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The information below is what I would consider the essential basics. But it should help you get off to a great start. Of course, much more detailed information for each topic can be found on this site; use the menu to quickly navigate around.
Even though I have been at it for 6+ years (and working in a full-time “day job” throughout up until last year), I’m still learning and making lots of mistakes.
Had I known the information below when I started off, I would have saved lots of time and money and avoided frustration.
Choose or at Least Research VPN Affiliate Programs
This section could have been placed at the end of this post, but I think it’s important that you do this research upfront. Knowing the VPN affiliate programs you will sign up for and promote will help guide all the other steps you will take from choosing a domain name, to the structure of your website to the actual content you will write.
Not all VPN affiliate programs are created equal. Some pay great commissions, on time, every time while others can be downright dodgy. Plus, there is no point choosing a VPN that will struggle to sell on your website.
Check out our always up to date VPN Affiliate Programs Summary for a quick overview and comparison and then read our juicy analysis in Leading VPN Affiliate Program Details.
Choose your Blog's Name & Website Address (aka Domain Name)
Come up with a good name and website address (also known as a domain name) for your VPN affiliate website. Often, they are one and the same but they don't have to be.
The website address you will need to register is called the domain name. I always recommend sticking with a .com .net or .org domain name. Resist the low-priced offers for other domain name endings such as .biz, .online, .info, .club or country-specific ones.
Though not essential, think about including the main keyword(s) of your blog’s topic in the website address. For example, https://www.awesome-vpn-reviews.com/ leaves no doubt what the blog is about, whether to potential visitors or search engines.
You can check whether your hoped-for domain name is available at zillions of sites, including SiteGround & bluehost.
Usually you are well-served registering your domain name as part of choosing a web hosting package (see next heading). The combined price for doing so is usually lower, sometimes much lower.
Sign up for Web Hosting
Your web hosting provider is the service whose servers your website will be saved on (“hosted” by). Be safe and stick with a well-known, reliable and large web hosting service such as SiteGrou??nd or bluehost.
But make sure the web hosting package you take supports WordPress 'out of the box'. Think of WordPress as the software you'll use to create and maintain your website. About 40% of all websites are WordPress-based sites so there are many advantages in adopting this de facto standard for your website too.
Don't Rush these Initial Steps Unless You Need To
I would recommend that before rushing headlong with registering your domain name and signing up for a web hosting package that you first have some posts ready and an idea of your website’s structure too.
The only exception to waiting is if you are worried someone will register your domain name before you do. Even so, you can always “park” the domain name by registering it but keeping it inactive.
If you take my advice above about web hosting packages, this should literally be a click of the mouse.
My recommended web hosts all have 1-click WordPress installation. For example, bluehost is famous for its 4-minute WordPress installation. Even better, Siteground will walk you through the installation process. If you have an existing site with a different webhost, Siteground will even do a full transfer to their service absolutely free. If your technical skills are somewhat limited, this can provide great piece of mind.
However, keep in mind that WordPress' default "look & feel" is not wonderful.
But don't worry. In WordPress, the look of your site is called its theme and it is easily changed.
Choosing a Theme for your VPN Affiliate Site
I recommend you quickly settle on a decent, rather than perfect, theme. This is a common trap as most people overdo choosing a theme in the beginning.
On the one hand, WordPress' default theme is not great. On the other hand, you can spend too much time (and money) finding a new theme which you are anyway likely to change as time goes by.
Too many beginners obsess about this and try to find the perfect theme, often spending money only to learn a few hard lessons and end up changing their theme a few months later.
Plus, if you simply start Googling "what theme should I use" or "what theme is best" you will be inundated with advice and lots of people flogging premium themes (which earn them commissions) and you will probably choose a theme you don't need.
A Free WordPress Theme is Fine
Therefore, to start, I recommend that you find a decent free WordPress theme you can live with, and concentrate on your blog's content instead.
There is only one essential thing to keep in mind when selecting a theme: it must be "responsive". This means a theme that will automatically optimize the content layout for whatever device is accessing it.
In other words, the theme changes the layout of your web pages depending on whether the visitor is viewing them with a full-fledged web browser on a desktop or laptop computer or if using a scaled down web browser on a tablet or smart phone. This is extremely important as more and more page views are from smartphones and tablets.
But these days almost all themes, including free ones, are fully responsive.
See a Website Whose Theme You Like?
If you see a website that you like the "look" of, enter it here to see what theme the site is using, https://www.wpthemedetector.com/.
If it's a theme you can simply use for free or buy, then you're all set. If it's a custom there, well you will have to keep looking.
Similarly, if you see a font you like, use this online tool to see what font it is, or which font is the closest, https://www.fontsquirrel.com/.
Top Tips about WordPress (Especially if You are New to It)
Spend time reviewing some of the good basic tutorials available for WordPress (but again be wary of any information that hard sells any magical must-have solutions).
In my opinion, the best WordPress tutorials are those on WordPress Apprentice which includes a WordPress Quick Start course that is absolutely free.
Here are a few handy top tips that I wish I had known from the very start about WordPress:
Top Tip: Pages vs Posts
In WordPress, "pages" are web pages with staying power such as your About and Contact pages which do not lend themselves to comments.
In contrast, "posts" in WordPress are classic blog posts which will display the date of the post (whereas pages are undated) and will have comments enabled by default.
Instinctively, you may think, "Of course I want comments enabled". But it's not that simple. Moderating and reacting to comments can be time consuming and they are often spammy or negative. In addition, pages with no comments can backfire and make your website look unpopular.
