It's pretty freakin' clear that you can make bank with Amazon Associates these days. There are thousands of full time travelers, homesteaders, and gamers who make thousands…if not hundreds of thousands of dollars per month promoting products found on Amazon.com.
The trouble is, it takes a lot of work to get there.
Despite what the gurus will tell you, there is no overnight solutions. Making money with Amazon means you'll have to build a website, write content, learn SEO, and a few other steps (you can learn them all here on my website).
And where people are looking for shortcuts, you can bet that the scammers will be ready to sell you exactly what you want. This is how the idea of Amazon auto posting plugins were born.
Whatever the exact phraseology is, your spidey-sense should be triggered with phrases like “turn your WordPress site into an Amazon store”, or “instantly start earning money through Amazon Associates”. You know. That kind of garbage.
Whatever they call it, the idea is simple. Grab content from Amazon and automatically generate content and links on your blog.
Can you make money in this way?
No. It's a waste of your time.
Even plugins that claim to make searching through Amazon products and pasting affiliate links onto your blog easier are absolutely useless. In fact, these types of plugins may actually be damaging your site.
Bad Plugin #1: Amazon “Import” Plugins
I actually tried one of these because it seemed like a legit idea to me at first. This was back in 2013, so give me a break. I've learned a lot since then. The basic function of plugins like this automatically grab pictures, descriptions, and even reviews from Amazon and posts it to your website.
It's basically a mirror for Amazon. The assumption is that you already have traffic, you can can just create a mini Amazon store and get random clicks and sales from relevant traffic. The trouble is, not only will duplicate content prevent you from ranking new posts, it can also hurt your current website rankings.
Duplicate Content Issues
The first thing you should be worried about is duplicate content. There is absolutely NO WAY to rank for content that's been taken from other places, even if you make small changes to it. I knew this fact before I bought the plugin, but I had also read numerous times that duplicate content does not penalize your website.
The confusion here is that “duplicate” content doesn't hurt your site. Spam does. Copy pasting content from Amazon for the majority of your website content is considered web spam.
My original plan was to create a blog with 100% unique content written by me, and have an “Amazon store” featured on the blog where people could browse items related to what I was blogging about. I would also have the option to link internally to these products as they came up in my blog posts.
After 3 months of generating original content for the blog, not a single post was ranked.
I shared the heck out of it on social media and was receiving 10-20 visits daily from social media. I targeted keywords with zero competition, and was receiving comments from social visitors. Still, I was ranking for nothing at all. My site was indexed, but was nowhere to be found within the first hundred pages of the SERPs.
My site was definitely penalized. After de-indexing the old domain and uploading just the original content to the new domain, I was indexed and ranked within weeks, and the blog continues to do well to this day.
Why Use This At All?
I thought I had a pretty good plan, but I knew that there would be a lot of work involved. My plan crashed and burned even though I knew that ranking and selling would not be “easier” with this plugin.
The issue that I think is most obvious with Amazon auto import plugins is that most people are looking for an easy way to make money. Although I had a plan to provide value, most people do not. Regardless, it didn't work for me, and won't work for you.
You should also think about the visitors experience on your site. It's very obvious to a user that you are not Amazon. It's also obvious that you are taking content and pictures from there. So why should any visitor be on your website at all? If there's nothing of value there, what the incentive to read or share your website?
Bad Plugin #2: Amazon Auto Link Plugins
This type of plugin will scour your website for text related to any kind of product and add an affiliate link. It works kind of like Sovrn or InfoLinks, which also automatically add links…except those are huge companies and they have very smart algorithms.
These auto-linking plugins are designed by fly-by-night developers more interested in getting your cash that developing a long-lasting plugin.
No Funnel, No Optimization, No Method To The Marketing
Machines are stupid. No matter how smart you make them, they are still going to be dumber than you. If you are depending on a piece of software to decide where to place your links, then there are going to be mistakes on your blog.
I can write a post about how to brew beer and when I mention “barley”, would an auto-link generator link me to a nice sack of malted barley or a breakfast cereal made of barley?
You might sneak a few sales in when an unsuspecting customer clicks your link then buys something later that day, but I find it very hard to believe that you will be able to make consistent sales in this manner. If you do, it's because you have a ton of traffic, and I am confident you could put that traffic to better use.
