8 essential affiliate marketing tips and trends for 2020

Ruth G. | August 11, 2020
15 mins

Does affiliate marketing still work? All signs point to yes, absolutely. And chances are, that it’s only going to get bigger. Don’t just take our word for it, either. Let’s back that statement up with some cold, hard stats.

Today, 81% of brands and 84% of publishers use affiliate marketing, and the affiliate marketing industry is due to reach 8.2 billion U.S. dollars by 2022. If you haven’t yet joined the world of making passive income through affiliate marketing, now’s the time.

If you’re wondering what the major trends are right now, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve gathered 8 top tips that will help better inform your marketing decisions.

1. Be phone-friendly — focus on mobile users

As the number of mobile users continues to rise (currently 45.04% of the world’s population own a smartphone), it stands to reason that marketing efforts should be pointed towards the mobile market specifically. Affiliate marketing is no exception.

Google and other major search engines are tailoring search results to benefit mobile users more and more. In fact, Google has announced mobile-first indexing for all websites starting September 2020" meaning that its crawlers will index web pages based on how they render on mobile rather than desktop. So if your affiliate site or blog isn’t optimized for mobile, you’re in trouble.

How does mobile affiliate marketing differ from regular affiliate marketing? To tell the truth, there is a lot of overlap. Your main concern should be that your site is optimized for mobile and works across devices.

Back in the day, mobile marketing was largely concerned with sending SMS messages. Brands would (and often still do!) send text messages with the latest deals and offers directly to their customers.

These days, the lines are blurred between mobile and desktop. After all, a Facebook ad can run on both desktop and mobile newsfeeds, and a blog post featuring affiliate links can also be viewed and clicked across devices. However, if you run PPC ads, you can choose to target mobiles specifically and create mobile-dedicated landing pages too.

Due to the nature of smartphones, mobile marketing is more targeted. More and more data can be gleaned about users, from their location to the kind of device they are using. Ads can then be tailored accordingly.

Some PPC options for mobile affiliate marketing are:

  • Mobile web ads
    These are much like regular web ads, but specifically designed for mobile screens and will only be seen on mobile versions of websites. Clicking on these ads will also bring users to a mobile-optimized landing page.
  • Mobile social media ads
    As the name indicates, these work much the same way as general mobile web ads, but they are specific to social media.
  • In-app ads
    These PPC ads are often found in free mobile apps.

Mobile affiliate marketing isn’t perfect (but what is?) and there will be a steep learning curve as marketers are still finding their feet when it comes to getting it right, but it can’t be ignored.

With the number of smartphone users rapidly rising around the world, tapping into the mobile market should definitely be among your top five affiliate marketing strategies for 2020.

2. Optimize for voice search

With the emergence and increasing popularity of smart devices, such as Amazon’s Alexa, Google Home, and smartphone assistants like Siri and Bixby, it’s becoming clear that voice search is not a passing fad — it’s here to stay. 

The forecast that 55% of households will own a smart speaker device by 2022 indicates that voice search will soon become an integral part of our daily lives.

So, how can affiliate marketers leverage the rise of voice search? To get started, you’ll need to tailor your SEO strategy in the following ways:

  • Utilize natural speech patterns

    In doing this, your focus will be on long-tail keywords over shorter head terms. People speak differently in real life, so this needs to be taken into consideration. You’ll need to research how people actually speak about the product you are promoting.
  • Get specific

    In the same vein as the previous point, long-tail keywords are key. Think about your potential users’ immediate needs. Create answers to potential questions they’re likely to ask and incorporate them into your written content.
  • Get local

    Very often, voice searches have a local slant, with people looking for establishments like bars and restaurants close to them. If local segmentation is a possibility for your affiliate niche, take advantage of it.

3. Turn your attention to influencer marketing

Influencer affiliate marketing has been around for a while now, and it shows no signs of letting up any time soon. The term “influencer marketing” tends to evoke an image of perfect-looking people with perfect-looking lives and millions of adoring followers to boot.

But that isn’t necessarily the case — if you are passionate and knowledgeable about your niche, and have an engaged audience who trust you, that’s enough to try your hand at affiliate influencer marketing. You don’t have to be a model or a Kardashian to be an influencer.

Brands often team up with micro-influencers (the definition of a micro-influencer can vary, but typically it refers to people with 1000 to 100,000 social media followers) to promote products related to their specific niche. For instance, travel planner Passport to Friday has 22 thousand followers and a variety of travel-related sponsors.

Seeing as Instagram has become synonymous with influencers, here are some tips to make the most of affiliate marketing on the visual social media site.

The downside of leveraging Instagram for your affiliate marketing efforts is that you can only have one live link at a time in your profile, and that’s in your bio. You can’t have specific links in individual posts promoting specific products, unfortunately. It isn’t ideal to keep changing your bio link either — otherwise, you won’t drive any traffic to older affiliate links. So what’s an influencer to do?

You have some options here:

  • Linking to your website or blog
  • Linking to a landing page that looks similar to your Instagram feed, but each individual post contains the relevant affiliate links. This is actually pretty easy to set up as there are a number of online tools that do it all for you, such as Linktree and Linkin.bio.

