How to Create an Affiliate Program & Increase Your Sales

Do you want to increase your eCommerce sales without investing in expensive ad or marketing campaigns? When you learn how to create an affiliate program, you let others do that marketing for you.

After all, your best marketers are happy customers.

So why not reward those customers for being vocal about how much they love you? If you start an affiliate program for your online business, you’ll be doing just that: letting your most loyal and enthusiastic clients share in your success. And you only pay when you make a sale.

Creating an affiliate program may seem complicated, but we’re here to help!

In today’s article, I’m going to share tools and tips to help you start a successful affiliate program. By the end, you’ll know exactly how to start an affiliate program that grows your business, builds customer loyalty, and increases revenue.

What Is an Affiliate Program?

An affiliate program is a system in which an online business partners with content creators and websites. These partners, known as affiliates, promote the business’s products through their content. The affiliates receive a commission when their promotion results in a sale or achieves another goal, such as driving traffic to your site.

How do affiliates help you increase sales? An affiliate program’s success depends on 2 major factors:

  1. Expanded audience: Blogs, YouTube channels, and social media influencers all have their own built-in following. Affiliate programs let you reach those audiences with ease.
  2. Social proof: Consumers look to customer reviews and testimonials to help them make purchasing decisions. Affiliate programs encourage high-quality content creators to boast about your brand, which will gain you new customers.

How is this all possible? Affiliate links are the backbone of any affiliate marketing program. Each affiliate uses unique links to your website or product pages. This lets you track what traffic and sales come from each affiliate, so you can pay out commissions.

Amazon is probably the world’s most well-known affiliate network. You know those gift guides that news sites publish every holiday? The ones that are full of links to Amazon products? Those are all affiliate links, and the news site earns revenue by getting you to click those links and purchase those products. It’s all part of the Amazon Associates Program, which is the retail giant’s affiliate platform.

Here’s an example from The Strategist, which is New York Magazine’s shopping guide website:

Screenshot of a list from The Strategist called "The Best Pots and Planters on Amazon." Each product includes an affiliate link button to view the product on Amazon.

The 2 Sides of Affiliate Programs

An affiliate program has 2 sides:

1. The Affiliate

First, you have affiliate marketing from the affiliate side. Those are partners who earn commissions by promoting another company’s products in their content.

For example, let’s say you’re a travel blogger.

In one of your blog posts, you recommend that people book their airline tickets through an online booking service called “TravelMonster” (no, this isn’t a sister company to OptinMonster):

If you’ve signed up for TravelMonster’s affiliate program, you’ll get a commission from any sales that come from your blog’s affiliate link:

affiliate marketing cycle

For these content creators, affiliate marketing becomes a stream of passive income. Once they’ve shared their affiliate link and optimized their SEO, they can continue to make money off a single blog article or video,.

Want to learn how to make money as an affiliate? Check out this guide:
What Is Affiliate Marketing? How to Make Money While You Sleep

2. The Business

But now let’s turn the tables and look at affiliate programs from the business’s side.

If you’re an eCommerce merchant who has generated enough traffic and business for your own website, you may want to start an affiliate program to reward content creators for talking about you.

In this case, you would start an affiliate marketing program, provide customized and trackable links to other content creators, and you’d be responsible for paying commissions on sales made using your affiliate links.

In short, your users are incentivized to advertise your product, and you get more sales. It’s a genuine “win-win” scenario.

For the rest of this article, we’ll be focusing on affiliate programs from the perspective of a business wanting to promote its products.

How to Create an Affiliate Program

Are you ready to get started with an affiliate program for your business? Here are the basic steps:

1. Determine Your Goals & Choose Products

Any successful affiliate marketing program must start with clearly defined goals. Here are a few examples of goals that can help you get going:

  • Drive traffic to your eCommerce to reach X number of daily hits
  • Increase sales of a specific product by X%
  • Gain traffic from X number of active affiliates within 1 year

You’ll also need to determine which products you want to ask your affiliates to promote. If you’re a small business or are new to affiliate marketing, you may want to begin with just 1 or 2 affiliate products. If you have a flagship product, that’s a smart choice to start with.

