Amazon Associates can be incredibly powerful for any blogger's affiliate marketing efforts, but it's also confusing. So many rules! Learn the dos and don'ts of being an Amazon Associate in this post.
If you already have my Affiliate Marketing for Bloggers Master Course and are a member of the private Facebook group that comes with it, you know just how often the rules of Amazon Associates is discussed in that group. And for good reason! The rules of Amazon Associates are confusing and they change frequently, so it can be hard to know whether you are in compliance or not. So, I decided to document all the dos and don'ts of Amazon Associates for you in this post.
Before you read it, I have several big disclaimers: 1) You and you alone are responsible for reading and complying with the Amazon Associates Operating Agreement and Program Policies including all updates, 2) I am not connected to Amazon Associates in any way other than as an affiliate, 3) I am not longer an active, practicing attorney (and even when I was, this was NOT in my realm of expertise), nor am I an employee of the Federal Trade Commission and this post does not contain legal advice or any guarantee that following these tips/advice will ensure your compliance, and 4) Amazon Associates rules are updated frequently and may have changed by the time you are reading this post (though I'll do my best to keep it updated).
Click below to get a free printable PDF to keep these rules handy at all times! Amazon Associates has and will continue to remove bloggers who do not comply with the rules, and you don't want that to happen because the Amazon affiliate program is a very powerful one to use as a blogger!
The Dos and Don'ts of Amazon Associates
The Dos of Amazon Associates:
1) Include the required Amazon disclosure on your main site.
Amazon Associates requires that you disclose you are part of its program using the EXACT wording included in the Operating Agreement (see paragraph 5). See below for the required language at the time I am writing this post (March 2018). Some people include it in their sidebar, others in their footer, and still others on a general disclosure page on their site. The bottom line is, you must include it word for word somewhere on your site.
2) Make sure all URLs where you will be sharing Amazon affiliate links are properly listed in your account.
When you apply for Amazon Associates, you will be applying with your main site URL, but you can and should share affiliate links on social media that allows you to do so. Well, in order to comply with the Amazon Associates rules, you need to list all of your social media URLs in your account before you share Amazon affiliate links on those channels. It's easy to do–just click on the option to “edit your website and mobile app list.” Then add all of the URLs where you intended to share your Amazon affiliate links.
3) Disclose your affiliate links whenever they are used.
I strongly encourage you to read the following two very important guides provided by the FTC in an effort to clarify how the FTC Act affects and applies to bloggers: “When does the FTC Act Apply to Endorsements?” and “How to Make Effective Disclosures in Digital Advertising.” The main points that I have taken away from these guides with respect to affiliate marketing are:
- You must disclose affiliate links in a conspicuous manner on your blog. I take this to mean that the font should be at least the same size as the rest of the post and that you should not try to camouflage it or bury it in any way. In fact, I think the best practice is to make it stand out from the other post text in some way (such as being italicized or bolded).
- The location of the disclosure matters. It MUST appear BEFORE any affiliate links. And you cannot simply include a general disclosure on your “About Me” or a “Disclosure” page. A disclosure needs to appear in every single blog post that contains affiliate links, and it needs to appear before any affiliate links appear. Furthermore, the disclosure and affiliate link should have some proximity to each other so that the reader makes the connection between the disclosure and the links themselves. The bottom line is that the closer the disclosure is to the affiliate link(s), the better. To quote the FTC, “Consumers should be able to notice the disclosure easily. They shouldn’t have to hunt for it.” In other words, you cannot hide it in the “fine print.”
- If you cannot include your full disclosure near the affiliate links, you can link to a page where the full disclosure is displayed. If you use a link to a disclosure, you must make the link obvious, and you must “label the hyperlink appropriately to convey the importance, nature, and relevance of the information it leads to.”
- The phrasing of the disclosure matters. The FTC has specifically said that “affiliate link” by itself is not adequate disclosure. The FTC has suggested that “I get commissions for purchases made through links in this post” is sufficient.
4) Make sure your Amazon affiliate links are “nofollow” links.
This is what Google has to say on the subject of affiliate links: “In order to prevent paid links from influencing search results and negatively impacting users, we urge webmasters use nofollow such links” [sic]. You can read the full discussion here. Not every search engine honors no follow links or treats them the same way. However, since the majority of searching is done with Google, I recommend observing Google's standard on nofollow links.
Put simply, a link that has the “nofollow” meta tag tells Google not to follow the link, which means that the link will not get any points or “Google juice” that would positively affect that site’s Google ranking in searches or otherwise.
