Industry Execs Talk Trends in Affiliate Marketing
Affiliate marketing has been a profitable part of the adult Internet since the 1990s, and a long list of adult companies have prospered over the years by refining their affiliate marketing skills.
The world of adult affiliate marketing is much more competitive and demanding than it was in the past, but there are still profits to be made if one makes a point of being as knowledgeable as possible.
And as the summer of 2015 heats up, important affiliate marketing trends include varied payout options, more geo targeting, a greater need for mobile optimization, heavy social media promotions and more mainstream/adult crossover.
“There are far fewer hobbyists in adult affiliate marketing these days,” Sarah Jayne Anderson, affiliate manager for HustlerCash.com, told XBIZ. “Contrary to what many might say, there is still money in porn. But it has moved from the ‘build it and forget it’ days to hard work. As a result, most of the successful affiliates that I am seeing fall either into the camp of those who never stopped grinding away at it as their full-time job, or other sponsors.
“Companies have relearned that they have to be their own best affiliate. Not only is that wise in as far as being able to have more control over your bottom line, but being out in the field allows you to better help your other affiliates too.”
Asked how challenging adult affiliate marketing is in 2015 compared to five or 10 years ago, Anderson responded: “It isn’t all that different now than it was five years ago, but from 10 years ago, it is nearly unrecognizable. Compared to then, I would say that the main difference is that this is a real industry now — and along with the competitive changes, you also have to be able to conduct yourself comfortably in a business environment.”
Social media promotions, according to Anderson, have become increasingly aggressive in affiliate marketing.
“I’ve noticed fewer affiliates signing up with actual websites but instead, focusing their full efforts on social media,” Anderson noted. “They are becoming better at engaging on social media in more honest ways. Rather than using Twitter or Instagram for the quick spam buck, I’m seeing them take the time to learn how to grow social media brands across the various platforms and filter it back to sales.”
Adrian Smith, owner of TAC Amateurs Network, told XBIZ that in 2015, webmasters should not expect affiliates to do all the promotional work for them — they must be extremely proactive themselves.
“We’ve been working with affiliates and web models now for nearly 15 years, but the vast majority of our traffic is through our own marketing efforts,” Smith explained. “Nowadays, you can’t rely purely on affiliate sales. I see a lot of new sites and startup sites that don’t appear to do any of their own marketing and instead, are hoping that affiliates will bail them out from day one. That simply doesn’t happen anymore. In my opinion, affiliates should be no more than about 30-50 percent of the total business.”
Smith added: “It’s certainly a lot tougher now. If you have an affiliate program, I think you have to give them something new and unique to work with — not just the same old bought content that’s been splashed about on 100 other sites already. As far as we are aware, only three or four of our 300 or so web models are available on any other affiliate program. Signups are great, but the real key to making money is retention. Remember: it’s up to the affiliate to get the user to your site, but it’s then up to you to convert that user and then keep that user for as long as possible.”
Ema Fulga, affiliate manager for MobileCashout.com, told XBIZ that she is seeing more adult/mainstream crossover in the affiliate marketing realm.
“At MobileCashout, we have found that there is a growing trend for adult affiliates to use mainstream traffic to target conversions, and vice versa,” Fulga observed.
Asked to identify some of the most important affiliate marketing trends for the summer of 2015, Fulga responded: “Firstly, better technology solutions for targeting Wi-Fi traffic. Secondly, carriers are cleaning up product offerings and dodgy marketing techniques to ensure a better market for the consumers, which in turn, will drive sales from consumer confidence in all product offerings. Thirdly, carriers are now asking for premium adult-branded content to further enhance the consumer experience.”
Shay Efron, vice president of marketing and business development for ImLive.com and the affiliate program PussyCash.com, told XBIZ that in 2015, mobile/wireless optimization is crucial for affiliate marketing.
