Most internet marketers get started by marketing products via affiliate networks. One of the first that most newbies come across is Amazon’s Associate program.
This is a huge opportunity for most people, as Amazon is a worldwide powerhouse when it comes to selling, well, pretty much anything and everything.
There are a bunch of reason why people love Amazon’s affiliate network, and sadly a bunch of reasons why some people don’t.
Amazon Associates is awesome because…
It’s a Trusted Brand Worldwide
Amazon operates worldwide and has sites in numerous languages and currencies. Its brand recognition is up there with Google and Coca-Cola, and in general most people are positive about Amazon as a company. This means a heck of a lot of people shop with them, like millions, daily.
It Has a Huge Selection of Products
I’m pretty sure that if you can’t find something on Amazon it isn’t sold anywhere… Well not quite, but Amazon has a vast selection of products, some that it sells direct and others sold by third parties.
The sheer number of products listed is so high, some affiliate training advises you to use it to find niches!
Unless you are trying to promote something obscure, it’s very likely Amazon will sell it.
It’s Easy (and Free) to Sign up to
The ease at which you can sign up to the Amazon affiliate program is astounding. Lots of other networks require you to fill out complex forms or have your site audited prior to acceptance.
Not so with Amazon. You can be signed up and promoting in a matter of minutes.
Another plus, is that unlike some affiliate networks, Amazon doesn’t cancel your account for simply not performing well.
It has Tools and Reports
From banners and widgets that you can add to your site, through to monthly reports on your commissions, Amazon has a lot of built in features that can help you to see how you’re doing and where improvements could be made.
The tools aren’t perfect, but they are quite good and free.
Regardless of why the visitor went through your link, whatever they buy while in the cookie time you will get commissions for. This means that even if they decide not to buy that 42” Hi Def TV, but instead opt for buying a toilet, you still get commissions on that sale!
Amazon Associates kinda sucks because…
You live in the wrong area
That’s right, if you live in Arkansas, Missouri, Maine or Rhode Island you’re screwed. Due to various legal wrangling, the Amazon associates program doesn’t allow residents of those states to apply.
If you do just one thing wrong
Being an Amazon associate means you have to agree to their terms and conditions.
If you somehow manage to get on the wrong side of these (easily done as they update them regularly), then you will get your account banned.
That’s right, say good bye to your money and your income in one fell swoop.
Its cookies are bad
Most affiliate networks use 30 day cookies or longer. Amazon’s are 24 hours. This is incredibly short, so if your pre-sell didn’t work, you could lose out on commissions if the person decides to buy a few days later instead of right now.
Its commissions are poor
Amazon’s commission rates aren’t bad, but they aren’t great either.
You start out on a flat 4% commission, and depending on your monthly sales, this could peak at 9%. Certain products like electronics are always at a flat rate (e.g. 4%) regardless of sales volume.
Compare that to most digital based products who offer anywhere from 20% to 100% and you can see that really Amazon’s rates could be better. To be fair they do have higher overheads, but from an affiliate’s point of view, it means you need to sell more, in order to make a decent profit.
Alternatives to Amazon
Her are 8 different sites where you can make affiliate commissions. Some of them are very similar to Amazon itself, and others require a different viewpoint, but are none the less still potentially profitable.
While not having the worldwide reach of Amazon, Walmart puts up a pretty good fight. They too sell a wide variety of products from books to boats. Their commissions are a little bit lower than Amazons, but they have a 3 day cookie!
One of the bigger marketplaces for digital goods, Clickbank offers a decent selection of products. Of course, the products on offer won’t suit everyone as they are generally information products or software. Their cookie length is 60 days and commissions range from 10% -100%
This marketplace for affiliates has a large selection of different vendors, from digital products through to physical products, each of whom you can apply with to promote their goods. Cookie lengths and commissions vary from vendor to vendor.
#4 CJ Affiliate (Commission Junction)
Another well-known and varied affiliate marketplace, CJ has vendors from hosting to 4 Wheel drives and everything in between. Once again, commissions vary from vendor to vendor, as do cookie lengths.
One thing to note about CJ, is that they are harsh towards inactive accounts and will close them.
#5 Rakuten.com (Buy.com)
One of the “new” kids on the block, Rakuten has been around a while but you simply may never have heard of it.
It’s pushing into Amazons space and sells a wide variety of products from books to clothes to electronics.
Its base commissions are better than Amazons at 6% though it’s not that great for electronics as this is only 1%.
#6 Infolinks / Skimlinks / Viglinks
These three sites are not your standard affiliate network. Instead of promoting a specific product, these services add links into your content that show pop up adverts.
They are very similar to Google Adsense in that you earn money per advert clicks, but as the adverts are shown as popups from within the content, banner blindness is reduced.
Perhaps the Amazon of second-hand stuff, eBay has a huge market share, and sells virtually anything.
Sadly, the cookie length for eBay is only 24 hours, and their commission structure is a little weird. Instead of earning a flat rate, you earn a percentage of what eBay makes on the auction. You can earn anywhere from 50% to 200% (for new buyers) on their own fee.
This does make working out commissions hard, but with the number of people using eBay there’s still a decent chance of making a profit with this affiliate program.
#8 Direct Affiliation
Lastly, there is also direct affiliation, which is my term for joining individual affiliate programs from smaller merchants.
While this has the advantage of spreading the risk around (one banned account and cancelled affiliate program won’t immediately ruin your business), ti does require a lot more work.
Not only do you have to find the affiliate programs, but you need to monitor each one, often from different logins. And then there’s monitoring links on your site!
While this option is certainly valid, if you do go down this route, I’d recommend using a link manager like Pretty Links Pro.
It doesn’t matter if you can’t use Amazon due to living in the wrong place, being banned or just wanting to keep your options open, there are plenty of alternatives out there.
From large scale operations like Walmart, to smaller individual sellers, you can find affiliate programs for virtually anything, and they normally match or improve on Amazons commissions and cookie times.
As such, don’t let not being able to use Amazon stop you from earning money as an affiliate!