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11 Lessons I Learned Earning $119,725.45 from Amazon Associates Program

Posted By Darren Rowse 19th of August 2009 Affiliate Programs, Featured Posts 0 Comments

I have earned $119,725.45 from Amazon Associates Program since I began using it as a way to make money online late in 2003. Around half of that amount was made within the last 12 months.

In this post I want to share what I’ve learned along the way on how to make money with Amazon.

UPDATE: this post is still relevant for today but I’ve since updated it and added 20 more tips to what you’ll find below in my new post – How to Make Money with Amazon’s Affiliate Program.

amazon-associates-tips.pngWhile Amazon’s Associates program is not my largest income stream (I rank how I make money blogging here) it was actually the first experiment that I did with monetizing blogs. I began to experiment with it in the last quarter of 2003 (just before I started using AdSense).

I started using it on a personal blog that had been going for around 12 months and had around a thousand readers a day – the first quarter was not spectacular in terms of earnings – I made $31.80 (around 30 cents a day) and almost gave it away.

I’m glad I stuck with it – here’s a chart of the quarterly earnings since the last quarter of 2003 (note, it doesn’t include July or August of this year as that’s an incomplete quarter so the overall figures from this period is below the $119k figure mentioned above):


As you can see there has been some ups and downs since the early days but the overall trajectory has been positive. It’s a little hard to see in the chart, as it is quarterly, but Decembers are always great months – last December is still the best month I’ve ever had despite last quarter being a record over a 3 month period.

So what have I learned on the way to earning six figures from Amazon?

Today I want to share 11 tips on what I’ve learned in making money blogging from the Amazon Associates Program. Tomorrow I’ll share another 10 (update: You can read Part 2 here).

1. Traffic Traffic Traffic

night_traffic.jpgLet’s start with the most obvious point – one of the biggest factors in the upward swing in my Amazon earnings has been a corresponding upward swing traffic.

As with most ways of making money from blogging the more eyeballs that see your affiliate promotions – the better chance you have of it converting (of course this is a generalization as not all kinds of traffic converts – but more of that in the next point).

While I do think it’s worth starting to experiment with affiliate promotions early on in your blog (even before you have a heap of traffic) your main focus in the early days needs to be upon creating great content and building traffic to your blog.

2. Loyalty and Trust Convert

trust.jpgOne of the other major factors that has come into play with the increase in earnings that I’ve had has been the type of readership I’ve managed to gather 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 are not converting with affiliate programs on my blogs – instead it is loyal and repeat readers.

The main reason for this is that those readers who connect with you on a daily basis over the long haul develop a trust with you (and your blog) and so when you make a recommendation or do a review they’re more likely to take that advice.

3. The Intent of Readers Matters

buyer.jpgAnother big factor in the equation of Amazon conversions is the intent that your readers have when they visit your blog. Why are they there and at what stage in the ‘buying cycle’ are they at?

I began to think about this just over a year ago as I looked at the growing traffic on my photography site but realized that my Amazon earnings didn’t seem to be keeping up with the traffic growth that I was experiencing. What I realized is that DPS was a blog that was largely writing about ‘tips on how to use a camera’ and that as a result it wasn’t really drawing readers to it who were in a ‘buying mood’. In fact a survey that I did found that many of my readers had recently purchased a camera and were on my site specifically because they wanted to learn how to use it.

As a result I added to the mix of new content on the site 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 while new section on the blog devoted to ‘gear’.

Slowly this has attracted new readers 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.

This is where search traffic can convert with affiliate programs – ie when you’re writing content that people in a ‘buying mood’ are searching for.

4. Relevancy Matters

Picture 4.pngThis is another common sense tip that many of us (yes I failed on this one in my early days) mess up. The more relevant to your audience the products are that you promote the better chance you’ll have of converting.

  • Promote iPods on your blog that largely talks about spirituality and you are unlikely to convert (believe me, I tried) – promote relevant books, CDs and DVDs instead.
  • Promote perfume on your travel blog and you’re unlikely to see many sales – travel books, luggage and other travel products will work better.

Sometimes it is hard to find a product that matches your topic (Amazon doesn’t work with every topic) but try different products related to your topic and track what converts best for your audience.

open-door1.jpg5. Get People in the Door and 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, that they trust and that is very good at converting people to be buyers. They have honed their site to present people with relevant products to them (based upon previous surfing and buying habits) and over many years have tweaked their site to convert well.

As a result I find that once you get people to visit Amazon (pretty much for any reason) that 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’ll earn a commission.

While I find specific promotions of particular products work best with Amazon – I also have had some success by getting people in the door for other reasons. For example I recently ran a post on DPS 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 and quite a few sales.

