Amazon is the most popular online shopping site in the English-speaking world. Chances are good that, even if you’re not a regular Amazon customer, you’ve bought something from this site in the past! (Or even 10 minutes ago.)
In addition to being a huge buyer’s destination, lots of people have also made money selling things on Amazon—but that’s not the only way to generate an income from this popular shopping site.
Today, we’re going to talk about the other way of making money on Amazon—by promoting products others are selling, through Amazon’s affiliate marketing program, known as Amazon Associates.
We’ll go into detail on how to get started with an Amazon Associates account, and how to get your first affiliate link! Then we’ll cover the benefits and upside of using this platform as a source of some of your affiliate income, along with the downsides and challenges of using Amazon’s affiliate program.
Finally, we’ll go over some powerful tips to help you maximize your success earning an affiliate income from promoting Amazon products.
Here’s what to expect in this chapter:
- Why Choose Amazon for Your Affiliate Marketing?
- How to Sign Up for the Amazon Associates Affiliate Program
- How to Get Started Promoting Products with Your Amazon Affiliate Links
- Tips and Best Practices for Amazon Affiliates
Why Choose Amazon for Your Affiliate Marketing?
There are plenty of reasons to choose Amazon as an affiliate marketing option—and we’ll get to those in a moment. But I want to start by talking about maybe the biggest downside of using an Amazon affiliate link:
Amazon’s commission rates—the percentage of the sale price you receive when someone purchases a product you recommend—are, well, not so great.
|Amazon Product Category||Affiliate Commission|
|Amazon Gift Cards, Wine||0.00%|
|Video Games & Video Game Consoles||1.00%|
|Televisions, Digital Video Games||2.00%|
|PC, PC Components, DVD & Blu-Ray||2.50%|
|Amazon Fresh, Toys||3.00%|
|Amazon Fire Tablet Devices, Dash Buttons, Amazon Kindle Devices||4.00%|
|Physical Books, Health & Personal Care, Sports, Kitchen, Automotive, Baby Products||4.50%|
|Digital Music, Grocery, Physical Music, Handmade, Digital Videos||5.00%|
|Headphones, Beauty, Musical Instruments, Business & Industrial Supplies||6.00%|
|Apparel, Amazon Element Smart TV (with Fire TV), Amazon Fire TV Devices, Jewelry, Luggage, Shoes, Handbags & Accessories, Watches, Amazon Echo Devices||7.00%|
|Furniture, Home, Home Improvement, Lawn & Garden, Pets Products, Pantry||8.00%|
|Amazon Fashion Women, Men & Kids Private Label, Luxury Beauty, Amazon Coins||10.00%|
|All Other Categories||4.00%|
There are other affiliate networks out there that offer higher commissions. Some, like ClickBank, offer rates as high as 75 percent for certain products. In comparison, Amazon’s rates seem downright stingy.
So why bother with Amazon when there are seemingly much higher commission rates waiting elsewhere? Thankfully, there are some great reasons to do just that.
Advantage #1: It’s where lots of people shop
First, Amazon has something that tops all the others. You could call it brand equity, or trust, or name recognition. People know Amazon, and they trust it as a source to buy stuff. In 2017, more people started their product searches on Amazon than anywhere else—49 percent compared to 36 percent for search engines like Google and 15 percent for retailers themselves.
But more than just that, 75 percent of shoppers shop on Amazon most of the time. And Amazon has awesome conversion rates—the rate at which a customer who visits the site actually purchases something. If you’re talking about Prime customers, as many as 74 percent of them convert. That’s compared to an average of less than 10 percent for most retail sites!
So what Amazon may lack in affiliate commissions, it makes up in awareness, conversion rates, and shopper loyalty.
Advantage #2: You get the whole cart
That brings us to the next, and perhaps the biggest benefit of using an Amazon affiliate link. That is, even if you have a link for a specific product, you can still make money on any product a person purchases after they click on your link.
That’s right! Let’s say your affiliate link promotes a book. Someone clicks on it, lands on Amazon, continues to shop, and decides to also buy a mattress. Guess what! You’ll get a commission for the book and mattress purchase.
