Amazon’s Affiliate program is a decent source of income for many bloggers and website owners. But do you know all Amazon affiliate rules mentioned in TOS?
The Amazon Associates Program is one of the most well-known affiliate programs. You can love it, or you can hate it, but the truth is, if you do it right, you can earn good commission by referring as an affiliate to Amazon.
Like every network or affiliate program, Amazon reserves the right to ban you anytime and usually without proper explanation. If you break any of Amazon’s long list of Terms of Service (ToS), all of the hard work you’ve put into your niche site could fly out the window.
I know that you hate reading Terms of Service. Who doesn’t? And even if you do take the time to read, you will not understand most parts. Terms of service are there to outline the rules, expectations, and boundaries. They help you know what is and isn’t okay between you and your service provider.
Amazon doesn’t make it easy for you to understand their rules. They are spread out over six different documents:
- Associates Program Operating Agreement
- Associates Program Linking Requirements
- Associates Program Participation Requirements
- Associates Program Advertising Fee Schedule
- Associates Program Excluded Products
- Trademark Guidelines
Together these documents are more than 25 pages long. Amazon can be pretty ruthless when it comes to banning affiliates for doing the wrong thing. Often, accounts are permanently suspended, taking with them the possibility of ever being able to make money on Amazon again.
Amazon Affiliate Rules
If you are an Amazon affiliate or planning to sign-up, read about these big mistakes that will get you banned from the program.
1. Auto-tag, iframe, automatic cookie install
Amazon by default stores cookie information for users who click on your links and end up on Amazon. If they click on the link and just browse on Amazon, cookie lasts 24h. If they add the product to cart cookie lasts 90 days.
Like many things in this world, affiliate business can also be manipulated. If Amazon thinks you are engaging in suspicious activities, you will not only be banned but possibly go to court.
To make sure you don’t trigger any false flags, avoid using iFrame’s on your site altogether, as that’s how shady sellers use this trick. Here is an example from eBay affiliate program about a person who made $28 Million with his system and ended in court.
2. Using your affiliate link for your own purchases
Amazon, as probably all affiliate programs, doesn’t allow buying for yourself through your own affiliate link to get a commission.
Rule #29 of the Participation Requirements states: “You will not purchase any Product(s) through Special Links for use by you or for resale or commercial use of any kind.” But it shouldn’t be a big problem if you accidentally do it a couple of times.
3. Use Amazon affiliate links in email
Amazon explicitly forbids any use of affiliate links in “offline promotion or in any other offline manner.” This includes e-mails too.
Some may say that emails are not used offline. You need an Internet connection. While that may be true, most email platforms also allow users to access their emails offline once they have been read on a mobile device or downloaded to a desktop email client.
That means that using Amazon Affiliate links in email can quickly land you in hot water. Instead of sending traffic to Amazon in emails, link to a page on your site that includes your affiliate links.
Just like email, ebooks and PDF documents are easy to access offline. This means they are a big no-no for placement of Amazon affiliate links.
While some users point that Amazon bans emailing links but never mentions eBooks, Amazon account agreement states otherwise: “In any printed material, mailing, SMS, MMS, email or attachment to an email, or another document, or any oral solicitation.”
5. Using link shortening or link cloaking
Amazon is very concerned with affiliates misdirecting audience. Amazon wants users to know where they are being directed to as the reputation of the Amazon depends on how affiliates are referring the site to visitors.
For this reason, Amazon bans link shortening that doesn’t make it obvious that you are sending users to Amazon.
Amazon explicitly states that under their 30th Participation Requirement.
You will not cloak, hide, spoof, or otherwise obscure the URL of your site containing Special Links (including by use of a redirecting page) such that we cannot reasonably determine the site from which a customer clicks through such Special Link to the Amazon Site
It is recommended to use Amazon’s default link shortener service, Amzn.to. You can also use any shortener plugin to make links look shorter. But you have to mention product name or Amazon, so the person knows where he will be redirected.
6. Have more than one account
To limit spam and make sure that their bans carry weight, Amazon only allows one account per individual. Some business owners may qualify for an exception depending on the nature and scale of their business. Feel free to contact Amazon and ask for some leniency.
7. Promote Amazon with copied content
Amazon wants to be sure that Affiliates are sharing links on high-quality sites only. That means that if your site has only content copies from Amazon, is all advertising copy, or doesn’t have any meaningful content, Amazon won’t look at you favorably.
When you first join as an Amazon Affiliate, you will need to meet quality guidelines on your site. As long as you maintain that level of quality, and make sure that your site contains genuine content and not entirely copy content, you should be okay.
You can, of course, use critical pieces of information and put them in comparison tables, or use them in your text and reviews. But you shouldn’t copy and paste large chunks of product description and put it unchanged on your niche website.
8. Use Amazon user reviews as your own
You can base potential endorsement of a product based on how well that product is reviewed. In fact, relying on the user-generated reviews on Amazon to determine the quality of products is a good idea overall.
But don’t copy product reviews directly. You could rewrite them or write your own using opinions stated in reviews on Amazon. Don’t ever copy and paste those user reviews to your own site, or pass them off as your own.
You can find this rule in participation requirement #28: “You will not display or otherwise use any of our customer reviews or star ratings, in part or in whole…”
But, there is a loophole in this rule. If you continue reading this rule, it says “…on your site unless you have obtained a link to that customer review or star rating through the Product Advertising API and you comply with the requirements set forth in the License Agreement.”
