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I was really bummed out recently when one of my favourite SERP checking tools (SERPLap.co.uk) closed its free program saying they could no longer support it. It’s still a great tool but unfortunately, they won’t be offering a free plan anymore.

I started hunting for alternatives and given that I only have a modest amount of keywords for each of my sites the main thing that I wanted was to be able to do it on a regular basis with minimal fuss. And doing it for free is definitely preferred!

Surprisingly, there are actually still tons of options out there for free SERP checker tools, especially for affiliate marketers. Affiliate marketers typically don’t need to track tons of keywords (though some do if they’re working on a large site) so our needs can be covered by most free options.

This isn’t to say some of the big tools like SEMRush or Ahrefs aren’t worthy of our attention, but if like me, you’re back in the market for a free SERP checker tool because you either can’t afford the higher end tools or your needs just aren’t that great to warrant the expense then you should check out this round up tools.

1. RankTank’s Free Keyword Checker Spreadsheet

The first and I think the best option for a free SERP checker for your affiliate marketing is from a company called RankTank.

The way it works is actually via a special Google Spreadsheet which you can download and make a copy of to your Google Drive.

From there you plug in your website address and a list of keywords and it goes ahead and checks them according to the parameters.

One thing I noticed off the bat was that it’s fast. Really quite fast.

I pasted around 40 keywords into the spreadsheet for one site and it whipped through them in no time, bringing back the ranking information in less than 10 seconds.

You not only get the ranking position, but you also get back some other useful stuff like who is immediately above you and below you in the rankings, who ranks number #1, what your indexed title and meta description looks like (hint: it might not be exactly what you’ve set depending on what Google decided for the SERP).

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The only restrictions are:

  1. If you want monthly search volume estimates for your keywords you’ll need an active SEMRush account
  2. If you want to check more than 100 keywords in one spreadsheet you’ll need their Pro version.

Because I’m usually not checking more than 100 keywords per site in most cases, I just make a copy of the spreadsheet for each site I’m tracking. It’s really quite a simple tool to use and no signups necessary which is nice.

Get RankTank’s Free Keywords Spreadsheet

2. SERPWatcher

If you only have a low number of keywords and you don’t need the rankings to be updated daily then you can probably get away with a free account on SERPWatcher.

SERPWatcher is one of the more popular tools around for monitoring large numbers of keywords on sites so you can grow into this as you start getting some funds in your pocket to invest.

In their free plan you can track up to 50 keywords and they check 5 at a time every 24 hours. So again, you’ll not be able to track very much with this but its fine for small sites that you’re just monitoring a handful of keywords every week to watch for rankings fluctuations.

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They also make a lot of other interesting software like keyword analysis tools, SERP analysis tools (so you can tell what you need to do to beat your competitors) and also a tool for backlink analysis. I haven’t tried these others, but they appear to be competitors of the larger toolsets found in SEMRush, AHrefs and Moz to an extent.

For search engine rankings monitoring though, for small affiliate sites, it’s a great tool that is easy to use. Very simple interface.

How to do rank tracking to track overall keyword positions progress - YouTube

Get your free SERPWatcher account

3. GeoRanker’s Local Rank Checker

GeoRanker’s Local Rank Checker was another tool that I came across but with a slightly different focus – it’s more about telling you information on a local targeting level. You can really do some interesting things with this tool to see how you rank in not only the US/General Google rankings but also rankings on Google results around the world.

They have a free tool which is designed for once off use, but its very simple to use and give some great information.

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You can see how it lets you search different countries all at the same time and see your ranking in each engine. There’s also an option to search at a city level too.

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You basically select the country and you can tell it how many of the top cities in your country to check. Or, if you prefer, you can enter a custom city or zip code if you are in the US.

The main downside is this free tool is only good for one-off searches and if you want to search again, you’ll have to come back and run the same search. That is fine if you only have a few keywords to check every now and then but for a long list that can be painful. If you do want a proper report with multiple keywords then you’ll need to look at using their paid tool.

Visit GeoRanker’s Local Rank Checker tool

4. SERPs.com Free Keyword Rank Checker

One of the big boys in the SEO tools industry also has a free keyword rank checker that you can use without even getting an account.

Just like the GeoRanker tool above, its only good for single keyword searches at a time but its fast and accurate and you can search multiple locations and on this tool, you can even choose between Google and Yahoo engines.

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One thing I like about this tool is that it checks up to position 250 which many do not for various backend processing reasons. There’s also the option to check mobile rankings vs. desktop rankings which is pretty unique for a free tool.

Visit SERPs.com’s Free Keyword Rank Checker tool

5. Search Engine Genie’s Google Position Checker

The last one on my list is an oldie but a goodie. Search Engine Genie’s free tool has been around for a long time (and the interface shows it’s age). But it’s still perfectly functional and actually quite fast too.

If you’re just after a no-nonsense response to your keyword ranking enquiry then this tool has you covered with very little hassle. The load time is quick and it gives you exactly the information you’re after.

(click to zoom)

Surprisingly functional – it even lets you check your rank in various Google engines around the world.

Sure, it looks like a dog’s breakfast compared to some of the more modern tools, but you wanted something for free right? Beggers can’t be choosers – this is the no-frills option that gets the job done.

Visit SEG’s Google Rank Checker tool

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Product reviews are the lifeblood of many affiliate marketers so we’re always looking for ways to get more from that content, or make it better, or help it go further.

That’s what this article is all about – writing product reviews better and getting more from them to really explode your affiliate earning as much as possible from that review.

So many affiliates just write some text on a page and expect it to convert. Writing the text is just the beginning.

Watch this video and you’ll learn my 3 tips for getting more out of your product reviews.

3 Ways Affiliates Can Get More Out Of Their Product Reviews - YouTube

Tip #1: Write it well

The thing with product review writing that makes your product review stand out from other people’s product reviews is to cover things that they don’t.

Add more detail than your competitors

If you can add more detail than your competitors in places that they don’t cover it will give you a massive point of difference in your writing.

This can be done by giving your personal story about using the product (something that can’t be replicated because it’s yours), covering features in much greater detail, giving demonstrations or data to show the usage of the product, technical stats, information about the company and more. See this guide on how to write a killer review.

Find what motivates people

Using what motivates people to buy this product in your product review can give you much better affiliate sales than if you don’t.

Thankfully there’s a shortcut you can use which is to look at what the company behind the product is doing in their marketing.

Pay close attention to:

  1. How they talk to their customers
  2. What language they’re using
  3. Which points they hit on to trigger people
  4. What features they believe are important

If you can borrow some of the phrasing and points they use in their marketing for your product review that will let you hit on those same things.

Go for length

Google and other search engines are always looking for the best result for any particular search term. For product reviews, they want something that is covering the product in great detail and really helps people make an informed buying decision. You can bet they’ve coded this into their algorithm.

One indicator of review quality is length so you should be shooting for at least 1200 words for your article.

That might sound like a lot to you but there are lots of ways to make 1200 words and beyond quite easily. Some ideas are personal stories, covering features more in-depth, comparing features with other similar products, talking about the company and more.

