Today, I was looking back over some of my earliest attempts at making money from blogging. I realised that this month marks 10 years of me using Amazon’s Associates Program.
How I Started Making Money with Amazon’s Affiliate Program
I first heard about Amazon’s Affiliate program in April 2003. I had been blogging for 6 months and was beginning to realise that this new hobby of mine was going to cost me a little money (for hosting, design etc).
I was newly married at the time and on a very tight budget. I realised that if I wanted to keep blogging, I needed to find a way for my blogs to pay for themselves. So began my hunt for ways to do just that.
I began to experiment with two methods of making money from my blogs – Google’s AdSense program and Amazon’s Affiliate program.
Of the two, AdSense has certainly earned significantly more money – however, Amazon’s Affiliate program has also been an important income stream.
I’d love to be able to calculate exactly how much I’ve earned from Amazon in that time but their current reporting system only goes back as far as 2008.
However – in 2012 (after doing some reconstructing of my earnings) I put together the following chart of my earnings to that point (the years 2003-2007 are based upon earnings numbers mentioned in previous posts here on ProBlogger but are not exact).
Since 2012 I have placed less emphasis on Amazon so things have dropped off a little but I’m still tracking in the range of $50,000 to $60,000 per year from Amazon and overall I estimate my Amazon earnings, since 2003, are around the $660,000 mark (USD). Note: this figure was updated in September 2017.
So while it’s nowhere near my #1 income stream Amazon’s Affiliate program has certainly been important to me.
Note: I share my other income streams (there are 12) and how I added them one by one in this post and in this follow-up post I share more detail of a breakdown of how the income streams rank.
I share these results not because I’m the biggest Amazon Affiliate going around. I have no doubt I’m in the middle of the pack and that there are a lot bigger than me*. I share these results because, over the years, I’ve heard many bloggers write off the Amazon Affiliate program as not being worth the time.
*I make this assumption based upon the fact that I’ve never ever been contacted by Amazon directly and I know a few other affiliates who have regular contact with Amazon and who’ve been assigned account managers over the years because they do so well from the program.
Why Many People Don’t Use the Amazon Affiliate Program (and Why I DO)
The usual reasons I hear people giving for not being an Amazon affiliate include:
- The commissions are too small. They start at 4% and for most products can go as high as 8% depending upon how many products you see sold.
- Because most people on Amazon buy low priced products like books, so 4% of a $10 product doesn’t add up to a worthwhile commission.
- Because people have to make a purchase from you within 24 hours otherwise your affiliate cookie stops working.
The above reasons are all valid. There are other options that pay higher commissions (although not so many for the type of products Amazon sells), you can promote higher value products and there are programs that have longer cookies… but there are also some things I like about Amazon.
In 2007 I wrote a post titled 9 Reasons Why I AM an Amazon Affiliate and while the post is old, most of the points still are relevant today.
The main reasons I still am an Amazon Affiliate (apart from the obvious fact that it converts for me) are:
- Amazon is a trusted brand – everyone knows Amazon. If someone were going to buy online, Amazon would have to be one of the safest options.
- Commissions on higher value products – while 4% on a book isn’t a high commission, if you promote a high value product (like a camera) the commission can be decent.
- People buy more than one item at a time – when you send someone to Amazon you earn a commission on whatever they buy, whether they end up buying what you sent them to or not. Many people load up their cart with numerous items so commissions can add up.
- Easy integration – Amazon provides some good tools and widgets to help you integrate the sales channel into your website.
- Holidays are boom times – Amazon runs some good seasonal sales. Thanksgiving to Christmas can be a particularly profitable time to promote.
- Amazon has a wide array of products – Amazon is so much more than books these days. There are so many promotional options that most niches would probably find something relevant to their audience.
Obviously I’ll never argue that Amazon’s Affiliate program (or any other income stream for that matter) is perfect for every blog – but I do think it is worth considering.
How to Make Money with Amazon’s Affiliate Program
Here’s how to make money from Amazon’s Affiliate program (I’ll dig into each below).
