Affiliate marketing is a lucrative and hugely popular way of making money online. It’s something which anyone can get involved in, be it as a part-time hobby or a full-time venture. If you’re brand new to affiliate marketing you’ve probably seen many success stories on blogs and forums and I’m sure they’ve played a part in inspiring and motivating you to have a go yourself!
While there are many forms of affiliate marketing, this guide will focus on content marketing, and for this you will need to build your very own website. If you’re unsure where to start and would like to know which services you should be using for hosting, or even which plugins you should install on your site, then you’re in the right place. Follow this step-by-step guide and you’ll soon have your first moneymaking WordPress website up and running.
STEP 1 – CHOOSING A NICHE
Before you do anything, you need to decide what you want to promote. Inevitably some areas of interest are more popular than others, but you need to find what works for you. Choosing an overcrowded niche could mean you’re a small fish in a very large pond.
On the other hand, if you have something unique to offer you may find big success in a smaller field. It’s all about weighing up the niche and identifying what you can do to add value to it, and in turn make a success of yourself.
It’s always a good idea to choose an area you have a keen interest in or strong knowledge of as this will make it so much easier to create content for. If you were to pick a subject that you have little knowledge of or you find boring, you can soon lose motivation and struggle to create valuable, in-depth content. Of course, you don’t need to be an expert by any means, but make sure you work in a field you can stick with for a good while.
On the MoreNiche website you can browse merchants in each niche to see what appeals to you. You can also take a look at each merchant’s profile within your affiliate account under the ‘Merchants’ tab. When you click through you’ll see relevant information such as commission rates, cookie length and conversion rate. These are all key things you need to take into consideration when choosing your niche.
STEP 2 – CHOOSING A DOMAIN NAME
Now that you’ve chosen a niche, you can start thinking about a domain name. The internet has been around for a few years now and a lot of great domain names will already have been taken. So, brainstorm a few ideas but don’t set your heart on a killer domain name before you’ve checked if it’s available.
There are a few different options when it comes to your domain name:
Top-Level Domain (TLD)
The most common domain is .com and if you plan to target a large audience that’s not limited to one country, then this is the best option. Other top-level domains are also available, such as .net .gov .org .biz and .edu. While .com is a great choice, not all TLDs are suitable for affiliate websites, for example .gov is used for government official sites, .edu is for schools and teaching and .org is used for registered organisations.
If you’re planning to target users in your own country or in one specific country then using .co.uk .fr .de .es and so on is a great idea. These types of domain are well known and trusted, and work well if the audience is targeted correctly.
There are lots of other domain extensions you can use besides ‘country-specific’ and ‘top-level’, for example, .review .blog .me .guru .club .online .live and many, many more. If .com isn’t available, then these can be good alternatives. However, you should check the primary use of each domain extension as not all extensions will be suitable for your affiliate site, for example .me is typically used for a personal blog with your own name as the domain, e.g. emilymatthews.me.
Branded vs. Generic Domain
When it comes to your domain name rather than the extension, you’ll need to decide whether you’re going to go with a branded or non-branded domain. If you already know which merchant you want to promote, and you plan to build a site solely around their product, then choosing a branded domain makes sense. The advantages are that the product may already have had a lot of exposure, making it easier for your site to rank and also more trustworthy since users will recognise the name.
However, a branded domain can also limit you. For example, adding additional products to your site can be a little more tricky, especially if you wish to push them as your top recommended product. You should also consider that if the brand name were to change or if they left the network, you’d then be left with an irrelevant domain name.
However, if you start out with a non-branded domain name, you can easily tweak content on-site to keep up with changes to the brand, and add new products relevant to your niche without any problems. The site will therefore have much more longevity from the get-go.
If you’re struggling to think of a good domain name you can use a site such as https://www.shopify.com/tools/business-name-generator. Here, you can simply enter a few keywords that you’d like to include in your domain and it will generate suggestions of different domain names you could use.
You can carry out as many searches as you like to get some inspiration and ideas. You’ll find that shorter domain names with strong keywords are very expensive, for example getfit.com on its own would cost thousands, compared to getfitreviews.com which is just a couple of pounds.
