One of the advantages of becoming an Amazon Associate is that you can promote thousands of products and earn accumulative commissions as a result. What better way to maximize your profit than to start an Amazon affiliate store, right? Well, it’s not that easy actually. The landscape for online shopping has changed – for the better – and it’s important that you adopt these new practices in your marketing strategy.
What Is An Amazon Affiliate Store
An Amazon affiliate store is basically a site that comes with an eCommerce feature that list products from Amazon. Some are ready-made websites that already have a theme and a storefront in place while others require you to build the site from the ground up.
Some five years ago, eCommerce sites were really popular, but are they still relevant in today’s online shopping where people are more tech-and-consumer savvy?
What to Expect from Ready-Made Affiliate Stores
Just like most web services, they come in a variety of packages. When you buy one of these stores, you are allowed to list a certain number of products using your affiliate links, number of stores that you can build and some training to promote your eCommerce site.
In essence, what these sites do is that they create and integrate special software which can ‘pull’ top selling Amazon products to populate within an online store. Thus giving the impression that the more products you list, the more sales commissions you’ll make.
Here are some of the fees that you can expect to pay for these type of services.
- Fresh Store Builder – $87 to $197 (one time fee)
- Incomeshops – $29.95 to $99.95 (monthly)
- Azon Authority – $67 to $97.67 (one time fee)
- Covert Store Builder – $47 (one time fee)
- Curate Plus – starts from $999 ( << YES, you read that right!)
That’s fair enough. We understand that every company has their own selling points, but I found some of their claims to be very misleading. One company even stated that the affiliate store model is the best way to promote Amazon products because (he quoted)
“Search engines hate affiliate sites filled with affiliate links. They won’t rank them or worse, just ignore them or delete them from their result pages.”
Now, I am sure Google isn’t that harsh. True enough, there are many people who misused their affiliate links for spamming, but there are also many who use them righteously, and become successful Amazon affiliate marketers. So point number one, search engines DO NOT hate affiliate sites.
But what about ranking? Do online store actually perform better than affiliate sites? I did a small experiment and discovered something rather interesting.
Say, I am looking to buy a blender for making smoothies, but I don’t know which brand to choose. I typed into Google Search for ‘best blender for smoothies’ and the returned organic results on Page One is as follows.
- Position 1 – News Site
- Position 2 – News Site
- Position 3 – Affiliate Blog
- Position 4 – Affiliate Blog
- Position 5 – Affiliate Blog
- Position 6 – News Site
- Position 7 – Article Site
- Position 8 – Bloggers Review from Google Plus circle
- Position 9 – Affiliate Blog
- Position 10 – Affiliate Blog
- Position 11 – Bloggers Review from Google Plus circle
If you look closely, 8 out of 11 of these results are affiliate sites and each has numerous affiliate links pointing to Amazon and Walmart product page for checkout. Seems to me that Google doesn’t have any problem with that.
Out of curiosity, I went on to check out Page Two.
- Position 12 – Magazine Site
- Position 13 – Magazine Site
- Position 14 – Magazine Site
- Position 15 – News Site
- Position 16 – News Site
- Position 17 – Affiliate Blog
- Position 18 – Walmart Online Store <<
- Position 19 – Affiliate Blog
- Position 20 – Affiliate Blog
Finally, there’s an online store, but that page belongs to a big retailer, NOT an affiliate store. You can carry out this experiment using any queries on your search engine and I’m sure that the results will be somewhat similar.
This finding clearly demonstrates that Google not only favors affiliate sites, but is trying to deliver information that can help me choose the right blender through the help of product reviews and not just product description pages like what you would find on online stores.
What Happen to All the eCommerce Sites
You are probably wondering why so little online stores show up on the search results lately.
Well, when Google rolls out the Panda and Penguin updates, sites with poor quality content and keyword stuffing saw their rankings plummet overnight. What type of sites are affected the most?
You guess it right – eCommerce sites because by default, an online store doesn’t have any unique content (what I mean here is textual content, not product images) and are most likely using duplicate or spinned product keywords over several sites.
The consequences? Lower ranking = less clicks = less revenue.
In other words, stand alone online stores no longer convert as good as they used to be. To prove my point, read what happened to this blogger when he convert his online store to an Amazon affiliate site.
Some of these store builders must have experienced the impact triggered by Google’s algorithm and are now advocating the importance of adding unique content through blogging features. However, I find that their training only brushes through the surface of keyword research; they don’t teach you about how to select for good quality keywords or what type of keyword tool to use.
