Amazon Affiliate Program – Is it still profitable? 2021 Guide

Amazon Associates affiliate marketing program

It’s been close to a year since that fateful day, April 21st, when, with only a week’s notice, many affiliate marketers took a serious hit. The Amazon Associates Program (also known as the Amazon affiliate program) slashed commission rates for affiliates by nearly 2/3rds across the board. Rates that were already pretty low, got eeeeven lower. Rough. 

Yet here we are, surviving, eleven months later. Of course there are worse things in life, especially during a pandemic, but, for those who based their entire website, marketing scheme, and paid campaigns on offers from Amazon – they are facing some serious losses. 

The question we’re here to investigate today: is Amazon still worth it? 

In case you were wondering, the answer isn’t unfortunately an easy yes-or-no. However, if you take a look at the pros & cons, consider your level of expertise, and what you need/want to do, then you’ll find the answer within 💜

This article’s a long one, with parts that might not be news for you. Feel free to skip ahead.

April 21, 2020 – Amazon affiliate doomsday

If you don’t know or forgot about what happened on the Amazon-affiliate-marketing doomsday of 2020, here’s a breakdown.

Amazon affiliates got this letter from the company:

Hello Associate,

We hope you are staying well during this time. We are writing to inform you of upcoming changes to the Amazon Associates Program Operating Agreement, which governs your participation in the Amazon Associates Program. All changes are effective as of April 21, 2020.

Visit the What’s Changed page to see a summary of these changes. You can also find the Operating Agreement, Program Policies, and the Fee Statement if you would like to refer to the current, pre-change versions.

Sincerely,

The Amazon Associates Program

The irony of this introductory sentence doesn’t need to be spelled out. 

Overall, commissions were slashed by about 2/3rds. You may have already seen these now-infamous commission rate/product category tables side by side. But to reiterate for those out of the loop: 

Below, pre-pandemic, pre-April 2020 commission rates:

And here, post April 2020 rates:

Not only were commission rates cut, but also, product categories were rewritten in more vague terms. And just to point out, in 2017 Amazon pulled a similar move, regrouping products in categories and cutting commission rates. To be frank, it’s an understandable business move; Amazon is now an internet behemoth and doesn’t necessarily need the help of affiliate marketers and definitely doesn’t want to be paying out fees to them when their services may not be needed. Sure, lots of affiliate marketers are upset (like this guy below) because indeed, for years they worked hard, helped send traffic to Amazon, and contributed to building up their reputation. 

But, in this big, bad capitalist world we live in – that’s the way things go. 

And though things may seem grim for Amazon affiliates, I have to admit that the program still holds a lot of value.

So how does the Amazon Associate program size up for us affiliate marketers almost a year later, in March 2021?

should I go with the  Amazon affiliate program or no?

Amazon affiliate program: Pros & Cons

We’ve established that Amazon Associates may not be the most fruitful affiliate marketing endeavor, however, it still comes with a heap of advantages. Read through these to get an idea of what Amazon can do for you.

✅ Pros ✅ 

  • Signing up to the Amazon affiliates program is a breeze. I was able to do it in less than 15 minutes – and that’s including the five minutes it took to find my phone and confirm my password because I forgot it 😉 But seriously, if you’re familiar with the Amazon platform, have an account, and are more organized than me, the signup process couldn’t be easier
  • Amazon is a trusted, recognized brand. And that’s to say the very least – there are tons of people out there ordering everything from deodorant to paintings worth hundreds of thousands of dollars on a daily basis. First off, this is an enormous benefit because customers are familiar with and trust the platform to order the goods you promote. Moreover, you too can be pretty confident that your customers are in good hands once they click on your link and leave your website.  
  • Take a cut from their whole shopping cart. Ok this one takes a bit of explanation –  and isn’t often seen in other affiliate programs. If a potential customer clicks on your link, goes to Amazon, but doesn’t buy anything, you still have a chance to make money! Within 24 hours of clicking on your link, you get a commission from anything they buy. Which brings us to our next point…
  • The Amazon shopping platform is ultra-super-maximized-optimized for conversions. The product ratings, descriptions, comparisons, recommendations, images and more are all in one spot, easy for the user to access and urge them to buy. The page below, for example, has everything I need to know about these heels, really tempting me (even though I have nowhere to wear them 😉 )… the point is, customers are much more likely to make a purchase on Amazon than anywhere else; with conversion rates on average ~9% (while most other sites hover around ~1%) you can bet that you will be getting some sort of commission on something eventually 😄
  • Promote anything your heart desires. There’s no bigger online shopping platform than Amazon; most likely, if you can’t find it there, you won’t find it anywhere. Not only will you find a wide range of products in your niche or vertical, but also, as my friend Michal has pointed out in his article, Amazon is a great way to discover relevant content to market. Just take a look at what happens when you type in…

Nice weather is coming and people are going to be shopping for…. Hiking gear for small dogs? I had no idea that this exists. Maybe you did idk. Point is, it’s a niche product you can market if you have some sort of sport/pet/outdoor gear platform. 

