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10 Last Tips on Making Money from the Amazon Affiliates Program

Posted By Darren Rowse 21st of August 2009 Affiliate Programs 0 Comments

Today I’d like to conclude my mini series of posts on how to make money with the Amazon Associates Program. In case you’ve missed them – the first two parts are at:

In this last post I’d like to share 10 more general and overarching tips and principles that I’ve found can help with making money with Amazon’s Affiliate program. I hope you find that together with the more practical tips from yesterday that you’ll find them helpful!

1. Time is a Major Factor

As I mentioned in my first post on the topic – the $119,000+ that I’ve earned from Amazon has only come over 6 years. While this last 12 months has seen me earn over $50,000 of this it took 5 years of building to get it to that level.

That was partly due to traffic but it was also partly due to my regular inclusion of affiliate links in my posts over time. I don’t promote Amazon in every post I write but in an average week I’d say that I’ve linked to Amazon in at least 5 posts. That adds up to 250 or so posts per year and around 1500 posts over 6 years.

These posts are each a doorway into the Amazon site and over time as their number have grown and as my blogs have begun to rank higher in Google and my loyal reader numbers have grown the number of people going through these ‘doorways’ into Amazon has grown – hence the escalation in earnings.

2. Start Early

As a result I do recommend that bloggers start to use Amazon’s Associate Program early. In doing so you’ll be populating your blog with links into the store that may not convert brilliantly early on before you have readers – 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.

In the early days of using it I knew so little and 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 and aStore

I’ve mentioned in my previous posts that I largely rely upon Contextual links to promote Amazon. I find that these convert best – however I do know of a few bloggers who’ve successfully incorporated a variety of the widgets that Amazon gives their Associates to use into their sites.

amazon-widgets.png

Similarly – I know some readers who do pretty well with aStore which is a tool whereby you create your own little online store using Amazon’s technology.

I’ve tried a couple of times to use this and have had a little success with my photography one and my ProBlogger Bookstore but know I need to do more with it to take it to the next level.

I guess 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 the topic of affiliate marketing comes up. Should you disclose that your links are affiliate links or should you not? Each blogger has their own stance on this and with a lot of talk about laws changing in some parts of the world it seems that some bloggers are now being forced to make such disclosures.

I personally don’t disclose every link on my blog in a direct way but do have disclaimer/disclosure pages on my blogs. I also have 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 but encouraged us to do it. 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).

5. Don’t Hype – Put Your Readers First

Whatever you do – always keep your readers best interests at heart when you engage in any affiliate marketing.

I’ve been critiqued for taking this stance lately by a group of bloggers who take a different stance and seem to put the priority on ‘making money at all costs’ – but while you certainly can make money without a focus upon quality content or building community on a blog 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 who trust me rather than simply making money at all costs. 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 Quality Products

This relates to the last point but is worth stating on its own. The success and failure of your Amazon Associates Program promotions hinges upon choosing good quality products.

When you promote quality it is much easier to be both genuine in your reviews and recommendations and get conversions that lead to commission.

Wherever you can test the products you recommend to ensure their quality (or find someone who can do it for you).

7. Be Bold

It has been interesting to read the comments on the previous posts in this series and to see that one of the recurring themes from readers is that they worry about using Amazon links too much. Won’t readers push back?

I’ve 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 choose the products carefully or because I often promote these links in posts based upon reader feedback – but I can think of less than 5 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 do want to be at least a little subtle about it – 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 guess 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 has come up a number of times in previous posts on this topic 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 have previously had a blog with almost completely Australian traffic that did convert 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 items that didn’t ship outside the USA – this was part of the reason that I moved my efforts to starting Digital Photography School which has a more global audience.

Secondly – if your traffic is very localized to a country with its own Amazon store join the affiliate program for that store and promote it. I know of one UK photography site that 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

In one forum that I came across discussing my previous articles 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 a lot of it comes down to the fact that Amazon is a product related affiliate program – 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.

Keep an Eye on Amazon

My last tip in this series is to keep an eye on what Amazon is doing. I mean this in two main ways:

1. Learn from Them – be a regular user of Amazon. You don’t have to be an active buyer – but regularly surf the site and pay particular attention to the way that THEY are promoting products on their site.

