5 Top Security Plugins for Your WordPress Website

In today’s digital landscape, website security is vital. Malware attempts are on the rise, meaning that security breaches are increasingly common. For this reason, you may wish to lock your already secure WordPress site up even tighter.

There are a number of different security-focused plugins available for WordPress, and each one offers varying features – including malware scans and password protection. Stronger security will protect your customers’ payment information, and may even improve your Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

In this post, we’ll explain why website security is so essential. We’ll then discuss some of the best security-boosting plugin options available. Let’s get started!

Why Website Security Is Essential

WordPress is the world’s most popular CMS, and it’s also one of the most secure. On its own, WordPress will keep your site pretty well protected. However, no platform can ever be completely safe.

As such, it’s important to implement additional security methods. Failing to secure your site could lead to leaked customer payment information and the installation of malware. It may also result in a lack of trust between your site and its users.

Think of it from a visitor’s perspective. If you knew a business had experienced multiple breaches in the past, you probably wouldn’t feel that confident about giving it your credit card details.

In fact, 84% of website visitors would abandon a purchase if they felt their data was going to be sent over an insecure connection. Their fears aren’t unfounded as, perhaps unsurprisingly, 95% of attacks happen as a result of human error.

Although this figure is worrying, it does mean that most major security concerns can easily be avoided. There are numerous ways to do this, but as a WordPress user, the best method is typically via a plugin.

5 Top Security Plugins for Your WordPress Website

With the above in mind, we’ve rounded up five of the best security-focused plugins that will help to protect your WordPress website. Let’s begin from the top!

1. Jetpack

The Jetpack plugin for WordPress.

To kick things off, we have Jetpack. This plugin is best known for its Search Engine Optimization (SEO) tools, and range of included themes. However, it also comes with a whole host of security-boosting features, including:

  • Downtime monitoring
  • Security scanning
  • Spam protection
  • Plugin updates
  • The Protect module

The basic Jetpack plan is free, although it has limited capabilities. Premium plans start at just $3 a month – and several of the more advanced security features will require additional payments.

2. Wordfence

The Wordfence security plugin for WordPress.

Wordfence is another well-known option. In fact, it’s probably the most popular WordPress firewall and security scanner on the market. The plugin boasts over 3 million active installations, and with so many available features, it’s not hard to see why. They include:

  • Leaked password protection
  • Advanced manual blocking
  • Source code verification to repair damaged files
  • Country blocking

Free versions of the plugin are available, while the paid option will offer a greater range of functions. The cost of Wordfence Premium will depend on the number of sites you wish to protect, but it’s relatively budget-friendly when you consider the included tools. Licenses start at $99 per year.

3. Sucuri Security

The Sucuri Security WordPress plugin.

The Sucuri Security plugin is powered by Sucuri Inc. – a globally-recognized authority on WordPress website security. What sets Sucuri apart is the fact that it provides a slightly different set of tools than its competition, including:

  • Malware monitoring
  • File integrity scans
  • Regular activity logs
  • Blacklist monitoring
  • Post-hack security actions

Plus, the plugin itself is completely free. This makes it accessible to all website owners, regardless of their budgets. Paid plans with additional functionality are also available, and start at $199.99 per year per site.

4.  iThemes Security

Previously known as Better WP Security, the iThemes Security plugin is a particularly impressive way to protect your WordPress site. It includes over 30 security-enhancing features, including but not limited to:

  • WordPress ‘brute force’ protection
  • File change detection
  • Strong password enforcement
  • Regular database backups
  • An ‘away’ mode to lock out users during certain times

It’s important to note that most of the more useful tools are only available on the iThemes Security Pro upgrade. It costs just $80 per year, so the investment will be more than worth your while.

5. Google Authenticator

The Google Authenticator WordPress plugin.

On the surface, it probably doesn’t make much sense to install a plugin that contains only one security feature. However, in some cases it’s necessary. Despite their expansive features, many security plugins fail to include two-factor authentication.

With the Google Authenticator plugin, you’ll be able to add this capability to your site in minutes. Two-factor authentication is important, as a lot of hacking attempts start at the login stage.

Put simply, when anyone attempts to log in to your site, they will need to supply both a password and a secondary type of authentication. This typically takes the form of a push notification to your phone or email address.

Installing this feature will make it much harder for outside sources to access your WordPress website. This plugin is also completely free, and the interface makes it relatively easy to navigate.

Conclusion

It’s probably fair to say that security is one of the most essential parts of any WordPress website. Failing to properly secure your site could result in numerous issues, so it’s important to ensure that it’s fully protected.

In this post, we highlighted five of the must-have security plugins for your WordPress website:

  1. Jetpack: Made by the people from WordPress.com, Jetpack is packed with additional security features.
  2. Wordfence: Wordfence is one of the most relied-upon companies in WordPress security, so it’s a great option for any site.
  3. Sucuri Security: This plugin makes it easy to implement a Web Application Firewall (WAF), which blocks attacks and malware.
  4. iThemes Security: With over 30 additional features, iThemes Security will help to prevent hacks and unwanted intruders.
  5. Google Authenticator: Google Authenticator will enable two-factor authentication, making your site harder for outsiders to access.

Do you have any further questions about website security? Let us know in the comments section below!

4 Commonly-Believed Myths About WordPress (And Why They’re Wrong)

WordPress is one of the most popular website-building platforms in the world – meaning that lots of people who’ve never used it before have still heard about it. Although this can be a positive thing in many ways, it has also resulted in the circulation of several myths.

Although (like all platforms) WordPress isn’t without its faults, a lot of the more negative beliefs about it are simply untrue. WordPress is a powerful platform that can offer you numerous opportunities, so it’s important not to let the opinions of a few people cloud your judgement.

In this post, we’ll discuss some of the most commonly-believed ‘facts’ about WordPress, and explain why they’re actually incorrect. Let’s get started!

Why WordPress Myths Are Particularly Common

When deciding which website-building software to use, it’s likely that your first thought will be WordPress – and for good reason. WordPress powers over one-third of the web, and more than 60 million people have used it to create their websites, stores, and blogs.

In short, WordPress is incredibly well known. This has led to a vibrant online community, and plenty of useful themes and plugins you can use to expand your site. It’s also meant that some people have tried WordPress and not liked it, or made assumptions about it without firsthand experience.

