Affiliate marketing has become less profitable

Affiliate marketing is a win-win for businesses and content authors. Because some benefit from increased reach and credible product recommendations, and others benefit from the resulting additional sales. So it's no wonder that affiliate marketing is very popular.

As early as 2016, 81 percent of advertisers and 84 percent of publishers in the USA were using it Affiliate programs. The publishers generated an average of 20 percent of their income in this way. The total investment in affiliate marketing worldwide is estimated at over 12 billion euros. It is therefore worthwhile for advertising companies and publishers alike to take a closer look at this marketing tactic.

We'll explain how below Affiliate marketing works, which models have established themselves and which formal requirements affiliate partners have to observe.

What is "Affiliate marketing“?

Affiliate marketing is a performance-oriented marketing tactic in which online retailers reward the operators of other websites with a commission for customers generated by the advertising activities of these websites. The website operators, often referred to as affiliate partners or affiliates, only receive the commission if their advertising for the merchants results in a transaction.

How is affiliate marketing structured?

Typically at Affiliate marketing four parties involved:

1) Affiliates or affiliate partners

These can be individuals or companies acting as publishers. Often it is website operators likeBlogger orContent writers in general, who write about the industries or products served by the advertising vendors. This can affect all topics from media and technology to fashion and lifestyle.

Most of the time, the affiliates promote a specific product as part of the partner programBlog articles, YouTube videos orSocial media posts. A special affiliate link is always inserted through which the user is redirected to a suitable product page of the advertising online retailer. If users click on this link and consequently carry out a transaction (different depending on the billing model: product purchase, filling out a lead form, etc.), the affiliate partners receive a corresponding one Commission.

Benefits of Affiliate Marketing for Affiliates

The Advantage for affiliate partners It is therefore obvious: You will receive remuneration for comparatively little effort (adding a link and, if necessary, the corresponding alignment of the content) if the doctorate is successful. The affiliate becomes, so to speak, a virtual sales partner for the retailer. In this way, as long as their individual link is valid, the affiliate can generate constant passive income over time.

2) Vendors / Dealers / Advertisers

These are usuallyProduct manufacturerwho promise a commission in return for getting more attention for their products. Sometimes online shops also advertise directly with their own partner program, such as Amazon or eBay.

In principle, anyone can offer an affiliate program, regardless of whether they are sole proprietorships, SMEs or corporations. All it takes is some know-how about how to start your own partner program with affiliate software, as well as the willingness to involve affiliate partners in the sales in return for their promotion.

Benefits of affiliate marketing for providers

Here, too, the advantages quickly become clear: The providers benefit from an advertising effect,without taking a high risk. In most cases, they only pay their affiliate partners if potential customers show a clear interest in the product in question and therefore promise sales.

3) Affiliate Networks

Affiliate networks act as Intermediary between affiliate partners and the merchants. They establish contact, check all (payment) transactions and protect both sides from fraud.

Well-known representatives are, for example, Awin or AdCell. The cooperation can also be interesting for merchants because they may lack the (temporal) resources to track, calculate and manage payments to the affiliates, especially if they work with many different partners.

Using networks for affiliate marketing is optional and not absolutely necessary.

4) customers

Ideally, visitors to content offers from the affiliates click on one made available Affiliate link (for example, in a blog article, in the description of a YouTube video, or in an Instagram story) to go to a page about a product featured by the affiliates. A relevant transaction then takes place there (usually the product purchase) and visitors become customers of the retailer.

For these customers, the only party arises through an affiliate programneither advantages nor disadvantages. They stop paying when they buy the product through an affiliate link.

How does affiliate marketing work?

Anyone who decides as an author or blogger to act as an affiliate partner and content for a Affiliate program the following steps are necessary:
  1. First you have to register with a corresponding program to participate, for example the Amazon PartnerNet.

  2. The new partner then receives an affiliate link with their own ID, which they can integrate into their own content.

  3. If a user now clicks on this Affiliate link (for example in the form of banner advertising), becomes a Cookie inserted in the user's browser, which tracks his / her further surfing behavior on the retailer's website.

  4. If the user takes an action that is relevant according to the selected billing model, the Dealers these and can they be concrete Assign affiliate partner. Since the cookies are usually valid for several hours, days or weeks, every relevant action within this period is attributed to the affiliate partner.

  5. In different billing periods (usually monthly), the partner is then given the commission paid for all registered promotions in the corresponding period.

