What rules have changed with getting Advertising API keys
In the past, every new Amazon affiliate could get the Product Advertising API Keys (API keys). The old process was:
- Sign up as an Affiliate (no site reviews)
- Get API keys (no site reviews)
- Use API keys for products like Amazon Link Builder, Prosociate, Easy Azon
- Build your affiliate site
- Get a sale or two
- Amazon reviews your site for compliance
- Get 3 sales within 180 days and you are in good standing
- Your API key is good as long as you are an Associate
In less than one year Amazon has drastically changed access to the Product Advertising AP (PA-API)I. This API is what Amazon associates and others use to interact with products in Amazon’s marketplaces. With little or no notice they went from allowing any Amazon affiliate to have access to the API to a very restrictive model. This has had a major impact on many software developers and thousands of Amazon affiliates.
Amazon makes it very easy to open an affiliate account. If you have a website, YouTube channel or App it was near automatic that you can enroll in the Associate’s program. In the past, you also could automatically get access to PA-API as well.
The rules have changed in two major ways.
Change # 1 — Getting Initial Access to PA-API
You are essentially on probation with a new affiliate account. You must make 3 sales in the first 180 days to progress with the program. After the 3 sales, your site or app will be reviewed by Amazon for compliance.
The review result will be one of three things.
- You may get immediate approval,
- You may get a request to correct something or
- You may get denied (even though you had 3 sales)
The most common reasons for rejection at this point is thin content, lack of disclosure or misuse of Amazon material.
Thin Content – Amazon expects you to have a significant amount of non-Amazon content. I have had a few customers told that “when Amazon content is removed the site is not viable”
Disclosure – You must be sure to disclose to your visitors that you are part of Amazon’s affiliate program and are compensated for referrals.
Misuse of Material – Amazon is very fussy about using anything from their website on your site. The only way to include images, reviews, descriptions, pricing, etc. is to import it from the API. But of course, you have no API access at this point!
Check our “Don’t get Banned by Amazon” page for Amazon Associate compliance and disclosure information.
et your 3 sales and final approval just be sure that you have sales activity every month.
Where to Sign Up for PA-API
When logged into your Amazon Associate’s account go to the Tools tab.
If your account is already out of probation their will be a JOIN button. If you are on “probation” the JOIN button is greyed out. You will see a link to request an exception if you think that is warranted.
Change # 2 — Keeping Access to PA-API
So you build your site, jump threw inspection hoops and get API access. All done, right?
You must maintain monthly sales to keep API access. This is a big problem for seasonal businesses or any other “lumpy” sales environments. If you go 30 days without any sales your API access will be removed. Your quota gets set lower or to 0. You will receive a 5xx error message saying that you are “making API calls to quickly”. This is a form of throttling by Amazon. But if you are showing quantity and price via the API you will fall out of compliance with no ability to update.
Your site is no broken.
How Can You Check Your Keys for Quota or Other Issues?
Amazon will send a 503 error when you have a quota restriction. The error message will say that you are “submitting requests too quickly.” Most affiliates don’t see this information so the key fails silently. If you were updating product prices and quantity via the API it will stop updating.
We built a form that will let you check your key status at any time:
Why have they made the change?
There was no formal explanation for the API rules change. The new policy was just announced. If you had API keys and you were able to keep them. However, if you don’t get the 3 sales within that 180-day windows, you can still reapply for a new associate account.
The new application is almost always excepted, but you no longer have API keys. You fall into the new system. My speculation is that they 1) felt they were using resources to service API calls for too many people who would ultimately not be a long-term affiliate and 2) they don’t want people to build sites to leverage their brand. Like most affiliate programs, Amazon wants to leverage your audience.
“The goal of the program is to build affiliation with associates that have sites which are prepared to drive traffic through well-built, original, and established content. This is what creates a mutually beneficial relationship between Amazon and the associate.”
Reading the tea leaves I have to believe that they thought the easy access created many low-quality sites and was a burden on their infrastructure. Two strikes against easy API access for affiliates.
Are there exceptions?
Sure. Amazon’s affiliate program is huge. There will always be grey areas. I have seen people recently be given access to the API keys with their application. The common characteristics were:
- Established sites with traffic
- Blogs with lots of content
- People wanting to use LinkBuilder from Amazon (but still sites with healthy amounts of content)
- People who ask nicely and are genuine (but still sites with healthy amounts of content)
What I have typically seen for rejection is sites with no historic sales and just a few pages of content. Also rejected are sites with too many affiliate products. The typical denial in these cases has been, ” too little original content when advertising removed”
What to Do?
The best way forward happens to be the best path for your new affiliate site. Focus on content and your audience. Build backlinks and traffic. Rank your site for keywords with traffic.
Building a huge affiliate storefront that is just a curated subset of Amazon products for a specific niche will not work in today’s SEO world anyway. Unless you can create a huge social traffic following like thisiswhyiambroke did with Reddit you will have little traffic. You need SEO and organic search.
But Google is not going to give you any love if you have nothing but Amazon or spun descriptions in your storefront of Amazon products. It will be considered thin content and not rank. You could throw a bunch of pbn links at a thin content site but Amazon doesn’t want to support that either.
So best to hunker down and get back to basics. Build compelling content in a well-researched niche that has that just right volume of keyword search metrics. You are looking for that Goldilocks niche. Too small and you rank, but so few people search for your target niche keywords that you can not monetize with Amazon. Too broad a keyword profile and you are competing with Wirecutter and other affiliates who have teams of writers and are backed by huge companies (Wirecutter is a New York Times Company).
You can still have Amazon affiliate links in your site. In fact, you must so that you can get those three sales.
The best practice now for new sites is to create lots of content and use AmazonStripe to add your links. You can get text links, image links, text and image links – even social links like Facebook and Twitter from SiteStripe. No API key needed. Also, be sure that your site is in full compliance with Amazon terms of service.
Get those three sales no matter what. Then apply for the API and add better tools like EasyAzon or Prosociate.
Be sure that every month you have affiliate sales and you will become a member of a more elite club. Successful Amazon affiliates.