While a ‘get people in the door’ strategy might seem to grate a little with my ‘Relevancy’ tip in point #4 – the key is to get people in the door in a relevant way. Once they’re there the purchases they make might not be ‘relevant’ to your blog but their motivation to visit should be.

NYT-extended-list-715372.jpg6. Social Proof Marketing 1 – Best Seller Lists

People are more willing to make a purchase if they feel that they’re not alone and if they know that others have and are buying with them. I’m sure there’s some insightful psychological reasons for this but from where I sit buying seems to somehow have become a communal activity.

One of the most powerful social proof marketing strategies that I’ve used with promoting Amazon affiliate links is creating ‘Best Seller’ type lists for readers to show them what is currently popular in terms of purchases in our community.

The best example that I can give of this technique in action is my Popular Digital Cameras and Gear page on DPS. It’s a page that I update every three months, that I link to prominently on the blog and that converts really well. To construct it I simply go through the reports/stats that Amazon gives affiliates to look at what products are selling the best from within my community. I then pull it into different categories of products and ‘Waahlaaa’ – we have a best seller list.

It converts well because readers know that others in their community are buying these products too – there’s a Wisdom of the Crowd mentality going on I guess. Another quick example of this was a recent post – 23 Photography Book Reviews [Ranked] where I ranked the top selling photography books in order of sales but also linked to reviews we’d done of each of them on the blog.

Note: the key with these ‘best seller’ lists is to drive traffic to them. One way to do this is to link prominently to these pages from within your blog and to link to them from within other posts from time to time on your blog so that the post doesn’t just convert for a day or two while your post is the most recent one on your blog.

7. Social Proof Marketing 2 – Reader Reviews

Picture 6.pngI used to do all of the reviews of photography books on DPS. It was mainly because I couldn’t find anyone else to do them and probably partly a little because I’m a control freak.

However one day I had a reader offer to write a book review for me. Because I knew the reader I thought it’d be OK so published it. As with all my reviews it had an affiliate link to Amazon in it. I was a little skeptical about whether it’d convert though because I thought my readers might not respond as well to a stranger’s review of the book as opposed to my own. I was wrong.

The review not only converted as well as my normal reviews – but did even better than normal! This could have been for many reasons but one that I suspect came into play was the way that I introduced the reviewer as a ‘DPS reader’. I didn’t build them up to be an expert, I just presented them as a normal reader with no agenda wanting to share some thoughts on a book that had helped them.

I suspect that 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.

8. Genuine Recommendations and Reviews

bookrev_600.jpgThere are two main ways that I promote Amazon 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 look over and 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 that they review and encourage them to be as genuine and unbiased as possible so as 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 it’s positives 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 down to the buying mood/intent mentioned in point #3.

9. Informational Links

information.pngThe other type of link that I use to Amazon is when I’m mentioning a product in passing and/or a new product is announced that is relevant for my niche. For example when the Nikon D300s was announced recently by Nikon 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 about it (price, specs, pictures etc). Some readers 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 and can help a little with sales from time to time.

10. Contextual is King

contextual.pngOne of the biggest reasons my initial attempts with Amazon fell flat on their face and simply didn’t convert was that I thought it’d be enough to slap an image based button on my sidebar that featured a product or that was simply a banner ad to Amazon.

Amazon give publishers a lot of these type banners but despite trying almost all of them I’ve had little or no success with using them at all. Instead – 99% of my conversions have come from links to Amazon from within blog posts when I’m writing about the products themselves.

By all means experiment with the widgets and buttons Amazon gives you – if they do convert for you then more power to you – but every blogger I’ve talked to that has had success with Amazon tells me that it is contextual links from within blog posts that work best.

11. Promote Specials, Promotions and Discounts

sale2.gifThere’s hardly a product on Amazon that does not have a listed discount on it. Most books are as much as 30% off recommended retail prices and at different times during the year Amazon runs other special discounts and promotions on different single products or in different product categories.

Keep an eye out for these kinds of promotions because they can be well worthwhile promoting (if relevant to your readership). In fact last time Amazon had cameras on special I promoted it 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 review of a product and Amazon have a listed discount – include a note about the discount in the post (see yesterdays post about Chris Brogan’s new book for an example).

11 More Amazon Associates Tips Tomorrow

I’ve got another set of tips to share with you on how to make money with the Amazon Associates program tomorrow (update: You can read it here. I’ve also added a 3rd post to the series with 10 more tips for making money with Amazon Associates).

I’d love to hear how you’ve gone with promoting this program? Have you had any success? What tips would you give?

