Even though I am relatively new to the Amazon Associates programme, I have quickly learnt quite a few things that I wish someone told me when I started. Last month I made $700+ affiliate income from the Amazon
Associates programme, and since starting in late 2015, I have made over $2500.
Note: This article does contain affiliate links from Amazon and other publishers. If you click one of these links and then purchase something, I may receive a commission. This income goes towards the costs of hosting and running this website and does not affect you in any way at all.
My Amazon Associates journey
In 2013, I didn’t know how to make money from Amazon. I knew nothing about making money online, affiliate marketing or internet marketing for that matter. But I wanted to try it because I was keen on blogging. I was also aware that some bloggers out there were monetising their blogs very successfully. So with the main intention of making money online through AdSense, I started a blog with around 5 articles. My expectation was that Google would start sending visitors soon enough and I can start cashing in Adsense checks. That didn’t happen.
Now my articles were not focused on any particular topic. Bad idea. Google prefers websites that publish high quality content, and generally this means if you are a small website, you should be focussing on one topic instead of everything under the sun.
Naturally, my very general blog with hardly any content in it got very few visitors from Google. What about AdSense? I was getting mere pennies, so I had already pulled all the ad blocks. Discouraged, I stopped working on the website.
Two years passed. One day I thought I would check how my old site was doing. I had pre-paid for a shared hosting account until 2018 so the site was still alive. Since I had some free time, I thought I would start blogging again and wrote 1 article. It was on a topic that I was very interested in.
A few months later, I was surprised to see that the one article was doing quite well with a couple of hundred views per month and some visitor comments. It seems this article happened to be in a popular niche. Even though my website was in no way optimised for that topic and mostly talked about unrelated things, this particular article was on the first page of Google for its main keyword. I had accidentally done a good job of SEO on that article!
You know why I think it succeeded? Because it was the only article on the website that was written fully to help visitors with no expectation of making money – it gave them incredible value and helped solve their problems. It satisfied the user’s intent.
This gave me an idea – what about an entire site about that popular topic? Bear in mind that I had not yet heard of affiliate marketing, affiliate sites or Amazon Associates. So I deleted all the failed articles, re-branded my website and started writing articles about this topic. My hope was that Google wouldn’t hold it against me for doing an about-turn with the website.
It worked. My visitor numbers started climbing. I did absolutely no link-building or any other SEO. I just wrote new content once every 2 months or so (I was busy with life!).
In early November 2015, I came across a blogger who had also failed in making much money through AdSense but then tried using Amazon Associates and was making a killing. That blogger was Reinis Fischer. His journey of being an Amazon Associate inspired me to try once more. I signed up with Amazon and added the links to my existing articles.
Did it work? It worked. I made $31.79 in November 2015. That’s not much but in that one month I made 10x what I made using AdSense in 3 years. Income increased month by month as recorded in my first monthly income report in March 2016. I started the reports only when I hit $100/month.
I made $273.95 in April 2016 from just 5000 visitors – here’s the detailed monthly income report. That’s over $50 per 1000 visitors, you would struggle to get that kind of RPM with Adsense. The best part is that 5000 visitors per month is easily attainable for any decent website.
Getting started with the Amazon Associates Programme
Start your own blog or website
You need to own the web property where you post your affiliate links, as per the Amazon Associates Operating Agreement. The easiest way to do this is start your own blog or website. I recommend WordPress for its ease of use and multitude of free resources. Refer to my Tools-I-Use page to see how to setup your WordPress website or blog.
Sign up for Amazon Associates
I recommend signing up for all the different geographies that are relevant to your planned niche. For example, I have signed up for all the American and European Amazon Associates Programmes. This lets you cash in on international traffic that would otherwise have been wasted. Read the Operating Agreement carefully, Amazon is very strict with its enforcement.
Making Money with the Amazon Affiliates Programme
My minor successes with Amazon have inspired me to keep at it. Over the last 5 months, I have learnt quite a lot about the Amazon Associates affiliates programme. I would like to share my tips and hopefully encourage someone to give it a shot. As I always say, Affiliate Marketing is simple, but not easy. Yet, it is a great way for beginners seeking financial freedom to get their toes wet and experience their first success. Here are my tips on making money with Amazon Associates:
Amazon knows how to convert
Your job is to get as many visitors as you can to Amazon. Once there, Amazon knows better than anybody how to make them buy stuff. The reason the Amazon affiliate programme converts visitors into buyers so well is because of brand name recognition, and the trust people have in Amazon. People may remember they need to get that gift for a family member, stock up on diapers, trade in old books, or just be tempted by Amazon discounts.
What if they are not in a spending mood? Oh wait, they may sign up for that 30 day FREE trial of Prime, Audible, Kindle, Prime Music, Showtime, Amazon Family, or STARZ. Or what if they create a FREE wedding registry or a FREE baby registry? Or download the FREE Kindle app for their PC, smartphone or tablet? Or what if they just signed up for the FREE trial of the 2 day shipping service Amazon offers to students? That’s right; you are paid commission each time.
