Doug Cunnington Shares an Exclusive Insider Look Into The Amazon Associates Program
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Want to hear some exclusive insights into the inner workings of the Amazon Associates program?
Doug Cunnington joins the Niche Pursuits podcast to share with host Jared what he learned after interviewing an Amazon insider!
This is never-before shared access into the biggest affiliate program around.
Because despite being easy to join and get started, there's lots of uncertainty and many pitfalls to avoid. So, having Doug back on the podcast to keep us informed is a real treat.
The convo covers a wide range of topics, including:
- Tips for maximizing conversions
- CTA best practices
- Common challenges faced by Associates
- Earning more by promoting Amazon to different countries
- And more...
Doug also mentions the importance of diversifying traffic and revenue sources to mitigate risks.
And he shares tips for improving visibility and providing context to enhance conversions, such as using the "mover and shaker" page on Amazon to promote popular products.
The conversation also covers the topic of conversion rates and the types of call-to-action that can not only help send traffic to Amazon but also keep you from getting penalized.
Plus, they get into restrictions on linking to Amazon in emails and the rules around using images from Amazon on websites.
Doug also highlights Amazon's desire to expand into other countries and how this brings opportunities for bloggers via better commission rates for Associates in these markets.
Overall, this is an optimistic look into the future of affiliate marketing.
You not only get a comprehensive overview of the Amazon Associates program and a forecast of the future. But also lots of tips regarding various aspects such as labeling requirements, commission rates, traffic targeting, content creation, and the challenges we face as affiliates.
Watch The Interview
- How he got access to an Amazon insider
- Amazon audits
- Tips for maximizing Associates' earnings
- The importance of finding product-market fit
- Effective CTAs
- Linking to multiple sites on a page
- Amazon Associates links in emails
- Terms of Service questions they wouldn't answer
- Affiliate disclaimer placement
- Associates vs. Influencer program
- Minimum requirements to apply
- Click attribution
- Opportunity costs
- Optimism for the Associates Program
- Associates training opportunities
- And a whole lot more...
Links & Resources
- Niche Site Project | Amazon Affiliate Marketing | Doug Cunnington
- Doug.Show Podcast
- Mile High FI — A Financial Independence and Lifestyle Podcast Network
- Ask Amazon Associates & Prime Day Tips - Frequently Asked Questions - YouTube
- Doug Cunnington - YouTube
- Genius Link
Jared: All right, welcome back to the Niche Pursuits podcast. My name is Jared Bauman and today we are joined by Doug Cunnington with Niche Site Project and the Doug Show.
Doug: Welcome, Doug. Thanks, Jared. It's a pleasure to be here, always pumped to catch up with you and thanks for having me on the show.
Jared: Yeah, you know, you're no stranger to the podcast.
I was looking back, you might not even realize this, you've been on several times. You, so you were on first when we were actually counting episode numbers, you were episode number 26. Thanks.
Jared: Yeah. Really? Yeah. I had to, I know, I dig through the archives to find these things. And then a couple years ago, I know you were on talking about some, some YouTube projects you were working on.
So yeah, so you've been on a couple of times here. This is at least visit number three.
Doug: Awesome. Yeah. Yeah. Those were back in the early days. I want to say it must've been nine years ago or so. So I, I probably don't want to go back and listen to myself back then, but it's out there in the archive. Huh?
Jared: You can find it. Anybody listening can find it. I think you were talking about flipping a website or something. I just saw the caption. I admit I didn't go back and listen, but you know, you run a very popular podcast. I know I listen to it whenever I can and whatnot. So I'm really looking forward to having you on today.
We're talking all about Amazon Influencer Program. I'm so excited for the topics and the agenda we put together. Before we dive in though, many will have heard of you. Many will know you because of your podcast and the work you've done in this community. But why don't you give people a backstory? So they do, you know, anybody new or anybody who's just starting to tune in, doesn't know who you are.
You can kind of catch people up.
Doug: So I got started working on websites back in 2013. I just found the smart passive income podcast kind of randomly. At the time I had a corporate job doing project management. I was a good worker bee drone kind of person, and it wasn't that great. I had a little free time.
So I found Pat Flynn, listened to a handful of episodes, actually found Spencer as one of the most inspiring guests. So I started. You know, checking out niche pursuits, the blog and the podcast, and really, really dove in. And I was dabbling for a couple of years before I got laid off in 2015 from that corporate job, which ended up being really a blessing in disguise.
And it gave me a chance. To try to take the side hustles full time. Like a lot of people had some, some big successes and then some big failures. And I was just kind of figuring some things out. We did things a little bit differently back in those days as things adapt and change a lot of the link building practices from back in the day.
Didn't have the longevity. So I had a couple issues with Google algorithm updates and such, but eventually I got my footing eventually started you know, a few other blogs. I've sold a few sites. I. Started a podcast. I started putting more stuff on YouTube and just kind of layered up over and over again.
And actually through that, through just working online, I built relationships and gained some skills. So I actually have another podcast in the personal finance space as well. So I started in one spot. Went on a huge winding path and like, you gain all these great skills just from dabbling on the side. So that's one big takeaway.
I want everyone, you know, just right at the beginning, like, even if you don't know what you're doing, you're just trying to figure out a few things. You'll gain skills. Hopefully. Expand your network as well and projects and opportunities will pop up in the future for you. You know,
Jared: I, I was telling Spencer this a long time ago, but I think the very first time I heard about niche pursuits was from that very same interview you referenced on smart passive income.
Oh, wow. Yeah. And so I started following the podcast at that point. And to your point, you just never know what opportunities are going to develop here. I am working with Spencer and hosting it many, many years later,
Doug: right? Yeah. Yeah. And that's a decade later, you know, you never know what's going to pop up and what relationships could lead to other introductions or anything like that.
Jared: Well, I, you know, you kind of set the stage perfectly for what we're talking about today. And the, what I mean by that is so much has changed and will continue to change and evolve in this world. We live in this side hustle website building affiliate marketing world. Top of the list in terms of what has changed over the years is the Amazon influencers program.
I would say I don't want to bury the lead here, so I'm just going to keep it very, very high level and then we are going to get into it. But the bottom line is that this program is probably the most popular affiliate marketer program that there is. And probably also one of the most chagrined or frustrating programs for affiliate marketers.
