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.

chain

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 July 24th, 2017

How To Start A Blog, Part 3: Starting A WordPress Blog

How To Start A Blog, Part 3: Starting A WordPress Blog

Starting your WordPress blog is very easy. WordPress is the most popular blogging platform because it’s easy to use and there are a ton of plugins and themes to make your blog look and work the way you want it to.

You can go to wordpress.com if you want to go free, but I don’t recommend it. There are limitations on how you can earn money there. Pay for your own domain name, pay for hosting elsewhere, and you can install WordPress and earn money more easily. You will also look more professional than if you go with any of the free sites.

I like Hostgator for my websites. I’ve used them for years now. There’s occasional frustration with them, but that’s true everywhere. If not Hostgator, many people like Bluehost. They’re owned by the same parent companies, but there are differences. Take a look and decide which you prefer. My examples will use Hostgator because that’s where I’m at right now.

hostgator screenshot

You’ll land on a page something like this when you go to Hostgator. It will change over time, so don’t assume it will be exactly like this. When you’re just getting started, that smallest plan is enough, just be aware that it only supports one domain name, as of this writing. The next plan up allows unlimited domain names, so if you’re planning multiple blogs, you will at some point want to move up. Plans and pricing can change, so I won’t share a lot of details.

Don’t start out with multiple blogs. You’re learning how to run things right now. Don’t complicate matters just now. Get a feel for what you’re doing before you even consider expanding. Hostgator or any other host will gladly let you upgrade later.

Hostgator will allow you to register your domain as you sign up for your plan. You will also pick how many months of plan you want to pay for at this time. You currently get the best price if you sign up for a three year contract, but if you can’t afford that, pick one of the other contracts. Contracts renew automatically at the end of their term unless you cancel.

You do not need to sign up for the extras they’re offering. You can, but they aren’t necessary. There are WordPress plugins that also help with security, and that’s what I use.

After going through the registration process and payment, you can log into your cPanel. It will look something like this:

cPanel hostgator

You may see a 1-Click WordPress installation link, and that is one possible way to go. It will give you a bunch of options to have a pro install it for you for a cost. Once again, not necessary. Ignore those – the installer will take mere minutes. Don’t start paying for things that are easy to do yourself. Pay for the things that are difficult or take more time than you can spare.

If you want to learn to install WordPress on your own (it’s not hard!), skip this section. I’ll show you how I handle things below.

1-Click Installer Instructions

If you’re going the 1-Click installer route, just follow the instructions. Choose your domain on the first screen, fill out the required information on the second, and hit Install. It’s that simple to install WordPress using this method. Just don’t use “admin” as your username. It used to be the default, and hackers still try it first.

one click installer wordpress

At this point, your installation is complete. Make sure to take note of your username and password. Hostgator will offer to sell you a WordPress theme. You can buy one if you want, but WordPress comes with a basic theme that is free, which is enough to get started. There are tons of themes out there for you to consider when the time is right, both free and paid.

What I don’t like about this method is that the 1-Click installer puts in ads for things to buy for your new installation. I don’t need junk clogging up my blog admin panel. When I want to buy something to make my blog better, I can find it and install it myself. That said, they’re plugins and you can go to the plugin page and delete them.

Manual WordPress Installation

WordPress installation is fairly simple. Unfamiliar, but simple once you know what to do. You can use the instructions available on wordpress.org or follow my instructions.

The first thing you need to do is install the MySQL database. You’ll see a link in your cPanel. Click it. This will take you to a place to create a new database. You will need to create a database and a user, then add the user to the database. These are separate steps, but they all take place on the same page. Make sure you note the password you create for the user. You’ll need that along with the database name and username for your WordPress installation.

mysql example

You will also need an FTP program. I use Filezilla. You can download and install it onto your computer. Refuse any extras with the install – sometimes they offer some extras you don’t need. Your cPanel login information should let you sign into your website using the site manager.

Go to wordpress.org and download WordPress. Save the zip file, and unzip it to a location on your computer. Find wp-config-sample.php and rename it to wp-config.php. Open it in a text editor such as Notepad. Put in your database information.

There are security keys you can edit as well. You don’t need to remember these, so they can be complicated. WordPress offers a generator to create random keys for these, and that’s plenty good enough.

Save your file as “All types” and not .txt. It must end in .php and not .txt to work.

Connect to your hosting using Filezilla. In most cases, you want to install WordPress to the root of domain, which is in the public_html file. If you have multiple domains, you may need to locate the right domain first. Upload the unzipped files for WordPress.

