If you’ve been running a blog for some time, you might be considering how to monetise your hard work. And as you may already know, affiliate marketing is a genuine way to achieve this.
But once you embark on introducing affiliate marketing to your blog it can fast become a confusing mess. You have links to keep track of and when affiliate programs change referral URLs, you have a lot of posts to go back through and edit.
On top of this, there’s a myriad of banners and images for each program. So you can see how things can get muddled.
Don’t let this put you off though. The truth is, affiliate marketing can be organised easily and today I’m going to show you how you can turn the mess into a streamlined process.
The following are the best WordPress affiliate marketing plugins for managing links, presenting your ads and getting the best return on your hard marketing work.
First up is ThirstyAffiliates, a WordPress plugin that makes managing your affiliate links a breeze. You can shorten your affiliate URLs to remove the distracting numbers and symbols that come with a referral link. This plugin enables shortening links to things like:
Furthermore, you can set links to open in new tabs when clicked and insert affiliate links into a post or page using a drop-down menu. Just make sure you’ve added your referral links to ThirstyAffiliates first.
301 Redirects are used properly with this plugin and you can set options for globally no-following all links.
But the big selling point, in my opinion, is being able to edit your affiliate links, without having to go through each post and edit it manually. All you need to do is change the link in the Thirsty Affiliate settings and you’re good to go.
The above features are all available for no cost at all. But to get more out of this plugin, it’s worth looking at the Pro AddOn to see what it can do for you.
Pro AddOn features:
- Automatically linking keywords to affiliate links throughout your content
- Advanced reports
- Geolocation link redirecting
- Stay compliant by automatically disclosing affiliate links
- Search and import Amazon affiliate links
- Scheduling affiliate links
- Click event pushing with Google Analytics
- Automatically check for broken affiliate links
- The use of bit.ly ad goo.gl link shorteners
- Compatibility with Google tag manager
- External product integration with WooCommerce
Free version available on WordPress.org with add-ons starting from $49.
2. URL Shortener Pro
URL Shortener Pro works in a similar way to Thirsty Affiliates, in that it allows easy link shortening for your affiliate links. You can create pretty short links that are easier for site visitors to memorise and they’ll fit perfectly into tweets and other social media posts.
Your links can be sorted by category, which means all your affiliate links are organised in one place, making it easy to find the one you need.
URL Shortener Pro includes redirect headers, with an option to open links in a new tab or window. And bulk link replacing is an option editors will enjoy as it saves time having to edit links in posts one at a time.
These features and more are bundled in with the free option of this plugin, which is great if you’re on a budget. But more functionality is unlocked with the pro version.
- Redirect with the META refresh tag
- Redirect with invisible iFrames
- Cloak URLs to show a different one on hover
- Set up redirection delays
- Limit link replacements
- Disallow folders in robot.txt
- Advanced statistics
- 1 Site: $29
- 3 Sites $39
- Unlimited Sites: $59
3. Thrive Leads
Thrive Leads might not seem like a typical choice when considering how to market your affiliate links, but it’s a plugin with a heap of features you would be wise to make use of.
It’s all well and good organising and managing your links, but where Thrive Leads can help is by getting your visitors to actually click them on them. By using this plugin to build your email list, you’ll have the ideal platform to get your readers clicking, and that’s as simple as sending an email.
With Thrive Leads, you can easily build beautiful opt-in forms in a number of formats and set them to trigger based on the settings you choose.
Where it proves its worth for affiliate marketers, is with a feature named Smart Links. This feature tracks if a visitor has subscribed to your list or not. If they haven’t, your opt-in is shown. If they have, you get to choose an offer to show them instead.
Showing an offer instead of an opt-in is a great way to direct people already familiar with your site, towards an offer they’re very likely to click. That provides an action for the visitor and a potential win for you.
Alternatively, you can use Thrive Leads to add targeted exit intent popovers to your reviews – a great way to get more clicks on your affiliate links.
Thrive Leads features
- Multiple opt-in form types
- Efficient A/B testing
- Boost conversions with smart exit and smart links
- Eye-catching templates
- Surgical precision targeting
- Detailed statistics and reports
- Drag and drop editor
- Mobile responsive
- Integrates with all major email marketing services
$67 for single-site licenses with 12 months support and lifetime updates. Or you can get all Thrive Themes products with a membership plan.
4. Thrive Ultimatum
Another fantastic plugin from the Thrive team that’s priceless for affiliate marketing is Thrive Ultimatum. This plugin utilises the power of scarcity marketing to encourage visitors to take action.
For affiliate marketers what this means is you could set a 3-day campaign for a particular offering, ending on a certain date. The timer will countdown for 72 hours and will display to all of your site visitors.
If you want to get more intricate and want every visitor to have their own countdown timer, try the Evergreen Campaign. When you use this campaign, there isn’t an end date for the timer. This means the timer is unique for each visitor.
So, if Bob visits on one day, he’ll get a timer starting at 8 hours. If Bob’s friend Dave visits the next day, his timer will also start from 8 hours. If you add the lockdown feature into this mix, Bob and Dave can clear their cookies and switch devices, but their timers will still continue to count down.
Where things get even more interesting is when you start adding countdowns elsewhere on your website. Thrive Ultimatum allows timers to be added in blog posts, sidebars, notification bars and much more.
