We won’t lie to you. The cold, hard fact of the matter is that it is harder now than ever to make it as an Amazon Affiliate. Affiliate marketing in general is a tough gig but add in there the might of Amazon and the number of restrictions and regulations they inflict on their affiliates, as well as the pretty meagre commissions they pay, and you’ve got quite a mission on your hands.
But making a decent living from Amazon is not beyond the realms of possibility. Affiliate marketing has changed beyond recognition over the last few years, and rightfully so. Gone are the days of the dubious black hat SEO practices of page cloaking, keyword stuffing and backlink farming, making way for good old-fashioned hard work and determination.
There are some Amazon affiliate sites that have weathered the Google update storms and have stood the test of time. Why? Probably because they have adapted and moved with the times. Profitable affiliate sites are run like businesses with strategy, branding and social media. And more importantly, they work to earn the trust of their visitors.
But really, what makes a good Amazon Affiliate site?
You know, this is a tricky one. A lot of wannabe internet entrepreneurs struggle with this. I know I have. But really, don’t overthink it. Contrary to popular belief, the niche you choose does not have to be your passion in life. It might help but it’s not essential. You’ll learn about your chosen niche over time. You don’t have to love sneakers for men with exceptionally large feet. You’ll learn it. What is vital is that you research your niche to make sure it is viable and worth the time you’re going to put into it. It just needs to be profitable.
There are scores of other people in the same niche as you, selling the same products. So what sets you apart? What do you offer that makes your site the go-to site in your niche? Customers are much savvier these days, suspicious even. And if they doubt the authenticity of a website, they won’t be hanging around long enough to part with their cash. Your website should scream professionalism and authenticity. What other benefits can you offer? How have you made it easier to shop at your site than it is at your nearest competitors? Are your content and social media strategies above and beyond that of the others in your niche?
We’ve all heard the phrase ‘content is king’. And it is. As long as it’s good. Otherwise it’s the court jester. In the following examples of good Amazon affiliate websites, a clear pattern is emerging. Content is what makes the difference. Content is what sets them apart. With the exception of one or two of the examples, content is where the sites offer real value. Be creative with your content. Just because you’re a site that sells toilet roll holders, doesn’t mean you can’t be creative, funny and engaging. Think about your audience. What do they like? What would they appreciate? What are they thinking about that you can help them with? Branch out. It doesn’t always have to always be the product-related hard sell. But it does have to have value. You need quantity AND quality.
Examples of Amazon affiliate websites.
Now, some of these sites have multiple revenue streams. Amazon might not be their only source of income. No matter. The idea is to show you what a good affiliate website looks like. There’s no harm in joining other affiliate programmes within your niche or, if you are going to be an Amazon-only affiliate, building more than one niche site. You could have a whole portfolio of Amazon affiliate sites.
This is a bit misleading, in that the site is huge and now owned by The New York Times Company. It was founded by a guy called Brian Lam in 2011 and bought for a whopping $30 million in 2016.
Lam was the Editorial Director for Gizmodo but got fed up of constantly churning out content that was irrelevant within hours of publishing it, so he gave it all up and moved to Hawaii to surf. He started The Wirecutter in between catching waves and hired professional product reviewers to test and review products across multiple categories (headphones, cameras, laptops etc).
And therein lies The Wirecutter’s differentiating factor – the quality and integrity of the in-depth reviews. It might seem like a pipe dream and almost impossible to emulate, but as affiliates we could all learn something from this site. Testing and thorough research result more in-depth and useful product reviews and buying guides. Content, people! Content.
I love this site. Firstly, it looks good. It doesn’t have that God-awful affiliate website look and feel about it. It’s a content-lead site aimed at dad’s and guys looking to raise children and make the most of life. It’s parenting and life. And it’s done in a really cool, funny and unpatronizing way.
It’s more of an online magazine, with products reviews and affiliate links scattered throughout. I just read a really funny article about acceptable topics of conversation at the Thanksgiving table, and then a piece about baby rockers and swings that contained affiliate links. The content is funny and sometimes they use a swear word, and I fucking love that. I know it’s not for everyone.
They actively promote sign-ups for their newsletter, they have a podcast and they ask for dads all over the country to contribute and write for them, a genius way to generate content. They have over 3.1 million followers on Facebook, 123K followers on Instagram and 13K subscribers on YouTube. They do run ads on their site, which looks like a mixture of Adsense and then possibly ad space they sell themselves. I think the success they have is largely down to using social media to build their tribe. And content.
I think this site shows that affiliate websites don’t have to be all about shouty offers and commercials. They are running Fatherly like a magazine business with great content, strong social media and an email marketing strategy.
This is a pleasantly surprising change from the usual review websites. It is a review website, but it has a nice ordered look and feel to it. And the reviews are incredibly detailed, in-depth and trustworthy. Which is not difficult I suppose if you’re owned by Tribune Publishing and have a whole team of writers and support staff at your disposal.
Rumour has it that they do spend a lot of money on traffic. They use it like a quick-fix alternative to SEO (although I’m sure SEO is still important to them!). So if there are any specific products on the market with high search volumes, they spend a lot of money on paid ads to get in front of an audience.
What can we learn from them? Proving that you have had an actual experience with the product you are reviewing will have a huge impact on your conversion rates. Why? Because people will trust you more. Try and take photos of yourself handling or using the product or service you are reviewing. Your users will be more likely to buy something on your recommendation.
