I started my first profitable Amazon affiliate niche site back in the Summer of 2012. A few months later, I met my future wife.
While we were dating, I told her that “Someday, in the future, I’m going to make us a lot of money from my blog.”
I don’t think she believed me. And she probably had good reason not to, too…
At the time, I was broke. I didn’t have a college degree and I was just working a low-paying part-time job. My niche site was just getting started and while I was confident (perhaps blindly) that I could start earning money from the blog, to others, especially my wife, I’m sure the idea sounded silly.
Quitting My Job to Go Full-Time on My Niche Sites
Five months later, though, my site took off and I started making three times as much in Amazon affiliate commission as I was making at my part-time job. So, I decided to quit my part-time job to pursue my blog full-time.
Since then I have built multiple profitable niche sites/blogs and my monthly income has continued to increase.
To date, I have sold well over $15.5 million in products (click here for proof through January 2016) as an Amazon affiliate (note, though, that that number isn’t my commission) and that number keeps going up every day.
Want to start your own profitable blog? Click here to join my FREE course to go through my exact step-by-step process for starting, building, and growing a profitable niche site!
Now My Goal is to Help You Build A Profitable Blog
Ultimately, my family and I have been incredibly blessed. And, now, if possible, I’d like to try and pass that blessing along by sharing with you what I’ve learned in my time as an Amazon affiliate.
Hopefully my experiences will give you some insight into how the Amazon Associates program works, how you can improve the way you use the program, and how you can make more money from the program.
What follows is a list of things that I have learned while participating in the Associates program…
1. Finding the Right Keywords is Everything
If you’re going to build an Amazon Affiliate niche site, your first major step is to find a product (or group of related products) to build your site around.
Keywords are everything when it comes to building niche sites, because your whole goal is to rank high for the popular keywords relevant to your site’s topic.
And for Amazon-affiliate-based niches sites, the keywords you want to rank for are product-based keywords. (Like, best TVs, or cheap refrigerators, etc.)
So, if you have a product (or group of products) in mind to start your Amazon-affiliate site around, before you jump in, you need to determine whether or not there are enough people searching for the keywords that are related to that product.
There are many tools out there that will allow you to do that. Google’s Keyword Planner is a free tool that works… but is somewhat limited in the grand scheme of things. However, in my opinion, SEMRush is the best keyword research tool currently available.
For the most part, though, you want to search for keywords related to your product, check and see how much estimated traffic they are getting, see how many other related keywords there are to your main keyword, and then check how much competition there is for those keywords.
Using SEMRush to Find Hidden Gems
Where SEMRush shines that Google’s Keyword Planner fails, is that in SEMRush you can enter in a competitor’s URL and find every keyword they are ranking for and what position they are ranking for each of those keywords.
This is absolutely monumental, because aside from the more obvious keywords you should be targeting, there are often more less obscure keywords that you may not have discovered during your initial keyword research. And, you can uncover these kinds of keywords through SEMRush by seeing what your competitors are ranking for.
For instance, this is how I used SEMRush to find low-competition keywords with solid search estimates…
- First, I would search input a product-related keyword in Google. (Like best refrigerators)
- Then, I would go to the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and beyond pages of the results.
- Next I would make a list of sites that might be lower quality that are showing up on those deeper pages of the search results.
- Then, I would run those sites through AHREFS or Open Site Explorer to check how authoritative they are.
- If any have high domain authority, I will get rid of them. If they don’t I’ll keep them.
- Then, I would enter the remaining sites’ URLs into SEMRush.
- SEMRush will tell me all of the keywords those sites are ranking for as well as what position they are.
- If they are ranking in the top 10 for any keywords that have a few hundred or more searches per month, I will log that keyword in a spreadsheet and continue my search.
- Then I will set out to write content for all of those keywords.
This process is simple and easy to explain…
(For the short version, continue reading. For the longer version, check out the full SEMRush case study I just put up on how I used this method.)
Essentially what I’m doing is looking for low-quality sites that are ranking high for keywords with a lot of potential. The theory is that, if a low-quality site is ranking for a high-potential keyword, there is a huge opportunity there for me to go in and create a better piece of content, rank for that keyword, and make more money.
I’ve used this strategy with some pretty astounding success. In two cases, I found two different keywords that had really high search volumes, but had a bunch of sub-quality websites ranking in the top 3 for.
I create two really lengthy buyer’s guides around those keywords, threw a few easy-to-get backlinks at them, and within a week I was on page one for those terms. And, where I was making nothing off of those keywords before (because I wasn’t targeting them), both of those guides are now making me an extra $1,000+ each every month.
Now, it should be noted that I was able to achieve these results quickly thanks in large part to my site’s already established authority. If you have a new website and followed this exact process, you probably wouldn’t be able to rank as quickly for those same keywords.
However, even if you do have a new website, you will have a much easier time outranking lower quality sites on these hidden gem keywords, than you will in going after the more broader keywords. And, so this strategy is still great for new sites as well.
But, you need SEMRush (or another similar tool) to find these kinds of opportunities. SEMRush’s basic plan is $100/month—which is fairly expensive. But, seeing as how I couldn’t have found those keywords without SEMRush, in my opinion, the $100 is well worth it (as long as you use the service correctly, of course.)
2. I Use the EasyAzon Plugin to Make My Life Easier
If you do it the hardcore way—which is to go to Amazon, find the product you want to link to, click the “Get Link” button on the grey stripe bar (assuming you’re logged into your Amazon account), switch to the text tab, copy the text link, bring it back to your site, and post it—you will spend a lot of time just creating links.
That’s not even taking into account of whether or not you use and link to product images (and you should) in your buyer guides and product reviews.