Take advantage of Instagram Stories

It wasn’t quite true when we said you can only have affiliate links in your bio – they can also be inserted into your Instagram Stories. However, you will need to have a verified account (click here for more information on how to verify your account) and over 10,000 followers to do this.

To the uninitiated, Instagram Stories are essentially temporary posts that disappear within 24 hours. When you add in a link to your story, there will be instructions to followers that tell them to “swipe up” for more information. Much like anything else in affiliate marketing, you should insert links sparingly and always make sure what you’re promoting is relevant to your audience. You don’t want to build up a loyal following only to come across as spammy.

If you want people to have access to this link for more than 24 hours, you can add it to your story highlights, which is when you essentially pin your story to your public bio.

4. Prioritize user trust, safety, and security

Data protection has been a hot topic these past few years. Data breaches have been occurring more and more, from enormous lists of email addresses and password combinations being found on hacker forums and cloud services, to revelations of high-profile companies using people’s data for dubious purposes.

It’s no surprise, then, that people are becoming more conscious when it comes to online safety and privacy. If your affiliate site doesn’t follow basic safety precautions, all your marketing efforts will be for naught.

Here are a few ways to make sure your website and affiliate marketing efforts are above board:

Practice full disclosure

Writing an article filled with affiliate links? Tell your readers. Sharing an image of a cool product a company sent you on social media? Tell your readers where it came from. Even if your blog or social media post says something negative, you need to be upfront with the fact that you will be compensated for any clicks and purchases users will make. Nobody likes to feel like they’ve been duped. You need to disclose all your affiliate relationships.

More than just an opportunity to impress readers and followers with your open honesty, in the US, it’s the law. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulations, everyone from brands and influencers to affiliate marketers must be fully transparent about the relationship they have to the product they’re promoting.

For affiliate marketers, this means that you must state somewhere on your site that you may receive a commission if readers make a purchase through one of the links you provide. You can read more about being transparent as an affiliate marketer on the FTC website.

Even if you’re not located in the US, it’s still a good idea to be open and honest about your relationships with brands for the purposes of building trust with your readership. Furthermore, other territories, such as the UK, are now following suit by providing strict guidelines for those promoting products across social media or their website.

Get an SSL Certificate

Security Sockets Layer, or SSL, is a technology which ensures data shared between users and websites is encrypted. Visual indicators of websites with an SSL certificate are the “https” prefix in the address bar and a padlock symbol.

When users in the know see that your website is SSL-certified they can rest in the knowledge that any data they disclose on your site will be safe from malicious eyes. Not only that, but Google gives higher rankings to SSL-secured sites. Whatever way you look at it, getting an SSL certificate for your affiliate site is a no-brainer. To learn more, visit Namecheap’s SSL certificates page.

Be GDPR compliant

GDPR (the General Data Protection Regulation) has been a huge talking point in recent years, and it will continue to be an important consideration for any business with a website in 2020 and beyond. This European data privacy and security law focuses on the companies that collect data related to people in the EU. Among the wide range of obligations websites have to their users are:

  • Getting clear consent from users to collect their data
  • Clearly stating what that data will be used for
  • Ensuring that data is not used for any other reason than the one stated at the time of collection
  • Giving users the opportunity to request that their data be erased
  • Deleting data after it is no longer needed

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. To read more about GDPR and what being compliant entails, click here.

If you have users in Europe, being GDPR compliant is essential. Even if you don’t, it’s not a bad idea to be open and honest with users about data collection: what it’s being used for and allowing them the opportunity to opt-out at any time.

5. Keep tabs on search engines other than Google

Growing concerns about personal data mean that it would be a mistake to focus all your SEO efforts on Google. While it certainly is still the most popular option on the World Wide Web by a longshot, it stands to reason that people will look for more privacy-focused alternatives that don’t gather as extensive information about what interests you, your family and friends, future plans, where you’ve been, and even what you look and sound like.

A search engine that emphasizes protecting its users' privacy and had been growing in popularity in recent times is DuckDuckGo. Their mission statement is:

“Too many people believe that you simply can't expect privacy on the Internet. We disagree and have made it our mission to set a new standard of trust online.”

Resultantly, DuckDuckGo does not track its users or store any personal information. A breath of fresh air for those used to many online company’s tendencies to do the exact opposite.

DuckDuckGo has market share of 0.44%, very low compared to the other major search engines. Still, when it comes to searches, many sites are seeing an upward trend of visitors coming from DuckDuckGo. Between 2018 and 2019 total searches increased dramatically, from 9.2 billion direct queries in 2018 to 15 billion in 2019. Nothing to sniff at!

So how do you get your site found on DuckDuckGo?

Beyond general go-to SEO methods (which you can read more about here), to attract users from DuckDuckGo, Search Engine Journal recommends adding a geo-qualifier to keywords where needed, as DuckDuckGo does not track its users’ exact location. Furthermore, you should make sure you’re following best practices for SEO on Bing and Yahoo, as DuckDuckGo pulls some of its results from them.Other search engines concerned with user privacy include Qwant and Startpage.

