If you're building affiliate websites using WordPress, you need a strong foundation to set your websites up for success.
On WordPress, that foundation is the plugins and theme that you choose (and your hosting, of course).
But there are 56,000+ plugins and 7,000+ themes at WordPress.org alone, so how do you dig through all of those options to find the tools that are going to make a difference?
That's what this post is about – we're going to share the most important foundational WordPress extensions that every single affiliate website needs.
The Best WordPress Theme/Plugins for Affiliate Websites.
In our opinion, the ideal tech stack for WordPress affiliate websites consists of the following:
- A performance-optimized and UX-optimized theme.
- An SEO plugin to help you rank.
- Performance plugins to make sure your site loads quickly.
- Design/layout plugins to create high-converting pages.
- A lead generation plugin to grow your list.
- A link management plugin to manage affiliate links.
- A backup plugin to keep your data safe.
Of course, your site might have specific needs that go beyond the basics on this list. This list is not the “only” plugins your WordPress affiliate website needs – it's just a solid foundation that every site needs. Once you have your strong foundation in place, you can add more features where necessary.
Let's go through each category…
Your WordPress theme is the bedrock of your site's foundation. It'll play a big role in how quickly your site loads, how nice it looks, and how good of a user experience it offers.
Basically, it's a big decision that you want to get right.
In terms of something that can help you nail all three parts, I think your best option is Astra.
First off, it's super lightweight at under 50KB, which will set you up for a fast-loading site. You can find a few more lightweight themes, but not many, and not any that give you the same level of flexibility.
Second, it's super flexible. In fact, it's so flexible that you'll forget it's under 50 KB and think that you accidentally installed one of those bloated monster themes.
There are two routes to customize your site:
- You can import a pre-built site from a huge library. These sites are built with either the native WordPress block editor or a few different page builder plugins.
- You can customize your site using heaps of options in the real-time Customizer.
The Astra theme itself is free and available at WordPress.org. The free theme is totally viable by itself, but I think most sites will want the premium add-on (which is actually a plugin).
The premium add-on unlocks the full array of customization options, as well as new features and integrations. It'll cost you $59.
SEO: The SEO Framework.
When it comes to WordPress SEO, most blog posts start and end with Yoast SEO.
Yoast SEO is certainly a viable option, but I think it maintains its position via inertia, not necessarily that it offers the best SEO plugin in 2020 and beyond.
Instead, most sites would be better suited with The SEO Framework. It offers all the important SEO features that WordPress affiliate marketing websites need in a much more lightweight package (and without constant dashboard nags).
Substitution Option: If you want a plugin with more features, like built-in support for tons of schema markup types, then Rank Math is another good option. It offers everything that Yoast SEO offers, plus a lot more.
Caching + Image Optimization: WP Rocket.
Page caching is one of the most important WordPress optimization tactics. Most quality managed WordPress hosts implement caching at a server level, in which case you don't need a caching plugin.
However, if you're on cheap shared hosting, your host probably doesn't set up caching for you, which means you absolutely do need a caching plugin.
The best option here is WP Rocket because:
- It's super simple to use.
- It implements a lot of other performance best practices that go beyond caching.
- You get access to premium support.
WP Rocket also has integrations with many popular managed hosting providers – so it can be a good option even if your host already implements caching.
WP Rocket costs $49 for use on a single site.
Free caching/performance alternative: WP Fastest Cache
Beyond caching, another big performance concern is your site's images.
Images comprise about 50% of the file size of the average website, so it's important to optimize them to keep your site loading quickly.
There are a number of popular options, but my personal favorite is ShortPixel because:
- It performs quite well in optimization tests.
- Its interface is simple and easy-to-use.
- The free tier works for small websites.
When you upload images, ShortPixel will automatically resize and compress them according to your specifications. If you want even more optimization goodness, you can consider ShortPixel Adaptive Images (a separate plugin) which also:
- Uses real-time optimization to deliver the best version of an image to each browser (e.g. users on smartphones will get a different image size vs someone on a 4K screen).
