I’ve been doing affiliate marketing since 2012. I’ve probably earned over $1 million from affiliate commissions during that time. In fact, I’m sure of it.
Whether your main monetization strategy is with affiliate marketing or it’s secondary (like me – I earn the lion’s share of revenue from display ads), there’s no denying that affiliate commissions can generate a nice chunk of change every month.
With my niche sites, affiliate commissions range from $6,000 to $11,000 per month. Fat Stacks commissions are considerable. Sorry, for now I don’t disclose Fat Stacks revenue.
Here are some screenshots of affiliate marketing results:
What’s interesting and fun with affiliate marketing, if you have an article on your site with plenty of traffic, a few tweaks and improvements can considerably increase your revenue. Usually these improvements require affiliate marketing software… what I call on-site affiliate marketing software.
If you have an email newsletter, that can be a source of huge and consistent commissions in a variety of niches. Not all niches but a good number. For email marketing, you also need some software to pull it off well.
Finally, if you like ranking web pages for buyer-intent keywords it helps to use some keyword research to find good opportunities. Good opportunities could be insanely lucrative keywords where you’re prepared to build links to rank or more obscure keywords that don’t necessarily require links to rank. Either way, to uncover these affiliate marketing opportunities, software can help.
Here’s my list of useful affiliate marketing software
A.On-Site affiliate marketing software tools
There are a lot of moving parts to make money as an affiliate on a website. Granted, I invest in more tools than one necessarily needs but I list them out anyway just so you know what is use.
Most folks who do affiliate marketing promote products on their sites. This means visitors show up, click a link, head to the merchant and buy. The purchase triggers the commission for the publisher. The other primary affiliate marketing vehicle is email which tools I also include in my list below.
- WP Review Pro
- Thirsty Affiliates
- Shortcodes Ultimate Plugin
- AMZ Image
- Content Analysis Software
- Landing Pages: Leadpages or Elementor
- Tablepress Plugin
- Convertkit Email Marketing Platform
So I gave Lasso a try on my niche sites and Fat Stacks early in 2020. I loved the product box designs. Overall, I really liked the plugin. Then I had a slight tech issue so I removed it from my sites.
But I missed Lasso.
I reached out to the owner (Andrew) who was super cool and immediately took care of the tech issue for me. I was back earning commish with Lasso.
He also shared some cool capabilities that would work great on my niche sites. All in all, he was super helpful and I'm now deploying Lasso like crazy on my niche sites and Fat Stacks.
This entire list of affiliate tools is generated using Lasso's listicle feature. I'm deploying listicles just like this on my sites because it loads all the content wicked fast, generates affiliate commissions, looks outstanding on mobile and is coded to snag the listicle snippet.
It's a trifecta and for that reason, Lasso makes the top of the list.
That said, Lasso isn't the only affiliate marketing tool I'm using. I still use others but I'm sure loving Lasso.
ConvertBox lives up to its name. It can convert visitors to affiliate commissions like gangbusters. It also can convert visitors to email subscribers like gangbusters, but I cover that in the next section.
Yes, ConvertBox works as both affiliate marketing tool and email tool. It's amazing. One of the best investments I ever made. I'm printing money with this thing.
Here are the ways I use ConvertBox to earn commissions:
Embedded forms with affiliate buttons.
Embedded quizzes that promote select products,
Exit-intent popups that promote merchants and products (not Amazon which doesn't permit popup links), and
Fly-in boxes that promote products.
As for how to set all this up, read my extensive ConvertBox review here.
ConvertBox is easy and fast to use. It gives you incredible control where promotion boxes display on your site. The template designs look great. It's an amazing piece of software and I've used several other tools but this is my favorite by far.
Do you wonder how some bloggers get those product review stars in the Google search? It's done via schema markup which is exactly what the WP Review Pro plugin provides. You also get an attractive star rating box to add to your posts.
I've been using this plugin as my product review plugin for years. It's easy to use. Support is amazing by an established theme/plugin company. The designs look great. It works without hiccups. It's not overly complex (some review plugins offer way more stuff than I need). In fact, this plugin is so easy I've been able to train my VAs on using it for content.
Thirsty affiliates cloaks affiliate links. It's best for publishers who promote a set list of affiliate products. It's not good if you promote hundreds of different products on various merchants like Amazon.
For example, on Fat Stacks, I promote a fairly set list of products and software - stuff I use. While the list changes over time, this plugin makes it really easy for me to insert affiliate links in blog posts or find affiliate links for my email newsletter.
If you do promote a ton of different products on your niche site but you find you promote a handful regularly, then Thirsty Affiliates could be a big help. I use it on various niche sites but only load in the merchants/products I promote across many articles. It makes it super easy and fast to find those affiliate links and insert them into content.
