Building an affiliate website, or any website for that matter, is much more than buying a domain, hosting and uploading content to your fancy-looking theme.
You need to find to people to visit your site, keep them engaged and make them trust you enough to leave their contact details so you can contact them further.
In essence, it sounds easy. But there are so many different things you need to think about to make your digital marketing a success.
This article lists the tools I have used, and continue to use over the last few years, to reach new readers, keep them engaged and convince them to come back for more!
Whilst the majority of tools mentioned are freemium products, meaning they offer free and paid alternatives, I’m going to focus on the free versions, and explain where I think it’s worth the money to spend some cash.
This article will be updated as and when I find suitable tools that I think should be added.
The essential tools lists are a series of programs that any website – not just affiliates – should be using.
If you’re reading this, nothing in this list should be a surprise. However, if you are not using them, I suggest you go and set them up before you do anything else.
1. Google Analytics
Google Analytics is a tool I wish I set up as soon as I created my first site, not realising how much useful data it gave me.
And even though I use it a lot now, there is always something more to learn from it. It tells me so much information about my site’s performance that I can’t find anywhere else.
On a basic level, it tracks and reports all of my website traffic. Some of the things it tells me are how people find my site, how long they spend and what pages they visit.
However, nothing is more rewarding than seeing how my traffic grows over time. It usually means I am doing digital marketing well, and generally speaking, more visitors means more affiliate earnings!
2. Google Search Console
Google Search Console is the supplementary tool to Google Analytics.
Search console tells me how many visitors come to my site from Google search and what keywords people are using to find my pages.
Alongside this, it tells me the average position of my pages in the SERPs and how often they are clicked on. This makes it vital for me to understand what pages are generating the most organic traffic, and which pages need revising.
It gives me a lot of useful data, but it is also useful for fixing issues on my site. It you have URLs that are no longer available or an incorrect sitemap for example, you are alerted to this on the dashboard.
I advise that you spend time reading and learning how to use this tool once you have set it up.
3. Bing Webmaster Tools
Bing Webmaster Tools is the Microsoft equivalent of the two Google tools mentioned above.
This one tool is very similar, except it essentially combines the same functionality of both Google tools. However, the data for my websites is similar but with slight differences.
Webmaster Tools are not as popular as the Google tools, mainly because the majority of traffic is from Google and not Bing.
Admittedly, I do not use it very often, but it still collects data for me to look at when I wish.
You can now set up Webmaster tools using Google Search Console, so there is almost no excuse to set it up!
Like the Google tools, I recommend you read more about it and learn how to set it up and use it!
SEO is always a major part of any of my websites.
I self taught myself SEO so that I could get FREE traffic from Google and other search engines, without having to rely solely on social media traffic.
There are loads of SEO tools; some basic and some incredibly powerful. Now that I work full time in SEO, I tend to use the paid-for tools.
But, if you are starting out, you can use these free tools which are more than capable of getting your website to the top of the SERP’s.
4. Screaming Frog SEO Spider
Screaming Frog was one of the first ‘proper’ SEO tools that I started using.
When I first started learning SEO, I realised the concept was relatively simple, however it relies heavily on online tools.
And the Screaming Frog SEO spider is still one of the tools that is free to download and is incredibly powerful!
Essentially, the tool is a website crawler to audit technical and onsite SEO of your domain name. I can find a range of issues, from simple to more advanced, and work on them to improve your site.
And if I can improve my SEO, I can usually increase my free website traffic!
If you have an affiliate website, or thinking about starting one, teach yourself SEO and practice as much as you can by using Screaming Frog!
5. Keywords Everywhere
Keywords Everywhere makes the process of finding keywords for affiliate marketing just that bit easier. Pick the right keywords and start getting organic traffic!
To find keywords related to my niche websites, I have used many tools. But nothing is easier than using Keywords Everywhere, which is a free Chrome Plugin.
Once installed, every time I make a Google search, a sidebar on the SERP appears with a two lists, ‘related keywords’ and ‘people also search for’.
I think these two lists explain themselves, but essentially, you now have a longer list of supplementary and related keywords to improve your articles.
Whilst I was writing this, Keywords Everywhere has recently changed from a completely free tool, to a freemium tool.
