One of the crucial ways of monetizing any niche blog you create is to refer visitors to Amazon or other online retailers and get a commission on any sales you drive. You can do this by signing up for the Amazon Affiliates program (also known as Amazon Associates in some countries).
This is a program which pays affiliates who sign up a commission of between 1% and 10%, per sale made through their site, depending upon the product category. Once you have significant traffic to your site, it can be a great way of earning money and is an essential component of monetization on many niche sites.
The process of signing up for the Amazon Affiliates program is fairly simple and straightforward and is covered in the video embedded below. Moreover Amazon has affiliate programs in a number of countries so it is worth signing up in any locale you are seeing significant traffic from to maximize affiliate earnings.
Here are the steps to sign up to Amazon Affiliates in summary form:
- Create a standard Amazon account if you haven’t yet
- Go to Become an Affiliate/Associates Program in the footer menu
- Enter a few details about your website(s) and content
- Provide details on current traffic and monetization methods.
- If approved, you get instant access to the link builder
- You must drive at least 3 sales in 180 days to stay on the program.
- Commission ranges from 1-10% depending on product category
Video guide on signing up:
The Process of Signing Up For Amazon Affiliates
The sign up process involves answering a few simple questions and it is usually not hard to get accepted as long as your site already has some good content on it.
You firstly need to sign up for an Amazon account if you don’t already have one, and find the affiliate section at the bottom.
You are then taken through a sign up process, where you provide details on your website and your planned methods of monetization.
The questions are self explanatory and you just need to provide a brief description of your site, explaining what is about and how you intend to promote Amazon products on your site.
Here are some questions you are asked off memory:
- The domain names of your website(s)
- The general category of website (what niche, what it’s about about). Explain the purpose of your website, what kind of content you write, what products you promote.
- Any social media accounts
- How your site is built (eg. WordPress, or another platform).
- Current traffic levels.
- The categories of products you intent to promote on Amazon.
- The different monetization methods you use other than Amazon.
- Your preferred affiliate ID
At the end of the signup there’s also an unusual question where they ask what your reason is for signing up to the program, and they give you a choice of “to get good content for my site” or “monetization”. I don’t really know why they ask this question, but I also put the “content” answer and I’ve never had any trouble.
The entire process should not take more than 5-10 minutes.
Once accepted, you will immediately have access to affiliate links you can embed on your site, and from that point on you have 180 days to make 3 qualifying sales to be fully accepted onto the program.
This should not usually be too difficult as long as you write the bulk of your content quickly and monetize it skilfully.
Amazon has easily accessible affiliate programs in the following countries: USA, UK, Canada, Australia, Germany, France, Spain and Italy.
If you do plan on signing up for Amazon Affiliates in multiple countries, see our guide on globalizing your Amazon links to make sure international visitors are taken to the correct product on the correct Amazon store for their location.
They also have affiliate programs in Singapore, Mexico, Brazil, Japan, China and India, though these programs are difficult to use unless you have a bank account in these countries. The Indian program can be used as long as you are prepared to jump through some hoops; see this article for more on this.
Update – Mexico, Singapore and Japan can now also be used with the Payoneer service, since they now offer local accounts Mexican Peso, Singapore dollar and Japanese Yen.
It may therefore be a good idea to sign up for any programs in countries where you receive, or expect to receive, significant traffic.
How Amazon Affiliate Links Work
Once you initially apply to the program, you get access to their link builder straight away. You also get given an affiliate ID, which is a combination of what you suggested in your application, plus a suffix number to denote the country of the affiliate store eg. nytools-20.
For then on, whenever you log into your Amazon account, there is a Sitestripe across the top of the screen where you create your affiliate links.
You paste the link of a product you want to promote into this Sitestripe, and it will automatically generate a unique affiliate link with your affiliate ID embedded. You can choose from a longer link or a shortened amzn.to format link like above.
You put this on your website, and whenever a user clicks on it and is redirected to Amazon, your affiliate ID tells them you referred the customer, and if they buy anything off Amazon within the next 24 hours, you’ll get a commission percentage of their total order amount (between 1-8% depending on category).
