Affiliate marketing in 2020 and onwards isn’t what it used to be during the 2010s, and has significantly evolved in the past couple of years or so.
However, the fact remains that gaining the right audience and adopting the right strategy to grow your traffic remain the keys to success. However, they are getting more challenging than ever.
With that being said, although affiliate marketing is still a (very) viable source of income in 2020, many beginners struggle on where they should start. This is why in this guide, we will discuss seven actionable tips on how you can start and improve a successful affiliate marketing business in 2020 and onwards.
Brief Discussion of Affiliate Marketing Concept
What actually is affiliate marketing? In a nutshell, affiliate marketing is how the owner of a platform—a website, blog, YouTube channel, Instagram account, etc— can earn a commission by promoting other companies’ (or people’s ) products/services on their platform.
In general, there are two key parties involved in an affiliate marketing activity: the product owner/the merchant, and the affiliate marketer. Some might include the network/platform and the consumer in the equation, but the former two are always the most important.
Product owner: known as the merchant, seller, brand, retailer, or any other similar terms, is the party that creates and/or sell the product. It can be a huge company who manufactures and sell its products (think Apple), a marketplace like Amazon (one of the biggest affiliate marketing vendors), or even individuals. Anyone who owns a product they can sell can be an affiliate merchant.
Affiliate marketer: also known as the affiliate publisher or just publisher, this is most probably you. An affiliate marketer can be a single individual or a company, and the main prerequisite of becoming an affiliate marketer is to have a platform with a considerable number of audiences to promote the affiliate product.
Affiliate Marketing Tips
1. Establish Your Traffic Source, One by One
One of the most important things in affiliate marketing is to make sure you can generate a healthy (and growing) amount of traffic to your platform. On the other hand, this can also be the biggest challenge in the whole email marketing effort.
The thing is, there are various channels you can use to generate traffic to your platform. If your main platform is a blog, for example, you can grow your organic traffic with SEO overtime, try Google Ads, social media ads, influencer marketing, and other channels. Thus, it’s very easy to get tempted to spreading your investments in these channels.
However, this can easily overwhelm any affiliate marketers, and quite often will decrease the effectiveness of each channel instead. Using more channels—in most cases—will equal more work and more monitoring, so it’s generally better to start with one effective source, get it to work for you, scale it up, then only after it’s properly established, you can try other traffic sources.
Don’t try to do too much, too fast, especially if you are just starting out as an affiliate marketer. Also, if you don’t have too much money to invest in paid channels (advertising), this might mean you should focus on an organic/free traffic source. It takes time and effort to build organic traffic, but it’s definitely possible and worth it.
2. Find a Micro-niche and Focus on It
It’s no secret that finding a niche that works for you is one of, if not the most important aspect of successful affiliate marketing in years. Throughout the 2010s, probably the most common tip in affiliate marketing is to pick a niche, develop your expertise, and regularly publish content in the niche to build credibility and authority.
In 2020 as the digital marketing world has really matured, however, it’s getting harder to find a niche you can easily compete in: you might compete with tens of blogs, and there are also YouTube channels and various Instagram influencers that might be in the same niche as yours.
In short, it’s never been more competitive, for any niche.
So, what can we do about it? Narrow down your niche and find a micro-niche—a very, very specific topic— you can work in, and focus on it at least for a year. With a micro-niche, due to its specificness, you generally have a smaller traffic ceiling, but you can generate money in a fairly shorter time.
Once a micro-niche is established, you can then attempt to test another micro-niche, and repeat. Also, building authority on a micro-niche typically will require fewer resources (financial or otherwise), so it will involve less risk.
3. Utilize Various Channels To Build Your Presence and Credibility
As we’ve discussed in the second point above, affiliate marketing for any niche is more competitive than ever.
So, in 2020, it’s very important for affiliate marketers to start positioning themselves not only as bloggers (or solely as affiliate marketers) but as influencers and content creators instead.
The common practice of affiliate marketing in the 2010s is to write 2,000 words long review post covering products you’ve never really touched (admit it), but those days are long gone. Nowadays, affiliate marketing is about creating authentic content, preferably in as many (viable) channels as possible.
Video marketing, whether through YouTube or embedding videos in your own platforms, is now a necessity in affiliate marketing. Utilize various social media platforms that are relevant for your niche, and build your presence there.
In short, think multi-channel, and build your credibility in each.
