Adult affiliate marketing landscape in 2019: past trends and prospects for the future
[Disclaimer: This article was initially posted on STM Forum on May 28, 2019.]
This is the first article in a series of posts about adult traffic and how to work with it.
Table of contents
- What is adult traffic?
- Where does adult stand in 2019 and where to get it?
- We have traffic now… what to sell these users?
- Let’s play prophet now, where is adult headed in the future?
- Wrap it up!
What is adult traffic?
First of all, we should define what adult traffic means in the affiliate marketing terminology.
When we say “adult”, it’s not about the age of the users (though the majority of them should be 18+), it describes the origin of such visits and/or the interests of these users.
The typical “adult surfer” comes from a porn/erotic website, such as the largest free tubes (Pornhub, xHamster, XVideos, etc.). But there are many other types of sites that are also considered adult: casual dating sites, erotic stories sites, escort directories, photo sites, content sharing forums, swingers communities/forums… basically, any site that features nudity or strong sexual language.
Many of these site types have much higher quality traffic than the common tubes, so definitely keep them in mind when planning your media buying strategy.
Couple lines above, I mentioned that the “interest” also defines the nature of the traffic and it can be considered adult based on that. What did I mean by that and why is it important?
Take a file-sharing forum, for example. These operate on the edge of legality already, so they do not care about their image all that much. That’s why you can see adult or semi-adult ads on these all the time. When someone clicks on such an ad, the click would be considered “adult” from now on since it originates from an adult ad.
Keep this in mind, in case you’re running back buttons, for example. Even though the click comes from a non-adult site, some advertisers might reject this traffic because of the ad used.
Make sure all the offers in the funnel accept adult traffic when using adult ads, no matter what the site you advertise on.
Ok, enough of the theory, I’m sure we’re all on the same page now.
Where does adult stand in 2019?
Anyone trying to make money in affiliate marketing needs 2 things, TRAFFIC and OFFERS. And adult is no different, of course.
So, I’d say it would be a good idea to look at the current situation with these 2 things in mind.
Traffic: where to get it?
Bulk of the adult traffic comes from the free tube sites. It’s been like this for the past 10 years already and Google is to blame for this. About 10 years ago, the adult Internet was way more diversified, there were 10s of 1000s of small/medium-sized sites, each attracting their audience.
But then, Google decided to focus more on the “on-site” factors in their rankings, such as time-on-site, and tubes quickly started to gain ground, because no other site type could compete against video tubes when it comes to these factors.
As a result, we now have a few gigantic tubes that dominate the market. 1000s of smaller sites died, 1000s of affiliates and webmasters left the space as they simply couldn’t compete and generate enough revenue as they lost large parts or all of their SEO traffic.
The adult industry basically shrunk into a fraction of what it was before.
These days, the whole adult Internet is dominated by 4-5 sites, each of them receiving millions of visitors per day. The largest one seems to be Pornhub, with 70-100 millions of visits per day. XNXX, XVideos and xHamster follow and YouPorn closes the TOP 5 with about 15 million visits per day. This data comes from SimilarWeb, so take it with a grain of salt.
BTW: why do I think it’s bad? It’s never good when a very small amount of players control the market. And on top of that, tubes teach their users to get everything for free, which is not good for the market as a whole. Why pay when it’s all out there for free?
But the sky isn’t falling, there are also some positives as a result of this “concentration”. All of these mega tubes are selling ad space, so any media buyer can run on them. And due to their size, all it takes is to master one of them and you can become rich.
Each of these large tubes has its “native” ad network and it’s not surprising at all that these ad networks are the biggest in the adult business. These are the “big 3”.
TrafficJunky has Pornhub, YouPorn… and more.
TrafficFactory has XVideos and XNXX.
TrafficStars has xHamster… and more.
But still, none of these networks is the biggest one.
The throne belongs to Exoclick, but their model is a bit different. While all the 3 above-mentioned networks get the bulk of their traffic from one or two mega tubes, plus a limited amount of other bigger sites, Exoclick sells ad space on 1000s and 1000s of smaller and bigger sites, plus they also resell part of the inventory from other ad networks (including the big 3).
NOTE: Due to the nature of this setup on Exoclick, it’s also harder to optimize that traffic. The quality can vary a LOT from one small site to the next, so keep that in mind.
You’re right, it’s quite a mix. Traffic from the same site can be found on a number of traffic networks, it’s quite common to see one spot (header banner) to be sold via one network and another spot (footer) through another network. And to make it even more complicated, some sites sell the ad space in packages… 20% of the rotation, for example. Because of this, at some point I was buying the “Pornhub desktop NTV-A banner” from 3 sources at the same time.
