It's a known fact that having an affiliate program is one of (if not, the) most powerful way to market your products or services online. If you run a membership site you should seriously consider adding an affiliate program. You can even market an affiliate program if you like. But really, just having an affiliate program link at the bottom of your pages will get you started; i.e., other site owners will find it, and if your offering has value, they will help you market it!
Why? Quite simply, an affiliate program gives other site owners an incentive to help you out; e.g., to write articles about you, to mention you to their friends/followers, or to take the initiative to create videos and promotional campaigns that help generate awareness. In some cases, it merely serves as that extra little bump that a loyal follower needs to feel appreciated when they recommend you to their associates. All good things!
Can s2Member® be integrated with an affiliate program?
Absolutely, and there are lots of options available. Just about any affiliate software will do; i.e., with s2Member you can integrate tracking codes provided by affiliate programs in a variety of ways.
Either via WordPress Dashboard → s2Member → API / Tracking
Or, through event-driven API Notifications; see: WordPress Dashboard → s2Member → API / Notifications
Some vendors have even written WordPress plugins (more like add-ons), that integrate with s2Member in more sophisticated ways; e.g., WP Affiliates Manager add-on for s2Member.
So what affiliate software applications does s2Member® commonly recommend?
There are a few affiliate programs that we recommend, and there is one in particular that I will spotlight in this article—iDevAffiliate™ (most popular). Before I get into iDevAffiliate though, let's look at a list of all of affiliate software applications that we recommend, because they are all great in their own ways. Which one you choose may depend on your specific needs and budget.
Post Affiliate Pro
PAP (Post Affiliate Pro) is a stand-alone application (lives outside of WordPress), and it will manage affiliates effectively for you. Like iDevAffiliate, this software has been around a long time, and it has matured into a popular choice for serious marketers that need their affiliate platform to grow with them; i.e., be capable of bending easily, so that you can adapt it to meet the needs of different business models.
There is learning curve with this, but among it's many powerful features, I'd like to point out that statistics is the strong point in this software. PAP has some amazing charts/graphs that give you valuable insight.
Like so many others, Post Affiliate Pro comes with instructions specifically designed for s2Member integration. There is also a WordPress plugin that attempts to bring some of PAP's functionality into WordPress for you, and this was also compatible with s2Member in our most recent review of the software.
The price associated with PAP varies greatly. They offer several hosted options (easier to get started), but these are associated with a monthly fee. The self-hosted version (recommended) will only cost you once. You pay slightly more up-front for the self-hosted version, but this will save you a bundle over the long haul. Tip: Be sure to check server requirements before you buy.
WP Affiliates Manager
WPAM (WP Affiliates Manager) is at the top of our list if you're looking for free affiliate software that embeds itself right into WordPress. The free version is available at WordPress.org, making it very easy to try out. You can even take a peek at the source code. If you like what you see, you can upgrade to the premium or developer license here. Prices start at just $39—very affordable!
Note that WPAM works well as-is, but it's not quite as powerful as some might like. That said, if you are most interested in simplifying everything that's affiliate-related, and bringing the management interface right into WordPress, this is a great choice. It may require some tuning/tweaking as your site matures, but any developer working with you will have full access to the source code, so there's nothing to hold you back in this regard. Be sure to download the s2Member plugin integration for WPAM.
AffiliateWP (Premium WP Plugin)
AWP (AffiliateWP) is a dream come true if you want affiliate management inside your WordPress dashboard. It's professional, packed with features, and it integrates with all of your favorite plugins for WordPress, including s2Member. The best part about AWP is that it's been integrated with WordPress in ways that blend it seamlessly into your WordPress Dashboard. You'll think it was built by the creators of WordPress—that's how polished this is.
One of my favorite things about this plugin is that it provides WordPress shortcodes that are easy for novice site owners to take full advantage of. There are also free add-ons and pro add-ons available for AWP that are definitely worth reviewing.
Prices on this premium WordPress plugin start at just $49 (one site, personal license). Or, you can go with the professional edition ($199); which includes 9 pro add-ons to boot. I recommend the professional option, as it will also make it possible for you to use AWP on multiple sites. They also have a "Plus" package that is right in between both of these, with a cost of only $99 (for three sites).
s2Member® Integration Tip: AffiliateWP has plans to integrate with s2Member in more advanced ways in the near future. For now though, it's perfectly OK to use the generalized shortcode they provide for tracking purposes. See: affiliate_conversion_script for further details on this.
iDevAffiliate (Standard Edition)
Last, but certainly not least. Let's discuss iDev! iDevAffiliate lives outside of WordPress. At first, this might seem like a hassle, but it's also one of its greatest features. There's a lot to an affiliate program! e.g., marketing materials, marketing groups, affiliate accounts, affiliate commission tracking, actually paying your affiliates, stats, and so much more. Thus, having a stand-alone application is not such a bad thing. With iDevAffiliate you're dealing with software that is entirely focused on affiliate management, and the team behind this software (iDevDirect) has had over 15 years experience in this field.
iDevAffiliate comes in many flavors, but the Standard Edition is just $149.99 (one site license, self-hosted). That's what I recommend, though some of their add-ons are worth reviewing.
For instance, the Platinum Edition comes bundled with the SEO Links module. The SEO Links module is a great feature, because it can turn each of your affiliates into link juice also; i.e., their affiliate link points to a static location on your domain, instead of being stuffed with tracking variables that search engines generally dislike; or being redirected through an entirely separate installation domain. In fact, with the SEO Links module, you can actually install the affiliate software on a dedicated domain (e.g., affiliates.yoursite.com), but your affiliates still get links that lead to your main site. That's why I love the SEO Links module. Very powerful!
One site license? iDevAffiliate is rather unique when it comes to licensing. While each license is good for only a single domain, try to keep in mind that this is for the iDev installation itself. It's a stand-alone application that is capable of serving affiliates across various marketing groups (domains), and also capable of tracking commissions for a variety of products/services on those domains. So try to keep this in mind when you compare a single-site iDev license cost. Ask yourself, would I actually want to install iDev on more than one domain anyway?
Tip: To demonstrate our love for iDevAffiliate, we put together a full s2Member integration guide (and video).
Server Requirements: One thing about iDev to be mindful of, are the server requirements. Unless you go with one of their hosted options, you will need a server that meets their minimum requirements. In the case of iDev, there is one rather unique requirement to be aware of. iDev needs the ionCube loader for PHP. This is a fairly common extension for PHP, and most hosting companies support it. However, it is generally disabled by default; i.e., you should contact your host to be sure that it can be enabled, and then ask them to do that for you.
Other Options Available?
Certainly. That's it for this review of affiliate programs. However, there are many other options available. A quick Google search for affiliate programs turns up lots of possibilities. Just about any of these can be integrated with s2Member in one way or another. In some cases you might need to seek assistance from a developer, but s2Member API Notification panels in the WordPress Dashboard will offer you some pointers.
See: WordPress Dashboard → s2Member → API / Notifications (we recommend that you integrate with Payment Notifications here)
See: WordPress Dashboard → s2Member → API / Tracking (this is a good fallback if API Notifications seem too daunting for you)
A review of our iDevAffiliate guide may offer you some tips also. Even if you decide not to go with iDev, the techniques described in that article may offer you some insight. It provides examples that cover both API Tracking (simple) and API Notifications (more advanced).