And here’s perhaps the best part: you’ll get the mattress commission even if the person doesn’t buy the book! You see, when someone clicks on your link, Amazon adds a cookie to their browser that tracks anything they put in their shopping cart over the next 24 hours and gives you a commission if they purchase it.
As you can imagine, this can add up nicely for you.
So what’s the bottom line for you as an affiliate marketer? Is Amazon worth it as an affiliate revenue source?
My opinion is that you should definitely consider Amazon as you’re building your “portfolio” of affiliate marketing options. Despite the low commission rates compared to some other affiliate networks, there are a couple powerful benefits that “stack up” to help make Amazon a pretty strong affiliate network program.
Affiliate marketing on Amazon may not make you rich (at least right away), but it’s a really solid, reliable place to start. And even though the commission rates may not be as high as some networks, your likelihood of a sale is greater on Amazon. Plus, you can get a share of a customer’s entire cart if they click on your affiliate link—even if they end up buying something different from the original product you promoted. And the fact that it’s the most popular online marketplace in the Western hemisphere is nothing to sneeze at!
Now that you know the reasons to consider Amazon as an affiliate marketing option, let’s talk about how to sign up for an Amazon Associates account!
How to Sign Up for the Amazon Associates Affiliate Program
Let’s say you’ve decided to go for it and sign up with Amazon’s affiliate program, which is called Amazon Associates.
We’ll now walk through exactly how to do that, so you can get started on your path to successful affiliate marketing on Amazon!
1. First, go to https://affiliate-program.amazon.com/ and click Join Now for Free.
2. Then, you’ll see a page that gives you the option to either sign in or create a new Amazon account.
3. Next, you’ll start creating your account by providing your physical address where payments should be sent. If the main contact for your Amazon Associates account is someone other than the person you list on the address, you’ll need to select “Someone else” and enter their details at the bottom of the form.
4. Next, you’ll enter the URLs of your website(s) and mobile apps (if applicable) you’ll be using to promote your Amazon affiliate links. You need to enter at least one URL!
5. Now you can choose an Associates Store ID. This is basically a username that identifies your affiliate account. If your preferred name isn’t available, Amazon will suggest a similar one later on.
6. You’ll need to answer some questions about the type of site(s) you have and the kinds of Amazon products you plan to promote . . .
7. . . as well as a few more details about your site(s), including how you drive traffic to it and why you want to join the Amazon Associates program.
8. You’ll also be asked to confirm that none of the websites or apps listed are targeted at kids (those under 13), which is not allowed by the terms of the Amazon Associates program.
9. Next up is identity verification. Enter your phone number and Amazon will call you asking you to verify a PIN number that will appear on the screen.
10. Click the checkbox agreeing to the terms and conditions of the Associates Program Operating Agreement, then click Finish.
Once your identity verification is complete, you’ll see a congratulatory page.
11. Click Finish, and you’ll see a page with your new Associate ID!
12. Now you’ll set up your payment details. You can choose to be paid via Amazon gift card, direct deposit (if you’re in the US), or check.
If you choose gift card, it’ll be sent to your primary email address. If you opt for direct deposit, a space will appear on the page below to enter your bank details. And if you want a check sent to your contact address, keep in mind that the minimum payout is greater than it is for gift cards or direct deposit ($100 vs. $10), and a processing fee applies.
13. Then you’ll fill out a tax interview to make sure everything is legal with the IRS. Make sure to double-check everything you enter on this form!
14. Click Save and Preview and you’ll be given a preview of your W9 tax form.
15. Click through to the next page, and you’re all done setting up your account!
Now let's talk about how to get started promoting products using your brand-new Amazon affiliate links.
How to Get Started Promoting Products with Your Amazon Affiliate Links
Now that you’ve set up your account, the next step is getting your first affiliate link. Thankfully, this part is a little shorter than setting up your account!
Go to https://affiliate-program.amazon.com/home. On that page, you’ll see the option to create an affiliate link for a specific product, either by searching or browsing for it.
