An affiliate program helps your business grow by giving your most prolific users and fans the ability to earn commissions when they refer your products and services to their audiences.
Integrating a program like this into your site used to be difficult and would often require the hands of a developer. However, with the combined help of WordPress and a plugin called AffiliateWP, adding this functionality to your site and business has never been easier.
And if you want to find out, how to actually set up your own affiliate program, then have a look at this post afterwards: Set Up Your Own Affiliate Program with AffiliateWP
In this post, we’re now going to take a look at everything AffiliateWP has to offer.
AffiliateWP launched in 2014 and was developed by Pippin Williamson, a well-known figure in the WordPress community who’s behind such products as Easy Digital Downloads and Restrict Content Pro. After these two products became successful, both Pippin and his customers were in need of a solution that would allow WordPress users to build their affiliate programs natively within WordPress itself.
That’s exactly what AffiliateWP allows you to do. It integrates with numerous WordPress ecommerce and membership plugins, allowing you to offer commissions to an unlimited number of affiliates. Each affiliate can even generate their own URLs, track referrals and download brand assets made available by you.
AffiliateWP is a premium product available in three tiers and a fourth lifetime tier. Many features are available in the first tier, but you can unlock more by subscribing to higher tiers or by installing third-party add-ons.
AffiliateWP: Installation & Setup
You can install AffiliateWP as you would any other premium plugin, either by uploading its ZIP folder through the backend of WordPress or by uploading the unzipped version directly to your plugins folder.
Once you’ve activated it, you can head to the Integrations tab of the Settings page and enable the application(s) you want to use with AffiliateWP. It’s as easy as selecting which application(s) you want to enable, and clicking Save.
You can start building your affiliate program after that.
Configuring Your Affiliate Program with AffiliateWP
The AffiliateWP dashboard begins with the Overview page. It provides quick reports of the total number of earnings your affiliates have accrued, new affiliate registrations, high-converting URLs and your highest-earning affiliates.
We’re going to skip ahead a bit and talk about the referral and currency settings you can configure in the General tab of the Settings page. You can change the way affiliate links appear, for one thing. You can start by entering a custom URL variable for affiliate links generated for your site, which is “ref” by default.
You can also choose whether affiliate links use the affiliate’s ID, represented by a number, or username. Lastly, you can choose between the default URL layout or “pretty affiliate URLs”, both of which look like this using the username “florian” to identify the affiliate:
- Default: https://example.com/?ref=florian
- Pretty Affiliate URL: https://example.com/ref/florian
This is also where you can specify the default rate you want to offer all affiliates. It’s incredibly easy to configure, and you can even choose from multiple currencies in the next section.
You may also notice a setting called “Credit Last Referrer”. When you use the Cookie Expiration setting, let’s say with an expiration of 30 days, you can credit Affiliate A even if Customer 1 doesn’t make a purchase until up to 30 days later.
With the Credit Last Referrer setting enabled, if Customer 1 clicks Affiliate B’s link instead and makes a purchase with that, Affiliate B will be credited instead of Affiliate A.
Creating Pages for Your Affiliate Program
AffiliateWP creates an Affiliate Area page on your site as soon as you install and activate the plugin. It’s a simple page that only features an “affiliate_area” shortcode, which generates different content on the page depending on if the user viewing it is an affiliate or not as well as the settings you have enabled.
If the user is a logged-in affiliate, they’ll be given access to the Affiliate Area dashboard.
Here the affiliate can generate affiliate URLs for any page on your site, assign campaign names to affiliate URLs, view stats on referrals, unpaid earnings and campaign outcomes, download brand assets, and more. They can even input a new payment email if they need to.
If the affiliate is not logged in, they’ll see a login form on the Affiliate Area page instead. If you have a couple of affiliate registration settings enabled, they’ll see a registration form as well. Fortunately, this form has its own shortcode, so you can create a dedicated page for new affiliate registrations, if you’d prefer.
You can add a reCAPTCHA to the registration form to keep bots at bay, and while you can technically edit the default form, doing so is a little difficult. You can create custom forms easily via AffiliateWP’s integrations with Ninja Forms and Gravity Forms. Unfortunately, these integrations are only made available through AffiliateWP’s Professional plan.
Let’s talk about customizing email templates and uploading brand assets.
Email Templates and Brand Assets
The Emails tab of the Settings page allows you to choose which emails you’d like to receive notifications for, which can help reduce the number of emails your inbox receives depending on the size of your affiliate program.
You can also customize the emails you and applicants receive. These include the emails you receive when new affiliate accounts are registered and when new referrals are earned. They also include the emails applicants receive throughout the registration process.