Making Sure You Get Accepted on the Amazon Affiliates Program
This is a tricky one, since sites are generally allowed on straight away, and Amazon only come and look at your site once you drive 3 sales within the first 6 months.
Even after driving these sales, some sites still get rejected though. There are even stories of some sites being rejected right off the bat, though in fairness most sites do get initial access to the link builder.
Here are some things to do to make sure you are actually accepted onto the program fully once someone from Amazon comes to assess your site:
- Make sure your site looks good, with a nice theme and professional looking design.
- Make sure your site is actually up and running and loads reasonably fast.
- Make sure your content is high quality, useful content, well presented, aimed primarily at helping out the user rather than making money.
- Make sure you have a decent amount of content as well, not just a few posts.
- Make sure content is not over-monetized, stuffed with too many ad and affiliate links. Make sure any links are relevant and adding value for the reader, and the products you are promoting are relevant to your website.
- Make sure you actually have decent traffic levels, otherwise you may struggle to hit the minimum 3 sales in 180 days. It needs to be 3 different sales from 3 different people as well.
- Make sure that all links are clearly disclosing that they sending the reader to Amazon.
- Make sure you have a proper affiliate disclaimer in the sidebar of your website.
- Make sure you are following all the other terms of service clauses. See our section below for more on this.
More Info on getting approved for Amazon Affiliates
Making Sure You Comply With Amazon’s Operating Agreement
The operating agreements firstly vary from country to country, and are very dense and sometimes not entirely clear in their wording.
Put simply, just follow common sense, simple rules and you should be fine. Don’t get too fancy or clever, just promote in stock products clearly and honestly.
Here are some key pointers
- Link to specific, in stock products relevant to your website.
- Don’t link to too many out of stock products. Amend any long term out of stock links.
- Be honest and balanced in the way you promote products.
- 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.
- Do NOT mention specific review scores or specific customers by name.
- Do not list prices unless using the live API, because they are subject to change. Just put something like “check price on Amazon”. I believe the API is also being phased out.
- Clearly tell the reader that every link goes to Amazon (eg. “click here to view on Amazon”)
- Make sure you have clear affiliate disclaimers in the sidebar and footer of your blog (“As an Amazon Affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases”)
- Only put Amazon links on publicly available platforms like blogs and not password protected forums or such like.
- Do not get family and friends to use your Amazon links to drive sales.
- Do not put affiliate links in emails; only in blog posts/pages.
- Do not use link cloakers like bit.ly links.
- Do not place affiliate links within content primarily aimed at children under 13 years of age.
- See the full operating agreement for the amazon.com program for more details and also for other storefronts if relevant.
This list is NOT exhaustive, as the operating agreement is very complex; see our full detailed article on how to avoid getting banned from the Amazon Affiliates program for more on this.
Should I Sign Up Straight Away With a New Blog?
This is a common question and the answer is that it usually doesn’t really matter.
Traffic is usually slow to build on blogs in the first few months so some people prefer to wait for a while before signing up for Amazon Affiliates, thinking that they may not get the three referrals required in 180 days if they sign up too early.
This can happen but in reality is no big deal sign even if you do not make the three qualifying sales, you can still reapply to the program and you will be given a new ID and start all over again. Most people should be able to get three sales in the first 6 months but it isn’t the end of the world if you don’t.
The other advantage of signing up early is that you can straight away embed your affiliate links into your article instead of having to go back over them all again at a later date and put the affiliate links in once you have signed up.
How much work this entails depends on how many articles you plan to write but is something to take into account. If you really plan on turning out a lot of initial content (30+ articles), which is a good idea anyway when starting a blog, then it might be a good idea to sign up straight away.
If however, your time doing this is restricted, and you aren’t sure how much content you are going to be able to produce in the time you have free, then it might be a good idea to wait a few months.
Either way, you can simply check your Google Analytics on your blog to see when traffic is picking up, and sign up then. You aren’t going to miss much by waiting a few months, beause traffic takes time to build on a new blog anyway.
