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Is Affiliate Marketing At Death’s Door?

Written by George Manty  · November 13, 2007

The other day Wendy asked me:

George – I’d be curious to hear what you think about affiliate marketing and the problems that are emerging with tracking commissions correctly. With the latest version of Spybot rendering affiliate links inactive and the calls for a “Do Not Track” list, do you think we’re looking at the beginning of the end, or will new technology save the day?

Basically, she wants to know:

Q. “Is affiliate marketing in trouble?”

A. Yes. If these laws pass it could be bad for affiliate marketing. With more and more spyware utilities being used to remove tracking cookies, tracking cookies are become less effective. All of this is bad news for affiliate marketing.

Q. “Will affiliate marketing die or will someone invent a technology to bypass the laws?”

A. Maybe. It depends on how the law defines “tracking”. There are ways to track clicks without using cookies, however if the law says you can’t track people in any way, shape or form then what you might find is online businesses re-incorporating in a foreign country not affected by the “do not track” list. A “do not track” list can’t be good for affiliate marketing (especially if you live in the US). It could go far enough to cause serious problems for affiliate marketers AND web users.

How Will The Do Not Track List Affect All Web Users?

If the “Do Not Track” list effectively ruins affiliate marketing, you will see the downfall of “FREE” content. In order to maintain a profit, companies will be forced to charge for some of their content. While some content will remain free because of money that advertisers might be willing to put into a site, I think you will see free content dwindle. As much as some people hate affiliate marketing, it is the reason there is so much free content on the web. Without affiliate marketing or a good alternative, content can’t possibly remain free.

What do I think will really happen?

I think too many big companies will be affected negatively for this law to ever pass. Big companies play a huge role in the voting habits of politicians and this law will negatively affect almost every company in the US with an online presence.

A “Do Not Track” list could also be technologically challenging. If you can track some people, but not others, how does that work? Who is the ultimate “gate keeper” of the “do not track” list, and how do websites access it? What constitutes tracking? What happens to websites who violate the list? What about sites outside the US? There are a lot of questions to answer before any law could be enacted.

I just don’t see it happening anytime soon. I could be wrong though.

What should you do if I am wrong?

I will explain what I think you should do to ensure that ANY laws like this have a minimal impact on your online business in my next post…

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3 Responses to “Is Affiliate Marketing At Death’s Door?”

  1. Wendy Piersall on November 13th, 2007 12:42 pm

    Excellent discussion George. I agree that the Do Not Track list is next to impossible to implement – but doing away with Cookies is a lot easier and is already happening.

    I was thinking of building a lot more affiliate revenue into my business model in the coming years, but I’m actually moving more towards a traditional media model instead because of some of my concerns with the industry.

    But regardless, I can’t imagine that it goes away for good, but I do hope it doesn’t take a big hit. ūüôā

  2. George Manty on November 13th, 2007 3:22 pm


    I think affiliate marketing is a great way to make money online, but I am concerned that in the coming years it may become less affective. I hope that’s not the case though, because I like affiliate marketing.

  3. Adrian on November 15th, 2007 2:19 am

    I know that my spyware software removes all cookies as far as I know, but I didin’t think about the impact it might actually make on affiliate marketing.