by Juan Robin II
I’m going to get a lot of hate for saying this but I’ll still say it.
Stop obsessing over Amazon Affiliate sites (or ANY kind of affiliate site for that matter)
Seriously! You’re NOT going to make a living out of it especially if you’re a newbie
If you want to build a sustainable, dependable, and long-term business, starting a product/category specific affiliate site that depends solely on Amazon commissions is the WORST piece of advice anyone can give you.
“But Jawad, 10Beasts is a one-man affiliate blog with only a handful of product reviews but it still made hundreds of thousands of dollars before being sold for $500K+”
I know, and I’m seriously happy for the guy.
But you also know that Google penalized 10Beasts for shady backlinks just days after it was sold.
The last time I checked, it had only partially recovered from the penalty and income had dropped massively.
Is another penalty coming soon? Who knows.
If it was your website would you like to spend every waking moment worrying about your income vanishing overnight?
Would you call this a reliable and long-term business model that can grow for years to come?
Is this an example you should emulate?
Should you even call it a business?
Successful businesses are built on solid foundations that allow them to grow with time without risk of going out of business in a flash.
Online businesses are no different.
But first, let me explain my thoughts on Amazon’s Associate program…
(P.S. If you’d like to download a free list of 101 expensive affiliate niches click here or the image below)
Do I Hate Amazon Associates Program?
No, I have nothing personal against Amazon and I’m not saying you shouldn’t use it.
- I think it’s a great way (among many other ways) to monetize your site, provide extra value to your readers and make money at the same time.
- It sells everything under the sun
- People trust Amazon and prefer buying from it
- Amazon is a conversion beast and easily lures people into buying multiple products
I’ve already shared some great examples of affiliate sites monetized with Amazon in my previous posts.
But it’s still just a monetization method. And a monetization method is NOT a business on its own.
It should always come AFTER you’ve identified a specific problem (your niche) and built an engaged audience around it.
It’s foolish to choose a product on Amazon and then find people who’ll buy it from you.
It should always be the other way around. Start by finding a group of people with a problem(s) and THEN find the product(s) that solve their problems.
This is much easier and far more lucrative. You have more opportunities to sell them products when you do it this way.
And here’s the thing…
My problem with Amazon ONLY affiliate sites is that they scream “GIVE ME YOUR MONEY”.
They usually don’t give value to the end user or make the internet a better place.
The “reviews” are usually just made up and based on no personal experience in order to net an affiliate commission, which can actually get you sued as some mattress affiliate site owners found out recently.
The average Amazon site owner barely makes any money from a site like this. Sure $500 a month is nice but you’ll never be able to change your life with that, will you?
And it takes the same amount of work to make $500, $5,000 or $50,000 per month assuming you choose the right business model. An “Amazon-Only affiliate site” is not one.
Seriously, I want you to make real money, not just dream about it or discuss it in forums and Facebook Groups.
And on top of that, I want you to build something you’re proud of and make a difference in the world with a genuine problem-solving business that makes peoples lives better not just tricks them into buying products from your fake “reviews” of products you’ve never used.
Curious about my reasons and what I suggest instead?
What You’ll Learn In This Post
- Why Amazon Associates is not a business model at all
- Why starting a product-specific site is a bad idea
- How the most successful affiliate sites minimize their risk
- How you can create a longterm online business
1. You Have No Control Over an Amazon Affiliate Business
No matter how big your business gets, you’ll always be living on rented land if your business is completely dependent on someone else. It can be brought to the ground with a single algorithm change or a policy update.
That’s one of the biggest risks of starting an Amazon-specific affiliate blog.
The sole purpose of Amazon sites is to generate traffic and earn commissions from Amazon. As a result, their design, content and traffic sources are developed keeping Amazon in mind.
But what if Amazon pulls the plug on its affiliate program?
Or excludes your product category from its affiliate program?
Or reduces its already feeble commission rates even more?
Last year when Amazon revised its affiliate commissions, there was panic all over the web.
You could see articles like these everywhere
There was panic in Facebook groups
And people were looking for alternatives
But there are also some other kinds of disasters you can face if your business relies ONLY on Amazon.
Even experienced marketers can be victims.
The whole Amazon affiliate site model involves so many variables that it’s not even right to call it a business model at all.
