Affiliate Marketing Overview For Beginners

5. Setting-up Your Website (WordPress)

affiliate marketing website setup

While there are many free combined website builder / hosting platforms out there, e.g., Blogger, Weebly, Wix, etc., it is NOT recommended that you use these for your main money-making website.

Your money website is your main place of business; it’s where visitors — potential customers — show up.  So your website is absolutely critical to your business.

There is a maxim in internet marketing that says ‘own everything that impacts your sales funnel.’ It was actually borrowed from the offline business world. The idea is a simple one: don’t leave critical parts of your business (especially in internet marketing) vulnerable to things outside your control.

For example, it’s not unheard of for a free website / hosting provider to close down a website due to some real or perceived violation of their terms of service. Or even from a complaint (malicious or otherwise) from a member of the public. When that happens, you are almost always stuck with a complete loss.

So, even as a beginner, it’s highly recommended that you register your own domain name and use paid hosting in order to have as much control over your website as possible.

WordPress

There are 2 WordPress platforms; one provides the website platform and its hosting for free (wordpress.com) while the other provides the free website platform but not its hosting (wordpress.org) — you have to host your website on your paid hosting account.

But wordpress.com suffers from the same issues as the other free options discussed earlier. WordPress.org is under your control and so is what is recommended here.

For beginners, and indeed anybody else really, WordPress (.org) is the easiest and most manageable means of putting up a website that you own and control.

While originally designed as a blogging platform, WordPress is now considered to be an all-purpose CMS (Content Management System), and is used by millions of people and businesses to create many different types of websites. In fact, more websites run on WordPress today than on any other platform.

Some Advantages of WordPress:

  • No coding knowledge required.
  • Thousands of free and premium plugins to increase functionality and customization.
  • Thousands of free and paid themes.
  • An easy-to-use admin system to update sites on a regular basis

Setting up your site consists of first registering a domain name, then getting a hosting account, pointing your domain to your hosting account, and installing and configuring WordPress.

Don’t be frightened of this; it’s really rather easy, especially since most reputable hosting companies provide step-by-step videos on how do do these things and, of course, you have 24 hour access to their customer support services when you need help. In addition, they will normally have an online forum where other, more experienced, webmasters can help newcomers like yourself.

And many, if not most, hosting companies have a simple-to-operate client dashboard called ‘cPanel’ which allows you to perform all the operations you need at the click of a button, and without needing any technical knowledge whatsoever; an ideal tool for a beginner. For example, installing WordPress itself is very easy via a button called ‘Fantastico.’

WordPress Themes

In order to display your website properly you will need a WordPress ‘theme.’ This is like a ‘skin’ that defines your website’s look & feel — it’s what your visitors will see and experience when they land on your site. So spend some time selecting your theme and get it right.

Select a simple, clean, but professional looking theme. It should be easy to read and navigate around. The point of your site isn’t to have someone visit and go ‘love that look & feel’ — it’s for them to devour your content and buy what you are promoting, nothing else.

There’s nothing wrong with having an attractive looking site, but that’s a secondary consideration, your first priority should be to select a theme that’s simple enough to put the emphasis on the things that are important to your business — the great content, the product(s) you’re promoting, your opt-in form (to build your email list), and your ads. There should be no other distractions.

Wordress.org has thousands of free themes that you can choose from. They’re easily selected from your WordPress admin panel and, in a couple of clicks, uploaded and activated. There are also many premium theme websites where you can buy higher end themes that are compatible with WordPress.

Finally, make sure that your theme is ‘responsive’, i.e. automatically adjusts itself so that it is easily viewable on a mobile phone. Google is now penalizing sites that are not mobile-friendly. So look for the word ‘responsive’ in theme descriptions.

*This website uses the GeneratePress mobile-friendly theme on the WordPress platform.

WordPress Plugins

A plugin is an ‘addon’ to your WordPress site that increases its functionality — think ‘apps’ on your smart phone. You can view, select, upload, and activate free plugins via your WordPress admin panel in a couple of clicks. There are also premium plugins for sale online.

Without plugins your site will be pretty basic. But with the right plugins the user experience will be greatly enhanced and you can make changes to your site layout without having to know any coding or any other ‘techie’ stuff. It’s all ‘point and click’ and / or ‘drag and drop.’

Just don’t overdo it. Although many plugins are ‘nice to have,’ concentrate on the ‘must haves’ because the more plugins you have activated on your site the slower your site will load in a searcher’s browser with the result that they are more likely to hit the back arrow and not even reach your site. Downloaded plugins are also potential security weaknesses, so the more you have the higher the risk.

The most important plugins help to enhance SEO (search engine optimization — to help your rankings in Google), prevent spam comments, make it easy for people to share your content (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.), automatically cache pages to help site load times, automatically back-up your website and database, and help the Google bot crawl your site.