Too Many Affiliate links Links
Are you seriously going to put more than one affiliate link on every post of your blog? That's a terrible idea. Google is not dumb and knows when you are trying to make money from content. If you start linking to Amazon in every single post, the authority of your website will be in jeopardy.
So, now you have to decide which posts to activate the plugin on, and which posts to leave it off. My question is, if you are going to have to manually control a plugin that should be doing something automatically, why have the plugin at all?
I have been an online marketer for 9 years and I can tell you this – you'll make a lot more money with a few well-placed affiliate links than shotgun blasting your link everywhere hoping for a sale.
What About an Amazon Store
Some products these days (though more so in the past) claim that turning your WordPress blog into an Amazon store is the way to fame and fortune.
Sorry to burst your bubble, but it isn't.
Why should people even go to your website if they can get the same info, (most of the time better + more complete) from Amazon?
Even if you took the time to write custom descriptions, titles, meta data, and even edit the pictures, they are still shopping on your website only to be taken somewhere else to buy. You have to consider the VALUE that you are providing to your visitors.
It's easy to get caught up in the “I just want to make money and I don't care how!” style of thinking. But you need to remember that there is a real person on the other end of the transaction, and something you NEED to learn before you start making money in online business is that people will only buy when there's a good reason to.
They are not going to land on your site, have a bit of a shopping spree, and think, “Hm, how can I help this guy make some money”. Nobody cares about you or your business other than you, so if you set up your website as an Amazon clone, they'll just got o Amazon.
Can You Actually Make Money With Amazon?
Absolutely! Millions of people make money with the Amazon Associates program every year, and some depend on it as their full time income. They don't pay very well compared to other programs in my opinion (about 5%), but they are one of the largest, most diverse, and most reliable affiliate programs around.
So How Do You Do It?
First off, you need a niche. This is a specific topic that your website is about. Next, you need to create content – lots and lots of content. Blogging on a regular basis about the topic of your website will be your main weapon for ranking well in Google and giving people a reason to be on your website.
Lastly, of course you need those affiliate links! But you need to use them sparingly. You need to pick only the best products that are most appropriate for your target audience, and you don't have to try to sell EVERYTHING!
If you are in the running niche, there's no reason at all to put an affiliate link on your blog for a pair of shoe laces that cost $1.50 and will give you a 5% commission. ($0.08). It's not even worth your time or the link to Amazon.
However, some $300 specialized running shoes would be a great product to write a review on, or an MP3 player would be a good option too.
Reviews VS Other Content
Another mistake people make a lot is ONLY writing reviews. That is one strategy, but it can make your blog very dry. Actually, there's so many products to choose from, and you don't have to own everything you review, so you would be busy for many years just writing reviews alone.
However, you can still make money through Amazon without even reviewing products. Again, if we are talking about the running niche, you can write a post about the dangers of running in the winter. It's not a review at all!
Somewhere in the post you might want to link to some winter running shoes, or special leg warmers, or any gear aimed at the winter running crowd. You can link directly to Amazon or you can create a review of the product first, then link your “other” content post to your review post. Both strategies work fine.
What's My Point?
Unique content well placed affiliate links are going to be what makes sales. Auto generated content with randomly placed links is a recipe for failure. Not all Amazon affiliate plugins claim to do this though! There are plenty of other plugins that work with Amazon to actually help you make money.
They don't automate anything at all, but they do add functionality which can help boost your Amazon sales.
Four Amazon Price Plugins
There are a couple of good plugins that help you manage Amazon pricing and images, two of the most annoying aspects of Amazon's affiliate program.
First off, you cannot list the Amazon price on your website. Don't do it! It's against Amazon's TOS, and can get your affiliate account banned.
Why? Prices change daily, so they don't want you to misrepresent products.
It makes it kind of hard to compare product pricing, which is a major factor in making buying decisions, which is why I hate this policy. Have you ever noticed why so many Amazon affiliate websites have “Check Price” on their button instead of “Buy Now”? It's because they told you everything about the product except for the price (because they can't!).
Amazon Product Images
The other annoying thing is images. You cannot upload Amazon images to your website. Even if you are linking directly to the correct product, it's just another rule you have to follow. I think it's because Amazon owns those images, so they are copyrighted. Some garbage like that.
So how can you sell a product you don't have an image for?