  • Reliable customer service. Even though as an affiliate marketer you don’t usually deal with this part of the purchasing process, it’s always good to know that your recommendations and promotions will lead customers to an efficient, proactive company; thus they won’t hesitate to buy your recommendations the next time.
  • Included tools. Amazon does the courtesy of providing its affiliates with a couple useful tools. Though they are Amazon-centric and not necessarily indispensable, they make the Amazon Associates experience even easier. 
    • SiteStripe: A toolbar displayed at the top of any Amazon page where you can quickly access a given product’s text or image link. You can share to social media here too. More on using this tool in our How to section later.
    • Link Checker: Type your link in to make sure that your URL to Amazon is tagged correctly so you can get your commissions.
    • Product Advertising API: Use this to include Amazon’s product descriptions, images, pricing, reviews, ratings, and recommendations to your affiliate site. With their PA API, this content will be continuously updated on your site. Learn why this is absolutely essential later in our T&C section.
    • OneLink: Install this script on your site to redirect international users to their relevant Amazon marketplace to not miss out on commissions from them. This is an important step because depending on which regional Amazon affiliate program you are registered in, versus what region your customer is buying from, you may miss out on commissions.

⛔ Cons ⛔

  • If you’ve compared Amazon Associates to most other affiliate programs – or you’ve been reading this article attentively from the beginning 😉 – you’ll know that their commissions are low. Like reallyyyy low. Of course, you’ll get Amazon fans who say that “oh but you get a cut from everything!” – sure, but your cut from everything is very low. In reality, the only way you’re going to make money off of Amazon is selling in very large volumes or selling very expensive items. 
  • Compared to other affiliate programs, this “24 hour” cookie policy is not very generous at all. Most other affiliate networks have cookie policies around 30 days or more – ie, if a shopper has clicked your link but goes back to the website two weeks later, you’ll still get a commission on that product. And once again, Amazon fans will defend it with “but you get a cut from everything they buy!” but as we know, that’s only for 24 hours.
  • They have very strict terms and conditions; it’s pretty easy to end up banned from Amazon. And when you get banned, you could be losing your commissions from the past weeks or months with little to no explanation. Though it’s not a foolproof solution, and their policy frequently changes, I’m providing you with some pointers on how not to get banned in a later section.
  • Lastly, and I have to warn… this is NOT a concrete, proven disadvantage… however, it really seems that Amazon simply does not prioritize their affiliate marketers. Every change they introduce to the Amazon Associates program is always a cut and almost always hurts affiliates. I mean, they had no qualms about slashing rates during the height of the pandemic, I don’t see them coming around any time soon. Just check out this detailed article on the History of Amazon Affiliate Program Rates that shows how categories have been consistently dropping since the program’s establishment by 20-80% even. Most likely, they will further limit the program.

2021 and beyond for Amazon affiliates

So we’ve considered the advantages and disadvantages, now what?

I’ll be honest: it doesn’t look too great for the Amazon affiliate program. New or experienced affiliates don’t stand much to gain monetarily by joining. The commissions are low and will probably only get lower. 😢

However! The upside is, you don’t stand much to lose either. In fact, there is still some value, after all, it’s the biggest online marketplace that ever existed. Amazon has an enormous range of products, a global reputation for reliability, and is incredibly easy to join and use.

In terms of an estimated monthly income you could expect, it’s a tough call. Amazon affiliate sites can make anywhere from $0 to five figures. However, the only way you’re going to be reaching these profitable numbers is with either very high ticket, expensive items (remember, even a $3000 couch is only going to make you $100 in commission) or very large traffic (and purchase) volumes per month. We’ll show you how to get lots of traffic later.

The Amazon affiliates program could be a good option for you if you:

  • Are looking to try out affiliate marketing with an easy-to-use platform
  • Want to add more variety to your promoted products from a trusted source
  • Have very specific, niche, quirky items in mind
  • Want to diversify your affiliate streams of income
  • Are simply interested in how their platform works!
Try making money with Amazon Associates

How to set up an Amazon Associates account (with screenshots!)