So it’s worth thinking about additional words you can include to ensure your domain name is affordable and still relevant, but not too lengthy.
As soon as you’re happy with your domain name you can go ahead and purchase it. There are many sites you can purchase domain names from, but for the example below I’m using GoDaddy.com.
STEP 3 – CHOOSING A HOSTING PACKAGE
Once you’ve added your domain to the cart, you’ll then need to choose a hosting package.
Hosting is the means to make your website accessible on the internet. Without hosting, your site would simply be an offline page that only you can access. As your site grows over time you may require better hosting, but in the beginning a basic hosting package should meet all of your needs. GoDaddy now offers WordPress hosting, so since you’re planning to use WordPress to build your website anyway, this hosting is perfect. (Please note that prices and offers may change over time.)
You’ll be prompted to select various add-ons depending on your choice of product. You may choose to add security, however an SSL certificate is only necessary if your site accepts credit card information, so as an affiliate you won’t need this.
Now that you’ve added your domain and hosting you can proceed to the checkout where you’ll be offered a few more options and add-ons for your site. You can change the term of your products to suit your needs, however you should be aware that any discounts and free products might be removed if the term is shortened.
Once you’re happy with your selection you can continue to the payment section where you will be prompted to create an account, add your details and finally complete the payment. You can now start working on your new site!
STEP 4 – SETTING UP WORDPRESS
Now that you have your domain and hosting you can begin setting up your WordPress account. First of all, follow the link in your GoDaddy account through to ‘Managed WordPress’. Here you will be asked to verify your email address. You will then be able to set up your WP.
You now need to select ‘Create a New WordPress Site’, however if you already have an account you’d like to use, you can simply migrate it across.
Next you will need to choose which domain you’d like to link. There may only be one domain to choose from, but if you didn’t purchase a domain in the previous step or you already own one, you can choose the most relevant option at this stage.
Once you’ve completed this step the system will then set up your account – this may take a couple of minutes.
When the setup has completed you can log into the admin area of your new WordPress website. You may be prompted to add a new theme here along with a few other options to personalise your site. You can make changes later on so don’t worry if you select something you’re not entirely happy with. Follow the steps until you reach your WordPress dashboard.
STEP 5 – DOWNLOADING A WEBSITE THEME
Now that you’re in your new dashboard you can have a look around and familiarise yourself with the settings. If you’ve already chosen a theme for your site in the previous step, that’s great, but you may want to spend some time looking at other available themes and decide which will work best for your website. There are lots of free themes you can download online and below are a few which could work well for a content rich affiliate website. If you want to invest in a really good theme, there are also some paid options available. These usually offer more flexibility but it will depend on your wants and needs.
This theme is neat and organised allowing you to add plenty of content in an easy-to-digest way. You can optimise the sidebar with widgets, ‘about me’, social links and CTA banners. This lightweight design is SEO friendly and responsive, making it ideal for your affiliate site.
This theme makes the most of the white space and is a modern, trendy design. It works well for a blog style website allowing you to add an ‘about me’ snippet in the sidebar along with social links. Again, this theme is responsive and SEO friendly which is something you should look for when choosing a theme.
This is a minimalistic theme and is ideal if you want to utilise stunning imagery on your website. You can still add plenty of content with this theme so it can be well optimised for an affiliate site while maintaining a neat, clean design.
As the name suggests this theme is perfect for an online magazine, news site or content-heavy platform. The design allows you to publish tons of content with several articles being placed above the fold which enables users to see you are a content-rich site as soon as they land on your home page.
This theme is similar to the neat, minimal designs listed above, however the beauty of this design is in the large header image. You can add a striking image to your home page that will grab the user’s attention, create a branding for your site and make you more memorable. At the same time content is still placed above the fold, so the user will know to scroll down to see your posts.
These are just a handful of suggestions and there are hundreds of other themes to choose from. Take a look at Martyn Slack’s post here for more suggestions on picking the right theme. Alternatively, Colorlib’s blog post shares their top theme picks.
