By far and away the most common question I’ve been asked over the past 5 years is:
“So what’s hot right now?”
That’s what every beginner wants to know once they’re ready to take the first step. You’ve read up on the industry, taught yourself how to build websites, saved up a little capital to risk, and are ready to enter financial & employment freedom…but where do you start? In this post I hope to outline what affiliate marketing is like in 2013, how it’s changed over the years, and what verticals/offers are hot to promote.
Jump to: 9 Hot Affiliate Niches in 2013
What’s Affiliate Marketing Like in 2013?
I’m a bit surprised to say this myself, but it’s a lot like it was in 2007 when I first began. The barrier to entry is tough, there are still a lot of shady things going on, and the industry is growing. Landing page techniques that worked 5 years ago work just as well now. People still want to find love online and run their credit. Big surprise huh, human nature and exploiting that for sales hasn’t changed.
Back in 2009 when the FTC started dropping the banhammer on dozens of millionaire affiliates, there was a slight exodus in the industry. If you weren’t in the industry back then I’ll give you an idea: you had to know almost NOTHING about websites and almost NOTHING about marketing, and could make a couple million dollars in a year. Copy the landing page/ad that everybody else is using, run it on Google/Facebook where they didn’t monitor the ads, use that profit to run media buys on big news sites…profit.
After that boom, things seemed to quiet down. I started wondering “What’s going to happen to this industry now that the FTC is cracking down and so many affiliates seem to be dropping like flies?” But the industry pressed on, bringing in hundreds of new advertisers into popular verticals like credit/debt/dating, and hundreds more to newer areas like pay-per-call/home improvement/mortgage. Other gray area verticals emerged, and a decent faction stuck in a much more scrutinized trial/continuity space. People started promoting internationally where the regulations are more lax.
I used to also think “I’m lucky getting into this industry now, more competition is flooding in every day, who knows how flooded it will be 2 years from now.” And alas the number of affiliates out there is at an all time high, as is the competition. But the remaining barrier to entry combined with the influx of new offers, offer types, and traffic sources has kept affiliate marketing very prosperous for those who approach and execute intelligently.
Now that we know not too much has changed and there’s still a profit to be had, let’s find out where to find that profit and how to execute on it.
Note: I tried using as many historical landing pages as I could, but I am posting examples of pages that can currently be found by browsing ads. If I happen to post one of your pages and you want it taken down, don’t hesitate to contact me
9 Hot Affiliate Verticals in 2013
in no particular order
We have to start somewhere…why not start with one of the most popular verticals (if not the most) in this industry’s history? Dating was my first really big breakout offer (cue 2007) after ringtones, and continues to be a money tree for affiliates.
Offer Overview & Conversion Process
If you don’t know what online dating is by this point, you should probably stop internet. In most cases, affiliates promote these offers on a CPA (cost per action) basis which usually requires a 1-2 page short form submit (something like Match.com). Payouts vary based on quality and demographics, but you can see payouts swinging around the $3-8 range per lead typically. Other advertisers, like AdultFriendFinder strictly work on a CPS (cost per sale) revshare model. When a customer signs up for $100, you’ll get $60 and then $60 every month they stay on the website. The majority of the time, affiliates prefer the CPA dating offers because they’re easier signups. But there are affiliates that do very very well with revshare models in their own hidden niches, so keep that in mind.
How to Promote Dating
I will usually say that having a pre-sell landing page (what is a landing page?) is the best way to promote an offer. Dating might be the one of the few exceptions where there are a lot of affiliates having success linking directly to the offer, which explains why it’s such a saturated vertical with newbies. Affiliates do still promote these with landing pages though, and those typically come in a few different varieties.
#1 – The Review Page
The review page is pretty self explanatory. You create a landing page that has multiple dating offers on it, and you “review” these offers and link to your affiliate campaigns. It’s funny that advertorials have undergone so much scrutiny for pretending to be news sites, yet review pages have been untouched for years.