Part I: Become an Amazon affiliate

First things first: How do you qualify for the Amazon affiliate program? Good news is, that’s relatively easy too. First, you’ll need a regular Amazon account. Second, a website, blog, Youtube channel, or an app. (Granted, this is the most crucial and important part of being an affiliate marketer, but we will cover this in more depth later on).

**It’s best to have a website that is already active and sees some traffic for two reasons: (1) In your Amazon Associates application you’ll need to describe specific aspects of your website (2) Without any traffic to start, you have a much higher chance of getting banned!

  1. Log in to your Amazon account. At the bottom of the page, you’ll find the “Become an Affiliate” menu point, marked below with the red arrow.
  1. The screen below will appear. Fill in all the basic information and hit next.
  1. Next up, provide your website/ Youtube channel/ blog address or mobile app URL in the boxes shown below. As I mentioned, you’re going to need at least one of these upon sign up. 

*Make sure you list every and all the websites/social media platforms/apps you’ll be posting offers on – otherwise you could get banned!

*Make sure to confirm that none of your websites or apps are NOT directed at children under 13. This will disqualify you from the program.

  1. Time to fill out a bunch of information about your website! Choose your Associates ID and provide a general idea of what your website/app is about. Then go on to answer questions on how you drive traffic to your platform and how you already/plan to monetize your site. This information is mainly to help Amazon customize content for you or offer suggestions – it can be changed later in your Amazon Account settings.
  1. That was it – you are now an Amazon affiliate! Granted, one important step is missing, how to get paid 😉 Click on “Now” to finish this last component of your profile.
  1. There are 3 ways to get paid: direct deposit (depends on your country/bank), with an Amazon gift card, by check. Choose your payment method, but make sure to confirm it will work with your address, bank account etc.
  1. Tax information depends on where you live, but the US Version is depicted below
  1. Now, you are not only officially part of the Amazon affiliate program, but also all set up to get paid 😉 Below is your default Amazon Associates dashboard where you can search for product links, see your earnings overview, and a monthly summary.

Part II: Creating an Amazon affiliate link

You’ve enrolled in the Amazon affiliate program – what’s left to do? Choosing products to promote and getting your links. These are the links that you will be displaying in your website, blog, Youtube channel, or app. 

  1. Hover over the Product Linking menu and select the Product Links button. 
  1. Either search for a product, or type in the product’s specific ASIN number. The 10 figure ASIN is located in the Product Information of section, as shown below.
  1. Based on the search results, select the product you want to promote and click on “Get Link”.
  1. You are now at the “Customize & Get HTML” final step. Here, you can choose whether you want your link in the form of text, image, or text and image. Below I have both “Text and Image” selected.
  1. Not exactly a fifth step, but rather another route to getting a product link is the “Amazon SiteStripe” function.

Simply click which format you want your ad in (Text, Image or Text + Image), a window will appear (as shown below), and copy and paste to your website. 

Ways to get traffic to your Amazon offers…

Like you’ll find out in our next section, there’s a minimum number of sales you must reach through your affiliate link – otherwise your Amazon Associates account gets banned! The minimum number of sales set by the Amazon affiliate program is low, but you’ve got to reach it, or else you’re out of the game… not to mention nowhere near a profit 😥

You’ll probably need to drive traffic to your offers. 

Like we’ve outlined previously, making money from Amazon offers comes with volume. And what better way to get traffic to your offers than with the help of an affiliate tracking software like Voluum? 🙂 But in all seriousness, in our next few campaign strategies outlined, an ad tracker is essential to optimizing and controlling your advertising strategies. What’s more, integrating your Amazon ads with Voluum couldn’t be easier, just read through our guide.

Also, remember! It’s better to link promoted ads to your website’s lander; here users can click on the official Amazon offer link and make their purchase! 

