Note: you can listen to this episode above or load it up in iTunes.

How to Make Money With the Amazon Affiliate Program

Today’s episode is all about making money with the Amazon Affiliate Program.

In episode 51 I introduced the topic making money through affiliate marketing and gave some practical tips on how to do it.

Amazon’s Associates Program is the first affiliate program I started making money from and I continue to earn money from it today. I share my experience and top tips that you can use to generate your own income from the Amazon Affiliate Program.

PB053: How I made over $500,000 with the Amazon Affiliate Program

In This Episode

You can listen to today’s episode above or in iTunes or Stitcher (where we’d also LOVE to get your reviews on those platforms if you have a moment). In today’s episode:

  • My start with using Amazon’s Affiliate Program
  • Why many people don’t use the Amazon Affiliate Program (and why I do)
  • 20 Practical Tips to Make Money with the Amazon Affiliate Program
  • 10 More Tips on Using the Amazon Affiliate Program

Further Reading and Resources for How to Make Money With the Amazon Affiliate Program

Also here are a couple of the charts I mentioned in the show:

The first is my annual income from the program for the first ten years.


The second shows the income on a quarterly basis so you can see the spikes around the holidays.


Full Transcript Expand to view full transcript Compress to smaller transcript view
Hi. This is Darren from ProBlogger and welcome to the ProBlogger Podcast episode 53, where today, I want to talk about making money with the Amazon Affiliate Program. You can find today’s show notes at

In episode 51 of the ProBlogger podcast, I talked about making money through affiliate marketing. In that episode, I talked a little (in passing) about the Amazon Associates Program which was the first type of affiliate marketing that I did. It was back in April of 2003 that I first heard about Amazon’s Affiliate Program. I’ve been blogging for about six months at that point and realized that this hobby of mine was growing to the point where it was starting to cost me because I had to pay for servers, I wanted to get my blog redesigned, and I really want to get off the dial-up internet which I was still on at that point. I wanted to upgrade my computer and the list went on.

Because I was newly married at the time and we were on a bit of a tight budget because I was working a number of part-time jobs and my wife was a young lawyer who was just starting out and wasn’t being paid a whole heap. We realized that if I was going to keep blogging it needed to pay for itself. I began to experiment with a couple of different ways of making money from my blogs. This is back in 2003 and no one was really talking about monetizing blogs at the time. I started to do searches online for how people were monetizing other types of sites and came across two methods.

Firstly, it was Google’s AdSense program which had only been out for a few months (I think) at that point. It was pretty simple and pretty basic. I put some code on my site one night and the next morning woke up and it made a few cents. The other one was Amazon’s Affiliate Program which I did see a few other bloggers using. It was a program that I saw mainly bloggers promoting books from Amazon because back then, Amazon was pretty much a bookstore, it wasn’t what it is today.

I occasionally wrote on my personal blog about books, so when I mentioned those books I decided to link to Amazon’s Affiliate Program. Of those two methods (Google AdSense and Amazon), AdSense certainly was the biggest earner and to this day it continues to be a bigger earner for me. It’s always in my top 2 or 3 income earners for each month, but Amazon has actually done pretty well for me over the years as well. 

In those early days, it was earning a few cents a month. It was not much at all because you were earning a 4% or 5% commission on a book. A book was like $10 and you were earning a 4% commission on that. It was very, very little, but over time it has really grown. I actually did the stats the other day to try and work at how much I’ve earned from Amazon’s Affiliate Program since 2003. Unfortunately, Amazon’s statistics and reports don’t go back that far then. You go back I think until about 2008 so I had to really reconstruct the earnings quite a bit. I’ve worked out that it’s up over half a million dollars since that time. It’s $582,000 or at least that’s about what I can calculate it to be.

I’ll share a graph with you from 2003 up to 2012 when I first did this calculation. You’ll see the first three years it was very small. It was probably just a few hundred dollars a year, but it’s really stepped up. I think in 2006, it was probably around the $20,000 mark for the whole year and then it peaked up in 2011 probably at around the $80,000 mark for the year. It actually escalated fairly quickly during that time. If I was to overlay over that graph that you find in today’s show notes, if I was to overlay the traffic to my sites, it would correlate. It actually would follow that same line.

The AdSense really does depend a lot on traffic, but it’s also one of those things that, as you add more links into your content over time, you’re going to have more post in your archives that are linking in to Amazon which is another reason that it does tend to grow over time because people will find that content in your archives and still continue to be sent into Amazon. 