Tip #2: Add more than just words

People tend to just leave their reviews as words on a page. People like to skim. When it comes to long product reviews you want to add other things to help stand out and

Video (So hot right now)

There are tons of options for making video a part of your product review and let me tell you people are HUNGRY for video content right now.

Some options for including video (or multiple videos) into your product review include:

  1. Unboxing videos
  2. In-depth demonstration
  3. Overview of features
  4. Usage examples
  5. Personal stories about using the product
Plenty of pictures

When you skim an article your eyes saccade over the important information that stands out. Usually, this is headings, bolded copy, lists and pictures.

Adding plenty of pictures to your article improves the skim-ability of your review.

And it also does one other thing which I’m a big fan of – it gives you another way to tell the story.

Some people are analytical by nature and like reading the text, but many of us are visual people. We like to consume graphics and photos and video content.

Tip #3: Recreate your review elsewhere

Lastly, I suggest using parts of your review in other parts of your site to get more mileage from what you’ve written.

Recreating parts of your review in other articles on your site let you insert natural snippets that direct people back to your review.

The important note for affiliate marketers to remember is that their reviews are a big piece of their overall affiliate strategy. They’re often the money making pages on the site. So the more attention you can draw to them the better.

Some options for where to include snippets of your review or links back to your review include:

  1. Roundup and “best of” posts – these are great to pull a short snippet from your review and link back to drive traffic
  2. Existing evergreen or highly trafficked articles on your site – leverage the articles that are already getting good traffic on your site and insert (where contextually appropriate) a snippet of review content and a link
  3. Email autoresponders and courses – people in these sequences of content are already 100% engaged with the material and it’s a great time to drive them back to a money-making page like a review page
  4. Other product reviews – people love to compare products before they purchase and seeing two highly detailed product reviews will help them make an informed buying decision. Another great content idea is to create a whole new post comparing the pros and cons of each similar product in your niche
Wrapping Up

With a little more effort than just writing some text on a page, you can stretch your product reviews into real performing articles that earn some serious money.

Have you used any of these tactics to grow the power of your affiliate product reviews? Tell us in the comments what strategies have worked well for you!

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In ThirstyAffiliates 3.3.0 we introduced a brand new feature called the Enhanced JS Redirect which is now the default redirection type in ThirstyAffiliates for new users.

There’s a couple of reasons why we wanted to build this:

  1. Security – the confidence of our users is paramount for us as a link cloaker and one of the primary reasons people use link cloakers is to avoid commission theft. This new Enhanced JS Redirect type is the most secure redirect type, ever.
  2. Statistics – affiliates live and breathe statistics and we want to ensure that we calculate your click statistics as accurately as possible.

As you’ll see in the explainer video both of these are covered with the new Enhanced JS Redirect type better than ever before. It’s the most secure and reliable link redirect type we have.

Explainer Video

ThirstyAffiliates Enhanced JS Redirect - YouTube

What If Javascript Is Disabled?

So you might be wondering what happens if the visitor has Javascript turned off in their browser?

Well, we’ve thought about this a lot.

Firstly, you have to understand that according to statistics only 0.2% of people visit websites with javascript disabled and this has been stable since 2010. It’s a very small fraction of visitors indeed.

Second, we have ensured the technology has fallbacks.

If Javascript is disabled (for whatever reason) ThirstyAffiliates automatically falls back to server-side redirection. So unless the link you’re redirecting to is dead (something easily picked up in our Link Health Checker reports in Pro) you should never experience a bad redirect.

What If I’m Using HTAccess Redirects (Pro Feature)

If you’re a Pro user and you have enabled HTAccess redirects we treat that redirect type as priority #1.

When you enable the HTAccess redirect method you’re primarily after one thing: speed.

The fact is that because the HTAccess redirection doesn’t spin up WordPress or even PHP at all on your server, it remains the fastest option redirection option we provide.

The fallback in situations where HTAccess redirections are not available for a particular link (such as Geolocated links) is the Enhanced JS Redirection method (if it is enabled).

Why Use This Over The Old Method?

To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with the old method. But we believe in innovation and staying ahead of the curve.

The Enhanced JS Redirect type is the best of the best.

So if you want:

  1. Better security
  2. Faster redirects
  3. More accurate statistics

Then you should consider swapping your sites over to the Enhanced JS Redirect method. You can find it in ThirstyAffiliates->Settings.

When Does It Still Use The Old Method?

For direct visits on the link or clicks on your link that happen elsewhere. If you’ve shared your cloaked link in emails or PDFs or anything like that, these will use the server-side redirection method.

The only other time it will use the server-side redirection method is if the javascript based redirect fails for whatever reason. We coded this new feature defensively so that there would always be fallbacks if it should fail for whatever reason.

Should I Switch My Existing Sites Over?

When implementing this we took a backwards compatible/defensive approach. Existing websites are not automatically switched over.

We do suggest you give it a go though because it is a far superior redirection technology.

We hope you enjoy the new feature, it’s all part of us continuing to develop the technology in ThirstyAffiliates so we can deliver the best affiliate marketing tool on the market.

Have specific questions about it? Contact our friendly support team (free users should use the forum, paid users please submit a ticket).

If you’ve already tried Enhanced JS Redirects, please let us know in the comments! We’d love to hear from you.

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Welcome To Our Affiliate Program Directory

One of the big things we feel that has been missing in the affiliate marketing industry is a single authoritative list of the best affiliate programs in a large range of niches.

Many of the big affiliate networks collect affiliate programs and they’re somewhat searchable, but its not all in one place.

We wanted to build the affiliate program directory we ourselves would love to use to find great affiliate programs – that’s why we started this search able guide.

Fair warning: this list of affiliate programs is huge. We recommend you use the filter controls to find the niches that you are most interested in.

The details of each program we have collated below are based on the current data at the time of publishing. We’re doing our best to keep the data up to date, but please click through to the affiliate program to find the latest details for it.

Filter Affiliate Programs By Niche:

Select some particular niches that you are interested in finding affiliate programs for. Leave the box blank to show all niches.

Best Affiliate Programs For Fashion

From clothes, accessories, latest fashion and best brands, here’s a list of fashion affiliate programs you can join.

You have the opportunity to feature Charlotte’s highly coveted products on your site. Introduce your readers to a catwalk-ready range of award-winning products on your site or blog and earn commission on all sales each time your visitors complete a purchase at CharlotteTilbury.com.

The exchange for commission and content couldn’t be simpler. Their team of experts can guide you through the process giving you all the info you need on their best-sellers and upcoming launches plus fill you in on any behind the scenes exclusives.

Commission Rate

8% commission

Payment Minimum

$50 balance during the month to receive your payout. 

Payment Method

Paypal

Topshop started out life way back in 1964. Since those humble beginnings in the basement of a department store they have grown up and now have over 300 stores in the UK alone! Topshop ships to more than 100 countries and their eclectic British style is known all over the world.

From their collaborations – think Christopher Kane and Kate Moss – to their fresh take on making new season pieces work for you, they are on a mission to bring style to you, wherever you are.