  1. Email – If you have an email list, definitely use it to direct users to your website. Make sure to target people who are interested in your offers so you’re not spamming them.
  2. SEO – Search Engine Optimization is a source of unpaid traffic. It takes quite a long time and a lot of work to be effective. However, by making a niche site with niche products, you can target specific keywords with minimal competition to drive users to your sites.
  3. Native – SiteStripe allows you to share Amazon offers in native advertising. However, if you want to be more creative, have more control and optimize your own campaigns to a tee, you should consider running your own native campaigns. Outbrain and Taboola are two of the best native traffic sources, but try a demand site platform like Voluum DSP where lots of traffic sources are available in one hub. Read more about the importance and increasing value of native advertising here.
  4. Social Media – Again, you can use SiteStripe to directly share Amazon offers to Twitter or Facebook. But what about the plethora of other trendy social media platforms? Try advertising on Instagram, Tiktok or anywhere else with your own original campaigns. 
  5. Paid ads (push, pop, search etc) – Sometimes SEO just isn’t enough… and that’s where paid campaigns come into play. Try sources platforms like Google Ads, Zeropark, PropellerAds, or just read through our ranking for 2021’s best traffic sources here. However, make sure not to directly promote your Amazon link to any search engine results! Usually you should promote your own website where you can expose customers to your offers.

There’s plenty of ways to get traffic to your site and Amazon affiliate program offers – but which ones will be successful? Check out our latest ratings of the best traffic sources out there. You’re going to have to test different platforms and sources to see what works best for your niche and website.

To do all this well, you’re also going to have to stay on top of every impression, conversion and factor that goes into a successful campaign. How else could you do this than with Voluum Tracker?

Affiliate marketing Amazon online shopping

Don’t get banned!! Amazon affiliate program Terms and Conditions to pay attention to…

Like I mentioned, Amazon is indeed monitoring you and it’s not too hard to get shut down. This list of tips is not exhaustive, and the Amazon affiliate program policy frequently changes, so make sure to stay on top of things as best you can. Because if you do get shut down, you risk losing weeks or even months of revenue, usually with minimal explanation. So, aside from the (hopefully) straightforward, illegal things you shouldn’t be doing, here are some points to staying afloat with your Amazon affiliate program campaigns:

  • The first hurdle to jump: make at least 3 sales in the first six months of opening your account. If you don’t, your account will be shut down – however you can open a new one afterwards. These sales can’t be from you, obviously. To avoid this issue, I advise you build up a website with some traffic and content before signing up to Amazon Associates. This way it won’t be as difficult to make these sales. Your friends/family shouldn’t use your link.
  • Don’t cloak your Amazon links or modify them. In other words, no URL shorteners; offers hyperlinked to text or media must clearly show that users are going to Amazon. Also, identify yourself as an Amazon Associate and that you will earn commission off sales. This must be done with some kind of disclaimer placed near the offer.
  • You cannot indicate any kind of reward or incentive for clicking on your affiliate link. This includes mentioning that buying through this link will benefit or support you, the affiliate. If you have followers who care that much about you, good for you – but sadly, you can’t use this to your advantage here.
  • No misrepresentation of Amazon or your site. Definitely don’t try to make your website look like Amazon and don’t use their logo. (Of course, you can use the images provided via Sitestripe from Amazon.) You can’t insinuate any kind of partnership or endorsement from Amazon. 
  • Can’t display ratings/reviews/descriptions etc. And don’t mention prices either. Amazon doesn’t want you to display product attributes on your pages because their site is always updating and your figures or descriptions could be outdated. (That also means no copying images from Amazon) Of course, there is one exception here: if you use their API tool to integrate the content on your end with real-time updates. Also, you can of course provide your own, independent reviews.
  • No posting links to non-public website platforms. So no posting on private platforms or in your paid course. Also, no posting links on forums. Basically, you can’t post on websites that you don’t control.
  • No Amazon links in emails. No Amazon affiliate links in offline materials. You can’t have links in ebooks, brochures, texts either. An alternative? Use links that direct users to your offer page where they will then find the Amazon link.
  • No promoting on social media except via SiteStripe. Also, no promoting links in search engine results. Here again, try to use links that direct users to your site where they can then access your offer links.
Now you know everything, go be a super Amazon affiliate marketer

5 Successful Amazon Affiliate websites to learn from

So now you know how to join, how to get traffic and how not to get banned – but what about how to make money?

I’ve listed, detailed, and described 5 great Amazon Affiliate websites below – along with some successful strategies to learn from. These sites (originally) either mainly or exclusively focus on promoting and providing Amazon affiliate program offers. 

However, I would preface this with a warning: as we’ve seen, it may not be a very profitable and reliable move to optimize your platform for only Amazon offers. Take these strategies with a grain of salt. Granted, many of these strategies can be effectively adapted for offers from other networks, so feel free to think outside the (Amazon delivery) box. In fact, many of these sites that were originally so focused on Amazon links around a year ago have now apparently started diversifying their affiliate offers.