As I think about my sites, I now have tens of thousands of posts across my sites. Not every post has a link into Amazon but outside there are probably over a thousand posts now that link into Amazon. That’s a lot of people go into that particular shop everyday and people do go on to buy all kinds of stuff. I want to say right up front I’m not guaranteeing that you’re about to make half a million dollars from Amazon’s Affiliate Program. I’ve been at it now for, well, it’s coming up on 12 years since I started, just over 12 years. It’s taken a whole heap of time and I have built fairly significant traffic to my blogs over that time as well. I do think it’s an option that you can start out with particularly if you’re new to blogging.

A lot of people kind of diss Amazon’s Affiliate Program. There’s a number of reasons that they say you shouldn’t do it. One is that the commissions are quite small. They start at 4% on some products and go as high as 8% on some products that are in the store. It depends a little on how much you sell but that’s fairly small when you compare it to an affiliate program for say an eBook where you might earn as much as 50% on a product. A lot of people say it’s not worthwhile doing it.

The other reason is Amazon’s cookie, which tracks where the people go on to buy something. When you link into Amazon, you’re given a special code and that then “cookies” the person. When they go into Amazon, Amazon says, “Yes, they’ve been referred by Darren.” Then if they go on to buy something within the next, I think it’s 24 hours, you get a commission on that. That cookie is quite short, 24 hours is not long at all so some people say it’s not worth it. I actually think it is worth doing and there’s a number of reasons.

Firstly, Amazon’s a really trusted brand. Everyone knows about Amazon, particularly if you’re in America. Amazon is just part of the culture now. Amazon doesn’t have massive commissions but they add up because people buy more than one item at a time. I’ve actually tracked it. I’ve actually seen through my tracking links that when you link into Amazon, people end up buying something quite different to what you link to very often. They often add a number of things into their shopping cart at once.

Those of you who buy from Amazon know this. It’s like going into a shop that might be a supermarket going in wanting to buy a roast chicken and you come out with a roast chicken but also packets of chips and some bananas and a whole heap of other things. Amazon’s like that. It’s very easy to go in looking at one thing and coming out with a whole heap of other things. Your commissions do add up.

It’s fairly easy to use as well and also, I will touch on this later, holidays are a great time to buy as well. When people go into Amazon in a buying mood, it can really pay off quite well. Obviously, I’ve made half a million dollars from Amazon so I’m fairly happy with that particular program. I think it’s paid off for me. 

What I want to do today is to give you some practical tips on how to make money with Amazon’s Affiliate Program if that’s something that you want to try for yourself. I have written a guide. I call it My Ultimate Guide to Making Money With the Amazon Affiliate Program which I will link to in today’s show notes. It goes into detail into some of the things that I’m about to go through if you want further reading and if you want to learn even more because there are a few things on that post that I won’t actually be able to cover today. I want to just run through quite briefly these practical tips in this particular podcast.

The first one is the most obvious of all and that is that you need traffic. Traffic, traffic, traffic is what I write in my Amazon guide. As with all ways of making money from blogs, the more eyeballs that see your affiliate promotions the better chance that you have of them converting. Some of you are probably saying, “Well, I don’t have much traffic. Is it worth getting involved?” I actually do think it is worth it because as I mentioned before, the more posts in your archives that link into Amazon the better because gradually, over time, more people are going to come to your blog and some of them will get into those older posts. It can pay off over time through that long-tail traffic. Starting early is the lesson that I would mention there. 

As with all affiliate marketing, it’s really important that you focus on building trust and loyalty with your readers. This is the second point that I would give you, the second tip that I would give you is to really try and work on building relationships with your readers. When you link to these products on Amazon and say, “This is a good product. This is one that you should consider.” The more your readers know you, the more likely they are to take action upon those sorts of recommendations.

This is important. Before you start to promote on Amazon, you want to be really those relationships but it’s also really important as you do link into Amazon to not break that trust. Don’t just link to anything, link to good quality stuff. Link to products that are going to enhance the lives of your readers. That’s tip number two.

Tip number three is to keep in mind that the intent of your readers really does matter. Where are they in the buying cycle? I began to understand this on my site in the early days, particularly my first digital camera blog. That was a review blog of cameras. A lot of my readers at that point were using my site to work out whether they should buy a particular camera. They were in a really strong buying mood. Amazon links worked really well when I linked to cameras on that site.

When I started my second photography blog which is the one that I have today, Digital Photography School, my readers’ intent when I came to Digital Photography School was different. They were led there to learn how to use cameras. When I linked to cameras on that particular site, they didn’t convert as well. What did convert well in Digital Photography School was when I linked to books on how to take good photos.

