The concept of promoting and selling someone else's products and taking a commission has been around for as long as business itself.
However, the internet took it to a whole new level, enabling just about anyone to create a website to rake in referral fees.
Today, affiliate marketing is a thriving sector in its own right and some of the most significant websites around started life as affiliate sites. Perhaps the most notable of all is “The Wirecutter”.
Since launching in 2011, it created the blueprint for so many other sites to follow. So, it's easy to see why it became a beacon of the community too. The site reportedly earned $150 million in affiliate revenue from launch and was ultimately bought out by The New York times in a deal worth an estimated $30 million.
You might want to be the next Wirecutter, or you might have something totally different in mind.
However, if the plan boils down to promoting products on behalf of someone else, WordPress and a handful of fantastic plugins are all you need to get things off to a tremendous start.
Affiliate Marketing Plugins
Such is the popularity of affiliate marketing that an entire subsector of plugins and themes have appeared, each designed to make life easier.
With the right tools at hand, prospective affiliate superstars only need to focus on content, design, and choosing the right products to promote.
There's a plugin out there to take care of everything else.
If you're starting from scratch, it's a good idea to take a little time to decide on a theme before you start loading up on extra functionality.
Even if you're not selling products yourself, it's best to treat your affiliate site like an eCommerce portal like any other. That means it has to look great while also loading quickly, both for user experience and improved SEO rankings.
Incidentally, each of the themes in our Smart Starter Bundle is perfect for affiliate websites. They look great, are highly customizable, and are designed from the ground up with speed in mind.
Someone who doesn't stick around for the page to load is already a lost potential commission, so quickly getting your products in front of them is a priority. The likes of Astra Pro and Kadence Pro make that happen.
Once your site looks how you want it to and incorporates a few design tweaks to build trust and confidence among anyone seeing it for the first time, it's time to focus on functionality.
These are, in our opinion, the essential plugins to give a new affiliate site the best chance of success.
1. Pretty Links
Links make the internet work, but they're a truly essential component of affiliate marketing. In most cases, especially with cookies being phased out, your unique link is what lets a brand know that they owe you a commission following a sale.
As the name suggests, it tidies up affiliate links so that you're not reliant on huge URLs with all sorts of random characters. Just be careful when link cloaking, as some affiliate programs, most notably Amazon, don't take too kindly to it.
What makes Pretty Links a priority is the fact that it has evolved so much over the years. Its original purpose was literally to make clumsy affiliate links look better.
Today, it's a customizable way to add links to posts, social media, and more. You can even configure the plugin to automatically insert your affiliate ID into links to specific affiliates, meaning you need nothing more than the standard product URL.
From there, users can check up to the minute data on clicks and other actions to precisely know how each link performs.
Given that affiliate marketing is a game of refinement and constant improvement, the more info you have, the better. When clicks are the only way to get conversions, they become a top priority!
2. Rank Math SEO
Margins are often slim in the affiliate marketing world.
Pay-per-click marketing is often out of the question unless you're promoting high-ticket items with regular conversions.
Instead, you'll become heavily reliant on organic and, most importantly, free traffic from search engines.
It's no coincidence that many people that operate in the affiliate marketing space are at least somewhat familiar with search engine optimization.
The process of creating content for affiliate sites usually works along the lines of finding buyer intent keywords, targeting those keywords with copy, and then optimizing the post for the best possible performance when someone searches for those keywords.
Even if you're a seasoned SEO veteran, there's every reason to use a plugin that will make your life easier.
When it comes to making Google love your content, it doesn't get any better than Rank Math. This plugin will get images ready for inclusion in search, assist with including Schema markup in articles, analyze entire sites for SEO issues and even produce different sitemaps to drop directly into your Google Search Console.
If the free version of Rank Math doesn't rocket your site to the top of the rankings, then the Pro version adds even more features to all but guarantee you stand the best possible chance. The upgrade doesn't have to break the bank either, as Rank Math Pro is available right here at wesharewp at a fantastic discount off the list price!
It's far cheaper to keep an existing customer than to acquire a new one, primarily if you treat them well.
While SEO is a great way to get visitors to your site and clicking your affiliate links for the first time, it's hard to beat email marketing when you want to keep them coming back for more.
After all, once you have their email address, you have a direct communication line.
Whether you have a seasonal promotion or you happen across the best product you've ever promoted, you can let them know all about it in a matter of seconds.
