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Amazon Associates: How Does It Work?


Mike Schertenlieb

Affiliate links are nothing new, but perhaps (like many people), you’ve only heard the term – and never explored it for yourself.

The concept is pretty simple: through the Amazon Associates program, users can use special links in their blog and social media content… And when someone clicks through and makes a qualifying purchase, that user receives a commission.

For those with high traffic websites, the Amazon Associates program could be a great way to earn some extra cash. Depending on the nature of your site – or the site you’re willing to build – affiliate marketing could become a substantial part of your income!

Let’s take a closer look at the process:

Signing Up for Amazon Associates

Before you do ANYTHING, read the Operating Agreement. Plenty of us check the box and barrel through this stage while signing up for things online, but this one is truly worth pausing to read carefully.

Not only will you learn some important ins and outs of how the program works, but you’ll also be reviewing all of the things you can’t do. Amazon Associates has some strict rules about how you can advertise or promote your links, and violating those rules can get your account shut down in a hurry. For example, you can’t put affiliate in pop-ups, email blast your links, or include a price (because Amazon’s prices are subject to change).

Once you understand how the whole thing works, it’s time to sign up! There’s an online registration form that ties to your existing Amazon account – or you can create a new one. From there, you’ll have access to the Build Links section, where you can easily create affiliate links to basically any product available through Amazon.

This, however, is just the beginning of the process. Your site(s) and application still need to be approved by the Associates Team. This begins when you’ve had at least three qualifying sales in the first 180 days. The approval process basically involves the Associates Team confirming that your site is original content and meet their terms of service.

Among those terms, you are required to include a disclaimer on your site(s) or social media profile(s): “As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.”

You’ll learn more about the details of such requirements in the Operating Agreement.

Once you’re approved, you gain access to Associates Central, where you can see all kinds of information about traffic, earnings, what people are buying, and so on. There’s a variety of link building tools, reports, and other information as well! With an active account and all the tools available, you’ll be off to the races!

How It Works

You already understand the basics…

You include a special link on your website or social media, and if people click through that link to make a purchase on Amazon, you get a piece…

But it’s a little more complicated than that in practice. When a website visitor clicks your link, a tracking cookie follows them to Amazon. This cookie is good for 24 hours, or until they make a purchase. Here’s the best part: they don’t even have to purchase the product you linked! 

If the person that clicked your link makes any qualifying purchase, you get a percentage of that purchase – including multiple items in a cart! 

If they don’t make a purchase, the cookie expires after 24 hours – except for in a special circumstance, where an item remains in their cart for 89 more days, and they make a purchase… But then the commission is only good for that item. This can be a bit confusing, but this article should help clear things up in that arena. As soon as someone makes a purchase, the cookie expires. Even if they then buy other items, you only get commission for that first item (or cart of items). 

When it comes to actually making money, different products fall under different categories and thereby have different commission rates.

The breakdown looks like this:


Commissions on all products are paid out once per month!

Key Takeaways

The Amazon Associates program is a wonderful way to make some extra cash, especially if your existing website is drawing traffic – and fits with the products you want to promote. To be approved, you MUST have a site of robust, original content. You can’t get away with cramming a bunch of links on a site and advertising your way to a profit.

Similarly, it’s essential that you understand the Operating Agreement to make sure you stay within Amazon’s terms of service. If you don’t follow their rules, your account could be shut down. Failing to qualify during your initial application assessment means they won’t reassess.

If you follow the rules, however, you stand to make some decent money! You can include Associate links in product reviews, how-to guides, and other articles. Many people find success in creating guides about how to choose the best of a certain product category. Even if a piece of content is vaguely related to a product, and you have a reason to mention in… Include your link!

If people are looking to solve a problem, and your article answers their questions, they are likely in buying mode! That means they’re more likely to click your link and spend some money (putting some in your pocket too).

So, using good practices to create original, high-quality content, you can start to include your links. As you get more familiar with the process, you can use tools, analysis, and reporting to fine-tune your approach.

Above all, be helpful and genuine, not just hawking products. People can tell the difference, and long-term success is built on trust.

Good luck with your new venture into Amazon Associates!

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