Runner Click is a product review site with a whole team of editors, writers and researchers that all have a love of running in common. Again, and there seems to be a pattern emerging here, Runner Click is part of a wider media group. You could say it shows when you look at the site and the more sophisticated, custom design work. I LOVE the header design on this site. The animation is cool. And when you read a review and scroll to the next section, there is a subtle background image that changes as you scroll It really is very nice.
Design aside, the reviews are really well researched and written. They have almost 47K followers on Instagram and over 5,7K followers on Facebook. I couldn’t find any numbers on their monthly earnings. They haven’t been around for very long but it looks like they have built a lot of backlinks, which is obviously great for their SEO.
I have to be honest with you, I‘m not a fan. In fact, it just pisses me off a bit. I think it’s ugly, there’s no real content and it’s just a load of frivolous and often crappy products. OK, maybe I’m just not “getting” it, and I’m definitely not the target audience, but I do know a fair bit about marketing and websites and I just don’t see how they get away with it.
Maybe, because they are so big and are sending so much traffic their way, Amazon lets them get away with a website that is basically made up of product listings. But good for them because they get 2.7 million visitors a month and are reportedly making $20,000 a month from Amazon affiliate commissions.
This one has been going since 2010. Aimed at mums to be and new mums, it earns money from Amazon, diapers.com and Giggle (amongst others). Lucie’s List was started by new mother Meg, as a website and monthly newsletter, Crib Notes. It was intended to be an entertaining insight into her pregnancy, birth and foray into motherhood. Meg wanted it to bring together a community of people where they could “share all the sh*! that nobody told me” with other pretty clueless new parents.
As a business they rely only on affiliate commissions as their main revenue stream, so that they don’t have to ever rely on sponsored posts to generate income, meaning they are always going to keep it real.
They are now a team of 7 running the site. They have managed get to the point where they personalise and tailor their newsletter according to where their subscribers are in their parenthood journey. They get the right information and products to the right people, at the right time. Which supports the theory that email is still one of the most powerful and profitable tools at your disposal. If you’re not already growing your email list, start now.
These guys have built their success on the calibre of their reviews and their side-by-side product comparisons, which are really good. They compare products and then give their top picks the Editors Choice, Best Buy and Top Picks awards.
They go above and beyond to reassure people that their reviews are totally legit. They even buy every single product they review at retail, same as us normal people, and they don’t accept freebies from manufacturers, which they say assures their impartiality. It also suggests they have a fairly big budget.
Their reviews are thorough (and very long), but there aren’t that many calls to action. It’s almost difficult to buy a product from one of their reviews. I’m guessing this is on purpose. By not immediately ramming an Amazon affiliate link down people’s throats and leading the user down a rabbit hole of more reviews and comparisons, they are enforcing that message of trust and legitimacy and increasing user engagement to boot.
This is a social media giant! Well over half of their traffic comes from places like Pinterest and Instagram, with another 20% or so from email. Similarly to Lucie’s List, it was built around the needs of new mums and helping parents deal with their new baby-filled lives better. And again, this site has built a tribe or community and publishes strong content that keeps them coming back for more. There are a lot of how-tos, gift guides and top-10 list style articles, and almost every post has affiliate links to products.
What Moms Love was founded by mum of 4 (yes, 4!), Aly. Whilst she was preparing for the arrival of baby no. 1 she spent hours and hours trawling websites looking for “the best” baby stuff. I feel frustrated just thinking about it. She wished there was just one place she could trust, to find the latest or best products without all the other noise. And that’s where the idea was born. No backing, no big media company behind her. Just her at the kitchen table. Now that’s the sort of story that gives us hope.
This is a good niche to be in. It’s a site that focuses on headphones, mics and music or recording gear. I’ll admit, I don’t personally like the look of the site. It’s a bit basic for me, design-wise. And these days I do expect a more polished website. But what it does do well is content. It offers reviews, tips, best budget buys, dos and don’ts, buying guides, etc, etc. A real mixture of authority content.
This probably isn’t a million-dollar site but having done a bit of digging I reckon it must get around 190K visits per month, and I think that’s down to the content. All of the content and posts contain Amazon affiliate links, which seems to be the only source of income on the site. There are no social media links, no email capture efforts and no other ads. The point here is that it’s still a one-man-band, so whatever the site is making, it’s down to the content and possibly fairly good SEO.
A Quick Mention…
I also wanted to mention a few smaller Affiliate Sites that we can all relate to a bit more than the giants of the affiliate world:
In Conclusion… You’ve Got to Start Somewhere
It does look like all the biggest and best Amazon affiliate sites have a whole team behind them. What chance do we have as solo affiliates if that’s what we’re up against? What would it take to become like them? A lot of hard work and dedication is the answer.
Don’t look at these examples and think “well, how am I ever going to compete with that?” and give up. Don’t worry about catching up with these sites. Take lessons from them and apply them to your own business. Some of them do content absurdly well, others are smashing it on email or building an amazing community on social media. Try and take a little of what you like from each and apply it to your websites.
Affiliate marketing is not a short-term plan. If you want to be an affiliate marketer, be prepared for a lot of hard work. Think of your affiliate website as a “proper” business. Write a plan, research your niche, have a strategy, write a marketing plan, invest in content, build an email list, test, measure, rinse and repeat. Affiliate marketing has moved beyond exact match domains, basic website design, product lists, generic product reviews and millions of spammy affiliate links. Your users want more. You can do it.
Check out our live streams where we chat about and have a look at some Amazon affiliate sites…