Whether you’re a new person in the affiliate industry or you’ve been working a while in this area you probably heard about the importance of landing pages and load speed.
That’s why most affiliates recommend to get started with a VPS and later move to a dedicated server or CDN + dedicated if you want to handle a lot of visits per day.
A huge problem though is that as an affiliate you need to learn a very wide range of skill sets going from coding, to servers, to offers and traffic and even networking and the importance of relationships. because of that, the servers are relegated to the bottom of our priorities and later we learn the importance of them.
How many times have you heard:
Can I use my Hostgator/GoDaddy shared account? I just want to get started and do some tests.
On top of that, they use WordPress for a simple landing page with a call to action, an image, and a headline.
And the first thing we usually answer is:
Hell no, get out of that shared service and get a proper VPS or you’ll lose money and conversions.
A good landing page that could be loaded in 100 mili-seconds could take 2-5 seconds in a shared host without proper optimization. And that means a ton of people are not going to see your landing page before they close it, especially if your traffic comes from sources like push notifications, pops or redirects where the targeting is very generic, but also applies to higher quality traffic sources in a lower percentage.
At the same time, people who want to get started (or even if you’re already making money but want to scale) have the problem of not wanting to pay hundreds of dollars for their servers. A managed VPS from any known company starts at $25-$30 per month with the basic plan, and can easily go to $100 per month with an “advanced” plan with 4 cores and 8GB of RAM.
After that, you find the dedicated servers that easily start at $100-200 and can go up to $500-1,000 according to the specs.
That’s half of the monthly budget for campaigns for a lot of people (hence, they want to spend $5-10 with a shared service). But it doesn’t have to be like that.
You can get the performance of a dedicated server starting at $2.5 per month if you use an unmanaged service like Vultr or DigitalOcean and pay as you go (hourly rates) while having very good performance (a good VPS for $20 can outperform a managed dedicated server that costs $150 per month) and multiple locations available around the world without monthly or annual contracts to pay.
Managed vs. Unmanaged server
If you have no idea what’s the difference between managed and unmanaged servers you’re probably using a managed service.
It’s easy to recognize them because their plans have cPanel or WHM to handle all your websites and you can contact their support when something goes down or you want to do a migration and they will do it for you (sometimes at an extra price).
Launching new websites is easy cause you just need to add a new account and select software like WordPress and it will do the installation automatically. If you’re totally new and have no idea how to upload a landing page or what’s HTML then a managed service has its pros.
I used a managed VPS for the first months while learning paid traffic back in 2014 and I thought it was good, but when my campaigns started to go big I had to scale more and realized a managed service was not going to cut it unless I paid a lot and even then, I was leaving money and conversions in the table.
Unless you’re using a self-hosted tracker, you’re only slapping landing pages with JS/HTML/CSS (sometimes PHP) in your server and loading them as fast as possible.
A managed service doesn’t really help much and you don’t really use all the extra layers and services like email hosting (pretty bad BTW), installer for other CMSes like WordPress, Joomla, etc. but you’re still paying for them. A cPanel license costs $20 per month so if your VPS costs $30 you’re actually getting the specs of a $10 VPS or less since many of them are being resold from other companies.
The cons of using a managed service are:
- Lower specs as you’re paying for tech support, licenses, etc on top of the raw hardware
- Pricing (VPS starting at $30 per month or higher) and you have to commit to a monthly/quarterly or annual plan, but you know campaigns can be paused any day without promises of coming back.
- Locations: only available on the US for most companies or some places in Europe but you’re limited to that location for all your sites.
- Scaling and usage: if you want to scale, you need to hire a new, more expensive plan. If you use your server for 7 days out of a month, you will pay the whole month as you already paid upfront.
Overall you’re paying for support and a pretty interface easy to handle with the hundreds of tutorials available around the web for WHM/cPanel. This can be good enough for websites using WordPress or other services but developers tend to prefer unmanaged services because they can do whatever they want with their hardware and pay as little as $5 per month with the performance of a $150 dedicated server.
If you choose to use an unmanaged service, you’ll not have support. You’re pretty much on your own.
If your site goes down, or the memory leaks or the database crashes, you’re on your own and you need to fix it up.
But for us (affiliates) who mostly want to upload landing pages and we have several domains, IPs, etc. an unmanaged service can be more efficient and at the same time you might be paying less than with the managed server. You can do whatever you want with your OS installation, apps, hardware, etc. and you can deploy a virtual machine in a couple of minutes with great performance and no issues whatsoever.