I can still see all the related keywords, however, the search volumes and competition are now hidden. To reveal this, you need to purchase credits and use them on a pay-as-you-go tariff.
6. Answer the Public
Answer the Public is another keyword tool which expands initial keywords or phrases into a long list of related keywords.
I use this tool to research a general topic and understand what searches people are making related to my initial search query.
I then get a MASSIVE list of long tail keywords which I can export and turn into blogs or articles for my affiliate websites.
For example, when I search the term ‘beach’, within a few seconds, I have a list over almost 1,000 keywords which I can export and review.
Some of the long tail keywords generated for me are:
- which beach allows dogs
- beach without jellyfish
- beach boys
- beach sounds
- beach pics
I can then manually review the list, decide what is useful to me and plan new content around it.
It’s incredibly easy to use, and is always a great place to start your initial keyword.
Ubersuggest is a basic SEO tool from Neil Patel; the digital marketer everybody loves to hate.
Opinions aside, this tool is useful for basic SEO and is one that I recommend you try out for yourself if you are new to SEO.
This tool offers a few important metrics. Including information such as keyword suggestions, new content ideas and backlink profiles.
If I find a new site that is of interest to me, I will do a quick check of the domain to check how well it is performing. I can find data about predicted organic traffic, top-performing keywords and backlink authority.
SEMrush is one of the more advanced pieces of software for people working in digital marketing. It gives a comprehensive insight about SEO, PPC, content and social media for any website.
Because of this, it is an expensive tool, which isn’t necessarily a worthwhile investment for small affiliate marketers.
However, I have signed up and use a free version of the tool, that allows for 10 free searches a day.
The free version doesn’t show all the data available. But, using it alongside other tools mentioned here, means you can perform a quick website analysis for free.
It is one of the most complex tools included in this list, so it definitely take a bit of learning. But if I learnt how to use it, so can you.
SEOQuake is another Chrome browser plugin that describes itself as a ‘Powerful SEO Toolbox’.
To use this plugin, you need a free SEMrush account, which I’ve just covered.
I use SEOQuake as one of a few other tools to do a quick site audit of my own, and other sites. Within a second of clicking the installed plugin, I get a wealth of SEO data.
Some of the information includes an on-page SEO audit, internal and external link details and a keyword density tool. I can use this to compare my sites to competitors and find opportunities to improve my position in the SERPs.
10. Lighthouse Developer Tools
Lighthouse is not specifically an SEO tool, but it is a free developer tool integrated within the Google Chrome browser.
Google describes it as ‘an open-source, automated tool for improving the quality of webpages’. And after all, Google wants to show the best websites to people using its search engine.
When I perform a Lighthouse audit, results are shown for five categories; performance, progressive web app, best practices, accessibility & SEO.
The results are a bit more complex and difficult to turn into actionable improvements. But they provide me with good insights, and something to consider if you take SEO seriously.
And you don’t even need to download or signup to use it; just access it from your Google Chrome browser using ‘alt+cmd+I’ as a keyboard shortcut.
11. Ahrefs Backlink Checker
Ahrefs is another expensive SEO tool that provides a wealth of information about keywords, traffic and backlinks, amongst other things.
But because this is a free tool article, I’m going to focus on the free Backlink Checker feature.
When I am looking at webpages that are appearing top of the SERPs, one of the SEO tactics I use is looking at the backlink profile.
The more backlinks a page has, generally speaking, the more ‘authority’ it has in the eyes of Google.
Therefore, I can understand how many backlinks my competitors have, and what sites are linking to them.
I then devise a strategy to see if I can compete with my competitors and what I need to do to get some backlinks of my own!
Devising a backlink strategy is a whole new topic to cover for another time, but you can click the following link to access it ahref backlink checker.
There are a couple of main reasons that good design tools are essential for affiliate websites.
Good design make websites and social media accounts look good, and encourage people to visit and stay on your site.
Once, you’ve got visitors, you still need to rely on good design to convert to sales. Think about what makes people click on your affiliate ads, or what makes people click through on your emails.
Secondly, good design is essential for your SEO.
Images and videos are bigger files than any text on site. Too many large file sizes can cause websites to load slowly, which may impact how much organic search traffic you get.
