Is affiliate marketing dead in 2020? Not at all. But it’s true that affiliate marketing has significantly changed from what it used to be in the early 2010s.
Yet, the main principle of the affiliate marketing process remains the same: growing your traffic and converting as many people from this website traffic to purchasing customers. However, it’s now more challenging than ever to achieve that.
In this guide, we will discuss 5 of the most effective affiliate marketing strategies in 2020 to effectively build a sustainable affiliate business. Let us begin with the first one.
What Is Affiliate Marketing?
Affiliate marketing is when an owner of an online platform (a social media profile, website, blog, YouTube channel, etc.) can earn commission fees when they promote other businesses’ products and/or services on these platforms. The platform owner (or the affiliate) can search for any product that offers affiliate marketing opportunities, apply for the program, then promote that product.
When a sale is made, which is tracked via affiliate links, the affiliate will earn a commission.
How Affiliate Marketing Works?
Affiliate marketing essentially works by involving at least three different parties:
- The seller or product owner
- The affiliate (or affiliate marketer), the promotion platform owner
- The consumer/buyer
Let us discuss the three different parties one by one.
The Product Owner/Seller
The product owner is a product manufacturer/seller, distributor, or vendor with a product to sell. The product can be physical in nature (i.e. a cosmetic product) or service (a makeup tutorial). In an affiliate marketing process, the seller/product owner typically is not involved directly in the marketing process. In some cases, they may be active with advertising.
The Affiliate Marketer
Also known as the platform owner or ad publisher, the affiliate’s role in the affiliate marketing process is to promote the product and convince the visitors of their platform to purchase the product. The affiliate marketer will only receive the commission fee when a product is sold (which is tracked via affiliate links).
Typically, the affiliate marketer has a specific audience that belongs to a specific niche and has certain interests. In this case, the affiliate marketer promotes a highly targeted product that adheres to this audience’s specific interests.
Many affiliate marketers promote multiple products simultaneously. There are numerous affiliate marketing tools that can be used to make a multi-product promotion strategy manageable.
The consumer here is the audience of the affiliate marketer’s platform, and arguably the most important driver of the affiliate marketing process. As mentioned above, the affiliate marketer shares a product on their platform to cater to the consumer’s specific interest.
When a consumer purchases a product, most of the money will go to the product owner/seller. A percentage of the profits will go to the affiliate marketer.
Top Affiliate Marketing Strategies in 2020
1. Find a Micro-Niche and Build Your Rapport
For years, the typical process for successful affiliate marketing is to find a niche, develop your expertise (and influence) within this niche, and regularly publish content while also promoting the affiliate products.
However, with the very saturated world in 2020 and onwards, it’s getting extremely hard to find a niche where you can easily build your influence. Competition is though in virtually every niche and topic. You might compete with tens of blogs, influencers, and YouTube channels even with the most non-competitive niche.
So, what’s the solution to this issue? Narrow down the niche even more and find a very, very specific subtopic: the micro-niche. It doesn’t stop there. Focus on effort and build your rapport in this micro-niche for at least a year.
With a micro-niche (due to its very narrow nature), the traffic potential is generally smaller than your usual niche, but at the same time, the amount of time required to monetize the micro-niche might be smaller. Also, building your rapport in a micro-niche will usually require a smaller amount of resources, so it’s less risky.
Once you’ve got an established micro-niche with stable monetization, you can then move on and test another micro-niche, and so on.
2. Focus on Building One Established Traffic Source
One of the most important aspects of successful affiliate marketing is to make sure you can generate a steady (or even better, growing) amount of traffic to your platform. This is also often the most challenging aspect of being an affiliate.
There are certainly a lot of different options you can use to generate traffic to any platform. For instance, if your main platform is your website/blog, then growing your organic traffic with SEO, ideally through small business SEO packages, is one of the most effective sources of traffic. However, there are also channels like influencer marketing, social media marketing (paid/organic), and Google Ads, among others.