You can upload brand assets by heading to the Creatives section of the AffiliateWP dashboard. You have a few different fields you can fill out for each individual Creative.
You can assign it a name, description and URL. You can also upload an image/add an image URL if you want to create an image-based banner or leave the image field blank if you want it to be text based.
There’s also an active/inactive setting, which is great for seasonal banners.
AffiliateWP: Managing Your Affiliate Program
Every affiliate your program acquires will appear on the Affiliates screen of the AffiliateWP dashboard, even if they’re pending or were rejected.
There’s a setting you can enable in the Misc. tab of the Settings page that allows you to hold new affiliate registrations in the Pending tab, which gives you an opportunity to manually approve them before allowing them to earn referrals.
When it comes to WooCommerce and Easy Digital Downloads, you can add custom referral rates to individual products and disable referrals altogether.
You can also assign affiliates to individual coupons, allowing you to give a group of affiliates or individual affiliates the opportunity to offer exclusive discounts to their audiences.
Referrals and Payouts
When a customer purchases a product with one of the links your affiliates have generated, it’ll appear on the Referrals page. You’ll see snapshots of the amounts earned from referrals as well as the statuses they currently have.
There are a few settings in the Misc. tab that can help you manage this screen. They include a setting that rejects unpaid referrals automatically when refunds are issued as well as another setting that keeps free products from appearing on the Referrals screen since they’d have a zero amount, anyway.
Adding changes to referrals is simple as well and easily accessible from the Referrals page.
You can view snapshots of the payouts you’ve issued on the Payouts screen.
You can’t make changes to payouts or issue them from the Payouts screen by default. Instead, you’ll need to generate a payout CSV file for all unpaid referrals. All you need to do is select a timeframe, and if you only want to payout one affiliate at a time, enter an affiliate name.
The CSV file is generated in a way that makes it compatible with the mass payment options of such payment gateways as PayPal and Skrill.
If you have the Professional plan or higher, you’ll have access to the PayPal Payouts add-on, which cuts out the process of having to generate and upload CSV files by allowing you to pay affiliates directly from the AffiliateWP dashboard in WordPress. Furthermore, if you and you affiliates wish to have printable payout statements, then you should have a look at the Payout Statements add-on for AffiliateWP.
Tools and Reports
AffiliateWP has a number of tools for you to use, especially if you want to keep copies of your data offsite or move your affiliate program to another WordPress site.
You can import and export a number of different things, including:
- Affiliates based on active, pending or rejected statuses or All Statuses.
- Referrals during certain timeframes and based on status. Also works with individual affiliates.
- Payouts during certain timeframes and based on paid or failed statuses. Also works with individual affiliates.
- The entirety of your AffiliateWP settings to a JSON file.
- Affiliates from a CSV file.
- Referrals from a CSV file.
- Settings from a JSON file.
You can also view reports during specified timeframes for referrals, all affiliates, payouts and more. Reports for your affiliates’ campaigns appear here as well.
Plus, if you view the Affiliate screen and click on an Affiliate’s Reports link, you can view a separate Reports screen for that individual affiliate.
AffiliateWP: Final Thoughts and Pricing
AffiliateWP is one of the most popular affiliate solutions available for WordPress, if not the most popular affiliate solution available for WordPress.
Overall, it’s a powerful plugin that allows you to accomplish a lot without making things too complex. It has a few developer-friendly features in the way it allows you to add custom functions with hooks and templates, but it’s also simple enough for any general shop owner to pick up and use to build their very own affiliate program.
The only issue some might have with AffiliateWP is its pricing structure. They distinguish between “free” and “pro” add-ons even though you need to purchase a license for the Personal plan at the very least to gain access to free add-ons and are required to purchase a license for the Professional plan to gain access to pro add-ons.
This works fine if you plan on using more than one pro add-on, but you’ll be paying a pretty penny if you only want to use one or two. It’d be better if pro add-ons could be purchased individually with the Personal and Plus plans but bundled in the Professional and Ultimate plans.
Speaking of which, here is AffiliateWP’s pricing structure:
- Personal at $99 – Unlocks one site license, free add-ons, and one year of support and updates.
- Plus at $149 – Unlocks three site licenses.
- Professional at $249 – Unlocks unlimited site licenses and pro add-ons.
- Ultimate at $499 – Unlocks lifetime support and updates for a one-time payment.
Support is available via email, and all purchases are backed by a 30-day, money-back guarantee. Free and premium third-party add-ons are available as well if you want to extend AffiliateWP’s functionality outside of what it offers natively. Visit AffiliateWP
Find out if you should start your own affiliate program: Does Your Business Need an Affiliate Program? Learn how to acutally set up your own affiliate program with AffiliateWP: AffiliateWP Tutorial.