The History of Affiliate Marketing

Affiliating marketing today is ‘affiliated’ with making money online and advertising products. You write content, you advertise or link products to your website, people click on it, reach their site, cha-ching. Simple. But was it always this way?

What we identify today as the process of affiliate marketing used to occur way before the internet came online, albeit in an unnamed and much simpler practice. People used to get discounts for suggesting a service or eating out at a particularly delicious eatery or mentioning a mechanic’s good work: you get it.

How did it all start?

The introduction of the Internet revolutionized the concept of a market. Geographical constraints suddenly didn’t matter anymore, you could sell to anyone and anywhere. Though the costs used to be high, the excitement of importing or exporting goods, using foreign goods, the opening up of overseas markets; all these were reasons that overrode whatever inhibitions people had about costs and such.

One fine day, an assumedly bright man named William J Tobin had the historic idea of opening an affiliate program online. A florist by profession, he launched his program on the Prodigy Network for his website PC Flowers and Gifts in 1989. His website went online and the idea behind it was simple: it earned a commission for every sale that a product made under it. Soon, the Prodigy was making millions: an estimated $6 million by 1993.

William patented the idea of affiliate marketing in 1996 and was successful in getting one in 2000. However, by then, there were many more players in the affiliate market. One of these was CDNOW’s BuyWEb, where the online album-sellers CDNOW had their links embedded in music review sites. Another of these was Amazon, but that turned out to be so successful, it deserves a subheading of its own.

Amazon. The Game-Changers.

The single biggest contributor to the current popularity of affiliate marketing has to be Amazon. While nowhere near being the first website to use the concept, Amazon was the first company to do so on a major scale. Despite being a bookstore, Amazon was the first to launch an affiliate program – Amazon Associates.

What set Amazon Associates apart was that it was open to the public too. People could sign up for using Amazon links on their websites and were paid a small commission for using custom banners and advertisements that led back to the online store. If you could answer two questions, ‘how affiliate marketing works’ and ‘what is the product about’, you could earn money with words.

The invention of cookies, however, took it to a whole new level. Now you could trace sales back to their sources, and you could identify which website was directly responsible for it. The commission system was now proportionate to the number of sales your website was responsible for. You were paid for your contribution- nothing more, nothing less.

Affiliate Marketing Networks

The idea of affiliate marketing had become so big that it became a whole field of occupation by itself. By 1998, companies such as Commission Junction and Clickbank had sprung up. The idea behind these companies was simple: to act as a link between companies looking for affiliates and affiliates looking for companies. Further, these companies also offered the necessary tools and knowledge required to be a successful affiliate marketer.

The formation of these companies resulted in an inevitable boom in the market: small companies could quickly grow with some investment in affiliate networks, which provided sales tracking and payment systems. All the company needed to provide was a desired product and focus on their product only.

The Affiliate World Today

Currently, the affiliate market produces over 12 billion dollars each year. Over 16% of sales were made via affiliate marketing websites. Rather than slowing down, interest in affiliate marketing has picked up: with a 200% increase in the Google search for the word “affiliate marketing” since 2015.

With competition rising in both the company and affiliate spheres, it is necessary for a budding marketer to have a thorough knowledge of their niche and stay on top of daily updates too. As companies have a wide variety of networks to choose from, quality of work and other such factors are of crucial importance: often being the difference between succeeding and failing.

Author Bio

The founder of the blog, Affiliate Academy, Res Marty is a successful affiliate marketer himself. Ever since 2018, he has been realizing his dream of working from home and making money online through his own successful website. Through his blog, he aims to help others new to the world of affiliate marketing and steer them clear of potential potholes.

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