AffiliateWP is a premium WordPress plugin that gives you the ability to start your own affiliate program with WordPress and your preferred ecommerce platform. It integrates with such plugins as WooCommerce, Easy Digital Downloads, Restrict Content Pro, Paid Memberships Pro and more.

This post ist part of a three-part series about affiliate marketing. If you’re still not sure if you actually need an affiliate program for your business, then this post is for you: Does Your Business Need an Affiliate Program? Learn why AffiliateWP is a great plugin for starting your own affiliate program in our detailed AffiliateWP Review. And now, let’s get started and find out, how to finally set up your own affiliate program.

AffiliateWP Homepage

In our last post, we thouroughly reviewed AffiliateWP and its features. In this post, we’re going to show you how to set up your own affiliate program with AffiliateWP. Let’s start with the installation process.

Installing AffiliateWP

Installing AffiliateWP works the same as installing any other premium plugin. You either upload the ZIP folder directly through the WordPress admin by navigating to Plugins → Add New → Upload Plugin or uploading the unzipped version named “affiliate-wp” to your wp-content/plugins folder via FTP or your host’s file manager.

AffiliateWP - Activate License

After you install and activate the plugin, navigate to Affiliates → Settings, and activate your license key by entering it in the License Key box and clicking Activate License. Doing this ensures you receive AffiliateWP’s latest updates automatically without having to reinstall new versions of the plugin every time.

Configuring AffiliateWP’s General Settings

Let’s start by configuring the plugin’s general settings. They’re on the same page as the License Key setting and are divided into the following sections:

  • License Settings
  • Pages
  • Referral Settings
  • Currency Settings
  • Affiliate Form Settings

Since you’ve already activated your license key, let’s start with the Pages section.


When you first installed AffiliateWP, it should have created a page called Affiliate Area.

AffiliateWP - Affiliate Area Login

This is the page affiliates will use to log into their affiliate accounts, manage their profiles, generate URLs and keep track of their earnings. We’ll talk about this page more in depth in a bit. Just know that the Affiliate Area setting in this section should be set to the page that represents your actual affiliate area. It should be set to Affiliate Area already by default.

The plugin doesn’t create a Terms of Use page by default. When you create yours, you can integrate it with AffiliateWP.

Referral Settings

Each affiliate needs their very own unique affiliate link for every product they want to earn commissions for. This helps the application identify affiliates so you can pay them accordingly. So, instead of linking to, the affiliate would link to where the “?ref=1” bit represents the affiliate’s unique affiliate ID.

The Referral Settings section allows you to configure the way these links look and behave. Here are brief explanations and guidance on these settings:

  • Referral Variable: “ref” is the default variable shown in affiliate links, but you can change it to anything here, such as “aff”, “partner”, “refer”, etc.
  • Default Referral Format: The “1” in the “?ref=1” bit shown in my example above represents the affiliate’s unique affiliate ID, but you can change this so it uses the affiliate’s username instead.
    Pretty Affiliate URLs: This setting changes the appearance of affiliate links from “?ref=1” to “/ref/1”.
  • Credit Last Referrer: AffiliateWP is designed to store cookies in the browser of any user an affiliate refers. This means affiliates can earn commissions even if users don’t make a purchase until several months later.
    • Without the Credit Last Referrer setting, Affiliate A would earn a commission on a product purchased several months after the customer actually clicked the affiliate link even if the customer made the purchase after clicking Affiliate B’s link. With this setting enabled, the last affiliate to refer a customer to a product will receive the commission for the subsequent sale.
  • Referral Rate Type: Choose between paying flat rate commissions (in USD) or percentages.
  • Referral Rate: Enter the default commission rate you want to offer to all affiliates.
  • Exclude Shipping/Taxes: This setting allows you to control whether or not to include the cost of shipping and taxes into the calculations that determine each affiliate’s payouts. You can decrease the amount of money you payout to affiliates by excluding these costs.
  • Cookie Expiration: Determine how long cookies are stored for users who click on affiliate links but don’t make purchases. It’s set to one day by default, but many affiliate programs set this to 30 days.

The rest of the settings are self-explanatory, so configure them before we move on!

Get AffiliateWP Ready for Your Affiliates

After configuring the general settings, you are now ready to set everything up for the affiliates. Therefore you need to choose which commission rate you want to offer to your affiliates and implement helpful integrations, so you can pay them easily. Also it’s helpful, that you understand how the affiliate area works a little more. So let’s start setting up.

Choosing Suitable Commission Rates for Affiliates

AffiliateWP - Referral Rate Setting

You can set your default referral rate on the Settings page using the Referral Rate setting mentioned above.

Choosing commission rates, or the amount (in dollars or percentages) you’ll be paying out to affiliates, is something you should consider carefully as you create your affiliate program. Offer a rate too low and you may have trouble attracting affiliates. Offer a rate too high and you may wind up putting yourself out of business.

