Affiliate Marketing is dead? No, Google Affiliate Network is dead. This is not the news though. Many much-smarter-then-me industry folks have already alerted us. However, the real news is a flash that either you get, or you don’t.
Here are the real underlying takeaways of Google’s Affiliate Death:
- Innovate or Die
- “Agencies” and OPMs (Outsourced Program Managers) are going to have to evolve.
- Advertisers are going to have to understand relying on reactive affiliate strategies through one network is not enough.
Innovate or Die
If you don’t innovate, you die. If you don’t add value, get out of the game. Google just demonstrated this. In my opinion, Google wasn’t adding additional value through technology, which is their core. Google creates great technology, but we can all agree that the technology at Google Affiliate Network was not category leading and is a remnant of 1998 code base left over from Performics. They purchased Performics in 2008 with the DoubleClick acquisition. It is basically $58 million dollar ancient code (originally paid by DoubleClick to Dynamic Trade). The company had to staff up on their “service” division, and as we all know Google isn’t really known for their service. So here Google is, running a network that is heavy on service, low on innovation, and chasing Clients that really need both. Have you actually tried to get someone on the phone at Google AdWords? They aren’t exactly the shining light of customer service.
“Agencies” and OPMs (Outsourced Program Managers) Are Going to Have to Evolve
The Outsourced Program Manager model is dying. That’s right, I said it. You can’t just attach yourself to a large network and build your entire business servicing Advertisers on just those few networks. Advertisers don’t need people to approve applications all day and provide their template strategies to build their customer acquisition channels. Advertisers need innovation, proactive sales, and a hungry business development team that is willing to do what it takes to grow out the Client’s customer acquisition and affiliate channels. More often than not, many OPMs are relying on Google Affiliate Network, Commission Junction, Linkshare, or ShareASale and their affiliate bases to sell their Clients on managing their Affiliate Programs.
But wait, isn’t SmarterChaos attached to the ImpactRadius network? No, SmarterChaos is attached to the ImpactRadius TECHNOLOGY. We offer our Clients best in breed technology, and then we offer proactive Agency services around customer acquisition and management. The number of affiliates in ImpactRadius is not our leverage. The Technology and our Services combined are the winning combination right now (in my humble opinion).
If you are an Outsourced Program Manager (OPM) managing brands in Google or any other major network, you need to really think about your value and your sustainability as a business. This shake up at Google and how Google can just announce over night that they are going to shut their doors is going to rock many businesses to their core that rely on the giant and others for their bread and butter. If you are an OPM, you may want to consider what your business offers that Google didn’t value enough to stay open. Will your Clients move to some other large network and stay with you as an Agency? Will these large Advertisers use this as an excuse to let go of some of their OPMs and build a direct channel themselves?
noun, plural a·gen·cies.
1. an organization, company, or bureau that provides some service for another
MAKE SURE YOU ARE PROVIDING A VALUABLE SERVICE, AND DELIVERING ON THAT PROMISE.
Advertisers are going to have to understand …….
Building an affiliate strategy or relying on your customer acquisition through one network is NOT ENOUGH. It’s hard work connecting to all of the right channels for a certain business. There is not one template that can be used when doing this. There is not one magic bullet. CJ, Linkshare, and Share A Sale have their place in the eco-system, and a very large one at that. However, any Advertiser today should be looking into their own license to a software that allows them to build their own performance media channels including but not limited to Affiliate.
Those technologies exist, and are the next wave of innovation as these large networks close up shop because they can’t innovate. I don’t think Google will be missed in the Affiliate space as GAN, but the other players will have to prove themselves out and keep innovating.
Advertisers should be evaluating what it will take to build their own channels, on their own licensed software, and developing an internal or external capability to do this. We think that they should hire a capable Agency to run their own software and drive their customer acquisition efforts, but either way Advertisers are going to be best served by taking back their relationships and not relying on one source.
Advertisers Should Be Evaluating Software, Not Networks.
If you think that Google Affiliate Network was a tracking platform, then you are woefully wrong. Neither is CJ, Linkshare, or Share A Sale. These are great distribution channels, mind you, but not tracking platforms. If any of these go belly up, you have to “transition” your affiliates off these networks and take them somewhere else. I’m a strong advocate for having control of your affiliates and your relationships.
In short, will Google be missed? Only by those people that relied solely on Google Affiliate Network as their sole distribution channel for Affiliate Marketing, as their sole income base as a Publisher, and as their one trick as an OPM.
Everyone else will innovate or die. We choose life.
THE CHIEF OF CHAOS