Affiliate marketing is commonly confused with referral marketing, as both forms of marketing use third parties to drive sales to the retailer. The two forms of marketing are differentiated, however, in how they drive sales, where affiliate marketing relies purely on financial motivations, while referral marketing relies more on trust and personal relationships.
Websites consisting mostly of affiliate links have previously held a negative reputation for underdelivering quality content. In 2005 there were active changes made by Google, where certain websites were labeled as "thin affiliates". Such websites were either removed from Google's index or were relocated within the results page (i.e., moved from the top-most results to a lower position). To avoid this categorization, affiliate marketer webmasters must create quality content on their websites that distinguishes their work from the work of spammers or banner farms, which only contain links leading to merchant sites.
From there, companies were developed that would interview people on the street about publications that they read and whether they recognized any ads that were published in the magazines or newspapers the interviewer showed them. Data collected from these interviews were compared to the circulation of the publication in order to see how effective those ads were. Market research and surveys were adapted from these early techniques.
In 1980, Michael Porter developed an approach to strategy formulation that proved to be extremely popular with both scholars and practitioners. The approach became known as the positioning school because of its emphasis on locating a defensible competitive position within an industry or sector. In this approach, strategy formulation consists of three key strands of thinking: analysis of the five forces to determine the sources of competitive advantage; the selection of one of three possible positions which leverage the advantage and the value chain to implement the strategy. In this approach, the strategic choices involve decisions about whether to compete for a share of the total market or for a specific target group (competitive scope) and whether to compete on costs or product differences (competitive advantage). This type of thinking leads to three generic strategies:
There is serious competition in the affiliate marketing sphere. You’ll want to make sure you stay on top of any new trends to ensure you remain competitive. Additionally, you’ll likely be able to benefit from at least a few of the new marketing techniques that are constantly being created. Be sure you’re keeping up to date on all these new strategies to guarantee that your conversion rates, and therefore revenue, will be as high as possible.
While search marketing and advertising is obviously both complex and potentially beneficial, it can be relatively nearsighted on its own. It’s best used in conjunction with other types of online marketing strategies, especially those that are more focused on relationship building. If you only focus on gaining traffic and not relationship building, your campaigns are going to be restrictive, and this will be reflected in your results.
The Internet has increased the prominence of affiliate marketing. Amazon popularized the practice by creating an affiliate marketing program whereby websites and bloggers put links to the Amazon page for a reviewed or discussed product to receive advertising fees when a purchase is made. In this sense, affiliate marketing is essentially a pay for performance marketing program where the act of selling is outsourced across a vast network.