Mobile Affiliate Marketing – What is it and how can you take advantage of it?

Until 2007, touchscreen pocket-sized computers were the stuff of science-fiction.

Today, over 2 billion people use these tiny pocket computers.

(And I’m not even counting the billions of other dumb phone users.)

For a technology that didn’t even exist until nearly a decade ago, mobile phones have gone on to dominate our lives.

With so much mobile traffic, there is also massive opportunity for mobile affiliate marketing.

But what exactly does mobile marketing involve? What kind of mobile affiliate offers can you run? And most importantly, what are some ways you can take advantage from the mobile explosion?

I’ll answer some of these questions in this post.

What is Mobile Affiliate Marketing?

Mobile affiliate marketing is the process of using offers, tactics and tools tuned specifically for the mobile audience.

Mobile marketing doesn’t even have to be very complicated. The Facebook ad you run on desktop news feeds can very well be made to run on mobile news feeds as well.

Mobile News Feed

If you do that, you are effectively a “mobile affiliate marketer”.

Mobile affiliate marketing is the process of using offers, tactics and tools tuned specifically for the mobile audience.

When it first started out, mobile marketing was easy enough to understand. It essentially involved using mobile-specific marketing channels such as SMS to reach out to prospective customers.

With the rise of smartphones, the distinction between “mobile affiliate marketing” and regular affiliate marketing is rather blurry.

After all, your smartphone can show the same website – and the same affiliate ads – as a desktop computer.

Read more: The Best Tools For Aspiring Affiliate Marketers

Why Mobile Affiliate Marketing?

Take a look at this image:

Number of Global Users for Desktop and Mobile

This graph shows the growth of mobile users as compared to desktop users.

Now look at this image:

Mobile users compared to desktop users

is is a graph of the total number of US local searches on Google done through mobiles vs. desktops.

If that wasn’t convincing enough, here’s a look at the total number of smartphone sales compared to desktop and laptop sales:

Smartphones soar as desktop PCs flatline

You don’t have to have a degree in statistics to see that mobile is very clearly the dominant traffic source online. Don’t be surprised if mobile makes up 80%+ of all online traffic in the coming few years.

Investing in mobile affiliate marketing is essentially investing in the future.

What Are Some Mobile Marketing Channels?

Most marketers are still under the assumption that mobile marketing = sending text messages.

In truth, there’s a lot more to mobile affiliate marketing.

Broadly speaking, you can divide mobile marketing into two channel-types:

  • Free: This involves capturing traffic through social media and mobile search, and sending them to a (preferably) mobile optimized site.
  • Paid: This involves using mobile-specific advertising tactics and channels to reach an audience and convert them into leads and customers.

Since the first channel is the same as your standard desktop-focused affiliate marketing model (except on mobile), I won’t go into much detail.

Paid mobile channels, however, are much more confusing to affiliate marketers.

Let’s look at a few of these mobile ad types in more detail:

In-App Ads

You might have seen these ads pop-up on your games and apps:

In-App Ad

These are in-app ads. More often than not, these ads take you to an app install page in either Google Play or iTunes.

App Install Ads

App install ads are exactly what you think they are: ads that urge people to install an app. Advertisers are usually charged on a “per install” basis.

App Install Ad

App install ads are among the most lucrative channels for online advertising platforms like Facebook. Reportedly, Facebook made $X billion last year through pay-per-install ads.

App install ads may be shown on social media, mobile web or apps.

Mobile web ads

You can show ads not just inside apps, but also inside mobile websites.

These can either be standalone mobile versions of desktop websites or responsive sites. What matters is that the ad itself is:

  • Optimized for mobile screens.
  • Is visible to only mobile audiences.
  • Takes visitors to mobile-specific landing pages.

Google is the biggest player in the mobile web advertising space (of course). The other top players are Millennial Media and InMobi.

Mobile social media ads

You might have seen these “sponsored” posts on Instagram:

Mobile social media ad

Mobile social media advertising is another channel available to mobile affiliate marketers. Besides Instagram, marketers can also show their ads on Snapchat (open only to large brands for now), Twitter and Facebook’s mobile audiences.

In fact, mobile is the fastest growing revenue segment for Facebook:

Facebook's Growth is Entirely Fueled by Mobile Ads

There are a lot of other tactics, ad-types and channels involved in mobile affiliate marketing. For example, there are content discovery ads served via Outbrain or Taboola, as well as SMS marketing.

How Can You Make Money with Mobile Affiliate Marketing?

The same way that you make money with any affiliate marketing – by sending traffic to relevant offers.

The only difference is that the offers will be designed for mobile audiences.

For example, when you search for mobile offers on MaxBounty, you’ll see “mobile-optimized” offers:

Mobile-optimized offers on MaxBounty

Since mobile phones have so much more data about you than desktops (including location, device type, etc.), you can get some really targeted (and high converting) offers. A user in Atlanta and using an iPhone might see a completely different ad than an Android user in Budapest.

On the downside, as a publisher, you can’t show as many ads on the smaller mobile screen as compared to desktops, which can impact your revenue negatively.

What are the Pros of Mobile Affiliate Marketing?


  • Lower competition: Despite mobile’s dominance over the last few years, it’s still a relatively unsaturated market. If you’ve ever tried your hand at PPC and failed because the competition was too rough, mobile might be more feasible for you.
  • Massive growth: Mobile traffic is growing much, much faster than desktop traffic. This is particularly true outside the developed world where a massive chunk of all new users are on mobile. Important to note if you want to build something future-proof.
  • More targeted offers: Imagine narrowing down your offers not just on keywords, but also on your target’s location, device type, etc. Better targeting = more conversions = more money.

What are the Cons of Mobile Affiliate Marketing?

Unfortunately, mobile marketing isn’t without its downsides. Some of the biggest ones among these are:

  • Design challenges: After years of use, plenty of marketers have a decent idea of what a well-designed desktop site looks like, but very few can say the same for mobile sites. This results in some disastrous looking sites with horrible, conversion-killing UI/UX elements.
  • Development challenges: You can buy a hosting account, a domain name and upload WordPress to have a fully functional website up and running within minutes. If you want a mobile app, however, you’ll have to go through a lot of hoops. There is no “HTML template/WordPress theme” equivalent for mobile apps – yet.
  • Lack of tools: All the marketing tools you know and love were mostly designed on and for desktop audiences. Some of these these don’t translate well onto smaller screens.
  • Poor CTR: Because of the smaller screen, audiences can’t see as many ads and search results on mobile phones. This means that a #8 result won’t get nearly as many clicks (taps) on mobile as it does on desktops. Even ad CTR falls drastically on mobiles, as per WordStream.
Expected CTR, by device

Should You Invest in Mobile Affiliate Marketing?

As much as I’d like to say “jump in!”, I would recommend exercising caution.

For one, the design and development challenges are significant. You can’t just tinker around with the HTML or throw in some CSS to make a mobile website look great (you’ll have to mess with complicated media queries for that).

It’s much less “intuitive” than desktop marketing. If you don’t have the patience for it, it’s easy to lose your shirt with bad offers and poor converting sites/apps.

It can be wildly profitable, but for that, you’ll have to be patient enough to test out different offers, ad creatives and content-types.

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