It has a lot of animosity tied to it. It has a lot of frustration tied to it. And yet it really gives so many people so many opportunities to earn money online. So. With that being said, you got to interview somebody from Amazon, which is practically like getting into Fort Knox. No one talks to anyone inside of Amazon and we get to pick your brain today on what they told you, what you learned and things that we can gain from that conversation.
Before I start asking you questions, why don't you just tell us about this? How you got this, what happened, like, give us, kind of set the scene
Doug: here. Sure. And quick semantic correction. So, the Amazon Influencer Program is a thing, and the Associates Program is typically what we're talking about. It's really the same program, it's just targeted.
Different people, a different market. So the associates program is typically what we're talking about. Amazon affiliate, you have a blog, you know, usually that's, that's sort of this scenario. And I did I
Jared: say influencer? It's because I just came off the back of three interviews about the influencer program, man.
So thank you for the correction. You're right. We're, we're talking about the associates program. I think influencer might make its way in there a little bit, but you're right. The bedrock of what we were talking about last decade is associates. And I need to get my head out of the influencer interviews I've been doing for the last three, three times.
Doug: Well, it's very popular and they are, I mean, they, they go hand in hand, like it's really the same program. It's just a marketing label. So, so back to your question, how did this happen? So I got an email from one of my listeners. He's been a great supporter of like the YouTube channel and we've exchanged emails a lot over the past six years or so, and he.
Made contact with I guess someone who runs a marketing agency. So he met him at some conference years back. This marketer Dean, which I think we could probably link up to Dean if you think it's, it's relevant for listeners and such, but basically Dean made contact with someone at Amazon through his network somehow or another at Amazon in the associates program and they were talking.
And basically, I think Dean proposed to kind of get out there, like talk to your associates. There's kind of a bad reputation. Like you said, Jared, like we don't hear much. If someone gets, gets an email from Amazon associates and it says you're doing something wrong, there's no one you could ask. You have no recourse.
You can't get clarification. If you send evidence to them like. To the contrary, showing that you are not violating anything. You don't know where it goes. You there's no conversation, right? So it's kind of bad in that sense. And I mean, there, there are pros and cons with the program, but that piece of it does not make any of us associates feel good and it represents a huge amount of risk.
For example, let's say I have a blog. I've been working on it for several years. I'm making six figures a year. I'm supporting my family. I get an email that my. My sites are going to be audited. I'm freaking out. I, I don't know what's going to happen. I know about the reputation. I know if I submit a ton of information, I may not, I might not get any answer back.
I actually went through an audit in the scenario, that sort of scenario, and you know, you, you get an email on a Sunday night at the time you have five days to reply back. And, you know, I'm, I'm losing it a little bit. I'll, I'll keep it PG, but I was freaking out. Everything worked out fine. I'm very good at documentation.
So I was able to send them what they needed and have put together like templates to help people do that sort of thing. So anyway, Dean hooked this up because I have a lot of, I guess, good relationships with my audience. I always reply back to emails. I've. I put out a lot of content, and I'm generally, I think people know that I'm authentic.
If I don't like a product, I'll say that I don't like a product. I'm not pushing things that I, I don't like. I'm not trying to promote anything weird. Right? So. Dean chatted with me and I think there were a lot of people on his list like a few dozen And maybe my straight shooter attitude like cut through the mix a little bit and I was like I don't care if I talk to them.
I don't need anything from amazon. So maybe that helped and also i'm a professional So I do have the background in the corporate world so I can Navigate and understand you shouldn't piss certain people off right? So like amazon. Yep. Yep. So I was like If you need me to, you know, operate in a certain way and meet some deadlines, I can do that kind of stuff.
So Dean got back to me and said, Hey, it's going to work out. We're going to be able to do the interview and I'll pause here. But that's how. That's how it all came about, just putting myself out there for several years. And then finally, I mean, the other people that I know that did the interview, Mark and Gail at Authority Hacker, which I think they have a much bigger brand.
They have a much, I mean, they're, they're brilliant. They do a great podcast. All the stuff they do is fantastic. So I think, you know, if I was the other person that was able to interview them, I'm like, how did I end up here? Imposter syndrome really kicked in, you know,
Jared: I think it's great. And I think to your point, I'm really glad, you know, you're one of the ones who got to do an interview with it because you do cut to the point and, and, and, or cut to the chase, get to the point, but you do get authenticity out of people that you bring on your podcast.
But any one question before we drive it, dive into some of the details you learned, like any reason why this came together now, I mean, I could just lean in and feel like it for so many reasons with all the AI stuff that's coming out with, with all the stuff that's changing in online search and online buying patterns that maybe There could be reasoning behind that, but do you feel like I'm stretching by saying that like, why, why now, after all these years of having a successful associates program, are we getting a little bit of access?
Doug: Pure speculation on my part. The gentleman that I talked to, Mark Keeney, he was great. I chatted with him a little bit beforehand, a little bit afterwards, and I would have a beer with him. He seemed like a good dude. He said he has been in the role. For two to three years or so. And this is the pure speculation part.
A lot of times when there's new leadership, you get some some new energy, new initiatives like, Hey, we haven't tried this in a while. Why don't we go try it? Mark, why don't you go figure out how to do this? So I think it could have been that. Just maybe a new idea from some leadership behind the scenes.
Maybe not even Mark, right? So I'm not sure like where he he falls in the hierarchy the other speculation right which some people emailed me From the audience and they were like, oh, maybe Amazon's losing a lot of market share Maybe things are changing and they really need the associates to step up now that I have I have no idea Now the other part which we will get into I think Some of the questions that were asked and some of the questions that were not asked.
The, some of the questions that were on the list that I did ask about were about Prime Day. And, you know, that's come and gone by the time this goes out. I only had a couple weeks to do the interview and publish it. And I think they wanted to do some promotion for Prime Day. So that, I think, specifically, you know, this time in the summer.
There were some prime day ideas about it. Yeah,
Jared: and that makes sense. Like you know, oftentimes, you know, you'll kind of do a rollout release to build hype around something. And it's a good point. Like, as we dive into some of these details I'll say it for you. I know you're comfortable saying it, but you were somewhat, I don't want to say restricted, but there was kind of questions that were approved to ask and questions that you, that they weren't going to touch.
