WordPress is a great framework for an affiliate site, but you need more than just a basic installation. People will trust a site that looks good, but they won’t put as much stock in a site that look like you hit “new blog” on WordPress.com and left it as it is.
First of all, you need a stand-alone installation of WordPress.org. The hosted solution is fine for basic blogs, but you’re severely limited in what you can and can’t do with it, including the plugins and skins you can use. A lot of the nice, advanced techniques available for affiliate marketing require being able to customize your site at a root level, which you can’t do when someone else is using WordPress multisite to run your site.
I’m not going to go deep into the various affiliate techniques here, at least in part because they’ve been covered by us before.
I’m just going to focus on WordPress themes for this post. Let’s dig in.
Like the bible, many great WordPress sites begin with Genesis. Genesis is not a WordPress theme itself, though it has many themes of its own. Instead, Genesis is a framework. It’s a complete overhaul of WordPress itself, designed for flexibility, customization, but more importantly, speed. Normal WordPress, even optimized in every possible way, is still probably going to be slower than a good Genesis installation.
Some of the themes I’m going to mention in the rest of this article are going to be Genesis themes. That means they require you to be using Genesis for them to work. I’ll note down those that are Genesis in the description of the theme I give.
The Genesis Framework can be found here. It’s $60 to buy and comes with a theme of its own, simply called the Genesis Framework Theme. However, there are a lot more themes on the StudioPress site. You can buy them on their own, and they come with Genesis, with a price commensurate to the cost of both items together. If you already own the Genesis Framework, however, you can get them cheaper.
You also have the option to buy everything StudioPress puts out. This includes Genesis, all of the themes, support, and updates they publish, as well as themes from third party developers who have allowed StudioPress to add them to their package. This does not come cheap, however; it’s $500 up front, plus $100 per year. You get like $1200 worth of stuff if you do it, but it’s very much designed as an option that should be available to agencies, not something individual marketers want or need. If you’re just setting up one or a small handful of affiliate sites, this is very much overkill. You need to be setting up and managing at least a dozen unique, high profile sites before this becomes a valuable investment.
Below, I have listed a bunch of different theme options. I’ve linked to each of them with a plain, non-affiliate link to a demo page, whenever possible. The short description probably won’t do them justice, so go ahead and take a look yourself. See how they feel and see if that feeling matches the sort of atmosphere you’re trying to convey with your affiliate site.
Rise is a theme by Thrive Themes, a name you’re going to see several times here. Thrive is a company making themes with a Genesis-like framework behind them, except you don’t need to pay for the framework itself. Instead, themes come with a sort of plug-and-play theme generator engine behind them, that allows you to customize your theme to a pretty great degree.
Rise has a homepage that is highly focused on getting mailing list signups right away, and otherwise focuses pretty heavily on the blog. Posts are laid out well and the entire site has a lot of nice dynamic elements.
A note about Thrive: All themes have one of three licenses. For $49, you can use the theme on a single website, with unlimited free updates and a year of support. For $67 you can use the theme on as many sites as you want, so long as they’re your sites, not sites of your clients. Alternatively, you can get access to every Thrive theme and additional plugins and support for $19 monthly recurring, or $49 monthly if you’re an agency.
Storied is the second Thrive theme on the list, and it’s focused entirely on the blog with landing pages taking a secondary role.
This is great for affiliates that need to push their informational position, but since it puts the mailing list on the back burner, it’s less effective at converting people to your list. It’s a very visual theme, though, which can be excellent for specific niches.
Another Thrive theme, this one is designed to focus purely on personal branding.
It’s great for affiliate marketers who want to build a brand around themselves, rather than those who want to build an impartial brand based around their industry. It would not be out of place to see people like Darren Rowse or David McSweeny using such a layout, for example.
This theme comes from MojoThemes and is designed to be a wall of product reviews, similar to a site like This Is Why I’m Broke.
If you have a broad niche and you review individual products within it, in order to get a lot of different recommendations and a lot of different products set up with affiliate links all in the same place, this is an ideal theme for you. The demo shows a technology and gaming niche, but it works with anything that can have graphical representations of the products on display. The theme is $49 for a license.
Splash is a theme from MyThemeShop, and it sort of splits the difference between a blog-focused site and a review-focused site like Smart Reviewer.