Just this last month, I got $5 for a visitor to my website who went over to Amazon through my affiliate link, but didn’t buy anything! What they did do, however, is sign up for a free trial of Audible.
Choose your Amazon niche carefully
You want to look for niches that are not too narrow or too broad. Ideally you want niches or sub-niches where there is an ecosystem of related products and accessories. Also make sure your niche has high quality popular products with lots of reviews and customers.
Let’s take Digital SLR cameras as an example. By themselves, there are not too many types of DSLR camera bodies, you have Canon, Nikon and Sony as the main brands. However, there are tons of expensive lenses, flashes, memory cards, tripods, carry cases and other accessories that a potential DSLR customer may want to buy. Those are all going to be products you can earn commission on. Because Amazon will pay you commission on anything the customer you referred buys or adds to their cart within 24 hours of clicking your link.
What about niches that are too broad? Choose a niche that does not have too much competition. Otherwise you may find yourself competing with larger, more established websites and struggle to get search engine traffic. Research your competition, their monetisation strategies, and backlink profiles carefully. Use KWFinder.com (free trial) for this purpose. It will tell you in very simple terms how difficult it is to rank in Search Engine Result Pages (SERP) for the main keywords in your intended niche. It will also show you your competitors and the keywords they rank for.
Be aware that some popular niches have fixed commission rates such as 4% in electronics, and capped commissions such as no more than $25 for laptops.
Also make sure the products you intend to promote are not in the Excluded Products list.
Choose a niche with mid to high value products
Would you spend time researching a $5 purchase? Nope. But you may research a $200 purchase. So for your first niche site, target a niche that has mid-range products. Not too cheap such that you end up with very low commission and/or poor sales. Not too high such that you have nearly no sales!
New Amazon Associates go on the performance based fee schedule, where your standard commission rate depends on how many sales you make. For additional niche sites you create, go for lower value products so that each month you can quickly hit the thresholds required to increase your commission rate.
Take pride in your niche website – make it look professional
Make a good-looking website that invites visitors in, while at the same time is optimised for SEO. Why not use a WordPress theme that is designed specifically for Amazon Associates? I recommend the Ultimate Azon theme. These purpose-built WordPress themes makes it much easier to focus on content production instead of wasting precious time messing with theme design like I did.
Do your keyword research
I am guilty of breaking this rule sometimes. While writing naturally will get you search traffic, you could be missing out on lots of it because your niche uses certain words that you are not aware of.
Target buying traffic using buyer intent keywords
You should try to attract people who are in the final stages of the buying process to your website. You do not want those who have a passing interest in the topic – the information seekers. Visitors who will make a purchase within 24 hours use search keywords that are different from those used by information or news seekers. This important behaviour should be used to your advantage.
The kind of visitors we want will show their intent to buy because they will search using specific phrases as prefixes to their search queries. Examples are “best”, “top”, “rated”, “recommended”, “cheapest” or “review”. Again use either the Google AdWords Keyword Research Tool or KWFinder.com to see what other keywords with buying signals are used in your niche.
This is why product review type articles do well in converting your visitors into Amazon buyers. If your review convinces them, they will probably click through to Amazon.
Another type of post that works well for many niches is best-seller lists. Amazon provides best-seller lists for all the main product categories. Since these products are very popular, it is likely that people will be searching for non-Amazon reviews of the product also. These are the people you want to attract to your blog. They have probably already decided they are buying from Amazon, but may just need that extra nudge to make the purchase.
Be creative and think out of the box. There are opportunities everywhere. I am going to tell you one of my best-kept secrets because it works so well – write reviews for every top-seller in your niche. This is bound to send lots of search engine traffic your way.
Going back to our example of DSLRs, you can easily make a post using the information from Amazon’s own DSLR best-seller list.
Write for the long tail – long-form high quality unique content works best
This is the easiest way to ensure Google loves your website and gives you all the organic search love it needs to rank. Make your content unique, ideally write it yourself but never use boilerplate content. If you buy your content, make sure it is not reproduced elsewhere. This can result in a duplicate content penalty from Google. Never copy paste Amazon user reviews or star ratings either, as this is a violation of the Operating Agreement.
Google hates ‘thin-content’ websites and its search algorithms are designed to heavily penalise ‘thin-content’ sites.
Long-form content naturally does well with long tail search results. Why should you seek to rank in long tail search? Because in most niches, it is very difficult to rank for top keywords. However Google’s intelligent algorithms will find the ideas and thoughts in your content and present it in searches with long tail keywords. An example of a long tail keyword is “Best DSLR under $500”.
Also see this detailed article on how to write for Google with SEO in mind.
Use a plugin for automatic Amazon link generation and geo-targeting
The conventional way to add affiliate links is to get the link manually from the Amazon website each time. Do not do this. To save time and benefit from any international traffic, install WordPress plugins that automate these tasks for you. Two such plugins are the premium easyAzon plugin or the free Amazon Link plugin.