You really need to think about why are people on my site, try and link to things that relate to that intent. It’s not just about trying to find a product that is relevant to your topic, but it’s going to be relevant to the intent of that particular reader as well. That’s tip three, it is really to think carefully about the type of reader that you have.

One of the things that we’ve actually done on Digital Photography School is to add a section to our site which is a review section. This was partly because our links to Amazon weren’t working because we were just mentioning them in other tutorials when our writer was saying, “I took a photo with my Canon 5D camera,” and we would link to Amazon there. Those links weren’t working but what we decided to start to experiment with was to start doing reviews on Digital Photography School off-gear and those links worked much better. You can actually almost change the intent of your readers in some ways by adding sections to your site that may be more about buying gear or technology or other things that are relevant for your particular niche.

Tip number four is relevance matters. I kind of talked about this already so I’m not going to spend a whole heap of time talking about it but you do really want to be linking to products that relate to your topic, which also relates to that intent.

Tip number five is to get people in the door at Amazon then let them do what they’re good at. One of the great things about Amazon is that they’ve been around now for, well it’s at least 2003 since I started. All of that time, they’ve been optimizing their site and perfecting the art of selling to people. And they do it incredibly well.

The great thing about the Amazon Affiliate Program is that you earn a commission on anything people buy once they’re in the door. It’s not just what you link to. I’ve actually seen people as a result of clicking on a link to check out cameras go on to buy something like a ride-on lawnmower worth $10,000. That’s pretty amazing that someone would go to look at a camera and end up buying a lawnmower. I’ve seen this many times over. The things that people buy just make me raise my eyebrows and I know I only linked to photography-related stuff. So, get people in the door. It’s about trying to link to products that relate to your content but also you can do other creative things.

One of the things that I did once in the lead up to Christmas, was to do a post on my blog (and I’ll link to this in the show notes) where I gave my readers a hypothetical $1000 to spend on photography gear at Amazon and asked them to surf for in Amazon and then leave a comment on my blog about what they would spend that $1000 on. The result was pretty amazing. We had over 350 people engage in this exercise and leave a comment telling us what they would buy. That in itself was great. It was a very engaging post and we had a really great discussion.

What I found, and I did a tracking link with this particular promotion, was that people went on to buy all kinds of stuff as a result of clicking on that link. I got people in the door, in a relevant way, got a good discussion going, but people then went on to spend thousands of dollars on Amazon and I earned a commission on that, which was pretty cool. 

Tip number six is to use social proof. I think I touched on this in episode 51. We used best-seller lists on our site. Again, I’ll give you some links to this in the show notes as I did in episode 51. Basically, this is where we tell our readers what other readers are buying as a result of the program.

One of the great things about Amazon’s Associate Program is that they give you a report and this tells you not only what you earned but also what people are buying. You can actually go through your report and say for the last month, I can rank the products that people bought in terms of how many were purchased. I looked at that report and I’m able to create a bestseller list of digital SLRs, or lenses, or photography books, or photography accessories. I actually have created bestseller lists for all of those things. In our site there’s a best-selling digital SLR page, there’s a best-selling digital SLR lens page, there’s a best-seller point shoot page, and the list goes on, there’s a number of these.

Actually, our readers really love these posts, but the great thing about them is that as I go through the bestseller list I’m linking back into Amazon again with more affiliate links. They again get people in the door and because other people are buying these things, people are more likely to consider purchasing themselves. This is something that we see in all kinds of retail experiences as well and on Amazon itself. They use bestseller lists on their own site. Again, if you don’t have the sales coming in already to be able to create a bestseller list, you can also present Amazon’s bestseller list. Go to the relevant section for your site, find the products that you want to promote and then rank them in terms of what’s selling best and you can write a post based upon that. 

Tip number seven is to write genuine recommendations and reviews. What I found is that while these bestseller lists work really well for us, the other type of promotion that we do that works very well is when we write a review of a product. A lot of people just link in the Amazon from their sidebar or put a banner ad on their site. They don’t tend to convert anywhere near as well as if you are promoting products on Amazon through reviews of products. This is what we actually do quite regularly. We try and publish at least one review of a camera or a piece of gear every week. Through that review, we simply say, “You can buy this product here,” and we link with the affiliate link.

