Affiliate Marketing in 2021: Trends, Insights, and Tips

Let’s skip the usual current year summary and move straight to how to strike gold in affiliate marketing in 2021. Even YouTube doesn’t want to remember 2020.

So picture yourself in this scenario:

It’s the 4th of January 2021, Monday morning.

First working day of the new year.

You have already recovered from any hangover caused by a lockdown-style New-Year’s party.

It’s time to figure out yourself as an affiliate marketer for 2021.

Several questions come to your mind:

  • Is affiliate marketing still a viable option in 2021 or should I jump ship?
  • Will Google eventually kill tracking?
  • And finally: Do I need to reinvent my whole strategy or simply do the same stuff as usual? What will work in 2021?

Coffee is getting cold, questions are piling up… But you are not on your own. We at Voluum tracker have a lot of years of combined experience in digital marketing and, by being a part of one of the major stakeholders in the industry, have our hands on the pulse.

No one is a prophet yet everyone is asking for a prophecy. Let’s replace magic with deduction and discover what 2021 has for affiliate marketers.

Affiliate marketing in 2021: Dead or alive?

This question about the state of affiliate marketing is asked so often that we have dedicated a separate article to this topic. In short: no, people are buying more and more stuff online, especially during the holiday season, and the need for marketing services will only grow.

This doesn’t mean that everyone will be lifted with the raising tide. The nature of this business will change and it may be harder for lone wolves to follow.

More and more economists use the term “K-shaped recovery” to describe a post-pandemic reality. This type of recovery regards a situation where various groups follow opposite trends: one group benefits from upward trends while the other is being sucked down by a downward spiral.

It’s almost like in Leonard Cohen’s song: “The poor stay poor and the rich get rich / That’s how it goes / Everybody knows”.

Almost. Because if you follow the trends that are most likely to shape the upcoming year, you have high chances of catching on.

The fallen ones

While we actively try to avoid talking about 2021, we still need to make a quick mention about some of the trends that we will most likely not see in 2021 or at least witness its demise.

Press “F” to pay respects.

Carrier billing

An option to add payment for an offer to one’s carrier bill enables user-friendly SOI flows. Carrier billing is characteristic of Tier 3 markets but once such a market evolves, it often becomes heavily regulated. Payment providers come in, carrier billing goes out.

It may still be used in markets that have joined the global network recently, but the sun goes down over the carrier billing in “old” Tier 3 markets.

Amazon Affiliates program

Amazon is growing to become a Leviathan that will soon consume us all but its affiliate program has lost its charm when its commission rates have been slashed down from 8% or 5% to 3% and 1% respectively because of Covid.

A quick note worth to remember:

Not all bad things that happen because of Covid… are really caused by Covid. Amazon stock prices were reaching all-time high when this was announced. 

Amazon Affiliates are still a tempting option but knowing what we know now, one must be more careful when deciding to tie their livelihood with this company.

Affiliate Tracking in 2021 and beyond

Browser companies seem to be determined to get rid of 3rd party tracking. By 2022, Google plans to phase out 3rd party cookies that are sometimes used in redirect tracking.

Or at least, they were trying to do that, until smart people behind Voluum have figured out how to support tracking with a redirect and direct methods without the need of such cookies.

Tracking will still be here because it is too important for too many key stakeholders. 

We are already prepared for the future.

Are you? Get the futureproof tracker now!

Affiliate marketing trends for 2021

To be profitable in affiliate marketing in 2021, follow the trends below and keep testing new ideas… while sticking with the old ones that still work.


You don’t hear about super affiliates, their Lamborghini’s, and generally lavish lifestyles as much as you used to, right?

10 years ago they were rockstars. 

Right now, you hear more often about companies. 

Affiliates started to realize that it is becoming harder and harder to be successful on your own. Affiliate marketing demands to keep many balls in the air. You need to be:

  • A marketer
  • A content writer
  • A web developer
  • A tax expert
  • Awake, while having so many responsibilities

The division of labor may be the answer. And I don’t mean that each affiliate has to start working a 9 to 5 job in a big affiliate marketing corporation. I mean that few affiliates can form a cooperative where each person would be responsible for stuff they are good at.

The Internet enables such a remote cooperation – the pandemic has proved it. 


The ssecond trend comes hand-in-hand with the previous one.

Arguments are the same, the only difference is the execution: due to the enhanced workload, some work will have to be delegated toward algorithms.

You cannot overlook everything all by yourself, you need at least some functions that will pause a campaign or alert you in case of emergency.

Voluum provides you with a built-in feature that responds to this trend. It is called the Automizer and was designed to make affiliate work easier.

With Automizer, you can decrease your workload by:

  • Creating rules that will react to any sudden events, such as traffic spikes, offers dying out, domain blocks, etc.
  • Automatically generating lists of good and bad placements which then can be used in subsequent rules.
  • Synchronizing costs to take away the doubtful pleasure of manual cost updating

The more control over your mundane tasks you give to automated systems, the more time you will have to focus on creative and strategy work.

