In Episode 60, we start our series on Affiliate Marketing and Affiliate Programs, sponsored by Bluehost. In this show, I’m flying solo and sharing my own experience of using WooCommerce as part of my affiliate marketing. WooCommerce gives you the ability to easily create affiliates as products, but there is so much more that goes into planning, organizing and making those affiliates work. Listen as I tell you how we did it.
I talked about:
- What affiliate marketing is
- How to set up your affiliates using WooCommerce
- How to manage your affiliates effectively
- What has worked best for us in placing and using our affiliate links
- How we are using WooCommerce to sell some of our affiliate products
Thanks to Our Podcast Sponsor: Bluehost
You can also download a pdf of the full transcript here: WordPress eCommerce Show Episode 60 March 20 2017
Hey everyone and welcome back to the WP eCommerce Show. Bob Dunn here, also known as BobWP on the web. Today is a bit different from most of our shows as I am going to be flying solo on this one. Yes, I’m grabbing the mic for the entire podcast and I’ll be sharing my own thoughts on today’s topic. Which speaking of, this is the first of our 4-part series on both Affiliate Marketing and running an Affiliate program. Two of the four shows will be more focused on running an affiliate program. The other two shows, including today’s, is more on the affiliate marketing side of things. Two very different topics under one umbrella.
Back to today’s show. I thought it might be fun to start it out with my own experience as an affiliate marketer, since it’s part of how I make a living. But before I dive into this, I want to personally thank our sponsor Bluehost, for their ongoing support and tell you why you should consider them to host your next, or even, your existing WordPress site.
Bluehost, the sponsor of the WP eCommerce show, is the most trusted host for WordPress websites and has been the most recommended host on WordPress.org since 2005. Powering over 2 million websites today, they have a longer history of optimization for WordPress than any other hosting platform. What makes it so great, is it’s built for WordPress users by WordPress users. Bluehost staffs a full team of in-house WordPress experts who are available 24/7 by phone, chat or email. Whether you’re a WordPress beginner who needs help getting started—or an advanced WordPress pro looking to optimize your WordPress site—Bluehost’s experts are ready to help you. So take a moment and go to Bluehost.com to find out how they can help you get your blog, business site or online store up and running. Remember, WordPress is simple enough for beginners and powerful enough for even the most advanced user. So head on over to Bluehost.com.
For those of you who are not familiar with what an affiliate is, well, let’s do this using an example. Let’s say I become an affiliate for Joe’s WordPress themes. Because of my relationship with Joe and his products, I am confident I can help him sell his themes. So I write a post about his theme. In it is a link to purchase the theme. If you decide to click through and buy it, I make a commission. It costs you no more to follow my link to purchase it. And that is that. Now I used a WordPress theme as an example, but there are affiliates in all industries. Heck, even in the credit card industry. And a lot of people make a very good living as affiliate marketers.
How to set up your affiliate products with WooCommerce
What I want to chat with you about today is how you can use WooCommerce as an affiliate marketer. In other words, how to make money from affiliates. First off, there are several things to think through on this. As you may know WooCommerce, technically, makes this very easy. When you create a product, you simply choose the Product Data that is labeled, External/Affiliate product. Once you have done that, you can create it like any other product, except that you will be putting in your affiliate link so when people go to the original site to purchase it it is tracked to make sure you get the commission on it. The other unique feature to this product type in WooCommerce is the ease of changing the button text. So instead of having it say “buy now” you might want to say, “buy on Joesthemes.com” or something like that. As you can see, the product creation in WooCommerce is pretty straightforward.
Install a good affiliate manager plugin
The second piece you will want to get in place is some kind of affiliate manager plugin. I use one called Thirsty Affiliates and actually have a post on how to use it with WooCommerce. The real benefit here is that it allows you to do a couple of things. One, to cloak your links, which means that instead of the extremely large link you might get from an affiliate program, it will create a pretty link. It might look something like bobwp.com/get/JoesThemes.
The second thing it allows you to do is set a no-follow link. In simple terms, the no follow link tells the search engine bots that the link should not influence the links’ target ranking in the search engines. You see, if you Google thinks you are only adding these to make money, well, that doesn’t make them happy and they will penalize you. Now the thing is Google also doesn’t mind if you are using these links with relevant content, but we cannot say they will always figure that one out. So to be safe, it’s best if all affiliate links are no follow. If you don’t have a program that does this, it’s not that hard to add it to the html of the link.
An added benefit: affiliate manager plugins make fixing broken links much easier
But the biggest reason to use an affiliate manager plugin is this. Let’s say you use an affiliate link in 30 different scattered posts and you have added those manually as regular links to text within those posts. And that affiliate changes their URL. You are now stuck with 30 broken links. What a plugin like Thirsty Affiliates does is it lets you create the link in one spot, and if it ever needs to be updated, you just go into your link and make the single change. It saves you a lot of headaches and time down the road.
