Affiliate marketing is an ever-changing landscape. In this article, I’ll discuss some of the most common pitfalls to avoid as well as trends to keep an eye out for. Let’s dive in!
The Current State of Affiliate Marketing
Before we get into the trends and pitfalls, let’s examine the current state of affiliate marketing by painting a picture with several important statistics.
Affiliate marketing has been growing at a steady 10% year by year since 2015 (Source: Business Insider). It’s always nice to see industry-wide growth, no matter what you do.
This doesn’t mean affiliate marketing is getting easier because more money is in it. The opposite is true. Affiliate marketing is getting harder because the best marketers are improving.
And because affiliate marketing is so scalable, everyone who wants a piece of the pie needs to step up their game.
The significant US and Global Spend
Affiliate marketing spend was worth $12 billion globally back in 2017, presumably much more now (Source: IAB). Seeing a high global spend means that affiliate marketing is truly global.
No matter where you’re from or what language you’re creating content in, you can and should take advantage of affiliate marketing.
We’re all humans, and our online spending habits are very similar no matter what part of the world we come from. Affiliate marketing spend in the US alone is projected to reach $8.2 billion by 2022. (Source: Statista)
This graph illustrates that the United States companies are the locomotive of the affiliate marketing train. This fact comes as a surprise to no one. Luckily, US companies are happy to spend their affiliate marketing budgets in the US and abroad.
Enhanced by Email Marketing
In 2016, affiliate marketing was going shoulder to shoulder with email to drive e-commerce orders. It’s presumed to have overtaken email by the end of 2017. Affiliate and email marketing aren’t in collision with each other.
In fact, they work best in tandem. I’m including this stat only to illustrate how affiliate marketing has overtaken a juggernaut in the marketing world that is email marketing. Employ both for best results.
Shoppers Still Seek Out Reviews
74% of US shoppers admit to visiting two or three non-retail websites before completing the purchase. 16% say they visit four or more websites (Source: Rakuten and Forrester data). In other words, people research the products before buying.
This inevitably takes them to websites that contain affiliate links. The fact that most people visit two or three websites before buying a product represents a huge opportunity.
It means that they’re searching for content they deem trustworthy. Build trust with the audience within your niche by providing value through high-quality content (and lots of it), and you will do well.
Marketers Like Affiliate Marketing
Over 81% of marketers and over 84% of publishers leverage affiliate marketing. Such high adoption rates of affiliate marketing by marketers and publishers means that affiliate marketing is here to stay. Affiliate marketing has become a valuable tool in every digital marketer’s toolbox.
Affiliate programs generate 15-30% of all sales for advertisers. I predict that this percentage is only going to get higher from here. What affiliate programs do for companies is allow them to allocate money that they would otherwise have to spend on marketing efforts and give it out as a commission.
Having affiliates means having a marketing team that you don’t have to employ, and you only pay when sales are made. It’s a win-win for both parties involved. Affiliate partnerships account for over 20% of the annual revenue for publishers (Source: Inc.com).
16% of all online orders are generated through affiliate marketing. This proves that people indeed click on affiliate links. To improve the odds of someone clicking on your affiliate link, you must provide them upfront value.
Being obsessed with helping your audience to connect with the right solution to their problem is vital. Succeed at this, and people will gladly purchase products through your affiliate links.
76% of publishers like affiliate marketing and think it makes monetizing their website easy (Source: Viglink). A lot of successful marketers like their website monetization to be in thirds.
This means that 1/3 of the revenue comes from affiliate marketing, 1/3 from ads, and 1/3 from selling their own products. This means they’re tapping into all three sources of revenue, but they aren’t overly dependent on either.
Search Volume for “Affiliate Marketing” is Rising
“Affiliate Marketing” Google searches have been rising year after year. Take a look at this 5-year graph:
There’s been a steady increase in people searching for “affiliate marketing” in the past few years. People are interested to find out what affiliate marketing is and how it can benefit them more and more.
If you’re one of the people who are just getting familiar with affiliate marketing, don’t fall for the first guru that offers you a course or a master class.
Affiliate Marketing Pitfalls to Avoid
There are two types of pitfalls on this list. There are pitfalls beginner affiliate marketers are just not aware of altogether and there are pitfalls marketers don’t realize the severity of. And all of them have one thing in common – they are the silent killers of the long-term prosperity of any affiliate marketing business.
Ignoring the Importance of Brand
According to WordPress.com, over 66 million blog posts were published in September of 2019 on their platform alone. That’s an insane amount of content. How do you make your voice heard in all that noise? Create a brand. Start putting your name and face behind your content. Work on bonding with your audience and gain their trust by constantly bombarding them with value. Branding always worked the best, and it will always work the best. Period.
Not creating relevant content
The days of generic content are outnumbered. Not only are small content creators unable to compete with the big sites for generic keywords, but these generic keywords are also irrelevant.
For example, creating a fitness article called “Fitness Advice” will take you on a collision course with sites like Self.com, Health.com, Fitnessmagazine.com, etc.
Not only that, but an article like “Fitness Advice” is so generic that it, in turn, becomes almost irrelevant. Your content needs to resonate with the members of your audience.
There’s no better way of doing that than creating relevant content for various segments of your audience. For example, create an article called “Fitness advice for busy 30-year-old moms of two in San Francisco.”
Make that segment of your audience go, “OMG, I’m a busy mom of two in San Francisco! How does she know?! This is perfect!”
