Is Affiliate Marketing Dead in 2022?

The answer is – depends on who you ask.

If you ask the people who fell for the affiliate marketing “get rich fast” scheme, affiliate marketing is dead because they’re not making any money.

And they’re not necessarily wrong, by the way.

The affiliate marketing industry numbers will tell you something completely different, though.

Affiliate marketing spend in the US alone has been rising by around 10% year-by-year since 2010 and has reached $7.8 billion

Unlike most affiliate marketing ‘gurus,’ the numbers don’t lie.

But those numbers don’t tell the whole truth either.

Let’s get to the bottom of this…

How do affiliate marketers make money?

How do affiliate marketers make money

It’s important to focus on what affiliate marketing is and is not.

Affiliate marketing is the process of promoting someone else’s product or service for a commission.

You, the affiliate marketer, make money when someone clicks on your unique affiliate link and makes a purchase.

The concept of companies paying out commission for sales they didn’t spend any marketing money on is a big win for them.

On the other hand, making money promoting somebody else’s products while not having to worry about producing, storing, and delivering said products is another juicy prospect.

It’s a timeless concept that will never be abandoned.

The technology makes it so easy and convenient to track online sales.

Affiliate marketing model works so well it would be ludicrous to abandon it.

What’s causing this disconnect than?

Because, technically, some people who were earning money hand over fist from affiliate marketing 10-15 years ago are not earning nearly as much today.

Some of them end up even ‘teaching’ their old methods to novice affiliate marketers citing their results from a decade ago.

Pro tip:  don’t spend a dime on affiliate marketing courses.

All the information is readily available online for free in the form of either free courses or content pieces such as this one.

Let’s jump into a time-machine and examine how affiliate marketers made money 10-15 years ago and what changed since then.

How did affiliate marketers make money 10-15 years ago?

How did affiliate marketers make money 10-15 years ago

The “old school” affiliate marketer whose idea of affiliate marketing is spamming affiliate links in social media posts, forums and blog comments is right.

Affiliate marketing is dead… for THEM.

Obviously, spamming links is not what everyone did all the time to make money with affiliate marketing back in the day.

That’s just the practice that did work back then but it took a nosedive in recent years.

The whole “affiliate marketing without a website” thing was kind of viable back then.

You’d just go around the internet and plant affiliate links anywhere you could.

It doesn’t work anymore.

At least not the way 99% of people are doing it.

And doing it “the right way” is just a waste of your time today.

You’re much better off just accepting the reality and starting a blog, Youtube channel, or a podcast and laying foundations for a real business.

The world of affiliate marketing changed and marketers have to adapt.

What exactly changed that made “old school” affiliate marketing obsolete?

What exactly changed that made old school affiliate marketing obsolete

In the span of 10-15 years, seismic shifts happened that don’t favor or outright punish the way affiliate marketing used to be done.

1. The amount of content on the Internet skyrocketed

Just today, something like 5.5 million blog posts were published across more than 500 million blogs in existence.

That’s an insane amount of content.

For comparison, in March of 2015, there were only 7.8 million blogs.

As you can see, there was much less competition for consumer attention back then.

The Internet was simply smaller.

Competition is a great thing, but it also raises a barrier to entry no matter what industry you’re in.

Meaning, affiliate marketing methods that worked in 2005, don’t work or work significantly worse today.

2. Your affiliate links are disallowed or frowned upon

Back in the day, there were fewer affiliate links and the rules were a lot more relaxed.

Affiliates were running amuck, planting their links everywhere they could so they had to be stopped.

No one likes other people’s affiliate links on their properties.

And for good reason.

Affiliate links aren’t outright banned, but there is a sort of a soft ban situation going on.

Meaning, if you abuse them and post as much as you would like to, you get banned.

