Amazon Affiliates for Small Shops

Amazon Associates is one of the world's largest and most successful online affiliate programmes. It allows website owners to create links and earn referral fees when customers click through and buy products from Amazon. If you have a blog for your business, it's a great opportunity to earn affiliate income from visitors to your website. In this article I will cover what it is, what it isn't, how it produces affiliate income for small shops, and how to make the most of it.

The Passive Income thing

Are you tired of hearing about passive income yet? It has been the subject of many an email in my inbox for the past 2 years and much of what is said, I'm sorry to say, is misleading nonsense. However some of it is real. I have blog posts I wrote literally years ago, with Amazon affiliate links in them. They still generate a small commission when readers click through on my link and then choose to make a purchase on Amazon. That, to me, is true passive income. I did the work upfront once, and it continues to work for me, months and years later.

Amazon Affiliate Income for Small Shops

Product Affiliate Market - and why that matters

Amazon Associates is the biggest affiliate network in the product affiliate market. And the "product" affiliate market, as opposed to other affiliate markets, is an important distinction to make. All those millionaire affiliate marketers laying on beaches reading this around the world: I know you didn't make all that money from Amazon Associates.

You may however, have made it from affiliate revenue from the marketing of digital products. If you have an enormous audience online, you could promote a digital product with a very high ticket and high affiliate income attached to it. So think 3000 pounds at 50% commission because yes, that does happen in the digital product market. If you are involved in that industry, you can make an awful lot of money from affiliate income. 

However, when you're talking about Amazon Associates, you're talking about lots of itty bitty bits of commission rates on bazillions of products.

Amazon Associates

It was set up at the time Amazon itself was set up, in 1995. I found that quite interesting, that Amazon Associates has been part of the Amazon stable forever. So when Jeff set up Amazon, he knew he needed an army of salesmen out there sending people Amazon's way. It might be difficult to imagine now, but back in 1995 you probably had never heard of Amazon. These days, I think you'd struggle to find anyone in the western world that hasn't heard of it. Indeed, most people have not only heard of Amazon, they also have an Amazon account.

However, in 1995, the world was a very different place. And the best way to get people to send their friends to this new site called Amazon was by giving them a little bit of commission every time their friends bought a book on the website. Whilst the commission rates Amazon were paying in those days were dramatically higher than they are now, the process remains broadly the same. And it works.

More about the programme from Amazon Associates in this video:

Amazon Associates - What it is and what it isn't

Amazon Associates is an affiliate programme where you can earn income from products links, and it is the biggest of its kind. With upwards of 12 million products in Amazon's catalogue, and closer to 350 million products when you include marketplace sellers, the sheer scale of products to choose from is mind blowing. It’s completely free to join and simple to use. And in case you didn't know, affiliates are also paid for items the customer adds to their cart within 24 hours of clicking on your link, and purchased before the cart expires.

Yes, that's what I said. If your reader clicks through and takes a look at the product you recommend and then goes on to add other things and checks out within 24 hours of that click on your link, you receive a commission on everything in their basket.

Regardless of that however, Amazon Associates is not a "get rich quick" scheme. You will read claims of thousands of pounds in affiliate income a month. That is not the affiliate income I'm talking about. It is is definitely possible to have a nice little income from Amazon Associates, I'm living proof of that. You just won't be retiring on it.

How can Amazon Associates provide an additional income for shops?

The best way I can explain it is my describing what we do. I have blog posts on the Almost Off Grid website about the products we stock. In case you weren't aware, we sell homebrew kits for making beer, wine, cider and mead. We also stock products to help ferment vegetables, kefir and kombucha, and to make cheese.

All these subjects have a lot of potential content associated with them. That's because our site visitors are looking for guidance on (for example) making wine from garden grapes. Or perhaps they're looking for a beginner's guide to making mead. And so on.  Since we sell the products to make these things, it makes obvious sense for us to blog about how to make them. And I would argue that it does for you too.

There will be an subject linked to what you sell in your shop that your customers would like you to blog about. Think about all the questions your customers ask you repeatedly. Yes you can answer them face to face and on the phone, but wouldn't it be great to be able to send them to an article you've written which explains everything? And you can put links in those blog posts which may earn you a commission whilst, at the same time, helping your customers to find what they need. Plus you could suggest other articles they could read on your website related to the subject and further reading, in books that ideally you have read yourself and have found helpful. It really is that simple.

Why would I send traffic from my website to Amazon?

And you may be thinking: why would I do that? Why wouldn't I want to keep traffic on my own website, why on earth would I choose to send them somewhere else? And yes, in some cases you would indeed keep the traffic on your website. Sometimes that's the right thing to do. But if we are genuinely going to help the reader find what they need, sometimes we just don't have that thing to offer them. In those instances we send readers to Amazon, and elsewhere too.