Finding pictures, saving them, uploading them into your WordPress editor, and posting them adds even more time.
Fortunately, there is a plugin that can help you significantly reduce the amount of time you spend creating Amazon affiliate links…
And, that is the EasyAzon plugin by Chris Guthrie.
The EasyAzon plugin is one of only 2-3 premium plugins that I use on every affiliate-based niche site that I build, simply because it saves me so much time creating Amazon affiliate links.
EasyAzon does a lot of things, but most notably it allows you to:
- Search for, find, and link to Amazon products right in your WordPress editor
- Pull images from Amazon from the WordPress editor so that you don’t have to save them to your computer and upload them
- Redirects your international visitors to the foreign Amazon sites so that you don’t miss out on sales and commission from your friends overseas (or in Canada.)
These two features alone have made me a lot of money… either in time saved, or by bringing me more commission from the foreign Amazon sites (I make about $1,000 extra from Amazon UK each month because of the plugin.)
There is a free version of EasyAzon but the pro version has a bunch more features, including the ability to pull product images without having to leave your WordPress editor, and the “link localization” feature that allows you to earn commission from your international visitors.
The premium version of the plugin is pretty affordable, too. It’s a one-time payment of $47 and you get every update to the plugin for free. I can’t tell you how many times the plugin has paid itself over at that price.
Ultimately, though, the plugin isn’t absolutely necessary and if you are just starting out you may not want to spend the money on it. And, that is understandable…
However, I’ve found EasyAzon to be highly effective for the system I use and if you want an all-in-one linking solution for Amazon products, this is the one to get.
3. Well-Written, and Lengthy Content is huge…
I think one of the biggest things that has allowed me to find success in Amazon’s affiliate program is the fact that the main pages on my niche sites are extremely long and thorough “buyer’s” guides.
Neil Patel did some research a while back that concluded that the average word count of pages that ranked on the first page of Google for a given search term was a little over 2,000 words.
That seems to point to the fact that if you want to rank on the first page for a specific keyword, one of things you should do is to target that keyword with a piece of content that is at least 2,000 words long.
However, with my niche sites, I like to go above and beyond that. I typically aim to write at least one extensive buyer’s guide per niche site that is at least 7,500 words long. (My two highest earning posts on my highest earning site are ~20,000 words each.) And, these long buyer’s guides are geared toward targeting the main high-traffic keywords in my niche.
My goal is not just to string together a bunch of random nonsense in order to increase the word count of my posts, but rather to so fully cover the topic, that I end up with a monstrous guide that just so happens to have a huge word count.
Let me say that in another way…
My goal is not to write a huge post in hopes of appeasing Google.
Rather, my goal is to write a huge post that answers every possible question my readers could have on the subject and, in doing so, it appeases Google nonetheless. It’s a win-win.
If you’re having some doubts about your ability to produce lengthy and well-written content, let me help you put that notion to rest…
If you’re thinking, “I can’t write 7,500 words on a particular subject…” you’re wrong!
While a big 7,500-word post can’t be scribbled out overnight, I’ve found that it can easily be broken down into tolerable chunks and sections and tackled over the course of a week or less.
And, I’ve also discovered that as long as I am writing a thorough guide on a subject, I should be breaking that guide up into multiple sections and sub-topics anyways.
In fact, if you want to look at it another way, don’t think of it as writing one 7,500-word guide, but rather as writing eight ~1,000-word guides on sub-topics of one larger topic.
The key is to ensure that the article is covering a broad enough subject that there is enough sub-topics to break it down into sections.
You might also be wondering how I’m able to turn these huge guides into posts that earn me Amazon affiliate commission…
The type of buyer’s guide I like to create is basically an extensive list of products recommendations in my niche. In some cases I will also include a complete overview of everything a consumer should consider before buying that type of product.
So, for instance, if my buyer’s guide is on treadmills, at the top of the guide I would put a list of the top treadmills I recommend at various different price points.
For each treadmill I’ll provide a brief overview of what each treadmill offers (tech specs, how it compares to the competition, whether it’s a good value, etc.)\.
Then below the section with the product recommendations, I’ll do a long guide that covers every aspect of buying a treadmill.
If I list 20 treadmills and do a ~300 word overview for each one, that alone will account for 6,000 words.
And, then the guide that covers what to look for in a treadmill can easily be another 3,000-4,000 words long, if not more.
In some cases I separate the long buyer’s guide and the product recommendation into two separate posts because there is already enough content in the product recommendation section alone.
Ultimately, though, it is the product recommendation sections of these buyer’s guide where I make my affiliate commission.
4. If your Site Is Slow and Ugly, You’re Leaving A Lot of Commission Behind
I’ve faced quite a few hurdles and setbacks during my time as an Associate. The first—and perhaps the most important—came just a few months after I started seeing some real success in promoting products on Amazon.
I had just gotten comfortable enough with my earnings to the point to where I decided to quit my part-time job and move in with my wife (before we were married.) And, within a month of quitting my job and moving into a house with a much higher rent payment (as well as adding more bills), my site’s rankings tanked and I started making a lot less money.
So much less money, that it became a real struggle to afford the lifestyle I had just haphazardly jumped into.
I knew I had to get back to the drawing board, and so I took a good long look at my site and set out to improve it.
One of the biggest downfalls of my sites was that it was slow, ugly, and had terrible user engagement metrics. And, back then, Google was just starting to implement page speed as being a major factor in their rankings as well as looking at important stats like bounce rate to determine user engagement.
So, I set out to improve the style and speed of my site.