“The world is going mobile,” Efron asserted, “and the new user behavior indicates constant expansion on the mobile platform. The variety of mobile devices and technical specifications for each and every one of them requires constant updating and development of technology in order to keep up and provide the perfect product on all mobile and tablet devices. This trend will only get bigger in 2015, which is creating a much higher bar for all the companies to deal with and, hopefully, successfully overcome.”
Ad networks, according to Efron, are playing an increasingly important role in affiliate marketing.
“I guess that the affiliate world is going through a transformation that drives more and more affiliates and webmasters to send their entire traffic to ad networks rather than specific brands or products,” Efron noted. “It happens as a result of the growth and competitiveness of the ad networks themselves and the ability the affiliates and webmasters have to monetize their traffic in better ways.”
With affiliate marketing having become more and more challenging in recent years, many companies are recognizing the value of niche-driven sites. An affiliate program that caters to a very specific niche — being it BDSM, transsexuals, Asian models or BBWs — can succeed by knowing its audience inside out. And gay sites can be profitable if one is truly knowledgeable of the gay market. PussyCash has a variety of sites to promote, from Sexier.com (a vanilla heterosexual webcam site) to the BDSM-oriented FetishGalaxy.com to the gay-oriented Supermen.com.
Reflecting on important gay affiliate trends for the second half of 2015, Efron asserted: “We will see more geo specifications in promotional tools and models in order to improve conversions of each geo individually. We will see far more live promotional tools featuring live models in different activity rooms, along with high-end, video-converting landing pages that will take the user, after conversion — or before — to the live room of the video model, bringing models far more exposure than ever before.”
Efron added: “Today, we see many more seminars and B2B activity for the gay market and an increased amount of gay traffic at all the leading adult trade shows than ever before. The technical ability to divide gay traffic from other traffic in huge tube sites has made the option to advertise on such sources easier and more cost-effective and has brought more targeted traffic to the table.”
Daniel Zeeman, director of the gay-oriented affiliate program zBUCKz.com, told XBIZ that social media remains an attractive promotional tool in the gay market. Zeeman explained: “Nothing is more valuable than if you can engage your own site users to promote your brand to their friends on their social media accounts, from Twitter to Tumblr.”
“With the decline of SEO traffic for adult, combined with the proliferation of tube sites and pirate content, the biggest challenge for affiliates these days is in generating traffic,” Zeeman said. Affiliate sites now need to look outside the box for alternative sources of traffic and build quality sites with an emphasis on branding.”
Whether one’s focus is heterosexual or gay — BDSM or vanilla — successful affiliate programs realize that changing with the times technologically is imperative.
Josh Torrey, traffic manager for CM Productions and BaDoink.com, told XBIZ: “One of the biggest challenges in this space is that it evolves very quickly.”
“Various ad zones can do very well for a specific product and creative setup, but another product offering — or the same product offering presented differently — can enter the space and drive up costs to a point where it is no longer profitable for the original setup to survive,” Torrey said. “The best way to keep zones profitable long term is to keep a constant pulse on what is going on in the adult space and be prepared to be flexible in adopting new programs or program offerings to try out.”
Torrey noted that when it comes to payouts, affiliate programs have a variety of options these days.
“In recent years,” Torrey observed, “affiliate marketing has evolved mostly by providing affiliates more elaborate payout options. These different payout options (range from) different forms of PPL such as double opt-in, e-mail verified, profile photo upload, etc. to different forms of PPS such as trials, full members or VIP status achievement on top of full membership. Each of these has also been compounded by the addition of device-based payouts, carrier payouts and geo-based payouts. For an affiliate to fully make the most out of each of these different methods, it ultimately comes down to optimizing as thoughtfully as possible to gain the highest average revenue from each and every consumer that comes through their digital doors.”
Torrey continued: “Affiliate marketing is a very tough space to enter with the amount of competitors that currently populate the space. It is certainly a space where you can experience a lot of success very quickly, but the opposite can also be very true. Ultimately, it comes down to knowing your traffic, knowing what your traffic wants, and being able to provide them what they want when they want it.”