Is Affiliate Marketing Still Viable

We have Amy who hails from Canada to share her experience as an affiliate marketer. But before we hear Amy’s testimony about the challenges she face marketing products and services we first thought it best to discuss a few things.

Ad formats

Native Ads and Push Notifications ads are set to dominate in the coming year.

Native

Native advertising has been effective for affiliate marketers in the past, and will remain an important asset in 2019. We should expect some improvements on the tech side, and better opportunities for ad targeting. Native ads let you access your target audience on numerous websites and ‘find’ the users that can’t be reached via Facebook or other means of advertising. But at the same time, moderation will become tougher. Only high-quality, unique content for specific audiences will bring in results.

Push

Push notification proved itself to be a straightforward format, suitable for new affiliates with low budgets. Despite the drop in traffic quality and increase in price, push notification will still remain one of the top formats in 2019. It’s especially effective for those who have collected their own databases and aim to deliver the most relevant content and offers to their specific audience.

It is a really good trending format, but huge competition and possible regulation will come to limit its effectiveness in the near future. But again, now is the best time for push ads. You’re better off jumping on the train now, rather than risking missing out

Facebook

Facebook is growing. Mobile Video Ads are performing well here, as more and more people choose to watch videos rather than read something. Facebook promoted the video format in all their placements in 2018, and will enforce it in 2019. So we can expect to see even more high-quality content this year.

Influencer Marketing

The rise of influencer marketing has been tremendous. These people are not celebrities. They are real people endorsing products and services based on their own real experiences. Interest in influencer marketing has grown considerably over the past few years.

Pop and Display

These remain popular, especially on mobile. It’s easy and fairly cheap to join. If you hustle, you can be making xx-xxx/day in profits within a few weeks or months. But it’s quite saturated nowadays, campaigns don’t stay profitable very long, and there’s more and more bot traffic.

Offer Verticals

Evergreen verticals like dating, gambling, sweepstakes, nutra and finance are still going to be around. But affiliates will have to be more creative in building their funnels. Just make sure you stand out from the crowd. Another trend is the growth of the ecommerce space. More and more affiliates are engaging in dropshipping, or running COD offers

Whitehat and eCommerce

There is an increasing number of ecommerce and whitehat offers that we see on Facebook. Most of the ads that have been successful and visibly scaled on Facebook, focused on either a product listicle or contained a very distinguishable product. We see less simple ecommerce products that are available on AliExpress and more of unique products available through exclusive whitehat affiliate networks. Most of such ads are run in Q4 of the year and there are definitely less ecommerce offers being run in January- June.

Blackhat – Diet and Skin

The biggest visible shift was Facebook‘s algorithms being able to detect blackhat ads easier. We see that successful blackhat ads are now less distinguishable from whitehat diet and skin ads. The words used are no longer as aggressive and affiliates focus more on image quality to achieve higher CTR rather than ad text.

Going forward, blackhat ads will be less and less aggressive given Facebook‘s ability to improve its AI for blackhat detection. Keto diet products have been popular in the US and Europe and affiliates who are able to jump on general diet and food choice trends have been very successful.

Blackhat – Financial

Perhaps the largest blackhat vertical are financial and crypto-currency offers. We see these being run across the globe from small Eastern European countries to United States. There were expectations that crypto offers would perish along with the fall of the cryptocurrency market-cap, however, this did not hold true.

It seems that many affiliates are still having successful campaigns with financial offers, however, the landing pages used are now more sophisticated and angles used are unique. Technical setups are also far more advanced and we no longer see any amateur cloaking methods used which used to work in
the past.

Testimony of a Real Affiliate Marketer

I’m Amy from Toronto Canada. I’ve been doing online marketing since 2006, mainly doing SEO and Adwords. Joined STM in 2014, signed up for the pilot 6-Week Affiliate Mastery Challenge (6WAMC) course offered by STM and run by the great Zeno (David Savory). Shortly thereafter I was invited to join the forum moderator team, which I happily accepted as I had always enjoyed teaching beginners, and it’s a post I’ve held to this day.

In terms of paid traffic, I’ve run mainly pop up until last year. Pop was still profitable, but with the increased competition and volatility, increasingly stringent requirements on landing pages and offers at traffic networks, and a decrease in good offers which resulted from stricter regulations everywhere, I knew my efforts would be better-rewarded if invested elsewhere.

