Times have never been this good for affiliate marketers. In 2015, affiliate marketing represented 15% of revenue for the digital media industry. Some estimates put that figure nearing 20% in 2017.
In other words, affiliate programs have a solid place in the mainstream. Gone is the prevailing image of sketchy promotions and sales gimmicks.
Growth means change and increased competition. But if you pay attention to industry trends, affiliate marketing remains a solid small business venture.
Here are the trends to watch as you grow and strengthen your affiliate marketing business.
Publishing quality content has been a trend for the past few years. You might say it has become the minimum to get your site ranked. Yet, within the category of content, there are new trends to watch.
Video is the most critical. All quality content is accurate or defensible, engaging, and easy to absorb. Using video to attract users to affiliate links has increased because technology makes it easy to do. Also, search engines are giving more value to video in their page rankings.
Changes to SEO algorithms are also affecting content creation. Keyword stuffing is out. Semantic SEO is in.
Semantic SEO is a nickname for Google’s new approach to evaluating digital content. The search engine now looks at every word and sentence in context to others on the page and the rest of the site. The goal is to reward pages with a wealth of consistent information shared in natural language with higher rankings.
Quality content improves your search engine ranking. That, in turn, makes it easier for people to find you. Quality content also builds your credibility and improves the customer experience.
2. Influencer Marketing
Influencer marketing is the online version of word of mouth promotion. Anyone with a large digital audience is an influencer. People with small but loyal followers are also influencers to watch for.
The value of influencer marketing continues to grow. Affiliate marketers can use influencers to attract people to sites or social media with affiliate links. But there are two critical criteria when “recruiting” an influencer: authenticity and selectivity.
If it doesn’t ring true that an influencer uses or supports the product or service they “talk” about, audiences will turn away. Often, they won’t come back. The same is true if an influencer spreads themselves too thin. Their word becomes less influential.
But if you are thorough and take the necessary time to vet influencers, the potential benefits to you are great. You can gain more traffic, higher conversion rates, and exposure to a wider audience.
There are three main ways an influencer can have an impact on your business:
- They can write a blog post about you
- Share information about you on their social media accounts
- Let you write a guest post on their site
3. Discounts & Promotions
Saving money is always a strong motivator for consumers. Discounts and promotions aren’t new but the trend toward more tailored offers is.
Tools for affiliate marketing are maturing. Solution providers are working to add sophisticated features that affiliate marketers want.
One example is the ability to segment and target your audience based on their activity. You could then only show them offers tailored to their digital demographics. Targeted discounts or promotions can improve conversion rates and your return on investment.
A well-designed discount or promotion program can be an effective way to build core revenue. It can also help anyone new to affiliate marketing build an audience.
4. Cross-Device Tracking
The most game-changing trend to watch is cross-device tracking. Companies are seeing real and sustainable revenue growth from affiliate marketing. In response, the development of better behind-the-scenes mechanisms is booming.
For years, affiliate marketers weren’t able to track activity across devices. If a customer viewed your link on a desktop then later on a tablet, there was no way to connect the two. You couldn’t get a complete view of the customer’s behavior.
Solution providers are in hot competition to offer reliable, easy-to-use cross-device tracking. And with each improvement, the potential for profitable affiliate marketing grows.
5. Greater Acceptance
As mentioned at the top of this article, affiliate marketing is now in the mainstream. But there is more room for it to become further established, which is why it’s a trend to watch.
The stigma of affiliate marketing is all but gone. Consumers have more confidence in making online purchases through affiliates. Better still, some marketing professionals say that some consumers prefer to buy through an affiliate.
Wanting to give a trusted affiliate a slice of the pie instead of it all going to the source, isn’t unheard of. I have purchased through an affiliate link of someone I trust to repay them for the excellent information on their website. Before this type of action was reserved for the affiliate’s friends and family.