- Delivers images from a CDN.
ShortPixel offers 100 free credits per month. After that, paid plans start at ~$5.
Unlimited free alternative: Imigify (but it's not as good because the free version only supports lossless compression).
And if you are into graphics, check out Visme. This tool helps affiliates create engaging presentations, professional infographics, and other stunning visuals online. My graphic design skills are pretty weak, but I use Visme to create every featured image (see top of post). I'll even mess around with visual CTAs like this one…
Design/Layout: Block Plugins.
Prior to 2020, I would probably tell you to use a page builder plugin like Elementor if you want more control over the design and layout of your site. Page builders let you use a visual, drag-and-drop editor, which gives you some unique options for boosting the conversion rate on your site.
However, the new WordPress block editor now provides a viable option that will work for most affiliate sites in a much more lightweight package.
However, to get the most out of the block editor, you will want to add on some extra plugins that give you new features:
- Kadence Blocks – this plugin gives you a lot more flexibility over your content's layouts on all devices. A huge upgrade over the native Columns block.
- EditorsKit – this handy plugin makes a bunch of small tweaks to the block editor that can help you work more efficiently.
You can also find lots of plugins at WordPress.org that add new content blocks as needed. These are worth a search if you find yourself needing a specific design element.
If you still feel like you don't have enough design flexibility with the native WordPress block editor, you can upgrade to Elementor. However, be aware that you are trading away some performance in exchange for that extra flexibility.
Email List Building: Convert Pro.
If you're George Bluth Sr, there's always money in the banana stand. If you're an affiliate marketer, there's always money in your email list.
Google's love can come and go, but your email list is an evergreen asset that's always there.
My personal favorite list building plugin is Convert Pro. It comes from the same developer as the Astra theme. It's kind of like “OptinMonster but without the recurring SaaS-billing”. For a one-time payment, you get the following features on unlimited sites:
- Visual drag-and-drop builder
- Tons of email marketing service integrations
- Pre-built templates
- Lots of trigger rules, including exit intent
- Detailed targeting rules
- Analytics and A/B testing
ConvertPro is a very affordable option as well at $69 annually.
Free list building alternative: MailOptin
Affiliate Link Management: Pretty Links.
If you're building an affiliate marketing website, you're probably going to have affiliate links (if you don't – you might want to reconsider your strategy).
Early on, you can manage them manually. But once your site grows, you'll want a solution to help you manage those links (and easily swap them out if you ever need to update them, like when a merchant changes affiliate programs, which happens more than you'd think).
Personally, I slightly prefer Pretty Links, but you really won't go wrong with either because…yeah, it's kind of a monopoly. Pretty Links is not to be confused with Matt Pretti, an affiliate marketing legend, on and off the line.
Backup: UpdraftPlus (Or, Ideally, Your Host).
No matter what your site is about, you need to back it up regularly. Bad things happen – you can mess something up accidentally, your host could have a problem, a malicious actor could get access to your site.
Backups stop all of those situations from being catastrophic.
In an ideal world, your host would have its own tool that automatically backs up your site to a secure location every day. Most quality managed WordPress hosts do this.
But if you're using budget shared hosting, your host probably doesn't have a good backup system in place. In that case, you can use UpdraftPlus.
It's free, active on over two million sites, and has a 4.8-star rating on over 3,400 reviews.
In terms of a free WordPress backup solution, I don't think you'll find a better option.
Just one note – make sure you back up your site to an off-site location. UpdraftPlus gives you free or affordable options like Dropbox, Google Drive, or Amazon S3. If you store backups on your site's server, that's still a single point of failure.
That's How to Build Affiliate Websites Using WordPress.
Am I missing anything? Add your suggestions to the comments below.
With the plugins and theme in this post, you'll be able to create affiliate websites that:
- Load fast.
- Convert at a high rate.
- Are easy to manage.
All you need to do is add content, marketing, and maybe a few additional plugins targeted to your niche.
Now get out there and launch your first affiliate website today!