Marketing your affiliate products: helpful and persuasive content is key
So as you can see, it’s not really difficult to launch your affiliate shop using WooCommerce. Your real challenge and opportunity for success is determined by your click-through rate. And that, in turn depends to a great degree on how helpful and persuasive your content is. Because once they leave your site and venture over to where the product is sold, it’s out of your hands.
What you don’t want to do is this. Find a bunch of cool products, slap up your affiliates in a WooCommerce shop page on your site and expect miracles. And even if you feel you have this niche site where a shop page of specific products might attract customers, well, that isn’t going to make it any more successful. You are competing with thousands of resellers and retailers, and possibly the product’s original seller. There’s no way you can easily pop up in searches. And if that product is on Amazon.com, your competition is going to be even more fierce.
Now I’m sure there are affiliate marketers that have a method to their madness or, in other words, they have found a way to make it work for them.
We know that affiliate links may get more traction in a review post, but also that depends a lot on your site, who you are, and what the product is.
Our sponsor, Bluehost, paid more than $5 million in affiliate commissions last year. So why not become an affiliate yourself and earn some extra income? It’s easy to sign up and you’ll get the unique tracking code for your website right away. There is no cap on the amount you can earn, and their reliable tracking will make sure you get credited for every sale. Customized campaigns allow you to strategize your affiliate marketing even more. You will be able to compare the campaigns you set up and see how many clicks and conversions you are getting. And whether you just need a text link, or a banner, there is a ton of promotional resources at your fingertips. And most importantly, if you ever have a need or question, their affiliate managers are always available for support. So visit bluehost.com/affiliates to start earning money today.
How we market our affiliate products here at BobWP
So let me tell you what I did.
I have been building up my affiliate income over the last few years. It’s something that takes time, trust me on this. And where my affiliate links work best are in my blog posts. They have been in in-depth guides, tutorials, reviews, you name it., but they all have one thing in common. They are light on sales and heavy on helpful content, the why and the how of the product and ways it can be used. And after testing out different approaches I found that text links within the post work far better than any kind of banner ad. I’m not saying this will be the case for you, but it certainly has been for me.
In addition, I have been using WooCommerce since the day it was released. Since 2011, I have used it to sell online courses, workshops, memberships, coaching, consulting, web packages, sponsorships, reviews and ebooks. But I have never used it to sell products that I am an affiliate of—that is, until recently.
Two links give your readers more choices
When we started focusing more on eCommerce here on the site, the idea came to me. Why not create a shop page of eCommerce and eCommerce-related WordPress plugins? The ones that I am an affiliate with. I pondered on this, wondering what incentive I could offer to get people to check it out. And guess what? I decided that it wasn’t going to be a big focus on our site. Nor am I spending a lot of efforts to send anyone directly to that page. What came out of it might be more considered a supplement to my affiliate marketing.
And what may surprise you even more is I’m not really worried about if and when someone lands on my shop page. Or even a single product. If someone lands on my site and chooses to peruse my shop page, or heck, maybe someone finds it or one of the products via search, then I didn’t want to have them land on it only to find a price and description. But if they do land on the product page, in addition to the price and brief description, they will find two links. One to go to the original seller’s site to purchase the product and the other that sends them to my post to learn more about the product’s features and uses. That last one is the incentive: the option to read more about the product from a trusted source (hopefully, that’s me).
And that’s it.
I imagine you are wondering if it’s working. Well, it is still fairly new and the stats are not showing anything that would blow your mind, but I am seeing a slow but steady increase. All I can say is if you are going to use WooCommerce to sell affiliate-driven products, really think it through. Find something that will make it unique on your site. And consider this. With affiliates, it’s all about trust. People need to know who you are and why you stand by this or that product. I have spent years building up my brand and reputation. It hasn’t been easy. But that is what you need to do. Again, it’s all about trust.
I have worked so hard on it that I even get people that know me emailing me, sharing that they want to buy XYZ theme, plugin or WordPress service and wonder if I have an affiliate link they could use. Now that’s priceless as far as I am concerned.
Follow this series to learn more about affiliate marketing
This is just one small part of affiliate marketing… a very small part I wanted to share with you. If you do want to get into affiliate marketing, or grow your existing efforts, there are many ways you can do this. I would recommend tuning in later in this series to hear Shawn Collins with his tips and insights. Also feel free to check out our blog for past and upcoming posts to help you monetize you site, whether it’s through affiliates or some other means.
So thank you for tuning in and listening to my solo show today.
Thank you to our sponsor, Bluehost
Once again we would like to thank our sponsor Bluehost. Check them out and see why over 2 million website owners trust them with their web presence. And as a bonus, as a customer of Bluehost you will get access to the MOJO Marketplace that offers nearly limitless ways to customize your site using their vast library of themes, imagery and plugins for added features and functionality, many of which only take a one-click install. So again, check out Bluehost.com for your business web needs.
So, till we meet again, take care and we appreciate you listening to today’s WP eCommerce Show.