Creating and running an affiliate website is a really popular way to make money online.
Essentially, an affiliate website means promoting products and services for other companies through your website. When people buy what you are promoting, you get a commission. It’s as simple as that.
Getting into affiliate marketing is inexpensive and quite straightforward, but it’s wrong to see it as a “get rich quick” scheme. Your affiliate website(s) will need lots of traffic, and several of your visitors will need to actually buy the products you are promoting before you see much return.
Affiliate marketing is a huge topic. Huge books (and posts) have been written about it. So it won’t be possible to teach you every last detail in this article. There is a lot of learning potential when it comes to affiliate websites, but we instead will focus on helping you build your first affiliate website, using WordPress.
We suggest WordPress for all sorts of different websites. Here are some of the reasons why the platform is a good fit for your first affiliate site:
Little coding is needed: Once upon a time, creating a website meant learning HTML coding to ensure that everything looked right. WordPress uses themes to determine the basic design of sites. There are quite literally thousands of themes available. Some are included with WordPress (as we will see later), and others are available online for free or at little cost. You can get to the code behind a WordPress site, but it’s unlikely you’ll have to do anything more complicated than pasting in some HTML from your affiliate partners.
Adverts are easily integrated: Many WordPress themes come with advertising space already included. If not, it’s easy to paste your affiliates’ code into sidebar widgets. Putting a new affiliate ad up only takes a few minutes.
The support community is huge: With close to 80 million WordPress sites out there, it’s extremely unlikely that you’ll find a problem that someone else hasn’t faced before. You will find endless WordPress support forums to help you, and thousands of developers and experts if you ever need any specialist help or customization.
How we will help you
The team here at BestHosting have created lots of affiliate websites over the years, several of which are successful and profitable. We know what works.
Our aim is to help you build an effective affiliate website, and help you choose some affiliate partners that will earn you regular commission – so let’s get started!
What You’ll Need
Don’t worry if you don’t have these things yet – we’re going to take you through everything step-by-step. Here are the basics:
- A Web hosting account with your own domain
- A Web browser of your choice (we prefer Google Chrome or Firefox)
- A subject for your new website, which will tie in well with the products and services you plan to promote
- Plenty of patience for setting up affiliate accounts
- A constant flow of new content
Choosing your affiliate partners
The products and services you promote on your site are what will (hopefully) make you money, so you need to choose your affiliate partners wisely. Here are a few points to consider:
- The things you promote must tie in with the content on your site. There’s no point in talking about movies and advertising fishing gear!
- High ticket price items are worth considering as they will generate considerably more commission for each sale. You’ll have to sell a lot of books to make the same commission as you will from just one big screen TV.
- Recurring commissions are always a good thing! Thing like software subscriptions and backup services sometimes continue to pay commission for as long as the purchaser uses them.
There is no end of affiliate programs out there when it comes time to choose. Some companies run their own schemes where you apply directly. There are also a couple of major players who centrally administer the affiliate schemes for large companies.
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
The Amazon Affiliate Scheme: Possibly the best known affiliate scheme out there, giving you the ability to promote any of Amazon’s millions of products. Some people build affiliate sites using nothing else.
CJ Affiliate: One of the largest centrally managed affiliate schemes, working with well known brands including Boden and Home Depot.
Affiliate Window: Another big player, working with huge companies including Swarovski, British Airways and Lonely Planet.
Don’t forget that many companies administer their affiliate schemes themselves, so just look for links saying “partners” or “affiliates” on company websites.
Finally, note that some companies will want to take a look at your site before you’re accepted as an affiliate. However, it’s rarely that hard to get accepted, given that you are trying to advertise their products!
Please note that you will need to set up an account with at least one affiliate to complete this tutorial guide.
Getting a domain and hosting
Before you can do anything, you need an address for your website (a domain), and a place to host your website (Web hosting service). If you are just getting started with WordPress, consider checking out a managed WordPress provider such as DreamHost or WP Engine, while HostGator is a decent budget-friendly alternative. Need more options? Check out our top recommendations for WordPress hosting.
Regardless of the hosting provider you choose, odds are they will give you pretty detailed instructions on how to get setup and started with hosting a website. There are also a multitude of guides available across the internet, while we have also compiled a short post with some helpful tips for when you are getting started with website hosting.