- Build Traffic to your Blog
- Build Loyalty and Trust with Your Readers
- Think about the Intent of your Readers
- Find Relevant Products to Promote
- Get People in the Door at Amazon
- Use Social Proof with Best Seller lists
- Use Reader Reviews
- Make Genuine Recommendations
- Share Informational Links
- Share Contextual Links
- Promote Specials, Promotions and Discounts
- Share multiple affiliate links per post
- Link images to Amazon
- Use Buy Now Buttons
- Consider Multiple Promotions per Campaign
- Focus Upon the Holidays
- Promote Related Products
- Promote Pre-Orders
- Track your Promotions
- Small Ticket Items Can Add Up Quick
- Big Ticket Items are the Cream on Top
Let’s tackle each in a little more depth now (update: I’ve added 10 more tips below).
20 Practical Tips to Make Money with the Amazon Affiliate Program
Over the years, I’ve written numerous Problogger posts on making money with the Amazon’s Affiliate Program.
Below is a compilation of some of these most powerful tips – based upon my experience of working with Amazon’s program over last 10 years. I’ve updated them to make them as relevant as I can for 2013.
I’d LOVE to hear your tips and experience of using Amazon’s Affiliate Program in comments below, as I’m certain there is a lot more that I could learn!
1. Traffic Traffic Traffic
Let’s start with the most obvious point – one of the biggest factors in the upward swing in my Amazon Affiliate earnings (in the chart above) has been the corresponding upward swing in traffic.
As with most methods of making money from blogging, the more eyeballs that see your affiliate promotions – the better chance you have of them converting. Of course, this is a generalisation as not all kinds of traffic converts – but more of that in the next point.
Does that mean it’s not worth experimenting with Amazon’s Affiliate program if you don’t get much traffic?
I think it’s definitely worth using early on. While you won’t earn a heap, you will learn a lot and earning a few dollars (or cents) is better than none.
In the first 3 months of using Amazon I earned a whopping $31.80 (around 30 cents a day). Sure, it wasn’t much but I often wonder what would have happened if I’d let that minuscule amount discourage me and stop my from trying!?
So yes, experiment early but if you’re just starting out your main focus needs to be on creating great content and building traffic to your blog. In the long run, that is what will help you earn more from Amazon (and other income streams).
2. Loyalty and Trust Convert
Another major factor in the increase in earnings has been the type of readership I’ve gathered on my blogs.
While I do get a fair bit of search engine traffic, I’ve found that in most cases (and there is an exception below) search visitors don’t sign up to the affiliate programs on my blogs. Loyal and repeat readers do.
The main reason for this is that readers who connect with you on a daily basis, over the long haul, begin to trust you (and your blog). When you make a recommendation, or do a review, they’re more likely to take that advice that someone who has give arrived from a search engine link.
3. The Intent of Readers Matters
Another big factor in the equation of Amazon Affiliate conversions is the intent your readers have when they visit your blog.
Why are they there and where are they in the ‘buying cycle’?
I began to understand this in the early days of Digital Photography School. I looked at the growing traffic to the site but realised that my Amazon affiliate earnings weren’t keeping up with the traffic growth I was experiencing.
I realised that DPS was a blog that largely shared ‘tips on how to use a camera’. As a result, it wasn’t really attracting readers who were in a ‘buying mood’. In fact, I ran a survey and found that many of my readers had recently purchased a camera and were on my site because they wanted to learn how to use it.
So I began to add to the mix of content on the site with more articles relevant to people buying a digital camera. I wrote tips with advice on buying cameras, reviews of digital cameras and equipment etc. This culminated in a whole new section devoted to ‘cameras and gear‘.
Slowly this has attracted a new type of reader to the blog: readers who are researching their next camera purchase, readers who are more likely to click a link to Amazon and who, once there, are more likely to make a purchase.
If you want to attract search traffic that is more likely to convert, consider creating content that attracts people in a ‘buying mood’.
4. Relevancy Matters
This is another common sense tip that many of us mess up. The more relevant your products are to your audience, the better chance you’ll have of converting.
- Promoting iPods on a blog that largely talks about spirituality and you’re unlikely to make a lot of sales (believe me, I tried). Try promoting relevant books, CDs and DVDs instead.
- Rather than promoting perfume on your travel blog try travel books, luggage and other travel products.
Amazon doesn’t work with every topic and sometimes it is hard to find a product that matches your topic. Try different products related to your topic and track which products convert best for your audience.
5. Get People in the Door then Let Amazon Do What They’re Good At
One of the great things about Amazon is that it is a site people are familiar with and trust and they’re very good at converting visitors into buyers. Amazon has honed their site to present people with products relevant to them (based upon previous surfing and buying habits) and over many years they have tweaked their site so converts really well.
