Affiliate marketing remains one of the most effective ways to generate an online income. A well-designed and implemented affiliate marketing campaign and website can generate thousands of dollars or more per month.

However, affiliate marketing has evolved over the past few years. Tactics that worked five years ago might not work today. Further, affiliate marketing methods that are generating great results today may not be so effective tomorrow.

Your best competitors will constantly be refining their methods and tactics. And if you fail to adapt as well, you’ll quickly fall behind. That’s why we’re going to go over some key trends that affiliate marketers should watch out for.

1. Affiliate Marketers Need to Go Niche

Many affiliate marketers try to use a catch-all approach. In theory, this should allow affiliate marketers to appeal to the widest possible audiences, addressing multiple pain points and needs.

In practice, a catch-all approach isn’t focused enough to attract a high-value audience that’s ready to pull the trigger. The audience is often too general and not moved by your content or calls-to-action (CTAs). At best, a decent number of them are generally interested in your products/services but not ready to convert. At worse, they’re completely irrelevant.

That’s why many of the most competitive affiliate marketers are going niche. By focusing on a more limited range of topics, you can lure in a niche audience. You can also better define your segments. This, in turn, allows you to hone your messaging and CTA, which will increase conversions.

Further, a niche focus allows you to add more value to your audience. Rather than being a jack of all trades, you can be an expert of one. As you develop your niche(s), you will become an expert on the subject. Your audience will start turn to you for information and insights.

2. Social Media is King

While your website will always be important, social media’s potential should not be ignored. Social media allows you to reach and grow your audience, while also solidifying your expertise.

Social media can be used to share high value content. The better your content, the more likely it is to be shared. This, in turn, will expand your reach. Once people start following you, you’ll have a reliable audience that you can sell to over and over again.

Over time, you can even establish yourself as an “influencer”, or a trusted individual on subjects. Influencers have become some of the most effective affiliate marketers, with countless companies working with them to generate publicity and sales. Indeed, some believe that spending on influencer marketing could reach $10 billion within the next five years.

3. Being Data-Driven is a Must

Every effort should be data-driven. The days of flying by the seat of your pants have passed. If you simply trust your gut instincts without monitoring data, you’ll likely fall behind your more data-informed competition.

Fortunately, there are now a wide range of analytical tools that you can use to monitor your efforts. Google Analytics, Nacho Analytics, Buzzmore, and more can gather, and in some cases, even analyze data for your. This data will allow you to see what’s working and what isn’t. As a result, you’ll be able to adjust your strategies and more effectively allocate your resources.

4. Still, You Have To Be Authentic and Transparent

While influencer marketing is emerging as one of the most effective affiliate marketing methods there are some pitfalls. The Kardashians and other big celebrities, for example, have come under fire for failing to disclose paid and sponsored content. This has hurt their personal brands and also the client company’s brand.

Affiliate marketers need to be careful when it comes to trust and transparency. The damaged caused by losing trust is hard to overestimate. If you are paying an influencer or other party to promote your products or services, you should disclose it. Otherwise, if you get caught, it could do irreparable harm to your brand.

Likewise, if someone is paying you, you should make that clear. Always be honest and straightforward.

5. It’s Time to Go Native

People don’t like large, flashy banner ads. While you might think that loud ads will draw the most eyes, more subtle native ads are actually more effective. Rather than standing out, native ads fit in. They are consistent with the look, feel, voice, and style of the website in question.

Interestingly, eye-tracking research has found that native ads are looked at 53% more often than display ads. They’re also more likely to convert. Business Insider projects that native ads will generate 74 percent of all ad revenue by 2021. So if you’re not using native ads, you need to start.

6. Text is No Longer Enough

Text-based content has been the bread and butter for many affiliate marketers. While text-centric content will remain important through the near future, it’s no longer enough. Many web users today prefer video and audio content as it’s easier to digest and more interactive.

By 2021, video could represent over 82 percent of all traffic. YouTube, Facebook, and other platforms make it easy to publish video content. This content will help you grow your audience and create opportunities to drive conversions.

7. Your Website Needs to be Rocket Fast

Three seconds. That’s how long your visitors will give you before clicking away. If your website doesn’t load within those precious seconds, about 40 percent of your visitors will abandon your site. Even a one second delay can drop conversions by 7 percent.

Yet many affiliate marketing websites are slow to load. They rely on old Wordpress themes, cheap hosting plans, and out-of-date plugins. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to speed up your website. You can select a better hosting plan, say dropping your shared plan for a Virtual Private Server with dedicated resources to get your website running far faster.

VPS’s can also be used to create distance between a home locale and the target market. Say you want to promote “nutraceuticals”, or pharmaceutical-grade nutrients, in a market where doing so is perfectly legal. However, in your home market “nutraceuticals” or "nutra" are considered a grey area. If that’s the case, you could use a service like BitLaunch to use Bitcoin to set up a VPS and then manage the affiliate site from a distance.

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8. Mobile is a Must

It’s surprising how many affiliate marketing websites have failed to embrace mobile phones. These days, just over 52 percent of all traffic is coming from mobile devices, which have much smaller screens than traditional PCs and rely on touch rather than input devices. Desktop ready websites are rarely mobile friendly.

If your website isn’t mobile friendly you could be missing out on a lot of traffic. Not only are mobile users likely to abandon your website, but search engines favor mobile friendly websites, especially if the user is searching from a mobile device. So if you’re not mobile, you’re already far behind. In 2019, that could spell serious trouble.