2. Decide on Your Commission Structure & Rate

Next, you’ll want to decide how much you’re going to pay your affiliates.

Here are 3 common commission structures:

  • Percentage of sales: Pay affiliates a percentage of any sale made through their affiliate link. These rates usually range from 5% to 25%.
  • Flat fee: Pay a set amount for every sale or conversion. Flat fees are especially common for high-ticket items or for subscription services.
  • Tiered commission: In this commission structure, affiliates who make more sales will earn higher commission rates. This strategy encourages your affiliates to really optimize how they promote your products.

3. Choose Your Affiliate Management Software

Before you can start approaching affiliates, you’ll need to choose what software what affiliate management software you want to use. Your software will generate your affiliate links, take care of affiliate tracking, and manage your payouts.

If your online store is built on WordPress, there are some excellent plugins that will handle all of this for you.

Here are the best affiliate management WordPress plugins that are perfect for beginners:

AffiliateWP

Homepage of AffiliateWP

AffiliateWP is the best affiliate program plugin for WordPress. It’s a powerful and easy-to-use solution packed with features. All you need to do is install and activate the plugin, and you’re ready to start.

You can add your affiliates manually or let them register themselves. You can have unlimited affiliates and creatives to promote your products, service, or website faster and more effectively.

AffiliateWP also comes with an integrated payouts service, which quickly and directly pays your affiliates.

Managing your affiliate is just as simple. In your dashboard, you easily monitor the performance of your affiliates.

affiliatewp reports

Finally, AffiliateWP can be used seamlessly with other popular eCommerce tools such as WooCommerce, PayPal Buttons, MemberPress, and more.

Price: AffiliateWP plans range from $149.60-$299.60 per year.

Easy Affiliate

easy affiliate homepage

Easy Affiliate is an all-in-one affiliate program plugin for WordPress. With Easy Affiliate, you can set up a completely self-hosted affiliate program by simply launching the setup wizard and following the easy steps.

It comes with a built-in affiliate dashboard that lets users get trackable links, monitor their commissions, and view their payment history. Easy Affiliate also autogenerates other important pages you need like affiliate applications and logins.

When it comes to starting an affiliate program for beginners, Easy Affiliate makes the process just about as easy as can be.

Price: Plans range from $99.60-$199.60 per year.

4. Get Affiliates on Board

Next, the fun part starts: finding content creators to promote your brand! You want to look for content creators who have an audience that overlaps with your target audience. Examples include:

  • Blogs related to your niche
  • YouTube channels that post video product reviews in your industry
  • Social media influencers, such as popular TikTok users, who promote products like yours

If you sell physical products, contact these content creators and offer to send them a review copy of your product. If your product is digital, you can send offer them a product key or free trial.

Then you can start seeing you’re products promoted on blogs and social media platforms.

Here is an example of a YouTube review of OptinMonster. The video description includes an affiliate link:

YouTube review of OptinMonster. There is an affiliate link in the video description

Here are some ways that you can go about finding affiliate marketers to use your program:

1. Reach out to people in your personal network: If you’ve been in your career field for a few years, you’ve probably made friends in the same space who aren’t direct competitors. Let them know you’ve started an affiliate program.

If they already have a content marketing plan in place, they’ve likely built an audience that would be interested in your product, too.

2. Reach out to others in your niche: Perhaps you don’t know anyone in your domain firsthand, but with social media, you can always reach out to influencers in your space.

Explain to them what makes your product so unique and why your affiliate program is worth checking out.

4. Rely on your email list: This is crucial. Having a robust, active email list will do wonders for your affiliate marketing program (not to mention what it will do for your entire eCommerce site). In this way, you can use Affiliate Royale in conjunction with OptinMonster, the world’s #1 lead generating toolkit on the market.

5. Track and Pay Your Affiliates

If you have your affiliate management program set up, then then this last step is a breeze! Your software will help you keep everything running smoothly, so you can pay your affiliate commissions.

Speaking of, let’s look at how easy it is to use the 2 affiliate plugins we recommended.

