If you have explored this site at all you know it’s still pretty new. If you have been to the Introduction page than you know I hope to help new bloggers like myself, and monetize this site using mostly affiliate links. So, I’m going to give you a few tips now that I wish I had when I started. Yeah, I know, we just established that the site is still pretty new. However, I started working on it and building it long before it went live, and that’s where some of my mistakes started. If you made any of the same mistakes, hopefully we can catch them here and get them corrected before trouble sets in.
I got the idea for this post from my email. Specifically an email from Amazon saying they were going to be closing my affiliate account in 90 days if I did not make 3 sales within that timeframe. At first I kind of freaked, I am still building my site and audience base. I didn’t even plan to start seriously working on selling for a few more months. I’ve dropped a few links here and there, but only because they were for books I have read that just happened to fit with the post. They weren’t methodically placed in the post, they mostly set at the end of the text as a “Hey, by the way.” At least one link, the one in Look Out for Sharks, was meant to be ironic. Now I have to try to figure out why my account was getting shut down, which took all of 5 minutes research that I should have done three months ago.
From the beginning I have been going about this whole process backwards. I jump head first into the crystal clear pool, then muddy the water while trying to learn how to swim. I read that the Amazon Affiliate program was one of the easiest ways to monetize your site, and I signed up immediately. Problem was all I had was a domain name with no site attached to it. It took me almost two and a half months to get the site off the ground.
In my 5 minutes of research I learned that you have 180 days from date of sign up to refer three qualified sales (defined here) or they close your account. Actually I learned that they close accounts every day for all kinds of reasons with no warning or way to dispute it except for applying for arbitration. According to Statista.com Amazon made 178 billion in 2017. Divided by 365 that comes to 487,671,233 a day, not exactly accurate mathing I know, but you get my point. They don’t care about you, your business, or how much you have come to rely on income from their affiliate program. Their priority is protecting their name and their brand, rightfully so. If you step outside of the Terms of Service even a little bit, they cut you, no questions asked or answered. With one exception, if you are cut from the program because you did not meet sales requisites you may reapply at a later date. All other bans are lifetime bans.
Let’s go over some of the most frequently made mistakes here.
- We already touched on the first one, but let’s follow up. You must make three qualifying sales in your first 180 day period. Every other article I found says one sale in the same timeframe. However, this is a snippet of the email I received.
Thank you again for joining the Amazon Associates program. We are reaching out to you because we have not seen qualified sales activity on your account. As a reminder, Associate accounts that have not referred three required sales to Amazon.com within 180 days of sign-up will be automatically rejected. At this time, you have 90 days left to drive qualified sales and avoid termination and closure of your account.
- You CAN NOT, under any circumstances, use your own affiliate link to make purchases on Amazon. You can’t beat the system. Just don’t do this. Even if you only have one day to make one more sale, just don’t. If you don’t make your sales, you can reapply. If you do this you are out for life. Also, be careful testing your links. If you click one of your own links to make sure it’s working you will still get the tracking cookie. If you make a purchase from Amazon in the next 24 hours, it will look like you just used your own link.
- The affiliate links you receive from Amazon are for your website only. When you apply for the Amazon Associates program, they ask you for your website address, and all of your links are for that address. Do not post your links on sites you do not own, the exception being social media if you use the share button from your Affiliate Account. You also cannot insert affiliate links into emails, e-books, or PDF’s. Amazon ToS states that you cannot use links in “offline promotion or in any other offline manner.” Emails, e-books and PDF’s can all be downloaded and read offline.
- You can have only one account. If you have multiple websites, you can get multiple User ID’s, up to 100 of them to be exact. If you want to keep the earnings of many sites separate for accounting reasons you can assign each its own User ID.
- Do not mention price of items, or offer incentives. Everything you say about the product you are advertising must be accurate and true. The prices of products listed on Amazon fluctuate frequently. If the list price is now different from what you’ve posted, you are violating ToS, and may be banned. You also may not offer deals or incentives, to Amazon it’s akin to bribing people to click your link. This is from their ToS- “You will not offer any person or entity any consideration, reward, or incentive (including any money, rebate, discount, points, donation to charity or other organization, or other benefit) for using Special Links. For example, you cannot implement any “rewards” or loyalty program that incentivizes persons or entities to visit the Amazon Site via your Special Links.”
- You must identify yourself as an Amazon Associate. This is a big one. You already have to have an Affiliate Disclosure on your site to be FTC compliant. Amazon requires you to have their specific disclosure. This is from their Terms of Service- “You must clearly state the following on your Site or any other location where Amazon may authorize your display or other use of Content: “We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.”
These are just a few of the pitfalls in the extensive Amazon Term of Service. I only chose the most common mistakes by beginners to list here. I may have pushed multiple similar offences into one category. I thought the information was more important than how many items I listed. Please be aware that these ToS are being updated and changed often. It’s important that you stay updated. It’s a crappy job, but it’s part of the responsibility of running your own business.
We have touched on a few things not to do if you are an Amazon Associate. Now I would like to go over a few things you should do, if you don’t mind. I know this is quickly working its way to being one of my longest posts, but it’s important information, especially if your just starting out. If you are completely new to affiliate marketing you should read this book by Chris Guthrie. If you already have some experience you may not learn much, so I would only pick it up if you get a good deal.
The first and single biggest tip towards being a successful Amazon Affiliate is, diversify your income. There are many affiliate programs out there. I am a member of ShareaSale.com that helps you find other programs. You should also try google AdSense or a similar ad programs. The point is you don’t want your income coming from only one source, especially one you have no control over. A policy change or algorithm update could wipe out your income. For example, in Feb. of 2017 Amazon changed its compensation policy. It went from a tiered commission, the more you sold the more you earned. To a standard percentage based on the category your sales come from, with some categories, such as video games and consoles, dropping to 1%. There were Associates that went from making thousands of dollars a week, to only making hundreds a month because of the niche they sold in. Don’t get caught in the same sand trap, have many income sources.
Long-Term Success Building WordPress Websites for the Amazon Affiliate Program is a book for the more experienced marketer. It talks about building multiple niche websites on WordPress and running a larger business. Which brings us to our next tip, quality content. You can’t just toss out page after page of “copy content.” You have to write meaningful content that provides value to your readers. Posting “copy content” that just feels like sales ads for your links, wont convert well, could result in Google penalties, and Amazon suspending your affiliate account because crappy content besmirches their good name. The name of the game is writing content that gets clicks. Just get people to Amazon and let them do the rest. Amazon is well trusted seller, and they know their shit. They lure you to what they believe you will buy, and they do it well. Write product reviews in your niche, or do a monthly best sellers list, again, in your niche. Get readers to Amazon and let them do the work for you. If they click your link, anything they buy for 24 hours is attributed to you. The tracking cookie lasts 90 days if they put an item in their cart. Create content people can trust, and the sales will come.
There are many books out there on creating Amazon Affiliate sites. To be honest you can get most of them for free or very cheap on kindle books, and as fast as terms change, that’s really the best way to go. Remember, do your research, Amazon Terms and Conditions is almost 25 pages and changes often. Don’t lose the opportunity to be an Associate just because you didn’t want to read it all.