Commission Rate

All publisher types excluding bloggers:

  • New Customer Sales: 6%
  • Existing Customer Sales: 4%
  • 30 day cookie period

Blogger commission structure:

  • New Customer Sales: 8%
  • Existing Customer Sales: 6%
  • 30 day cookie period
Payment Minimum

$50 balance during the month to receive your payout. 

Payment Method

Paypal

Alexander Wang Inc. is a fashion lifestyle brand that was started in 2005. In a short amount of time, Alexander Wang has amassed a following based around an aesthetic that combines ease, sexuality and irony

The Rakuten Affiliate Network programme is offering a large selection of Alexander Wang merchandise across all categories including Men’s and Women’s Ready to Wear, T by Alexander Wang – Women’s and Men’s as well as a full range of accessories including footwear and handbags. 

Once you are approved for the Alexander Wang program, you can use the code they supply to generate links from your site to theirs. They offer you a variety of links and link types. Use your creativity and your knowledge of the people who come to your site to choose the types of links that will be most appealing and most likely to invite clicks. The more your links lead to sales on our site, the more money your site will earn.

Commission Rate

6% commission

Payment Minimum

$50 balance to receive your payout

Payment Method

PayPaldirect deposit (ACH), or check

Forever 21 is one of the largest fashion retailers in the world, offering the latest trends, must-have styles and the hottest deals in women’s, men’s and kid’s clothing and accessories,

Forever 21’s model of fast fashion works by keeping the store exciting with new merchandise brought in daily. The retailer, headquartered in LA, operates over 480 stores worldwide and is known for giving great value to consumers.

You can earn unlimited commission simply by linking to Forever21 from your own website. They will provide banners, text and product links to help you drive traffic to the Forever21 site. If a customer clicks on one of your links and visits the site, you’ll earn a commission if the customer orders at any time in the following 30 days.

Commission Rate

4% commission

Payment Minimum

$50 balance to receive your payout

Payment Method

PayPaldirect deposit (ACH), or check

Founded in 1970, Urban Outfitters operates more than 200 stores in the United States, Canada, Europe and online. They stock their stores with what we love, led by their customer’s interest in contemporary art, music and fashion. UrbanOutfitters.com is home to their largest product assortment—an ever-changing and ever-growing collection of the coolest stuff around, from women’s and men’s clothing and accessories to apartment items and more. 

Their site is awesome and you can make your site awesome too by adding Urban Outfitter’s promos and product links. Become a UO Affiliate and you’ll earn commission when your visitors make a purchase at UrbanOufitters.com. It’s rad. 

Commission Rate

5% commission

Payment Minimum

$50 Check, $100 Direct Deposit

Payment Method

Direct Deposit, Check, Payoneer

The MANGO concept springs from the alliance between a product of their own design, quality and brand image which is both coherent and unified.

Dressing the urban and modern woman, meeting her daily needs, is the formula which MANGO have analysed, adapted and applied to each country they operate in: this has been and continues to be, one of the keys to their commercial success and international prestige. MANGO currently has more than 2500 stores in 100 countries.

MANGO is an upmarket fashion label. The kind of affiliates they are looking for is mainly fashion and lifestyle sites as well as blogs. At this stage, they do not allow sites that are centered around savings, discounts or vouchers to join the affiliate program. Please make sure the sites you apply with are in line with these criteria.

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If there’s one thing that I can absolutely guarantee, it’s that every affiliate wants lots of traffic. In general, more traffic = more money.

Let me just say this first up… nothing beats writing articles and getting free traffic. Nothing.

The best source of free traffic that I know of is search engines. Which is why knowing the 80/20 of SEO is very important for affiliate marketers.

What is the 80/20 approach to affiliate SEO?

There’s a lot written already on the topic of 80/20 analysis, whole books even, but if you boil it all down it says that 80% of your results will come from 20% of your actions. Or, 80% of what you do is irrelevant to the result.

So when I say this is the 80/20 guide to affiliate website SEO it means that we’ll be focusing only on a subset of SEO techniques (the 20%) that will get you most of the way there (the 80%).

Oh, and that it’s focused on affiliate marketers, in case that wasn’t clear.

There are 3 steps to affiliate SEO:

  1. Clever keyword selection
  2. A solid approach to content; and
  3. Growing your rankings over time

As an affiliate you want things to be as hands-off as possible, that means you need to spend most of your time creating things that will continue to get traffic for as long as the content is still useful.

The traffic you receive from search engines is as close to a consistent source of traffic as you’re going to get in this day and age of internet marketing.

It’s also a traffic source that has a very low burn rate (unless you dabble in grey-hat or black-hat techniques) and once you’re ranked on the first page, has the uncanny ability to keep on growing if you follow a few simple rules.

Let’s get into it…

3-Step Affiliate SEO Strategy That Will Get You 80% Of The Way (Or More)

For this to work, I’m going to assume a few things:

  1. That you have already picked your niche or have an idea about what niche you want to get into
  2. You are interested in that niche enough that you’re not going to give up
  3. You’re prepared to write and create content, preferably yourself at the start

I want to make it clear that it’s way easier to write content if you’re actually interested in the niche.

If you have little or no interest in weight loss, why are you considering it? Is it just because of the potential $ on a CPA offer? If so, you might as well just stop reading now.

Step 1 – Pick keywords in the “sweet spot”

SEO competition today (as in the very day that you’re reading this) is as fierce as it’s ever been at any point in the past.

Every day that goes past means there are more articles than there were before and more competition for things that people search for.

The competition for the big keywords that deliver hundreds of thousands of visitors each month is ridiculous. But not only that, it is continuously being fought over by the biggest SEO firms and experts in the world. I can guarantee they have more knowledge than you, have more resources than you and are generally better equipped to win that battle.

So, don’t even try.

“Gee, thanks for being a wet blanket, so why bother, right?”

SEO is more cutthroat than Game of Thrones, but there is still a way for you, the little guy, to compete and get your content noticed by the search engines.

One way is to look for the “sweet spot”.

The sweet spot is when a keyword (or a group of related keywords put together) have a total monthly traffic between 100 and 1000 unique visitors per month and the existing results are less than satisfying to the searcher.

If you go for keywords or groups of keywords with this amount of monthly searches and not the bigger scarier keywords with thousands of visits per month you’re going to have a much easier time and see success much earlier. These are the keywords that are currently under-served and will continue to be under-served in today’s search engines.

Here’s another reason:

New and smaller sites are harder to rank on big keywords because they don’t have a large history of backlinks and proven traffic. This is something that Google and other engines look for when ranking you for a keyword. Keywords found in the sweet spot often only require 1 or 2 backlinks, if any at all, to rank within the top few positions.

Based on my personal experience, finding keywords in the sweet spot can land you within the top 10 inside of a week with a brand new article because the current results are under-serving the searches and Google’s algorithm already knows that. They’re constantly looking for something better and once you appear they’ll adjust.

Later I’ll take you through what to do once you crack that top 10, but first, we have a problem…

The Problem: How do you find out the search volume of a keyword?

