The evolution of affiliate marketing – how the landscape has changed

Posted on Jan 19, 2018

More than two decades ago, the practice of affiliate marketing first appeared online, and since that time, thousands of people have managed to make a small fortune from the concept. However, affiliate marketing has changed beyond all recognition since those early days, and this article will take you through some of the most prominent steps along the way. Some people think it’s hard to make money from that process these days, but that’s just because they’re not using the latest tactics and techniques.

How did it all start?

In 1989, William J. Tobin launched a marketing campaign designed to promote his company PC Flowers & Gifts. The innovator used the Prodigy online service to pay network members a small commission for every sale they helped to secure. In less than four years, the program created close to $7 million in profit for Prodigy, and it assisted in setting the benchmark for all future affiliates to follow.

How did the game change?

In 1996, online bookseller Amazon launched their Associate’s program that enabled website and blog owners to link to products on the Amazon store. As the site grew and began to sell a broader range of items, the Associate’s program created millions in profit for affiliates who chose to apply. That helped to turn the industry into the one we recognise today.

What are popular affiliate programs right now?

There are hundreds of different choices available right now for anyone who wants to become an affiliate marketer. Some programs and networks offer more potential than others, but it all comes down to the nature of the site and its audience. Some popular choices on the market at the moment include:

  1. Amazon Associates
  2. WOW TRK
  3. Google Adsense
  4. Commission Junction
  5. Clickbank


As there are so many different options available, it’s sensible for site owners to perform as much research as possible before signing up for their chosen service.

So, what does the future hold?

More and more affiliate marketers will use social media in the future to keep up to date with online trends and put their links in front of the right people. Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and many other sites have millions of active users every single day. In the next twelve months, it is expected that most professionals will begin to use those platforms to their full potential.

Ensuring all sites are optimised for mobile traffic is also going to become even more critical during the next few years. Official statistics show that around 54% of all internet traffic now comes from mobile devices. So, site designs that aren’t responsive are always going to struggle.

Now you know a little more about the evolution of affiliate marketing and how the landscape has changed during the last twenty years or more; you should have a better understanding of the concept and where it’s headed today. There is no getting away from the fact that the industry benefitted greatly from Amazon’s Associate’s program during the early days, but there are plenty of other options on the table for anyone who wants to get involved at the current time.

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