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      How to Back up Your WordPress Website: A Complete Guide


      You’ve probably spent a lot of time perfecting your WordPress site and creating content for it. And (spoiler alert) after all that work, you want it to be successful.

      So what happens if your site is the target of a hack, data gets corrupted or accidentally deleted, or your site spontaneously combusts (metaphorically speaking)?

      via GIPHY

      Rather than whacking back the flames and shaking a fist at the sky (“Oh, the humanity!”), you’ll want to safeguard your site before trouble strikes with regular backups.

      A backup is simply a copy of your site, which can be used to restore it in case of emergency. If you always have a recent backup handy, you’ll be able to repair your site without melting down.

      In this post, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about backups. This includes what they are, why they’re important, and how to actually create them. Plus, our in-house WordPress guru Mika Epstein will weigh in on why backups matter. And trust us: As a 40-time (!!!) WordCamp attendee and core contributor, she knows her stuff.

      An Introduction to Backups

      Jetpack is a comprehensive plugin that provides many security options and is included with our DreamPress plans.

      “The first thing you have to know is what makes your website a website. All sites consist of files, and many (like WordPress or any of our one-click installs) have a database as well where your content is stored. When you back up your site, you want to make sure you have a copy of all of those files and the database.” — Mika

      Your WordPress site relies on a lot of data and files in order to run properly. What’s more, the information it contains only grows as you add more content. This makes it increasingly important to protect this information from anything that could go wrong.

      Developing a comprehensive security plan for your website is a smart idea. WordPress is inherently secure, but that doesn’t mean it’s infallible. There are a lot of measures you can take to make it even less likely that your site will be compromised.

      • You can use a quality web host
      • Run your site on HTTPS instead of HTTP
      • Use a strong, unique password

      But the fact is, no matter how careful you are, there’s still risk involved in running a website. That’s why performing regular backups should be an integral part of your security plan.

      A backup is a copy of all your site’s key files and data, which you can store in a safe external location. If there’s a problem with your site you can’t fix, you can use this copy to restore your site to how it was before the issue occurred.

      Why It’s Crucial to Back up Your Website

      As mentioned above, there’s a lot you can do to protect your site. Still, it may end up compromised at some point, particularly if it’s a popular site with a lot of traffic. Here are just a few of the things that can happen:

      • Your site could get hacked, and your information could be tampered with or stolen.
      • Files might get accidentally (or intentionally) corrupted or deleted.
      • Something you install, such as a poorly coded plugin or theme, could break existing features.

      “Data loss is an inevitability. It happens to everyone and always at the worst possible time. Just like having that Word document you need for your final term paper bomb out as you hit save, the files on your web server are files, and, like anything else, they can become corrupted.” — Mika

      Without a backup to rely on, data loss can be a dire situation. You could permanently lose content or vital information, have difficulty getting your site to run the way it did before, or even see it brought down completely.

      With a backup, however, you have a quick way to solve these problems. You can copy over your backup and restore the site to its former state — before the hack, compatibility error, or other issue occurred. You can even use a backup to create a testing or staging site if you’d like, which can help you troubleshoot problems safely.

      But a backup isn’t a silver bullet. For example, it won’t help you get back stolen information (which is why it shouldn’t be the only security measure you take on your WordPress site). However, it’s a vital part of your strategy that shouldn’t be overlooked. Creating backups is one of those tasks that should be performed on every website — no matter its size, focus, or goals.

      2 Methods for Backing up Your WordPress Website

      Because backups are table stakes in the website world, there are a lot of simple ways to create them. Most of these techniques rely on tools you can download and use throughout the process. WordPress makes the process of putting together a backup fairly straightforward — and with a quality hosting plan, it’s even easier. Let’s discuss two methods for backing up your website, and talk about when to use each one.

      1. Create Backups Through Your Hosting Provider

      First, let’s talk about the easiest way to deal with the need for backups on your site. You can find and implement a solution on your own, and we’ll show you two ways to do so later on.

      However, if you’ve chosen the right web host, you may be able to get some help with the process. A quality web host can make the task of creating backups easier for you or even save them for you. This provides invaluable peace of mind and takes some of the work off your plate so you can focus on other things.

