Amazon Affiliates Program: What Actually Works and Why You Should Use It

I can say (without reservation) that of all the dozens of affiliate programs and networks I have used over the years, the Amazon Associates program has been the absolute best.

There are a multitude of reasons why:

  • Ability to scale commission percentages (up to 8.5%).
  • Ridiculous amounts of product.
  • Pay like clockwork (never a missed payment in a decade).
  • Lots of ways to tag different items on your site.
  • Amazon have (arguably) some of the most optimized sales processes.

Get Up to 8.5%

Amazon offer a scaled commission.

The more websites you can bring into the fold, the more sales you can make. Commissions start at 4%. Get more than 6 sales in a month, and you’ll then move to a 6% tier. This goes all the way up to 8.5% (but you have to be selling loads of stuff).

Ability to Earn Commissions on Crazy Random Purchases

One of the brilliant aspects of the program is how ANY purchases made by the user are credited to your account. Amazon are masters at encouraging shoppers to buy other related (or non-related) stuff.

Every now and then you get something like this:

I don’t have any websites about canoes. This user probably clicked through on a $8 item (like a book or something). Then ended up buy a canoe for almost $600.

I made a stellar $45.60 on the sale!

Provided you were the last amazon affiliate link clicked (therefore assigning your cookie to the user browser), you get the credit.

Trawling through the reports I’ve seen items like expensive DSLR cameras being recorded under my affiliate ID.

Amazon and WordPress

There are hundreds of plugins. Some of the best include Amazon Auto Links, and the official Amazon plugin.

Be careful. Some plugins actually embed the author’s own affiliate ID (often if not configure properly).

I ended up customizing my own plugin that searches for any Amazon link on my site and embeds my affiliate ID.

Amazon Associates Best Practices

There are many different tools available (widgets, CPM ads, auto-generated product suggestions etc). I haven’t had much luck with these, but here’s what’s worked for me:

1. Plain text links
Just a simple link to a product that has been used or reviewed as part of the article. You can check your links a working by using this tool.

2. Customized links with a book cover
I’ve had sites where the article ties in nicely to a book, so I created a WordPress shortcode to show the book cover automatically. Although it could be for any product.

A shortcode of this:

[amazonbox asin="0345545109"]

Will generate this (an image capture):

ASINs are Amazon’s unique product code. Every single product has an ASIN. Here is the PHP code I knocked up to process the shortcode. This code needs to go into your theme functions.php file.

function amazonbox_shortcode( $atts, $content = null ) {
	extract( shortcode_atts( array(
		'asin' => 0,
		'text' => '',
	), $atts ) );
	$link = "". $asin . "?tag=" . $tag;

	$text = '<a rel="nofollow" href="' . $link . '">Click here</a> to purchase this book for a discounted price (Amazon). ';
	$thumb = "" . $asin . "&Format=_SL200_&ID=AsinImage&MarketPlace=US&ServiceVersion=20070822&WS=1&tag=" . $tag;
	$out ='<div class="amazonbox group"><a class="amazonboxinner" rel="nofollow" href="' . $link . '"><img border="0" src="' . $thumb . '"></a>';
	$out .= '<div class="amazonboxinner">' . $text . $content;
	$out .='</div></div>';
	return $out;

See the Format query that’s part of the thumbnail URL? You can change that to define whatever size thumbnail image you like. _SL200_ will return in an image where the longest side is 200 pixels. Awesome.

And here’s some CSS I used to style up the box.

/*** Amazonbox ***/
.amazonbox {color: #335868;border: 2px solid #9ABECD;background-color:rgba(0, 132, 180, 0.1); border-radius: 4px; display:table;font-size:1.2em;margin:2em 0;}
.amazonbox a {color:#335868;font-weight:600;}
.amazonboxinner {display:table-cell;vertical-align:middle;padding:12px;}

3. Amazon Product Advertising API
This is beyond the scope of this article, but I’ve had great success with the API. It’s allowed me to list a number of products for a particular keyword and have them listed with prices and images.

Quick Tips for the Amazon Program

  • Holiday times always see a rise in sales. In the lead up to Christmas – people are buying stuff.
  • Have more than one link on your article – one nearer the start, and one nearer the end (a call to action).
  • If you have a site that is in ANY way product focused (like reviewing cameras or something) – you must use the Amazon program. Unfortunately I don’t have anything quite like that. Content-focused sites are more challenging to monetize in general.
  • CONTEXT and INTENT is everything. That’s why I put it in caps. Slapping an Amazon banner on your site will do NOTHING. Everything comes down to the user’s intent. If the user is interested about a product in some way – they are already considering buying. In my experience no one ever sees a mention of a product and suddenly wants to buy it. Your site content will only generate affiliate sales if it aligns with the users INTENT, and the product link is 100% in CONTEXT.

That said, there’s nothing wrong with experimenting if you’ve got the time. Good luck.

Need some incentive? My top sale over the last month was “Confidence Fitness Slim Full Body Vibration Platform Fitness Machine, Black” worth $249.99 and netting me a commission of $20.62. Nowhere do I link to a fitness machine.

Hi, I'm James, and for the last decade I've made a living by making my own blogs and websites.
Updated: February 7, 2017

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