How To
12 min read

How To Build An Effective WordPress Affiliate Site

Tiffany Ellis

July 28, 2022

If you’re just a beginner trying to earn your income online, building your website is one of the most beneficial investments you can make. It’s not as difficult as many people make it out to be, especially if you’re using the best platform for the job. 

In this article, we’ll explain what WordPress is, why it’s the best choice for a beginner, plus the themes, plugins, and types of content you’ll need to create to be successful. 

What Is WordPress?

WordPress was originally created as a dedicated blogging platform back in 2003. It’s been developed since then to be the most popular website builder and content management system (CMS) on the internet. WordPress is what you need if you’re looking for something easy to start with yet whose possibilities are near endless. 

Why You Should Use WordPress For An Affiliate Site

Since it its creation, WordPress has steadily become the most popular publishing platform online. It currently makes up 39.6% of the entire internet and just since 2020, that number has grown by 5%. It shows no signs of slowing its growth in popularity any time soon, and for good reasons. 

WordPress is:

  • Beginner-friendly
  • Flexible
  • Extendable
  • Customizable
  • Extremely well documented
  • Open Source
  • Available in 57 languages

Simply put, there’s no better platform for building an affiliate site, particularly if you’re just starting to make money online. No other CMS has the simplicity or the extendability that WordPress has in 2022, even though it has its roots as a pure blogging platform.

Other CMS platforms include:

  • Blogger (free)
  • Drupal (free)
  • Ghost ($9/mo)
  • GoDaddy ($6.99/mo)
  • Google Sites (free)
  • Joomla (free if hosted on Joomla, but $99/mo on your own hosting)
  • Squarespace ($19/mo)
  • Weebly ($9/mo to use with your own domain)
  • Wix ($14/mo, free option)

Most of these platforms have significant limitations depending on what you want to do. Let’s go over a few of those before we get into how to set up your first WordPress affiliate blog. 

Downsides of other CMS platforms

Cost

Cost is one thing that may not be a big deal to you, but if you’re a beginning affiliate marketer, you want to reduce your recurring cost as much as possible. Some CMS platforms offer free options and while this is good, they usually don’t have enough features to justify the price. 

With WordPress, the software is free and can be placed on a hosting account you have control of for as little as $5/mo. Additionally, if you ever found a need, you could download WordPress and host a local installation of it on your own computer. That’s something other CMSs simply can’t do. 

Less customizable

What are you getting when you pay that monthly fee to places like Weebly and Wix? You may be getting a somewhat managed website solution, but you’re not getting nearly the amount of control that WordPress affords you. If it can’t do something that you want it to do, you’re stuck waiting on the company to add that functionality, because getting a developer to help you with it will likely not be an option. When customer support says “you can’t do that”, they mean it. 

WordPress has a customizable backend that can do everything from change colors to restrict user access to certain features based on their role, adjusting security settings, and more. 

Not beginner-friendly

On the other end of the spectrum is simplicity. 

Some CMS platforms aren’t as beginner-friendly. While this may mean that they can be extended, if you don’t have any experience building websites, that won’t be useful to you when you’re just starting. You want something that has a backend that is easy to navigate while still maintaining flexibility for down the road when you’re more experienced and have a clear picture of what you want.

Not enough documentation

Because it has grown to make up so much of the internet, there’s a vast online community of people who use WordPress almost exclusively for every site they work on. Drupal is an older platform by 2 years, but the online community that exists for support, developers, designers, etc is a far cry from what is available for WordPress today. 

Less SEO optimization ability

When it comes to being able to optimize for SEO, WordPress has most other platforms beat. Even though most will allow you to edit things such as page URLs and SEO titles, they often don’t provide access to the ability to edit your sitemap, have canonical tags, optimize for site speed, etc. 

While it can’t do much in the way of SEO out of the box, various SEO plugins exist to give it the functionality needed to dominate Google search results. 

