So you’ve decided to take the plunge into the wonderful world of Amazon Affiliate marketing. I know it can be overwhelming at first, and my advice is to take it one step at a time and to learn as you go.
Running an Amazon Affiliate website is a great way to make supplementary or full time income. Many people run Amazon Affiliate sites as “side hustles,” while others are able to make real businesses from their endeavors. Whatever your goal, it’s important to comply with Amazon’s myriad of rules. Non-compliance can get you removed from the program and completely crush your business.
I’ve compiled a list of the biggest Amazon Affiliate rules and tips for remaining compliant. Additionally, I’ve provided some examples to a site (ahem, Wirecutter) and how they are violating some of the Amazon Affiliate requirements in sections called “What Not To Do.” Think of it as a cautionary tale.
Keep in mind that most of these rules are in place to ensure high ethical standards from affiliate participants and to prevent associates from gaming the system.
Here we go!
Let Your Visitors Know You’re An Associate
If you’re going to run an affiliate website, you should get used to seeing the word “disclosure.” It is imperative that you disclose your status as an Associate (or, for that matter, as an affiliate for any product or service). Not only is disclosure required by Amazon, it is also a requirement from the Federal Trade Commission.
To help you comply with this requirement, Amazon has provided this text which you can copy and paste into your website:
[Insert site name] is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to [insert applicable site name].
“Insert site name” refers to the name of your website, while “insert applicable site name” refers to the Amazon store that you are linking to, i.e., Amazon.com, Amazon.de, Amazon.co.uk, and others.
WHAT NOT TO DO: WIRECUTTER
Amazon is pretty upfront about what disclosure verbiage they expect you to use. They give you a copy and paste snippet! But Wirecutter decided to use their own disclosure phrase:
While they do say “When you do buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission,” this does not meet Amazon’s requirement, which states:
You must clearly state the following, or any substantially similar statement previously allowed under this Agreement, on your Site or any other location where Amazon may authorize your display or other use of Program Content: “As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.”
Placement of the disclosure is also important. You want to feature the disclosure in a prominent location, preferably at the top of any article, post, or page that contains affiliate links.
If you are uncomfortable with writing your own affiliate disclosure, you should check out a service like Termageddon. Termageddon is an automatically updating policy generator. You create your policies through their wizard and insert a bit of code on your site – Termageddon does the rest!
Don’t Use Link Shorteners On Your Amazon Links
The Amazon Associates Program rules specifically prohibit the use of link shorteners on Amazon Affiliate links. Your Amazon links must be clearly identifiable as such, so don’t try to hide or disguise those links.
WHAT NOT TO DO: WIRECUTTER
Wirecutter has problems with this rule, too. Here is a link from their home page:
If you hover over that link, it shows up as “https://www.nytimes.com/wirecutter/out/deals/6052?merchant=Amazon”. But when it’s clicked, it takes you to the Amazon product page. Wirecutter is using link redirection, which is forbidden. The rules are clear –
You will not cloak, hide, spoof, or otherwise obscure the URL of your Site containing Special Links (including by use of Redirecting Links) or the user agent of the application in which Program Content is displayed or used such that we cannot reasonably determine the site or application from which a customer clicks through such Special Link to an Amazon Site.
Don’t Solicit Clicks On Your Amazon Links
Refrain from commenting things like “please click my link” or giving reasons why a user should click a link (e.g. “to help my family”). Instead, count on your visitors to click links because you have high-quality content such as reviews and recommendations. If you build it, they will click!
Don’t Make Purchases From Your Own Links
This is a big no-no for Amazon Associates. Don’t attempt to game the system by creating a link, then clicking it, and making purchases. Amazon does not consider these qualifying purchases. At best, you won’t get paid, and at worst (and much more likely), you’ll be expelled from the Associate’s program.
Don’t Put Links Where They Don’t Belong
Amazon Affiliate links can be placed on your website, your YouTube channel, and on public Facebook pages. You are prohibited from placing Amazon affiliate links elsewhere. However, you can place your links on a page on your own site and then share the link to that page anywhere you like.
Amazon also prohibits the use of affiliate links in PDFs, DOCs, ebooks, as well as “offline” use – books, flyers, etc.
Be Aware of Amazon Brand Guidelines
Amazon provides brand identifiers for you to use. You may not use the Amazon logo, colors, name, etc., as an extension of your brand.
Understand Amazon Product Image Guidelines
This one can be a little tricky. Amazon Guidelines state that you can’t host product images on your site – you must use the Amazon API for pulling images directly from Amazon. Luckily, by using an Amazon Affiliate plugin, you can rest assured that your images are pulled correctly and you remain in compliance.
You can, however, use other images that are NOT from Amazon. For example, if the product manufacturer has additional images for use, you can use those on your site. You can also use your own images that you take. But you cannot link those images with your Amazon Affiliate link.
Understand Pricing Display Guidelines
As you can imagine, prices change on Amazon constantly. Because of this, Amazon prohibits you from displaying pricing on your website unless it is pulled directly from the Amazon API. So, as long as you use a plugin that pulls pricing from Amazon, you’re fine. Otherwise, leave pricing out.
WHAT NOT TO DO: WIRECUTTER
Wirecutter displays the pricing on many of their “Our pick” items. Which would be fine if they pulled from the Amazon API and it displayed the exact amount. But it appears that Wirecutter uses some sort of rounding when displaying pricing. This Lego Pirate Ship, for instance:
Wirecutter shows the price at $100, but at the time I clicked the link, that item was $97.45 from Amazon. That’s certainly close, but close doesn’t count in Amazon’s eyes:
You must not make inaccurate, overbroad, deceptive or otherwise misleading claims about any Product, an Amazon Site, or any of our policies, promotions, or prices.
There’s also a BONUS what not to do here. They are linking to another online store (Target), but using an image that is pulled from the Amazon API. Amazon doesn’t appreciate that:
You will not display on your Site, or otherwise use, any Program Content to advertise or promote any products that are offered on any site that is not an Amazon Site (e.g., products offered by other retailers).
Make Your First Sale Within 6 Months
Amazon wants to be sure that its products are represented by high-quality affiliates. If you don’t make a sale within 180 days, you will be dropped from the program. As such, it is best to have a solid foundation before you apply to be an Amazon Associate. Have a content-rich site first with some traffic. When you start placing your links, you’ll be in a better position to make that first sale quickly.
There are a lot of rules when it comes to being a part of the Amazon Associates program and running an Amazon Affiliate website. But most of the rules are straightforward and easy to follow. If you are honest and true to your readers and provide them with quality content, reviews, and recommendations for products that you can truly support, you’re off to a great start.
Read Amazon’s full operating policies for more information.