6 Reasons Why the Amazon Associates Affiliate Program Is Highly Underrated

Amazon Associates

It is natural for bloggers who start to gather a following to consider revenue opportunities to reward their time and effort.

Google AdSense is a popular option for its plug and play nature. Sadly, it tends to be a disappointing source of income for most bloggers. The average RPM (revenue per thousand impressions of an ad) is fairly low in most niches, so you won’t get much side income from AdSense unless you have a very large audience. For example, if you average $3 RPM, you need a thousand visitors per day to pay for your daily latte (or more if you frequent Starbucks).

Bloggers who look around and explore their options a little more in-depth, may find the lucrative world of affiliate marketing. It’s a simple idea really. Imagine that I create a product and then want you to help me sell as many of it as possible. You, the affiliate, will promote the product for me through your blog. When a sale is made thanks to you (we’ll track that through a special link and browser cookies), I’ll give a portion of that sale to you. The percentage varies but it can be very high, with 50% being the norm for digital products.

If you are unscrupulous you could promote all sort of junk to make a buck, whether you honestly think it’s worth recommending or not. You could even promote products that you down right know suck, and still get your cut. And it turns out people actually do just this. As a result, affiliate marketers have a very bad reputation, despite there being nothing inherently wrong with receiving money for providing a marketing service.

Amazon Associates was one of the earliest and, currently, largest affiliate programs around. The operating margins are much smaller for Amazon, so the percentage that you get for each sale is rather small compared to that of most products online. We’re talking about 4-8.50% for most items, instead of the 50-75% you’d get from other digital products you could be promoting. Furthermore, with Amazon you don’t generally receive recurring referral revenue like you do with other digital products that charge a monthly fee and not a one-off fee.

Amazon’s operating agreement also requires you to be above-board when it comes to the way you go about promoting their products. Other affiliate programs online may gladly close one eye on your techniques if you are moving sales and making them money.

To further make Amazon less appealing to some affiliates, the referral cookie only lasts 24 hours, versus 30 or 60 days, which is common for online sales of digital products. This means that if you refer someone to Amazon.com today, and they were to buy a product three days from now, you won’t be getting anything at all. With more common affiliate relationships, you’d be getting a cut even if the user were to make a purchasing decision a month and a half after the first visit you generated (assuming that they didn’t clear their cookies, that is).

As a result, Amazon Associates is often ignored or berated by large affiliates. In fact it’s even a much underrated revenue option among bloggers. Amazon, and not AdSense, should be the first go-to option for bloggers looking to earn some money from their blogs. Amazon Associates is, and has been for years now, my number one source of blogging income.

To make this case, below I list a series of reasons why I recommend giving Amazon Associates a serious shot, despite its shortcomings.

Reason #1: Amazon Associates is straightforward and dependable

Once you sign up and provide the details of how you’d like to be paid (cheque, direct deposit, or gift certificate) you’ll receive your payments once you’ve reached or crossed the pre-established threshold limit (e.g., $100, with a two month delay for the payment). If you move enough sales, after two months, you’ll be receiving a steady monthly paycheck from them.

Other affiliate programs can make you jump through hoops to sign up and get approved (e.g., eBay’s affiliate program), or may require certain conditions to be met before issuing payments (e.g., ClickBank’s requirement for five different credit card purchases before releasing the funds, which progressively reduces the amount that you’re owed over time until you get those five separate credit card payments).

Reason #2: Amazon’s cookie has site-wide coverage, and is not just limited to a specific product

Yes, you only get a 24-hour window, but in that timeframe you’ll get a cut of anything a referred visitor buys, not just the product you pointed out to them. I’ve had visitors buy all sorts of expensive and odd items when they left my site to check out a $10 book on Amazon. And trust me, pink vibrators can add up quickly. :)

Reason #3: Amazon has a humongous inventory of extremely reputable products

You don’t have to promote “belly fat secrets” on your blog to make a buck. Their huge selection of high-quality books and other products, means that you can be selective and only recommend or point out items you truly believe are worth your readers’ time and investment. You can select books that are entirely relevant to your topic of expertise, and review products you have actually read/tried/consumed.

Reason #4: People trust Amazon

Being such a well established household name implies that most of your visitors won’t think twice about putting a purchase through on Amazon. Many will have accounts already, and perhaps even have their credit card stored on the site for quick checkouts. This in turn means that more people will buy instead of second guessing whether it’s safe to use the shopping cart.

Reason #5: Amazon is a master at converting visitors into customers

Amazon spends millions of dollars in research to optimize the amount of sales they squeeze out of new and existing customers. All you really need to do is send people to Amazon and they’ll do a good job themselves for the most part. Of course, if you are considered a trustworthy expert in your field and you send people to Amazon to check out a specific item, your conversion rate will be even higher.

Reason #6: The percentage of your cut raises in a given month, as you sell more items

The more products you sell, the greater the percentage of your total sales will be awarded to you. You start at a very low 4%, but can reach the 8% range in a relatively short amount of time (if your sales are good).

