Getting Banned From the Amazon Affiliate Program Was The Best Thing That Ever Happened
I still remember the day when I received the email from the Amazon Associates affiliate program saying my account was banned. I’m not going to lie. It was a gut-wrenching feeling. Hell, getting banned from anything is gut-wrenching. Anyone who is part of the Amazon Associates program knows the fear you live in daily wondering when the smiling giant is no longer going to look down on you in good favor.
When you get banned, your first thought is your online ventures have come to an end. Everything you have worked on is useless, and you have spent years wasting your time writing articles for no reason. That might be the case if your content is crap and only written for the Amazon link. But, if you have great content, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Your online ventures have actually just started. Now it’s time to expand on what you have started. That was the day my eyes were opened, and it was a huge learning experience.
Yes, the Amazon Affiliate program is the easiest to link too. There are millions of products to choose from, and it converts like crazy. The reason it converts so well is that Amazon is constantly A/B testing their website to find out which design will convert to more sales. They are the best in history at this.
When you link to Amazon.com, you are guaranteed conversions because no affiliate website converts like Amazon does. They are that good at eCommerce.
First: I Think Amazon Got My Case Wrong and Here’s Why
After I received the email from Amazon Associates saying my account was banned, I immediately responded with an appeal. Amazon did not get in a hurry to respond. When I finally received my reply email, I noticed the “Amazon Associates ID” attached to the email was not mine. I took a screenshot of the email and sent it back to Amazon pointing this out, but they responded that the ban of my account was correct. I went back and forth with Amazon in generic emails over the course of a month only to get the same answer over and over.
If my account somehow got mixed up with someone else’s Associate ID or maybe there was some type of scam going on, I don’t know. The “dcontrolcom-20” Amazon Associate ID is nowhere close to what my ID was, so I am not sure how they got mixed up. It is what it is. My account was banned and I honestly feel it might be the best thing that ever happened.
I Started My Affiliate Website on Squarespace
I had been with the Amazon Associates affiliate program for over five years and had great success with the program. When I started I was using Squarespace to manage my website and using their “Amazon block” to insert products into blog posts. It worked well in the beginning, but became hard to manage as I started to get over 25 blog posts. So, I switched to WordPress and this is where everything went wrong.
WordPress is like the wild Wild West of website building. There are thousands, if not millions of plugins and services that have their crosshairs on you. Everywhere you travel in the WordPress world there is someone with a bounty on your head. It is hard to decide which services and products to go with especially if you don’t want to be locked into something.
When you do choose a few to start with, you could run into compatibility issues. It can take a while to get settled in when moving from an all-in-one platform like Squarespace to WordPress. But, when it comes to managing content (posts, pages, and images), WordPress is hard to beat for future proofing yourself.
If you have a large website with many blog posts, Squarespace might not be the best platform when it comes to managing images, links, and posts. I feel it is great for a company website with a simple blog, but managing hundreds of affiliate links is almost impossible. WordPress on the other hand has many third-party companies that help you manage affiliate links in a dashboard. This is a must if your website every grows to a significant level. Otherwise, you will spend days fixing and updating broken links.
Transparency and Truth in Writing
Are you writing or linking out to products you don’t use or have very little experience with? What’s it going to hurt to fib a little? Has the truth become a white lie?
Let’s use the barbecue world as an example. Wood pellets for pellet grills to be exact. If you type in Google “the best wood pellets for barbecue”, every website that you land on will have a link to Amazon.com to buy the wood pellet they recommend. At the top of their list will be Traeger pellets. Why you ask? Because they know Traeger pellets have brand recognition, the most reviews on Amazon, and they convert like crazy on Amazon.com.
Are Traeger pellets the best wood pellets for barbecue? No. You can read countless complaints online about their pellets and I have used them extensively myself. But, to make money you don’t have to refer the best, you have to refer what will convert the best. Barbecue website owners know that there are more Traeger’s sold and most people have heard of the brand because they spend so much on marketing and promotion. Traeger pellets will catch fire and smoke barbecue, but there are better wood pellets on the market that will produce much better food.
In the long run, the fib is going to hurt you more than your audience. The more you write for the “affiliate link” instead of writing naturally for your audience, the more you will carve out your soul until one day your completely hollow. You will have lost all feeling. And that will be the day you need to hit the reset button.
Writing for the Amazon Affiliate Link
When you have an affiliate website, it can be easy to get affiliate link tunnel vision. It’s almost like a disease of the brain. Everything and anything you write is centered around or funnels down to a product or service. Everything!
You may not start out this way, but over time you will slowly start to lean one way without even realizing it’s happening. Because it happens gradually, you don’t notice it. Whether you like it or not, it’s happening. It is very hard to stay centered in your writing when there is an opportunity to link to something at every turn. You may not wholeheartedly believe a certain product is the best, but the affiliate commissions are so high you will justify your recommendation of the product. We humans are great at creating our own realities and believing them to be true.
