If you’re using WordPress to create and maintain your affiliate website, free plug-ins offer you easy-to-use solutions to improve the SEO and reach of your content, strengthen your site’s security and make administering your site quicker and easier. Here’s a selection of plug-ins we recommend, with descriptions and tips…
- About SEO and social-media plug-ins that help your content reach more people
- About caching and anti-spam plug-ins to make your site run more smoothly with better security
- About plug-ins designed specifically to help with affiliate marketing, such as the Amazon Associates Link Builder
When it comes to creating a professional-looking and fully functional affiliate marketing website, WordPress is by far the most widely used content-management system (CMS). In terms of its basic toolset, WordPress already contains a lot of functionality you can use to create a website without needing to install additional plug-ins. However, if you don’t use these external plug-ins, as your website becomes more complex, you’ll reach the limit of the core features provided by WordPress.
Free WordPress plug-ins are used to customise your site to your own needs. If you need a special feature or optimisation, you can simply look for a suitable plug-in in the official WordPress plug-in directory – you can install the corresponding plug-in from within your own version of WordPress with just a few clicks. In the following tutorial, we’ll run through a range of useful plug-ins, in various categories, which you can use to give you a firm foundation for creating a professional affiliate website or blog.
Improving your site’s SEO will help ensure that your site appears further up the rankings in results from search engines. However, the basic WordPress installation doesn’t really provide much when it comes to search-optimisation tools. The good news is there are plenty of very useful SEO plug-ins, many of which you can download for free.
These plug-ins will help you adapt your site so that search engines can more easily analyse and rate your website. In addition, you can use various SEO measures to better position your search results, to hopefully increase the number of users who click on links to your site.
Why Do I Need An SEO Plug-in?
For each page and every article on your website, you should define a suitable ‘snippet’. This consists of a suitable Meta Title and also a meaningful Meta Description. These will be displayed in the search results when a potential customer searches for keywords or search terms relating to your blog or site.
A Meta Title has a maximum display length of 55 characters. Longer titles are automatically truncated by the search engines, so you should always pay attention to the length of the Meta Title during creation to ensure important information is not left out. Below the Meta Title of a search result is the Meta Description. This is limited to 320 characters, and is also automatically shortened if the character length is exceeded.
When formulating Meta Titles and Meta Descriptions, you should aim to make them interesting enough to entice someone to click. However, remember not to make promises that can’t be kept on your landing page!
The Yoast SEO Plug-in
One of the most popular SEO-optimisation plug-ins is the Yoast SEO plug-in. In addition to editing basic settings for the Meta Title and the Meta Description, you can use the plug-in to conduct a keyword-based analysis of your page’s content. After you’ve defined your keyword, Yoast’s traffic-light display will then show problems in red, suggestions for improvement in orange, and actions that have already been taken and are considered good by the plug-in in green. Especially useful is the way the plug-in also shows you a preview of how your article will be displayed in Google’s search results.
Thanks to Yoast SEO, even if you’re a total newcomer to SEO optimisation, you can quickly see if, for example, a Meta Description has been defined which does not contain the focus keyword and therefore needs to be improved. Also, the plug-in will alert you if your SEO title is considered too long or too short.
The readability analysis of your article provided by the plug-in is another exceptionally useful tool. The Yoast SEO plug-in offers important tips which you can carry out to significantly improve the readability of your text. You can work through all suggestions for keyword and readability improvements, until finally, everything is given the green light. With the Yoast SEO plug-in, you can also check important SEO guidelines for successful social-media content. You can also generate an XML sitemap with the plug-in.
A similarly widespread – although not free – alternative to the previously mentioned Yoast SEO plug-in is WP SEO. Though it lacks active support for writing your articles, WP SEO’s basic settings offer many options. Particularly noteworthy for advanced users in the field of SEO optimisation is the ability to control the indexing of various content types in the search results of a search engine. The plug-in also offers a clear and intuitive user interface and you can download a 10-day free trial.
Which Should I Use?
Both of the above plug-ins are recommended, but perhaps for users with slightly different needs. Visual feedback from Yoast’s traffic-light label is great for users new to SEO optimisation, and the plug-in’s legibility analysis is really useful for improving the effectiveness of written content. For users who are more experienced in the field of SEO optimisation, the targeted indexing and control of various content types provided within the WP SEO plug-in are of great value. Many users will likely opt for the Yoast SEO plug-in, because it’s free and covers most of the important features for successful SEO optimisation.
Beyond a comprehensive SEO optimisation of your website, there are plenty more measures you can take to build a strong foundation for your affiliate website. A fast loading time for your site is an important ranking criterion for search engines: so to achieve a high ranking within a search engine, you need to ensure that your website offers a good user experience, among many other factors.
Why Is A Fast Loading Time So Important?