On top of that, you can add a simple intermediary by using a managed panel that focuses on performance and takes care of things like SSL certificates without adding a ton of other extra stuff we don’t need.
Let’s see how to do that in the following tutorial.
Enter Vultr (VPS provider)
Before you ask, I have been testing several cloud VPS services like Vultr, DigitalOcean, Linode, Amazon AWS for the last 3 years.
A well-optimized VPS in the right location can outperform a CDN or a dedicated server on most of the cases. This is something I have confirmed with a lot of my friends and running my own campaigns.
And don’t think these are unknown companies you can’t trust.
In fact, DigitalOcean is the second-largest server provider in the world just behind Amazon. So if you thought only the branded guys like GoDaddy, Bluehost, etc. were big, think again.
They just target different (general) audiences and that’s why you see GoDaddy in the super bowl ads instead of hearing of Linode (developers), for example.
In the last 3 years, I have split tested the performance and pricing/features of all the mentioned above and so far my favorites are Linode and Vultr. They’re always on top of DigitalOcean, Linode and Amazon Lightsail in terms of hardware specs and performance and their UI is as nice as DigitalOcean, which is great.
They also have more locations available than Linode and DO. Let’s see how to deploy a Vultr VPS for just $6 a month.
First, you need to create a Vultr account: CLICK HERE TO GET A $100 SIGN UP BONUS.
Just fill up your email and password and validate it as you’d do with any other service.
After your account has been validated you’ll see your Dashboard with servers and locations. You can see below that at the moment of writing this post I had 8 servers running in different locations (1 or 2 per continent) and I am being charged for each of them on an hourly basis.
Your Dashboard will be empty, and you can start deploying a new server ASAP but before I recommend you add your payment method.
Vultr is very flexible and they take Credit Cards, Paypal and Bitcoins as well.
Now go back to your Dashboard and click the button (I marked it in red in the image above) to deploy a new instance. You can select a Cloud Compute instance, a Storage Instance (great for keeping files in the cloud similar to Dropbox), a Dedicated Instance, which is similar to getting a dedicated server or a High-Frequency instance, which is the one we’re going to use for this guide.
The high-frequency instance is my favorite as it has better hardware specs (mostly CPU and storage speed) and they outperform all of the competitors just by paying one extra dollar. Instead of costing $5 like the regular cloud compute instance this one costs $6 per month and it’s totally worth it.
Also, make sure you select the closest location to where you’re going to run your campaigns for maximum performance and minimum latency. That’s why I have several servers around the world.
If you’re running traffic in the USA, a server in the “middle” of that country like Atlanta or Dallas might perform better than a server near the east/west coast. You also have different locations for Europe and a couple of locations for Asia and Oceania.
I wish they had a node for Africa and maybe another in India, but so far they have more than the competition. DigitalOcean has a node in India so if you’re running good volumes in India you should check that out instead.
Now you need to select your server OS or application. We’re going to select an empty OS without any server applications as we will install that later with a VPS manager.
Select Ubuntu and make sure you’re using versions 16.04 or 18.04 x64 like I’ll show in the following picture:
Now you need to select your server size. I choose the $6/month VPS because that should be enough for most people getting started. I have been able to receive around 1 million clicks per day in a server like that without having performance issues. You can get the $12/month server if you think you’re going to run high volumes from the very beginning or if your landing pages are heavy and you need tons of processing power.
For most affiliates, the landing pages tend to be fast and simple, but you will be able to analyze your stats later and decide if you want to upgrade to a fastest server, so don’t worry right now about this.
Create your Vultr account: CLICK HERE TO GET A $100 SIGN UP BONUS.
Perhaps the most important thing here is the bandwidth, which starts at 1,000 GB or 1 TB per month. If you’re running banner/push/native traffic this might be more than enough, but if you’re running PPV/pops and redirects you might want to keep an eye on your usage (there’s a dashboard where you can check this) to see if the server is handling things well and the bandwidth you’ve consumed through the month.
- For example, a 200Kb landing page getting 30,000 visits per day on Facebook will consume around 6GB of data per day. That’s 180GB per month which is still just 18% of the 1TB available.
- But a 100Kb landing page getting 3 million visits per day from pop traffic will consume 300GB of data per day or 9 TB per month, so you’ll need a higher plan.
Anyways, just calculate what you need or select the $6 plan and check your stats through the days to see if you need to upgrade/downgrade your plan.