Of course, everyone is entitled to their opinion, and negative feedback presents a good opportunity for improvement. However, it’s important to judge a platform like WordPress based on how it actually works, and what its real strengths and weaknesses are.

4 Commonly-Believed Myths About WordPress (And Why They’re Wrong)

WordPress is popular for a reason. When used effectively, it can be an incredibly beneficial platform. Still, some are turned away from it based on myths and misconceptions. Below, we’ll look at four of the most common beliefs about WordPress that are worth being debunked.

1. WordPress Is Difficult to Use

This is perhaps the most commonly-circulated of all WordPress myths. The platform has gained a reputation in some circles for being tricky to use – especially when compared to simpler ‘drag-and-drop’ builders like Wix and Squarespace.

Although the ins and outs of WordPress may take a little time to learn, it isn’t inherently difficult to use. In fact, WordPress was actually created with beginners in mind. This is in contrast to other popular CMSs, such as Joomla and Drupal, which are less friendly to newcomers.

WordPress offers a user-friendly dashboard, and easily-accessible settings. It only takes a few minutes to set up a new site and start creating content. Plus, most of the additional features you’ll require can be added by installing plugins and themes, so you don’t need to know a thing about code.

What’s more, if you do have questions, WordPress comes with a friendly community of helpful users that are always on hand to talk you through any issues. The WordPress Codex is also an invaluable resource, as are the many WordPress blogs, courses, and tutorials around the web.

2. WordPress Only Benefits Bloggers and Smaller Sites

Although this belief is ultimately false, it is based on a kernel of truth. WordPress was first developed as a blogging platform, and most of its primary features were created with this purpose in mind.

However, the platform has changed a lot since its inception. Today, it’s used for all manner of websites – from business pages to online portfolios. E-commerce stores are also particularly common. This versatility is due, in part, to the wide range of available plugins and themes.

Many people also believe that WordPress is only suited to smaller sites, which don’t receive much traffic. However, frequent updates mean that WordPress is adapted to perform smoothly under pressure. So if you’re looking to grow your site, WordPress will be more than able to keep up.

3. WordPress Comes With a High Security Risk

Like any other platform, WordPress is no stranger to security risks. There have been several highly-publicized attacks that have hit WordPress sites specifically, and some question the stability of open-source software.

After all, using open-source software means that anyone can access the platform’s source code. This can make it easier to hack. The popularity of the platform can also make it a prime target for malicious software. Despite all of that, WordPress remains a safe and secure platform. It’s designed by a large team that is constantly looking to improve security, and new updates are frequently released to address the latest threats.

Plus, you’ll find numerous security-focused plugins that will add further protection to your site. Jetpack is particularly popular, and its premium plans include malware scanning, automated daily backups, and spam protection. Sucuri Security is another useful option if you’re looking for additional website-securing features.

4. WordPress Sites All Look the Same

This myth has become more common since the introduction of the block editor, although it has always been out there. Many people, including those that are familiar with the platform, believe that WordPress sites all look the same.

This is largely because a lot of sites use the default themes that come pre-installed with the platform. While this can result in a plethora of cookie-cutter sites, it’s important to note that there are tens of thousands of alternative themes available, many of which are free.

Therefore, you can add a more unique style to your site with ease. What’s more, most themes will offer plenty of additional customization options, to help you shape your site in whatever way you like. You can also find premium themes via sites like ThemeIsle and ThemeForest.

You can even use page builder plugins like Elementor and Beaver Builder to customize your site further. Of course, you’re also able to use code to create a completely unique site (or hire someone else to do it for you).

Conclusion

WordPress has grown dramatically in size since its release. Although this can be a good thing, it does mean that misconceptions have become commonplace. It’s important to use WordPress yourself before judging it, as it can be an incredibly beneficial tool

In this post, we explored (and debunked) some of the myths that are commonly circulated about WordPress. We learned that:

  1. WordPress is easy to use, even for beginners.
  2. You can create all types and sizes of websites.
  3. While no platform is perfect, WordPress is remarkably secure.
  4. Your WordPress site can easily look unique, with the right theme and a little tweaking.

Do you have any further questions about using WordPress? Let us know in the comments section below!

4 Ways to Integrate Social Media With WordPress

Social media likely plays a big role in the day-to-day operation of your online business. Your brand’s social channels are where you can market products, handle customer queries, and post engaging content. Therefore, it’s also important to account for them in your website’s design.

Featuring your social media channels on your site (and vice versa) can greatly boost their visibility, while also increasing the likelihood of audience engagement. Fortunately, there are numerous ways to integrate social media into your WordPress site easily.

In this post, we’ll explore some of your best options for tying together your social platforms and website. Let’s get started!

Why You Should Consider Integrating Social Media With WordPress

Social media has cemented its place in the tool set of any website owner. It has many potential applications, although it’s most commonly used as a marketing tool, or as a place to provide customer service. This means that many brands choose to spend a lot of time and resources on their social channels.

Although this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s important not to forget about your website. Your site and your social media profiles are completely different entities, even if you use largely the same content on both. This means they often need to be managed separately, which can lead to a lot of work.

By integrating the two whenever possible, you can more effectively manage both a strong social media presence and a top-quality WordPress website. Some of the benefits to integrating social media with your site include:

  • Easier access to social sharing. Featuring your social channels on your website will make it easier for visitors to share your content.
  • Access to a larger audience. An increase in social sharing will mean that your content goes on to reach a new, wider audience.
  • Better engagement. Integration also makes it much easier for users to follow you on social media platforms. This gives you additional opportunities to interact with your visitors.

Effective integration will also mean that the traffic your business generates can flow smoothly from platform to platform. Your site’s visitors will be able to find your social platforms with ease – and your social media followers will be directed towards your site in turn.

4 Ways to Integrate Social Media With WordPress

With all of the above in mind, let’s explore four of the best ways you can integrate your social channels with your WordPress site.

1. Add Social Sharing and Follow Buttons to Your Pages

‘Social sharing buttons’ let visitors share your website’s content on their own social media accounts, without leaving the page they’re on. These buttons have become a commonly-used feature, and can be included on pages and posts of all kinds:

Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn social sharing buttons.