We also encourage our offers to write a fair, genuine review. They talk about what’s good about the product but they also talk about what’s not good about the product. At the end of the review, we always try and say, “This is who this product would be useful for.” While the product may not be a 5-star review, we can usually find a way to recommend it for a particular type of person. If a camera may not be the highest-end camera but it’s good for a beginner, that’s worth mentioning in your review. Anything that is positive is good of course to sell it, but anything negative as well and your readers will actually appreciate that. Some people would still go on to buy that knowing the pros and the cons of doing so. Contextual promotion is really king.

The next tip is to promote any specials or promotions or discounts that Amazon has. You’ll find that during the year, Amazon runs their own promotions. It’s really important to keep an eye on this section of Amazon that relates best to you. I’m always in the camera section on Amazon to check out what specials they’ve got running because when they run those specials they can be worth promoting. This is particularly relevant around the holidays, Cyber Monday. This is a time of year when Amazon is doing all kinds of promotions. If you can be linking to those with an affiliate link, that’s offering your readers deals and discounts that they’re more likely to buy from. 

Another quick tip is if you are reviewing a product or you’re mentioning a product is to not just link into Amazon once in that but to link multiple times within your post into Amazon. What I would do if I’m writing a review of a particular camera, in the first paragraph, as I’m introducing the camera, I would be linking the first time I mentioned the camera’s name into Amazon. At the end of the post, I would also be linking to Amazon with a more call-to-action-related link. “You can purchase this camera here,” or, “If you’re interested in this camera, purchase it here on Amazon,” or, “Get a price here on Amazon.” 

The other place I would link in a post is the image itself that you might use of the product. If you have a product chart at the top of your post, link that image into Amazon. The reason I say this is that I’ve done a number of studies of content on our sites with a tool called Crazy Egg which creates heat maps of where people click when they’re on your site. I also more recently have been using SumoMe which has got a whole heap of WordPress plugins for bloggers which I would encourage you to check out more or do a review of in the coming months. Both of these tools give you a heat map of where people click when they’re on your site.

What I’ve noticed is that people quite often click images. I don’t know why they do it. I guess we’re just wired that sometimes images are linked. If people are clicking your images, you might as well be linking to Amazon to point them to where that product can be purchased. That’s a tip that may actually lead to some extra sales for you.

Another quick tip is to focus on the holidays. I’ve already talked about this, but again, I can show you a chart in the show notes, which shows you our Amazon earnings based on quarter-by-quarter results. You’ll see pretty clearly that the holidays are times where people purchase more on Amazon. This is because of the intent that they’re in. They’re obviously more of a shopping mood at that type of year.

Another quick tip is to promote related products. If you are reviewing a Canon 5D Mark III, you might want to (at the end of the review) talk about other products that people might consider if they’re considering purchasing this product. Many reviews do this anyway, so you might as well be linking into Amazon with those as well. This not only increases the chances of a sale, but it’s also useful to your readers. You could be saying, not only could you purchase the 5D, it is a relevant camera for you that you might want to consider from Nikon, Sony, or Pentax. That actually gives your readers more options that makes your review more useful but also gets more people in the door at Amazon as well.

Another thing that we’ve done that’s had some success on Amazon is that sometimes they will allow people to pre-order products. Particularly in the camera space, I know many times manufacturers will announce a product months before they actually release the product. Canon and Nikon do this quite a bit. They got a new product coming out, they will say, “It’s coming out in the spring,” or, “It’s coming out in the fall.” Then as soon as it’s announced, Amazon will add that product into their site, but it’s available for pre-purchase. You can link to that particular product with an affiliate link and promote the fact that you can pre-order your camera here. It’s amazing how many people do pre-order products in that particular way. You don’t get the commission immediately, you get the commission when it’s shipped when the sale actually happens but there can be a nice payer down the track.

Another tip here, I’ve got only a few to go now, is to track your campaigns. Amazon does give you the ability to set up tracking links that allow you to specifically track particular promotions. The last time I checked, you only get a hundred of these tracking IDs. You do need to use them a little bit carefully. You might want to set up tracking IDs for certain categories or promotions that you might do. We have a tracking ID for reviews of cameras. We also have another one for just general mentions of cameras in other types of articles where it might be just mentioning a camera by the way. This enables you to track different types of promotions that you might be doing. Do use those and do track what is working and what isn’t working.

Also, be really getting into the reports that you get of what types of products people are buying. You’ll find there that people will not only buy the things that you recommend but other things. Sometimes, it can open your eyes to new products that have come out that you haven’t considered writing reviews on. You might find that a particular product is getting bought a lot that you haven’t ever talked about. That gives you a hint that maybe you need to do a review of that particular product.