There are many solutions to this ranging from free through to expensive. I always favour free tools that to the job even if it’s not 100% the best (we’re talking 80/20 here remember).

The main tool I use to find the volume of searches an individual keyword receives is a free browser extension called Keywords Everywhere.

Just like the name suggests, once installed, you’ll see that it shows you keyword volume data all over the internet wherever keywords appear.

You will see monthly search volume data for:

  • Anything you type into Google searches
  • The related keywords list down the bottom of the search results (the alternatives that Google shows you down the bottom of the search page)
  • The auto-complete suggested searches (that Google show in the search box when you start typing)
  • Amazon.com searches
  • Bing searches
  • … you get the idea.

If you can see it at a glance, it’s more useful. I’ve found this to be a very effective way to quickly find keywords and judge their worth immediately by their search volume.

If you’re interested in other keyword research tools, check out this great video from Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income. He goes over a number of other tools in depth (though despite the video title, some you do have to pay for).

Top 5 Free Keyword Research Tools - YouTube

Step 2 – Write detailed “guides” of 2,000 to 5,000 words in length

When you are writing content for a particular type of person you should be thinking, “how do I make this the most incredibly useful piece of content that could possibly be found on this topic?”

Writing big guides using a word count guide of roughly 2,000 to 5,000 words in length is a good way to ensure that you cover a topic in-depth.

According to an article on Noah Kagan’s website, where they analysed over 100 million articles, larger articles are more likely to be shared:

In this article, they actually found articles of 3,000 to 10,000 words were shared the most, but let’s apply some of that good old 80/20 logic to this again.

Based on the chart above, as long as the article length is over 2,000 words, you’re going to capture a vastly greater amount of shares compared to articles under that.

This is why my recommendation stands at 2,000 to 5,000 words.

I feel that is more achievable and pushing that extra 20% to get to the next bracket is probably not worth it.

How do you work your keywords in?

The worst mistake that you can make is to over-stuff your keywords in your article.

As a guide, your articles should feature the target keyword/s in:

  • The article title
  • The SEO title and description
  • In the URL slug of the article
  • Within the first couple of paragraphs once
  • In 1 or 2 of the H2 headers
  • And if you can swing it, in an H3 header as well

Beyond that, just sprinkle an additional handful of mentions throughout the content but don’t go overboard.

You can use the Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress to give you a good idea, but I generally don’t follow the keyword density recommendations as strictly for articles beyond 2,000 words in length, I stay well under what the plugin recommends.

When is the “detailed guide” approach a BAD idea?

It seems like everyone is using massive 5,000+ word articles these days to rank. But do you always need to write such massive tomes? Is it different for different keywords?

While overall, Google and other search engines do love long form comprehensive content, sometimes you don’t need to do such a massive post to rank well.

I follow the same line of thinking as Mark from Authority Hacker for this:

“Google are taking an AI first approach.

Answers to questions should be simple, well-formatted and easy to understand.

There is no point writing 5,000 words for a question that can be answered in 500 words.

You should be aware that content length varies with different types of queries.”

In a nutshell, don’t write long articles just for the sake of it.

DO: Use your long articles wisely to rank for keywords (or groups of keywords) about a topic that you can provide a mastery-level guide for.

DON’T: Use them to rank for simple questions that could be answered in just as much depth with much fewer words.

Step 3 – Add to your content over time

Who says that you have to write once and then leave it never to be touched again?

The beauty of the internet is its ever-changing nature and you can bet your bottom dollar that Google accounts for that. Rankings are changed constantly.

You should be updating and adding to your big guides over time as things change, new evidence comes to light, better sources appear, and (here’s the kicker) as you come up with additional content to add.

I’m talking about adding:

  • Videos
  • Podcast audios
  • Infographics
  • PDFs downloads
  • Report downloads
  • Statistics
  • … whatever you can think of to make the post better.

Make sure everything is tightly related to the topic of the article. The more you add to it, the better it will rank and improve in the rankings.

If you feel like an article is stuck in it’s non-#1 position, adding to the article is one of the easiest ways to increase its position in the SERPs.

What about the final 20%?

So that’s the 80/20 affiliate SEO guide in full.

You might be wondering where the final 20% is spent if you really want to push things ahead in your SEO.

In my opinion (and I stress this is my opinion based on being in this industry for a decade) the final 20% of SEO is split between building links and other advanced SEO methods.

Building backlinks is not something I’m going to cover in this article because the topic is deep. Very deep.

For that, I highly recommend reading this link building guide and watching this video by Brian Dean from the website Backlinko.

Advanced Step-By-Step SEO Tutorial (2018) - YouTube

As for whether you should spend the extra time chasing that final 20%, that is entirely up to you.

If you have a strong interest in SEO and you want to further your results then it might be worth the time.

That extra 20% push could deliver outsized results and you will always be well served by learning more about this interesting art that is SEO.

However, if you’re just starting out, then I advise you to stick to your guns and start with the 80/20 guide we’ve just outlined. Give it a red hot go and if you aren’t getting what you want out of it, that would be the time to go back to the drawing board and see what else you could be doing to help it along.

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If you’re just starting out in affiliate marketing then you might be looking at starting up your first website. For many, the obvious choice is WordPress.

This article is going to cover everything you need to know about WordPress affiliate marketing.

Why So Many Affiliate Marketers Choose WordPress

So why, exactly, do so many of us choose WordPress for our content management system? Surely there are other solutions?

Well, there are other solutions around and, while they work perfectly well, they aren’t as popular as WordPress.

WordPress absolutely dominates the statistics for Content Management Software technologies in use. According to BuiltWith.com, they estimate 53% of all sites are now run on WordPress.

With this kind of popularity comes an influx of developer interest.

This developer interest and that fact that WordPress can be easily extended via plugins and themes mean that the ecosystem can handle just about any kind of website that you can imagine.

The top reasons why affiliates in particular love it are because:

  1. It is easy to insert and maintain content
  2. Simple sites are easy and quick to setup
  3. It’s SEO friendly pretty much out of the box (or easily augmented with the popular Yoast SEO plugin)
  4. It’s affiliate marketing friendly (thanks to plugins like ThirstyAffiliates)
  5. You can run it without technical knowledge

In summary, affiliates love WordPress because it is easy to use, extensible and you don’t have to be a tech whiz to figure it out.

Do You Need WordPress?

Technically you can even do affiliate marketing without a website, so no, you don’t actually need to use WordPress.

But we really recommend you to set up your own website and because of the reasons above it’s a great choice.

You’ll be using a platform that has so many more tools than anything like it which means you can let your imagination run wild with what you want to achieve.

WordPress Affiliate Marketing Tools

When it comes to choosing the tools inside of WordPress for affiliate marketing I have a pretty specific list of things to recommend.

First, I’ll go through what plugins you should install on your new WordPress website at a minimum for your affiliate marketing efforts.