So I might ask you some questions, and as I like to do, I like to kind of drill in on here. So, if you, if you feel like you can't answer it, just say it. Or, and to your point, if you feel like you just want to speculate a bit, like, we'd love to hear your insights, because you've been in this industry for long enough, and you did have access to interview him, and feel free to just say, you know, he didn't say this, but here's what I kind of feel.
So, you know, we can kind of navigate through these questions, but I'm going to try to ask you the questions I think a lot of the listeners are going to have. We have a great agenda. We're going to get into how you earn money. Like some of those nuances we don't understand. I see a lot of terms of service topics we can talk about here on our agenda.
Localization links, different countries, all this stuff. But before we get into all that, let's talk through, what did you learn about tips and tricks for how to, how to. How do you earn the most money on Amazon Associates? Here I go again. How do you, what are some tips you learned on just a regular day on Amazon Associates and how to maximize your earning potential?
Doug: So I think it'll be very straight ahead, straightforward, like the most obvious answer, unfortunately, but you should have the right traffic on your site. You need to have the product market fit. So even if you're getting a ton of traffic, But they are looking for something else, then you're not going to convert that well.
So it's really important to have the right keywords, maybe write in the proper style for that specific audience and really understand what they need. So it's really, you know, zooming out a little bit and thinking about just marketing in general. And it doesn't even matter that it happens to be on, you know, Amazon associate program, right?
You should try to have the right product for the market or it's just not going to work out. So again, the most obvious thing, but when people come to me, and I'm sure when you advise people, Jared, it's like, yes, so you get a lot of traffic. So what's going on? Where is this traffic coming from? What keywords are pulling it in?
If it happens to be, you know, some other type of traffic, you should really think about. Why they're coming to the site. So that is the, the number one thing, hands down, you know, some other stuff is having again, obvious high quality content. So have images as much as possible. You should have like firsthand account for whatever it is you're reviewing.
If you, if you don't have that opportunity, you should do your best to research and maybe research people that. Do you have firsthand opera, an opportunity to hold those products and actually use them in a little hack to, you know, get around it. If you don't have the product and maybe there's not a lot of reviews, there are reviews on Amazon.
So you could read through that kind of content and actually tying it together with some AI topics. You can probably use AI to sort through all the mess of these different reviews and Get a pretty good idea of what those products are like to use.
Jared: Let's talk about conversion rate. And again, I don't know if you guys were able to get into it, but there's always been some confusion.
And I've heard about people in audits getting caught up in the way that they're telling people to go to Amazon to buy the product. So we might call that the anchor text you use in the link to Amazon, the call to action you use. Now one thing that I know is you can't refer to price. Unless somehow you're pulling that dynamically through their API.
Now, just to explain, you don't want to say it's 20 because the price fluctuates on Amazon sometimes every, like, 15 minutes, right? So they don't want you doing that. So you can't say, you know, 20 on Amazon, click here. But did you get any insights whether they specifically talked about it or even just in what you've seen in your experience in terms of what kind of call to action can we use to get people to go over to Amazon from our blog posts?
Doug: So we didn't get into those details However, one of the ones that I do recommend is just to check the price on Amazon So that is very effective there's some curiosity built in and it keeps you clear of listing any prices or anything like that and You can use Various tools to pull the actual price. I think within the last 24 hours via the Amazon advertising API, which is fine.
So there's a lot of tools that do it. The the other thing slightly related, and you could pull me back on track here in a second, but one thing that I did want to cover that they confirmed is you can list other retailers on the same page.
So yeah, That was one thing that, which was kind of vague in the past. So I'll, I'll explain what I'm talking about and you've probably seen it out there for like the wire cutter or other big sites, but you'll have a link to go to Amazon, maybe Walmart, maybe target, maybe a Zappos or whatever, some other retailer, and it was always a little bit unclear whether or not you could do that.
Because. Amazon has some pretty strict rules about where you could link when you're using quote Amazon assets, which would be like an image from the Amazon advertising API and other things that you might be using from Amazon. So. They confirmed, yes, you can actually link to other retailers and that is okay.
They referenced the fact that Google says that a website owner should give the visitor a choice and show some options. So that, that is okay. I'll try to circle back to the, the question about you know, what anchor text, I think generally you want to set the right expectation. So Mark did mention to, you know, not have any kind of like, I guess hidden links, right?
Like you don't, you don't want to have, there's a specific word for it, which is escaping me, but you don't want to have a link that is hidden. So maybe domain. com slash something funny. Cloaking. Yeah. So you don't want to cloak any links. You want to set the expectation, right? So again, I don't want anyone to, to click somewhere and not know where they're going and end up somewhere they don't want to be.
So I always say like, go check reviews, check prices on Amazon. Those are pretty good. Do you have a specific go to for, for your anchor text? I
Jared: do check price on Amazon. I, we have we, at times in the past, we've gone like check black Friday price on Amazon. But to your point, like we've always tried to balance the curiosity of like.
Hey, go click because it's the way the cookie works right like and and we'll get into it But the way that you know and to is so good that and
so profitable when you're an Amazon Affiliate because anything they buy for the next I think
24 hours You get a commission on which is, which is lucrative. So create an intrigue by getting them to go to Amazon. But yet you're exactly right. Like I've always held by the idea that if I don't put on Amazon at the end of that, that might be something they look at a little bit curiously, right? Like they want to see that you are telling people that they're going to Amazon to look at that product.
I'm glad you clarified because that is a point of confusion going to what you kind of went the rabbit hole you went down, which is really good. Google has said in the last year to two years. In a perfect world, you need to have multiple options for people. And then you go look at Amazon terms of service and you're like who, who do I follow
Right. Yep. And I was going to say, I've had conversations with you know, various people, but I'm thinking of Jesse lakes over a genius link and they have choice pages pages over a genius link. Are you familiar with the choice? We've had Jesse on a year or two ago. Yeah. Great. And for people that don't know, they have this set up over at Geniuslink and basically you can tie your account to different retailers, to your affiliate program.
And essentially it's a landing page for a product. And then you don't have to build all this stuff on your site. You can set it all up on Geniuslink and it's a really effective way for someone to compare prices and. The theory is right. I haven't seen the exact studies, but basically, if someone is able to confirm that they are getting the best price by having those different options, the conversion rate is actually higher.