Once the files are uploaded, visit your website. You should see the installation page. Follow the instructions to create your account. Don’t use “admin” as your username, as it used to be the default, and is still very popular with hackers. Once you’re done and you have logged in, it will tell you which files to delete using your FTP program.

Choosing A Theme

You may find it simplest to use one of the themes included in your installation to start. There are other themes all over the place, but these will get you started. You want a theme that is responsive, so that your site will show well on smartphones as well as tablets and computers. A lot of people visit websites through their phones, and you should be ready for that.

Most themes are easy to customize with your own choice of colors, header images and so forth. The Customize link in the Themes menu will give you the available options. It will give you the recommended sizes for images.

Don’t overdo the time you spend choosing and setting up your theme right now. Change it enough to look how you want it to for the start.

Adding Plugins

Plugins can add a lot to your blog. They can make it easier to promote your blog on social media, improve security, and much more. Here are a few that I like:

Bulletproof Security
Yoast SEO
Shareaholic
Sucuri Security

You can find these by clicking Add New in the Plugins section of your blog. Just do a search. They will take a little configuration. Links for each should appear on the left menu of your administration area.

Make Your First Post

Once you have your blog set up satisfactorily, it’s time to make your first post. There’s a “New” link at the top you can click, or click on “Posts” over to the left, and then click to make a new post. You can copy and paste it from your word processor if you have one written already, or type directly in the post box. Come up with a good title, and include photos if possible. WordPress makes it easy to add images with the “Add Media” button.

You can of course delete the “Hello” post WordPress includes automatically. Alternatively, edit it to create your own hello.

Include An About Page

People like to know who you are. Make an About page to let people know who you are and what your blog is about. Some themes will show your About information on the sidebar.

Pages are different from posts. You will find the link to make a page just below the Media section on the left.

Include A Privacy Policy, Terms Of Service, etc.

You should include a privacy policy and other legal pages on your site, especially if you want to use Adsense, recommend affiliate products or otherwise make money off your blog. Adsense and many affiliate programs have specific requirements you must follow in terms of your privacy policy and disclosing that you are an affiliate.

You can set these up even if you aren’t using these programs yet. It won’t hurt you to be prepared. Check with each program as you join to ensure you’re meeting their specific requirements.

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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 July 17th, 2017

How To Start A Blog, Part 1: Why Blog?

How To Start A Blog, Part 1: Why Blog?

Today is the start to my series on how to start a blog. I’ll post every few days – many steps will take more than a day, and time to think is always a good thing when starting a new venture.

Blogging is fairly easy to start – the hard part is earning a living at it. You have to work at it and give it time. But as home businesses go, I think it’s a pretty good model to try. There are many good reasons to blog.

Low Cost Of Entry

One of the simplest reasons I recommend blogging is the low cost of entry. You can do it for free, although I don’t recommend going that way. You’re better off paying for hosting through a company such as HostGator. I’ll get into the reasons for that in another post. Still, blog hosting doesn’t have to cost a lot per month. It’s very budget friendly.

Flexibility

Blogging is an extremely flexible home business. You don’t have to tell your boss when you need time off. You don’t have to keep to a schedule. You don’t even have to keep the kids quiet most of the time.

The one thing you have to do is find time to work at it. Blogging won’t work for you if you don’t. Depending on your family’s needs, you may need to get up early or stay up late. You may have to ask the kids to give you some quiet time so you can work, or have your spouse keep them busy.

That said, setting a schedule for yourself is a huge help. It’s too easy to slack off if you don’t give yourself some sort of a schedule.

To Build Your Business

If you have a home business, blogging can be a good addition to it. It’s not the end all, be all solution to your marketing problems, but it can benefit your business. A blog can be a place to show off how you use your products, share things your company has done for your community, and give customers a way to interact with you. It can also be a more personal presentation of your business, if you like.

Blogging also builds your authority as a business. Your blog content can help potential and current customers with problems that relate to what your business offers. If they trust what you say on your blog, they’re more likely to trust your business.

To Show Off Skills To Potential Employers

Blogging can help you demonstrate your skills to potential employers. Writers can build a portfolio of articles on their blog. Photographers can show off their work. Anyone can use blogging to demonstrate their knowledge in their career field. A high quality blog makes a great resume.

To Find Others Who Share Your Interests

Blogging is a great way to share your interests, and that means you’ll find people who are interested in the same things. That’s a part of what makes it fun. Blogging can be a great networking tool, both for hobbies and your career.