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 and LinkedIn.
  1. Great Info and so Helpful!
    Thank you Darren ,
    I try to update several of my blogs to promote Amazon products. Buy i get a little revenue . after i read your post and look at DPS. it good motivated to me ..

  2. ok, thanks for answering, now it makes sense

  3. Darren, I totally agree with you that small ticket items do add up. While I probably wouldn’t put all my eggs into the Amazon Affiliates Program, it is something worth getting into as it does generate some revenue without much effort. This post certainly got my attention — a well-written, practical tips post.

  4. Thanks Darren for the information.

    I used to have Amazon widget on my blog, but, like you pointed out, I noticed it wasn’t converting al all, and it was taken up a huge space on my sidebar.

    I then decided to take it off, and use product reviews, and the result has been better than before.

    Thanks again for confirming that my action is in order.

  5. this was such a great information i hope i could also earn that big money soon.

    thanks for a great information.

  6. christy says: 08/21/2009 at 12:45 am

    Although I use a computer I do not consider myself tech savy. Hopefully that will change now that I am starting my own business and blog. So far I am learning a lot through other websites/blogs.

    I have to say I do not click on ads due to the fact I’m always afraid of receiving spam or getting a virus. So I would probably be typical viewer who would click a link in the blog, but not an ad on the side bar.

    Glad I found your blog. Very interesting. Thx

  7. I really like your blog and i respect your work. I’ll be a frequent visitor.

  8. Thanks – good reference material. AdSense is just not cutting it for me.

  9. cool tips that must be workin on it

  10. Thanks for that helpful information! I am an Amazon associate but I didn’t think you could really make money with it.

  11. I’ve tried making a little money with Amazon before but found it to be quite hard and not enough payout for me. I will try some of your tips and advice, thanks.

  12. I can’t believe you made that much from referrals but then again, seeing how many subscribers and comments you have just on this site, it’s not a stretch. Currently I’d be happy with $5 a week!

  13. Hi Darren,
    This came at the perfect time. I was sitting here the other night just staring at the screen, wondering how to make money online.It was as if my mind had completely shut down. The post really turned on a light for me. I guess I’ve got more ideas floating around that I realized.
    Thanks for the share.

  14. Darren,

    Great post. I have been using Amazon Affiliates for about a year, and my experience echoes yours (albeit on a much smaller scale). My blog talks about the medical school experience, and not too surprisingly, most of my affiliate sales have come from contextual links about items like textbooks and study guides for med school. Linking to other items not directly to med school has rarely produced any conversions. Banner ads have not produced a sale. Not a single one.

    Thanks for the idea of the best sellers list / imaginary shopping spree. I’ll have to try that out sometime =)


  15. Great post, Darren. Very much interesting to read. Great information indeed.

  16. Wow!

    This was really bloody helpful!

    Funnily enough, I only signed up for the Amazon programme the day before your first email.

    Quite a bit of luck for you to treat me to all the insider secrets on Day 1.

    Brilliant mate – very much appreciated, and I’m glad you’re doing so well for yourself.


  17. Hey Darren, your way of writing posts is great and I think this was and will be your best strategy to win the attention of your readers. Content was king before but now I think link baiting contents are the ultimate king.

  18. Darren, I have a question:

    Will affiliate programs (ie: Amazon associates, Chikita Affiliates, etc)
    affect the google adsense (that I dream to add to my site), in any way?

    Because, being a teen, I don’t get a very big income stream, and need to support my site somehow…

    Anyways, I hope you explain that.

    I just had an idea. Maybe you can do a post on what company’s aren’t compatable with Google Adsense, and what are.

    I dunno, but it’s an idea…

  19. Pretty impressive. Good thing you stuck with it huh? I think that’s probably the biggest factor between people who don’t succeed at making money online and those that do. Perseverence is the name of the game. Congratulations.

  20. Great it suits just right so my blog … will sign up pretty soon :)

  21. I thought of another question – did you do any ‘off page’ marketing – such as ezinearticles, ppc, creating squidoo/hubpages/wordpress.com, digg, stumbleupon, etc?

  22. Annie says: 08/22/2009 at 6:20 pm

    Darren, thanks so much for this post, it’s probably the first post of yours that actually made some sense to me (non IT guru!) about making money blogging… I find it very hard to get cold hard facts about how much you can (and will) make on your blog.

  23. I have always wanted to make use of the Amazon Associates Program but always end up at the dead end.

  24. Really Great information.It will help the newbies like me.stimulating and informative post and its contents are amazing.Excellent work.Really impressive.