Amazon have spent years perfecting the art of online selling – 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, see the way that they describe products. You’ll learn a lot about online marketing by observing how they do it and 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 – I mentioned earlier in this series that Amazon run a variety of promotions on their site that you can tap into. Some of these they promote directly to their Associates – for example they send out emails to associates semi-regularly promoting their latest promotions) and 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 that they don’t promote to us as affiliates but which you can still tap into. For example – today I was surfing on Amazon and this popped up at the top of the screen:

promotion.png

It’s an internal promotion that Amazon are currently running for a series of new cameras that Canon released this week. It seems to appear to anyone surfing through the camera section on Amazon. The promotion links to this page (I’m not sure how long it’ll be up so here’s a screenshot – click to enlarge).

amazon-pre-order.png

The page is a sales page specifically designed to hook in people looking to pre-order newly announced cameras. Amazon are heavily promoting this page – they wouldn’t do so if it didn’t convert – so I’m jumping on board created an affiliate link to the page (you can create an affiliate link to ANY page within Amazon including these kinds of pages, search results, category pages etc) and I’m promoting it to my readers.

They 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 Associate Program Tips

This brings to an end my mini series of posts on this topic. I’ve shared everything that I’ve tried – what about you? Got any tips to add?

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.
Comments
  1. Darren

    I thoroughly appreciated you sharing with us your tips. Very insightful and the advice you gave is worth it’s weight in gold. Definitely learned a lot and will apply these gems with immediate effect.

    Thanks for sharing these tips over the past few days!

  2. You are a genius in generating Tips:D
    Thanks.

  3. Back in the mid-1990s I had great luck with Amazon affiliate links. When they changed the commission structure it fell by the wayside and I lost interest and moved toward trying higher commissioned programs from other sites.

    What worked were pages dedicated to a specific topic similar to the blog post you mentioned with the top photography books.

    Today I am going back to that model after trying widgets in the sidebar (which are sporadic at best) and will be placing a widget at the bottom of some of my private posts for my members.

    This leads me to believe that the more you focus on the content and relevant products the more success you will reap.

    I also find that early reviews work well since you can capture the traffic on the early news before others do.

  4. Darren, thanks for all the great tips that you have learned over the years. We are using these tips on our site. Valuable information.

  5. Waiting the tutorials for long time, i cam trying to make money from amazon, but it’s not quite success anyway. You are the problogger on the web!

  6. Nice tips .. i will try to make money with amazon.
    Thanks.

    Shajib
    http://www.ebooksdock.co.cc

  7. Hey I haven’t been awake early enough to get in on the first comments here in a long time!

    I’ve been keeping up with your posts about Amazon affiliates Darren and I must say I’m impressed. I’ve tried working with Amazon before but the payouts per item are so low on most items (books, cds, etc) that I haven’t personally found it very profitable, but I guess it all comes down to niche.

  8. Well I like that. Thanks Darren for sharing your success tips with Amazon.

    A lot to learn from you.

    By the way, do you think that the above ways can be use in website?

    I just need your advise.

  9. Great advice, hopefully I will have more success with amazon than I have with other products in the past.

    I wrote a book review of “4-Hour Workweek” just yesterday check it out:

    http://zero2heroblogger.com/2009/08/review-of-four-hour-work-week-by-tim-ferris/

  10. Amazon is the best platform for making money by affiliate programs.I really appreciable you to share your personal experience with us.

  11. This is really an informative post!
    This seems to share great ideas in order to get successful.

    Thanks for the post!

  12. I just signed up for Amazon Affiliates about two weeks ago and have been planting links throughout my photo site. This series of post have been a fun read and hopefully helps me avoid some pitfalls.

  13. Well, Amazon is a great program but don’t forget eBay and other niche sites. eBay does convert well, and they’ve got a new click-based program. The key as I am sure Darren would say as well is playing and testing different programs.

  14. Thanks for the advice there. We’re revamping our site and will use this as a way to sprinkle some product specific posts in with our regular coverage.

  15. Hi Darren
    Thanks for some more great tips. I just set up an Amazon Affiliate account this week. I found the whole process very easy and straightforward and am looking forward to growing my numbers and links.
    Cheers

  16. Thanks for posting all of these tips over the past few days. Many of the tips you posted are things that I learned myself over the past few years of blogging (and using Amazon.com), but you’ve also listed a few that are new to me and I will incorporate those into my future product recommendations/links.

    I don’t make tons of money with Amazon, but I also don’t have the readership that you do. However, for an education blog, I do have pretty decent readership, and the money I do make from Amazon over the course of the year is enough to cover my web hosting fees for the year (and I don’t have the minimum web hosting package either).

