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Insider’s Take: Where’s Affiliate Marketing Headed in 2019?

2158 1506 Mat Drela

Editor’s Note: The article you’re about to read comes from Mat Drela, Zeropark’s Managing Director and a long-time industry expert. Mat shares his predictions about affiliate marketing trends in 2019, including his takes on the relevance of push and pop traffic, the future of native advertising, the impact of Facebook’s issues, and the next big thing among ad formats. Let’s get straight to it! — Bartosz Bielecki.

Mobile Trumps Desktop

We’ve been observing a massive shift towards mobile marketing for a few years now. A few examples to illustrate this fact:

  • 90% of Facebook’s ad revenue comes from mobile;

  • On Zeropark, in 2014 less than 30% of ad spend went to mobile; in 2018 over 70%;

  • The new hot traffic type – push – is almost exclusively mobile (desktop push traffic is available, but is not getting much traction).

Mobile Push Is HOT!

From the traffic types readily available to affiliates, push will be the hottest topic of 2019, despite some negative tendencies, such as declining CTRs and user engagement.

Push is already showing some signs of saturation and overcrowding, however the ROIs achieved by affiliates are still very strong and unlikely to diminish in 2019.

What will be required of ad networks selling push traffic in 2019 is a more granular user segmentation, based on such factors as activity, preferences, language, etc.

What is also likely to happen is that crafty and tech savvy affiliates who had success with PUSH will start looking for a similar traffic type that will be less competitive and hence offer higher ROIs.

A natural choice will be SMS traffic, which is likely to move from the fringes towards the mainstream of affiliate marketing.

Pop Is Not Dead

On Zeropark, pop traffic campaigns still outnumber push by 10 to 1. However, with more affiliates moving into push, pop will become less crowded and hence more profitable for those that decide to stick with it.

Pop volumes are likely to decline, which, as counterintuitive as it might sound, is actually a good thing.

As Google and ad blockers cramp down on sites that pop ads to users in a overly aggressive way, they will get rid of the lowest quality inventory, where users are spammed with ads.

The trend in pop until 2018 has been one of decline. Declining conversion rates lead to lower CPMs, which in turn lead ad networks to increase the aggressiveness of the ads, both in terms of frequency and in terms of content. This created a really poor user experience, where visitors would be spammed with overly aggressive ads, and resulted in increased efforts from Google and others to eliminate pops entirely.

With less spammy inventory on the market, overall quality will increase and CPMs will go up.

Facebook – The Importance of Being Unimportant

Facebook is the best ad network ever. Period. It offers amazing reach, extremely granular targeting, and AI optimisation (the “lookalike feature”) far more powerful than anything any other network can offer.

As such, it is an important source for affiliate marketers. Sadly, anecdotal evidence suggest that Facebook is making it ever more difficult for affiliates to run campaigns. There are worries that they will eliminate affiliates altogether.

On one hand, on my best estimate, affiliates contributed less than 0.001% to Facebook’s ca. $60 billion of revenue. Blocking affiliates would not hurt them at all.

On the other hand, Facebook has much bigger issues to worry about than drop shipping or nutra campaigns. With ever present headlines accusing Facebook of enabling rogue political actors to spread fake news, extremist content and meddle in elections, Facebook compliance will have their hands full for the foreseeable future.

And because affiliates are so marginal for Facebook, things are likely to continue as they are.

Migration from Native to Push

In 2018, the dominant native ad exchanges such as Taboola and Outbrain became much stricter in terms of compliance. Popular affiliate verticals such as crypto and nutra have been entirely forbidden. In fact, compliance at these networks has become so stringent that in mid 2018, they banned straight sale offers promoting products such as tactical flashlights, mini fridges or bug zappers!

There has been additional scrutiny around creatives and landing pages as well, thus making it native ads far less attractive to affiliates.

Affiliates who have been focusing on native are likely to gravitate towards push, which tends to perform very well on campaigns that were traditionally promoted on native ads.

Because push ads are independent of websites, push networks can be lenient with the type of ads and copies they allow.

Run the hottest ad format of 2019.