Review

Amazon's Associate Program

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Review of Amazon's Associate Program

(Review prepared - February 2005)
Recommended

Quick Summary

  • Help sell books and other products from your web site and earn commission
  • Overall rating - recommended
  • Visit Amazon.com

Review

Amazon.com is perhaps known as a great place to buy books, although they also sell many other products such as music CDs, DVDs, software, electronics, video games, toys, cameras and more (even kitchenware and home/garden stuff).

Amazon.com's associate program (For Amazon "associate program" is their word for "affiliate program") is a free opportunity where you can make money by helping sell these products from your web site. For books, using the "classic" (more on this in a moment) referral fee structure you earn 15% commission for books you help sell as a result of direct links from your site, and 5% commission for books that the customer buys by surfing around at Amazon after following your link. Commission rates for other products may vary.

In the last couple of years or so, Amazon.com have introduced a choice of commission structures, and you get to choose which commission structure before the start of each quarter. The choice is between the "classic" commission structure, which pays at the rates Amazon.com have always paid, and a "tiered" structure where your commissions can be raised by reaching certain targets. Sometimes the tiered commission structure has also placed additional requiremenets on affiliates - and I myself have found this confusing (I personally would much prefer if Amazon simply had one commission structure - the classic - and allowed you to potentially earn more, perhaps as bonuses, by meeting various targets that they could set for the quarter - and I can't really understand why Amazon has done things the way that they have chosen to).

Amazon.com provides affiliates with a range of powerful linking options, including (among others) options to link to individual products, to their home page, and various ad panels which can show targeted offers from particular categories at Amazon.com.

Amazon.com also now have a truly excellent affiliate area with many features for affiliates, including powerful reporting functions, link generators, tons of information and even discussion boards for affiliates.

Another strength of Amazon.com's associate program is their Web Services API (Update 2009: Now called "Product Advertising API") This allows you (with the appropriate scripts installed on your site, such as Cusimano's CGI Script) to automatically search and retrieve the latest Amazon products, and place them on your web site.

On the negative side, Amazon.com's associate program does have a number of drawbacks when compared to some other affiliate programs:
  • Commissions are paid quarterly (many other affiliate programs pay monthly).

  • Amazon does not use cookies to give you credits for sales from customers return visits or bookmarks to Amazon - you only earn commission if the customer buys in the same browser session. While, I find this understandable given Amazon's other online and offline marketing efforts, no doubt some affiliates would surely feel that they ought to get commission of more sales.

  • There are links on Amazon's web site (for example, Internet search and so on), which you do not each commission on. Again, some affiliates may find it annoying that they send visitors to Amazon, and those visitors can be offered options which don't generate the affiliate a commission.
Negative points aside though, Amazon's program does work, and associate traffic, does in our experience, affiliate track can earn commissions. Of course, as the percentage commissions can be quite low (which is unsurprising as I doubt there is a massive profit margin for Amazon on many of their products), you will need to sell a lot of stuff, if you want to make a large commission per quarter.

Finally, I ought to quickly point out that Amazon's international sites (Japan, Germany, UK, etc.) have separate associate programs, which, if you're interested in them, you'll need to join separately. Although the broad strokes of the international sites' associate programs may be similar to Amazon.com, the details may vary - so you'll also need to check each of the international sites separately.

Conclusions

Amazon.com's Associate program is a long-running well-establish affiliate program. It's easy to use, and affiliate support is excellent.

The Web Services interface is an incredibly powerful feature for associates which allows them to build content and maintain current ads with ease. (But remember you will need a script of some sort - for example: Cusimano's CGI Script - if you want to exploit this particular feature).

The vast range of different products at Amazon.com means that regardless of the topic of your web site, you should be to find suitable matching products to link to.

I won't pretend that it is easy to earn absolutely massive commissions from Amazon. To do so, requires that you sell a lot of products, which in turn probably requires that you are able to generate massive traffic.

However, with a bit of effort, I think that many webmasters should be able to earn steady commissions, which form a nice additional stream of income from their web sites.

My overall rating is therefore recommended.

Visit Amazon.com (then look for Associate Program), for more information.


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