I've been an affiliate of Amazon for 10 years now, and the most recent commissions cut is the second I've lived through. Actually, this recent cut in April 2020 didn't affect me at all because my categories had already been slashed to 4.5%, and some even down to as low as 3%.
To be honest, a 3% commission sucks, especially when you're promoting everyday items found on Amazon. Let's not through the baby out with the bathwater though. Amazon's affiliate program is still awesome, and still one of my top recommended affiliate programs to join, especially for newbies.
Why Amazon Associates Is STILL A Great Affiliate Program
Unlimited Range of Products
Where else can you buy literally everything online? Nowhere. I'm building out my YouTube studio in my office right now, and that basically just involved me watching a tutorial, then buying everything from the list through Amazon. Item no longer available? Just search related products on Amazon.
I bought my office couch on Amazon. I bought the lighting on Amazon. I bought my mic on Amazon. I bought art on Amazon. Everything.
I tried to buy a couch in person, but LazyBoy was going to take two weeks just to get the couch from the warehouse shipped. The local shops didn't have pictures I liked for decoration. I tried to buy stuff outside of the Amazon ecosystem and failed. Amazon has pretty much everything for everybody.
It doesn't matter if you're selling barbecue sauce or baby bottles. Amazon has it. Toe fungus cures and dog toys. Amazon has it. You get the idea.
This also means you can promote all of those things and earn commissions. Actually, sometimes I find that a certain product manufacturer sells their stuff online, but doesn't have an affiliate program. Instead, I can just promote it through Amazon and earn a commission, even if it's a small one.
100% Market Trust, Prime Membership
When people shop online, at least in the USA, Amazon is probably the #1 spot. Walmart and Target are gaining popularity, but they aren't there yet. They don't have next day shipping. They don't have same day delivery. They don't have the product range. They don't have their own delivery trucks. They aren't allowed in your garage.
People trust Amazon, so you don't have to “work” to get them to buy stuff. When I click on an Instagram advertisement, I always have to think to myself, “Is this some kind of scam?”. When I visit a small business website, I'm looking at the SSL certificate every step of the way to to see if there's something janky going on.
With Amazon? I sometimes just click the “buy now” button and am done in less than 5 seconds. It's Amazon. I know how Amazon works.
On top of that, they have the Prime membership. I rarely buy stuff outside of Prime delivery with Amazon because I like the quick shipping. Returns are easy, and getting easier. Heck, I don't even have to pack up the box any more and put on a label. I just take my trash to the UPS store and they do it for me after scanning my QR code. Now I don't have to think, “Is this the right item?” for too long. I bought a cable charger for my DSLR camera on Friday. It arrived Sunday. It was for a Nikon, not a Canon, so I returned it, bought a new one, and the new one arrived Wednesday.
Couldn't have been easier.
Maybe my shopping stories are boring, but the point is that with a very high level of market trust and the incredible benefits of Prime membership, I'm putting less thought into shopping online than before, and that means quick impulse buys, which work in your favor as an affiliate.
Full Credit For Multiple Items In Shopping Cart
Speaking of shopping addicts, something that a lot of complainers are forgetting about is that you get credit for all the stuff in the shopping cart. Even if you are just promoting lighting equipment, but the person also happens to buy a pull up bar for their home gym, you get that revenue.
Do you ever leave items in your shopping cart to buy later? Do you ever buy products from that “Frequently bought together” widget in Amazon? Do you ever need to buy something, then ask your wife, “Hey babe, do we need anything for the house because I'm getting stuff from Amazon.”. I do it all the time. A single affiliate click could lead to you getting credit for a whole shopping cart of random things, through no effort of yours.
So which would you rather have – a low 3% commission for everything in the cart, or a high 10% commission for just the product clicks you get? I'm actually not sure which one is better, but I'm assuming the 3% one benefits more people.
Long Track Record, Bright Future
Amazon Associates has been around for more than a decade. Amazon the company isn't going anywhere soon. I highly doubt they will completely remove their affiliate program because it's got to be super profitable for them. They've got an entire army of people promoting Amazon products through YouTube, Blog, and social media.
Although they don't have extremely attractive affiliate commission rates, they are reliable. They are a blue chip affiliate program. You can be sure they are going to be around for a long time, paying on time. In my experience, they've never missed a payment. They've also never bugged me to do this or that change to my website. I can just do my own thing every month, and get paid for my results. I love it!
Amazon certainly isn't the only game in town though, and I definitely don't recommend you rely solely on them. Diversify. You never know if they might ban your site, or further cut commissions, or even cut categories in the future. You never know. However, they certainly have a place in my affiliate strategy, and I wouldn't hesitate to continue to recommend them to other affiliates.
How To “Beat” The System And Boost Your Amazon Commissions
Focus On More Expensive Products In Your Category
3% on $5 is not fun. So stop focusing on promoting $5 products. I'm not saying you have to go after $1000 items, but find some other items in your category that pay a bit more. If you're doing a home decor site, instead of focusing on promoting curtain rods, try promoting some real wood furniture. If you have a car repair site, instead of reviewing bumper stickers, try promoting light bars for off road trucks.
There's always going to be a wide range of products to promote within a niche. If you only have a narrow set of products to promote, you may need to rethink how to define your niche.
Branch Out To Related Products & Keywords
Speaking of redefining your niche, maybe it's time to expand into some different product categories. What are some high paying categories you could explore? Right now, luxury beauty and Amazon Handmade are the best paying categories.
Here's what I would do. Let's say your niche is golf swings for beginners, and sports is only paying 3% right now (2020). You could promote sweat proof makeup for women on the golf course. You could promote handmade custom golf shirts, or maybe some kind of handmade leather golf bags. Automotive is paying 4.5%, so maybe you could promote custom golf cart stuff.
Those were just some brainstorming thoughts, but you can go through that same process for your current category. What other things could you promote in higher paying categories?
Optimize Your Content For More Sales
There will be bumps in the road, no matter what style of business you run, and no matter the industry. Imagine how restaurant owners feel right now in 2020. Sucks, right? Crying about it will get you nowhere. I see people complaining in Facebook groups about how they're “done with Amazon” etc, but I think really they are just made because they have to work hard.
This is an opportunity to get better at what you do. Take some time to look at your best performing content and find ways to optimize it. Could you add a comparison chart? Could you change your CTA? Could you add higher quality images, or update your reviews?
Even if optimization only gets you to where you were previously, that's still good news. Now you have acquired a new skill set that can be used across your other sites or affiliate relationships. If your optimization eked out a 3% increase in sales, where else might that 3% benefit you? Sure, an extra couple percentage points on some Amazon choice charging cables for iPhones might not do much for your bottom line. But an extra 3% in sales for some other, better paying affiliate program, compounded over time, could really get some eye-popping results. You never know.
Rather than get upset commission cuts, look at it as an opportunity to become a better affiliate marketer.
If, after reading all this, you still think Amazon sucks, you can check out Amazon's competitors. Personally, I still think Amazon is still a great affiliate program and still make money with it. In fact, I've just committed a certain amount of money per month to finally doubling down to grow my Amazon sales to try and 2x those commissions by the end of 2021. Right now I'm only pulling in about $1000 per month from a combination of niche sites, and I'd like to double that within the year. Very do-able IMO.