Last Updated June 4th, 2018

How To Simplify Linking to Affiliate Products In WordPress

How To Simplify Linking to Affiliate Products In WordPress

If you’ve been blogging for long, you’re probably trying to earn money at it. It’s a natural step to take. Blogging takes time, and if you’re serious about it, you’re spending some money on it too. Why not make it a money making venture? Affiliate products are a great place to start, so long as you can simplify linking to affiliate products. This is pretty simple in WordPress.

Note that you may not be allowed to use affiliate links on the free version of WordPress.com. They have a lot of rules you have to follow.

Dealing with ALL the links is one of the challenges of affiliate marketing. You can’t recommend just a few products over and over again – your readers will lose interest. If you don’t simplify linking to affiliate products, you’ll have to log into your affiliate accounts every time you want to add a link or keep a huge spreadsheet of them. Either way, that’s tedious.

There are a few good ways to handle this. The most powerful ways to simplify linking to affiliate products cost money, but that’s worthwhile when it saves you time and effort and makes adding links much more natural.

Why Shorten Your Affiliate Links?

Shortening your affiliate links does more than make them easier to remember. It also makes it easier to change them if the affiliate program changes networks or ends.

I’ve had both happen several times in my time as a blogger. It’s not all that rare for a company that uses ShareASale to move to Commission Junction or vice versa. An independent affiliate program might move to a network, or a company that uses a network might decide to start an independent affiliate program.

If you put your affiliate links in exactly as they were given to you, you have a tedious job ahead of you when these changes happen. You have to find all these links and change them.

If you shortened your affiliate links, you only need to change the redirect. If you’ve linked to multiple products from a program that changes you’ll still need to change all of them, but changing your redirects is far easier than digging through all your posts to make changes.

Which Programs Shouldn’t You Simplify?

I do not recommend shortening all of your affiliate links. In particular, do not shorten or otherwise cloak your links to Amazon.com. They’ll ban you.

Amazon links are already nice and short. They use their amzn.to domain to shorten links for you.

Odds are that you will link to a lot of different products on Amazon over time. Shortening these yourself would not only be against Amazon’s rules – it would give you an absurd number of shortened links to keep track of. It’s far easier to just get the link from Amazon each time.

Free Options To Simplify Linking To Affiliate Products

.htaccess

I’ve used my .htacess file for many years now. It’s fairly simple, although it also requires that I remember what I called each link. Otherwise, I have to go to that file and look up the link.

.htaccess redirects are super simple to write. Open your .htacess file in Notepad or another text editor. The code is:

Redirect permanent /linkname URLofyouraffiliatelink

Change /linkname to whatever you’re calling your link, and URLofyouraffiliatelink to the URL the affiliate program gave you for what you’re linking to.

It may be a good idea to make a spreadsheet of the links you’ve shortened with.htaccess. That’s easier than opening it to see what you’ve got when reusing a link. I would suggest using the link name, affiliate link URL, company and the exact product name you’re linking to.  This should make it easier to find the products you’re looking for. If an affiliate program ends or changes, this will make it easier to figure out which links you need to change.

Many bloggers don’t like messing with their .htaccess files. There is a risk to this method if you don’t know what you’re doing. You can royally mess up your site if you get things badly wrong in .htaccess. I’ve never had a problem, but I can see where mistakes happen. This is why many bloggers prefer to use link shortening plugins.

Free Link Shortening Plugin

Finding good quality link shortening plugins was challenging. Many are no longer updated. This makes them a little risky to use, as there can be compatibility issues.

Easy Affiliate Links – Helps you manage your affiliate links. Gives you the option to cloak them or not. This plugin also gives some statistics, but you will have to buy an add-on if you want better statistics.

Fortunately, many of the paid plugins have free versions, for if you just aren’t ready to pay for all the features. If these free plugins don’t look good enough to you, go for the free version of a paid plugin, and update when you’re ready to spend the money.

Free Auto Linking Plugin

You should be very careful in using auto linking plugins. If you use them excessively to link automatically to other posts on your site, you can incur a penalty with Google. However, they can be extremely helpful in automatically adding affiliate links to your posts, especially if it also add the nofollow attribute.

Auto Affiliate Links – Adds affiliate links automatically. You can set select keywords and links manually if you so choose. This plugin gives the option to add a nofollow attribute and to limit how many affiliates are added to a post.

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Paid Options To Simplify Linking To Affiliate Products

ThirstyAffiliates

Like many WordPress plugins, ThirstyAffiliates has both a free and a paid version. The free version is good enough to get you started, but you get significantly better features in the ThirstyAffiliates Pro add-on.

The free version gives you features such as affiliate link shortening, link categorization, link picker tool, the ability to add “nofollow” to affiliate links, and more. It even tracks which posts and pages you have used affiliate links on. All of these are wonderful features.

The Pro version gets even better. You get advanced statistics reports, for example, which are a huge help if you want to know which products are performing best for you. It also gives you automatic keyword linking, so that even your older posts can have affiliate links added automatically.

If you want your affiliate links to redirect quickly, you want the Pro version of ThirstyAffiliates, so that the links are written into your .htaccess. This is much faster than other kinds of redirects, and as you know, speed is vital online. People aren’t patient with slow redirects.