The different billing models

Depending on Affiliate program and a specific contract, the affiliate partners' participation in sales is based on different behavioral patterns of users or customers:

Pay per click (PPC)

In this case, affiliate partners receive money for every click on their affiliate links, regardless of whether and how users interact with the websites of the merchants - visiting the websites alone is sufficient. This model is rather unusual because the merchants bear the full risk here: They pay without knowing whether they will benefit from the traffic directed to their websites.

Pay-per-lead (PPL)

Here the affiliate partners are paid for every lead generated, which in turn is made dependent on certain actions, for example when a user fills out an online form on the respective dealer website or requests a test version. In this case, the risk for affiliate partners and retailers is about the same, as it is guaranteed that users are interested in the advertised product, but do not have to have made the final purchase decision.

Pay-per-sale (PPS)

In this model, affiliate partners are only involved when a user actually makes a purchase and the merchant makes sales. This model is the most common, the risk here lies solely with the affiliate partner.

In addition to these three popular models, there are basically other (much rarer) billing models:

Pay per link

In this case, the integration of an affiliate link on the website of an affiliate partner is paid for. However, this model is very rare, as there is no guarantee that users will consciously perceive the link and actually click on it.

Pay per click out

Here, the referenced users not only have to enter the retailer's website with a click ("click in"), but also click on one of the listed providers there in order to be forwarded to them (the so-called "click out").

Pay per print out

This model is mainly used for coupons or similar products. Affiliate partners are remunerated for each paper printout.


This model can only be used for specific products, especially software. Affiliate partners receive their commission if users install the product (for example a demo version or a toolbar).

Lifetime compensation

If the forwarded users can be recruited as permanent customers - for example for a service with a monthly tariff or as existing customers who repeatedly make purchases - a commission is paid for each new payment as long as the business relationship between the customer and the dealer exists.

From the affiliate partner's point of view, this model is of course the most attractive and makes the most of it Affiliate programs from dealers such as insurance companies or credit institutes with appropriate conditions is particularly attractive.

All about affiliate programs

Below are the answers to some frequently asked questions about affiliate programs.

Are there any fees for affiliate programs?

As a rule, you have to pay for participation Affiliate programs no direct costs. However, you shouldn't overlook the indirect costs that can be associated with successful participation.

As a retailer, you have to bear the additional costs through the Commissions payable take into account. As an affiliate partner, you should consider the cost of the Promotion of the content that contains or refers to the affiliate link, for example when placing advertisements. Because nobody sees the content, nobody can click on the corresponding links and you will get nothing.

Also possible Hosting costs for the website in question must be taken into account. However, if you already operate and advertise your respective content platform as part of your marketing strategy, the additional affiliate marketing will not incur any additional costs.

How Much Can Affiliate Marketing Make?

Earning money with affiliate marketing is no magic with a good fit between publisher and retailer. However, the question of how much you as an affiliate partner will get around cannot be answered consistently or definitely.

The actual earnings depend on numerous factors, above all on the industry or the specific niche to which your content and the product can be assigned. But also the average traffic on your website and that Trust that you enjoy in your community, play a major role.

Also, you shouldn't just look at earnings, but income through it Weigh affiliate links in relation to your investments. You should not only consider direct financial investments (for example in Facebook or Google ads), but also the time you invest in the content to be created.

A survey of 250 part-time, full-time and hobby affiliates from 2017 provides rough benchmarks for orientation:

35 percent of those surveyed earned less than 200 euros monthly, 21 percent more than 3,000 euros in the month. Most of the affiliates were active in technology and entertainment (31 percent), but 25 percent stated that they covered cross-industry topics.

How can I find a suitable affiliate program?

What exactly is the right affiliate program for your purposes depends on various factors. First of all, you should clarify the question for yourself whether you would rather work with a large affiliate partner program such as that of the e-commerce giant Amazon or would rather be part of a smaller and niche affiliate program (possibly even with negotiable commission) . For a better overview, we are now giving you a brief insight into the various models and what is important when choosing the right affiliate program.

Affiliate online marketing with the Amazon affiliate program: that is what matters

The biggest advantage of an affiliate partnership with Amazon is undoubtedly the enormous variety of products from the online mail order company. According to statistics, already offered around 229 million products in 2017, which are divided into various main and sub-categories. This not only makes it easier for consumers to search in the online shop, but also creates transparency for participants in the Amazon partner program.

