Hi all -- first, thanks to everyone for the great content on this sub. Been a lurker for awhile. Greatly enjoy the discussions.
: I'm entering the affiliate marketing arena after 6 years of running a Wordpress site & seasonally selling my own information product. Never really
to do KW research or SEO but through sheer power of great content, I was able to build up to 600,000 annual sessions and 2 million annual pageviews. Last year I terminated the venture and now I'm doing this. I know Wordpress very well and I have some degree of skill (certainly not expert-level) in HTML, CSS, PHP, SQL, and R.
: While I'm not keen on spending insane amounts of time obsessing about every stylistic detail of my new site, I recognize the importance of look and feel from a user experience perspective. To that end I spent some time investigating the many available review plugins in hopes of finding one that would meet my needs. Instead of finding one
by, well, someone else.
Individually, neither was 100% what I wanted. Together they are. With the help of shortcodes and some custom CSS, I was able to nest the WP Product Review plugin
the AAWP plugin. This is the result:
The top table provides a ton of great, consolidated information for the buyer. The pricing information on the bottom is connected to the Amazon API and updates at the interval you choose, staying in compliance with the TOS. If there's a sale, it shows the original price, savings, current price, and a "SALE" marker in the top-right. If it's a prime item it shows the prime icon.
: To get the two plugins to play nicely together, you need to do a little bit of coding. First, you need to add shortcode for both plugins to the post editor where you want the review table to appear. You also need to wrap them in a
first post second post
With the variety of posts on here sprinkled about of people explaining different internet marketing schemes for different revenue streams I sometimes find myself veering off target mentally from my original goal to make a $2000/month straight-up basic affiliate marketing site. Stop writing such great content everyone! I figure it's best to continue posting as I go to avoid any black hole of magical undocumented time I fail to post about and miss any important details as a consequence.
First off, what a slog. To me, nothing sucks more than to research, research, research about a particular widget, create a product table about said widget, write ~1000 words about said widget, find and post images about said widget, publish post about said widget, pat yourself on the back about completing said widget and go on to repeat the cycle for a slightly different alternative widget and on and on. Since my last post I've written a total of roughly 10k words for 9 out of 50 of my widget reviews. I haven't gone as fast as I've liked because I'm currently spending half my time stumbling my way around Wordpress and customizing the site to not look like shit, gathering and creating decent images, and spending enough time on product research to make the posts worthwhile. My V1 system for a post from start to finish is as follows:
Initially I google the product and find every major retailer in the search results that sells the product and I read the reviews. Some products in a category have over 1000 reviews, most of which I read/scan individually. In a previous post I mentioned I would pay particular attention to 3 star reviews but good or bad, right or wrong, I've since adopted an "eh-lets-read-them-all" mentality. As an aside, I also make a quick note in a separate google doc for each unique online retailer I gather user reviews from so in the future when this is all done I can have a customer FAQ explaining where exactly some of my review information is sourced. This step gives me a solid understanding of what people like and dislike about each widget including various tips and tricks to make the product better, make the product easier to set up, etc.
Next, I go to the manufacturers site to check on a variety of metrics (more on this later) that I use to determine the company's support for their product and their customers. Once I've finished this step it's time to get writing.
I'm structuring my blog posts in the following format:
At the top underneath the title I place a pricing table with the picture of the product and a bright shiny "check price on amazon" button underneath it (controversial I know). My hypothesis for this is that placing the pricing table at the top of the post and an associated "check Amazon" button gives my low-hanging fruit late-in-the-buying-cycle website visitors the most convenient opportunity to click right through to Amazon. Before I move onto what I put after the pricing table I want to digress a bit. In my experience a lot of the pricing tables I see on the less than spectacular affiliate websites are in my opinion unicorn figures. 4 star this, 2 star this, but nothing backing them up. Maybe affiliate marketers know more than me and have data that shows that people don't care about how those ratings were generated but I'm planning on playing it a bit different. I have 4 ratings that I calculate, each one on a scale from 1-100:
Here is a spreadsheet
- Public Opinion
- Company Support
for an actual page I'm using to calculate my scores. Column B is the regular MSRP of the product on Amazon. Columns C-G represent the aggregated 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1 star reviews found across all major online retailers for each widget. Columns I-T represent various meta-data and information about the widget and/or manufacturer and widget brand. All this information is used to calculate my review table scores starting on row 28. I intend to pass this information on somehow on my website for visitors to be able to read about in some kind of FAQ about how scores are calculated with the goal of establishing an extra layer of trust with them. Ok, digression over.
