first off, show visitors that you have a great site by getting a better theme! You did not get a penalty because of affiliate content, nor have I ever heard of, however, I have heard of sites in the past getting penalty for having do follow links to affiliate programs such as amazon, remember, google does not like you giving credit to a site in exchange for receiving paid compensation, so ask yourself, are your external links nofollow? this may also include any buttons/graphics that link to affiliate sites that do not have a no follow attribute, not going to go to much into this, so I am going to assume your content is ok, if it is, then you need to check your link portfolio; maybe you have too many low quality links and/or you may have over-optimized anchor/text in your link building efforts; bad links, over optimization are common link issues that could cause your site to get a penalty, as it is not about what you are writing about, if all else fails, then hire seo consultant for an entire site autdit, they will go through your site tooth and nail, and see why you have lost your rankings. good luck.
Building trust with your audience is paramount in affiliate marketing, and the quickest way to lose trust is to recommend products either you haven’t used before or that aren’t a good fit for your audience. Also make sure you never tell anyone to directly buy a product, you are simply recommending the product. The more helpful you are and the more you make quality recommendations, the more likely your web visitors will come back for your expertise.
Affiliate marketing can be a big source of revenue. The key to maximizing your affiliate earnings is to provide additional value and to engage your readers. Unlike traditional ads where you are paid for impressions or clicks, affiliates are only paid if or when a specific action is performed. The action might be something as simple as signing up for a newsletter to submitting their zip code information up to having a sale completed. Regardless, you are not paid until you've compelled your readers to take some type of action.
Affiliate marketing has contributed to the rise of many leading online companies. Amazon.com, one of the first significant adopters, now has hundreds of thousands of affiliate relationships. It is not uncommon to see industries where the major players have affiliate programs–often structured in a similar manner and making similar competitive changes over time.
When promoting affiliate offers, just make sure you are fully aware of all the terms and conditions attached to your affiliate program. Some programs can be strict about how they allow you to promote their products. For example, some may limit you to banner ads and links only, while others will allow you to use paid advertising, but won't allow email marketing.
Cost per click was more common in the early days of affiliate marketing but has diminished in use over time due to click fraud issues very similar to the click fraud issues modern search engines are facing today. Contextual advertising programs are not considered in the statistic pertaining to the diminished use of cost per click, as it is uncertain if contextual advertising can be considered affiliate marketing.