Therefore, the tools below are what I use to create any graphics or content, and then optimise or compress them to publish across websites of social media.
Canva is an incredible versatile tool that lets you create simple graphics using a drag-and-drop format.
I have used Canva for ages, and still use it to create simple logos, social media headings, affiliate graphics and resize photos amongst many other things.
Canva offers loads of different templates, importantly of the right dimensions, to allow you to upload you own images and edit them to the right size or add text on top of them.
All my blog image headers are made using Canva; I’ve created one template, then make copies and edit based on my blog post title.
Whilst Canva offers loads of free features that anybody can start producing their own designs with straight away, it offers a lot of paid for features, including buying stock photos for your designs.
13. Compress jpeg
compressjpeg.com is an online tool that does as the URL suggests; compresses jpeg images into smaller files.
I ‘use’ a lot of images from other websites, as well as images submitted to me from social media fan pages.
This means that I cannot control the size and quality of all images I get, so I have to process them into as small an image as possible.
Images are incredibly important for a good user experience, making visitors hang around longer, and interact with your page.
However, this can make my webpages load slowly, which ironically, causes people to abandon my site if it’s too slow to load.
Using jpegcompress.com, I can upload an image, and let it compress the image and download it ready to use.
Most of the time, there is no obvious loss in quality, but sometimes, the resulting image will be too grainy or blurry, so be aware of this (check my Squoosh review below if you are having this issue).
As well as jpegs, you can also do the same for png file types, although these are usually a lot larger, and don’t always compress well.
Finally, you can always convert between jpegs and png file types using the same process outlined above; upload image, select conversion, and download the new image.
Compressing and converting images isn’t a fun task, but it really is essential.
I have been known to spend days on end just uploading and downloading new images for a new website, and I wouldn’t do that if it wasn’t good enough.
This doesn’t just apply to jpeg’s, you can also compress png files using compresspng.com.
Squoosh is another image compression and re-sizer tool that is a lot more powerful that compressjpeg.
Not many people know, but Squoosh is actually owned by Google, even though it doesn’t have any apparent connection on the site.
The reason I recommend Squoosh, is because it is incredibly powerful at fine-tuning how you compress an image, rather than uploading and downloading an image like the above tool.
You can manually set how you want to edit an image, and it includes a live on-screen slider to show you the before and after effects of the changes you are about to make.
I have found many times that a standard compression tool just isn’t good enough, and then I will go to Squoosh to make manual edits for one-off photos.
Whilst the tool is incredibly advanced, it is relatively easy to teach yourself, but I have recorded a live demo on how to use and optimise images yourself, just check the link below.
Coolors is a web-based app that allows you to generate colour schemes and palettes with so little effort.
I don’t use Coolors often, but it is usually one of the first tools I look at if I am creating a new site or doing a redesign for an existing page.
With the click of a button, you can generate a scheme of 5 random colours, all which compliment each other to be used as a wider palette.
You can pick and choose the colours you like that are suggested, lock them in place, and ask it to suggest new colours.
If you don’t want to play around with your own colours, or you need some inspiration, you can easily find a load of preset colours.
Having a good set of complementary colours for a website won’t instantly turn bad websites into good ones straight away, I recommend that you go and follow their instagram account, where they show examples of colour palettes that have been used, as well as a daily inspiration!
Social Media Tools
Before you launch a website, I strongly suggest building fan communities on social media pages.
This helps validate your affiliate idea before you put any significant work into building a website, but it also helps generate some traffic for when you share links to new articles.
Social media takes a lot of time and effort, so it is essential you do as much as you can to maximise your efforts.
Here’s the tools I’ve used.
Tweet.Photo is probably one of the newest apps I’ve started using that is featured on this list.
Quite simply, tweet.photo is an automatic tool that instantly shares Instagram posts to twitter automatically.
Once you have signed up for an account and connected your twitter and Instagram account to tweet.photo, your posts from Instagram is replicated on to twitter within seconds!
The only problem is that everything is copied, including the caption and hashtags, which make it look a bit messy.
Whilst I don’t recommend that you use the same caption and hashtags across multiple social media accounts, for one of my websites, my engagement on twitter is so low that I almost stopped bothering logging in.