Plus, on a lot of social media

3. Decrease of organic reach across popular platforms

Most platforms go through these stages when it comes to organic reach:

  • Vibrant stage: content consumption is larger than content creation on the platform which means the content is shared organically to attract more users
  • Stagnant stage: content consumption stagnates while content production catches up to it and also the platform rolls out its advertising program
  • Decline stage: platform has built a large audience and it kills organic reach in favor of their advertising program

Affiliate marketers need eyeballs on their affiliate offers if they want to make money.

Naturally, the golden age of platforms like MySpace, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. was also the golden age of link spamming.

Needless to say, things have changed and organic reach took a nosedive on most mainstream platforms.

4. Search engines and audiences both got more sophisticated

Google pushing out content that’s heavy with affiliate links from the top of the SERPs.

And, quite frankly, the audiences are too.

The reason why is simple.

Affiliate link-heavy content is usually sales-oriented and audiences are looking for educational and informative content these days.

It all comes back to the competition…

With so much competition, the overall quality of the best content on a particular topic has gone up by a lot.

And the number of slots dedicated to organic search results on the first page of Google has only gone down over the years.

This all means less space for affiliate marketers concentrated on affiliate links instead of providing value.

Does affiliate marketing still work in 2020?

Does affiliate marketing still work in 2020

Affiliate marketing does work in 2020.

But instead of a primary role of being a business model in and of itself, it took a secondary role of being one of the content marketing monetization methods.

Content marketing is the process of creating value-driven content that usually yields positive marketing results.

Content marketing in its purest form builds brand authenticity and creates trust between the company and the consumer.

Such an atmosphere where the consumer doesn’t feel like they’re constantly being sold to is perfect for affiliate marketing.

You simply offer products you use and believe in to your audience when it makes sense.

In principle, the products you offer should always be solutions to real problems your audience has.

In an environment like that, affiliate marketing absolutely works.

And it works well.

Is affiliate marketing a waste of time?

Is affiliate marketing a waste of time

Affiliate marketing is a waste of time… until you reach a certain point.

Even if you do decide to create a niche website and commit to content marketing, it’s a waste of time to bother with affiliate marketing from the get-go.

The reason why is simple.

There’s going to be no one to click on your affiliate links before you build an audience.

And having the conversion rates in mind, you need a considerable number of people visiting your website before there’s a real chance of some of them using your affiliate links.

I wrote an in-depth article on specific guidelines when to monetize your website with affiliate marketing, among other things.

Basically, the idea is to focus on creating content at first and worry about everything else later.

It’s a good idea to shoot for 30-50 quality-oriented articles to build a healthy foundation for your website before worrying about monetizing it.

At that point, assuming you’ve done most things reasonably correctly, you should start getting visitors on your pages.

You can also check out my article on how long it takes for blog articles to reach peak Google SERP rankings to get a better idea of the time frame you’re going to be dealing with.

Why do affiliate marketers fail?

Why do affiliate marketers fail

There are a few things affiliate marketers do wrong that makes them not succeed with affiliate marketing.

Many affiliate marketers are impatient and give up too soon.

It takes years to achieve lifestyle-altering success with affiliate marketing.

What’s worse, a lot of the times affiliate marketers give up because of the unreasonable expectations various gurus put in their heads.

The “get rich fast” schemes are nothing but lies peddled by professional course sellers.

Even when you do end up getting the right kind of information in such courses, they often underestimate the time it takes to start making money or they overestimate the amount of money you’ll be making.

This creates a warped picture of what can be done in a certain time frame with affiliate marketing.

Another habit that kills the chances of success of a lot of affiliate marketers is looking for shortcuts.

There are no shortcuts.

Actually, the biggest shortcut is sticking to the best practices of affiliate marketing and content marketing at large.

Because when you start looking for shortcuts where there aren’t any, you end up wasting years and years trying to earn money fast.

Meanwhile, if you invest that time and energy into doing things the right way, you can actually get meaningful results over time.

Can affiliate marketing make you rich?