  25. Very good article. I’m pleased you stuck with it too, otherwise we wouldn’t get this good advice. Amazon certainly do know how to convert visitors into buyers, probably better than any company on the Internet.

  26. Amazing stuff Darren. there is LOTs to learn from this, I have made a few bucks with amazon but guess will focus more on it :)

  27. Previous comment got a bit messed up with the name .. sorry

    Amazing stuff Darren. there is LOTs to learn from this, I have made a few bucks with amazon but guess will focus more on it :)

  28. Hi Darren,

    Thanks for posting this info. I was looking for another affiliate program to add to my site and I think the Amazon would be great. I can’t believe how much money you have been able to earn from it in recent times, great stuff and keep up the fantastic work! Like anything, it pays to stick at things!


  29. Congrats i am using the amazon and clickbank but earn only few $. Hope this article will boost my earning as well.

  30. Hi Darren,
    I have to congratulate you on your success with Amazon, I also thank you from the bottom of my heart for the invaluable info you have passed on to me and other budding authors regarding writing good copy. I particularly thank you for making me realise the importance of headlines. When I looked at my blog after reading your advice my head hung in shame, mundane isn’t the word, sheer boredom comes close. Suffice to say I changed every headline on my blog pages. To a more eye catching hook for my subjects.
    I also signed up for Amazon through your affiliate link and hope that I can lead some buyers through the door.
    I’m just starting out and really appreciate people like you with a talent for writing passing on good, logical and impartial advice.
    Cheers mate!

  31. Thank you so much for breaking it down in such easy, digestible steps. I checked out your blog on cameras and can see how you applied each and every step! Great job and congrats on your success! I look forward to implementing some of these techniques!

  32. Though I have experimented with Amazon, I never had luck with it. There is much to learn from your wonderful post.. Thanks for sharing.

  33. Very interesting and amusing subject. I read with great pleasure.

  34. You need a lot of traffic. A lot of people will browse the items but will not buy them.

  35. Hi Those numbers are excellent. And Amazon is not even your top income stream – nice.

  36. Nice post. I got very interesting articles in your website. Since I go through Amazon a lot, this advice is very much appreciated. And I really thankful for the article “Three simple actions that doubled my website traffic in 30 days”………….. Thanks Bro. Keep it up.

  37. Very helpful of you to post information like this for all of us to use.

  38. I think the important item your graph shows is the time. Often times people think blogs get you paid quickly. I’m glad how you show you started in 2003 and it has taken time to get ramped up.

  39. Amazon is an old, but powerful way to make money online with the right set-up and products. It seems like their are more profitable ways to make money, but having multiple streams of revenue is always good!

  40. Awesome, I’m definitely using tip #5. I’ve never made a cent with Amazon, but it has to be a good source of income for people like us. If I went in under someones affiliate link they’ll be very happy, I spend a fortune there.


  41. VERY nice work. I have worked with Amazon affiliate and have not converted too well. This is a little bit of inspiration however. Thanks.

  42. Very well written. Amazon can help people make money online. It is very old and reliable site.

  43. Thanks for writing this. My blog is fairly new and you gave me some reallygood ideas. I have had dismal results with Amazon so far but probably due to the lower amount of traffic.

  44. Oh man I love this blog, thank you for the sound advice regarding the Amazon affiliate program. I have used it in the past but without much success but this post gave me some great pointers.

    Thank You so much and keep bloggin!

  45. Thanks for lots and lots of very useful information! I have never managed to sell anything on Amazon, now I see why…

  46. Passionate says: 08/26/2009 at 12:04 pm

    Great article.
    A great event for all cool young people interested in IT is just around the corner. Dont miss out!

  47. I never try Amazon Association before. But after reading this post, I decide to built new site and sell something. Thanks Darren!.

  48. Hi Darren,

    Thanks for sharing your success at Amazon Associates Program.
    I was making money also but not quite as much as you earn here.
    The only affiliate program that making money more income is my People Search Engine and you can see that to my website here.

    Thanks again for sharing,

  49. WOW! I never knew Amazon was paying like that. I guess I’m on the late side. My site is a sneaker based site, and the readers are true sneakerheads. With that said, they can be very picky about the products they buy, and where they buy them from. I can think of a couple of books that might interest them. I seriously need to look into this because I’m about to start my personal blog which is still centered around sneakers of course. Thanks for the tips!

  50. Thanks a lot for sharing. Seriously I never thought of making money through Amazon until today because lack of confidence and still learn, learn, learn without making any action to generate income through blogging.

    I just make a first step designing my web blog. Sooner I will provide high quality content for readers. Give give give.. :)

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