Method 1: How to Start an Affiliate Program with AffiliateWP

The first step to starting an affiliate program is choosing the platform you’d like to work with. The two listed above are great options so we’ll show you how to create an affiliate program with both, starting with AffiliateWP.

Step 1: Install AffiliateWP on WordPress

Visit the AffiliateWP site and click the Start earning more button.

click the start earning more button

Choose one of AffiliateWP’s plans and follow the checkout process to complete the purchase.

Once you purchase the plugin, you should receive an email with some installation instructions (don’t worry, we’re going to go through all of those):

affiliatewp purchase receipt email

This email is super important for two reasons. First, it gives you the latest version of AffiliateWP to download (this will be your plugin).

It also has your license key which you’ll need in order to activate the plugin later. Once you’ve downloaded the latest version of AffiliateWP (from above), you can head over to your WordPress dashboard.

Find Plugins in the right-hand column and click Add New:

wordpress dashboard add new plugin

At the top, you’ll have the option to Upload Plugin:

upload new plugin

Simply upload the .zip file from AffiliateWP and then click Install Now:

install the affiliatewp plugin

Finally, click the Activate Plugin button to make it start working.

activate plugin

And you’re all set! Like we said before, AffiliateWP makes the process of starting your own affiliate program about as easy as can be.

Step 2: Set Up Your AffiliateWP Program Settings

Now that your AffiliateWP plugin is installed, let’s look at how to use it.

Immediately after activating the plugin, go to Affiliates » Settings to enter your license key (you can find it in the installation email we mentioned earlier or in your AffiliateWP account).

activate affiliatewp license key in settings

After activating your license key, on the same page, you can select a page to be used for your Affiliate Area. AffiliateWP automatically creates one for you but if you want to change it, you can choose a different page from the dropdown menu.

You can also create a “Terms of Use” page and set the page here as well.

After that, scroll down to configure other settings for your affiliate program such as the referral rate type (percentage or flat rate), cookie expiration, currency, and more.

configure referral settings

Don’t forget to click the Save Changes button when you’re finished.

Now you can select the integrations you want to enable on the Integrations tab. You can connect AffiliateWP to popular plugins like WooCommerce, Easy Digital Downloads, MemberPress, WPForms, and more.

affiliatewp integrations

Simply put a checkmark next to the plugin to enable the connection and click Save Changes.

Next, head to the Emails tab. With AffiliateWP, you can easily edit the emails sent out to affiliates. On this page, you can upload your logo, create a custom email template, add a professional email address the emails will be sent from, and more.

configure email settings

Click Save Changes to move on to the next step.

On the Misc tab, you can configure other advanced settings for your affiliate program. This includes choosing whether users require approval before becoming affiliates or automatically registering new users as affiliates.

affiliatewp misc settings

You can also enable ReCAPTCHA from this page which prevents bots from registering as affiliates.

Once you’re done configuring the settings, click Save Changes.

That’s it! You’ve set up your own affiliate program with AffiliateWP.

Step 3: Manage Your Affiliate Program with AffiliateWP

Now that your affiliate program has been set up, we’ll show you some of the things you can do with AffiliateWP.

Your affiliates can log into the dedicated Affiliate Area that AffiliateWP creates automatically. On this dashboard, they can track their referrals and payouts, access creatives, and generate referral URLs with the built-in referral link generator.

built-in referral link generator in affiliate area

You also have the option of purchasing the Affiliate Portal addon, which will automatically give your affiliate area a more modern look.

affiliate portal addon

AffiliateWP offers a ton of free and paid addons you can use to extend your affiliate program.

To view affiliates that have joined your program, you can head to Affiliates » Affiliates page. Here you can see a full list of affiliate partnerships, their earnings, rates, paid and unpaid referrals, and visits.

affiliates reports

You can also get an overview of how your referral program is performing by going to Affiliates » Reports.

affiliatewp reports

Here you can see powerful insights like paid earnings, average referral amount, and more. You can filter the reporting period by time and specific affiliate partner names. In addition, you can view reports for affiliates, payouts, visits, and campaigns.

AffiliateWP makes it easy to run a successful affiliate program and these are just a few of its powerful features.