Well, the idea is that you actually should own the product and put in your original images instead of Amazons. Most people start out building affiliate sites on a shoestring budget, so you can't really buy 10 versions of a camping axe to photograph! (Side Note: If you do have a budget, invest in making original images. It'll make your website stand out).
Anyway, what that means is you're stuck using Amazon's API, which gives you only 3 image size choices, and they are way to small to be “attractive”.
These plugins allow you to leverage Amazon's API to create attractive pricing and image units for your website way better than Amazon's default.
Plugin #1: Easy Azon: Easy Azon is the most popular plugin in this category, and it's the one I use. As I outline in my review of Easy Azon, the plugins works great, but I did need to do a bit of custom coding (outsourced) to get it looking perfect. It didn't “skyrocket” my Amazon earnings, but it did allow me to integrate beautiful Amazon images and correct pricing popups through Amazon's API.
In other words, it helped me achieve my desired aesthetic and all within Amazon's TOS. It doesn't integrate with Gutenberg yet (new WordPress), but still works fine with the Classic Editor. It's not a perfect plugin, but it works. > Get It Here (Affiliate Link)
One thing I like about EasyAzon is that it will display an image only link, but when you hover over the image, the pricing pops up. It's interactive, non-intrusive, and less noticeable that you are an Amazon website just like every other affiliate site out there.
Plugin #2: AAWP: This plugin looks really nice, and they've been around for years. It can create nice charts, which Easy Azon doesn't do. It also creates beautiful, static (not pop-over) feature boxes, which includes data from Amazon.com. > Get It Here (Affiliate Link)
Plugin #3: AmaLinks Pro: This is a pretty popular Amazon plugin, but I haven't see it out in the wild much. They offer similar features to AAWP, including comparison charts, Amazon feature boxes. It also has the image-only option I mentioned with Easy Azon.
They also have a community of members, which I'm not apart of, but assume it's for discussing Amazon promotion strategies.
The downside is that you'll be paying a yearly fee for access to this plugin, instead of a one-time fee for the others above. However, this may be a good reason to get this plugin. So many developers ditch their products after a couple years because they aren't making enough money! At least if I can count on these guys to have an income stream and keep adding feature or at least keeping security updated, I don't mind pay $67/year. > Get It Here
Plugin #4: Amazon actually has their own pricing plugin with “cards” that display certain information. I don't know why nobody's really talking about it, but I'm guessing it's because so far, it sucks. Alternatively, you can just use the Amazon card code, which looks pretty nice.
What Amazon Amazon WordPress Themes?
Much like plugins, there are a bunch of themes out there which claim to be Amazon affiliate themes. Of course, they'd have you believe that you can make commissions faster and easier with their setup. So far, I haven't seen anything reliable or worth your time. If you think differently, leave a note in the comments.
I eventually invested time and money into working with a particular one called Ultimate Azon. It worked for a few years, but now development has stopped. Bummer. I'm lucky I was smart and never put too much time into that website. My affiliate site was dead in the water by the time the dev quit his project, but the lesson stands: Know your theme developer before committing.
With something like an Amazon-focused WordPress theme, you have a lot of movie bits and pieces to make it “Amazon friendly”. If you decide to switch things later, stuff like custom taxonomies are not going to copy over nicely to the new theme, leaving you with plenty of 404's, broken images, and who knows what else.
Stick With The Basics
My advice is to stick with a popular WordPress framework and theme. Maybe pick an Amazon plugin if you really want to focus on Amazon products, but don't make your website 100% dependent on it. Promote a variety of products from different affiliate programs. That way if stuff goes sideways with Amazon, you have a backup income to rely on while you fix the problem.
How To Actually Make Money With Amazon's Affiliate Program
A plugin isn't going to build your business. That's your job. Honestly, you can do really with with a super basic website that just has written content and text links, with stock photos, Amazon's card code, or original photos you take. If you really picked a topic you are passionate about, I don't see why you can't source a couple nice photos from stores, friends, or you own cache.
Regardless, you don't really need a plugin to make money with Amazon. You need to have a great website with interesting content.
And really, I hope you get that Amazon is just one of a hundred thousand options out there. I only made 9 grand last year from Amazon because I was focused on promoting other affiliate programs. Amazon isn't bad, it's just one of many options that may or may not be a good fit for you.
I learned how to build my first affiliate site here, and am still rockin' it 9 years later.