Every year a certain “somebody” makes a judgment whether we’re on the good or naughty list.

No, we’re not talking about the big guy in the red suit.

The end of the year spells an exciting launching point for the New Year’s plans but this isn’t always the case for those affiliate marketers landing on the short end of the marketing “stick”.

We’ve all seen ups and downs due to search updates; there’s been quite a stir due to affiliate network changes, the election cycle, trends, new startups, and more. No doubt, 2012 has been a fairly crazy year in online business.

The month of December isn’t over yet which means we’ve got plenty to do between now and the beginning of the year.

Let’s reflect on the good, the bad, and what we can do to make this holiday the best for our affiliate marketing businesses.

The Good of 2012

Affiliate marketing grows along with the Web; new developments in the social sphere, startup arena, and technologies mean affiliate marketing is coming along for the ride. 2012 gave us a great leap forward and it shows no signs of slowing.

Despite some set-backs, here are some of the big developments for affiliate marketing (which don’t actually happen to be just about marketing) …

  • Mobile has matured – Mobile marketing and the adoption of smart phones has really taken off in 2012 and with it came a large amount of website and platforms conforming (or at least supporting) mobile browsing. Mobile browsing is in no way going away which means if you’re not mobile-friendly than you will miss opportunities to earn an affiliate sale. Mobile is mature enough to where the majority of individuals understand how to navigate and work with the smaller browsers; they know what they want. We can expect a greater amount of mobile marketing in 2013 but, for now, just remember that it was only a few years ago that we had flip phones so just imagine where the future will take us in the next big round of mobile usage.
  • New, exciting channels – This year we’ve seen two new players come to the spotlight: Pinterest and Instagram. The acquisition of Instagram by Facebook and the sharp interest spike into Pinterest has given us two new platforms to share our media. Instagram is giving us great access to the sharing and promoting of pictures (with fun effects) while Pinterest gives us a quick-and-easy board to share our favorites. The combination of these two new juggernauts in the social sphere means it’s time to move out from relying solely on blog posts and articles and into new mediums – especially photos.
  • Kindle is on fire – No doubt, the biggest new revenue to spring up, this year, for affiliate marketing has been the Kindle marketplace. For some time, too many marketers were taking advantage of the platform through PLR publications and once Amazon came down hard on these listings – it freed up a whole lot of space for legit publishers. Kindle gives you a great opportunity to become the authority in your market, earn some money, and diversify your business because it’s just so simple to get into; you can take your best work and republish it as a book or go completely original and make something from scratch. New editions of the Kindle reader have come out this year which has broadened the opportunities for multi-media. In short: get on this platform.

Just a tip of the iceberg, for sure, but these three are more than enough to have you reflect on the big opportunities that have seen a rise this past year.

The Bad of 2012

Though, not everything was peachy this year. A lot of us were hit by Google updates, some saw drastic dips in traffic and earnings; our advertising budgets were stripped thin, and we’re reaching a point of pure overload in information.

The bad gives rise to the opportunity to learn from our mistakes and it’s these following items we can gain the most from …

  • Google ‘Panda’ & ‘Penguin’ – Two big updates had (and still have) webmasters and affiliate marketers running to the hills. The ‘penguin’ and ‘panda’ updates were no joke and their rollout meant a lot of websites took major hits to their traffic and conversions. Recovery is still going on for many websites but we’ve seen a giant drop off for some marketers. The silver lining to these updates is that a lot of niches and industries have been cleared of sub-par websites and businesses that weren’t so legitimate meaning that we true marketers have a ripe opportunity to get out into the lead and finally show up on the listings versus just “gaming” the system with over optimization – it’s now about actual value – something we’re here to deliver, right?
  • Facebook ads and promoted flubs – Facebook has seen a few updates which many brands and individuals haven’t taken a liking to especially the promoted posts and the lack of ROI from the advertising. On the promoted end, we’ve seen many of our pages now omitting our message from a large part of our followers which forces us to promote posts in order to get the most reach; this change to the Facebook platform now means all our hard work is falling on many deaf ears unless we pony up the funds – which is no fun when we’re on tight budgets. The other end has been that Facebook advertising seems to have delivered sub-par results for many businesses. Sure, the ads are getting clicks but there aren’t many conversions; maybe we’ll see some changes to the advertising platform but it’s looking a little bleak to dump so much into Facebook ads at this time.
  • Too much information – The Web has always been a place for vast quantities of information but we’re reaching a point when things are getting a little overboard. Too much information can be a bad thing and we’ve seen plenty of it this year. The message has become too fast for the medium and the issue with this has been disinformation (intentional and unintentional). A few seconds is all that it takes to have a message seen around the world but people aren’t all too inquisitive to check sources and updates/revisions once it goes live; this leads to confusion and an endless recycling during re-writes and roundups. We all enjoy consuming content but there are so many free mediums to post on that it’s hard to keep up with it all and many times that information is just wasting our time. It’s hard to pick the authorities because there’s too much noise.

