You want in.
The idea of making money with the Amazon Associates program sounds enticing.
And when you buy products on Amazon, you’re always amazed at the pure volume of stuff they sell.
But your understanding of how it all works is, well, fuzzy.
Let’s bring it into sharp focus. I’ll walk you through the details you need to decide if Amazon Associates is right for you.
And if it is, I’ll show you how to make money by tapping into Amazon’s vast river of eCommerce. Instead of letting this monetization method flow by you, you can be a part of it.
Sound good? Let’s get started.
What is Amazon Associates?
Amazon Associates is the name Amazon uses for their affiliate marketing program.
And what is affiliate marketing? It’s a marketing arrangement where you earn commissions based on the sales of the products you recommend.
For the Amazon Associates program, you give recommendations for Amazon products and provide links to purchase them within your content. If a reader clicks your link and buys the item, Amazon pays you a commission — not only for that linked product, but on all eligible products your reader purchases from Amazon within the next 24 hours.
Note you only get paid when your reader buys something. If they only visit Amazon, you won’t earn anything.
The Amazon Associate program is available for websites, blogs, social network channels, YouTube, or even mobile apps. In this post, we’ll focus on websites and blogging.
How Does Amazon Associates Work?
It all starts by signing up for an Amazon Associates account. But first, let’s cover a few things to make sure you are ready.
To promote products, you need a website or blog with high-quality content and an audience. As I’m sure you know, high-quality means providing value to your readers.
If you don’t yet have one, click here to learn how to start a blog.
Once your website or blog is established, and you have decent traffic, then you can create content which contains recommendations for Amazon products.
You can sign up for the program at any time. Then, once you’ve had three qualified sales, Amazon will review the sites you provided during the application process.
Amazon will reject an application if they deem the site(s) provided to be low-quality. Think of the poorly written, micro-length reviews that you’ve seen while shopping. The sites you leave in about a minute, right? In the eyes of Amazon, only high-quality sites provide their customers with a good experience.
Before you sign up, make sure your website or blog is ready and meets Amazon’s criteria. Why? Because if your application is rejected, you’ll lose everything you’ve earned up to that point.
Can You be an Amazon Affiliate Without a Website?
No, a website is required if you want to become an Amazon Associates affiliate.
And that’s not all — there are other conditions Amazon currently mentions during the application process:
- Your site cannot be on the list of Unsuitable Sites. If it is, you cannot participate in the program at all.
- Your site must have “Robust original content” — as mentioned above, this means high-quality content that serves your customers.
- You need at least 10 blog posts or articles. And some of that content should have been updated within the last month.
- Your site needs to be accessible to the general public (i.e., no membership sites or private social media groups).
- You must own your website.
There are no traffic requirements upfront to apply, but you will need some kind of tangible traffic to stay in the program. That’s because you need at least three qualified sales within the first 180 days.
And no, you can’t just buy stuff for yourself. Amazon deducts anything you buy for personal use through your links. And if they determine you have a pre-existing relationship with someone, those sales would get deducted as well.
Why is Amazon Associates so Popular?
Amazon Associates is popular because their enormous product catalog provides a wide degree of opportunity to earn money online.
They sell physical goods in almost every market. There are hundreds of categories with millions of products you can promote to your audience. They are approaching 200 million products in 2019 (of which 44 million are books).
And Amazon knows how to sell. They capture 49% of all eCommerce traffic. They’ve been selling online for more than 21 years, a long time on the internet. They have plenty of experience in promoting products and converting customers.
It’s also popular because of the success people have enjoyed by using the Amazon affiliate program. Here are a few examples:
- Amazon Affiliate Websites: My 1 Year Old Site Making $3,000 Per Month
- $70k in Amazon Affiliate Earnings from ONE Site
- Project Go White Hat: A Niche Site Case Study
How Does the Amazon Associates Program Compare to Other Affiliate Networks?
eBay Partner Network, CJ Affiliate, ClickBank, and ShareASale all have lots to offer affiliate marketers. But no other affiliate network can compete with the sheer volume of products offered by Amazon Associates. Amazon provides more opportunities given its range of products.
And since it’s a website people are already familiar with, conversions can be easier with Amazon than with other affiliate options. Amazon is a trusted brand.
However, Amazon doesn’t have the higher commission opportunities that the other affiliate networks may offer. To give you an idea of potential earnings, here’s a chart of the Amazon affiliate commission rates:
Amazon’s highest commission rate is only 10%. Other affiliate programs may have higher payouts due to offering commissions on cloud-based software, professional services, or online courses.