So, unless they revamp their training structure, I don’t think it’s worth investing your time and money on a ready made site that will never find its way to the first page of Google. But don’t get me wrong here; creating an online store is not a bad thing, it’s how you optimize for the search engines that makes the difference.
What Can You Achieve With Self Build Stores
Remember I said that another way of starting an affiliate store is to build it from scratch? This method requires you to get your own custom domain, a hosting service and a website publisher. Now, if you are going down this route (which I think you should), you’ve probably heard of WooCommerce or Shopify.
The main advantage of using these platforms is that they allow you to house content, be it pages or blog posts in addition to an online store. These content, when done right, have the capability to rank in the search engines and I bet that 8 of the top ranking affiliate blogs that we saw earlier are built on one of these platforms.
From a buyer’s perspective, it makes more sense to land on a product review page (content), becomes interested before checking out the products in the shop (online store). This approach is more friendly and allow consumers to make educated decisions on what they really need.
For example, The Minimalist Baker is a blog that I frequent for simple cooking tips. It has got an online store that links to Amazon, but the majority of the content talks about wholesome recipes, handy utensils and healthy lifestyle. Sometimes the author promotes Amazon products, sometimes she doesn’t.
It’s a very casual and fun site which I think is generating a decent income because she blogs so regularly and offers so much engagement with her readers. That, in essence, is what affiliate marketing is all about. You are helping people; not pushing products.
Content Is The New Focus
So before you go and start an Amazon affiliate store, keep in mind the following points;
- Don’t waste your time recreating that eCommerce experience. Leave that to Amazon.
- Focus on one niche and find relevant products to promote. You’ll convert better.
- Learn to write informed and good quality product reviews. They will rank forever.
- Get really good at keyword research and you’ll be writing content that will attract both search engines and users alike.
The take home message is this – operating a business with a standalone online store will not be sustainable, but incorporating content and a store will yield more positive and rewarding results.
I hope this explanation has helped you understand what it takes to become a successful Amazon Associate. To learn more, please check out my recommended online program and learn the right way to grow your affiliate business.
Have any thoughts or questions about this topic? Do leave them in the comment below and I’ll get back to you.
You may also be interested in;
Why You Need a Website for Affiliate Marketing
How to Find Amazon Products to Promote
I am very thankful for the openness of this post. It is timely and came at the perfect time. A few weeks back, I was planning to build an eCommerce site and started to do my list. I can’t imagine how much time and money I have wasted if I did not come across this article.
It prompted me to think about certain crucial aspects of a truly functional website. Ecommerce certainly doesn’t look as easy as I thought.
Hey, I am glad you benefited from this! 🙂
This article is fabulous, and you sum up general success online so well when you state – “You are helping people; not pushing products.” I think we are all sick of being bombarded with pushy sales pitches and nothing but ads everywhere we turn. We want helpful, informed content that can help us solve problems and/or improve our lives. And if it’s presented in a fun way, that’s even better (I love the Minimalist Baker, too!). Shabbir’s “case study” was an interesting and informative read, too.
You’ve hit it out of the ballpark with this article. Bravo!
Hi Cathy, I opened an Amazon affiliate account years ago when I heard it’s great way to earn a passive income. Problem is, I haven’t even logged into my account for close to 5 years now. Do you think it is safe for me to open another account?
Recently, I saw an advert on a ready-made niche site and thought it’s a good idea. The site goes for about $5 and my plan is to purchase it, then create a WordPress blog to drive traffic to the site. I never would have known that there are hidden charges associated with running such sites.
Chances are, your account could have been terminated by now. I would check again and see if it can be reactivated. Otherwise, I would open a new one. As for the other idea, you need a more in-depth research like who’s actually building them and what kind of publishing platform/programs they are using before deciding to buy these niche sites.
Good ready made ones with optimized pages usually cost about hundreds, if not more. If it’s only selling for like $5, I would be wary of the overall quality.
Hi, great article. A good point about the e-commerce sites you made – they won’t get ranked. For a while I had a Shopify store and although it wasn’t full of affiliate links, the only real way to drive traffic was to use paid ads. Mostly through Facebook. However, it’s really difficult to make a profit this way as you really need to laser focus on your audience plus most people on Facebook aren’t there to buy stuff.
I agree 100% that the way forward is content through blogs. I think the problem with people initially is that they think there are get rich quick schemes online. Once the reality sets in and they realize it isn’t true, they either give up, or look to start a website with content.