      “‘Now hold on!’ I can hear you say. ‘Y’all make server backups, of course, and you can just get my files from there!’ Yes, we do and we can. And if I were to tell you that 99.99 percent of the time, those backups work, you’d be delighted. That’s a pretty awesome number!” — Mika

      If you have a WordPress hosting plan here at DreamHost, for example, you’ll get access to some handy backup-related features. No matter what kind of plan you get, you can use a one-click backup option through your account to save your website’s database, as well as your users and mailboxes. You can then restore this backup if necessary.

      What’s more, if you decide to choose DreamPress (our managed WordPress hosting), you’ll have even more help with backups without lifting a finger!

      With DreamPress, your site will automatically get backed up daily. You don’t have to set anything up either; it’s included with the service by default. Pretty convenient, right? You won’t have to spend a lot of time worrying about remembering to manually back up your site or what to do if your site is compromised because you’ll always have a way to RickRoll back the clock with an automated backup. 

      When testing or making changes to your site, it’s pretty important to have the most recent version backed up before pushing anything live. We highly recommend adding this step into your web process, if you haven’t already.

      With DreamPress, the on-demand backup feature gives you full control to make a backup whenever you need to. Automated daily backups are great, but sometimes you need more than that. It’ll give you extra security and confidence to test new things more freely, knowing everything will be OK if something doesn’t turn out as expected. With a single click of a button, a fresh new backup will be available within minutes for you to access — just in case you need it.

      Learn more about the benefits of backups and hosting with DreamPress.



       

      2. Use a Plugin to Simplify the Backup Process

      “Having your very own backup — a backup to our DreamHost backup — means you’re not going to be in that 0.01 percent group of people, who are left out in the cold when everything goes cataclysmic. You will be able to quickly, safely, and easily restore your website to its glory days!” — Mika

      If you do want or need your own backup solution, your best bet is to use a plugin designed for the task. There are plenty of WordPress plugins that enable you to create backups. For some, that’s their only job, while others offer the feature as part of a larger security package. Either way, if you aren’t comfortable with the technical know-how required to back up your site manually (which we’ll address below), plugins are a simple and beginner-friendly option.

      DreamHost also offers a dedicated tool to help you perform this task. It’s called DreamObjects Backups and is available both for free in the WordPress Plugin Directory and pre-installed on many of our hosted websites. This plugin provides a scalable, flexible backup and storage solution.

      Using this plugin, you’ll be able to set up a backup schedule, set up how many backups should be saved, and more. When you create a backup, it will be stored in the DreamObjects cloud, our own external storage service. This way, it will be safe in the event that something happens to your site or even to your computer.

      To get started with DreamObjects Backups, you’ll first need to install the plugin (or simply activate it if it’s already installed on your site). Then, you’ll need to sign up for DreamObjects and create a user.

      You’ll be presented with a Key and a Secret Key. Copy and paste both into the corresponding fields on your WordPress dashboard.

      These keys will connect your WordPress site to your DreamObjects account so you can save your backups there. Now, return to your DreamObjects account page. There’s one more task to perform here. Click on the plus sign next to Add Bucket, and create a name for your ‘bucket’. This is simply a location where your backups will be stored.

      If you want, you can make multiple buckets to keep everything organized, but for now, you’ll just need one. Keep in mind that your bucket needs a unique name not in use by any other DreamObjects user, so you may need to try a few until you find one that works.

      Next, it’s time to go back to your WordPress dashboard. Navigate to DreamObjects > Backups, and select the bucket you just created from the drop-down menu. Then hit Update Options.

      Here, you can set up exactly how you’d like your backup system to work. You can choose whether to update your site’s files, database, or both (we recommend backing up everything for now).

      Then you can choose a backup schedule, and decide how many recent backups to keep. We suggest backing up your site daily, and keeping 15 backups at any one time. Keep in mind that your charge for using DreamObjects depends on how much you’re storing, so be cautious when choosing higher numbers.