Domain Name

The first thing you’ll need is a domain name that acts as the world wide web (www) ‘address’ for your website. If you hope to use a lot of content marketing to build a recognizable ‘brand’, then you will need a domain name that’s easily recognizable and perhaps catchy at the same time.

Your domain name is important, very important. It’s effectively the name of your business and website. So it should describe what you do in a few words. You’re domain name should reflect the niche you’re operating in. You only have a short amount of time (a couple of seconds) to make an impact when visitors land on your site, so ensure that both your website and domain names reflect what you do and what they can expect to gain by staying on your website.

That said, we don’t want to overcomplicate or overthink things. Much has changed in the online world regarding domain names…

Google used to give tremendous weight to the domain name when it came to deciding where to rank a website. As you might imagine, this resulted in people choosing domain names almost exclusively for its ranking benefits. This resulted in Google reducing the amount of weight a domain name carries, with the added significant side effect that if Google determines you are using your domain name largely for its ranking value, they will actually penalize you.

So how do you go about choosing your domain name? Simple: your first objective should be something memorable, ideally something memorable that includes a word or phrase describing the actual topic / niche you are operating in.

It should be as short as possible (3 words max) and preferably end in ‘.com’ (the domain extension) as it’s generally accepted that .com performs best of all the domain extensions and is the most easily recognized by the public.

If you can’t get a .com extension for your preferred name then next best are .org and .net. Although it may be cheaper than the others, don’t go for .info as, in my experience, it doesn’t rank nearly as well in Google.

Be creative. If you can’t get your first choice name but definitely want to have a .com extension try a different arrangement. For example, let’s say you wanted ‘yogaforhealth.com’ but it wasn’t available, then you could try ‘healthyyoga.com’. But if you absolutely wanted to stay with ‘yogaforhealth’ then see if a .org or .net extension is available first.

Remember that shorter is better, you don’t need to have every word of your niche in the name. For example ‘seniorsweightloss’ or ‘weightlossforseniors’ are much better than ‘weightlossforpeopleoversixty.com’. And avoid hyphens, e.g. ‘seniorsweightloss’ not ‘seniors-weight-loss’.

*The domain name for this website was purchased from NameCheap.

Hosting

Next you’re going to need a hosting account. While your domain name is what will act as the ‘address’ for your website, the hosting account is going to be where all your website files will be stored.

To understand a server, it’s helpful to imagine it as essentially being a large computer that is constantly connected to the world wide web and that contain a number of websites. When you buy server space (your hosting), you’ll be getting storage space on one of these computers which will likely be situated in a secure building somewhere and looked after by a series of expert technicians to ensure it stays safe and secure against hackers, faults, etc.

When someone then types in the domain name you’ve bought, it points the browser to that particular space on the server. This then gives it access to the files that make up your website, including the HTML and CSS files that define the layout, design and formatting, as well as all the images and content.

Whatever you choose though, you’ll first need to compare some of the features and pros and cons of different types of hosting.

Types of hosting include:

Shared Hosting: This is the basic type of hosting, which means you get a portion of the space on a specific server. If you imagine a server to be like a computer, it’s as though you’re getting 20% of the hard drive space to yourself, while other users will share the rest.

Practically, this doesn’t make much difference to you – you’ll never see the files of the other users and they’ll never see yours. What it does mean though, is that you’ll have less available storage space and less ‘bandwidth’ (bandwidth is how much data can be transferred before the server goes down temporarily or gets very slow – the more people using the same server, the greater the strain will be).

Dedicated Hosting: This way you get your own server that no one else gets to use. That means more space, more bandwidth and more flexibility regarding what you’re allowed to install. For instance, if you want to build a web app, you’ll need to install a PHP Framework. Some of these, such as Symfony, will only work on dedicated servers.

In some cases, dedicated hosting users will even be permitted to sell storage space to other people as a reseller.

Cloud Hosting: Here you will have multiple copies of your site on different servers (either shared or dedicated) meaning that if one server goes down, the hosting provider can simply redirect traffic to another copy of your website. This means less downtime and of course it also means you get several times the amount of storage and a far less stingy bandwidth limit.

As a beginner in affiliate marketing, your hosting requirements will be relatively modest. You won’t have too many people visiting your site at once and when they do, they won’t be downloading lots of large images. You can start with a shared hosting account to keep your initial investment low and then just build-up to the more expensive solutions as your business grows. But many affiliate marketers find that shared hosting covers their needs, even while making significant income.

Other things to consider are customer support, the amount of downtime (read reviews) and additional features. Something very useful to look for is cPanel, which is an easy-to-use dashboard with a selection of tools that is very handy for all webmasters, but beginners in particular.

*This website is securely hosted on HostGator.

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