Travel Affiliate Marketing Programs are a big nonsense these days. Building a Niche Site Related to Travel - Hotels, is just a huge waste of time.
I'll tell you how I started my internet adventure back in 2003. I had no idea how to make a buck online, and then when searching for a bed and breakfast in London, it hit me. What if ?
I was thinking to build a site offering online room reservations, not only locally but worldwide. I didn't even had a theme, I had to build all from scratch counting only on my vague knowledge of html.
I typed in Google's search box : Hotel affiliate program and a lot of results came in.
From Expedia to Travelnow. (different networks then, one and the same thing now...lol)
I had no idea that the competition was so fierce. I had no Seo knowledge, and I had no idea on how to spy on my competition, except by searching for the particular keywords, which at that time was "discount hotels", and check the results that came up on the first page. I had in my mind that I must have the same Google page rank as the competition, and have the keyword in the title and description.
Boy! Was I wrong!
So I started a link exchange campaign - my only backlinking strategy at that time - which lasted almost 14 months. I did that with all my passion, every day, for hours. I checked my keyword ranking on Google every day, few times a day.
My site was nowhere in the Serps, for the particular keywords, not even after 10 months and over a thousand link exchanges. My page rank was PR 5 after 1 year or so, but not ranking in Google's Serps.
Then suddenly I began to receive a lot of traffic, but not from Google...from Yahoo!
What happened ? Yahoo was at first powered by Inktomi, and after that by Google, then in 2004, Yahoo Search became independent!
Amidst all this changes, my site ended up being on the first page on Yahoo results. Great ! I was cashing over $ 1500 per month from hotel bookings(I was affiliated with Travelnow.com).
No matter what updates Yahoo was doing, my site was sticking stubbornly on the first page among the first 3 results. So this kept going until Bing (Microsoft) took over Yahoo's search and my site's Search engine rankings dropped, with no chance of recovery.
However, in all this years, I managed only twice to come on the first page results on Google, and only for short periods, like 4 to 6 months, and boy, my income tripled. After after 4-5 months of being number 1 Google will throw my site on the fourth or fifth page, with no chance to being found.
Because my travel site was doing so well on Yahoo for so many years, I still cash in today around $200 a month from old customers, that got used booking via my site.
Travel Affiliate Marketing Programs - The Downs
The bottom point is that there is no way to compete nowadays against websites such as Hotels.com, Expedia, Tripadvisor, Kayak and so on. They are actually ranking for every possible keyword, even if the keyword is not in the title. They didn't use to, but they do now.
Moreover, the bad news is that Google is pushing now "Google Hotel Finder". Yes that's right!
Google came up with its own hotels search box, of course positioned above all organic results, just under the top sponsored ads and even above the Local search results !!
So, do you want to travel? Go ahead an book with Google. ( All these years,I thought Google is a search engine.)
On the other hand sites la Expedia, Hotels.com, Hotwire, Venere(btw, they belong to the same company - Expedia!!) are gaining more and more market share via organic results, due to Google's lack of relevancy in the travel industry, which makes me believe that Google is really favoring these multi million dollar travel sites. Google is turning a blind eye to the fact that these sites are generally promoting the same products, that is hotels, flights and car rentals , in order to gain the absolute supremacy of the Internet travel industry.
A simple search for "New York Hotels", will display first the sponsored ads(Venere is one of the advertisers and belongs to Expedia), of course, on the second place comes "Google Hotels Finder" , then first within the organic results comes Expedia, second Tripadvisor.com which lets you choose from a "wide variety of Hotel Providers" - I'm sarcastic - meaning Expedia and Priceline.
Actually Tripadvisor is playing for both sides. When booking on Tripadvisor, you are able to choose from: Expedia.com, Hotels.com, Venere.com (meaning only Expedia.Inc) and from Booking.com and Agoda.com (meaning Priceline).
(Well, Venere is missing from the picture, because, they are rotating the ads, and this time is Expedia instead of Venere)
So there you go! You have only 2 choices, displayed as 5 choices.
Still interested in Travel Affiliate Marketing Programs ?
A lot of affiliate sites, as well as other small companies used to have a small chunk of the huge travel market. Not anymore. There is Diarchy. We have to kings ruling over the travel market: Expedia and Priceline.
There is still one travel affiliate, the kind of affiliate that was at first in the p o r n industry, made his money, purchased expensive, sound domains and re-branded them into big shot travel sites.
c h e a p r o o m s. com, c h e a p h o t e l s. com, h o t e l l e r. com, t r a v e l i n g. com along with another 1.732 spammy domains.
After, last Google updates, which I'm sure, had hit somehow this affiliate too, he just simply removed the links from those thousands parked domains and websites, and guess what...it made a full recovery!
Moreover, there was a Google Serps major update in December 2012.
His sites were "update proof".
Still lots of spammy websites are ranking high. Google managed to crush few old sites, a lot of business websites and a whole bunch of new and relatively new spamming sites. The collateral damage was of epic proportions.
In Google's updates case,the end didn't justified the means, because, without doing any significant search I can see coming up in the results, old spammy websites, using even "keyword stuffing", which should be very easy to detect by Google's state of the art spam filters.
So, if you are serious about becoming a travel affiliate, choose wisely, the keywords. There are only few long-tail keywords still worth to start a website.
Travel Affiliate Marketing Programs (yeah, I'm writing " Travel Affiliate Marketing Programs " just to have the keywords in the text - I obey Google's Seo rules.)
Lenin once said: "Quantity has a quality all its own"
Google likes Lenin.Oh yeah! Google loves Lenin.
1.Do whatever you like with your website, as long as you mastered the "science of not rising red flags on Google's spam filters".
2.If you link to thousands and thousands of crappy, no rank, no authority, no related websites, or parked domains you still can rank well for a high end keyword. In this particular case "cheap hotels", but only...only if you have an old established website, and you managed to get away with spamming for the last 10 years or so.
Don't try that now, with a new site, or with an old pristine site.
Google will punish you.
So...do you still want to make some cash with the Travel Affiliate Marketing Programs?
I double dare you!