1. Intro
  2. What's This About?
  3. Anatomy of a Niche Site
  4. Domains
  5. What Themes To Use
  6. What Affiliate Programs To Promote
  7. The Post That Started It All
  8. The Most Popular Post Style
  9. Anatomy of a Roundup Style Post
  10. Theme Reviews
  11. Debugging Posts
  12. Video Reviews
  13. Tracking Clicks
  14. Finding WP News
  15. Google Alerts
  16. Outsourcing
  17. Fiverr
  18. Flippa
  19. Conclusion


Back in 2009 I wrote an ebook about how to make money from Envato without being a developer.  Envato is the main company behind Themeforest which is a marketplace for HTML templates, WordPress themes, etc.  It was downloaded thousands of times and in 2012 I released an update to it.  I realized all I was doing was basically creating competitors for myself so I took the ebooks down.  We're now nearing the end of 2013 and I've received so many emails asking where the ebooks went and if I can share them, so I decided to put the info back up, but in the form of a blog post this time.

I am re-releasing this info again for a couple reasons.  The main reason is that I had all this content sitting in an ebook not being of any use to anyone, so it made sense to just release it as content on this site.  Another reason is that the economy is bad and I feel for those trying to earn extra money online.  If I can be of help to anyone then that makes me feel good.  I know I might create more competitors but that's just something I have to learn to live with.  Business is competitive and you really have to have a competitive spirit to be in business.  Anyway, I do hope you appreciate what I'm about to share.  If you found any of it useful please leave a comment, subscribe, share, like and all that stuff.

Please be aware that I'm releasing this as a post and that I've had to do some updating to the info.  It's not the exact same as in the ebook.  I want to provide content that is more up-to-date than what I released a year ago.

I tried making this guide as short and sweet as possible. It's not meant to be an exhaustive guide on every subject of online marketing. Having said that the info I provide here should be enough to get some ideas flowing and give you some good pointers when starting out.

I also want to make it clear this is not a get rich quick scheme. It does take work on your part, but I’ve found the work and the small amount of money this takes is well worth the effort.  I can’t tell you how cool it is to receive recurring commissions for something you do once. I earn commissions daily from blog posts I created months back.  This however isn’t about just doing something once and forgetting about it.  It does take some ongoing work to really make good money, but it’s still pretty easy. And if you’re already familiar with HTML editing programs, Photoshop and WordPress as I assume you are, the majority of the work is super simple.

Some Background On Me

Before I dive in I want to give you a little background on myself. I have been designing and optimizing websites since 1998 and have been working for myself since 2001. Although I do web design and SEO I earn most of my money as an affiliate promoting WordPress themes.

I started using WordPress way back in 2005 when it was still kind of new… two years after it was born to be exact.  I can still remember how impressed I was with it after using Joomla and other CMSs that were so clunky and slow. WordPress was simple and fast and straightforward. It impressed me enough to keep on using it and learning it… and here we are today. The majority of websites I build and optimize for clients are built on WordPress and I recommend it to everyone I know. It really is an awesome tool.

I don't see WordPress losing its luster anytime soon. The more people that pick it up and use it the more need for themes and plugins. The amount of searches per month for WordPress related keywords has been on the rise since it's birth. Of course the more people searching for something the more chance you have to receive traffic for those keywords.  But, the larger the industry the harder it is to rank for highly searched keywords.  So it's good to be in a niche of a large or semi-large market in my opinion.  Especially if you're just starting out.

I'm sure you're ready to dive in. Let's get started.

What's This About?

This guide is about earning money, specifically from affiliate programs.  In the most basic sense you need a website geared around a specific niche.  What is a niche?  Niche means: A special area of demand for a product or service.  I've found it a lot easier to focus on a niche than an entire industry.  Being one person you only have so much time in the day to create content so it's easier to focus than to generalize. It's also easier to rank on search engines for smaller, less searched for keywords… but niche keywords happen to be highly targeted so if you rank for them and give people the content they're looking for you're more likely to convert that traffic into sales.

Because I am a designer it made the most sense to focus on products readers of this site and my others would actually want to use.  If you aren't a designer then you can focus on something else.  For example, if you're a photographer you could focus on promoting products photographers would love like cameras, specialty film, tripods and photography gear in general.  If you're a stay-at-home mom or dad you could focus on products that help parents make their lives easier.  I know I'm writing about promoting WordPress themes, but you can use this info to help promote anything.  You should after all be creating content around something you have a passion for and you know something about.  If you don't enjoy the topic then it will grow old really fast.