Once you’ve chosen your theme it’s time to install it in WordPress. First you will need to download the theme from the WP website – the links above all have an option to download the theme. Make sure you know where the theme has been saved so that you can easily locate it when you’re ready to upload.
To add or change your theme, simply go to ‘Appearance’ > ‘Themes’ within your WordPress dashboard. Next, select ‘Add new’ at the top of the page.
You now need to select ‘Upload Theme’ and select the theme file which you have just downloaded from your documents.
Once you’ve installed the theme you can then preview your site to see how the new design and layout looks. The theme will be customisable so you can now go in and make changes to the menu, header, footer, content and more. To begin customising your new theme, select ‘Appearance’ > ‘Customise’ within your dashboard and the customisation tool bar will appear on the side of your site.
You can take a look through each of the options and make changes where necessary.
STEP 6 – INSTALLING PLUGINS
Now that you’ve set up your WordPress website and successfully installed your theme, there’s plenty of work to be getting on with. For starters, it’s worth installing some key plugins as these will come in handy when you’re adding new content and monitoring your performance.
There are many plugins available and as your site develops you’ll come across new ones to install based on your site’s needs. But for now, here are some of my top recommendations.
Yoast SEO – Yoast SEO helps to ensure your site and content is well optimised for search engines. The plugin uses a traffic light system that shows whether pieces of content are optimised poorly, adequately or well, allowing you to tweak items as necessary. It will give you advice on your keywords, image alt tags, length of content, meta description and outbound links.
MonsterInsights – This Google Analytics plugin allows you to track your website using GA’s most up-to-date features. Google Analytics provides you with key information regarding your site’s performance and traffic which is important when making decisions about how to improve or develop your site. So installing this plugin will help you keep a close eye on your GA stats.
GoCodes – GoCodes allows you to shorten or disguise links, for example you may wish to mask your affiliate links so they look like standard links and this plugin allows you to easily achieve that. The code will still be tracked despite the link being masked so you will still see accurate statistics in your account.
GoCodes is a great alternative to link shorteners such as bit.ly as you can amend the link text so it is still relevant and doesn’t look spammy. You’ll also be able to add ‘nofollow’ tags which I recommend to avoid being penalised by Google for paid links.
Contact Form 7 – This plugin is a contact form that allows visitors to send you questions and feedback through a simple online form. This means they can send any queries while on-site, rather than having to send an external email. Allowing users to contact you helps to build trust and authenticity in your site, and of course, if you can answer questions from a potential customer, then they might just convert into a paying customer.
Social Media Flying Icons – Social media can play a huge role in your traffic-driving efforts so it’s a good idea to not only create a social media profile, but also to add relevant links to your website to allow visitors to easily follow or like your page. Social media logos are instantly recognisable and this plugin has 20 different social icons to choose from.
The icons ‘float’ which means you can ensure they will always be seen when the user scrolls up and down the page. You can also install the upgraded version of this plugin which allows you to add social sharing buttons to encourage visitors to share your content on their own social profiles.
WP Content Copy Protection – If you’ve spent hours carefully crafting a high-quality, informative review, the last thing you want is for someone to copy it word for word. Now that’s not to say every affiliate is out to steal your hard work, but from time to time people will try to undermine Google and copy content from elsewhere.
However, this clever little plugin will disable the right-click feature, meaning anyone who wants to copy your content will have to rewrite it word by word. And let’s be honest, it’s a lot less effort to just write something from scratch!
Popup By Supsystic – Using pop-ups can be an effective way of engaging with your visitors and this plugin is a great add-on which enables you to create a variety of them. For example, you could set a pop-up to appear after a user has been on-site for 10 seconds, inviting them to join your mailing list or to download a free e-book relevant to the article they’ve landed on.
Alternatively you may want to add an exit pop-up. As the user moves their mouse towards the URL bar, a pop-up is served encouraging them to stay on-site. It could suggest that they read a product review, or if they’ve already visited a product review page, it could display a special offer.