Here are a few SEO WordPress plugins:

Other platforms are more difficult to optimize for site speed, Schema, social media, etc. 

Difficulty changing platforms

Did you know that if you build a website on Wix, you can’t export your site’s data to another platform? Wix doesn’t provide any support for moving your website to another CMS. Once you build on Wix, it’s stuck there unless you scrape and move all the data yourself, including images, Schema data, etc. You have to rebuild the entire site from scratch.

This is similarly true for Squarespace, although it will allow you to export some data to XML. It just won’t let you export everything. 

Meanwhile, WordPress is easy to deal with if you ever decide to change to something else or just easily create backups of your site that you can store anywhere you want. In essence, you can pack up your site into a “suitcase” and move it. 

How To Build A WordPress Site

You can build a WordPress site in two ways: on Wordpress.com or install WordPress on your own hosting account, such as Namecheap. 

Wordpress.com isn’t ideal for one big reason: they charge $5/mo billed annually. 

There’s no option for month-to-month pricing here, and at this price point, they don’t even allow you access to limited plugins, premium themes, or the ability to sell products with WooCommerce. For that, you’ll have to go Pro at $15/mo, which is also billed by the year. This creates an upfront cost of $180 before you can build anything. 

The best option for creating a WordPress site is on your hosting account. Most hosts support creation via a “wizard” installation interface. cPanel hosts in particular, have made this easy to do via Softaculous, Fantastico, or QuickInstall. 

You can also install it via FTP, but this can be a little involved for a beginner and in most cases, isn’t necessary. If there’s a “hard way” to install WordPress, FTP is it. 

How To Install WordPress With Softaculous

If your host uses cPanel for their backend, installing WordPress with Softaculous is very easy. You just need to follow a few steps and it will install it for you with minimal effort or learning curve on your end. 

First, we’ll assume that you already have the domain name you want to use added to your hosting account. If it isn’t, you’ll have to follow the steps that your hosting account provides for adding it correctly before you try to install WordPress for it. Be sure when you set up your domain that you install an SSL certificate, as well. 

The first thing you’ll do when you get logged into cPanel is find your Softaculous Apps Installer. Once you find it, click on it and it will take you to a page that should look like this:

Once you’re here, click on “Install” in the WordPress block. 

It will take you to a page that looks like this:

Under the “Software Setup” section, you’ll see where you choose your installation URL. You always want to choose https here. Visitors not only trust sites that have SSL certificates more, but so does Google. Back in 2014, Google openly called for “https everywhere” and stated that they had begun using it as a ranking signal, so now in 2022, it’s SSL or bust. 

Next, you want to set your site name and put a short description in the “Site Description” field. If you don’t know what to put there, you can always just put a “.” there for now. 

For your admin username and password, it will generate some gibberish for those. Edit those as you see fit while keeping in mind that you should use a strong password to thwart brute-force login attempts. 

Select WordPress Plugins

In the plugin section, you should leave the “Limit Login Attempts (Loginizer)” WordPress plugin selection checked for security purposes. The last thing you want to wake up to is a hacked website where all of your affiliate links have been hijacked.

Classic Editor is something that you want if you don’t like Wordpress’s block editor, Gutenberg. Don’t worry; if you don’t like it, you can always uninstall it later. 

WordPress caching plugins like W3 Total Cache and WP Super Cache can be skipped if you don’t want to use them immediately. If you want to use them, however, you should only have one of them installed at a time. 

Next are the advanced options. 

Advanced Options

The only thing you should be editing here is whether you want the site backed up regularly (you do) and where you want those backups to be saved. If you’re publishing to your website more than once per week, you want to make sure your site is backed up daily. Understand that the more backups you’re automating, the more space you’re going to take up on your hosting account. 

A variety of themes will be suggested to you at the bottom of the page. Most of these are going to be free or freemium themes. You can use one of them if you like or one of the themes we suggest later in this post. 

Lastly, always have your installation details emailed to yourself so you don’t lose them. 

