Building a website is certainly not as hard as it used to be. In fact, it can be done in less than a minute, and with just a few clicks. That of course will not create the next Facebook or a fancy-schmancy done-for-you finished product, but it will build the basic framework, and allow you to start writing content to get indexed in Google.
Writing content for your website is what you should concentrate on at this point, because people can forgive a bad-looking site if it has the information they want. I'll reiterate this point throughout these beginner lessons because it's a huge sticking point for newbies. Design is a secondary priority. Our #1 goal right now is to get the site built and start publishing content.
Assuming you have a domain and hosting already, let's get this site done in the next few minutes.
Build Your Affiliate Website Using WordPress
Building your affiliate website is going to be a bit like driving a car. Most of us don't really know how a car works. Most of us cannot fix our cars. We still use them every day, and they are an integral part of our lives.
Change The DNS At The Domain Registrar
Our first step is to change the DNS (Domain Name Servers) at our registrar. When someone types in yourwebsite.com it needs to point to the files on your hosting server. Confused yet? Doesn't matter. Just think of it as getting the domain connected to the hosting. Ready connect? Let's do it.
If you joined Wealthy Affiliate like I recommend in the previous lesson, you can skip this step. Everything is done in-house, and you should follow the training videos there.
If you have a separate host and registrar, first go to your HOST and ask them what your two nameservers are called. They'll usually look like this:
Once you figure out what your nameservers are called, head over to your domain registrar. I previously recommended Namecheap, so below is a video of how to change the DNS at Namecheap.
Navigate to the domain manager and select “Custom DNS”. If you don't know what your DNS (AKA nameservers) are, ask your host.
Once you did that, head on over to whatsmydns.net. Select “NS” from the dropdown menu, then type in your domain name and click Search. If you see red X's, your domain is not pointing to your host just yet. You may have to wait up to 48 hours, but most of the time it'll take just an hour or two to see green checks across the board. The video below shows this process in action.
This particular video is actually from about 9 years ago, when I was still using a Chinese computer, so you can see some Chinese language on the screen. Wow. Time flies!
Once your DNS is all green checks, you're ready to install WordPress. WordPress (WP) is THE most popular Content Management System (CMS) in the world. Hundreds of millions of websites use WordPress. It's simple to set up a basic site, but you can create some really incredible customizations either with custom coding or simply by installing “plugins”.
We'll dig into customization later. For now, we just need a basic WordPress install.
Installing WordPress is a simple process, but it's different for each host. Below is a video showing how to install the WordPress on a Hostgator hosting account. Most hosts will have the same cPanel setup, so start the video at 6:34 to see how cPanel works and how to get your website set up.
Here's the image version in case you can't watch the video, but it's an older style of cPanel.
Step 1) Log into cPanel
This is your cPanel login. Your login details, including the page where you need to log into cPanel should have been emailed to you by your host.
Step 2) Add a domain to your account
Inside cPanel, you may have to add a domain to your account. This doesn't mean you have to buy it! You already bought it at your registrar. This is basically telling your host that you have a domain somewhere else, and it's trying to connect to your hosting.
Choose “Addon Domains” from inside cPanel, then type in the name without the WWW part. Leave all other fields blank.
Step 3) Choose WordPress for your website builder
You may see an option for “Quick Install” or “Content Management System”. In this case, I found the WordPress blog install under the Site Software icon.
Step 4) Install WordPress
Fill in necessary information like the username and password you want. Don't choose “admin” as you username (it's very common, and hackable). Make sure your password is very secure. WordPress sites are very popular to hack. Make sure it's over 10 characters long, with a mix of upper case, lower case, numbers, and symbols.
Leave the installation URL blank and don't change anything about the database. This is technical stuff you don't need to customize.
In previous iterations of this tutorial I went into great detail about the ins-and-outs of setting up your website, and how to troubleshoot all types of problems. The truth is, your host will have a support system available to you and it's going to be much easier for you to ask them to help.
WordPress installs are very common, and they deal with helping newbies every day. If you chose my recommended hosts of KnownHost or Kinsta, they will definitely help you get set up properly and then you won't have to deal with this technical stuff until you build your next website.