      Finally, you can decide what type of notifications you’d like to see. Selecting All, for example, will let you know both when your backups succeed and if they fail for whatever reason. However, this option will mean you’ll need to log into your DreamObjects account to see notifications and download your backups. If you select to only see Success notifications instead, you’ll be able to do these things right from your dashboard.

      Once you’ve configured all of these settings, hit Update Options again. You’ll see a couple of new sections.

      Recent Backup Status is where you’ll find information about what backups have succeeded or failed, and be able to download them (depending on what you chose under Status Notifications). You also now have an Immediate Backup option, so you can create one right away. Selecting the Backup ASAP button will start the process, and won’t interrupt your scheduled backups.

      That’s it! Once you have a backup, either created by using the schedule or the ASAP button, it will be saved automatically in your DreamObjects bucket. You can download it and save it somewhere else if you’d like, and use it to restore your site if necessary.

      For now, you have all the tools you need to back up your website — whether through your host or with a plugin. Before we wrap up, however, let’s address a few best practices.

      How to Use Your Backups Most Effectively

      DreamObjects is a convenient cloud storage solution, where you can keep your backups safe indefinitely.

      Simply having recent backups is important, but it isn’t the whole story. We’ve alluded to this already, but how you save and store your backups matters just as much. If you do end up needing to restore your site, chances are you’ll want to be able to do so quickly and easily. This means being smart about how often you back up your site and where you store the resulting files.

      Let’s discuss the issue of frequency first.

      As with most questions about your website, there is no one backup schedule that’s perfect for everyone. How often you decide to back up your site will depend on a few factors. The most important consideration is how often the content on your site changes. If you publish frequent updates or blog posts or otherwise change the information on your site a lot, you’ll want to perform backups more often.

      If you rarely change anything on your site and you have little traffic, you may be able to get away with weekly backups. For most sites, a daily schedule is a better choice. If you publish multiple new posts per day or get a lot of comments and interaction, however, you may want to back up even more often. Ultimately, it’s smarter to err on the side of too many backups, rather than too few.

      What about location? You could store all your backups on your local computer, but if something happens to it you’ll lose everything. That’s why it’s best to store your backups in an external location — and to keep multiple copies in more than one place.

      Consider following the backup Rule of Three, which states you should have three copies of each backup, in at least two different formats, at least one of which is stored off-site. This may seem a little paranoid, but again, it’s never bad to be over-prepared.

      As for where to store your backups specifically, keeping a copy on your local machine allows for quick and easy access. Another copy could go on something portable, such as an external hard drive or a memory stick. Finally, cloud storage is an excellent idea, since you’ll be able to access your backups from anywhere. You can go with a free option such as Google Drive or opt for an option with more features, such as our own DreamObjects service.

      Once you have a backup schedule in place, be sure to stick with it!

      If disaster strikes, you’ll be glad you did everything possible to keep your website’s data safe.

      Back It Up

      You can do a lot of things to ensure your site is as safe as possible from hackers, bugs, and accidents. However, you can never completely eliminate the risk of something going wrong. Given this, it’s essential to always have a recent, full backup of your site stored in a safe location, so you can restore your site quickly — just in case a Roland Emmerich-size disaster strikes.

      via GIPHY



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      A Beginner's Guide to Terraform


      Updated by Linode Written by Linode

      Terraform by HashiCorp is an orchestration tool that allows you to represent your Linode instances and other resources with declarative code inside configuration files, instead of manually creating those resources via the Linode Manager or API. This practice is referred to as Infrastructure as Code, and Terraform is a popular example of this methodology. The basic workflow when using Terraform is:

      1. Write configuration files on your computer in which you declare the elements of your infrastructure that you want to create.

      2. Tell Terraform to analyze your configurations and then create the corresponding infrastructure.

      Terraform’s primary job is to create, modify, and destroy servers and other resources. Terraform generally does not configure your servers’ software. Configuring your software can be performed with scripts that you upload to and execute on your new servers, or via configuration management tools or container deployments.

      The Linode Provider

      Terraform is a general orchestration tool that can interface with a number of different cloud platforms. These integrations are referred to as providers. The Terraform provider for Linode was officially released in October 2018.