Making your content easier to share provides you with an opportunity to reach much larger audiences. This is a huge benefit when you’re looking to raise brand awareness and drive new traffic to your site. You can even add ‘follow’ buttons as well, offering visitors a quick and simple way to follow your website’s social media accounts.

Fortunately, there are many ways to set up both social sharing and follow buttons, with just a few clicks. Your best bet is to pick up a dedicated plugin, such as WP Social Sharing.

2. Include a Social Login Option

Adding a social login option to your site will enable users to register for accounts using their social media profiles. This greatly streamlines the registration process – encouraging more people to sign up:

An example of a social login option on a website.

In fact, a study by WebHostingBuzz found that 86% of people report finding the need to create new accounts on each website frustrating. A further 77% say that social logins are “a good solution that should be offered by any site”.

Including this feature on your site is simple – particularly when you’re using a plugin like Nextend Social Login. With this plugin (and others like it), you’ll also be able to gather data about your audience through the login form, including their email addresses, locations, demographics, and more.

3. Auto-Publish Content to Your Social Media Platforms

Although it’s important to encourage your audience to share your content, it’s also vital to share it yourself. Publishing your site’s content on your own social media accounts will help you increase its visibility.

This can enable you to establish a connection between your website and social channels. By sharing interesting posts, articles, and media, you’ll let your social audience know that it’s worth their time to visit your website as well:

An Affiliate Royale blog post shared on Twitter.

Of course, depending on how many platforms you’re present on, sharing every post to social media can be time-consuming. Online services such as IFTTT are a great way to speed up the process, as are automation plugins like Revive Old Posts.

4. Create a Social Stream for Your Website

A ‘social stream’, often referred to as a ‘lifestream’, is a single series of updates from across your various social media platforms. It posts the content you create for those channels directly onto your WordPress site – including images, videos, and even any customer interactions.

Including a social stream on your site makes it easier for visitors to engage with your content, while also encouraging them to follow your profiles. In addition, it enables you to display your social content in a more aesthetically-pleasing and organized way:

An example of a social stream on a website.

As a WordPress user, implementing a dedicated plugin is once again the most effective solution. The Flow-Flow Social Stream plugin is a particularly powerful example, as you can connect any number of accounts to it, from any social networks you like.

Conclusion

The work you put into your social media channels is vital, yet it’s important to update your website just as frequently. By integrating the two platforms, you can ensure that both get the attention they need to thrive – while also boosting the overall visibility of your content.

In this post, we’ve explored four of the ways you can integrate your social media channels with your WordPress site:

  1. Add social sharing and follow buttons to boost interaction.
  2. Implement a social login option.
  3. Auto-publish content to your social media platforms.
  4. Create an aesthetically-pleasing social stream for your website.

Do you have any further questions about social media integration in WordPress? Let us know in the comments section below!

3 Reasons You Should Update Your Affiliate Blog Regularly

Given the hustle running a website takes, it can be tempting to skip a couple of posts in your schedule from time to time. However, for affiliate websites, it’s important to maintain a regular posting schedule, as there’s usually a correlation between traffic and revenue. If you neglect your blog, this can tank your hits over time, which in turn limits your potential income.

Fortunately, the opposite is also true. Once you develop a consistent posting strategy, your site may start receiving more hits. There are a number of reasons for this, including search engines favoring fresh content, and increased audience engagement as visitors check back for your updates.

This article will go over three reasons why regular updates are important to your blog. We’ll also explain the impact these updates have on your marketability as an affiliate blogger. Let’s get moving!

What Regular Updates Mean for Your Affiliate Site

In a nutshell, regular updates is a simple concept. It simply means posting consistently, at a frequency set by you. It doesn’t have to mean posting every single day, or even every other day. Of course, you can define a schedule that works for you, and even adjust it down the line as needed.

Some bloggers will post once a day, or even multiple times per day. However, if you’re a one-person band or a small team, daily blog posts can quickly get overwhelming. Brandon Stanton (creator of popular blog Humans of New York), recently spoke about the burnout he felt after setting too strict of a schedule. The most important thing is to pick something you can stick to.

Regular updates can provide a myriad of benefits. We’ll go over why consistency is important next.

3 Reasons You Should Update Your Affiliate Blog Regularly

There’s no surefire way to attract traffic to your blog (although paid traffic sources are an excellent place to start!). However, the cumulative effect of regular updates is undeniable. If you provide quality content and post regularly, you’ll give your visitors a reason to consistently check your site.

Why are regular posts so important? There are many reasons, but here are some of the most important for your affiliate site!

1. Regular Blog Updates Can Improve Your SEO

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is important for increasing your website’s stats. Organic search traffic is an excellent way to drive up your site’s page stats. However, unless you’re in the top page of Google search results, you’re missing out on over a quarter of all organic search traffic as most never make it past the first page.

Regular posts can improve your site’s “freshness score”, which search engines use to rank content. This means you may show up higher in search engines, and receive more organic search traffic. Search engines especially look for content that’s currently relevant, such as posts relating to currently trending social media topics, or those appearing in news articles.

Make sure to also keep your content relevant to your audience. For example, provide practical tips your readers can use, and write about your topics in an informative and engaging way. Google also includes engagement metrics, like how long users stay on the page – also called “dwell time.” If readers relate to the content you provide, they’ll be likelier to finish reading to the end, which will increase your dwell time and boost your SEO.

2. Consistent Publishing Can Increase Audience Engagement

Regular blog posts can also encourage visitors who like your content to check back frequently, creating an engaged and loyal audience. To give you an example of how effective scheduled updates can be, look to television. Pop quiz – what night does your favorite TV show air? (Even if you DVR, we bet you still know this!)

If you’re looking forward to something, you want to know when you can expect the next installment. Blogs are no different. What’s more, we’d all rather watch a new episode than a rerun. If your client checks your blog and finds the same content as last week, they’re less likely to return.

Create valuable content at least once a week, and your visitors may check your site more often, improving your engagement metrics. Plus, if you have many high quality posts in your archives, visitors may be tempted to scroll through your archives and spend even more time on your site. This is key to boosting your influence and developing a loyal customer base.

3. Updating Regularly Proves You’re Serious

Regular updates are especially important if you have a new site. No one will take you seriously if your site only has a handful of published posts. It takes time for your audience to discover your blog and become loyal readers. For example, it took travel blog Everywhereist two years of regular updates before it cracked 100 visits a day.

