My Experience with the Amazon Associate Program
Amazon seems like the ideal place to start building your affiliate marketing empire right? Well, if it works out well you’ll be okay. The downside is, they might just ban your account for not following or understanding their terms of service.
What this article is and isn’t
I am not here to complain or whine about my account being banned. This articles intention is to inform, educate and serve as a warning to anyone who already has an associate account, or those thinking of starting one. It might also be very helpful to those who have already had their Amazon associate account banned and don’t know what to do next.
Firstly Before You Sign Up For Any Affiliate Program
There is quite a lot of money to be made using the Amazon associate program if you use it correctly. If you have a small or medium size YouTube channel (1000-5000 subscribers) you might have a better earning potential through referred sales than what you’ll make just through YouTube.
The Email from Amazon
I am not going to say I didn’t do anything wrong because I broke the rules in Amazon’s eyes. I woke up to an email that said this:
Effective today, Amazon is terminating your Associates account as well as the Operating Agreement that governs it (link below).
We reviewed your account as part of our ongoing monitoring of the Amazon Associates Program. During our review, we determined that you are not in compliance with the Operating Agreement, found here: <https://affiliate-program.amazon.com/help/operating/agreement>. The violations include the following:
-You are encouraging customers to bookmark your Special Links. All Special Links must be accessed directly from your Site.
You must stop using the Content and Amazon Marks and promptly remove all links to the Amazon site.
Because you are not in compliance with the Operating Agreement, Amazon will not pay you any outstanding advertising fees. Please be aware that any other related accounts may be closed without payment of any fees. Amazon reserves all other rights and claims.
How did I break the rules?
I had a link on a public accessible Patreon page that that said people can use the links to shop on Amazon and this supports the channel. This mistake cost me the entire account getting banned. Was it my own fault? Yes! Did I know this was against the rules? No. I would have removed the links if Amazon had asked me but there are no chances when it comes to Amazon. If you break one of their rules you will be banned without warning and they will KEEP your money plus the money you made them.
Amazon Ethics are Questionable
I made Amazon $45,000 dollars in the last 3 months. I was expecting a check to come in for around $2500-$3000 USD which was going towards dental expenses and also living expenses. Once your account gets banned Amazon keeps everything. I thought selling items was part of the affiliate program but it would appear that they don’t like it when people use links to support a channel or website.
No Warning System
I had been a member now for about a year. I would have expected some sort of warning email saying something similar to:
“Please remove this link and terminology from this page in 3 days or your account will be banned”.
Instead, you get zero warning and really no way to appeal it that actually works.
Save Your Time Appealing it
The first thing I did after receiving this email was to call the Amazon custom support number and ask what was going on. I asked whether or not I was able to have the account re-enabled.
The Associate help desk staff member said:
“You’d have better luck just starting a new account as the appeals process only has about 1% success rate”.
With that, I started pulling down hundreds of links from all of my videos and websites across the web. This job was tough enough but what made it way worse was what followed.
I spent the next 6 hours generating all new links on my new associate account and removing any questionable terminology or mistakes I made with the prior account.
I spent the next 14 hours relinking products, videos, and websites back to my new Amazon account only to have that account banned as well. In the 24 hours that I had the new account, I could tell they had already started making money from it.
Know the Rules Before You Link Products
My suggestion is before you go head first into the Amazon affiliate program understand the do’s and don’ts ahead of time. I do not understand a lot of legal terminologies because I am a computer guy, not a lawyer. I wish I had spent more time now researching the best practices on the internet before I started. If I had of done this, odds are my account would still be active.
Why I tried Amazon
For those that don’t know what I do. I am essentially a content creator on a number of different YouTube channels and I do video production and write blog posts. Relying on YouTube alone is tough which is why I tried the Amazon affiliate program. My earnings were growing each month with my most recent month making $850 USD. Sadly though, this is now somewhere in the deep pockets of Amazon.
Are There Any Other Affiliate Programs?
Absolutely! You just need to do some research first of all. I have moved all of my Australian links (that are relevant) to a much better affiliate program called Commission Factory. By making this change, I receive a much better percentage per sale on the items located in Australia, the UK, and New Zealand. I am also engaged in talks with one of the largest guitar companies in the United States to take care of that niche. All being well I will have a trusted tech and camera company on board soon too which will cover all my bases.
Important things to think about if you are with Amazon
Odds are, you might already be breaking the rules and you don’t know it. I’ve seen the majority of YouTube channels break the rules unknowingly. They post links without any mention they are affiliate links. Will they be shut down? I hope the ban stick is fair to anyone breaking the rules but at the same time, I don’t wish anyone bad luck.