3 Essential Affiliate Marketing WordPress Plugins:

  1. ThirstyAffiliates – forgive the self-promotion, but it really is the swiss army tool for affiliate marketers in WordPress. You can cloak your long affiliate links, measure click stats, categorize your links and much more just with the free version. There’s also a Pro add-on for when you want to level up.
  2. Yoast SEO – this is an essential tool for making WordPress as SEO friendly as possible. Additionally, it helps you craft content that conforms to best SEO practices.
  3. Google Analytics for WordPress by MonsterInsights – easily add Google Analytics to your site. But not only that, see vital stats straight in your dashboard.

Additional Recommended Plugins:

  • WPML/Polylang – these plugins help you provide translated versions of your blog posts in other languages. A great traffic hack & revenue when you combine with the Geolocations feature of ThirstyAffiliates Pro.
  • Wordfence – security is very important. Because of WordPress’ popularity, they are pretty frequent with the security patches. In between those times, you’ll want Wordfence to guard your site.
  • Social Warfare – a great free social sharing widget tool, we use it ourselves.
  • WP RSS Aggregator – import content to your site via RSS feeds.

While there are many (many!) other plugins that would be helpful for your site as an affiliate marketer, I don’t want to overwhelm you with it. The plugins mentioned above have no real overlap and are the best of breed in each area.

Is WordPress Scalable?

When you’re first starting out, it’s OK to use a low-end market web host and a quickly thrown together WordPress blog. This kind of setup can cost you as little as $3-5USD per month (well under $100 a year).

But what happens when you start seeing some serious traffic numbers?

Can WordPress really handle it? Is it scalable?

The answer depends largely on a few things:

1. Your web hosting setup

Once you get beyond a few thousand visitors a month you might want to move away from shared hosting services like Bluehost (a great low-cost introductory host that many people start with).

The next step up is to use a VPS which stands for Virtual Private Server. VPS providers like Digital Ocean can provide the infrastructure that can scale a WordPress website into the millions of monthly visitors and beyond.

Combining your VPS with technology stacks like Nginx and server-side caching can also help even a small VPS scale up to handle large amounts of visitors.

2. CDN

CDN stands for Content Delivery Network. CDN’s help you deliver static resources on your site such as images and javascript that don’t change very frequently.

Their super-fast networks of servers can give those files to your visitor’s computer much quicker than your web host can.

It might sound like we’re talking about fractions of a second here but every second counts.

3. Caching

One way to get a bit more juice out of your WordPress site is to serve pages on your site from a cache.

Caching means making a copy of the generated page on your site and storing it for quick retrieval later. It often means that WordPress and PHP aren’t even triggered.

The best kind of cache is a server-side solution like Varnish where it doesn’t have to boot up WordPress at all.

If each request for a page fires up WordPress (as it still does with some of the caching plugins out there) then the benefits of the cache will be limited.

4. Lean and clean code

Finally, one of the biggest impacts that can affect the speed of your site is how well the site is constructed.

At a professional level, you might want to get a qualified web developer involved to do a speed audit on your site.

Have them optimize it so you get a better result on Google PageSpeed and GTMetrix, two excellent sites that can tell you what to do here, and you will cover 99% of what needs to be done.

Start Off Your Affiliate Marketing Journey With WordPress

I hope this introductory article has helped convince you that WordPress is a great choice when it comes to setting up a website for doing affiliate marketing.

If you have any questions please leave a comment below.

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Tracking your performance in affiliate marketing is a favourite past-time of the affiliate marketer.

We are creatures who pay a lot of attention to numbers, conversion rates, click through rates and more.

So what if you could see clicks on your affiliate links in Google Analytics for your site as they happen? Wouldn’t that be nice?

Today I want to introduce you to a feature, one we’ve had for a while, but has recently had a makeover when we launched ThirstyAffiliates Pro back in October 2017.

It’s called Google Click Tracking and that is the module that is responsible for pushing clicks through to your Google Analytics account.

How Google Click Tracking Works

Google Analytics is a great platform because you can use it for tracking just about any kind of analytical data for later examination. I especially love it because you can push events to it and those events can track all sorts of neat things.

We harness this power of events in Google Analytics with our Google Click Tracking module to track clicks on affiliate links on your site.

It sends information about that click through to your site’s Google Analytics profile so that you can query information about it over a period of time.

And once setup you can see them in your Google Analytics account under Behaviour->Events.

This gives you visibility into which links were clicked, when they were clicked, how many times they were clicked and on what page.

Beyond that, you can start getting tricky with Google Analytics by cross-matching it against what types of people clicked those links, what devices and operating systems were they using, more data mashing.

Setting Up Google Click Tracking

In ThirstyAffiliates Pro, Google Click Tracking is a module you can activate under ThirstyAffiliates->Settings, Modules tab. By default, it’s already turned on, so it may already be working for you if you have the default Google Analytics setup.

Google Analytics can be inserted into your website by using a number of different methods:

  • Global Site Tag (gtag.js) – the latest version of their script code
  • Universal Google Analytics (uses the ga() function) – this is what most people use currently and what most of the Google Analytics helper plugins (such as Google Analytics for WordPress by MonsterInsights) use.
  • Legacy Google Analytics (uses the older _gaq() function) – the older script that is no longer in use, but still supported. If you have a really old site it might be using this.
  • Google Tag Manager (uses the tag manager code) – this is the tag manager product that Google provides to larger sites and agencies for easier management of their script tags.
To get Google Click Tracking working in ThirstyAffiliates Pro you just need to tell it which tracking script you are using on your site:

As you can see in this screenshot, it is very easy to switch between them, and as far as basic steps to get it working goes, this will be all you need to do for 98% of all sites.

There are also two other options there on the screen which you may have noticed:

  1. Custom event category name – by default events are recorded under the Event Category in Google Analytics as “Affiliate Link”, this lets you change that.
  2. Custom Function Name (for universal GA) – when you are using the Universal Google Analytics tracking script some plugins or developers may optionally change the javascript function name from ga() to something else. This is perfectly OK to do, but Google Click Tracking will need to know about it if you want it to work. Hopefully, you won’t need to touch this setting, but at least now you know what it’s for!
What It Looks Like In Google Analytics

Click events on your affiliate links get pushed to your Google Analytics profile in real-time.

You can also see the affiliate link clicks in report style under Behaviour->Events.

The Events->Overview section will show you raw numbers of how many clicks on all affiliate links.

Then if you drill down into the Event Category (default name is “Affiliate Link” as mentioned above) you can see the Event Actions which contains the cloaked affiliate link URLs that were clicked (great for seeing how many clicked a particular link).

Drill down another step and you can see the Event Label which will, by default, show the page the affiliate link was clicked on. This is quite handy if you have a link and you want to find out what pages that link was clicked on most.

Great! How Do I Get It For My Site?

Google Click Tracking is a module in ThirstyAffiliates Pro which is the paid extension to our free ThirstyAffiliates plugin.

I encourage you to download the free version first, play with it and get used to the functionality of ThirstyAffiliates and then explore the pricing page to see if upgrading to the Pro extension will benefit you.