WP Live Chat Support – Live Chat Support is the perfect plugin for your affiliate website. It allows your visitors to receive instant answers to any queries or concerns thereby providing a trust factor and also helping to boost conversions. This add-on allows you to install a simple chat feature as you’ve probably seen on many websites before, including moreniche.com. If you’re available during the day to reply to users you can chat live, but if not there’s an offline feature that allows users to leave a message that you can follow up as soon as you’re back online.
All of the above are useful plugins to start off with and they can be downloaded via the links provided. To install, simply navigate to ‘Plugins’ > ‘Install Plugins’ on the dashboard, then select ‘Add New’. Your WordPress theme may already have some plugins installed, and you will see them all listed in the plugin area.
You can then search by name, or if you have already downloaded a plugin from an external website, select ‘Upload Plugin’ to install. Once you’ve found the plugin from your search, simply click ‘Install Now’. Once it’s installed, you’ll need to click ‘Activate’ to make sure it’s turned on.
Once you’ve installed all your plugins you can access them under the ‘Plugins’ tab on the dashboard, however you may notice that some, such as SEO Yoast will have their own tab within the menu now.
STEP 7 – CREATING YOUR OWN BRAND
The skeleton of your site is now pretty much complete and you’re probably eager to start adding content and links, and attracting traffic to it. But before you get ahead of yourself, you should spend some time working on your branding.
You may be wondering why branding is important if you are not the merchant. Well, first of all, as a website on the internet you are a brand in your own right; you may not be selling a product personally, but that’s not to say you shouldn’t make a name for yourself.
Secondly, you want to build trust with your users and becoming a well-known brand is one way of gaining that trust. Thirdly and just as important, you want people to remember and recommend you.
By creating a clear brand name (relevant to, if not the same as your domain name) and designing a memorable logo, and then reinforcing this across all channels including email and social, you will begin to build a brand that will become recognisable, trusted and recommended to others.
Branding plays a key role in promotion across multiple channels. For example, if a user signs up to your email newsletter or follows you on social media, when they see your posts or receive your newsletters they will recognise the logo and remember that the content originates from your website.
However, if your branding is non-existent or there’s no continuity across platforms they may be confused as to who you are. And without the trust or recognition, this could result in unfollowing or unsubscribing if they can’t work out what your brand is or how you came to be associated with them.
So how do you go about creating a brand? Well, for a start you need to decide what your brand name is going to be. This should be pretty straightforward and typically you would use your domain name. There are many tools you can use to create a logo and you certainly don’t need to be a designer. If you don’t have access to Photoshop, here are some free online tools you can use to create simple graphics and text:
Once you’ve created your own logo, add it to the header image of your site and implement it across your social profiles. To upload your new logo you need to go to ‘Appearance’ > ‘Customise’ > ‘Site Identity’ where you can select the file and save it as your header image.
STEP 8 – ADDING CONTENT
Now that you’ve built your site, implemented all of the necessary plugins, and added your own branding, you’re pretty much set to go. It’s now time to start bulking your site out with high-quality, engaging reviews and content.
Content can come in many shapes and sizes, from a bog-standard product review to an engaging video or shareable infographic. There’s lots you can do to keep things varied, interesting and original. Take a look at this free content creation e-book to get some ideas and inspiration – sign up to download here.
If you’re not a strong writer or you’re planning to promote in a second language, then you may want to consider outsourcing your content writing. Many affiliates do this and it’s a great way of freeing up your own time to focus on bigger tasks. https://www.upwork.com/ is a good place to look for a suitable freelance writer.
Once you’ve created your review or article, it’s time to add the content to your site. It’s important to proofread each new piece of content, and ideally someone other than the author should do this, as it’s easy to miss your own mistakes.
You also need to ensure you’ve optimised each post with the relevant keywords for SEO purposes. You can use the Yoast SEO plugin to see what else can be done to improve optimisation.
Finally, you should consider what imagery you want to include in your post, and have it at hand to upload. If you’re publishing a review, you should take a look at the available resources in the affiliate area for your chosen brand.