#2 – The Standard Lander
The bread and butter of affiliate marketing – the simple landing page. In dating, you typically want to put someone attractive on the page to get the person excited, and then have a text paragraph about how the site they’re about to enter is free to join, loaded with singles, and they’re going to have a great success rate on the site. Then you send ’em off the to the affiliate page with their tongues dripping and feverish to fill out the form.
#3 – Host & Post Dating
I’m going to be talking a lot about Host & Post, or CPL (Cost Per Lead) offers. In essence regarding dating, you will be making the page that captures all of the user information. Your “landing page” will look just like the actual affiliate offer. Instead of simply linking to the affiliate offer via button, you collect (host) the registration information and send it (post) to the dating advertiser. The advertisers API will read the data, validate it, and pay you if it checks out while simultaneously taking the user to the completed profile page. While it requires more technical know-how (that I hope to address soon), Host&Post offers are great because you control the entire process. You store the data yourself and can double-check to make sure the advertiser isn’t screwing you out of leads, and you can manipulate/test the form to optimize for conversions. Host & post for dating offers are usually unbranded, but if you page is really clean sometimes you can use the advertisers brand. They’re also a bit tougher to come across due to the sensitivity of the data. I have some resources in that arena though, hit me up if you have established traffic and are looking for a host and post.
Where to Promote Dating
Social Ad Platforms: dating is HUGE on social networks like Facebook. If you have a profile and are single, you’ve probably seen these ads 100 times already. Scummy guys spend 95% of their time on Facebook friending random girls looking for a shag, and the other 5% post club pictures with their greasy bros. This is your target. Utilize the plethora of Facebook demographic targets to create niches within dating, and then make ads that speak to that niche. PlentyOfFish.com is another social dating site where dating ads are big.
Search: search is big for dating as well, but a much more competitive space focused around brands. Only approach search if you have a hidden gem of a niche with keywords that aren’t flooded with ads. Aside from that, you’re likely to lose your money.
PPV: PPV, or pay per view traffic is popular among dating offers. Obvious targets are dating sites and social networking sites, and I’ll let your creativity guide you towards other areas that you can test.
Torrent/Adult Display: If you don’t use torrents, you should be browsing thepiratebay.se just to look (and laugh) at the ads. They’re usually adult targeted, so you’d have to look for offers in that area and then go through the process of making some of the most pedophile-targeted ads you’ve ever seen.
If you’re in need of dating offers, Neverblue is a quality spot to start, with over 100 dating offers listed publicly.
The house bubble blew, it popped, it crashed, and now it’s making a comeback. With the housing market slowly re-emerging, mortgage offers have become obscenely popular. Why is this good for affiliates? Because top tier leads can pay up to $70 (with lower leads $15-20 and below) on a form submit with no credit card or payment…a simple free quote. The credit card is the almighty barrier that affiliates have a hard time overcoming, which is why affiliates turn to shady offers to accomplish this. Mortgage leads have the same payout as rebill leads, but require no CC information and are genuine. Problems here? *Good* affiliate offers aren’t incredibly easy to come by, and the space is dominated by brands that are making tens of thousands of dollars on a single lead. That being said, be more creative than the brands with your traffic sources and promotion methods, and you may stumble upon a goldmine. Contact me if you think you can send some serious volume to mortgage, I’m brewing up something tasty in that vertical.
How to Promote Mortgage
The offer pages for mortgage offers are a lot like landing pages themselves, so a pre-sell isn’t always required. An Advertorial might work some magic in this vertical. The big (affiliate) players in mortgage usually run host & post, and have their own branded offer. Unless you have a great (and cheap) traffic source or audience lined up, you’re going to need a host & post to compete. Why? Upsells.