When you are part of the Amazon Affiliate program, your writing reflects it. After I got banned, my eyes were opened as I looked back at articles I had written and websites I had created and realized what had happened. Most of my content was for Amazon. The behemoth retailer was dictating what I was writing about because I wanted to make passive income like everyone else. And I didn’t even see it.
My early websites were absolute junk. They were created about ten years ago, and they were nothing but regurgitated junk. There was no honesty or real-world experience in any of them. Once I realized this, I shut them all down. It was a huge learning experience.
My recent websites were much different. They were all articles written by me, and they solved real-world problems. When I started writing about topics I was experienced with, my websites started to flourish. Traffic started to grow, and I was making a passive income that was funding my hobbies. No, I didn’t make enough every month to quit my job. But in all fairness, I did not spend much time on my websites. I spent just enough time to earn enough money to get my attention.
The issue with some of the articles is they were written solely to link to Amazon.com. When that takes place the “process” is forced. The article is written to convince someone to buy something. It is not natural and organic like a conversation with someone at a coffee shop. This is the problem with most Amazon Affiliates. Their articles start with a product rather than with the problem itself.
If you are reading an article about “The Best” of something, and it starts out with a comparison chart with “See Price on Amazon” buttons everywhere, RUN. Get the hell out of there and run as fast as you can in the other direction. Most of these websites are full of garbage content that was written by writers living overseas who got paid $4 to write a one thousand-word article. This is how most affiliate websites get their content.
Writing real, authentic content for a website is expensive. It takes a lot of time and knowledge from a person who is experienced. People who have years of experience in a particular subject demand a certain price. I would be careful who you let into your head on a daily basis. Be selective and you will keep your sanity.
Choose a couple of websites or YouTube personalities you trust and stick with them. Today, about 90% of the internet is junk. It has become a wasteland of endless crap that is solely designed to steer someone in one direction or the other. If you spend enough time online, someone will separate you from your money. You can take that to the bank (pun intended).
Let’s face it. When you are an Amazon Associates member, and you have an affiliate website, all you can dream of is one day quitting your job and working from home online. Especially in the beginning. Why? Because the internet is littered with “Make Money Online” websites that promise these results in a few short months as long as you purchase their book or course. Don’t fall for it. It’s a lie, and it doesn’t work that way.
The WORST possible search term you can type into Google is “Make Money Online”. The actual truth about making money online would fall somewhere around page one hundred in the Google search results. By the time you reached the truth, you will have been through the bright lights of Vegas sifting through mounds of garbage websites with slick landing pages trying to get you to purchase their program or e-book on how to make money online. Not to mention the thousands of SEO articles claiming to show you how to rank better and craft the “perfect headlines”.
If you want to be successful writing articles online, it’s simple. Write for humans.
Stop Watching Analytics and Write
Stop waking up every day and looking to see how many clicks you have received or how much money you have made. Instead, focus on ways to improve your writing. The interaction between you and the reader. If you focus on the visitor of your website, the rest will naturally fall into place. I can’t guarantee the subject matter you are writing about will generate traffic, but at least you were open, honest, and transparent which ultimately will set you free.
Affiliate website owners are infatuated with clicks and analytics. It consumes them to the point they end up not writing informative articles anymore and spend all their time researching “how to” articles. They spend their days being “fake productive” doing research on search engine optimization and signing up for the next best “keyword research” software that is going to spit out perfect results on topics they should be writing about.
I have been there and done it all. All that matters is you create content on a daily or weekly basis. Every time you have a new idea, write it down. In the beginning, try not to create perfect content. Write or shoot your videos in the first take and publish them. Yes, there will be mistakes, but who cares. The more content you create, the more momentum you will build up. If you are not producing content, your website, or platform is dead.
There is one thing all successful bloggers and YouTuber’s have in common. They continually produce content. Notice, I didn’t say they are the best at SEO, email newsletters, or they all read the same amazing book. Nope. They do the work every week. There is no way around it. You have to produce content.
Looking for Alternative Affiliate Programs
I am a member of a few affiliate programs, but I have stopped putting affiliate links in every article I write. I do have some in larger review articles that link out to the product I am reviewing. These links are on products I have used for years and recommend wholeheartedly. If I have not used the product personally, I mention it.
Joining new affiliate programs is not as easy as it sounds. Thousands of programs are out there, and they all use different platforms, have different criteria for accepting new applicants, and commission rates vary greatly depending on which niche you are in. My best advice is DO NOT start applying for all of them.
First, build your website. No, you will not make any money in the beginning. That is how every business starts out. But, you will be building something. A solid foundation. Once your website starts to see real traffic, you can look at ways to monetize it. Around one hundred visitors a day is a good start. The advantage of building an online business versus something in brick and mortar is your start-up costs will be far less.
Anyone can start building something online while working their day job and raising a family. No, it’s not going to be easy. You will have days you are motivated and other days you want to stop altogether. I would advise not taking it too serious in the beginning and see where it goes. If it starts to get some traction, great. Keep pushing. If not, you will be out very little money compared to an actual start up in a brick and mortar setting.
