Affiliate Marketing in Times of Coronavirus — FAQ

Kinga Gawron

Every day brings new questions about the state of digital advertising in times of coronavirus outbreak. It may be confusing to make sense of the abundance of information and news coming at us from all angles, trying to source what’s the most relevant to your business right now. 

The coronavirus pandemic is currently impacting all spheres of our lives. Bearing in mind the scale and significance of the virus outburst, many issues cannot and won’t be treated lightly. This means a lot of changes and certain limitations imposed on various businesses, affiliate marketing is no exception. But what are those changes, or the said limitations?

To help you learn more about the state of affiliate marketing in the age of coronavirus and current advertising limitations, we’ve prepared this article with the most pressing questions answered for you.

Read on to ensure your affiliate business is safe and your campaigns run smoothly.

1. Is covid-19 affecting affiliate marketing?

If someone assumes that because affiliate marketing belongs to a group of digital industries, and it all just happens online, there’s nothing to worry about… they’re wrong. Things aren’t so simple for the digital either. Yes, we do operate in the online sphere, but whenever the worldwide economy suffers from such an unexpected turn of events, we feel it too.

2. What are the effects of coronavirus on the affiliate marketing industry?

As stated above, the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic are inevitable for all kinds of industries, affiliate marketing is no exception. To give you an idea of the consequences funnel, have a look at the below graph.

Stock Market Graph

It shows the impact of coronavirus on stock markets since the start of the virus outbreak. Now, if you’re wondering what Nikkei, Dow Jones or FTSE stand for, see the links for more information or let us explain. 

  • The Nikkei (Japan’s Nikkei 225 Stock Average) is the top Japanese stock market index and it’s composed of Japan’s top 225 blue-chip companies. Do names like Canon, Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Panasonic, Sony, Subaru, Suzuki Toyota or Yamaha ring a bell or two?
  • Dow Jones (The Dow Jones Industrial Average or DIJA) is the American top stock market index for blue-chip companies in the US. Again, a few familiar names such as American Express, Apple, Cisco, Coca-Cola, Goldman Sachs, Johnson & Johnson, McDonald’s, Microsoft, Nike, Pfizer, Verizon, Visa or Walmart. 
  • FTSE (Financial Times Stock Exchange Group or “Footsie”) is an independent organization specializing in creating index offerings for the global financial markets. Big names include Shell, HSBC or BP.

Having read this quick introduction to the world stock exchanges, it just cannot go unnoticed that whatever happens to those companies, is reflected in our business ventures, too. It’s a chain reaction, and who has never run a Walmart gift card offer or an iPhone sweepstake… then are they into affiliate marketing at all?

We can already tell that certain verticals like travel or sports betting are a no go at the moment while streaming, gaming, dating angles are gaining momentum and can be expected to keep up at that level for the foreseeable future (more on that below).

Given the broader perspective, the answer to the question of what the effects of coronavirus on the affiliate marketing industry are right now is as simple as that.

The global outbreak of the covid-19 virus hinders various types of brick-and-mortar businesses. If these belong to the group of products or services promoted with the help of the affiliate marketing industry, we may experience:

  • much lower demand, 
  • cut advertising budgets, 
  • lower interest on the customers’ end 
  • and consequently, decrease of business opportunities for affiliate advertisers.

But, as mentioned above, things are not so gloomy for all advertising angles at the moment. Millions of people are forced into quarantine, self-isolation, and work from home. Social distancing and #StayHome movements are trending right now — so do all the home entertainment and online activities. That why we may experience:

  • the rise in demand for entertainment traffic
  • verticals like streaming, gaming, dating becoming key-focus angles for advertisers
  • higher interest on the customers’ end
  • And consequently, increase or the emergence of new business opportunities for affiliate advertisers.

3. How can affiliate marketing prevent the business consequences of covid-19?

The business or financial consequences of the covid-19 on affiliate marketing cannot be prevented. Sadly, we need to face the fact that this is beyond our control but it doesn’t mean there’s no hope or nothing that can be done.

In fact, there’s plenty of things happening already to aid the struggle and help advertisers (and not only) keep their businesses going. Let us list a few initiatives that we believe have a huge impact on preserving the steady business flow.