In the most basic sense you're sharing your knowledge and research.  People love saving time.  So if you go through the time to do research that someone else will eventually have to do then they'll appreciate your efforts, follow your advice and hopefully make a purchase.  If people find your content via organic search results you have a great chance of earning commissions because your site is already trusted by search engines and that in turn gives people a sense of trust too.

SEO is of course a big part of all of this, but it's too in-depth to go over in this post.  I do talk about a few things, but overall this is about promoting WordPress themes to earn money.  Hope you find it useful.

Anatomy Of A Niche Minisite

Anatomy of a Niche Website

Domain Names

I talk about buying domains with exact keyword phrases in the first ebook but I want to talk about them a bit more because they are very powerful. As you probably know exact match keyword domains are very easy to get ranked on Google. And I should reiterate, exact match .com's, ,net's and .org's. (.Com's and .Orgs work the best.) All other domain extensions are really a waste of your time.

And yes you can separate keywords out with hyphens but why would you? I think hyphens look terrible in domain names and immediately usually think spammer or newbie SEO when I see hyphens. If you can avoid them please do.

What are exact match domain names really worth?

Here's an exact match keyword domain going for $18,800 on Godaddy.com (see below)

Exact Match Domain Names

An exact keyword match domain name going for over $18k on Godaddy.

Using Trademarked Terms in Domain Names

It is pretty clear that you should stay away from using Trademarked names in your domain name like WordPress, Joomla or Envato. When I was looking for a domain to buy for my photography themes site I wanted one that people would use when they went to search Google. Because I've been around the web awhile I knew there were other websites using the WordPress name in it… and there still is. I looked up the info for those existing domains and saw they were around for awhile so I figure that it is ok… but I know that I am taking a risk and I personally don't do it anymore.

I do have a disclaimer on my site stating that the site is not associated with WordPress in any way because it's not. I'm not sure if WP will ever go after people who have their name in their domain names but I only see that causing a huge ruckus online. I mean, can you imagine WordPress coming after people who are dependent on income to feed their family, just because they were promoting WP by using their name in a domain name? I don't see that happening, but again it's a chance you take if you do decide to register any domain names with trademarked names in them.

I'd stick with using the acronym WP instead of using the actual wordpress name when registering any domain names. It's shorter, looks nice and you will never have a problem with anyone saying you can't use it.

Exact Match Domains Post Penguin

Google has changed a lot in the past year and exact-match domains might not hold the same power as they used to.  Now it takes actually more work to get them ranking than it did before.  It does take good incoming links to rank exact-match domains now when before you could get them rank fairly easily.  I own exact match domain names and have one that has stood it's ground in Google's serps and I attest that to decent links and authority.  Age probably plays a role as well but with Google you really never know unless you only have a few factors at work you can pin down.  I think they're still great as when someone sees your domain there's no guessing what it's about… but like any good site you really have to put the work in to create great content under them and achieve links from other good sites.

What Themes to Use

Below is a list of themes I have used and would recommend. Of course you can use any theme you want, even a free theme if you'd like. I think the more professional your site looks the better so if you can I'd invest in a professionally designed theme or template.

Striking Theme – This theme by user Kaptinlin is a full featured and very clean magazine style theme. It has a ton of features that make it very attractive for novices and pros. And besides it looking good is it's well designed HTML structure that clearly allows you to have a single H1 tag on your homepage and then having all subpages use H1 tags for the post headline. This theme has skyrocketed in sales since release selling over 16,487 copies. I think that's a testament to how much people like it.  It has built in ad features and plenty of widget space for banners and such. I've really enjoyed using it.  It has also been converted into a responsive theme so now it even looks good on mobile devices.

Deadline – I've used Deadline in the past as it makes for a great magazine style website.  There are other magazine style themes too that work well.

I think magazine style themes work best.  Themeforest has quite a few to choose from.  I've purchased many from there, but again you can use any that you like.  Here's a list of magazine style themes from Themeforest.

What Affiliate Programs Should You Promote?

There are quite a few WP developers who offer affiliate programs so there are many to choose from. I've had the best luck with DIY Themes, Themeforest, Elegant Themes and Photocrati. There are other large WP developers for whatever reason I earn very little from. Because there are so many developers you should choose who you want to focus on I

think. Or if you go all out and promote everyone you'll soon find that you earn more from one person over another. From there you can hone your content to further increase the sales amount for your better converting content.

The WP theme industry is filled with budding freelance designers from Themeforest who have amazing skills all the way to multiple person companies like WooThemes and iThemes that have large portfolios of themes on offer. Which is great because it means the industry is healthy and has enough money to go around. It also means there are plenty of themes for you to choose from to promote.