Studies consistently show that anyone who clicks on a search result and has to wait a long time before the website in question is fully loaded is extremely likely click on the ‘back’ button and select a different search result. This increased ‘bounce rate’ will have a direct impact on sales. Search engines not only want to show the user a content-appropriate search result, but also ensure that the user finds a user-friendly and fast-loading website.
Google provides handy free tools to help avoid this, such as PageSpeed Insights. This web-based service starts out by offering an overview of the loading speed of your site.
To get started, just enter the URL of your website in the corresponding field of PageSpeed Insights and then click on ‘Analyze’. You’ll be given a percentage overview of the overall speed of your site, along with tips on how to fix any problems. You can also find more information about loading time in our article Website Optimisation: How To Make Your Blog Load Faster.
An effective way to guard against a slow-loading website is to install a caching plug-in. This will ensure that a previously created web page is cached, or stored, as a static HTML web page. When a user requests the same website again, elements of this cached page are recalled, sidestepping the need for the browser to reread all the necessary data from the site’s database each time. The result is that the loading time is reduced, often significantly. As with the SEO plug-ins discussed above, excellent caching plug-ins can be downloaded directly from your WordPress backend. Here are a couple of examples:
W3 Total Cache
W3 Total Cache is a popular plug-in which can help you achieve significantly faster page-load times. After successfully installing it, however, there are a few settings to adjust. First, click on ‘Performance’ to access the ‘General Settings’ section. Once here, you can choose to switch all caching functions on or off. However, the menu item ‘Page Cache’ is important and you should ensure this is on.
Choose ‘Disc Cache’ to enable the most important caching settings. The final basic setting to look at is the ‘Browser Cache’ option. Ticking ‘Enable’ on this setting ensures that many elements of your site won’t need to be constantly reloaded from your browser and offers compression of the data, too. If you want to go deeper, there are further options for each selectable parameter.
WP Super Cache
WP Super Cache is another useful plug-in for optimising your loading times. As with W3 Total Cache, WP Super Cache will also generate static HTML web pages, which will be displayed much faster on repeat visits. Again, after installation, a few minor adjustments to settings must be made.
First, click on ‘Settings’ in the WordPress backend, followed by ‘W3 Total Cache’. The ‘Easy’ setting is recommended for beginners. Make sure that ‘Caching on’ is selected, otherwise the plug-in won’t work! To check the plug-in is working properly, click on ‘Test Cache’. The ‘Advanced’ section offers other important settings, so experiment with these as you get used to the plug-in.
Which Should I Use?
In general, WP Super Cache offers fewer features in its default settings and is therefore easier to understand. Yet for beginners, the basic settings of both plug-ins are completely fine – and both will have a very noticeable effect in terms of speed optimisation. For both featured plug-ins, though, it’s important to thoroughly test any changes you make to settings by checking them on the site itself, to ensure that the optimisations are having the desired effect on performance.
Under no circumstances should you test both plug-ins at the same time, though, as this can create significant issues: make sure that only one of the two plug-ins is activated.
Amazon Associates Plug-ins
Now you’re well on your way to a professional and stable affiliate website, it’s time to look at another category of plug-ins, which are of particular interest to members of the Amazon Associates Program. The most important of these is the Amazon Associates Link Builder For WordPress, which allows you to monetise your website by creating links to matching products.
Why Should I Use An Amazon Associates Plug-in?
As well as the Amazon Associates Program, most affiliate plug-ins can be used for other affiliate programs. However, by using Amazon’s dedicated Link Builder plug-in, members of the Amazon Associates Program will enjoy a much simpler and quicker workflow, because important product information, such as a product’s name, its product description or its preview image don’t have to be manually created and integrated from within the text editor in the WordPress backend.
By using an Amazon Associates plug-in all product information is kept up-to-date automatically – as an example, the price of the product on your site will always be the current Amazon Store price, saving you from having to check it on the Amazon site yourself and update it manually. The following plug-ins will help you save time and easily maintain your site.
Amazon Associates Link Builder
Let’s start with the official Amazon Associates Link Builder plug-in, which can be used from directly within the WordPress Editor. After installing the plug-in, you can search directly for any product via the search field and link it directly from your website, without having to go via the Amazon PartnerNet. What’s more, all product data for each product is automatically obtained from Amazon Product Advertising (PAAPI).
Product data can be selected and output in different display modes. Furthermore, you can quickly and easily create a product carousel, or present several products in a grid view and output a price link. Not only are there various templates for these kind of tasks, but you can also create and use your own templates, customised to the specific needs of your site.
Amazon Associates Link Builder is extremely practical. It accesses the Amazon Product Advertising API in real-time and provides up-to-date information on prices, product images and the availability of corresponding products on the Amazon shop page, all in a single interface. The whole thing is rounded off by a Tracking ID that is automatically included in the shortcode which you use to select Amazon product data in different display formats and then output on your own website. Intrigued? Here are some examples of How To Use The Amazon Link Builder Plug-in.