Underneath the table and the Amazon button is my blog post written in the following way: Overview
: A general overview paragraph of the product and an incentive to read on What's Included
: A bulleted list of the items included out of the box for each widget Widget Setup
: A longer section that details the steps to get the widget up and running with any tips or tricks to help ease the process and explaining where users might have trouble The Court of Public Opinion
: An even longer section that dives into what other widget owners think about it and what I've deducted as vital pro and con information about the widget Company and Customer Support
: A shorter paragraph analysis of how supportive the manufacturer is in regards to returns, responsiveness, etc (see spreadsheet above). Bang for Your Buck
: A few opinionated sentences that compare price to value from everything learned in my research The Verdict
: A short paragraph summarizing the key points and whether the widget is worth it or not.
That's basically what I have going on for content at the moment. I have two more menu items in my website's navigation menu for a blog and another informational tab but I haven't planned content for those yet. I'm just working on attacking these reviews. One possibly controversial opinion I'd like to disclose is that I've decided that I'm not afraid of spending time and writing a review on a product that is bad and displaying it in a bad light. Some widgets in my list of widgets to review are simply not that good or overpriced or have bad company and customer support. Rather than spin them on their heads and talk about the positive points in the hopes that users will click the Amazon button, my belief is that its not necessarily bad to write honest bad reviews. This leads to another hypothesis I have that viewers will appreciate the bad reviews and again help establish trust. The key for me is to include links to better alternative widgets within the widget's category to funnel visitors to a product with a higher chance at converting. Onto Wordpress.
Ok so Wordpress. I'll disclose I'm working off the Genesis framework. In my previous post I mentioned my site structure and linked a google doc to my planned pages, posts and categories. It hasn't really changed enough since that post to warrant discussion. Mainly I've just been beautifying and structuring the content within each page and post. I've already discovered my weakness on Wordpress and it's plugins. I know plugins are bad news if one whores themselves out to them but I like activating them, messing around with them and removing them once I realize they aren't that useful. It gives me a chance to become more familiar with the Wordpress system too. I plan on purging non-useful widgets as I become more knowledgeable about modifying things myself.
So far this is what I have installed, some for explicit reasons, some due to peer pressure and I don't know what they do yet, and others by default so they must be important?: Askimet
: I installed because it kept bugging me to. It apparently helps with spam which I hope will be useful when I actually have traffic Contact Form 7
: Creates a simple contact form with a shortcode Custom Sidebars
: To display different sidebars depending on the page being viewed. I'm using this because I want to display certain reviews in the sidebar that relate to what the user is viewing. If they are on the main thingy widget directory of reviews I want to show the top thingy widgets in the sidebar, etc. Disqus Comment System
: I saw this on thesweethome.com and I just mimicked them. It wasn't too hard to set up and it looks a bit nicer than the default commenting system Wordpress provides IMO. Genesis eNews Extended
: I forgot what this was for Jetpack By Wordpress
: Another default plugin I think does a lot but I haven't explored much yet Magic Action Box
: I have an email opt in on my home page that's all connected to Mailchimp and I use this plugin to display it. More often than not I read that it's important to start an email list from the get go so that's what I'm trying to do. I haven't planned an email strategy yet beyond just capturing emails. Remove Category URL
: I don't want the word "category" in the URL. Mainly because I'm probably OCD Show IDs
: Shows post and page IDs in the admin section since I don't have them displayed in the permalinks. W3 Total Cache
: I don't know what this is but I installed it because some say it's pretty useful. WP Product Review
: What I use for pricing tables
Pro tip #1: if you're going to style css directly, create a new css file and upload it via FTP! I made the mistake of modifying some css for the pricing table plugin and got it all looking better. Later on I went to update the plugin and it all reset. Don't make that mistake.
At this point all the posts I'm writing I view as rough drafts. Once I get all the posts published I will go back and link posts to other posts to create a healthy "linkified" site ecosystem, fix grammar, rewrite sections to be more engaging and add all the proper tags and crap to the images I eventually settle on for each post. For now I just want that text up there.
