Travel Affiliate Marketing Programs - Dead as a Doornail

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
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
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, 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,, 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 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:,, (meaning only Expedia.Inc) and from and (meaning Priceline).

Travel Affiliate Marketing Programs - New York Hotels

Travel Affiliate Marketing Programs - New York Hotels

(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 made a full recovery!
Moreover, there was a Google Serps major update in December 2012.
His sites were "update proof".

So after all the fuss with Panda, Pinguin and I don't know what "Polar Bear" update, Google proved absolutely nothing.
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.

At least I learned 2 very sad Seo lessons, straight from Google.
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. you still want to make some cash with the Travel Affiliate Marketing Programs?
I double dare you!

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  1. Baconia says:

    That pretty well sums it up. And it's not just affiliate sites that lose out; other smaller travel sites, often good sites with local knowledge and specialist services, have now been largely pushed out to the oblivion of search results pages beyond page 4 , where nobody ever sees them, way behind hundreds of results from Priceline or Expedia or their various disguises. This is killing the level playing field of internet search - if it ever existed. Perhaps it was a dream of the Internet pioneers to imagine that they could create a space where sharks and minnows could coexist side by side, and get an equal vote. Or was it just that in the early years the Internet aquarium was a shark-free zone? The sharks got their nose in the trough when google stopped its proclaimed policy of not providing more than two results from the same site within the top few pages of its results.. Now why on earth, I wonder, did they do that ?

  2. Pradeep says:

    I had been an affiliate with since at least Year 2001 and at the time I was simply URL forwarding my two dozen or so travel related domains to the link they provided to me (with CID, etc). This was going well and I was generally quite surprised to be getting a $100 cheque every month. I had no idea which of my domains people had booked through and I didn't actually care as this money was helpful for me to pay my annual renewal fees. Then, all of a sudden my cheques stopped a couple of years ago. I saw that Expedia had bought IAN and renamed it EAN. I figured things should be the same but they weren't. is still coming up as before, but I'm not being paid for my referrals. After much back and forth with EAN's support, I was dismayed to learn the new EAN only sells hotel space which is of no interest to me as I like the full service that offered.

    I'm not interested in setting up my white page website and inserting code from this place and another place, etc. I *really* liked the way it was before with simple URL forwarding of the link they provided. I haven't found anything even close to how was setup (w/ URL forwarding). Do you have any ideas or suggestions on alternative affiliate programs? I checked into Access Expedia but again they only work if you have your own site. It is all very frustrating now for sure.

    I have domains such as "SaveOnFare".com" or "" but nowhere to point them to. :(

  3. Tom says:

    I love travel and own an SEO business so think this could be made to work. You make a good point about sites like Expedia rankings for every term under the sun, which makes SEO difficult but not impossible. Like the guy above said if you have a few travel domains lying round (and I do) the best thing is to probably choose a niche that is holiday or travel related but not actually related to hotels/fights themselves. So maybe what to pack / Top 10 lists and stuff like that, this means it will be easier to rank for those terms as they are less competitive but still can be very profitable.

  4. Hote Liums says:

    Yes. I agree. Being a travel affiliate is not what it used to be. Expedia and the such had taken over every result in the Serps, related to hotel bookings and travel in general.
    Hote Liums recently posted...Hotelium City Dubai Hotels ComparisonMy Profile

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