Pros of the Amazon Associates Program
1. Amazon’s Size (It’s Ginormous)
This is a high-traffic, trusted website. To put this in perspective, Amazon had 2.5 billion visits in May 2019.
Amazon has over 90 million Prime members. Prime members are more likely to purchase from Amazon vs. other eCommerce stores for the free two-day (or even one day) shipping alone.
And they spend a healthy amount as well. In a recent survey, Prime members spent an average of $1,400, and non-Prime members spent $600 per year.
So Amazon’s size can benefit you. Due to its massive internet presence, people know and trust it. This, in addition to the large variety of products, gives you more opportunities.
2. Amazon’s Selling Knowledge and Experience
Amazon knows how to convert customers, how to get them to buy. They haven’t just survived on the internet for more than 20 years — they’ve dominated it and they know what they are doing.
Amazon uses the latest in artificial intelligence to drive their website and create “Recommended Products” categories. How many additional purchases have you made based on “Frequently bought together” and “Customers who bought this item also bought” type recommendations?
Another example is mobile commerce. Amazon isn’t missing the fact that mobile commerce is growing in popularity. As an Amazon affiliate, you’ll have the tools to help sell on mobile. They even have a Mobile Popover feature to help you convert.
3. Unexpected Opportunities (aka Amazon’s Affiliate Cookie)
You earn commission on everything your visitors purchase in the 24 hours after they click your affiliate link. This includes items that you didn’t provide a product link to.
So, if you have an Amazon affiliate link pointing to a book on fitness, and the person who clicks it ends up buying a freakin’ treadmill, you receive a commission for the treadmill even though it isn’t the product you’re promoting.
This is huge.
The Amazon conversion and upselling machine never stops working. Even if your reader clicks on your link intending to purchase just one item, Amazon will work hard to get them to buy additional goods.
4. The Amazon Associates Program is Free to Join
There is no cost to join Amazon Associates.
5. Accessible to Anyone with a Website or Blog
There are no traffic metrics you need to achieve first before you can join Amazon Associates. And you only need to make three sales within 180 days of signing up to stay in the program.
6. Amazon’s Customer Service is Handled by Experts
Amazon handles all the customer service, so you don’t have to. Plus, they are known for their high level of customer service. As long as the products you recommend are solid, you don’t need to be concerned about customer dissatisfaction.
This is where the income is passive; you provide the recommendation, and everything else is handled by Amazon.
7. Amazon’s Reporting Tools Help You Sell More
Amazon provides a reporting dashboard with analytics, giving you the feedback you need to optimize your promotions. Each affiliate link has a Tracking ID.
You can use reports to understand your market better — what they want and what they are buying. You can even see what additional items (the ones you didn’t provide a link for) your referrals are buying. If you see a trend, and it makes sense given your content, you can add these new items to your promotions.
8. Direct Payment is an Option
Amazon will pay you directly — either through direct deposit into your bank account or Amazon gift cards. Checks are an option, but there is a $15 processing fee (unless you are outside the U.S. in which case the fee is waived).
Cons of the Amazon Associates Program
1. Email Marketing is not Allowed
You cannot include Amazon affiliate links inside an email. So, if email is your primary method for affiliate promotion, you should look elsewhere.
Also, you cannot send a full RSS email feed of your entire blog posts if they contain Amazon affiliate links; however, a partial (not full) RSS feed emailed to your subscribers is okay. Why? Because it’s a partial feed, the affiliate links will not show up in the email.
Emailing links to your blog posts, even if they contain Amazon affiliate links inside them, is perfectly okay.
2. Follow Amazon’s Rules or Face Banishment
It is essential to read Amazon’s Operating Agreement and check it regularly for changes. Amazon affiliates are required to follow the rules. It isn’t fun reading, but it is important.
If you don’t follow their rules, they can ban you from the program. If they do, you’ll lose any earnings that haven’t been paid out up to that point.
3. Lower Payouts Than Other Affiliate Networks
Compared to other affiliate networks, such as those promoting cloud software, professional services, or online courses, Amazon commission rates tend to be much lower.
The Amazon affiliate commission rate ranges from 1% to a max of 10%. So whether or not this program is worth your time will depend on the categories you can target, the price range of the items your readers purchase, and on your traffic levels.
4. Commission Rates or Programs can Change (Most Likely not in Your Favor)
Amazon decreased commission rates in 2017 and may do it again in the future. There are no guarantees that the 5% you are depending on won’t be cut in half.