That’s why it’s important for you to determine how your business is operating in terms of numbers. Start by determining your profit margins as it shouldn’t be lower than your commission rate. For example, if you have a 15% profit margin but offer a 40% referral rate, you may wind up losing money.

You should factor in any regular discounts you offer, such as new customer discounts or seasonal sales, as well along with the amount of money you spend on advertising and other forms of marketing as these numbers affect your profit margins.

When it comes to choosing your referral rates, it’s best to start out low, as in 5-15% depending on what your profit margins are. You’ll damage your relationship with affiliates if you start out with too high of a rate only to lower it to save money. It’s best to experiment at the start and raise it if things go well.

Lastly, don’t fret if you have a diverse range of products and affiliates who have an even more diverse range of profit margins and referrals. AffiliateWP gives you the ability to set different referral rates for different products (through integrations) and affiliates.

Enabling Integrations

AffiliateWP - Integrations

You can’t payout affiliates without referrals for products and services you offer. That’s why you need to integrate the plugin with the application you use to receive payments through WordPress.

The way it works is simple. When a visitor comes to your site, let’s say a WooCommerce-powered online store, via a link you’ve generated for an affiliate and proceeds to purchase something, your affiliate will earn a commission from the sale automatically thanks to AffiliateWP’s integration with WooCommerce.

You can set this up for a variety of different plugins by navigating to Settings → Integrations, selecting the plugin(s) you want to integrate with AffiliateWP, and clicking Save Changes. If you don’t see the plugin you use on the list, you’ll need to consult AffiliateWP documentation to configure a shortcode you can insert on the success page your preferred plugin generates.

You’ll need to consult the documentation if you’re using a supported integration as well since the plugin works differently with each one. For example, in WooCommerce, you can create custom coupon codes for affiliates by selecting specific affiliates on the Add New Coupon page.

AffiliateWP - WooCommerce Integration

You’ll also see a new section on the Create New Product page that allows you to set custom referral rates for products and even disable commissions for specific ones.

Understanding the Affiliate Area

Like I said, the Affiliate Area is where affiliates will manage their affiliate accounts, and AffiliateWP should have created this page for you upon installation. If it didn’t or you would like to use another page for the affiliate area, simply insert the affiliate_area shortcode (in between [] brackets) into the page you want to use for the Affiliate Area.

Here’s what you’ll have by default. The styles and overall appearance are dependent on your theme:

AffiliateWP - Affiliate Area

Here’s a quick breakdown of each section:

  • Affiliate URLs: Where affiliates will generate unique affiliate links for individual pages on your site.
  • Statistics: Contains an overview of the affiliate’s unpaid/paid earnings, number of referrals, number of visits, conversion rate, commission rate and more.
  • Graphs: A line graph featuring data from the Statistics section.
  • Referrals: A list of the affiliate’s referrals.
  • Payouts: A list of payments made to the affiliate.
  • Visits: The number of visits each generated affiliate URL has received.
  • Creatives: Banners, logos and other graphics (created by you) affiliates can download to promote your products.
  • Settings: Where the affiliate can enter their payment address, such as the email address associated with their PayPal account.

Paying Affiliates

AffiliateWP - PayPal Payouts

There are a few different methods you can use to pay affiliates with AffiliateWP, and they each depend on your license type and payment method. PayPal is a popular method as it allows you to perform what’s known as a “mass payout,” a payment method that allows you to send money to multiple accounts in one transaction.

If you have a Personal or Plus license type, you’ll need to export a CSV file containing unpaid referrals by clicking the Generate Payout File located on the Affiliates → Referrals page. You can upload this file to PayPal when you choose the mass payout option. This payment option can also be performed by any payment processor that allows you to perform mass payouts by uploading a CSV file. This includes Skrill.

If you have a Professional or Ultimate license type, you can install the PayPal Payouts add-on, which allows you to perform mass payouts with a single click from the WordPress admin area.

Alternatively, you can use bank transfers, but this is tedious as it requires you to pay each affiliate manually.

Also, if you wish to get printable invoices for executed payouts for yourself or your affiliates, we can recommend the AffiliateWP add-on Payout Statements. You can define which details are shown on the statements and both, you and your affiliate, get access to those statements with your own dashboards.

Final Thoughts

That concludes our tutorial on how to get started with AffiliateWP. However, there are still a number of different places on the dashboard for you to explore, including the Affiliates section, the Referrals section and add-ons.

AffiliateWP is available for as low as $99/year, but you’ll need to subscribe to the $249/year or $499/one-time purchase plans to gain access to premium add-ons. Visit AffiliateWP.

Find out if you should start your own affiliate program: Does Your Business Need an Affiliate Program? Learn more about AffiliateWP: AffiliateWP Review.

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