The next tip is to not rule out small-ticket items. Again, as I said at the start, some people say, “You only get 4% commission and if you’re only promoting a $5 product, it’s not worth it.” They actually do add up over time. A lot of the commissions that I’ve had over the years are like $0.03 commissions or $0.10 commissions but I’ve had thousands of them over time. They do add up. Like what I’ve said before, if you do have enough of those commissions adding up, then it can add up to a fairly significant thing but people do go on to buy extra stuff once they’re in there.

On the flip side, don’t ignore the big-ticket items either. Sometimes people look at a $10,000 camera and, “Who’s going to buy that?” but someone does buy that. You want to be recommending a spectrum of products at different price points as well because you have readers who are making purchases at different price points, too.

Some final tips now. These are a little bit more general, but this is a long-term play. The half a million dollars that have come in from Amazon for me has taken, well it’s coming up on 13 years now. It does add up and you can make significant amounts here, but you’re going to have to take a long-term view of this. Get these links into Amazon and this builds over time. Start early. Don’t feel that you need to have a massive amount of traffic before you can start to do this. Those early links into Amazon can continue to pay off for years and years and years to come.

Be transparent with your readers. This is really important and it’s a legal requirement for many of you, particularly those of you who are in the US. The FCC requires you to disclose when you are benefitting from a link to a site like this. You do need to disclose that. In places like Australia, the laws are different, but I think it’s just good ethical behavior to disclose this. You’ll actually find that if you do it in the right way, it can actually increase your sales. I know in the photography space there’s a number of blogs that do this particularly well. When they link into Amazon, at the bottom of their post they have a little statement that simply says, “There are links within this post that we can earn a commission on and this is how we keep our site free for you. We really appreciate it if you do purchase through our links.” 

I know for a fact that people do read these statements not only are grateful for the disclosure but they sometimes will go out of their way to find a link that you have provided so that you get a reward because you’ve added value into their life. I see this all the time. Not only in the comments that we get on our site but also on other sites as well. I was nervous the first time that I disclosed that I was an affiliate for a product. I felt people would say, “Why are you making money off me?” but my audience actually understands that I need to sustain my site. I think it’s really important to make those disclosures.

Don’t hype, put your readers first. This is a big message that I had in episode 51. You really want to value those relationships that you’ve built with your readers. Don’t be recommending rubbishy products and there are rubbishy products on Amazon because there are so many products there. Not every product is of high quality. Be careful about what you’re promoting there, it’s really important. Pick high-quality products.

I guess the last tip I’ll give you—I mention this already—keep a real eye on what Amazon is doing. They are experts in selling. Learn from them. Actually look at how their site is structured. Look at the calls-to-action that they have. They will give you hints as to how you can sell not only your own products, your own eBooks, and those types of things that you might create but also how you might promote their products and how you might be a better affiliate.

Also, of course, keep an eye out for the opportunities that are within the categories of products that you want to promote. Look at their bestseller lists to see what products are rating well there. You might actually find products that you’re not aware of yet. Look at what they’re promoting. Look at what they’re emailing you about. Look at the deals page that they set up for different categories of products that you’re related to.

I hope that you have got some value out of this particular podcast. It’s probably been one of my longest ones yet but it is a big topic. It’s one of what I wanted to cover fairly comprehensively. I do have some further reading for you today. If you go to today’s show notes at, I’ll link there to my ultimate guide to being an Amazon Affiliate. It has I think about 30 tips, some of which I’ve touched on here and some other ones as well that I have not mentioned. It’s completely free. There’s no opt-in around that particular post. It’s just everything that I know about being an Amazon affiliate that I’ve written there. It’s actually one of the most popular posts on ProBlogger. It’s probably one of the longest posts that I’ve ever written as well. It’s quite comprehensive. You’ll need a beverage to get through it, but I hope you find it useful.

I’d love to get your comments on today’s show, also at the show notes at If you have a moment to leave a review on iTunes, if you find today’s show of benefit, that certainly helps us to get the word out about our podcast. I look forward to chatting with you in episode 54 of the ProBlogger podcast.

How did you go with today’s episode?

What did you learn from today’s episode? If you’ve been using the Amazon Affiliate Program already, what tips would you add? If you haven’t, how do you think you might start using the Amazon Affiliate Program in future?

I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

Finally, if you have a moment we’d love to get your feedback on the ProBlogger Podcast with this short survey which will help us plan future episodes.


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