Imagine you are a newbie affiliate entering the industry today. Which vertical would you choose? What would be your strategy for success?

Evgenii “Geno” Prussakov: In late 2015 we conducted a comprehensive analysis of 550 top affiliate programs across 6 major U.S. affiliate networks (CJ, Rakuten, ShareASale, AvantLink, Affiliate Window, and LinkConnector) which revealed that more than 88% of the top-earning programs may be placed into 20 broad categories. Furthermore, the analysis showed that out of the 550 analyzed programs more than 71% fall into just 10 categories: Fashion, Sports & Outdoors, Health & Beauty, Travel, Home & Garden, Computers & Electronics, Education & Training, Business, Financial & Insurance, and High-End & Luxury Stores.

If I were a newbie affiliate, I would, therefore, focus one one of these 10 verticals, choosing the one where my passion and expertise/experience are (as passion cannot faked, and neither can knowledge). I would then focus on content marketing as my primary strategy. Be it reviews, comparisons, how-to articles, or anything in-between, content truly pays off in the long run.

2. Affiliates have been using content to drive conversions for years but now even the most traditional of newspaper publishers have adopted native advertising. Is this increase in competition good or bad for our industry?

Competition is always better (for the market) than lack thereof. Culminating in the “survival of the fittest” it perfects the marketing landscape. The winners in this particular case are (a) the marketers who are better at what they do and (b) end-consumers.

Among other forms of native advertising present-day content affiliates compete with advertorials, sponsored content (be they posts/articles, Tweets, Facebook stories), and even video ads built into content; but did you know that most consumers, actually, find all of these examples of “native ads” misleading (to varying degree… from 45% to 85% but such).

Having said this, due to the proverbial “banner blindness,” native ads still do work, especially when the  content has quality in focus. I believe that good, hardworking affiliates, focused on quality content only win in this situation.

3. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been raised by AdTech startups over the last few years, and now there is much talk of AdTech being consolidated into the larger concept of MarTech. If MarTech is the future of marketing, will affiliate networks be included, or will they stand apart?

Of course they will be! In fact, they already are.

On March 21, 2016 ChiefMartec’s Marketing Technology Landscape infographic for the year has finally included “Affiliate Marketing & Management” technology in their iconic compendium of marketing solution providers:

Five years in a row, affiliate marketing solutions were missing from these annual infographics! But the reality is hard to ignore. While the above-referenced section is still missing some of the important players (including some of “retired” ones) it is good to see that affiliate marketing vendors, finally, have the (well-deserved) seat at the marketing technology table.

Evgenii “Geno” Prussakov is an author, blogger, speaker and affiliate marketing consultant He is also founder and chair of Affiliate Management Days conference, and owner of AM Navigator, an affiliate program management and consulting company. You may follow him on Twitter at @ePrussakov.