I wasn’t kidding when I said mortgage is an expensive vertical to get into. So expensive that you shouldn’t even expect to make a big profit on the mortgage lead itself. When you’re paying $2-5CPC, a lead might cost you $40+. If you’re just running a $25 affiliate payout offer, you’re already in the red. If you run a host & post, your hope is to upsell. An upsell is another offer(s) you build into your path. One of the most common upsells in mortgage are credit reports. The person submits the mortgage lead and is then taken to a page that says “Do you know your credit score? This could affect your mortgage rate and we advise you to get a copy of your credit score today.” This page simply links to an affiliate credit offer. After the credit offer it might upsell a loan offer, or pop up a mortgage rate table that pays out on a click.
Where to Promote Mortgage
Search: if you have the right setup, optimized path, and upsells, you may be able to crush search. If ANY of those variables is weak, you’re going to lose a lot of money. I’d only recommend this to advanced affiliates that have been in the space for a while.
Display/Contextual: mortgage offers do well with contextual and banner ads on news sites and other mortgage pages. This is a good place to start and get a feel for your conversion rates, CPA, and adcopy.
E-mail inbox: both e-mail traffic (which I don’t really talk about much because I don’t mail) as well as inbox contextual traffic (the ads you see in your gmail account) are big.
PPV: I haven’t dug around this space too much with mortgage, but I can assure you affiliates are utilizing PPV for mortgage. Do some research.
3. Home Improvement
I’m popping this one in here with mortgage because they work well in conjunction. Home improvement may not be the most well known vertical out there, and the offers aren’t incredibly easy to come by, but there is a massive amount of volume in the HI vertical if you can play it profitably. Like with mortgage, home improvement offers are somewhat sparse, and the big affiliates in the vertical usually run host & post. But what’s a better upsell than “Thanks for requesting a free quote to re-roof your house! Did you know that you could be paying $450 less per month on your mortgage? Click here to add a free rate quote in with your roofing estimate!”
Protip: If you’re running host & post, you already have all of their contact information. When they click “Yes” for the mortgage quote don’t send them to an affiliate offer with a blank form and don’t make them fill out a new form of your own. Pull the home improvement lead data and then just make them answer the additional fields like “What is your current mortgage rate, etc.”.
Double protip: Slip the additional mortgage questions into the home improvement form. Then all the user has to do is click “Yes” and you can automatically post the mortgage lead and then upsell them on credit or something else.
How and Where to Promote Home Improvement
Posting this would just be regurgitation of mortgage. The target audience is the same along with the targeting/methods.
If you’re looking to get into Home Improvement, I strongly suggest looking towards Integrate for offers. They have a Host & Post Ping Tree for home improvement. Essentially what that does is takes your posted lead data and sends a portion of it out to 2, 3, 5, however many buyers there are in that vertical. All of the buyers bid on the lead (this is done automatically based on criteria), and it sells to the highest bidder. If you need introductions there or to be hooked up with the right person, contact me.
Ah, the rebill. I’ll spare the stories as I talked a little bit about them in the beginning of this post. Despite the FTC crackdown, rebills continue to stand strong with a lot of business moving internationally to countries with more lax laws. Even if it’s too much for your ethics, there are a lot of great strategies and methods pioneered by rebillers; tactics you can pull over to cleaner niches. Rebills come in all verticals with the most popular being diet, skincare, muscle, and bizopp. There’s no way you can be in this industry and not have seen an ad with Dr. Oz in it. And you can be sure that’s not Dr. Oz’s PR team promoting him. He’s filed lawsuits with Oprah numerous times against those that use his name without his permission. Well Dr Oz, perhaps you shouldn’t say things like “Researchers have discovered a miracle weight loss product” every freakin’ episode, building just as much hype as rebillers do to equally useless products. Bro likes to chill in the shade but doesn’t like sharing it.