I did so by switching from a cheap hosting service to dedicated server through StudioPress’ hosting division (called Synthesis). I also switched my theme from an ugly free them I got from the WordPress theme repository to the Genesis Framework (also provided by StudioPress) and one of their premium child themes.
Along with that, I also improved the layout of my posts and lengthened the word count of them to provide a better use experience and better overall content.
My site’s speed increased dramatically, going from a score of below 60 on Google’s Page Speed Insights, to a score of over 80. My bounce rate dropped from 70% to under 60%. The average time visitors spent on my site almost doubled. And, as a result, my rankings not only returned to where they were before, but went higher than ever.
And, all of that lead to a huge breakthrough in earnings.
Why Good Hosting and A Great Theme Can Make A Big Difference
In my free course, I recommend two different hosting options. One of those hosting options is BlueHost.com. I recommend them because they are cheap and, as I have proven, you can make money with your site hosted on a cheap shared service.
And, a lot of people who are just starting out will never stick with their site until it becomes profitable. So, in a lot of ways, recommending that beginners use a cheap hosting service and a free theme is to protect those who will ultimately waste money in setting up their site.
However, as I’ve also proven, if you do reach a level to where you are earning a comfortable monthly income, a cheap host and an ugly theme can actually end up being a hindrance to your earnings.
If you do reach that point, you only have one option and that is to migrate your site to a better hosting company and to re-do the theme of your site.
Of course, if you don’t mind paying more, or even if you are certain that you will stick with your site until the bitter end, you may want to start out of the gates with a better hosting company and a better theme.
And, because I’m biased, my recommendation would be that you go with StudioPress for both your hosting and your WordPress theme.
In fact, you are incredibly lucky in that StudioPress now has “StudioPress Sites” which essentially combines their hosting company, their Genesis framework, and all of their premium themes (among quite a few other impressive features) into one package.
And, the crazy part is that it’s actually not that expensive considering what you are getting. You can either pay $27/month billed quarterly, or $24/month billed annually. It is quite a bit more expensive than BlueHost, but considering that you do get the Genesis framework, a bunch of premium themes to choose from, and a ton of other cool features to go with it, it’s actually well worth the price.
Here is a full list of all of the features that StudioPress Sites comes with:
- Dedicated WordPress hosting
- The Genesis framework
- Instant access to 20 premium StudioPress themes
- Free SSL certificat installation
- One-click install of forums (only available on Commerce plan)
- Membership site functionality (only available on Commerce plan)
That’s an incredible package for the price. Honestly, knowing what I have been through, if I were starting today I would go with a StudioPress Sites package. And, if you are willing to spend a little more, I recommend that you do the same.
Of course, if you want to test the waters of the Amazon affiliate program first before you spend a bit more on your hosting and theme, then you can definitely make a service like BlueHost work until you are ready to upgrade.
5. More Clicks to Amazon Equals More Affiliate Commission
Amazon is the biggest online retailer in the world. Nobody comes close to competing with them.
They’ve poured millions of dollars into building the most reputable online e-commerce website and they’ve spent a lot of time ensuring that their product listings convert well.
What I’ve found in my time as an Amazon affiliate is that if I send Amazon real people on a regular basis (and by that, I mean that they “click” my affiliate link through to Amazon), those people will buy stuff.
I can pretty much guarantee it…
From what I’ve seen with my own niche sites, on average, for every 100 visitors I send to Amazon, about 3-5 of those visitors will buy something.
That number will vary depending on the niche, the products in that niche, and the overall quality of the website.
However, the fact remains that, if you want to be a successful Amazon affiliate, you must send legitimate traffic to Amazon through your affiliate link on a regular basis.
So, aside from building a really solid website and getting a lot of traffic to that website, another goal you should be focusing on is getting more clicks from your site through to Amazon.
How to Get More Clicks to Amazon
In my opinion, there are multiple ways to get more clicks from your site to Amazon…
The first way to get more clicks is to get more traffic. Just like I can guarantee that a certain amount of the people who click my affiliate links will buy something from Amazon, I can also guarantee that a certain amount of my visitors will click through to Amazon.
And, so, it stands to reason that the more traffic I get, the more people I will get to click-through to Amazon. (Which, of course, also means more people will buy something.)
There are a ton of different ways to get more traffic but what they all boil down to is either producing more content, or promoting your content more.
And, really, of those two, promoting your content well is the best way to get more traffic.
Yes, you need content in the first place—and that content should be high quality—but, ultimately, nobody is going to read your content (and click through to Amazon) if they can’t find your content.
If you have good amounts of traffic already, some other ways to get more clicks are…
- Add more affiliate links. Don’t go overboard, but a few affiliate links per review/overview is fine.
- Turn your affiliate links into eye-catching buttons, rather than just using plain text-links. (Need some CSS skills for this, though it’s not difficult.)
- Use affiliate links on product images so that when your readers click on the image they go to Amazon.
The bottom line, though, is that legitimate clicks to Amazon equal more commission. And, so one of my main focuses on making my Amazon affiliate websites more profitable is to figure out ways I can get more people to click-through to Amazon.
And, once you start getting a decent amount of traffic to your niche site, that should be your aim, too.
6. “Best of” Posts Are My Bread and Butter… They Work Better Than Individual Reviews
Currently, I have three pages across all of my websites that are earning me 80-90% of my total monthly income. And, all three of those pages are “Best of” posts that list a bunch of products that can be bought on Amazon.
As I mentioned above, the main pieces of content I look to write are buyer’s guides.
But in reality, my buyer’s guides are effective because they are either soley “Best of” posts, or they include a “Best of” section.
In most cases, the reason why “Best of” posts are so effective (if you can get them to rank well) is because any keyword phrase like best [product keyword], or top [product keyword], is likely going to get a ton of searches per month.