    My challenge now is to increase the readership on my other new blog adventures: http://ubamyoungreaders.com and http://edupreneur.com — I’ve got a long way to go on those, but I know the work involved in building good content and making a blog/site useful for visitors & subscribers. It does take time and it does take purposeful writing, marketing, and effort.

  17. I’ve had Amazon Affiliates for 3 years now, and have only started seeing more hits and coversions, thanks to you Tips! The Tips – Haute Azifug. Thanks!

  18. OK, OK, OK, I get it :)

    I spent a bit of time toying around with amazon, and am implemented an image link + the “Buy Now” button.

    http://www.observingcasually.com/dinosaurs/

  19. Excellent tips, thanks for sharing. I like the first 11 tips. They are the top ideas to focus on. Forget the rest.

  20. I always put a US and UK link up. I would also say that although for most people it will take time to build a site up, I actually went from 0-60 in just 30 days thanks to building around a new site that I knew would take off and be popular around the world. In the first month I had takes several 1000s worth of pre orders.

    Of course I was probably just lucky! But it’s worth looking out for those opportunities – I know I will be :)

  21. As always, your advice is superb Darren. I’ve played around with Amazon affiliate programs in the past with little to no success. Reading your excellent series really has highlighted where my mistake lay, a lack of patience and a lack of trial and error. I’ll be implementing Amazon affiliate links again. I just wish I wouldn’t have gotten discouraged and removed them all in the past. I won’t make that mistake again.

    All the best,

    RW

  22. y last?, haha good work
    http://teratips.com

  23. Thanks for the tips. I have done everything as you have written. have registered my blog, but i have problems- i can not see the adds. I insert a HTML code as it suppose to be, but no result :( Whyyy?

  24. Some thoughts:
    – my blog is three months old, and i’ll be implementing as soon as possible. I know for sure i’ve alreayd lost one sale.

    – openess depends on what you are selling. I’ll be recommending books, and I think people would like/understand a link to it. I think when a specific affiliate is promoted, that bugs readers, if it doesn’t seem like it would have been recommended otherwise.

  25. Another awesome set of tips. Thanks again!

  26. I am in the same position, I am a PR 4 blog and I don’t know how to turn it in to cash, I have great numbers….

  27. Thanks for all the great tips on promoting Amazon, it has been a great insight into how it is done professionally.

  28. Good advice. Thanks Darren.

  29. Thanks for posting the tips. From a novice, I’m going Pro very quickly as their is so much interest in my Blog, however, my biggest issue is figuring how to market it and what I can offer people artists I promote on my Art Blog. I promote artists from Miami, myself being one of them. It’s in the beginning stages.

    Cecilia

  30. I will take the bait and give a few more tips myself (perhaps these are common sense).

    * Make sure the link color matches your blog’s outgoing link color for better integration.

    * Play around using the images option (which Amazon codes as iframes) with and without borders, and with different pricing options. See what works best for your blog.

    * If you do use an iframe, make sure to also include a text link to the product, as some ad blockers will block the iframe, but not the text link.

    Hope those are helpful.
    -Jay

  31. Great blog darren Amazon is in fact a great way to earn extra income.

  32. Did any of y’all know about the Amazon affiliate program video widget?

    You can upload a video to Amazon, add products to your video at any time during the vid and embed the video on your webpage and receive comissions on sales made thru your video.

    https://widgets.amazon.com/Amazon-Your-Video-Widget/list/

  33. Darren,

    Thanks for one of the most helpful posts (series) I’ve seen in quite a while. It’s provided me with the incentive to maximize my Amazon Affiliate program.

    Amazon was the very first affiliate I signed up with when I started my blog and while I’ve made very close to zero thus far, I still hold out hope.

    Cheers

    George

  34. Great job Darren, unfortunately I’m not 18 yet. So, I will wait til I’m 18 and I will use my 2.5 years spare time to improve my blogs.

  35. A tip is to have special offers up and advertised on your blog to get the best out of it.

  36. Your posts about the Amazon affiliate program couldn’t have been better timed for me. I recently re-launched my blog and am in the planning stage for posting book reviews. I’ve got a good roadmap on how I can begin implementing the Amazon affiliate program from the start. I really like the in-text links and will definitely be using that. Thanks for the timely advice.