These are just a few of the features of ThirstyAffiliate. If you want to see the full list, visit the ThirstyAffiliates site.

Pretty Links

Pretty Links Pro has a free version called Shortlinks by Pretty Links. The free version gives you many of the important things, such a few types of redirect, nofollow, and click counting.

The Pro version adds a lot of features, including tracking pixel redirects, conversion reports, auto linking of keywords, and split testing of redirects. There are quite a few more features I haven’t listed here.

It can also add affiliate link disclosures on pages, posts, custom post types and on individual links. I keep a general affiliate disclosure on all pages of my site for simplicity’s sake. Disclosure is important for many reasons, which is why I keep it on all pages. Not only do many affiliate programs require it, laws often do as well.

Remember To Nofollow Affiliate Links

Ultimate Nofollow makes it easy to add rel=”nofollow” to links when appropriate. Nofollow is an important attribute to add to affiliate links. Google expects this. This plugin makes it easy. Some of the link shortening plugins also allow you to add nofollow, so this may not be important for your site if you have this ability already.

If you don’t use a plugin to add nofollow to affiliate links, it’s easy to do manually. Go to the Text tab of your WordPress editor, find the affiliate links, and add rel=”nofollow” that way. That’s how I do it.

You do not need to unfollow other outside links on your site. Links that you’re including because they’re a good resource should not be nofollowed, in my opinion. Nofollow is for links that you were paid to place or links where you might earn money in the future, such as affiliate links. If you trust the resource and no money will ever be involved in the link, leave the nofollow off of it.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated May 24th, 2016

Pinterest Is Allowing Affiliate Links Again. How Should You Use Them?

Pinterest Is Allowing Affiliate Links Again

Pinterest has decided to allow affiliate links again. They’re now confident in their ability to decide what’s spam. That’s great news if you’ve wanted to share affiliate links on your Pinterest boards. Now you just need to make sure you aren’t spamming your affiliate links.

This brings up the question of just what is spam on Pinterest anyhow? It’s pretty obvious that if you’re pinning nothing but affiliate links, they may be flagged as spam. An occasional affiliate link here and there, will probably not be flagged. What you need to consider is where pinning affiliate links crosses that line.

Much of that will probably depend on the type of affiliate links you pin. If you’re pinning questionable business opportunities, poorly tested alternative medications and other ethically dubious things, they’ll probably be flagged as spam. Pin that hilarious shirt you found on Amazon, it probably won’t be a problem. It’s all up to Pinterest’s discretion, of course, not mine. I can only guess.

Pinterest had been a good source of income for affiliate marketers who did a good job of pinning things people wanted. With this news, I’m sure it will be again.

The key to doing well I expect to be understanding why people come to Pinterest, and to your boards in particular. What gets a lot of clicks, likes and repins? You can get some ideas from this post about what people are searching for, or check the popular board. In general, food, fashion and ideas for around the home seem popular. People want ideas when they come to Pinterest; how are you going to to give them ideas?

That said, you don’t have to pin affiliate links just because Pinterest says you can now. I prefer to have more control over my links, so I will probably stick to using affiliate links primarily on my websites rather than on my Pinterest boards. I prefer the greater control that gives me. A blog post where I can change out the links if something goes wrong is more appealing to me.

Obey the Rules

There are a few rules you must obey if you pin affiliate links… or use them anywhere, for that matter.

The first has to do with disclosure. You must always obey FTC rules and do a disclosure. A hashtag such as #ad, #aff or #affiliate is generally considered acceptable, although there is no FTC guidance saying if that’s enough or not. Make sure it’s prominent. Just the word works too. Alternatively, make a statement about your connection within the text of your pin.

You also must make sure that you’re obeying the rules of your affiliate agreement. Know if you are allowed to share your affiliate links with each company on social media or not. Not all companies want you to do that. If you’ve read the policies of the program and you still aren’t certain, email the company and ask. You don’t want to lose a valuable account because you didn’t realize that you couldn’t share the links directly on social media.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated February 18th, 2015

No More Affiliate Links, Redirects or Trackers on Pinterest

No More Affiliate Links, Redirects or Trackers on Pinterest

edit: This is no longer true, as of May 2016. Affiliate links are back on Pinterest!

Affiliate links are no longer allowed on Pinterest. For many companies with affiliate programs, this is nothing new – Pinterest hasn’t allowed Amazon affiliate links for some time, for example. But now they no longer allow even those few companies they had allowed. The pins won’t be deleted, but all tracking information will be removed.

Pinterest says it’s to improve the user experience, although many suspect that it has more to do with upcoming monetization. Pinterest says that’s not the case, however. Affiliate links and redirects can make it harder for rich pins to work accurately.

Of course, all is not lost if you’ve been careful to keep your affiliate links more on your own site, under your own control. This has always been the most sensible way to handle affiliate links, as it builds your own property and your own reputation. When you build on your own property, your links are valid as long as you’re a part of that affiliate program.

It may be harder to promote through Pinterest this way, as you have to come up with the content, but in the long run it can be a more effective strategy. Pinterest can be a part of your marketing strategy, but your focus should always be on your own properties, with social media marketing as a tool to direct traffic to your properties.