To Help Others

Back when I started Home With The Kids, I was a medical transcriptionist. I was always being asked how to get into that, because so many people want to work at home, especially moms. I got to a point where it made sense to me to start a website on the subject of working at home, so I could simply direct people to my answer there, as there are so many more ways to work at home than just being a medical transcriptionist, and so many hazards to watch out for.

Things rather took off from there, and I’ve had a lot of people be grateful for the help I’ve been able to give them. Start your own blog, and you might help others in ways you aren’t expecting.

To Learn

Blogging is a great excuse to learn new things. You need to keep learning just to keep up with your blog. There’s always something new to learn about whatever you’re blogging about, so you can share it with your readers.

You’ll also learn about how to run a blog. The basics are pretty simple. I’ll walk you through how to install WordPress in a later post. Even doing it the hard way is pretty easy once you know what you’re doing. There’s a lot more to running a blog than just installing WordPress, of course.

The next step is to figure out what you’re blogging about. This may give you even more reasons to blog.

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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 January 4th, 2010

It’s a New Year. Let’s Get This Business Started!

I’m really focusing this year on building my business, and most especially my income. Don’t worry, that doesn’t mean I’ll start hyping whatever the latest big guru launch product is without even checking it out. That’s just not me.

But I will try to be more conscious of products I could be promoting.

I don’t mean just here. This isn’t all I do, you know. I have a couple of new sites that I’m working on that will be more about income. While still providing the kind of information that draws people in, of course. I’m just looking more at areas where people should be actively shopping with these ones.

And no you can’t know the niches. Mine! Find your own and get to work! If we happen to match, so be it but I’m not giving all my plans away. And I will be promoting things here too, of course, as appropriate.

For those of you also starting new websites, I’d like to offer some tips to get you started in this new year.

If You Want Some Help Getting Things Started

Creating your own website from scratch isn’t for everyone. As a matter of fact, even if you know the basics it may not be your smartest move.

That’s where a program such as SBI! can be such a big help. They take you through the steps, from picking your niche and domain name to developing content to monetization. It’s a bit more than basic hosting when you add it all up, but the tools you get compensate quite well, costing less than you would pay for all of it separately.

With their 2.0 version they’ve really increased your ability to take advantage of more of the web has to offer. That is, the ability to have users create content on your site for yo. That can be powerful.

There’s a risk to that too, and you have to monitor what people try to put on your site. That’s really not a hard thing to do. Just pay attention and you’ll be fine.

If You Want a Lot of Help Getting Things Started

SBI! sounding good but you want more help than that? You might want to consider their eLearning program. They’ll take you through the process of getting your site and business started in a 12 week online education course.

The course isn’t all prerecorded stuff. You’ll have weekly live sessions to guide you through the process that SBI users go through to build their sites.
It will cost you more, of course, but if you need help getting things going or just need that push to ensure you keep working at it, this could be a very worthwhile investment.

If You Don’t Need Your Hand Held or Just Want to Go Your Own Way

I’ll admit it. This is my way. I got my start online before hearing about SBI and while it’s a great system (my dad uses it), I enjoy creating sites on my own, in my own way.

In that case, please be sure you pay for hosting. Don’t go the free route if you’re serious about your business. You will come to need the freedom to control your site that comes only from owning it and paying for hosting and a domain name.

I like Host Gator. They’ve been good to me. Their $7.95/month plan gives you quite a bit.

Depending on your skills you can create your own site, hire a designer, start a WordPress blog… there are many options.

I lean mostly toward WordPress blogs. There are advantages and disadvantages, but for me the advantages are sufficient that I only do a little work with static pages these days. You can run WordPress like a blog or like a website with some of the advantages of a blog.

One disadvantage can be finding a good theme. It can be a bit tedious and I often spend hours adapting themes to my own preferences. You can buy themes if you like, and I’ll get into the free vs. paid themes another day.

On the plus side, WordPress is free and there are many plugins, both free and paid that can really increase its flexibility. That’s a topic that really takes some time to write about! Choosing plugins takes a good bit of time.

Some Ways, It Doesn’t Matter Which Way You Go

No matter how you go about building an online business, you’d better expect to work. Your average “overnight” success probably worked years to have that sudden burst of success. It almost never comes easy.

Choose how you get things started based on what you need. There’s nothing wrong with needing a little more guidance to get started. There’s nothing wrong with needing a big push to get started. There’s nothing wrong with winging it if that’s the way you work best.

Just remember that even the best marketers flop sometimes. Success is more likely to come if you keep trying, experimenting and working. If you start a site and give up when you don’t have visitors in a month you’ll never get anywhere.

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.