This means you can use Amazon reviews and ratings on your site but only if that info is pulled from Amazon API, which can be done using one of many WordPress plugins for Amazon affiliates which support that feature.
9. Offering incentive
Providing incentive is one of the tricky ways marketers use to increase sales. While this works for digital product marketplaces, there is no place for it in Amazon affiliate program.
You will not offer any person or entity any consideration or incentive (including any money, rebate, discount, points, donation to charity or other organization, or other benefit)
10. Linking from sexually explicit or violent sites
Under item 2 of the operating agreement, Amazon explicitly forbids using affiliate links on sites that contain certain materials.
If you are not sure if your site could be considered as prohibited from Amazon point of view, check in with Amazon before posting your links.
I got to say I never liked this rule. What if someone wants to get you banned? He takes you affiliate link or affiliate id and puts it on site with material which is forbidden by Amazon affiliate policy.
11. Paid search to Amazon
Amazon defines paid search placements as follows in their Associates Operating Agreement: “Prohibited Paid Search Placement means an advertisement that you purchased through bidding on keywords, search terms, or other identifiers.”
While paid placement can do a lot to increase your affiliate commission, it can also lead directly to an affiliate ban. By paid search placements I mean it is forbidden to create Google or Bing ads and put your Amazon affiliate URL.
Instead, put a link to your website on which you have Amazon affiliate links. But you can’t buy search placement for branded terms.
PPC > Review Site > Amazon Referral Links – YES
12. No sales in 180 days
Once you sign up for Amazon Affiliate program, you need to sell at least 1 product within 180 days, or you will no longer be an Amazon affiliate. However, you can re-apply to become Amazon affiliate anytime later only under this circumstances.
If there has not been a referred sale through your Associates links within 180 days of sign-up, the application and your Associates Central access will be withdrawn.
13. Violate Amazon’s trademark policy
No matter how big your Affiliate site is, Amazon can shut down things quickly if they believe you are in violation of their trademark rights. Amazon owns a ton of trademarks, not all of which have anything to do with the phrase “Amazon.”
Proprietary products like Kindle are trademarked too, and you can quickly violate these trademarks by including trademark information in your site’s domain name.
However, you can use a trademarked name in your post permalink. Example:
bestkindlereviews.com – NO
mysiteexample.com/best-kindle-reviews – YES
14. Social media promotion without knowing rules
While Amazon generally does not allow you to share affiliate links on sites you do not own, social network sites are an exception. However, there are a few important rules that govern sharing links on social media.
In general, avoid sharing links on a sexually explicit or violent social media pages or using Amazon trademark info in your page titles. For example, creating a Facebook page named Amazon Deals and posting affiliate links of product with discount.
To make sure that you are sharing acceptable links on your social media, be sure to click the “share” buttons from the Amazon Affiliates Stripe when you are logged into your affiliate account.
15. Mentioning price in content
You may think the discussing price in content will not be an issue, but doing so is not good practice in Amazon affiliate program.
Amazon changes the prices of items regularly. Putting price information in your content means that your site will look obsolete when changes occur.
Here is what it says about price display in Amazon Operating Agreement:
If you choose to display prices for any Product on your site in any “comparison” format (including through the use of any price-comparison tool or engine) together with prices for the same or similar products offered through any web site or other means other than the Amazon Site, you must display both the lowest “new” price and, if we provide it to you, the lowest “used” price at which the Product is available on the Amazon Site. You may not otherwise include price information on your site.
The true is you can mention the price in your content but you must put the disclaimer under the price mentioning when was price last updated.
Those products will automatically update price from Amazon using product advertising API. When you write an article “best products under $100,” all products prices must be under $100 at all times. These post types are very risky.
Don’t use texts such as “check Best price on Amazon,” “check the cheapest price on Amazon” etc. If your prices aren’t the cheapest or best, you get a ban.
- Who is collecting this information? (you + what other third-party partners)
- What kind of information are you collecting on them and how? (e.g. credit card numbers, email addresses, names, mailing addresses, IP addresses, demographic data)
- When do you share it?
- Where do you use this information?
- How do you protect sensitive identifiable information? (especially credit card numbers!)
- How can I find out what you know about me?
- Why do you collect it?
17. Not having disclaimer that you are Amazon affiliate
Amazon requires you to identify yourself as an affiliate. But they help you out by giving you the exact text they want you to use on your website:
[Insert your name] is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com
But that isn’t the only place you should be identifying links as affiliate links. You need to put disclosure on every post or page where you have affiliate links. Most people put it in sidebar or in footer.
18. Using proper BUY buttons
You can’t use any Amazon buy button except the ones provided specifically for Amazon Associates. You can’t use button images find on various places like Google, nor you can’t create your own.
The only Amazon buy buttons you can use are the ones provided by Amazon to participants of Amazon Associates Program.
Yes, I know. They are probably ugliest buttons you have seen lately. I guess you could also use buttons on your website that are not graphics/images. Something like only button with text.
Amazon Affiliate Rules Final Words
Hope above mentioned Amazon affiliate rules will help you stay on right side with Amazon.
For more information about all of these common pitfalls, and all of the other things that Amazon wants you to know about being an affiliate, make sure to check out the full Amazon Affiliate’s agreement.
Sometimes it is best to contact Amazon if you are not sure about some parts of your website. Don’t risk your status as an Amazon affiliate.
If you want to share your Amazon experience or highlight anything I missed from the Amazon Associates Agreement that you consider very important, feel free to mention it in the comments below.