In this guide, I will do my best to describe exactly what you need to setup for running affiliate marketing campaigns. It will be in a simple, concise step-by-step manner, giving you only enough information to accomplish the task without overwhelming you further. I’ve even included screenshots to make life a whole lot easier. Thankfully in this day and age, many of the technical aspects of a server setup are automated and user friendly!
The technical side to getting started as a beginner with Affiliate Marketing normally involves setting up the following:
- Tracker Server Setup (View)
- Landing Page Server Setup (View)
- Domain Names and DNS Configuration (View)
- Tracker Installation and Configuration (View)
- Landing Page Server Configuration (View)
Let’s go through each point one by one.
TRACKER SERVER SETUP
Aside from going down the dedicated hosting route, the easiest and most effective setup is by using one of the cloud-based on-demand platforms.
The key players in the industry are Vultr or Digital Ocean, and the setup is pretty much identical on both of these. You can choose whichever one you want and use it for both your tracker and landing page hosting.
Below I’ll list out the steps on how to get set up. We’ll use Digital Ocean for this purpose, but as mentioned both setups are basically the same.
1. Sign up for an account on DigitalOcean.
2. Create a project. You can name it anything. We will use “Tracker Project” as an example. For purpose, select “Web Aplication”. Click on “Create Project”.
3. Once inside your newly created project, select “New Droplet” button.
4. Choose a $40 per month plan. Select Ubuntu 16.04.4 x 64 as the Operating System.
5. For location, I recommend droplets located in Asia or Europe, since as a beginner, they are the places you’ll most likely do the majority of business.
6. Don’t hit any boxes additional boxes, you can leave everything as is. Press ‘Create’ to deploy your droplet.
7. It’ll take less than a minute to create it. Once finished you will see something like this:
For this guide I’ve created a new droplet to show everything in detail.
8. When the creation is complete, check the email you receive from DigitalOcean with information about how to access the server. It should look like this:
9. Copy and save the IP Address, Username and Password in a safe place. You will need to have access to this information further in this tutorial.
If you have completed all these steps, then you will now have a baremetal server installed with nothing but an Operating System.
You will still need to buy a domain name and setup your tracker, but first you are going to deploy another server, this time for landing pages.
LANDING PAGE SERVER SETUP
Now you need to create another server, but this time to host your landing page.
Yes, technically, you can host your landing pages on your Tracker server, but I don’t recommend this at all. You could go for a lot more expensive, dedicated server option, but you’ll find a problem with doing this because, as a beginner, when you haven’t yet made any profit, you don’t want to spend money on buying and setting up an expensive server.
It takes a long time to learn how to set up and configure servers, which in my opinion is a waste of time since it is not vital for those who work in affiliate marketing.
Instead, we are going to take an easier route, and since you already have an account on DigitalOcean, all you need to do is create another droplet. The steps are identical to creating your tracker droplet.
1. Create another project, naming it “Landing Page Project”.
2. Deploy another droplet.
3. Choose a $20 a month plan to begin with for your landing pages. You can easily resize the droplet if your campaigns start blowing up with money down the road.
4. The rest of the settings, including the server location should be the same as in the previous setup.
By now you should have two servers (droplets) with nothing but an Operating System installed, accessible by nothing but their IP addresses.
This is a good start, but there is a little more work to do before you are done!
DOMAIN NAMES AND DNS CONFIGURATION
The next part of the process is purchasing a couple of domain names and attaching them to your tracker and landing page server accordingly. But don’t worry, domain names are extremely cheap, and you can pick one up for about $5-10 per year.
Namecheap.com is one of the most popular and reliable domain name registrars out there, so you can do a search for suitable domain names on their site.
For your tracker domain, I recommend using a .com extension which may be slightly more expensive than other extensions depending on the name that you choose. It essentially does not matter what domain name you buy though, but it should be something that is easy to remember. It should also be more or less professional as it might be visible to your visitors when they click through your funnel.
You can definitely use a standalone external DNS provider, but as a beginner I would highly recommend paying for their Premium DNS option on NameServer during check out. I have never experienced any issues with it, and it’s just one less piece to concern yourself with.
For your landing page domain, feel free to use the cheapest extension domain, such as “.site”. This will change multiple times throughout your affiliate marketing journey for a variety of reasons.
Now that you have purchased your domains, you can view them on your dashboard.
How to attach your domains to your droplets
The next step will be that you need to attach them to your previously created droplets on DigitalOcean.
To do that, one needs to update the domain’s DNS first.