It takes more effort, certainly, to build your own properties and content, but the results can be well worth it. You don’t have to worry that you’ll lose your account on a particular social media site, that policies will change there or that it will lose its popularity. While these things can still happen, it’s less important when that site is only a part of how your promote your own, rather than something you rely upon for your income.

This kind of thing can happen on any platform you use that you don’t control. On your own website, you decide when affiliate links are appropriate. All you have to obey are the rules of the hosting company, and those aren’t at all likely to change in ways that harm your online business – it’s too easy to switch someplace new. But the platforms you use to market your business may change at any time. It’s better to direct traffic from them to your website, then to your recommendations, than to put your recommendations where they can vanish at any time.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated September 27th, 2011

How Do You Check Out a Clickbank Vendor to See If Your Affiliate Commissions Are Likely to Leak?

Clickbank products can be a lot of fun to promote if you find a good one. There are a few problems, however. The first is mostly a problem of internet marketing and health niches, which is that many of the products have questionable claims by FTC standards, but Clickbank is trying to improve that situation. Another problem is that some merchants’ pages are quite leaky from an affiliate perspective. You need to check the pages out before you start promoting any Clickbank product – any affiliate product, really.

1. Opt-in forms and mailing lists.

A good merchant who tries to get visitors to sign up on his or her mailing list is a wonderful thing for an affiliate. It can also be a terrible thing. Some merchants use that list to place one of their own cookies on the customer if they buy due to clicking through a newsletter link, rather than crediting the affiliate who brought the person to the list. Most recent affiliate gets the sale when it goes through Clickbank, so this is an easy and tempting switch for someone to make.

This isn’t entirely unreasonable some ways, as the merchant made some extra effort to make the sale by providing more information to his or her list, but at the same time, without the affiliate, that customer wouldn’t have been on the list in the first place. You don’t want to lose customers to the merchant’s list.

Check for this by signing up for their list through your own affiliate link. You’ll find out what they’re saying to their list, and you can see if your affiliate link continues to be good during it. Some merchants even program their list to include your link in mailings, but so long as there’s no other affiliate link used, you should get the credit for any sales. It’s a good practice as an affiliate to go through as much of the merchant’s sales funnel as you can. You need to know what you’re promoting.

2. Merchant sells other products on the sales page.

Some merchants aren’t all that focused on selling their own product. They want to sell other products too, and do so right on the sales page. It doesn’t bother me if they do that later on, that’s their business, but if it interferes with the sales of their own product that you’re trying to generate, it’s a problem.

This problem may also include ad units such as AdSense on the page. Some merchants feel that they aren’t getting enough sales of their products, and so they slap up some AdSense or other ad units to improve their earnings on their pages. The problem is that this can decrease the sales of their own product tremendously, which decreases your commissions.

Sometimes they even have links which don’t help them to earn anything. While these may be useful

Take a look and see if the sales page is focused on the product you’d like to promote or not. Links to other websites, whether they earn for the merchant or not, are leaks for your earnings. You may do better with products that don’t have so many leaks.

3. Merchant takes payments through other processors as well as Clickbank.

It’s a nice idea for the merchant, not so good for you when they take payments through other processors. The problem, quite simply, is that you won’t get a commission through any system that doesn’t have you as an affiliate. Those sales are lost to you.

What Can You Do to Avoid Affiliate Page Leaks?

You do have options to avoid these kinds of leaks. You can ask the merchant to set up a special landing page without all these leaks, for example. It shouldn’t be that hard, and they can continue to use their leaky page for people who come through non-affiliate sources. If you have a proven track record as a promoter, you have some leverage to encourage this.

Now, just because you’ve checked the product you’re promoting and found a page without any leaks doesn’t mean you’re in the clear. You should recheck periodically, as pages do change over time. Sign up for the newsletter again to make sure your links are still going through during that process. Look over the page. Generally keep an eye on things, especially if your conversion rates suddenly drop.

You can also start your own mailing list by signing people up on your own site, and then referring them to products. This is a generally good practice in any case, as it gives you the chance to make still more sales.

You can link directly to the Clickbank checkout page if you like. It’s recommended that you check to see if the merchant minds if you do this at all, and definitely keep your sales page honest about the product. You’ll have a furious vendor as well as customers of that vendor who bought through your link if you aren’t providing utterly accurate information while linking to the checkout page.

The format for linking to the checkout page is:

http://prodnumber.affiliate_vendor.pay.clickbank.net

You can get the product number and vendor name by looking at the checkout link on the sales page. Prodnumber is often 1, but some vendors have multiple products, so be sure you have the right number. Affiliate is your Clickbank ID, and vendor is the vendor’s Clickbank ID. Make sure to test the link before using it live on your site so that you can see if it’s working. This method is somewhat unofficial, but some affiliates like it not only to bypass leaky pages, but poorly written sales pages for products they think are otherwise good. Just keep an eye on it, and make sure your link continues to work.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

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Disclosure: Home with the Kids is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. I also review or mention products for which I may receive compensation from other sources. All opinions are my own.