There’s also a lot more to the Pro version than just Google Click Tracking, it’s just one of our amazing features. Click through here to see all the features compared side-by-side.

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If you’re wondering how to monetize a travel blog you might have considered a number of options but by far, the quickest way is with affiliate marketing.

Affiliate marketing and travel blogging go hand in hand and you don’t even have to change the way you’ve been writing or re-arrange your blog to accommodate it.

Affiliate marketing is great for monetizing a travel blog because:

  1. It’s easy to implement – you can start monetizing your blog posts within an hour
  2. There are a lot of well-known sites that offer attractive commissions
  3. People are always looking for recommendations – the industry thrives on personal recommendations
How To Implement Affiliate Marketing On Your Travel Blog

At the core of it, affiliate marketing is just recommending things that people can buy. It’s probably something you’ve been doing a lot on your travel blog already.

Choosing to monetize your travel blog with affiliate marketing just means you’re going to get paid a small kickback for the recommendations you’re already doing.

It’s probably the most popular way to monetize a travel blog because:

  1. Recommending stuff is always done anyway so why not earn something from it
  2. People are actively looking for recommendations – that’s what half of “holiday making” is all about
  3. And most importantly, it’s unintrusive – you generally don’t have to change a thing about what you’re doing now already

On a travel blog, content is king. I don’t want you to change that at all.

Unlike placing ads and banners all over your site, affiliate marketing slips right into the content that you are already writing and people genuinely want to hear about your recommendations. It’s a perfect fit.

Here are 5 ways you can bring affiliate marketing into your blog without being all sleazy about it:

1. Work product mentions into your blog posts

When you are writing your travel-related blog posts you will invariably recommend services and products that the person reading your post should be aware of.

If you find yourself making a recommendation, check to see if that company has an affiliate program.

This is a nice way to build your affiliate marketing over time.

2. Monetize your past blog posts

Monetizing your older blog posts is a fantastic way to pour rocket fuel into your affiliate marketing.

Older blog posts will be packed full of product recommendations, website recommendations and more. Leverage that by using a tool like ThirstyAffiliates Pro’s Autolinker module.

This tool lets you provide keywords for your affiliate links and then those keywords will be automatically linked up to your affiliate links in real-time. It’s amazing.

There is no better way to instantly monetize all that hard work you’ve already done.

3. Sidebar graphics for high-level recommendations

Sidebar graphics and banners are still great options for recommending high-level products and services that nearly all travellers will want.

Things such as insurance, booking websites, specific gear and other stuff that you often talk about using. Graphics command attention and this can translate very quickly into commissions.

4. Roundup posts

Have you ever written a post like “10 Best Backpacks to…” or “8 Family Friendly Cruises You Need To…”.

The humble roundup post is a very powerful piece of content that not only ranks well but also will perform on social media. For a post that commands such attention, you will be wanting to litter a few affiliate links among those recommendations.

It can also help to go back through your older roundup posts that you know are popular already and see if any of what you talk about there can be linked up to an affiliate offer.

5. Deals

When you talk about certain deals you should be aware that most of those deals will have an affiliate program you could be a member of.

Deals related posts (think: “10 Romantic Getaways This Valentines Day…” type posts) in peak periods can pump some serious numbers in terms of sales.

Secondly, having a specific, and permanent “Deals” page on your site can help you collect all this information into one place for your visitors to find. Many travel bloggers report that these kinds of pages quickly become the top-earning page on their site.

22 Recommended Affiliate Programs For Travel Travel Insurance

Insurance is one of those things that is very localised when it comes to recommendations. So it pays to know your audience and where they’re viewing your site from.

A tool like ThirstyAffiliates Pro’s Geolocation module can divert traffic to different affiliate URLs based on the visitor’s location in real-time. This is very handy when recommending a more localised travel insurance program for that particular visitor.

As for affiliate programs to join, here’s a couple you can choose from, depending on your location:

Baggage & Travel Items

Your traveller’s kit is one of the main topics that gets talked about on your blog. It makes sense to promote the items that you’ve found worthwhile. Afterall you have the experience and stories to back up the testimonial and reviews are one of the most powerful ways to increase your affiliate commissions. Here are a few popular affiliate programs for travel gear.

Accommodation & Flights

There’s a million and one accommodation booking and flight booking and comparison websites out there these days and they’re all competing for a piece of the pie. Some of the bigger players with amazing marketing budgets are offering insanely high commissions.

Here are a few of the big players in the industry you should sign up for. All of these sites do Hotels, Flights and other Accommodation and some even do tours, etc.

Cruises

What is not to love about cruises, right? You get on board, you get your large adult beverage (often served in a coconut shell) and you chill as every need you could imagine is already taken care of for you.

Cruises are a nice high-ticket item that you can promote on your blog as a travel blogger and affiliate.

Check out these few popular companies to start, but there are tons of smaller operators and booking services which you can also use. Many of the larger sites I recommend above in the flights and hotels section also to Cruises.

Tours

Talking about tours that you have taken on your trips is a great way to build content for your travel blog. It gives you something to talk about, interest points and a unique experience of a city or place that you otherwise might not have experienced if you were just exploring on your own.

Tour affiliate programs are then an excellent way to extend on that recommendation to earn as an affiliate.

How To Ensure Affiliate Marketing Remains The Most Effective Way To Monetize Your Travel Blog

In my opinion, affiliate marketing and travel blogging just make sense together. It’s like two sides of the same coin.

Here are a few rules of thumb that you can follow to make the most effective use of affiliate marketing to monetize your site.

Rule Of Thumb #1: Always Make Genuine Personal Recommendations

Personal recommendations are what make this industry turn.

When you make an affiliate recommendation, ask yourself, are you really happy recommending this product or service?

Would you, or do you, use it yourself?

If the answer is no, don’t do it. People can see right through it when you make a recommendation just because of the kickback you’ll receive.

Rule Of Thumb #2: Use Story Telling

One of the most powerful ways to grab people’s attention is storytelling.

And the beauty is that with storytelling you can weave product recommendations into it quite naturally – your journalistic integrity is intact.

Rule Of Thumb #3: Only Recommend When It Makes Sense

Only recommend products when it makes sense.

If you’re writing a blog post about travel gear and you come out of left field with a recommendation about travel insurance it’s going to sound completely unrelated.

It’s very easy for travel bloggers to make pitches for affiliate products very naturally within the content topic at hand. So there is no need to try to cram offers down people’s throats. They won’t like it and your conversion rate will be horrible.

Do You Use Affiliate Marketing For Your Travel Blog?

We’d love to hear from you now, do you use affiliate marketing to monetize your travel blog?

What kinds of offers have you had success with? Leave a comment below.

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Howdy ThirstyAffiliates fans, I’m really excited to share with you an interview today that has been in the works for a while with one of our users.

Her name is Epiphora and she’s in what most people would call a somewhat unconventional niche for affiliate marketing. It’s not your traditional make money online or weight-loss type product – she reviews sex toys for a living.

Boasting a collection of well over 600+ toys and banging away at the keyboard for over a decade now has made her a household name in the sex blogger niche. Companies are lining up to get their products reviewed.