1. Log into your NameCheap account
2. Go to the Domain List
3. Click “Manage” next to your domain -> “Nameserver” section.
4. Ensure that “Namecheap PremiumDNS” or “Namecheap BasicDNS” option selected in the drop-down list;
5. Next go to “Advanced DNS” tab -> “Host records” section -> Add New Record. You will have to add two records with the following settings (CNAME and A Record)
1. CNAME Record | Host: www | Target: (TRACKER-SERVER-DOMAIN-NAME) | TTL: Automatic
2. A Record | Host: @ | Ip Address: (TRACKER-SERVER-IP-ADDRESS) | TTL: Automatic
6. After you add two new records, remove the two Namecheap default records, CNAME (Linking to parkingpage.namecheap.com) and URL Redirect Method.
That’s it! Normally the domain name propagation should not take more than 30 minutes to an hour but in extreme cases it might take up to 24 hours.
To check if it’s all gone ok, visit https://www.whatsmydns.net/ and enter your name to see if it has been propagated to the correct IP address. If it does, all servers will show up as green.
Now you should follow the exact same steps to attach your landing page domain to your landing page server. Obviously, you will need to use your landing page server IP address when setting up the A-Record instead of the tracker server IP.
TRACKER INSTALLATION ON YOUR TRACKER SERVER
First and foremost, you need to sign up for the actual tracker.
We recommend Binom Tracker, because it is absolutely FREE for the first 31 days and you do not even need to enter your payment details.
Once you sign up, find the Binom support page here, and ask for help with the tracker installation. You will need to provide your DigitalOcean droplet IP address and password (it should have been emailed to you), and your newly purchased tracker domain name.
There are a number of different solutions for your tracking. For years we have advocated the cloud based Voluum as a tracking solution of choice, until, due to Voluum price increase, we came across the self-hosted Binom Tracker. Self-hosted trackers can be a pain in the ass to install on your server, but the amazing support team at Binom takes care of that. They will gladly install a fresh instance of their tracker on your droplet and configure your server for best performance.
Once the support team has completed their setup, you will receive your fresh installation credentials. All you need to do is go to your tracker domain name and enter these details. Your username will normally be “root” and whatever password the Binom support sends you. Make sure to copy it and store it in a safe place.
LANDING PAGE SERVER CONFIGURATION
Now that you have a tracker setup on your tracker server, you still have to configure the environment to serve landing pages on your landing page server. Fear not. Nowadays, it has become extremely easy to automatically deploy a highly configured instance of various required software for that role. We are going to use ServerPilot for this task.
What is a ServerPilot anyway?
For launching any script on a server, one needs a set of server software called LAMP stack. This includes the web server Apache, PHP5 and MYSQL, but unless you have training as server administrator, it is rather difficult to do from scratch. ServerPilot is a special service for cloud servers, and it can create its own LAMP stack on a server in under 5 minutes, so you don’t need any knowledge or experience to do that. The price is quite reasonable and it only costs $5 to connect a server and 0.50 per each domain that you set up on it. (ServerPilot calls them “apps”)
1. Go to ServerPilot and sign up for an account.
2. Once there click connect to a server and enter your landing page server IP address and password. Leave plan as “Economy”.
3. Click on “Connect to Serverpilot”.
The installation will take some time, once completed you will see:
That’s all you need to do, the server is now ready.
Next, it’s time to add an app. An app is the equivalent of a website on your landing page server. If you decide that you want to use more domains for hosting landing pages you can easily do so, by just attaching that domain to your server in NameCheap and adding an app in ServerPilot.
1. Enter your landing page domain credentials, choose a strong password. This information is what you will use to access it via FTP client and upload landing pages.
2. Once your App is created, navigate to SSL on the left hand side, and click “Enable SSL”. It might take 5-20 minutes for that button to show up. So, if it is not there right away, do not worry, just come back later.
3. Once SSL is enabled you can upload your landing pages to the server. We suggest you use one of the most popular FTP clients out there, FileZilla. Download it on the developer’s site and install. Once installed, launch FileZilla and select New Site on top toolbar.
4. Now input your app credentials. Remember the password and name you set for your domain when creating the app? Pay attention to the protocol, make sure to change it to SFTP, and not a default FTP.
5. Click Connect.
6. Once connected you will see a lot of folders. Navigate to app – public. You will see index.php file. This is the default file that ServerPilot has created. Feel free to delete it as you won’t need it. Now you simply need to create folders for your landing pages and upload them there.
I hope that you’ve been able to follow this all clearly and you’re able to get everything set up without any problems. All the best, and do let me know in the comments below if you experience any issues – I’ll be happy to help!