How to Promote Rebills
Advertorial. Enough said. If you’re an affiliate that wants to make it in rebills, you’ll need an advertorial landing page. What’s that? It’s a page that appears to be a reputable news site, consumer digest, or personal blog. The “reporter” writes about a new miracle product that can be tried for free and always provides sensational results. Lose 30lbs in 30 days. Get ripped in a month. Erase your wrinkles and look 20 again. Make $5,000/month from home. All for the low price of FREE! While I won’t out any specific domains, these pages are incredibly easy to find. Just go to any random Examiner article and you’ll see them. Or any other news/entertainment site. Here’s what advertorials look like:
Super legit right? They get worse than that too, the real ballsy affiliates (and offshore ones) will pop the FoxNews logo and use Fox’s template, making it appear exactly as if it was an article on Fox.
Where to Promote Rebills
This is the crux of it all. The offers are proven to convert great and EVERYBODY uses the same advertorial copy. So what’s stopping you from making millz on it tomorrow? Competition and caps. The traffic on good rebill placements is always expensive and competitive. And depending what country you’re in, most of the cap an affiliate network has is already being used by pubs that have been running the offer for months. That all being said, a lot of affiliates are banned from certain traffic networks or avoid them for risk of being banned (Google, Facebook). If you’ve got a good setup and want to risk it, there’s money in the game.
Display/Contextual: I’ll be breaking down all of the different ad networks in a different post, but there are quite a few contextual networks like WamCPC that accept advertorials onto their platform. Target news & entertainment sites.
PPV: difficult to figure out and a big test budget is required, but there are some affs blowing up on pops with advertorials.
Facebook/Google: risk it for the brisket baby. Requires intense cloaking measures.
If you’re looking for a plethora of continuity offers, definitely check out DeluxeAds. Cool guys who know the space well and have been in it for a while.
5. Credit Reports
Credit reports, like dating, is an offer that’s stood the test of time in the affiliate world. They’re great offers to run when you find a consistent niche or vertical, because they campaign is usually very long term (1+ years). Credit is used for way too many things in America, making pulling your score an important thing to do when you’re applying for that auto or home loan. This makes it a great cross-vertical offer. Credit report advertisers use the importance of credit to bait in customers with a “Free Credit Score” marketing angle, and much like diet rebills charge a small $1 fee for “processing”. What most people don’t really pay attention to is that they’re also enrolling themselves in credit monitoring, which typically runs $30/month. This makes credit offers have nice payouts, typically between $20-30. The offers pay when the user submits their credit card for the $1 processing fee.
How to Promote Credit Reports
There was once a point in time when it was relatively easy to whip up a simple credit landing page, run search traffic, and profit. You don’t really see much of that anymore, and you don’t see a whole lot of affiliates bidding on terms and ad copy like “Free Credit Report”. That’s kind of reserved now to the advertisers who all compete for eachother now at higher CPAs (they’re competing at $50-100+ CPAs which makes it hard for you to jump in at $20).
As mentioned before, this doesn’t stop affiliates from coming up with creative ways to sell credit reports. This typically happens in the fashion of upsells, or in an offer path. In the case of upsells, it’s after you get that mortgage or home improvement quote. With paths, it’s along the path of getting a mortgage/HI quote. You can get pretty creative with it though due to the fact that credit is so widely used.
So while I’m not going to post any ideas or landing pages on that, asking yourself “Who needs to pull their credit and how can I reach them?” is a question worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Where to Promote Credit Reports
Search: like mortgage, the space is tough. Mostly reserved to advertisers competing at higher CPAs. Enter at your own risk and go for niche keyword groupings.
Display/Contextual: these work well with credit reports, though certain placements will be just as competitive/expensive as search. It’s better to have your own niche worked out and then target placements within that
PPV: solid converter if you’ve got the right niche
6. Coupons/Discounts/Daily Deals
Groupon! The company that blew up the coupons space…but not really. The coupon vertical has been massive since shopping online first became a thing and will be massive at least until all of you reading this are dead. Groupon did popularize and innovate online flash sales though, which paved way for an extremely profitable affiliate vertical. It was a great time in 2011 when daily deal sites popped up every single day, many of them funded by VCs. These daily deal offers paid out $4+ for an email submit, in the time when those offers were booming with consumers. Naturally they all sucked themselves dry with their trigger happy payouts, but certain brands matured and the flash sale space evolved. Now you can find generalized daily deal sites like Groupon and Living Social in the affiliate space, and more specialized flash sale/shopping sites like Zulily and Totsy. And then you have the classic coupon clipper offers. All of these offers typically payout on a Name/Email submit. Coupon clipping payouts are on the lower end around $1, flash sale signups are usually $2-4, and Groupon style general offers are either revshare, or $4-7 payouts if you’ve got connections.
