How to Make Money with the Amazon Associates Program

Steps to Signing Up and Tips to Maximize Your Amazon Affiliate Income

Make Money with Amazon's Associate's Program
••• Make Money with Amazon's Associate's Program. -Oxford- | Getty Images

It’s no secret that Amazon is a pioneer in ebooks and expanding opportunities for indie authors. But Amazon also led the way in online affiliate marketing. In 1996, Amazon was a small online book retailer run from Jeff Bezos’ garage. With a limited marketing budget, Amazon decided to tap into readers’ love of books to help spread the word. Instead of having an initial outlay of money to buy advertising, Amazon paid people a commission when they referred buying customers to Amazon.

This commission was paid after the customer bought, eliminating upfront marketing costs.

When the Amazon Associates Program launched in 1998, there weren’t many easy, affordable ways to make money online. Amazon's affiliate program changed that. The only problem was that making any significant income as an Amazon affiliate required selling a ton of books. Fortunately, as Amazon has expanded its product line, the ability to make income from Amazon has become easier.

It still has a fairly low payout compared to other affiliate programs (4 to 8.5 percent, depending on the product and sales volume), but with a vast product line, huge customer base, and credibility, odds are that you can find something to promote and make money.

Like any other home-based money-making scheme, earning an income with Amazon requires research, work, and marketing. Here are some tips for maximizing the Amazon Associates Program.

Pros of Becoming an Amazon Affiliate

There are several great reasons to join Amazon Associates program, including:

  • Amazon is a highly visited, well-known name that people use and trust every day.
  • It's free to join. 
  • There are no traffic thresholds or other metrics you need to be accepted into the program. 
  • There are tons and tons of products you can promote.
  • Amazon has many tools to help you sell specific items, or a category of items.
  • There is a good reporting system so you know what's getting clicks and what's selling.
  • You can receive direct deposit payments into your bank account.
  • Amazon offers good customer service to it's buyers, so you reduce the risk of having your visitors get mad at you if they have a problem with the product. 
  • Even if your visitor doesn't buy the product your referred, if they buy something on that visit, you earn a commission.

Cons of the Amazon Associates Program

Nothing is ever perfect, including the Amazon affiliate program. Here are a few downsides:

  • The commission rate is relatively low compared to other affiliate programs. If you sell 6 or fewer items a month, your rate is 4%. You can earn up to 8.5%, but that's achieved by selling more than 3,131 products.
  • Their cookies only last 24-hours. That means if your referral doesn't buy within 24 hours, you won't get credit. (However, if the product is added to their cart, the cookie lasts 90 days.)
  • You're not allowed to send Amazon affiliate links in emails. That includes blog posts that get sent as an email. Since email is an excelled way to send great offers to your readers, this rule is particularly disappointing.
  • If you have a U.S. site and are promoting products in the Amazon U.S. store, you won't get credit for referring someone who ends up buying the product from outside the country (i.e. Amazon UK).
  • Payment options are only through direct deposit, check, or Amazon gift card. There's no PayPal option.
  • Minimum payout is $100, which isn't that much if you make lots of sales, but a lot of you're only earning a few dollars a month.

Getting Set Up as an Amazon Affiliate

Getting started with the Amazon Associates program is free and easy. Here's how:

  1. Signing up by visiting  Amazon and fill in the forms.
  2. Be sure to read the rules. For example, it's against Amazon Associates policy to include Amazon affiliate links in an email. 
  3. Determine the product(s) you want to promote. Amazon allows you to search based on keywords, ​ISBNs (for books), and product numbers.
  1. Decide how you’re going to promote the products you choose. Amazon provides ad scripts that you can run on a blog or website. You can get links to use in email as well.
  2. Build traffic. All affiliate income does best with a large, steady stream of targeted traffic. There are many easy and affordable ways to get people to visit your blog or website.
  3. Make product recommendations fit with your website topic. If you blog about surviving zombies, don't have a link to tulip ​bulbs, unless tulips repel zombies.
  4. Choose products carefully. Don't promote something you wouldn't buy or don't like just to make money. It will backfire and cause you to lose credibility with your website visitors. People are more likely to buy products you personally recommend. If you don't have experience with the product, be sure to check out reviews to see what other people's experience with it is.
  5. Include multiple links and linkable photos in your content. Web readers can be blind to ads. They're more likely to click links and photos within an informative article.
  6. If you’re a blogger, don't forget to include a disclosure that the link is an affiliate link per the FTC blog disclosure guidelines.  While it's the law in the U.S., it's also important to ​​​keeping your readers' faith in you.

Maximizing Sales and Your Amazon Affiliate Income

  1. Write content for your blog or website about picking or buying a product available on Amazon. Now more than ever, people go online to research their buying options. If you're a mom blogger, you can write an article on picking a low-cost vacuum with a link to your top choice or several links to your top choices.  A food blogger can link to cooking tools. A photography site can link to cameras and other photography equipment.
  2. Write reviews of new products. Again, people want to know about items before they invest money in them, especially if they're new and there isn't a lot of information available. 
  3. Write about best-sellers. You can use the best-sellers listed on Amazon, or if you have an affiliate sales history with Amazon, check your stats to see what has sold best in your blog's community.
  4. Promote special offers and sales. This step requires that you watch Amazon for special promotions on products that fit in your website's topic area.
  5. Discuss or promote related products. When you order a burger, you're asked, "Do you want fries with that?" Many items work best or are enhanced with accessories or other products, which you can promote.
  6. Check what other items your referrals are buying. One great feature of the Amazon Associates program is that you get paid on items your referral buys, whether or not they buy the specific item you referred. Amazon stats will let you know what items you referrals bought. If you haven't yet promoted the item, and it's a fit for your blog or website, you should consider adding to your product list.

Affiliate marketing with Amazon and other vendors is a great way to make a living at home. But it takes more than starting a website or blog and posting a few affiliate links. It takes knowing a market’s needs, providing information and resources to meet those needs, and then helping the market find your solutions.