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|Is Amazon worth it anymore?|
Taking $'s with one hand and giving cents back in return
I remember when Amazon first started I think we got 15% per any sale, at the least 10%. Over the years the total commission percentage just kept decreasing. (OK i know we used to get 3c for every search we delivered to AV and google as well!)
We had a meeting last week and decided to stop doing our individual book links to amazon as they are now cost ineffective. With individual links you get 15% commission, not 5%. But the times that we actually get that 15% has reduced to a trickle.
The trick is that Amazon only pays when people immediately put the book in their basket, before going to any other pages. A referred customer may still buy the book you recommended, but you only get 5% if they do something before - (like do another search, go to their amazon recommendations, etc etc.)
The "landing page" now has so many distractions that people do not WANT to click and buy straight away. The buy button is getting less obvious every update. On the first screen of info there is a big advert saying "buy the book you want PLUS this other one for a special price" (Of course you dont get 15% if they do that). There are numerous columns and blocks or "related books", recommendations, lists etc, that it almost seems that Amazon is trying to DISCOURAGE the visitor from buying the book the site referrer recommended. I think they have a great site, bye the way, the way they have personalised it and provide all matter of info and interactive facilities is great. But for the visitor more so than the affiliate!
Now the new announcement (with great fanfare on the associates page) from amazon is that they are "increasing" commissions according to performance. If we sell 25 books a quarter we now get 5.5% and i think if we sell 50 (or is it a hundred?) we get 6%.
Gee.. thanks amazon. That means my averahe commission on our average $20 book has gone up from $1 to $1.10...
Its just starting to sound a bit like spin, with the fast decrease in our 15%'s over the past few years..
Maybe Amazon has now got the brand recognition they want, so they dont need exposure and referrals from other sites so much now and are just doing enough to keep ahead of potential competitors.
In the meantime we are canning our specially selected and custom book recommendations and putting up their auto js keyword driven box. It only gets us 5%, but then again so does 96% of our carefully thought out book recommendation links, and we can put it there and forget it and not anything brain-straining. (And we wont run foul of Google thinking we are an affiliate site with several amazon links spread throughout!)
Not complaining. Amazon has to do what is best for their shareholders, but just wondering whether enyone was having success with these individual 15% links now? and how?
We have highly specialised news type sites by the way, and a bookish intellectual audience, usually experienced international managers usually with university education so if amazon should work anywhere, it should work with ours.
Yea ... I hear ya about that "earn 15% with direct links" what a joke. My site drives more than 2,500 daily visitors and usally about 75 of those end up on Amazon.com from my recommended products or books. Most of the links I have set up for amazon are direct product links. Infact I have several products that I recommend over and over on different pages within my site. I sell plenty of these for amazon and have NEVER - EVER recieved the 15% commision!
Just seams kinda silly, I understand as you stated that they need to grow there business and that it is a tight market with there types of products and all. But, possibly they should sell the affiliate program for what it is. NOT what it is not, people rarely and I bet it is under 1% make the 15% sale. I don't understand why they just don't highlight the positive points rather than hyping a commision structure that SELDOM pays out?
Amazon does have some positives going for it:
1) it has many many products offering affiliates the ability to offer any of these and earn a dollar. I like this approach as I rather work with one good affilaite program rather than promote 3.
2) people trust amazon, they have name recoqnition (spelllling oppss) they feel comfortable pulling out that credit card and I am sure I would make more sales with amazon than with smaller companies.
3) they now offer xml feeds,
When I started getting serious about web marketing and affilaite program I started with amazon and about 4 or 5 other companies. I did not make any money at all with them until my site started to recieve over 2,000 visitors daily. Most people will never see that kind of traffic. As I progressed with affiliate programs I slowly began pulling away from there program. It just does not make sense when I can earn more with other programs.
I was kinda hopping for a bit more with the news that they were looking into improving the pay structure of the program. This quarter I made 50 sales. Which means I would have earned 6% instead of 5% which equals out to another $10 in commisions!
10 bucks for three months of sales! My total commision check for the quarter will be about $50 bucks or so. Any one of my other programs would have payed me at least $200 bucks. I would have to be a fool to activily promote amazon.com right now.
|I would have to be a fool to activily promote amazon.com right now. |
Agreed. I have promoted Amazon heavily in the past and not made much money for all of the work. I also promoted the old Fatbrain (now part of B&N) and B&N as well. A couple of books have sold fairly well, everything else is not really worth the trouble. There are far better affiliate programs out there.