How to Run Coupon Offers
If I gave suggestions on how to run coupon offers, I’d still be typing 2 weeks from now. Coupons is such a broad vertical that you can target it to pretty much anything and any demographic (we all love discounts!). General coupon ads like “Save 70% Today!” convert, coupon niches work “Free Laundry Coupons!”, general deals work “NYC Shopping – 80% Off!”, niche deals work “1/2 Off Spa Trip in Sacramento!”, and so on.
Coupon offers do extremely well with established online communities/userbases. Mommy blogs/forums/facebook pages are huge for driving coupon leads. Affiliates have built entire businesses around running a Mommy Facebook page, gathering 500,000+ legitimate coupon clipping moms, and blasting out affiliate coupon offers to them.
And just to show you that you don’t have to be a genius to make it in affiliate marketing, I helped sink the Groupon-clone ship with this page:
Sexy right? At it’s peak it was doing 1,500-2,000 leads/day on Facebook. It all worked because of my adcopy (which took a little creativity but not much), aside from that it was broadly targeted to women in the US between the ages of 30-55, I think. Keep your eyes open, when an advertiser burns through VC money with no regard and wants unlimited leads without monitoring quality…take advantage.
Where to Run Coupon Offers
Facebook: Social media is still freaking massive for affiliate coupon/deal offers. While it’s not as easy as exploiting aggressive brands anymore, I know of affiliates that drive $100k+/month to flash sale/coupon offers on Facebook. It requires finding the right niches, finding out how to best reach them, and then scaling that strategy across other audiences.
Display: Display is big on coupons as well. Thousands of coupon sites that rank organically make all of their money on adsense, selling their clicks to coupon affiliates.
PPV: as with most PPV campaigns, affiliate offers work if you can weed through the hundreds of thousands of URLs out there to pop
If you’re looking for coupon offers, it’s one of the bigger verticals at Integrate. Affiture also has some coupon offers. I’m not sure if it’s direct but they have the Ebates offer going around that is supposedly doing well.
Mobile is also one of those “never die” verticals, that is unless we humans find a cooler way of communicating. Mobile has been in the affiliate industry since the beginning; it was the first vertical I ran (and also the first profitable one). Back then the hot niche was ringtones, but that was before the dawn of the smartphone (crazy to think about). With the smartphone, mobile resurged in a very, very big way. And it’s surging right now. You’ve already missed out on the shadiest days of mobile PIN submits in the US, but these affiliates have been moving and casting their shadow over the rest of the world, where regulations are lax like rebills. I’ll break mobile into very 2 broad categories:
1 – PIN submits. Typically the offer will be “Win a Free iPad!” on the web as the user is browsing the internet. They click and believe they have won a free iPad, they just have to complete the following steps. First, enter your phone number. Next, enter the PIN number texted to your phone and submit (CHA-CHING, there’s a lead, probably $8 to you). Next, get sent to an e-mail submit offer saying “Win a Free iPad!”. You likely don’t get the iPad and you had no idea that you just opted into a $6.99/month program that will text you horoscopes every week. Classy.
2 – App Installs. Games are most popular among affiliates, but the app install business is growing into other areas as well (things like Hotels.com and other travel offers). These offers will usually pay a couple bucks when a user installs the app on their phone.
The difference between the two is that PIN submits are typically generated with web traffic, while app installs are derived from mobile traffic.