      Note

      The Linode provider can be used to create Linode instances, Images, domain records, Block Storage Volumes, StackScripts, and other resources. Terraform’s official Linode provider documentation details each resource that can be managed.

      Infrastructure as Code

      Terraform’s representation of your resources in configuration files is referred to as Infrastructure as Code (IAC). The benefits of this methodology and of using Terraform include:

      • Version control of your infrastructure. Because your resources are declared in code, you can track changes to that code over time in version control systems like Git.

      • Minimization of human error. Terraform’s analysis of your configuration files will produce the same results every time it creates your declared resources. As well, telling Terraform to repeatedly apply the same configuration will not result in extra resource creation, as Terraform tracks the changes it makes over time.

      • Better collaboration among team members. Terraform’s backends allow multiple team members to safely work on the same Terraform configuration simultaneously.

      HashiCorp Configuration Language

      Terraform’s configuration files can be written in either the HashiCorp Configuration Language (HCL), or in JSON. HCL is a configuration language authored by HashiCorp for use with its products, and it is designed to be human readable and machine friendly. It is recommended that you use HCL over JSON for your Terraform deployments.

      The next sections will illustrate core Terraform concepts with examples written in HCL. For a more complete review of HCL syntax, see Introduction to HashiCorp Configuration Language (HCL).

      Resources

      Here’s a simple example of a complete Terraform configuration in HCL:

      example.tf
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      provider "linode" {
          token = "your-linode-api-token"
      }
      
      resource "linode_instance" "example_instance" {
          label = "example_instance_label"
          image = "linode/ubuntu18.04"
          region = "us-central"
          type = "g6-standard-1"
          authorized_keys = ["ssh-rsa AAAA...Gw== user@example.local"]
          root_pass = "your-root-password"
      }

      Note

      The SSH key in this example was truncated for brevity.

      This example Terraform file, with the Terraform file extension .tf, represents the creation of a single Linode instance labeled example_instance_label. This example file is prefixed with a mandatory provider block, which sets up the Linode provider and which you must list somewhere in your configuration.

      The provider block is followed by a resource declaration. Resource declarations correspond with the components of your Linode infrastructure: Linode instances, Block Storage Volumes, etc.

      Resources can accept arguments. region and type are required arguments for the linode_instance resource. A root password must be assigned to every Linode, but the root_pass Terraform argument is optional; if it is not specified, a random password will be generated.

      Note

      The example_instance string that follows the linode_instance resource type declaration is Terraform’s name for the resource. You cannot declare more than one Terraform resource with the same name and resource type.

      The label argument specifies the label for the Linode instance in the Linode Manager. This name is independent of Terraform’s name for the resource (though you can assign the same value to both). The Terraform name is only recorded in Terraform’s state and is not communicated to the Linode API. Labels for Linode instances in the same Linode account must be unique.

      Dependencies

      Terraform resources can depend on each other. When one resource depends on another, it will be created after the resource it depends on, even if it is listed before the other resource in your configuration file.

      The following snippet expands on the previous example. It declares a new domain with an A record that targets the Linode instance’s IP address:

      example.tf
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      provider "linode" {
          # ...
      }
      
      resource "linode_instance" "example_instance" {
          # ...
      }
      
      resource "linode_domain" "example_domain" {
          domain = "example.com"
          soa_email = "example@example.com"
      }
      
      resource "linode_domain_record" "example_domain_record" {
          domain_id = "${linode_domain.example_domain.id}"
          name = "www"
          record_type = "A"
          target = "${linode_instance.example_instance.ip_address}"
      }

      The domain record’s domain_id and target arguments use HCL’s interpolation syntax to retrieve the ID of the domain resource and the IP of the Linode instance, respectively. Terraform creates an implicit dependency on the example_instance and example_domain resources for the example_domain_record resource. As a result, the domain record will not be created until after the Linode instance and the domain are created.

      Note

      Input Variables

      The previous example hard-coded sensitive data in your configuration, including your API token and root password. To avoid this practice, Terraform allows you to provide the values for your resource arguments in input variables. These variables are declared and referenced in your Terraform configuration (using interpolation syntax), and the values for those variables are assigned in a separate file.