Another key difference between posts and pages in WordPress is how they each handle Categories and Tags. More on that a little further below.
Top Tip: Plugins
Plugins are to WordPress what apps are to your iPhone or Android device. (Or what extensions or add-ons are to your web browser).
As with apps, some plugins are free and some cost a bit of money. Thankfully, you are usually very well served using free ones.
WordPress plugins let you easily add functionality and features to your website.
But it's also easy to overdo it and install too many plugins which can slow down your site and pose security risks.
There is no need to pay for any premium plugins (or themes) when you are first starting out.
Hackers and bots are constantly scanning websites, including or especially new ones, looking for vulnerabilities to exploit. Should your website become infected with malware, Google will detect this and punish your site in its search results as it does not want to refer visitors to it.
There is no need to pay for any premium plugins (or themes) when you are first starting out.
Must-have Free Plugins
Some plugins are must-haves while others will depend a lot on your site. Here are the must-have plugins in my view, all free by the way. 🙂
- UpdraftPlus (a simply awesome free backup plugin)
- Sucuri Scanner (the equivalent of having virus checking software on your computer)
- Broken Link Checker (helps you avoid link rot by notifying you when any links in your website break or go dead)
- Yoast SEO (helps you optimize your content for search engines so visitors can find your site through Google)
- Pretty Link (a handy tool for shortening those long, ugly links assigned to you by VPN affiliate programs)
- Akismet (if you plan on enabling comments on your blog, this plugin helps screen out fake and spammy comments)
Top Tip: Categories and Tags
Don’t worry about this too much in the early days. This is something that people get wrong from the start or overdo, so here’s all you need to know for now.
Each and every one of the posts on your website should be assigned to one Category and have one or more Tags.
Think of Categories as the key terms in your VPN website’s main menu. Tags are more like the entries you find in an index at the back of a book. Check some VPN website menus and you’ll quickly get some menu items in common that could make good Categories such as Reviews, Deals/Coupons, Guides and News.
As you can see, Categories will especially be driven by your website’s overall structure. So it’s much more important to get your site’s structure right before worrying about adding any Categories or Tags to your posts. A good basis for Tags for a VPN website are brands such as PureVPN, ExpressVPN, NordVPN, etc
The other reason you don't have to worry about them too much now is that the Categories and Tags you assign to posts are easily added (or changed) later.
Investing time early about how to structure your website will really help guide you about the menus you need, how people navigate your site and even how your site might look.
But keep it simple. Most WordPress themes provide for one main menu along the top of every web page.
Other WordPress themes may let you have more than one top menu or allow side menus ("sidebars") or footer menus too, but that doesn't mean you actually have to use them all!
Ideally, all your posts should be only two clicks away from any other post. This is where well thought-out menus come in.
Site structure planning doesn't have to be complicated. Use Word's or PowerPoint's outline feature to plan your site’s structure. Even good old pen and paper is fine for this.
Concentrate on Content
At the end of the day, you can have the snazziest theme, most expensive plugins and fanciest menus, but if your VPN site’s content is crap, it will fail. Period.
This means you need to write, write and then write some more. Content is king so don't get too focused on the techie side of things. These can always be changed or adapted later while retaining your content.
That's the way WordPress works: it treats your content like entries in a database which can be displayed in different ways, but the content (your written words) stay intact.
Write for the Web
Blog writing is usually (or should be) very different from business writing or book writing.
Try to write your materials in "copy mode" (as if you were writing ads), meaning writing pieces that are simple, brief and broken up in many short paragraphs. Also generously use subheadings, bullet lists and white space.
Keep your “Calls to Action” (CTAs) in Mind
Although secondary to the writing process, do keep in the back of your mind what the "calls to action" ("CTA") are and how you might fit them into your content as you write.
For example, do you want people to click on a link (which can earn you a commission if the visitor ends up buying the VPN service promoted on the landing page)? Or do you want them to subscribe to your newsletter (so you can add them to a mailing list for your regular newsletter)? Or something else, such as to donate money or share, like or tweet your content?
For VPN bloggers, the choice among these is easy: all other things being equal, we would much rather send a visitor to the website of one of our VPN affiliate program partners and have the chance of generating a juicy commission.
However, not every post on your website will have this goal. You may have a newsletter or have funnel pages that move your visitors closer to your cornerstone posts from where you further refer them to your VPN partner sites.
When writing content, also keep images in mind. The web is increasingly visual so anticipate how pictures and even videos might fit in. Depending on what approach your VPN website takes, this could also mean lots of them.
BUT make sure images are optimized before adding them to your content. Large images (like those saved directly to your camera’s memory card) are way too big and will slow down your site.
If your web pages are slow to load, Google will punish you in its search rankings. This is not good as no-one will find your posts.
To avoid this, optimize images by using free image software such as Irfanview or free online tools such as TinyJPG or Google’s own Squoosh.
Remember to optimize images before adding them to your site’s content.
These tools substantially shrink the file size of images without hurting the quality of how they look to your visitors.
Free Images are Just Fine
Images are another area where beginners are too often tempted to spend money when there is no need to.
There are plenty of free image libraries out there, such as FreeDigitalPhotos or Pixabay.
Or, use your own photos to start. Just make sure any images you use are optimized as discussed above.
The guidelines above should give you a pretty good start and probably represent about a year's worth of lessons I learned the hard way!
However, the information above is still only the tip of the iceberg and represents what I consider the bare bones basics.
Explore this site and check it often for practical, time- and money-saving tips directed at people like you and me who don’t have any time to waste.
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