Note, I only use the free version which offers all the capability you need.
Affiliatable is not a plugin but does a lot of what affiliate plugins do.
It's a cloud software that creates product boxes, tables, pros/cons boxes and other goodies to jazz up your affliate content on your site.
You can use it to promote Amazon products (it syncs with Amazon's API so it's totally legit) and/or use it to promote non-Amazon products. It's very versatile.
I too use this a bit on my sites but switched to using Lasso more once I discovered Lasso's listicle feature.
One very nice feature with Affiliatable is the pricing. They currently have a lifetime option so you just pay once and use forever.
If you're tight on cash and don't want to buy any premium plugins to promote products, the free Ultimate Shortcodes plugin is for you. I've used this thing for years on every niche site I own.
It offers a lot of goodies but my favorite is the button creator. You can create high-impact buttons to attract clicks in seconds. Did I mention it's free?
The image above showcases many of the features you can create.
If you promote Amazon, AAWP is a solid option for displaying attractive product promo boxes on your site. All you need is the ASIN number of an Amazon product and the AAWP shortcode. So simple. So fast. So easy to train VAs too.
I'm a big fan of the product promo box design as well. They look great as-is. I'm not one to get overly worked up over design stuff. As long as it looks good, I go with it. However, I don't earn $250,000 per month from some affiliate page where a color change could increase or decrease revenue by $10K.
AAWP is a stalwart Amazon affiliate plugin. It's been around a long time. It's highly regarded. You can't go wrong.
However, you should also have a looksie at the next one, which is Amalinks Pro. Does much the same but more and perhaps better.
Interestingly, Amalinks Pro does what AMZ Images does plug a lot more.
However, AMZ Images is such a simple, perfect little plugin that I'm loathe to drop it yet.
What does it do?
It embeds just Amazon product images into your post.
You don't end up with a buy button or pricing or anything else.
I love this because often I use product images for illustrative purposes in content instead of trying to promote and generate a commission. When you think about it, Amazon is one of the best sources of imagery on the web with its millions of products. But in order to use those images you must embed via its API. AMZ Images syncs your site with the API so you can quickly and safely embed Amazon images.
MarketMuse has some lower cost options. I love the MarketMuse content analyzer as well. It's thorough. It's easy to use. The questions it suggests are amazing.
SurferSO is decent.
Frase.io for the money is great. I really like Frase.io and I think the team behind it are working hard on making it better and better.
I'd use Leadpages on everything just because I like the designs more and its 10X easier to use than Elementor but I've had some SEO issues with Leadpages. Honestly, I'm not sure you can actually rank Leadpages. They tell me its SEO friendly, but I published pages that weren't anywhere to be seen. Yes, I left the box unchecked that hides the pages from Google. I also input all the SEO meta stuff into the Leadpages but I ended up with bupkiss. It's too bad because it's an absolute dream to use.
Not only that, I've used a ton of landing page builders over the years and Leadpages is my fave by far (other than the SEO issue).
To solve the SEO issue, I turned to Elementor. I switched many of my Leadpages landers over to Elementor (yeah, that was a drag). I find my Elementor pages do rank nicely. Go figure.
Either way, if you need to bring the big guns to an affiliate promo, create a stunning page with some landing page software like Elementor or Leadpages.
The example above right is a landing page I created with Leadpages (and I can't design anything or code to save my life).
Tablepress plugin is great for large tables. Visitors can scroll the tables horizontally to see all the info.
See an example above right.
While I avoid creating these large tables, sometimes it's necessary. For example, for one niche site I have a hugely detailed multi-product feature comparison table. It's not the easiest to read online but it does provide a lot of excellent information.
I've used many email marketing platforms over the years (AWeber, Mailchimp and GetResponse) and ConvertKit is by far, without hesitation the very best I've ever used by a country mile. How's that for an endorsement? It's not an exaggeration.
ConvertKit was built from the ground up to incorporate the latest and greatest in email marketing tech. AWeber and antiquated. They're doing their best to bolt on stuff that ConvertKit does but it doesn't come close.
Mailchimp is a joke because it doesn't like affiliate marketers. They have some confusing language in the TOS about not doing affiliate marketing so if you want to put affiliate links in your emails, don't touch Mailchimp with a ten foot pole. Besides, I've never used such a confusing email platform. I used it for months and could never figure out what the hell was going on.
GetResponse is pretty slick but I found it confusing.
And so ConvertKit reigns supreme.