And I think that is probably one of the reasons why Amazon is like, Sure, that's great. People see that we're the lowest price, and they're more likely to make that purchase. You
Jared: mentioned that some of it was focused around Prime Day and pushing Prime Day and Maybe I'll ask you this one question on Prime Day and also kind of lump Q4 into it, right?
Like, we have this period. Shopping that takes place during the Q4 season where people tend to spend more and conversion rates tend to be higher Prime day could maybe be somewhat synonymous as well with that Like what did you learn about in terms of anything interesting to focus on? During those periods of the year,
Doug: the biggest thing was the quote mover and shaker page, and those are products that are selling a lot.
I think in the previous 24 hours, like they're, they're just moving a lot of those rankings are improving. So You can see that I believe on associate central if you follow the link and you can see what's moving quickly and then you can have a look there. So the thought being, you could find out what's hot and then kind of publish links or more content around that and promote those more heavily for me specifically.
And this fits both for prime day and for the retail season is I'm, I'm not specifically lazy, but I don't like, I don't like doing that kind of stuff. There's like a, a false sense of urgency and to your point before Jared, it's like. You get people to Amazon, they're going to buy some stuff, right? Like they want to buy something.
They have all their account info in there. They could do one click purchase. They accidentally could buy something on their phone, like with one click. So. If I just get them to Amazon, that's great. I might be leaving, you know, some money on the table by not specifically optimizing, but again, it's sort of a, in my opinion, a bit of a false sense of urgency, especially around the prime day time period, you could set up stuff ahead of time, right?
In January, you can. Have your prime special days go ahead and publish it, get it out there, get it indexed. If you're actually going to get some you know, search traffic, but yeah, I I didn't gain any, you know, huge insights and even with the mover and shaker page, I'm not going to do anything different.
I'm trying to take some time off over the summer, you know,
Jared: I know people with. A significant amount of, say, direct traffic, like branded traffic or traffic to your home page. I've heard of someone who's put like a link in their menu that says Prime Day Specials and they push that up into the menu on Prime Day or Holiday Specials or whatever they call it and then that's led to a measurable difference.
A lot of us, though, we rank for very long tail terms that lead to direct pages where people are looking for a specific product. And so, it kind of feels like you're wedging it in to be like, Hey, I know you're here looking for the the best ballpoint pen for you know, for for, for travel, but while you're here, the, this, this vacuum is on sale today.
Doug: Right? Yeah. Yeah. You're going to love this vacuum. Well, to actually to tie it in a little bit with some other ideas. If you do have an email list, that would be perfect. Right? Right. You can send them over to that specials page and obviously you could use a headline again. I don't want to mislead anyone. I, even if it's a more.
You know, boring headline, you know, prime deals, like people know what they're going to get and you could just lead them over to that page. And maybe, I mean, if they open that email, they're looking to buy some stuff, right? Like they're like, I don't know what I'm going to buy, but maybe if you point me in the right direction, I will.
So again, the name of the game is just like. Get them over, get them over to Amazon. Now, I think we may talk about this if you, if you do know your audience pretty well, and it's fairly niched down, then you have a higher likelihood of like earning a little bit more through commission rates and such by sending them to the proper category or a product that is likely to be a category that they're going to make other purchases in, which, you know, perhaps leads us to another question.
Jared: Okay. I'm going to ask the email question now. This is good. Folks, you can tell we're just, we got a lot of topics here and we're going to find the right order as we go. So emailing, another, another plus one to start an email list. But, you did talk about, and this is frustrating I find, any added clarity on what we can and can't link to.
To Amazon associates from an email. He kind of teased it right there about a landing page. What's the updated word from Amazon on emailing out? And I'd love to hear any reasons why they land on whatever side of the fence they land on.
Doug: So I looked this up in the transcript just to make sure I had this right today.
So you can not, you can not put affiliate links in your emails. I think I've seen some people do it before, and I think they've gotten away with it, but you're not supposed to do that. You can, however, send people to your blog or whatever platform you're using via email, and The main reason they cited was quote visibility, so it sounds like they might not be able to verify the traffic.
This is my speculation portion. So they said visibility. And you could watch the interview and check that out. I think they may, might not be able to confirm where the traffic is coming from and that sort of thing. So, they don't have visibility and they, you know, don't want you to put links and emails.
They are fine with you sending traffic to your main platform or platforms. And Mark mentioned that typically, in their opinion, because you're able to provide more context on your primary platform, whether it's a blog or maybe a YouTube channel or something, the conversions will be better, the people will have a better idea about the product that you're.
Reviewing or talking about, and they're more likely to make the purchase. So that, that was a general idea around it. But in my opinion, especially these days, you know, newsletters are quite popular. Right. And sometimes people put a lot of content in their email. Actually, a friend of mine, he's a blogger.
He's blogged for a decade or so, and he sends out his full blog post in the email. And that's just what he does. He doesn't want to, you know, bother people to go click on the link. Just he'll, he'll read the email or he'll read an email blog post himself. So he knows that his audience would be okay with that too.
So in my opinion, I think it's not necessarily. A great reason, but yeah, those are the
Jared: rules and they're the rules, you know, and how far you want to push them is up to you. Obviously to some degree, we're all always wondering a bit where we are and all that. But those are the rules. Yeah, the visibility makes sense.
I mean, I don't like it, but I suppose at any given time, Amazon can go to any one of your websites that's referring them and see what it is. Whereas I guess they can't really go back and see an email that you sent to verify that it was Yeah. You know, upright up to par, but okay. Let's slide from that into other terms of service issues that you got clarity on.
I do have a bunch of questions related to terms of service again, whether you can answer from what Mark said or extrapolate based on what Mark said. But I'll let you kind of kick it off. Like what other terms of service topics did you guys get into?
Doug: Let's see one. Actually, I'll start with some stuff that we didn't get into and maybe that'll trigger trigger my memory and another time for a little detour here.
So we got questions from the audience. So I sent a few emails out and I asked my audience to submit questions. It went to a Google form. And then Amazon sorted through the questions. I believe they had some things that they did want to talk about. Like I said, Prime Day, a couple other items. And a lot of the questions that I wanted to be answered were not on the list.
The other thing when you deal with a large company, it goes through legal, right? So these questions were filtered through with the team, with Mark's team, most likely, and then it went to legal and they, they checked over it too. And then I think it went to another set. Another team to be approved, maybe marketing, but there were, it was a lot of filters to go through.