      Input variables can also be used for non-sensitive data. The following example files will employ variables for the sensitive token and root_pass arguments and the non-sensitive authorized_keys and region arguments:

      example.tf
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      provider "linode" {
          token = "${var.token}"
      }
      
      resource "linode_instance" "example_instance" {
          label = "example_instance_label"
          image = "linode/ubuntu18.04"
          region = "${var.region}"
          type = "g6-standard-1"
          authorized_keys = ["${var.ssh_key}"]
          root_pass = "${var.root_pass}"
      }
      
      variable "token" {}
      variable "root_pass" {}
      variable "ssh_key" {}
      variable "region" {
        default = "us-southeast"
      }
      terraform.tfvars
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      token = "your-linode-api-token"
      root_pass = "your-root-password"
      ssh_key = "ssh-rsa AAAA...Gw== user@example.local"

      Note

      Place all of your Terraform project’s files in the same directory. Terraform will automatically load input variable values from any file named terraform.tfvars or ending in .auto.tfvars.

      The region variable is not assigned a specific value, so it will use the default value provided in the variable’s declaration. See Introduction to HashiCorp Configuration Language for more detailed information about input variables.

      Terraform CLI

      You interact with Terraform via its command line interface. After you have created the configuration files in your Terraform project, you need to run the init command from the project’s directory:

      terraform init
      

      This command will download the Linode provider plugin and take other actions needed to initialize your project. It is safe to run this command more than once, but you generally will only need to run it again if you are adding another provider to your project.

      Plan and Apply

      After you have declared your resources in your configuration files, you create them by running Terraform’s apply command from your project’s directory. However, you should always verify that Terraform will create the resources as you expect them to be created before making any actual changes to your infrastructure. To do this, you can first run the plan command:

      terraform plan
      

      This command will generate a report detailing what actions Terraform will take to set up your Linode resources.

      If you are satisfied with this report, run apply:

      terraform apply
      

      This command will ask you to confirm that you want to proceed. When Terraform has finished applying your configuration, it will show a report of what actions were taken.

      State

      When Terraform analyzes and applies your configuration, it creates an internal representation of the infrastructure it created and uses it to track the changes made. This state information is recorded in JSON in a local file named terraform.tfstate by default, but it can also be stored in other backends.

      Caution

      Your sensitive infrastructure data (like passwords and tokens) is visible in plain-text in your terraform.tfstate file. Review Secrets Management with Terraform for guidance on how to secure these secrets.

      Other Commands

      Other useful commands are available, like terraform show, which reports a human-readable version of your Terraform state. A full list of Terraform commands is available in the official Terraform documentation.

      Provisioners

      In addition to resource declarations, Terraform configurations can include provisioners. You declare provisioners to run scripts and commands in your local development environment or on your Terraform-managed servers. These actions are performed when you apply your Terraform configuration.

      The following example uploads a setup script to a newly created Linode instance and then executes it. This pattern can be used to bootstrap the new instance or enroll it in configuration management:

      example.tf
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      resource "linode_instance" "example_instance" {
        # ...
      
        provisioner "file" {
            source      = "setup_script.sh"
            destination = "/tmp/setup_script.sh"
        }
      
        provisioner "remote-exec" {
          inline = [
            "chmod +x /tmp/setup_script.sh",
            "/tmp/setup_script.sh",
          ]
        }
      }

      Most provisioners are declared inside of a resource declaration. When multiple provisioners are declared inside a resource, they are executed in the order they are listed. For a full list of provisioners, review the official Terraform documentation.

      Note

      Linode StackScripts can also be used to set up a new Linode instance. A distinction between using StackScripts and the file and remote-exec provisioners is that those provisioners will run and complete synchronously before Terraform continues to apply your plan, while a StackScript will run in parallel while Terraform creates the rest of your remaining resources. As a result, Terraform might complete its application before a StackScript has finished running.

      Modules

      Terraform allows you to organize your configurations into reusable structures called modules. This is useful if you need to create multiple instances of the same cluster of servers. Review Create a Terraform Module for more information on authoring and using modules.

