Amazon Associates: Huh?

What is an Amazon Associates Account?

I’ve gotten a lot of questions about this since mentioning it and some clarification is in order.

Amazon is willing to pay websites who send them new customers. Basically you sign up to be Amazon’s “associate” or “affiliate” and then you link to Amazon products from your content. When people click your links and buy from Amazon, you get a share of the profits.

Should You Set Up an Associates Account?

Honestly, no. Not yet.

Don’t get me wrong: what we do here has huge commercial potential. I am dedicated to growing this site and seeing all of us get paid for our reviews.

But this site is barely off the ground and before we try to make money from its pages, we need to build some traffic to those pages. That is going to take time, content, and some promotional word-of-mouth from all of us. I really think we should focus our attention on writing, sharing out reviews, and encouraging others to join, because that’s the stage we’re at.

However, with all that said, here’s more information for those of you who are just learning about this subject and want to know more, or just give it a try and see what happens.

Please remember: I make no promises that you will be accepted into the Associates program, or that you will earn any money from it! I also reserve the right to take action if I see anyone stuffing their reviews with tons of Amazon links, which is effectively a form of spamming.

Set Up an Amazon Associates Account and Start Getting Paid 

Right now VeryHelpful is operating as a collective. There is no company here to pay us for pageviews. There is also no site advertising. So there is no revenue to share yet.

However, you can take matters into your own hands by signing up for an Amazon Associates account and using it to monetize links in your reviews. Here’s some info about how this works.

What is an Amazon Associate?

Amazon is willing to pay people who refer customers to them. If someone reads your review, and clicks on an Amazon associates link you provided, then buys the item from Amazon, you will get a share of the proceeds from that sale. It’s kind of like a finder’s fee for sending an interested customer to them.

But in order for this to happen, you must first have an associates account with Amazon, so that you can insert a special code into your Amazon links. This tracking code allows Amazon to log it when you refer them a customer. If you don’t include a valid code in your links, they will not remember that you sent the customer to them, and they will not pay you.

So step one is to sign up with them and get your unique code.

During that process, they will ask you what website you plan to be linking from. You are welcome to tell them you’ll be working on VeryHelpful.net. I owe michiman a big thanks for checking with Amazon to ensure that it’s okay for all of us to use our separate codes here on the same site. They said that it is.

How do I make these links?

Once you sign up for an associates account, you’ll get an associates code. Write it down and remember it. That code should become part of any Amazon link you include in your review.

For example, the code I set up is: veryhelp-20

Here is a regular old link to an Amazon product which I copied from my address bar while I was looking at Dr. Bronner’s soap:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000HK1ON0

Now here is a link to a product that includes my Amazon associates code. See it there at the end?

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000HK1ON0/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B000HK1ON0&linkCode=as2&tag=veryhelp-20

If someone visits that first link,  I get nothing. It has no tracking code.

Visit the second link, buy, and I will get 4% of the purchase price, which for this product comes out to $0.83. Woohoo!

Amazon’s link generation tool

Once you sign up as an associate, you’ll start seeing this toolbar at the top of your window anytime you visit Amazon.com:

 

Once you see this toolbar, just click at the top right where it says “Amazon Associates” and you’ll come to this screen:

 

Use the search box to find the product you’re reviewing. Then click the little arrow where it says “get link.” A small popup will appear with the paid link URL, including your code.

Take that URL back to your review and use it to link to the product. That’s it!

Any restrictions on how we can do this?

Yes!

If you do give this a shot, I’m asking that everyone use the same format for their Amazon links. Use the green price link as it’s shown in the review template only. It looks like this when you start writing a new review:

$00.00 at Amazon  

Update the numeric price by typing over the “00.00”
and then select the entire green line of text. Click the “link” button in the toolbar, and in the popup, paste your Amazon URL into the “URL” field. You have now updated the Amazon link in the review tempate for your review!

Amazon will show you lots of graphical tools for inserting links and price modules. Please do not use these. If we’re all consistent about linking to Amazon the same way, we will train our visitors which link to click, and drive more sales. If everyone links in different ways and inserts graphical modules all over the place, the site will look spammy and behave chaotically.

So let’s all show restraint and follow the link format laid out in the template. In the long run it will be better for each of us and for all of us.