I wanted to delve deep here and see what makes Epiphora stand out and why her site is so successful.

She is a true authority in her space and it’s an honour to have her on the blog for an interview. I’ve also included a special video review of her website talking about some of the things I think make her successful and what stood out to me as well as a couple of things I think she could further improve.

Sex Toy Review Website Affiliate Marketing Teardown (HeyEpiphora.com) - YouTube

Want to see more videos like this? Check out our new ThirstyAffiliates Youtube channel and subscribe.

Let’s dive into the interview!

1. You’ve been blogging for nearly a decade about sex toys. What were the motivations behind starting a site reviewing sex toys? Was it filling a niche that you saw missing or was it more like passion writing? I think a lot of folks would love to hear how you started!

Oh man, I definitely didn’t get into this thinking I was fulfilling a particular need or niche. Reviewing sex toys was strictly a fun hobby, an interesting diversion as I slogged through college. I wrote my first reviews for a retailer’s site, and after a year of that I was enjoying it so much I decided to start my own blog. At that time I had no idea what the future of my blog (and my life) would look like; it’s not like “sex toy reviewer” is presented as a potential career option in school! That I was able to make money doing this was a happy surprise, one that enabled me to turn it into a career.

2. What are some of the advantages of being a blogger in the sex niche vs. disadvantages of the niche?

The sex toy industry is pretty small and insular, which is an advantage in that I can interact directly with the people behind the companies and my work can have an actual impact. In the beginning, I was able to make myself well-known more easily as well.

But a smaller, more specialized niche limits how far my blog can reach and how popular it ultimately can become. A large chunk of the population would never read any sex blog, and even people who do read my blog aren’t usually willing to share it with their friends/family or on social media. It’s harder to cultivate an audience.

Then there’s the general sex-negativity of the world. Most social media sites have restrictions on adult content; Facebook, for instance, won’t allow me to promote any post I ever publish, no matter the topic. I’m shadowbanned on Twitter, despite having a verified account. I run into roadblocks like that all the time. So sometimes even just getting the content out there is challenging. Additionally, folks hear about my job and immediately laugh it off rather than regarding it as the hard-earned career it is. That’s just the downside of blogging about something less socially-acceptable than make-up…

3. On your “New Here?” page (a page like this is a great tactic for larger sites) I noticed you said:

“I’m brutally honest, snarky, a bit jaded, and don’t believe in sugar-coating anything except my coffee. I will without hesitation point out when a sex toy is completely worthless and a waste of orgasms — or when sex toy companies are liars, misogynists, racists, full of shit, body-shaming, or sex-negative. But when I love something, I will walk across hot coals to tell you all about it.”

To me, this is a MASSIVE statement to your audience and to the industry as a whole. Can you comment on the importance of having content of substance (both in your niche in particular and in how that applies to other niches too)?

I believe that, aside from web design knowledge and sweet writing skillz, being genuine and unapologetic got me to where I am today. New bloggers often worry about finding their voices, about acquiring and retaining readers, about social media numbers and analytics stats. But without substance and a subject you’re truly passionate about, you won’t enjoy yourself, you won’t have longevity, and you won’t capture the attention of readers. It’s that simple, and I think it probably applies to every blogging niche in some fashion.

4. You’re very active on social media, is this where you get a lot of your traffic? How important has engaging with your audience on social media been for you? Keen to hear if there is a particular network you focus on.

Oh yes, social media has been hugely important to my blog’s success. I’m able to milk the weirdness of my life on social media, give readers a peek into the day-to-day reality of being a sex toy reviewer. A good chunk of my traffic comes from search engines, too, but I see social media as the best tool in building a loyal fanbase — people who actually care about my work and want to follow it year after year.

Twitter, in particular, has been the biggest social network for me and the one I focus on most; it’s where I make connections with both bloggers and readers. Facebook is notoriously difficult, not only for its anti-adult policies but also its horrible algorithm that only shows my posts to a tiny fraction of my followers. Instagram doesn’t easily translate to traffic, and I feel a bit distant from everyone on Tumblr. I use them all, but Twitter is easily the most important.

5. You write some really comprehensive, open and brutally honest reviews. Sometimes even quite scathing if something doesn’t live up to the expectation. Would you say this hurts or hinders the monetization side of things?

We all know a negative review doesn’t exactly compel people to buy something, but there’s more to it than that. A negative review shows integrity and builds trust with the reader. If I loved everything I tried, how could a person feel confident in a particular purchase? How would they choose? I truly believe my honesty is a core reason for my financial success. My readers feel they can trust me and make sex toy purchasing decisions based on my reviews, and that is a huge honor.

Further, very few sex toys are perfectly good or perfectly bad. Nuance matters and is appreciated. Recently I received this email that laid it out perfectly: “your review of a product you hated (one that later made your Worst Of 2017 list) was comprehensive and objective enough that I knew my wife would love it for precisely the reasons you did not. You’re damn good at your job.”

6. I noticed you do a lot of really great product roundup type posts. Especially during peak sales seasons and also just collating things on best-of pages, etc. Do you find that straight up reviews are better for affiliate sales or do the roundups drive sales better?

I definitely make the most money from promoting sales — no surprise there. My static “Sales & Deals” page is the single most profitable page on my site, followed by my more generalized “Buy Toys” page. I always write a comprehensive Black Friday post and those are quite lucrative. But generally, I’m less focused on which particular posts drive sales. I just try sex toys I want to try and write what I want to write, because staying enthusiastic about my work is vital to its long-term financial success.

7. You’ve started to bring a bit of video into the mix on your site. How did this come about and why did you put it off for so long?

I wouldn’t say I put it off necessarily. It’s just not my forte. Writing is my medium; I’m far more articulate in writing. I was also anonymous up until about two and a half years ago, so video just wasn’t an option. Videos are interesting once in a while, when the product makes sense, but I want to remain faithful to my written reviews, where I’m at my best. (Plus, I have no clue how to monetize video and YouTube isn’t exactly down with the sex.)

8. You recently started teaching others how to get ahead in the sex blogging niche. How did the business of blogging course come about and how has that changed your focus when it comes to your reviews business?

I developed the Be a Sex Blogger course with my good friend and colleague JoEllen Notte, a fellow sex blogger. We noticed a lot of budding sex bloggers popping up, eager to jump in but worried about how to do so. JoEllen and I have over 15 years of blogging experience between us, and we both make our living this way — so we felt uniquely poised to help newbies succeed and avoid the mistakes we’ve made. Sex blogging is a very particular niche, so having a whole course dedicated to it just made sense.

As far as how it’s impacted the rest of my work, I try to balance it all. We schedule our group classes meticulously, and the rest of it is available anytime for folks to purchase on an independent basis.

9. What’s in store for 2018? What do you hope to do more of?

This is gonna sound silly, but I hope to review more terrible sex toys! As the years have gone by, I’ve become more and more aware of my likes and dislikes, and I’ve noticed a general trend toward more positive reviews because of it. Ideally, I’d like my business model to evolve more into “send me stuff and I’ll review it if I want” rather than inherently promising a review, because that will lead to only reviews of items I find noteworthy one way or the other — stuff I’m excited about.