Read through my brief summaries and visit their websites for even more insight.

PC Part Picker

NichePC parts, Pc building guides
Affiliate linksBulk of affiliate links seem to be from Amazon, but have offers from numerous smaller, specialized affiliate networks
Successful strategiesNot focused on being a content site. Sure they have a blog and plenty of helpful material, but the site’s main focus is to make the pc part shopping process easier for customers.
Built an original tool. This of course takes some talent along with hard work, but they managed to create a pc-building tool that offers a unique resource to consumers. The tool, complemented by useful guides, brings value to customers.
Created a shopping platform that helps users. Like many shopping platforms (and unlike most affiliate sites) they’ve focused on boosting the user’s shopping experience by including outside ratings and reviews as well as different pricing options.  
Overall focus on the in-niche user experience. Shoppers come here to build a working pc within budget and they can do it easily with helpful comparisons and reviews alongside.

This is why I’m Broke

NicheNovelty/pop culture items and gift guides
Affiliate linksMost from Amazon, many Etsy and Awin links too, and increasingly from manufacturers 
Successful strategiesUtilizes the variety. This site truly capitalizes on the limitless variety offered by Amazon. You can tell they’ve done their research by delving into the depths of niche, odd-ball product manufacturing.
Viral marketing. The inherent and complete silliness of some of these gifts and guides makes for viral content. Just by promoting and writing about quirky stuff, they can bring users to their site with eye-catching content.
Diversified sources of links. Most likely motivated by this past year’s Amazon commission cuts, a website that used to primarily rely on Amazon affiliate links has incorporated many new ones from different sources – including straight from manufacturers. 
Considerations*Keep in mind that browsing this site, their content doesn’t seem to be totally in line with Amazon Associates terms and conditions. Most likely, this is because they have a unique agreement given the enormous source of traffic they provide.
*They also get away with very little descriptions and text for each product. For a beginner affiliate with not much if any traffic, this strategy is not going to work; you’ll need to include detailed, long descriptions.

Headphones Addict

NicheHeadphones reviews and rankings
Affiliate linksSeemingly all from Amazon
Successful strategiesUltra niched. This site focuses on one product and one product only: headphones and every kind of variant that exists.
Detailed individual product reviews. Though their main, featured content focuses on top-10 lists, every pair of headphones is meticulously reviewed.
Thorough ratings system. Not only is each product reviewed individually, but they all have convenient, numerical and comparable ratings systems for many features of headphones.

Garage Gym Power

NicheCrossfit/home gym/running gear and guides
Affiliate linksMainly from Amazon but also manufacturers
Successful strategiesPersonalization quiz. This site provides an interactive quiz for users to take and discover individualized, curated products for them to buy.
Not everything has to be monetized. Plenty of their articles focus on talking about a certain genre of product or practice overall and don’t include any or very few offers. This can serve to boost trust and reliability with users.

The Wirecutter

NicheElectronics and consumer goods product reviews
Affiliate linksMainly offers from Amazon and Bestbuy
Successful strategiesAuthentic and honest. The Wirecutter is the top online source of consumer product reviews and not for nothing. They don’t prioritize based on commission rates, rather thorough testing and transparent decisions. 
Quality over quantity.  This concept is nothing new, but this site makes a point of only publishing a few (between 5-10) reviews per month given their 100+ hours-long, in-depth research processes.
Focused reviews. Many Amazon affiliate sites follow a “test and review” format to promote offers. However, this site is concentrated and straight to the point; the emphasis is not necessarily on lengthy descriptions or promoting any certain product. They always start their rankings with the top results to save you time.
ConsiderationsThe Wirecutter reviews an enormous range of products and has a huge team of editors, writers and researchers to do so. As a beginner or standalone affiliate, this kind of quality work is simply not possible with such a wide range of products; you’re much better off focusing on one niche category.

But wait – so is the Amazon affiliate program profitable in 2021 or nah?

Like most things in life, the answer to this question isn’t black and white. Sorry about that. 

The truth is, this article lays out the facts. We clearly weren’t sponsored by Amazon and we don’t stand to gain for their losses either.

 If you’ve read the pros and cons, you’ll know for yourself whether Amazon Associates is a worthwhile business venture for you. 

Though Amazon may have really low commission rates, they offer an indisputably valuable trove of information. They’re set up is easy; all you need is a website with traffic. 

If you decide to go with Amazon affiliate program offers, Voluum tracker will be there for you to help test, optimize and automate your campaigns.  

Go with Voluum Tracker today!

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