Next, we’ll show you how to create an affiliate program with Easy Affiliate.

Method 2: Starting an Affiliate Program With Easy Affiliate

Now, we’ll guide you through to process of getting started with Easy Affiliate.

Step 1: Install Easy Affiliate

To create an affiliate program with Easy Affiliate, head to the Easy Affiliate website and purchase the plugin. get easy affiliate now

Then, install and activate the plugin by following the same process listed in step 1 of our first method.

Step 2: Configure Easy Affiliate

Now that your Easy Affiliate plugin is installed, let’s look at how to use it. Immediately after activating the plugin, you’ll be redirected to the Easy Affiliate tab in your WordPress dashboard.

easy affiliate menu wordpress

On the Easy Affiliate page, scroll down a bit and click on the Launch the Wizard button. The setup wizard will walk you through setting up your affiliate program step-by-step.

easy affiliate launch wizard

The first step is to enter your Easy Affiliate license key (you can find it in the installation email we mentioned earlier or in your Easy Affiliate account).

Copy your license key and paste it in the field provided.

easy affiliate license key

Once the key is verified, hit the Save and Continue button.

Next, Easy Affiliate will check for any existing affiliate program you have installed and offer you an option to migrate. If you don’t have one, simply click the Save and Continue button to move on.

migrate existing affiliate program

Now you need to choose what eCommerce plugins you want Easy Affiliate to track affiliate sales with.

Easy Affiliate seamlessly integrates with most popular shopping carts such as WooCommerce and Easy Digital Downloads.

Click the toggle button to enable the options you want. For this tutorial, we’ll enable WooCommerce. Then, click Save and Continue.

enable woocommerce in easy affiliate

After that, simply type in your business information including the name, address, and other details.

add business info to easy affiliate

Again, click Save and Continue to move on to the next step in the setup process.

Now it’s time to set up the affiliate program registration process. Easy Affiliate gives you three options to choose from:

  • Application
  • Public
  • Private

affiliate registration options

We recommend choosing the Application option so that you can learn more about applicants before accepting them as affiliates for your brand.

You can also enable other options like when to collect affiliate addresses and tax information as well as displaying an affiliate agreement on the registration page.

Once you’ve enabled the options you want, click Save and Continue.

Next, you’ll want to set your commission type. You can either pay your affiliates a flat rate for purchases made on your site  or you can set up a percentage of sales.

set commissions and payouts

Before moving forward, select your payment method as well and choose whether you want to pay commissions on all sales or just on the first sale only.

Hit Save and Continue to go to the next step, which is adding creatives for your affiliate program.

Creatives are marketing materials that you can provide to affiliates such as website logos, product photos, banner ads, text documents, and so on.

Simply click the +Add button to upload your creatives. If you don’t have any creatives yet, you can click the Skip and Continue button and add them later.

add creatives to your affiliate program

That’s it!

Your self-hosted affiliate program is all set up. Just click the Finish Setup & Exit Wizard button.

finish easy affiliate setup

Step 3: Manage with Easy Affiliate

While there are many things you can do in Easy Affiliate, today we’ll focus on the basics.

Easy Affiliate autogenerates the important site pages you need for your affiliate program including the application page, login, and affiliate dashboard.

This will help you automate most of your affiliate program.

To view your pages, go to Easy Affiliate » Settings from your WordPress dashboard. In the General tab, you can preview and edit any of these pages.

autogenerated affiliate pages easy affiliate

You’ll now have a link to give potential affiliates that allows them to sign up to your program:

affiliate application page

They can then log in to their dashboard at any point.

And in their dashboard, they can review their commissions, links/banners, stats, and payment history.

easy affiliate pre-styled affiliate dashboard

Your users now have everything they need to start promoting your business.

On your end, you can manage your affiliates from your WordPress dashboard and track important affiliate stats across your site:

easy affiliate reports

You can also change settings like commission structures, marketing integrations, click history, transaction history, etc.

In other words, you can manage every aspect of your affiliate program through the Easy Affiliate menu on your WordPress dashboard in a way that is intuitive and user-friendly.