In general, I think the Amazon associate program is okay when people are first starting out, but the commission isn’t great, which pushes me away from joining them. But that’s just my personal preference.
Great article and it makes a lot of sense! Content is KING and it’s all about quality, and not really quantity.
That added to the fact that if the main focus of a website is helping others, it will rank. Period. Like you so gallantly say in your article, instead of focusing on making money and pushing a product, we should always focus on serving a purpose that will benefit others. I totally agree with that.
I tried my best with another niche site when I first started 3 years ago, only to get my Amazon account closed because I did not make any sales within the six months period. That is when I realized that I wasn’t doing anything to help, I was only pushing a product. So lesson learned.
Wow, Cathy! What an interesting point of view. As a newbie myself, it’s crucial to understand what’s right and start off with that direction. I’ve been told about the importance of content, but you demonstrated in few words how powerful and effective they really are. Time is our most important resources and it’s better to invest in content creation that can reward in good traffic over the long period of time.
Hello Cathy, thanks for the profound insights. I have been advancing over the idea of making online business for a while, and I was having that exact conversation with a friend this week.
She wanted to open a Shopify store and I told her to create a blog monetizing through affiliate programs instead. After some brainstorming, she admitted that she didn’t even know what SEO was and I enlightened her that search engine optimization is the KEY foundation to building ANY successful online business.
It didn’t matter if she wanted to leverage from Amazon, Shopify or Instagram – she still needs to RANK and the only way to do so naturally was through content. Your findings is a clear evidence of this.
I found this post very relevant and helpful as I’ve just registered to be an Amazon Associate myself. Just wondering if you can give some pointers as to which is the best niche to promote on Amazon? Any advice is appreciated. Thank you.
Hi Salim, there a ton of niche that you can promote through the Amazon marketplace. I would suggest starting with some products that you’ve personally used or are familiar with. Alternatively, you can also search under the “Best Product…” category to uncover trending items, match it to a targeted niche and go from there.
Hope this helps.
Hi Cathy. My first attempt at making money online was with an online store, which I paid Â£100 for. I am sure it will come as no surprise that I never made any money from it. However, for somebody new to the world of making money online, I can understand why somebody might be attracted to a ready made site. What people need to be made aware of when purchasing these store fronts, is that they DO NOT come with a ready supply of traffic and without that, you don’t have a business.
Riaz Shah says
Long time no see, you’re well on your way to becoming an Amazon affiliate expert! I totally agree with the content focus part. E-commerce is a very tiring thing to handle which is why Amazon is handling it and we should leave all the technical work to them.
I wanted to create my own eCommerce sites and they both aren’t doing well so I decided to focus on blogging instead and surprisingly, it’s going well for me.
Out of curiosity though, does Amazon have a high demand from Asian countries besides Singapore? Even here in Malaysia, there’s not a single Amazon shelf like that in the UK.
Hi Riaz, it’s difficult to tackle that question without any statistic reference, but from my personal experience talking to friends, there is a growing demand for Amazon products in this region. I think it’s largely due to the availability of customer reviews as well as product quality assurance which gives people the confident. I do hope Amazon would make its way to South East Asia as this would provide more opportunities to get involved in affiliate businesses.
I enjoyed your point about the penguin and panda updates and how they affected the e-commerce sites – I never even thought of that, to be honest. I have used Shopify before which I thought was awesome but never for Amazon affiliated products. Would be interesting to try.
Are there any particular niches you recommend to get into if you are new to Amazon promotions? I imagine every product range must be very competitive.
Given that you can buy almost anything online right now, many product range will look competitive – at a glance anyway. When choosing a niche, I would recommend one that has a lot of subset of products because that’s more opportunity for content, product reviews and comparison. The real competition lies at the keyword research level and you’d be surprised how many of them are actually low hanging keywords belonging to very hot niches.
greg smyth says
Very interesting post about Amazon affiliate stores. Lots of information to mull over. Although I like the thought of creating a website and putting affiliate links all over it, I am not going to go down this path because I am a big believer of relevant content. This option might be attractive to some, but with minimal chance of getting traffic, I can’t see any future in it.
A very interesting and thought out point of view on eCommerce sites vs. affiliate sites with proof to back it up. I would say I learned a thing or two. I usually employ a test run for product content when utilizing the keyword research tool and I’ve decided to integrate a similar test when searching for competition regarding similar content.