As a newbie, investing so much time and effort in building something so unreliable is foolish, to say the least.
If you put the same amount of time and effort into a more sustainable site you can build something longterm instead of having to start from scratch when the inevitable happens and your traffic and ranking drops or Amazon cut their commission rate again.
Which takes me onto my next point…
2. Amazon Review Sites Rarely Provide Value To Users
Let’s be honest.
How many product review sites have you seen that actually focus on helping people buy the right products that fit their needs?
How many of them recommend products based on personal experiences and sample tests?
Sure there are high-quality review sites like TheWireCutter and BestReviews that make millions of dollars every year just by publishing Amazon product reviews.
But have you seen their content and the process they follow to create reviews?
Unlike one-man affiliate sites that curate content from all over the web and rewrite it to create product reviews, the posts published on sites like TheWireCutter and BestReviews are written after extensive testing by their dedicated staff.
They have dozens of writers and testers who personally check and try every feature of a product in their testing labs before reviewing it.
Do you think you can compete with them?
Most Amazon affiliate sites don’t even bother creating original content, you know that.
I recently researched more than 100 Amazon affiliate sites for a project and found that only a handful provided any real value to their readers.
Most of them were just commission focused niche sites publishing rehashed content that made no sense.
Like this one
And this one
Both these sites are dedicated to two different product categories on Amazon.
All their content is copied/spun from other sites and gives absolutely ZERO value to the readers.
They’re clearly designed for search engines.
But even if they are getting a few hundred visitors from Google Search right now, it won’t last for long because of copied content, poor user engagement, and high bounce rate.
These are not isolated examples.
You can easily find hundreds of them because most newbies think that how an Amazon site should look like.
Why is this such a big deal?
Because successful businesses make money by offering value to their customers.
If yours isn’t, it won’t survive for long.
So do you want to make real, life-changing money, and help people at the same time?
Or just throw together some low-quality garbage designed to trick people into giving you some money?
I know you want to help people and make money ethically. It’s hard to do that if you’re creating an Amazon site where you are reviewing products you’ve never used.
And that takes me nicely to point 3…
3. The 24 Hour Cookie Period Limits Your Revenue
For all your hard work in creating content, generating traffic and sending your website visitors to Amazon, you get only a 24-hour window in which your referrals need to make a purchase on Amazon.
Any products purchased by YOUR referrals AFTER 24 hours of visiting Amazon for the first time through your link, won’t earn you any commission.
This greatly reduces your revenue opportunities especially if you’re promoting high-priced or complex products that people don’t usually purchase on their first visit.
In comparison, other retail affiliate programs like Jet, Walmart, and Target offer cookie periods from 3 to 7 days.
You might argue that Amazon converts better than all other retail sites, and you’re right.
Again, I’m not asking you to completely abandon Amazon.
Just reduce your reliance on them by diversifying your income sources.
For example, why limit yourself to just physical products when you can leverage other affiliate networks to promote digital and subscription-based products as well. Many of them pay as much as 75-100% recurring commissions.
The only way your Amazon cookie duration can be increased is if your referral adds a product to cart instead of just visiting the product page through your link.
In that case, the cookie duration increases to 90 days ONLY for the products that the referral added to cart within the first 24 hours of his visit.
Unnecessarily complex and greedy, I know.
And point 4 explains why Amazon isn’t a long term option and what you can do instead…
(P.S. If you’d like to download a free list of 101 expensive affiliate niches click here or the image below)
4. It’s Not a Long-Term Business Model
Short-sightedness is one of the most common newbie mistakes.
They’re attracted to quick and easy cash making methods instead of long-term businesses.
Amazon provides neither, yet most newbies kick off their internet marketing journeys with it because the so-called “niche marketing experts” say so.
Yet many of these “experts” either still work day jobs as they don’t make enough from their Amazon review sites to quit their 9 to 5.
Or they know their Amazon Associates income is not sustainable because of Google algorithm changes and potential Amazon commission cuts or bans.
Some of them tell you to build Amazon Affiliate sites when they themselves don’t actually build Amazon Affiliate sites.
So why are you even listening to these “experts”?
Out of all the super affiliates, top-level marketers and experts I know, very few run “Amazon Affiliate Sites” or even use the Amazon affiliate program at all.
As I said earlier, Amazon affiliate sites rely on so many external variables that it’s foolish to depend solely on it as a monetization method.