Basic Design For WordPress
Once you're done building the site, you'll have a big, boring website with nothing on it except some default content and navigation? How do you turn this sucker in a money-making virtual ATM?
We'll get deep into the money stuff later. For now, there's just a few basic design stuff I want to cover.
A “theme” is like the skin to your website. It's the design element, which includes some functionality. Some themes will have some features, while others may not have those same features. For example, some themes have a customizable home page, while others do not, and they just show a list of your recent articles published.
Don't assume that “better looking” websites perform better. Simple websites can make fantastic incomes because people are hungry for accurate and entertaining information online. Information is the key element here.
Design can increase trust though, so it's definitely worth your time to learn how to customize your theme properly!
There are more than ten thousand themes available at zero cost to all WordPress users. There are also a huge number of premium themes which cost money. Prices range from $5 to about $100 and are usually a one-time fee.
There are many advantages to purchasing a theme as opposed to using a free one.
- better looking in general
- more functionality and customizability
- higher quality coding for faster load times
- consistent updates for security and compatibility with WordPress
- email support
- history of public questions and forums to browse
- more compatibility with plugins (see below)
My favorite theme maker is StudioPress. They make the theme you are looking at right now. Actually, they break their themes down into two parts, the framework and the child theme. Basically, the framework is like the core structure, and the child theme is the pretty stuff.
So if you want to get a sweet looking theme right off the bat, pick something simple from the StudioPress website and you can use this theme for the lifetime of your business. It'll cost you about $130 for the framework and child theme together. Each subsequent child theme purchase will be a bit cheaper since you don't need to buy the framework each time.
StudioPress themes are on the expensive side, but they are fast and slick. Can't afford it? No problem. Use a freebie for now, and you can always switch to something else later. It takes just a couple minutes to install a new theme.
“Plugins” are like add-ons that you can install on your website to add functionality. These functions could be visible to visitors, for example popups are usually done through a plugin. You can install things like live chat, forums, or social media buttons with a plugin.
Other functionality may not be visible to the visitor, but still is necessary. Examples of this could be a sitemap generator, caching system (to make your site load faster), or a search engine optimization plugin.
As with themes, there are tens of thousands of options. Many are free, but the best ones are paid. That being said, there is no single paid plugin that you would have to rely on to make money in affiliate marketing. You can earn a full time income online without ever having purchased a single plugin or theme.
Watch out with plugins! They change your website in some amazing ways, but too many plugins can slow down your website. Actually, a single badly coded plugin could slow down your website or create a security hole for someone to hack.
ALWAYS CHECK TO SEE THAT YOUR PLUGINS ARE UPDATED FREQUENTLY (within the last few weeks or months).
That means the developer should be actively working to update the plugin. Before you install it, the info page for each plugin will say when it was last updated.
There are only a few basic plugins you need:
- Technical SEO Plugin
- Image Optimization Plugin
- Caching Plugin
- Spam Blocker
You can get these for free from a number of developers, but the exact ones I use are (same order as above):
- All in One SEO Pack
- Ewww Image Optimizer
- W3 Total Cache
There really are endless kinds of things that plugins can do for your website. You'll learn about many of them as you grow your business.
Don't overwhelm yourself with adding a bunch of bells and whistles to your site. The best way to discover useful plugins is to think of something you'd like to do for your website, then do a Google search to see if a plugin can add that functionality.
For example, having a custom sidebar for specific pages of your website can help conversions by increasing the relevancy of ads to that page. So if I wanted to have that function, I could just search “different sidebar every page plugin”. What-do-you-know I found a plugin called Content Aware Sidebars that just exactly that thing!
WordPress Navigation & Functions
There are three main areas of your WP site you want to learn in the beginning:
Secondary priority sections would be:
Publishing content is going to be the core of your business because it's what drives traffic to your website. Traffic (people) is how you make affiliate sales.
To publish content, go to the “Posts” tab, then “Add New”.