If loyalty does start shifting from the corporation to the “small guy”, that puts more pressure on affiliate marketers. The need for consistent quality, value, and community would grow.
At the same time, that could prompt companies to enhance affiliate rewards. This is a trend to keep an eye on over the next few years, to be sure!
6. Changing Definition of an Affiliate Marketer
This trend is unfolding within large companies and brands. Those with existing affiliate programs may have focused on accepting large affiliate marketers. But as consumer acceptance of affiliate marketing grows they are changing their definition of affiliate marketers.
Some affiliate programs have options for small and mid-sized affiliate marketers to participate. Among companies without an existing affiliate program, it’s not unheard of them to only cater to small and mid-sized affiliates.
You want to watch this trend because it could help you increase revenues and profit.
7. Value of Data You Generate
More companies with progressive marketing plans are seeking to understand their affiliate marketers. They want a clearer picture of each affiliates value. So, they’re investing in ways to capture better data such as conversion rates per device and repeat sales.
The goal, from a company’s perspective, is to reward their most valuable affiliate marketers. Those affiliates might not be the same as the ones who get the highest number of sales. But a company can only know that by analyzing complex data.
The data can also help them make better decisions about removing underperforming affiliates.
The reason to watch this trend is that it can affect your relationship with companies and brands. If a program’s payment structure changes, make sure you understand all metrics involved.
8. Tax Laws to Watch
E-commerce continues to present challenges to income and sales tax legislators everywhere. The trend toward tighter regulation of affiliate marketing is strong.
In the United States, tax nexus is a growing complication for online businesses. (Tax nexus is a fancy term for doing business in a tax jurisdiction other than your own.) It’s advisable for anyone who sells from or to the U.S. to watch changes to the remote seller nexus laws.
9. Disclosure Regulations
Another global issue involves disclosure regulations. The trend is toward stricter rules and more enforcement.
There are ongoing concerns about data security, privacy, and doing business with “acceptable parties”. As a result, you need to watch for new or modified regulations that apply to your business. Regulations can apply to both to the affiliate programs you use and who buys through your links.
Partnering can create strength in numbers. The trend is for one or more affiliate marketers to form an official alliance. The arrangement gives each affiliate access to a broader audience. It can also reinforce a reputation of bringing added value to their core audience.
Partners can belong to the same affiliate program or be affiliates for complementary products and services. Either way, the partnership remains at the affiliate level. It doesn’t involve the affiliate program owner.
Things to watch for before forming a partnership include:
- Clauses in your affiliate program contract that prevent partnerships
- Affiliates who aren’t willing to disclose data such as audience size, conversion rates, and range of affiliations
- Too much overlap in audience members
Note that a partnership is different from connecting with affiliates on Facebook and other platforms. A partnership is a more formal agreement to work together. It may be for a specified term but it usually has a long-range outlook.
11. International Programs
If you want to expand your affiliate marketing business, this trend is one to watch. International affiliate programs are on the rise.
The merging of global markets and acceptance of affiliate marketing is prompting more companies to create international affiliate programs. Sometimes, programs are for specific countries or regions. Most often, they are open to any affiliate and it’s the duty of the affiliate to ensure compliance with laws and regulations.
Participating in an international affiliate program requires careful consideration. There can be accounting and tax complications. It can also erode your focus.
But if you already have a sizable segment of your audience that is a good fit for the product or service, international programs can help your business grow.
Stronger and Stronger
It’s clear that affiliate marketing is playing an ever-stronger role in companies’ marketing plans.
You can benefit from this shift. Stay attuned to the industry and know which trends to watch — and which to follow. It takes work and time but that’s how you remain effective and profitable in an increasingly competitive industry.
And did you know you don’t have to be alone in your pursuit of greater satisfaction and results? Become a Wealthy Affiliate Member today!
You’ll stay connected to the world of affiliate marketing and have access to resources and opportunities tailored to affiliate marketers. Don’t delay. Basic memberships are free!