How to Promote Mobile Offers
PIN submits – most of the work is done for you on the landing page, though some affiliates will make a pre-sell page or have a fake quiz/step/something to make the user feel like they are a specific winner of the prize. I’m not going to post any of the specifics, and it’s another ethics call on your part, but in short your goal is to convince somebody that they’ve won a prize they didn’t actually win. The more creative you get, the bigger your mansion will be………..IN HELL. That’s cool though, you might be neighbors with Jesse Willms.
App installs – App installs are usually done without a landing page because it’s not really a web offer. Affiliates will also take these offers and promote them with incent – telling the user they’ve won a free iPad if they install this cool new game.
Where to Promote Mobile Offers
Anywhere you can get your ads approved, which is tough and why many affiliates have moved internationally with it. Google bans it, Facebook bans it, most display sources are rough since you’re competing against $40 payout rebill affiliates. What’s left is the really cheap pop and DSP/exchange traffic, which is a massive sea of garbage with golden nuggets attached to anchors in random areas. Internationally speaking display is a more even playing field and networks are easier to cloak.
In terms of app installs, there are numerous mobile traffic networks and there’s always Google. You’ll want to look at text/mobile banner ads as well as in-app interstitials.
If you’re intrigued by the mobile industry, definitely look to Mundo Media. The focus primarily on mobile now and are the biggest network in the space doing it.
Think…Farmville. With games like Farmville and other stupid mobile games, advertisers realized the profit in getting a user to play a cool game for free and then nickel and dime’ing them once they’re committed. Have you seen the ads lately circulating saying “Play the New Game of Thrones Game”? Affiliate offer. These offers typically pay when a users registers and/or downloads the game (a short and free process), payouts in the $1-4 range.
How to Promote Gaming
While you can use a presell to psych the person up for the game, you can get away with direct linking which makes it a good offer for beginners. I direct link the Game of Thrones offer and it profits. Some people will go a shady route like with mobile apps and incent the person to sign up for the game. Commonly you’ll see ads that bait the user, “NO WAY You Can Beat lvl 1”.
For demographics, generally speaking your target is the same as Catholic priests. Just be gentle.
Where to Promote Gaming
Facebook: biggest target for these offers. Best age demographic targeting there is and you can combine that with interests (ie likes to play video games, likes Game of Thrones, etc).
Display: hit gaming sites, code sites
I get my gaming offers through Neverblue, though many networks have them.
9. Pay Per Call
Pay Per Call is a vertical that’s become popular over the past year or so. It may have started earlier, but in general I’m kind of unfamiliar with it. In terms of the affiliate leadgen industry, these offers are about as clean as they come. The verticals are primarily offline industries: things like debt settlement, lawncare, home security, pest control, etc. The offers pay out when a user calls your affiliate phone number, and stays on the call for a set duration (usually between 30-120 seconds). Payouts are pretty good for 30-60 second calls, ranging from $10-20. The longer duration debt settlement/personal injury calls can go for $60.
How to Promote Pay Per Call
Like I said I’m not too familiar with the vertical, so my advice here is limited.
The way I’ve seen PPC promoted with slight success is using mobile traffic and “click to call” ads, where instead of a link the ad goes to, you open up the dialer on the persons cell phone and they just have to press the “Call” button. You can buy display traffic here, and also search traffic through Google.
You can also build a landing page that convinces a user the best way to solve their problem is by “Calling This Phone Number NOW!”.
Where to Promote Pay Per Call
Search: Google click to call ads
Mobile display: banner click to call ads
I don’t really have more on this, but I do know Neverblue built their own side-platform for PPC tracking (RingRevenue). They’ve got a lot of PPC offers on their platform, so be sure to check them out.
Your head might be spinning with ideas right now, and in an attempt to guide you where to start I may have ended up confusing you. Which niche do you pick to start in? That will be a combination of what interests you, what you think your capabilities are in each vertical, what connections you have, and where you can execute with traffic.
I hope that in the least I gave you some food for thought on how to approach this brave old world of affiliate marketing. As always, please share if you thought this article was helpful!