Amazon Associates has a lot of advantages. They are inclusive, almost all are accepted into the program. They have products for every niche. Amazon is a household name and there is a strong trust among consumers. They will pay you for all transactions, not just the product your visitor arrived to see — lots of add on sales. But …
- The commission rates are so low. Many products pay just 1% – 2%. The trend is clear. Perhaps the latest commission changes are the end but they are so low as to not always justify your effort.
- They have a super short cookie length of 24 hours. Particularly with larger purchases consumers may need more time to think about their purchase decision. The only exception to the 24-hour rule is if the visitor puts the product into their shopping cart and then returns and checks out later. In this case you have 90-days for the visitor to check out the item from the cart and receive a commission.
- They have many rules that can sometimes be less than transparent.
- Amazon has a probation period where you are not able to access advanced features like its API.
So as much sense as it makes to start with Amazon for a new site it is foolish to rely solely on them. Like investing, it is best to diversify your sites affiliate income opportunities .
Comparing Other Programs
You do need consider two factors when deciding to use Amazon alternatives for the same or similar products:
- Amazon conversion rate — Amazon has such trust in the marketplace and they do such a great job of converting visitors to sales. With Amazon you can just send cold traffic to their site and let the conversion magic happen.
- Add on sales — Many customers will arrive at Amazon and purchase additional products. They may even not purchase the product you sent them there to buy. You will get paid a commission for all of these extra purchases – even if the referred product is not bought.
So given the two factors above you will need a longer cookie period, particularly if it is a high ticket item. Or a higher commission rate. I aim for at least a 50% higher rate and ideally twice the rate along with at least a 72 hour cookie.
The closest affiliate program to Amazon’s in the US would be the two mega retailers Target and Walmart. They have a wide variety of products under one umbrella and likely have the same or similar products. They are unfortunately also close to Amazon in commission rates. They will make sense for affiliates that have been deauthorized or otherwise moving completely away from Amazon. Also comparison sites will benefit by giving your visitors an option. But they will likely not convert as well and have fewer add-on sales than Amazon would. We have detailed posts about both the Walmart & Target affiliate programs:
The large affiliate networks are going to individual brands for your niche. These include:
- ShareASale — ShareASale has many large national brands. These tend to convert well as the customer has trust in them. With ShareASale most brands require a separate approval. If you are an Amazon affiliate that has had success with the brand, or their competitors, be sure to let them know in your request to represent them. See our ShareASale detailed review post.
- CJ Affiliate — CJ is a bit like ShareASale though they tend to have mid-tier and newer brands. This can be beneficial to you as there will be lease competition among these brands. See our CJ detailed review post.
There are many other affiliate networks and brands that have direct affiliate programs managed in-house. Visit our detailed high paying affiliate programs for a complete list.
Another affiliate option is Ebay. Look at the Buy it Now products. The issue with the auction products is that the cookie period does not line up well with peoples auction buying habits. Most auction buyers wait till the last minute to “snipe” an auction. So you run the risk of sending your visitor to an auction and have the cookie expire before the end of auction purchase.
Check out our eBay Partner Network post for more details.
Amazon is primarily physical products for your niche but another part of income diversification is to consider digital and recurring commission products. Almost all niches can find ebooks, training courses, software, hosting and similar programs to represent. My favorite would be recurring commission products. The advantage to these is that you make the sale once and get paid monthly as long as your referred customer stays with the product. Do be careful with affiliate networks like ClickBank and JV-Zoo. Though there are some appropriate products for many niches there is a somewhat scammy feel to many of them. You don’t want to make the mistake of getting a couple of sales but alienating your audience and tarnishing your brand.
We have a detailed post on recurring commission products.
You also may want to consider generating revenue with ads on your site. The time to consider this is when your monthly visits are approaching 10,000. You can start with Google Adsense but you will get a better return from ad networks like Ezoic. I have not seen a drop in affiliate conversions with ads on your pages but sites like Ezoic will create more load on your server and likely cause a page speed drop. This can lead to more users leaving and even impact your SEO keyword rankings. Some affiliates only place ads on their info pages and not on reviews and other “money pages” that contain their affiliate links.
Finally be prepared to warm your leads for most non-Amazon affiliate programs. It is generally not enough to just get the lead to the product’s landing page. With Amazon you can depend on them to close the sale and generate a small commission. With most other affiliate programs you will want to focus on larger commission products and spend the time to add value. You want to educate your audience about the product. Show them how it will help them. Consider a proper sales funnel with your own landing page, email marketing campaign and retargeting ads.