Thank you for your thorough walk thru of the Amazon affiliate program. This truly seems like a legitimate way to earn some supplemental income. Do you know if it is a difficult process to enroll in the program? How long does it normally take to get approved? I look forward to your response. ~ Jerome
Hi there Jerome,
The application is very straight-forward, just follow the steps here. Having said that, you do need some content on your blog/site before applying as it would improve the chances of approval. It shouldn’t take more than a couple of days.
Hope this helps.
Ready made sites never really do much regarding SEO. They will drain your banking account, though.
Years ago I used to sell lots of products on eBay. I did do a little selling on Amazon, too. But, mostly I used eBay. However, one thing I did learn about selling products is you should use Amazon first. Then you can link it to a personal eCommerce website. The reason I would do this is because Amazon is an authority brand and you’re going to get more sales, but can push them off to your personal site.
Obviously, since your products are on Amazon, Google is going to pick up your products, quickly. But, do remember that you want people to comment on your Amazon product pages, too. This shows user engagement which helps tremendously in the SERPS.
Did have a question, though. What WordPress themes or plugins do you recommend for WordPress sites?
Great to hear from you again Garen.
For beginners, I would recommend to start with a free theme first, preferably something that is compatible with the latest WordPress version and has good ratings. The SiteRubix hosting is a great place to test out different themes and see how their layouts fit your business niche. When you are more comfortable and have some extra budget, the Genesis premium themes are worth checking out simply because they are developed by professionals and it’s reassuring to know that your site will be less likely to break with every WordPress updates.
Since mine is an affiliate blog site, I only use 3 types of plugins – All in One SEO, Contact Form 7 and Simple 301 Redirects – for now. If you are running an affiliate store, you would need additional eCommerce plugins such as WooCommerce and WooCommerce Amazon Associates to showcase the products.
What a great article and very eye opening. I always imagined that the big companies and the eCommerce sites with lots of product to sell, would rank very high. However, what you said makes perfect sense and the results of your tests, say it all. This is very re-assuring for affiliate marketers everywhere.
I honestly think that creating an e-commerce site will not give as much conversion, especially that you are up against the GIANTS.
While I still see some e-commerce sites such as eBay showing up in relevant search results, people usually would not go to these sites to look for reviews. While Amazon has the most comprehensive reviews of any products that you want to buy, people are looking for genuine reviews coming from “smaller” sites such a self-built blog.
Most of the time, a “small” blog who has a comprehensive review will get the conversion versus a well-established e-commerce site who “might” have manipulated the feedback.
Very interesting and well explained article. Some months ago, I was almost ready to build a amazon affiliate store. There are inaccurate information on how to make money online everywhere in the web. Anyway, I was lucky and found a different way to start my effort. Now, I have build a website, made my first sale and I’m helping the people that visit my website. Writing content for my niche was the best decision I could make.
You are absolutely right. Nowadays, it is proven the fact that good quality and unique content is the king when it comes to ranking on Google. It takes time and a ton of work to invest, but they will pay off sooner or later. Amazon Associates is one of the best affiliate programs seeing that it is a reputable company, provides timely payments and offers clear terms and conditions.
That’s fascinating analysis. I would have thought that an online store would rank higher than the affiliates. I also read the article from bootstrappingecomerce about his experience switching an online store to an affiliate store. That really opened my eyes!
I’d like to comment on the part you said about writing good content as an affiliate. I do affiliate marketing and so many people think that I can just write a lot of reviews in my 3 hours a week and the money will come pouring in. Not really true!
I really appreciate websites that offer a lot of things besides reviews like tips and things that help in whatever niche it is. It KEEPS ME COMING BACK, which is important unless you’re selling subscriptions. I really despise link stuffing and unnatural writing.
Anyways, I’ve bookmarked your website to come back later. Thanks for the good article.
As you said above, it’s all about content. I mostly have a good deal of text on my site, but there is a benefit to mixing it up with pics and videos, for several reasons, not the least of which is simply to have diversified types of content.
PS; What you said is right on the money! Helping people will trump pushing product any day of the week. Most people just get annoyed with marketers that scream marketing. Particularly in social media circles.
Great article and thanks for all the tips!
Thanks for sharing all this information. Now I understand how important product reviews are in monetizing a site. You are totally right. Affiliate marketing is not about pushing a product, but instead helping the costumers choose the best product for themselves. I will surely take on your advice as I build my business around it.