Sometimes the very thing that makes me so passionate about WordPress is the very thing that has me pulling out my hair and wanting to kick my laptop to Timbuktu. Such was the case when I spent 8 HOURS yesterday trying to find a low cost OptimizePress affiliate plugin that works for me.
There are thousands of awesome developers who are out there creating plugins and themes for us business owners to use. There is a tool to help me do practically anything I could ever need to grow my business on my website. That is incredibly powerful. Until the tools I need don’t play nicely together.
When I was planning the launch of my Do It Yourself SEO for Small Business Course, I had a MASTER PLAN. I planned out every blog post, every email, and every image. Somewhere on that list, in the category of things to do once all of the content was finished, was to create an affiliate program for the course.
As you know, nothing ever goes exactly as planned.
Why I Can’t Use the Built-In Affiliate Integrations with OptimizePress
OptimizePress is a program for marketing and launching courses. It’s got a bit of a learning curve, but now that I’ve worked with it a bit I’m pretty happy with it. When I was doing my research, I saw that it would integrate with an affiliate program. Perfect! Or so I thought.
When it was time for me to set up said affiliate program… well, let’s just say there were some barriers.
- The two programs that were integrated were pretty pricey, and that just wasn’t an option for me.
- The affiliate coupon option requires PayPal Pro forms, which means I’d need to implement an SSL certificate on my site. Since the cart was already open, I didn’t want to mess with that.
- I figured out how to implement PayPal forms with PayPal Express Checkout (so I didn’t need SSL) but I couldn’t figure out how to run a report on coupon usage. I might there somewhere, but I couldn’t find it.
After a few hours of messing around and searching for help, I decided I would need to find a third party affiliate plugin that works with OptimizePress.
The Problem with Most Affiliate Plugins
I decided to try WP Affiliate Manager first. It was a free plugin and had great reviews. The installation and setup was fairly easy. I got it running smoothly and tracking impressions through affiliate links. But no matter what I did, I couldn’t get it to track sales. Guess what? It doesn’t work with OptimizePress. You see, even with my web background I hadn’t quite gotten the concept of how these affiliate plugins worked.
Most affiliate plugins hook into the code for specific payment methods only, and can only be used with those tools. The problem is that NONE of these plugins specifically say that can’t be used with tools not on the list. They assume that you know that.
I feel kind of silly for not figuring that out sooner. But if I didn’t figure it out right away, I’m betting most of you wouldn’t figure it out right away either. I hoped I’ve saved your hours of frustration through THAT admission!
The OptimizePress Affiliate Plugin That Will Work
Then I found some affiliate plugins that worked a bit differently. They didn’t count sales. They counted registrations.
Eureka! I thought. Since people register for my course after purchase, this should work perfectly. I tried Affiliate Plus, let’s just say after a couple of hours I gave up. It’s a very simple and light plugin. It was just a little too simple.
Then I hit pay dirt. I found the WordPress Affiliate and Referral Plugin on Code Canyon. It had 4.5 stars and 151 comments. I spent time reading through the comments and realized that there were people out there who wanted WAAAAY more out of an affiliate plugin than I needed. (I felt MUCH better after that).
I realized from the comments that this plugin wasn’t perfect and was lacking somewhat in the documentation aspect, but it seemed to do exactly what I needed it to do. It hooked into the default WordPress registration process (just like OptimizePress) and so it should record sales based on the after-sale registration for my course.
To make a much longer story short, it works. Despite some frustrations about the lack of instructions, it wasn’t too difficult to set up. Here are the basics:
- Create an OptimizePress package called “affiliates”.
- Create a page named Affiliate Dashboard and add it to the affiliate package and free membership level. Put a link to it in the sidebar or nav menu.
- Use the short codes in the affiliate plugin to add the links, creative marketing materials, and successful referrals to the Affiliate Dashboard.
- To grant access to the Affiliate Dashboard, create a free account and add the affiliates package to it.
The one capability I decided to live without is the ability to change the payout levels per affiliate, and to set a percentage rather than a set payout amount. I’ll have to calculate those things manually when the course cart closes.
What I’ll Do the Next Time
Now that I’ve got it all figured out and working, here are some of my lessons learned. Maybe I can save you hours of frustration.
- Implement the SSL certificate, even if you think you won’t need it. Although it hasn’t been proven to improve your SEO, Google does recommend it. And it’s just safer. I skimped on this step because all of the payment information happens on PayPal, not on my site. And, I was overwhelmed with so much else to focus on, that I just didn’t do it.
- Test early, test often. I left this step to the last because again, I was overwhelmed with all of my other tasks. In the future, I won’t try to implement something like this last minute. I’ll either fit it into my launch schedule earlier, or I’ll live without it.
- If you’re purchasing a theme or plugin like OptimizePress, ask pre-sales questions. I know it’s difficult to predict what you need to ask. Sometimes you think you know from the sales copy exactly what you’re getting. It’s not until you start implementing that things fall short. But ask anyway!
So that’s it! I now have a working affiliate program with my Optimiz Press installation. I hope my hair-pulling, laptop kicking experience can make your life a little easier someday! If you know of any other great ways to implement an affiliate program with Optimize Press, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.
And if you want to start driving more traffic to your website, check out my Do It Yourself SEO for Small Business course. You don’t have to be a techy pro to make SEO work for your website!