      Backends

      By default, Terraform maintains its state in your project’s directory. Terraform also supports storing your state in non-local backends. The benefits of including your state in another backend include:

      • Better collaboration with your team. Backends let you share the same state as other team members that have access to the backend.

      • Better security. The state information stored in and retrieved from backends is only kept in memory on your computer.

      • Remote operations. When working with a large infrastructure, terraform apply can take a long time to complete. Some backends allow you to run the apply remotely, instead of on your computer.

      The kinds of backends available are listed in Terraform’s official documentation.

      Importing

      It is possible to import Linode infrastructure that was created outside of Terraform into your Terraform plan. Review Import Existing Infrastructure to Terraform for instructions on this subject.

      Next Steps

      To get started with installing Terraform and creating your first projects, read through our Use Terraform to Provision Linode Environments guide.

      More Information

      You may wish to consult the following resources for additional information on this topic. While these are provided in the hope that they will be useful, please note that we cannot vouch for the accuracy or timeliness of externally hosted materials.

      Find answers, ask questions, and help others.

      This guide is published under a CC BY-ND 4.0 license.



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      A Beginner’s Guide to Affiliate Marketing


      There’s no shortage of ways you can make money online. However, few are as flexible and rewarding as affiliate marketing. If done right, it can be a lucrative way of earning an income by producing creative and valuable content.

      In a nutshell, affiliate marketing enables you to monetize your content by promoting other companies’ products using affiliate links. When somebody buys a product or service based on your referral, you earn a small commission on that purchase.

      In this article, we’ll introduce you to the basics of affiliate marketing and discuss how it works in practice. We’ll also show you how you could benefit from using it and give you some help getting started. Let’s begin!

      A Brief History of Affiliate Marketing (And How It Works)

      The DreamHost affiliate program.

      Monetizing your website doesn’t have to be a difficult or compromising endeavor. In fact, it can be incredibly rewarding, both from an economic and creative perspective. Plus, it doesn’t require a lot of the legwork involved in other methods of making money online.

      Affiliate marketing involves promoting products from external vendors on your own website. While definitions sometimes vary, there are generally three or four parties involved in an affiliate setup. Since these terms can be confusing, let’s take a moment to clarify the ‘who’s who’ of affiliate marketing:

      • The affiliate. Also known as ‘the marketer,’ this is the person running a site that contains affiliate links. The affiliate receives a commission on each purchase made by visitors who found a product by clicking on one of their links.
      • The consumer. This is a visitor on the affiliate site, who clicks on an affiliate link and completes a purchase (whether that’s the original item being promoted, or something else from the same company).
      • The network. This refers to the internal or third-party platform that the affiliate program is operated on. This means they’re the ones providing the links that the affiliates use and paying the affiliate their commissions.
      • The merchant. This is a company that sells products being marketed by the affiliate. In many cases, the merchant and the network are the same, as some companies run their own affiliate programs. For simplicity, we’ll be combining these last two entities throughout the rest of our discussion here.

      If that still sounds a bit confusing, let’s look at a typical real-life example of how an affiliate sale might work:

      1. An affiliate publishes a blog post on their site. The post is a review of a pair of sneakers, which are sold by the merchant.
      2. At the bottom of the post, the affiliate includes a link that leads to the sneakers’ product page.
      3. A consumer reads the blog post and, intrigued by the review, clicks on the affiliate link.
      4. Once on the merchant’s website, the consumer decides to purchase the sneakers.
      5. The merchant earns a profit off of the sale and shares a portion of that money with the affiliate.

      You might be curious about how the merchant knows which affiliate is responsible for the purchase. That’s actually the easy part since every affiliate is given a unique link that tracks each product they promote. This lets the merchant track all referrals using cookies to ensure that they know exactly how much money they’ve earned thanks to each affiliate (and what to pay them in return).

      How Affiliate Marketing Can Benefit You

      The potential to earn money by simply sharing links probably sounds tempting already. However, affiliate marketing comes with a whole host of advantages beyond the obvious one. Let’s take a look at some of the main ways being an affiliate marketer can benefit you and your site.