So if Dave saw your timer on the Landing page, he could continue to browse through your site to a blog post, or info page, and see the timer counting down in the sidebar. This is great for making sure offers are hard to miss.
Thrive Ultimatum features
- Fixed date campaigns
- Evergreen campaigns
- Automatically recurring campaigns
- Control accessibility with Lockdown
- Professionally designed templates
- Drag and Drop editor
- Unlimited campaigns
- Dynamic link redirection
- 100% translatable
- Mobile responsive
Thrive Ultimatum is $97 for 12 months support and lifetime updates. Or, you purchase it as part of the Thrive Themes Membership and get all of their conversion-focused products.
5. WP Notification Bars
WP Notification Bars offers a discreet way to display a message bar across your website. For affiliate marketers, this can mean displaying a notification to an affiliate offer you’re currently promoting.
Alongside this, the plugin can be used to grow your email list by asking visitors to opt-in or for building social proof through social follows.
Customising the plugin is straightforward with the ability to change colours and bar positioning. There’s also the choice to show your bar to only Facebook or Google visitors as basic targeting options.
Where things get more interesting is with the premium features included in the pro version of WP Notification Bars.
- Set the priority of the notification bar
- Slide-in notification bar
- AB Split testing
- View and click tracking
- Email service integration
- Unlimited notification bars
- Newsletter box
- Related posts
- Search forms
- Advanced targeting
Pricing starts from $29 but there’s a limited free version on WordPress.org.
7. WP In Post Ads
It’s great having a way to display ads on your website in the sidebar but when it comes to adding ads inside blog posts, you need something a little different.
WP In Post Ads is a plugin that handles just that, allowing you to display different ads in every blog post you choose. Ads can be inserted via a handy shortcode or into WordPress Hook areas like above or below the content, or after a few paragraphs of content.
Split testing is a really useful feature of this plugin, letting you split test individual ads or randomly rotating ones. What’s more, ads can be hidden from users who are logged in and you can show or hide them after a set number of days.
WP In Post Ads features
- Ad split testing
- Impression tracking
- Show/hide advertisement options
- Google Analytics integration
- Display ads randomly
- Supported in all WordPress themes
- Control posts individually
- Extensive documentation
Pricing starts at $29.
When it comes to displaying your affiliate ads, AdRotate is a good choice. It supports a number of major publishing networks, as well as the option to display your own ads.
The free version is limited in that you can only add your own advertisements and set up a simple schedule. Add this with the option to rotate ads for better conversions, it’s a good, compact plugin that does the job well.
The pro version, however, provides more detailed scheduling options, along with geo-tagging features to target certain countries and cities. Further to this, you can accept ads from third-parties.
That said, for most websites, the free version is likely enough for your needs.
AdRotate Pro features
- Simple and easy to use dashboard
- Unlimited advert creation
- Ad statistics and reporting
- Schedule ads in advance
Free version offers a lot of features and it’s available on WordPress.org. You can upgrade to the pro version for extra features starting at €39.
8. Ads Pro
Ads Pro is very similar to AdRotate in that it’s a full-service ad manager. What this means is that you can use it to display ads of all kinds from any service, including your own banners for affiliate programs.
An interesting feature, to begin with, is that it bypasses ad blockers, to ensure your affiliate ads actually display, and you can display them in one of 20 ways.
- Single ads
- Random ads
- Ads in a grid
- Ads slider
- Corner peel
- Sidebar ads
- Link hover ads
- Layer ads
- Background ads
- Exit popup ads
- Scroll bar ads
Fine-tuning things is straightforward with geo-targeting, ad capping and various scheduling options. Additionally, ads can be filtered from displaying on tags and categories you define.
A/B testing your affiliate advertisements is also a feature you can play with to ensure you get the best conversions.
Ads Pro features
- 25+ ad templates
- Backend manager
- Display ads in over 20 ways
- Show ads only X times per user/session
- Show or close ads after X seconds
- Hooks to show ads before, after or within the content
- Category and Tag filters
- Schedule ads and control delay
- 100% responsive
The regular license of Ads Pro is $47, with further options extended licensing and extra support.
Which WordPress affiliate marketing plugin is right for you?
Many of the plugins covered in this post can be used in conjunction with each other for a monster combination of complementary features.
Features overlap in some areas, but for a powerful affiliate marketing machine, one or two that work well together is a great decision.
But ultimately it’s up to you and what you need for your website and budget.
For affiliate marketers looking control and organise text links more than anything, Thirsty Affiliates and URL Shortener Pro are perfect options. They shorten and beautify links, along with offering an excellent organisation feature-set to keep your links perfectly organised.
If you’re more of a visual ads marketer, Ads Pro and AdRotate are the two you’ll want to look more closely at. These plugins are all about how your ads display on your site. Ad great split testing and analytics into the mix and it’s a recipe for success.
Lastly, to power-up your emails lists and get creative with how you go about affiliate marketing, Thrive Leads and Thrive Ultimatum let you drill down into some deep targeting options. Offers can be displayed based on activity and powerful campaign options unlock features to further personalise your efforts.
Stacey is a freelance writer and content manager for hire with 5+ years experience. You’ll find Stacey writing for a bunch of websites covering WordPress, marketing, finance, remote working and more. Fun facts: she hates wearing socks and is addicted to yarn.