Sure, there’s been some bad but it could have been worse. We’re still here and kickin’ it. A lot of players for the “quick win” are gone so now it’s time to step up our game and capitalize.

Our Holiday Opportunities

This post quickly turned into a big news roundup of the year but it all works together for this section.

There have been big changes to the Web this past year and that means big opportunities for the holiday season of affiliate marketing. The good and the bad reveal some unique campaigns we can rollout in these last few days of the year (and well into the next).

Here are some suggestions for turning the good (and naughty) list into your next round of marketing campaigns:

  • A holiday mobile marketing campaign – Don’t be afraid to give mobile marketing a test run this holiday season. Mobile is catching on in a big way and there’s no doubt that new phones, tablets, and other mobile-friendly devices will be at the top of gift lists. The basics of mobile marketing can be understood this afternoon; it’s the implementation that’s the hurdle. For now, disregard the SMS side of mobile marketing and, instead, focus on getting a mobile-ready website up for holiday shopping. You can find free and premium tools to convert your existing site into mobile form, utilize a developer to do the heavy work, or take the DIY approach. You’re limited on space so get the biggest and best information out in front. Segment your marketing campaigns to point people to your various versions of your website. Consider doing a mobile-only campaign where visitors submit their phone numbers to gain additional information or join a list – you don’t need to use it now but it’s a good item to have for future campaigns.
  • Getting good with photography – You don’t need an expensive DSLR camera or know every element of a camera to get in photography mode; a simple point-and-shoot is enough or, better yet, just use your cell phone. Get on Instagram and use your Facebook fan page as a portal for pictures such as what you’re doing for the holidays, gifts you gave and received, pictures from local events and charities, and basically anything worthwhile to capture in photo form. Your usage of photos may not be a game changer but it certainly adds variety and personality to your business which goes great during the holiday season since people are coming close to one another. Amateur photography works.
  • Kindle promotions on steroids – Take a weekend to piece together a complete guide to one of your biggest website topics and get it published on the Kindle marketplace. You can outsource this work or just take a series you’ve created, compile it, add some links and media, and you’re good to go. Even if you don’t plan to make money from the work – simply having it on the marketplace gives you additional authority in your market and a great way to create some buzz around your brand through promotions and giveaways. Kindle’s will be a big hit this holiday season as a gift so get right in there and be on their reader from day one.
  • Telling a concise, refined message – Everyone is vying for attention during the holiday and consumers are getting to the point where they’re shying away from doing too much research because it can be a real pain in the butt. Instead, they’re seeking gift guides and reviews from trusted sources; they don’t want some niche site that compiles endless lists of ideas – they want the idea to help them find the right gift. During this holiday season, keep your message straight and to the point. Cover the items that you believe would make for the perfect gift – not a list of 100 ideas but a handful that make the reader say “wow, this is exactly what I’m looking for!” You can always use these promotions next year but make them urgent because time is running out to get things shipped on time.
  • Giving back (the nerd way) – The price of tablets and gadgets has hit an all-time low which means it’s a perfect time to hold promotions and giveaways during the holiday season. You could give out iPads, Kindle Fires’, smartphones, software, laptops, and more. A small investment of $200 – $500 could turn into a huge return on investment in brand exposure especially since people are in dire need to finish up the last of their gift giving. Schedule it out perfectly and you can land the end of your giveaway or promo on the “big” days like Christmas or the New Years’. Of course, you could always do this with affiliate products (through a joint venture) or with your premium products. Get creative and into the giving spirit.

We may be too old to believe in someone circling the globe handing out gifts but we can still participate in the holiday spirit. Now’s the time to run a few promotions, be thankful for the year, and give away some stuff (and get some in return). Appreciate your community and they’ll appreciate you. There’s no reason not to have a smile on your face this month; the New Year is right around the corner so let’s make the best of the month by welcoming the holiday spirit with open arms and through clever affiliate promotions.

What was the good and bad for you this year and how do you plan to use what you’ve learned in these final days of affiliate marketing during the holidays?