I’ve been building and growing affiliate websites for nearly a decade and have recently made a “multiple six-figure” exit from one of my websites. If it wasn’t for the following tools that I used on a daily basis, this wouldn’t have been possible.
Let’s dive into the list.
Read our beginner’s guide to affiliate marketing.
Ahrefs is an SEO tool capable of helping you with nearly any SEO task you can think of.
I use Ahrefs for a lot of things when it comes to affiliate marketing. It’s hard to pick just one or two to show you. That said, the task I find myself doing most often is running a content gap analysis for keyword research.
A content gap analysis is the easiest way to quickly find high-value affiliate keywords. It will show you exactly what your competitors’ best keywords are.
First, plug your website into Ahrefs’ Site Explorer. Then, click “Competing domains” on the left-hand menu. This will show you your top competitors based on your current Google keyword rankings.
Now that you see your competitors, right-click the Content Gap tool and open a new tab (below the “Competing domains” button).
Copy-paste three or more competing URLs from the Competing Domains report into the tool. Make sure your website is in the “But the following target doesn’t rank for” box and click “Show keywords.”
Ahrefs will do some data crunching and display a list of keywords that your competitors rank for, but you don’t. Peruse these keywords and select any you feel will be a good target for your own website.
I love this report because it allows me to find high-value keywords for my affiliate websites quickly and easily.
Let me start by saying that WordPress is the most used content management system (CMS) in the world and the one I recommend for affiliate marketers. I use it on all my websites after all.
Because of that, I will be recommending a lot of WordPress plugins. Chief among those are SEO plugins like Rank Math or SEOPress.
I used to use Yoast SEO, as it was the only SEO plugin available that did what it did for a long time. However, I prefer the others because I like their UIs better. Personal preference.
Whichever plugin you choose, the use case is the same: Ensuring your pages have optimal on-page SEO before you publish them, as well as doing crucial technical SEO tasks like setting up your robots.txt file and sitemap.
For example, here’s what SEOPress looks like while I’m writing a blog post:
As you can see, it allows you to set the meta tags for your posts to change how they’ll be displayed in Google search results. It will also show you if your title or meta description is too long, as it is in the screenshot above. This helps you avoid your results being truncated (cut off) in the search results.
Link Whisper is a WordPress plugin that allows you to add, remove, or edit your internal links with the click of a button. It also lets you see exactly how many links each page on your site is getting at a glance to identify important pages that don’t have a lot of internal links.
You can even go to a post and see suggestions for internal links to that post from other posts on your site, including anchor text suggestions. Just check the boxes next to the links you want to add and click “Edit Sentence” to easily change the anchor text.
Hunter allows you to find email addresses at scale—which is especially helpful for those email outreach campaigns to promote your content and build backlinks.
But in addition to finding and confirming email addresses, you can also use Hunter to manage your outreach campaigns. And it’s a free feature.
All you have to do is create an email list by importing a list of websites, then add that list to the campaign manager and connect your email to it. From there, you can create email templates, automate follow-ups, and see the statistics of your campaigns.
This may be an obvious tool to you—my editor tried to get me to remove it because he felt it was too obvious. But I use Google’s tools more than nearly any other tool on this list, so it’ll be a disservice not to mention it (in case you’re somehow not already using it).
I use Google Docs to write every single blog post before I add it to WordPress to be published. This makes it easy for me to work with writers on edits and keep everything organized while avoiding giving too many people access to my WordPress login.
Additionally, I use Google Workspace to create and manage professional email addresses for my websites. So when I do email outreach, I come across as a legitimate business rather than some random guy on the internet.
Once I’ve finished an article in Google Docs and am ready to upload it, I do so with the press of a button using Wordable.
Wordable imports your Google Docs straight into WordPress without you needing to do it manually. It will add your images, formatting, and links—while also removing any unwanted extra code—within minutes.
You just set up your import settings one time, then use those to upload all your future articles. It saves me hours of work every month not having to manually add articles.
ConvertKit is my email marketing tool of choice because of its robust automation abilities. However, it is also pricey in comparison to other email tools. And if you’re just starting out, the advanced features may not be necessary. Something cheaper like BirdSend or ActiveCampaign may be better for you.
That said, here’s a tip for using any email marketing tool to capture more emails: create content upgrades for your highest-performing articles.
A content upgrade is, well, an upgrade to your content that you offer your readers in exchange for their email addresses.
For example, I wrote a guide to the best small travel trailers for one of my websites. On that page, a pop-up shows up with an offer of a big spreadsheet comparing 50 of the best small travel trailers.
This type of directly relevant offer tends to convert much better than a generic “subscribe to our email list” type of offer.
Canva is one of my favorite affiliate marketing tools. It makes creating custom blog images incredibly easy for anyone, even if they don’t have any design skills.
In particular, I use it to create a Pinterest image for every blog post I publish. This helps me to promote my content and add more visual aspects to the post.