It’s designed to look a lot more like a traditional blog design, with posts in a column, sidebars for more posts, related posts, and all the rest. However, posts are reviews by default, with visible star ratings so users can see how you’ve rated the content you’re writing about. You can certainly write posts without the star ratings, though, so it’s robust enough to do both.
Pricing from MyThemeShop is $59 for one theme for a year, then $19 each following year. Like most large theme shops, however, you can pay $87 for a month, then $9 per month after it, for access to all of their themes. This particular shop ha 102 themes as of this writing, as well as 21 plugins.
This theme, produced by Color Labs, is focused a lot more on selling one single affiliate offer than it is around building a site for multiple offers.
It’s great for single squeeze pages and small sites for individual offers. If you’re running affiliate marketing in a way that builds individual sites for each offer you want to promote – generally for high value technology and other items – this is the sort of layout you want to use. It has a video front and center, a nice intro lightbox, a scrolling testimonials section, and as many or as few subpages as you want.
Color Labs charges $79 for a single theme for a year long membership, or offers a “catalyst bundle” for $188 that includes a year membership for their 14 themes, their 9 plugins, and some other stuff. More expensive for less than some of the other packs, though you’ll have to check to see if the content is worth it for your businesses.
This is a Genesis theme, and it’s created to look like the titular site itself, though SPI has changed their design since this theme was released.
It’s very robust for selling one or two affiliate offers, or a small bunch of related offers in a narrow niche. It’s focused on branding itself first, showcasing informational authority second, and rounding out affiliate offers third. As a Genesis theme, it’s $100 for the theme plus framework, or less for just the theme if you already have the framework.
Another Genesis theme, this one is heavily focused on pushing one item on the front page, with huge graphics and CTA text front and center.
By default with the images used, it’s very rustic and atmospheric in a dark sort of way. It can be used to pitch a specific piece of software, an individual product, or a course, depending on what you want to do with it. The blog section is lightweight, without sidebars or clutter; just large images and text front and center. Like the SPI theme above, it’s $100 for the theme and framework bundle.
This theme is designed as a white, content-focused design with large images and small text.
The stated design is for food; post large pictures of the results of a recipe, and write a story and how to make the recipe in the smaller text below. A sidebar allows for a newsletter opt-in, a search, and other such staples. However, as with any theme, you can customize the content however you prefer. It is another Genesis theme, but it’s more expensive than the others, at $130 for the theme and framework bundled together. This is because it’s one of the third party themes, developed and supported by Shay Bock Design Company.
This theme is provided by Templatic, and is heavily focused on time-sensitive offers. It’s much like a Groupon-style site in nature; you present a deal, you show a timer of how long the deal has left to live, the original price and the price using your voucher – which for an affiliate probably means the original price is a fake price cranked up for the sake of sales – and a description. It can show as few or as many individual deals each day as you want.
Personally, I would use this format for Amazon Affiliate links, and specifically go through items that are on Amazon flash sale. That way you have an actual full price and an actual deal price to offer, and people don’t need to know you’re not responsible for the deal.
The single theme for one domain, with lifetime license but only a year of updates, is $29. A developer license allows up to five domains but still only has one year of updates, and is $79. The Templatic Club account is $300, and gives you all of their themes and plugins, unlimited lifetime licenses, and even access to the design PSDs.
This theme is designed to look like a cross between a storefront and a review site. It’s for someone who wants to dominate a broad niche with reviews and comparisons between products in a variety of categories. For example, if you chose photography, you could set individual categories for low end cameras, mid range cameras, high end cameras, lenses, lighting, accessories, and so forth. Within each category you have product reviews, and you have easy comparisons between any set of products. It comes with a search and filter system included, for easy usage.
This theme is one of many themes on the Envato Market’s Theme Forest. It’s $49 for the theme with updates and six months of support from the developers. Of course, Envato has thousands upon thousands of themes to pick through, so you’re certainly not limited to just that one. They don’t have a single account, however, so you’ll have to pay for each individual theme you want to buy.
Do you have a favorite theme for your affiliate marketing site? Is there one you favor, or one you specifically avoid? Feel free to let me know in the comments, and I’ll take a look. Perhaps your idea will make it into a sequel post down the line some time.
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