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
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.
Paid Options To Simplify Linking To Affiliate Products
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.
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.