Finally, just leave all the rest of the forms blank and just fill the Server Label (marked in a red box below) where you’ll put the name of your server (i.e. the name of your domain for organizational purposes) and click the “Deploy Now” button.
Vultr will create your server, install Ubuntu in a few minutes. You’ll get an email like the one below when it’s been done. After you get the email I have noticed Vultr still needs to finish up the installation so it’s better if you wait 5 minutes before doing anything else.
You will need the IP address from the email to set up a few things later but you have all the information for easy access in your Dashboard now. See the image below for the important data you need to write down including the username and password.
If you ever want to upgrade the server just to to the “Settings” menu inside your server’s dashboard and the “Change Plan” button on the left side. There you can choose a new plan and your server will be restarted (takes 1-2 minutes) to get the new hardware specs.
Yup, it’s that easy and you still get charged by the hour!
Setting up your DNS
Setting up the DNS is an easy process that takes 2 minutes. First, you need to go to your Domain provider (Godaddy, Namecheap, etc.) and set up custom DNS for your domain pointing to:
If you’re using Namecheap this is how it looks:
Now that your Domain provider is pointing to Vultr’s servers, you need to link your server IP with your Domain. Keep in mind the domain propagation around the world can take up to 48 hours. If you see your domain is still pointing to a parked page or another server just wait some time or clear your browser’s cache.
I prefer managing my DNS through premium DNS providers like Cloudflare (free) or DNSMadeeasy, however, I will talk about that in another article as it can get confusing.
Now go back to Vultr and in the “Servers” main menu click the “DNS” submenu and click the “Add Domain” button as marked below:
In the next step just fill out the new IP of your server (you can check it in your server’s dashboard or the email you received after launching your server) and write down the domain you’re pointing from GoDaddy/Namecheap. In my case, I just wrote down “yourlander.com” as an example.
After you click the “Add” button from above, you’ll see your A/CNAME/MX/NS records and you’re good to go.
If the DNS settings have been propagated to your location you should now be able to type the domain in your browser and see an image with Vultr’s logo or some branding. At this moment even if you don’t see anything it doesn’t matter since your VPS is still empty and you need to install your server software and upload your landing pages for it to work.
Create your Vultr account: CLICK HERE TO GET A $100 SIGN UP BONUS.
Installing your stack and SSL certificate with Serverpilot
As I explained before, your server right now has a clean installation of Ubuntu (OS) and it doesn’t work to serve online pages yet.
Before I used to recommend setting up an application straight from Vultr to install a LEMP setup but the problem was that it wasn’t easy to add an SSL certificate for your domain unless you’re good and coding and have some server knowledge.
Since most affiliates focus on learning marketing skills and not coding skills we’re going to use a software that helps us install a fast server stack and also apply our SSL certificate within a few minutes.
This software is called Serverpilot and you can sign up right here.
I won’t explain how to create an account on Serverpilot as the process is super easy. Make sure you confirm your email as always and add a payment method (CC or PayPal) before continuing with the procedure.
Once you have your account you will see your dashboard:
Here you can see I’m managing several servers with Serverpilot and some of them have several apps (a.k.a. domains). I can also check the CPI, Memory and disk usage of some servers as I need it.
Your dashboard will be empty and first, you will need to connect your Vultr server with Serverpilot. Click the connect server button at the top right side and you’ll see the following screen:
Here, you will need to input your server IP address and root password, which you can find in your Vultr account as I showed you before. That’s why I said it was important to write those down but you can always go back to your VPS settings and check them again.
After that, select the Economy plan or the business plan if you want to see the stats like CPU/Mem/disk usage right in your Serverpilot account. Those stats will be useful once you start running a good amount of traffic. Otherwise, just stick to the Economy plan.
Once you connect to Serverpilot you will see a progress bar where Serverpilot prepares everything you need including installing PHP, your NGINX server, swap memory, etc. This process takes around 5 minutes so go grab a coffee and come back later.
Once the process is done, Serverpilot will be connected to your VPS and it will ask you to create your first app.
Apps on Serverpilot are like websites or domains, so for each domain you want to use to upload landing pages, you should create an app.
Each app costs $0.5 to create while the server connection costs $5 in the Economy plan. So if you have 1 server with 4 domains you will end up paying $7 to Serverpilot. You can always delete or add new servers and apps and they will be charged by the hour, just as Vultr does.
Creating an app is simple. You just need to fill the following forms:
- Name: The name of the app to be shown on Serverpilot. e.g. landingpages
- Domain: The domain you’re going to set up with your server. This is the same domain you pointed to Vultr’s DNS before. e.g. landingapges.com
- WordPress. Leave this unchecked as you want to upload your own landing pages and not create a WordPress site.