The ones that I have found to convert the best are Themeforest, Elegant Themes and Photocrati and I'll tell you why I think that is.

Elegant Themes (ET) – Elegant Themes has been around several years and became very popular because of Nick Roach's elegant designs and very low yearly price. His yearly membership used to be $20 which was ridiculously cheap so of course he sold a lot, but affiliates didn't earn that much, only $9.98 per sale. But he doubled his pricing a couple years back which made a big increase on my affiliate earnings. It's nice to go from receiving about $10 per commission to $20 which is what it's at now. He offer 50% commissions which is very enticing for affiliates and his price point of $40 to access all his themes is still a better value than most single themes on Themeforest.

What's also unique about Elegant Themes is they offer lifelong commissions. That means if the customers you send them keep renewing their membership than you keep earning commissions on a yearly basis. Pretty cool.

Themeforest (TF) – Themeforest has been growing so rapidly that it has become the largest theme market online. Because themes currently cost between $35 to $50 TF it's very affordable for people to buy a theme and build it out for a client allowing freelance designers to make more of a profit. And the fact there are tons of theme designers all vying for sales makes it pretty competitive. I think what makes TF so special is you do get to see a wide gamut of themes and you can really get a sense of who stands out and what themes are selling. The market data you can get from sifting through TF is pretty amazing.

Commissions on average are around $6-10 per sale from TF I've found. TF gives affiliates 30% commission on the users first deposit but because themes max out at $40 or $50 that means users deposits are kind of small. I'd prefer to earn 50% commissions from Elegant Themes and earn reoccurring commissions every year than sending someone to anyone else and earning just one commission.

Photocrati – Photocrati creates a theme for photographers that has been very popular. Photocrati is more expensive than other themes but that allows them to pay their affiliates $20 per commission. Photocrati makes sense to promote for me because I receive traffic for photography related keywords.  If I was ranking for anything as than Photocrati wouldn't do as well.  You have to match the products to your traffic so for me it makes sense to promote them.  Otherwise I'd focus on other themes.

So right now those are the big three. I do make commissions from several other theme developers but it's really not comparable, although I should mention that it does add up.

The Post Style That Started It All

The post style that actually started earning me money was a post I wrote called “Best WordPress SEO Theme“. I had been using the Thesis theme for a few months and wanted to tell people why I chose to use it. And I went through the SEO factors that (at the time) made it one of the best themes available for SEO that had a lot of premium functions. I created that post in Sept of 2008. It's safe to say that that one post alone has generated over 30k in revenue since published. That was all due to the specific post style, keyword titled post, the theme that I was using that was optimized and the fact that I sent traffic directly to DIY Themes via my affiliate link that I was tracking. Pretty simple? Good content and a properly placed affiliate link can be the difference of thousands of dollars and $0.

The Most Popular Post Style

The post type that has generated the most revenue for me is the roundup or list-type post where you list many products that fall under one main topic. The reason these posts are so popular is because they have one main topic ie. keyword to focus on and they usually include a lot of graphics and links and content in between which says to Google “hey, look I'm a lot of good original content, and I must have taken a lot of work to create” and you know what… Google absolutely LOVES this type of post.

These type of posts do take a little longer to create but once you put the work in you'll see a huge bump in your traffic and income.

You can build lists of anything mind you, not just of themes.

Some Examples:

  • XX Popular WordPress Themes for Celebrity Blogs

  • XX Free Themes for March 2014

  • XX Themes That Include Image Sliders

  • XX Real Estate Themes with IDX Technology

  • XX Modern WordPress Image Gallery Themes

  • XX Minimal WordPress Themes for Writers

  • XX Modern Fullscreen Photoblog Themes Getting the idea?

It's important to remember to mix it up when you're publishing content to your site. You don't want to drown your readers in nothing but roundups. And be sure to do some keyword research to find what your visitors most likely will be looking for.

You should also create posts that are tutorials, links to news, and anything else that is useful. Helpful articles on WP are always a good thing to use to keep your site receiving new traffic.

Let's take a closer at a Roundup style post. These style posts are seriously powerful.

Anatomy of a Roundup Style Post

Anatomy of a Roundup Post

Anatomy of a Roudup or List-style post.

Like I just mentioned Roundups are amazing, but the types of posts below also work very well.

Theme Reviews

If you have any insight into how a theme works then sharing it with the web is a remarkable way to gain traffic and essentially build up an audience to promote the theme or other themes you are talking about. I created a post back in 2008 about the best wp theme for SEO and it gained so much traffic that it was literally generating thousands of dollars alone from just talking about SEO and the theme. Of course this was something that was easy for me to write about because I know about design and SEO… but if you don't feel comfortable writing detail posts like this you can always outsource it to someone who does.