We’ll do a search for my book Will It Fly?.
There it is in the first result! From here, if you want to grab your affiliate link for this product, click on the down arrow next to the yellow “Get link” button to the right of the product name.
A window will pop up with your affiliate link. You also have the option to shorten the URL using Amazon’s link shortening tool, if you like.
You can use this URL to hyperlink mentions of the product in your content. However, you also have other options for adding your affiliate link to your content, including adding a thumbnail image of the product. You can access these additional options by clicking the yellow “Get link” button itself (instead of the down arrow).
From here, you can create a custom link with text, image, or both, plus custom colors for the background, title, and price of the item. The great part is, you just need to embed the code given to you, and all the correct product data (and formatting you selected) will be pulled from Amazon right to your site.
Now your affiliate link is ready to be used in your content!
Tips and Best Practices for Amazon Affiliates
Now that we’ve covered the basics—why you might choose Amazon for affiliate marketing, and how to get started—let’s dig in to specific ways you can increase your chances of success as an Amazon Associate.
As we talked about earlier, one of Amazon’s biggest advantages as an affiliate network is the trust factor. People know and trust Amazon, so you shouldn’t have to spend too much time convincing them that the site is worth buying from.
But that doesn’t mean you can just sit back and watch the affiliate sales roll in.
There are several tips and tactics you can use to improve your affiliate marketing on Amazon, to increase your conversion rates and income and create a better experience for your audience when they purchase products through your Amazon affiliate links.
In this section, we’ll talk through some of the things you should do as an Amazon Associate, along with several things you should definitely avoid doing if you want to succeed.
Must do #1: Get to know the Amazon product you’re promoting
This tip is a must for any affiliate product or service you’re promoting. Ideally, it’s something you’ve used yourself, have benefited from, and know inside and out.
I talk about this a lot, and it comes back to trust. What makes people want to buy from you, or purchase a product you’re promoting as an affiliate? It’s not a slick sales pitch. That may work for a little while, but what will get you lasting results is building a relationship with your audience based on trust.
And only promoting products you know and have used and benefited from is a great way to establish trust, because it shows your audience that you’re not going to try to sell them on something you don’t already trust yourself.
It’s like that old commercial where the guy says, “I'm not just the president of Hair Club for Men. I’m also a member.” (Okay, I’m probably dating myself here, but hopefully you get the point!)
This point is especially important when it comes to affiliate marketing on Amazon. Why? One of the things about Amazon affiliate marketing you need to watch for is that once you’re up and running as an affiliate, the barrier to entry to promote a new product is pretty low.
Because Amazon has a huge selection, and it’s so easy to generate an affiliate link for just about any product, it can be easy to fall into the trap of promoting an Amazon product without getting to know the product first. As a result, it can be really easy to start promoting something you don’t know very well, and risking the trust of your audience in the process.
Must do #2: Show people what they’re going to get—unbox the mystery
This next one is not exclusive to Amazon, but it’s probably going to give you the biggest bang for your buck with Amazon. That is, showing people what they’re going to get before they get it. Instead of just talking about the product or sharing a little information about it, then posting your affiliate link and leaving it at that, you can give people a much richer preview of their potential experience with a given product.
A great way to do this is to go into deep detail about what the product is and how it works, by shooting a video.
The unboxing videos I’ve created for products I promote, both physical and digital, have worked really well for me in terms of driving purchases and affiliate income.
Videos are a great way to show the ease of use of a particular product, and give your audience a chance to imagine themselves using it.
I’ve created unboxing videos for a number of Amazon products in particular, like the one where I unboxed three different podcasting microphones under $75:
Videos also make it easier to build a relationship with your audience; you can talk right to them, and they can hear your voice (and see your face, though that’s not always necessary). Plus, not only are you sharing what the product looks like and how it works, since you’re the one who’s showing your audience how it works, you’re also building your authority with them as an expert they can trust.
And the best part? No pitch is even required! Just show people how the product works, be honest and thorough, and the power of video will do the rest.