Typically, you should find professional product images and amateur photos as well as banners in a variety of sizes. Some brands may also have ‘before and after’ photos. If you’d like to use non-branded images, or you’re publishing a generic article, take a look at https://pixabay.com/ where you can download royalty-free images to use on your website.
You now need to set up the relevant tabs in your menu so that you can add new posts and pages where your content and reviews will be published. On a WordPress website, a ‘page’ is a static, standalone page. Posts can be added to a single page on your website and they’re listed by date – newest to oldest.
Posts are great for blogs as they’re generic content that will be published on a regular basis. Your product reviews, however, are better off going on a ‘page’, so it is standalone and therefore easier for users to navigate to as older posts are less likely to be found and read.
To add tabs to your menu, you first of all need to create a page so each option in the menu has something to display to the user when clicked. Select ‘Pages’ from the left-hand sidebar and then select ‘Add New’. You will already have a ‘Home Page’ and a ‘Posts Page’ so you can add in any additional pages, for example ‘Reviews’. Once you’ve added the additional pages, you can view them under ‘All Pages’.
Having added your desired pages, go to ‘Appearances’ > ‘Menus’ and make sure you add each page to your menu. Select all the pages that you want to appear in the menu, and then select ‘Add to menu’. You’ll then see the menu to the right of the page and here you can switch the order, rename or delete as necessary.
You can also add sub-pages which will be viewed in a drop-down menu. This can be useful if you want to group multiple pages together under the same menu tab. In the example below, ‘CrazyBulk for Women’ has been added underneath the ‘Reviews’ tab. This is where the CrazyBulk product review will be posted, and over time each additional product review can be easily accessed via the reviews drop-down in the main menu.
To create a sub-menu, follow the same steps to add a new page, but on the right-hand side you need to attribute a parent. In this case ‘Reviews’ has been selected from the drop-down. You must also ensure that you add the sub-item to the menu under ‘Appearances’ > ‘Menu’. Once you have added to the menu you need to drag and drop this into the ‘Reviews’ tab, so that it is nested underneath as a sub-option.
Now that you’ve added all the menu tabs and sub-tabs that you need, you can go ahead and add your article or review to the relevant post or page. In the example below, the CrazyBulk review will be added to the CrazyBulk for Women sub-page that was just created.
Once the page is open you can either type straight into the ‘visual’ text box, or simply paste in your content if you’ve already prepared it. If you are familiar with coding you can use the ‘text’ box and add in your own html, however it’s much easier to use the visual option.
When you’ve added your text, you can format the layout, make your keywords bold, insert bullet points and change the alignment to ensure it looks right on the page. You can select ‘Preview Changes’ in the right-hand corner if you want to see what it will look like on your website before publishing. At this stage you can also add in images by selecting ‘Add Media’; this will give you the option to upload your own images or browse stock photos. Finally, you can add links by highlighting the image or keyword you’d like to link and then typing in the relevant URL using the linking icon.
If you are adding your content to a ‘page’ then once you select ‘Update’ the content will appear on your site straight away as a page goes live as soon as it’s created. However, if you choose to add a ‘post’, you’ll be given the option to save it as a draft, and either schedule it to go live at a later date or publish it immediately. Once you’re happy with your review or article, you can ‘Update/Publish’ to make it live on your site.
It’s important to add new content on a regular basis to keep your site relevant and up to date, and also to give users a reason to revisit. The more content you add and the more you optimise it, the higher your chances of ranking well organically. This will in turn help you to drive more traffic through to your site.
Since you’ve already installed several handy plugins, you can now start to focus on analysing your site’s traffic and user behaviour as well as improving your customer service with Live Chat and further optimising your site with the SEO plugins.
Whilst there’s plenty more you can do to ensure your first affiliate WordPress website generates good money, these eight steps are a great way to get started on the right foot. Becoming a successful affiliate requires hard work, dedication and persistence.
Once you’ve set up the backbone of your website, you should continue to develop and improve it. This will ensure your site has longevity and is serving your visitors the most relevant information, encouraging them to convert into customers. After you’ve added your first review, get in touch with the affiliate management team for feedback, and then start working on optimising your site even further.