Downsides to the Amazon Affiliates Program
There are a few potential downsides to the Amazon Affiliates program. Firstly, the commissions are not as generous as some other affiliate programs, currently standing at between 1 and 10 percent depending on the category.
Some products also receive no commissions at all so it is very important to check out their commission structures page before you sign up to make sure the products you will be promoting pay for referrals. Wine and vouchers are two notable categories here, but check the linked page for current info.
Based on the fee structure, there are clearly certain products Amazon would rather you promote at present, such as clothing and outdoors, which pay good commissions (even these have been cut recently though).
Other categories, like video games and TVs, pay much less at 1-2%. So niche category does matter in terms of potential commissions you can get. Electronics are low at 2.5-3%. Books are nicely in the middle at 4-5% (always check the commissions page as rates are regularly revised).
Be aware though that commission rates have slowly been reduced by Amazon over the last few years in most categories, including a shock rate cut in April 2020 that infuriated some bloggers because of the short notice and timing of it.
Also the Amazon cookie only lasts for 24 hours, meaning visitors who click on one of your links must buy something within 24 hours for you to get commission. The cookie used to be 30 days but has been reduced.
On the positive side though, the cookie will credit you for anything the customer buys from Amazon over the next 24 hours, not just the product they clicked on. So you can get a nice boost in earnings if visitors buy your recommended product but also something else for the wife, kids etc while they are there.
One factor that may be a negative for some people is the delayed payments. Amazon only pays commission 60 days after the end of the month where they were credited, which is quite a long time to wait.
In other words, if you refer someone on May 15th and are credited with a $5 commission, you’ll only get paid that at the end of July, and if they return the product, your commission is cancelled.
So if you want to earn good money from Amazon Affiliates, you usually need a) Good levels of traffic; and b) Patience, especially in the early days when you may be waiting 2+ months for not much commission while you are still building your site up.
Another negative is that the affiliates help team at Amazon can be very slow responding to queries, probably since they are so inundated with requests and questions that they struggle to respond quickly to them all. So be prepared to wait a few days if you raise a ticket with them.
Also the Amazon Affiliates Terms of Service are very long winded but also very vague, with some seemingly contradictory clauses which make it difficult to know whether you are breaking the rules or not.
To compound matters, reaching out to support for some clarification, some people have found they get different answers from different people within Amazon to the same question as regards to what is and isn’t allowed when promoting Amazon products.
However, reading the terms of service and using some common sense, most bloggers have been fine using the Amazon Affiliate programs. There are plenty of ways you can get thrown off their affiliate program, but following the rules carefully and consistently should help you avoid any trouble.
Bottom line – Amazon is good to start of with just to get used to affiliate marketing, because it has such a huge range of products. However, once you get more experienced, try and look for other programs within your niche that pay better commissions. Don’t rely on Amazon as your main source of monetization, because commissions in many categories are too low now.
Other Affiliate Programs
No doubt Amazon Affiliates is the main program of choice for people just starting out blogging, given it has the widest range of product to promote from one of the world’s most popular retailers.
However, many other affiliate programs are available, some offering more generous commissions than Amazon. Depending on the products you can promote on your niche site, it may be worth signing up for some other programs.
To be more precise, the companies we are about to list are actually affiliate networks, which individual retailers and companies then sign up to. Signing up to these big affiliate networks then gives you access to sign up for these other retailers. Some of these networks include:
- Affiliate Window or Awin – allows you access to hundreds of online and high street retailer affiliate programs.
- Commission Junction (CJ) – another program offering access to more retailers
- Shareasale – another affiliate network with more retailers and companies.
- Some major retailers like Walmart, Target etc also have affiliate programs you can sign up for directly.
- Many digital products also have affiliate programs like domain names, web hosting, wordpress themes, VPNs, Internet service providers and many more.
With all these different options there is a way to make money off affiliate marketing in almost any niche you choose. There are always products and services to recommend and there are usually companies selling them which have affiliate programs you can sign up to. Amazon Affiliates remains the key earner for most people starting out blogging though.