  37. It didn’t work for me…

  38. As I’ve said before, I’m a recent “restart” to blogging. As it turns out, your site and several others have confirmed that following my instincts was the correct thing for me to do even when I felt as though I was “doing it wrong.” I have the courage and confidence to keep at it now.

    One of the areas where I have consistently been fearful is in terms of affiliate marketing. I worried that my readers (those that I had, anyway) would trust me less if I put advertising on the site (such as Google Adsense). I was concerned that they would feel “sold” if I recommended Amazon products. And I wasn’t making conversions.

    Then I started getting some sales through Hubages, where I have taken the same controversial stance that I do on my blog. I’m the same person where ever I go.

    One thing that is of interest to me is that we appear, as bloggers, to believe that our readers are different from us. If I am browsing DPS, for example, I am probably going to at least click on your affiliate links, if not make a purchase. If I am a regular reader, I care about your opinions (or I wouldn’t be reading!) and I want to experiment with the same products you use. I’m more likely to buy. And I don’t mind the affiliate links — I love them!

    I click on everything. I can spend two hours on one blog page if there are a lot of contextual links. And I am learning that while I might not fit in with what is ‘normal’ online (well, not necessarily), I at least am not completely unusual. Others have the same browsing habits, and at some point, depending on the nature of the blog and the type of products being promoted, those clicks are going to convert into sales.

    I believe that we should always treat our visitors as though they are like us. If we hate affiliate marketing or advertising, our visitors might, as well. If they weren’t like us, they probably wouldn’t be reading us!

  39. Thanks for the tips! I was reluctant to embed links into my posts, but if the readers want to buy the books and tools I recommend, why make it harder for them? Here’s hoping it takes off!

  40. Reg E. says: 08/22/2009 at 2:36 am

    Thanks for the great tips! They were so timely. On Mon. I had decided to use my Associate account (which I set up but did not use for a year) to build my AM/IM business. I was planning on tweeting for recommendations for a source on getting started and BAM!– your post appeared. Again many thanks!

  41. You tough me several things and answered some questions I have beeen researching for awhile. Thanks, Chuck

  42. what a great series! I just joined the amazon program yesterday
    thanks

  43. I really appreciate the way this article have shared, for this is such a relevant post that gives information in order to help in creating tough and relevant ideas that helps in making successful in business.

  44. I’m in the process of signing up and scanning the agreement. There’s a clause that says:
    (h) not use any Content in a manner intended to send sales to any site other than the Amazon Site;

    Does this mean I’m forbidden to link to other retailers? So if I wanted to do a list of 10 gift ideas (for example), I could not include products that were not sold by Amazon?

    That seems overly draconian. Perhaps I’m misunderstanding this. Darren, do you know?

  45. What? 6 years for only $119,000? If it’s a set-and-forget maybe it worth the effort, otherwise I’m looking for something more profitable…

  46. Thanks for sharing these tips! Until now, I’m still in the learning stage of building business online. Quite hard cause links are growing, but I don’t even know my next move. I also like your attitude towards your audiences. Like you, I find it very unethical for me to improve my earnings without giving my readers reliable contents in my site. Though sometimes, it really crossed my mind to do this tactic.

  47. Darren,

    Many thanks for your valuable insights on the Amazon Affiliates program. I have dabbled in this in fits-and-starts. Your posts have provided great help to move me ahead on doing more with Amazon. There is nothing like real world experience such as yours to help in understanding a program such as this. Much appreciated.

  48. Your blog has become one of my favorite reading materials. The tips are really helpful. I hope your support in future.

  49. I’ve never tried Amazon Affiliate Program yet but planning to join for my next project, thanks again for this very challenging tips.. it’ll greatly help us start right.

  50. @Caitlin:

    “Does this mean I’m forbidden to link to other retailers? So if I wanted to do a list of 10 gift ideas (for example), I could not include products that were not sold by Amazon?”

    No, what it means is that you cannot use the images or anything else from the Amazon site to promote items on your site while linking to another retailer.

    Example:

    Amazon sells XYZ Brand Widgets. You cannot use the images, reviews, testimonials, or description from Amazon’s listing for XYZ Brand Widgets on your site and link to the XYZ Brand site or any other site that’s selling them. You’d have to link to Amazon’s listing.

    This does NOT mean you can’t make a list of all the widgets in the world, and use the images from XYZ’s site to link to the XYZ site.

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