If you have a niche site, probably you are considering to join an affiliate program to monetize your site. Amazon is a popular affiliate program because it is a trustable brand and on top of that, enrolling is straightforward.
However, I want to share with you ONE reason why you shouldn’t rush into Amazon Affiliate Program. In Amazon’s policy for their associates (affiliates who promote their products), there has to be at least 3 qualified completed sales within a period of 180 days. If this is not met, your affiliate account is rejected and ALL your existing affiliate links become useless. Yes, all of them.
Before I talk more about this, let’s run through the basics of Amazon Associate, and understand what it can do for you.
Amazon Associate Sign-up
This is the website to enrol for Amazon’s affiliate program. The process is simple and after filling in some details regarding yourself and your niche site, you will be registered as an affiliate for Amazon. The entire process takes less than 10 minutes for me.
How Does It Work?
As an affiliate, you earn commissions each time visitors buy something from Amazon through the affiliate links on your site. It doesn’t matter what they buy. It can be the product you reviewed or a totally different item on Amazon. As long as the purchase is carried out within 24 hours from the moment they click on your link, you get the commission which is anything from 0% to 10%.
Yes, certain items on Amazon do not attract any commission at all such as Amazon Gift Cards & Wine but you want to stay updated on this by checking out their advertising fee structure. Things may change as Amazon adjusted their fee structure not too long ago.
Different product categories attract different commission rates. At the bottom is Amazon Gift Cards and Wine at 0% and if there is no change, furniture comes in at 10% which is the maximum. So if you manage to convert a sale for a piece of furniture, you get 10% of that sales revenue as your commission.
24 hours vs 90 days affiliate tracking cookie
You get a commission if someone clicks on your link and buys an Amazon product within 24 hours of that ‘click’. However, there is also a 90 days tracking cookie that allows you to earn a commission if your visitors buy the product within 90 days.
How this is achieved is by sending the customer to the Add to Cart section. In other words, when the customer clicks on the link, it directs him immediately to the Add to Cart page with the item ready for checkout. Even if he does not checkout immediately, as long as it is purchased within 90 days, the commission due to that sale is still yours’.
Well, it seems like a good idea but my personal take is that it kind of ‘forces’ your potential customer to buy and it makes it very salesy…(aggressive!) which may just put some people off.
A more subtle way is to inform visitors that by clicking the link, the item will be added to their shopping cart on Amazon. For example, it can go like this “Click here to add the PRODUCT to your cart so that you won’t miss out this awesome deal!” I find this to be a better approach because it lends a greater sense of transparency.
Anyway, you can decide on either or use a combination of both to test out what works better.
To get the 90 day link, head over to Amazon Associates (you should have an account first) and find the snippet of code that you can copy to create the Add to Cart link/button on your website.
Again, not to sound discouraging, but most people do not like this approach. First of all, if you put yourself in the shoes of a buyer, would you just add to cart without finding out more about the product? In short, the effect could kill your sales rather than promote it. I have no stats to share on this claim but it’s a strong gut feeling.
Easy as it seems…
It is not too uncommon to find people struggling to get one sale within 6 months. Some don’t even get a single sale after a whole year.
This is a problem that needs fixing, especially if you have been diligent in building your site and populating it with useful content. We will leave that to another article where I will share tips on how you can fix this and start earning a commission within 6 months.
It is not that hard when you know.
I wish I know that earlier because I too was confronted by the same email from Amazon stating my account has been rejected because I did not have at least three qualified sales within 180 days.
Why is it So Hard to Get a Sale?
Most people don’t realise that getting a sale online can be challenging and thus they rushed into setting up their Amazon Associate account the day they launched their niche site.
Me too. I did that because it seemed back then…the most natural thing to do. I didn’t want to waste any time jumping in and that was such a bad decision!
At first, I thought it would be easy to get a sale. The grace period of 180 days seems very reasonable and I can’t imagine how my site won’t earn a single sale in that period. I was proven WRONG. Dead wrong!
I closed out the first 6 months without a qualified sale and my account was rejected. It was the lowest point for my internet business and I even think I should just close my site down and call it a day.
However, I managed to hang on and encouraged myself “I have one more round to give”. Building a business (albeit online) is hard if you have not already realised but this failure brought me new realisation and one step closer to my goal.
I didn’t quit.
Instead, I analysed the situation to understand what went wrong and what I should have done or not do. Here are a few pointers for your consideration before you dive in.
Sales from friends/family are ineligible
This one really caught me by shock!
After my site was up, I began to inform all my friends and family. Seems like the most natural thing to do, isn’t it and I am not alone to think this way. And so I did and it wasn’t long before I realised some of my friends made purchases and those purchases were reflected on my Amazon Associate account.
BUT they are not considered as eligible sales…and thus, I won’t get a single cent of commission.
I thought it was a mistake and wrote in to Amazon and the customer officer confirmed (without revealing details) why they decided my sales were ineligible.