Amazon volume rates

I strongly encourage you to give Amazon Associates a go.

Update: Several people wrote me asking for further details on how to make money with the Amazon Associates program. I’ll repeat here what I suggested privately via email:

  1. Niche Profit Course by Chris Guthrie. This video course on Amazon Associates is amazing and I highly recommend it to anyone. It’s full of legitimate information on how to make a lot of extra income from your site through Amazon. I’ve taken several courses on the subject and this is the best one in my opinion.
  2. In my book on technical blogging, I go in-depth about techniques that can help ensure that you get most out of this program (including statistics about my income, if you need further guidance to maximize your own earnings).
  3. The Easy Azon plugin is super-handy and a time saver if you plan to feature Amazon links in your WordPress-based blog or site.
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About Antonio Cangiano

Antonio Cangiano is a Software Developer and Technical Evangelist for IBM, as well as a web entrepreneur, serial blogger, and published author. He makes thousands of dollars blogging in his spare time about technical topics. He recently authored a definitive blogging book published by The Pragmatic Bookshelf, and launched a new blog called Technical Blogging.

Comments

  1. Totally agree, but wanted to point out that you should probably not be using Amazon’s affiliate program directly. As you can see on the commission table above, only the big guys get the best rates. Instead, use something like VigLink, where your site is grouped together with others, bumping you straight up to the higher commission bracket. VigLink takes a cut, but you still make more unless your site was already really big.

    • VigLink gets a 25% commission. That means that your effective commission rate is 0.75*8.5% = 6.37%. If you can sell 31 items a month, so one item per day, you are better off as a direct affiliate for Amazon. Of course, VigLink can have other advantages like the integration with other programs, the convenience factor, etc.

  2. Totally agree. I put amazon on my site as an experiment to begin with and didn’t push it too hard. After considering getting rid of it I checked my balance and found I had actually made a little money. Recently I’ve been putting more links to them in the text if there’s an appropriate segway. I think that’s a good resource for your readers and has actually started to add up.

    I wonder though, have you played with the “astore”? I just wonder how the 24 hour referral fee works with that…

    • During my, admittedly limited, experimentation with astore, I have not found it to be particularly lucrative. Your mileage may vary. For the cookie, I believe it’s set when you click on a product within the astore, and not just when the astore is loaded.

  3. Hi Antonio, what do you think of affiliate networks like Commission Junction? Admittedly, I’ve had better results with Amazon than affiliate networks like CJ and ShareASale. I’m not sure if this is due to the trust factor; visitors prefer to buy from Amazon than other lesser know networks.

    I’m however, interested to know your experiences (or any other commenter’s views).

  4. Insightful,
    I’d wish to start earning online,from scratch,and only with internet usage knowledge,a blog and a P.C,where do I start,step by step.Thanks.

  5. Thanks for the post Antonio, I am looking forward to becoming an associate soon.

  6. Hey,
    Thanks for the info. I came here when I saw an ad on facebook. Since I don’t believe everything I investigated and am very impressed with your knowledge and explanation. Thank you for the easy-to-read, reveal-all report.

  7. Awesome Post.
    I accept with the points which you have mentioned. From your post i came to know about the affiliate programs done by the amazon.
    Thanks for sharing this post with us.

  8. That’s a nice info on amazon associates, please also share what are the best products we should chose from amazon. Thanks in advance…

  9. Is there any independent verification to prove whether you did or did not make a sale? What’s to stop Amazon pretending you didn’t make a sale?

    • Realistically, you can’t. You could test it with a friend, but you are essentially trusting Amazon to be honest. But it’s a reputable company to do business with, so I wouldn’t worry.

  10. Thank you, great post. Very interesting information. And good blog, I’ll be coming back for sure :)

  11. I have an education video site that averages over 1 million visits per month. Currently I use adsense wondering if you think amazon affililiate might generate a better roi than adsense?

  12. When compared to other online retailers, Amazon generally has the lowest price on a given items. So if you are promoting a specific product to your readers, do them the favor of linking to the best price – even if you would get a higher commission selling it elsewhere. Your readers will appreciate it, and this is how you add value for your readers – and ultimately get the sale.

    To ChrisJJ above, I have never had a problem with not getting a sale from Amazon.com that I know was made (via my own tests or friends and family). On the other hand, I have had lost sales with other affiliate programs run on other networks. When I am looking for a link to a product – no matter what it is – I always check Amazon first.

    Kristen

  13. Antonio,

    Thank you for your insight. I’ve been debating between Amazon and Google for my site. I know I can use both, but I wanted my website to be very clean and easy, rather than an obvious attempt to get people to buy things I recommend.

    I’ve gone with the Amazon Carousel widget in Ferris Wheel mode and it looks great. Plus, since my website is centered on personal development, I can keep all my recommendations in that realm. On a previous blog of mine, I became upset at all the ads Google put up for “meet Hot Women in Ukraine” and similar themes. It was a personal blogs about my travels across Europe!

