Amazon’s Affiliate Program Reviewed

Here’s a very bad idea. Give a bike to a child who’s never ridden one and and have them ride alone down a street. In the famously hilly city of San Francisco. In the pouring rain. During rush hour.

Think this is going to end well?

Probably not.

Thinking about it, the whole scenario is so insane that it’s practically laughable. Like something out of a movie. Or perhaps something from one of those new, purposely offensive R-rated comedies. 

Any comedy ends, though, when we view this as an analogy. In that context, the whole scenario isn’t very funny.

Amazon Affiliate Marketers Are Like That Child

Thinking in those terms, the child on the bike is painfully similar to many beginner online entrepreneurs. For starters, both have been encouraged into action by others. The child may have been spurred into action by a mean-spirited older sibling or even an overly optimistic parent. The budding online entrepreneur, in turn, might also have been motivated by a parent. Or maybe it was a personal desire that pushed them. The entrepreneur might desire, for example, to “finally make something of myself”. With the exception of the mean-spirited older sibling, these are all valid motivations.

The problem, though, for both the child and the entrepreneur lies in the lack of prior experience. Both individuals are trying to succeed at tasks which require experience. In the child’s case, riding a bicycle can be challenging enough. But with hurdles like a hilly city, rush hour traffic, and rain; advance experience is essential. Without such experience, the child is going to have a very eventful day, one that ends with doctors and new parents.

The same is true for the entrepreneur. They must also possess prior experience before attempting to “swim upstream” and build an online business.

By “swimming upstream”, we’re referring again to making major commitments like quitting one’s job. Those are decisive strokes. The kind that even an established online entrepreneur might refrain from.

Rather than attempting to swim upstream, budding online entrepreneurs should focus on going with the current. At least initially. Swim with the online “river” for a while. This will allow you to gain an understanding of its flow. You’ll then have a fighting chance, if trying to to swim upstream later. You won’t drown and you may just reach your goal on the riverbank.

Speaking of rivers, one of the best ways for you to gain experience online is named after a river. It’s a certain website, often described as “Earth’s biggest store”.

Yes, you guessed it. That website is


For anyone just dipping their toes into online commerce, Amazon offers a great, low-risk way to get started. It’s the equivalent of training wheels and good guidance for the child on the bicycle. Amazon’s offering is its affiliate program (“Amazon Associates”). Here’s a link to check it out –

Follow the link and you’ll find a complete description of the program.

For those too lazy to read Amazon’s lengthy, lawsuit-proof text; here’s the affiliate program in a nutshell. As an affiliate, you can select from nearly anything in Amazon’s catalog. Amazon’s selection is as wide as the Amazon river, so there’s bound to be something that appeals to you. Choose from products, categories, banners, and search-result pages. After you’ve made your selection, you can then paste links to the desired items elsewhere.

One possible place to paste your links would be on an Amazon niche site you’ve built. Imagine for example, that you have a site reviewing video games. Your site would be a natural fit for Amazon because Amazon has no shortage of hot video game products. You could review these products and then post links to their Amazon pages. This would enable people who read your reviews to then buy the desired video game. And of course, it would also enable you to get paid.

On that matter, payment, Amazon pays you an advertising fee. Your fees are based on what Amazon describes as “qualifying purchases”. Those purchases occur when people follow your links and buy off Amazon.

Keep in mind that the total value of a purchase does not include things like shipping, taxes, or credit card processing fees. Your earnings are based strictly on a given item’s base monetary value.

From this value, Amazon will pay you an affiliate rate (percent) depending on the product category. In our video game example, Amazon would pay you a one percent advertising fee rate. So if a video game retailed for $19.95, you would earn about twenty cents.

One percent? Twenty cents?

How is that possible? These figures seem to conflict with a recent article on the Human Proof blog. That article showed Human Proof’s founder Bryon earning $879 from Amazon affiliates, in just the month of October. Plus, hasn’t this post said that being an Amazon affiliate is easy?

There’s an explanation to all of this. It lies in the difference between easy and profitable. Amazon affiliate sites are indeed an easy first step for aspiring online entrepreneurs. You can easily post links on your niche site, on Facebook, in a custom Amazon store (“astore”), and in many other formats.

What isn’t nearly as easy is making huge amazon affiliate commissions. This is where the issue of profitability comes into play. As we’ve seen with the video games example, Amazon isn’t exactly doling out huge affiliate commissions. Admittedly, the 1% commission is on the lower end. You can earn higher commissions for other products. Headphones, for example, will fetch you a 6% Amazon affiliate commission. Industrial products are even better, offering an 8% commission. And at the very upper end, you could earn a 10% commission off a few categories like game downloads.

You also get a performance based commission structure, where the more items you refer (sell), the more you get paid:


Still, even with a 10% commission, a product’s own price may prevent you from getting rich. You could have that problem with a game download that cost two dollars. Here, the ten percent commission would leave you with a whopping twenty cents. You’d be no richer than with the video game products, despite earning a higher commission.