These plugins integrate with the WordPress editor so that you can insert affiliate links into your posts without leaving the editor screen.
Also, Amazon does not provide geo-targeted links at present. But the two plugins mentioned above will automatically detect the user’s location and customise all your links dynamically to point to the visitor’s correct Amazon store. You just need to plug in your various international Associates account tracking IDs in the plugin settings page.
Don’t bother with the Add-to-cart buttons
On one of my most popular pages, I experimented with using just Amazon links and just the Add-to-Cart buttons. My income nearly doubled when I used just Amazon links vs. just the Add-to-cart buttons. With add-to-cart buttons, I believe people are put off the confirmation screen where it asks them to confirm adding the items to the cart.
Contrary to popular belief, all Amazon links have a 90 day cookie, not just the add-to-cart ones. What I mean is, suppose a visitor clicks on your standard Amazon affiliate link and adds any item to the cart. Now even if they buy that item after 24 hours or 24 days, you will get commission for that item. It is not just the add to cart button that has the 90 day cookie. But if they do not add the item to the cart AND do not buy it within 24 hours, you don’t get any commission.
“You earn advertising fees on any qualifying items placed in a customer’s Shopping Cart within 24 hours of their arrival at Amazon.co.uk via your Associates link. However, this 24-hour window closes once the customer submits his order or reenters Amazon.co.uk through another Associate’s link. Once the window is closed, you will not earn advertising fees on any subsequent purchases. However, if the customer then returns to Amazon.co.uk through one of your Associates links, this opens a new 24-hour window. It is of course possible that a customer may arrive at Amazon.co.uk via your Associates link, add an item to his Shopping Cart, and then leave Amazon.co.uk without placing an order. As long as the item was added to the customer’s Shopping Cart during this 24-hour window, you will still earn a referral fee if the order is placed before the Shopping Cart expires (usually after 90 days). The referral fee will not be credited to your Associates account until the customer has purchased the item, accepted delivery, and remitted full payment to Amazon.co.uk.”
I would rather my visitor not get put off my website and continue clicking my affiliate links till then find something worth adding to their cart of their own volition, than get irritated because of the confirmation screen and go off to my competitors niche site!
So my advice is to just try to get people to Amazon – they are experts at conversion, let them do that bit and pay you for the lead!
It’s not all about which products you link to
The products I link to from Niche Site 1 are in the region of $80-$200. But guess what, most of my commission do not come from those items! As I said above, Amazon pays commission on everything bought by the visitor an affiliate sends to them. This sounded too good to be true to me when I started, but let’s make hay while the Amazon sun shines.
In March 2016, of the 66 unique products my referrals bought on Amazon through Niche Site 1, only 8 were products I linked to! So it is not always the case that people I send to Amazon buy the products I actually recommended!
This reinforces what I have learnt from 5 months of being an Amazon Affiliate: it is not the exact product that you recommend that matters, rather it is the ‘mode’ people are in when they click through to Amazon that matters – buying mode. Not browsing mode because that cookie lasts just 24 hours (unless they are quick at researching OR add it to the basket within 24 hours and end up buying in 90 days).
Link images to Amazon
A good portion of the people I send to Amazon get there by clicking on my product images. The Amazon Link WordPress plugin has a shortcode which will let you insert images with automatically localised Amazon store links. How cool is that!
Follow the Amazon Associates Operating Agreement 100%
The Amazon affiliate programme has some of the most restrictive rules in the Internet Marketing world. So read all the terms and conditions carefully, and make sure you are not in violation of any of them.
If you can’t decide whether something is permitted or not, don’t try it. You can always ask for clarification from Amazon, but be aware that the Operating Agreement is not set in stone and is subject to change by Amazon
The common mistakes that lead to people losing their Amazon Affiliates account and up to 60 days of outstanding payment are:
- Cloaking Amazon affiliate links
- Missing disclosure statements required by Amazon
- Placing affiliate links in e-mailsAuthority Website Income is one of the blogs I follow closely. Just this last month, Jon Haver had his affiliate account closed because he sent emails with affiliate links in them:
One Small Mistake & Amazon Withholds $20k – Amazon closed down my affiliate account for sending emails with my affiliate ID in it (stupid mistake on my part that I was unaware of being in violation of their terms – made an extra $10 and lost $20k+). This has resulted in $24k being held by Amazon not to be dispersed. Frustrating!
- Sharing links on websites they do not own (Facebook, Youtube, Forums)
Please be warned, Amazon enforces their Operating Agreement very strictly and there is no guarantee that the appeals process will result in your account being reinstated.
Don’t give up when the money doesn’t come easily
White-hat SEO (as opposed to black-hat SEO which is hated by Google), takes time and patience. Do not expect any significant revenue in the first 6 months. Stick to the basics and keep plugging away at publishing content regularly. Google likes websites that are updated frequently and regularly.
I hope these tips have given you an insight into how to effectively harness the earning potential of the Amazon Associates affiliate programme. Let me know if you have any questions, and I would love to hear what has worked for you and what has not. Looking forward to your comments!