As you can expect, affiliate merchants may not want to get involved with a site that looks new or doesn’t yet have much traffic. As an affiliate, your biggest strengths are your influence and page metrics. If you have regular posts going back six months, it shows you take your work, and your blog, seriously. This cultivates an attitude that while traffic may be lean now, you’re in it for the long haul, and are trying to build a long-term viable project.

Tips on How to Implement Regular Updates

So now we know the impact of regular updates, let’s talk about advice for scheduling content. In creating a posting schedule, you want to make sure to strike a balance between quantity and quality. It’s far more important to output one meaningful blog post a week than seven rushed, sloppy ones.

The most important thing is to set a regular schedule – say, posting once a week on Tuesdays. Remember, you can always start out at a low frequency, increasing it if your site picks up and either your budget allows for an additional writer, or you can devote more time to the blog. This is far preferable to setting too high of a bar, then burning out.

Once you have a schedule, there are techniques you can use to maintain it. If you’re having trouble with consistency, try following these three easy steps:

  1. Create an editorial calendar to organize and plan out your topics and schedule.
  2. Use the Pomodoro technique to build short, focused blog-writing sessions into your day.
  3. Take advantage of the WordPress post scheduler to put your posting on autopilot. You could schedule the next month’s content in an hour.

These are simple suggestions that can make a big difference, so putting them to work is a great first step.

Conclusion

Simply put, regular updates are key to running a successful affiliate website. Updating consistently regardless of your reader numbers can help keep you motivated, and give your site a professional appearance with populated archives. Even if you have a steady flow of traffic, a lack of regular updates can stall your growth, or even drive your stats down.

Some of the benefits of regular posting include:

  1. Improved SEO.
  2. Audience engagement.
  3. A reputation that you’re a long-term and viable business prospect.

Do you have any questions about updating your affiliate blog regularly? Let us know in the comments section below!

How the GDPR Affects Your Affiliate Program

By now, you’ve probably heard about the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which recently went into effect. It controls how websites collect and store data from visitors in the European Union (EU). It’s important to understand how the GDPR affects your affiliate site, since breaching it could cost you – even if you’re not located in the EU.

Luckily, there are tools in place to help you understand and comply with the GDPR. WordPress, for example, has added built-in tools to make key aspects of GDPR compliance simpler. Making sure your affiliate site is in line with this new regulation might take a little time, but it doesn’t have to be a chore.

In this article, we’ll explain what the GDPR is all about, and talk about how you can comply with it. Let’s get to work!

A Brief Primer on the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a new law in the European Union (EU). It was passed in 2016, but just recently went into effect in May 2018. In a nutshell, it regulates the ways in which websites can collect your personal data.

Essentially, if websites collect data, they must display a disclosure of this fact to EU residents, even if the website itself is not located in the EU. That means even websites based entirely in the United States will be affected by this, as long as there’s a chance they’ll attract the occasional EU-based visitor.

What’s more, breaching the GDPR can carry a fine of up to 4% of your annual turnover or 20 million euros, whichever is higher. This may leave you wondering what the solution is. To help you get started, let’s talk about how you’ll need to comply with the GDPR.

What the GDPR Means for You

As a website owner, you have to pay attention to the GDPR regulations. The GDPR states that any company collecting data from EU citizens must comply with the law, no matter where that company is based. Since websites are always collecting some amount of data by default, this means that the GDPR affects your affiliate site.

The GDPR outlines strict requirements. For example, you must adhere to the following key rules:

  • Consent. Obtain informed consent from your visitors. This means explaining what type of data you collect in clear, easy-to-understand language, and having visitors opt in to that collection.
  • Right to access. Your affiliates and other website visitors have the right to request any data of theirs that you have been storing. This means that you must be aware of where your website stores data, even if you use a third-party service.
  • Right to be forgotten. If a visitor withdraws their consent, you must delete any personal data of theirs that you’ve stored.
  • Breach policy. You must develop a plan of action in case of a data breach, which includes notifying all affected parties quickly.

Essentially, you’ll need to make sure the data you collect is stored safely, and ensure that users are aware of what you’re doing. This is just a snapshot of what the GDPR involves, of course. So we recommend that you take the time to read through the whole thing, in order to get a better sense for how it will affect you.

How Affiliate Marketers Can Comply With the GDPR

Before we wrap up, let’s talk a little more about what you need to do to ensure GDPR compliance. Just as a disclaimer, we’re not lawyers, and this isn’t a complete guide to compliance. Instead, these are just some helpful suggestions to get you started.

To bring your website in line with the new regulations, you’ll want to:

  • Give visitors the chance to opt in or out of data collection. If you collect any kind of personal data from your website visitors, you must let them know with a clear opt-in placed prominently on your website. At minimum, even if you haven’t set up any specific data collection features, your website is likely collecting ‘cookies’. This is especially true if your affiliate site uses third party advertisements or processes credit card information. You can add an opt-in checkbox to your WordPress site with the WP GDPR Compliance plugin.
  • Display a clear privacy policy. Your website must feature a clearly-written privacy policy detailing what type of data you collect, and how you use it. The current version of WordPress enables you to generate a privacy policy in your admin dashboard under Settings > Privacy. Make sure to update the template with details specific to your site.
  • Make sure you’re storing affiliate data securely. You need to know exactly what you’re collecting from affiliates, protect it from harm, and be able to provide a copy of it or delete it if necessary. So make sure you’re storing all data collected in a secure way, such as through a third-party cloud storage service.
  • Create a plan to handle breaches. No matter what steps you take to protect your site’s data, nothing is 100% effective. Therefore, you’ll need to create a plan for what to do in the event of a data breach. For example, if your affiliate site collects credit card information, how would you inform any users whose information may have been affected? What authorities would you reach out to?

There is also a website with GDPR-compliance language and tools you can use on your site. It includes regular webinars that will keep you up to date as regulations change in the future, and live Q&As where you can ask questions. You can also find plenty of handy GDPR compliance guides online.

Conclusion

GDPR breaches can carry a hefty fine, and be damaging to your reputation. It’s important to stay on top of the new rules, therefore, and make sure your affiliate site complies with all of them.