For instance, I’d be willing to bet that the term best treadmills has a huge monthly search volume and if you have a quality “Best of” post ranking on the first page for best treadmills you will likely be getting a lot of traffic and thus earning a lot of commission.
However, the common practice of today is to write a bunch of individual reviews because they will target keywords with a lot less competition and will be easy to rank for.
That’s definitely a solid strategy, but writing individual treadmill reviews will target only a fraction of the traffic that a post targeting best treadmills will.
If you wrote a ton of individual reviews on treadmills, you could definitely match the traffic that comes from ranking one big post targeting best treadmills.
But in my experience, writing a ton of individual reviews can really burn you out.
And, so I’ve found it to be much more effective and easier to write one big “Best of” post, promote it well, and then start adding individual reviews on a regular basis later.
Ideally, though, a successful and quality niche site will have one or two “Best of” posts and a bunch of individual reviews.
Best of Posts that Target “Affordable” Options Are Incredibly Important, Too…
In addition to terms like “best [enter keyword]” or “top [enter keyword]” another term to search for is “cheap [enter keyword]”.
So, pertaining to the example above, you would also want to do a big “Best of” post targeting “cheap treadmills” in which you would list a bunch of affordable treadmill options.
I’ve found that it’s easier to rank for keywords with “cheap” or “affordable” in front of them because there is less competition and because those keywords tend to still have high search volumes.
Of course, writing a guide on the best cheap products in a niche will only really be valuable if the cheapest products in a niche are still relatively expensive. For instance, a $200 treadmill is considered an affordable treadmill, but it would still earn you a decent commission.
Writing a “Cheap Best of” post is ultimately how I got my first niche site to start ranking well and generating a ton of traffic.
7. Social Media Has Played a Limited Role in the Success of My Main Money-Earning Sites
Social media is definitely a powerful way to build an audience that trusts you enough to take your advice when they go to buy the products you promote.
And, I will say that I have built a fairly decent-sized social media following from the sporadic social media growth campaigns I have run on my sites.
Heck, I’ve even written a short Kindle book on how to build and leverage a big Twitter following…
I will also say that I am always trying to improve my social media following and how I engage with my fans outside of my website.
Social media is incredibly important.
However, I have not really seen a direct correlation between my social media activity and the amount of commission I earn through the Amazon affiliate program.
I know that I could be doing social media better and I believe I am good at social media when I give it more attention (which I have been doing more of with newer niche sites when trying to establish them).
The problem is that with my high-earning Amazon affiliate niche sites, I am not consistent enough with my social media activity. If I were more consistent, I’m sure it would boost my traffic, conversion rates, and commission.
And, one of my goals in 2016 is to look to train someone who can implement my social media strategies for me, so that I can run successful social media campaigns without having to spend a ton of time doing so.
However, the reason why I included this point on here is to point out that being a social media whiz is not necessarily a requirement for making money through the Amazon Associates program.
Do You Need to Be a Social Media Pro to Make Money Online?
Can social media help you build your audience and fan base faster and be an invaluable tool to share your content? Absolutely!
Is being a social media expert 100% necessary to building a profitable blog that makes you a comfortable monthly income? Nope… at least not in my experience building niche sites.
In my opinion, one of the biggest things that deters new affiliate marketers is that they feel they have to do everything… writing content, promoting content, building a big social media following, growing a huge email list, making connections, etc.
It’s all pretty overwhelming… And, in my opinion, beginners would be better served to start out focusing more on producing good content and promoting that content well through outreach campaigns, than by trying to focus on being everywhere at once.
Now, I’m not saying that you should ignore those other aspects of building a successful blog, but to start, your main focus should be on your content.
8. I Have A Big Email List… But I Rarely Use It
Speaking of my flaws as an online content marketer, if there is one thing that I am bad at, it is in utilizing my email list on a more consistent basis.
Right now, one of my sites has an email list of about ~18,000 subscribers. On that site, I have an opt-in page that gets about 30 new subscribers per day. And, I have a decent autoresponder series that warms people up to the idea of buying the product my niche site is built around.
But after that I don’t really use my email list that much. I guess it’s possible that my autoresponder series and opt-in incentive are doing a good enough job… but then again, I don’t really have anything setup to analyze whether that is so or not…
Occasionally, I will send out an email to announce a giveaway contest that I’m holding, or to tell people about the deals that are going on during the holiday season, but for the most part those subscribers are just sitting there. Most of them probably have long forgotten that they subscribed to my newsletter.
Is this a good way to approach your email list? Absolutely not.
But again, it just goes to show that having and growing a big email list is not an absolute necessity in building a successful Amazon affiliate niche website.
Yes, it helps. And, yes, a lot of people have made millions off of their email lists. But I am not one of those people and that hasn’t deterred me from making a legitimate monthly income from my niche sites.
Ultimately, the fact that I don’t dominate social media, or utilize my email list to the fullest should shed light on the fact that if you want to get started creating affiliate sites, you don’t have to spread yourself around trying to be the perfect internet marketer. Rather, if you focus on creating high quality content and promoting it half-way decently, then you can succeed.
9. Technically You Shouldn’t Be Building Niche Sites… You Should Be Building AUTHORITY Sites
If you want to build a legitimate monthly income off of Amazon affiliate commission, your best bet is to do everything you can to build your site into an authority site.
By that I mean that you should attempt to make your niche site into a one-stop resource for the niche you are covering. Essentially, you want to build a blog that answers every question your audience could have about buying the products in the niche you are covering.
Not only that, but you should also seek to “educate” your audience on how to use the products you are promoting.