As a result, I find that if you can people to visit the Amazon site (pretty much for any reason) a percentage of them will naturally end up buying something. The cool thing is that whether they buy the thing you linked to or not – you still earn a commission!
I have found that one size doesn’t fit all. Rather, specific types promotions of particular products work well with Amazon. I have also had some success by getting people in the Amazon door for other reasons. For example I’ve experimented a couple of times on dPS with running a posts that gave readers a hypothetical $1000 to spend on photography gear and asked them to surf around Amazon and choose what they wanted to buy. The result was 350 comments (a fun community building exercise) and quite a few sales and commissions!
While a ‘get people in the door’ strategy might seem to grate a little with my ‘Relevancy’ tip above – the key is to get people in the door in a relevant way. In my case, I was getting my photography readers to go window-shopping on Amazon, for cameras.
Once they are there, the purchases they make might not be ‘relevant’ to your blog but their motivation to visit should be.
6. Social Proof Marketing 1 – Best Seller Lists
People are more willing to make a purchase if they feel, they’re not alone – that others have and are buying with them. I’m sure there is an insightful psychological reason for this but from where I sit, buying seems to have become a communal activity.
One of the most powerful social proof marketing strategies I’ve used, when promoting Amazon affiliate links, is creating ‘Best Seller’ type lists for readers. These lists show readers what is currently popular, in terms of purchases in our community.
A good example of this technique in action is my Popular Digital Cameras and Gear page on DPS. I update this page every few months and prominently link to it on the blog. Those two actions together, convert readers to buyers really well.
To construct the list, I simply go through the Amazon affiliate reports/stats and find which products are selling the best from within my community. I then categorise those results by product and ‘Waahlaaa’ – we have a best seller list that shows what readers of my site are buying in the last few months.
Bestseller lists convert well because readers know that others in their community are buying these products too. I guess it’s Wisdom of the Crowd mentality but it works!
Another quick example of this was a post, 23 Photography Book Reviews [Ranked], where I ranked the top selling photography books in order of sales. I additionally linked each book to reviews we’d done on the blog.
Note: the key with these ‘best seller’ lists is to drive traffic to them. Two ways to do this is to prominently link to these pages from within your blog plus linking to them from within other posts. This second method means your post doesn’t just convert for a day or two.
Also be sure to promote them through social media channels because these lists of what is hot are often shared well.
Another Note: Another way to create a bestseller list is to look at the ones that Amazon creates. For every category on Amazon, you can rank products based on how they are selling (popularity).
For example – here’s the Camera and Photo best selling page (affiliate link) that ranks the best selling cameras and gear. You can even drill down further to look at best selling DSLRs, Flashes and Lenses.
These lists give you hints as to what products are hot to promote but you could easily pull them together into a list of products to feature on your own site.
7. Social Proof Marketing 2 – Reader Reviews
I used to review all the photography books featured on DPS. It was mainly because I couldn’t find anyone else to do it and partly because I’m a control freak.
However, one day I had a reader offer to write a book review for me. I knew the reader so I was confident the review would be OK to publish. As with all my reviews, it had an affiliate link to Amazon in it. I was a little skeptical about whether the review would convert. I thought my readers might not respond as well to a stranger’s review of the book. I was wrong.
The review not only converted as well as my normal reviews – it did even better than normal!
This could have been for many reasons but one reason I suspect came into play was the way I introduced the reviewer. I didn’t build them up to be an “expert”. I introduced them as a ‘DPS reader’, a regular reader who wanted to share some thoughts on a book that had helped them.
I suspect the social proof concept came into play a little here. Readers saw another reader recommending something in a genuine way and wanted to get a copy for themselves.
Note: interestingly Amazon themselves uses reader reviews as a fairly major feature of their site. Why? They work!
8. Genuine Recommendations and Reviews
Apart from my ‘best seller lists’ mentioned above, there are two main ways that I promote Amazon affiliate links.
The first is in ‘Reviews’ for products (the second I’ll cover below in the next point). These links are where I, or one of my writers, will genuinely test a product and give it the once over.
I insist my writers actually read the books, test the cameras and use the software products they are reviewing. I encourage them to be as genuine and unbiased as possible, to point out both the pros and cons of the product. While there’s some temptation to hype up a product and only talk about its positive points, a real review will help your reader relationship over the long haul and I find actually helps promote sales.