To do that, you’ll want to (at a minimum):

  1. Include a clear opt-in checkbox.
  2. Display a privacy policy written in simple, clear language.
  3. Make sure you’re storing affiliate data securely.
  4. Develop a plan for what you would do in the event of a data breach.

Do you have any other questions about the GDPR regulations? Let us know in the comments section below!

Black Hat SEO: What It Is and How It Can Hurt Your Affiliate Site

The more traffic on your affiliate site, the better. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) can help boost your site’s page rankings, and attract more visitors. However, search engines are also designed to punish sites using specific types of SEO tactics.

Luckily, there are clear guidelines you can follow to avoid using these ‘black hat’ SEO techniques. This will ensure that your site is not being pushed down in the rankings by factors within your control, and can help you attract a wider audience to your affiliate website.

This article will go over what black hat SEO is, discuss the factors search engines use to decide whether or not your content is ‘spammy,’ and explain how you can avoid any negative tactics you might be using unintentionally. Let’s get started!

A Primer on Black Hat Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

It’s important to understand ‘black hat’ Search Engine Optimization (SEO), before you can learn how to avoid it. The term itself originated with the black hats villains often wore in old movies, and is meant to signify techniques one might use to ‘cheat’ the system.

One example of a black hat SEO tactic would be intentionally overloading your text with highly-searched keywords in an attempt to drive lots of traffic to your site, a practice known as ‘keyword stuffing’. This generally creates hard-to-read, unnatural content that’s not very valuable to readers.

In contrast, more genuine uses of SEO techniques are referred to as ‘white hat’. The white hat alternative to keyword stuffing would be to write text primarily focused on what’s important to your readers, working in keywords only when it is natural to do so.

How Search Engines Judge Your Content

You might be wondering where and how search engines draw the line between black hat and white hat SEO. The primary difference between the two is in the value you’re adding for your visitors. SEO favors fresh, original content. On the other hand, it punishes tactics that involve scamming the system, trying to boost page rankings without necessarily offering additional value.

That isn’t to say that black hat SEO is always intended as malicious. You may be using some of these techniques already, without being aware of it. Whatever your motives, however, you’ll want to learn about and avoid black hat tactics, as they will usually lower your rankings. In turn, that means viewers will be less likely to find your site via organic searches, which can cause your page views (and affiliate sales) to drop.

3 Black Hat Tactics You Might Be Using (And How to Avoid Them)

Now that we’ve covered why black hat SEO is undesirable, let’s get a little more practical. In general, to avoid black hat SEO, you should focus as much on quality as you do on optimization. More specifically, however, here are three of the most common SEO mistakes to avoid.

1. Keyword Stuffing

We briefly touched on keyword stuffing already. This is the practice of overusing keywords, especially when they’re not relevant to your content. In turn, keywords are commonly searched-for words or phrases, which you can add to your site to help search engines figure out what your content is all about.

Search engines detect keyword stuffing by finding frequently-repeated words or phrases, or lists of keywords without any context at all. When you abuse keywords this way, it creates bloated text that’s hard to read and sounds unnatural. Worse, if you use keywords that aren’t related to your text, you may be leading your visitors towards content they weren’t looking for, decreasing its relevance.

You can avoid keyword stuffing by focusing on writing text in a natural way, and only mentioning keywords when they fit in organically. You also want to provide valuable content. For example, if you were selling a 100% silk sweater, it’s not enough to simply repeat the phrase “100% silk sweater” over and over again.

Instead, you might want to write a description about the organic, eco-friendly conditions the silk worms were raised in, or a blog post about outfit pairings that are cute for spring, and work in mentions of the sweater as relevant. Ultimately, content comes first – and then keywords.

2. Abusing Anchor Text

Another tactic you’ll want to watch out for is overusing anchor text. Anchor text is the word or phrase a link is attached to, and can be beneficial in link building – an important part of the SEO process.

If you are writing an article, and it touches on content you’ve already written on your site, it’s useful to post a select number of links back to that content. Links can also be used to point towards external sites, and even for advertisements.

However, there are right and wrong ways to use links on your site. For example, behavior that’s interpreted as spammy includes creating many links containing the exact same anchor text. Stuffing your text with similar links can tank your site’s SEO, just as with keywords.

What’s more, as an affiliate site, your reputation is paramount. If your site looks spammy, businesses and affiliates may not want to be associated with your brand. Having an overabundance of links to low-quality content can lower your brand’s reputation, and its overall influence.

You can avoid this black hat tactic by focusing on only including links where relevant, and pointing towards high-quality sources. For each link you add, think to yourself – will this create value for my visitors and/or affiliates? In addition, make sure to vary your anchor text, rather than using the same phrases over and over again.

3. Copied Content

Finally, copied content is another SEO killer. Remember back in school when you needed to produce original work or risk expulsion? Duplicate content must be avoided here as well, as it can lower your SEO rankings significantly.

Some website owners will copy text exactly from other sites, which is obviously a bad idea. However, even if you’re not doing that, search engine algorithms might still see your site as copied content. For example, if it has multiple pages that contain the same or similar text, they may show up as duplicates. This can happen if you have one copy of your website with the www extension and one without, or if you have a mobile version of your site and another version for desktops.

To avoid this, one solution is to use canonical links to tell search engines when you have multiple versions of the same content on your own website. In other words, this is a way to let search engines know you’ve intentionally created duplicate versions of pages, as for a mobile site, so that it isn’t assumed to be a black hat tactic.

Conclusion

Using strong SEO techniques is vital to the success of your affiliate program. The lower your SEO is, the less likely it will be that anyone sees your affiliate site’s content. At the same time, you can overdo your efforts in this area.

Fortunately, you can easily avoid the most common black hat SEO tactics. To recap, you’ll want to:

  1. Use keywords only where relevant and natural.
  2. Incorporate links strategically, and don’t repeat the same anchor text ad nauseam.
  3. Avoid duplicate content, or indicate clearly when it’s been created for a purpose.

Do you have any other questions about how to stay away from black hat SEO? Let us know in the comments section below!

5 Tools to Help You Create Banner Images for Your Affiliate Ads

Once you have a roster of affiliate partners who are ready to host ads for your business, the next step is to create banner images for them to display on their sites. However, working with a professional designer can get pricey.