And, so you need to actively be looking to answer questions your audience has. There are many ways you can do this, even if you don’t yet have an audience. Here are a few…
- Search popular forums that cover your niche and see what people are asking about
- Search Quora.com and Yahoo! Answers to see what people are asking about
- Read the reviews on Amazon of the products in your niche to see what qualities are important for the products you are promoting
These three sources will give you a good start in finding the most pressing questions your target audience is asking.
You can answer these questions by dedicating individual posts to answering them, doing lengthy and thorough FAQs on your niche (or a “buyer’s FAQ”), writing how-to guides and ebooks, conducting Q&A sessions, hosting podcasts and webinars, producing YouTube videos, etc.
There are a ton of ways you can provide content that answers your target audience’s questions. And, the more thoroughly the content on your site answers their questions, the more authoritative your site will be, and, as such, the more affiliate commission you will earn.
The reason why building your niche site into an authority site should be a priority is because you will build more trust with your audience. And, your audience won’t take just anyone’s advice on products… they’ll only take advice from someone they trust.
So, earn your audience’s trust by displaying your expertise in your niche and you will be well on your way to seeing a consistent monthly income from the Amazon Associates program.
10. Don’t Choose Too Narrow of a Niche, But Definitely DO Choose A Specific Niche
There was a craze going around the internet marketing world a few years back that suggested that you should start building “micro-niche” sites. Since I’ve used the example of treadmills above, I’ll use it here to how a micro-niche site works…
Instead of building a blog around treadmills, with a micro niche, you’d build a website around blog for senior citizens who have arthritis.
Of course, that example is quite a bit over-exaggerated, but the point of the micro-niche site is to find a niche within a niche because the smaller the niche you can get into the less competition that there is.
Of course, micro-niches aren’t a bad option if you can mass produce them and have a ton of them making you money. And, I’m sure there are some very smart people who have done just that.
I also understand the appeal behind micro-niche sites, which is, if you’re a beginner, you’re not concerned with trying to make tens of thousands of dollars per month, but rather you just want to earn a couple hundred dollars online each month.
And, if that’s the case, then there is nothing wrong with going after a micro-niche.
If you want to make “quit-your-job” type of monthly income, you could technically do so with micro-niche sites, but you would have to build a lot of them.
Big Niches, Big Money
Ultimately, though, I prefer to go with bigger niches because A) I like to have options to expand down the road, and B) I’d rather put my eggs in a few baskets that I can easily manage, rather than spread my eggs out between 40-50 baskets that I can’t keep track of.
The flip side to all of this is that you do not want to go “niche-less.” And, by that I mean that you don’t want your site to be about anything and everything. Nobody will take you seriously if you have posts ranging from The Top 10 Kitten Mittens to The Best Power Drills.
I think a lot of people who want to make money blogging think that they can earn money from their blog by writing about random stuff. This typically doesn’t work and if it does, it’s usually because the blogger is incredible at branding themselves.
In the end, I always look to choose a niche that is fairly broad and that has potential to bring me significant levels of monthly income. To get more specific, if I jump into a niche, it’s because I can envision it earning more than $10K per month (aside from also being a niche that I really enjoy.)
In my case, going for niches that are broader and have more potential keeps me motivated.
11. aStores and Widgets? No Thanks…
Amazon’s Associates program has a lot of different options to try and help you make more money. They have banners, shopping ads, widgets (or maybe those were discontinued?), a feature called Publisher Studio, and aStores.
I’ve dabbled with aStores, but I really haven’t looked into any of the other features mentioned above.
The aStore feature is kind of a cool concept, but I could never get it to work the way I wanted it to. Maybe I missed something, or maybe they’ve been made better, but I never saw the point in making my readers click to an aStore, then click on the product, then click add-to-cart.
Instead, I try and limit the amount of clicking my visitors have to do before they get to Amazon. The less times they have to click, the less chance there is of something else catching their attention and taking them away from Amazon.
Again, I’m not saying that aStores and widgets and all of the other Amazon Associates features are bad and won’t help you increase your profits. I’m sure there are Amazon affiliates out there who have found success with these features.
But too often I see people who aren’t really earning any money but who are trying to use all of these features instead of focusing on just using what works… text links.
And, in the end, if I can reach a solid monthly income without these features, then you can, too.
12. Amazon’s Associate Program Isn’t Perfect… But it’s Still the Best…
The Amazon Associates program is kind of mysterious. You can’t actually talk to people who run the Associates program without knowing exactly who to email. Instead you only have the option to submit answers to the Associates support team.
The support team will answer your basic questions, but for more pressing and complicated issues, they will simply forward your request/question to someone with more authority.
And, when the person with authority responds to you, they often answer you leaving you with more questions and the worst part is you cannot reply directly to the email they send you back… so you have to email the support team again and to try and get more clarification…
There’s also not a whole lot of communication between the people who run the Associates department and their affiliates in terms of upcoming changes.
For instance, they recently rolled out a new live reporting system without telling everyone. One day I logged on and the reporting system was completely different and it was showing live reports…
No heads up or warning or explanation… just: Bam! Here you go!
Even With Some Flaws, There Isn’t A Better Affiliate Program Out There
Ultimately, though, those are just a few downsides to what is easily the best overall affiliate program available.
In my opinion, what makes the Amazon Associates program the best affiliate program available is the same thing I referred to in the 2nd point on this list…
And that is that Amazon is a selling machine.
Amazon converts more visitors into buyers than any other affiliate program I know of. And, they sell everything. There’s probably not very many niches you could get into in which Amazon didn’t have a product related to it.
It’s the ultimate affiliate program and, while there may be other more lucrative niche-specific affiliate programs out there, if you are just starting out in affiliate marketing you really won’t find another program with such a wide offering.