A couple other things I did was create and xml sitemap and submitted it to Google. There are plenty of tutorials out there on how to do this. I don't know whether I did it too early or too late or whether I need to keep submitting it as I add or remove pages but nonetheless I did it. I also am beginning to email manufacturers for press packs and/or permission to use their photos on my website. I don't want to run into any trouble down the road. I set up 3 social media accounts for my new brand and linked them all to my site where they're displayed on my home page.
Ok that's all I have off the top of my head. I'm going to continue writing reviews and I'll be back when I'm further along with that.
I've posted this on my own personal blog and these are my must use tools for any blogger.
I use many of these in my day job as a Digital Marketer, so it would make sense to share this with all of you guys as they certainly can help make a difference to your personal blogs. Images & Video Stock Photos
For stock photos, I use a couple of resources. These are all free and all incredibly high quality. None of your awkward looking people holding laptops or giving a thumbs up. Librestock
This one almost renders the following sites I've mentioned below, useless.
Librestock is fantastic and is pretty much a free search engine for stock photos. Type in your keyword and it will return a bunch of super high quality and free stock images for you to use. I used to use many of the resources mentioned below, but things have changed and I just use Librestock now. Stocksnap.io
They are all free to use without having to give credit, so make fantastic blog headers or social images. Adding some of these to your blog will really give you that high standard that a lot of blogs can sometimes lack. Unsplash.com
Similar to Stocksnap.io this is another site that offers some great free stock images. The cool thing about Unsplash is that you can sign up for their mailing list and have 10 new images emailed directly to you every 10 days. Freepik.com
Freepik is fantastic as it is almost a mini search engine for loads of graphics. Vectors, PSD files, Icons and Photos are all included on this site. The only downfall is that most that I’ve seen, if not all, require some sort of credit in order to use the free versions. This means leaving on the freepik logo, which isn’t ideal. Fancycrave.com
Yet another brilliant resource for free stock photos. All photos are incredibly high resolution and free to use in both personal and commercial projects. 2 new photos are added every day, so check back regularly. coverr.co
Slightly different this one. Coverr.co specialises in free stock video. You know those really fancy looking headers/backgrounds on websites at the moment. Coverr can hook you up with some free videos for just that purpose. Well worth checking out if you want to add that professional touch to your site.
I think that just about covers it for Stock images. Of course, there are thousands of other resources, but these are the highest quality ones that I have found. If you have any others, then feel free to suggest them in the comments. Canva.com
Want to create some beautiful blog header graphics or eye-catching social posts but you lack in photoshop skills like myself? Not to worry. Canva is here to save the day.
Canva is a really simple to use drag and drop image creator. Using some of the free templates and importing one of the images from the links above you can quickly have a really stunning image to use on your blog or on social media.
It’s the only tool that I use to create all of my graphics and the results are only getting better as my comfort levels with canva increase. It’s a must use. Social Tools
In here you will find all the tools that I have used or would use to help grow my audience on the major social networks. Instagram Instagress.com
If you’re looking to build up your Instagram following then this is one of the best tools that I’ve found to help you do so.
Instagress allows you to automate your Instagram activities so that you can carry on liking photos even when you’re not there. You set the system to track certain hashtags and then like or follow based on these tags, setting limits to the speed you want it to go and a limit to do in a certain timeframe. This allows you to keep your account looking natural and avoid being blocked or banned.
It comes with a really cheap pricing package meaning you can get a lot of activity for much less than most services would charge for the same thing. Pricing starts from $1.39 for 3 days worth of activity, which you can start and pause whenever you like. Twitter Manageflitter
Let’s face it, who doesn’t find their twitter feed often cluttered up with rubbish? Manageflitter will let you manage your twitter account from one dashboard. Giving you the ability to clean up your account in just a couple of clicks. Multiple Social Accounts Buffer.com
Automating your twitter feed has never been easier than it is with Buffer. You compose some tweets, pull in some content, add some images and add them to your queue. Your schedule is already pre-loaded with some timeslots for posting and that’s it. Spend half an hour or so at the start of the week getting everything ready and you won’t have to open twitter again for the next 7 days if you wanted.