Fortunately, there’s a wide array of tools available to help you out. Creating your own images gives you the ability to change up your banner ads periodically, or to personalize them for each of your affiliates – without the expense of hiring a designer.

This article will go over five tools you can use to create your own banner images. Let’s get going!

The Importance of Affiliate Banner Ads

First, let’s briefly go over what banner ads are and why you might want to use them instead of text ads. Banner ads are vertical or horizontal images, usually placed on either the top, bottom, or right-hand side of a website:

An example of a banner ad.

They can be much more eye-catching than text-based ads would be in the same location. Also, people generally process information more quickly from images. This means that even a quick glance at a banner ad can tell visitors all they need to know – and if they’re interested, they’ll click through.

You can create and supply banner ads to your affiliates using Affiliate Royale. However, if you do use a banner ad, you’ll want to take the time to design one that really stands out.

5 Tools to Help You Create Banner Images for Your Affiliate Ads

In the past, we’ve gone over the basics of how to design effective banner ads. However, actually creating those banners can be a challenge.

Fortunately, you don’t need to be Picasso to create a stunning banner yourself. To help you get started, let’s look at five tools you can use.

1. Google Web Designer

The Google Web Designer tool.

Google Web Designer is a desktop app that enables you to create beautiful HTML and CSS designs – no coding necessary. It’s perfect for technically-minded designers who can navigate a slightly more complex interface.

Key Features:

  • Google Web Designer includes a visual editor that automatically generates code.
  • It can scale your designs with ease for mobile devices – so you don’t need to continually adjust the sizes for different platforms.
  • You can create simple images, or even complex and layered animations, both using a visual timeline.

Pricing: Google Web Designer is a completely free solution.

2. Fotor

The Fotor tool.

Fotor is an online and desktop app that comes with a number of attractive templates This means that if you’re a total design novice, you can start with one of these foundations, and then simply tweak it as needed.

Key Features:

  • Pared down, Fotor is one of the simplest layout tools you can use.
  • If you’re stuck for ideas, you can use Fotor’s extensive template library as inspiration.
  • You can also use Fotor’s filter library to customize your photos with Instagram-like filters. This can add greater contrast and interest to them. One study showed that photos with filters are more likely to be viewed and commented on than standard images.

Pricing: Fotor is a free tool, with a premium version starting at $3.33 per month. Some templates are premium-only, and this version is also ad-free.

3. Pixlr

The Pixlr tool.

Pixlr is a web-based photo editor with an interface similar to early versions of Photoshop. If you have experience with Photoshop, but want something simpler and free, this is an excellent alternative.

Key Features:

  • Pixlr uses a ‘layers’ window to display all the images on your canvas. Once you understand the concept of layers, it can make graphic design fairly easy.
  • This tool offers a wide range of image editing tools, including level adjustments.
  • You can save your edited Pixlr photos as transparent PNGs, and bring them into either Google Web Designer or Fotor to design a more complex layout.

Pricing: Pixlr is a free tool with a pro option that costs $5 per month. It includes a template library, and access to over 1,000 premium stock photos.

4. Canva

The Canva tool.

Canva is a web-based tool with streamlined simplicity, which is perfect for design newbies. You can use it to generate custom color palettes, font pairings, and more.

Key Features:

  • You can find two fonts that match nicely together using Canva’s Font Combinations tool.
  • If you upload a photo you like, Canva will automatically generate a color palette based on it, with hex codes for the web.
  • Canva’s pro version includes over 400,000 free stock photos, illustrations, and templates to choose from.

Pricing: This is another free solution with a premium tier. Pricing starts at $12.95 per month, per user. You can also try it free for 30 days, to get a feel for how the tool works.

5. Snappa

The Snappa tool.

Snappa is a web-based app, which offers powerful design tools in an easy-to-use format. Overall, it’s an excellent option for beginners.

Key Features:

  • You can control graphic effects in Snappa with an easy slider.
  • It includes over 500,000 images and over 70,000 graphics (such as illustrations and icons) that you can use.
  • There’s a one-click resizing option, with built-in presets and an option for custom sizing.

Pricing: Snappa offers a pared-down version for free. The pro version starts at $10 per month.

Conclusion

Creating banner images is simple, once you’re familiar with the tools available. Being able to quickly customize and edit a banner yourself can have huge payoffs in the long run, versus the expense of hiring a designer.

Let’s recap the five top tools you can use to do this:

  1. Google Web Designer: A desktop app with auto resizing for mobile devices.
  2. Fotor: A simple web or desktop app, with built-in templates available.
  3. Pixlr: A tool very similar to Photoshop, with easy image editing tools.
  4. Canva: A beginner-friendly solution with an extensive stock photo and illustration library.
  5. Snappa: A powerful web app with one-click resizing and a huge visual asset library.

Do you have any questions about creating effective banner images for your affiliate site? Let us know in the comments section below!

How to Run a Survey That Improves Your Affiliate Program (In 4 Steps)

Once you’ve been running your affiliate program for a while, it’s important to solicit feedback. Your affiliates have ‘eyes on the ground,’ after all, and can offer a useful outsider’s perspective on your ad campaign and how to improve it. Plus, this can also keep you abreast of your affiliates’ own needs.

Luckily, it’s easy to survey your existing affiliates using your WordPress website. Their input can help you understand how to improve participation rates and effectively recruit new members. What’s more, soliciting feedback is an excellent way of learning how to boost conversion rates.

In this article, we’ll go over how to write and distribute an affiliate survey for maximum effect. Let’s get started!

The Importance of Surveys to Your Affiliate Program

Surveys are beneficial in just about any situation where you need direct feedback from your audience. Instead of waiting for them to offer their feedback of their own volition, you can reach out and ask for exactly what you need.

As a perfect example, surveys can be of significant help to you when maintaining your affiliate program. They’re a way to see, at a glance, where you’re succeeding and where you’re struggling. Plus, since surveys are typically anonymous, you’re more likely to get honest feedback from affiliates than if you asked them individually.

An example of an affiliate survey.

In fact, surveys may even give you a chance to fix problems you weren’t aware of. If you include fields for affiliates to write in their own comments, they can anonymously submit concerns they may feel awkward bringing up face-to-face. You can use this information to improve your program, and to make your affiliates feel
 more valued and engaged.