Nowadays, when I’m not replying to posts on STM or working on other STM related projects, I’m learning energy healing (will explain the relevance later) and doing ecommerce and SEO.

testimony of a real affiliate

Blackhat vs. Whitehat

I haven’t run blackhat very heavily, but know people that have. I know enough to weigh in on the topic. What I say below will mainly apply to Facebook and Google, although it’s also possible to run blackhat on other traffic types such as pop and native through cloaking and multiple accounts to multiply traffic and revenue.

Black Hat Pros

You can make crazy amounts of money in a relatively short short time IF you TRULY know what you’re doing. 5 to 6-figures aday in profits is not uncommon.

Black Hat Cons

The barrier to entry is high and getting higher. Trying to make back your investment before each account gets banned is getting increasingly difficult. You need a reliable accounts provider or have the know-how to farm them yourself. A skillful warm-up procedure, genuine looking safe sites, an effective cloaker, commercially available or custom built.

Rules are always changing. Facebook and Google are getting more skilled at catching and banning accounts. So something that worked yesterday would stop working today, and you’d be scrambling to find a new way to make things work again. It helps to know other blackhatters so you can join forces and compare notes to keep up with the changes, but that kind of network doesn’t happen overnight.

Having to manage so many accounts, safe sites etc. will require having a team if you’re wanting to achieve any scale. You’ll also need more cash flow to start, because it will take time to figure out how to run blackhat in the first place, and then with each change in algorithm you’ll need to figure things out all over again. There are also more expenses from cloakers, accounts, employees, safe sites etc. that come with running blackhat.

Running blackhat is also quite stressful. When you get up in the morning to check stats, you never know what to expect. There’s nothing worse than finally finding something that works, only to have it stop working after a week and knowing you’d still have to continue to pay your employees and fund accounts until you find a new way to beat the system again.

White Hat Pros

Risks of accounts being banned are minimal although still possible! You can build a long-term business, an asset that you can potentially sell later on. For example you can build a brand by packaging yourself as an expert in your field. You can build a faithful following or customer base that you can sell to repeatedly once you build a good reputation. You can sleep better at night too.

White Hat Cons

Competition is greater in general because most advertisers are running whitehat. Harder to find products/offers/services that convert better than the typical blackhat offers (diet, skin, etc.). Takes more creativity to find angles that can convert well whereas with blackhat you can use aggressive landers. ROIs are usually lower since you can’t use aggressive landers to promote shady offers.

In the end, if you’re a newbie, I really wouldn’t recommend blackhat. The barrier to entry is so high now that it would take quite some time and money to get things rolling. If you’re a pro, then what I’ve said above would be common knowledge to you anyway.

Which traffic types are thriving?

Shady, scammy CPA offers are on the decline in general. This is a natural result of the stricter regulations everywhere as I’ve mentioned above, which makes it harder to promote such offers unless you’re cloaking. Examples include crypto and nutra trials. On the other hand, whitehat verticals are becoming more popular, as it’s easier to get campaigns approved when running them.

Affiliate networks are adapting to this need. Ecom CPA affiliate offers is a good example. Push traffic is thriving, no doubt about that. I’ve been encouraging everyone to get in on it because many people have already seen success including newbies. Testing offers and landers on the cheaper pop traffic first, then taking the best offers and landers to push and testing ads there would be recommended.

testimony of a real affiliate

Having said that, I’m not optimistic about the future of push. Audiences are not targeted, which means people are being spammed with offers that have little relevance. It’s just a matter of time before everyone gets fed up, and giants like Google will take measures to protect their users. One update in Chrome and it will be game-over.

Pop is still the easiest type of traffic to get your feet wet if you’re completely new to paid traffic . It will allow you to learn the basics for cheap. Basically just rip landers from a spy tool, grab offers from an affiliate manager and go from there. It’s not difficult for newbies to make 2-figures per day or low 3-figures per day in profits within the first few months. But trying to grow beyond that would be more difficult.

With Google bans and chrome updates, plus increasing competition, pop can only become more difficult from here. However, I still recommend pop for newbies to start with. Run a few pop campaigns. Learn tracking, affiliate networks and how to test offers and landing pages. Learn how to analyze stats and optimize campaigns. Make all the newbie mistakes for cheap and THEN expand to other traffic types such as push or native.

Native traffic continues to be lucrative, and even newbies can succeed in a relatively short time. However, a considerably larger budget is needed compared to pop or push, because the traffic is not cheap so typically only offers with good margins can do well. And those typically have high payouts which means more money needs to be invested into cutting unprofitable widgets.

