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When we think of digital marketing, we think PPC, SEO, SEM, Landing Page Optimization, paid social, and many others channels, but the one we tend to overlook is affiliate marketing. That’s because affiliate marketing is a behind-the-scenes channel; you don’t see us but we’re there, sending you traffic and sales from all over the web, connecting you with customers you might not have found any other way. You’ve probably clicked on many affiliate ads without even realizing it.

Affiliate marketers are easily overlooked and often misunderstood. But we potentially represent one of the most important parts of your business. So we decided it’s time to bust some myths about affiliate marketing!

Here are 3 of the most common misconceptions about affiliate marketing – and the truths behind them.

Myth #1: Affiliate marketing is dying out (or is already dead).

This could not be farther from the truth. The affiliate landscape is changing, not dying out.

Google’s Penguin algorithm update radically changed the affiliate landscape, forcing affiliates to stop link-spamming practices, offer unique website content, and limit displayed banners. Gone are the days of mass-produced ad banner sites, full of the latest deals and offers. Failure to comply meant certain death as Google moved your site to the bottom of the search results.

While this definitely created a drop-off in affiliate activity (and quite a bit of panic amongst affiliate marketers), it was only a matter of time before affiliates adapted. Banner ads are not mobile-friendly because of image size and are no longer effective. They have been all but replaced by Text Links: those little one-sentence ads in between paragraphs on your favorite news articles. This creates a more seamless and immersive experience, as opposed to having banner images all over the page taking up valuable display space.

Major companies like Google, Amazon, and eBay have joined the affiliate marketplace. These companies have the resources to get their ads in front of a large audience. Anyone can publish their affiliate ads on their webpage and earn commission on any sales. These ads serve a rotation of ads based on your site’s content and traffic. So now if you end up at a country musician’s homepage, you might see Amazon ads for country CDs, or eBay ads for guitars online. This is affiliate marketing on a large scale.

And with the emergence of social networks like Facebook and Twitter, the potential reach for affiliate marketers has increased significantly. Social networks are an affiliate marketer’s dream come true: they offer a constantly changing feed for which they can tailor their ads, as well as gain valuable remarketing data on shoppers’ habits. This is a relatively untapped market that is only going to continue to expand. So affiliates aren’t dead and gone; we’re right in front of you. You probably just don’t recognize us.

Myth #2: The only goal with affiliate marketing is to makes sales and earn commission.

Sales are only a part of the many benefits to affiliate marketing. One of the main goals of affiliate marketing is the acquisition of new customers and traffic. Affiliate marketers don’t just deal in sales and commission; we deal in visitors, leads, clicks, acquisitions, sign-ups, landing pages, and even SEO compliance and SEM review. Without affiliate traffic, your website’s traffic flow would be significantly reduced.

We also monitor a lot of the potential fraud that can affect your company: paid search and trademark violations, fraud orders, and ad-spoofing. These violations could be happening right under your nose, but unless someone is constantly looking for it you might miss it.

Referral Marketing is considered one of the fastest-growing channels in all of digital marketing. You’ve seen it before: “Refer a friend and get $10 bonus credit!” With the rise of social networks, it’s even easier to refer friends to special offers. So look to see even more of this in the future. Many affiliate networks have dedicated social sharing tools to maximize their reach.

Another over-looked aspect of affiliate marketing is the proliferation of rewards and loyalty programs. Affiliate Marketers love incentives: “Get double points for today only!” or “Buy one now, get a $10 gift certificate”. These are all compelling messages that can drive a huge amount of traffic. But we don’t necessarily think of these as being associated with affiliates.

Myth #3: Affiliate programs are easy money: just link to your page, and the sales will roll in.

If affiliate marketing were that easy, everyone would be doing it! While the basic concept of affiliate marketing is quite simple, there is a lot of behind-the-scenes work that takes place. Affiliate managers have to make sure their latest promotions are being properly represented on the various publisher sites, as well as coordinate with the site developers to ensure SEO compliance. Having outdated sale messaging is a huge sale killer, and with the internet as big as it is, keeping it all up to date is harder than it seems. We communicate with our affiliates regularly via phone, email, and weekly email newsletters to keep them updated on the latest offers.

There is also last-click attribution, which involves assigning the order commission to the correct affiliate. When you click an affiliate ad and buy something, the credit goes to the affiliate whose ad you last clicked.  So if you go looking for a coupon online, the coupon site will get the referral commission because they are the “last click” before the sale. However, we humans love to click as much as possible, so the order may not always get attributed to the correct affiliate. This can generate a lot of wasted spending because, as humans, we can’t resist clicking on things! It’s up the affiliate marketer to determine who the commission really belongs to.

So as you can see, affiliate marketing plays a large role in many companies’ success. But as with any program, you have to be able to use all the tools it provides to maximize your investment. So the next time you’re about to click on an ad or online coupon, you know there is someone behind that ad who is making sure your experience is the best it can be.