ConvertKit integrates with everything. It's so awesome. Leadpages, Teachable, Deadline Funnel and so much else. It's awesome. I don't have to duct tape it with other software via Zapier. I loathe duct taping integrations with Zapier. Why? Because the connections end up breaking or you do a big promo and then Zapier wants more money or something else. I constantly found myself having to jump into Zapier to deal with something. That's not how I like to spend my days.
Why is ConvertKit so great?
Other than it integrates natively with everything, you can slice and dice your readership into segments in seconds and it's dead-simple to keep track of all those segments with tags and sequences. For example, I tag everyone who buys my course bundle with a "Fat Stacks Bundle" tag. That way if ever I want to email just those buyers or exclude them in the event of a bundle promotion, I can. That's just one simple example out of an infinite number of controls and possibilities to boost your email profits with affiliate marketing.
And no, it's not frightfully expensive. It's totally in line with lesser email platforms.
I use MeetEdgar to post select content to my niche site's Facebook page. By being surgical about what I post to the page, I get insane engagement and traffic back to my blog. In some cases, the traffic gets sent articles with affiliate links. And yes, I've generated some commissions. Not a lot, but enough to buy some pizza here and there.
Okay, I wouldn't get MeetEdgar in the hopes you'll earn a giant swell of affiliate commissions but it's a very powerful social media scheduling tool. I use it only for Facebook but it also works with Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.
Affiliate marketing networks
Another type of affiliate marketing software is what is referred to as affiliate marketing networks. There are a good number of them, most of which I use or have used.
What is an affiliate network?
It’s a site where merchants and affiliates are brought together. Merchants list their affiliate program and terms. Affiliates sign up, apply to be an affiliate and then promote. The network includes the software to generate affiliate (i.e. tracking) links for affiliates. The network also collects the money and pays out to affiliates each month so merchants don’t have to deal with that hassle.
It’s a great service for both sides of the equation. As an affiliate I love it. It makes it easy to access many different merchants. If I were a merchant, I’d love it because I wouldn’t have to bother tracking it in-house and issuing payments.
The main affiliate networks include:
What’s my favorite affiliate network?
Without a doubt I love Shareasale. I love the backend as an affiliate. While they don’t have quite the caliber of merchants that CJ.com has, whenever I possible, I look for something on Shareasale.
CJ.com attracts the biggest companies. It features the most fortune 500 companies. I earn a nice chunk from CJ.com each month.
Skimlinks is interesting because you can turn links to thousands of merchants on your site into an affiliate link automatically. If you don’t like that idea, you can use Skimlinks affiliate link creator to create links to any of the 20,000 merchants in Skimlinks. Once you’re approved in Skimlinks, you’re approved to be an affiliate for all 20K merchants. I really like that.
Clickbank is a different beast altogether. That’s where you can become an affiliate for many digital product merchants like workouts, diet plans, relationship ebooks etc. The commissions are often sky-high (75%) with upsell after upsell. If your niche is a good fit, you can make ton with Clickbank. I’m not in any niche that’s Clickbank friendly but if I were, I’d have no qualms promoting a quality digital product sold there.
Can I just do affiliate marketing without buying any of these tools?
Sure you can. As long as you can create hyperlinks in your text on your site, you don’t need to use any tools. However, once you get some traffic, you’ll probably want to invest in some tools to improve your click rate. It can make a big difference when you have decent traffic.
Can I monetize my site with both display ads and affiliate links?
You sure can. I do all the time. I believe many affiliate sites would enjoy higher overall revenue by also putting display ads on the site especially given the high-earning ad networks out there like Ezoic and AdThrive. However, if you’re in some crazy high earning affiliate niche like the finance niche printing money at $200 RPM promoting credit cards, ads aren’t worth it.
In fact, I have ads on Fat Stacks which earns way more from affiliate links than the ads. I find the ads are gravy.
What gets more affiliate clicks – hyperlinks or buttons?
That’s one of those things you need to test. I use both. I think it’ll depend on the niche, the site and the article.
If I can afford only one tool you suggest above (other than Ahrefs) what should I get?
I’d get Affiliatable just because it can be used to promote both Amazon and non-Amazon products. It gives you a ton of flexibility and it really is a great tool. The lifetime pricing option is also very economical.
Jon runs the place around here. He pontificates about launching and growing online publishing businesses, aka blogs that make a few bucks. His pride and joy is the email newsletter he publishes that’s “the best blogging email newsletter around.”
Hyperbole? Maybe, but go check it out to see what some readers say.
In all seriousness, Jon is the founder and owner of a digital media company that publishes a variety of web properties visited and beloved by millions of readers monthly. Fatstacks is where he shares a glimpse into his digital publishing business.