According to Forrester Research in their "US Affiliate Marketing Forecast, 2009 to 2014," affiliate marketing will grow from $1.9B industry in 2009 to $4B in 2014. The industry is beginning to mature with established companies entering the space with legitimate talent and technology. Better affiliate site content and an increasing transparent dialogue between affiliates and marketers are also growth drivers.
Along with display advertising affiliate marketing is one of the fastest growing online marketing tactics. In fact, affiliate marketing's 16% growth rate outpaces display advertising and the digital marketing spend category growth rates of 12.5% and 10%, respectively (eMarketer).
Search marketers complain that affiliate marketing will damage your brand. You certainly should be concerned about protecting your brand, but a truly cross functional marketer knows how to control how other marketers drive sales or leads for you. An easy place to start is with simple brand monitoring and common sense policies for your affiliates. The benefit of incremental sales and what you can learn from watching several other marketers run search marketing for your brand will outweigh the mitigatable risks from affiliate marketing.
Not all sales and leads are created equal and advertisers are not the only ones that realize this. Affiliate networks and affiliates want long term profitable relationships with advertisers. Fraud monitoring, lead verification, and quality optimization technologies have improved in the last few years and with a 16% industry growth rate companies will continue to invest in giving everyone in the value chain the ability to better manage quality.
Affiliate networks take away the burden of recruitment, payments, banner serving, reporting, and affiliate technical support if those resources aren't available to your marketing department. They'll take a cut of the cost per action(CPA) fee you are willing to pay affiliates for a lead or sale, but it's well worth it if you're interested in running a feasibility test for affiliate marketing or if you're strapped for resources.
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US Online Ad spending is projected to nearly double from $22.7 billion to $40.5 billion by 2014.