Review links work well because it’s usually people who are considering buying a product who really read reviews. It comes back to capturing readers with the buying mood/intent mentioned in point #3.
9. Informational Links
The other type of Amazon affiliate link I use is when I’m mentioning a product in passing and/or a new product is announced. For example, when Nikon announced the Nikon D300s we immediately posted about the news because it was a notable and anticipated camera announcement. The camera was not yet available in stores and we were not able to get a review sample yet – but it was available for Pre-Order on Amazon so we linked to it.
There was no recommendation or review attached to the link but it was a relevant link for readers who wanted to know more (price, specs, pictures etc). Some readers even pre-ordered the cameras from that link.
Similarly, if we’re writing about Photoshop or another photography post-production software we’ll usually include a link to the software. Again it’s not a review link but rather an informational/contextual type link.
These don’t tend to convert as well in terms of sales but they do get people ‘in the door’ at Amazon that can help with sales from time to time.
10. Contextual Promoting is King
One of the biggest reasons my initial attempts with Amazon simply didn’t convert was that I thought it’d be enough to slap a button on my sidebar, featuring a product or Amazon.
Amazon gives publishers a lot of these type banners or widgets but despite trying almost all of them, I had little or no success with using them. Instead – 99% of my conversions have come from links to Amazon from within blog posts about the products themselves.
By all means experiment with the widgets and buttons Amazon gives you. If they do convert, then more power to you but every blogger I’ve talked to that has had success with Amazon tells me that contextual links, from within blog posts, work best.
11. Promote Specials, Promotions and Discounts
Amazon has hardly any products that don’t have a listed discount. Most books are as much as 30% off the recommended retail price and at different times during the year, Amazon runs other special discounts and promotions on different products or product categories.
Keep an eye out for these kinds of promotions because they can be well worth promoting (if relevant to your readership). In fact, last time Amazon had cameras on special, I promoted the sale to my newsletter readers and had readers emailing me to thank me for letting them know about it.
Another related tip is that when you’re writing a product review and Amazon has a listed discount – include a note about the discount. For example, in this recent photography book review I link at the bottom to Amazon and note that it is currently 36% off.
11. Multiple Links Per Post
When I used to write product reviews, I used to include just one affiliate link. For some reason, I thought that a single link would be enough and I didn’t want to run the risk of annoying readers with more links. However, one day it struck me that the reviews I was writing were quite long and by the time people got to the end of them, the link to Amazon was no longer visible.
At this point I started to experiment with a link at the top and tail of the review. I did some heat map tracking to see which links were the most clickable and also used Amazon’s tracking codes to see which one would ‘convert’ to a sale more often.
The results were interesting:
- Both affiliate links were clicked quite a bit but the link under the article was clicked slightly more than the link at the top (despite being under the fold)
- The link at the end of the review resulted in more conversions than the link at the top
- The people who clicked on the top link still purchased (although not as many) but interestingly it wasn’t always the product I reviewed. It was often related products
I concluded that having read a product review, people felt more informed to make a purchasing decision. As a result, if they did click a link after reading the review they were more likely to buy the product. Those clicking on the top link seemed to be more in a ‘surfing’ mode. They clicked on the link less because they wanted to buy it but more out of interest to learn more. Some bought the product and some bought other products once they were ‘in the door’ at Amazon.
These days I generally (but not always) use two links per review post.
- The first link is usually on the first time I use the product name
- The second link usually has a stronger call to action e.g. ‘check it out on Amazon’ or ‘get a price on XXXX’ or ‘buy your own copy of XXXX here’.
12. Link Images to Amazon
While doing some heat map tracking of where people were clicking on my reviews I learned that there was quite a bit of ‘click activity’ on images of the products, even when those images were not linked to anything.
Note: I use CrazyEgg for creating heatmaps – it has the option to track clicks on all areas of your page, even where there’s no link to click.
There’s something about an image that people are drawn to and that makes them click. I began to experiment with linking images to Amazon with my affiliate links, setting up a tracking code to test whether they converted. While they didn’t convert as well as text links, they did convert in some instances and to this day I still use this technique most of the time.
Be sure you read and comply with Amazon’s Best Practices for Using Images in Your Content as the use of images forms part of their operating agreement.