For example, you’ve nowhere to go if
- Your product is no longer available on Amazon
- Your ranking drops for the main keywords
- The demand for your products decreases
- Most of your referrals take more than 24 hours to purchase
- You realize that your product/category selection was wrong from the first day
- Amazon bans your account
Plus, since most affiliate sites never bother to build their email subscriber base, it’s very hard to get repeat customers.
There’s a reason why most exact match domains (BestBabyStrollers.com, BestDroneCamera.com, BestSurvivalKnife.com etc.) lead to websites that don’t exist anymore.
Even “niche site” experts are not immune to this. Remember what happened to the niche sites of Spencer Haws (NichePursuits.com)?
Yep, they all got hit by a Google penalty eliminating his income overnight and now none of them exist.
If the “niche marketing experts” aren’t immune to it what makes you think you will be?
All of these sites last for a few months or a few years at best (this is so rare!) before they get hit by a Google penalty, stop ranking, or get abandoned because they aren’t making enough money to be worth continuing with.
An Amazon specific site is like a house built on a sinkhole.
You never know when it’s going down.
Oh, and that reminds me the next point is something you need to consider…
5. You’re Completely Dependent on Search Traffic
I don’t have the exact statistics, but among all the top selling affiliate sites I researched on Flippa and dozens of others that I found during research for my previous NicheHacks post, hardly 10% were actively building email lists or growing their social media following.
The overwhelming majority was completely dependent on organic traffic from Google Search.
This itself is a disastrous and an extremely short-term strategy for any business.
Because when you’re completely dependent on Google Search for traffic, you’re actually fighting for one of the top 3 spots in the search listings since they get more than 60% of the clicks.
And beyond the first page, it doesn’t matter where you rank, you’ll hardly get any traffic to your site.
I love this quote by Brian Clark
“The best place to hide a dead body is page 2 of Google Search results”
Getting to the first page for any high traffic keyword is hard.
Making it to the top 3 is even harder.
But staying there for a long time is nearly impossible.
Even if it wasn’t, no smart business depends on just one traffic source.
But most Amazon affiliate sites do, putting them at great risk.
And how do you even plan to rank your site when no one is going to link to your content?
Which brings me onto point 6…
6. Amazon Review Sites Rarely Earn Natural Backlinks
I am a full-time blogger and contribute to many leading blogs and online publications like HubSpot, MarketingProfs, Business.com, Adweek etc.
As a result, I regularly get emails from people who’re willing to pay me big bucks just to include a backlink to their site in one of my blog posts.
But in most cases I can’t, even if I want to (I’ve received offers of as much as $1200 for a single backlink).
Because most of them are Amazon specific niche sites looking to build backlinks to their product reviews from high authority publications.
Understandably, most A-list blogs don’t allow linking to such sites because they’re mostly irrelevant and lack quality content.
Building or earning natural backlinks is pretty hard for Amazon affiliate sites because most of them don’t publish anything other than product reviews. So it makes no sense for high authority blogs to link to them.
As a result, most affiliate blogs turn to shady backlinking strategies like PBNs, linking from own Web 2.0 properties, paying big bucks to guest bloggers and the infamous scholarship links.
If you’re doing this, Google is going to catch you sooner or later.
10Beasts, which got stripped of all its rankings because of excessive scholarship links, is a recent example.
So again, how long-term are you thinking?
Oh, chances are you’re already breaking many of Amazon’s rules without realizing it…
7. Amazon’s Affiliate Policies are Complex and Change Frequently
How’d it feel to get banned from Amazon Associates with thousands of dollars trapped in your account?
Because they somehow violated Amazon’s affiliate terms and conditions.
But why blame Amazon for this?
Because Amazon’s T&C are pages upon pages of content full of minute details and legalities that are often hard to understand for an average user.
As a result, you might get banned for doing something that was previously allowed or a minor issue that could’ve been solved if they had sent a warning email, like in the case of Dennis (snapshot above)
So you need to clearly understand the things you cannot do as an Amazon Associate because they’re quite merciless when it comes to banning accounts.
Again, not the most solid foundation for a long-term business.
And how do you even plan to supplement your income let alone life changing income on penny commissions…
8. Amazon’s Commission Rates are Pathetically Low
The thing that has always bothered me about Amazon Associates is the seriously low commissions it offers.