However, because it is no additional effort, and I still get some engagement from my Instagram posts being shared on twitter, it really is a no-brainer!9
17. Copied App
Copied is a free cross-platform app which I use on my iPhone to manage my hashtags for instagram posts.
Essentially, Copied is just a clipboard manager tool, which lets you save and re-use the same copied text over and over to save time.
So, when I go to post a new photo on instagram, I post my photo as usual, write a relevant caption, then I go to my Copied app and simply copy the hashtags I have used previously and just hit paste!
I can save multiple ‘copies’ of text, so that I can select different hashtags for different posts or accounts.
The hard work is finding and typing out the hashtags I need in the first place, so once I’ve done it once, I can literally copy and paste them to new posts in seconds!
The app is incredibly minimal, but is one I use almost everyday! I only use it for hashtags, but you can use it for any text you regularly copy and paste!
18. Link Tree
Linktree is a very simple tool, that effectively turns a link into a landing page, so that you can share multiple links for different resources.
It was built with social media in mind – especially instagram.
That one link in your instagram bio can now link to multiple resources, and you can hopefully send traffic to your Linktree link and direct them as necessary.
Linktree is not something I really use, but you should probably look at it if you are starting out.
Why? Because it allows you to set up a profile that generates a backlink to your website.
Essentially, this is link building at its most basic. One link on its own won’t make too much of a difference, but it is one extra free link you can use.
And if you are planning on using Linktree anyway, then the link is an added bonus.
Whilst I don’t recommend exploiting this and similar tools for free backlinks, they can be a good start for absolute beginners!
Bit.ly is a tool that allows you to shorten URLs, create custom links and manage their performance over time.
I suggest you use the free tool, but there is also a paid for version which is used by large companies and brand-focused sites.
There are many URL shortening services that you can use, but I use Bit.ly because it is easy to use and manage, and there are so many features that many people don’t know about.
Having Bit.ly, or another custom URL tool, is an incredibly easy and basic way of tracking link performance.
Due to the nature of tracking affiliate links – so that you get credited for a referral – they use UTM parameters which make your links long and unsightly.
Trust me, the last thing you want to do, is convince somebody to click your link, only for me to put off at the last minute by an ‘ugly looking’ URL.
Not only is this great for affiliate links, but also for sharing links to articles on your site on social media or email for example.
The free version of Bit.ly allows you access to your own dashboard, so that you can track where you have shared each custom link, and how it has performed over time.
Using Bit.ly is a doubled-edged sword however, and it is REALLY EASY to track how other peoples custom links have performed.
Simply find a bit.ly link, copy it exactly and add a “+” symbol on the end and press search.
Below are some live examples I found:
Administration tools are not exactly exciting, but I suggest you take them seriously.
These tools will make your life a lot easier in the long run, and work well in conjunction with other tools mentioned in this article.
20. Google Docs
Google Docs is the modern day Microsoft Office.
Whilst I don’t have too much against Microsoft Office, Google Docs is designed to be used online. I find its simplicity, ease of use, and integration of other Google tools, superior to Office.
Google Docs consists of four tools; what they do and how I use them:
- Docs – A word processor tool for taking notes and producing draft documents for articles
- Sheets – A spreadsheet tool for saving lists of data such as keyword lists and affiliate earnings
- Slides – A presentation tool. I don’t have a use for this – yet!
- Forms – A survey administration tool idea for collecting raw data from questionnaires
These tools are so versatile, that I use them for all sorts of things.
Google docs allow me to access the same documents across multiple devices. This allows me to switch between my laptop and mobile, and save documents online.
Also, Google docs allows me to share documents with other users. This will be useful when I share my template documents from other articles on my website.
When Grammarly launched, it was promoted EVERYWHERE!
Grammarly is another browser plugin that uses AI technology to compose clear, mistake free writing.
When I write content, such as for this article, I can see in real time suggestions to fix spelling and grammatical errors.
Whilst it might be like a spellchecker on steroids, the best bit is that you can use it on most web-based program. Be that for you articles in your WordPress page, or your latest social media posts.
Use it in conjunction with the Hemingway tool, and like me, you can convince readers you are a perfect writer!
22. Google Alerts
Google Alerts is one of many free Google tools that I recommend that you use.
It pretty much does what it says in the name. It alerts me to topics that I have registered an interest in, and sends me an email to links to new content found on the web.