13. Buy Now Buttons
This is a technique I’ve heard others having real success with but one I need to experiment with more.
It basically involves using a ‘buy now’ button in your post. I suggest placing it below a review as a starting point. I’ve written more about the technique here but the first time I heard this being applied, the blogger actually used the yellow Amazon Buy Now button in his posts. The familiarity of the button seemed to help increase conversions.
Again – it’s not something I’ve done much of but it could be worth a try!
14. Multiple Promotions Per Campaign
I’ve talked about using multiple links in a post but another way to increase conversions on a particularly hot product is to promote it more than once, over time. I only do this on very popular or highly anticipated products but it certainly works well.
The key is to find a number of different ways to talk about the product over a few weeks (or longer). I wouldn’t do all of the following for a single product but here’s a few ways I’ve done it on occasion in the past.
- If a highly anticipated camera is announced by one of the manufacturers, I immediately publish a post announcing it. Amazon often has advance notice of these announcements and will usually have a page up for it where it can be pre-ordered on the same day it’s announced. I link to it immediately in my announcement post.
- A few days later I might post a post asking readers what they think about the camera or one of its features. For example, I recently wrote a post asking readers what they think about the idea of a camera with an inbuilt projector after the release of the Nikon Coolpix S1000pj.
- When the camera hits stores, I might post a short post announcing that it’s available.
- When we get a review product, we’ll post a review of it with our recommendations.
- We might, at some point, post some other reader reviews of the product if enough of our readers have it.
- We might also compile a list of quotes from other sites that have also reviewed the product.
- We might pull in and embed some videos from YouTube that show the products features.
Again – I would NEVER do all of these things with a single product but if it’s a significant product release and newsworthy over a month or so around its release we might cover it in 2-3 posts.
You know your readership best so tune in to where they’re at and whether you’ve posted too much on the same product. You don’t want to over do it but if it’s a product your readers are discussing and are interested in there’s plenty of ways to bring it up (and promote it on Amazon) more than once.
15. Focus Upon the Holidays
If you check out this I shared here on ProBlogger back in 2009 you’ll notice that the yearly 4th quarters were usually bigger than those proceeding them. The reason is simple – Christmas and Thanksgiving.
The only December that I saw a downswing was when Google temporarily de-indexed my first site for a few weeks. Every other year there has been healthy rises for the later half of November and all of December (the last few Decembers have been massive).
The upswing in sales around Christmas is partly natural as people are more in a ‘buying mood’ at that time of year. I like to take advantage of this by creating content that is specific to the holiday season.
Content such as buying guides, reader questions getting people talking about what they’re looking to buy or would like to receive for Christmas, lists of popular/recommended products etc.
16. Promote Related Products
One of the challenges I came up against when writing about cameras regularly was that while a certain percentage of my readers were actively shopping for a new camera, many readers already owned one. In fact, writing a ‘photography tips’ blog means you attract more people wanting to learn how to use a camera that they already own, rather than buying a new one.
As a result, I often do more promotions on ‘related products’ than cameras themselves. That means promoting lenses, flashes, memory cards and other photographic accessories as well as photography books (which is strongly related to my core ‘tips’ focus).
One great way to get ideas for related products to promote is to look at the stats/reports that Amazon gives you to see which products readers are buying. After a while you’ll start to notice that they’re not only buying the products you directly promote but other products as well. Some will be completely irrelevant to your niche – but many times trends will emerge that could signal other products that it might be worth promoting.
Let’s look at an example of this. Following is a screen capture of a small part of the orders on my Amazon account a while back. I have arranged them in order of how many were sold.
What you can see in this screen grab is that the #1 electronic item sold in the period was a Canon 50mm lens. You can see that in the ‘product Link Clicks column’ that people came to Amazon directly through a link from my site to this item – it’s something I promoted on DPS.
However look at the next most popular item (the Tiffen 52mm UV filter). You can see in the ‘Product Link Clicks’ column that there is a ‘0’ figure. I never promoted this product directly on DPS – yet 44 people bought it.
The next two items were things I promoted but the next 8 were things that people bought in number by themselves without me promoting them at all. To me, knowing which items people buy without my prompting is GOLD!
It’s possible that Amazon is promoting them heavily or that one person is buying a lot of the one product, or they just could be great products that almost sell themselves for one reason or another.