Google Analytics (GA) provides crucial data you have to know as an affiliate site operator. For example, I often use GA to see which pages are bringing the most traffic to my site and, generally, to keep tabs on my traffic fluctuations over time.
It’s also helpful to add annotations with dates whenever you make changes to your site, such as updating a page’s content or metadata, to track whether or not these changes improve your traffic over time.
It’s easy in the old GA—you just go to Behavior > Site Content > All Pages, click the little arrow under the data chart, then click “+ Create new annotation.”
Follow our guide to Google Analytics for SEO to learn how to set it up and some awesome ways you can use it to grow your business.
Google Search Console is a must-have tool for anyone who cares about SEO. But did you know you can use it for a lot more than just getting Google to see your website?
For example, you can use it to find pages on your website that are steadily declining in traffic and need to be updated to recover their rankings.
To do that, go to the Search results report, then add a date range comparison to see stats for the past six months compared to the previous six months.
We only care about clicks, so toggle off the “impressions” box by clicking on it.
Click on “Pages.”
Sort the report by Difference in ascending order to see the pages with the biggest traffic drops.
If you click on the URL, then switch to the Queries report and sort by “Difference,” you can see which queries are sending less traffic than the previous six months.
You can then use this data to update the page, making it more relevant to the most important queries sending traffic to that page and (hopefully) recovering your rankings.
Once you have multiple affiliate partners and you’re using different tracking codes for each page and even different positions on each page, it gets complicated quickly.
Having an affiliate link management and cloaking tool like ThirstyAffiliates is a great way to keep track of your links, see statistics to know which links are getting the most clicks, and prevent others from easily copying your website and swapping the links with their own affiliate IDs.
If you want to find the best affiliate marketing programs, you should join multiple affiliate networks. Three of the best include:
I mention these three, specifically, because they have a giant selection of generally high-quality affiliate programs. When looking at affiliate programs, I look for the following:
- High payout (10%+)
- Quality product or selection of products
- Good brand identity
- Long cookie duration (ideally 30 days or more, but anything over 48 hours is still good)
- Quality customer support, both for customers and for me as an affiliate partner
That last point is crucial. My best experiences as an affiliate marketer have been with companies that understand how important affiliate marketing is and have dedicated affiliate managers whose only job is working with affiliate partners.
The best way to figure out if a company has this is by reaching out to its affiliate manager (their email is normally displayed when signing up for their program) and asking them some questions, such as how they work with affiliates.
If they respond promptly and respectfully, there’s a good chance they have a dedicated person and will be there to support you as a partner rather than as a faceless ad channel.
If you’ve been running an affiliate site for a while, chances are you have some pages that get a lot of traffic but don’t convert well. These pages are perfect for running display ads on—allowing you to monetize traffic that otherwise won’t make you anything.
However, running ads yourself is both a headache and doesn’t have the best payout. That’s where advertising management companies come in. In particular, there are three major players:
These companies work directly with hundreds of advertising partners to get the best possible rates for their websites’ display ads. They handle the placement and everything. All you have to do is install some basic code on your website (and they’ll even do that for you too).
The one caveat to these companies is that you have to apply and often need a minimum amount of monthly traffic to get in. Last I checked, you need at least 10,000 per month for Mediavine, 50,000 per month for Ezoic, and 100,000 for AdThrive.
That said, if you’re close to those numbers, you can always apply and they may make an exception for you. So it can’t hurt to try.
Not only that, but site speed also plays an important role in user experience, so it’s worth investing in. A fast site prevents visitors from leaving due to frustration.
One of the easiest and quickest ways to improve website speed (and security) is by improving your website’s hosting. Most affiliates start on cheap shared hosting like SiteGround or Bluehost. These are great to get you started but aren’t the most secure or fastest options.
Upgrading to a dedicated hosting provider like Kinsta is an obvious choice once you’re making decent money and getting solid traffic (100,000 visitors per month or more). It also has a dedicated CDN (content delivery network), which is a game-changer for websites with geographically dispersed audiences.
It’s expensive—but worth it.
One often overlooked aspect of affiliate marketing is website security. It’s all too easy for your website to be hacked and for you to lose income (or worse).
Not only is this a pain, but it can harm your business in the long term. Better to set up protections before you need them. One such way is by installing the Wordfence WordPress plugin.
This plugin provides enhanced security features like two-factor authentication, malware scans, a firewall, and website monitoring. It’s not very expensive and worth the peace of mind.
These affiliate marketing tools have been crucial for me to scale my businesses to six-figure income earners. Some of them are expensive. But as long as they are bringing you a positive return, they are worth the investment.
Itching to learn more? Here are some other affiliate marketing guides to check out:
- 9 Key Affiliate Marketing Tips for More Money & Traffic
- Here’s How Much You Can Really Make From Affiliate Marketing
- How to Easily Find a Niche for Affiliate Marketing in 2022