When the adult industry first stepped foot online, nearly everything was done in-house by a small band of early pioneers who hustled to gain a foothold on what would eventually become a massive new rendition in adult content marketing. A few years after the initial wave of entrepreneurs came a much larger wave of affiliate marketers drawn to the lucrative pay-per-signup and revshare offers being publicized by larger players via webmaster links on the footer of nearly every adult site.
Early on, those affiliates share a similar sense of do-it-yourself enthusiasm, but as time moved forward the affiliate side of the industry became more of a copy and paste community where one affiliate would grab the same content as any other from a premade set of tools produced by the sponsor affiliate program they planned to promote. Now, as the affiliate landscape continues to consolidate itself, the shift is causing many sponsors to rethink the ways valuable affiliates work best within the context of their own in-house marketing strategies.
Our affiliates these days are mainly other companies, programs, tubes and traffic providers — so things have definitely shifted. —Phil Bradbury of PimpRoll
A lot of the support tool and services that were regularly released as one-size-fits-all solutions are now considered stale by most successful webmasters and the push to target offers to very specific consumers is the driving force most forward thinking affiliates are talking about.
With more than a decade of experience through numerous changes to the affiliate business model, PimpRoll has always been a highly respected program, known for a long list of premade affiliate tools and proactive support services.
Now, according to PimRoll’s Phil Bradbury, “Our affiliates these days are mainly other companies, programs, tubes and traffic providers — so things have definitely shifted. We do continue to provide all the basic tools an affiliate might want and support them to the best of our ability, but in the modern marketing era most of the people sending us traffic already have their own resources to come up with their own creatives and marketing methods with very little direct help from our staff.”
While sponsors are not necessarily shifting away from a horde of smaller affiliates, the traffic most certainly is according to a program owner who asked to remain anonymous. “If making tools for 10,000 affiliates generated more sales than it cost I would gladly do it all day every day and so would everyone else. The math just doesn’t add up for that approach anymore. These days it pays out much better to spend thousands on the campaign of one or two whales than it would to put that same money into handholding hundreds of guys doing one sale every six months. People can like it or dislike it, the math is true either way. Anyone with their eyes open will notice the webmaster links on the footer of paysites disappearing and whole programs deciding to go invite-only across the board.”
It should come as no surprise that some top level whales and programs moving away from smaller affiliates asked to remain anonymous in exchange for their insights. Since even speaking honestly about the writing on the wall has been enough to send some affiliate readers into digital tirades. Meanwhile, others are taking a more professional approach and looking for ways to rename relevant instead of washing out due to a stubborn desire to live in the past.
‘Speaking as the traditional definition of an affiliate (someone buying or acquiring traffic) the market has almost completely transitioned to pushing free join and lead generation offers,” said JSiN, a media buyer and CEO of Executive Systems LLC. “The CPS offer is best left to those doing cross-promotions, as they can more easily build the perceived value while projecting their credibility of the offer. For me, most of my traffic has fleeting curiosity at best, so driving him or her to an offer where they are not required to do anything but provide their email address is about the extent of the ‘ask’ I can hope to close these days.”
While many have moved on toward prepaid traffic deals and avoid the retention uncertainty that comes with traditional revshare marketing, others are still able to make money by banking on years of branding and reputation work that gives them a very strong position in the minds of many consumers.
“When working with affiliate managers we really appreciate it when the reps are knowledgeable, organized and proactive,” said VegasKen of TheBestPorn.com.
Ken went on to explain that professional affiliates expect professionalism from the programs they promote.
“The companies that do that absolutely drive more sales with us,” he said. “We need to know about your special promotions a week in advance, not after the promotion has already started.
“We really try to make our partnerships with the affiliate programs a true win-win.
“Work with us and we will both make more money! Additionally, more than ever affiliates are looking at and tracking what programs are paying consistently and on time.”
For the whales and professional affiliates who have made the effort to maximize their ability to track traffic metrics and fine tune campaigns effectively, getting things right all the way down to the most elemental level of depth is crucial and sponsor support is expected to match each substantiated need quickly.
“At MobileCashout we create very specific regional versions of our products to drive sales in local markets,” said Ema Fulga, affiliate manager of MobileCashOut.
“We have invested a lot of time in evaluating and testing our products in these markets so we advise our affiliates and recommend strategic courses of action to help them drive conversions.
“We are in constant contact with our affiliate network, we regularly evaluate their performance and it is important to be available to answer their questions as quickly as possible so as not to stop their work flow. We also advise them about new product launches, how current products are performing and we recommend areas where they can improve to ensure a win/win situation.”
Going beyond the goal of localizing offers to suit consumers, some sponsors are taking the extra initiative to make their entire program more easily understood by other marketers as well.
“We have started doing more B2B translation work for some of our clients as they pursue top affiliates who prefer creative materials, stats, reports and other documentation to be available in languages other than English,” said Colin of TranslationsXXX.com.
“Sponsors are seeing that language translation and cultural marketing is especially important in emerging markets, which applies to B2C customer acquisition and B2B affiliate acquisition as well. If your whales speak Italian or Portuguese, your websites should as well.”
For years there was talk of consolidation and washout, but it appears most of the process is now complete.
The programs, affiliates and paying customers that remain are fewer, more profitable, and have much higher expectations of each other than existed in the early days of the adult online gold rush.
These days, helping professional affiliates succeed starts with identifying who is, or is not, a real professional.