So many prominent YouTubers also use link cloaking which is against the terms of service. Even channels with over 1 million subscribers. Seeing this leads me to believe there’s a huge double standard going on between affiliate members.
I would highly suggest watching this video called 26 ways to get banned from Amazon’s Affiliate Program by Income School. Income school is one of my new favorite YouTube channels. I would suggest subscribing to them if you’re a content creator or blogger who is looking for ways to improve your income.
If two guys with business degrees can’t decipher all of the rules and terminology in the Amazon rules then odds are the majority of us won’t be able to either.
Amazon One Link
For those that don’t know what Amazon One Link is, it’s essentially a way to link the UK, Japan, Canada, and Australian sites alongside the US site. What I find interesting is since my US site has been banned from the affiliate program the other sites are still active. What happened to my one link? While my main account was the US it has now defaulted to the UK site as my primary account. I am able to link other regions from there now.
Statistically, Amazon.com is by far the best money maker for most people using the program. If Amazon closes down my other accounts in the near future I will not be surprised, but I also know I am not breaking any of their rules. Part of the email they sent me mentioned that my other accounts might also be removed. We will see how we go with this in the near future. If I have any future updates on this, then I will let you know.
My Plan Moving Forward
As I continue to produce more content on YouTube and on the web, I will be focusing more on reliable and uncomplicated affiliate programs that work best for the content creator as well as the user. A lot of people online have had their Associate account banned by Amazon and a lot of people are breaking the rules already and their account is in good standing. Amazons double standards are not fair for any content creator and I don’t plan on trying to recover my account any further.
I have been a content creator now for quite a long time. If you’re interested in seeing what goes into being a YouTuber for example, check my post out on the topic. I spent a full day writing that post so I hope you get some value out of it and why it is we look for other sources of income.
Do You still want to sign up to Amazon Anyway?
Go for it! I am only offering this article as a warning to anyone considering joining or to those who already have associate accounts. I would hold off joining the program as a YouTuber until the following occurs:
- Have at least 1000 Subscribers. The reason for this is odds are you have very little traffic and trust on YouTube.
- Have a few videos that get at least 400 hits per day weeks after their release. If you have less than this then odds are you won’t make any extra money using the Amazon affiliate program
- If you have a poor performing/low traffic website. The key should be lots of good quality content before any advertisements or affiliate links. Having a spammy website will not work well. This new website is an example of quality content before anything else (I hope!).
13 Ways to have your Amazon Associate account Banned
- 3 approved sales in your first 180 days. This means you should have lots of good content already as well as regular traffic
- Using images from Amazon and hosting them on your website. This sounds pretty crazy but it’s true
- No Link Shortening or Link Cloaking. So many YouTube channels are guilty of this. This means no custom URLs of any kind. You have to use the approved link shortener that Amazon provides.
- Do not encourage friends, relatives, employees, contractors to use the links. So do not give them to anyone you know.
- Typing “By using these links you help support the website or YouTube channel”. You are obliged to mention all affiliate links, but this term is an instant ban.
- If you don’t identify yourself as an associate you will be banned. If you have a WordPress site put the appropriate text in a sidebar widget. This way, it will show up on every page.
- Links can only be posted on a publicly available website. This makes sense as Amazon will be able to track where the traffic is actually coming from
- Using Amazon name on the clickable link. Being banned for saying “Amazon” sound crazy but it’s true.
- Quoting in part or in whole a customer review. You would think this wouldn’t be a problem but for some reason it is. The only safe quoting is no quoting.
- Representing yourself as working for Amazon. You’re an associate, not a staff member = Instant ban.
- No Affiliate links in emails. Amazon probably has no way of tracking this so don’t do it.
- No associate links in e-books or PDF files. I assume for the same reasons as the above point.
- You can’t use a star rating system on reviews. What an odd rule. Nearly every review site uses a star rating system including Amazon.
If you want to hear another 13 ways your account can get banned check the video I posted above.
Other Affiliate Programs
Here is a list of other Affiliate accounts worth checking out. I highly suggest checking out as many reviews of them as possible before signing up. Each of them works with multiple advertisers and finding the best one for your content will be a personal choice.
- Commission Factory
- CJ Affiliate Program
There are plenty more out there. Please remember to read reviews on any of these affiliate programs. Also, make sure to find out about the commission rates that suit your needs or that are better than Amazon. There’s plenty of shops that offer affiliate programs directly in any given niche. Do your own research and find out which one works best for you.
Update May 1, 2019
Amazon enabled my account again. I received an email several weeks after the second account was closed saying the new account was closed in error. I will keep you updated if anything else happens.