Obviously, I would still recommend logging into twitter and engaging with others normally, but it’s entirely up to you.
Not only does buffer allow you to manage twitter, it also supports Google+, LinkedIn and Facebook. Feedly.com
Sometimes when it comes to automating your twitter feed you run out of your own things to say. This is where sharing content from other bloggers is great for increasing engagement.
Feedly is a way of curating all of your favourite blogs into one place so that you can see their latest posts. What makes it the best is the ability to hook directly into your buffer account. This means that you can quickly schedule content from other bloggers into your automated buffer stream ready to share Drumup.io
This is a tool that I’ve only stumbled upon very recently. It basically does what buffer and Feedly do, but combines the two tools into one. Allowing you to link Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts into your dashboard you can micromanage each account individually allowing you to post different content to each. There doesn’t appear to be a way of linking all three accounts to run from the same content easily, perhaps I’m just missing a step but it’s a great free tool anyways. Email Tools Mailchimp
One of the most well-known email marketing tools out there. Mailchimp is great for anyone just starting out with building their list. Templates are super easy to create using their simple drag and drop editor, or by using one of the built-in layouts.
With Mailchimp, you can email up to 2000 people per month and send out a total of 12,000 emails each month completely free. That is a fantastic offer for anyone just getting into blogging and testing the waters with email list building.
What’s the point in extra expense where it’s not needed? Use the free options whilst you can. Aweber
For those of you who are reaching the breaking point of the free tier of Mailchimp, you do have the ability to update your account to a paid package, or explore something completely different.
Aweber would be my recommendation to try. It’s extremely powerful in terms of building an autoresponder sequence. This will allow you to send out a set sequence of emails to new subscribers regardless of when they sign up to your list. No two people will receive the same email on the same day and their journey will be unique to them and them only.
With AWeber there’s no more missing out on your greatest content for these new subscribers. WordPress Plugins W3 Total Cache
Now you’ve got your site up and running, the first thing you want to do is get the page load time down to a minimum. Using a caching plugin can help with that.
W3 Total Cache will allow you to tweak every minor detail of your blog allowing you to serve up a cached (stored) version of your site to visitors rather than sending them the brand new version every single time. This drastically reduces the time taken for your website to load and gives the end user a much slicker experience.
Oh, and google loves a faster website btw. Yoast SEO Plugin
On-site SEO is pretty simple when it comes down to it. Change a few tags, create content based around your target audience with your keywords included. Figuring out where each tag goes and how to access each bit, when you’re not too familiar with code can prove troublesome.
The Yoast plugin allows you to quickly and easily add in optimised Title and Description tags as well as allowing you to rewrite both of these to suit facebook shares directly within the post edit screen. No more fiddling about with code.
It does a lot of other clever stuff including creating sitemaps, opengraph tags, social profiles, author tags and many more of the under the curtain stuff specifically for search engines.
Use this plugin and you’re onto a winner. Optin Cat Widgets
To tie in with your earlier signing up of an email marketing software, you need some way of getting people to subscribe on your blog.
The built in forms for both Mailchimp and Aweber aren’t too great. This is where Optin Cat widgets come in. These widgets work with a number of other email marketing systems too.
With the ability to create sidebar widgets, footer widgets and popups this is an all in one when it comes to subscription forms for your site. There’s also a number of basic styles to choose from or you can completely code your own if you’re comfortable to do so.
Need analytics to see which form is converting best? No problem. That feature is also included. Pretty Link
So you’ve signed up to all these affiliate programs to make money advertising products on your blog and the link looks like a jumbled mess. That’s not really going to make people feel confident clicking on things on your website.
Pretty link allows you to take any affiliate link and “prettify” it. Turning it into a much nicer looking link.
There’s a heap of other features included in this plugin like click tracking, so you can see which links are getting most exposure and doing their job vs those that aren’t. Contact Form 7
Everyone needs a contact form. It’s the perfect way for your readers to get in touch with you and is much nicer than those clickable links where it opens your email client and just causes all sorts of issues.
Contact Form 7 allows you to quickly create a contact form and generates a shortcode for you to stick into any page that you wish the form to appear.
Every aspect of this form is customizable, right down to the style if you’re confident with CSS.