How much does this pay?

As I said above, I don’t think anyone should expect to earn anything until we’ve built up our traffic some more.

But the starting referral rate is 4% of the revenue Amazon makes from sales you refer to them. Many factors can ultimately affect your final payout.

Amazon only pays if you refer someone who buys something. You may send them lots of clicks but if the visitor doesn’t buy, Amazon doesn’t make any money and neither do you.

Amazon will share a different percentage of the revenue with you depending on what category of product it is. Sound familiar? Their profit margins are different on a jacket vs. a toaster oven, and they may have more or less profit margin to share with you.

And since you’re getting a commission on the sale, the price of the item matters too. If you help Amazon sell a $3000 flat screen TV, you’re going to get a bigger reward than if you help sell an $8 cable.

All of this is designed to create a fair incentive system that helps us help Amazon, and benefit in return.

A few other Amazon realities to keep in mind

  • Amazon pays when a sale is made, not just when someone clicks your link. Don’t even try to spam clicks. It won’t work and may even get you thrown out of the program.
  • Amazon waits until the order actually ships before they pay you. They want to make sure the buyer doesn’t cancel the order. And they may deduct from your balance later if the product that was purcased winds up being returned. So don’t click your own links, buy things, then return them, and expect to get paid.
  • If you refer a shopper to Amazon, you may get paid regardless of what they buy.  Don’t be surprised if odd items show up in your account report.
  • It can take time to be paid. Let’s say you refer someone to Amazon, and they put an item in their cart. But they wait 5 days to pull the trigger and check out. That’s 5 more days delay before you’ll be paid. It also just takes time for data to flow through all of Amazon’s systems. I think they slow the flow of data down intentionally, actually, to make it harder to game.

What about negative reviews?

If you are only paid when someone clicks through and buys, then what’s the incentive to write negative reviews?

This is a real problem for us right now. I don’t have a good answer in the short term, but it’s one of the things we will need to solve in the long run if this site is going to grow and succeed. We need to have clear and balanced incentives if we’re going to attract honest, useful reviews.

Can you help me set this up?

I’m stretched pretty thin right now between keeping this temporary site up, working on the new site, writing reviews, helping others publish, and promoting the site. I also have a job and a toddler and a lawn 🙂 I’m sorry but I won’t be able to help anyone aside from publishing this FAQ. My hope is that members will help each other.

What’s the long term plan here?

Using different Amazon associates IDs for each of us is a short-term measure at best. It’s actually better for all links on this site to have the same code, because then we’ll be one big Associate driving lots of sales for Amazon and they’ll offer us a better percentage. But for now we’ll just be 1000 different small Associates, each of whom gets the standard rate.

In the long run we will probably convert to a single Amazon account and find a way to distribute revenue fairly among reviewers. When we sit down to do that, we will also have to incorporate some solution for the problem of negative reviews. Basically we’ll be coming up with an income share system which will be fair to everyone and ensure the server costs are paid, etc.

That’s a lot to figure out and will take time. Meanwhile, you can make a go of it on your own if you have the time and the will. If you’re able to make it work, that will be great. Share your strategies with others.

My personal opinion? We don’t have any traffic yet, so there is no one to click on your links yet. We would be much better off focusing on writing and getting the word out about this site. But if you can link up your own reviews now, it won’t hurt.

Gosh this was long

I know, I’m really sorry. Money is a complicated topic that we all care a lot about. And since I mentioned using Amazon Associates, I’ve gotten lots of questions.

tl;dr – What should I do?

Focus on this:

  • Write reviews
  • Post your reviews to Facebook and Twitter so people find our site
  • Encourage others to join up here
  • Write helpful comments on other reviews
  • Have fun!

I am using Associates Links in my own reviews right now. I already had an Associates Account, I know how to use it, and I’ve done it before. I don’t have big expectations of earning anything yet. The second I’ve earned the first penny from doing this, I promise I will let everyone know. For now you might consider just holding tight. I’m hoping in the next several months to completely replace this site with a long-term home for us that will be better customized to what we need. It’s likely that on that site we will have a more structured plan for this which will replace any personal associates links.

I hope this was informative and helpful. Please feel free to post questions here, and if you know something I don’t, please post that too!

Thanks,

Andy

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