You’ll need to attract thousands of visitors and generate hundreds of referral sales to have any chance of making a minimum viable income.
But if the commission rates weren’t already bad enough, Amazon recently revised its commission structure for many product categories and lowered them even further.
Good luck building a long-term business promoting video games on Amazon.
As a newbie, the odds are seriously stacked against you.
Why put in so much effort to build an Amazon-specific site that makes you pennies?
And point 9 leads me to the biggest problem of all when it comes to Amazon sites…
9. You Can’t Promote Affiliate Offers With Email Marketing
Email subscribers are the number one source of recurring revenue for most online businesses.
In the U.S alone, more than 66% of online consumers (15 years or older) made a purchase in the last 12 months because of a marketing email.
Most Amazon affiliates, though, never make full use of this critical marketing channel.
As a matter of policy, Amazon does not allow affiliates to directly send referral links in an email.
The best you can do is to send over links to your latest product reviews or blog posts that contain your referral links.
This is why you’ll rarely find any Amazon-specific niche sites, even the successful ones, actively building their email subscriber base.
Such a big drawback, seriously.
Because it discourages you from building an email list – an online marketer’s biggest asset.
The REAL money in business, both offline or online, is in the follow up with prospects to turn them into new customers.
And following up with existing customers to get them to make repeat purchases.
No real business can survive on one-off sales.
Most people just won’t buy the first time they encounter you or your business. Especially online where everyone is naturally skeptical and doesn’t trust strangers.
Don’t just take my word for it, a study by ProppellerCRM (a tool for sales marketing professionals) found that 82% of customers viewed 5 or more pieces of content on a website before buying anything.
And that people who you followed up with were 20% more likely to buy from you.
A study by FiveStars Marketing found that more than 50% of businesses revenue came from repeat custom and not new customers. With existing customers being worth up to 10x as much as a new customer.
So why are you not trying to make repeat sales?
Without an email list you can’t do any of this and because of it, you’re loosing out on lots of easy money.
All your email list has to do is send your visitors back to your money making content and instantly you’re increasing the chance of someone buying from your affiliate link.
Now you know what you’re doing wrong, here’s how to do things correctly…
The Alternative Approach: Think Long-Term Build a Brand That Solves Problems
Here’s how you can do it no matter what stage of your career you’re at.
1. Identify a Niche You’re Passionate About
“Sell a good night’s sleep, not the mattress”
I don’t remember where I read this, but it hits the bullseye as far as your business philosophy is concerned.
Every successful business is based on a well-defined problem.
You make money by solving that problem.
In internet marketing terms, it’s called your niche.
Start a blog, a website, an e-commerce store (or any other platform) once you’ve identified the core problems of your niche.
Your job is to build an audience around that problem and, once you have enough people to target, promote products that solve that problem.
That’s how you make money the right way.
That’s when people not only buy from you but also thank you for sending them the right products.
And guess what
We’ve already done the hard work for you by thoroughly researching more than 1781 profitable niches for you.
We’ve listed everything from the core problems of every niche to their top keywords and the products you can promote from Amazon and other sites.
If you still can’t make up your mind, try Stuart’s eBook “Find Your Perfect Niche in 7 Easy Steps” in which he has broken down the whole process for you.
In short, start your affiliate marketing business with a clearly defined problem, not a product.
2. Solve Problems With Highly Actionable Content
Developing an online business requires patience (a LOT of it)
Before you can start making money you need to earn the trust of your target audience and become their go-to niche expert.
Publishing useful, accurate, and highly actionable content is one of the best ways to do that.
Find the most common questions of your audience and then answer them one by one in your blog posts.
Don’t publish content just for search traffic.
Make every blog post a comprehensive answer to your audience’s questions.
Add lots of stats, snapshots, numbers and back your arguments with data evidence.
This will not only make your content much more credible to your audience but also significantly increase your chances of earning natural backlinks from high authority blogs.
MinimalistBaker is a great example of this.
The blog makes a major chunk of its revenue from Amazon Associates, but instead of publishing product reviews or comparisons, its content is focused on quick and easy vegan recipes.
TheMilitaryWallet is another good example.
The blog owner knows his audience (military veterans) and regularly publishes comprehensive and detailed blog posts that address veteran issues.