- Server: select the server you just connected from this list.
- Runtime: PHP version. If you’re using static files (HTML/CSS) this doesn’t matter, however, if you plan to use PHP in your landing pages you should use one of the latest versions like PHP 7.2 or PHP 7.3 at least as that’s what most people use nowadays for maximum performance.
- System user: since it’s the first time you’re setting up an app on Serverpilot you can create a user and password to have access to this app directly. Or you can still use your root user and password from Vultr and have access to all of the apps in your server as I’ll explain below.
Hit that “create app” button and Serverpilot will take a few seconds to create your new app.
Once this process is done, you’ll have a fast server ready to run and handle a ton of visits per day and you can access by typing the domain into your browser.
However, the server is still empty and you need to upload your landing pages.
But before that, we are going to enable your SSL.
Well, most of the internet has already moved to SSL connections in the last few years. There are traffic sources that won’t accept your campaigns and landers if the SSL certificate is not installed and Chrome is updating their browser to show an alert message when the connection is not secure, so using an SSL certificate nowadays is a must in my opinion.
Also, it seems like cookies won’t work soon if you don’t use an SSL connection so you definitely want to do this. I’ve been using SSL certificates without problems for over 3 years and I still find some offers or affiliate landers without SSL.
Once you create your app, this menu will be shown:
If you’re using the Economy plan, you won’t be able to see any stats but once you run some volume make sure you upgrade your plan so you can check the stats of your CPU and memory. I prefer keeping both of them below 70% usage at all times to be prepared in case there’s a traffic surge or simply to keep the response time at the fastest speeds.
Now select the SSL menu on the left side and you will see this window:
Here, you will be able to enable the “Auto SSL” and “Redirect to HTTPS” options once your DNS has propagated and your server will be ready to be used.
There’s just 1 thing left to do.
Uploading your landers through FTP/SSH with Cyberduck
It’s time to upload your landing pages and start sending traffic! Download Cyberduck or use any other FTP client if you have a personal preference and open a new connection like the image below:
Make sure you set up an SSH connection (secure FTP) which will open the port 22 and write down the IP of your VPS in the server field. Also, write the username (root) and password (you can check them in your Vultr’s VPS dashboard again) and click connect.
Most probably you will be directed to an empty folder after this, as everything has been moved to a new location inside Serverpilot’s files.
Now go to the following address: srv/users/yourserver/apps/yourapp/public
You need to replace yourserver by the name of your server on Serverpilot and yourapp by the name of your app as well. Or simply click through the folders and you will find the desired path as shown below:
Now it’s time to upload your landing pages. You can upload any file by dragging and dropping it from your computer to Cyberduck and name it as you please.
I recommend your to create folders and organize them so you can have as many landing pages as you want in your domain instead of just 1 landing page on the home page.
You can host hundreds or even thousands of landers in just 1 VPS if you use folders and organize them as long as you have enough space in your disk.
Additionally, don’t forget to keep an eye on your CPU usage and bandwidth stats.
This will tell you if your server is capable of handling the volume of traffic you’re sending in real-time and you can also keep an eye on the bandwidth you’re using to see if you’ll need a higher plan. You can do this by upgrading your Serverpilot’s plan to check CPU, memory and disk usage, or if you want to save some money you can check your stats in your Vultr’s dashboard (albeit it won’t show your RAM memory stats).
In the image above, you can see a $10 per month server receiving 1 million visits per day with a very light (20Kb) landing page. So far the CPU usage goes up to 40-60%, and the bandwidth consumed is around 600GB from 2,000GB (2TB) available, so it’s running fine.
Of course, I like to distribute my traffic between several servers in different locations and different plans according to the volume, but you can easily upgrade your plans as I explained at the beginning of the article.
This setup generally works better than using a CDN (if the geo is close to your server) and definitely beats a VPS/dedicated server in the USA from managed hosting companies when you’re running campaigns around the globe.
The only times where I’ve seen a CDN outperforms this set up is when I buy traffic from places like South Africa or some parts of Asia where there are no servers around.
The best part is you’re only paying $6 (Vultr) + $5.5 (Serverpilot) to get a super-fast server for a total of $11 and you can scale it up as you go instead of signing up for a monthly contract and paying $150 for the same performance on a managed dedicated server.
Now go and create your first VPS + SSL and start running some traffic and enjoying your extra ROI 🙂