6. Branch out beyond social media channels like Facebook and YouTube

Privacy concerns are also pushing away users from social media sites like Facebook and YouTube. However, they are still in the lead in terms of monthly active users, so it wouldn’t be the wisest choice to cut them out from your affiliate marketing channels completely, but it’s never a bad idea to diversify. We recommend branching out to one or more of the following:

  • Twitter
  • Snapchat
  • Pinterest

Okay, so these aren’t exactly new kids on the block, but they’re not as saturated as Facebook and YouTube and offer a lot of potential. Here are some tips on how to affiliate market using these social media networks.


Unlike Facebook where you could stand to get away with posting every so often and be done with it, Twitter will require a little more engagement on your part. In the Twittersphere, everyone is equal from celebrities and corporate accounts to everyday folk like you and me.

You’ll often find that many users with the most followers aren’t famous at all, but just clever, funny people who have perfected the art of the 280 character limit.

So, where to begin with establishing yourself on Twitter? Here are some pointers to get you started:

  • Have a good Twitter bio
  • Follow relevant people in your niche
  • Make the most of hashtags
  • Engage in Twitter conversations
  • Retweet influencers and thought leaders

Yet again, making sure everything you tweet or retweet is relevant to your audience is key to avoid appearing spammy.

Then there are Twitter ads.

There are several options for ads on Twitter. To get more followers, you can get your profile promoted to relevant eyes. You can drive traffic to your site by setting up an ad for it. You could also set up an affiliate offer promotion tweets which will show up on people’s newsfeeds, labeled as “Promoted." Head to Twitter to find out more.


Snapchat isn’t only for kids sending each other temporary pictures with goofy filters. It has a discover section in which content from both publishers a user is subscribed to and publishers recommended based on their interests can be found. This is a great opportunity for affiliate marketers. In the discover section, you can create content, whether it be an image or video, to promote affiliate products, or your website or blog. Find out more about Snapchat ads on their site.


Essentially an online pinboard, Pinterest is a visual discovery engine that allows users to find posts or “pins” related to their interests, and save them to “boards” in their profile. Pins generally feature eye-catching visuals and links to outside websites.

In 2015, Pinterest briefly banned posting affiliate links because of abuse by spammers, but they are now permitted again following an improvement of their spam detection system. Some popular options for affiliate marketing on Pinterest are inserting affiliate links into the pins themselves, or linking to a landing page or blog post containing affiliate links. Find out more in Pinterest’s affiliate link guide

7. Content will continue to be king — especially video content

A list of marketing tips and trends is never complete without pointing out the need to produce high-quality content. No matter what year it is, this point will always be a mainstay in such a list as this one.

But in 2020 in particular, video content is where your focus should lie. Especially when more than 55% of shoppers globally say they use online video while actually shopping in-store.

Whether your platform of choice is YouTube, Instagram, or Facebook, there is a wealth of ways to use video as part of your affiliate marketing strategy. Here are just a few suggestions:

  • Product demonstrations
  • Product reviews
  • Product comparisons
  • How-to videos
  • Best-of videos
  • Discussing topics related to your niche

And don’t forget to include your affiliate link in the description box (where applicable).

This is not to say you should forget about the written word completely. Producing search-engine-optimized, keyword-rich content will continue to be key in 2020. To perfect the art of writing compelling reviews, read Namecheap’s handy guide

8. Better data and reporting

The importance of data can never be understated, especially if you’re a marketer. It’s becoming more and more important as time goes on. According to the World Economic Forum, data is now the most valuable asset for companies. Meanwhile, Econsultancy’s 2019 Digital Trends report found that the top priority for marketers in 2019 is “better use of data for more effective audience segmentation and targeting."

To succeed as an affiliate marketer in this day and age, utilizing data effectively is vital. Anything else is just guesswork. If you don’t have hard data to help you make decisions, your affiliate marketing efforts are unlikely to be fruitful.

Leverage data by:

Clearly defining KPIs

What data are you collecting and why? What is it you want to understand? For affiliate marketers, this could be which banner ads perform well than others, or what kind of content tends to convert users. Where to begin with finding out these things? By defining Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).

KPIs are metrics that help you wade through mountains of data and analyze what’s most relevant to your end goal. This could be how many people click on your links or banner ads and make a purchase, but it could also be tracking how many people sign up to your email newsletter or follow you on social media. Maybe you really want to build a loyal following. Knowing your goals from the outset will keep you focused on what it is you want to achieve.

Testing consistently

By carrying out A/B tests regularly, you’ll learn to understand why something in your affiliate marketing strategy is or isn’t working.

Using the right tools

Keeping track of your affiliate marketing efforts is easy when there are so many online tools at your disposal. Google Analytics is a go-to for many marketers, affiliates or otherwise. Everflow, AffiliateWP, and LinkTrust are also popular platforms with affiliate marketers.

Still want more?

For more information on how to start affiliate marketing right now, check out some of Namecheap’s essential resources for affiliate marketing, such as our comprehensive Affiliate Marketing 101 article.


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Ruth G.

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