Want to track your conversions? You can also track goals with any analytics platform you use. It’s a great free plugin that definitely jumps out on my list of must haves. Infinite WP
This is probably more suited for those who are running multiple websites that use the wordpress platform and because I fall into that category it is definitely a must have for me. Managing multiple sites means maintaining updates on each and every site. This can be incredibly time consuming in terms of having to log in to each site individually and manually updating plugins/themes/system etc.
Infinite WP allows you to manage all your wordpress sites from one portal. Installing the system on your own server and then linking each of your sites to it will give you the easiest way to update your sites.
A notification of updates will pop into your inbox when there are some, log in, hit the update button and all sites will be updated at once. No more logging in to each individual site.
A+ for time saving Thrive Leads
The biggest tip that any professional successful blogger always gives someone starting out is to build a list. You’ve probably heard it so many times that you cry when you read it again. Sorry about that, but it’s true.
Thrive leads is exactly what you’re looking for to help you build your list.
Install the plugin and it will give you an incredible number of different lead capture elements to put to use on your blog. Whether it’s sidebar signup areas, popups, bars or in content call to actions, it’s got it all.
Best thing is that it works with all major email marketing systems.
It’s the system that I use on this blog and all my other ones and I can’t recommend it enough. Communication Tools Google Hangouts
Hangouts is a fantastic free tool from Google that allows you to video chat and text chat with anyone on your contacts list. It’s along the same lines as skype, but I just find it a bit smoother.
The major win point for hangouts is that you can have multiple people in the video chat all at the same time and you can also record your hangout or live stream it. A great example of using this would be if you knew a few other bloggers and wanted to chat together for a brainstorm, but fancied recording it for later instead of taking notes. You could just go back and watch the recorded hangout again whenever you fancied. Skype
Everyone knows skype these days, so it’s almost not even worth a mention. On the off chance that you’ve been living under a rock it makes the list simply because it’s great. I still think it’s second to google hangouts for me at the moment simply because Hangouts integrates with your normal google/gmail account which most people have anyway.
Many people still rely on Skype though so if you’re doing collaborations with other bloggers then you may need to have skype at the ready to have video calls. Productivity Tools Trello
Organisation is a must when it comes to running a successful blog. Trello can allow you to plan every little detail of your blog in a super simple way. Create a board for whatever you want to plan and then create columns within there to break it down further. Lets say you wanted to create a content plan for your blog. You could create a board for your website if you have multiple then create some columns called “Ideas”, “Writing” and “Completed”
Then you can create cards on the ideas column when you come up with some great blog post topics. The card will then be moved along the process depending on where it is throughout your planning stage.
There’s a whole load of uses you can put trello to, so you must check it out if you haven’t.
Oh and did I mention that Trello allows you to give cards deadlines on a calendar. Now you have your own content calendar too. 😉 Google Docs
Free and fantastic. Google docs is like your very own web-based version of the Microsoft office suite, but you don’t have to pay for it and you can access it from anywhere.
All the documents you create can be collaborated on in real time if you have a team of writers working on the same thing.
I love google docs as it ties in well with Google Drive to keep everything in one place and well organised. My main use is for writing out draft content ideas or just general note taking. It has the web app as well as the mobile versions, perfect for on the go working too. Google Drive
Tying in with Google docs comes Google Drive. Drive is an alternative version of Dropbox, your own cloud storage portal. I think that standard users get around 5gb of free storage space, but it is incredibly cheap to upgrade. Currently I’m paying a couple of pounds a month and have 100gb of online storage space, which I use to store pretty much all my files as a backup and so that I have access to them anywhere in the world.
If you’re a backup junkie, then I would highly recommend Google Drive. The ability to grant other users access to files and restrict them from others is also fantastic. Wunderlist
Having a to-do list will help you immensely in keeping to deadlines and for your blog. No deadlines can often mean that things don’t get done or just get forgotten about.
Wunderlist lets you create lists of tasks that need to be completed. It really is as simple as that.
The slick user interface makes it one of the best to do apps out there and it just keeps getting better as time goes on. Hosting A Small Orange
This is the hosting company that I use for all of my websites now. The cloud VPS option is extremely reasonable and the fact that they allow you to pay on a monthly basis rather than an up front lump sum which can often be quite a hit on the bank account when you’re not really expecting it.
