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Amazon Associates: The Best Way to Diversify Your Online Income?

by Steve Scott | Join Him On Facebook

One of the worst mistakes you can make with an Authority Internet Business is to not diversify your income.  This creates a “single point of failure” where one event can destroy everything you’ve worked hard to build.

I was reminded of this rule recently while working on DevelopGoodHabits.com after a three month break.

Even though I’m starting to make a decent income with a few habit-related Kindle books, there is a legitimate risk to putting my eggs in one basket.  So ultimately, I decided to focus on affiliate marketing through the Amazon Associates program as my second source of income.

In this post, I’ll talk about why I recommend the Associates program to anyone building an authority site.  Plus, I’ll detail seven steps to maximize your affiliate income with this program.

Why Amazon Associates?

Like many people, I once dismissed the Associates program as a legitimate source of income.  When you can promote products for $97 at a 50% commission, it’s hard to get excited about rates that cap out at 8.5%.  But what I didn’t fully realize is you get an opportunity to promote quality products you actually use.

Let me explain…

When I started this case study, I wrote a post that detailed my monetization strategy.  Specifically I wanted to promote products through affiliate marketing.  The problem?  I’ve had serious trouble finding offers I’d want to recommend.  In a cursory search of various affiliate networks, I couldn’t locate offers that provide value to a habit-specific audience.  Instead, they’re filled with wishy-washy products that I don’t like:

  • Law of attraction
  • How to be more happy
  • Secret “success formulas”
  • Binaural audio and subliminal messages

No offense to creators of these products, but I don’t buy into the “pseudo-science” theories of success.  The point of DevelopGoodHabits.com (DGH) is to show how you can build a better life by forming quality, day-to-day routines.  So promoting any of these offers would send mixed messages to the audience I’m building.

To be honest, for awhile I felt stuck with how I’d generate my second source of income.

That is, until I looked at the income that was generated from a few Amazon Associates links in the DGH blog content.  With only a small amount of traffic, I earned $127 for the month of September.  Not a huge amount of money, but pretty good for a new website.

This got me thinking…  Instead of trying shoehorn in recommendations of subpar information products, why don’t I focus on Associate products that I actually use?  So, currently I’m structuring a small part of DGH to recommending affiliate offers through Amazon’s program.

And here’s how you can do the same in seven steps:

#1: Promote Products You Regularly Use

The biggest advantage of the Associates program is you can literally promote any product.  If something is sold on Amazon, you can make money by recommending it to readers.

For instance, Amazon offers a tool where you can link to any page on their site.  This gives you a lot of control over what you recommend.  Since Amazon has become the shopping destination, it’s easy to find something that helps readers.  Simply think of what obstacle they regularly encounter and identify an item that helps them overcome it.  Specifically, you can use Amazon to promote:

  • Books
  • Software
  • Apps
  • Electronics
  • Tools
  • Clothing

Just think about what you regularly use and then grab a link to it from Amazon.

#2:  Create Review Pages

One mistake I see people make with affiliate marketing is to directly link to an offer.  The smarter strategy is to create a product review and link to that instead.  On this page, you’d describe why you like the offer and how it can help readers.  This converts better because most readers know, like and trust you.  So they want to read, in your words, why they should purchase a particular item.

Now, you don’t have to create a review for every single Amazon product.  My advice is to only do it when an offer matches one (or both) of these requirements:

  1. It costs $50 or more
  2. It’s a mandatory purchase

Generally speaking, these two rules won’t apply to every affiliate recommendation.  So you only do one when you really believe in a particular offer.

#3: Focus on Benefits, Not Features

The most important part of a review is to describe how a product helps readers.   You want to write it in a way where the reader has a sense of ownership.  Really, all you have to do is use descriptive words and show how they’ll overcome a specific obstacle.

Emphasizing benefits is much different than a focus on features.  Most people don’t care about product specs.  Instead they want to know how it’ll help them on a personal level.  Your goal is to think of your ideal reader and use the words that run through their head.

EXAMPLE:

On DGH, I recently did a review of the FitBit One: DevelopGoodHabits.com/Fitbit-Review

On the FitBit Amazon page, the core features are fully detailed.  So instead of rehashing what’s already written, I explained (in simple words) why I like this pedometer.  I simply looked at the 5 star and 1 star reviews to see what people liked/hated about the product.  And then I wrote a review that focused on these comments.  Specifically I emphasized six reasons why I recommend the FitBit:

  1. Portability
  2. Accuracy
  3. Activity charts
  4. Gamification
  5. Accountability
  6. Long battery life

If you look at the review, you’d notice I didn’t use technical jargon.  Instead, I explained why it’s a good pedometer and how it can help people develop the walking habit.