      First of all, it’s a low-risk and inexpensive business. The bare minimum for getting started as an affiliate is having a blog, a website, or even just a social media profile. This makes it a very cost-effective method for earning money. It also means you don’t have to commit a lot of cash up-front since you can start small and grow your marketing efforts over time.

      Another compelling aspect of affiliate marketing is that it lets you be creative, and provide something genuinely useful to your audience. Since you can use affiliate links pretty much anywhere, you can set up a review site, publish long-form articles, or even produce video content. Since you’re promoting other companies’ products, you don’t even need to worry about actually creating, shipping, and supporting the items yourself.

      Affiliate marketing also gives you the freedom to choose what you promote. In other words, it offers you the luxury of being picky. Not only do you get to decide precisely which programs to work with, but in most cases, you’ll even select the individual products and services you want to promote. As such, you always have full control over what’s featured on your site.

      The This Is Why I’m Broke affiliate website.

      Last but not least, affiliate marketing can be very lucrative (although keep in mind that it’s not a get-rich-quick scheme). Since you’re earning a percentage of every sale you refer, there’s no maximum ceiling for earnings either. This means that if your affiliate site takes off in a big way, you could potentially end up making a great passive income.

      With all of that in mind, you should have a fairly clear idea about whether affiliate marketing is something you’d like to get involved with. For many people, the benefits speak for themselves. However, before you start posting affiliate links, there are a number of things you’ll need to bear in mind.

      What to Consider Before Becoming an Affiliate Marketer

      Affiliate marketing definitely provides some impressive benefits, but that doesn’t mean you can jump in without preparation. To ensure that your work as an affiliate isn’t wasted, you’ll need to do a bit of planning and be aware of the potential drawbacks.

      We’re going to talk about some of those considerations in more detail later on. However, here is a brief overview of what you’ll need to do:

      • Find the right niche. Your niche determines your site’s subject matter, and by extension, what types of products or services you’ll promote. As such, finding a niche that’s both comfortable and potentially lucrative is vital.
      • Understand how to disclose your affiliate links. It’s imperative that you let visitors know your site contains affiliate links. Affiliate links come under the Federal Trade Commission’s guidelines of endorsements, after all. Plus, being transparent is a smart way to improve trust in your website and business (not to mention sales).
      • Avoid ‘affiliate theft’ at all costs. There are several illegitimate methods of increasing your commissions, which are collectively referred to as ‘affiliate theft’ or ‘commission theft.’ As such, you’ll need to make sure you only use proper, disclosed links at all times. Otherwise, you might end up like the scammer who used affiliate theft to steal $28 million from eBay.
      • Understand that being an affiliate is not ‘selling out.’ By promoting other companies’ products, you’re nothing but a pawn in their marketing schemes, right? While some people assume this, it really isn’t true. In fact, a key characteristic of most successful affiliates is that they provide honest and insightful content to go along with their links. Since you choose what to promote, there’s no need to bend the truth or connect your name to poor-quality products.
      • Be patient. Finally, affiliate marketing rarely leads to overnight success. Instead, it usually requires a lot of time and effort to slowly generate traffic and build an audience. This is especially true if you’re starting with a new or low-traffic site. It’s essential that you don’t expect quick results, and are ready to put in the work needed to grow your site and commissions.

      If you take some time to consider the above points carefully, you’ll start off prepared and with realistic expectations. This will give you a solid foundation upon which you can build your affiliate marketing career.

      Affiliate Marketing for Beginners (In 3 Steps)

      As we’ve already mentioned, affiliate marketing has a relatively low barrier to entry. To help you get started quickly, we’re going to walk you through the first steps for turning your site into an affiliate marketing success.

      Step 1: Choose a Suitable Affiliate Niche

      If you’re starting a new affiliate site, you’ll need to consider what niche you will work within. Your site’s niche determines what type of content you create, who your target audience is, and which kinds of products you will promote.

      Naturally, it’s crucial to choose a niche that’s financially viable. This means you need to find a subject that enough people will be interested in. That may seem tricky, but there are actually a lot of options you can choose from. Performing keyword research is also a smart idea at this stage, to find out what keywords are driving the most traffic via search engines.