The Amazon Link plug-in, which is also free and can be downloaded from the official WordPress plug-in directory, also accesses the Amazon Product Advertising API and provides up-to-date information in real time. This can be displayed next to normal text links as well as thumbnails.
Various tweaks can be implemented via the plug-in settings options in the backend of WordPress. Tip: Amazon partners who already participate in multiple affiliate programs in different territories, can use the plug-in in multiple countries.
Affilipus is an easy-to-use – but not free – affiliate plug-in that has excellent documentation for both novice and advanced users. Specially designed for responsive websites – meaning it’s adaptable and fully usable on any device – Affilipus offers a short-code generator that gives you the choice of where and how you want to display a product’s data on your website. The plug-in offers you an almost-unrestricted design for your product page. You can also create your own affiliate buttons and install them on your website as you please.
Which Should I Choose?
The affiliate plug-ins we’ve looked at here are of great value to participants in the Amazon Associates Program. Both the Amazon Associates Link Builder plug-in – which allows you to search for suitable products directly via a search field in the WordPress Editor – and Amazon Link offer you a variety of individual design options for promoting products on your website.
The recently introduced Affilipus plug-in, while not a free option, offers you the most flexibility when it comes to individual presentation and layout of the products on your website. The plug-in is also very comprehensive. But beginners may prefer to use the almost self-explanatory Amazon Associates Link Builder plug-in and the also relatively easy, though a bit more complicated to use, Amazon Link – both have extensive, detailed documentation. For more information on useful affiliate plug-ins to consider, we recommend this article from the Amazon Associates Education Centre: Four Recommended WordPress Plug-ins
As your website or blog becomes more successful, you’ll inevitably need to deal with spam comments. An established website can attract many spam comments: and you’ll need to eliminate them to ensure your website continues to look professional and to enable you to build up a community around your site by answering the comments and questions of your users. Here are two possible solutions:
Antispam Bee is a well-known anti-spam plug-in. After installation, you can set the plug-in up according to your own preferences – it’s clearly structured and self explanatory. Antispam Bee is free and can be downloaded directly from within WordPress.
This is not a plug-in in the classic sense, but a free service from Google designed to help you avoid spam. If you’ve ever registered for a service on a website or filled out a form online, then you’ll be familiar with ‘Captchas’. They’re those boxes of hard-to-read sequences of letters and numbers that you’re asked to decipher by entering them into a field provided for this purpose.
The free-of-charge service provided by Google offers a much easier way to employ the reCAPTCHA system, because it only requires a checkbox be checked. After registering on the reCAPTCHA website, you’ll receive a code and a small snippet to protect your comment functionality with the reCAPTCHA check.
Which Anti-spam Plug-in Should I Use?
Comments are important for blogs and websites: not only do they provide honest feedback for your content, but also suggestions for how you could improve your service and even ideas for new topics. Also, as a rule, your website will receive more attention if you work to create a community, and backlinks from community members can help to organically improve your search ranking. An anti-spam plug-in should therefore be a basic feature of every blog.
The Antispam Bee introduced above recognises the majority of spam very reliably and also helps you with an overview. Google’s reCAPTCHA service is also easy to integrate into your website and is well documented: you shouldn’t be put off by the idea of integrating the reCAPTCHA code within WordPress.
Social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and others offer you the opportunity to attract attention and traffic in addition to your rankings in the search engines. Platforms such as Facebook are also great for building a community that comments, shares and likes the content of your website or blog. This increases the reach of your own posts, which will often result in an increased number of backlinks to your site.
Why Should I Use Social-media Plug-ins?
Social-media plug-ins can help you automatically share new articles on platforms of your choosing without you having to share the content manually from the WordPress Editor – this can be a significant time saver and will make a contribution to your articles’ reach, since an article intended for publication will therefore be published not only on your website but also in the social networks at the time of publication. Plus, automatic content publishing is not limited just to new articles, as content published in the past can also be shared on social networks.
Social Media Auto Publish
The free-to-use plug-in Social Media Auto Publish is simple to use. After installation and activation in the WordPress backend, you can, for example, select ‘Authorize Facebook’ in the application’s Auto Publish Menu. With this activated, you can publish articles directly from the WordPress Editor or create a publishing schedule for your posts and articles. However, only new articles or newly updated articles can be automatically distributed in the social networks.
Revive Old Post
Revive Old Post allows you to share new as well as previously published articles. The plug-in is not limited to one platform, because you have the opportunity to share the articles at the same time on Twitter, Facebook and even LinkedIn.
Should I Use Social Media Plug-ins?
The various social-media platforms can generate a lot of traffic for your site and help you to build an active community. You can also make yourself a little more independent from Google by using the featured plug-ins to win new readers via social media rather than organic or paid search results. Both Social Media Auto Publish and Revive Old Post are recommended for automatic publishing on social networks.
Hopefully, this round-up of useful plug-ins has helped you create a more professional affiliate website. In the second part of this series, we’ll introduce you to a range of other important plug-ins – stay tuned.