In an online world where privacy and data protection are high on the agenda, even for the general public, convincing someone to part with their email address can be trickier than you might think.
That's where Bloom comes in.
It's an expertly designed plugin that provides everything an affiliate marketer needs to grow and manage a list professionally.
Bloom has it all, from split testing to stats and analytics, not to mention stunning signup form templates. Then, all you need to do is write and send the emails!
Suppose you're in any doubt at all regarding the quality of the plugin.
In that case, you'll be delighted to hear that the one and only Elegant Themes make it – the same company behind the enduringly popular Divi theme and page builder. Typically, it's only available as part of a full Elegant Themes membership, but not when you acquire it through us!
It's compatible with any theme, and we'll safely and legally install it on your behalf at a fraction of the Elegant Themes membership price.
4. Thrive Ultimatum
Thrive Ultimatum is undoubtedly the most threatening plugin on this list, going by the name alone, but it opens up the psychological marketing tactic of scarcity on your affiliate site.
As your website grows, you'll become an expert in the niche, and you'll know a great deal when you see one.
In most cases, those great offers don't stick around for all that long, and Thrive Ultimatum enables you to let your visitors know that a great product or an incredible price won't be around forever.
This is one of those plugins that's fantastic in its simplicity. It does one job and does it exceptionally well.
Of course, Thrive is the name behind all sorts of plugins for various tasks, so they have the benefit of focusing on specific use cases with everything they release.
For this plugin, it's all about countdown timers, giving visitors the impression that once something's gone, it's gone for good.
As simple as the plugin is to use, it's packed with customization options. For example, if a deal really does expire at a specific time, you can use a global countdown anywhere on your site.
If every visitor has the same amount of time to make a purchasing decision, you can set the plugin to start a new countdown for everyone that visits your site.
If they click through to other pages, that's not a problem, as the same countdown clock can appear in the sidebar, as a floating widget, or anywhere else that keeps customers on tenterhooks.
No matter how passionate you are about the subject matter of your affiliate site, then chances are you're mainly concerned with revenue.
If you're producing good content, you deserve a massive influx of visitors, but not all of them will be ready to buy immediately.
With affiliate programs alone, if you don't make a sale, you don't get a cut.
That's why many affiliates look to capitalize on their traffic with display ads. That way, they can expect some kind of revenue from their visitors, even if they're not in the mood to open their wallets.
There are dozens of ad plugins to choose from, but AdSanity stands out in this context due to its inherent compatibility with affiliate sites.
It all comes down to control.
You can acquire banners and other ad units from your affiliate partners and load them straight into AdSanity, complete with your tracker URL.
For example, if you're using Thrive Ultimatum for a limited-time deal, you can combine it with AdSanity with specific start and end dates on campaigns.
Crucially, you don't solely need to rely on your own ads.
After all, you can put your affiliate URL in as many positions across the site as you like – if someone's not ready to spend, it doesn't matter how often you encourage them too. Fortunately, AdSanity also works with AdSense and other major ad platforms.
In practice, if you have nothing to advertise yourself, you can display ads from a network and get paid for clicks and impressions. If you're pushing a specific product particularly hard, you can disable third-party ads and promote that product in every available ad space.
When it's just an ordinary day, and you want affiliate and ad revenue in equal measure, AdSanity will take care of mixing things up on your behalf.
Start a New Affiliate Site Today
Successful affiliate marketing requires time and patience, but you're not in the game until your website is live.
Part of the beauty of this kind of work is that you really can just start and learn as you go. When things go right, the commissions and ad revenue starts rolling in quickly. If something goes wrong, you can always go back and fix it further down the line.
There are always new products and partners to explore, so if it sounds exciting already, you can rest assured that there will always be something new to try as you pursue a new high score for monthly revenue!
Even if you're a complete novice, affiliate sites are one of the best ways to learn all about WordPress and digital marketing. There are no bosses or clients – the closest you ever come to a rulebook is ensuring that you don't break the terms and conditions of your affiliate partners.
From there, the sky's the limit, and we firmly believe that anyone with the passion for learning something new and the drive to succeed can make affiliate marketing work.
There's no easier way to get your new affiliate site up and running than with the Smart Starter Bundle. It includes the three stunning, lightweight themes mentioned throughout this article, along with pro versions of the Rank Math and Elementor to ensure your content production starts as it means to go on.
From there, feel free to experiment and try something new, as you can't beat good old-fashioned experience when putting together incredible affiliate content for your customers!