Must do #3: Be honest
Here’s another tip that doesn’t just apply to Amazon affiliate links, but is crucial to remember if you want to be successful promoting Amazon products: be honest. This may sound like one of those “d’uh!” tips, but trust me when I say that it can still trip people up.
The first place where honesty is crucial in affiliate marketing on Amazon is in how you represent the product itself. This may go without saying, but if you oversell or flat-out lie about what a product can do for someone, it’s going to backfire, big time. And not just in terms of your affiliate sales for that product, but in the likelihood people will continue to trust you at all. You can always find new affiliate products to promote, but once you’ve lost your audience’s trust, it’s hard if not impossible to gain it back. This is why using a product yourself and getting to know it inside and out is extra important, because the chances you’ll misrepresent the thing you’re promoting are much, much lower when you’re an expert on it.
The second place where honesty is crucial is in how you represent your affiliate links themselves. I always recommend being honest with the fact that you can earn a commission when people use your affiliate links to purchase a product. In fact, the FTC requires that you disclose when you’re using affiliate links, but beyond even that, it’s just good practice to let people know that you’ll make money when they purchase via a link on your site.
This can be as simple as adding a single disclaimer at the top of a blog post in which you’re sharing affiliate links. I’ve had people tell me it feels odd to tell visitors that you’re making money from an action they’re taking, and I get it, but the truth is this: it doesn’t cost those visitors anything to use your link (beyond the cost of the product), and once you help them, they’ll often look for ways to help you in return. And providing affiliate links is an easy way to let them do that, at no extra cost to them!
Must do #4: Offer people support for Amazon products they purchase through your links
Finally, when promoting an affiliate product on Amazon to your audience, offer to help them with the product. Be a source of support. If people have questions or people want to know more about the thing you’re promoting, make their decision easier and offer them that support! But, you might think, am I going to have people beating down my door asking for help with the product? I’m too busy for that! Here’s the thing. Very few people will actually take you up on that offer. But a lot more people will see your offer of assistance and appreciate it. They’ll see you as an authority figure, and someone they can trust to help them out if they need it, someone who stands behind the products they promote, even if those products aren’t your own.
Plus, if somebody does come to you with a question about the product you’re promoting, that means they’re probably interested in buying it, and by being there in a support role, you can help move them closer to a purchase decision. That’s a win for them, and a win for you.
Must do #5: Use GeniusLink to optimize your Amazon affiliate links internationally
Earlier in this article, I showed you how to sign up for an Amazon Associates account on Amazon.com, which is the company’s US-based site. But this is not Amazon’s only affiliate site.
In fact, it has affiliate programs in 11 other countries, including Canada, the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Japan, China, Spain, India, Mexico, and Brazil. And in order to earn affiliate income from those sites, you need to set up an account on each of them—your US affiliate account doesn’t automatically “cover” you on the international sites.
That’s right: if you promote an affiliate link for a podcasting microphone on Amazon.com, you won’t get paid if someone in England clicks on your link but buys the microphone from Amazon.co.uk.
So what can you do? Create an account on the US site plus all 11 of the different international Amazon sites, and create 12 separate affiliate links for each product you want to promote . . . then add all 12 links to each mention of that product in your blog post? Phew! That sounds exhausting, and unlikely to be effective either.
That’s where Geni.us comes in. This tool lets you do two powerful things that can make your international Amazon affiliate marketing much simpler and more effective.
First, Geni.us lets you identify where a website visitor is in the world based on their browser’s geolocation, then send them to a specific page based on that location.
Second, it allows you to create a universal link for each of your Amazon affiliate products that uses a visitor’s geolocation to determine which international Amazon store to send them to.
Translation: Geni.us lets you use one link (not 12!) for each Amazon affiliate product you’re promoting in your content. Then it does the work on the back end to send the person who clicks on your link to the right Amazon site for their location in the world.
This is super useful, and will help you make more money as an Amazon Associate by tapping into customers around the world.
In fact, it’s so useful that I recommend it as one of the 12 tools you need (see Chapter 6) to help you optimize your affiliate marketing efforts overall—not just on Amazon! So check it out.