With A Small Orange, I know that I’m paying around £30 every month to get my own hosting space that isn’t going to be overloaded with hundreds of other users on the same server possibly getting themselves blacklisted which in turn will affect mine.
There’s also the ability for me to resell hosting accounts which can be a nice little money maker.
It might just be me but paying out a small amount each month has a hell of a lot less of an impact on my bank account than it does when paying out a couple of hundred pounds every 2nd October for most other hosting companies. Justhost/Bluehost
Effectively these are both the same company but with different presences. You will find that most other bloggers advertising them as their number 1 recommended choice for hosting, but more often than not they are likely using a much more expensive package than the base shared hosting.
Justhost are the company that I used to use but have moved away from due to the number of files I had uploaded impacting on the load times of my websites. The plan I was on just couldn’t cope with my usage levels. For any other user it will be perfect for running a single text blog on, with few file uploads, but a few years down the line you might start to run into trouble.
Two sides of the coin here are that yes the hosting is cheap, but due to the inability to pay monthly it can be a fair whack on your bank account all at once. SEO Tools Long Tail Pro
The keyword research tool that everyone seems to be using and there’s extremely good reason for it. This one was on my radar for years but I could never justify the cost as I was using free alternatives to do the work of keyword research. Only very recently did I make the leap into buying this one and god I’m glad I did.
Long Tail Pro lets you put in a seed keyword and it will not only give you the keyword search volume, competition levels and keyword cost but it will also generate suggestions and ideas of related keywords that you could put to use, potentially finding some absolute goldmines.
There are free tools that do the same job as I said, but many of them have restrictions and really don’t do as much of a leg work for you that this one does. I highly recommend it to anyone looking to start digging into keyword research. Woorank
Want to audit your website and see where any basic issues lie? Woorank does the job perfectly for you. It’s good for one run of the audit for free before it tries to get you to sign up. Just run through a proxy service and you should be able to bypass the one audit limit.
This audit will tell you the main issues with your websites front page that are causing it to possibly not rank as well as it could if you corrected them. MySiteAuditor
MySiteAuditor is similar to Woorank in terms of the information that it provides. You need to enter your email address in order to run an audit which possibly might give you a little bit of spam in your inbox, but I think that I’m yet to receive anything. ProRankTracker
Want to track your ranking position for a number of keywords? ProRankTracker is right up your street.
This tool will allow you to track your website position for a number of terms in multiple search engines and over different regions (.co.uk/.com/etc)
It will automatically crawl the listings every day and generate emails to inform you of any position changes if you request to have an email sent every time. This can become a bit annoying though so I suggest sticking to a weekly summary email, or just logging in when you want to check.
You can also see how a keyword’s position has changed over a certain time period, to track whether you’re going up/down or staying the same.
There you have it. My own personal toolbox of recommended tools for any budding or seasoned blogger looking to increase their blog reach. I would love to hear some of your tools that I may not already know about, so please leave comments below.
Let me know what you think of my list and which tools you found most useful.
“Affiliate Coupons” has been translated into 3 locales. Thank you to the translators for their contributions. Translate “Affiliate Coupons” into your language. Interested in development? Browse the code, check out the SVN repository, or subscribe to the development log by RSS. New: The [affiliate_name] shortcode can now be forced to show the affiliate’s first name, rather than their display name. Example: [affiliate_name first_name_only=”yes”] 1.1.1. New: [affiliate_campaign_stats] shortcode to show just an affiliate’s campaign stats. New: [affiliate_username] shortcode to show an affiliate’s username A great way to amplify the marketing of your digital products is through affiliate sales. If you’re new to researching affiliate programs, you might be overwhelmed by some of the complex (and scary!) affiliate platforms on the market. Luckily for us, there’s AffiliateWP from the makers of Easy Digital Downloads and Restrict Content Pro. If … How to setup AffiliateWP on your WordPress In the collection "Best WordPress Affiliate Plugins 2020" AffiliateWP is ranked 1st while Better Links Pro is ranked 5th. AffiliateWP dominates with an overall user/editors rating of 4/5 stars with 1 reviews and Better Links Pro user/editors rating is 3.2/5 stars with 3 reviews. Shortcodes. Useful WordPress shortcodes you can use with AffiliateWP [affiliate_area] [affiliate_login] [affiliate_registration]