Yeah. Before the interview, we had a little chat and they said, here are the questions to ask and no, no follow up questions. Like just ask these questions. And as you know, Jared, the follow up questions, well, that's where the magic is. Oh yeah. So I could not, my hands were tied and I knew that was part of the deal, right?
So that was fine with me. It was a good opportunity. There were a couple of things I learned, a couple of good questions, but that is, that's the deal, right? Like I want to know some things that I wanted to know the image usage, right? So people. Get busted on this often. Sometimes they'll download an image from Amazon and then upload it to their site and use that, which is not technically allowed.
You're not supposed to do that. You're supposed to use the Amazon advertising API and, you know, get the image that way. And there's a handful of other rules like that, where it doesn't quite make sense. There's probably some legal reason or some other, you know, FTC type regulation where there's a reason.
That you have to do things a certain way. But from our perspective, it's just like, why do we need to do it that way? It seems like a much harder thing to deal with. The other big question that many people had was around just the commission rates. And. In 2017, we had a big commission rate change. It went lower in 2020 deal and it costs a lot of people, a lot of money.
Funny thing, right? During COVID. Yeah. Yeah. Right. During COVID. In, in both, both scenarios, I actually was like selling a site in the negotiation timeframe. So it was like, Oh no, this is, this costs a whole lot of money.
Jared: You had to like basically change your, your projected model, which totally hit your, yeah, your, your take home.
Doug: Yeah. Each one was like a six figure issue that popped up, but you know, you just have to move forward. But so there are a lot of questions about that and you know, those were not on, on the list. So those, those didn't make it through. And I'll, I'll pause here. Do you have any follow ups on, on those things or?
Jared: I have one big question. I hope a lot of people share this question. I, I think they do because I hear it talked about a lot and it's the extreme ambiguity around how prominent we need to label our links as affiliate links. I think if you read the terms of service verbatim, you, like, they basically say like every, correct me if I'm wrong here I did try to find this before this interview, but it's pretty long, but the verbatim that I've, I've read in the past is that you need to identify every link that goes to Amazon and they need to know they're going to Amazon.
Now what do a lot of us do? A lot of us will put at the top, maybe sidebar, maybe bottom, Hey, some of these links are going to go are for an affiliate product and I make a commission and they actually tell you what they want you to use. And so a couple of questions that come out of this, like how prominent do you think or do they think if they touched on it, we need to be with that is up in the top and the bottom good enough.
And then the second follow up question would be a lot of people like to change that. You know, you'll see people say like, if you love me, support me by buying, you know, and I make a little money. Or. You know, this is I don't make money unless you buy from my links, which are affiliate like, so they'll change it a bit to be kind of, you know, cute or fun or more direct.
Is that allowed? Like, so kind of navigating into this idea of disclosures and how it can be very cryptic and confusing, especially when you get into an audit scenario by how clear you have to be and how prominent that has to be displayed.
Doug: We did not get into that. Those are all great questions. I know.
In the last few years, Amazon Associates did provide us with the exact verbiage for that line. And I think because they have given us that, it's in quotes, use that. I think, this is my opinion, this is entertainment, not legal advice or anything. Consult your own professional, right? All that stuff. I think if you wanted to put some of your own personality.
Near that disclaimer. I think that's great. I think you do need to put it at the top because we don't know, you know, if someone's on their phone or something and you have, you put the disclaimer in the sidebar, they may never see that that's buried at the bottom. So I think you should put it at the top.
The other part is I don't know if you have to put it next to every single. Link right with our anchor text that we described before we said hey, this is going to Amazon So that's pretty clear. And we also said hey, we're an affiliate at the top. So if someone's Scrolled through they should have seen that I don't know if that would pass an audit when I had an audit a few years ago It was okay, and that, that worked out fine.
Auditors are people, and maybe the rules have changed, so I, I don't know, but I think that is probably, most likely accepted, and you don't note every single link. That would be... A horrible user experience, kind of like the cookie the cookie acceptance that we have to have on all the websites now, which is just dumb
Jared: in my opinion, right?
And you're so tired of just saying, yes, I just accept all, you know, and kind of just give me what I want. Time for a quick Jared story. I had an audit a couple of years ago. And to your point, 19th.
Oh no. So we had to have it all cleaned up by Christmas Eve.
Jared: grief. And so, I mean, my business partner and I literally got it done at like 6 o'clock on Christmas Eve. Man. And resubmitted. And oh, I was so... Both nervous and frustrated but what we did is exactly that, you know, we made sure that the, the, every link was clear about what we were calling to take action to, to Amazon, put the disclaimer at the top, exact verbiage that they wanted.
We did pass the audit just fine. Doesn't mean that you will. Doesn't mean that that's exactly what to do. Doesn't mean that that's exactly the playbook, but just one quick. Story about an audit and, and that worked out all right. So, but I, we were still very nervous wondering if we, we were doing it properly, you know?
Doug: And then how long did it take to hear back and what was the response email? Do you remember that?
Jared: We didn't get a response email. All I know is one day between Christmas and New Year's, I logged into the account and the like warning banner at the top had disappeared. And I was like, ah, I think, I, I guess well, I still have an account.
I guess we're good and just never heard anything else
Doug: of it, man. I think it took, it was like two weeks for me and they actually replied back, but it was a one sentence email. Thanks for the information. And that's it. You're good. So, yep.
Jared: Crazy. Anyways. Okay, good. Well, thanks for walking on that road. And I do think your insights are good.
And the bigger point is like, you got to take this stuff seriously. If you are earning income from Amazon associates and you've got to kind of, you know, do a little bit of homework, like you don't want to be, it's one thing to get caught up in an audit and have problems that develop from that because you made a decision on how you want to approach it.
And that's why it's another thing to get stuck in all that because you just didn't pay attention to it. Right? Like that's more frustrating. I feel like, so pay attention to it, do what you want, do what you need, but at least be informed about the decisions you're making. Any other terms of service, things you did learn or that you wanted to cover before we kind of move on to the next, the next, the next title or the next portion?
Doug: Nothing that jumps out. If, if I remember something in a minute, I'll, I'll go back to it. Perfect. Perfect.
Jared: I tripped over myself earlier. We talked about influencer program and associate program and. They are not the same. Although, to be fair, now that I'm in the influencer program, you log into the same place and you look, the dashboards are all intermixed and intermingled.
