Imagine me in the early 90s sitting in my student dorm in front of my new 486 PC. As usual, my modem connects with its jagged beeping and burble of static. The signal runs through the telephone line to a local mailbox over a server provided by some other nerds so that we can all communicate across different text-based boards.
In one of these boards, I read about this thing called the internet, and I started to connect to servers that are actually in a network. Imagine! Now you can visit any number of US servers without leaving your local landline! At that time the first internet browser appeared, we began using “domain names,” with a .com or .de at the end, linking to specific servers.
Even in those early days of the internet, I quickly realized: these domains are like properties. Once a domain was registered in your name, no one else could get it. The only problem? Domains were expensive! To register one domain per year costs roughly $200—a lot of money for a broke student in the 90s. Nevertheless, I started registering domains and, of course, Lubek.de was one of the first I snagged. Now I could create a nice little email address like firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stumbling Into an Unexpected Money-Making Opportunity
Nobody in Germany could seem to spell my last name correctly. They constantly confused it with the town of Lübeck. Therefore, I also registered Lubeck.de. A few days after setting up this first website, I looked at my statistics and realised that I had hundreds of visitors! My social circle wasn’t nearly this vast. Who could possibly be finding my little personal website?
Of course, they were tourists from outside of Germany who wanted to visit the website of the town Lübeck. My enterprising mind went to work and I kept thinking about what I could do with all these visitors landing on my webpage. Of course! Anyone planning a trip to Lubeck would need a hotel. Why not call a few hotels in the city of Lübeck and see if I could convince them to give me a commission for any clients I sent their way? To my surprise—they agreed!
This moment changed my life. Without knowing it, I had created my first affiliate marketing landing page. Overnight, I inadvertently became an affiliate marketing poster and inaugurated my journey into the world of online marketing. As time went on and I proceeded to register more domains, I quickly understood that I was hardly the only one doing this. There were even marketplaces where I could find all sorts of commission-based affiliate models and I could register a whole range of unclaimed domain names.
I quickly learned that common keywords make the best domains. Search engines at the time were actually pretty stupid. Domain names were the main indicator used by Google and Yahoo to rank for certain keywords. However, this made my websites much easier to optimize!
So you may be wondering—at this point, can affiliate marketing be a career? Is affiliate marketing dead? Fast-forward thirty years and affiliate marketing continue to be the bread and butter for many tech-inclined marketers willing to put in the hustle. Best of all, many content creators continue to discover new levels of financial freedom with influencer affiliate marketing.
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