      However, this step isn’t just about finding the niche that pays the most. To be successful, you should also aim for a niche that suits you personally. If you already have some knowledge and interest in your chosen area of focus, you’ll be in a position to create authoritative and engaging content to go along with your affiliate links.

      You’ll also have a better understanding of your target audience’s needs and desires. This is essential since it helps you build trust with your visitors. If they feel like they can rely on your judgment and recommendations, they’ll be more likely to click on your links and make purchases based on your suggestions. Therefore, the best niche will have plenty of potential consumers and will be something you can create knowledgeable and trustworthy content about.

      Step 2: Find and Sign Up for the Right Affiliate Programs

      Once you have a niche and site ready to go, it’s time to look for affiliate programs. As we mentioned previously, many programs are run directly by a merchant, with the goal of promoting their own company’s products.

      When deciding which programs to sign up for, you should first look at what products they want you to promote. Most importantly, they’ll need to offer products that are popular in your selected niche. Therefore, look for brands that speak to your target market, and see if they offer affiliate programs. For example, if your site is about running websites, you could look for web hosts with their own affiliate programs.

      In addition to merchant-driven programs, there are also dedicated affiliate networks, such as RakutenAwin, CJ, and Pepperjam. These programs encompass several different merchants and thousands of products. This gives you access to multiple types of products, without needing to join lots of programs. Even eCommerce giants like eBay and Amazon have their own successful affiliate programs.

      Amazon’s affiliate marketing program.

      Naturally, it’s also important to find programs that will pay you well. After all, you’re putting a lot of effort into promoting the merchants’ products, so you should see a fair share of the profits. Before you sign up, it’s also a smart move to research each program and see what experiences other affiliates have had.

      You might even find it useful to seek out an affiliate community, such as Wealthy Affiliate. There, you can get advice and help from those who have been publishing and marketing for a long time. This can be particularly helpful when you’re a novice. Then, in a few years’ time, you might be the one helping another beginner get started.

      Step 3: Add Affiliate Links to Your Site

      At this point, you’ve signed up for the best affiliate programs in your carefully chosen niche. Now it’s time to really get to work, which means sharing your affiliate links. Of course, how you actually implement these links on your site will vary, depending on what type of content you’re creating.

      For example, if you’re running a review site, it makes sense to place relevant affiliate links within your reviews. The simplest way of doing this is just to include them as text links in the content itself. However, this approach can be seen as misleading, since it’s less clear that you’re promoting the products in question.

      A better technique is to keep your links slightly separated from your main content. For instance, you can place them towards the end of each relevant post. The film site Birth.Movies.Death does this by featuring boxes with related products underneath its articles.

      An affiliate link on a post from Birth.Movies.Death.

      You can see a similar approach taken by OutdoorGearLab This site places links to each product’s page alongside the pricing information in its reviews.

      An affiliate link from OutdoorGearLab.

      Some affiliate programs will also provide you with assets, such as banners, that you can use to promote products. This might be more suitable if you want to keep your marketing and content clearly separated.

      As with your niche, your approach to implementing links will depend on your site’s purpose. Feel free to experiment with different strategies, but always remember that your focus should be on providing value to your audience. If you fail in that task, visitors won’t trust you, click on your links, or return in the future. Make sure you write quality content, therefore, and keep an eye on your conversions to see what’s working (and what’s not).

      Finally, we once again want to stress the importance of disclosing your affiliate links. This is a crucial part of complying with the endorsement guidelines provided by the FTC. Violating these guidelines could lead to legal action, which is naturally something you’ll want to avoid at all costs.

      As such, you should provide information about your links’ nature and purpose, which you can do by creating an ‘affiliate disclosure’ statement. The notice should be unambiguous, and clearly visible anywhere affiliate links are used. This will keep your site out of trouble, and help to promote trust with your audience.[a][b][d][e][f]

      Conclusion

      The trouble with trying to make money online is that you’re rarely given the opportunity to be creative or to work with something you feel passionate about. In that sense, affiliate marketing is unique. This marketing technique enables you to monetize your own site, choosing exactly what products to promote and how.

      Do you have any questions about getting started with affiliate marketing? Join the DreamHost Community today and let’s discuss!



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