How to Set Up and Extend External Products and Affiliates in WooCommerce

There will be times when a client wants to sell a product that is displayed on their WooCommerce site but is purchased on another site (or example if you are an affiliate or a reseller). In this post, I show you how to set up external and affiliate products for your online store.

Although there is a distinction between these two, it’s more semantics than anything else.

What is an External Product in WooCommerce

An external product is a useful way to add a product on the site that customers will purchase on another site. An example of this would be a product that you link to on another site and you receive a commission, which is similar to an affiliate in a lot of ways. The benefit of adding external products is that the outside site takes care of inventory, tax and shipping. Although Amazon is a perfect example of this, read on to learn what you need to be careful with when it comes to Amazon.

What is an Affiliate Product in WooCommerce

As with external products, a customer will purchase the product on another site. Affiliates are a great way to make some extra income on your site. This allows you to take it even further. Instead of simple images or a hyperlink that someone clicks on, instead you can add that product or service directly to your online store.

Setting up an external/affiliate product

Setup is very simple since you don’t need to worry about tax or shipping. Simply choose External/Affiliate product from the Product Data dropdown menu.

1. Add the product URL. This will be the affiliate link or other links you were given that lead the customer directly to the outside site.

2. Being able to add a custom button is a big advantage here. So you are not confusing or surprising your customers, you can have the button say something like “Buy On Amazon.” That way, they know what is going to happen and you are not misleading them.

woocommerce external affiliate product settings

One option you do not have with the WooCommerce default settings for external links is the ability to open links in a new window or tab. Here is a post that will who you how you can do that with a free plugin.

The challenge of changing prices for your external products

Typically, if you are using this for affiliate links, you can keep up with the price. But if you are creating other external links, it will be up to you to change the price on your site. If you are using Amazon affiliates, be careful. I have been told that they are opposed to you setting prices manually, which you would be doing here, and it might appear that you are quoting a lower price than it really is. Best to go with just links for your Amazon affiliates.

And if you are linking to prices outside of Amazon that change often, you may want to make note that this price may have changed when they click through.

Using WooCommerce Blocks on Pages and Posts

There are several blocks that allow you to add a product or products to any page or post on your site. When you are using external links, this could be a real advantage especially if you are doing posts on products you are affiliated with.

All the blocks available will work with any affiliate or external item created as a WooCommerce product. This is the list of them all, but if you are looking to get more specific on the products:

  • Use the Hand-picked products block to choose what you want to any to any page or post.
  • Use categories to group together external products that you want to share on a post or page.

Have you ever wanted to be able to sell a product on your site and include some external links as well. For example, you have a book on your site. But you would like your readers to have the option to also purchase it on Amazon, as well as a Kindle version there. This post will show you how to do just that.

If you want to cloak your affiliate links beware of how Amazon perceives those. These links are described as cloaked, but others call them pretty links. In other words, they use the long, ugly link that you get from Amazon and turn it into a much nicer link. These are great when verbally repeating links in a video or a podcast, but beware. Amazon does not like you using redirected links which are one and the same as a cloaked link.

There are a few WordPress plugins that will let you cloak affiliates.


Want to learn more about using WooCommerce for your affiliates?

Here are a few other posts you might be interested in.

Build a powerhouse affiliate site with Woo

If you are looking to build a site with hundreds, if not thousands of affiliate products without the limitations that come with WooCommerce, consider importing products from an affiliate data feed. My post on Datafeedr shows you just how to do that.

How to list multiple affiliate links for a single product

If you are building a niche site where several vendors need to be linked for one specific product, this post shows you how easy it is to do with the product retailers extension.

Need to open WooCommerce external links in a new window?

If you’re using links from Amazon or somewhere else, and would like to have the link open in a new window, check out the free plugin WooCommerce External Products New Tab.

Linking to multiple external retailers for sales or affiliates.

Another option you might need is the ability to link a single, external product to multiple retailers. As an example. If you had a book on your site, you might sell it on both Amazon and your site.

Or perhaps, with affiliates, you have a product that you want to list several different retailers which you are affiliated with. For example, selling a monitor and giving your site visitors the option to choose from buying it on Amazon, eBay and TigerDirect.

In both cases the Product Retailers extension will do the trick. You can learn more about it on this post.

Creating a Marketplace with WooCommerce

There may come a time when you are going to go beyond listing external links and wanting to create a marketplace using WooCommerce. Creating a marketplace involves putting several pieces together: the initial concept, finding vendors, creating and implementing the site and, of course, the marketing. The technical piece can be overwhelming and you might want to check out our post on building a multivendor marketplace.

Looking to Set Up Your Own Affiliate Program on Your WooCommerce Shop?

As a product builder or reseller, affiliates are a great way to encourage customers and fans to share your products with their friends and clients. In that case, maybe it’s time to set up your own program. Here is a post that shows you how easy this is to do with the WordPress plugin, AffiliateWP.

Reward Your Affiliates

Consider this. If you build a store and add am affiliate program, your clients might find a some of the best affiliates bring in customers for a lifetime. You cannot continue to reward them through the affiliate, but instead you can give them a commission based on how many people they send that simply register an account on your site. A nice extra reward. Here is a post on a plugin that will allow you to do this when using AffiliateWP.

Add Brand Names to External Links

Brand names can make a difference on a site, especially if your clients are resellers. This post on the WooCommerce Brands extension shows you how to add brands as a navigation feature to your store.

A Deeper Understanding of Affiliate Marketing and WooCommerce

There really is a technical art to managing large numbers of affiliates using WooCommerce. Listen to this podcast with Eric Busch from Datafeedr as he explains more of the do’s and don’ts around affiliate marketing using WooCommerce.

Some posts on the builder blog may have affiliate links. If you click on them and make a purchase, I'll get a few bucks, but you don't pay more.

Thanks to our Pod Friends for their support