Reader Revenue
8 mins read

The key 2021 trends in affiliate marketing that publishers need to know

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As a turbulent year comes to a close, and 2021 begins in earnest, it’s an appropriate time to reflect on those revenue strategies that have proven robust for publishers. One of these is affiliate marketing, a sector that boomed in 2020 along with its eCommerce namesake.

For this article we have consulted a mixed group of experts with different angles and backgrounds from within the affiliate industry to share their opinions on what 2021 might have in store, focusing on:

  1. Which new revenue strategy can become trending in 2021?
  2. How can publishers increase their affiliate traffic in 2021?
  3. How can content publishers get started with affiliate marketing? 

Andrea Anez —

Andrea is the Strategic Partnerships Director for Impact working with brands and partners to provide platform level insight and drive partnership innovation. Andrea and her team engage with a wide range of partners including traditional affiliates, media houses, and influencers to provide the automation, data, and tech they require to strengthen their positions in the ‘partnership economy’.

1. Which new revenue strategy can become trending in 2021?

2021 represents the ideal time to invest in partnerships, specifically in content commerce. The so-called “death” of the third party cookie, paired with declining CPMs, has accelerated a trend for publishers to diversify revenue streams. The key to generating revenue through partnerships is ensuring there’s a brand fit that adds to the consumer experience. It’s not about selling ad space, it’s about providing your users with useful information at the right point in time.

2. How can publishers increase their traffic in 2021?

2020 has seen the continued rise of influencer marketing. Spend increases and consumers become more willing to accept #ad content. Don’t be drawn by the high profile, high price tag, mega influencers. There are tens of thousands of micro-influencers filling different niches where their expertise is valued. They’re not limited to Insta or Tiktok, but spread across half a dozen different platforms and they could be working to send traffic your way, no matter what your proposition is.

3. How should content publishers get started with affiliate marketing?

Getting started is simple, think about the type of content where you have expertise and that your audience engages with the most and then consider the products and services that are most relevant to that audience. The critical component is that these brands are relevant and pertinent to the content you’re writing, otherwise, you will quickly alienate your audience.

The starting point may often be a CPA (cost per action) where you are paid for the sales that are driven by your article or post. Make sure you understand the attribution rules of the programme you are working with; do they pay for all sales, only ones where you are the last click before purchase, do they pay more for new customer sales or high order value sales? There are several factors and commercial variations that you’ll need to consider in order to forecast your expected revenue. Also bear in mind, however, that evergreen content can continue to generate sales months or even years after it’s written and you can continue to earn commission for these sales. Striking a balance between evergreen content, and content that capitalizes on a specific event or trend is crucial to optimizing revenue streams.

Sirio Küpper —

CEO and Co-Founder of affiliate publisher tracking software We Can Track a conversion attribution system that integrates conversion data in Google Analytics, Google Ads, Facebook Pixel & Ads, Microsoft Ads, Data Studio, Zapier and more.

1. Which new revenue strategy might be trending in 2021?

Having a full overview of the conversion performance on traffic source, campaign, keyword, content and/or page level is increasingly important. Advanced publishers leverage these insights to create paid advertisement campaigns that are extremely profitable, due to the use of cheap, long-tail traffic acquired with Google Ads and Microsoft Ads.

The relevancy of proper retargeting is becoming more apparent. Just like advertisers, affiliate publishers will start to build specific audiences and retarget them with relevant or even personalised ads to get them to re-engage with their content and finally convert by doing the purchase.

2. How can publishers increase their traffic in 2021?

While there are new trending traffic channels like Youtube, Instagram and push notifications, the “old school” channels (Google, Bing, Facebook, Native Ads) are still of high relevance.

So to all publishers who do not already make use of paid ads platforms I strongly recommend to get started on that. With proper conversion tracking, it is very simple to set up low-cost campaigns that drive a lot of traffic that at least breaks even and has the chance to bring new long term customers and subscribers on board, or even generates profits that allow the publisher to further experiment with new campaign angles.

One new trend that converts well and seems to be replacing some email campaigns is push notifications. By letting visitors subscribe to a push notification list, it is easy to update visitors on hot offers and discounts. This will not only help to get the users re-engage with the publisher’s content but the likelihood of it converting is quite high. One publisher in particular said that this is more than 400% more effective than email marketing, with less time spent to create a campaign.

Sjoerd Copier —

CEO of international affiliate publisher – Deal Community Saleduck which is based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and operates in 13 countries.

1. Which new revenue strategy can become trending in 2021?

In order to produce effective results for brands on online marketplaces, we have seen an increase in co-branded campaigns by marketplace and affiliate partners. This strong collaboration with marketplaces to drive co-branding campaigns is significantly important and we foresee this trend continuing into 2021.