So it is very confusing and I just got the back. But nonetheless, can you tell us the differences, at least from your perspective, from any clarity you gained and things like qualifying differences, who it's best for pay rates, like let's kind of navigate into all that. Okay. So
Doug: correct me when I make a mistake here, Jared, since you've been talking about the influencer program a lot here lately, but largely it is the same program.
It's just, you know, influencers are typically going to be on the social media side. So it gives people on Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, shorts, et cetera, a place. To earn money a way to earn money via the Amazon associate program and the commission rates are the same So it's the same commission rate on the associates program in the influencer program as far as you know The associates I think I mentioned before, you know blogs YouTube that's kind of Generally who that's targeted at but because it's essentially the same program then it's the same deal And I forgot the rest of the question.
Jared: Qualifying. Yeah. Qualifying. I mean, I think that's a big difference there and I think a lot of people. Who are new would have questions about qualifying, but also is that going to change in the future? Are we I've heard a lot of people nervous about qualifying for Amazon associates becoming different.
Doug: So I actually am not an expert in that area I know for the associates program if you have a blog and this is something Mark actually mentioned if you have a blog It's good to or if you're starting a blog It's good to already have some traffic already have an audience there before you join up In the associates program, that's what I have advised for several years.
And I, in my opinion, I think if you're getting, you know, 15 to 20 visitors per day. To a product related piece of content, you are good to go ahead and apply. You'll have access to the site stripe and to your special links to send people to Amazon and you'll be in good shape. With 15 to 20 visitors per day, you should make a couple sales every few days, something like that.
So you'll be in good shape. As far as the influencer program, I'm not sure the minimum number of like followers or whatever that you need. So Jared, I'm sure you could fill me in there.
Jared: It's not published, but from the interviews I've done of people in the last couple of weeks, it's basically somewhere between a thousand to 10, 000 followers, but it's also seems to be based on engagement.
So like if you have more followers and less engagement or less followers and more engagement, and then it's through four platforms Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and no Tik TOK. I'm actually looking at their page and I don't think Twitter's allowed anymore. I think Tik TOK, Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube.
So I know I got, I got qualified with a YouTube account that had about 9, 000 followers, but also are subscribers, but pretty good engagement on that platform. Got it.
Doug: And that, I was going to say, and I have not applied for the influencer program. I saw that it was around for a long time, but like I said, I'm pretty ignorant.
Overall, I've talked to a few people that are getting really good traction. I mean, I think it's kind of the early days there. So people are producing a lot and they're getting a kind of that first mover advantage.
Jared: I'm actually reading it here. I mean, I don't know if this is. super live or up to date, but it says your social network page or group must be established with a substantive number of organic followers or likes in most cases, at least 500.
So I didn't know that was published.
Doug: Okay. So 500, but okay.
Jared: That actually might be the minimum number, but maybe a thousand to 10, 000 is kind of the more, the range they, they tend to accept
Doug: more in. Gotcha. Interesting. And that makes me think about. You know, just how open and easy it is to get into the associates program.
Generally just have a blog, like kind of have some stuff going. So I think, you know, 500 followers is nothing to sneeze at depending on the platform, but thinking about how quickly someone can grow specifically on like some social media channels, like a lot of people have the opportunity to promote products with the influencer program.
Jared: Like I started a little YouTube channel. On the side three or four months ago, I think I published five videos like it's not a big priority for me. And I have like 550 followers or subscribers. So it's doable if you put out some good stuff going back to what you said. And I'll read it here from the page that I'm on.
And I remember this from when I applied with Amazon Associates. You can apply, but you have to drive three qualified sales within 180 days. And so if you don't have a lot of traffic to your website, And you don't end up meeting that, you get rejected. I don't know what the reapplication process looks like these days.
But just to the same point, even if you have traffic, but it's not going to a page where people are actually looking to buy, that doesn't necessarily mean you're going to get those three sales. But 180 days is a pretty lenient amount of time. That's half a year.
Doug: Yep, and that's exactly it. You know, if you have a lot of traffic going to a how to article that is, Not driven for any kind of product maybe try to put some Amazon links on there But if it's not highly relevant people are not going to go there people are not going to make that purchase So it does need to be traffic going to products Driven piece of you know piece of review or something like that.
Jared: Okay. I have a couple of layered questions And I think from the transcript, you guys did talk a bit about this, but maybe not. And if, if you didn't, I'd love your opinion because you got 10 plus years of doing this. And this is detailed now. So those of you who are tired of high levels, this is going to get into the weeds here.
So if I, if somebody clicks on my affiliate link from my blog post and they go and they look and they're like, cool, Jared recommended that vacuum cleaner, that's awesome. I just, you know, I just want to get another opinion. And so they go back to the Google and they look at another article. And they click on it.
It's like, yep, Jared was right. And this person was right. They both say this vacuum is the best I'm going to buy it. Who gets the commission?
Doug: So we asked a similar question, but it was about the influencer program. So in this, in this scenario, I believe it's the last. Person that sent the the visitor over to the other person in my analogy, right?
But i'm not a hundred percent. Sure. Do you do you know? Which one it is? Okay, so I I do think it is the last person from a logical
Jared: standpoint They're not paying double commission. We kind of know that right?
Doug: Yeah. Yeah. They would, they would never do that.
Jared: We can safely. We can safely say that.
Doug: Yeah. They're not, they're not going to pay us both.
So from a, again, a logical perspective, if I'm looking for a product and I'm not quite convinced and I find another review that does convince me, it makes sense to me that the last referral should get the credit, but I don't know a hundred percent what Amazon associates does with that scenario.
Jared: In the Influencer Program, is it different, or was your question more, you said your question was more about Influencer Program, what did it, what was what did you learn from
In this case, someone goes to your blog, and they land on the product detail page. So you sent them there, you're, you cookied them, right? There is a video by an Amazon Influencer on that product detail page, and they watch the video. So. If I understood correctly, well, before I answer, do you want to guess which one it is?
Jared: I'm going to guess the influencer
Doug: gets the credit. If I understood correctly, it's the opposite. It's the person who sent the traffic there. Okay.
Jared: Okay. That's encouraging for bloggers.
Doug: Yep. So unless I misunderstood, I was going to say I'll have to go back and read my own transcript to make sure, but Again, it kind of, it kind of makes sense.
