I wasn’t one of the “original” affiliate marketers, but I have definitely been around long enough now to be considered one of the “old timers.” I already had a legal career when I came to affiliate marketing, and I didn’t expect to find an entirely NEW career in writing about potty training. But parenting posts led to coupons, which led to datafeeds, which led to privacy concerns, which led me back around to legal issues. And here I still am almost 17 years later.
As I was thinking today about all of the changes in our industry over these 2 decades, the song “Stayin’ Alive” kept running through my head because sometimes I feel like that’s what I have been doing all this time. So many businesses have come and gone. Some have just changed to stay relevant. People have moved between companies, started new companies…given up on us altogether sometimes.
How have I managed to stay basically in the same place? What does it take to make it down the stretch in affiliate marketing? I do have some advice.
Network Like Your Life Depends On It
I wouldn’t still be in this industry if it were not for my network. Period. Full stop. Whether it’s affiliate managers who slipped me sweet deals to keep my sites going, consulting contracts when the sites were NOT going, or even advice when I needed it most, my network has been invaluable. And I know it’s not just me. I’ve seen people lose their jobs and pick up new jobs almost overnight because the community looks out for its own.
I don’t mean just connecting with people on LinkedIn or following them on Twitter. I mean making meaningful relationships and building trust. The kind where you can tell someone you need help and they will do everything they can to find it for you.
Be prepared to reach out to help others even when there is nothing in it for you.
Network with your business partners but ALSO with your competitors because things can change on a dime and you never know who you might find yourself sitting next to next.
Keep An Eye on Trends
We all know that technology changes quickly, and affiliate marketing is essentially a combination of sales and technology. You can’t bury your head and pretend like you don’t have to change thousands of links when Google Affiliate Network goes out of business. If you don’t change the links, you don’t make money anymore. (If I wanted to be really old school, I would have said BeFree) You need to stay out ahead of major technological changes if you want to keep making money.
It’s the same with everything in the industry. You don’t have to do everything your competitors are doing, but you do need to KNOW what they are doing and how it can impact your business. Likewise, you need to be watching for overall industry trends like cookie tracking, attribution models, the rise of influencers, Google results changes, etc. One quick example is that it used to be great to rank 3rd in Google search results for a term. Now if you rank 3rd, you may find yourself so far below the fold due to ads and “People Also Ask” that you won’t get any traffic at all. If you were only paying attention to your rankings, you would have no idea why your traffic was dropping so much.
Be Good At What You Know, But Keep Learning
I’m guilty of knowing a little bit about a whole lot of things. I can modify my WordPress templates, but I’m not a programmer. I can run some Google Ads, but I’m not a PPC expert. I can pull links and report across all of the major networks, but I don’t know how to run datafeeds or post back from APIs on my own.
What I DO know is how to run a cash back site. And I DO know an awful lot about FTC Disclosure. That doesn’t mean that I won’t keep learning everything thing I can about those two things or work to learn more about other things. Today I watched a webinar about Toolbars and Browser Extensions. I thought I understood them and when I don’t want to get involved with them. But now I might be thinking differently, which wouldn’t be the case if I hadn’t stayed open to learning. By continuing to learn more about affiliate marketing, you stay open to ways to change your business but also understand what might threaten it. (Mental note….maybe it’s time for a SWOT analysis of Sunshine Rewards….)
If you are still with me, it’s because you either really like me or you have been thinking about some of these things yourself already. Drop me a line. Meet up with me at Affiliate Summit. Ping me in the PMA Member Slack. Maybe we can help each other stay alive in this industry.
And so I’ll leave you with this….