Affiliate Marketing: Navigating Adult ‘Traffic Jams’

Money talks — we know that. Paying out big bucks to affiliates has always been the way to assure a steady stream of traffic and the backbone of most programs’ marketing strategies.

But the witch’s brew of free porn and the power of whale websites has changed the dynamic, and today’s traffic harvesting paradigm requires more unique and creative approaches to getting eyeballs to websites.

I’m seeing less of the big promos offering outlandish bonus payout days and more of an understanding between affiliates and affiliate programs that payouts have to be realistic. -Sarah Anderson, HustlerCash

Fortunately, the adult web space has reinvented itself once again — adapted if you prefer — applying new tricks along with the tried and true methods of getting the holy grail of traffic.

It’s not mystery that powerful SEO is still essential, but the once prized and rare sherpas now have plenty of competitors, so a successful traffic marketing campaign cannot rely on its search engine jockeys alone.

HustlerCash affiliate manager Sarah J. Anderson is a big fan of old school networking. She says that although it’s always important to advertise a program in strategic locations, word of mouth still works.

“As any affiliate manager knows, affiliates talk to each other and, if they hear good things about your program, they will be willing to give you a shot, which just makes affiliate support even more important than it ever has been in the industry.”

Even if a good reputation draws potential affiliates, it doesn’t always lie on the shoulders of the affiliate program itself. Anderson notes that a burgeoning trend in securing traffic to a program is the number of affiliates who are deploying media buying themselves rather than leaving it to the affiliate programs.

And part of that key strategy is educating affiliates.

Anderson maintains that a program must listen to its affiliates and school them when they ask for information — a sure way to build a solid reputation that will ultimately yield new affiliate traffic. “Any affiliate program that doesn’t say that affiliate feedback is vital needs to take a moment to reflect on how successful they have been lately. Affiliate programs are only successful if they act in partnership with their affiliates. If affiliates are knocking down your door asking for something, then it is best to provide them with that they need or they will promote elsewhere,” Anderson says. And there goes your traffic.

The Hustler pro emphasizes that a program needs someone who can “step back and decide which changes are going to be profitable and which are just trend-chasing.”

“Affiliates, understandably, don’t always see the bigger picture of what is involved in bringing a new tool into a program, for example. It is our job to figure out what will be used the most effectively and by the widest affiliate base,” she says.

Kink.com affiliate manager Robert Levy agrees with Anderson’s take on educating affiliates in order to build a program’s appeal.

Although it would appear that such a niche heavy program would have a steady stream of traffic, today’s climate requires more aggressive marketing techniques in order to stay competitive with other niche sites that are often more successful than standard generic porn.

Levy says Kink.com is now in the process of redesigning its site to make it easier for webmasters to navigate and to get their tools. What’s more, the fetish giant is considering launching an affiliate blog that would give them access to its tools as well as provide tips and tricks for maximizing profitability.

Gamma Entertainment’s gay Next Door Buddy Profits’ program’s Ewen French is also a fan of blogs. “Affiliates want to be able to offer up-todate promo content the same day as new content is released,” he said, and adds that his company has launched BuddyBlogged.com, created for affiliates to allow them to easily access the latest promotional content and banners. “In addition to custom blogger friendly collages and scene descriptions, BuddyBlogged.com is also the place to find the latest news from our content partners,” French notes.

Levy also employs several different methods of outreach that include mailers to existing affiliates, posting of new features and programs on the adult webmaster boards, and working with affiliates to deliver them ongoing referrals for new webmaster signups.

The strategy is so important; Levy says even more outreach initiatives are on the way for Kink.com.

Like Anderson, FameDollars’ affiliate manager Derrick Gilbert like old school strategies. He leans toward providing flash galleries, hosted videos, banners and links. However, he says they’ve added new tools to their program like RSS feeds, white labels, a mailer solution program, and discount links and promo codes.