That post on SEO WordPress Themes took me about 2 hours to write. For that 2 hours of work I generated thousands of dollars. In hindsight I would have paid 5k for that same article if I knew how much money it was going to generate. I really want the power of creating good content and using targeted keywords to sink in because together they are really powerful.  Of course at the time of writing that post I didn't know it would rank as well as it did.  After I started gaining authority on Google I knew that post was worth a lot.  So I learned by experience.  I for sure wouldn't spend five thousand dollars to have a post written if I knew it wouldn't rank well.

Having said that, I'd always recommend going the extra mile to create awesome content.

Debugging Posts (How You Fixed Something)

If you run into a problem with a theme or plugin, post about it. Post the error you received as the title of your post and end it with the word Fix or Error. Depending on how popular the theme is many people might run into the same problem and of course go running to Google for a quick fix. That's where they find your great site on how to fix and solve all the problems you ran into using XYZ theme or product. I've seen people create entire sites just around this concept. And if done properly can really pay off.  Again people love saving time (and money) so if you are able to teach people how to fix things then there's a good chance you can turn those posts into money makers.

Video Reviews

Video is one of those things where you really have to be comfortable with not only the technology but with yourself. You have to be comfortable enough to express yourself fluently. It does take a bit of time to get used to it if you have any bit of stage fright. Having said that, video is really the most important tool you can harness to deliver tutorials or reviews or guides when it comes to showing someone a product. But it does have to be done right. It doesn't have to be perfect though and you can even turn your bloopers into an outro that might make people laugh and give them a sense of your human side… which a lot of people enjoy.

How often have you seen poorly done video demos online for themes or for anything. The worst is when you are guided through the entire process of an application without any audio! I understand that not everyone is fluent in English and not comfortable talking in front of others but poorly created videos probably shouldn't be done at all because I think it hurts the people creating them more than it helps.

Here are some tools I've used to create videos.

Screenr is an amazingly simply way to capture demos on your screen and to post them to your site. They even have a business edition now that enables you to create screencasts with your own custom branded player. The best thing about Screenr is there is absolutely no software to install and it works fast.

Camtasia is another great tool to use to create video screencasts but it does cost a few hundred bucks. Is it worth it? Absolutely. Because it's been around so long it has really matured into a robust piece of software. Really anyone who's serious about teaching online using video demos owns this software. There are versions for both Mac and PC.

You can embed videos directly after recording them when you use screenr which is nice.  Camtasia exports videos so you can upload them to YouTube or other video sharing sites.  You are able to download your screenr videos as well as mp4 files so you can upload them to your WordPress installation, or YouTube as well.

With the newest editions of WordPress ie. 3.7+ you can embed videos into your posts by simply dropping in a link from youtube.  You don't need embed code or any special plugins.  Way easy!

I really recommend getting comfortable with video and starting a YouTube channel for your website where you post all your videos.  YouTube is now highly connected to Google+ so you can easily have all your videos posted automatically to your Google+ profile page.  Doing this will definitely help you build authority and traffic back to your site.

Tracking Clicks

There is a very real need for tracking clicked links in online business. It gives you so much insight that not tracking your links is really just bad business. It's akin to not paying attention to Analytics if you own a website. You really need to know how many times your links are being clicked on and where those links are located. This allows you to fine tune your content and to focus on it if you are getting some activity.

One of the things that gives tracking clicks a bad name is people using the term “Cloaking” which has really been associated with black hat SEO and overall sounds like you're hiding something. I don't look at tracking my links as cloaking because my main goal is to know how many people are clicking my links and also to know what my conversion rates are… and you need those stats from clicks to calculate that.

I know there are a few tools out there that allow you to create short url's and all that but I've simply stuck to using Pretty Links. Pretty Links is a plugin that allows you to create links on your WP site that are 301 redirects like www.yoursite.com/any-slug/ so the link looks like its pointing to another page on your site but ultimately the visitor gets sent through your affiliate link and the click gets tracked.

It does take time setting up the links, maybe a few minutes but the insight you get from doing it this way means a lot more data you can use to profit more.

Pretty Links

Note: I have purchased the Pro version because it allows me to import and export lists of my links so if I ever go to sell a website I can simply export the links and move them or transfer them to another site I own. Also the Pro version allows you to use Pretty Links on as many websites you own.

I believe there are other plugins out there that track your outgoing links, but I've always used PrettyLinks so it's what I use.