Voila, you just ranked on Google for that long-tail keyword and won the hearts and minds of the busy 30-year-old moms of two in San Francisco. Much better than reaching zero people with a generic “Fitness Advice” article.
Not optimizing content for mobile
While I still love my desktop computer and use it daily, it’s time to let it go as the dominant platform people use to browse the internet. The time of mobile is now. Suppose your website isn’t optimized for mobile users.
In that case, you’re not only losing a big chunk of business, but you’ll also get penalized by Google in the search results. Sally bouncing off your website after realizing it looks broken on her phone is telling Google she’s not having a good time on your site.
And Sally not having a good time on a site recommended by Google makes Google look bad. To avoid looking bad, Google will stop recommending your site to Sally and start recommending a site where she’ll have a better experience. It’s only natural.
Voice is coming (back?)
Ever heard of these three lovely ladies called Alexa, Siri, and Cortana? You’re about to hear a lot more from them. Voice technology is rapidly advancing. The times of Siri being unable to answer even the most superficial inquiries are over.
Gary Vaynerchuk, who has an incredible track record of realizing where users’ attention is heading, swears by voice technology and its role in revolutionizing consumer behavior. To quickly illustrate, Gary’s first three angel round investments were in Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. But that’s beside the point.
The main take from this is that voice is making a big comeback through AI technology and podcasts. To go even further, many users only consume YouTube videos through audio. I do this every day. How about you?
Relying on a single monetization model
I’ve briefly touched on this earlier in the article. Always have multiple avenues of content monetization. It’s not unheard of for people to lose their livelihood overnight in this business.
For example, if your one and only monetization model is having Amazon links on your website, having your Amazon Associates account terminated would be terrible. This can happen for various reasons.
Sometimes as small as unintentionally using copyrighted images you don’t have permission to use. Selling a digital product of your own and partnering with one of the premium ad agencies, for example, would go a long way in weathering that storm.
Cutting corners and taking shortcuts
The short-term benefits of cutting corners are not worth the long-term vulnerabilities that come with it. For example, trying various methods to game Google search results can make your content more visible. But it leaves you vulnerable to Google updates that will inevitably fix whatever people are abusing.
I’ve seen sites lose 90+ percent of their traffic literally overnight. Having a rock-solid approach to SEO and a commitment to earning your traffic through merit will shield you from future changes in the Google algorithm.
Of course, it’s essential to keep an eye out for guidelines that Google themselves issue from time to time on what their algorithm pays attention to and slightly modify your approach accordingly.
Don’t necessarily pander to the algorithm and create content only for the algorithm. That’s neither fun nor helpful to your audience, which should be your North Star.
Rock-Solid Trends to Keep an Eye Out For
All of these trends are already here and will only get more important as the time passes. You’d do well to jump aboard before they become industry standard. By that point, you will not only miss out but your affiliate marketing business will become obsolete.
Text Message Marketing
Texts have been sacred and off-limits to marketers in the past. This is starting to change. It looks like consumers are more and more open to the idea of getting ads through text messages.
This is going to be huge for marketers. Open rates of text message ads are going to be through the roof. Everyone pays attention when a text message arrives on their phone, just like when an email arrived in their inbox 20 years ago.
There already are services like Community that allow for direct conversations with the members of your “text list” at scale via text. Community is still in testing phases, but sooner or later, services like that will be available for purchase to anyone wanting to use them.
How will that affect affiliate marketing? Profoundly. It will add a new way of connecting with your audience that feels very personal and exclusive. People will inevitably become desensitized to this feeling. Still, until they do, text-based marketing will work towards building trust with your audience like no other.
Unlike marketing through texts, marketing through push notifications has been here for a while now. But it’s getting more popular now. Have you noticed more and more apps and websites asking for permission to send you push notifications?
The reason why is simple. It’s a gateway to your attention. Consumers still pay a lot of attention to notifications on their mobile phones and internet browsers. How does this impact affiliate marketing?
Just like texts, push notifications help grab the attention of your audience. When you have your audience’s attention, you can start building deeper connections by providing value and being of service to them. Providing value leads to trust, and trust leads to sales.
Information is becoming a commodity. There’s so much of it. You’ll get bombarded with information when you search for anything on the internet. It’s no longer enough to just put out content.
Everyone and their grandma are doing that. The content has to provide value and connect the audience with solutions to their problems. Remember, if you aren’t of service to your audience, they’ll find someone who will. And that someone will get their attention and their business.
Writers figured this one out a long time ago. The audience likes characters that are good at something. It’s no different in real life – people like experts. Being a thought leader within your niche works for you in more ways than one.
Not only are you able to gain the trust of your audience more easily, but you can also make that trust the foundation of your brand. And brand trumps all. Another convenient benefit of being a thought leader within your niche is that your peers link to your content, making it reach even more people.
Quality AND Quantity
Quality and quantity should be viewed as mutually exclusive. Quality and quantity can and should work in tandem. Gary Vaynerchuk said it the best – quantity leads to quality.
In other words, creating a lot of content inevitably leads to better content. How? By creating more, you simply become better at creating. You also get more audience feedback, enabling you to create more relevant content.
Another inherent benefit of valuing quantity is the freedom that comes with it. Set yourself free of the shackles of trying to create perfect one-size-fits-all content. Instead, try putting relevance first.
There’s no decline in affiliate marketing spend anywhere on the globe. Marketers and publishers employing the best affiliate marketing practices will continue to reap the benefits. However, consumer behavior is changing, and new trends are emerging. Keeping an eye out for trends and avoiding the pitfalls goes a long way to making your business profitable sooner.