  1. Taking initiative — one the news struck and the first effects of the virus outbreak started taking its toll, the affiliate community rushed to assess the situation and come up with solutions, like in the STACKED MARKETER survey or ROAS changes.
  2. Sharing information — following the initiative, everyone in the affiliate business shares any observations on the news what’s working and what’s decreasing. It’s actually great to see nobody keeps anything for themselves and hence helps the business going. Just check out all the community forum threads monitoring the situation!
  3. Traffic insights — same goes for traffic sources and data owners who gladly share detailed information on what’s most worthy investing, what stable and what’s pretty much dead at the moment. Check out the Traffic Insights newsletter for weekly insights!
  4. Webinars — there’s a number of webinars produced especially for this dubious occasion, yet still valuable in terms of content and industry trends. Worth attending given we’re all stuck at home anyways.
  5. Taking up challenges — all these initiatives show that the affiliate community is not afraid of taking up new challenges and trying to approach the problem with creativity many other industries can only be jealous of. 

Yes, affiliate marketing is as vulnerable to global economy shifts as any other business. If things come down crashing, we feel it too. But there’s an ace up every affiliate marketer’s sleeve that many do not and cannot have. Affiliate marketing adapts… and it adapts fast. 

4. How can affiliate marketing combat the effects of coronavirus pandemic?

Think of all the plot twists this industry has undergone and how quickly they’ve all been resolved. 

These are barely the examples that can be compared to what’s happening right now but at the same time, they show how resistant and resourceful affiliate marketing can be.

Whenever there’s demand, the industry hurries to answer with supply. Right now this skill is more important than ever, and given the astounding pace with which events take place, there’s one crucial thing to bear in mind. 

Affiliate marketing in the age of coronavirus must be done the smart way — analyze, acknowledge, adapt!

5. How much will the coronavirus outburst cost the affiliate marketing industry? 

Although nobody is able to give not the exact, but even an estimation of how much the coronavirus outburst will cost the affiliate marketing industry, we can provide you with a few different numbers.

According to  Bloomberg, the coronavirus crisis could cost the global economy a massive $2.7 trillion! That’s about the entire GDP of the United Kingdom for better comprehension of what a mental sum of money we are talking about. What portion of the assumed $2.7 trillion (in the most drastic case-scenario) will fall into our sector is yet to be seen. 

Luckily for the affiliate marketing industry, well-performing areas of traffic have already been observed thus giving advertisers a chance to keep their campaigns running and securing profits, even if a bit smaller than what we all expected at the beginning of 2020.

6. Will affiliate marketing grow due to the #stayhome movement?

Moving onto the hopefully looking news, yes it’s quite possible! There’s a chance that thanks to the coronavirus outspread (however harsh that sounds), affiliate marketing will be given an opportunity to grow. 

Facebook Traffic Spike in Italy

This is all due to social distancing, self-isolation and #stayhome movement. Millions of people around the world ceased to leave their houses for everyday activities and decided to stay home. Instead, they all turned to the online channels of communication, work, and entertainment. All this gives our industry a unique chance (that many other businesses do not and cannot have) to grow despite the overall business decline. 

Advertisers need to remember, though, that the situation is extremely dynamic and the digital sands are shifting unexpectedly. That is why constant vigilance and continuous monitoring of the market trends are recommended.

A good example here would be Facebook and the fact that although they’re experiencing through-the-roof traffic spikes, it does not bring direct profit. Have a look at their statistics talking about the countries worst affected by the coronavirus where: 

  • the total messaging with Facebook-owned apps rose up 50% over the last month, 
  • voice and video calls have more than doubled on Messenger and WhatsApp. 

And especially the Italy data where:

  • people spend 70% more time using Facebook apps since the beginning of the crisis, 
  • Instagram and Facebook Live views doubled in a week,
  • time spent in the group calling increased by over 1,000% during the last month. 

7. What verticals have decreased due to the coronavirus pandemic? 

Given our own data insights, we can already tell that the travel and sports betting verticals are pretty much dead at the moment. And it shows like hell…

According to the BBC, the travel sector is among those hit the hardest. People all over the globe canceled or suspended vacations, business trips, airlines cut flights and more than a hundred countries introduced travel restrictions. The travel industry hasn’t been damaged that badly in decades, yet nobody objects as it’s a vital step in containing the virus spread.

Also, the state of e-commerce might be quite surprising. As Neil Patel claims:

You can’t tell by the chart, but e-commerce was a mixed bag, depending on what sites sold, traffic was either up or down. For example, if you were selling baby products like diapers or wipes then you saw a nice bump in traffic. But if you were selling luxury goods like big-screen televisions you saw a drop in traffic.

Travel Rescritions

8. What verticals have grown due to the coronavirus pandemic? 

As we mentioned already, the fact that people are confined to staying home, there are new opportunities arising for the affiliate marketing sector. Well, they’re not new as such, it’s just they’ve never been so significant to the success of your campaigns.

