Where It All Started: A History of Affiliate Marketing

The popularity of affiliate marketing has exploded, and this is in part due to its unique marketing process.  The concept of referral and offering an incentive to customers has been around a long time,  which could be why affiliate marketing to this day is still growing.  All thanks to a simple process that it utilises, continually evolving, and can easily be refined by anyone looking to make money online.

The Roots

It's not totally clear where affiliate marketing started, but the idea has been used by different people over the years.  The case of referrals, and passing some kind of a reward onto customers who direct people to that business has been around for years.

Quick Example:

You may have been asked by a car dealer you recently bought a car from to tell your friends and family about their dealership.  The dealership would then give you some kind of reward when they sell one of their cars to one of your friends or family members.  Your reward from that sale would be a special discount on your next car, or hire car you get from them.

This practice is still being used to this day by both big and small businesses, particularly within the  smaller  business community. 

With today's current technology the online world has made this form of referral even simpler.  Using cookies and browser information to help different types of marketing campaigns.  Helping new affiliate starters to enter into the affiliate marketing arena without much of a problem.

Early Days of the Internet

Businesses really started to flourish with the start of the internet, making it more simple for both people and businesses to connect.  

It wasn't until William J. Tobin set up his own affiliate marketing program through his PC Flowers and Gifts website.  His network was created through the Prodigy Network, which was an online service portal that helped people get online using different tools through a connection with the internet.

A link was then given to each affiliate marketer that would connect directly to the Prodigy Network, linking people to its various products.  In return for selling Tobin's products, Prodigy would also get a cut, and so would the affiliate marketer.  Such was the success of this selling model, Tobin applied for a patent on the tracking and affiliate marketing process.   

With Tobin's patent accepted, people started looking more deeply into the process of affiliate marketing, and asking themselves how it could work for them.  This led to one of the biggest retailers in the world (Amazon) wanting to get in on the action.

Arrival of Amazon

With the birth of the internet marketplace, and the success of PC Flower and Gifts, affiliate marketing was looking more and more like a sure thing.  Things really started to take-off in the 1990s, as more people and businesses saw the potential of the internet for their own businesses.  Technology was also evolving and people were able to track their customers more easily with cookies.

Tracking cookies made it simpler for companies to sign up as many affiliates as they wanted, instead of using just one person, like the old referral method.  Businesses could use cookies to track their affiliates with any sales or activity within the affiliates account.

By this time Amazon.com had moved on from selling just books, but to trading more media products, and becoming the giant of all retail sellers online.  Creating even more proof that this method of referral (affiliate marketing) was workable and achievable by any business.

Amazon's program was a very easy setup that enabled people to promote Amazon's products through their own websites and blogs, and simply added a link or box that supplied a direct link to Amazon.  A box could be placed on a website with a list of products, linking to each product page.

There are still websites that use the Amazon boxes today, adapting each box to their own blog or website.  Every sale made is passed onto the affiliate marketer.  

Affiliate Networks Startup

Affiliate networks started in 1998, with the birth of ClickBank and Commission Junction specifically created for the purpose of providing businesses all over the world the opportunity to market their own products using affiliates.  Businesses could start using affiliate marketing to get their own messages across.  Individuals saw the opportunity of making money this way online and started signing up to affiliate marketing networks.

A portion of the sales made would go to a network connected to the affiliate sales via links.  This made it easier for much smaller businesses to start benefiting from the same affiliate sales model.  Proving you didn't need to be a giant like Amazon to make money from affiliate marketing.  ClickBank is a prime example of how the businesses associated can gain from affiliate marketing.

Campaigns can be customised to suit each businesses needs, with the use of simple graphics, and the ability to choose how affiliates are paid. 


The Explosion of Blogging

Content creation has become an entity all on its own, made easier by the growth of blogging and social media.  Individuals have discovered new ways of getting the message out through these media channels.

With the birth of the internet came the dawn of blogging and website creation.  Giving people a voice, and platform for their own stories and ideas, and the opportunity to promote pretty much anything that has an affiliate marketing program.

Marketing has been made simpler with the use of text links, advertising boxes which can be created in various sizes and colour schemes to suit the blog page they're placed on.  

Businesses and individuals are now able to tailor their own campaigns and messages, using their own platforms. All of this is simply done, with no real technical know-how required.  The affiliates just need to cut and paste the required text or coding into their own blog.  

Social media platforms have become an integral part of blogging, and for affiliate marketers to sell their own products, as well as other businesses.  

It looks like it's set to thrive and evolve in an ever changing digital world.

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Read more: 

 The Writers Guide to Affiliate Marketing

4 Tips to Convert Blog Traffic into Affiliate Sales

10 Steps to Make Money With Amazon Associates

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