You can find many more examples in this post.
Every piece of content you publish becomes a business asset. Keep doing it consistently and you’ll have a solid foundation on which to build a thriving online business.
3. Build Your Subscriber Base from Day 1
Almost all conventional affiliate sites ignore email list building because their sole focus is on growing their organic traffic.
Needless to say that’s a highly flawed approach.
If you’re not building an email subscriber base, you’re not building a business.
It’s as simple as that.
Successful businesses are built on repeat customers who not only purchase from you frequently but also bring in referrals and spread the word about you.
You can’t have such customers if you’re only focused on search traffic that visits your site once and never comes back again.
This study by eMarketer backs my claim.
More than 81% small business marketers in the US not only consider email the number one customer acquisition channel but also the most effective way to retain customers.
So no matter what niche you target, start building an email list now.
It opens up SO many possibilities for you to connect with your target audience, strengthen your relationship with them, and make more money.
4. Reduce Your Reliance on Search Traffic
Why would any sensible person build an online business that is COMPLETELY dependent on search traffic?
I’m not denying the importance of Google Search, but you need to actively diversify your traffic sources to reduce your dependence on the big G.
WhatMomsLove is a brilliant example of a diversified traffic profile
More than 70% of their traffic comes from their email list, Pinterest profile and Instagram profile.
EveryDayCarry is another affiliate site with just over 30% traffic coming from Google. The rest comes directly or from their email list and social media profiles.
Even if Google penalizes these sites and strips them off its SERPS, it won’t cause a huge dent to their overall business performance.
That’s how smart marketers work.
Google is a great source of traffic when it’s working.
Use it to build your brand’s assets (email list, social media profiles) while the traffic is still flowing in.
5. Diversify Your Income With Multiple Monetization Methods
When you create an Amazon specific affiliate site that only publishes product comparisons and reviews, your growth prospects are fairly limited.
But when you think big, create a site around well-defined problems. And publish useful content that answers the questions of your target audience, there are unlimited ways you can make money.
You don’t need to limit yourself to just Amazon, there are dozens of other affiliate networks and monetization methods.
MakingSenseOfCents is one of the best examples of this strategy.
This blog is owned by Michelle who has been sharing personal finance and money making tips for the last few years in her blog posts.
She makes more than $100K every single month, but income distribution is so impressive that she’s not dependent on any single revenue source.
She has published hundreds of posts on her blog and built a huge subscriber base. As a result, she now makes money using the following methods.
- Amazon Associates
- Google AdSense
- Digital Products/Courses
- Affiliate promotions for different software products
- Personal coaching
It doesn’t matter if Amazon bans her from its affiliate program or if one of her affiliate partners goes away. She has just too many options to make money.
That’s the kind of site I want you to make.
OhSheBlogs is another blog you can emulate
From affiliate marketing and personal coaching to Google AdSense and digital products, this blog does it all
But of course, it all happens with time.
When your audience trusts you it’ll buy the products you refer from ANY site or create yourself.
In the early days of ProBlogger, Darren Rowse asked himself a question that changed his business forever.
“Is there a single thing that could kill my business right now?”
Back then, more than 90% of Darren’s income was coming from Google AdSense.
But after realizing his mistake, he started diversifying his income and traffic sources straight away.
In 2018, ProBlogger has so many ways to make money, it won’t make a difference if a couple of advertisers leave them.
Darren applied the same strategy to his affiliate site, Digital Photography School.
DPS started as a typical Amazon affiliate site publishing reviews of digital camera and photography accessories.
However, it gradually diversified its income and traffic sources and is now a well-known brand in the digital photography space that does not rely on one any single revenue or traffic source.
That’s what you should aim to achieve as well.
(P.S. If you’d like to download a free list of 101 expensive affiliate niches click here or the image below)
Are You Ready To Build Your Online Business the RIGHT WAY?
I hope I’ve made it clear that I don’t consider Amazon Associates anything more than a monetization method.
It’s not a business model on which you can solely rely.
There are MUCH bigger and better things to look forward to.
So think of Amazon as just one of MANY other monetization methods you can apply once you create a site that addresses a well-defined problem and answers the most pressing questions of your audience.
That’s the only path to a sustainable and long-term online business.
I’m eager to hear your thoughts in the comments.