Managing Affiliate Links is a Full-Time Job
When you build an affiliate website, your articles will be filled with affiliate text links and display ads. Managing these links can be a lot of work. And, I mean a lot of work. If you don’t keep up with and manage the outgoing affiliate links, you will end up with many broken links and end up making no money. I would say this is one of the biggest issues with managing an affiliate website. It can consume all your time and prevent you from creating new content.
I wrote a review about a software I used with WordPress called Lasso to manage affiliate links. It is not a cheap piece of software, but it does an outstanding job helping you insert links, professional looking display ads, manage broken links, and offers a beautiful dashboard, so everything is in one place. At the time of writing this article, I no longer use the software on a daily basis because my use of affiliate links today is limited to our resources page and a couple of long review articles.
My review article of the Lasso Affiliate Plugin does have affiliate links inserted into the article. I earn a commission if you sign up. But, I want to reiterate that I no longer use the software for this website at the time of writing this article. That could change in the future, who knows.
At the Mercy of Amazon
In 2020, Amazon slashed their affiliate commissions (warning, article title is explicit) therefore cutting the salaries of everyone who relied on them in half without much warning. It was a really crappy way to treat affiliates who are funneling millions of people to your website. Some of these affiliates do this full time. Waking up one day and seeing this caused extreme panic as it was handled very poorly by Amazon.
When you rely on Amazon to pay your bills, you are at the mercy of Amazon. If you are going to make money online, you need to diversify how your income is coming in. You also need to build an email list, so you have direct communication with your readers. I would argue that Amazon Associates slashing commissions was the best thing to happen to many people who rely heavily on the program as their main income source.
The people who run successful affiliate websites full time have a few things in common. Many of them focus on one main website, and they are highly driven people. They work hard day and night always improving how they present their content to the world. The answer to Amazon slashing commissions was to focus on their website, build an email list, and start selling products like ebooks and courses.
The Amazon Affiliate Program Could Close Any Day
What would you do if the Amazon Affiliate program closed tomorrow? Do you solely rely on them for your primary income? That is the question you have to answer.
If the Amazon Associates program is your main income source, you need to diversify. You need to start looking at ways you can create your own products. This could be in the form of an e-book or course you can sell. Whatever it is, you need to protect yourself from having the rug pulled out from underneath you.
Amazon Associates Program is Cold and Vague
Amazon Associates accused me of “obscuring traffic sources” where my links were displayed. None of my Amazon affiliate links were cloaked in any way because this violates their terms of service. I went back and forth with their support team over the course of several weeks and I never got a chance to correct the issue or a reasonable response as to which content or links were in violation. That was my experience. Your mileage may vary.
The people behind the Amazon Associates program are most likely good people. But, they are quick to tell you what you are doing wrong without giving you a chance to resolve the issue. If you ask them if your website is compliant in a chat, they point you to a Terms of Service document that can only be translated by a lawyer. They hide behind it.
When you chat with them and ask very specific questions about compliance, they are vague and cold. They might tell you something looks ok, but ultimately, they will point you to the TOS document. Their response is to consult an attorney which most affiliates don’t have the money for.
When they do ban you, you will not see it coming. It will blindside you and your account will most likely not get re-instated. I have heard of a few accounts being re-instated, but for the most part, it will be over.
You can re-apply to the program, but you will most likely get an email stating you are not accepted. It will accept your application, but it will fall flat on its face in the review process. This is when it’s time to move on. Find other ways to monetize your website. In the long run, you will be much more successful and have a lot less stress. You will also have independence and your soul will slowly start to glow again.
Set Yourself Free
I have never felt so free in my life when it comes to writing. I have been writing articles that link to the Amazon.com for over five years. Being able to write freely without an objective is liberating. It allows you to communicate with your audience naturally and organically. I will have some affiliate links on this website, but they will be limited to a few articles and the resources page.
Set yourself free by writing for your audience. Make a conscious decision to write the truth for humans. Don’t force your writing. Tell your story and try to solve real-world problems. If you do that, your traffic will start to build and momentum will start to generate. Build upon that momentum and no telling where your website will go.
To this day, I still have no idea why I was banned from the Amazon Affiliate program. When you ask them for an explanation, they give you generic responses and point you to a TOS document written by lawyers. They provide no real answers or examples of the offense in question.
We no longer purchase most of our goods from Amazon or online for that matter. The experience has taught us the importance of buying local to support your community. Also, it’s nice making a purchase from a local small business that is not using psychology to influence your buying decisions.
I hold no ill will against Amazon.com or their business model. It is actually a truly fascinating look into how marketing and capitalism works. Starting an online book store and turning it into the largest online retailer in the world is amazing. It is a story that will go down in history as one of the greatest success stories ever.
The days of worrying if I will ever get the dreaded email from Amazon Associates are over. I no longer wake up worrying if the day will ever come. Getting banned has freed me from the bondage of Amazon.com and all the psychological triggers they implement to hold you under their spell.
Go write great content for your website and people will beat a path down to your door. No psychology needed.