Like the, the visitor was sent to Amazon by your blog and the, the influencer, that video was just there anyway. Yeah. So, however, my previous logic of like the, the final. The final push to actually purchase. I can see an argument either way, but I mean, Mark even mentioned in the interview that this is a bit of a logic problem, they could put it in like college admission tests or something like that.
Jared: I get it. I mean, we help come at my marketing agency. We help companies set up their attribution models and say a Google analytics or a CRM system. And one of my first questions for a brand is, well, and we call it first click or last click attribution, right? Like let's say we get a group of a group of teams together in a, in a larger scale business.
And I give them a scenario. I say, Hey. So somebody who goes on to buy. They started by clicking on a Instagram post that the social media team created. Then they started following the social media account and they saw a blog post that was published. They went over to the website. They read that blog post.
And then they came back they got your email list cause of freebie. And then they came back and purchased down the road because of that freebie. Does the social media team get the credit? Does the organic team get the credit? Does the sales team get the credit? Who gets the credit? Who gets the attribution here?
And they all look at it. Most of the time they're like. We all get the credit. It's like, well, you can't have that. I get the conundrum that an Amazon would be in there. So it's
Doug: that's, that's tough. What do, what do those teams usually decide? Do they sort it out based on some logic or is it, it always gets a little fuzzy,
It does get fuzzy. I will say that. And I, my sample size is very small compared to large agencies, but if I were to like be very general, most of the time companies are more willing to push attribution credit further, further towards the front of the funnel, because generally speaking, I think most businesses nowadays are more likely, and these are the details of the questions we get into or the answers, but like they're more likely to give credit.
The, the, the tiebreaker of the benefit of the doubt to the team that got in front of that long, that eventual customer first.
Doug: And that makes sense from, well, just from a logic standpoint, the, the lead would never have seen anything down the pipeline. If the top of the funnel wasn't working properly.
Jared: And I heard one CEO say it, say it very well.
He was like, well, what's harder. If I was just being very black and white, standing out in a sea of crowded noise on social media. Or converting a lead that was already pretty warm to begin with. Right. You know, and he's like, Look, if I hand you a lead that's already been nurtured through social media, blog content, and email content, I hope you're going to close that.
But getting something to stand out in a sea of infinite scrolling seems harder to me. And, you know, that's just his perspective, that of one of the CEOs, but I thought that was an interesting way to kind of summarize it. Okay, so we don't have a ton of clarity. On the associate program, but I think that if you're, if you're, if you are worried about that, just one reminder as you think through it and this, this, this was a change of heart.
I had to have over the first couple of years of blogging like I, you're used to, like, if you're writing a blog post about that vacuum cleaner, you're used to trying to get people to go buy that vacuum cleaner. But if you are, and by the way, if you're a an affiliate for Bissell, that's probably the right approach.
You want to sell a Bissell vacuum cleaner, you're writing an article on Bissell vacuum cleaners. You need to get them over to the Bissell page and have them convert. But with Amazon, and I'd like to get your perspective on this, that's why I'm saying it. It's really more about just get them over to Amazon with curiosity in general.
And either they'll buy the Bissell and they go buy a shark, or they go buy toilet paper. That's kind of the, the, the more the nature of winning on Amazon. Can, can you kind of add any thoughts and perspectives to that? Anything you've done over the years to kind of shift your approach when you're referring?
The Amazon affiliate program versus other affiliate programs.
Doug: I agree with your premise and I'm going to take it in a different direction, a more philosophical direction. Oh. So you had a great question about two bloggers that send a lead over to Amazon. Who gets the credit? And then we talked about an influencer versus a blog who sends the traffic.
And my question is, are you going to do anything differently? Based on the answer to those questions, the answer is probably not. You're just trying to get people to Amazon, whatever the rules are or what the rules are. And you'll get credit or you won't get credit, but really you want the most traffic.
You would have good content, get them over to Amazon and the philosophical portion. I had a friend, I have another podcast and he was like, Doug, you seem very stoic. And I think I, I didn't realize it, but I think, you know, we have these rules. I can get more details about what's going to happen in certain scenarios, but I'm not actually going to change any of my actions based on the answer.
So we can chase our tails around. It's a good question, Jared. But we could try to figure out these very specific scenarios, but in the long run, it's a fool's errand. It doesn't matter what the answer is. We're going to do our, our tasks for the day or for the year, and we're going to move forward. The other thing that doesn't matter is the choice that we didn't make, right?
So we, we have like all these different choices, right? We can. Publish more content. We can use AI to publish content. We can get a bunch of backlinks and we're going to have to kind of spread it out. Like we don't have infinite energy or resources to do everything. But you'll make a choice and you can just move forward with it.
Like you can keep analyzing and try to make the very best decision, but you don't know, and once you make the decision, you can't do the alternative. You have to think about opportunity costs. So when I look at my opportunity costs to figure out the answers to those very specific questions, I realize.
Well, I'm not going to make a different decision than not having that very detailed information. So that's the philosophical part. So I look at a lot of things that I could spend more time on and I just don't either because it won't change my decision making process or I don't find it enjoyable. So that's the other luxurious thing is like when you're running your own business, you could pick what you want to work on and I don't want to create a job that I hate.
So. I pick things that I want to work on or topics that I want to dive deeper into because of some intrinsic kind of interest. So that probably doesn't answer your question at all, but I wanted to say that anyway.
Jared: Well, no, I think it does actually. And to your point, and maybe I'll double down on it or go a little further.
Like if you want to be the type that gets extremely detailed, the Amazon associate program probably isn't the right one for you because. You're going to find that the bulk of what you earn is somewhat unaccountable for, like it's about a general broad stroke perspective of sending traffic to Amazon and watching money come out the bottom.
Whereas if you want to really get into the finer points of whether your button color or whether your your text or your anchor text, your call to action is, is helping, like, probably better suited on a different type of program where you get certain specifics that you can, you can kind of deep dive.
And if that's your personality, that's where you're at, or if you're selling a high ticket product that necessitates that sort of thing. Probably to that point, like the associates program isn't really the best spot for
Doug: that. Yep. And I love other programs. If you have like a, you know, a great partner in an e commerce shop and you're a part of that affiliate program, you can earn much higher percentages.