    Thank you again for your feedback on the programs and helping me cement my decision to use Amazon.

    Trent

  14. Amazon associates is really good. But, one needs to promote items that are more than $150 to make a good commission. Promoting items that cost $10 or less will not get a lot of commission

  15. It’s funny, I was just talking to a friend about this. She didn’t care to use Amazon as one of her affiliate programs for her career blog and I completely disagreed. I’ve always used Amazon due to the wide array of products I can promote and how easy it is for me to use it. I think she is cheating herself out of extra money for sure. Good points on this article for sure.

  16. I received a call today asking if I was interested in making money from home and was introduced to the term “Amazon Associate”. We didn’t get too far into the call however. The gentlemen on the phone asked if I was interested in making money at home — of course I am. Then he asked if I had about $200 I could invest right away. I said I didn’t have the funds immediately but wanted to hear more so if it was something I was interested in I could potentially find a way to scrape it together. I am a single mom and $200 is a lot of money. The minute he heard “I don’t have it today”, however, he hung up on me. So my question is…. is this a scam or a serious opportunity and why do I have to pay money to get it started?

    • Hi Heather,

      getting started with Amazon Associates costs nothing. The call was a scam or someone trying to sell you some expensive course. Steer clear of such cold calling.

      All the information you need to get started is available for free online in blog posts like mine. If you’d like a more structured approach to succeeding with blogging and earning extra income from it, I suggest you get my book or another blogging book. It’s going to be a lot cheaper than your typical course with disputable credentials.

  17. Hi Antonio,
    Thanks for your great info :) Could you please tell me how extend Amazon cookies?Is it possible to do that?
    Thank you.

  18. Great article! I have been an Amazon Associate for awhile now and have made some money. Although it’s not a huge amount, I still enjoy the ease of use and the fact that I actually see the money. The one thing I don’t like is the fact I can not place my Amazon links in my YouTube videos. I have to link back to my site, then to Amazon. That’s one extra step for the customer and I believe I am not making as many sales as I would if they allowed that. I don’t really have blogs out there, so I am assuming I would make more money if I did. One day I had a sale that made me $89 in commission. I believe it was a teacher that made the purchase because they were all school books. It does work people, so give it a shot.

  19. Thank you so much for such an informative article, since I am fairly new at blogging and on a tight budget at this time your information is appreciated, thanks again. How much advertising do you have on your blogs?

  20. HEY, Antonio
    Very useful facts!
    I think I will surely give Amazon Associates a GO! And then I will see what’s gonna happen.

  21. I think it’s important to use both-Adsense/alternatives are great for a little spending money, and Amazon can be a little bit better for those larger expenses. This is when you have made the full time leap towards actually blogging more full time and have established yourself like you wanted.

  22. Thanks a lot for this post and this website as well! I came to this site after seeing ember crooks presentation on benefits of technical blogging in DB2 got talent. I am now motivated to put my leanings into a blog and start earning a little income from it.
    Thanks!

  23. Great!

  24. Hi Antonio, Nice post you got here and makes me wanna stay longer with Amazon as an associate. lol. Seriously, I’ve been with Amazon for only about two months now so I am not yet ready to give it up. I’ll wait for another four months may be to make it a total of six months for a longer experience and then I will write a review about it.

    Reason why I’m thinking of giving up is because I have not experienced even a single sale yet. It could be because my site niche is something not for the American audience that’s why so I’m thinking of publishing another website this time centered on the US audience. By the way, can you write about the countries where Amazon is doing really good aside from USA, Australia and Canada?

    Many thanks for this informative post and more power.

  25. Thanks for the great info. I currently use Google adsense but using Amazon as well just makes great sense. Especially since Amazon is where I make over 90% of my own online purchases. It’s a no-brainer!

  26. while it was quite easy to become an amazon affiliate a few years ago, it seems that now they refuse most of the applications. My affiliate account on amazon.co.jp (Japan) has been closed because of allegedly misbehaviour in the way I linked to amazon and now I am not able to apply anymore (tried with different names, different websites, different email address). Have had similar experiences.

  27. Thank you very much for this write-up, which I just found today. I have a question, but I understand if it doesn’t get answered since I am rather late to the discussion. My question is from the perspective of a customer using Amazon, rather than a web site owner considering the affiliate program:

    Suppose that I am shopping on Amazon, and I put several items in my cart. Then I remember that I wanted to go to the web site of a non-profit organization that I support, and use their Amazon affiliate link to make my purchase, so that that non-profit org will get a percentage of my Amazon purchase. So I go to the non-profit site, I click on their Amazon link, maybe I put another item or two in my Amazon cart, and I proceed with my purchase. Question: Does the non-profit Amazon affiliate site receive a percentage from Amazon on every item I purchased, even ones that were already in my cart before I clicked over? Or do they get a cut of only those items that I added to my cart after I clicked over?

    This is what usually happens to me when I shop at Amazon, because I rarely remember to use the non-profit org’s affiliate link until I am almost done making my selections. So I just wonder if I am really helping them, or not.

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