Chef Brian wrote:
|Yea ... I hear ya about that "earn 15% with direct links" what a joke. My site drives more than 2,500 daily visitors and usally about 75 of those end up on Amazon.com from my recommended products or books. Most of the links I have set up for amazon are direct product links. Infact I have several products that I recommend over and over on different pages within my site. I sell plenty of these for amazon and have NEVER - EVER recieved the 15% commision! |
I would say it's extremely difficult to know what you should get paid, because after it's been referred to Amazon, nobody knows whether a product was purchased. And as chiyo observed, Amazon's product pages are now so full of distractions that it's easy for Amazon to just make the sale after bouncing the prospect around -- so conveniently, they don't have to pay your commission (or can reduce it accordingly).
|3) they now offer xml feeds, |
We've been using these for a couple weeks now. I can tell you that while they're a big improvement over crawling their site for product info, reliability and performance are clearly wanting. Also, they make their searches far more difficult than necessary by failing to document current mode/node lists for their partners. There is one published by an external developer that ships with their developer's kit, but it's not guaranteed to be up to date. If you know exactly the products you want or exact search terms, you're in luck; otherwise, it can be a long time before you get a finished set of results back.
My experience with Amazon has been very positive. A large percent of my sales are 15%. I make quite decent returns from Amazon based on time invested. I have one page that only took me a couple of hours to write the content for. Last month I made $50 from books I sell just on that one page and books that I don't sell on my site but are listed are listed under "people who bought this book also bought". (The page gets under 2,000 pageviews a month.)
Plus I make a lot of sales for Amazon on things I don't even have on my site - magazine subscriptions, CDs, videos, etc. People tend to buy a lot of other stuff while they are shopping there.
What turned me off Amazon was their lack of flexibility.
I used to be top dog in a particular niche market. I was earning them about £50k ($70k) per year in turnover.
Well... I must be worth more than 5% I foolishly thought. I emailed and asked them to double me to 10%, pointing out that I could tell them exactly which 6 titles the money would be earned on.
They basically responded that they would look at a SLIGHT increase if I reached the magic figure of £60k pa, over the COMING months.
That was it for me. I decided to skip them and go somewhere else. They were basically taking the P***. The message I got from this was that the £50k meant so little to them that I didn't matter.
Further down stream I moved out of the niche altogether, but that's another story.
This upcoming quarter, Amazon's testing a graded commission scale based on volume. Goes from 5% up to 8% (though it'd be pretty tough to hit that 8% mark unless you're flying). 15% is still in effect for many books.
As far as getting sales go, using the Web Services, I'm sending far fewer people to Amazon, but I'm converting 1 in 6 people to a sale. (That's pretty impressive, in my book). My overall traffic to conversion ratio hasn't changed all that much, but this way I keep the traffic on my own site until they are almost definitely ready to buy.
From March to August, I had 5 sales on my site. In August I had 10. This month, I'm over 30 and the stuff I've optimized for Google has only appeared on the dozen or so "fresh" pages that I've gotten.
The browseNode deal IS a pain in the butt, but it's not too bad. I just built a table and add a few nodes each day. (The nodes never vanish - they add new ones, and the ones in the docs are not correct - it's not that they've changed them).
If you want to check out what I'm working on now, go to the site in my profile and change the "www" to "shop" in the URL and you'll see how the browseNodes work.
<shrug> I'm having good luck with it and each little tweak I make brings me that much closer to making a decent living off it.
True, I probably wouldn't use Amazon with just hard links, search boxes, and banners, but heck, the web services provide some great tools. (Figure that I took my site that had roughly 1 million pages and more than quadrupled that with less than 80 hours of coding - and the spiders seem to love it!)
I don't have any first hand experience but a reliable source tells me that what she makes on amazon (even with the rough comm. and cookie setup) is all down to conversion!
|Nothing converts like Amazon! |
There are many other better affiliate programs out there than Amazon, in my opinion. I suggest looking into Commission Junction. CJ has lots of affiliate programs and site specific products to choose from, with many various commission rates. The highest commission rate I've seen is 35% on all sales, but there may be even higher available. They are also good at sending out checks on time.
I run a website, and am an affiliate with the " Widgets Superstore" and have generated $10,000 in sales for them, and make 10% commission on all sales. So I've made about $1000 through that one affiliate program alone. (The money I make goes mostly to domain and hosting costs.) This is definitley better then what I made with Amazon, and I'm very pleased with them.