It’s very easy to get tempted to spread your investments in all these channels at once, and it can easily overwhelm any beginners. Thus, it’s generally better to focus on one effective source, make it work, and scale it up little by little. After this one traffic source is properly established—and growing—, then you can try and experiment with other sources.
If you are currently just starting out as an affiliate marketer, it’s best not to try too many things too fast. It can easily overwhelm you and can potentially decrease the effectiveness of the traffic source.
Also, if you currently work on a tight budget, it’s perfectly okay to focus on organic/free sources like SEO. While it might take time and effort, it’s going to be worth it in the long run.
3. Know Your Audience and Aim To Provide Value
The core objective of the affiliate marketing process is to attract a loyal audience and engage with them. So, your job as an affiliate is to provide value to this target audience and to improve your platform(s) according to your audience’s interests, behaviors, and pain points.
Capture your audience’s attention by providing appealing design and by optimizing the UX (User Experience) factors on your site. For example, by ensuring mobile-responsiveness and page load speed. Improving the UX aspect of your site, or any platform, can significantly improve conversion rates.
With that being said, if your platform caters to what’s really important to the audience, you can effectively grow your sales conversion and revenue. This is especially true if you are selling time-sensitive products. For example, products that are typically sold during the holiday season. In such cases, you’d want to build a specific campaign that starts in August, for example.
So, aim to really understand your target audience’s behaviors, their needs, and what kinds of products they are going to be interested in. Build your affiliate efforts around this.
4. Build Authenticity: Know Your Affiliate Products
As we have mentioned, every niche is very competitive nowadays. Being a unique and authentic affiliate marketer is extremely important to get your voice heard amidst all the noise.
With that being said, keep in mind that there are a lot of different products and services that offer affiliate marketing opportunities, and you have all the ability to choose the products you actually believe in and use. So, build your reputation as an affiliate—influencer— that promotes truly valuable products according to your audience’s interests.
Use the product yourself whenever possible, so you know what you are actually promoting. When you do review the product, you are going to be able to point out authentic, unbiased pros and cons of the product.
In this day and age where social media interactions are the norm, expect your audience to ask questions related to the product via social media. If you don’t answer these questions (or worse, provide a wrong answer), it can significantly hurt your credibility.
Consistently publish unbiased, authentic content about the affiliate products. This is how you can build your credibility and a loyal audience.
5. Use A Multi-Channel Approach To Build Your Presence
As we’ve repeatedly established, affiliate marketing is now more saturated and competitive than ever. Also, how we can build our online presence and authority has significantly evolved in the past half-decade or so.
In 2020 and onwards, it’s especially important for affiliate marketers to start positioning themselves an all-in-one influencer or content creator, instead of a as a blogger or social media influencer.
Gone are the days of writing 2,000-word review roundup posts discussing products you’ve never really used. Instead, as we have discussed, affiliate marketing today is about consistently publishing authentic content in as many different platforms as possible.
Video marketing (via YouTube or Instagram videos/IGTV) is no longer a luxury, but a necessity for any affiliate marketer. No, it doesn’t always have to be a professionally made video recorded with expensive high-end cameras. What’s important is that the content is authentic. Also, build your presence in as many relevant social media networks as possible.
Affiliate marketing is still a viable opportunity to make money online and can be a valuable source of online income.
With that being said, starting and growing an affiliate marketing business in 2020 can be a challenging process, and you’ll need to follow digital marketing trends to grow your audience, attract them with your affiliate promotions, and convert them.
The five tips we have shared above can be a good start to achieving better results in your affiliate marketing in 2020 and beyond.
This is a guest post from Mike Khorev, an SEO expert and digital marketing consultant who helps small and mid-size businesses generate more leads, sales and grow revenue online. He offers expert advice on marketing your company the right way through performance-based SEO digital marketing, web design, social media, search engine marketing and many other online practices. Find him on LinkedIn and Twitter.