The decision is final and I lost about a few tens of dollars as my commissions. It is not a lot of money and I took home a valuable lesson…You can’t get commissions if Amazon figures out those sales come from your family and friends.
I know you are burning in your heart to ask me this…how does Amazon decide if they are my family or friends? I know because I had the same question.
Point to note: If a product is bought using the same network or IP address (to be specific), it is almost guaranteed to be classified as ineligible. All mobile devices within the same network (for example your home) use the same IP address to communicate with the rest of the internet. As such, Amazon will immediately detect that this is likely a purchase from family, rendering the commission void.
What’s wrong with getting family and friends to support and buy from your affiliate links?
My thoughts on this is there is nothing wrong. End of the day, Amazon clocks in more sales due to your family and friends’ support but under their policy on advertising fees, this will invalidate your commissions.
Some people on the internet have commented fervently on this and I also came across a forum thread by this person who called into Amazon to debate their logic over such a policy clause.
However, the policy stands and the decision remains final if you find yourself in a similar situation. So my advice is not to invest time trying to convince Amazon what they should or should not do.
It is better to move on and focus on getting organic traffic from people whom you truly do not know to purchase from your site.
The commission is paid out when your total advertising fees cross a certain threshold. In UK, it is £25 for direct deposit or £50 for cheque. If the amount is less than the threshold, it is kept for the next month until the threshold is met.
Commissions are approved when the product is purchased, delivered and the money fully remitted by the buyer.
These are the 2 things to take note. So don’t start wondering why you didn’t get your money. It has to hit the threshold for payout to occur. You can check your accumulated advertising fees by logging into your Amazon Associate account.
Details of items bought, their price and resulting advertising fees are clearly laid out so that you can track your sales.
This is straightforward, right? Let’s move on to the next bit.
Let’s Talk about Organic Traffic
Since you can no longer depend on your network of friends and family for support, the only feasible option is to grow your organic traffic.
This is the most important part of any niche site and many people including myself didn’t quite get it when we first started. In my first month of starting my niche site, I have less than 1000 pageviews. Well…838 isn’t exactly that low a number for a new site but the unique pageviews of 438 is a more accurate representation as it is calculated based on session. For example, if someone visits my site and loads a particular page 5 times, that would be 5 pageviews but only 1 unique pageview.
In any case, the point here to note is that you need a substantial amount of traffic to generate potential sales. At 438 unique pageviews, my site wasn’t getting enough traffic to drive any serious sales.
I am not saying it can’t happen. It can happen if the content is really excellent and the visitor is a ready buyer.
To generate sales, you need traffic and traffic buildup takes time as your site is competing with other niche sites to get a higher ranking.
Over time, your trust rating with Google also goes up because more people are visiting your site and spending time on it. Google is in the search business and if you are providing value to Google’s customers (basically everyone who is searching something on the internet), your ranking on Google goes up.
But hey, this is the backend process and I don’t want you to crack your head trying to outsmart Google with SEO or what not. SEO which stands for search engine optimisation has its merits for making your blog posts more searchable and enticing to people who are searching for your content.
You can’t just rely on SEO without providing quality content. When successful niche sites are deconstructed, the secret ingredient is always quality content.
How long does it take for organic traffic to peak?
Your website will take anywhere from 10 months to a year before it starts gathering in serious traffic, upon the condition you have published quality articles that answer what people are potentially searching online.
Any time before 10th month, you are not likely to see a lot of traffic but that’s just normal. Many people give up in the 3rd to 4th month because they see that nothing is happening.
Instead, you should press on in writing helpful content and publish blog posts that are of significant depth and length (1500 words and above) to answer in detail what other people are looking for. For example, I was trying to find information about Amazon Associates and how I wish someone had written an article like this to talk about the 180-day obstacle, how to minimise its impact, when to sign up as an Amazon Associate and how to monetise with maximum success. Instead, what you tend to find are bits and pieces of information which you have to put together.
An article that can link everything together is hard to find and that was my motivation to put together what I had experienced firsthand and additional research materials.
Signing up for an Amazon Associate account is definitely a great way to monetise your niche site. Amazon has products that cover almost any niche and due to their reputation, it is easy to get people to buy from Amazon after reading your product reviews. However, a new niche site may not have sufficient traffic to generate sales and thus you may want to wait for a few months for your site traffic to ramp up before you sign up as an Amazon Associate. If not, you may find yourself struggling to achieve the three qualified sales within the 180-day limit. Failing to do so leads to your account being rejected and though Amazon will allow you to apply as an Associate without prejudice on your past records, you would have to re-do all your affiliate links and yes, you need to register with Amazon again under a new email account.
That is a lot of work, isn’t it? So here’s my recommendation. Do not sign up with Amazon as an associate until you are getting more traffic to your site. A good target would be 1000 unique pageviews per month before you sign up because in the next 180 days, your site traffic should be increasing giving you a good chance to make sales.
This blog took me quite a bit of time to prepare and publish. Hope you find it useful. If you do, please consider pinning it and yes, you can share this with your family and friends 🙂