Finding WP News

The more you start keeping track of WordPress themes and plugins the more you'll feel the need to keep everything organized. And keeping track of news to talk about is so crucial to keeping your site up to date that you need something that makes it easy for you to find news.

So have you heard about feedly yet? I'm sure you've heard of it after Google closed down Reader.  It's great for keeping rss feeds categorized so you can easily pull them up to find possible newsworthy stuff to post about (nice on ipad too). You might have seen the big list of rss feeds WP Candy recently released… you can download and import the entire list of 240 WP resources here http://wpcandy.s3.amazonaws.com/rss/sources-all.xml

Its from this page http://wpcandy.com/presents/every-wordpress-news-source-wpcandy-follows

Whatever topic you are covering I'd recommend starting an RSS list of the most authoritative blogs on the subject you're covering.  Bookmark feedly to your main bookmark list located in your browser toolbar and check for updates daily if possible.  If big industry news hits you'll be the first to know about it.

Google Alerts

Google Alerts is a great way to get news delivered straight to your email inbox. Set the frequency for every 24 hours and then if you receive too many emails you can set it to once a week. I set up a separate folder that these emails get forwarded to so I can check them later if I want. You can set up multiple alerts which is a good idea if you want to stay updated on several topics.



Outsourcing work might be something that comes later in your venture.  It does cost money of course, but it's the best thing when you either don't have time or need to hire someone who knows more than you do about something.

Don't worry if you can't afford to immediately start hiring help. It took me awhile before I could actually hire someone to help. And the work that is needed to be done is fairly easy so you can train anyone to do it with just a short video using the tools I mentioned above.

If you're doing this for any length of time you are bound to meet people or stumble upon them on other websites who are writing content like what you'll want. Ask with a simple email if they're available for freelance work. If they're not ask if they know of anyone.  I've received great leads to writers by just asking.

You can find people pretty fast on freelance sites like elance, etc. Another good place to look is the Philippines category of Craigslist. I've had luck finding help here: http://manila.craigslist.com.ph/res/

How much does outsourcing cost?

It depends on what you're having done and by who. Outsourcing work to the Philippines can be cheaper than obviously hiring someone from the US. So it can cost $5 per article or it can cost $50 per article. I always believe quality is better than quantity so if you have the resources and can outsource make sure you are getting a qualified person to do the work because quality content always pays off more than lower quality content. If that means you have to hire someone from your local college then do that.

In the Philippines I've found that you can hire a fulltime writer for about $300 a month. If you are in need of someone who is constantly creating new content for you then this is the way to go if you have a small budget.

I know the Philippines is going through a rough time right now so if you can donate to their relief please do.  I also know America is going through a rough time economically and I do believe in supporting your local businesses.  You can of course go to Craigslist for people in your area who are offering blogging/writing services and see if you can work out a deal with them.

Quick Tip: dropbox makes it super simple to transfer video files to your staff for training.


Fiverr is another website that offers tons of talent starting at the super cheap price of $5.  Fiverr is one of those sites you either love or hate.  In one aspect the users on that site are cheapening the industry of design and content creation by undercutting everyone else by price that it really kills a lot of the industry.  Then, it's popular because of their price cutting and so many people turn to it to get work done for so cheap.  I understand if you don't have a lot of money to spend that Fiverr would be a first choice.  Just know that you do get what you pay for so you might have to go out of your way to find a reputable writer to get quality work done… and you might have to pay more for it as Fiverr now offers higher priced options.

Just make sure you do your research on that site.  Look for reviews and email people if you have questions.

Buying and Selling Sites on Flippa

I've been using Flippa for a couple years now and in that time I've purchased a few websites and I've sold a few. You can sometimes run across a few gems but for the most part Flippa has turned into a junkyard of mostly new spammy type sites or weird domain names for sale. That means you have to do a lot of digging.

Fortunately they have a feature that will email you every so often with search results. So I subscribe to a few searches, dealing with WordPress of course. You can usually tell by the domain name if the site is going to be something you're interested in when it hits your inbox. So it saves time to subscribe to their site so you can keep tabs on what's selling or not selling.

Buying established sites in your niche is a great way to jump start things for your business. My point in telling you this is that when you take the time to build up your site you can easily sell it on Flippa. Sometimes it's better to let sites go to someone else so you can fund or focus on another project.  If you're interested in buying or selling sites related to WordPress or your niche then check out http://flippa.com


Well, I hope what I've shared was useful.  I understand not all readers will be on the same level so feel free to ask questions in the comment area if you want.  I'll be happy to answer them.  Hey, if you think there's something I need to learn please share.

If you liked this post please share it, add me on Google+ and Facebook.  I'd really appreciate it.


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