Of course, the risk of change is the same for any affiliate marketing network.
5. The Window of Opportunity is only 24 Hours Long
After your reader clicks your Amazon affiliate site link, the clock starts ticking. You only earn commissions on what they purchase in the next 24 hours. So, if they wait a couple days to purchase, you won’t receive any commissions at all.
One exception to this is if your reader puts an item in their cart on Amazon. Then your cookie will last for 90 days on that item.
6. Slow Payments and Minimum Payment Thresholds
Commissions are paid monthly. And a customer’s order needs to be shipped first before your fees are earned.
Then you need to wait approximately 60 days from that point until you are paid for that sale. So if you earn commission in January, you’ll need to wait until late March to be paid.
There is a minimum payment threshold of $100 for checks. The threshold is only $10 for gift cards and direct deposit. (With the $15 fee for issuing checks, direct deposit is a better choice anyway.)
7. Limited Digital Products
Amazon sells digital products such as Kindle books and digital music and videos. But as mentioned before, the higher-commission products such as cloud-based software and online courses aren’t currently available through Amazon Associates.
8. Extra Steps to Sell Internationally
If you have a U.S. site, you won’t automatically get credit for purchases outside the country (such as Canada). Instead, you have to sign up for each country’s Associate program one-by-one. Then you need to use Amazon’s “OneLink” tool to localize the links on your site so you get the commission.
How to Become an Amazon Affiliate
So you’ve considered the pros and cons of the Amazon Associates program, and you want to sign up?
Here’s the step-by-step guide:
1. Go to Amazon Associates and select “Join now for free” at the top-right corner.
2. A sign-in page will prompt you to either log into your existing Amazon account or create a new account.
3. You’ll see the Account Information screen. This will auto-populate with the name, address, and phone number from your Amazon account. Confirm the information.
4. Next, you’ll see the Website and Mobile App List screen. Add your website address here:
5. You’ll then complete your profile, traffic, and monetization methods. In the profile section, Amazon is looking for basic information as to what your website is all about, what topics you cover, and what types of products you intend to promote.
The preferred Associates Store ID is your username (usually your website address).
The traffic and monetization section looks for how you drive traffic to your website.
It also asks what other types of affiliate links or monetization methods you may have, and ranges for the amount of traffic you receive.
6. After that, you get to the Identity Verification screen:
- Enter your phone number and click “Call Me Now.”
- A PIN will display on your screen, and your phone will ring almost instantly.
- Provide that PIN to the automated caller.
- Check the box if you agree with the terms and conditions of the Operating Agreement.
7. Congratulations! Your account is set up, and you have your Amazon Associate ID number. Now just enter how you want to be paid (direct deposit, check, or gift card), and provide the necessary tax information.
Phew! Not too difficult, right?
Now let’s look at ways to pull in those sweet Amazon affiliate earnings.
Ways to Promote Amazon Affiliate Products (and What NOT to do)
Now that you’re an Amazon Associate, you can harness the power of Amazon’s selling machine to earn money for yourself.
You start by finding products which are available on Amazon and related to your blog’s topic.
How to Find Affiliate Products to Promote
First, brainstorm a list of products related to your blog topic that readers may be interested in. Go through the obvious first, then start to think in terms of cross-promotions.
Use Amazon’s commission rate chart to spark creative ideas by category. For example, for a parenting blog, toys only pay 3% commissions. But furniture pays 8% commissions. Is there anything you could ethically recommend?
Once you have an idea of products to promote, Amazon provides two easy ways to get links:
1. Log into Amazon. The SiteStripe tool automatically shows up at the top left of your screen once you are an Amazon affiliate.
This allows you to search for products on Amazon just like you would if you were shopping for yourself. Use the recommendations, and the “people also buy” tools to help you find products with excellent reviews.
When you find a product you’d like to link to, click on the desired link style (Text, Image or Text+Image), and Amazon gives you the link to add to your site. Easy, right?
2. Or, log into Amazon, then click on the SiteStripe bar to get to your Amazon Associates home page. Then select Product Linking, then Product Links from the toolbar. This search engine will display:
Here you can search by Amazon category and then refine it further. For example, If you select “Clothing & Accessories,” you can then refine by “Women,” “Men,” etc.
Or, you can search by specific product keywords, by ISBN (for books), or by brand and model number.
Once you find an item, you can select a link consisting of Text only, Image only (with an embedded hyperlink), or Text + Image.