Ok, so we already know what the 4 largest traffic networks are in adult: Exoclick, TrafficFactory, TrafficJunky and TrafficStars (not sure about the exact order), but there are way more than just this. I think it would be a good idea to write a separate article about this topic and providing more details about each of the networks, including some tips on how to work with them.
But let me list a few more, so you know where to look for the clicks: TrafficForce, Ero-Advertising, JuicyAds, TrafficHaus… All of these sell mostly display/banner traffic. Then, there are POP/redirect networks with pure or partially adult inventory: PlugRush, Adnium, Clickadu, PropellerAds, PopAds, etc. And let’s not forget about PUSH networks, there is a ton of them these days and even though they are not adult by default, you can still run adult offers there, which is a topic for another article and I won’t get into details here.
After all, this post should only map the environment so to speak.
Adult traffic is not just banners and pops though, there are several other types that you can buy. Members area clicks and email clicks gained a lot of popularity lately. You can buy some directly at some traffic networks such as Exoclick, VRUME, Adnium. A lot of email/members area traffic is sold via private deals though, and that’s something you need the right contacts for. And experience. And a larger budget. So, definitely nothing for the newbies, but the options are there for you to explore later on.
Let’s not forget about native traffic. This is a rather funny situation in my opinion. The native format has actually been “invented” by one adult network named PlugRush.
These guys started to trade and sell “plugs”, which were basically small thumbs that blended nicely with the site’s content, just like any native widget. But from some reason, it took many years for others to follow suit. These days, you can buy native ads from TrafficStars, Exoclick, TrafficFactory, PlugRush (of course) and we also see native only adult networks popping up now, such as RUNative.
[RANT TIME] There is one thing that’s kinda getting on my nerves lately when it comes to working with the large networks. They sell part of their inventory to private buyers, large dating or cam operators even before it hits the auction. And this is usually the best part of the traffic. So in case you are wondering why it’s a problem to get some solid volume from the largest adult sites online (Pornhub) and even those clicks that you get don’t convert… this is why. I understand their motives to a certain point, but in the end they will just lose the smaller buyers. Time to rethink your strategy TrafficJunky maybe? [END OF RANT]
Let’s sum up the traffic part of this article now:
- Tubes have the largest volume, but the lowest traffic quality.
- Members area traffic, email clicks, escort sites, sites that are not just about “free” stuff… that’s where the quality is. But the prices are high. It’s a good idea to mix in some of these traffic with the regular tube clicks in order to increase overall quality.
- PUSH traffic is the “hot shit” right now and it can work with adult offers too, just make sure to tone the whole funnel down. Quality can be quite unstable here, so keep that in mind.
- Native traffic has been growing lately too, banner blindness is a serious problem, so no wonder it’s happening.
We have traffic now… what to sell these users?
From my personal point of view, Dating is still the king of all adult offers.
There is a simple reason for this. In a world of “everything for free”, it’s hard to sell some content to the users. That’s why it’s so hard to sell a paysite membership to tube users, for example.
But dating is different. You can’t really download a relationship or a sexual encounter… These things cannot be recorded and streamed online for free.
That’s also the reason why live chat (sex cams) also works pretty good.
But anyways, no matter how much adult traffic I bought over the years, I don’t know everything. So I talked with the reps of two adult affiliate networks to get their views on the current stage of the adult business and what actually works the best for them on paid traffic. One was Stefan from brokerbabe.com, Marie from crakrevenue.com is the other one.
Why these two? Remember the announcement thread for this adult section that I asked for help in? Well, these 2 people actually reached out to me offering their help. On top of that, I know Stefan for like 10 years and СrakRevenue was actually one of the first adult-only affiliate networks.
So, not trying to promote any network here, just sharing insights from people that know what they are talking about.
BTW: If any other reps want to help me with the following threads, just send me a PM. I’m always looking for qualified advice.
Ok, so let’s take a look at what they had to say.
Marie: The Dating vertical has lost some steam but it’s far from dead. Based on our data, we would say that the vertical is experiencing greater growth in the social media world, with social-like platforms of today focusing more on the sharing and trading of sexy photos.
Stefan: With Dating, we have a very solid business with in-house offers from our daughter company Xcash. Dating is for sure when it comes to Affiliates the number 1 in adult. We have affiliates in the system that do stuff on Snapchat and send very solid volumes.
My take: Tube traffic still works well with dating, but the quality problems are more frequent than they used to be. Looks like the social traffic might be the answer. Mix it with tube clicks to increase overall quality. As you can see above, both Marie and Stefan confirmed the growing importance of social traffic.
Marie: The current popularity of this vertical isn’t too surprising mostly due to the benefits for the users: the interactivity and the relationships that can be built with a live cam model has no equivalent on the market.
Cam products based on a freemium model also have a lot of success these days, which allows advertisers to offer really good payouts to affiliates thanks to the high short-term AND long-term value of the visitors.
