One of the most interesting things about starting a business for me is to see the progression of improvements over time. Actually, I like anything which involves a low time preference, i.e. things which take a long time bear fruit. I feel the same about languages, having learned (and forgotten) a few during my life so far. It's just so interesting to see how doing small daily tasks can add up to huge gains over time.
For that reason, I wanted to start tracking my Amazon earnings for one of my niche sites.
I don't like doing a full income report because I think it causes people to “hate watch” my income, and could doxx certain things about my business which I don't care to disclose.
However, I know income reports are extremely popular, and I think it'll be helpful to track how much a specific affiliate program is earning and what I'm doing to improve those earnings. I dug up some old screenshots, and will continue to report on a yearly basis, perhaps as well on a quarterly or monthly basis depending on what projects I have going on with the website. I think it'll be easy to post my findings about what's working and what isn't.
Table of Contents
Amazon Income Reports
2015 Amazon Earnings
I started this website in June of 2015 with the intent of running Facebook ads to drive traffic to Adsense ads. I was creating a lot of “lists” and running Facebook ads to send traffic to the lists. The arbitrage did not work at all, but that's another story.
In terms of Amazon affiliate promotions, I was also creating product lists. I picked a couple sets of products, and was organizing them based on price ranges. For example, I had lists like “Top X Products Under $100” and “”Top X Products Under $500”. I was quite confident that this would be a useful bit of information, and that people would search for something like that.
Turns out not. From about September to Winter I did these lists and got pretty much zero traction. Of course, it was a new site, so that could be the reason, but in reality these lists still don't rank or make many sales. A few of them rank, but they are not the price range ones. They are the “quality” ones, like “Best Large Size Product X” and “Best Mini Size Product X”. I have searched in the past, and I do see some websites rank for price range stuff, but for me, this product was a dud.
What made things worse is that I bought all the stuff and did original photographs, so then I had 50+ of these products in my house taking up space. I sold some on Craigslist and gave others away to friends and family, but to be honest, about 50% of them ended up being donated.
2016 Amazon Earnings
In 2016 I focused more on individual product reviews, which really drove a lot more traffic to my affiliate links. On top of that, I was also really starting to use Amazon's ad code, which would automatically add related products to the top/bottom of the post. You can see from the screenshot above that I was also running Amazon CPM ads. Though $231 doesn't seem like much, is was a glimmer of hope that I could get better ad revenue than with Bing Ads, which was a huge miss for me.
At this point, I was pretty disappointed in myself. Coming at this with six years experience in affiliate marketing, I was surprised that my site was not making at least a couple thousand dollars per month at this point. There were a number of issues with it that I can identify now, but at the time, I couldn't see what I was doing wrong.
My only saving grace was that in terms of growth, that's a 3000% improvement over the previous year.
As mentioned in the introduction, one of my strong qualities as a human is that I can see how small improvements over time can add up. 3000% year over year is not something to cry about, so my goal was simply to see if I could do that again. 3000 x 3000% would be $90,000.
2017 Amazon Earnings
Well, you can't get everything you want. Instead of a 3000% YoY growth, I got 200%. That's to be expected. Those initial gains are hard to replicate. Notice, the screenshot above is just Jan-Jul 2017. It's the only one I could dig up, so I'm assuming about the same earnings for the latter half of the year, though November and December are usually the best performing months. We'll just assume I made about $9k for the 2017 from Amazon.
At this point, I'm hoping that I can just double my income each year. Nine grand this year, 18 grand next year, 36 grand after that, and so on. Within 10 years, that's doing over 4 million a year from Amazon sales. Unrealistic, I know, but it's the mindset that matters. Gotta love that hopium. I'd still settle for six figures.
At this point in the business, I'm still doing a bunch of lists hoping to drive random clicks to Amazon products. More eyes = more clicks = more sales. I'm also doing some individual Amazon product reviews, but not many. Just pure traffic at this point.
2018 Amazon Earnings
Unfortunately, 2018 didn't see any growth at all. I didn't do any Amazon product promotions at all. I got into the Mediavine ad network in 2016, but it wasn't until 2018 that ads really started to take off. Amazon was earning a few hundred dollars per month, but Mediavine was starting to rake in $1k-$2k per month, so I wanted to double down on what was working rather than fix what was broken.
2019 Amazon Earnings
2019 was another lackluster year for Amazon sales. I didn't do a single Amazon product review. I was focusing purely on listicles and driving traffic to my site to get more eyes on Mediavine ads. At this point, the ads were earning over $3,000 per month, and I had no interest in Amazon. It was just icing on the cake.
I forget if it was 2018 or 2019, but in one of these years Amazon cut my category of commissions by a good chunk, so I was frustrated at that. I also had other affiliate opportunities I was starting to explore at this point, and in combination with Mediavine ads, the site was on its way to making $10k month. Not there yet, but the trend was in that direction. Noice. After years of stress and frustration, things were starting to look good.
At this point, I removed all the random ad units I had placed on my blog posts. I was running one at the bottom of each blog post, and one under the title image too. I was getting clicks and sales, but not enough to justify the annoying amount of ads. I'd rather take the $400/year (that's how few the sales were) and have an improved user experience to keep people on the site longer. I'd rather improve what's going on with Mediavine ads rather than try to squeeze out another percentage point from Amazon.
2020 Amazon Earnings
Amazon cut commissions again in 2020, but it didn't affect me much. In fact, with my website's traffic exploding upward, I'm seeing improved traffic to my Amazon links and more sales. Some articles which were underperforming previously are now ranking and getting sales.
On top of that, Amazon in the news got me thinking about how good of an affiliate program it is. Despite the low commissions, they are relatively competitive with places like Walmart, Best Buy, and Home Depot, about 1%-4%. Plus, you get credit for everything in the cart, and everyone knows Amazon, which means you have to do very little to convince people to buy. Personally, I think that makes Amazon a great affiliate program to work with… as long as you're diversified.
There are still a ton of other good affiliate opportunities out there, so don't get stuck on the Amazon thing.
It's more than half way through 2020 now. We're into September now. Assuming flat earnings for the rest of the year, that would be $10,000 in Amazon earnings for the year of 2020. Depending on how Nov/December goes, that could go as high as $12k for the year, which would be a 46% improvement from last year. A far cry from the 3000% jump from 2016 to 2017 (wouldn't it be nice?!), but improvement nonetheless.
*takes hit of hopium bong*
50% improvement for 10 years is like a million dollars a year, man.