#4: Create an Open the Box Presentation

One of the best ways to improve affiliate conversions is to do an “open the box presentation” or OBP for short.  The idea here is not simply talk about a product.   Instead show how you use it.

There are two ways to do an OBP.

First, you could create a video where you demonstrate the product.  This can be done with a simple desktop recorder like Jing or you can do a “talking head” recording where you demonstrate how the product works.

The second option is to take detailed screenshots using a tool like Snag It.  This is a great way to show how it works.  For instance, in my FitBit product review, I took screenshots of the activity charts and rewards that can be earned by walking on a daily basis.  This adds credibility to the review since it clearly shows it’s something I regularly use.

#5: Make Decisions for Readers

Over the years, I’ve learned that when you give people too many options; they’ll often pick none.  This is called paralysis by analysis.  When it comes to affiliate marketing, low conversion rates are often caused by providing too many options to solve a particular problem.  Instead, it’s better to pick one, maybe two, item(s) and then do a very detailed review.

Remember, people read your site because they like your angle on a specific niche topic.  So it’s your job to save them time and find out what’s the best available product.  Odds are, if you tell them that an offer is worth purchasing, they’ll follow your advice.

EXAMPLE:

In a previous DGH post, I did a comparison of four different walking pedometers.  While it helped readers determine which one was right for them, it didn’t recommend ONE particular pedometer.  Instead, it gave a few pieces of information on each device.

In my opinion, I improved my website by creating a new review that focused on the FitBit One.  I simply described my experiences with this device and gave reasons why they should check it out.

#6: Encourage Engagement

One way to improve an affiliate recommendation is to encourage engagement.   You can do this by asking readers to:

  • Reply with comments and questions about the offer.
  • Send videos/images of how they use it.
  • Join you on a Facebook page that’s dedicated to the product.
  • Share the blog post on social media to potentially win a copy.
  • Connect with you on the platform that’s used by product buyers.

I was reminded of the power of engagement while writing the FitBit One review.  In addition to asking people to buy it, I also told them to add me as friend on the companion membership site.  That way, readers can compete with one another and improve their daily step count.  Not only does this add credibility, it also gives readers a chance to engage with one another by using the product.

#7: Drive Traffic to the Review Page

A good product recommendation can generate long-term income for your authority business.  The trick is getting traffic to the review page.  In my opinion, you won’t get a lot of initial sales (unless you already have a large audience.)  The better solution is to slowly weave in links to the review page as you develop your business.

EXAMPLE:

Currently, I have a few products that I currently use for habit development.  My plan is to create a product review (once a month) and link to these pages from:

  • Kindle books
  • Blog posts
  • Resource page
  • YouTube/Udemy videos
  • Autoresponders

I consider each product to be the ultimate tool that solves a particular problem.  So whenever I’m talking about a certain challenge, I’ll have a related blog post that readers can check out, which also generates income.

The Value of the Associates Program

The Amazon Associates program can provide a steady source of revenue for your authority business.  But it won’t work if you’re simply linking to random products.  The smarter strategy is to create detailed review pages that explain why you like the offer.

You don’t have to be sleazy or aggressive with this recommendation.  Simply explain why you like it and how it helps the reader overcome a particular problem.  Do this for every item in your niche to build up a catalog of pages that can add up to a reliable level of income.

Take Action. Get Results.




P.S. Struggling with your Kindle books? Don't know how to get started on Amazon? Looking to generate an additional stream of income?

If so, click here to grab my free report "44 Answers to YOUR Kindle Publishing Questions"


{ 35 comments… read them below or add one }

Nick Loper

Amazon Associates has definitely been a bright spot for me this year. Similarly, I wasn’t too excited about commission rates starting at 4%, and a single-session cookie. But Amazon converts like crazy — double any other advertiser I work with, so it all averages out.

Nice tip on using the user reviews to “fuel” your content. That’s one thing that’s tough — you’ll never “out-review” Amazon’s crowdsourced consensus, but if you can add a unique perspective I think that will still be helpful for visitors.

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Steve Scott

You’re right about the conversion rates for Associates. I’ve seen as high as 15% on some links. Pretty awesome when compared to other offers. Plus, if you publish Kindle books (like we do), you can get around the “no Associate links” rule they have by sending traffic back to your blog.

I’ll agree you can’t out review Amazon, but sometimes you can create content about the “biggest complaint” and add your own perspective. For instance, I saw a lot of people complaining about the FitBit accidentally counting steps, which I knew was B.S. So I overcame that objection by mentioning how I’ve tested it on my own.