10. Where can people find out more about you/follow you online?

My blog is HeyEpiphora.com. The “New Here?” page is a great starting point, or peruse my toybox page to find the best and worst toys I’ve ever reviewed. I can also be found on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Tumblr.

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The affiliate marketing world is a very competitive place to set up business. This is a cut-throat industry where people are always looking for the next edge and the next bit of technology that will help drive more sales and more commissions.

It’s probably not surprising then that a very unsavoury tactic has become a problem in the industry.

Commission theft commonly involves unscrupulous people setting up malware in people’s web browsers to replace your unique affiliate code on affiliate links with their own affiliate code, thereby giving these hackers your commissions should that person turn into a sale.

Fortunately for the 99% of legitimate affiliate marketers out there like you and I, the industry has an accepted and proven defence: Link Cloaking.

What Is Link Cloaking?

Right about now you might be wondering “Exactly, what is link cloaking?”

Put simply, link cloaking is the process of disguising your affiliate link that is provided by an affiliate program in order to obfuscate that affiliate codes. It also has a side benefit of being more visually appealing to the visitor.

Here’s an example:

https://thirstyaffiliates.com/recommends/bluehost-wordpress

Where does this link really point? To my Bluehost affiliate link.

So if a visitor clicks on this link or types it in their browser everything stays on my site until the last minute when they have transported across to Bluehost’s servers. In doing this, there’s no chance for my commissions to be stolen.

Using an affiliate link cloaker such as ThirstyAffiliates allows me to protect my commissions from theft, ensuring that I get 100% of the reward for my effort.

How Does Link Cloaking Work Exactly?

Affiliate link cloaking works by sending the visitor via a URL redirection.

A URL redirect is basically just a dummy URL that points the visitor’s browser somewhere else.

Here is the process your browser goes through:

  1. When you click on my link above, your browser asks our site for the content of the page /recommends/bluehost-wordpress
  2. Next, our site responds that the page doesn’t exist and your browser should go to this alternative destination instead
  3. Lastly, your browser read the response and visits the new URL without any intervention from you

Hopefully, that makes sense. But just to complicate things a little further, a redirect can specify a “redirect type” which is your website telling the visitor’s browser exactly why the URL is being redirected.

It’s important that you understand the difference between the URL redirect types and to help we have created this short video:

What Affiliate Link Redirect Type Should You Use On Cloaked Links? - YouTube

So what is link cloaking? It’s essentially just a fancy name for a URL redirect but with the intent of hiding the destination URL so that people can’t see the affiliate ID on your link.

The Benefits Of Link Cloaking

As discussed already, the obvious benefit of cloaking your affiliate links is to protect your commissions, but why else?

Link Trust

People are smart. A visitor is much more likely to click a link pointing to the same website they are on than they are to click on an affiliate link directly. I’ve seen it time and time again, cloaking affiliate links leads to increased click-through rate.

By keeping the link pointing at something else on your website, you are increasing the perceived trust in that link.

What would you prefer to click on? A link with a bunch of letters and numbers after it that looks as though the website owner might be getting some sort of sly kick-back for sending you there? O would you click a link that is pointing to another page on the same website?

Additionally, by cloaking my affiliate link, I can set what the URL looks like, so instead of a link to a product page on some other site with random numbers and product ID’s that make no sense to my audience, I can change the slug of the URL to match whatever I like.

For example (not an affiliate link by the way):

http://www.thinkgeek.com/product/bb2e/ links to a cool Tuan Tuan sleeping bag (yes.. Star Wars fan right here) but the URL isn’t descriptive at all. You can’t just look at that URL and know what is on the other side.

If I cloaked this URL, I could easily have:
example.com/go/tuan-tuan-sleeping-bag and you would know just by looking at it, that it probably leads to a sleeping bag product.

This, in turn, leads to sending more qualified visitors through your affiliate links. Because they know what to expect, they are more likely to buy.

Management

Secondly, cloaking your affiliate links is usually done with the help of an affiliate link management plugin, like ThirstyAffiliates. This gives you many other side benefits, chief among them, management control.

As an affiliate marketer, you might not just have one or two links. You might have hundreds or even thousands.

To be honest, the task of organising and managing more than a few affiliate links over time can become a complete nightmare. That is why solutions like ours exist.

In ThirstyAffiliates you can organise your affiliate links into categories to keep them in logical groups. All my hosting links belong to a “Hosting” link category, all my WordPress plugin affiliate links belong to a “WordPress Plugins” link category, and so on.

Additionally, it makes it much easier to insert affiliate links into blog posts like this one.

I can just select some text, search for the link I want to insert and it’s linked up straight away.

Tracking

Finally, another great benefit of link cloaking is the ability to track the traffic on your affiliate links.

ThirstyAffiliates offers basic statistics tracking in the free plugin so you can track how many clicks you have had on each of your affiliate links.

Knowing which affiliate links are actually getting traction with your audience is very important for improving the performance of your links.

If you know that your audience likes to click on links about fashion clothing items, but are not really clicking links to do with fashionable technology items, then you know to focus more on promoting the clothing instead and write more content surrounding those topics.

Can You Cloak Affiliate links Without A Website?

Technically you can cloak your affiliate links without a website by using services such as bit.ly or goo.gl. However, this comes with some drawbacks.

  1. You can’t customise the cloaked URL itself so it’s often just a jumble of letters and numbers (this erodes trust as mentioned above)
  2. Destination cannot be changed
  3. You can’t manage your links easily
  4. It’s not easy to insert the links into your content as you’re writing, you have to go to the service and eyeball them until you find the one you want to copy
  5. If you lose the login, you lose the history
Start Link Cloaking With ThirstyAffiliates

Cloaking your link in ThirstyAffiliates couldn’t be easier.

To add your first affiliate link:

  1. Goto ThirstyAffiliates->Add New in your Dashboard
  2. Set a name (for internal reference, eg. Bluehost)
  3. Set the destination URL (your affiliate link as provided by the affiliate program)
  4. (Optional) Select a category or add a new category
  5. Hit the Save Link button

Congratulations, you just set up your first affiliate link in ThirstyAffiliates!

To insert the link into a post:

To insert a link inside of a post as you are writing, simply:

  1. Select the text that you want to link
  2. Click the TA button in your Visual editor (or the Affiliate Link button in the Text editor)
  3. Search for the link by name that you just inserted
  4. (Optional) click the Cog icon for a more advanced link picker if you want to browse your links or insert via shortcode/image

So what happens when you need to change the destination of the link, but you have inserted it into several posts? That’s where the power of ThirstyAffiliates comes in.

To change a destination of a cloaked link, you only need to edit the link in ThirstyAffiliates, not all of the posts you have inserted it into.

Now You Know What Link Cloaking Is All About

So that sums up our “what is link cloaking” explainer. You should now have a thorough understanding of what link cloaking is and isn’t.

If you have any questions please leave a comment below!

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