The commission for the Amazon affiliate is determined based on the product line using the standard fee rate. These fee rates are freely visible and, when applied to the value of the customer's shopping cart, determine the amount of your affiliate commission. However, this also takes into account whether the purchases made via your partner links are direct or indirect qualified purchases. As the latter, Amazon evaluates purchases that contain products from a different product category.

For example, if a reader of your literary blog clicks on your Amazon partner link, they will end up in the “Books” product category for a particular novel that you are promoting on your blog as part of your online affiliate marketing. If the customer then realizes when browsing the Amazon product page that they would rather buy an action-packed video game, they will switch to the “Games” product category and maybe buy the new “Prince of Persia” game there.

Thus, the customer has not made a direct qualified purchase via your affiliate link, but has made an indirect qualified purchase in a different product category. You will also receive a commission for this, but a lower one than for the direct qualified purchase.

Use other affiliate programs: Our affiliate marketing tips for choosing a provider and product

In addition to the Amazon partner program, there are numerous other affiliate programs available. In order to make the right choice, there are several criteria you should consider.

As an affiliate partner you need a suitable program first and foremostProducts include that you can really stand behind and that you know best. In addition, the products must match yourContent and thus also suit your readers or viewers so that they are motivated to click your affiliate links in the first place.

Of course she has toProduct quality voices. Only advertise products that you would recommend to your friends in good conscience, otherwise you risk a loss of trust in your community.

So the decisive factor is above all the factorAuthenticity. Choose a program whose products you actually use and value, and don't succumb to the temptation to just sell anything - it will only damage your credibility.

In addition, theConditions, which are given by the partner programs, will of course be as profitable as possible for you. Therefore, the billing model offered should be advantageous for you - that is, offer sufficiently high commissions and distribute the risks fairly.

And of course the participating dealers should if possiblelots of sales can have. Because then the chances are good that purchases can also be generated via your affiliate links.

If you would like to get further suggestions about the different affiliate programs, you should visit the page. Numerous partner programs from various industries are listed, rated and compared with one another in a directory with an integrated search engine. With over 10,000 entries, there is sure to be the right affiliate system for you - all you have to do is search.

Identification of affiliate links in online marketing

In general, the legal situation with regard to the obligation to mark affiliate links is not entirely clear. According to §6 Abs. 1 Nr. 1 of the TMG (Telemediengesetz) must commercial communication be marked. Also the law against unfair competition (UWG) makes corresponding demands. However, Section 2 (5) of the TMG also describes exceptions to this labeling requirement and states, among other things:

Information relating to goods and services or the appearance of a company, organization or person, which are given independently and in particular without financial consideration.

Affiliate partners are usually not paid for simply adding an affiliate link, so it could be argued that Affiliate marketing falls under this exception. However, since there is a subsequent remuneration in the form of a commission, which would not have come about without the respective affiliate link, play it safe when you do transparently indicate affiliate links. You also gain the trust of your community, which can feel fully enlightened.

In addition to the legal requirements, targeted labeling of affiliate links is also worthwhile with regard to the Google algorithm. However, this is not about more transparency towards users, but towards Google. The search engine should be able to record which links have a commercial background so that a detailed link profile of the indexed pages can be created and taken into account for the ranking.

So far, affiliate links have had to go with the general nofollow-Attribute be marked. Since September 2019, however, Google has further differentiated this and that sponsored-Attribute introduced for commercial links. This is to be inserted as rel = 'sponsored' in the source code of the relevant page.

Examples of affiliate marketing

A common example of the use of affiliate links are Travel blogsthat mention accommodations or attractions at the respective destination and link directly to the booking page.

This is also what the travel blog does, which names and links various hotels in its article on Bulgaria. At the same time, the corresponding link is handled very transparently. It is not only pointed out that the link is an affiliate link, but also an explanation page for affiliate links is stored:

Image: On the way blog

The backblog sugar, cinnamon and love proceeds in a similar way. Kitchen utensils are inserted here as an Amazon partner link, which is also identified and explained in more detail at the end of the page:

Image: Blog sugar, cinnamon and love

But not only on blogs, but also on price comparison sites Affiliate marketing popular. The proposed products are presented directly including an affiliate link to the corresponding shop. This is how handles it, although the individual links are not marked separately here. However, participation in affiliate programs is indicated in the footer of the page:

"Our comparison contains offers from various shops that pay a fee to when they are forwarded or sold."

Cover picture: Irina Shatilova / Getty Images

Originally published November 19, 2020, updated 12 May 2021

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