Whatever the reason, I’ll look into them further and see if they could be products I should be promoting somehow.
You can bet there will be a post on dPS soon that highlights some of these ‘hot/best selling accessories’ among our readers!
17. Promote Pre-Orders
I’ve already mentioned this one above but one of the things that I do is promote the ability to Pre-Order products on Amazon.
It doesn’t happen for every product but I find that Amazon will sometimes create pages for new products before they’re even available for purchase.
When I post an article announcing a new camera I always check Amazon first to see if they’ve already created a page for that product. If they have, I make sure to mention that the product is already available for pre-ordering on Amazon.
For example a couple of years ago when Canon Released the Canon EOS 50D DSLR I used this technique. This post generated 10 sales of the camera before it was even available in stores. While two of them cancelled their orders later 8 sales of a $1000+ product certainly add up!
18. Track Your Campaigns
Until a bit over a year ago, I just promoted every single Amazon affiliate link with the one tracking code. I was lazy and while I saw which products were selling, I never really knew what links on my blog were converting and what ones were not.
Eventually I decided that I needed to know more about what was working for me so I started tracking campaigns. Amazon allows you to create 100 tracking ids (once logged into Amazon Associates you manage them at this link).
I didn’t realize there was a limit until a few years back when I hit the maximum. I wish Amazon would increase it! To be honest, I find their tracking system pretty messy and think it needs an overhaul however, it is great for testing what works and what doesn’t. Most of what I’ve written about in other tips in these articles was learned through tracking.
Because there’s a 100 tracking code limit, I suggest creating a few general tracking codes, one for each blog and perhaps one for each category on your blog. Then use other codes for major promotions that you’re doing. This way not every Amazon link will be tracked but important ones will.
Note: I’m told that Amazon do give more tracking codes if you email them but it’s a bit of a drawn out process. If you need more it’s worth a try (I know I’ll be trying).
19. Small Ticket Items Add Up
One of the most common criticisms I hear about the Amazon’s Affiliate program is that there are just too many small commissions. Getting a commission of a small percentage on a $15 book just doesn’t cut it for many people. Some people use this to justify not using Amazon at all while others just promote big-ticket items.
While I agree that these small commissions are not much on their own – they do add up.
Yesterday I earned $506.03 from Amazon. It was actually a pretty good day, higher than average. One might think the higher than normal figure came from selling some big ticket items but that wasn’t the case. The highest commission for the day was a $21.34 commission. The vast majority of the sales were books sold from my list of photography books, which we promoted on social media recently.
The other beauty of getting lots of smaller ticket sales is that they go towards increasing the commission tier you’re on. The more items you sell (not the more $’s you refer – but item numbers) the higher % commission you make from Amazon.
In the screen capture above you can see that when you go past 6 items referred, you move from a 4% commission to a 6% commission. If you keep referring more, the commission increases. The only category of product not included in this is consumer electronics (frustrating for a camera guy!).
This means that if you refer enough small ticket items you can double your commissions.
Note: Amazon lets you choose two types of payment structures – ‘Classic’ and ‘Performance’. The classic one has a 4% flat commission – while the ‘performance’ one has the tiers. I’m not sure why anyone would select ‘classic’ so make sure you choose ‘Performance’!
20. Big Ticket Items are the Cream on Top
While I strongly advise promoting small ticket items to help boost your sale numbers and commission figures, it’s also worth targeting some bigger ticket promotions too.
In my experience, they don’t convert anywhere near as well as cheaper items but when they do, they can give your revenue a real boost. As someone promoting cameras that can sell for several thousand dollars, I’ve had single commissions in the hundreds of dollars range (even when the commission is limited to 4% on consumer electronics).
For example, last month I saw the sale of the Nikon D800 36.3 MP CMOS FX-Format Digital SLR Camera (Body Only) (yes that IS an affiliate link). It sells for over $2700 and generated me a $111 commission.
Here are a few more smaller but still significant ones from the last week:
While these bigger ticket items are certainly not selling in as great a number as books – they contribute a significant amount to the total earnings of the month.
10 More Tips on Using the Amazon Affiliate Program
To finish off this ultimate guide I want to share 10 more general, overarching tips and principles I’ve found helpful when making money with Amazon’s Affiliate program.
1. Time is a Major Factor
As I mentioned at the start of this guide, the $420,000+ that I’ve earned from Amazon has come over 10 years.