Stefan: In general, I would say Cams is following Dating when it comes to revenue very close but it’s not a typical affiliate business anymore. The big cam sites buy tons of premium spots themselves.
My take: Cams work even on tube traffic because it’s not possible to record and stream the live experience, just like with dating. The problem here is that the large cam sites buy a lot of traffic themselves, so it’s harder to find the new users who are not registered with them yet. Cams offers will only show it’s full potential on the revshare model, which many affiliates simply don’t like to use. It takes months to actually see the real value of a user, which makes this a more complicated vertical to enter.
On Other Products:
Marie: The Viagra patent expired in late 2018 and a lot of legitimate & less expensive alternatives have seen incredible growth in sales recently. Actually, campaigns promoting Viagra alternatives like BlueChew have been far more profitable for us on every spot we tested a male enhancement solution.
Adult Gaming is a fairly new trend that has gained a lot of traction in the past 2 years, especially in regards to the games that are simulating sexual acts. In 2018 alone, the sales made in this particular niche have seen an 87% increase.
Stefan: More niche products like VR (Reality Lovers), Male Enhancement and chat traffic friendly offers complete our portfolio. All of them show signs of growth, especially VR, that’s where we expect to make bigger revenues in the near future.
My take: Male enhancement products have been around for years and they still seem to work well. VR is also gaining ground, though slower than I personally expected, maybe once the prices of the headsets drop some more, it will explode. I can confirm a rather strong growth in gaming-related products and sex simulators. This seems to be a segment with promise. Probably because of the “live experience” again. Looks like that anything that is about to work in the coming years has to be interactive, live or innovative in some other way.
So let’s wrap it up a bit again:
- Dating is still the king, though it’s not that dominant anymore. In order to battle quality problems, it might be a good idea to mix in some social traffic from “not that adult” traffic sources, such as Instagram or Snapchat.
- Adult games and sex simulators are growing, one look at any adult spy tool results would confirm this. The interactive experience seems to be the driving factor. Make sure to test these offers.
- Cams are running strong, but the competition is huge, because the large cam sites are buying a lot of traffic themselves. Revshare is the way to go for maximum profits.
- Virtual Reality adult sites are growing too. Once the prices for VR equipment drop some more, it could explode.
- Male enhancement and viagra alternatives continue to perform well. Definitely worth a try too.
Let’s play prophet now, where is adult headed in the future?
I’ve been involved with adult traffic for MANY years already, I started with organic traffic and then moved into paid in 2013 (I think). While the organic part has changed a lot, the paid side remains quite stable and without many changes. And I expect this to remain the same in the near future.
When speaking about the traffic itself, it’s not gonna go anywhere, as long there is an Internet, there will be tons of adult traffic to buy. People simply want this content and that’s not gonna change. We just need the right offers to monetize it properly.
The key is, and will remain to be, to offer something that the users can’t get for free. There are still large studios producing standard adult content (videos and photos) and people are still buying these. But the performance of such websites is not high enough to be able to compete against other products. It only takes a few hours or days for any new movie to appear for free on some tubes or file sharing forums. This lowers the buying intent and lowers the conversion rates.
That’s why “interactive” products will remain the best converters for adult traffic. Dating, live cams, adult gaming, live chatting… and possibly VR due to its innovative nature. Tangible products such as viagra (plus alternatives) and ME products should also do well in the coming years. I also noticed “a new wave” of interactive masturbation devices hitting the market. These could do well once the prices become more reasonable.
There are many other adult products that you can promote, but the above-mentioned are the biggest moneymakers and will keep the vast majority of the market share for sure. But let’s mention some of the other options too: paid content membership sites, VOD sites, fan sites, phone sex operations, sex shops, sex toy stores, erotic stories sites, premium communities… the list goes on.
And one more thing! Many affiliates or business owners tend to overlook this one. Adult traffic is the same people that browse any other site or use any other app. They might be in a different “mood” while watching some raunchy videos, but it’s still the same people. So there is no reason why they shouldn’t be willing to buy non-adult products.
Just catch their attention with the right ad and they might convert. Ever heard about the food delivery service EAT24 and their porn traffic experiment? You can still check it online at this URL.
Just a word of warning: not every mainstream advertiser is ok with adult traffic, as I already mentioned at the beginning of this article! Always check with them before running any tests.
Wrap it up!
Oki dokie, this thread kinda grew a bit longer than I planned initially. So before I bore all of you to death, let’s just end it right here. I’d say most of the important parts have been covered and you can always post questions below in case you have any. Please keep in mind that this was just an introduction, there are many more threads to come and we will get to practical and actionable advice too.
In case there is something you’d like me to cover in the future MAKE sure to post a comment too.
Thanks for reading!
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