Must do #6: Take advantage of the holiday season
This next one is a short one, but it’s a big one. As you probably know (and have experienced!), the holiday season is a huge shopping period—which means it’s also potentially a great time for affiliate sales. The lead-up to the holiday shopping period is an important time to promote your affiliate links, so you might want to think about doubling down on your promotional efforts in the fall.
At the same time, you’ll want to be careful not to overpromote your affiliate products this time of year—people are expecting a lot of marketing, but you still want to be careful not to oversaturate your audience.
Plus, it can be especially tempting this time of year to “catch the wave” of holiday shopping excitement and—as we talked about earlier—start promoting products you don’t know well and haven’t even used personally. While that may lead to some extra sales in the short term, in the long run you risk your audience’s trust by promoting products you don’t know and can’t stand behind.
So take advantage of the holiday shopping period, but don’t get carried away!
Must do #7: Read the fine print
Okay, so far we’ve talked about some of the key strategies for success as an Amazon affiliate, focused mostly on the positives—the what to dos—along with a few things to avoid. Now let’s talk about a few more things on the negative side of the equation: the practices you need to avoid if you want to grow your affiliate income (and yes, avoid getting in trouble with Amazon).
Amazon is known for sometimes coming down hard on sellers, affiliates, and other partners who don’t follow the rules. This is maybe the other big downside of being an Amazon affiliate—Amazon is big enough to boss you around if you step out of line, and there’s usually not much you can do about it. I’ve heard stories of affiliates having their accounts closed without any chance for recourse or appeal when they went against one of Amazon’s affiliate policies.
Usually, Amazon will give you a warning if you’re not following one of their policies, but in any case, it’s always better to be safe than sorry!
A big part of this is reading and understanding the fine print in Amazon’s affiliate policies.
So, to make things super clear, I’m going to focus on several excerpts from those policies that you should be aware of. I’ll share the exact language from Amazon’s policy documents, followed by my own comments.
The first policy has to do with what kind of website you use to promote your affiliate links (and yes, you need to have a website if you want to be an affiliate marketer!). Amazon has a list of what it calls “unsuitable sites” that they won’t allow into the Associates program.
Amazon’s language: “Unsuitable Sites include those that:
- promote or contain sexually explicit or obscene materials;
- promote violence or contain violent materials;
- promote or contain false, deceptive, libelous or defamatory materials;
- promote or contain materials or activity that is hateful, harassing, harmful, invasive of another’s privacy, abusive, or discriminatory (including on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, nationality, disability, sexual orientation, or age);
- promote or undertake illegal activities;
- are directed toward children under 13 years of age, as defined by the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (15 U.S.C. §§ 6501-6506) and any regulations promulgated thereunder, or otherwise knowingly collect, use, or disclose personal information from children under 13 years of age;
- include any trademark of Amazon or its affiliates, or a variant or misspelling of a trademark of Amazon or its affiliates in any domain name, subdomain name, in any “tag” or Associates ID, or in any username, group name, or other identifier on any social networking site (see a non-exhaustive list of our trademarks here); or
- otherwise violate any intellectual property rights.”
Translation: Amazon won’t let you join their affiliate program if your site is involved in anything illegal, deceptive, violent, or hateful. But even if this doesn’t describe your site (and I hope it doesn’t!), keep in mind that sites of an “adult” nature may not be allowed either. Also, even if your site is totally family friendly, if it’s focused on kids it may not be allowed, as Amazon says it won’t accept sites directed toward kids who aren’t teenagers yet.
Next, Amazon’s policy on where you can use your affiliate links (what Amazon calls “Special Links”) and where you can’t.
Amazon’s language: “… you will not engage in any promotional, marketing, or other advertising activities in any offline manner, including by using any of our or our affiliates’ trademarks or logos (including any Amazon Mark), any Content, or any Special Link in connection with an offline promotion or in any other offline manner (e.g., in any printed material, mailing, SMS, MMS, email or attachment to email, or other document, or any oral solicitation).”
