It also suggests that user patterns are predictable to a certain degree and that these patterns could be used to develop effective affiliate marketing programs. However, research also indicates that in addition to knowing when and how to market, there are also times when it is wise not to market. Only ads that are relevant to the users interests should be used, otherwise it has a negative impact on the user, as they become annoyed and produce no economic benefit (Broder, Ciaramita, and Fontoura et al., 2008). Ad relevance is important to consider in the launch of a successful affiliate program.
Affiliate marketing is only beginning to gain the academic interest that it deserves. As the literature found, affiliate marketing can be an excellent means to reach a target market. However, ad relevance is important. This research indicated that the user wants quality information and something that they can use. Ads that are not relevant to the information that they seek can be annoying and can drive potential customers away. This most important point made in the literature examined is that users want quality content, not just a cheap sales job. Marketers must remain focused on their target market and their purpose in order to launch a successful affiliate program.
This research revealed a lack of academic research and therefore a lack of direction in research about affiliate marketing. This was the biggest gap found during the literature review. This lack of direction in academic research also indicates a lack of direction in the industry itself. There are no guiding principles or sense of direction in affiliate marketing. Many marketers understand that they have to achieve high search engine rankings, but they have no idea how to get there. It is a highly competitive marketplace and many marketers are attempting the same techniques as all of the others. The new trend in the industry will be to allow the users some control over where pages are ranked. This will change the competition from the way it was in the past. Marketers used to rely on algorithms to determine their search page ranking; now they will have to cater to their exclusive clientele.
A lack of direction in the industry and in academic research into affiliate advertising is the primary gap in research. It is recommended that more research be conducted so that this area of advertising is understood as well as other media forms. Attention needs to be focused on not only how to drive traffic, but on how to resolve several unethical practices that have arising in the field. These issues undermine the trust of the users, making them even less likely to click through and then make a purchase through an affiliate program. These issues include search engine spam, email spam, cookie stuffing, click-to-reveal, adware, click tracking, and other methods that have been used by advertisers and that annoy consumers.
The industry of affiliate marketing suffers from a lack of industry standards. The development of these standards should be a top priority, both in academic research and in practice. The growth of affiliate marketing makes it both lucrative and a viable means of growing a customer base. In order to do this, unscrupulous practices must stop. Customers need to know that they can trust the marketer. Targeted ads can be an excellent way to not only increase traffic to the primary site, but to supplement income as well. This research indicates that finding direction and focus is the first task that the industry needs to undertake in the near future.
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