You can use no follow on individual links by viewing your post in text mode and typing rel=”nofollow” after the link in the href tag. A typical link would look like:
<a href=“http://thisisjustanexample.com/ “rel=”nofollow”>Your anchor text here.</a>
Or you can do what I do and use a plugin. It makes it much easier :)
The Dont's of Amazon Associates:
Now, before I dive into the long list of things you CANNOT do as an Amazon affiliate, let me preface it by saying that if in doubt, it is your responsibility to contact Amazon Associates directly. Don't just ask your blogger friends. Don't just see what other people are saying in Facebook groups. Don't just rely on posts like this. CONTACT AMAZON ASSOCIATES and ask.
I also recommend that you keep a clear record of what you are told! Amazon Associates is a HUGE program and I have many examples of different bloggers contacting Amazon Associates to ask the same question only to receive different answers. So keep records of your communications with Amazon Associates!
1) Do not ever include Amazon affiliates links in emails, PDFs or any other “off-line” manner!
You may ONLY share your Amazon affiliate links on the sites or URLs that are listed in your account (see #2 in the list of “Dos”). But that doesn't mean as long as you list it you are good to go. Any “offline” methods of sharing links are forbidden. That means you cannot send out links to your email list or in downloadable PDFS.
Furthermore, you CANNOT include Amazon affiliate links in any private Facebook groups or other sites that are not viewable by the public at large. In other words, if they have to login or be approved in order to see the content, you can't share your links there.
A lot, well actually a ton, of bloggers violate this rule. Some have decided to take a calculated risk. Others may not know. But just because “big bloggers” do it does not mean it's not against the rules!
2) Do not ever cloak or shorten Amazon links with anything other than Amazon's own link shortener.
Amazon links are super long, so when you’re sharing them on social media you might want to shorten or cloak them with a tool like Pretty Links or bit.ly. Don’t do it! The Participation Guidelines forbid it. That said, you can use the Amazon link shortener that is part of the Site Stripe and is super easy to use.
3) Be careful when using Amazon product photos.
Sigh. This is one where I still don't think we have clear answers, but here are the Amazon product photo rules I would say to follow if you want to be safe.
In your blog posts, only use the product photos that the Site Stripe generates. The failproof way to do this is to actually embed the code that the Site Stripe generates to share the image on your site. Sadly, even the “large” images aren't very large. So many bloggers save the image and upload them directly to their sites. Many bloggers have been told by Amazon Associates that it is fine to do so if the image used appears in the Site Stripe. Others have been told they may only embed the code. You have to decide what you are comfortable doing–if in doubt, contact Amazon Associates.
One thing that is 100% clear is that you can NEVER use product photos for third-party products that are sold via Amazon (you can tell because instead of saying “sold and shipped by Amazon” it will say “sold by [name of storefront]”) via any method other than embedding the code from the Site Stripe.
A question that comes up very frequently is whether Amazon Associates can use Amazon product images to create collage style Pinterest graphics. Well, again, some bloggers who have inquired have been told “Yes, as long as the image appears in the Site Stripe.” Others have been told no. If you are uncomfortable taking the risk, you can make graphics with a generic image like the one I below that I made for any gift guide/shopping guide that includes a lot of Amazon products.
4) Don't use the Amazon logo. EVER.
Well, technically, you should never infringe on the trademark of anyone, ever, but Amazon is particularly serious about people not using its logo or mark in any way. So, don't ever use the Amazon logo on any graphics you make. For example, if you write a post about 10 affordable headboards on Amazon, don't add the Amazon logo to make your Pinterest graphic look cute.
5) Don't pay to promote any social media posts that go DIRECTLY to an Amazon product via your affiliate link.
If you share an Amazon affiliate link that goes directly to a product on Amazon on social media, you can't pay to promote those posts. But if your link goes to a round-up or shopping guide post that resides on your own blog, that is different. You can pay to promote your own content that includes Amazon affiliate links.
6) Don't encourage friends or family to purchase from Amazon after clicking on your links and don't make purchases for yourself through your links.
This one is pretty obvious. Don't click your own Amazon affiliate links and then make purchases for yourself. But it's less obvious that you shouldn't ask friends or family member to click your Amazon affiliate links and then make purchases. It's against the rules!
7) Don't share prices.
Amazon prices change frequently and sharing the WRONG price is a violation of the terms and conditions. To always show accurate prices of products you are promoting you must somehow connect to Amazon’s API, from which the pricing data will be pulled and regularly updated. But 99.9% of bloggers are NOT going to connect to Amazon's API. So, just don't share prices unless you want to monitor and update them manually.
Phew… That's a lot of rules, huh? If you are feeling overwhelmed by these rules, or even if you feel confused by how to use affiliate marketing on your blog to earn more money from the traffic you already have, then be sure to check out my Affiliate Marketing for Bloggers course. It has helped nearly 1,000 bloggers grow their affiliate income (and comply with rules while doing it).
It only opens for enrollment a few times a year, so be sure to click here to be added to the wait list so you'll know when the doors open again :)
And be sure to save this post to Pinterest or share it on Facebook to help other bloggers be sure they are complying with the rules, too.