You could have like a personal relationship. I just happened to, you know, get tangled up in the associates program all those years ago. And, you know, it's great. It's a great general. Affiliate program where you don't have to get into all the details. You can get into details in other areas and you can optimize a ton with, with Amazon through various you know, you can, people can just Google and find guides out there.
There's tons of ways to optimize, but if you get, I don't know, five or six things, right? Like 70%, 80%, right. You're going to be just fine. And if you could spend, you know, 200% more time optimizing the little bit more, and it might get you a little bit higher margin, but for me, it's not super interesting. So that's why that's why I just kind of miss out on some of the details.
And it works for me. It's good.
Jared: Let me ask you one question as we wrap up, as we bring it to a close. And you can take this whichever way you want to go. And you already do, so that's good. You will anyways, whether you like it or not. It's like a
Jared: I know, right? Are you, after after talking to Mark was his name you said?
Mark. Yep. You talked to Mark. Are you more excited about the Amazon Associates program, less excited or feeling about the same?
Doug: A little bit more excited. I, I was happy that they are doing some outreach and trying to get in front of, I mean, really they're customers, right? So partner with Amazon and, you know, they're working with us for a reason.
And it's been a little while since they've done that sort of, you know, outreach and. Trying to maybe foster some community, a couple of things that they talked about, you know, the mover and shaker sort of filter. So you can see what's selling, but they also have a creator university, which I think probably provides, you know, some information.
They also have like a do's and don'ts and some FAQs, which those things have kind of been around, but The last time that I tried to look at some of the educational material from associates, it looked like it was from 2008 or something like that. It was kind of. You could tell it was written a long time ago.
So the fact that they're trying to do a little bit more is good. And one thing we didn't get into too much, they have a lot of different associates programs across the world. And some of those programs have much higher commission rates. And, you know, it's, it's no secret, Mark probably even mentioned this, but it's a data driven company.
So. And they know how to run, they know how to run a business. So they're trying to get higher adoption for Amazon and other countries. They're trying to get people with blogs or other influencers to get people over to Amazon to see like how good it could be. So they're paying more for those newer associates programs.
And I have interviewed several people that they're over on a very new associates program. And they're making very high percentages as far as commission rate. Like, I don't, I don't remember exactly what they are, but it's kind of like it was here pre 2017. So those are out there and I, you know, if they.
Continue to try to get out in front of audiences. I think it's a really good sign that said, I've always been one to advise for, you know, diversity in traffic, diversity in revenue, and that doesn't change. So, you know, Amazon's out there. They're trying to work with us and show that they care, which is great.
It's better than the opposite. That said, 2017 and 2020, they dropped the commission rates hard. There's no guarantee that they won't do it again. There was no indication that they're going to drop it or raise it or anything like that. We have seen, in the last few years, Amazon raising the commission rate for certain categories or periods of time.
Promotionally, those kind of things, yeah. Yep. And that's great, right? So you can earn a little bit more. There's no evidence to show that those are going to stick around. But my hunch as a person that knows that they're a data driven company, they're just testing stuff. They're testing things constantly.
And if something works really well and it's profitable, they're going to keep doing it. And if it doesn't, they're not going to do it again. So when you see like little things happening. My guess is they're just testing something to see how it works out. So I'm, I'm positive on the associates program. It's easy to get in there.
It's easy to start earning. If you, once you sort of mature along your you know, side hustle or, you know, your skillset, hopefully you're getting a lot more traffic and it really does scale up, I mean, you can still make a ton of money and support yourself, support your family with an Amazon.
Jared: Doug, thank you for coming on board. I mean, we kind of got to get a window into what it looks like to interview somebody from the Amazon Associates program without having to interview somebody from the Amazon Associates program. I, I appreciate you coming on too. And like what we, what we got out of it that you probably didn't get to get out of it is that I got to ask you questions.
On what Mark said, but also get your interpretation on what Mark said. So we kind of got both of the best of the best worlds there. So thanks for coming on board. Where can people follow along with what you have? We talked about your podcast and I'll include a link in the show notes. First and foremost, I didn't mention this the outset and I should have.
I'll include a link to this specific podcast episode where you did interview him. So people can kind of go listen to that directly and if they want any added points of clarity about what exactly was said, that would be the best spot to go get it. But where can people follow along with
Doug: you? Thanks for having me.
Always a pleasure. You can find me. On the Doug show. So that's my podcast. I also am on YouTube. So it's just under Doug Cunnington. There's a lot of videos on what we talked about today. So there's SEO stuff. There's keyword research related content. There's niche site related content. And I also have another show called mile high fi.
It's about personal finance and financial independence. Another one of my interests, completely different world. And it's kind of fun to have like two shows that are completely a few of those episodes. Oh, thanks man. I appreciate it. You and Carl? Carl. Yeah. So some people may have heard of Mr. Money Mustache.
So he lives here in the same town as me and Carl is the co owner of the coworking space that Pete Adney, Mr. Money Mustache owns. So I ended up kind of in a, in a kind of the hub of the financial independence world. Yeah. It's kind of cool.
Doug: community hub. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. It's pretty cool. So yeah, people can check out that kind of stuff.
If you like audio, you could find my shows over on any podcast player. And I, I do encourage people to check out the episode that I did with Mark. And the funny thing is, hopefully you've heard this first, but you'll be yelling at your podcast player or whatever, like, Doug, why didn't you ask a follow up question?
I wanted to ask so many questions, but. My hands were tied. I'm, I'm so glad they, they chatted with me and I only had a few minutes, but a few folks were like, why, why was it so, so short? Why didn't you ask any other questions? And that's why
Jared: you, you definitely are a podcast host who definitely leans into the second, the third question.
So that must've been really, you know, like there's some shows some podcasts where they're, they're very formulated ahead of time. And yours is definitely not that. It's very much like, let's start with a topic and let's just see where it goes. So I can imagine that was a challenge, but it was, it was great.
And so you did a good job, you got, you know, you got to deal with what you have to deal with what you have in front of you. You can't, you can't change some of those things. Well, Hey Doug, thanks for coming on. I mean that wasn't, I think number three. So we'll just see what number four happens, but it was another great episode.
Thanks for being a contributor here and we'll get all that stuff in the show notes. If anybody has any questions, they can follow up there.
Doug: Thanks man. Really appreciate it.
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