While the last 5 years seen me earn over $50,000 per year from Amazon, it took 5 years of building to get it to that level – with the first 3 years really not earning much at all.
That was partly due to increasing traffic. It was partly due to my regular inclusion of affiliate links in my posts. I don’t promote Amazon in every post but in an average week I’d say I link to Amazon in at least 4-5 posts. That adds up to 200-250 posts per year and around over 2000 posts in the last 10 years.
These posts act as a doorway to the Amazon site. As the number of posts has increased, my blogs have begun to rank higher in Google and my loyal reader numbers have grown, the number of people going through these ‘doorways’ has increase– hence the escalation in earnings.
2. Start Early
I recommend that bloggers start to use Amazon’s Affiliate Program early. In doing so, you’ll be populating your blog with links into the store that may not convert brilliantly early on but which can potentially convert for years to come as your blog grows in popularity.
The other good thing about starting early is that you’ll learn a lot about affiliate marketing. Most of the lessons and tips that I’ve shared in this series of posts have come directly from my own experimenting with Amazon’s Affiliate program.
I knew so little in the early days and I made a lot of mistakes but each time I messed up I learned another lesson that has helped me to grow my Amazon earnings into a more significant part of my own business.
3. Experiment with Widgets
I’ve already mentioned that I largely rely upon contextual links to promote Amazon products. I find these offer the best conversion however, I do know of a few bloggers who’ve successfully incorporated a variety of the widgets that Amazon gives their affiliates to use.
It comes down to experimenting with the tools and seeing what works best with your audience. If you’ve used some of these widgets I’d love to see examples of where you’ve had them work for you – please share links in comments below so we can all learn!
4. Transparency with Readers
There is always debate about the topic of transparency when affiliate marketing comes up. Should you disclose that your links are affiliate links or should you not?
The answer to this will partly depend upon your location. If you’re in the US, the FCC requires a disclosure – but in other parts of the world you are not required to do so.
Each blogger will ultimately have their own stance on this and it’s important to work out what sits well with your own ethics, the flow of your site and the law.
Being in Australia, I’m not required to do anything by the law (although I hear talk that there may be changes around this). I don’t disclose every single Amazon link on my photography blog in a direct way but do I have a disclaimer/disclosure page on the blog. When I’m doing a ‘best seller list’ always include a disclaimer on those posts as the whole page is filled with affiliate links. I have also written numerous times on DPS about how the links to Amazon earn us money and help the site to keep growing and be free.
I was nervous the first time I mentioned this to readers and expected a backlash however, what I found was that most readers not only accepted it, they encouraged us.
In fact, a few of our readers tell me that if they’re going to make some kind of purchase at Amazon that they always come to DPS to click on one of our links to do so! Transparency isn’t as scary as you might think (although this might depend upon your audience a little).
Here on ProBlogger I disclose Amazon affiliate links. That’s mainly because there are fewer of them and because my readers here are more savvy with the idea of affiliate programs (I don’t have to explain what an affiliate link is every time I mention one).
5. Don’t Hype – Put Your Readers First
When you engage in any affiliate marketing, always keep your readers’ best interests at heart.
I’ve been critiqued for taking this view over the years by groups of bloggers who seem to put the priority on ‘making money at all costs’. While you certainly can make money without a focus on quality content or building community and by hyping up the things that you promote – my approach has always been to put the reader first.
I do this because I want to build a solid reputation and a loyal readership of people who trust me. I’d rather make less money and still have a reader than make lots of money and never see the reader again. For me, this comes not only from my ethics but my belief that in the long term building a good profile and reputation leads to other opportunities for profit.
The problem with hype is that you set readers up with expectations that are beyond what the product you’re recommending can deliver. This might lead to a sale but it also leads to disappointment and anger – the loss of readers – damaged reputation etc.
6. Pick High Quality Products
This follows on from the last point but is worth stating on its own. The success (or failure) of your Amazon Affiliate Program hinges upon the products you choose.
When you promote quality, it is much easier to be both genuine in your reviews and recommendations which leads to conversions and commissions.
Wherever you can, test the products you recommend to ensure their quality (or find someone who can do it for you).
7. Be Bold
One of the recurring themes I hear from readers is that they worry about using Amazon links too much, asking “Won’t readers push back?”