Again, this article has simply scratched the surface of what you can do by starting an affiliate marketing strategy. In the future, you’ll want to create marketing materials (like banners) and sync Easy Affiliate with your email list.

Promote Your Affiliate Program

The best affiliate marketers to add will be those people that are already loyal customers of your store. In fact, this is probably the most crucial group you can use to promote your store.

But how do we get the word out to them? If they are already on your email marketing list, simply send an email.

Otherwise, you need to get an email list together and spread the word on your website.

To do that, we recommend using OptinMonster, the world’s #1 lead generating toolkit on the market.

OptinMonster home page

OptinMonster is a premium WordPress plug that helps you continually grow your email list and promote your new affiliate program in several ways.

As you gain emails through your lead magnet and 2-step optin forms, you can start advertising your affiliate marketing program to your current customers.

Sure, reaching out to your networks is excellent for getting new affiliates. But using your company’s email list means you’re reaching out to people who have actively expressed an interest in what you are doing and the content you are producing.

It’s just one of the many benefits of having a solid email list to grow your business.

Promote With Popups

OptinMonster gives you the tools and tricks you need to create a hard-to-refuse popup to promote your affiliate program or add emails to your marketing lists.

With over 100 stunning templates and 9+ campaign types, you will be sure to catch your visitors’ attention.

And with its drag and drop builder, you can customize everything about your campaign, including the text, images, and color. It also lets you add advanced elements like countdown timers, photos, videos, buttons, and more.

Here’s an example of a full-page popup created by OptinMonster to collect emails for a business email list.

FeedBlitz popup OptinMonster

But what about those powerful targeting features we mentioned?

OptinMonster allows you to customize which visitors see your campaign and when. So if you want to promote your affiliate program to use existing customers, you can do that with OptinMonster.

Otherwise, you can target your audience based on their activity, interests, and behavior on your site.

targeting rules for optinmonster

Like tracking your affiliate marketing sales, you can track how well your campaigns work with an easy-to-understand dashboard. A/B testing will also let you test different campaigns in real-time.

analytics in optinmonster

And, with OptinMonster’s powerful Exit-Intent® technology, you can send abandoning users to the affiliate’s product pages.

In fact, OptinMonster and affiliate marketing is how AdamEnfroy.com skyrocketed affiliate sales to over $20,000 a month.

Now, it’s time to get the same results for your website.

Get Started With OptinMonster Today!
BONUS: Done-For-You Campaign Setup ($297 value) Our conversion experts will design 1 free campaign for you to get maximum results – absolutely FREE! Click here to get started →

And that’s it! You now have everything you need to start an affiliate program.

For information regarding the latest trends and growth opportunities in this industry, explore these Affiliate Marketing Statistics All Marketers Must Know.

If you enjoyed this post, you’d find these articles helpful:

These articles will help you convert more visitors into leads and provide more tips and tricks for your affiliate marketing program.

I'm writer and digital marketer with over 15 years of experience. As a former marketing director for small nonprofits, I understand what it's like to be a one-person marketing department. I'm here to help you generate more leads in less time.

Disclosure: Our content is reader-supported. This means if you click on some of our links, then we may earn a commission. We only recommend products that we believe will add value to our readers.

Comments

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  2. Hello,
    I have a question. Is it possible to run my own affiliate program but my website not having a “Checkout button”?
    The product I sell, is not cheap and I tried in the past a checkout button but users, prefer to interact with me and after a bit back-and-forth email exchange pay through bank wire transfer. In this situation, how I could build an affiliate program and still pay commission to the people recommending my website? Is that possible?

    1. Nathan Thompson
      Nathan Thompson July 8, 2021 at 2:03 pm

      Hey, great question! It sounds like you’d need something more like a referral program rather than a traditional affiliate program. With a referral system, you’d reward your partners for leads that start the “back-and-forth” with you. That means you’d either pay commissions on appointments booked OR based on your new customer’s referral source. This is all trackable with tools like OptinMonster and WPForms. For more help with this, check out this resource: How to Create a Refer-a-Friend Popup (+ Template). If you have any other questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our customer success team!

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