What are the best WordPress themes for affiliate marketing?

The best WordPress theme for affiliates will have a lot of layout and design flexibility but can get a high score on Google Pagespeed Insights. If you don’t maintain a high page speed score, you will not rank well in Google. 

Free themes are great, but freemium themes are better because they’re more likely to be optimized for speed right out of the box.

Here’s a list of 10 fast WordPress themes.  

Best WordPress Plugins For Affiliates

If you’re going to use WordPress for your affiliate site, you’re in luck, because there is a wide variety of plugins that can help you.  You’ll want plugins for the following:

  • Creation of affiliate links
  • Tracking of affiliate links
  • Traffic analytics
  • A block editor

Pretty Links

Pretty Links is one of the oldest WordPress plugins for managing affiliate links there is. It offers the same features across all versions of its paid plan; the only difference is the number of websites you can use the plugin on. 

Features:

  • Multiple types of redirects (301, 302, 307, cloaked, javascript, & tracking pixel)
  • Link tracking via categories, tags, etc
  • Conversion reports
  • Add affiliate link disclosures on pages, posts, custom post types, and individual links
  • Auto-linking keywords
  • Affiliate link split testing
  • And more

The only downside here is that it’s $79 per year for a license to use on one website. 

ThirstyAffiliates

ThirstyAffiliates has developed a solid reputation lately as a great affiliate link manager. It has the following link capabilities:

  • Link cloaking
  • Uncloaking for Amazon links (never use redirects on Amazon affiliate links!)
  • CSV Import/Export
  • Google Analytics Events
  • Geolocation-specific links for foreign traffic
  • Reports
  • Fix links from the frontend of your site
  • And more

This is also $99/year, but with a 50% off WELCOME coupon code for the first year, it puts your initial investment at $50. 

EasyAzon

If you’re going to be an Amazon affiliate, EasyAzon makes it simple to create affiliate links directly from the backend of your WordPress blog as you’re creating your posts. 

If you’re going to make money with Amazon’s affiliate program, Amazon Associates, this is the best plugin for you to use. It’s specifically tailored to Amazon and only works with that program, but if you want to make the most money with Amazon as an affiliate, this is the plugin you’re going to want. 

It offers the following features:

  • Geotargeting of links
  • Default settings for all links
  • Automatically make links “add to cart” with 90-day cookies
  • Pop-up products

When you use geotargeting in EasyAzon, this means it creates a custom affiliate link for those who live in other countries that Amazon serves. If you have a visitor from the United Kingdom, for example, EasyAzon will rewrite your affiliate link to use https://amazon.co.uk/ instead of https://amazon.com. This ensures that you get credit for the purchase if it occurs on Amazon’s UK site. 

MonsterInsights

MonsterInsights is one of the best Google Analytics plugins that currently exist. It makes setting up your website for Google Analytics simple, but it also has affiliate links and ad tracking built-in. It can also assist with tracking form conversions.

While the plugin can be used for free in a limited capacity, you’ll want the $99/year plan to start making use of the best features. 

Producing Content For Your WordPress Affiliate Site

Now that your site is set up and you have the plugins that you want to use installed, it’s time to get to the hard part: content creation.

You can have a great domain name, a fantastic web design, and the best paying affiliate program out there, but none of it matters if your content isn’t high quality. It’s not enough that your content is written with proper grammar. Your content must be useful to your reader or you’re not helping them decide to buy or not to buy. 

Various types of content exist, but only a few are really useful for affiliates: listicles, Q&A articles, and product reviews, but there are many examples of how to write an affiliate blog post

Before you start writing, you’ll need to produce a quality outline to keep information and ideas front and center as you write. It’s a fairly simple process, and we have an excellent guide on how to write an outline for a blog post to help you jump-start your content production.

What is a listicle?