Getting affiliates themselves to help to bolster the overall traffic flow falls in line with FameDollars’ plans. Gilbert notes, “Right now, we're having great success with our mailer solution program. If an affiliate or a cash program has compiled a list of e-mails, we can mail out offers for our products and split the revenue 50/50. Also, if an affiliate owns a TGP, we'll put a ‘hanger’ banner on top of his page with a discount offer. Or, we work with them to create a promo codes section on their pages. We've had great success with all of these tactics.”

BlazingBucks’ Mark Blazing says he sends out weekly email newsletters to its affiliates with galleries from recent updates.

Citing a trend in working with tube sites, Blazing said he’s also sending daily updates of readymade tube clips with description data, and an XML feed.

He adds that affiliate feedback is extremely important as it provides a direct line of communication with the traffic sources and the feedback allows adjustment for changes to improve conversions.

Agreeing with the consensus is Austria-based PartnerCash, a major player in the European adult affiliate marketing place with hundreds of websites boasting more than 15,000 connected affiliates. Company sales manager Donna Georgescu says that whether it’s negative or positive, feedback is always constructive.

Further supporting the stance, French said that he recently conducted an affiliate survey to help determine ways to improve and help ensure affiliates’ needs both now and in the future. The survey actually spawned BuddyBlogged.com. “Our recent affiliate survey confirmed what we already suspected: that affiliates really like our blogger collages. They also want fresh hot banners to promote the newest content and embedded scene previews.

All valuable insight, but more importantly, key marketing techniques to keep and secure new traffic. “We try to make it as easy as possible for affiliates to obtain all of our promo content. Affiliates can choose to access it in their affiliate account on,” French says, adding, “Without our affiliate traffic, we wouldn’t have an affiliate program. Therefore we are always working hard to secure new sources of qualified traffic. We actively recruit on the webmaster message boards, attend tradeshows, and advertise in industry publications.”

But as the big money whales continue to eat the guppies with 50 percent and higher rev shares and hefty payouts with lifetime guarantees, is the playing field leveling for smart webmasters?

HustlerCash’s Anderson thinks so simply because regardless of the program, watching the bottom line is today’s watchword and more crucial than ever before.

“I’m seeing less of the big promos offering outlandish bonus payout days and more of an understanding between affiliates and affiliate programs that payouts have to be realistic. Of course, payouts have to be rewarding enough for the affiliate but, at the same time, they have to leave room for profit. It used to be that affiliates didn’t really want to hear about affiliate programs having to balance their own books. Now, the affiliates understand, as they have watched big programs fall, that there has to be a balance,” she says.

That’s good news for programs with brand names and historical success. But how does the smaller company compete?

LotzaDollars Ed Dooge and Lori Anderson rely on unique niche content like their recent foray into transsexual space with LadyBoyTrannys.com. They say, “We're not a huge company by any means. So making the right business decisions and having the right people in place makes the difference.” And that means offering their affiliates a means to supply their traffic with something that can’t easily be found on every tube site. They contend that the more micro niche the content, the easier it is to retain members since they can’t get that content easily elsewhere.

Kink.com’s Levy echoes that, pointing to Kink’s targeted niche content program that he says has some of the highest retention value in the industry. “I think specialized niche content is where the money is right now. People want to know that they are getting the best content for their tastes, so affiliates that promote niche content directly to its target market are really seeing the best results.”

PartnerCash even offers interactive content through Saboom.com that enables the user to create a unique experience. Georgescu maintains that with the ongoing change in adult entertainment the company finds it necessary to keep its marketing strategies innovative in every possible way — and that keeps traffic flowing.

Anderson sums it adding that although video is certainly king, there has been a surprising resurgence in affiliate requests for photo content. “Perhaps, it is the number of porn stars we have associated with our content, but affiliates are using it to work their SEO magic. It is good to know that good, old-fashioned smutty pictures have never fallen fully out of fashion,” she says.