How to Run a Survey That Improves Your Affiliate Program (In 4 Steps)

Now that we’ve addressed why surveys are important, let’s talk about how to implement one. While there are a number of ways to set up a successful affiliate survey, we’re going to walk you through one of the simplest and most effective methods. Plus, it’s also completely free!

Step 1: Determine Your Goals

Before you begin writing survey questions, take a moment to think about your overall goals. What outcome do you want from your survey, and what specific information do you want to find out?

For example, if you’ve been having trouble retaining or recruiting affiliates, you might want to focus on how you can make the deal more appealing to potential partners. On the other hand, if you have plenty of affiliates, but you’re seeing poor conversion rates, you might want to ask for their thoughts on your ads and your core audience’s needs.

Step 2: Create Targeted Questions

Once you have one or more primary goals, you’re ready to begin thinking about the survey itself. What you’ll want to do here is write a set of targeted questions that are based on your objectives.

For instance, let’s say you’re focused on improving affiliate retention. In that case, you might ask questions about where your program may be lacking, such as: “Is there any aspect of our affiliate program where you feel we could improve?”

While it’s important to get as much information as you can, you’ll also want to keep the survey brief. This can help to improve your response rate. If the survey is too long, affiliates might get bored and stop before completing it. In most cases, you’ll want to aim at keeping it around 5 to 10 minutes or less.

In addition, try to present questions with clickable options when possible, as well as optional fields for write-in responses. That way, if affiliates want to breeze through the survey quickly, they can so do. At the same time, the extra fields enable more dedicated respondents to elaborate on their answers.

Step 3: Draft the Survey in Google Forms

Now that you know what questions you want to ask, you’re ready to create the survey itself. To do that, Google Forms is a free and easy tool for anonymous survey submission. You can also choose to require a name and email if you’d rather know who your respondents are, although that may hinder their honesty.

The Google Forms website.
One benefit of Google Forms is that your survey can be embedded directly into your WordPress website, and/or emailed as a direct link. That way, you’re not tied to one platform, and you can send the survey to your email list if you have one. For more details on how to actually create your first survey (which is a quick and easy process), you can check out Google’s own documentation.

Step 4: Share the Survey with Your Affiliates

With your completed Google Form in hand, you’re finally ready to invite your affiliates to respond. As mentioned in the last step, you can either email affiliates a link to the Google Form, or embed it directly onto your WordPress site.

For best results, make sure to include a strong appeal to your affiliates, urging them to complete the survey. You can even include a prize, such as a raffle entry. If you’re willing to go the extra mile, a small monetary incentive can increase your response rates by up to 30%.

Conclusion

Creating a survey can help you keep abreast of your affiliates’ wants and needs, and ensure loyalty from the participants in your program. It also provides invaluable information about how to improve your program, in order to attract new affiliates your way.

To make sure your survey is as successful as possible, you can follow the process outlined above:

  1. Determine your goals.
  2. Create targeted questions.
  3. Draft the survey in Google Forms.
  4. Share the survey with your affiliates, as an email or embedded on your website.

Do you have any questions about what your affiliate survey should include? Let us know in the comments section below!

How You Can Use YouTube to Improve Your Affiliate Marketing

YouTube is one of the most visited sites on the internet – in fact, it’s second only to Google. It’s a perfect place to showcase your creativity. What you might not know is that it’s also a useful platform for increasing your affiliate profits.

Affiliate marketing on YouTube is a smart way to provide extra value to your audience, while earning revenue at the same time. While YouTube offers various built-in ways of monetizing your content, affiliate marketing gives you direct control over what products you promote and enables you to see more of the resulting profits.

In this article, we’ll discuss how affiliate marketing works on YouTube and why you might want to get involved. We’ll also show you how you can get started. Let’s jump right in!

The Benefits of Using YouTube for Affiliate Marketing

The YouTube home page.

With nearly 2 billion logged-in users every month, YouTube is the second most visited website in the world. This also makes it the second largest search engine on the web. In both cases, YouTube is only surpassed by Google (its parent company).

Not only does this make YouTube an excellent platform for communication and creativity, but it’s also a lucrative market for earning revenue through your content. YouTube itself enables you to monetize your videos by running ads before and during their run time. However, another way to earn money via your work is by incorporating affiliate links alongside your content.

Every time one of your viewers uses these links to buy something, you’ll earn a commission. This gives you a greater degree of control over what you promote, and lets you keep tabs on your results by tracking the links.

How You Can Use YouTube to Improve Your Affiliate Marketing (3 Key Tips)

Throughout the next few sections, we’re going to look at how you can use YouTube and affiliate marketing together, in order to earn more commissions and provide additional value to your viewers.

If you haven’t already, the first thing you’ll need to do is create a free YouTube channel. In order to get the most out of what we’ll be discussing, we also recommend that you apply for the YouTube Partner Program, which will give your channel access to more features and monetization opportunities. Then, you can get to work!

1. Create Relevant and Engaging Content

The first step is to make sure that you’re able to attract an audience. There’s not much point in promoting your affiliate links to non-existent viewers, after all. This is obviously easier said than done. However, a vital factor in any affiliate marketing campaign is making sure you can provide top-notch content.

The quality of your videos is what will encourage viewers to visit your channel and trust your advice (as is the case with your blog posts). Therefore, it’s important that you find the right niche, and produce videos that are relevant to the products or services you want to promote.

As one example, you could devote your channel largely to review videos, where you discuss and rate affiliate products. This will provide actual value to your viewers, and can help you grow your audience. Just make sure that along with being engaging, you provide an honest assessment of each item. This will help ensure that viewers trust your judgment when you present them with affiliate links.

2. Add Affiliate Links to Descriptions (And the Videos Themselves)

The easiest way to include affiliate links alongside your videos is simply to add them into your video descriptions. These appear underneath each video, and there is no limit to the number of links you can post within:

A video description on YouTube featuring a list of affiliate links.

It’s also smart to mention in these links in the videos themselves. This should make it more likely that viewers will take a moment to check out the descriptions.

If you’re a member of the YouTube Partner program, you can also incorporate links directly into your videos. YouTube offers a feature called end cards, which you can add to the last 20 seconds of each video. These cards can contain links both to other content on YouTube, and to external sites.