Answering the question, all verticals falling into the entertainment traffic category are on the rise. We’ve analyzed the past month Zeropark traffic data and we can now confirm what verticals are definitely worth running your campaigns with at the moment. 

Top verticals include: 

  1. Streaming
  2. Gaming
  3. File sharing
  4. Adult content

Luckily for affiliate advertisers, this is naturally caused by a the #stayhome movement and the fact that the online reality becomes a daily reality for many of us. And where’s the demand, the supply follows. 

Look at the below graph, courtesy of Pornhub, to see that streaming traffic spikes are not a momentary whim but a global trend which isn’t going to stop soon given current circumstances. 

Porhub Traffic Spike

9. Is it going to be more expensive to run affiliate ad campaigns now?

Whenever there’s a world crisis, no industry remains stable. An unstable industry means unstable pricing. But in the case of affiliate advertising, this may, again, open up new possibilities. 

  • There will probably be fewer offers due to pre-coronavirus vertical being dead now.
  • New offers will emerge for trending verticals.
  • The payout for new or existing offers are expected to be lower than usual, but at least it’ll have a chance to convert.
  • CPCs are also said to decrease, which may mean cheaper traffic. 

All these points still need to be verified and it’s a bit too early to get accurate data and make any sound assumptions. Nevertheless, it might get a bit more expensive due to contingency shortages but time will tell…soon.

10. Will the covid-19 crisis affect offers for affiliate marketing campaigns?

As we mentioned above, due to the shifts in the global economy, advertising budgets will be probably cut. Now, this directly affects the affiliate marketing business and yes, it may cause fewer offers for affiliate advertisers to run.

It’s quite eminent given verticals like travel or sports betting being completely shut down and many others also suffering a decline in demand.

But, as we’ve also said, new industry trends and emerging verticals may mean a bigger range of offers for those categories. In times like this supply and demand usually balance themselves out and we’re sure a complete lack of offers to promote is very unlikely. 

11. What types of offers are safe to run at the moment due to the coronavirus pandemic?

As with verticals, offers can be divided into top categories right now making it easier to decide on the best choice for your ad campaign. Here they are!

  • Streaming offers, including mainstream VOD, gaming and adult cams are a sure-fire offer to try now. Anything related to self-development or work-from-home mode in the video form is also a good offer.
  • Online dating or simply adult content: no matter the situation or time of a year, it works.
  • Surprisingly or not, sweepstakes run great at all times and seem to be stable even during such a turbulent time. They can be used to promote items most sought after at the moment like games, gift cards, adult content or home appliances and every-day use items.
  • Nutra offers, including health and self-protection offers, are sought after right now. Sanitizer, face masks, vitamins, supplements but also home-sports equipment. Anything to keep us healthy — both mentally and physically. 
  • Antivirus (how telling) and VPNs are rocking it right now. Given the rise in online entertainment traffic and spikes in Internet usage, in general, these seem to be an obvious demand.
  • With most of our lives moved to online reality, app downloads are a great offer for promoting all kinds of offers: dating, gaming, sports, deliveries, news, communicators. Deliveries, Games, News, Health and Fitness, Communications, and Utilities.
  • Finance offers, including insurance and/or crypto offers, may be a good choice as well. With an unstable economy, people tend to look for safer solutions, want to take advantage of the momentary crisis or simply want to make a quick profit.  

12. What verticals fall under the work from home category?

Verticals falling into the work from home category, or entertainment traffic as we call it can be divided into three categories: mainstream, mobile and adult. These can be further divided into more detailed angles — verticals per each category which can be then easily matched with offers. 

Mainstream verticals include:

  • Surveys & Sweeps
  • Smartlink
  • Casino & Gambling
  • VOD Streaming
  • Lead Generation
  • Education / Personal development
  • Hobbies & Interests
  • Nutra & Healthcare

Mobile devices verticals include:

  • App Smartlink
  • Utility & VPN
  • Antivirus
  • Games

Adult content verticals include:

  • Smartlinks
  • Cams/Tube sites
  • Games

The graph below shows Zeropark data and how the traffic coming from our top streaming feeds has spiked since the beginning of March. That’s why online entertainment should become a key focus area for affiliate marketers looking to monetize their ad campaigns. 

13. What ad format works the best for affiliate advertising in times of coronavirus?

The success of your campaigns can’t be based on an ad format alone. Every traffic type works differently with various offers, hence it’s the offer and vertical that can be adjusted to the current situation, not the medium advertisers use to promote a product or service.