13. My AdSense Earnings are Dismal in Comparison
I know that in the past, Google’s AdSense program was extremely popular and that it earned people a lot more money than it does now. But now, with ad-blocking extensions and people becoming banner blind, the program isn’t nearly as effective as it used to be.
Still, though, I’ve heard a lot of people who have stated that the AdSense program makes them a lot more money than affiliate marketing does.
I’m sure that’s a case-by-case issue and it depends on the niche and type of website in reference, but I have found that, on my sites, the AdSense program is extremely ineffective…
In fact, in most months, the ads that I do have displayed account for less than 1% of my monthly income. I realize that I’m not doing everything I can to optimize for AdSense, but still, I can’t see any scenario where ads could generate more than 5% of my total monthly income.
One of the big problems with AdSense is that you need a ton of traffic to earn a decent income.
However, with the Associates program, if you are promoting semi-expensive products, you don’t need nearly as much traffic in order to earn a decent monthly income.
To further illustrate this, one of my blogs last month averaged about ~575 views per day, but ended up accounting for 25% of my total monthly income. If I would have solely used AdSense on that site, it probably wouldn’t have accounted for a fraction of a percentage of my monthly income.
So, from my findings with running AdSense and comparing it to the Amazon Associates program, I’ve found Amazon to be overwhelmingly more profitable.
That’s not to say you can’t make money with the AdSense program. I know that there are some gurus out there who have developed systems that are designed to make them a lot of money with AdSense. I, however, have designed a system to make me a lot of money with the Associates program.
14. I Don’t Get Special Treatment As A High-Selling Amazon Affiliate
Darren Rowse of ProBlogger.com has been an Amazon affiliate for over 12 years. In that time he’s sold a lot of products for Amazon and has earned quite a bit of extra income for himself.
However, he claims that he has never received any special treatment from Amazon’s Associate department, or has never been contacted by Amazon… but he has said that he knows people who have been assigned their own account managers and are in contact with Amazon on a regular basis.
Darren’s friends are probably telling the truth and I’m sure there are Associates’ account reps for those people who are selling ridiculous amounts of products on a monthly and yearly basis.
I, along with Darren, however, have never been contacted by Amazon, despite selling quite a bit of products for them over the past few years.
Are there people who are selling more than me on a monthly and yearly basis? I’m sure there is… and maybe they’re the ones who have the account representatives.
Maybe you have to hit $10,000,000 in sales in a year, or maybe there’s some specific number that I have yet to achieve.
But ultimately, I’ve never been contacted by an Amazon Associates account representative…
15. I Messed Up and Got Terminated Once and Almost Lost Out on Over $40,000 in Unpaid Commission… Until Jeff Bezos Saved Me
Okay, it’s possible that one time I did get special treatment based on how much I sell…
Last year, right after the holiday season I got an email notifying me of my termination because I was violating the Amazon Associates Operating Agreement.
The email explained that all of the commission that I had pending would be forfeited and that I would no longer be able to earn money from the program.
I was devastated to say the least. I had just had my two biggest months ever (November 2014 and December 2014) in which I made a combined total of $40,000 in commission. Since Amazon delays payments a couple of months, the termination meant that I would not see a dime of that $40,000.
To make matters worse, my wife had just given birth to our first child and had quit her job a few months prior to be a stay-at-home mom.
In an instant, I went from the high of being a new daddy, to a state of sheer terror and panic.
I prayed. My wife prayed. We were both angry… and shocked… and scared.
However, I knew that all was not lost. I often visit the Amazon Associates forums and I had seen quite a few posters say that they had appealed their termination status by sending a direct email to Jeff Bezos.
So, that’s what I did. Here was the contents of the email I sent him:
Hi Mr Bezos, I know you are an incredibly busy person and so I want to take up as little of your time as possible.
Today I received an email from an Associates Account Specialist notifying me that my Associates account had been terminated due to using Amazon customer reviews on my site. I understand that it is my responsibility to thoroughly read and understand the Operating Agreement and that, in this case, I failed to do so. I am willing to change my site so that it complies with the Operating Agreement. These reviews were not used in a malicious or deceitful way, but rather as a way to strengthen the review of the product.
I am writing to you today in hopes that you can help me get my Associates account back in good standing. I sold over $2,000,000 in products through your affiliate program last year and, before getting terminated today, I was on pace to sell over $5,000,000 this year.
With Amazon being a billion dollar company I realize that, on paper, these numbers are not significant. However, I know that you and Amazon pride yourself on working with the smallest margins in the industry and I’m hoping that you will not want to see this money leave.
Anyways, this is my Hail-Mary attempt to try and salvage a partnership that has been incredibly beneficial for me and at least somewhat beneficial for your business.
Thanks for your time.
All the Best,
But after about two hours of not receiving a response (I was freaking out), I decided I could not leave my fate up to the likely over-flooded inbox of one of the most successful and well-known businessmen in the world.
So, I tracked down a list of emails for every major executive in Amazon and I emailed them about the situation as well.
I sent all of them basically the same email as I sent Jeff (we’re on a first-name basis now…) and I must have emailed at least 30 top executives in Amazon. (Okay, it was probably more like 9.)
A couple of days later I received the most amazing email ever…
I like to think that the top brass of Amazon were in the middle of an important meeting and someone mentioned how they got this email from a desperate Associate who wanted to be reinstated.
Then I imagine the rest of the executives all chimed in and started talking and joking about how they also received my email. Finally, I’d like to think that they all agreed that I should be reinstated by my sheer will (in emailing all of them) alone.
I know that’s not how it really went down. But, it’s my story and that’s how I’m telling it from here on out.