Installing WordPress on your affiliate website
The next thing you need to do is install WordPress on your new domain. Luckily, this is pretty straightforward thanks to WordPress’s user-friendly setup. Check out WordPress.com’s own installation guide on how to get your blog up and running in only a few minutes!
Most popular hosting providers tend to usually include some sort of autoinstaller such as Fantastico to make your life easier and allow 1-click installation of WordPress and other apps.
Getting the basics done
Now that WordPress has been installed onto your Web space, we can get down to business. Before proceeding to the next steps you should be sure of the following:
- That you can get to your WordPress dashboard (www.yourdomainname.xx/wp-admin) and log on using your pre-defined username and password.
- That you can see your site when you type the domain name into your Web browser.
- That you have at least one live affiliate account, with the ability to grab some code to place ads on your site.
If your basic site isn’t yet live, you may need to wait a little longer for your domain information to propagate. This shouldn’t take more than an hour or two if you chose one of our recommended hosts.
The WordPress dashboard is where you control all the content and functionality within your website. First of all, we are going to change the fundamental appearance of your site by installing a theme.
Installing a theme
Now, we need to choose a suitable theme for your affiliate site. For the purposes of this guide, we’re going to demonstrate using the “Twenty Thirteen” theme that comes with a standard WordPress installation. This theme has quite a wide header and footer , which is ideal for placing adverts.
However, eventually you will probably want to choose a better theme for your site. There are thousands of themes out there, with a seemingly endless amount of websites dedicated to offering both free and premium WordPress themes. Check out our helpful post on getting a stunning theme setup for your website.
What to look for
Affiliate websites need plenty of space to insert adverts. Obviously you can place adverts within the content of posts, but sidebars are useful so that you can have ads that appear in a static location on every page.
For now, let’s switch your WordPress site to the “Twenty Thirteen” theme:
- Log on to the dashboard for your WordPress site.
- On the left of the dashboard, hover over “appearance” and click the “Themes” option
- You will now see a screen showing all the themes available to you, complete with previews
- Note that there is also an “Add New Theme” option. This is what you would select if you found or purchased a theme of your own. Usually, you would download the theme as a ZIP file, and upload it after selecting this option.
For now, we are just going to switch to the “Twenty Thirteen” theme, so click the “Activate” button that shows when you hover over it:
The theme is automatically installed. If you click the “visit site” link, you will immediately see how much your site has changed. Welcome to the power of WordPress themes.
Placing your first advert
With your theme now installed, let’s put an advert in the sidebar. As stated earlier, you will need to have an affiliate account set up before moving on to this part.
With thousands of different affiliate schemes out there, showing you exactly what to do is beyond the scope of this article. But essentially, each affiliate will give you a choice of adverts, from text links to large banners. They will then provide you with a short snippet of HTML code that you need to insert the advert.
All you then need to do is copy this code into your website to show to ad.
For demonstration purposes, we’ve used BestHosting’s own backend to show you how to place it in your website’s footer, but you could also place it within a blog post, or anywhere else on the site.
- From the WordPress dashboard, hover over “Appearance” and click “Widgets.”
- On the next screen, find the section labelled “footer”, as you can see in the screenshot below. The “footer” in this theme refers to the area directly at the bottom of your site, but it’s important to note that every theme is different. Once you use a theme of your own, consult the documentation to see which area refers to which part of your site layout.
- On the same page, locate the “Text” widget from the list of “available widgets.” The text widget allows you to enter free form text or any HTML code. Drag the “Text” widget to the “footer” area as shown in the screenshot.
- Next, paste the advertising code you have taken from your affiliate partner into the space indicated with the red arrow. Then click the blue “save” icon.
- Finally, click on your domain name in the top left of the dashboard, and select “Visit site.” You should then see your new advert in the sidebar, as demonstrated in the screenshot below.
Congratulations! You have now (hopefully) placed your first ad, and leaned the basics of how to place affiliate ads on your site.
Preparing to Launch your Affiliate Website
Before you start to publicize your site, there are some things you will want to do. As you will have seen, WordPress installs some demo content that you’ll want to get rid of, and there are a few other things to think about too. Here is a list of suggestions:
- Delete the “Hello World” post.