  • Yes, we’ve observed a rise in push traffic performance within the last couple of weeks. This could be thanks to users engaging with news and staying alerted, then more interested in push-like notifications.
  • Top verticals from the entertainment traffic category are actually run with pop and domain-redirect traffic, which makes these two types of traffic must-have ad campaigns. 
  • Native in-app advertising should also do the trick with people turning to their phones for all kinds of e-commerce related purchases. 

So whatever the ad format, there’s always a chance for making profit as long as an offer matches the currently trending category.

14. How is push traffic performing during the coronavirus crisis?

Since the mobile app usage has spiked, not to mention the entertainment traffic verticals that can also be promoted with mobile devices, push traffic is naturally doing well. Despite the recent Chrome 80 update, it seems nobody remembers about the notifications restrictions at the moment as a steady flow of conversions can be observed. 

As mentioned earlier, people all over the world frantically follow the news or just kill the time playing on their phones. Whatever the reason that brought them there, mobile push traffic is definitely a place to be. Especially with in-page push traffic advertisers can now target iOS users, too. 

We’d recommend app downloads, VPNs and antiviruses, gaming and streaming offer for secure conversions. 

15. Can advertisers use the coronavirus angle for marketing purposes?

No. Most quality traffic sources introduced a strict policy or rejecting campaigns that use the coronavirus outbreak for affiliate marketing purposes.

Whether you’re using Zeropark, Google, Facebook… or Amazon to run ad campaigns and monetize the traffic, any campaigns using a coronavirus related angle for advertising purposes will be rejected.

Google has long had a strict policy of rejecting both advertisers and publishers trying to monetize on sensitive events, and the coronavirus pandemic is exactly such a case.

And not only the digital advertising giants but also many other brands adjusted their advertising strategies due to the coronavirus outbreak or tried to encourage the message. 

  • Cadbury pulled its Easter TV commercial due featuring an elderly man planning an egg hunt for his grandchildren. Given the coronavirus pandemic and the new rules about social distancing, this may have encouraged unwanted behavior and thus add risk. 
  • And some of the world’s best-known brands logos were altered by a Slovenian-based creative Jure Tovrljan to encourage social distancing and support the #stayhome movement for the sake of containing the virus spread.

The message is clear — the coronavirus is not something to make money on in the advertising world and the rules need to be obeyed or campaigns will be rejected.

16. Is using terms like coronavirus or covid-19 allowed in affiliate ad campaigns?

No. Usage of terminology related to the coronavirus pandemic is strictly prohibited in most credible traffic sources, Zeropark included. The rule refers to terms like coronavirus, covid, covid-19 or any variations of these terms or those implying direct relation.

17. What are campaign guidelines for affiliate advertising in times of coronavirus?

Please have a look at the below infographic for a comprehensive list of campaign guidelines for affiliate marketing in times of coronavirus.

Coronavirus Guidelines Infographic

18. Can advertisers promote medical products in times of coronavirus?

Yes, as long as such a campaign does not break any of the rules listed above and complies with general medical products advertising regulations by ASA (Advertising Standards Authority). Naturally, these may slightly vary depending on the traffic source so it is always best to check the compliance guidelines, yet one rule remains:

No ad should be irresponsible or exploit people’s fears regarding the current coronavirus outbreak

Please note that nobody is trying to limit anyone’s business ventures, but due to the fraudulent activities taking its toll on users, such limitations need to be put in place to secure the safety of users. Campaigns without the coronavirus related angle but promoting self-protection products are acceptable as long as there’s no mention of the coronavirus pandemic. Self-protection products include hand sanitizers, face masks, or disposable gloves.

Still, it might be worth checking if such ads do not harm a given country’s policy regarding the distribution of such products since regulations may have recently undergone changes.

19. Are the 2020 affiliate marketing prognoses still applicable?

We’re afraid they’re not anymore. The upcoming weeks will be pivotal to establishing new advertising trends and new prognoses. Any assumptions or profit calculations are no longer applicable, whether in terms of affiliate advertising or any other industry.

20. When will the coronavirus crisis be over?

Now, this is not a joke but one of the most frequently asked questions. Sadly, nobody can tell that just yet. What we can do instead is get all our resources to work, follow the industry trends, and obey the advertising guidelines to ensure our campaigns are safe and able to run smoothly. 

Use These Industry Insights To Secure Your Profits

Kinga Gawron

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