[edited by: heini at 10:42 pm (utc) on Sep. 22, 2002]
[edit reason] no site details please / see sticky mail [/edit]
The problem I'm finding with CJ and places like that is that most of the programs - high paying ones especially - only offer very limited use banners. SOME places are starting to come out of that though and it looks like CJ has built some kind of utility to allow advertisers to deliver more dynamic content. HALF.Com (e-bay's "new goods" arm) is offering through CJ something similar to amazon's dynamic "recomends browse node" links, now. Looks like that started about a week ago. I can't say much - I only took a quick look and haven't had time to check it out, but it looks promising.
If CJ has this technology available for other advertisers (AT A GOOD COST - that's the key) then it could really blow the roof off of affiliate conversion rates in the coming months. Unfortunately, it looks to me like the added cost to advertisers is going to force those that ARE offering good commission rates at present to lower them in order to cover their costs.
It'll likely take a year or so for this new area to stabilize, I'd guess.
I am kind of new here, but I might be able to shed some light on this. I run my website mostly as a hobby. However, I have an Amazon account from which I received a couple of checks some years ago. The other day my brother needed to buy a couple of technical books for his business. So I told him to give me his credit card and that I would buy them for him.
I then did the following:
1- Created the individual links. (the books were not on special).
2) logged off and deleted the temporary folder.
3) Clicked into Amazon using the first link added it to the cart and checked out.
4) closed IE, cleaned the temp folder and repeated step 3)
The result was that for a $110 book, I got $5.50 into the account. I can understand getting only 5% for book #2. But I should have gotten $16.50 for the first.
:) I was kind of hoping getting to $25 with those two sales since I got like $9 sitting there since 1999 LOL
Thanks for the info all. Keep it coming. We are thinking of axing amazon completely at the end of the year, so its useful feedback. We are also using some of the "web services" type things, but i think these are all 5%, not 15% type commissions anyway. its only hard coded direct links i think that attract 15%.
I would love Amazon to disclose what proportion of sales are at 15%, but I think that would be highly guarded information!
Jane you say the majority of your sales are at 15%. Any extra tips you may want to share on how you achieve this?
I was jumping up and down with pure joy (err, greed) when I learned the earnings cap had been lifted for some categories and the overall commission rate increased. It will mean a 30% - 40% increase in commission for me. You'd be surprised how many people will shell out hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars for purchases through Amazon.com.
|Taking $'s with one hand and giving cents back in return |
Webmasters often knock affiliate programs because they can't make it work for them.
Keymaster.. your comments about knocking affiliate programs are hardly useful.
So you are jumping for joy (great!), but you have not given us any tips on *how* you are so successful.
How exactly do you predict a 30 to 40% increase? I guess this is from the lifting of the commission cap on non-book items?
Comments here have been useful in helping me understand how to make Amazon work better for us. We are not knocking the program, but we need to know what categories of sites and what methods work best. It is beyond question that for books, net commissions and click through to buy percentages have reduced over msny years for our sites. We are looking for a reason to continue and how we can use Amazon better, like many here i guess.
Maybe Amazon's strategy is that they now have a great brand for books,so dont need all that web exposure for their mainstream product like they did in the early days, but they need to improve their non-books inventory (or broader) brand?
They also seem to be encouraging their bigger affiliates, who obviously have better return for them (with their performance oriented scales), rather than the small mom and pop sites who make maybe 10 to 50 sales a month. That's not a bad strategy for them. But we need to reassess how profitable Amazon is for us compared to other revenue generation exercises. And interested in tips from people on how they are making it work for them. amazon can do what they want of course, and as strategy changes, so does their affiliate profile. We need to be informed as much as possible on objective experiences beyong amazon's own spin and our own solitary experience. And then we stay or go. That's business...
>Jane you say the majority of your sales are at 15%. Any extra tips you may want to share on how you achieve this?
I should clarify that I have 2 sites that sell books. The higher traffic, more general site has been a bit of a dud - 1 sale per 100 clicks, mostly 5%. The niche site with lower traffic sells 1 book per 5 clicks, and the majority of the direct links sell at 15% commission, but not the majority of the total book sales. This is because my total book sales also include a lot of market place books (2.5%) and books, CDs, magazines, etc. that I don't even have links for on my site (5%). About a third of the stuff I get commission on from Amazon are products people just buy while they are at Amazon and have nothing to do with my web site, so for these sales I only get 5% (but I'm not complaining since it's like getting money for doing nothing.)