The word “listicle” is a mashup of the words “list” and “article” and not surprisingly, that’s exactly what it is. They are a group of items from a category that are then ranked (or not) in order from best to worst. The titles for pieces like this usually include a number, such as “Best 15 Business Tools to Grow Your Startup” or “12 Money Making Methods That Bloggers Are Using In 2022”. 

One of the best things about this type of content is that it’s easy to scan and skip through to find what you’re looking for. As long as you format your subheadlines correctly for each list item, your readers will be able to find what they’re looking for or, perhaps more appropriately, what they didn’t know they were looking for. 

Often when someone searches for a listicle (“best AI copy software” or “best luxury SUV of 2022”), they’re looking for something they haven’t heard of or seen before, even if they’re already familiar with that topic. 

What is a Q&A post?

A Q&A post is a post that answers a specific question, typically in detail. These can be “how-to” type articles that go over one way to do something, or it may go over several methods to do something, even if one is more effective than others. If you need some examples, you can take a look at How To Live Stream on Facebook or How to Write a Sales Funnel Email Sequence That Converts.

Depending on the type of Q&A post you’re going to write, you may need a lot of images to lay out a process (such as the Facebook post we just mentioned) or the images may be illustrative of the concepts the article includes, like the sales funnel post. 

Product Reviews

Single product review posts are also very lucrative for affiliates in general, but you have to be careful how you put them together. We won’t cover everything here, but here are the basics. 

Over the past 15 years, visitors have gotten used to sniffing out fake product reviews and they’re much leerier of taking advice from a random blog post they found online. To get past this, you’re going to have to go the extra mile to convince them that you not only know what you’re talking about but that you’re being honest with them. 

When you’re writing a product review, here are some basic guidelines that you need to follow. 

Pick a great product

If you want to write an affiliate blog post that converts, you need to start with a quality product. If the product you’re talking about isn’t high quality, you’re wasting your time producing content about it unless you can guide your users to a superior product. 

If you’re going to write a review about a substandard product, you should put just as much effort into writing about it as you do your high-quality products. If you don’t put as much work into them, your visitors will know that you’re just trying to push them to something else and it damages your credibility.

Own the product

If you’re going to do a review on something, you should own that product. But, wait, you say you can’t afford to be buying all of these products when they’re $100 to $500 (or more!) each? 

The best solution for that problem is to buy one product that you want to do a review on, video the unboxing process, take quality photos of it, use it as much as you need to for the review, and then resell it when you’re done. You’ll get a good bit of your money back, plus you’ve produced a blog post that will generate the rest of your investment money and then some. 

If the product isn’t tangible, such as software, you will have to take screenshots and videos of you actually using the product. The downside of doing a software review is that you often can’t resell it due to licensing issues. 

Images & video

High-quality images and videos will not only help you resell your item after you’re done with it, but they will lend credibility to your review. Another reason to use your own media on your post is that Google knows what stock product photos and videos are and can definitely detect them with their algorithm. You look less like a spam review site and more like a legitimate resource for honest product information if you have your own. 

Call to Action

Every post on your website containing an affiliate link should have a call to action. It’s not enough that your readers are told that a product exists; you should be directing them to purchase the product and telling them where. 

Here’s an example:

A valuable piece of software for doing software product reviews and blog content creation, in general, is Snagit by Techsmith. They offer a two-week free trial and a one-time purchase price of $62.99 for a relatively simple piece of software that lets you create images, annotate them with graphics like arrows and highlights, and will even let you create videos and GIF animations. You can purchase it here

Keep your FTC disclaimer in mind when you’re promoting affiliate products. You should be letting your visitors know that you stand to make money off the products you’re featuring on the page.

A call to action could also be to direct your visitors to another blog post on your site that they may be interested in reading. Remember when we mentioned some example posts in our section on Q&As? It didn’t look like it, but that was a call to action. 

Conclusion

These are the very basics of building an effective WordPress affiliate site. If you follow these tips and guidelines, you’ll be well on your way to making an income promoting products and services.

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