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Darlene with BlogBoldly

Steve..can you please elaborate:

” if you publish Kindle books (like we do), you can get around the “no Associate links” rule they have by sending traffic back to your blog.”

Thanks, darlene :)

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Steve Scott

Should have clarified with that. As part of the Amazon Associates program, they don’t allow affiliate links in books, especially Kindle books. If you use them, you run the risk of being kicked out of the program. But, I don’t think it’s a violation of this rule if you recommend a specific blog post that talks about a product. Hope this clarifies things a bit.

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Georganne Fiumara

“As part of the Amazon Associates program, they don’t allow affiliate links in books, especially Kindle books.”

Steve, Do you mean that a person can’t put an affiliate link to a book that they wrote? What about if it is published by a publisher and not self-published?

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Steve Scott

Georganne,

As far as I know that means ANY book. I know Amazon specifically states you can’t add affiliate links to their Kindle books, but there is some debate about whether that means any type of book. I try to avoid the whole problem by not including any aff. links in anything I publish. If I do decide to promote a product, I’ll send the traffic back to my blog page.

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Georganne Fiumara

I think I am confused.

Are you talking about including Amazon affiliate links WITHIN your ebooks to other books you have written?

I thought you meant that we can’t promote our book to our audience with an affiliate link and get an affiliate commission on a book we wrote. This is something I have done with my Kindle ebook and my home business books that were published by Globe Pequot Press.

I would really appreciate it if you could clarify this for me.

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Steve Scott

Hey Georganne,

Yes, actually you’re not allow to even promote your own books with an affiliate link. There’s nothing wrong with promoting your own books, but you can’t do it with an affiliate link. To be honest, Amazon is kind of confusing with their rules, but I know a couple of people who have double checked it and the people at the Associates said it wasn’t allowed.

Hope this clarifies things.

Steve

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Arwin Adriano

That was a clever idea Steve. One of the effective strategy to create buzz is to write something that people will debate with. People love to insist their ideas and prove that what they are thinking was more ideal from what you have experience.

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Steve Scott

Interesting idea … how would you apply this to an Amazon Associates recommendation?

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rebecca bogart

great post, Steve. I have been thinking about doing Amazon Affiliate pages on Squidoo but this is a much more well thought out approach! Right now busy launching an ebook, but after that I will move on to generating thousands of trickles of affiliate income. I shop from Amazon all the time and have already thought of many products I’d like to recommend.

thanks again, Steve.

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Steve Scott

Great to hear Rebecca. It’s surprising how many Associate products you could recommend when think about the needs of your niche. Good luck with the book launch and the site afterwards.

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Dave Taylor

As a new blogger trying to make money from my sites one of the first and most profitable ways is Amazon. Until they decided to stop paying anyone from my state, Missouri, because of a law on taxes. Now that revenue stream is dead. Any suggestions for people like me who Amazon will no longer pay?

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Steve Scott

Yes, unfortunately Amazon kinda screwed over affiliates in a few states. The one idea I’d recommend researching is to set up a LLC in another state (like Delaware). I know there are some websites that set this up for you and will handle mail correspondence. If you’re willing to pay a few hundred dollars for the services, you could open up an Associate account under a fully legal LLC. (Obviously, this is not legal advice, but something you might want to consider.)

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Jamie Alexander

This is definitely a technique I’m going to test out in the future, but I think it will be mostly books. Maybe supplements too.

I’ve actually been looking at supplements and you can pick them up for 100x cheaper from places like China. Much more profit involved and own branding too.

I think your opinion on it would be cool because I guess you could do the same thing with nootropics to improve brain and build habits.

btw, I swapped my book from PDF to Kindle because of your site and it’s increased my income 4-5X almost instantly. Cheers for that lol

Working on a new book now, so looking forward to the future a lot more.

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Steve Scott

Oh okay, so are you doing the “sell your own products on Amazon?” I saw all those emails recently for ASM and that’s what there focus is on. I didn’t buy it because I’m not really interested in going the supplement route. But, I’d love to hear how it works out for you.

Glad to hear the Kindle stuff is working out for you. I love the platform and think it’s a great to quickly monetize a new site. The trick (for me) is finding additional sources of revenue that actually help readers.

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Jamie Alexander

Yeah, I’ll let you know how it goes. I won’t be doing it for a while because I want to have a large enough audience to make it worth my while. I’m sure powder will go out of date. I’d sell it through my site and not Amazon, but it’s an idea I have for the future.

I agree about finding other useful products to promote. TBH Kindle isn’t my long-term strategy, or at least not the main one. I’m just using it for the next few years to help build my website audience and authority. If I can eventually make a fulll-time income from it then it’s a bonus.