Low Amazon Commissions? – Go For Volume

Now before you get discouraged, consider volume. You could still succeed, in spite of the low commissions, if you had enough volume. If you could get ten people to download the video game through your link, the commission would buy you a cup of coffee. Going further, suppose you could get ten people to do this every day. That would allow you to get your caffeine fix on a daily basis. And if you could “automate” this, through alternative traffic methods…well that would mean a free cup of coffee every day, that you don’t have to work for.

Does that restore your faith in Amazon’s affiliate program? Even if you’re not a coffee drinker, you can hopefully see ways of profiting from the program.

..Or Go For High-Ticket Items

Volume is one definite way to rake in profit. You could also flip the equation and focus on transaction size. An approach like this would work with industrial equipment. Run a quick search on Amazon for industrial equipment and you may come face-to-face with the “WTC 200 Cyclic Corrosion Test Chamber”.

We couldn’t tell you what this thing does. But we can tell you that it’s not cheap. At $39,620, this is one pricey product. It’s also an opportunity for the right Amazon affiliate. Recall how the industrial products category paid an 8% commission. That translates into approximately $3,170. A far cry from twenty cents. Enough to buy you quite a few cups of coffee too.

Opportunities like the WTC 200 are out there if you look for them. That’s another benefit of using the Amazon affiliate program. As an affiliate, you have access to an awe-inspiring depth of products in Amazon’s catalog. Millions and millions of products to choose from. Some of these products may make you WTC 200-level money. Others may make you a “twenty cent-illionaire”. But whatever you do, you’ve got options.

You’ve also got the backing of one of the internet’s strongest brands. Linking to Amazon is nothing like linking to BizarreSiteNoOne’ In contrast to the latter, which represents lesser known sites; Amazon is trusted and well-known, and it's no wonder some people make a full-time income off Amazon.

Use Amazon's Reputation To Your Advantage

Most web users have either made a purchase from Amazon or they are at least comfortable with the idea of doing so. Being an affiliate allows you to use this trust and brand awareness to your advantage. As you promote products, you won’t face the uphill battle of convincing people to buy from a site they’ve never heard of. Your primary challenge will lie in getting people interested in your promoted products.

Another, albeit lesser challenge you’ll face is the issue of cookies. Cookies are an area where Amazon seems to simultaneously empower and weaken its affiliates. On one hand, Amazon empowers its sellers with a universal cookie. The universal cookie allows you to track sales from anything on the site. Whatever you promote, wherever it is on Amazon’s gargantuan site; you’ll be rewarded when someone buys it. There’s no risk of your cookie getting lost in billions of site pages or confused with another affiliate’s cookie.

That’s the good news with cookies.

The bad news is that Amazon’s cookie only lasts for twenty-four hours. During that time, if someone follows your link to an Amazon product page and buys the product, you’ll get the amazon affiliate commission. The cookie will link the sale to you the affiliate. But if the sale comes after this twenty-four hour window, the cookie will have expired. You won’t get credit for the sale because Amazon’s cookie won’t be able to tell that the sale came from your link.

The exception here is in cases where someone has already added a product to their cart. As Human Proof’s founder Bryon points out, Amazon offers a ninety day cookie for products that are in the cart but haven’t been bought. The ninety day cookie is helpful when you’ve gotten people interested enough to add an item to their cart. That’s arguably the hardest part of the sale and Amazon knows it. Their ninety day cookie gives a shopper enough time to complete their purchase, regardless of how many ringing telephones and screaming children keep interrupting the shopper.

Knowing all of this, you now have a choice to make. At least if you’re new to making money online. Will you dive head-long into an online business, quitting your job or making some other “all in” commitments to the new venture? Or will you take the child with the bicycle analogy to heart and get experience before trying to swim upstream? As this post has made clear, we recommend the latter. If you do choose that course, Amazon’s affiliate program is an excellent way to gain experience and build up your personal “confidence bank”.

Let's Get You Moving Forward

For more information on Amazon affiliates, check out Dom's excellent article on it. His article will help you to further understand what we’ve talked about here. You can also check out some of Human Proof’s own ready-to-go sites. Browsing these sites will allow you to see specific examples of the kinds of sites you could build. Here are links to a few of those examples, in categories such as Smart Watches and Pools & Hot Tubs.

Have a look at those sites. Then let us know in the comments, how you plan to get started on Amazon affiliates.

Further reading: How To Use Amazon Affiliates In India

4 thoughts on “Amazon’s Affiliate Program Reviewed”

  1. So, I have been working as SEO executive and I always wanted to learn more in this particular field thus, I searched a lot. While going through a lot of articles I realized that Content plays an essential role in SEO and therefore your article helped me shape my mind and I knew I had to learn the tips and tricks to perfect my content, thank you for your article. Also, I would like to share that I learned amazing tips and tricks in a Digital Marketing Course in Delhi by Digital Marketing Institute, you guys can surely check that out and you will get a good idea from this particular article too.

  2. This was an interesting read. I use Amazon associates program. I completely agree with what you have mentioned above. I think a proper strategy is required to earn a decent amount from affiliate marketing. Looking forward to more such informative articles.

  3. So if amazon is analogous to riding with training wheels, which niche – or IM method – would be equivalent to the toddler cruising down the wet streets of San Fran? Just curious 🙂

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