Long-tail keywords and voice search

Hey Google, how to use long-tail keywords?

Affiliate marketers probably don’t rely on voice search when researching their topic (or maybe they do? Write down in comments!) but many people do when it comes to their day-to-day questions.

It is much harder to hit and advertise for the exact long phrase that people are searching for. However, when you successfully target this phrase, the conversion rates are incredibly high.

Long-tail keywords have always been one of those tips given to newbies by more experienced affiliates. The rise of voice searches only increases their significance. 

Also, Google already is, and will even more in the future, give higher visibility to content that contains and answers a user’s specific question. And voice searches usually come in question forms. If you optimize your campaign funnel for a voice search, you may get a higher ranking.

Flexible advertising

The overall dynamic situation forces advertisers to be more flexible. Although there always will be evergreen products and niches, the hottest offers will regard products that we still have no idea about.

Do you remember when people started buying PPE, or later, new laptops or web cameras? Anyone that was fast enough to cash on this trend is a model of a future advertiser.

The future advertiser will not tie themselves to one brand or product type. Instead, they will focus on having a reliable supply chain, being able to produce new content on a short notice, spot and jump on any trend that may be profitable.

Who knows what people may need in the coming months. Go one year back and imagine that you are trying to predict shopping trends for 2020.

Yeah, I would have made a mistake as well.

The new evergreens

The pandemic was a giant stress-test to the utopia of remote work and life that we all have been promised.

And, surprisingly, the test went slightly better than ‘disastrous’, which is more than we can say about any other utopia. 

Business meetings or family meetings have moved to Zoom or Skype. 

Shopping has moved online, including every product category: from food to cars and houses.

What the pandemic is showing us that there is a whole new category of products that the world needs:

  • Video and game streaming services
  • Web hosting
  • Platforms like Shopify or Magento

We, as a society, have entered (rather forcefully) into the world where access to the Internet is a necessity like electricity and water.

Advertising services that help everybody navigate the new truly digital world is a new evergreen category. And with each part of your lives moving towards digital, there will be more and more new services that will be deemed essential.

More ads

If you are worried that affiliate marketing will run out of places to advertise, worry no more. There are many trends that, combined together, will provide you with seemingly endless advertising opportunities.

Changes to ad saturation

The optimal number of ads is a nuanced thing. On one hand, there is YouTube that is increasing the overall number of ads id displays. YouTube has recently introduced audio ads for podcasts, along with displaying ads on videos from small creators that don’t qualify for its partnership program.

On the other hand, there is Facebook, that is doing the opposite thing. Starting from March 2021, the maximum number of ads per page will be limited. According to the announcement, this will make the remaining ads easier to optimize by people or platform’s algorithms. This should translate to more conversions per your ad dollar.

Whoever is right, there will be more opportunities to either advertise more or optimize better. Ultimately both options will make it easier to reach the desired audience.

New publishers

Big and well-known platforms aside, there is a growing number of publishers that are becoming more and more attractive for advertisers. They may not be new but are often overlooked and marginalized in favor of ‘Big Ad’ companies.

  • Quora is an alternative to Google for finding answers to difficult and complicated questions. A well-placed ad can do wonders for attracting the right visitors.
  • Linkedin is a very serious platform to advertise online courses or office-related products. Convertibility of Linkedin users towards these types of offers may be higher than even in the most carefully targeted Facebook ads
  • TikTok is no longer a kids-only platform, as it became evident during this year’s attempt to block its American part.

Every now and then, a new player comes to the town that wants to overthrow the old king of social: Facebook. From platforms such as Diaspora to the most recent Parler, some are popular among only specific groups, some gain a short burst of popularity whenever there is yet another Facebook privacy scandal, they all are worth digging into.

Maybe they won’t replace Facebook at the top spot, maybe nothing ever will. You don’t need the whole population of Facebook to advertise, you want your ads to reach carefully selected audiences that will convert like crazy – and that’s what you can find in these other platforms.

New affiliate programs

We’ve covered the topic of the best affiliate programs in one of our previous and most popular articles. The thing worth adding is that creating your own affiliate program will become an even more tempting option to companies and product owners.

With overall marketing costs going up, it is easier and cheaper to delegate marketing efforts to outsiders that don’t have such high fixed costs as big companies usually do.

We at Voluum believe in that so much that we are creating a perfect tool to manage your affiliate business. If you are a product owner, become our beta tester and participate in the product development.

If you are an affiliate, keep an eye out for new and promising affiliate programs, especially from companies that you already know.

Affiliate marketing in 2021 will stay with us

The affiliate marketing will both change and stay basically the same at the same time. It will adapt to new circumstances but the core idea behind it will be the same.

You don’t have to reinvent yourself, just evolve along with the industry. The times are unprecedented, but they still require the same skillset, approach and tools. You just have to be watchful, ready to change your strategy and think ahead more than you used to. 

The one thing that definitely did not change is the need for having the most reliable tracker. 

Get Voluum and be ready for whatever world throws at you.

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