Content Ideas to Get Your Readers Clicking
Here are a few content ideas to get you started:
- Buying guides – Create a guide packed with points to consider when purchasing a product. For example, for a health and fitness blog, “The Ultimate Guide to Purchasing a Rowing Machine.” Then you’d list out what features to look for and how they benefit you. Add your product recommendation(s) where appropriate.
- Beginners guides – These work especially well if your blog is related to a hobby. Write out everything a beginner would need to get started and why. Divide product recommendations into essential and optional categories, so you don’t overwhelm the reader with potential purchases! Then provide links to a few items in each category.
- Roundups – Create collections or lists of recommended products that you’ve used. Example: “Best Productivity Books of 2019.” Then provide an overview of each book and why you liked it, along with a link to Amazon.
- Tutorials or “how-to” articles – Explain how to do something or solve a problem step-by-step. Then sprinkle in some product recommendations.
- Gifts for X posts. Capture some of the gift-buying holiday traffic with your website. Create a list of items with varied price points and reasons why the recipient would enjoy this gift. For example, “Best Gifts for Weightlifters” for a health and fitness blog.
Keep your pages updated with new products. Also, periodically double-check your links, as you don’t want readers to click on discontinued products.
You want to focus on products which are best-sellers on Amazon. Best-sellers typically indicate a high degree of customer satisfaction with the product. Also, selecting best-sellers to promote can equal a higher probability of purchase.
Only recommend products you are confident in — either ones you have purchased yourself or, at a bare minimum, products you’ve thoroughly researched. It pays to be transparent and let your readers know the difference.
Remember you earn commissions on any product your reader buys in the 24 hours after clicking your link. So you could provide only one recommendation for a product that you feel confident about. Then, if your reader clicks on that one item but decides to purchase a different one, you will still receive a commission. And your credibility is intact.
Other Ideas to Try
Look into “Native Shopping Ads” provided by Amazon. These are product carousels of related products. Use your judgment and make sure this is a fit for the tone of your blog and doesn’t cross lines into too “salesy.”
Add YouTube videos to your page for product reviews. Buyers love unboxing videos and other visual content that helps them make a decision.
Use social media to share content containing affiliate links. To qualify, you need around 500 followers/links. Also, don’t forget to check the terms of service for each of these networks to confirm what type of affiliate links they allow. Facebook (including open group pages and fan pages), Instagram and YouTube are some of Amazon’s currently accepted social networks.
What NOT to do With Amazon Associates
The ways to promote your Amazon affiliate links are limited only by your imagination, creativity, and, of course, Amazon’s operating agreement.
Stay out of trouble by avoiding these “don’ts”:
- Don’t use email to promote your Amazon affiliate links.
- Don’t download and use images from Amazon’s website. Instead, use the SiteStripe tool or the product linking Amazon provides. This way, you will be in compliance, and your image will link directly to Amazon.
- Don’t copy and paste prices from Amazon’s website. Prices change, and Amazon does not want you potentially misleading customers. Also, avoid language like “click here for the best price” as this could be a false statement if another website has the product cheaper than Amazon. Again, use the linking tools Amazon provides. Something to consider: provide a link stating “check on Amazon” instead of actual prices. People may click out of curiosity, versus if you provided the price they would have moved on. Remember, the cookie lasts 24 hours.
- Don’t use pop-up ads to promote affiliate links.
- Avoid using Amazon’s star ratings (or any rating system that looks similar).
- Don’t copy and/or use Amazon’s customer reviews.
- Failing to disclose your affiliation is a no-no.
That last one is big.
It’s essential to be honest and transparent with your readers. You need to disclose as clearly as possible that you earn commissions from your product links.
In fact, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requires that you include a disclosure on your website that you earn commissions. Here is more information on this from the FTC.
Amazon affiliate marketing also requires that you have the phrase “As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases” or something similar to it on your website.
Part of Amazon’s affiliate account review process will be to ensure that your website complies with all relevant regulations. And, of course, the terms of their Operating Agreement.
The Amazon Associates Program: Is it Your Path to Passive Income?
Amazon Associates isn’t right for everyone. But you now have a clear idea of exactly what Amazon Associates is and if it is a fit for you.
Don’t get bogged down in creating a perfect strategy. The most important part is to get started.
Start with one piece of content, some product recommendations, and build from there. And once the upfront work is done, you can sit back and enjoy watching the passive income flow into your bank account.
What can you do today to get those Amazon affiliate earnings flowing into your bank account?