In this article we will cover the complexities of the Amazon Affiliates Operating Agreement, going through some of the more common problems affiliates can fall into with breaking the terms of the agreement.
There are many different ways to get thrown off the Amazon Affiliates program, so in this post we want to list some of the more common pitfalls people can fall into so they can avoid them. Using affiliate links correctly along with some common sense should help you avoid any problems with the Amazon Affiliates team.
We have aimed to pull together some of the best resources online, from the operating agreements themselves to some good summary videos from experienced affiliate marketers, to provide a guide of the main things to avoid if you want to stay on the Amazon Affiliates program.
The Amazon Associates Operating Agreement is Complex
The first thing to say here is that the Amazon Affiliates Operating Agreement is very complex and murky, with lots of different clauses, lots of complex sounding legal speak and some conditions which even seem contradictory or ridiculously restrictive when followed to the letter.
Moreover, there are some horror stories of affiliates being suddenly thrown off the program without warning or a second chance for seemingly minor infractions of the agreement. There are also problems with affiliates getting different answers from different people for the same question when they contact the Amazon Affiliates help department for clarification.
Each Amazon site also has it’s own affiliates Operating Agreement, with slightly different clauses and terms, so it is important to read all agreements for every store you are signed up to. In recent months Amazon have done a good job in merging some of the agreements together to get them more unified – particularly in North America – but there are still some differences there.
- Click here to view the Amazon Affiliates Operating Agreement for Amazon USA (.com)
- Click here to view the Amazon Affiliates Operating Agreement for Amazon UK
- Click here to view the Amazon Affiliates EU Operating Agreement.
However if you are a genuine affiliate who who just wants to provide useful content to readers and tactfully link to Amazon products as a solution to a problem where relevant, then there shouldn’t be a problem as long as you follow the rules carefully.
The complex ToS rules are designed to weed out affiliates using clever tricks to boost sales which are a deviation from standard, honest blogging where you are simply posting content which is monetized with affiliate links.
At the end of the day, Amazon has had an affiliate program since 1996 and there is no sign of it stopping. Amazon benefits enormously in the sales good affiliates drive to their site, so of course they want to have affiliates, but they just want to make sure they are following the rules and providing an honest and fair user experience for their readers.
Some Good Videos on the Topic
We have embedded below two excellent videos on this issue of treading carefully with the Amazon Affiliates program to make sure you don’t get thrown off. The first one is an excellent up to date 2019 tutorial on how to avoid getting kicked off the AA program from Geniuslink.
Then we have another good summary from the guys at Income School on different clauses to watch out for in the agreement which can get you kicked off the program if you violate them.
Note that it is crucial to make sure you are following all these rules, or not breaking any rules, right from the off on your site, since there are plenty of stories of affiliates being banned for unintentional and unwitting infractions and without a warning or second chance.
In other words, they didn’t even know they were breaking the rules and didn’t intend to, but were still banned and banned immediately, and not even given a warning. This is where the variability in the way you are treated by Amazon can come in – some people are given a warning and a short deadline to get compliant whilst others are banned immediately with no warning.
This is why it is better to simply make sure you are fully compliant from the off when using Amazon Affiliates, and not take a chance on anything, especially if a large amount of your income comes from Amazon Affiliate commissions. Don’t play fast and loose with your income and livelihood and make sure you read the ToS carefully.
A Summary of the Ways You Can Be Banned From Amazon Affiliates
Here is summary list of some of the main steps you should take to avoid being kicked off the program, drawing together all the main points from the above two videos plus some other points.
- Avoid any kind of link cloaking – covering up or otherwise concealing links with shorteners or redirect services which do not make it clear the link is going to Amazon. The Geniuslink service is allowed and compliant with the ToS; others such as bit.ly are not.
- Do not place any Amazon links without making it clear in the text close by that you are linking to Amazon (eg. “click here to check the price on Amazon”, or some other way of letting the reader know where the link is taking them).
- Do not use Amazon affiliate links in emails, attachments, ebooks, pdfs or other mediums; only on your website or social media where permitted.
- Do not post Amazon affiliate links in places which are not publicly accessible, such as password protected forums, members areas etc.
- Do not display any product prices of availability statically; in other words, in text form, since these are liable to change. Only ever display prices through the official Amazon API.
- Do not display reviews or star ratings unless through the API.
- Do not quote customer reviews directly eg. names and specific ratings. Only talk in general terms about reviews and ratings.
- Do not encourage customers to click on or bookmark your affiliate links. Place links within content but do not “pester” or otherwise try to influence readers to click on them.
- Also, do not offer any incentive or reward for people to click on your links.
- Don’t link to too many free eBooks on Amazon just to get the cookie enabled.
- Do not link to old or out of stock products. Get a broken link checker plugin to keep track of bad links which need editing. A good link globalizer service will also keep track of this.
- Always have at least one (and preferably multiple) affiliate disclaimers on your site, which are clearly visible and show up on every page a reader visits. Footer and sidebar widgets are a good place to put them. They must also explicity state “As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases“
- Do not get friends, family or anyone else you know to use your affiliate links. Amazon is smart and can often catch up with this and ban you. Also do not buy off your own affiliate links.
- Do not place Amazon Affiliate links on sites which aren’t yours, like other forums or blogs. Link to your site’s content instead.
- Do not place Amazon Affiliate links on sites which are promoting violence or sexually explicit content.
- Do not use the Amazon name, or any close variant of it like amzn, in your links, or your website URL.
- Do not download images off Amazon and then reupload them to your site. Use the image Sitestripe to pull images off their site, copying and pasting the image code over to your site.
- Make sure you make 3 qualifying sales within the first 180 days of opening your affiliates account, otherwise it will be closed. This one is not a deal breaker, since you can always reapply in this case.
- Do not place affiliate links within content primarily aimed at children under 13 years of age.
- This list is not exhaustive. See the full operating agreement for the amazon.com program for more details and also for other storefronts if relevant.
The Social Media Question
This is also another confusing question – do Amazon like us promoting their products on social media? This appears to vary across different Amazon sites, and so is something else to be aware of.
The amazon.com site, for example, definitely encourages this, since it has share buttons on it’s affiliates Sitestripe to allow links to be shared in social media. The amazon.co.uk site however, seems less keen, and is not so happy about bloggers placing affiliate links on social media, preferring them to be on their websites instead.
This is another grey area then, where it seems to different across different regions and where you will likely get different answers speaking to different people across the AA team and customer service.
Some Amazon sites have the social media share buttons on the Sitestripe when you log in, other don’t. You could take this as a pretty clear indication that the sites which have this are OK with you placing affiliate links on social media, provided you also follow the steps above, including affiliate disclaimers and not using cloaking. You should probably avoid placing links on social media from the sites which don’t have this share feature and link to your site instead.
Similarly, it is also important to not think that because other people, like well known bloggers and influencers, seem to be getting away with not following the Amazon rules, you will get away with it as well.
Other people are getting away with it because a) Amazon hasn’t caught them yet; or b) They have an exclusive agreement with Amazon to use links in a certain way.
So it is best for all affiliates to follow the agreement to the letter and not take shortcuts which can get you kicked off the affiliates program down the line.