I don't really know why I get 15% and others do not. I've always gotten 15% sales since I put up the links, so it's not like I discovered any special technique. Maybe it is beginners luck. I do have a recommended book list I put in the nav bar, and I also put direct links to a couple of the books I highly recommend on each page.
Don't rely so heavily on book recommendations. They're nice teasers and all but you have to mix different products up to sell to a wider audience. Don't get me wrong, use them but throw in some other product recommendations as well. If a large portion of your visitors aren't interested in purchasing books, no amount of optimized book recommendations are going to convince them to buy one. For a newsish site, I would think computers, PDAs, and software would sell well. If you run a story about x product and x product is available through Amazon, sell it! But this is only my perspective. Only you know what products your visitors would be most interested in.
If it looks like advertising, it will be treated like advertising. My experience is that Amazon Recommends, search boxes, product recommendations that do not relate to the content of the site, etc will not perform nearly as well as individually optimized (and relevant) product recommendations will.
heh that's great advice thanks Jane and Keymaster.
it looks like the more targeted your site or page the better, and maybe make the direct links "pesonalized" recommendations. And maybe provide a couple of options for things other than books if appropriate. Maybe we should be broadening away from just books seeing amazon just lifted the commission cap.
For what this is worth, I concluded quite some time ago that pushing books with Amazon was not very productive. So, I decided to experiment with some other Amazon product lines.
Among other things, I put up a number of highly targeted pages for power tools, and in due course began to see regular conversions. One day, an order for an item costing $1,495 came through for which I got a whopping $10 in comission instead of $75. At that point I decided that devoting much more effort to Amazon was not really an effective way to use my time.
However, now that the cap is being removed, I think its probably worthwhile to flesh out this category, and to look into some of the other product areas that might be fruitful. After all, Amazon does convert. I also recommend adding the "nosim" thingy to your affiliate links so that the landing page is actually for the product targeted.
Unfortunately this new Referral Fee Structure is only valid for Amazon.com . The UK and german sites haven't announced anything yet.
I have a lot of links to CDs on Amazon and CDNow. I find that a lot of people will click on CDNow but very few buy. The conversion rate for Amazon is so much better than CDNow.
As a consumer, I buy from Amazon because I have received exceptional service (replacement of a CD lost in the post with no questions asked - even though it took me a month to inform them). My experience with some other internet CD sellers has been not been very good
Thanks Chiyo. This is a very timely post for me as I have been considering re-establishing my amazon affiliation. Because it is a teacher site, I would probably stick to books and maybe software. In the past I felt I had been burned somewhat by amazon in that I had eventually sent them over 800 clicks but had yet to receive a single penny in commissions. For me amazon didn't convert. But after listening to the testimony from others here, I have to rethink. Part of the problem is that my highly targeted audience happens to be international (English teachers) and the shipping of books overseas was/is very expensive.
I will be watching this thread closely.
I have had a somewhat successful turnaround with Amazon in a new pilot on two different sites. I think the problem most people are having is that they try to sell the product (i.e. books) on thier website, and then have to sell again on Amazon. I had a new theory about this that I put to test this past Summer and came up with better statistics. The whole idea later came about in Site pro this past week (sticky me if you would like me to forward). In review they note that 3% of affiliates account for 95% of affiliate revenue.
They go onto discuss that the key has more to do with "preselling" vs. "selling" (make sense?). "Presell not Sell to your visitors. This way you will be more credible in your recommendations. Further, visitors that click-through will be in a RTB mindset. Don't try to sell off of your affiliate site. Visitors will recoil at the hard sell and even if they do click-through, what do they get...another sell (probably repeating exactly what you said)."
I can expand on this a bit more if anyone is interested. After a few months of coffee and long nights testing different things, I have theories that I have put to test... I gave this philosophy (amoung some other strategies) a try and it has worked multiples better! From all the cool advice I have received from here from SEO's, I would be more than willing to expand on this.
One thing I've found with Amazon is that people will buy books where the title exactly matches their search request. For example, if people are searching for information on blue widgets, they are not likely to buy a book called "The World of Widgets", even if is has a great chapter on blue widgets and you highly recommend the book. They will buy a book called "The History of Blue Widgets" even if you say , well this book was sort of okay, too, and might be worth reading. More people will buy the book that closely matches their search term.
