You’ve probably heard about the big name bloggers making tens of thousands of dollars every month with their website, but how exactly do they make their money?
There are various ways you can make money from a website without physically selling products, but one of the most lucrative and easiest methods is by including affiliate links in your content.
Affiliate links are links to products or services on another site that include a special tracking code so that a website visitor can be traced back to your site. If this website visitor then makes a purchase, you will receive a percentage of the sale as commission.
Popular Affiliate Programs
It’s possible to contact businesses directly and ask if they offer affiliate commissions for sales made from external links. However most people opt to sign up for a few affiliate programs which incorporate many different products or companies. Some of the most popular include:
Everyone knows and shops from Amazon and so this is a great choice, especially for beginners, as they sell so many products and they’re a trusted site.
Amazon’s affiliate program is called Amazon Associates and you’ll need to sign up for the program in the local version of Amazon that you’re targeting (so US if you expect most of your site visitors to be American, or UK if you’re getting mostly UK traffic, etc.)
Amazon offer a fairly low commission compared with some other affiliate programs but the big bonus is that they pay a commission on every item that is bought after someone clicks your link, not just the item you link to. This means if someone clicks through your link for a tea strainer but ends up buying a thousand dollar coffee machine, you’ll get commission on that too.
Amazon commission rates currently range from 1% 10% depending on the category of the item sold.
CJ Affiliate (formerly Commission Junction) is another very popular affiliate program that represents thousands of different companies in a huge range of different niches.
Some really big companies use CJ as their affiliate program including Zappos, Walgreens, Verizon, Urban Outfitters, Samsung, and thousands of other companies of all sizes.
You’ll need to apply to sign up for the affiliate program of each company. Some will accept you automatically while others will review your site to make sure it’s suitable to represent their products or services before you can be accepted.
Commissions are also set individually by each company and vary quite a bit from 1% to 50% or more. Some companies also offer a set commission for a sale or lead, rather than a percentage.
ShareASale is another large affiliate program that’s been in operation since 2000. The company has now been acquired by Affiliate Window (another affiliate program) but they continue to operate separately.
They represent over 4,500 merchants covering pretty much every niche and offer a searchable database by sector, brand, or keyword, to help you find companies that are a good fit for your site.
Payments are made twice monthly (more frequently than the monthly payments offered by CJ and Amazon) and commissions fall within a similar range to those on CJ Affiliate.
WordPress Affiliate Marketing Plugins
Once you’ve chosen a niche and signed up for some affiliate programs, it’s time to get onto the fun part building your site.
While you don’t need any special plugins to run an affiliate site on WordPress and can simply insert the link provided by your affiliate programs, there are several plugins designed to make the job easier and to optimize click-through rates to help you make more money.
EasyAzon is probably the most popular plugin for those using Amazon as their main affiliate program.
This plugin has quite a few features that make it useful when building Amazon affiliate sites on WordPress:
- Search and link to Amazon products directly from your WordPress dashboard
- Easily create different styles of links and pull in product information and price from Amazon
- Localization to automatically link to the user’s country-specific version of Amazon
- Option to add the item directly to cart, which converts the cookie from 24 hours to 90 days (meaning you can make a commission if the user makes the purchase up to 90 days after clicking through your link instead of just the same day).
EasyAzon is priced at $47 for use on a single website or $67 for use on multiple unlimited websites.
ThirstyAffiliates is a link cloaking plugin with advanced functionality.
As well as the ability to replace affiliate link urls with your own shortened, branded urls, it also adds an “add affiliate link” button to your WordPress dashboard editor so you can search for products or links you use frequently without leaving the dashboard.
ThirstyAffiliates is a full link manager, allowing you to add links as WordPress custom post types. This means you can easily backup and export or import all your links and change them when necessary (for example if you want to switch to a different affiliate program).
There’s also an auto-linking option to create affiliate links automatically when certain keywords are included in your text.
Skimlinks is a third party service which integrates with Amazon and other affiliate programs. It’s helpful if your account is banned or you can’t sign up for an affiliate program personally for whatever reason (for example, Amazon Associates is closed to residents of certain US states).
Even if you don’t have these issues, you may find Skimlinks helpful as it takes a lot of the work out of affiliate marketing. You can even set it to automatically scan your content and insert links whenever it finds a mention of a product or service that can earn you a commission.
One thing to be aware of is that Skimlinks works on a revenue share model so they’ll take some of your commission when a sale is made through one of the links created with the plugin. This does not necessarily mean you’ll end up with less money as Skimlinks can offer higher commission percentages for many services due to the sheer scale of sales they’re responsible for, but it’s worth investigating further before you sign up.
Amazon Auto Links
This is another plugin for use with the Amazon affiliate program but rather than helping you add links manually, it automatically displays links of recent products on Amazon in categories that fit your site.
Several products are displayed in a content unit that includes price and star rating.
This is a great “lazy” way to insert amazon affiliate links on a personal blog or other site where you’re not targeting specific products.
WordPress Affiliate Marketing Themes
Affiliate themes can make it even easier to set up an affiliate site and optimize your conversion rate. Here are a few of the best ones currently available to consider:
REHub is a WordPress theme specifically designed to help you make money from your site. It includes a number of features such as membership area, product comparison tables, reviews, coupons, and more. It also supports WooCommerce and Easy Digital Downloads so you can sell products directly from your site.
Ultimate Azon is a WordPress theme optimized for selling Amazon products through your site with a custom review post type, zoomable product images, product comparison tables, link localization, and many other features
Compare is a WordPress theme specifically designed for those wanting to set up a price comparison site. While I mentioned earlier that a simple blog format is the most popular choice for affiliate sites, price comparison is also a very effective way to make affiliate sales.
MoneyFlow describes itself as being “a theme for bloggers who are serious about making money online”, which certainly helps to increase its appeal. The nice thing about this theme is it looks much like any other premium WordPress theme, rather than one designed specifically for affiliates. The main features are in the backend including advanced SEO, Adsense integration, and WooCommerce support.
Successful affiliate sites can be a great source of income and a good business model for those who want to work from home for themselves.
It’s really easy to set up an affiliate site on WordPress and the tools discussed above helps to make the process even quicker and possibly improve the profit potential of your sites.