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The Ultimate WordPress Affiliate Marketing Guide

Affiliate marketing is one of the most popular ways to monetize a website or blog. However, running a successful affiliate website is not as easy as it seems. Simple mistakes could significantly reduce your potential income.

Fortunately, you can avoid this problem by making sure you’re armed with the right information. Knowing more about what affiliate marketing is and what the best practices are will start you off on the right foot. Understanding the right steps to follow and tools to use can also help you avoid common mistakes.

In this article, we’ll discuss what affiliate marketing is and how it works. We’ll also look at the most important best practices, and how you can get started. Let’s jump right in!

What Is Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate marketing is a commission-based arrangement between you and an online retailer. When you refer a paying customer to the business, they pay you a commission, which is typically a percentage of the profits. To track which referrals you’re responsible for, you’ll include one or more unique affiliate links in your content.

Affiliate marketing is different from AdSense and other types of traditional advertising. Instead of paying to place ads directly, companies pay affiliates on a per-lead or per-sale basis. These programs carry less risk, making higher commissions possible.

How Does Affiliate Marketing Work?

Affiliate marketing starts with an agreement between you and the online retailer (or ‘merchant’). The merchant will provide you with a unique affiliate ID, and customized links to products or services on their website. You can use these links to promote their offerings on your own site, through blog posts and social media, and so on. 

When a visitor clicks on your affiliate link, they are taken to the merchant’s website. If they buy anything from the merchant (the original product or something else), the merchant’s tracking system records your affiliate ID as the referrer. Then, the merchant will pay you a commission based on the item the visitor purchased.  

Affiliate Merchant vs. Affiliate Marketer

Merchants and marketers are the two parties in an affiliate agreement. The merchant is the online retailer, and the marketer is the promoter.

The merchant pays the marketer for any sales made through their affiliate links. A strong relationship between these parties can build trust, and result in higher revenue for everyone involved.

What Is an Affiliate Network?

An affiliate network is an intermediary between the merchant and the marketer. Some merchants run their own affiliate programs, while other networks are third-party programs that minimize direct contact between merchants and marketers.

One benefit of networks is the access to a larger range of affiliate programs in one place. You might also receive payments more regularly. The primary problem with networks is the disconnection from the merchant, meaning that communication can take longer.

Affiliate Marketing Best Practices

Although affiliate marketing isn’t a get-rich-quick technique, there are some best practices that can boost your chances of success. Some of these practices can even keep you on the right side of the law.

One best practice is to choose products that suit your niche and audience. Picking the right products to promote improves your chance of success. It’s also important to focus on high-quality products and services, because they provide the most value to your visitors.  

How you place your affiliate links also matters. They should be incorporated naturally into your content, and you’ll want to avoid forcing them in where they don’t fit or spamming your visitors with them too frequently.

How to Use Affiliate Links?

It can be tricky to effectively use your affiliate links. Whenever you place them, you need to ensure that they include your unique affiliate ID. Without this element, any sales cannot be traced back to you. 

The link’s appearance is also important, because default affiliate links can be messy and look untrustworthy. You can improve the look of your links with plugins that cloak them. Cloaking retains the destination of the link but changes the text to something more professional and transparent.

The right anchor text also plays a role in how successful your affiliate links are. Using text that provides information and entices the reader to click through is best. This means you should avoid using vague statements like “Click Here”. 

Affiliate Link Disclosure Best Practices

Finally, one of the most important steps you can take is providing clear disclosures. An affiliate disclosure tells your site’s visitors that you are an affiliate of a company, and are paid if users buy through your links. These disclosures are often a legal requirement, and improve transparency. They can also build trust with your visitors.

Where you place this disclosure is important, as it needs to be easy to find. The top of your content is generally considered the best location. Disclosures should also be clearly written. Leaving out jargon and other terms your readers might not understand helps to improve their clarity.  

The content of the disclosure generally depends on the affiliate programs you join. Certain programs like Amazon Associates have specific wording you’ll need to use. Other programs only require you to state that there is an affiliate relationship. Of course, you’ll also want to look into the specific laws and regulations that will affect your business.

How to Start Affiliate Marketing

To start your affiliate marketing journey, you’ll first need to narrow down your program and product options. Consider the content on your website, and look for programs that suit it. If you have a website about blogging, for example, our own affiliate program may be a good place to start.

The next step is to enroll in an affiliate program, and then choose the right products to focus on. The last step is to promote those products. Let’s take a closer look at how this process works. 

Step 1: Enroll in an Affiliate Marketing Program

Many merchants work directly with affiliates, and run their own affiliate marketing programs. Others work through large networks that manage many business’ programs. If you need to work with a network, you will first have to enroll on its platform:

affiliate program registration

Affiliate network application

No matter where you find the affiliate program, you’ll likely need to complete an application. While these applications vary depending on the merchant or network, they do require similar information.

Typically, you’ll first need to create a username and password. You’ll also have to provide personal details such as your name and location, a link to your website, and the details of your promotion methods. The application will then be reviewed by the account manager or merchant for approval.

Step 2: Choose Products to Promote

After application approval, you can choose the products you want to promote. One of the main considerations is high-value versus low-value products. While high-value products provide a larger commission, they are generally purchased less frequently. Lower value products that are purchased often can provide the same Return on Investment (ROI) over time.

You’ll also need to consider your target audience when choosing products. All products need to meet the needs of your readers and offer value. They should also be within the correct price range for your site’s visitors. 

Step 3: Create Affiliate Links and Promote Your Product

There are a lot of ways you can promote your chosen products. Content marketing is one of the most common options, and provides the best value to your visitors.

You can often combine more organic promotion methods with paid advertising on social media or a platform like AdWords. However, you’ll need to check to see if there are any restrictions on paid advertising in the program’s terms. 

Affiliate Marketing Plugins and Tools for WordPress

To make affiliate marketing easier, there are also WordPress plugins you can use. These tools streamline your marketing efforts, and can increase your odds of success. 

1. AffiliateWP

AffiliateWP website

If you have an e-commerce website, AffiliateWP can help you get more sales. In fact, this tool enables you to run your own affiliate program. It offers integration with e-commerce solutions like WooCommerce, and handles tracking cookies.

2. ThirstyAffiliates

Thirsty Affiliates plugin banner

ThirstyAffiliates can cloak and track your affiliate links. This plugin transforms ugly affiliate links into aesthetically-pleasing ones your visitors are more likely to trust. It also integrates with the WordPress Block Editor to make inserting links easy. 

3. MonsterInsights

Monster Insights plugin banner

MonsterInsights links to your Google Analytics account to track everything on your website. The reports generated include website traffic, affiliate link clicks, and e-commerce conversions. That way, you won’t have to leave your dashboard in order to see how your affiliate links are performing. 

Keep Learning with WP Engine

Affiliate marketing is an effective way to monetize your website. To make the most of this marketing technique, however, you need to understand how it works and what it involves. Following a few best practices is key, as is finding the right tools to streamline your workflow. 

To succeed at affiliate marketing, you’ll also need to join the right program. Fortunately, our affiliate program is a great place to start your marketing journey!

Get started.

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