Translation: Don’t put your affiliate links anywhere except on your website, blog posts, or online videos. Period. That means no links in emails, lead magnet PDFs, printed flyers, ebooks… if it’s not a blog post or web page, don’t use your affiliate link there.
In fact, if you try to add an Amazon link to a Kindle ebook, you’ll get a message like this:
Which is actually pretty helpful, if you think about it. But you won’t get a friendly warning like this if you try to use your affiliate link in an email, so just remember: blog post or web page only.
The next policy covers the importance of being honest about the Amazon products you’re promoting using your affiliate links.
Amazon’s language: “You must not make inaccurate, overbroad, deceptive or otherwise misleading claims about any Product, the Amazon Site, or any of our policies, promotions, or prices.”
Translation: Don’t lie about the Amazon products you’re promoting. This seems pretty obvious, but this also means not overpromising or misrepresenting the products you’re promoting, even in a small way. (For instance, don’t say the camera you’re promoting has 20 megapixels when it really only has 15.) Now, of course innocent mistakes and typos can still happen to anyone, so double-check everything you write about the products you’re promoting to make sure it’s accurate.
Finally, something you shouldn’t encourage your audience to do with your affiliate links.
Amazon’s language: “You must not encourage customers to bookmark your Special Links.”
Translation: This one’s pretty self-explanatory. Don’t ask people to bookmark your affiliate link for later use.
Those are a few of Amazon’s affiliate marketing policies I want you to be aware of as you’re getting started, but that’s definitely not all of them. That’s why I still recommend you review all of the policies for yourself too.
Must do #8: Don’t put all your eggs in the Amazon basket
Last but not least, don’t make Amazon your only affiliate marketing option. I’m a huge proponent of diversifying your income sources, and doing so has been a big reason for my own success.
Part of the reason I recommend diversifying is because, as we talked about earlier, Amazon commission rates tend to be lower than they are from other affiliate income sources. I’ve seen this in my own affiliate marketing, where my commission rates and overall income from Amazon are not as high as they are for many of the products and services I promote on other platforms and from other companies.
Amazon is not my biggest source of affiliate income. But for some of you out there, it might be (or might someday). It’s just as important for you to diversify—maybe even more important—for the simple reason that relying too heavily on one source of income could leave you in a tough spot if that income source were to dry up for any reason.
I’ve seen too many folks in the online business space “bet it all” on one source of income, and when that income source didn’t pan out the way they wanted to, they didn’t have a backup plan in place to weather the storm.
If you become wildly successful as an Amazon affiliate, hopefully using the tips I’ve shared in this article, then great! But I still recommend you not put all your affiliate eggs in the Amazon basket—or any single basket.
Affiliate Marketing Success on Amazon Is about Trust
Amazon is the most popular marketplace in North America, and it’s growing worldwide too. It’s the single biggest place where US shoppers start their product searches, so it’s definitely a smart option to add to your affiliate marketing repertoire.
To be successful as an affiliate marketer on Amazon, you need to understand a few important best practices specific to Amazon, including how to maximize your affiliate income potential across Amazon’s international sites, and how to promote your affiliate links correctly so you don’t go against Amazon’s strict policies.
But beyond these specific points, promoting affiliate products on Amazon really involves the same ground rules that apply to affiliate marketing in any form or on any other site or network. That is, know the products you’re promoting, be honest in how you represent those products, and give people enough information to make an informed decision about the product.
Perhaps most importantly, though, successful affiliate marketing on Amazon is built on the same foundational principle that all affiliate marketing, and all online marketing and business, is based: trust. In the end, Amazon is another tool that helps you help your audience and build their trust further, by promoting products that will help them achieve their goals.
If you want to dive deeper, check out how to get started with affiliate marketing in Chapter 2, my affiliate marketing tips in Chapter 3, and handy tools I recommend in Chapter 6 to improve your affiliate marketing on Amazon and elsewhere.
And finally, if you’re interested in diving even deeper on how to do affiliate marketing the right way—to know what works and what doesn’t—then visit Chapter 8 below to learn about a course I created especially for that purpose.