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Steve Scott

Sounds like a good plan Jaime — definitely keep me posted, I’d like to see how it goes for you.

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Ash

How can you be sure people from here haven’t brought items from your website, bought your habit books which link in pretty well with internet marketing anyway? What promotional tactics are you using other than Kindle books of course?

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Steve Scott

I’m not 100% sure to be honest. I’m sure there will be some cross-over. But, I set up a different tracking code for each website. So I know that if a book/product was bought on Amazon from THIS blog, it would be coded as stevescottsite. Same goes for DGH. Right now, I’m doing a couple of promotional tactics: Twitter, networking, and SEO. In a bit, I’m going to try YouTube. I’m going to publish an income report in a week or so, that’ll go into more detail.

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Georganne Fiumara

Hi Steve,

I received your email just in time today to include your ebook, “Your First $1000 – How to Start an Online Business That Actually Makes Money” on sale for 99¢ today on http://www.FreeKindlesToday.com.

I also took your advice about promoting Amazon products by writing about my new keyboard in my blog on the site, too. I’ve always tried to limit my recommendations to work-at-home moms to resources that I believe in. Promoting Amazon.com products that you truly use yourself is a natural extension to that policy.

Thanks for your excellent and ongoing advice.

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Amber

I have been running into the same issue with finding quality affiliate products for my health and fitness for moms blog. The great thing about Amazon is that you can find pretty much anything you are looking for on there. Thanks for these tips on how I can still do affiliate marketing with quality products.

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Steve Scott

Hey Amber

It’s definitely frustrating to find good affiliate products. Most markets have *something*, but often they’re not right for the audience. That’s what makes Amazon great is you can find good items to recommend without becoming sleazy about it.

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Edna

Another big PLUS about Amazon is that it’s such a big marketplace and people often end up buying several other products as well, not just the one you actually promoted. And you’ll get commission on those too! :)

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Steve Scott

You’re right Edna. I forgot to mention that part. The 24 hour cookie is pretty awesome because you can pick up on the random purchases that people make.

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Jeevan Jacob John

Hey Scott,

One of the major types of blog posts I have planned for my upcoming blog is book reviews. I try to a new book every week. So, I thought I could book reviews every now and then. But, I never thought about using those posts as a source of revenue.

I like this idea – particularly because it doesn’t seem to be “aggressive” affiliate marketing. I am not reviewing the books for the sake of making money, I am reviewing the books since I read them, since they are in my reading list.

I will try it out and let you know how it goes ;) Thanks for the tips, Scott :)

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Steve Scott

Book reviews definitely work. While the commission isn’t much it can lead to other purchases that people make on Amazon. Let me know how they go with your site.

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Michal

@Jeevan: as an avid reader I’m interested how your strategy will work.
@Steve: to review the products you love is a great strategy. Reading your review was a pleasure, unlike reading so many hyped copies I went through.
I really felt the urge to buy a FitBit ;)

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Steve Scott

Thanks Michal! I actually find it enjoyable to read reviews on stuff that I love because the content comes across as more enjoyable. So I’m thinking that Associates might become a more focal part of my income strategy, even though the commissions aren’t huge when compared to others.

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gurav

steve you are doing very good work .Your contents are very effective to me for learning something . So keep doing for needy person who are seeking knowledge.

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Steve Scott

Thanks Gurav— glad you’re getting use from the content.

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Mike Gerke

Good post Steve. Got me thinking I need to focus on Amazon more. I’ve made a little money with Amazon but have procrastinated doing more promotion lately because my efforts promoting some clickbank evergreen products has been paying off. Lately I’ve been looking around my house at the many different products I own that are sold on Amazon, from my coffee maker to cookware, electronics, even books I’ve read. Think I’ll start by doing some simple video reviews of the products and why I like and own them, and put ‘em on youtube. Then go from there.

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Steve Scott

Yeah, it is a trade-off. I love Clickbank products but I found most of them to not be applicable to my product. While the Amazon commissions aren’t that great, I found it’s easier to do reviews of items I’m constantly using.

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Montina Portis

Hi, Steve! Fantastic tips! I certainly don’t use the Amazon associates program enough. Your tips have convinced me that I need to establish a product review tab on my site though. I am definitely going to add this to my streams in 2014. Thank you!

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Steve Scott

They definitely work for the right product. What I found really works is to create the review and then continuously refer to it in other posts. I do this with the FitBit because I absolutely LOVE the item, so it’s easy to sing it’s praises whenever I talk about the exercise habit.

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