I have always shared this concern but as you’ve probably picked up by now, the reader push back has been almost non-existent.
Perhaps this is because I carefully choose the products I promote or because I often promote these links in posts based upon reader feedback. I can think of less than 10 occasions when I’ve had people on my photography site question the links. In fact, as I said above, I’ve had more people give positive feedback about them than anything.
I guess there would come a point where too much promotion would get a negative reaction so you want to be a little subtle about your promotion but in general, I think readers can handle more than we might think they can.
Note: I think the line where readers will push back probably will vary from blog to blog depending upon their readership. For example here on ProBlogger I get a little more negative feedback from readers on affiliate promotions. I suspect ProBlogger readers are a little more tuned into the issue and suspicious of some of the affiliate marketing that goes on around the web.
8. Localized Audiences? Try Local Amazons
Another comment that sometimes comes is that Amazon.com doesn’t work brilliantly for blogs and sites with traffic from countries outside the USA.
A couple of reflections on this:
Firstly – it’s not completely true. I previously had a blog with almost completely Australian traffic and it converted reasonably well with Amazon. Amazon does ship some products to Australia and other countries (books, CDs etc) so if you’re promoting those products it can work.
Of course I always missed out on the bigger ticket electronic items that didn’t ship outside the USA. This was part of the reason I moved my efforts to starting Digital Photography School, which has a more global audience.
Secondly – if your traffic is localized to a country with its own Amazon store, join the affiliate program for that store and promote it. I know one of the UK photography sites does very well from promoting the UK version of Amazon. I also know one blog that adds two links to every post he does – one with the US and one with the UK store.
I’ve also heard that some people use geo-targeting tools to look at where a reader is from and serving them a localized link for them.
9. Topics Convert Differently
One forum I came across was discussing my previous articles and a number of people reported that Amazon didn’t work on their sites (doubting whether I was telling the truth about my earnings). When I delved a little deeper, and looked at their sites, the reason for their lack of success with Amazon became apparent – their topics.
Some topics will naturally fit with Amazon better than others. In the end, it comes down to the fact that Amazon is a product related affiliate program so it only works when people buy stuff. If your blog is on a topic that doesn’t have any natural connection to people buying stuff it is going to be an uphill battle.
In my experience, it’s product-related blogs that tend to do best with Amazon. Most blogs probably have at least some possibilities (for example here on ProBlogger I occasionally link to a book that relates or a computer or electronic tool that I think might be useful to bloggers) but the reality is that this blog will never convert as well on Amazon as my photography site.
10. Keep an Eye on Amazon
My last tip is to keep an eye on what Amazon is doing. I mean this in two ways:
1. Learn from Them – be a regular user of Amazon. You don’t have to be an active buyer but surf the site regularly and pay particular attention to the way that THEY are promoting products on their site.
Amazon has spent years perfecting the art of online selling and you’ll learn a lot about online marketing by observing how they do it. They constantly test different ways of promoting products and have evolved their site quite a lot over the years. See what widgets they use to promote related products, watch how they use reader reviews, and see the way that they describe products.
You’ll also be in a better position to pre-sell the products you recommend if you look at the page you’re sending people to before you do it.
2. Watch for Opportunities – earlier in this guide I mentioned that you could tap into a number of promotions Amazon on their site. Some of these are promote directly to their affiliates. For example, they send out emails to affiliates semi-regularly, promoting their latest promotions. They also have a blog where they do likewise.
If you read the blog and get the emails you’ll see promotions where they are offering discounts to readers but also where they’re giving bonus commissions for some items or categories of products. Not all of them will relate to your niche but over time some will.
However, there are other opportunities they don’t promote to us as affiliates but which you can still tap into. For example, today I was surfing on Amazon and came across their Camera Deals page.
The page is a sales page promoting any deals that they’re running on digital cameras. On the page are some pretty decent deals that are worth promoting on my photography blog.
This is just one of many promotions that Amazon is always running on their site. Keep an eye out on the site for what they’re doing that relates to your niche and you’ll find some good stuff to promote.
The more you keep an eye on how Amazon are promoting products to their readers the better informed you’ll be about how YOU can do the same thing.
Share Your Amazon Affiliate Program Tips
This brings to an end my ultimate guide to making money with the Amazon Affilate Program. I’ve shared everything that I’ve tried but what about you? Got any tips to add?
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