If you’ve been doing some research into ways to make money online, you may be wondering if the Amazon Associates program is worth it, or if you should start looking for an alternative.
But answering this question isn’t as straightforward as you might think.
Amazon has a long-standing affiliate platform that many people are making incredible amounts of money with and there are many reasons why being an affiliate for Amazon is great.
Just take a look at websites like thewirecutter.com to see the elaborate extent some businesses have taken when it comes to monetizing with Amazon. (They have entire teams of product testers and guidelines for testing products)
But is it still a viable option as we head into 2020 and beyond?
I think it’s important to discuss a bit about the negatives of Amazon’s affiliate platform before you decide whether or not it’s a tool you want to use to monetize your blog. Take away what you will from this, ultimately the decision is yours.
Just keep in mind that there are lots of ways to make money with your blog or website, and Amazon is only one potential option. I always recommend you diversify your affiliate commissions (and/or monetization methods) through multiple sources so you never rely heavily on just one.
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So is being an Amazon Affiliate worth it as we head into 2020 and beyond? Here are 4 things to consider.
There are a lot of positive aspects to working with Amazon’s affiliate program. It’s highly converting, well-known, and trusted. But there are also some things you need to be aware of before you make a decision about whether you want to work with Amazon or not.
#1. Low commissions
Now the reality is that if you promote physical products, the default commission rates are just low. Considering that Amazon only offers around 4% commission for many categories, you may be able to find some different affiliate programs that have higher rates.
Target, for example, offers a base 5% commission rate and performance-based incentives up to 8%. They are pretty similar to Amazon in terms of what they offer, and also widely known and trusted.
And there are so many affiliate platforms out there these days you really should do an in-depth search into your specific niche to really get an idea what you have to work with.
Of course, this all depends on your niche as you’ll see in the chart below.
Here’s Amazon’s commission structure (current as of 2019)
As you can see here, the commission rates vary by category. Luxury beauty and Amazon coins are 10%, but most categories are around or closer to just 4%. You’d probably want to make sure you know what Amazon considers “luxury beauty” products if you were interested in that, considering the regular beauty category is only 6%!
Pets, pantry items, home, lawn/garden, and furniture are other good options since they’re 8%. Still a relatively decent commission rate for physical goods.
Amazon commission change 2017
Now here’s the thing, Amazon used to offer a volume-based commission payout like Target, however, that was all changed back in 2017 to the set rates as you can see in the chart pictured above.
You used to be able to earn up to 8.5% promoting most categories if you could make a lot of sales each month.
Many people who relied heavily on the Amazon Associates program lost a lot of income this way.
Amazon Commissions in 2020? …
My point in bringing this up is, there’s no certainty what the commission rates will be going into 2020 or later. You’re kind of at the mercy of Amazon when it comes to commissions. They could decide tomorrow all affiliates earn 1% commissions, or to just get rid of their affiliate platform altogether.
To be fair, this is true of ANY affiliate program, and one of the reasons why you shouldn’t rely on a single affiliate program or revenue stream for your blog or website.
#2. Complicated terms of service
Here’s the part that is kind of scary. Amazon has an extremely long and complicated terms of service agreement. You are restricted from doing a lot of things with Amazon affiliate links that you would normally otherwise be able to do with most other affiliate programs.
You’re not allowed to send Amazon links through an email list, nor are you allowed to post them on social media. To do this, you will need to have an established website to funnel traffic to first.
You also can’t use any type of link shortener and must be perfectly clear you are sending traffic to Amazon’s website.
In addition, you’re not technically allowed to specify the price of any Amazon products within your website nor use any call to action links saying “find the best deal at Amazon!” or something similar.
According to Amazon, they don’t want affiliates giving false or misleading information since their prices change frequently, and you are not always going to find the best deal at Amazon either.
The last thing is with images. You’d think you could simply download images from the Amazon product page, upload them to your website and use them within your product reviews.
But technically you need to be inserting images as HTML from their Sitestripe feature or with API.
The problem with doing it this way is you’re very limited as you can only use the main product image, and it’s pretty small. Obviously, if you own the products or you can take your own pictures that’s a different story. This is strictly for using the product images that are directly from Amazon.
From what I’ve seen, MOST affiliates do this anyway, and most people don’t even know you are technically not supposed to. And honestly, unless you’re an extremely large and popular affiliate there’s a good chance you would never even be caught.
But I will just say that I have heard stories of accounts getting banned and people getting warning emails for doing this very thing
So in this case, I would say to err on the side of caution.
The thing is, huge companies like Amazon are held legally responsible for the actions of their affiliates, so they are ultimately looking out for their best interest.
#3. They don’t hesitate to ban accounts
If they find that you’ve violated any of their TOS they can and will ban your affiliate account.
The good news is they usually send emails to warn you first, and you will have a chance to fix issues.
The last thing you want is to be completely dependent upon income from Amazon, only to have it shut down overnight.
#4. They only offer a 24-hour cookie
This means that you only get commissions for the first sale made within 24 hours.
That might seem fine, but if you think about it, how many times have you added something to your cart online and walked away? I know I do this all the time because I’m indecisive, but there are all sorts of reasons why someone might do that.
Another thing that is worth pointing out, is the cookie only lasts until the first sale is made. If someone makes an additional purchase from Amazon within that 24 hour period, you’ll only get credit for the first one.
Okay, but why does it matter? How many people are actually making multiple Amazon purchases per day? Maybe more than you think. Because so many people are Amazon Prime members now, they’re able to order anything with no minimum price limit and get free 2-day shipping.
Compared to other affiliate programs, 24 hours is very short. Many programs have 3, 7, or even 30-day cookie windows, and some even longer.
You could be missing out on a lot of sales from people who don’t buy straight away or make multiple purchases per day.
The Bottom Line
The future of Amazon is uncertain when it comes to its affiliate platform. They’ve sliced commissions before, and they can do it again. Remember that there’s an array of affiliate programs within any niche, so check those out to see if you could be getting better offers elsewhere.
In saying all of this, the point of this isn’t to scare you away from using Amazon, rather just to inform you about some things you may not have considered. Amazon is beneficial to you, don’t hesitate to use it. I certainly take advantage of their brand and it does work. However, I don’t exclusively use it and I would suggest if you do use Amazon that you consider finding other sources for monetization as well.
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Hi Wendy. I’ve been reading about becoming an amazon affiliate again and glad I found this post. I used to have a niche site back in 2007-2010 that made around $500 a month as an amazon affiliate but I seem to recall I was getting 8% of sale and it was a relatively high value item being purchased. I had no idea they had dropped commission to 4%!
Yeah, they did drop it pretty low for a lot of niches. Kinda sucks! I think Amazon makes up for it with the high conversion rate though, so it’s not all bad. Plus, there are so many options for affiliate programs you don’t have to use Amazon!