Can affiliate marketing make you rich

One thing’s for sure, it can’t make you rich fast.

That’s a given.

Can it get you rich over a few years?

Potentially, but not likely.

It’ll probably take you twice as long to earn half as much money you think you’ll be earning with affiliate marketing.

Let’s take the Amazon Associates program into account.

Amazon sells everything under the Sun and their affiliate program is very popular amongst affiliate marketers.

According to various gurus, Amazon’s affiliate program is a license to print money, basically.

You just join and Jeff Bezos starts sending you money.

Well, it doesn’t really work like that.

Take a look at this video that breaks down the success rates and earning people are managing to get through the Amazon Associates program.

Let’s just say that the odds of success aren’t as rosy as course-peddling gurus would like you to believe.

Now, that doesn’t mean you can’t be in the group that does exceptionally well.

You absolutely could.

But only if you commit to doing things the right way.

APRIL 16, 2020 – UPDATE – Amazon slashed their affiliate commissions by up to 80% in some categories. In this new light, I cannot recommend the Amazon Associates affiliate program anymore. It would be a better idea to go directly to manufacturers or find alternative affiliate networks instead of Amazon.

How can you succeed in affiliate marketing?

How can you succeed in affiliate marketing

You can succeed in affiliate marketing if you take a level-headed approach to it.

And that means realizing that affiliate marketing is not a “get rich fast” type of activity and is only one of the monetization methods of content marketing.

Creating quality-oriented content over a long period of time is the key to success with affiliate marketing.

There’s a lot more to it than that, but creating useful content that solves people’s problems is a great start.

It’s actually very liberating understanding that it’ll take years to achieve success with affiliate marketing and being OK with that.

Start making small steps towards that goal and see them compound into meaningful results over time.

Of course, that’s not nearly as glamorous as false promises of being “only one funnel away” from earning $10k a month in six months.

Chasing the instant gratification if a waste of time, energy, and money.

How long does it take to be a successful affiliate marketer?

If you’ve read this article so far, the answer will not surprise you.

It takes years to become a successful affiliate marketer.

Instead of getting depressed over this and giving up before you even started, think of it this one.

This is just one of the barriers to entry into the business of affiliate and content marketing.

You will leapfrog over so many people that try and give up if you just persist.

Be a marathon runner instead of a sprinter.

Because sprinters don’t stand a chance of reaching the finish line of a marathon that is affiliate marketing.

5 quick tips for affiliate marketers

5 quick tips for affiliate marketers

1. Consider starting a podcast.

Podcasts are still uncharted territories in a lot of niches.

Odds are there’s a lot less competition in the podcasting sphere than in the blogging sphere of your niche.

2. Likewise, there might even be a lot less competition in your niche even on Youtube.

If you feel comfortable in front of the camera, Youtube could be a very viable platform for you.

3. Work on branding yourself or your business.

Don’t think “brand” is a word reserved for large business entities.

A person or a business in the tiniest niche could become a brand within that niche.

The benefit of branding is that people in your niche seek you out and not the other way around.

4. Build trust.

Be someone who people trust.

You can only do that by constantly providing value and solving problems.

5. Only promote products you use and believe in.

That way you can be authentic and provide a lot of value because you’ll actually know what you’re talking about.

These affiliate marketing tips can future-proof your business in the years to come.


Affiliate marketing is dead if you come at it from the angle of trying to earn easy money fast.

In that case, it’s a complete waste of time.

Affiliate marketing is not dead if you understand what it really is in 2020.

Today, affiliate marketing is one of the monetization methods of content marketing.

No more, no less.

The most successful affiliate marketers out there today are people who connect their audience with solutions to their problems.

By the way, don’t confuse various gurus that paddle overpriced courses with affiliate marketers.

They’re professional course sellers.

Their product is professionally designed to play with your emotions and make you think their course is a secret to quick and easy money.

Spoiler alert: it isn’t.

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