In our case, the reason we do that is because we're a small shop. So if I'm writing an article about a beer kit, I may only take delivery of three of them every time we place an order because our shop is small with limited storage. We simply don't have the space for hundreds of lumpy beer kits. But between Amazon and all the marketplace sellers on Amazon, there will be many of those kits available. So if I'm talking about a product I am not confident I can keep in stock all the time, then I send the reader to Amazon. If it's a product that we always have in stock, like our mead kits that we created ourselves, then I send the reader to our website. So you make a decision depending on what makes sense for your customer. I choose carefully, a product that has a good rating, ideally one I've tried myself, ideally from a seller with good reviews. To keep my customer's onward journey from our blog a happy and positive one.

There is no point trying to keep the reader on your website knowing you are likely not to have enough stock, or you don't stock the product at all. All that does is irritate people and make them unlikely to want to read more of your content. In 2019, a Mintel study confirmed that almost 90% of UK shoppers used Amazon, regardless of what they might be saying publicly on Facebook. We've had two national lockdowns since then when, as a retailer, it was very clear that shoppers trusted Amazon and many were buying very frequently  on their site. So if you don't have the stock, potentially your reader will go to Amazon anyway to look for it. You may as well make life easier for them by sending them to a site which can be relied upon, and receive a commission if your reader buys when they get there. 

How do I become a member of the Amazon Associates Program?

Before you can participate in the Amazon Associates Program, you need to be a member. This means you have to apply, and there are some things that you need to bear in mind before you submit your application.

There's no point in applying if you don't have a website set yet. Or you have a site, but very little quality content there. I would advise you to apply only when you have at least 15 pages of decent quality content. Amazon will ask you about your social media accounts when you apply, because they want to know you have an audience which you can potentially bring to their platform. But you don't lead with your social media accounts when you apply to Amazon, because having thousands of followers on Instagram isn't as appealing to them as having a lot of traffic to your website.

These applications are read by real people, not bots. So they will go through and have a look at your application. If you have a massive social media following but you don't have very much going on on your website, I would do a bit of work beforehand, writing quality blog posts and ensuring you make clear where you're going with this. It isn't a problem if you're just starting out, we all started somewhere and they know that. It's just giving your application the best chance of success first time around.

Amazon will ask you for your bank details so commission can be paid into your account. I strongly recommend ensuring that the name on your application and the name on your bank account match. It's a bit like when you're applying for a seller's account on Amazon, or when you're applying for a Kindle Publishing Account. As you've probably noticed when you apply for all sorts of accounts now, from bank accounts to affiliate accounts, fraud is very much a thing. Names matching everywhere is fundamental usually. When I applied back in the day, it didn't matter. But it does now.

So if you have an Amazon business account, and the name matches that on your bank account, then be logged into your Amazon business account when you apply. If you have a personal Amazon account and the name matches that on your bank account, then be logged in to your personal Amazon account when you apply. 

Obviously the commission is all taxable. So picking and choosing which account the monies get paid into isn't a way to get out of declaring the money, it's just about ensuring your chances of approval first time are the best they can be.

You can apply here. If you have an Amazon business as well as personal account, remember to be logged into the account which matches the name on your bank account for commission payments before you start!

If you're turned down the first time you apply, it is not the end of the world. It isn't like applying for a seller's account where, if you're turned down, it can be difficult to re-apply. Amazon Associates will tell you what the issue is, probably something like you need a bigger audience, you need a bigger following, or something like that. Go off, do the work based on their feedback and reapply. Eventually you will be approved if you do as they ask you to do.

I am not a blogger.  I am a shop owner who happens to blog. Amazon affiliate income is one of the many revenue streams that trickle into our shop bank account, month in month out, helping to keep the cash flowing. Which enables us to buy more stock. 

So the numbers may not be big, but all the small amounts add up. That's why I consider Amazon Associates to be an important part of our business.

Free Checklist to help you maximise Amazon Affiliate Income

Are you already an Amazon Affiliate? Would you like our checklist: 21 tips to maximise your Amazon Affiliate Revenue?  Use it when writing your blog posts, to ensure you maximise your affiliate income in every piece of content you produce. You can get it here.



Other Articles in this 'For Shops' Series

Committing our Business to Net Zero by 2030

The Three Ways to Grow your Shop Sales

Creating a Beautiful Bio Link for Instagram


Further Reading

Small Giants - Companies who choose to be great instead of big by Bo Burlingham

Omnichannel Retail - How to build winning stores in a digital world by Tim Mason

Reengineering Retail - The future of selling in a post digital world by Doug Stephens






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