I do make money from Amazon, and I get the 15 percent commission pretty often (maybe on one item in 20 sold). I list a lot of books on my site, all closely related to my topic. All direct text links; banners/search boxes etc. don't work for me.
I agree that the webmaster should try to presell, not sell, the book. Get the visitor interested enough to click, then let Amazon do the rest.
Count me as a fan of Amazon's affiliate program. The money helps pay the bills for my hobby site, which is all I want it to do. Profit isn't part of the equation for me -- we don't make one and don't want one. (If your goal is to earn a living off affiliate revenues that come out to 5%-15% of a $10 product, aren't you being overly optimistic?) Amazon has what? 30 million customers now? I find that it's much easier to get people to shop and buy at Amazon (because they're a known entity and because they're exceptional at what they do) than it is to get people to buy at some site they've never heard of before -- even when the latter has a lower price.
Yes, direct text links are best. Yes, put them right in with the related content on your site. Yes, personalize it as much as possible with "we recommend this because...." messages.
Amazon has recently upped the limits on several product lines, as has been mentioned. They also now allow commissions (admittedly, small ones) on 3rd-party/marketplace sales. They've added the web services and other tools -- all of these seem to me, at least, to be moves that are friendly toward their affiliates. Of course they're more interested in serving their customers than their affiliates -- they'd be out of business by now if customers weren't the no. 1 priority. And I want them to keep that up because without that great customer service, my visitors wouldn't buy there.
International audience? Amazon UK and Amazon Canada also have affiliate programs, and I'd assume the other country-specific sites do, too. We've had success offering items that are only available in certain countries and getting people to buy from Amazon UK, for example. (I'm in the U.S.) Again, it's familiarity with the Amazon name....
And I also like how easy it is to link to their site, whether it be the home page or an individual product. So many other retailers make it tough to link to them, requiring those silly tracking GIFs and all kinds of other garbage. Who needs it. I can crank out an Amazon link by memory in about 30 seconds, and don't need to use the "Make-A-Link" service that so many others require you to use.
No, I'm not on Bezos' payroll. But to answer the question in this thread, yes, it's still worth it, at least for me. Your mileage may vary. :)
I've long felt that the best feature about Amazon is its ability to convert. The move to increase commissions and lift caps is a step in the right direction.
However, for Amazon to become a really outstanding affiliate program, payments should be made monthly and a cookie should be added. These absenses are major drawbacks.
As I indicated above, I think it makes sense to revisit Amazon to expand on the product categories where they've lifted the cap on commissions. Beyond that, it would take further loosening of the negatives to get me to go whole hog with Amazon again.
The 15% fee is only paid on boodks and only on books which are discounted at 10% to 30% off the list price. You have to watch what you link directly to if you want the 15%.
Amazon is truly the best converting program out there.
One site has been averaging about 18 sales per day this quarter but lately it has been running at about 27 per day. It is all about traffic. If you have a lot, you can sell a lot.
When I decided to become an Amazon affiliate I built a system that allowed me to select content from their site and add it into my own index and directory structure of several hundred pages. This provided faster keyword searching than on Amazon and semi-static pages for search engine indexing.
The titles have brief descriptions and images which are closely matched to the content of this directory website.
This section of my site displays around 24,000 impressions per quarter and in the quarter to date has refered over 5,200 unique visitors to Amazon.
Conversion rate is 4.6% and of these (coincidentally) 15% are at the 15% commission rate.
In real terms this equates to peanuts, given the quality of referals I'm sending to Amazon.
I think Amazon understand their customers buying habits far better than we do and they realise that only a small percentage of referals will buy directly from the page they land on, and more importantly, that the majority won't even buy during that session, therefore eliminating the affiliate from the equation unless they return via the affiliate's website.
Traffic can continue to rise on the Amazon.com affiliate sites, you can send mroe people through to Amazon - and you can watch your conversions drop.
If you look in the right areas, you'll find exactly how people can steal the affiliate links you send to Amazon.com.
Racecar: is it really possible to "steal links"? I have heard of this in the past, but haven't really had an explanation. I remeber it was posted in one of the Amazon forums, but was removed by Amazon.
Can you use a referral url to prevent this?
On a side note:
what does eveyone think of the new XML driven results? It is interesting that as more SEO's and webmasters use the presell method, that amaozn would offer both a developers key and multiple interfaces. This goes against the idea of preselling, and reverts back to attempting to make it look as if you are "selling" directly from your website. Just food for thought, I haven't really developed a full opinion either way.
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