I set up an alert for a keyword or keyphrase of interest, and adjust the settings to suit me. You can opt to be updated in real time, within 24 hours or within the week of new content published online.
There is no limit to the number of alerts you receive. But, popular topics such as ‘Ed Sheeran’, will get a lot more results (and emails) than ‘coathanger’ for example.
Google Alerts is great for creating content from ‘newsjacking’ existing news stories.
Once I have a new article about my keyword, I can recreate my own version of the article. Using this exact tactic, got me a FREE backlink from the Huffington Post!
23. Google Trends
Google Trends is another useful free tool from Google. It allows you to find the popularity of search queries from different countries and languages.
Because it uses real Google search data, it is a valuable tool to see how a topic is trending amongst a population.
Take for example, global Bitcoin searches.
The below chart shows how popular Bitcoin searches have been over time. This is consistent with the time around early 2018 where everybody was talking about it.
I find Google Trends is useful for two main things.
I use it to research new ideas for affiliate sites and decide whether a topic is worth pursuing.
And also to find extra content ideas for my existing sites.
Go to Google Trends below, or check out my extensive review on how to make Google Trends work for you.
24. Hemingway App
Hemingway is another desktop based app that analyses the writing style of my copy.
When I write articles such as reviews for my website, I want to keep it concise and easy to read.
Including long paragraphs or complex words makes it hard for your visitors to read. This is likely to deter visitors from reading on.
I’m not the best writer in the world and tend to overcomplicate things.
So, once I’ve written some content, I copy and paste it into the app, and let it analyse my writing style.
It then gives me a readability score, with hints and advice to improve. For example, where my sentences are too complex, or I use the passive voice too often.
You can bet, I’ve put the draft version of this article through Hemingway before I published it!
When I start a website, automation tools aren’t always necessary.
But as my sites grow, automation tools make my life easier, and save me time to focus on the more important things.
These automation tools range from easy to difficult to set up. When I find myself spending too much time on monotonous, behind-the-scenes jobs, I start to consider these tools for everyday tasks.
25. Cognito Forms
Cognito Forms is probably one of the most ‘boring’ tools I have included on this list, but it gets used on my websites every day!
It is a simple online tool, that allows you to create contact and signup forms to capture details of your website visitors and turn them into leads.
There are LOADS of solutions for online contact forms, but I like Cognito Forms because it is basic, easy to set up and implement on site.
Crucially, I can use it as part of a simple automation process. When I connect it to Zapier (see next review), I can save information in a spreadsheet or send out an automated email for free.
Zapier is an example of a tool that sounds complicated yet is incredibly simple – and effective – to use.
Zapier works by connecting two or more apps, to create workflows and automations. When you set up an automation, an action that has been performed on you site, then triggers additional actions to happen.
For example, my first use of Zapier was for collecting and storing email addresses. Whenever somebody filled in one of my signup forms, I then set up an automation to copy the name and email address in a separate database.
However, other ‘Zaps’ that I have set up include saving images I post on Instagram to automatically save in Google Drive, push news alert to a slack channel and automate simple outreach emails.
It is incredibly versatile and takes little technical knowledge to get started. The only issue I found was that I quickly used my monthly allocation of free automations!
27. Visual Ping
Visual Ping is a tool that live monitors changes to webpages and emails me with alerts.
It is impossible and a waste of my time to manually track changes to websites, so this tool is ideal.
I use Visual Ping to alert me to changes to key competitor pages, whether that be design or content changes.
For one of my affiliate websites, I track changes on one key webpage that provides me with key information for new articles.
As soon as this page is updated, I write and publish a new article. I get updates to new information approximately once a month. From these monthly articles, I get hundreds of visitors to my site.
This increased web traffic correlates well with increased affiliate earnings -not a bad ROI!
Find the link to Visual Ping below, with a tutorial on how to set it up:
Lastpass is a password manager that lets you save login details for your online accounts.
I waited far too long to set this up, because I was struggling to remember all my unique login details for each account.
Once I set up a free account, I installed the plugin on my Chrome browser, and let it do its thing.
Every time I set up a new account for a tool, it offers me a unique password made of numbers, symbols and letters. It then automatically fills in the password and username and saves it into my secure online vault.