Facebook continues to be a promising source of good traffic in spite of all the algo changes. Running 100% whitehat helps. Having a brand helps. Giving Facebook what it wants by catering to good user experience helps a ton. I’ll continue to run Facebook traffic in the near future.

Adwords can bring huge ROI that would be difficult to achieve with Facebook due to the laser targeting. I’m planning to spend a lot more time and budget on adwords this year. A virtually untapped traffic source with huge success is Pinterest. This is something I’ll definitely start exploring this year.

Lastly, I’ve been spending time to brush-up my SEO knowledge. Paid traffic is fantastic in that it can bring instant profits, but SEO can bring in traffic for a lot longer than any paid traffic campaign. It would be good to include both in one’s portfolio.

Which traffic source and vertical should I use if starting this year?

Although this question is hypothetical, I can just talk about what I’m actually doing right now, because I’m going through this transition. Some tips I can give on Ecommerce are:

testimony of a real affiliate

Dropshipping

Dropshipping still works if you’re smart. As an initial test, set up a shopify site and import from Aliexpress via Oberlo (the “traditional” method), then run traffic on Facebook. For products that look promising build a separate site/funnel for each individual product (using Clickfunnels/Funnelbuildr etc.), with up-sells / down-sells / cross-sells, and optimize that funnel using split-tests.

You can even create a brand name to make the product sound more “catchy” to potentially increase sales -although the customer won’t find any references to that name when they receive the product. It’s actually still possible to keep doing shopify+aliexpress. You’d just need to test more products. Another thing you can do is test shopify apps that are designed to increase conversion rates.

Make sure you test one at a time to see how each one is impacting on your bottom line especially the paid apps. You need to know they’re pulling their weight. I’m surprised people don’t discuss apps more. For starters, optimize the checkout process . Shopify’s default checkout is just horrible.

Source from the manufacturer to increase profit margin

If the above test shows good results for a product you can look into sourcing it directly from the manufacturer. Alibaba would be a good start but for innovative products it would be best to attend trade shows, getting a fulfillment center in the local country to receive, store, and dispatch the goods for you, and a courier service to deliver the goods to customers.

Obviously it would be easier to do for the country you reside in, so that you can physically go to the fulfillment center to resolve any issues, but you can also hire someone locally to take care of things for you.

This is all I’ll say about ecommerce for now, as I’m not an expert yet by any means. I may have more to contribute in next year’s report.

Next, I want to talk briefly about my new project which I’m passionate about. I’ve had natural healing abilities since I was quite young, but have only recently decided to develop and harness them. So I’ve been taking courses and getting certified in multiple energy healing modalities. And I’ve also started to offer healing sessions to friends and family. Results have been very encouraging.

As was mentioned, I’ve been brushing up on my SEO knowledge. I’m getting ready to launch a site on energy healing. There are lots of niche products available, that are relevant to energy healing as well as the more-general new age niche that have affiliate programs I can promote. I can push affiliate products to make commissions. I’ll be testing adsense as well. And even before keywords start ranking and free traffic starts flowing, I can try experimenting with traffic from Facebook and Adwords.

I’m also planning on collecting emails using a free ebook I can whip up in a day, and pushing affiliate products in the backend. Building out an FB page would be a must. And I’ll start collecting a list of FB messenger subscribers, which will be another channel for promoting affiliate products.

Building a list in general is a very good way to monetize traffic no matter if you’re doing SEO or driving paid traffic. That way you have traffic that you own. I will only be promoting products I KNOW will enrich people’s lives – this will be the primary consideration, with profits being secondary. And of course, if I ever want to pursue energy healing as a career, all these assets will be put to use to promote my services.

I may even start a follow-along thread on the STM forum to report on this project. It will probably end up being the longest-running follow-along ever. Please stay tuned if you’re interested. I would encourage anyone who’s reading this, to ask themselves the question “what am I TRULY passionate in?” Instead of just chasing the money, you could be doing what you love at the same time.

Sure, a niche site won’t make you 5-figures overnight, but it can be so much more fun, and you can potentially develop it into a passive income stream that you can sell later. Moreover, revenues from SEO sites can help to pay the bills in between profitable paid traffic campaigns. All in all just a good asset to include in your online marketing portfolio. Learn Affiliate Basics.

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