In the recent Singles Day Sales, Saleduck has worked closely with Lazada and Shopee to promote co-branded credit card discount codes as promotions and also to promote certain key brands on the Malaysia webshop pages and blog. As noted in our latest 11.11 sales study, shoppers are not only looking for 11.11 sales discounts but also specific brand discounts codes to apply on the market places.

It is becoming increasingly evident to us that there are higher incentives awarded to partners that are able to produce branded content and push these key brands on multiple platforms.

2. How can publishers increase their traffic in 2021?

As more clicks are taken away from publishers, we see CTRs decline while paid and SERP features are increasing, keeping the user on Google instead of being redirected to the publisher. The need to get traffic outside of the main search engines is getting bigger each year. Building your own user base internally (Sign Ups’, Email, Push notifications, APP or browser extensions downloads) and on social media is more important than ever before.

3. How should content publishers get started with affiliate marketing?

As a content publisher, start by understanding your readers, what is their intent and what can you offer them. Build out a niche for your readers and provide them with relevant information.

Contact the network and ask them for help. They often have success managers that can help you promote the right program’s and build a relationship with the brand. Get to know local affiliate networks as well. More often they would have built relationships with local brands and are able to respond to you quickly.

Jesse Lakes —

Jesse Lakes is the founder of Geniuslink, a company that empowers frustrated Creators to solve some of their biggest monetization challenges through smarter links. Jesse is a 20 year veteran of Amazon Associates, was the global program manager for one of the world’s biggest affiliate programs.

1. Which new revenue strategy can become trending in 2021?

We believe that a “Multi Retailer” affiliate strategy will become more popular in the coming year. 

What is the “Multi Retailer” affiliate strategy?  It’s when publishers recommend a product using multiple affiliate links to retailers that sell the same product.  You can often find this on popular retailers like CNET (example), Digital Trends (example), and the Wirecutter (example). We are seeing it adopted more across smaller sites and blogs and across social media.   

Why? It seems that affiliate publishers are getting concerned about only using Amazon’s affiliate program, especially after the commission cuts in April of this year, so are working on diversifying their affiliate revenue streams. We are also seeing that the additional buying options can actually help increase conversions and commissions due to shoppers doing a little work to compare prices between the options.

2. How can publishers increase their traffic in 2021?

I think the optimization we’ll see more of in 2021 is less about getting more traffic and more about publishers being smart about the traffic they already have.

At Geniuslink we regularly see publishers both large and small who have 20-50% of their site traffic coming in internationally, often from other English speaking countries, and them not doing anything to monetize this sizable opportunity already in front of them. 

Google Analytics is the best way to check your site’s traffic but SimilarWeb can also help in a pinch to see if you are leaving affiliate commission on the table by ignoring your foreign visitors. 

3. How should content publishers get started with affiliate marketing? 

Love or hate Amazon’s affiliate program, over the last 20+ years they’ve done an amazing job building an affiliate program that is easy to learn and converts well.  While I recommend diversifying, I strongly encourage entrepreneurs to first start with Amazon’s affiliate program. 

Shane Barker —

A digital marketing consultant who specializes in influencer marketing, product launches, sales funnels, targeted traffic, and website conversions. He has consulted with Fortune 500 companies, influencers with digital products, and a number of A-List celebrities.

1. Which new revenue strategy can become trending in 2021?

Affiliate marketing pivots around trust; so does influencer marketing. That’s why I feel hiring niche influencers as affiliates will be a smart move for 2021.

Influencer-led traffic has high buying potential since they trust their influencers’ recommendations. They tend to convert faster and stay loyal to your brand longer than the leads you attract through other affiliate-based strategies.

Most influencers promote brands they believe in personally. If you partner with influencers who are already fans of your products, you might not have to pay them massive commissions to generate leads/sales. Free products or exclusive discounts might be sufficient to seal the deal with them.”

2. How can publishers increase their traffic in 2021?

The best way to drive more traffic in 2021 is by thinking out-of-the-box. Plain text posts and static, user-generated images don’t get traction anymore. To grab more eyeballs, you can create engaging videos around the products you’re promoting. Videos are shared the most on social media – a factor that impacts your search rankings in a big way.

But if you want a host platform to rank your video organically, ensure the videos are optimized for the platform and audience. If you don’t have the requisite skills, use professional social video makers.

Also, don’t undermine the power of organic traffic from Google and social media. There is no harm tapping into these “free” traffic sources by fine-tuning your SEO and social media marketing.

3. How should content publishers get started with affiliate marketing?

You need to have a solid strategy in place. Let me break it down:

  • Decide on your platform (blog, social media, website, etc.)
  • Identify your niche.
  • Search for affiliate programs to join (use Google queries or affiliate marketing tools).
  • Create promotional content.
  • Drive traffic to your content (through Google Ads, emails, social posts, etc.)
  • Convert traffic to sales (place links strategically and use call-outs to draw attention).

To maximize your revenue, stay abreast of the latest methods of affiliate marketing. Also, track your performance closely and use your credentials to enrich your portfolio.