The basic structure of your site can be customized using the Appearance tab. Each theme is different, so you may see a variety of new options as well. These options could be a unique design for your home page, extra widgets or menu spots, footers, and logo options.
I always tell people to start with a simple theme. All those fancy things you see on demo websites look nice, but there are many problems with them:
- they can be resource heavy and slow down your site
- there's a learning curve to these customizations which delays progress in other areas of your business
- many times they are ineffective at creating a better user experience or generating revenue
Most WordPress themes will basically look similar to my website you're currently looking at.
Your home page will by default, be your “blog roll”. The blog roll is where all your fresh posts are listed. You'll see an excerpt automatically generated for each article, then a visitor can click the content to read the full post.
Because you haven't published anything yet, your blog roll, and therefore homepage will be blank or have default content which you can delete. Here's my blog roll on my website. I have a bunch of extra stuff at top, which is a feature of my theme.
What Do Widgets Do?
Widgets are another functionality that varies from theme to theme.They are a way to display different types of information to visitors. You can add text, images, and links. Here are some examples of some very basic widgets that will be available for most themes
- search bar
- recent posts
- custom html
More advanced themes may have a specific widget area of the site, like the home page. For example, look at my home page. There are three “Home page Widgets”, and my blog roll is below that.
You can also add widget functionality by installing plugins. Yeah, WordPress really has a lot of ways to customize it, but if you are starting to feel overwhelmed, remember, you don't need any of it to make money online. A picture of yourself and a short bio in the sidebar is plenty to brand yourself and a human element to your content.
How To Publish An Article
WordPress is having a small crisis right now (2019) as they switch over from the “Classic” editor to a new interface called “Gutenberg”. Each has their own advantages and disadvantages. Gutenberg is the future, but so much historical documentation (YouTube videos, blog posts, etc) shows the Classic Editor.
I just mention this because when you're learning how to do basic things like publish articles, you may run into some versions of WordPress that look a bit different.
The basic functions are all the same, but some things may be a little different.
I prefer the classic, but I've got 10 years experience in WordPress so am one of those old guys that hates change. My advice is to use Gutenberg because the future is coming fast, and the Classic editor will supposedly be phased out eventually.
The basic anatomy of a blog post is simple.
For details of how to actually write an article, check out my post title How To Write A Basic Article For An Affiliate Website. It'll give you the rundown of how to outline, structure, and write your article. Plus, pay attention to how I write that article because you'll see that I use the exact strategies to write my own content.
- Main post title (h1) should contain your keyword
- You can just start writing your article here (minimum 1000 words per article)
- Alternatively, you can add individual “blocks” with specific functions
- Choose a category for your blog post (Create just 3-5 categories to start)
- Tags are like sub-categories (more on tags later)
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO) settings for the individual blog post
- Publish your article with the Publish/Update button
About WordPress “Blocks”
Blocks are like sections of your article. Each block has a different function. Commonly used blocks are text, image, custom html, bulleted list, and heading.
When you add the image block, it will ask you to upload an image or choose one from your media library (previously uploaded images). You can then customize the image data like title, description and caption. This will be important for SEO later.
Headings are also a simple, but important part of search engine optimization. The best way to use these is cascading from h2 to h5 from broad to specific. For example:
- How To Lose Weight Before A Wedding (h1 = Title)
- Introduction Content (P = paragraph, AKA normal text)
- 3 Ways To Lose Weight Fast (h2)
- Method #1 (h3)
- content content
- Method #2 (h3)
- content content
- Details About Method #2 (h4)
- content content
- Method #3 (h3)
Once you have at least 1000 words of content and a couple images, you're ready to publish! Just hit the publish button. If you are not ready to publish yet, click “Save Draft” and you can continue editing until you're ready. It's also possible to schedule a future date for publishing by clicking “Immediately”, then changing the publish date on the calendar that pops up. “Stick to the Front Page” makes a blog post sticky, meaning it will always remain at the top of your blog roll, even if you publish more recent content.
You are not going to master WordPress over night. My advice as always it to learn things as you go, and learn things as you need them. There are hundreds of thousands of tutorials online on how to get your website to do specific things.