On a serious note, though, my wife and my prayers were answered (thank God) and Jeff Bezos bestowed his mercy upon me.
And, while in the last point I made, I said that I hadn’t received any special treatment, I wonder if they would have reinstated me if I had only made a few sales here and there over the same time period?
So, maybe, in the end, I have received some special treatment…
16. Amazon Does What’s Best For Amazon and Its Customers… And That’s Just Business
Okay, so I successfully appealed to Jeff Bezos and he came to my rescue to save me from my devastating termination. So, that probably meant we were best buds and it guaranteed that he had my back, right?
A few months ago I received an email from Amazon informing me that they were making changes to their commission payout structure.
They informed me that they were changing the commission for one of the big categories that I sold in from 4% to 2.5%—a near 40% reduction in commission.
Seeing as how almost 80% of my sales came from the product category that was being reduced, that meant that it was going to be a significant loss in income for me.
However, having recently befriended one of the most important businessmen in the world (remember, it’s my story…) and the man who could help me get that commission reduction overturned, I felt that Jeff Bezos would again come to my aid…
So, I wrote him another email telling him about all the sales I was going to bring him and that if my commission was reduced by nearly 40%, I might have to look elsewhere and test out other affiliate programs (which was half serious and half bluff), simply because that new commission rate wasn’t necessarily the best offer out there anymore.
A little while after sending the email to Mr. Bezos, I got an email back from his assistant… And, they denied my request.
So, much for my imaginary friendship, huh?
In the end, though, I didn’t change programs because even with the reduced commission, Amazon was still the better program out there (other programs have higher commission payouts, but don’t have the conversion rate that Amazon does) and so I stayed.
However, I just wanted to point this out because it highlights a very scary and very real part of being an affiliate marketer… You really don’t have a whole lot of control.
Amazon (or any other affiliate marketing program) can drop you in an instant without any reason at all if they think their business would be better off without you.
Ultimately, Amazon made a business decision to cut the commission in the category that I sell the most in. They did this, likely, because they were working with tiny margins and they needed to come up with a way to keep prices down to remain competitive and make their customers happy.
It was a smart move on their part, but one that left me feeling pretty vulnerable and not quite as secure…
17. Why, Oh Why, Did I Choose A Niche with A Capped Commission Percentage? (Actually, I Should Stop Complaining…)
When I first started out as an Amazon associates, I chose to dive into a niche that was capped at a 4% commission (and, as mentioned above, it has now been reduced to 2.5%).
I chose that niche because A) I liked it, and B) I thought it would be half-way easy to rank for.
While I don’t have any regrets looking back now—because I have been able to earn a significant amount of income from that niche—and I’m not sure I would have built as successful of a niche site if I had chosen a different niche, it does sting a little bit to know that I could have been making more had I chosen a different niche with a higher cap.
I should say, though, that while it’s human nature to dwell on such a quandary, it’s probably not something I should continue doing.
In fact, I could just as easily assume that had I chosen a different niche, I would have become frustrated, quit, and never reached a level where I could work full-time building niche sites.
And, so I will stop complaining about that decision, because in the end I’ve had a ton of fun on that niche site and what I have learned from running it has become invaluable.
I wanted to point this out to you, though, because if you’re just starting out and you’re weighing between two niches, and those two niches are fairly even in terms of which one you’d like to pursue, then I’d say go with the niche that offers the higher commission level.
Ultimately, you should choose the niche that you feel the most comfortable with, because the most difficult part of building a successful niche site for most people is sticking with it until the site is profitable.
And, if you really like your niche to the point to where it’s not just about making money, you’ll have a much better chance of sticking with it until you start seeing some consistent income.
18. This is a Business… Not A Get Rich Quick Scheme
This point should probably be listed much higher in this post. You can’t build a successful blog that earns you a comfortable amount of monthly income as an Amazon affiliate if you can do so quickly and without putting much effort in.
This is an incredibly important point that I’ve learned in my pursuit of building a significant income solely off of internet-based businesses—and it’s probably an important point for any kind of business endeavor. But it’s especially important for anyone who is looking to build an internet-based business.
The reason why I single out internet-based businesses is because a lot of people have the idea that just because you can do it from the comfort of your home from your own computer, that you don’t have to work that hard. And, these people see all these gurus posting big monthly incomes, and they think…
“They’re working from home, blogging, and making a ton of money. That’s easy! I can do that!”
While the reality is that most people could do it (I’m a firm believer that most people can achieve anything if they really want to), most people don’t do it.
In fact, most people who try to build an online business quit because they ultimately find out it’s just as hard as a regular 9-5 job—and, really, in most cases it’s harder…
Not harder in the sense that you have to lift heavy objects or drill a well, or do any other kind of manual labor. Perhaps the better phrase is that, in most cases it’s more difficult.
By that, I mean that building a successful online content-based business can, at times, be a real grind. Most of the time you’re putting in a lot of work and not seeing any immediate results from what you’re doing.
There’s not even have any real guarantee that what you’re doing will be profitable. (Though, the more experience you have, the more you find out what works, and the better idea you can get of what to expect from taking a certain action.)
That’s why most people quit. They’re so used to having a paycheck guaranteed to them, that when they’ve been grinding away for a little while and have not yet seen any results, they come to the realization of how “unsafe” pursuing an online business really is.
And, as such, it really deters them.
So, if you truly want to build a successful online business, you better come into this knowing that you are going to have to put in work and that that work may or may not pay off for a substantial period of time.
19. The Holiday Season at Amazon is Insane
I’m sure you’ve all heard that the holiday season is nuts for anyone who has an online business that pertains to selling products (particularly physical products.)