While end cards are available to all users, however, only Partners can add external links:

Warning message when adding an end card, saying that you need to be a YouTube Partner to include external links.

As such, if you want to get serious about using YouTube for your affiliate marketing, you should definitely consider applying for the program.

3. Be Honest and Disclose Your Affiliate Links

Transparency is vitally important in affiliate marketing. It ensures that your audience can trust you without feeling tricked, and it enables you to market honestly.

Therefore, you’ll always want to clearly label your affiliate links. We even recommend that you mention this aspect in your videos. For example, let’s say you’re reviewing a product for which you’ve provided affiliate links in the video description. You could mention that if the viewer wants to try the product for themselves, they can use the link in the description, and if they do they’ll be helping to support you (since you’ll get a small cut of the profits).

This makes the benefits of clicking on your links – both to yourself and to your viewers – readily apparent. Being honest about your opinions and goals will serve you and your audience well in the long term, as it establishes trust and loyalty.

Conclusion

Affiliate marketing can be a lucrative and rewarding way to monetize your creative content. With its enormous user base and many useful features, YouTube offers the perfect platform to spread your affiliate links, while remaining in control over your content’s quality.

In this article, we’ve discussed three crucial tips for getting started with affiliate marketing on YouTube. These include:

  1. Create relevant and engaging content.
  2. Add affiliate links to your descriptions and videos.
  3. Be honest, and disclose your affiliate links.

Do you have any questions about how to conduct affiliate marketing on YouTube? Let us know in the comments section below!

3 Ways to Create a Powerful Call To Action

Every affiliate site has an express purpose, one goal towards which you’re guiding visitors. Before they can reach this goal – the end of the sales funnel – they’ll need to complete a specific action. The key is getting them to take that final plunge.

This is where your Call To Action (CTA) comes into play. A CTA is a message you present to your audience that lets them know exactly what you’d like them to do. This could be completing a purchase, for example, or signing up for a membership.

In this article, we’ll discuss CTAs further, including how to create one that can help to increase your conversions. We’ll also cover some tips for making your CTA compelling and effective. Let’s go!

An Introduction to the Call To Action (CTA)

Campaign Monitor's call to action

Strategically-placed buttons or text can compel visitors to perform a specific action.

In simplest terms, a Call To Action (CTA) is a marketing device that’s used to prompt an immediate response from your audience. On affiliate sites, these are often used to encourage conversions (i.e. sales). As such, they can appear in blog posts (such as on a banner in the middle of the page) and on product pages (for instance, as a button with a text prompt).

Every online business uses a CTA in some way or another. After all, it’s simply a message that you use to encourage visitors to perform a specific action. This could be buying a product, joining a newsletter, or even just signing up for an account or membership.

To be effective, however, your CTAs must be both clear and compelling. You don’t want your visitors to have to guess at what you’d like them to do. Instead, you need to provide explicit instructions for their next steps, and encouragement to move forward.

3 Ways to Create a Powerful CTA for Your Website

Now we’ve covered the basics, let’s take a close look at how you can make your CTAs more powerful. In turn, this will make them more likely to be clicked on by visitors.

1. Make the Message Engaging and Persuasive

Netflix's compelling call to action

Netflix uses a compelling and straight-to-the point CTA to attract new subscribers.

If a powerful CTA is your goal, an engaging and persuasive message is a must. Doing so will require you to use the ‘right’ words to make the CTA effective. Of course, the phrasing you’ll need to use can vary depending on your audience and ultimate goal.

To get started, we recommend that you:

  • Make the benefit of your products or services clear. For example, you can offer a free trial (so visitors can test a product out for themselves), or highlight some positive customer testimonials.
  • Use powerful words and positive emotions. These choices will evoke good feelings in your visitors, which can compel them to click through to the next step.

Another option for making your message persuasive is to use specific terms rather than generic ones. Instead of “Try It Now”, for example, you can use CTA text such as “Click Here for Your 14-Day Free Trial”. This will give visitors a clearer sense of what they’ll get out of following your suggested action.

2. Choose the Right Colors

Aquaspresso's colorful call to action button

Aquaspresso’s use of yellow in its CTA ensures that the message stands out.

While the words you use are important, so too is the presentation. In fact, how your CTA button looks can have a drastic effect on its success. This is why you must choose the ‘right’ colors when designing a CTA.

However, what is the best color choice for one website may not be ideal for another. Since various colors have different connotations, you’ll need to spend time considering your goals, as well as the overall impression you want to present to your visitors.

Most importantly, you’ll want to:

  • Pick an emotion. For example, red is a solid option if you want to project a sense of urgency. However, if you’d rather promote a feeling of security for more reluctant buyers, blue is your best bet.
  • Consider contrast. You’ll also want to think about how the CTA’s colors will look next to the rest of your website. You need your CTA to stand out, which means you’ll want to use colors that contrast with the rest of your design.

Do keep in mind that there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to color selection. However, following the general guidelines above will get you off to a good start.

3. Display Your CTA in a Prominent Location

OfficeVibe's prominently placed call to action

Officevibe places its CTA at the top right of its website, a place that is seen by the majority of visitors.

Not only does the way your CTA look play a role in success, where it’s placed has a significant effect. This is because people usually read websites in an F-shaped pattern. In general, that means CTAs will perform best when placed at the very top of the page, or somewhere towards the middle.

However, there are other scanning patterns your visitors might follow, so it’s best to test and optimize your individual CTA’s placement. To do so, you can:

  • Use a heatmap. This kind of tool will help you to see which placements work best on your website, and will highlight where visitors tend to interact with your pages and posts most often.
  • Use CTAs sparingly. If you have multiple CTAs in close proximity, you may confuse your audience. Ideally, you should never have more than one CTA per page.

Don’t be afraid to test out different placements, as this will be the only way you can learn which locations are most successful on your website.

Conclusion

Having a powerful CTA is a key part of making your affiliate site profitable. If you can design a CTA that persuades people to complete the action you want, you’ll be in a strong position to increase your conversions and revenue.

In this article, we’ve discussed three ways you can create an effective CTA. These are:

  1. Make the message engaging and persuasive.
  2. Choose the right colors.
  3. Display your CTA in a prominent location.

Do you have any questions about how to power up your website’s CTAs? Let us know in the comments section below!