Even if I have an existing account, when I log in, it will offer me the option to upload and save the details for next time.
And the best bit, I only have to remember ONE password to automatically access all my details.
This means I can access any account from multiple computers, and more importantly, my phone!
If you start an affiliate website, you will have lots of accounts, and you will need a password manager.
I strongly recommend you set this up before you waste time requesting new passwords for multiple accounts.
You will often hear that affiliate marketing earnings correlates strongly with email.
That means generating a good email list of relevant subscribers, and then producing emails to convert your fans into revenue. There are LOADS of email tools available, and what might be best for me, might not necessarily be the best for you.
Email tools are probably one of the first things you will need to spend actual money on, and this was true for me.
However, you can always start for free. Right now, I currently just use one free tool, but this is sure to be updated in 2020.
Mailtrack is a free Google Chrome plugin that is to be used with Gmail.
It enables you to track when sent emails have been opened and read by the recipient. You also get more notifications detailing how many times your email is opened over time.
I have used this with free gmail accounts, and domain based email that I have set up with GSuite mentioned above.
I use this plugin to track the success of outreach emails to journalists or webmasters. It allows me to decide when to follow up, tweak my subject line or find an alternative contact address.
This is the best email tracking tool I have used that isn’t integrated with a proper email service. See my next tool for proper email tool reviews.
I have tried to categorise all of the above tools into one category, however, it is not as black and white as that.
For example, I have used Zapier and Cognito Forms with my email from Gsuite as part of my email marketing.
Below, are some additional tools which I still use, but don’t quite fit into the above categories.
32. WordPress Theme Detector
I think this one explains itself, but WordPress Theme Detector (WPTD) is a free website based tool that allows you to enter a URL of a website and check out the theme and plugins that have been detected on site.
This tool is incredibly useful for checking if a site uses a wordpress theme, and if so, which one.
Simply paste the URL of a site you like (or dislike) the look of, and the site will tell you if it is using a wordpress theme, which one, and where you can buy it yourself.
It will also detect what plugins are also installed, which can give you a good insight into the tools that are being used to monetise the site, or improve the site from an SEO or speed perspective.
Whilst the site is not 100% accurate in my experience, it does provide some useful insights into some of the most popular themes and plugins used across the web.
I personally use this site to find out what web tools my competitors are using, as well as finding inspiration for new themes and plugins based on what other sites are using!
Wappalyzer is very similar to WPTD, except it is far more powerful and comprehensive in its search.
Whilst WPTD detects just wordpress themes, Wappalyzer analyses what web technologies are being used to run their site.
Much like WPTD, paste in the URL of interest, and you instantly get a tag cloud of technologies that are being used.
You can click on the different technologies listed in the results, to find out how many, and what other sites are using them too.
I was introduced to this tool by a web developer friend, and most of it doesn’t mean provide much actionable use to me, but I occasionally use it out of interest for interesting sites I find.
Everyone knows what Skype is right?!
Except, I’m not including it on this list for its video call or business conference capabilities.
Skype instant messenger is THE tool you need to stay in touch with you affiliate account managers.
Any good affiliate manager will have Skype, and you will probably be asked for it when you sign up to any affiliate programs.
Don’t just install it and not use it though.
Send you manager a message. Ask them for links for relevant affiliate sites, any creatives, or even exclusive deals.
I’ve found in my experience, that the more you stay in contact with your account managers, the better that account will perform.
Obviously Skype is free, all you need is an outlook account – I recommend you set one up exclusively for your affiliate sites and separate from any personal accounts to make things easier!
Like I mentioned at the start of this article, there are a lot of tools, and I use some tools a lot more regularly than others.
Just because I use them, doesn’t mean they will be useful for you. However, I have tried to point out why I think they are useful, especially in comparison to other tools available.
Many of the tools above provide paid-for versions, and you may find yourself requiring to spend some money to further your affiliate efforts.
Sometimes, it is worth the investment for paid-for tools, but I would suggest you start earning some income before you start spending money on tools.
I will try and get round to doing a full review of each tool mentioned above, but I realise this make take some time, which is especially difficult as tools change and upgrade all the time.
Have I left out any tools that you think I should be including? Let me know in the comments below!