People buy and buy and buy during the holiday season… and then they buy some more. Search traffic is up, clicks through to Amazon are up, and conversion rates are higher than ever.
‘Tis the Season.
Due to a few different factors, I didn’t truly experience the holiday rush until the 2014 holiday season.
However, during the 2014 holiday season, I sold more in those two months (November and December) than I had in all of the other months combined for that year.
While the holiday season stays pretty darn busy right up until the week before Christmas, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are always significantly higher than the rest of the days.
In fact, even during the busy holiday season, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, on average, see almost double the sales than the average daily sales for the rest of the season.
Aside from the increase in online shoppers during the holidays, Amazon alone is responsible for a big boost in holiday sales.
This is primarily because Amazon has a ton of holiday deals. And so if you send anyone to Amazon during the holidays, it’s not only more likely that they’ll buy something, but it’s also more likely that they’ll buy more stuff (and, quite often more expensive stuff), too.
In the end, the holiday season is definitely a crazy time. In a lot of niches, as long as your site has the traffic, November and December alone have the potential to earn you more than what the average person makes in a year.
20. Experiment, Test, Fail, Revise, Repeat… Until it Works
One of the biggest things that has helped me build multiple profitable niche sites is my willingness to come up with or try new ideas for traffic generation, conversions, website layout, content, etc.
In my opinion, if you want to see growth with your blog(s) you must be continually looking for ways to make your blog(s) better. And, the only way to do that is to implement changes.
However, not all changes will bring you results. And, so, in order to find out what changes you need to work, you simply need to test them.
When I started my first website, I didn’t really have an idea of what content I should be writing. I started off by writing a bunch of how-to guides. However, I quickly figured out that while how-to guides are good for instructing people how to do something, they’re not necessarily good at getting someone to buy something.
So, once I had written a bunch of how-to guides, I thought to myself… “What other content could I create in this niche?” And, from looking at all of the popular forums in that niche, I could see a lot of people wanted help in determining which products were the best to buy.
When I saw that, a light went on in my head… I knew then that I needed to produce an extensive buyer’s guide that answered any question those buyer’s would have and would link to the top products I recommended.
Not only did the buyer’s guide start getting traffic, but it started converting and bringing me commission as well.
I had found my first “system” for building a profitable niche site. From there, I decided to see if I could apply my “system” to other niches. And, so I went on and built more niche sites and found that my system worked in other areas, too.
The point is that until you find a system that works for you and earns you money, you need to keep experimenting, testing, and revising until you find something that works.
And, when you find the system that works, you need to either keep trying to improve it, or expand it and apply it to other niches (or both.) That’s how you build an online empire.
21. Ever Heard of Amazon FBA? Well if You Have A High-Traffic Niche Site, Doing FBA is A Whole Lot Easier
If you’ve been around the “internet marketing scene” for the past year or so, you have no doubt received thousands of emails from gurus urging you to start selling your own products on Amazon through Amazon’s FBA program.
These gurus will prompt you to join a course that costs ~$4,000. Most people pushing the course will get a huge affiliate (and I mean huge) commission if you end up buying into it.
The truth is that the core of the information in that guide is all readily available and free to read on various blogs who write about the subject (Amazon FBA).
However, there is a benefit to being able to access all of the information you need in one place. But do you really need to spend $5,000 in order to do so?
The answer to that is no…
Aside from the big $5,000 course, there are a few other FBA courses out there that are a lot more affordable. I joined Jim Cockrum’s My Silent Team (not an affiliate link) course for $299.
Jim’s course basically teaches you the same thing as the Amazing Selling Machine, but it also goes into a ton of other ways you can sell physical products on Amazon without having to outsource your own products from China.
It’s a great course and if you are interested in getting into FBA, I recommend joining their free Facebook group so you can get an idea of the kind of support it has behind it.
Once You Build A Big Site, You Can Leverage Your Traffic and Expand to Other Areas
Anyways, I’m getting a bit off topic… The point of this section was to show you how, if you have a solid Amazon affiliate website that is generating a decent amount of traffic, you can leverage your traffic and expand the ways you make money off of it.
One of the ways I expanded my income to areas beyond earning affiliate commission was to create a few products that are related to my niche.
You see, I was already linking to similar products and could pretty much predict how many of that product I would sell per day. So, if I could replace the link to that similar product with my own product, then I would earn more than just affiliate commission…
I would also earn profit because it was my product.
Now, I’m not going to get into exactly how the FBA program works and how you can make money by using it. But the gist of what I am doing is outsourcing relevant products from China for a low price and then selling those products on Amazon for a higher price.
The cool thing about what I have done is that, where others have to build a following and market their outsourced products on Amazon in order to be able to sell it, all I had to do was change the links that were already on my site.
This is because I was already sending traffic to a similar product, so all I had to do was change the link to my product… and just like that I was able to leverage the traffic to my affiliate site to help me sell my own product.
So, it’s important to note that affiliate commission is not necessarily your only option for making money from a niche site. And, the more authoritative your affiliate site is and the more traffic it gets, the more opportunities you will have to explore other streams of income.
If You’re Just Starting Out, the Amazon Affiliate Program is Probably Your Best Bet
There are so many different ways to make money online. However, in my experience, affiliate marketing is the easiest way for beginners to get started in their quest to earn an online income.
And, of all of the affiliate marketing programs that are out there, none quite compare to what Amazon offers with their affiliate program.
Hopefully this post serves as a guide and as inspiration to propel your affiliate-based business forward. If you have any questions or comments, or you want to share anything you’ve learned in your time in the affiliate program, please feel free to leave a comment below, or email me using the contact form at the top of the site.