4. Product Reviews are Still King
Although we’ve mentioned how simply posting review round-ups in a blog post is no longer effective in 2020, it’s not saying product reviews are no longer important.
In fact, with today’s customers relying on online reviews and peer recommendations in making any purchase decision nowadays, leveraging product reviews are still the core aspect of affiliate marketing.
The question then is not whether we should do it, but how should we do product reviews to encourage our audience to buy.
Authenticity, as established in the previous point, is very important nowadays, as more people are now becoming internet-savvy and content-savvy—they can easily detect fake, biased reviews from miles away—. Make sure your reviews are detailed and insightful, and even when you include affiliate links, make sure the reviews are unbiased.
What about the affiliate links? The best practices are to make sure affiliate links are “nofollow”, and maintain transparency by mentioning that it is indeed an affiliate link. You can also add a disclosure or disclaimer on your page’s header or footer.
If you are doing video marketing, unboxing videos are the popular approach nowadays, and definitely worth trying.
5. Get to Know The Products You Promote And Build Authenticity
Since, as repeatedly mentioned in this guide, authenticity is a very important factor in affiliate marketing success nowadays, making sure the products you promote are actually good is a very important part of the trade.
Also, use the product yourself whenever possible, so that you know what you are actually promoting and (in case of reviews) you can provide an unbiased one. This will—slowly but surely—help establish your position as the thought leader/expert of your niche.
If you have time, explore the whole technical manual/documentation of the product, and you can also use various platforms to interact with the product seller (i.e. via live chat).
In this world of social media where two-way interaction is the norm, expect your audience and prospects to ask questions related to the product. If you don’t answer these questions (or provide a wrong, irrelevant answer), it can significantly hurt your credibility. As they say, trust is very hard to earn and yet very easy to lose.
Build a loyal audience through your credibility–mainly by consistently providing high-quality content. When people recognize the value and authenticity of your content, you can grow your traffic organically.
6. It’s Not Only Your Content Marketing
Above, we have established the fact that content marketing is still one of the core parts of email marketing, and is going to continue to be so for 2020 and onwards.
However, it’s very important to understand that as an affiliate marketer, there are also various channels and activities to consider in growing your website traffic, credibility, and influence.
Co-marketing by working with other affiliate marketers to collaborate with and building your audience together can be an excellent approach to help each other: for example, you can help with each other’s link building efforts and can create a collaboration content so you can amplify PR exposure.
Also, working with the right influencers can significantly help in building your traffic and online presence (and grow your own social media followers). However, influencer marketing isn’t actually what it is half a decade ago or so. On the one hand, bigger influencers and celebrities are getting (very) expensive, and on the other hand, there are various “fake” influencers that are looking to scam you.
Finding the right influencer(s) to work with is very important if you want to grow your affiliate marketing in 2020 and onwards.
Affiliate marketing, in its purest essence, is about attracting an audience and engaging them. So, focus on delivering value and improving your platform(s) according to what matters to the audience.
Get the audience’s attention using the right design aesthetics, and don’t forget to improve the user experience factors of your website (i.e. improving your site’s load speed, ensuring mobile responsiveness,etc.).You’ll be surprised how improving the user experience (UX) factor of your site alone can significantly improve your site’s conversion rates.
If your website or platform can emphasize what’s really important to the audience, you can improve your sales revenue and overall conversion. For example, if you are selling time-sensitive products (i.e. products that are selling well during the holiday seasons), then start working on them in August or September)
Get to know your audience’s deepest specific pain points, and if you can help them in solving these problems, you can establish credibility.
Affiliate marketing—even in 2020— is still a viable online business opportunity both as a side hustle or your main online business, and can be a great source of steady passive income.
However, starting and growing an affiliate marketing business can be quite difficult, and you’ll have to utilize the best strategies to build your audience, attract them with your offers, and engage with them.
The seven tips we have shared above can be your solid foundations in establishing an affiliate marketing business, but it’s still very important to monitor your progress, evaluate, and adjust your strategy whenever necessary.
Author Bio: Mike Khorev, Marketing Consultant
Mike Khorev is a marketing consultant and SEO expert who helps SaaS, Software, IT, Technology, B2B and enterprise companies generate more leads and grow revenue with effective marketing campaigns. He offers expert advice on marketing your company the right way through performance-based SEO, paid media, CRO, web design, social media, search engine marketing and many other online practices.