- Delete the “Sample Page” page.
- If your theme lets you have a custom home page (not showing blog posts), then create a new page according to the guide for your theme, and then go to Settings > Reading, and set it as your home page.
- Create an “About” page. This is where you should place key information about you or your company.
- Make sure you provide a way for readers or customers to get in touch with you. You may choose to use a contact form plugin for this (see later in this article).
- From the dashboard, go to Settings > Permalinks, and change the Permalink setting to “Postname.” This makes it easier for the search engines to index your new posts.
So What’s Next?
What direction you go in with your site is largely up to you, but we would suggest the following:
1. Add plenty of content:
If you’re not offering interesting and compelling content, then there’s no reason for anyone to visit your site. That means there will be nobody to click your links and buy your partner’s products. This is a surefire way to NOT make any money! So you must keep adding new content consistently.
If you’re completely new to WordPress and want to learn the basics of adding content, we advise you to first read our affiliate website tips before you start to publish content. Don’t forget you can add affiliate ads and links directly into your content if you wish.
2. Monitor your performance
You will need to continually evolve your site to make good money from affiliate marketing. Some products may not be very popular, so you should monitor your sales and commissions and experiment with different advert styles and placements until you hit on the perfect “formula.”
While Google Analytics will give you great insight on the amount of traffic for your site, consider using an more in-depth tool such as Small SEO tools (primarily for SEO) or Optimizely (for split testing) to give you better ideas
3. Drive traffic to the site
Your site won’t make money without visitors, so you must do all you can to attract them. The single most important thing is to create compelling content that people actually want to read, but you also need to promote your site via social networking channels and in loads of other ways, both on and offline.
Plugins extend the functionality of your site, and you’re sure to find them for anything you want to achieve. However, try not to get too carried away, as an excess of plugins will slow down your site.
Here is a list of a few plugins that you may wish to consider installing, including a couple that are specifically geared for a affiliate website. You can find plugins on the WordPress site here. Most come with full instructions, but essentially all you need to do to install each one is download it to your computer, then go to PLUGINS > ADD NEW on your WordPress dashboard, and point to the plugin’s ZIP file – just like installing a theme!
Digg Digg- This adds floating social sharing buttons to your site, so that readers can share content they like via Facebook, Twitter or similar. Social networks can prove a huge source of traffic, so this plugin is practically essential!
W3 Total Cache- Website caching can speed up your website significantly, and Google does pay attention to website performance when determining their search results. Without caching, your web server has to process every request for content on the fly. By caching it, a lot of elements will be served as static cached files, making the whole thing faster.
Contact Form 7- Surprisingly, WordPress doesn’t come with a contact form function out of the box. Contact Form 7 is well featured and free. Configuration is simple: all you have to do is enter the email address you wish for messages to be sent to, and choose the form fields you want to show on the page. You then get a short code to insert into any page or post.
Akismet- If your site becomes popular, it will become a target for spammers, Akismet is a decent free system to stop some of the spam in its tracks.
Google Analytics for WordPress- You can’t just put up a website and not bother to track statistics about your site! The best way to track site usage is by using Google Analytics. In order to do that, you have to put an Analytics code into your theme. This plugin makes it easy for you.
iThemes Security- This plugin strengthens the basic security of your WordPress site. While it may not prevent a dedicated and skilled hacker, it will still stop opportunists from using your site for malicious purposes.
WordPress Backup to Dropbox- There are numerous WordPress backup solutions on the market. Some are free, and some are commercial. This one is a free plugin that lets you regularly back up your site to Dropbox.
Simple Link Cloaker- This clever plugin allows you to automatically add affiliate links to post text, based on keywords.
iTunes Link Engine- If your affiliate site has anything to do with entertainment, this plug in helps you to automatically add profitable iTunes affiliate links with no effort.
Affiliate website Conclusion
Hopefully you now have the knowledge to continually develop your affiliate website, trying new things and seeing what partnerships earn you the most money.
You now need to focus on two key things: content and traffic. You must maintain high levels of both if your site is to be a true success. Keep an eye out for new articles on this site to help you with both!
Have any additional questions or do you need help getting started with your first affiliate website? Drop us a line below and we’ll be happy to help!