate networks have been quietly going out of business for several years.

Counter: Some networks may have, but this proves nothing. Because anyone can choose to be an affiliate, these businesses attract people looking to make passive income. Many of them leave when they realize how much work they have to put in to make money.

The statistics then show several networks shutting down, but many of them aren’t profitable in the first place. That’s why it helps to go with a trusted and established affiliate network like ClickBank.

Argument: There isn’t much conversation about the affiliate marketing business anymore.

Counter: That’s partly true. Forums like STM used to have a lot of people discussing the affiliate marketing industry, and they probably don’t have the same activity level they used to have. But back then, there weren’t the many alternatives we see today, such as Facebook, Telegram, Reddit, WhatsApp groups, and others.

In addition, if you go to YouTube or even TikTok, you’ll find them flooded with affiliate marketing content. This shows people have shifted how they learn about affiliate marketing from text to video, not that they aren’t interested in it!

Is Affiliate Marketing Dead Wrap-up

I can tell you that, as someone inside of ClickBank, I see not only the current success of the many affiliate marketers and e-commerce sellers we work with, but also the incredible potential that affiliate marketing has to offer!

As more companies – and customers – turn to commerce over the web, affiliate marketing is poised to thrive now more than ever. If you’re willing to put in the time and effort, this model can absolutely support a six or seven-figure business in the long run.

Just remember, if you are ready to start and run an affiliate marketing business successfully, you need two things:

  1. Clarity about your goals, your audience, and the kind of business you’re trying to build.
  2. The education to make your vision a reality.

For that second piece, there’s Spark by ClickBank.

Spark is the official affiliate marketing education platform that’ll help you learn affiliate marketing from experts who live it daily. It features all of the training you need to grow your affiliate marketing business!

Ignite your online marketing career with Spark today.